Friday, May 29, 2009

Admit It, You Listen To Them...

A couple weeks ago, Angel and I drove to Georgia to see Nickelback in concert. Angel blogged about our enlightening (and damp) experience. We stayed with the ever hospitible Queen Jen and made a pitstop at the Marietta Diner for a slice of baklava cheesecake the size of our heads. (YUM)

Despite everything, we had fun. Its always an adventure when we go somewhere (although I was hoping that without PC and Instigator to stir up trouble, we'd have a low key weekend. So much for that.) Everything aside, it was a good concert. I like Nickelback, although they seem to get a bad rap. I think Chad Kroeger actually got voted as the ugliest guy in rock. Personally, I think there are far worse - think KISS sans makeup or Quiet Riot. That Angus guy from AC/DC. The well-pickled Keith Richards. Scary. He's no Jon Bon Jovi and I still much prefer Daniel the drummer, but I'm pretty sure his rough voice could charm the panties off most women. Then again, I have a musician thing, so who knows. Maybe I'm biased.

Anyway, people are always hating on them, yet their albums fly off shelves. I bet they laugh all the way to the bank. It might be unpopular, but I like their stuff. I like Dark Horse and All the Right Reasons. I tend to enjoy their darker, raw songs over the more radio friendly stuff. It captures this sort of vibe that intrigues me.

Compared to the other things in my playlist, there are far more embarassing music gems in my closet than Nickelback. As much grief as I give my mother for her Osmond fetish, I dare say there are a few boy bands and maybe even a Spice Girl or two hiding away in my collection.

In the famous words of Travis the skateboarding stoner guy from Clueless... "Like, the way I feel about the Rolling Stones is the way my kids are gonna feel about Nine Inch Nails, so I should probably stop tormenting my mom so much, huh?" A random thought from a random character, but it fits here.

Do you have any music or groups that you listen to in private, but wouldn't want the world to know about? Boy Bands? Hair Bands, perhaps? Share! This is a safe, supportive place where we understand the need to sing the Carpenters into your hairbrush every now and then. :)

SP

PS. Speaking of hair bands - don't forget about our Big Hair event on June 16th! Email photos of yourself with some big, bad hair to problemchild@writingplayground.com to play along! Its going to be a ton of fun.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vacations All Around

Just two days ago PC talked about her annual trek to the UK. Now it's my turn to talk about my first visit to Toronto. At the moment I am no doubt tired from the 4 AM wake-up call yesterday morning. But I'm also excited because I have several fun days planned! I'm going to get to spend time with my editor, tour the Harlequin offices, go on a tree walking tour and probably find my ass cold and wet when I kayak for the first time. I can't wait! And you know I'll have stories and pictures to tell when I get home. (And since Queen Rhonda is traveling with me... At least there will be no horses. :-)).

However, it's the planning that's killing me now. I say this as I stare at my half packed suitcase, the labeled baggies for toiletries I have to fill at 4 AM when I'm bleary eyed and grumpy. And the lists of things for when I'm gone.

I know. I said the word list. And normally I wouldn't bother. Zilla is amazing at being single dad! He is the best dad on the planet - and both Sweet Pea and Baby Girl will back up that statement. But...this is the last week of school. And I normally handle all of this stuff. They both have programs - different days - that need to be attended by a parent (at 11 AM). Baby Girl must be dressed in Sunday clothes. She doesn't need a lunch or snack because they're having a party. But Sweet Pea does - both days. Sweet Pea goes one day longer than Baby Girl. Throw a field trip to the park in the middle of all this - and literally in the middle of Baby Girl's program - and it would be enough for me to pull my hair out if I were here. I'm panicking and I don't even have to deal with all of it. Oh, and don't forget the teacher presents!! I worked hard to have them ready before I left.

It's just a lot of details that I normally handle. So...if you see a wandering man with a list mumbling something about lunches and dresses, be kind to my baby. He's amazing and just needs a little help. I'll see everyone next week.

Instigator

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guest Blogger: Pearl Wolf



We have a special guest on the playground today. Her first historical romance from Kensington was released in March. And she has two more in the works. Please scoot over and make room for Pearl Wolf.

THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION

I was the youngest, by ten years, of four children (one sister and two brothers), which amounted to too many bosses. My widowed working mother never had to discipline me as a result. She left it to my loving, well-meaning siblings because she was too busy earning a living for us. To escape torture, as soon as I knew how, I wrote fairy tales in which I was a princess, beautiful, bold and benign, magnanimously forgiving my sibling torturers their many sins. I also occupied my time by reading, reading, reading. I still do.

At the age of 79, I’m an orphan who treasures those early years, and the many confrontations (I did NOT go gently into the night, but fought back tooth and nail) for they shaped me far beyond anything I could imagine. Little did they know they were to provide the stuff good novels are all about.

Born in 1930, I grew up during the Great Depression. My mother managed the necessities for us—food, clothing and shelter. But I never felt I was missing anything. There were no rich neighbors and friends and relatives to envy—we were all poor.

My first sale at the age of fourteen was a short article for Reader’s Digest, for which I received the grand sum of $5.00. I never stopped writing, but it took me almost thirty years before I saw my name in print again.

In the meantime, I went to college in 1948, at a time when there were virtually only two careers open to women—nursing and teaching. I chose teaching, but my ‘writing’ dream never left me. I wrote for the college paper, and for the college literary journal.

I taught for twenty-five years in a variety of settings; elementary school, junior high school, high school and graduate college courses to teachers. It was when I became a public school librarian in East Harlem, that I sold my first children’s book: GORILLA BABY: The Story of Patty Cake (Scholastic-c1974) New York City Zoo’s first gorilla ever born in captivity. To my astonishment, 250,000 copies were sold. I still hear from fans, now grown, who loved the book. Out of print now, there are used copies for sale on the Internet.

Anyway, two more children’s books followed before I became obsessed with writing the book of my heart—SONG OF MIRIAM (Hilliard and Harris, c2003). This historical fiction (Russia-1784) is still available by order from bookstores and the publishers. You can read an excerpt on my web site www.pearlwolf.com.

This was followed by a mystery, DYING TO TEACH (Hilliard and Harris, c2005) based on my years of teaching in Harlem.

But my big break came in 2008, with a new agent who sold a two-book contract for historical romance to Kensington Publishers, one of the largest publishers of romance in addition to other genres.

And here is where it all came together for me; my big family, my teaching background, my dreams. MEET THE FAIRCHILDS on my website. I’m no longer an orphan because they’re my family now. The series begins in 1816 in England with TOO HOT FOR A SPY (2009) in which a determined debutante, Lady Olivia Fairchild, the oldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Heatham, parents of six children, flouts convention by worming her way into spy school. Does she succeed against all odds? You bet! TOO HOT FOR A RAKE (2010) is Lady Helena Fairchild’s story. This one’s finished, ready for publication next year.

I’m currently working on book three in this series, TOO HOT FOR A SCOUNDREL, whose heroine is the dangerous Lady Georgiana Fairchild, who breaks hearts and thrives on danger--thrills, chills and excitement. Lord Edward Fairchild, the heir apparent will have his own book, TOO HOT FOR A DUKE, as will Lady Mary Fairchild, a shy, gifted pianist, in TOO HOT FOR A ROGUE. And then there’s Lady Jane Fairchild, who is a chubby eight-year-old at the start of Book One who spies on everyone else when she’s not eating scones. She is the heroine of TOO HOT FOR A THIEF.

I divide my working day into three parts. The first is writing—I do my best work in the morning—the second is research, left for later in the day, and the third is publicity, writing blogs, answering emails, paying bills, etc. I go to bed happy on those days when I accomplish all three, no easy task.

Writing is a lonely occupation, an all-in-your-head sort of activity. My way of counteracting that is to belong to several writers groups—Romance Writers of America, New Jersey and Florida (in winter) chapters, Liberty States Fiction Writers and Mystery Writers of America, New York City chapter, where I live. I attend as many meetings as I can because I learn a great deal from other writers and they enrich my work. In addition, my writing partner, published author Shelley Freydont, is always available to critique my work and help me out with stubborn problems, as indeed, I hope I am for her.

Do you want to be a writer? Join writers groups! You don’t have to be published and you will make friends and learn a lot. Start collecting books on writing and read them. Read what’s currently being published in whatever genre in which you hope to publish.

Edna Ferber wrote: “Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. It may be absorbing, racking, relieving, but amusing? Never.” (From “A Peculiar Treasure”)

Why do I do it? Because I love it!—Pearl Wolf


Well... uhm... okay... she just took away every excuse my fifty-eight-year-old brain has ever come up with. Did she take away some of yours too?

P.S. I'll be guest blogging on Friday at Riding with the Top Down. Come on over and see me!

P.P.S. Remember to send your big hair photos to Problem Child.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I thought vacations were for relaxing...

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. (Clich├ęd but true.)

It’s time for the annual pilgrimage to the UK, where my job is to simply escort the Amazing Child to her grandparents for much spoiling. Yes, I get major Brownie points with my in-laws for doing so. She gets quality time with her Grannie and Gramps, and I get time to write, to read, to sleep, and to commune with nature. (That last bit is a joke. Do you know how cold it is in Scotland in June? I don’t like nature much anyway, much less when it’s cold, rainy, and windy.)

I’ve taken my newest revision letter from my lovely editor with me and I’ll try to get a jump start on those revisions in between stuffing my face with my m-i-l’s fabulous cooking and the wonderfulness that is British bacon. Next week, I’ll head down to London and not stuff my face during lunch with my lovely editor and get a tour of the London office of Mills and Boon. (I’ll take pictures and notes and fill y’all in when I return!)

I’ll miss my Geek and the Playfriends, but that’s kind of the way summer goes around here. Summer on the Playground should be time in the swings with cabana boys bringing us cold glasses of liquid refreshment. Alas, that is not to be. One of us is always headed somewhere – when there’s five of you, that’s a lot of scheduling to keep up with. Plus, we have four Playkids celebrating birthdays, two Playfriends birthdays, chapter meetings, etc, etc. There’s a good chance all five of us won’t be in one place together until we leave for the RWA conference in July – and even then, conference is so busy, we’re ships passing in the night most of the time there, too. Thank dog for email and our Yahoo group – otherwise, we’d never get to talk to each other!

Eventually, say around mid-August, the kids will go back to school, life will settle back down, and the Playfriends will be back to our routine. Mercy, that seems a long way away.

I remember when June and July were long, lazy days of doing not much of anything. Now it’s craziness and running around. Sigh.

What are your summer plans? Do you get the lazy relaxing days, or the crazy, run-til-you drop days?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Schedule



Memorial Day weekend seems to be that quintessential kick-off to summer weekend, and around here it happens to coincide with the end of school this year. We finished up all our year-end activities by Friday, and I spent some time over the weekend going over my summer schedule.

Boy, is it a doozie! Little Man has swim lessons for two weeks, then the following week is Girl Scout Day camp. My mother will come up while I’m at Nationals and stay after I get home. I want to take the kids swimming each week and arrange play dates with their cousins. Add the time for my new diet and ongoing exercise regime.

Let’s not forget the writing projects I have going. I’m working on a proposal that isn’t cooperating at the moment and I’m signed up for a fast draft class that starts next Monday. My sole focus during that is finishing the single title I’m pitching at Nationals. (Did I mention I just started my packing list?)

I’m behind already, which gives me a claustrophobic feeling, almost as if I’m suffocating. And yet, I hope to still have those fun, everyday moments that come with the carefree days of summer. Hmmm… Unfortunately, I’ll probably blink and the summer will be over, just like the first half of the year has flown by.

I know the other Playfriends’ schedules are even more hectic than mine. How’s your summer looking? Any special plans? Plenty of lazy days?

Angel

Coming Soon:

Author Pearl Wolf will be here on Wednesday.

We are currently suffering from a fit of nostalgia… 80’s nostalgia. As part of the madness, we’ve declared June 16th Big Hair Day on the blog. Send us pictures of your Texas Hair, your Mall Bangs, your poodle perm, or even that asymmetrical Flock of Seagulls hairstyle you wore so proudly! There will be competitions, bragging rights to be gained, prizes, and much amusement at what used to be so attractive. Send your photos to problemchild@writingplayground.com by June 10 if you want to play along!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Guest blogger re-scheduled

An email snafu kept Pearl Wolf from guest blogging with us last week. However, she's set to be here this Wednesday. Come join the fun!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Totally Awesome!

Well, my birthday party was a blast. It was nowhere near the production I made of my mother's party, so the biggest stress was getting my house cleaned for guests. It turned out great. I was very happy to have everyone get into the spirit. We had the neon colors, the loud music, the toys, and a solid dose of nostalgia. The cake was a 4 tiered masterpiece of campiness that I made myself. We even had theme drinks - good ol' Bartles and James wine coolers, jello shots, and shots of Purple Rain and Smurf...uh...Juice.

The boys played Rock Band, we tried out our skills at some Totally 80's Trivia, and did a little dancing to my new spinning disco lights.

Here's a few of us in our rad ensembles. Check out the details - the denim skirts, the legwarmers, the torn shirts, the animal prints. And of course, the hair.






The boys rocking out to some 80's favorites. Who knew that Don Johnson, a yuppie, a fratboy and the lost member of Run DMC would one day form a band? Thank goodness no one has a picture (I think) of me and Instigator drunkenly bellowing "Eye of the Tiger" at the top of our lungs.




My birthday cake (the most awesomest cake ev-ah). The bottom tier was white sour cream cake with strawberry filling. The two middle tiers were chocolate cake with chocolate chip mousse. The top tier was made out of rice treats. It took forever to make, but it turned out pretty darn cool if you ask me.

I spent most of Sunday cleaning or napping in a vodka induced stupor while feeding DB soda crackers and gatorade. He overdid it a touch. :) Who knew partying like it was 1985 was so hazardous? Overall it was a success, although I've been put on restriction - no more themed costume type parties for the foreseeable future. Apparently hot pink plastic jewelry is unnecessarily expensive. I know I spent a small fortune at Claire's. Of course, some other friends asked me to put together a 70's themed shindig, so I may have a conflict there. I don't know much about the 70s though, not my favorite time. I'd much rather do the 60's myself. I have perfect hippie hair and I prefer the music. Maybe I'll just make my way through all the decades of this century.

What's your favorite decade? In addition to the 80's, we've done a roaring 20's party and a 50's sock hop so far. If you could throw a themed party, what would you have? I need ideas for future events. You all know how I plan parties to avoid my problem manuscripts...
SP

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cat and Mouse

I'm seriously thinking of giving my cats the boot. The dog too come to think of it. They aren't doing their jobs. I mean, I don't ask much. We feed them, give them water, a warm, fluffy place to sleep. Heck, we even let them come and go as they please. Jack, the dog, takes his job of protecting the family very seriously...to the point of waking us up in the middle of the night every night this week. I will say that I never worry for the girl's safety if a stranger walks onto our property. It's amazing how he quickly maneuvers himself between them and whatever threat he perceives. Okay, so I'll keep the dog.

It's really the cats I'm upset with. On a farm, what's their job? It's to catch mice!! They are failing miserably. To the point that the noise that gets Jack going in the middle of the night is two mice running through the walls of our house. Grrrr! We deal with this on a fairly regular basis. I mean we do live in the country surrounded by fields and forests. Our house is warm and has food. The problem is that since we've gotten the cats we haven't had to deal with them inside the house...until this year.

One morning last week I walked into my kitchen to get breakfast for the girls and there they were - two mice - standing on the floor in the middle of my kitchen...like they were fricking chatting. I wonder if they were discussing which box in the cupboard held the best snack. They did scurry as soon as they saw me - into opposite directions. Where were my cats? Curled up in a ball on the sofa, sleeping. Grrr!

I haven't seen the mice again but I have seen evidence of their existence. However, I have not seen or heard the cats react once. The dog barks but only in the middle of the night. If they don't start doing their jobs my editor may get a present.

Any critters making your life difficult? Any experiences with mice? Any suggestions on how to get rid of them? So far, nothings working.

Instigator

P.S. Congratulations to Jane, PM's winner from yesterday. Please email her at playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com to claim your prize. As always, prizes not claimed within 7 days will be re-awarded.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Clutter, clutter everywhere


NOTE FROM PM: New Zebra Historical author Pearl Wolf was supposed to guest blog for us today. As of midnight I had not received her blog, so I've offered some spring cleaning tips. We'll re-schedule Pearl for a later date.
It’s invading suburbia -- an insidious ogre, creeping silently and often accompanied by the words “But that might come in handy one day.”

Its name is clutter and it may be caused by bad habits, a packrat attitude or chronic bargain shopping. Whatever the cause, clutter leads to lost time while you search for your keys or the bill that’s due tomorrow.

Most of us would de-clutter this minute if we only knew where to start. First, begin with yourself and set a good example. Next, schedule regular de-clutter sessions. Spend ten minutes a day cleaning up, or decide to remove a certain number of items each day. Don’t stop until they’re in a garbage bag and tossed.

Major clutter may call for a marathon session. Schedule this on your calendar since having adequate time increases the odds of success.

One method involves three boxes and a trash bag. In the clean-up area pick up each item and decide which place it goes.

Box #1 is the “put away” box. These items can be saved; they just need to be put in the proper place.

Box #2 is the “give away or sell” box. Store these items in the garage or trunk of your car til you take them to the thrift store or hold a garage sale to avoid incorporating them back into the household. Or list it on Freecycle and let it clutter someone else's house. At least it won't end up in the landfill.

Box #3 is for “storage.” Designate a place for this after marking the contents on the outside.

The trash bag is self-explanatory.

Move from room to room until you’ve de-cluttered the whole house. Don’t forget the attic, home of hidden clutter. I remember the summer we cleaned the attic in our old house and discovered boxes for long-gone electronic equipment along with an orphaned ski pole.

After spending most of a Saturday hauling stuff to the curb, it was easy to keep that attic free of clutter; when I was tempted to stash something up there, I remembered how hot that attic became during an Alabama August.

Getting rid of clutter doesn’t mean it won’t reappear. Sadly, it’s like a bad penny that keeps returning.

One solution uses that old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place.” As long as stuff has a “home” it won’t clutter the house.

Another solution is to establish routines. For example, always put your purse away when you return to the house. Put the newspaper in the recycling bin as soon as you finish reading it. Sort mail when you bring it inside. Toss the junk and file the rest in its “home.”

Adopt a “one in and one out” attitude. When you buy a new pair of shoes, get rid of a pair. Want that colorful vase on sale at the mall? What will you discard if you buy it? This method not only tackles clutter but can save dollars as well.

With some scheduling, the right tools and a few rules, you can drive the clutter monster from your home and keep him away.




Okay... I wrote this a few years ago for a newsletter. It all sounds good, but somehow the monster has taken up residence in my office. That laundry basket on the futon contains things that go to our place at the campground, and weather permitting, we're going there this weekend. The plastic bag is full of books for the visitor bags for my RWA chapter. Beside them are tote bags that Maven LJ kindly donated for the visitor bags too. In the forefront is a pile of shirts and slacks that need to be ironed. Usually I take the ironing into the great room and do it while I watch a movie. That makes the chore less boring. But in the meantime, those clothes and the ironing board are cluttering my space. And I really need to find a better place to store my duffel bag than under the futon -- or at least shove it further back.

FACT: Getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework in the average home.

I don't know about you but I could use a 40% reduction in housework. Have you done your spring cleaning yet? Got any good tips to share?

One lucky commenter will be selected to win a book and help declutter the bookshelf in my office. :-)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Being The Author

Monday night, I went out as an Author. I know, I’m an author every day, but in my world, being an author involves tattered sweatpants and much swearing at a computer screen because I’m sure I’m a talentless hack whose career will be over if I can’t get those two to a HEA. It ain’t glamorous, that’s for sure.

But a local book club chose The Secret Mistress Arrangement as their book this month and invited me to their meeting. I was The Author—the guest of honor. I’d heard of such things happening, but hadn’t really counted on it happening to me any time soon.

Bear with me for a minute – you have to understand that life on the Playground is a little surreal at times (in many ways, yes, but stay on this track with me). Pretty much everyone I know writes books. Many of them have written way more and far better books. So, saying “I’m a writer” has about as much punch as saying “I breathe air.” Finishing a book is always met with a cheer around here, but there’s always the undertone of “Thank dog, if you’d whined about that winery one more time we were going to string you up by your toenails.” The Playfriends are pleased and proud, but they’re not terribly impressed by it. After all, it’s what we do. (It’s a tough crowd on the Playground!)

Even the friends I have who don’t write aren’t terribly impressed any more. It’s cool and all, but I’m still just plain ol’ me and now writing is just my job. The “Wow-how-nifty” factor wore off about the time I posted my fifth cover on Facebook.

I’ve lived in this world for so long, I’ve kind of forgotten that not everyone on earth knows a writer and has them on speed dial. And let’s not forget how low on the totem pole I am – why on earth would anyone want to meet ME? (I’m still reeling from the fact people sat with me at the Readers’ Luncheon on purpose –not just because they were overflow from Rhonda Nelson’s table.) I’m not that interesting, I tend to obsess a lot over small things, and I’m known to stick my foot in my mouth without even trying.

But the book club wanted The Author, so I put on pretty shoes and went to the book club meeting.

And I had a blast.

It’s amazing how much I learned about my own book – what their expectations were, what they were hoping I’d deliver, questions they had about the characters. (Like why my heroine broke up with her last boyfriend – I had to admit that honestly, I didn’t know. Hadn’t thought about it. Unfortunately, I also found out my heroine’s last boyfriend has the same name as a character in my 3rd book. I really need to get to work on that spreadsheet I mentioned yesterday. And get a baby name book…)

Most of the group was new to romance, but they were enthusiastic and so much fun to talk to. And I guess I wasn’t too boring or too much of a dork because they’ve invited me back. The food was so good, and the conversation so great, I’m definitely in.

While everyone thanked me for coming and really made me feel like they’d enjoyed meeting “The Author,” I’m the one thanking them. Suddenly, all that time I spent staring at the screen and cursing became very worth it. These ladies enjoyed my book. I made them happy.

That’s awesome.

I love this gig.

Would you want the author of the book at your book club meeting? Would you feel you had to act differently because she was there?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Name Game



I used to think I put a lot of thought into my character’s names. After all, I love unusual ones and can lose a lot of time pouring over a baby book looking up the meanings. They have to make sense to me and fit the personality of the characters I’m matching them with.

But recently I’ve noticed a big problem with repeating characters names, especially with my heroine and secondary female characters. I’ve been revising old versions of stories, coupled with new versions of newer stories and discovered a fondness for certain ones.

The biggest problem: Christina, Crista, and Christa

Christina is the heroine in my current single title. For some reason, I then named the heroine of my newest category book Crista (the short and sassy version of Christina). When I went back to revise an older book, I found the heroine’s best friend’s name was Christa. Besides being confusing, in and of itself, I can’t seem to remember how I spelled it in each story. Is it spelled with an H here or not? Hmmm… I’ll have to look back and see. Oh, bother.

Secondary Characters: Jean, Jean Anne, and Jennette

I’m not really sure how this problem came about. I wouldn’t normally say that any of these names would be ones I was drawn too, but apparently it has become my place holder for secondary female characters. In 3 different stories, these have been a boss, housekeeper, and oldest sister for the hero. Yikes! Need to spread my boundaries here.

Additional problems: Stephanie and Kenzie

When I started trying to rename characters from my first book, my heroine was a girl-next-door type, so I named her Stephanie. That sounded all American, right? In a completely separate decision, I renamed her best friend Kenzie, simply because she’s a little firecracker, and that seemed to fit her. Yeah. Until I got them in a conversation together. Then all those –ie sounds started getting on my nerves. So I changed Stephanie to something completely different: Serena. A move my sister thanked me profusely for after reading for me. :)

So even though I thought myself to be a name aficionado, review of my previous choices has proved this not to be so. I’m definitely going to have to work harder at this in the future. So tell me, any favorite names? Any particular characters with names you’ve loved? Ever find yourself stuck in a rut when naming characters? Let’s play the name game today.

Angel

Coming Soon!
Join us this Wednesday, May 20, for guest blogger Pearl Wolf!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flashback

So, I've been thirty for a week now. It's going okay. I guess. In more interesting news is my birthday party tomorrow. I went shopping and have lots of super cool 80's things for my party. For decor, I've dug out some of my old toys and hit the store looking for some replacements of the things I've since lost. You'd be amazed at how many items can still be found in your neighborhood Toys R Us. I got some Smurfs, a My Little Pony, some Hot Wheels, Strawberry Shortcake, a Care Bear, a Pound Puppy and a Rubix Cube.

But the absolute best thing I bought is this. --->
I don't know if I've mentioned my Barbie collection before. For the most part, I've tamed it. I haven't bought one in years. I sold most of them except for my absolute favorites. When I went into Toys R Us, there was a huge display for Barbie's 50th Birthday. Apparently to commemmorate, they've reproduced some of their most popular dolls over the years. The one is Barbie and the Rockers from 1986. I had this doll. This exact doll. Everything about her is just the way she was. I had her, Dee Dee, Derek, the stage and the metallic pink Corvette convertible. Oh yes. I LOVED Barbie and the Rockers.
So, of course, when I saw this in the store, I immediately snatched it up. Did any of you guys have one of these? She was Mattel's competition for JEM (she's truly outrageous...truly, truly, truly outrageous). If not, there were several other reproductions that might be more from your era.

How about this one - Superstar Barbie from 1977?



Or maybe good ol Malibu Barbie from 1971?




Maybe the Bubble Cut from 1961, then?

Or the original Debut Barbie from 1959?



I adored Barbie as a little girl. I had the house, the cars, the furniture and a million different outfits. I only parted with my stuff under protest when I was about 14 (I know, so embarassing) and turned to collecting the more expensive boxed dolls instead. Did you have a favorite Barbie? If not, what was your favorite toy as a kid?


SP
PS. HOLY CRAP! Look what I just found! Jude Deveraux has a 2003 Barbie and Ken set reenacting her book The Raider! I never knew that was an option! Hit the NYT! Get your book made into a movie! Get a Barbie set designed after your book!

What a trip.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's That Time Again

It's the time of year I dread...the end of school. Yes, I realize that when I was in school I always looked forward to this time - mostly because the days of studying and tests were interspersed with fun things like field trips, field day, cleaning day and assemblies. Now my problem is that I have 2 amazing girls who want me at all of these events. This wouldn't be a problem if they weren't all scheduled back to back to back and I had an unlimited supply of vacation days. I think I've been up at the school at least 4 days in the last 2 weeks.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy doing these things with my kids! And I realize that they're only this young once. And my boss is amazing and never bats and eye when I walk into his office and tell him I need Tuesday off, and part of Wednesday and I'll be leaving early on Friday because one has this and the other has that and I can't do one event for Sweet Pea and not the other for Baby Girl.

I'm just ready for the chaos to be over. Oh, and for my sunburn from the trip to the botanical gardens to go away. Now that I think about it, maybe that's why I'm in a foul mood about school events. Tuesday I got fried. No one else. None of the kids (who didn't have sunscreen on that I'm aware) or the other adults who went. Just little old me. I didn't even think I'd been in the sun that long. And yesterday I was all set to go to field day...it was rained out. At least I wasn't caught outside in the rain. Honestly, the way my week's been going I'm surprised I wasn't.

Baby Girl has started whining and asking me when school was going to be over. I keep telling her a few weeks. But inside I really wanna whine with her.

What have you been whining about lately?

Instigator

P.S. Congratulations to Caffey, my winner from last week. Please email me at instigator@writingplayground.com to claim your copy of Afterburn.

P.P.S. Congratulations to Gina, Rose, and Laurie, Problem Child's winners from Tuesday. She didn't have 3 drinks, but she felt like she needed them... Please email her at problemchild@writingplayground.com to claim your prizes.

And as always, prizes not claimed within a week will be re-awarded.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday Wow



This is my new favorite TV show.

Castle is about a crime novelist who helps the New York police department solve crimes. Rick Castle, played by the yummy Nathan Fillion, is sort of a rock star in the literary world. He plays poker with James Patterson, Stephen J. Cannell and the mayor of NYC. But after he kills off the main character in his novels, invoking the wrath of not only his readers but his publisher (who is also his ex-wife), he struggles with writer's block. He needs a new character for his next book, and when the NYPD calls him in to help solve a series of crimes that are copies of murders in his books, he finds his new character in Detective Kate Beckett.

She's a fan but won't admit it and is constantly annoyed by Rick butting in to help with cases. She's especially annoyed when the police chief says Castle will be observing as part of his research for his next book. It seems playing poker with the mayor has its perks.

The show is light unlike most other crime dramas, and the screen simply explodes with romantic tension and witty repartee between Castle and Beckett. I also adore Susan Sullivan as his mother Martha. And the fact they've made Castle a single father with a teenage daughter makes him all the more lovable and brings out his vulnerabilities.

Check it out on ABC on Monday nights. Or you can watch episodes online at abc.com.

And here for your viewing and drooling pleasure is Castle star, Nathan Fillion, who just might become the inspiration for my next book.














Have you watched Castle? Do you like it? Can you believe how they left things hanging Monday night, which was the season finale? Please, ABC, bring this show back in the fall.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good news, bad news, and PRIZES!

The Good News: THE BOOK IS FINISHED!


The Bad News: My brain is mush.

Finishing a book is an amazing feeling. Knowing you've taken two characters through their story to their Happily-Ever-After is a rush (especially since it's rarely easy -- you've suffered just as much as they have, and are just as glad to finally get to the HEA).

I don't have a lot of words left, and the few I do have aren't guaranteed to make any sense, so being pithy, witty, amusing or whatever-that-other-word-I-can't-think-of-at-the-moment-is just ain't gonna happen folks.

I must rest my brain so that when my editor gets back to me with the list of revisions, I'll have something to give her. While I'd love to go take a nap (or even attack my massive to-do list), I must chaperone a second grade field trip today. Oh, yes, that's *exactly* what my brain needs. How'd I get talked into this?

So while this is bad for me, it's good for y'all. All you have to do is say hi in the comment tail and I'll give away some of the books and prizes on my shelf. Don't know how many winners there will be yet. I know, we'll see how many drinks I need after I get home from the field trip -- I'll give away the same number of prizes!

PC

Monday, May 11, 2009

Up All Night



I gave myself an unusual Mother’s Day gift this year. Not that my husband hadn’t been more than generous. On Saturday, he kept kid #2 for Drama Queen and I to go get our nails done with my sister and her daughter. Then I did some clothes/shoes shopping (stocked up on some Yellow Box and Tevas flip flops on sale! An obsession he totally doesn’t understand.). Then joined the Playfriends for some birthday action and the new Wolverine movie (Hugh is HOT!).

But my gift to myself came later that night. I got home at 11:30, after even the hubby was in bed. I figured I’d just chill for a few minutes and then go on to bed. So I picked up my copy of J.R. Ward’s new Brotherhood of the Dagger book, Lover Avenged, and started a few chapters. And read. And read. And read.

Little Man woke up around 4 am. Got him back to bed. Well, it was already turning light outside, so I might as well just keep reading. I started the 500+ book at midnight and finished it at 8:30pm.

Now, I’ve been known to read until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, but never all night. Here’s the thing: there were no interruptions. There was a comforting silence. No one asked me for anything. No one talked to me while I was trying to read (a pet peeve of mine). No one asked questions or turned on the television. Just me and the characters on the page. It was SO peaceful.

I did continue to read on and off all day. We had a late lunch with the hubby’s family, and I fit in a 2.5 hour nap directly after. I didn't check email or even walk into the study. My total accomplishment for the day: handing out Mother’s Day gifts and putting 1 child to bed. Oh, and I did shower. :) I was asleep as soon as I finished the book and lay over on the couch to watch television.

I just don’t have lazy days like that. There’s too much to do around here, and too many other things I really want to do. But every so often, it pays to stay up all night.

So tell me, how did you spend your weekend? Any good Mother’s Day gifts (given or received)? Any book you've stayed up all night (or most of it) to read?

Angel

Friday, May 08, 2009

If It's 1985 Again, I Can't Be 30...

Ugh. It's May 8th. I know, for most of you, this means very little. Mother's Day weekend, maybe. But that, my dear readers, is because you are not turning thirty tomorrow. Today is the very last day of my twenties.

I know those of you who are staring down larger numbers may scoff at me, but I don't care. This is just bothering me for some reason. I'll get over it. Eventually. Maybe around thirty four or so. I know its silly. Everyone tells me that their thirties were great. And I believe them. I'm sure it will be wonderful. And yet...

I think its the idea of being 30 more than anything. To have to say - "I'm in my thirties." Sigh. I've been in this funk over it ever since I turned 29. Where did I think I would be by now? Married? A mother? Published? I'm none of these things and for the first two, not anywhere near ready to be. I thought I would be, but I'm just not. My personal timeline is slipping. As an INTJ, I can tell you that my schedule is very important to me. Things are all out of whack and if I try to think about it for too long, I get panicky.

To distract myself, I'm throwing an 80's Flashback party next weekend. I love the fun campiness of the 80's. Some of my favorite music is from then, for sure. I was pretty young, but so was my mother, so I was raised on MTV and Magnum, PI. Planning parties is an avoidance tactic of mine, I can focus on that and what I'm going to wear and serve instead of me aging. I think I need to raid a thrift store - find an acid washed mini skirt and a sweatshirt with the collar cut out. Scout out some fingerless lace gloves. PC and Queen Rhonda are threatening to tease my hair into the stratosphere and glue it with Aquanet. The hole in the ozone layer will get slightly larger next weekend, that's for sure.

What was your favorite thing about the 80s? The music? The clothes? The big, big hair? Did you have a mini-meltdown at any particular age milestone?

SP

PS. In case I crawl into my cave and don't emerge, Happy Mother's Day to all of you brave enough to breed! My mom originally asked to get eyebrows tattooed on for Mother's Day, but we renegotiated for me to babysit LS while they go out to the Melting Pot on my dime.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Afterburn Launch Party

You know, I've been wondering over the last few days when this is going to get old. Seeing my book on the shelf. So far, it hasn't and I really hope that it never does. Next to having my girls and marrying my husband it's the best feeling in the world. Amazing!

Each book is different. They all offer their own highs and lows. I loved Afterburn because it made me stretch and grow out of my comfort zone. I learned about the Air Force, learned about myself and my writing. All of these things are going to help me make my next books even better.

And I want to thank everyone here on the Playground for helping me get to this point. I wouldn't have been able to do this without the Playfriends, our Mavens and our SoapBox Queen Rhonda. But I also want to thank all of our readers for their support, encouragement and enthusiasm. There's nothing in this world like finding a group of people who believe in you.

But enough of the teary-eyed speeches. What would a Playground party be without teeter totters, buttery nipples and chocolate martinis? Who cares if it is eight AM? Be sure and pick up a drink from one of the cabana boys, help yourself to the amazing spread of food and enjoy a lounge by the pool. Oh, and don't forget to post because I'll be giving away a copy of Afterburn to one visitor today.

Instigator

P.S. I'm also guest blogging at the romance bandits today so stop by and say hi. http://romancebandits.blogspot.com/

P.P.S. And if you haven't bought your copy of Afterburn... :-) BooksAMillion, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Chocolate!



This undated photo made available in London Tuesday May 5, 2009, by the University of Warwick, shows a formula 3 racing car - the WorldFirst Formula 3 racing car - which is powered by chocolate, has a steering wheel made out of plant-based fibres derived from carrots, has bodywork made from potatoes, and can still do 125mph. The race car was designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials. The car meets all the Formula 3 racing standards except for its biodiesel engine which is configured to run on fuel derived from waste chocolate and vegetable oil. Pictured with the car are it's creators Dr Kerry Kirwan, Left, Dr Steve Maggs, centre, and Dr James Meredith.(AP Photo)

Scientists unveil chocolate-fueled race car


LONDON – Scientists unveiled on Tuesday what they hope will be one of the world's fastest biofuel vehicles, powered by waste from chocolate factories and made partly from plant fibers. Its makers hope the racer will go 145 mph and give manufacturers ideas about how to build more ecologically friendly vehicles.

The car runs on vegetable oils and chocolate waste that has been turned into biofuel. The steering wheel is made out of plant-based fibers derived from carrots and other root vegetables, and the seat is built of flax fibre and soybean oil foam. The body is also made of plant fibers.

Scientists at the University of Warwick say their car is the fastest to run on biofuels and also be made from biodegradable materials. It has been built to Formula 3 specifications about the car's size, weight, and performance.


Their claims cannot be independently verified.

They hope it can reach speeds of over 145 mph when it is tested on a racetrack in a few weeks time. They have driven it at around 60 mph and are now making final adjustments to the engine before driving it at top speed.

Warwick's project manager James Meredith said their model shows that it is possible to build a fast, efficient, environmentally friendly car.

The car, named the "WorldFirst Formula 3 racing car," will go on display at several races including the European Grand Prix and Britain's Goodwood Festival of Speed.

'Nuff said. Eat that chocolate and do your part!


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Better than Wild Kingdom…

Today, my friends, on The Writing Playground's Wild Kingdom, we are observing the species authorus insanitus – more commonly known as “writers.”

Writers are solitary creatures. Their usual habitat is called “BICHOK” (butt in chair, hands on keyboard), and their plumage is usually unkempt and looks suspiciously like pajamas. Occasionally, though, writers are known to actually bathe, put on real clothing, and congregate at a watering hole called “a bar.”

Three writers have just been spotted entering a bar. They get very large, very strong drinks and commandeer a table away from the crowd. They engage in small talk – polite discussion about children, the weather, and how cute someone’s shoes are – but conversation rapidly turns, as it always does, to the books they are currently writing.

Let’s listen, shall we?

“I suck.

“No, I suck.”

“Neither of you suck. I’m the sucky one.”

“Please, you’re a genius. I’m just a talentless hack.”

“What? You just got 4 ½ stars from RT. I’d say that is not a sucky book.”

“And you got 4. Waah.”

“Well, if I’m such a freakin’ genius, why is this book stalled out in chapter six?”

“At least you’re in chapter six. I’m on page forty. Again.”

“Be glad you have forty pages. I just trashed the first three chapters of my book.”

“Why?”

“Because I suck.”

“You do not suck. Remember when I had to gut the last third of my book? That was suckiness.”

“Oh, try starting over from scratch because it sucked so badly. My investment banker hero is now a rodeo clown.”

“Seriously? A rodeo clown?”

“It’s growing on me. I don’t know if it will work, but I don’t have anything else.”

Notice the complicated and delicate dance. Each attempt at deprecation is rebutted by flattery from the others. The writers take turns in each role. Amazing to witness, isn’t it?

“Does your hero at least like your heroine? Then you’re ahead of me.”

“Your heroes are always yummy. I wish I could write heroes like that.”

“You do.”

“Yeah, you do.”

“Not as good as yours, though.”

“Thanks, but y’all are crazy, you know that, right?”

“Well, my editor is going to cancel my contract when she sees this crap-on-a-page I’ve produced. My career is over.”

Oh, one writer has invoked the deity “Editor.” In the complex theological belief system of the writer species, “Editors” comprise the pantheon. Editors are feared, awed, and loved, and writers long to have a special connection with one, as is evidenced in their quest for “The Call.”

“Your career is not over.”

“Um, can we go back to the rodeo clown? I mean, really? A rodeo clown?”

“It’s a new trend.”

“If anyone can pull off a rodeo clown, it’s you.”

“Definitely.”

“Can I have your investment banker if you’re not using him?”

“Be my guest.”

“Ack, I’ll just stick with the hero I have. He’s lame, but he’s a good fit with my too-stupid-to-live heroine.”

“Tell me again why I chose this career?”

“Because you’re a great writer.”

“I’m an average writer. You’re the great writer.”

“Oh, please. I trashed four thousand words today because they sucked.”

“You don’t suck. I suck.”

“No, I’m the sucky one.”

“Let’s just drink some more.”

“Agreed.”

“Amen. Barkeep?”

We shall leave our writers now, as research has proven this circular argument about sucking will go on endlessly for hours, only to later be supplanted by a spirited discussion of either sex or death that will draw frightened and appalled attention from the surrounding crowd, before returning to the subject of who sucks worse and whose career will die in flames first.

Renowned therapist Counselor Shelley has studied the writer extensively for several years. She calls this interesting behavior “discounting,” “awfulizing,” and “catastrophizing.” There is some debate as to whether or not those words actually exist, but that’s the terminology she uses. The mates of the writers – who are not writers, as writers chose their mates from a different species – call this “insanity.”

Other writers call this “normal,” but then interrupt to tell you how much they suck.

***

The sad thing is that I really didn’t have to make much of this up. Which is good, because I suck.

Monday, May 04, 2009

MOANday-Adrian Paul

Having handled a lot of historical books this past weekend while stuffing goodie bags and baskets, I was in the mood for a yummy Highlander this month! So I give you the legendary Adrian Paul for your May viewing pleasure!

Photobucket








Angel
P.S. Check out a picture of the HOD Readers Luncheon (and the Playground's own Kimberly Lang and Kira Sinclair) on Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book at Publisher’s Weekly today.

Coming Soon!
Check out the Playground this Thursday for our launch party of Kira Sinclair's Afterburn!!! It's sure to be a rowdy time. Come join the fun!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Let the Chaos Begin

As you all know, the Playfriends are all very involved in our RWA chapter - Heart of Dixie. We love our chapter and do everything we can to make it successful. We hold board positions, do the website, the promo, chair events... we're just that way.

Today and tomorrow, however, are the biggest days in our chaper's calendar - our Annual Romance Reader's Luncheon. Every May, Heart of Dixie brings in a special guest speaker and a slew of other authors for an afternoon of romance, laughter, books and dessert. As the chapter Events Chairperson, I am not technically in charge of the luncheon, but I oversee the fabulous person who is and assist and guide as needed. This is my first year involved with the luncheon in this capacity and I have to admit I'm a little stressed about it. I much preferred when it fell squarely in PC's ballywick.

This year, the lovely Vicki Lewis Thompson is our guest speaker. We're all very excited to have Queen Vicki visiting us. We've been preparing for months to make this the best event possible for her and our 180-some attendees. Today is officially crunch time. Today, all the baskets Angel has been assembling for weeks must get taken to the conference center. All the promotional items and books must be schlepped. Goodie bags must be stuffed. Catering and setup confirmed for the 18th time. Author gifts and centerpieces arranged. Don't even ask me what I'm going to wear. Ack.

Once all that's done - everyone is off for dinner and a drink. Or three, as the case may require. :)

Most of us stay in the conference hotel so we can be there first thing in the AM to start setting up. It's chaos. Anarchy. But once its over and the stress is passed, I have to admit its also a heck of a lot of fun, too.

We hope you've got your tickets to join us tomorrow. We'll all be vanishing sometime this afternoon and won't surface until sometime late Saturday night. In the meantime, what author would you like to meet? You never know who might pop up at a future HOD luncheon...

SP