Friday, October 31, 2008
I don't know, really, why I bother picking pumpkins because I only carve the foam ones anymore. I got tired of it rotting and having to make the same designs over and over. I've worn out Scooby Doo. It's still a compulsion. Its part of the whole front door decor. I decorate my front porch in purple and orange lights and tinsel with bats. I carefully set out each pumpkin with their special lights that won't catch them on fire. I put out a couple votive decorations. Nothing too frightening because I don't want to scare the little ones. Then I sit back and pray that mean teenagers don't thrash it. I've always lived in fear of falling prey to a smashing pumpkin raid. (I make sure its all safely in the house by 9.)
I also like picking out candy and handing it out. This year, the kids are getting all the leftover 50's candies. I'm sure none of it ranks high on the kid scale, but its not a toothbrush, so work with me, here. I enjoy seeing all the little kids in their costumes. There is nothing more precious than a wide eyed toddler standing on your porch dressed as a lion or a bumble bee, too freaked out to speak while their parents urge them to say 'trick or treat' from the sidewalk. Too cute. At the same time, I am very anti-teenager trick or treating. I don't like their sense of entitlement. Sometimes they don't even have costumes. I always give them tootsie rolls. So there.
This year, I have also been invited to the big Halloween party downtown. DB and I are considering it. I'm not sure what I'll wear, though. Its on top of a parking garage and I'm sure to freeze to death, so Diner Betty is not an option. How about you? Are you dressing up for Halloween? If so, as what? If not, what has been your favorite Halloween costume that you've worn? All these years later, I'm still pretty partial to the JEM costume I had in 2nd grade. :)
UPDATED: Remember, PC and I are having a costume contest! Since no one will admit to actually HAVING a picture to send, tonight is your chance to remedy this. Get our your cameras and email a Halloween picture to me at smartypants@ writingplayground.com by Sunday afternoon. It could be of you, DH, your kids, your pumpkin, your dog... we've got prizes here, people, so work for it. In fairness, here's one of me from a party in 2006 - I'm Zoot from Castle Anthrax (if she'd had access to platform boots and fishnets in the 11th century...) We'll post a couple of the best pics Sunday night and the winners will receive some spooky prizes!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Now, I know what you're thinking - she stayed up all night reading and that's why she forgot to prepare a blog. Surprisingly enough, that isn't the case. I actually put the book down at 10:30 for something and knew if I picked it back up again I wouldn't get any sleep. So my lack of a timely blog isn't from sleep deprivation...it's from preoccupation. I have been eating, sleeping, working, dreaming this series since I started reading it Sunday morning. I am obsessed with Bella, Edward, Jacob and the rest of the Cullen family and I won't be able to do or think about anything else until I've finished them all.
This could be a problem. I'm not on deadline right now so I have a little breathing room but I'm trying to get ahead on everything and take advantage of NaNoWriMo next month. Sunday (because I already had commitments for Saturday) I'll be starting a month focusing on writing the rough draft for my next book... However, if I haven't finished reading these books I don't know how much I'll get done.
Has anything, a book, a project, a heavy life decision, taken over your life like these books have hijacked mine?
P.S. In case you haven't figured it out, I highly recommend this series, especially with the first movie coming out in several weeks. But don't start them unless you have plenty of time to read them all.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is about what happens when aliens with strange ideas of human sexuality, and no clue about human love, abduct two human men and two human women to help form an intergalactic porn empire.
How did you two meet?
Kathy: Julie and I actually met in kindergarten. We went to different elementary schools, but we had a group field trip to the zoo, and we were matched as partners. We didn't meet again until junior high. Which was a good thing, because Julie was really strange when she was five.
Julie: In high school we used to write books together about us having sex with rock stars, and then we both grew up to be romance writers, which is hardly surprising, really.
How was B. H. Dark born?
Julie: I think we were drunk at an RWA conference and one of us suddenly said, “We should totally write another book together, we’d make millions! Or at least, like, ten bucks for more booze.”
Kathy: Yes. Will write for booze.
Why porn-loving aliens?
Kathy: We really just felt it was a subject not addressed nearly enough in literature. Or in porn either.
Julie: We figured some porno-flick aficionado got sick of his collection and jetted it into space, and the aliens got hold of it, and they think these films really reflect human behavior.
If Kathy’s in the US and Julie’s in the UK, how did you write the book?
Julie: We’d talk about each scene beforehand, and then decide who was going to write it, each focusing on one couple. Once we’d finished, we’d email the scenes to each other. When all four humans were in the room together, we wrote it over Instant Messenger, as if it were a real conversation; I’d cut and paste and edit into the book document. We both went over the whole thing a few times to blend our voices and add in bits.
Kathy: Yeah, given the physical distance, it was remarkably easy to write. We know each other so well, and understand each other's voices, so it wasn't a problem at all. And we agreed with each other's changes and suggestions--again, I think because we have been friends so long.
What’s your favourite part that the other person wrote?
Kathy: I loved the admission of love between Cassie and Beau, one of the couples. They are, of course, in sexual congress, but what they are doing sexually just doesn't, at least in my experience, lend itself to declarations of undying love. I also love the great "fight" scene between Beau and Leandros, the two heroes. I find it oddly quite sexy.
Julie: It’s when the four humans are in the Western scenario, Bone-anza, and Eve, one of the heroines, is sitting on top of a piano dressed like an Old West whore. Around her, a bunch of holograms are getting ready to have an orgy. The piano player, who is also a hologram, suddenly looks up at her and says, “I ain’t been much of a pa to you.” I don’t know why, but that cracks me up every time.
What does B. H. stand for?
Julie: Burly Hulkman.
Kathy: Beni Hana.
Who’s your favourite hero in the book, Beau the southern mechanic, or Leandros the Vegas lounge singer?
Julie: Definitely Leandros. He’s this total alpha male, arrogant and sexy as hell, and he can sing like nobody’s business. Plus he calls his woman “baby”. What’s not to love?
Kathy: Definitely Beau. He's sweet and sexy--a Southern gentleman to the core. Yet he isn't afraid to do his woman in a pick-up truck or in a glowing blue tube or anywhere really. Plus he calls his woman “darlin’”. And he doesn't sing, but if he did it would be like nobody's business. Oh, and he likes dogs, too.
B. H. Dark’s website: http://bhdark.blogspot.com/
P.S. Watch for Julie/Kathy/B.H. to go Under the Bleachers with an informative (and fun, of course!) article on the Playground website soon!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My mom and my aunt sew, and they both did try to teach me. I still have the apron I made for 4-H one year (won a ribbon for it too. Thanks, Mom.), but that’s the sum total of my time with a sewing machine. Mom’s good at it, though, even if she usually only sews under protest (I come by my unwilling acquiescence naturally, you see), but my aunt is amazing. There’s nothing the woman can’t make. Seriously. She smocks dresses, for goodness’ sake.
But it really was a non-starter for me, even though they tried. But I do have a defense – besides the fact that fabric scissors are sharp and it’s really hard to get blood out of fabric. During my adolescence, I just didn’t have time. After rehearsals, I normally wouldn’t get home until 7.30. I still had to eat dinner, soak my bleeding toes in hot salt water, and tackle my math homework. Sewing anything beyond ribbons onto pointe shoes was out of the question. (And that I normally did in math class, hence the pile of homework and my continuing ignorance of geometry.)
As an adult, my lack of sewing skills hasn’t hindered me all that much. I can sew lost buttons onto DG’s shirts and patches onto AC’s Brownie vest. Anything I can’t convince my mom or my aunt to sew goes to the wonderful tailor down the street. So it’s not a big problem.
Except at Halloween, the one time of the year when sewing skills would come in handy. However, I have learned to compensate.
Exhibit A: Halloween 1993
Much to the utter disbelief of the women at the fabric store, I intended to make my own Pebbles costume without the assistance of a sewing machine. Never underestimate what a determined girl (who decided what she was going to be too late for her mom or aunt to help out) can do with a stapler and a roll of Stitch Witchery.
Not too bad, huh? I actually got two years out of that costume AND took second place in a costume contest. (I wore it when I was working at a bar and that short skirt did bring in some tips!)
Exhibit B: SP’s Mom’s B-day sock hop, 2008
I wanted a poodle skirt and the ones at the costume shop all looked tacky and horrible. The answer? Make one. There are plenty of patterns the ladies at the fabric store were happy to show me. Pfft. Buy a round table cloth and cut a hole in the middle, and voila! A skirt. DG helped design and cut out the poodle (I lack art skills as well, you see), and we stuck it on with Stitch Witchery. (Best. Stuff. Ever.)
I will admit I did sew a drawstring at the waist to help tie it on and that sewing job does look like crap, but the belt covers the crappyness. The poms on the poodle are hot glued on and the pearl leash only took a couple of small stitches to attach. I got a lot of compliments on it at the party, and everyone was so impressed with my creativity.
Um, I wouldn’t call it creativity. It’s more like compensating for any other lacking skill. You figure out how to get around it. I’m certainly not going to take up sewing at this late date. Even AC already knows that if she wants something made, she needs to talk to her Grammy or her auntie. Stitch Witchery does have some limitations, you know.
Playground costume contest time! Send pictures (or links, if the photos are online) of your best/favorite costumes to email@example.com. Smarty Pants and I will be judging (and I warn you, I will be giving bonus points for unusal base materials combined with professed lack of skill. Super bonus points if you used a stapler at any point.). Winners will be posted on the weekend. I'm giving away paranormal romances in honor of the season!
Monday, October 27, 2008
I was looking up images of the new HBO series True Blood when I ran across pictures of actor Sam Trammell. Now, I haven’t seen the series, I was just interested in it because a friend mentioned how much she liked it. So I have no preconceived ideas about Sam’s character or any roles he plays. (Please don't ruin it for me!) I just found his face, with those down-home good looks and scruffy face, sexy. I found other, more revealing, pics of him, but I couldn’t post them and keep the blog’s PG rating. Sorry! :) Let's just say, the rest of him ain't so bad either.
Hope you enjoy!
Meet author BH Dark on Wednesday!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Last year I organized the game, so I wore a costume, but I didn't really participate aside from being facilitator. This year, I turned it over to PC so I could play. Our game was set as a bridal shower at a chocolate themed day spa. We had a chocolate fountain with tons of goodies and PC made delicious chocolate martinis. There were chocolate heiresses, race car drivers, gold-diggers, catty bridesmaids and me - an uber biyatch. I was a stockbroker who had not only lost a lot of people's money, I was completely unremorseful about it. I had no problem sharing what I thought about my BFF's upcoming marriage, and I gloated about being maid of honor over the other bridesmaids. Honestly, I was so loud and irritating, anyone could have killed me. I wanted to kill me.
I had a special surprise planned for everyone when my time came to die. I was supposed to be poisoned, so I worked up to it, complaining about a stomachache on and off for a while. A few people thought I was actually sick, so I did a pretty good job, I think. It progressively got worse until I slipped some alkaseltzer and starting rabidly foaming at the mouth. I dramatically collapsed to the floor amongst screams and much activity I missed (being dead and all).
I have to say my people can be cold. Last year, everyone at least pretended to be upset after Big Jim was shot. Me? Oh no...as I lie there dead, I was robbed of my money and shoes, called names, and half-heartedly moved (and dropped) because the spa owner didn't want a dead body in her lobby. I certainly did not need to know that it took that many people to carry me 2 feet, even as dead weight. I was not a good dead body. I kept laughing. I couldn't help it. I had to cover my face with a napkin when they tried performing CPR on me because I was laughing so hard.
The best part was that everyone went to dinner and I changed into my second character - a wacky psychic. I was a looney bin. I wandered around muttering about the spirits and what they were telling me. I would show people various tarot cards and shake my head in dismay before dashing off to talk to someone else. One person said I needed the thick glasses and I would've been a spot on Professor Trelawney from HP. I had a lot of fun stirring things up after dinner, too. I'm surprised they didn't kill my new character off just because I was obnoxious.
I'd hardly claim myself to be an actress of any sort, but this was so much fun it was easy for me to do it. When in doubt, go over the top. I just feel bad for the girls that came in to paint our nails. In the five minutes I was sitting with them, I yelled words that curled their toes and nearly got in a cat fight with Instigator. Didn't chip a nail, though. :)
Do you have an inner actress waiting to get out? Have you ever done one of these parties? Would you rather sit them out or are you fired up to play?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This sixteen-second video clip is me walking through autumn leaves. I love that crisp, dry, rustling sound, and when I see leaves covering a sidewalk or in drifts along the curb, I can't resist dragging my feet through them.
Autumn is a favorite season of mine. After a long, hot, humid Alabama summer, the cooler temps of autumn are quite welcome. Autumn officially starts on the autumnal equinox, which falls somewhere around September 23 or 24. But in Alabama, it's still hot then. However, usually about three weeks later, things will change and we'll start having cool mornings and nights with warm days. And then slowly we'll slide toward cooler days too.
But summer won't give up without a fight. We'll have a bit of Indian summer, where the nights will stay cool, but the days will be abnormally warm. It's this time of year when you never know how to dress your kids for school or yourself for work. The secret is layers you can peel off as the day progresses.
Angel mentioned our retreat in her Monday blog and here are a few photos. The cool autumn air made for great walking (we didn't walk fast enough to call it a hike, no matter what Problem Child says *grin* ).
I loved this house. The exterior is filled with color and whimsy, and I can only imagine what the interior looks like.
This little carved statue was in someone's front yard. It's such an original and unusual depiction of St. Francis.
And isn't this a face only a mother could love?
Last, but not least, here are the Playfriends posed on the rocks over looking the valley below.
Does anyone else like autumn as much as I do?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Playfriends spent the weekend at our chapter retreat and I, for one, had a glorious time. We laughed, talked, ate, and laughed some more. Plotted stories. Commiserated. Learned from others. It is an experience to look forward to every year.
One unexpected bonus this year was discovering a small community not far from our B&B that is perfect for walking. Perfect? What am I saying? It was ideal! This little wooded area is filled with sidewalks, historical houses, quaint wooden bridges, and gorgeous scenery. I felt blessed to walk in such a precious place. To think we’d been there 2 years prior to this and I never realized this little gem existed. I’ll definitely be dropping by next year too.
So thank you, my walking buddies, for the stroll through the woods and the inspiration! I look forward to seeing where your stories take us to.
Where was the last place you enjoyed the scenery? Was it rural, wooded, urban, neon? Tell us all about it.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
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Friday, October 17, 2008
It was a logistical challenge toward the end with company in town, table rentals, decorating, etc., but worth it. It was a tangled web of my own making, so I can't complain too much. In the end, everything went off without a hitch. (Well, one hitch - the church gave us the key to decorate Friday night, but neglected to inform us about the security alarm. Oops.) Most important - my mother was verklempt. Everyone who came had a good time or at least they said they did. The bank where she works is just a-buzz at my party planning skills. I'll say it was a success despite my own critical eye seeing all the things that went wrong. Here's a few pictures of the extravaganza...
First, me, my mom and my stepdad. Thanks to Stephanie for loaning my mother the perfect polka-dotted dress for the party. It sounds silly, but I was in awe of the balloon arch. I watched the lady assemble it and it was dumbfounding. For what it cost, it should've been, but still, very cool. Pity we couldn't fit it in the car to take home. The Sunday School kids were probably thrilled when they arrived the next day.
Yes, that's me and yes, I'm wearing roller skates. Despite a few close calls, I did not fall. I fully expected to wrap up the evening with a trip to the ER, but was willing to make the sacrifice for the effect. I did quite well, I think. I'm not about to get a job as a car hop at Sonic or anything, but I did okay for a girl who hasn't roller skated since the 7th grade.
Here's the birthday cake I spoke about earlier. I think it turned out great without too much aggravation on my part. Tasted good too, I guess. I didn't get any, so I'm not real sure. No one got food poisoning, at least. :) There were leftovers, but the bottom tier met an unfortunate fate with the floorboard of my car and I had to throw it away. I will forever have flecks of turquoise frosting in the carpeting.... Anyway, the top two tiers were white almond sour cream cake with lemon buttercream filling and the bottom tier was triple chocolate sour cream cake with peanut butter filling. My mom was very upset when we hacked into it, but that's the point of cake.
I have to say I'm exceptionally proud of my people. When my people RSVP, they show up. They dress appropriate for the occasion - Instigator rocked a platinum wig and leather pants and PC even made her own poodle skirt! We were the best looking folks in the bunch. They dragged their husbands with them and make them dress up, too. PM even got her husband to dance with her. I appreciate the support. My people rock.
It was a sock hop, but we didn't really have a dancin' crowd. I drug a horrified DB out to dance in the hopes that it would stir up more dancing, but alas, I just embarassed him. We got a few people on the floor for the Twist and the Hand Jive, but that didn't require the hubbies to participate. I was able to harass a few folk into the hula hoop contest, though. PM whooped my step-dad. Who knew her hips could move like that?! :) They all got some fuzzy dice and 50's style rubber duckies as a reward for their bravery.
Now that its all over, I'm relieved and a little lost. Time to start planning the next party, I think. :) What is your favorite birthday memory? Have you ever had a big party to celebrate?
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'm doing another monthly awareness blog today. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and well... we females have breasts. If you read any of the spicier romances, the hero usually notices the heroine has breasts, and let's just say he lets his fingers do the walking. ;-)
But lest anyone think all we talk about here is playing with boobs, let me assure you I have a very special message today from a very special friend of the Playground, our own PC's CP, Pam.
I have no qualms telling anyone anything they need/would like to know about my cancer. I feel like it's one of my missions--to let others know how important early detection is.
My maternal grandmother and my mother both had breast cancer, so I've always been high-risk and pro-active with regular mammograms and check-ups. I had several scares over the years: a benign tumor when I was 23 and several biopsies resulting from suspicious calcium deposits.
In 2004, a mammogram of my right breast showed such deposits which a biopsy confirmed was LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ)--no longer considered cancer (despite the scaryname :-) ) I had a lumpectomy and all was fine. LCIS does not become cancer, but it can be an indicator again of "high risk." Then in May 2007, another suspicious mammogram--this time in my left breast. A biopsy revealed DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). This type is cancer, but "in situ" means that we caught it at the very earliest stage and it hadn't invaded anything around it--stage 0. However, there were several spots of it.
Another lumpectomy was possible, but it would have taken one-third of my breast plus I would have had to have 35 rounds of radiation. I did plenty of reading on the Internet--enough to know that radiated skin doesn't reconstruct well because it changes the texture, toughening it. If I wanted to go with reconstruction, a mastectomy was my best option. I was 52, and I knew I didn't want to go the rest of my life worried about recurrence. It already worried me when I went to 6 month mammograms from yearly ones.
Because of my fear, my high risk, and the numerous scares I'd already had, I opted not only for the mastectomy, but for a bi-lateral with reconstruction. My decision turned out to be a blessing because a post-op report confirmed DCIS in all four quadrants of my right breast also. It was just too small to be picked up yet on a mammogram!
Both doctors were present for the surgery. The breast surgeon removed my breasts and the plastic surgeon implanted saline tissue expanders (balloon-like sacs that I would go every two weeks to have saline injected into). They stretched my skin slowly until I was back to my normal size (34C). A second surgery (in December 2007) replaced the saline with silicon implants. A third surgery (in April 2008) reconstructed nipples and tattooed areolas. :-) I wear my regular bras and even have cleavage with the right bras!
Yes, I have scars that cut across the middle of my breasts, so I have to be careful not to go with necklines that are too low. The worst part is the lack of sensation in my breasts. The surgeries cut the nerves and they haven't regenerated (though some do), so I don't have any feeling in the nipple area. The constructed nipples tend to flatten after a time, and implants have to be replaced about every ten years.
All-in-all, I feel fantastic. I don't refer to myself as a "survivor" because that implies to me a person who has faced death, and I never felt that way. I wasn't brave; I was terrified. :-) But I do feel blessed!
Please feel free to ask me anything you want about it. Lance Armstrong says: "Knowledge is power, unity is strength, and attitude is everything." Amen to that!
Here's where you can learn about Breast Self Examination . Every one of you ladies should be doing BSE monthly. If you can’t remember, mark it on your calendar or pick a date that’s regular – like the first day of your period or the first day of the month. Or you can get set up an email to remind you. That's what I do.
As for mammograms, different organizations and physicians have different recommendations for when and how often, but most recommend a baseline mammogram at age 40 and then repeat mammography at regular intervals for the rest of your life. Ask your physician and check with your health insurance provider to see what they recommend and cover.
A mammogram is awkward and a bit embarrassing, and depending on the sensitivity of your breast tissue, it might even be uncomfortable. But don’t let the awkwardness, embarrassment or possibility of a little discomfort keep you from having this important test. Breast cancer is very curable when caught early, and a mammogram is quite often the way that such cancers are caught early enough for successful intervention.
You can learn about breast cancer, BSE, risk factors and prevention, and a whole lot more at the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer website.
And you can visit this site and click to help fund mammograms for women who can't otherwise afford the test.
Have you performed BSE lately? If you’re old enough, have you had your mammogram? Are your mothers, sisters, best friends checking themselves and having a mammogram? If not, I'm giving you a nudge and you can nudge them. And let's send a great big huge Playground thank you to Pam for sharing her experience so openly with us today.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
There’s A Little Witch In All Of Us
Dianne Wiest said that in Practical Magic and I think we’d all agree that’s true.
So many times I’m asked how I came to write my Hex series and I don’t think it was so much my choosing to write it as they choosing me. Once Jazz popped in to tell me her story, her fellow witches were soon chiming in with their own stories and let’s not forget the creatures that come with them, either as footwear, accessories or even just good buddies.
I liked the idea of a cute snarky 700 year young witch wearing bunny slippers that had a habit of eating whatever was around and getting into trouble at the drop of a hat. Saying Jazz is a cauldron all her own is an understatement.
In 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover I introduced Jazz Tremaine, witch with curse elimination as her gift. Add in the 50 something ghost haunting her beloved classic T-Bird convertible, toothy bunny slippers and a hot vampire, and you’ve got the beginning of the story. Or maybe more the middle of the story since Jazz and Nick have been on and off lovers for 300 years and Irma’s been in her car for the past fifty years. Then there’s an olive green skinned creature of a boss and evil from Jazz’s past to mix in there. I never believe in making things easy for my characters. Although at the end of the book Jazz and Nick are making plans to go on an actual date.
It’s three months later when Hex Appeal begins and Jazz is pretty happy. Except bad nightmares start up that include Nick tearing out her throat and Nick’s rest is even marred with visions of Jazz living a ideal life in the bright of day that he can’t share with her.
And now Fluff and Puff her magick bunny slippers are in trouble with the Weres after being accused of eating a Wereweasel, which Jazz knows isn’t possible, but if she can’t find out the truth, her beloved footwear with teeth will be destroyed by the Ruling Council that oversees all of the preternatural community.
Dweezil wants Jazz to deal with his rival and just what kind of secret is Krebs keeping from her and why does he think she won’t be happy once she finds out?
No wonder Jazz is feeling as if her life is off balance and doesn’t have a clue what to do. Not that it hasn’t bothered her before. Jazz is used to flying without a broom and that’s what she’ll do this time and succeed without breaking a nail even if she also suffers through a forty-eight hour of hell that no witch should have!
So what about you? Do you believe there’s a little witch in all of us? One copy of Hex Appeal will be given out to a lucky commenter!
Monday, October 13, 2008
This won’t be pretty, but I must confess something. My nickname here on the Playground is Angel, but I don’t always have angelic tendencies. I tend to have a one-track mind. I’ll admit it (and my husband will back me up).
When I get started on something, I don’t want to stop or be interrupted until I’m done. If someone insists on breaking that focus, I tend to get, well, cranky. This is true whether I’m cleaning for an afternoon or writing a book over a period of months. Disturb me too often and not only am I grumpy, I’m very likely to give up on the task.
While this dogged determination helps me get things accomplished (positive), I often lose track and interest in anything that doesn’t mesh with my goal (negative). This issue was brought to my attention during my recent family vacation. Because we were away from home, I had nothing to focus on except my husband, my children, and enjoying each other.
That’s when I realized I’d been pushing them aside in order to accomplish my goals. I already had an inkling that when it came to writing, I could easily become a workaholic when things are flowing. You can’t tell it from my output, because I’m a slower writer, but if everyone would just leave me alone…
While we were gone, I rediscovered the smile that comes from watching my kids goof off. How much I learn about them when I actively listen when they talk, instead of just wondering when they’ll be done so I can get on with my current project. (That makes me sound really self-centered. Yikes!) The simple pleasure of teasing with my husband. Thinking deeper than just what it takes to get through my day on the surface.
The question is, how do I maintain a reminder of this truth now that we’re back to the daily grind? I don’t want to ignore them nor turn into a slacker. I want to maintain the positive parts of this trait, while letting go of the negative tendencies. Is that just a pipe dream? Anyone have advice for a balanced approach?
Tomorrow we welcome author Linda Wisdom as she guest blogs with us.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Today, she's going to share a little about her journey and her love of the Presents line she's now a part of. Take it away, Lynn...
Every October, our chapter has a retreat. Last year was my first year to attend; I’d moved to Alabama and joined Heart of Dixie only a few months before. Y’all, HOD is inspiring. The meetings always make me want to write, and I just knew the retreat would be a fun and amazing experience.
Saturday afternoon, sometime after lunch but before the Murder Mystery party we were having later, I was sitting around talking with a few people. I remember that the Instigator was there, and Kelley St. John. They were discussing writing for Blaze. Somehow, in the conversation, Harlequin Presents came up. And I said, “I always wanted to try and write one of those.”
About a month later, Kelley forwarded a contest announcement: Harlequin Mills & Boon were having a contest to find new writers. The entry was a first chapter and two-page synopsis and the prize was an editor for a year.
The Instant Seduction competition opened on Jan 1 and closed at midnight on Feb 14. I sent my second entry, titled “The Spanish Magnate’s Revenge,” only hours before the deadline.
A month later, I got the call that I’d won. My Spanish magnate had beat out 600 other entries (including another one of mine) to take the top prize. Thus began my year with an editor.
Writing a book suitable for publication isn’t a cinch even with an editor in your corner. It’s hard work. There are revisions (I went through two rounds) and no guarantees you’ll succeed. What if you write a great first chapter, but can’t pull an entire book together to save your life? How many chances do you get?
These were the kinds of questions I asked myself as I wrote and rewrote. But the hard work paid off and I got The Call six months after I won the contest. You can look for those details at the I Heart Presents site next week as I share where I was and what I was doing when that magical Call came.
It’s a dream come true to be a new author for the line I first discovered as a twelve year old. I sure am glad my grandmother bought that box of Harlequin Presents at somebody’s yard sale. Who knew I’d end up writing for them many years later?
Thanks for sharing your story, Lynn. Now its time to PARTY! The chocolate fountains are flowing, the gorgeous, tan and mostly nude waiters are here to grant your every wish, the champagne and margaritas are just waiting to be sipped (it's 5PM somewhere), and the DJ is spinning fabulous dance hits. Let's hit the floor and celebrate Lynn's news!
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Why am I even trying to write? I’m not any good at this. I wouldn’t know a good sentence if it jumped up and tattooed itself on my butt! I’m tired of having to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. If I was any good, I’d get it right the first time. Besides, I’m too old to learn! How many rejections does it take for the message to sink in! I quit! I quit! I really quit!
They arrive in droves. One will hit me, then before I have a chance to recover there’s comes another. BAM! Oh those negative, piercing, painful thoughts. And sometimes they’re not even just about writing. How about the ones that attack the size of our thighs? Or start criticizing the lines around our eyes? Or those that criticize our parenting abilities? Self doubt can sting.
Have you ever dealt with self doubt? If you’ve never suffered from this problem, you have my permission to stop reading right now. Go scrub a toilet or do something equally important. But if you, too, have been smacked around a time or two by the villainous self-doubt, then listen up.
First, we all must realize that it’s normal for us wacky people who call ourselves writers to be a bit manic depressive. (You don’t even have to be a writer to suffer from it.) I don’t mean for you to run off to the doctor and sign up for some meds. What I’m saying is that that most of us, especially writers, live on highs and lows. We make a sale, write a good scene, discover a new market, and we’re on Cloud Nine. We get a rejection, someone butchers one of our pieces, or we go too long without hearing anything back on our manuscripts and we, like the drama queens and kings that we are, go to the edge of our cloud, close our eyes, release all our negative voices, and commit emotional suicide.
I said it might be somewhat normal, but I didn’t say it was okay—because it’s not okay.
Especially if, after you hit rock bottom, you don’t pick yourself up, wipe up the blood, sweat and tears, (you don’t want to leave the mess around for anyone else to pick up) and go in search of a ladder. Heck! You’ve got clouds to climb. Markets to research, manuscripts to write. You’ve got to make it up to Cloud Nine so you can jump off again!
My point is that, in this business, there’s going to be highs and lows. And most every published author will tell you that it doesn’t stop when you get that call, or the first contract, or the tenth, or twentieth contract. Self doubt plagues all of us.
The first thing you need to do is to accept and know you’re not alone in the crazy ups and downs. Most writers experience it, live with it, deal with it, most of us even survive it. We divorce it. We usually have to keep divorcing it, because just like a bad penny, or a bad (but sexy) man, the moment we let down our guards, it sneaks its way back into our creative souls. The way we deal with it is to start enjoying the climb up the ladder as much as possible. Being on top is fun, Cloud Nine is a nice place to be, so milk it for all it’s worth. But more important is to find ways to enjoy your work—to enjoy the climb, the steps, even the baby steps. Hey, remember writing when you loved it. When it was all about the passion of getting that story on paper? Yeah, that’s where you need to be again.
To help control and divorce those doubts, try these tips.
- Seek out positive people. Negativity is like a bad stomach virus. All you need to do is be in the room with someone who has it, and you’re gonna get it. And generally, it ain’t pretty.
- Get into a competition with another writer. A healthy competition. See who can complete a proposal first.
- Allow yourself to dream, picture yourself getting the call, the contract! Or that positive review.
- Make it fun by dangling a carrot out in front of yourself. A completed chapter warrants a lunch out with a friend, or even a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
- Relieve stress by keeping your focus. Set a schedule and stick to it, you’ll not be near as hard on yourself if you are working on that goal than if you are procrastinating.
- Come up with some positive affirmations to offset the negative self-doubt stuff. Go around singing, “I’m good. I’m really good.” Sounds crazy? Of course it does. It will also sound crazy to anyone hearing you, but it does help. Besides, everyone who knows you already knows you’re a fruitcake.
- Play positive music while you write.
- Keep proof of your successes in front of you when you write—a contest certificate, a positive critique, anything that reminds you that you can do it.
- Never put all your eggs in one basket. Start a new book after the first one has been submitted.
- Laugh at yourself. Laughter really is the best medicine.
- Laugh at your mistakes. We all make them, we might as well have some fun with them.
- Remember: if we don’t learn from our mistakes, there’s no use in making them! Yeah, laughing at them is fine, but you still have to learn from them.
- Take time to play. There can be a fine line between dedicated and obsessed. Make sure you’re on the right side of the line. Skipping baths and letting fuzzy stuff grow on your teeth just because you need to finish a scene, this might mean you’re a little obsessed. But just a little, cause we’ve all done it.
- Try writing something totally different. Sometimes we just need to try a new approach or a new genre to get our creative juices flowing and to chase away those negative feelings.
- Allow yourself to feel challenged. Boredom quickly leads to failure. A quick fix to boredom is to accept a challenge, to try something new, something new encourages you to learn, to push yourself, to grow. And I don’t mean in pant sizes. Watch those calories.
- Face your fear and slap it around a little. Go ahead; admit what you’re really afraid of. Admit it, and then figure out how you will deal with it, how you’ll overcome it, how you’ll smack it around. Show fear that you are no one to be messed with.
- Try meditating. You know why all those good ideas come to us when we’re driving or in the shower? It’s because you’ve allowed your mind to rest. So give your mind a rest, even it means standing in the shower for an extra ten minutes every day.
Oh, you’ll still be doing belly flops and nosedives off a few clouds—the publishing business almost guarantees it—but hopefully you’ll be spending less time on rock bottom, and more time happily tagging clouds as you make your climb upward.
Christie Craig was born and raised in Alabama and now resides in Texas. But she still talks with an Alabama twang. Her humorous romantic suspense novels are published by Dorchester. On the shelves now: Divorced, Desperate and Delicious, Weddings Can Be Murder. Her third novel, Divorced, Desperate and Dating will be released November 25. Christie, with her non-fiction writing partner, Faye Hughes, wrote The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel. To check out Christie’s website go to http://www.christie-craig.com/. To read her humorous blogs go to http://killerfictionwriters.blogspot.com/ where her blogs appear every Tuesday. You can find some more writing articles on her and Faye’s site at http://www.writewithus.net/.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
But the one I'm going to focus on is National Dessert Month. I feel I have a little knowledge on the subject because (1) I've made my share of desserts in my time and (2) I have a recipe in a cookbook put out by a major publishing house. Wikipedia defines dessert as "a course that typically comes at the end of a meal, usually consisting of sweet food but sometimes of a strongly-flavored one, such as some cheeses. The word comes from the Old French desservir, 'to clear the table.'"
Growing up, we didn't have dessert at every meal. Cakes, pies and cobblers were usually saved for special occasions. My grandmother Ballenger baked a mean pound cake and I can remember some absolutely lip-smacking blackberry and peach cobblers from my mother's oven. She also made a strawberry custard pie that was to die for. And she has a banana pudding recipe that goes way beyond my easy version using bananas, vanilla wafers and vanilla pudding.
I'm sure every family has a dessert recipe that is the family specialty. It's that treat you beg someone to make for family gatherings and the recipe for it is carefully filed away in your recipe box or taped into the front of your favorite cookbook.
I didn't much know how to cook when the DH and I got married, so most of my efforts in the kitchen were to learn how to please his meat-and-potatoes palate. I did learn pretty quickly that I could put a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sliced strawberries on a slab of pound cake (hello Sara Lee!) and top it with frozen whipped topping and he'd be as happy as a pig in slop.
I'm no gourmet cook now, but I've moved beyond Hamburger Helper and Minute Rice. And we still don't have dessert much because most of them just have too darned many calories. At Thanksgiving I'll bake the requisite pumpkin pie, and for Christmas I have a candy recipe that involves graham crackers, melted butter and sugar and a package of chocolate chips. If I'm in the mood for fresh-baked cookies, God bless Pillsbury for coming out with slice and bake cookie dough. And even better is the kind you just break apart and bake.
So are you a dessert person? What special dessert does your family beg you to make? My daughter-in-law made Better Than Sex Cake when I babysat last week. Oh my gawd was it good!
Share your recipe in the comments tail and one lucky cook will win a free book from my stash.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
I also don’t mind—honestly—when folks email to ask me English teacher-type questions. I’ve explained dangling modifiers a thousand times, so what’s one more? It’s not like I have to go do research or anything. A couple of sentences, maybe a paragraph-- it’s five minutes, tops, out of my day, and I figure it’s good karma if nothing else. As a proud Grumpy Grammarian, it’s my duty to help make the world a more grammatical place.
Now, every newbie author learns soon enough not to email folks (especially published authors) out of the blue and ask them to read their WIP. It’s Rude. Tacky. Not Done. (Okay, so I did it once. But I’m very good friends with that author and only asked her to read a chapter because I’d gotten editor feedback that my characterization was spotty and she’s soooo good at characterization. But I told her I’d understand if she didn’t want to or couldn’t for some reason. I sent her a giftie afterwards, too.)
Interestingly enough, I’m already getting requests from people who ask me to read their stuff—and I’m only barely “published.” I’m not comfortable doing it (because I’m not sure I know all that much anyway) but it’s very uncomfortable to say no.
However, there’s recently been a rash of emails from people wanting me to read their research papers. I’ve hooked up with a lot of old friends from high school and college via Facebook, and it seems a lot of them are back in school for various reasons. Ack. Like I really want to read another paper on Iago’s motivations in Othello. I’m not even sure my comments could be much help—the grading of essays is just as subjective as the judging of manuscripts. Plus, with essays, I don’t know what the teacher has assigned, what they’ve talked about in class, or what the teacher is looking for. What I wanted my students to produce and what that teacher is looking for may be totally different things. Other than basics—organization, structure, grammar—or telling you that you’ve confused Iago and Roderigo in paragraph five, there’s not much I can really help with.
If I don’t help, though, I’m mean. If I do help, and the teacher gives it a bad grade anyway, I’m stupid. Can’t win for losing on that one.
Plus, these are folks I haven’t seen in 15+ years! Why are they asking me? They have zero proof, beyond my claims to degrees and teaching experience, that I have a clue as to what I’m doing. And honestly, if I’m not on your Christmas card list any more, I don’t think you should be sending me a 20-page research paper and asking me to “fix” it for you. I don’t care that you held my hair back while I puked after the Motley Crue concert in 1987. While very appreciated at the time, I think the window to collect on that debt closed a long time ago.
The Etiquette Hell site recommends “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” as a good response to unsolicited (or unreasonable) requests for time, energy or money. What do you think? While technically polite response, it seems to beg the question “Why not?”
I did like the response Karen from Will and Grace would use: “Oh I would, honey, but I don’t want to.” But that doesn’t seem quite right either.
So I’m open to suggestions…
Monday, October 06, 2008
My family and I are on vacation this week. We decided to go for Fall Break this year, since we haven’t had a real family vacation since Drama Queen was 6 months old. So yesterday we drove off into the sunset… actually, into the mountains. Neither my hubby nor I are beach people, but we like seclusion and nearby shopping/restaurants. The mountains it is.
I decided to do something radical during this time. I rarely go anywhere, even overnight, without the accoutrements for writing. Just in case the bug strikes me. But this time I left my AlphaSmart at home. Even though part of me insists I could get lots of writing done, I’m cutting myself off. I’ve worked hard getting a whole book written recently, a couple of short stories, and have moved on to rewrites. I’ve got another book I’m plotting for NaNoWriMo. But I think my brain needs a vacation, just like the rest of me.
Though I may panic once I’m there, I’m going on this vacation with nothing more in the way of office supplies than a pen and journal, just in case plot points come to me that I need to write down. Otherwise, it will be just me, 2 children, the husband, and a slower pace. Let’s just hope I’m not begging one of the Playfriends to ship the alphie to me within 24 hours.
Since I’m gone today, why don’t readers and Playfriends share their favorite vacation memories? Mine is my honeymoon, but I’ll keep the details to myself. ;)
This week we have the adorable and funny author Christie Craig on Thursday, October 9th. So tune in!
Saturday, October 04, 2008
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Friday, October 03, 2008
Playground Monitor here, with today's guest blogger. I "met" Kati at the blog of our mutual friend Michelle Buonfiglio. Kati lives in Washington, D.C. where she's an event planner for an environmental organization. She's been reading romance for over 25 years and is active in several romance communities. She is a reviewer and columnist for Romance Novel TV. You can visit her at her blog, Adventures in Katidom. Please give a big Playground welcome to our guest today.
I’ve been reading romance a long time, over 25 years. And those who know me well know there is little more that I enjoy than recommending books that I think they’ll love. But these are experienced romance readers. What happens when it’s someone who has never read romance? Or what if they have a disdain (that generally they can’t explain) for romance? What happens then? How do we get them to give the genre that we love so much a chance?
For me, I base my recommendations on what I know about them. If they read sci-fi, I might recommend someone like Ann Aguirre, who wrote the amazing Grimspace and its follow-up, Wanderlust. Both books are set in a gritty future-world where space travel is the norm and there are certain people who are gifted with an almost psychic ability to “jump” space ships from place to place. Or Linnea Sinclair, who writes wonderful sci-fi romances that feature strong, tremendously smart heroines and the sexy, domineering men who love them.
If the person is a fantasy reader, I might suggest C.L. Wilson’s incomparable Tairen Soul series. The series is deeply imaginative and magical and it captures the essence of “if you can dream it, you can make it so” of fantasy writing. Or, perhaps I’d suggest Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warlords of the Plains series, which are some of my all time favorite books. The books are set in a slightly alternate world that has a Native American flavor to it. The story is both a love story between a man and a woman, but also a nuanced portrayal of a woman who is a fish out of water and trying desperately to adjust and thrive in a new and foreign land. As readers, we discover her new world as she does.
If the potential reader loves mysteries, I might suggest the In Death series by J.D. Robb, which features a slightly future world, and a gritty homicide cop, her billionaire husband (one of the greatest heroes ever written in romance) and the beloved cast of secondary characters who work with her. The series has over 30 books in it and describes some pretty vivid murders, so it might appeal to a lover of the gory mystery book. If they want something with a little more heat, I’d recommend Dying to Please or Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. Both have great mysteries, a very strong romance component, and Howard’s trademark sexual tension.
My latest conversion was my best friend, Amy. She was always slightly derisive of my love of romance. Not in a mean way, but more in that, “Kati, I can’t believe how much romance you read” kind of way. But this year, as she was getting ready to go on a business trip, she called me from Books-A-Million. She was casting around for something to read and wanted a suggestion. Amy happens to have been an art history major. So I suggested Nora Roberts’ The Three Fates. The book surrounds the search for three small, priceless pieces d’arte, the Three Fates. It also features some of the things that Roberts does best: strong smart heroines and delicious, Irish (!) heroes. Amy bought it, read it practically in one sitting, and called again. Now she needed something to read while on vacation. I handed over Homeport by Roberts again. She gobbled that one up, and came back to me. Now it was time to change it up. I’d recently read Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins, a new to me author who had recently won the RITA award for one of her books. I’d thoroughly enjoyed Just One of the Guys, and thought Amy might too. She called me and said, “I was crying on the plane over the book. And I finished it! Now I’ve got to find something to read for the trip home!” Last week, I brought her four more romances.
And there you have it. A romance reader is born. Do I expect that she’ll only read romance? Absolutely not. But she gave it a try, and with a couple of well placed recommendations, I was able to convince someone who had never even considered reading romance a shot.
So, my question is this, what books would you use to “convert” someone? How do you make your book recommendations to friends who are willing to give romance a chance? Have you ever converted someone to romance? How did you do it?
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Anyway, while I'm in the middle of revisions (my excuse for not reading the article) I've been tempting myself with a vacation. 'Zilla, the girls and I are heading for the Smokey Mountains next weekend when the girls get 2 days off of school for Columbus day. Surprisingly enough, I really haven't done a lot of research into what we're doing and where we're going. I usually spend months, weeks planning out every activity, every day, every hour but not this time. I haven't pre-ordered tickets. I haven't made reservations.
All I know is we're taking the girls to a dinner show, Sweet Pea and I are going horseback riding together and we're going to spend some time in the national forest. Aside from that we're going to enjoy the fall weather, the fireplace and hot tub in our cabin and the fact that none of us have to get up at 6 AM.
So, are you a vacation planner or a wanderer? And if you have any tips on things we should do or see while in the Smokey Mountains let me know. I'm open to suggestions.
P.S. ArkieRN is Debby's winner from yesterday. Please contact Playground Monitor with your name and snail mail address and she'll arrange for your prize.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
The first time I blogged – in fact the first time I ever posted a comment on a blog – was in April 2007, when Marilyn invited me to be a guest on the Writing Playground. I had so much fun chatting with everyone online. Huntsville, Alabama, is one of my favorite cities, and the HOD writers are the best.
Now it’s October 1st, 2008 . . . the first day of the month when COUNTDOWN TO DEATH, the first book in my new Magnolia Medical series, will be released. With all those firsts, it seems the perfect time to return to the Playground. Thanks, Marilyn for inviting me back.
How did five people from a small Georgia town contract a rare, deadly disease? Medical researcher Allison Stewart has to work against the clock to find out. Yet before she can ask one question, someone tries to kill her. A handsome recluse who is shrouded in suspicion saves her.
Many believe Luke Garrison is guilty of a decade-old murder—a murder with ties to Allison’s case. Allison dares to work closely with Luke. But is she setting herself up to become victim number six?
I have a plaque in my room that reads: Everything happens for a reason, just believe. Looking back over my life brings home the truth of those words.
Growing up, my mother always said a woman needed a profession so, although I loved both science and English, I pursued a B.S. degree in Medical Technology. After graduation, I worked in the clinical laboratory until the birth of my first child when I turned in my test tubes and became a stay-at-home mom.
When Baby One and Baby Two were little, I published a few magazine articles, but as they grew and when Baby Three appeared, I put my writing on hold. “I’ll get to it when I have more time,” I kept telling myself.
Fast forward to when my eldest was heading for college. I decided to go back to the laboratory and worked part-time at a local hospital. I had started writing again and submitted short articles to area newspapers and medical magazines about what our lab was doing to improve the health and well being of our patients. My co-workers liked seeing their names in print, and I enjoyed having a byline. Before long, an editor from ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory -- a slick publication for management-level laboratorians -- called to ask if I’d be interested in writing for them.
“Write what you know,” the experts say, so my first piece, titled “Flexing the Clock,” spotlighted the folks I worked with, many of whom had schedules tailor-made to fit their personal needs. One of the male techs pulled two 18-hour shifts on weekends so he could be Mr. Mom to his kids during the week. Other folks had schedules that dovetailed with a second job or family commitments.
Shortly after that first article ran, I queried ADVANCE about a story on the summer Olympics. My hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, was hosting the games, and I did a piece on how the medical community was gearing up for the influx of tourists who would need medical care. “Go for the Gold,” was the cover story that August.
While interviewing the city’s leading healthcare professionals, I learned their concerns about the infectious diseases foreign travelers could bring to the U.S. “Emerging Infectious Diseases” ran the month prior to the Olympics and established the direction of future medical articles I wrote, such as “The Rash of Latex Allergies” and “What’s Bugging the United States.”
I served on the magazine’s editorial board for over twelve years and was able to attend numerous scientific conferences. Although I didn’t know it then, the research and the contacts I made were laying the groundwork for the fictional tales I now write.
During that time, I also penned articles for women’s magazines and worked for a number of years for SOUTHERN LADY, a Birmingham publication. Eventually I realized my heart’s desire was to write full-length fiction. Success didn’t come easily, but looking back I can see how so many of what seemed like detours along my road to publication were actually important steps preparing me for my work today.
SCARED TO DEATH, my second Love Inspired Suspense, was a medical story and won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Inspirational Suspense this year. In addition, it’s a Maggie Award of Excellence finalist. Hopefully, that means readers will like COUNTDOWN TO DEATH as well. I just submitted PROTECTING HER CHILD, book two in the series, which will be out in May 2009, and am now working on book three.
My publisher assured me COUNTDOWN TO DEATH would be on the shelves by October 14th. Look for it in your favorite bookstore or order it online through my website: http://www.debbygiusti.com/. I love to hear from readers so email me and let me know if you enjoy the story.
Can I share some more good news? I recently learned Karen Wiesner referenced my work in her latest how-to book, FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL (Writer's Digest Books, 978-1-58297-551-1). The index published online lists SCARED TO DEATH, by Debby Giusti, between J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, and Kate Jacobs, author of THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB. Not bad company! Of course, I’m thrilled.
The Moonlight and Magnolia’s Conference will be this weekend in Atlanta. I’ll be giving a workshop, BE PREPARED, along with Missy Tippens, and signing at the Book Fair on Saturday. If you’re at the conference, be sure to say hello!
Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite series and why? Do you reach for a book in a series before a stand-alone? What do you look for in a series?
Happy writing!!! Happy reading!!!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
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P.S. Debbie is giving away a copy of COUNTDOWN TO DEATH. Post in the comments tail to qualify to win her latest book. She has some appointments this morning but will be here in the afternoon to play.