Thursday, July 31, 2008

Guest Blogger: Sherry Werth

One lucky commenter will be chosen to win a Keep Angel Company prize. All winners will be announced on Saturday, so don’t forget to check back in! And click on the Barbara Vey link in the sidebar to check out some RWA-San Francisco happenings. Yesterday she posted a picture of the Mavens!

Today I’m proud to welcome a fellow Heart of Dixie chapter member who all the Playfriends have enjoyed getting to know. She’s seems quiet at first, until you loosen her up. :) And she’s always willing to lend a helping hand. We like that. So give a big welcome to our friend, Sherry Werth.

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Pushing Past Procrastination

Could it be possible to be this stuck? My procrastination has hit an all time high at this point.

Oh, maybe I should introduce myself. Hi, my name is Sherry and I am a procrastinator. And at this very moment I am wondering who or what alien being invaded my body and responded in a voluntary affirmative manner to do this guest blog. What ever made me think I could fill a pair of Playfriend shoes for one day while they are away having a wonderful time in San Francisco? All I can think about right now is hiding under the couch. I have finally lost it.

So, here I sit staring at this stupid little blinking cursor and cursing. See, cursor – cursing, it looks like it belongs in the same word family. I’ve had a week to get this together but as usual I wait until the last minute to ‘Get er’ done’. Oh Lord, I’m starting to talk like Larry the Cable Guy. Next I’ll be cutting the sleeves out of all my shirts! I knew this was a bad idea.

I could blame my lack of productivity on starting a new job this week. Between the information overload from that and the expected nightly feeding frenzy of my family, time just got away from me. Or I could fault past generations for blessing me with the blasted procrastination gene. Procrastinate. Who invented the stupid word anyway? More than likely some idiot like me trying to do something they know nothing about and with the expediency of a slug. Come to think of it, slugs move faster than my fingers on this keyboard. Slugs are such nasty little creatures, don’t you think?

A muse, that’s it. I need to call in the powers of a muse. I wonder if you can buy one on EBay? I would like mine to be tall, dark and handsome or tall, blond and brawny. I’m not picky. Just like one of those guys on the covers of Blaze. Where do they find those guys anyway? You just don’t see men like that walking around in WalMart. Oh yeah, I need to make a WalMart list. We are out of toilet tissue and Diet Coke. Can’t live without either one of those.

Ok, time to settle down and turn something in. They say to write about what you know. Right now I don’t know squat. And who are ‘they’? You always hear people saying ‘they said this’ or ‘they said that’. Is it group of people of just a few? Is it like the group that follows the guy around in the cell phone commercial? Would they be considered a ‘they’? And speaking of cell phones, I need to program my new one. Only I will have to read the book first to figure out how and I don’t know where I left my reading glasses. Reading glasses…that hurts my feelings. Makes me feel old. Maybe if I get some really cool looking ones it will make me feel better about it. Put that on the WalMart list.

Whoops! Sorry, I went off on a tangent there. But that’s how my life goes. One thing just seems to lead to another and another. I want to stop this merry go round and get off.

So, are you a procrastinator like me or a go-getter that I want to become? How do you push past procrastination to get things accomplished? Do you jump in with both feet and 'Just Do it' to overcome the avoidance issues? Are there time management tools you have incorporated into your lifestyle that assist you in being more organized? Do you set goals for yourself with a time frame to achieve them? I am open for suggestions!

Sherry

Sherry Werth makes her home in northern Alabama with her husband, two beautiful children and two very lazy dogs. Her life revolves around taking care of her family, working full time and squeezing in a bit of time for herself to pursue her dream of a writing career in romance.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Guest Blogger: PM's Mother

We have a very special lady filling in the part of the Playground Monitor today. In fact, it is the Playground Monitor's own Mother! As we're learning on the Playground, she's one smart lady, filled with funny anecdotes and wise advice. Guess that's where PM gets it. Help me make PM's Mother welcome today!

Don't forget. One lucky commenter keeping me company today will win a book and surprise goody from the Playfriends!


THE ADVENTURES OF AN OLD FART AND HIS
BEAUTIFUL LADY FRIEND AT THE CIA*
(*Culinary Institute of America)

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This is a romantic tale about the adventures of an Old Fart (hereinafter referred to as OF) and his slightly overweight Beautiful Lady Friend (hereinafter referred to as BLF) and their unforgettable journey to dine at the renowned Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York (hereinafter referred to as the CIA) ...

The OF and his BLF arose at the break of dawn and drove for hours to reach the CIA by the appointed time. At the magic hour they were lead into the American Bounty Room to a table for two laid with fine cotton, Villeroy and Boch china and stainless steel flatware. The table was appropriately decorated with flowers but alas, there was no romantic candle light, for it was the middle of the day.

Having read a menu in the lobby, the BLF had her appetite whetted for a repast of mountain trout, but the menu for today was contrary to the one in the lobby and no trout was to be had. Instead, both the OF and BLF decided to dine on Spit-Roasted Cornish Game Hen with Wild Mushroom Sausage, Savory Bread Pudding and Sherry-Thyme Jus.

This majestic (pronounced expensive) meal began with a soup sampler of three soups -- a Puree of Roasted Carrot, Apple and Vidalia Onion Soup, Tortilla Soup with Quesa Blanco and Hominy and a Crayfish and Asparagus Bisque. The couple could have selected only one of the soups, but what the heck, this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and they decided to go for broke!

The OF, having a more hearty appetite, ordered a salad of Jaxberry Farm Organic Mixed Greens with Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette and Roasted Sunflower Seeds. While having such an exotic name, the plate looked as if someone had raked up the greens from a freshly mowed field. The artistic arrangement of sunflower seeds on the plate created an aesthetic arrangement worthy of the price.

While awaiting the soup and salad, a slightly nervous young waiter (hereinafter referred to as Bread man) served a mouth-watering selection of breads consisting of crusty French Baguettes, Savory Herb Muffins and (good ol’ southern) Corn Sticks with fresh creamy butter. The BLF showed no imagination and selected a baguette while the OF took a corn stick. Fortunately, the Bread man returned several times. BLF was able to get a corn stick and OF sampled the herb muffins.

Enter the Magnificent Entree! The OF and BLF were presented with a plate worthy of a place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Set before them was a dish of succulent roasted fowl with a delicious sausage stuffing and a savory bread pudding and garnished with six slightly blanched Blue Lake green beans, complete with tails and two pencil-thin steamed carrots with stems intact. The entire effect resembled something akin to the NBC Peacock.

Only slightly glutted themselves, when the Bread man returned to clear the table of dishes and scrape the crumbs away, he suggested an after dinner beverage. OF had a cup of mundane coffee while BLF drank a more continental espresso. ...

Dessert was a sight to behold! The OF gorged himself with a luscious Raspberry and Lemon Napoleon and the still slightly overweight BLF indulged herself with a Milk Chocolate-Caramel Crème Brûlée.

Being assured that she would not have to wash dishes before leaving the premises, the BLF waddled to the Ladies Room while the OF shelled out his life savings to pay for this great banquet.

No adventure would be complete without a visit to the Gift Shop. As the hero and heroine departed this institute of sinful (and fattening) cuisine, they ended the adventure with a slow walk though the splendid aisles of the CIA Book Store (such an artful name for gift shop) and returned to the asphalt carpeted parking lot for the trip home to indulge in the customary activities of OF’s and BLF’s around the world . . . to sleep away their excess culinary indulgences.
The public dining room at the Culinary Institute of America is a training ground for young folk wanting to make a career of the food service industry. Our BLF enjoys any meal she doesn't have to cook for herself, so she really appreciates the expertise of chefs around the world. What was your most memorable dining experience?

About PM’s Mother: This widowed octogenarian retired in 1992 after a 30 year career in newspaper advertising. She relocated from North Carolina to the coast of Georgia to live near family, consisting of 2 daughters, 2 great sons-in-law, 3 grandsons and 1 precious two-year-old great granddaughter. Soon after her retirement she became involved in her church and served as president of her ladies' group for three terms and secretary for two terms; also she served as the only three term president of the local Women's Club (only because they couldn't get anyone else to do it.) Now she enjoys traveling, reading, messing with the computer and avoiding all domestic duties, hence hiring a house cleaner and eating out a lot!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mary Freeman

Don't forget our Keep Angel Company contest! Today we have Mary Freeman guest blogging with us. Besides being one of our chapter mates, she's a really cool lady! Like some of the Playfriends, she juggles writing with family and other work. Let's see how she does it!

As with all writers, I’ve been living in my head for as long as I can remember. I thought that if I did enough, I’d stop daydreaming. So I traveled, spent time in the military, studied art, became a nurse, and had a family. It just created more stories. I gave in. It took me a few years, but I finally joined RWA and Heart of Dixie. Of course, I wondered -why did I wait so LONG? At last I have a group of people with the same need to write those stories that beg to be told.

I am unpublished book wise, but I have a few non-fiction articles published. My heart is in fiction; specifically paranormal. I also like suspense and fantasy. At the moment, I am working on a partial that I going to submit to Harlequin Nocturne.

So here I am ready to write a blog while the Playfriends are away at nationals. (yes, I’m envious, but NEXT year I’m there!). Hmmm, what to do first… Ha! I’ve stolen Instigator’s Horns, taken a page from Problem Child’s file, copied from Smarty Pant’s paper, blown the Play Ground Monitor’s whistle, and thoroughly bothered Angel… I am quite the wild child… I guess the next thing to do is write the BLOG!!!

M.V. Freeman

SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM….
(Or, Write when you can)



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One of the first things as a writer that everyone has to learn is: YOU MUST WRITE. In my dreams I have the whole day to write, in a quiet secluded spot with a candle burning, coffee (or tea) at my side, music softly playing (depending on the story), and no interruptions.
Nice dream. (Are you laughing yet…because that did make me snicker a bit)

The reality is a whole lot different. Like with a majority of writers out there, I work full time in a job that requires a minimum of 45 hours a week, call on some weekends, and a holiday or two. Those dratted bills just don’t go away, no matter how many times I’ve paid them. Add in two girls (ten and seven) who require me to get them to and from school (Why can’t they drive at six?), a husband, and one neurotic cat. For some reason, they like to be fed occasionally. The laundry needs to be done- even if I insist my child wear that shirt one more time. The dishes are always there, although I use paper plates whenever possible. I swear the cups just breed on their own (we can start with two and end up with twenty by the end of the day.) It all equals to a very busy life.

Oh, and there’s the matter of this partial that I have to finish.

How in the world do I write? When do I write? I write when I can. This isn’t about time management, it’s about necessity.

Many years ago while in basic training, I received some invaluable advice from one of my drill sergeants (in one of those rare moments when they weren’t trying to make you cry). He was trying to make all of us understand the importance of the small breaks we would get. They would last anywhere from five minutes to hours. He said “Take any breaks you get and use them”. He illustrated this by talking about his time as a raw recruit. When breaks occurred he and his fellow soldiers would be ordered to “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” (smoking was accepted then). He added if you didn’t smoke then most everyone else would sit down, shut their eyes and get cat naps because they never knew when they would get the next opportunity to do so. I ignored that advice…but not for long.

Toward the end of basic training we were marched out to the field. Now, consider this, it was a large group of women of varying ages and backgrounds carrying ruck-sacks that weighed anywhere from thirty plus pounds on up walking, sometimes running, for twelve miles. Let’s just say, nary a one made it without vocalizing something. It was only the beginning. There was night training, guard duty rotation, putting up tents (imagine five women, one tent, and a frustrated drill sergeant- I still cringe), digging of foxholes, gas mask drills, physical fitness training, etc. There was little time to relax or sleep. That’s when I understood what my drill sergeant had meant. Anytime a break was called I found that if I leaned against my hated ruck-sack I could get a few minutes of blissful shut-eye. One time, I got about an hour or two, it was heaven.
I still follow that advice, but not with sleeping, with writing. I write at odd hours. If I have a moment, I write because I am not sure when the next time will occur.

I have read that you have to keep a schedule. I am not sure about you, but every time I try a schedule something screws it up. I have to go to work early, I get off late, my children get sick, my cat throws up, I get sick…you know how it goes. Life happens. Sometimes I write just before I go to work, about five-thirty in the morning (I may get 30 minutes). I write at night after the kids are in bed and before I pass out due to pure exhaustion. Still, after a day of getting chewed out at work, coming home to fighting kids, burning dinner, and having a grumpy husband-I just go to bed and don’t write anything. It’s better to start fresh the next day.

At the moment I wrote most of this blog outside as my kids are swimming, my husband is cleaning the patio furniture (I hate cleaning the patio furniture). I am writing when I can and where I can. I am learning to bring my computer on business travel (those dratted layovers) and on family trips.

Before I whine too much, let me just say I am lucky. I have a husband who really helps out. He cooks (ok, we have scrambled eggs and pizza way too many days in a week), does laundry (washes, folds, and puts away. So what if I can never find it? I am NOT complaining), and coerces the kids to help clean the house. He does this because I work long hours and to support my writing. It’s not always perfect, but it’s a gift and I take it as such.

Tell me how you write? When do you write? Do you have support while writing? Is it worth it? For readers, what do you do with those little pockets of time that come your way?

For me, that answer is a resounding yes.

Don't forget to comment! One lucky winner from today's comments will be announced on Saturday.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What's Your Shoe Personality?

We're kicking off "Keep Angel Company Week"! See details at the end of this post!

As many of you have probably noticed, we are a bit obsessed with shoe shopping here on the Playground. I have to admit, this was an undiscovered part of myself before we formed this group. But I’ve since come to embrace the joys of purchasing the perfect pair of shoes to go with an outfit and have finally surpassed my husband in the shoe quantity department.

Today, I’ve decided to spill all the Playground secrets and discuss each of our “shoe personalities”. What is that? you ask. Well, it is the specific type of shoe each Playfriend gravitates toward when out looking for shoes. I’m not talking about your everyday footwear (the choice of which this summer seems to be Teva flipflops), but the style of those “special” shoes you purchase for the “extra”ordinary event.

High Class Call Girl
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I’d call Problem Child’s taste in shoes something along the lines of High Class Call Girl. She likes the really high heels and pain is not a consideration, so much as style. She’s been a dancer so long, pain in her feet doesn’t register like it would with us mortals. And her enjoyment of the spotlight makes for some show stopping, fabu shoe choices that I could never pull off in a million years.

Hooker Gear

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Yes, I’m not exaggerating here. As a matter of fact, Instigator actually owns a pair of Hooker boots and I’ve seen her wear them in public. A conservative black compared to these babies, but I’m sure she’d have these if she could find them in a store. That being said, they fit her personality. She isn’t published with Blaze for nothing, honey!

She also has a thing for gladiator styles. I don’t know and I don’t ask.

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Drag Queen

Smarty Pants often calls her style of shoes Drag Queen (from years of living in Vegas, baby!). Well, I’d call it Upscale Drag Queen. Over the top classy with lots of bling.

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I’d also call SP a fan of Retro. I’ve often seen her drooling over a pair of plaid Converse tennies at the mall.

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Cute and Comfy

Playground Monitor always goes for comfy shoes. Not that I can blame her. She’s had several foot surgeries and, well, if your feet hurt, I know from experience the rest of you will be miserable. And though her shoes are comfortable, they have an understated style that fits her. She doesn’t need lots of bling. Her personality shines for itself, as evidenced by her ability to walk into a room at Nationals and already know half the people there.

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Feminine and Flirty

I like to think of my own style as feminine with a subtle touch of sexy. Taking a page from PM’s book, my shoes have to be mostly comfortable. I’m not into torture, even if I do want to look good, so 4 inch heels are out. But I’m developing a taste for something a little different, instead of the same boring black pumps. My husband is rejoicing…

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So there you have it. I’ve told you our secrets, now we want to know yours. How would you describe your shoe personality? Come on… spill the details!

Angel

It's Keep Angel Company week, though the Playfriends don't leave for San Francisco until tomorrow! I'll be choosing one commenter from each day this week to win a lovely prize. All 5 winners will be posted next Saturday.

PS. Elle Kennedy chose Amy S. as her winner from last Thursday. Email Angel at angel@writingplayground.com with your email address to receive your prize. All prizes must be claimed within 7 days.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Over!

I apologize in advance, but this entire blog is going to be about food. It has been the focus of my obsession for the last two weeks.

The 11 day diet is over at last. Hallelujah. I can hardly believe I made it. I made it through 11 days of funky food combinations and without a stitch - not one lick - of chocolate the entire time. (Tragic, I know.)Were I not leaving town for Nationals Tuesday, I'd probably start this torture, I mean diet, over again on Monday. I mean, for all the griping, I did lose a good bit of weight in 11 days. That's better than I've done on other diets. I'm sure more than a few will return after the free weekend and vacation time, but I'm okay with that.

Now begins the 3 days we get "off." You're deliberately supposed to eat higher calories these days to trick your metabolism, then start the diet over again on Monday. Since I'm going to take more time off, I am going to aim for a happy medium - basically good eating with some treats woven in for good measure. Sadly, whole wheat bread and granola bars are now considered treats. :)

To celebrate today, I will be going to the Krispy Kreme. A coworker brought a box of them in last week, when I couldn't eat them. He's lucky to still be alive. Anyway, I didn't eat them, I was good, but I promised myself one hot one off the conveyor belt this weekend when I was on my free days. I'm not going hog wild and eating a dozen, as much as I'd like to, but 1 as a reward. Maybe 2. I also forsee my favorite, pizza, slipping its way in. There will be no mention of tuna salad or peanuts for the next two weeks.

Once I get to San Francisco, I will eat my catered food, including dessert. I will drink margaritas in the bar with the other writers. I will eat the chocolate in my goodie bag. I will enjoy the wonderful sourdough bread and seafood that the area has to offer.

Then I'll come back and try this again. I sort of look at these two weeks as me losing the weight I'd gain on vacation before I left.

What are you treating yourself to this weekend?
SP

(Don't forget - Monday kicks off our special week where we turn the blog over to our readers! Be sure to keep Angel company while we're away!)

animal

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guest Blogger - Elle Kennedy


I am so excited to welcome Elle Kennedy to the blog today! Not only is she a wonderful writer, but she's also a great friend and a fantastic critique partner. She's spent many hours helping me make my writing better. I'm thrilled to be able to share her success with everyone here. Please give Elle a warm Playground welcome!

First off, I wanted to thank the ladies of the Playground for letting me blog with them today! I’m proud to say I had the chance to read Kira’s debut Blaze and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final version! Kira in turn read a romantic suspense of mine, and actually, she was the one who suggested I submit it to Silhouette Intimate Moments, now SRS—and what do ya know? I sold it and now have my own debut coming out in April! Needless to say, I owe you, Ms. Instigator!

So today I’m going to admit to something: I sometimes forget fictional characters are, well, fictional. Yes, it’s a problem.

For example, the other day I was thinking about something someone had said, a flirty little comment, and I’m searching my brain trying to remember who said it. And I’m thinking, who was it?! I remember he was really hot and cute and funny…and wait, I’m thinking of Ben Barrett, the hero of my latest Samhain release, Midnight Encounters.

I’d like to say that I love my characters so much that they become real to me (which I do, and they do) and that’s why I develop crushes on them, but alas, I often crush on the heroes of some of my favourite authors. I blame my current fictional crushes on two authors.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This author has a problem—her characters are so darn real I can’t help but fall for them! At the moment, I have a thing for Dean Robillard from Natural Born Charmer. If you’ve read this story, you know why. Dean is a sexy, charming football quarterback. Rich, sexy, funny, smart, sexy, generous, kind, cocky…did I mention sexy?

It’s sad, how badly I wish this guy was real. I’ve read this story about eight times and I’m still not sick of it, all because of SEP’s ability to make her hero come alive and make me want, well, him.

My other current crush is on Mark Trevor, who’s appeared in two of Iris Johansen’s books, Blind Alley and Countdown. Now, a lot of people I know who have read this book did not like Trevor. I think they’re insane. So what if he’s kind of a jerk? So what if he’s arrogant and macho, a bit of an ass at times and somewhat of a criminal? Bad boys are my guilty pleasure, and although I know he’s not real, I wish he was, only so I could tame his bad boy heart….

Now, I know these characters are not real. I’m not delusional or anything. But I can’t help crushing on them, either. Like I said, it’s a problem.

So my question to everyone is: have you ever found yourself falling for a fictional hero? Crushing? Fantasizing? Are there any authors you love who provide unbelievably real heroes? And for the writers out there, have you ever fallen for your own heroes?

Oh, and I’ll be giving away a free download of Midnight Encounters to one commentator. The story features Ben Barrett, a sexy, charming movie star who I need to remind myself is not real!

Elle Kennedy


Thanks for visiting with us today, Elle! And don't forget to visit Elle at her blog www.sizzlingpens.blogspot.com. That's where I am today talking about my very first book signing coming up in San Francisco next week.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Home Alone


Nope, this isn't a movie review, but rather a continuation of the “Getting Ready for Conference” blogs. We've talked about coping at your first conference, our efforts to lose weight (I'm down 5 pounds and if I never eat tuna again I will die a happy woman), super-duper packing lists and how to win prizes while we're gone.

But there's still one more aspect of leaving I need to take care of (besides my pre-conference haircut (tomorrow) and manicure and pedicure (Monday afternoon).
I need to make sure the DH is taken care of.

Before I board that flight to San Francisco next week, I have to make sure he has clean clothes and plenty to eat. “Leave him a bunch of take out menus,” I hear from one corner of the audience. “Let him do his own laundry,” says another.

Yeah, I could do that. But for the past twelve years I've had the privilege of being a stay-at-home wife and mother, and part of the deal was that I handled the housework, laundry and cooking. He can do all those things. He did them on a regular basis while I worked because we had a weekly chores schedule posted on the fridge door every week.

Besides, we all know that restaurant food isn't the healthiest fare around. It's okay once in a while, but not every day. He has to travel fairly frequently on business and must eat out then. So when he's home, he needs good, healthy food.
Since 2000, the DH has been on a health and fitness kick. He's in the gym at least 4 days a week and plays competitive volleyball. So I'd hate for him to eat calorie-laden, sodium-infused food and blow his diet while I'm having fun in San Francisco eating overpriced bagels and rubber conference-luncheon chicken.

So I'll hit the supermarket before I leave and stock up on plenty of salad fixins and meats he can easily grill or nuke. I'll make sure there's a fresh half-gallon of 2% milk in the fridge and a full box of his favorite organic granola in the pantry. I'll have plenty of peanut butter and Polaner strawberry fruit spread for his favorite snack. And I'll get an extra loaf of wheat bread and tuck it away in the freezer.

I know, I know. I've spoiled him rotten. But spoiling works two ways. I have limited income from my writing and I pay for as much of my RWA expenses as I can. But when that runs out, he flips his Amex card to me and says “Go and have a good time.” So the very least I can do is make sure he has clean socks and underwear and stock the pantry, freezer and fridge.

The other Playfriends have babysitter and/or petsitter issues to tend to as well. So their “home alone” preparations are more extensive than mine cause it's a heck of a lot easier to stock a fridge than line up sitters for a week. Been there, done that too.

For some reason, I don't think the rabbits invading our backyard will notice I'm gone. But I do need to remember to put my potted outdoor plants by a sprinkler head so they'll get some water while I'm gone.

Then after I've left my heart in San Francisco I can come back home, crash for a few days (conference always leaves me exhausted, but it's a good kind of exhaustion) and get back in the swing of the routine at home. But only after I've downloaded my camera and sent the pictures to Angel. ;-)

Do you ever travel and leave your spouse and/or kiddies home alone?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How to get gifties from the Playfriends...

Conference is coming… let the countdown begin!

For those of you going to San Francisco:

We’d love to meet any of the Honorary Playfriends who will be there. Our Instigator, Kira Sinclair, will be signing for the first time at the huge Literacy Signing Wednesday night. Come by and tell her hello (and grab a copy of her book to support a great cause).

On Friday at 2pm, Instigator, Smarty Pants, and I will be giving a workshop with Blaze editor Brenda Chin. We promise it will be entertaining—and PM will be there handing out all kinds of goodies to the participants. We’d love to have friendly folks there to cheer us on, so come by.

Should you happen to see us around the hotel, please stop us and introduce yourself. To encourage you shy types, we have special surprises just for our blog readers who find us at the conference. Just let us know you read the blog to claim yours.

And, and if you do see us, remind us that Angel expects lots of pictures and we’re supposed to be using those cameras in our bags.

For our blog friends who won’t be at the conference, we’ll have plenty going on here. Our Angel has to stay home, so we’re running a Keep Angel Company Contest while we’re gone. To be entered for great prizes (books, chocolate, gifties from San Francisco), all you have to do is help keep our Angel from getting lonely. Comment on the blog, send her jokes and messages, whatever you can think of to entertain her in our absence. We’ll show our gratitude when we get home!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Water--Friend or Foe?

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Picture of leafy seadragon

I’m out of town today, making a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium with the family as a kind of farewell to summer. My children go back to school starting Aug. 6th. We haven’t been to this particular aquarium since Drama Queen was 3. They’ve expanded a great deal since then, so I can’t wait to get there and explore. That's where that cute little guy above lives. Isn't he darlin'?

I’ve always loved water. Love to look at it, sit next to it, hear it. The sights and sounds soothe me and yet call to me at the same time. Every month on the way to our monthly RWA meeting, I have to cross a bridge over the Tennessee river. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes on the road. I keep wanting to glance over and stare, which is certainly not safe while driving. :)

But I don’t like to BE in water. Don’t get me wrong. Swimming is one of my preferred exercises, but only in a pool. It’s the murky ocean and muddy rivers I can’t handle. There, my love of water wars with fear of the unseen. I can’t see what’s in there, so I’m afraid to move. What if I step on a crab? What if a jellyfish wraps around my leg? What if there is a shark? Not that I’d get that deep in ocean waters. I saw Jaws at too impressionable an age to make that mistake.

So I have this weird love/hate relationship with water. Or maybe hate is too strong a word. I simply dislike swimming in it with other creatures. But I love looking at them safely from the other side of the glass.

What about y’all? Is your enjoyment of water limited to the fountain at the local shopping center, or would you live in it if you could? Or am I simply as neurotic as I suspect I am?

Angel

PS: Don't forget to join us on Thursday when author Elle Kennedy braves a visit to the Playground!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Winners!

A couple of winners to announce...

My winner from Tuesday is... Jane!
Nicola Marsh's blog winners are... Jolie and Kathy!

Y'all can email your snail mail addys to me (problemchild@writingplayground.com). I'll get Jane's in the mail and forward the infor for Jolie and Kathy to Nicola.

PC

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Playfriend Bloggers

I've been so excited as I've vetted blogs for Nationals Week here on the Playground. I think y'all are really going to enjoy the range of subjects we'll be talking about and getting to put some faces with the names you see here on Blogger.

Here is our Playfriend Blogger line-up:

July 29th Mary Freeman
July 30th PM's Mother
July 31th Sherry Werth
August 1st Sue Jochens

I'm looking forward to having these lovely ladies and all our readers keep me company here on the blog during Nationals Week. Don't forget to join us and comment for all the great prizes we'll be giving away.

Angel

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Comprehensive Must-Have Magical Mystical Packing List

I had a panic attack earlier this week. I'd lost my packing list. This was a problem. This wasn't just some piece of scratch paper with a couple things doodled on it. This was The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List. Its a computer file I use for all my trips. It even has a special version just for Nationals. And it was gone. Poof. Not on my hard drive at work. Not on my hard drive at home. Not on my flash drive. Perhaps I'd gotten over-zealous cleaning stuff off my flash drive and dumped it on accident. What tragedy! Alas, I borrowed PC's list and used it to rebuild my own. I thought I would share it with all of you because it is so handy. Use this to develop your own Comprehensive Must-Have Magical Mystical Packing List and save it someplace special. (Personally, I know that by posting it in the blog, I will never lose it - it will always live in the archives!)

My list is broken into sections, starting with what I'm wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I've racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I've been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists.

Wear on Plane
  • Shirt
  • Jeans
  • Sweater
  • Sneakers
  • Socks

Then I have the list of what goes in my backpack. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your carry on, your toiletry bag...whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. You'll notice mine includes several things for the workshop we're doing on Friday. Must have that stuff. You don't want it to end up in Seattle while you're waiting in California.

Backpack

  • Plane Itinerary
  • Camera & Battery Charger
  • Cell Phone & Charger
  • Workshop Stuff - Laptop & Accessories, Flash Drive w/any necessary files, Handouts & Notecards
  • 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)
  • Book to read on the plane
  • ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket - one that zips for security - for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)
  • Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won't need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)
  • Snacks (They don't feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food.)
  • Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)
  • Travel Alarm Clock (If you can't set your cell phone, and you can, I'm pretty sure)
  • Mini flashlight
  • Business Cards

Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you're carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes.

Toiletry Bag

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush
  • Clips/Bands/Barettes
  • Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)
  • Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can't, pack your own)
  • Hair Products - Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler
  • Hair Electronics - blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc.
  • Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators
  • Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you'll be outside a lot)
  • Razor & Shaving gel
  • Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)
  • OTC Meds - Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills
  • Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs
  • First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you haven't read this blog for very long)
  • Mini Sewing Kit
  • Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray (another must on the Playground!)

Luggage

  • Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag
  • Panties x # of days, plus one
  • Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed
  • 2 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC and an extra if it runs)
  • 1 regular bra & 1 strapless bra (as needed for formals, etc)
  • Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed
  • Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days
  • 1 pair jeans (if you aren't doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary)
  • Waterproof Windbreaker (SFO is cool, wet and windy)
  • Pull over sweater (layers are good)
  • Gloves and a hat if its really cold by the water
  • Pajamas (I don't know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)
  • Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)
  • Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, etc.
  • Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins (RWA did a nice one in Reno for their Anniversary that had a pocket and a pen holder that I like to bring and use instead of the normal ones they usually have.)
  • Shoes - At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you're inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. You could wear the same shoes every day if it matches, but I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over.
  • Jewelry - Make sure you know what you're wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don't have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like black capris or a skirt that I can use a couple times. As PC has mentioned, microfiber is awesome - it doesn't wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here's my breakdown based on my typical activities...

  • Wednesday - black microfiber skirt, red top, black heels, red jewelry
  • Thursday - black capris, blue microfiber top, black sandals, blue jewelry
  • Thursday Night - eHQN PJ party attire, flip flops/slippers
  • Friday - black microfiber skirt, purple microfiber top, black sweater, black heels, purple jewelry
  • Friday Night - formal, PM dress heels, silver/black jewelry
  • Saturday - black capris, pink satin top, pink heels, pink jewelry
  • Saturday Night - formal, SW dress heels, silver/black jewelry
  • Sunday - t-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home
    (add days as needed if you're coming early or staying late to sitesee)
  • Pitch Outfit - if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you're wearing
  • Extra Outfit - a fabu just in case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you're already planning to bring

Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What's on your must pack list?

Oh, and don't forget the deadline for blog proposals is coming up. Email Angel with what you'd like to blog about and you could replace one of us while we're at conference!

SP

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Conference Ten?

You know, I never had to worry about the freshman 15. I stayed home for college and my mommy continued to cook most of my meals. However, I seem to have replaced that dreaded experience with the conference 10 - the opposite of freshman 15. Instead of fretting over gaining...I'm obsessing over losing those 10 pounds that I've been ignoring for the last, oh, eleven months. Several of the playfriends have started a crash diet. So far I'm pretty pleased. We'll see if I have enough time to lose those 10.

But I think this highlights an interesting point about my life. I have an alter ego...my conference ego. This woman wears stylish clothes, kick ass shoes and - gasp - make-up. She does not exist in a ponytail, five year old blue jeans and a Sea World t-shirt complete with jumping Shamu. Do you know, I buy more clothes for this one week of my life than I probably have the rest of the year combined.

But it's the only time I get to play grown-up. I get to leave the kids at home (wouldn't mind if DH were along for the fun though!) and bring out my heels, rhinestones and curling iron. Somehow I don't think those things have a place here down on the farm. I can just see the goats eating the jewels off my fabulous shoes. Someone would die!

I have my conference wardrobe planned - most days have at least two outfits. I will probably spend an average of 90 minutes in front of the mirror throughout the day (must change jewelry, make-up and hairstyle to match new clothing). While at home I roll out of bed as late as possible, stealing those last nine minutes from the snooze on my alarm and forsaking make-up in exchange for another nine. I pick the closest thing out of the closet...because it was probably the last thing hung up when DH did wash and I know it a.) is clean and b.) fits.

If this happened more than seven days out of every year I might contemplate the possibility that I was schizophrenic. Instead, I just think I enjoy being around other people who get me. I enjoy dressing up, feeling pretty and confident. And Lord knows Eeyore just doesn't appreciate high fashion.
What's your favorite thing about national conference? If you aren't a writer (or won't be attending) do you have a time/place in your life where you act like a completely different person?
Instigator

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Losing Your Virginity



Conference virginity that is. All of us were first-time attendees of RWA’s national conference at one point. My first time was in Dallas in 2004. I’d only been a member of my local chapter for about two months and didn’t really know any of the members well. I did, however, have bunches of online friendships I’d made through my book reviewing.

So I booked my flight to Dallas, arranged to room with an online friend who had an opening in her room, read everything I could about the conference and away I went. In addition to the workshops, I volunteered to help the Silhouette Desire authors at the Literacy Signing.

Looking back, it was a great experience, and it’s one I’ve repeated every year since. But there are some things I wish I’d known to help make that first conference go just a little smoother.

So I reached out to some of my writer friends and asked them for pieces of advice they’d offer to newbies. As usual, they were more than generous with their time and advice.

Sheri Whitefeather (who also writes as Cherie Feather) and Eve Silver (who also writes as Eve Kenin) both suggested volunteering. Eve says it “gives you the opportunity to meet and connect with other volunteers, and it also segues into conversation with those attending the event you are volunteering for.”

Linda Winstead Jones and Linda Howard both advised to wear comfortable shoes. You'll walk miles at conference. "And take a jacket!” Linda Howard added. A friend who lives in that area told that SF temperatures are very erratic.

Nalini Singh suggested, “Make a schedule! It’ll help you from being overwhelmed and make sure you get the most of your conference experience.” Mine is in the form of a Word table with the days across the top and time slots down the left side. It's an easy way to know where I need to be and when.

However, while you’re making that schedule, keep in mind this bit of advice from Leslie Kelly. “I would suggest NOT trying to choose a workshop for every single slot of every day of the conference. Be judicious, pick the ones you really want to go to and give yourself a break if there’s a block of time with nothing that really interests you.”

Kristi Gold suggests you get to the popular workshops early so you can get a seat. She said she’s been shut out of workshops before because she arrived late and the room was packed. She also said to “make a point to visit the publisher spotlights for the house you're targeting. Usually individual editors list their personal preferences."

"If you're planning to meet up with people, especially people you haven't met in person before," says Abby Gaines, "call the hotel reception and ask them for a 'landmark' in the lobby where you can tell people to meet you. It's much clearer to say, 'Meet you next to the statue of Paul Revere' than to say 'Meet you in the lobby.'"

Tanya Michaels says, “Close your eyes and think of England!” Hey that works for me. She also suggests snagging a bit of downtime to rest. Many of the workshops are taped and you can buy the CD’s to listen to later. The definition of downtime varies from person to person, so it may range from having drinks at the bar to taking a nap with a cool cloth across your forehead.

Tanya also said if you have an editor appointment to “jot down ahead of time the names of a few of your favorite authors at that house.” This way if you freeze up from nerves like she did, you can refer to your notes. “Thankfully,” Tanya said, “she bought my book anyway!”

One of my favorite bits of advice came from Debra Dixon. “Repeat after me: ‘Hi, this is my first conference. Is it yours?’ Too often people sit like stones staring at their plates or lap instead of turning to the person next to them and saying a simple hello. Making connections is one of the most important benefits of attending a conference. You never know where a simple hello will lead unless you actually say hello! Be bold. The bold shall inherit the contacts.”

In that same vein, Roxanne St. Claire said, "You can have a conversation with anyone, anywhere, any time at conference. All you need is one question: "What do you write?" Every single person there will have an answer, and it will spark dialogue. Even if that answer is, 'I don't. I'm an agent.' Hey, that's not bad, is it?"

Jennifer LaBrecque reminds you, though, to "be careful what you say anywhere other than the privacy of your hotel room. You never know who you're standing next to or whose friend you're standing next to." She also cautions this is not the place to drink too much. "Loose lips sink ships," one of my old bosses used to say.

Many writers are introverts who spend the majority of their time holed up with a computer and the voices in their heads. Talking to other people is outside their comfort zone. But with the two questions above, you can break the ice and maybe even make someone's day and make a new friend -- or two or three or a dozen.

At my first conference, I went to lunch the first day and apparently looked like a little lost lamb. A friendly woman came up to me and asked if I'd like to sit at her table. We chatted during lunch and she made me feel like the most special person in the world. Her name is Susan Crosby and she has written for Desire, Next and now Special Edition. Our conference lunch has become an annual event (we just firmed up our plans for this year yesterday) I look forward to. If she hadn't made that move, we'd never have met and eating lunch alone might have set a bad conference tone for me. So look for little lost lambs and invite them to join you.

Roxanne also suggested taking along at least one outfit you feel absolutely great wearing and saving it for the most stressful day (an editor/agent appointment or the workshop you're giving). Just be sure to try on all your clothes and shoes before you leave home to make sure they fit and don't have any loose buttons or ripped hems.

Another of Roxanne's ideas (she was simply a font of advice -- this is her ninth national conference in a row) was to go with a goal in mind -- something tangible and measurable like "I'm going to learn somehting about five different publishers I didn't know when I left." The Playfriends will remember the goal I gave each of them last year. I heard moans and grumbling, but by golly, each of them made their goal and I was proud as punch of them. Angel is our shyest and she was grinning from ear to ear when she showed me her results.

Along with all the great advice above (and thank you so much to all the authors who shared their conference wisdom), I’d like to suggest the following:

Be sure to pack a bottle of your favorite over-the-counter pain reliever. Carry it with you at all times. Even if you never need it, you can offer some to another conference attendee and make a friend for life.

Drink plenty of water. Hotel air conditioning can dehydrate you quickly, and that can lead to the mother of all headaches. Most hotels offer glasses of water in each meeting room. Or do as I do and buy a bottle of water in the airport once you’ve passed through security and then just refill it throughout the week.

Remember your camera so you can have memories of your conference once you get back home. The photo of you with your all-time favorite romance writer will be priceless to you.

Also remember the charger for your camera as well as for your cellphone.

You’ll get lots of free books and goodies at the conference and may make purchases at the Midnight Madness Bazaar, the book fair and local souvenir shops. Getting these back home can be a challenge, especially with the new luggage fees. Go to the Federal Express website and set up a FedEx account. It’s free. And it will allow you to ship stuff back home from the business center of the hotel at a pretty reasonable cost. I shipped back several hundred dollars worth of books plus goodies last year for around $35.

Or you can take the advice of Barbara Vey from Publisher's Weekly. She says to tell folks to "pack their suitcases and then take out 5 things, because you never need all that you take and you need room in your suitcase for all the books and goodies you get. Also, make sure you have extra batteries for your camera because there are lots of opportunities for pictures."

Before the days of baggage charges, I would pack a duffel bag flat in the bottom of my suitcase, fill it with books and goodies as I collected them and send it back as my second piece of luggage. If you're on an airline that still allows a second piece free (Southwest does) you may want to take that option.

I hope this helps the newbies who will be attending their first RWA conference in San Francisco in just – YIKES! – two weeks. And feel free to add your own advice in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Your heroine's baggage is nothing compared to mine...


If you visit lots of blogs in Romancelandia, you can’t help but realize that the National Conference is coming up quickly. Goodness knows I’ve been in full conference prep mode for a while now.

The baggage restrictions on most airlines really suck, you know, so I’m all about getting everything I can into the smallest, lightest suitcase. Which can be quite difficult when you’re taking nine outfits for a four-day conference. As I get my act together and start packing, I thought I’d share some packing tips.

Some hints and ideas to pass along:

Open a FedEx account. Yep, I’m serious. With all the books and such you’re going to pick up at Nationals, most folks will tell you just to ship a box of your newly acquired goodies home. It’s a great idea—at least until you see the line at the business center as everyone tries to get their boxes shipped. Did you know that if you have a FedEx account, you can just fill out the form with your account number and drop the box off at the concierge desk? Most hotels will seal the box and get it shipped off for you. No waiting in line. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account on-line—much faster than waiting in that really long line with everyone else. You know, you can ship stuff to the conference as well…

Learn the wonders of non-wrinkling fabric. I’m loving the microfiber. Most of my clothes are made of this wonder fabric—including one of my evening gowns. Not only can I fold (read “wad”) everything into a suitcase instead of using a hanging bag without dreading the time spent with an iron at the other end, the fabric is so thin that it takes up very little space. Meaning I can bring even more clothing!

Bring hangers. Especially if you have roommates. Hotels rarely have more than a few non-removable hangers in the room, and you’ll need those extra hangers for all your stuff. If you bring some metal ones from the drycleaner, you can leave them behind (opening up a little space for one last book or souvenir).

Speaking of roommates, advance communication with those roommates is critical. Consolidate and plan ahead--you don’t need four hairdryers. If one of your roommates happens to wear the same size clothes or shoes, maybe you could have an extra fabu outfit ready to wear, yet not in your suitcase!

And one last tip—this one for saving the planet. Many hotels are now trying to save water and lower the amount of detergents uses, so they give you the option of not having your towels replaced every day. It’s a nice idea, except if you have three roommates (like I do), it’s impossible to keep up with whose towel is whose. Take a couple of small pieces of colored ribbon and a few safety pins. Mark your towels with a ribbon and hang them up to dry.
I'm sure you have some of your own travel and packing tips to share. Feel free to do so in the comments tail. I'll start the goodie giveaway extravaganza that is Nationals a little early and give books to the best tipsters!
PC

Monday, July 14, 2008

Guest Blogger Nicola Marsh (Encore!)

Nicola had such a good time on the Playground on her first visit, she's back for another spin on the merry-go-round. This time, she's talking about her new book for Harlequin Romance, and one of our favorite subjects...

Give her another big Playground welcome!

LET’S TALK FANTASIES!

It’s great to be back in the Playground! :-)

Last time, I ended up giving myself a name no one understood (thank goodness you didn’t think Swot meant anything too shabby!) and a mini-geography lesson (unintentionally) on the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.

So this time I’m going for something completely different: fantasies.

I’m an avid reader. I devour books; have ever since I was a kid.
I read widely, across genres and could happily spend a day/week/month curled up with my nose in a book.

For me, part of the appeal of reading is getting engrossed in another world, being so absorbed in the characters’ lives that I’m almost there alongside them, laughing and crying and feeling their pain. It’s sheer pleasure to be swept up in the fantasy as I turn the pages, eager to reach the end yet reluctant to do so because I love the story so much.

In my books, I tend to ground them in real settings, particularly my fabulous home city of Melbourne, which I adore! So last year it was time to let my imagination run free, to create a fictitious fantasy setting and Adhara was the result. From a private desert oasis to a French-inspired palace, from a lush palace garden to an intriguing souk, I thought ‘fantasy’ all the way and THE DESERT PRINCE’S PROPOSAL (Harlequin Romance, out now in the UK & USA) is the result.

Here’s the back blurb:

Saying yes to the Prince of the desert!

Time is running out for Prince Samman al Wali! In order to be crowned King, he must marry. He has rejected all his advisors' suggestions...then he is captivated by a unique pair of honey-coloured eyes and chooses Bria for his bride!

Bria Green is an intelligent, independent, modern woman. Samman tells her she'll agree to his proposal within a week. She's sure that the powerful Prince won't get his way.

But in the scorching heat of the desert, Samman's heady kisses may change Bria's mind!


To celebrate its release this week I’m giving away a signed copy.
To win, share a fantasy with us (keep it clean, please!) in the comments. It could be a fantasy date, fantasy dinner, fantasy destination, fantasy celebrity. Go ahead, use your imaginations! :-)


Thanks for having me in the Playground!

Nicola
http://www.nicolamarsh.com/
PS. Don't forget we're looking for a few good bloggers to keep Angel company while the rest of the Playfriends hit San Francisco for RWA's National Conference. Scroll down for details.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Calling All Playfriend Bloggers!!!

The Playfriends have decided to do something exciting on the blog this year during RWA Nationals convention (July 29-August 1), and we need your help! Actually, we want YOU to appear on our blog.

We'll be choosing 4 guest bloggers to help keep me company while the rest of the Playfriends are gone to San Francisco. Each guest blogger will write one blog for us to enjoy. Prizes will be given both to bloggers and to commenters during that week.

If you'd like to participate, just send me an email introducing yourself (if I don't already know you) and proposing what topic you'd like to write about. I'll choose four winners by July 19th and announce them here on the blog next weekend. All blogs have to be written and turned in to me by July 26th or turned over to someone else.**

So show us what you've got! Send your introduction and blog topic to me, Angel, at angel@writingplayground.com ! I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

And don't forget to tune in that week and keep me company. It will be awfully lonely without the other Playfriends hanging around.

Angel

**All posts will be subject to Playfriend approval.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sexual Tension

As predicted, I'm totally stuck on chapter five. It's so frustrating, especially since I'm in a writing challenge right now. Even with an outline, I've slowed to a crawl. I pretty much have had to skip that chapter and move on to chapter six because that's when some of the paranormal elements kick in. Chapter four forces the hero and heroine together. Chapter five is where they're really supposed to let the sparks fly between them. They're supposed to be drawn together despite their differences and the danger of their situation. By the end of the chapter (per my outline) they're supposed to kiss, then the heroine is going to withdraw. This rouses the hero to his senses and they go to separate corners. Then it all goes to hell in chapter six and I'm good with that. That's when the sex becomes unabashed, possessed, sex goddess sex. There's no time for navel gazing, just raw sexual consumption.

As time goes on, I'm getting better at writing the sex, but not so much the sexual tension. How long can a heroine really stand there, agog, thinking about the hard, masculine ripples of the hero's biceps? How many times can her eyes run down the flat muscles of his stomach, pausing momentarily to blush at his hot package of love that will no doubt inspire her to frenzied climaxes within only a few more chapters? How often can the hero or heroine *tingle* deep inside with a longing they've denied themselves for far too long? How long can they internalize why they shouldn't give into the temptation? The air buzzes with a sexual electricity between them. Her nipples peak and press against the tight fabric of her blouse, betraying her arousal to the man she's trying to resist...

Blah, blah, blah. I'm over it. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I need to read more and see how others do it. The problem is that others seem to do it so seemlessly, I don't even notice it when I'm reading. If the book is good, I just skip right along and craft is the last thing in my mind. Then when I try to do it, it sticks out like a sore thumb (pardon the pun).

I know I can't be the only one with this problem. What am I missing here? Any suggestions? If you're currently writing, is anything giving you fits?

SP

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Living in a Fog

The last few weeks haven't exactly been the best in my world. The problem is that my world hasn't exactly stopped spinning long enough for me to adjust. I knew that summer was going to be a busy time for us...big anniversaries, 3 birthdays, countless birthday parties for friends, a trip to the local water park, 4th of July plans, meetings, nationals, getting the girls ready for school since their first day back is the day after I get home. The problem is that I didn't anticipate 'Zilla getting his left hand (his dominant hand) mauled by a dog. And I didn't plan on getting walking pneumonia.
Now, my doctor stopped short of actually diagnosing me with it but my sister has it, we have most of the same symptoms and many of the same meds. So I'm just assuming. I don't have time for this! Add to the fact that these 5 different meds are making me feel like I'm living in a fog and...I'd almost rather just hack up a lung and be done with it.
I'm in the middle of a writing challenge. I have 2 proposals to get together (one of which isn't cooperating but I think it's simply unfortunate timing and lack of creative focus). I'm also in the middle of a weight loss challenge. Yesterday I fell asleep at my desk twice staring at my blank word document. After the second time I decided I needed to get out for a few minutes and wake up my brain. I stopped at the bakery and bought several cookies in the hopes that a shot of sugar would help. There goes both challenges.
I'm not whining...okay, so maybe I am. But at the moment I don't care. It's bad when I forget that it's Thursday. Or when I wake up at 6:30, realize I forgot to write my blog, compose it while lying in bed and can't get the energy to actually get up and trot to the computer to write it. I think I'm going to adjust the dose of a couple of my meds and see if that helps. Nationals is in a couple weeks and I'm nowhere near ready.
So, since this turned into a blatant whinefest I'm going to shamelessly steal an idea from our good friend Rhonda Nelson and open the comments for whines. Come on. You know you want to join me in venting! Anything. Everything. Tells us what's bugging you. We won't tell your in-laws if you want to complain :-D
Instigator

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hellooooo Baaaaaby!


Make no mistake, I think cell phones are a great convenience, and mine gives me a feeling of security when I'm driving long distances alone. But some people take things to the extreme. Like the folks who yak while driving. Or worse yet teens who text and drive. And then there are folks who just won't turn off the cell phone in the theater or doctor's office. It's annoying enough to have the high point of a movie interrupted by someone's cell phone playing "Redneck Woman," but please spare me having to listen to you gripe about your ex-husband while I'm waiting to see the doctor.

Apparently I am not the only person who feels cell phone usage has gotten out of hand. Jacqueline Whitmore, founder and director of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, is also Sprint's etiquette spokeswoman and she's declared July to be National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. She thinks it's time to teach folks some basics.

Jacqueline said her masseusse once took a call during her massage. "This went on for five minutes while she was massaging my one shoulder with her one hand," said Whitmore.

Courtesy month has some rules including keeping calls private, not yelling on your cell and letting some calls just roll to voice mail. Ms. Whitmore says most people do the right thing but plenty don't. With more than two hundred fifty million users in the U.S., that's an awful lot of discourtesy. But maybe National Cell Phone Courtesy Month will catch on and some folks will realize the error of their ways.

Here's her etiquette quiz. We won't ask you to post your score. ;-)


1. When talking on a wireless phone in public, you:
a. Talk loudly. Cell phone connections are not that good.
b. Get caught up in the conversation and do not realize how loud you are talking.
c. Talk in a normal tone. Cell phone technology is so good that a whisper could be heard on the other end.


2. When entering a movie theater, you:
a. Turn your phone off or place it on silent so you will not disrupt others in the audience.
b. Put your phone on vibrate.
c. Keep your phone on its normal ringer, so you do no miss any calls.


3. You are in a meeting and your phone rings, you:
a. Don't worry about it ringing; you have already set your phone on silent.
b. Take the call. It is more important than the meeting you are in.
c. Remove yourself from the meeting to take the call. You have already alerted your colleagues that you are expecting a call.


4. You are out to dinner with friends at a restaurant and your phone rings, you:
a. Apologize and let the call go to voicemail. Then turn off the ringer.
b. Step outside to take the call. You had already told your friends that you are expecting a call.
c. Take the call at the table.


5. You are in the grocery store and your co-worker alerts you on your Walkie-talkie, you:
a. Let her know that you will contact her in 10 minutes when you're in the car.
b. Continue the conversation on speaker phone as you shop.
c. You turn off the speaker-phone to continue the conversation.

Answers: 1) c. 2) a. 3) a. 4) b. 5) c.

Got any cell phone rants of your own? My favorite is when the DH and I were in the book store and a man beside us got a cell phone call. It was his wife calling to find him in the store. Turns out she was on the other side of the aisle. Sheesh.


P.S. Another round of congrats to hometown girl Margaret Hoelzer who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Swimming team again last Saturday night. This time it was in the 200 meter backstroke, and not only did she qualify, she set a new world record! Good going, Margaret! Let's bring home the gold for the USA!






P.P.S. Remember the story I blogged about last week? It's finished!!!!!!!!! Done. Complete. The End. Edited and submitted and it can never nag at my conscience again. Hallelujah! Now let's just hope they buy it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How romantic.... (or not!)


I just did an interview where they asked me, “What was the most romantic gift or gesture you’ve ever received?” I have to admit: this was probably the toughest question on the list. It really stumped me. After several false starts, I finally asked DG what he thought his most romantic gesture or gift was. It stumped him too. I’m afraid DG ended up feeling a bit bad about the whole situation.

Not that DG isn’t romantic—he’s just not romantic in those big sweeping ways you see in movies (or read about in certain genres!). No, my Geek has never covered our bed in rose petals or put sweet messages up on a Jumbotron. But I’m okay with that because he’s big on the little gestures. Like leaving work in the middle of the day because I, in my baby-induced-Alzheimer’s state, forgot to save my thesis before closing. After I called him in an utter panic, he showed up to see if it could be retrieved—without me asking him to. Or like rubbing my feet just because it feels good. Or like the time I did one of those sponsored charity walks, but didn’t walk far enough to get the prize I wanted (hey, I walked 20 miles—that’s amazing for me). DG offered to drop my form and money off for me, and slid in a few extra notes to make up the difference. How about the fact he tells me I look great in a bikini, even though there’s an extra 10 pounds on my thighs? The fact he thinks my extreme mood swings are kinda cute? The fact he doesn't ask me to do yard work because I'm afraid of the lawn mower?

They’re all little things—and little things are so easy to take for granted. But it’s the little things that I think are the most romantic of all. After all, it’s those little things—like not eating curry at a restaurant because I can’t stand the smell—that tells me he knows me and thinks about me and my needs all the time. That’s romance—it may not be big or flashy, but it works for me. It may not be something I can build chapters of my books around, but it’s working in real life.

But I did come up with an answer to the question on the interview. It took me a while, and then I wanted to smack myself for not thinking of it immediately. DG left Scotland with little more than a backpack just to be with me. That’s pretty big and grand in the romance gesture department. DG felt much better about his romance skills after that. :-)

So, are you a fan of the big gestures or the little gestures? Is your man a big, flashy romantic who makes all the other girls sigh (and their husbands groan)? And if so, how often do you get those big romantic gestures?
PC

Monday, July 07, 2008

MOANday-Will Smith

Welcome to another MOANday, where we can all take a small break from our busy lives to, well, ogle some hot hunks. Sounds good to me. What about you?




Oh, yeah, those biceps are such an eyesore… NOT!



I’ve always had an interest in Will Smith. I mean, what other A list actors can claim to have talent, looks, AND personality? This is a hero that isn’t afraid to show his goofy side, mostly because he’s secure in all that masculinity…

Photobucket

Um, where was I? ;)




Angel

PS: I totally forgot to announce the winner of my birthday contest! Guess I was too busy celebrating. ;) The winner is Jennifer Stroka from Pennsylvania! Congratulations!!!

Friday, July 04, 2008

(Goin' Down in A) Blaze of Glory

Alas, I'm not talking about Bon Jovi. Today is July 4th. All across this great nation, people will celebrate our country's rebellion against tyranny with fried chicken, sales at the Chevy dealership, explosives and beer. Can't forget the beer. Its what goes best with explosives, you know...

I have to say this is not my favorite holiday. Sure, hanging out with friends and grilling, maybe swimming, is fine and dandy, but I can do that any day. Over the years, I've come to associate Independence Day with some really terrible sunburns, a trip to the ER with nasty food poisoning, and when some kid caught my shoe on fire with sparklers. Oh, and I can't forget the time that bouncy firework thing (the one that looks like a green marshmellow with spider legs that spins and hops around) chased me around the yard. Good times. Have I mentioned my pyrophobia?

Sure, I'm jaded by a friend who is blind in one eye because a teenager mishandled a bottle rocket and it exploded in her face. I may be in the minority, but the idea of everyone huddling around incendiary devices isn't my idea of fun. For the most part, I'd rather spend the night hiding behind the toilet with my beagle. She doesn't like thunder or fireworks and for whatever reason, that's where she chooses to hide. I think she shares my general distrust of my neighbors and their ability to safely manage a sparkly display without sending a bottle rocket onto my roof. I'm sure they think I'm in my front yard to bear witness to their awesomeness, but really, I'm just trying to make sure my house doesn't burn down.

I will say that I do really enjoy the professionally managed fireworks shows. I saw them in Vegas for the Millennium Celebration, Manhattan on July 4th after 9-11...good stuff. Thunder Over Louisville is inarguably the best display ever (you really do have to see it to understand). It is a ground-shaking 30 minute show with perfectly timed and synchronized displays on each side of the bridge crossing the Ohio River. We're talking 60,000 shells - over 2200 a minute! It has ruined me for most other shows, but I still like to go. One of my fantasies is to have fireworks when I get married. Unfortunately, its a small fortune, so that probably won't happen. I've just been watching too many episodes of Platinum Weddings on WE.

Ooh...I love You Tube! Here's a video clip of Thunder that covers the entire 2007 show in 4 minutes. You don't get the added bonus of the music that the fireworks go off to, but you also don't get a shaky camcorder and some guy screaming "woo hoo" the whole time either. There are plenty of those on You Tube if you're interested.




Do you like Independence Day? What's your favorite part? Or are you one of the people sitting around with a hose waiting for their house to burn to the ground?

SP

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My Personal Love Story

Today 'Zilla and I are celebrating 10 years of wedded bliss...or bliss most of the time :-) I figured we write, read and love to discuss romance so this was the perfect opportunity for me to mention just how much I love my wonderful husband and have enjoyed the last 14 years we've spent together.

It's amazing how time flies. I honestly have a hard time remembering when he wasn't in my life. And I sure as hell can't even contemplate him not being there now. Like every relationship, we have our moments when we both want to kill each other...I just view those as the moments that make sure our life isn't too boring (although I could have done without the dog mauling variety of excitement from last week).

I started thinking about what was happening in our lives ten years ago. I was working at a local bank and planning to go back to college to get my business management degree. 'Zilla had just finished college and was working for a pharmaceutical company doing his mad scientist thing. We'd just moved into our first place together - before the wedding which I think horrified several of our family members. We were buying furniture and planning a life together.

Now, ten years later, I've finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up. 'Zilla loves his job with a very small company where he once against gets to play mad scientist and we have two beautiful, amazing, adorable girls who are the center of our world. The journey hasn't always been easy but I can definitely say I wouldn't trade a moment of it for a different life.

I love you, baby!

Instigator

P.S. I'm hosting a discussion on eharlequin this week about my book and my journey to publication. I'd love to see y'all there if you have a few minutes!
http://community.eharlequin.com/forums/simply-series/kira-sinclair-blazes-new-trails

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Writing by GPS



In June of 2000, the DH, #2 son and I took a big trip to Alaska. Before our plane ever took off from Alabama, I knew where we’d stay the first night, when we’d pick up our motorhome and I had made reservations at RV parks for every night of our trip. The fishing guide had been hired, our tour through Denali National Park was scheduled as well as the glacier tour in Prince William Sound.

I’d left nothing to chance but even with all the planning, we did have some moments of spontaneity. The only thing I didn’t have was a GPS. I still don’t have one. I like the feel of a crisp, new roadmap in my hands. And if I’ve really planned the trip, the route will be marked with yellow highlighter.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize I write very much like I plan a trip. I have this story I’ve been working on for uhm, over a year. And until a few days ago I’d been stuck on uhm, page four. It’s a vacation road trip romance and I had this uhm, outline. The heroine was on an escorted motorcoach tour through Mexico and I found a tour online just like what I wanted my heroine to take. I knew where she’d be every step of the way. I decided exactly where the hero would kiss her the first time and which night they’d get a little frisky in his hotel room. She had everything she’d need in her suitcase and she had a novel (romance of course) to read on the tour bus and she’d even brought along some snacks since she had no idea what she’d find in the jungles of Mexico.

Sadly, this whole process has led to frustration, and any adventures that might befall the characters are either not taken or end too soon. The writing is stilted and the characters are shallow. They’re so boring you’d never want to engage them in a conversation at a cocktail party. I’m thinking maybe I need to kill them off in a fiery bus crash. Where have I heard that before?

Somewhere though (you guessed it -- right around page four), a group of banditos staged a hijacking and kept things at a standstill. Then last week I forced myself to just start writing on the story again (I’m just too darned stubborn for my own good sometimes – I should have trashed this story ages ago or let the banditos execute them one by one in the jungle) and at one point I kinda sorta abandoned the outline and let the heroine have full rein.

Well! She took off in a direction that wasn’t in the outline and once the dust had settled I realized that at one point she’d left her ex-husband because he had a fling with a summer intern and in another place she said she’d left him because his pregnant girlfriend showed up on the doorstep demanding he take responsibility for their baby.

I repeated stuff. I got ahead of myself and had her talking about the beach when she was still in the jungle. I had the tour bus in two different cities miles apart on the same day.

So I went to our Goals email loop where we cheer each other on and hold each other accountable and I yelled, “HELP!” I asked how the pantsters did it. How do you write without some sort of roadmap and not have the end result end up as a mess?


The answers I got were a big shock. All this time I thought the pantsters just instinctively knew where their stories started, where they ended and exactly which route to take to get them there.

Ha! They all admitted they don’t. They all have the same detours and mix-ups and messes I have. They just keep going until they type “The End” and then they fix it in the revision process.

Who’d have thunk it? All this time I thought I had to know it all up front and tell my characters where they were going every step of the way, and it turns out I should probably let them tell me where they want to go, allow them to make a few messes and then clean up after them. And I’m guessing they’ll probably surprise the heck out of me and make the story a lot better than if I’d made them follow the map.

So, fellow writers, tell me your plotter or pantser tales. Any advice for someone who desperately needs help letting go of the map?

P.S. Congratulations to hometown girl Margaret Hoelzer who qualifed last night for a trip to Beijing as a member of the United States women's 100 meter backstroke team. She still has a chance to qualify in the 200 meter backstroke, which is her specialty. This will be Margaret's second Olympic games (she placed 5th in the 200 back in the Athens games in 2004). I remember her when she was five years old and played soccer with #2 son. We'll be cheering loudly for her at our house come August.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wii-united and it feels really good...

I love the Wii. I can’t believe I ever objected to the thing. Why did I want to ban video games from my house?

That’s right: I was being a Good Mother.

Yeah, well the Good Mother has more on her plate than she can say grace over and is now giving due homage to the Nintendo overlords.

I don’t love the Wii because I’m playing it (although I will live out the occasional rock star fantasy on Guitar Hero and I am awaiting the Wii Fit to quit selling out of the local WalMart before I can get there). I love the Wii because the Amazing Child loves the Wii.

Yes, yes, Bad Mother, will rot her brains, she needs to be out in the sunshine, yes, yes. I know. I’ve lived the lecture. But I need some time to catch up on the backlog on my desk and get ahead on the hell that July promises to be (and let’s not forget that book I’m supposed to be writing), and the Wii keeps AC occupied.

We won’t mention the fact that AC knows how to get the thing turned on and set up and I manage to mess it up every time…

At least she’s playing active games—ones that require her to move more than just her thumbs. I’ve seen the kid break a sweat on the Wii. Some of those games require some complex problem solving skills. And she went to camp last week and got plenty of exercise. And it’s 90+ degrees here; who wants to go outside and have a heatstroke?

Excuses, excuses, you say. I fully admit it. I can try to justify, but what’s the use? I’ll take my Golden Coathanger Award (that’s a Mommie Dearest reference) and admit to my Bad Mother-ness.

Anyone else want to fess up to a Bad Parent moment to make me feel a little better? Or am I the only one taking advantage of the Wii…

PC (which probably stands for “Passive Caretaker” right now)

**************
Other news!

Winners from guest blogger Nicola Cornick are Sherry W and Maureen. Email Nicola at ncornick@madasafish.com to claim your prize.

Our Instigator hosts her first discussion at eHarlequin starting today. Go over and make her look good, okay? http://community.eharlequin.com/forums/simply-series/kira-sinclair-blazes-new-trails.