Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yep, a conference post from me, too...

Things I’m looking forward to at Conference:



  • Wearing nice clothes every day.I spend most days in sweats, so the opportunity to actually look good is one I actually look forward to. I know, folks who have to get dressed every day won’t see this as a plus, but I love it. Possibly because it is only for a few days.I can go back to my normal schlumpy self after.

  • Putting names with faces. I “know” a lot of people on line. Folks who read our blog, other Harlequin authors, other bloggers, etc. Meeting them face-to-face is something I’m really looking forward to.
  • Being Kimberly Lang. Don’t get me wrong – I adore my husband and child. I like being a wife and a mom. But sometimes I want to be me – not AC’s Mom or DG’s wife. No one expects me to cook or clean or find their socks. I need that occasionally. Conference is my time to be me.
  • Time with folks I don’t see often. My fabu CP will be at conference, plus there are folks I only see a couple of times a year at different events. It’s like a reunion only without the horrible memories and residual teenage angst.
  • Free books. What’s not to love there? And you all should love that too because I’ll be restocking my giveaway shelf.

(Things I’m not looking forward to: trying to fit all my stuff into one suitcase, air travel, lack of sleep, big crowds, and the sore throat/cough I’m guaranteed to get.)

So, if you’re going to Conference, what are you looking forward to? If you’re not going, do you have an event you look forward to every year?

PC

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Fever of Preparations



In case you haven’t noticed, the Playground is in a fever of preparation for RWA National Conference in a couple of weeks. Two exactly. Most of us leave on a Monday.

Anyway, today I thought I’d offer a few tips on preparing for writer’s conferences, whether Nationals or a regional conference. These experiences can be some of the most exciting and nerve-wracking activities in a writer’s journey. I hope these tips might smooth your way just a bit:

1. Plan your wardrobe around one color.

As we mentioned last week when we talked about shopping, planning around either black or brown for your wardrobe can cut down on the number of clothing items you have to take. For instance, I’m taking a black skirt with 2 different shirts for my cocktail events this year. One black pair of shoes that will go with those outfits, my black dress pants, and one of my formal dresses. That’s really helpful because shoes take up lots of space and add up weight quickly.

2. Get travel size bottles whenever possible.

I’ve been grabbing travel size soap, shampoo, and toothpaste at the store over the past few weeks. Taking these instead of full size bottles can really cut down on the weight of your suitcase. Need specific products that don’t come in travel size? Purchase some refillable bottles.

3. Wear new shoes before you go, even if it is just around the house.

There is nothing worse that breaking in new shoes at conference. That is just a blister waiting to happen. If you’ve purchased new shoes (which I have), be sure to break them in before you go. I have some just-purchased flats that I’ve been wearing out and about, but my new black heels aren’t exactly made for running errands. My family laughed when they walked into the kitchen to find me wearing them with a pair of gray shorts and a t-shirt, but at least I won’t have to deal with as much foot pain in DC.

4. Prepare your story pitches before you leave.

In the rush to get everything ready, working on your editor and agent pitches can get shuffled to the background. But trust me, you don’t want to be up until 1 a.m. the night before, stressing over just the right word to describe your hero. (Been there, done that.) Instead, you should be getting a couple of extra hours of sleep. Do yourself a favor and put together your full-length and elevator pitches before you go. It will save you a lot of stress later.

5. Write out your schedule, but leave room for the unexpected.

It is said that a lot happens in the bar at National conference, and that’s certainly true. Even if you don’t meet your dream editor there, lots of hilarity can ensue with the right group of friends. I have a lot of events that I have to attend this year, so this list-maker definitely has her schedule already worked up. I’ve also listed a couple of workshops that I’d REALLY like to attend in person. Other than that, I’ve tried to leave some space free. You never know what you might get swept up into during that down time.

6. Take whatever steps necessary to leave home without worrying what you’ve left behind.

I’m not talking about stuff here. You can always purchase something you forgot to take with you. I’m talking about peace of mind. My husband makes fun of me for the extensive lists I write out for those keeping my kids and the freezer full of convenience foods they’ll probably leave in favor of fast food, but that’s okay. If putting myself to all that trouble means I can fly to Washington with a little less worry over leaving my loved ones, then I think it is worth it. So do whatever you need to, in order to feel more comfortable about what is happening in your absence. You’ll be happy you did.

7. If you haven't already, go read the fine print on your travel requirements... now.

While this may seem self-explanatory to well-seasoned travelers, I rarely fly anywhere except to conference. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the luggage weight limits and found a little tidbit about checking my luggage in before I get to the airport. If I don't, they are going to charge me an additional $5 for doing it when I get there. Go read all your flight information now, so you aren't surprised and scrambling at the last minute. You'll be glad you did.

These are some of the travel tips working through my brain at the moment. With conference 2 weeks away, this stuff is at the forefront of my mind. But thanks to Kathy, I’ve got 2 full pitches and an elevator pitch ready to rehearse. My wardrobe is planned and the suitcase is sitting in the living room for me to drop stuff into it as needed.

For those of you heading out to conference, or used to traveling, what other tips can you offer those of us about to wing our way to our nation’s capital?


Angel

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Return of the Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List

All righty, people. Nationals is right around the corner. Its time to start thinking about really important stuff like "What am I going to wear?" and "How many shoes can I cram into this bag without going over the weight limit?" In honor of this important event (and because I'm at a wedding in Napa) I'm bringing back the Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List. Its a great place to start building your own list.

Mine 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. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 5 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

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. Must have stuff. You don't want it to end up in New Jersey while you're waiting at the luggage carousel in DC.

Backpack :
  • Plane Itinerary / Ticket
  • Camera & Battery Charger
  • Cell Phone & Charger
  • 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 clear, 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, good mirror, tweezers
  • 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 & Febreze (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
  • 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)
  • Regular bras & dress bras (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, especially as I'm wearing a pair on the plane)
  • Seasonal Jacket, etc, as needed (depends on where you're going, as SFO was cold, DC is NOT)
  • 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.
  • Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point
  • 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. 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, pink top, black heels, pink 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 - purple formal, dress heels, purple jewelry
  • Saturday - black capris, pink satin top, pink heels, pink jewelry
  • Saturday Night - turquoise formal, gold dress heels, gold 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?

SP

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Boxes, Tape & Labels

Sorry this post is late! I've been up to my eyeballs in moving preparations this week. Add in Baby Girl's birthday (today!) and my mind just isn't where it should be.

My office is moving in...6 days. The new office just got paint on the walls yesterday, flooring is supposed to be going down today and the security system and plumbing should hopefully be in by the end of the weekend. Yes, we're cutting it close. As long as no one sneezes we'll be fine. One hiccup (including in the inspection process and getting signed off by the city...how much you wanna bet that works out fine?) and we're screwed. However, we've been forging forward under the assumption that everything will work out fine.

I've been cleaning my desk, reorganizing filing cabinets and packing anything that doesn't move for the last week and a half. I am currently surrounded by half full boxes just waiting for the moment when I finish everything I have to do and can really start dismantling the space around me. We've already filled half of our dumpster with shit that probably should have been thrown away 5 years ago - the last time we moved. I still have to put in our change of address, complete our we've moved cards, oh and get the water, electricity and gas moved over into our name. But I can't do that until we've been cleared for occupancy which won't happen until Monday or Tuesday. Did I mention we're moving on Wednesday? That we have a truck rented and hired help already lined up? Pray for me. Please.

Every cut it this close on a move? Ever moved? Tell me your happy (or nightmare) stories. I moved quite a bit when I was younger...hence my loathing of the process now. I really hope this is the last time we do it.

Instigator

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!! My littlest is turning 5 today. I wanna know where the years went.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?


Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Any child of the seventies remembers those lyrics from Simon and Garfunkle. Until a few summers ago, they were just words in a song. Well, I knew parsley as a garnish used in restaurants.

And then I planted an herb garden and discovered the wonderful world of fresh herbs. Because of my leg being in a cast, I haven't been able to plant annual flowers like I normally do, so my gardening has been limited to the herbs. I sweltered in Sunday's sun and cleaned out the dead foliage to tidy up the place.

This first photo shows my lavender, sage and thyme. I've been harvesting the lavender blossoms, drying them and when I have enough I'll made a nice sachet for my undies drawer. I use the sage and thyme for cooking.


Here is rosemary and oregano. This rosemary plant started as a six-inch plant from Lowe's. At one point it had taken over the whole end of the bed and grown tall enough to reach the bottom of the window above it. Last year I pruned it way back and you can see I still have plenty of plant. It's an evergreen and can be used as an ornamental shrub. I've even seen it coaxed into shapes as a topiary.

All these herbs are perennial though only the rosemary and lavender keep their leaves through the winter.


This is a black swallowtail caterpillar and it's the reason I stopped growing parsley. A family of these infested my herb garden two summers ago and in one afternoon they stripped the plant of every leaf. I tried planting decoy parsley in another part of the yard, but I didn't fool them. He's pretty in an ugly sort of way, isn't he?




Newspaper and magazine articles have been publishing articles touting the qualities of superfoods like pomegranates, avocadoes, kiwi, broccoli, walnuts and sweet potatoes. But I recently came across an article that told me I had a regular little health clinic in my backyard. Here's what I've learned.

Rosemary, aside from smelling and tasting wonderful, has been used as a brain tonic in China for years. It also aids digestion and boosts the immune system. I like to cut a few long stalks and put them in a bud vase on my desk just for the smell. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you can toss a sprig of rosemary into the fire to release the aromas into the room.

Oregano can be steeped in hot water and the vapors inhaled when you have a cold. These vapors have antibacterial, antiviral and decongestant qualities. I'm definitely going to try that next winter.

Sage can increase oxygen to the brain and improve concentration and is also a digestive aid.

Chives (growing a few feet away but not pictured) contain vitamin C and potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid. Sprinkle them on a baked potato to not only add flavor but give you the benefits of these vitamins and minerals.

If you don't have a place outside to grow herbs, most can be grown in pots in a sunny window.

Got herbs? Use herbs? Tell me.

P.S. Keep sending in those questions to playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Off to college, to major in peach farming...

All businesses have jargon. All social groups have slang. Jargon is a shorthand for those in the biz, and slang is a way to identify with a group (and in both cases, it’s easy to spot outsiders based on language).

After four years together, it’s no real surprise that the Playground is developing its own jargon and slang. We’re not trying to exclude anyone; we’re just lazy. Today, I’m going to share some Playground shorthand with you – so you won’t feel excluded. :-)

“That book went off to college.”

Books are kinda like children (in my case, headstrong and willful children). While my book might be like my own child, the other Playfriend’s books are like my nieces and nephews. I’m kept up-to-date on their shenanigans, but the day-to-day raising of them aren’t my problem. You keep up with their growth, their progress, and then one day they go off to college and come back entirely different people. This happens quite frequently with books – especially once your editor gets hold of them and you’re going through revisions. Trust me, Kira’s Whispers in the Dark is not the same book I helped her plot in the back of the Playmobile on the way back from Birmingham. The “child” I knew is still there, but it’s all grown up now and I hardly recognize it anymore.

Just like in real life, going off to college is a good thing. College (i.e. an editor) does good things for your book – even if you feel slightly left out of the loop, like you missed an important part of its growth process. It’s odd to see a book mature into something different than what I expected, but it also means that the book I pick up off the shelf of my local bookstore will have a surprise in store for me.

“And now he’s a peach farmer.” (also sometimes a question, asked in a tone of frustrated disbelief)

Brainstorming books in a group is an interesting process. Characters, plot points, funny lines all get tossed around randomly – some ideas are rejected outright, others are written down for possible later use, and some prove interesting enough to build your book on. And all of this can happen pretty quickly. You have to pay attention.

One night we were brainstorming at my house. The book up for discussion took place at a nice resort owned by the hero and the heroine was the manager. I left the room for FIVE MINUTES – seriously, FIVE FREAKIN’ MINUTES – and when I came back, the hero was now a peach farmer in south Georgia (and the heroine might have been a preacher’s daughter by that point. I’m still not sure about the twins.). Talk about a train of thought that left me behind at the station.

Peach farming happens a lot on the Playground. I thought it was dangerous to leave the room only because I’d get volunteered for something while I was gone. Pfft. "And now he's a peach farmer" is shorthand for “How the hell did we get here?” (and the answer is, “It doesn’t matter. Here we are.”) So if you hear us talking about peach farming, it means something major has changed while you weren’t looking, and just roll with it.

And, just FYI, my book is turning into a professional student. I’m wondering if it’s too late to borrow that peach farmer idea…

So do you have a group of friends that has developed its own slang? Care to share what it is or how it came about?

PC

~off to pay tuition...~

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Reads



I’m a little behind in putting together my post for today. Things have been just crazy. I knew there was a reason I was dreading summer. For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been carrying Little Man to swim lessons, an hour round-trip daily. This week I start 2 hours round-trip daily to take Drama Queen to Girl Scout Day Camp. But after that, their summer obligations are strictly fun. I also had to work yesterday and the rest of this week, along with having family come in next weekend. Sigh…

One thing I’m hoping to get to do this summer is read. Eventually. I’ve got a book waiting on my bedside table by Lara Adrian. The newest in her Midnight Breed series titled Ashes of Midnight. I’m also hoping to pick up some new books at conference in July.

So tell me, what does your summer reading list look like? Anything new or exciting you’ve discovered?

Angel

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We're taking your questions!!!

During the week of RWA National Conference, the Playfriends are taking the time to answer your questions while we're on a learning experience of our own. This is your chance to ask us anything about writing, authors (and their quirks), craft, the business of publishing, our lives, etc.

Remember to send your questions for the Playfriends to Playground Monitor at playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com. The deadline is this Wednesday, June 24th. Prizes will be awarded for those who participate.

So send those questions in! The best part about this website is sharing our experiences with YOU!

Angel

Friday, June 19, 2009

Up to My Elbows In Buttercreme

I should've known better than to take on cake decorating as a hobby. Combining sweet confectionary arts with my sedentary work and other sedentary hobbies is just asking for a bigger rear end. I spend most of my time at the computer, reading or scrapbooking (read: sitting). Why couldn't I like to hike or rollerblade or something? Nope. Not me. I like artistic pursuits, which includes decorating pastry in super sugary goodness.

At the moment, I have two cakes under construction at my house. As Instigator mentioned, this weekend is the Playkids Birthday Extravaganza. To go along with our Pirates & Princess theme, one is a chocolate pirate ship and the other is a vanilla tiara pull apart cupcake-cake. I can't complain because I volunteered to make the cakes. For one thing, the grocery store wanted $80 for the pirate ship and $32 for the tiara cake and that's just crazy. Second, like baking and decorating. It's fun. I'd like to think I'm fairly good at it. It also has the potential to be fairly lucrative as a side job at some point.

But it also has the potential for eating. Scraps, stray buttercreme icing, extra fillings, etc. Even if I don't eat a bite of the resulting cake, I'm surrounded by tasty opportunities.

I'd honestly like to do more cakes. Practice and try new skills and methods. But I simply cannot have a cake sitting around my house each week. People laugh at me when I try to push extra cake on them, but its an absolute must. I don't want to eat it. Scratch that. I do want to eat it. Which is why it must go away.

What's your favorite kind of cake? Fillings? Icing? Whenever I watch those fancy cake shows on tv, the couples are always ordering something strange like pistachio cake with mango coconut filling. Boggles my mind. I wouldn't ever think to put something like that together. I'm trying to expand my portfolio, so share what you like, please.

SP

P.S. The winner of last week's website survey contest was Lois! Please email me at smartypants@writingplayground.com to claim your prize within 7 days. Thanks!

P.S.S. Remember to send your questions for the Playfriends to Playground Monitor at playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com. Ask us anything about writing, craft, the business, our lives, etc. and we'll answer them the week of conference.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Birthday Parties

This weekend we're having a major party on the Playground. Nope, no one is turning 40...yet. It's actually the little ones that are going to celebrate this time.

Five of the six Playkids have birthdays in June and July. Yep, you read that right. For the past several summers in between conferences, vacations, girl scout camps and vacation bible school we've also had 5 birthday parties in about 7 weeks. Yeah, you do the math. Doesn't leave many weekends free does it?

So, this year we decided to be smart about this. Instead of having 5 separate weekends for Playkid birthday parties we're going to have them all on one day. Yep, you read that right. It just makes sense. I mean, all of our kids are friends. Whenever I watch Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants I see our kids. They don't go to the same schools, they don't even see each other on a regular basis but put them into a room together and it's like they've never been apart. I kinda like that. We've all formed very close bonds - these sisters of my heart - and I love the fact that our kids already have those same bonds developing.

But I digress. Perhaps because then I can forget the fact that we have 30 to 40 kids coming to this party. Yep, you read that right. In theory, this idea is brilliant. I'm very worried that in practice the end of the party will find all the adults huddled in a ball twitching and ticking. Luckily, there is plenty to keep the hoodlums - I mean precious children - occupied. And if nothing else, we'll feed them some of Smarty Pant's cake. She's making a pirate ship and a princess tiara out of cake. Her talent never ceases to amaze me! Oh wait, maybe we shouldn't feed them sugar.

Seriously, we're going to have a fantastic party. Have you ever thrown a huge party? Ever had a surprise party? Have a fun/disastrous kid's party story to share?

Instigator

P.S. Remember to send your questions for the Playfriends to Playground Monitor at playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com. Ask us anything about writing, craft, the business, our lives, etc. and we'll answer them the week of conference.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You've got questions? We'll get you some answers.


From July 13 til July 19, the Playfriends will be out of town. This isn't one of our famous road trips with unplanned excitement. Or at least we hope it's not.

We will be in our nation's capital for the Romance Writers of America national conference. The actual conference doesn't start until Thursday, but we've planned some sightseeing and a special birthday dinner for Instigator for the days leading up to it. We're keeping our fingers crossed for a White House tour and swear to God we won't let Instigator anywhere near the Presidential Seal Rug with a root beer. ;-)

Problem Child has a leadership seminar to attend. We'll all go to workshops, and several Playfriends are giving workshops. I get to go to my first PRO retreat. Angel has a flurry of Golden Heart activities. Smarty Pants will be networking and, during our sightseeing part of the trip, will share her knowledge of DC with us.

Instigator and Problem Child will be signing at the Readers for Life Literacy Autographing. Over 500 authors will be signing their books, the sale of which raises money for literacy. Since 1991, RWA has donated over a half million dollars to literacy charities.

We'll have our annual breakfast with our good friend Barbara Vey of Publisher's Weekly and individually we'll scatter to meet up with friends we only see once every year or so. These meetings often take place in the Executive Conference Room AKA the hotel bar. Anyone who's anybody can be found in the ECR.

Then on Saturday night we'll get all gussied up and attend the Golden Heart and Rita Awards Ceremony. It's like the Academy Awards for romance writers. And as I mentioned earlier, our own Angel is a finalist. The Playfriends will share her butterflies as we watch her picture up on the Jumbotron and wait for the announcement of the winner in her category.

"What about the blog?" you ask. And that's a very good question. It's a disgusting fact that you can stay at a Day's Inn for $69 a night and get free wi-fi access, but if you stay at a Marriott for $250 a night, they want to charge you an extra $12.95 a day for wi-fi. Additionally, with all the "stuff" we have to schlep to DC, carting along a laptop is an added burden.

"Stuff" includes casual clothing for sightseeing, business casual clothing for the conference, party attire for publisher parties, formal attire for the awards ceremony, shoes, jewelry and accessories to go with all of the above, make-up, curling irons, toiletry items, undies (and you know how we are about proper undergarments), PJs, OTC and prescription meds, camera and cell phone (and charging cords), business materials (notebook and pen, business cards, conference schedule, etc.), duffel bag for the free books and goodies we get at the conference and gosh knows what else for a seven-day combination business and pleasure trip.

Anyway, back to the blog. This year we're going to let our readers help us blog that week. Blogger has this really neat feature that allows you to schedule a blog post for a future date. And the Playfriends are going to put that feature to good use when we answer the questions you ask us over the next week.

Ask us about us, about writing, about publishing, and we'll sort through the questions, combine the ones that are similar, toss the ones we refuse to answer (like how much I weigh) and answer them throughout the course of the week we're in DC. For some questions we may all chime in, but for others, certain Playfriends may be more knowledgeable (i.e. Angel is our Golden Heart expert).

Between now and next Wednesday, send your questions to the Playground Monitor and then tune in the week of July 13 to get the answers.

Remember the books and goodies I mentioned earlier? We'll be pulling from that stash to give prizes after we return and recuperate from going ninety miles per hour for seven days. Conference is fun, and you learn more than you could ever imagine, but good gracious I come home in a stupor and just stare at the walls for about seventy-two hours.

Put on your thinking caps and ready, set, go! Send us your questions!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Big Hair Day

(It's hard to type when you're laughing...)

Welcome to Big Hair Day on the Playground! Our love of the 80's is well-known, and today we celebrate the wonders of what we did to our hair in that glorious decade of outrageousness. While the 80's is known for the Big Hair, who can forget the Mall Bangs, the poodle perm, the Flock of Seagulls asymmetrical glory...

A few brave souls answered our call for pictures (while some pretended to be deaf. I'm looking at you, Rhonda Nelson.). So, here, for our amusement and nostalgia...


No one, and I mean no one has bigger hair than Counselor Shelley. It's bigger than her body! It's leaving the frame! (That hole in the ozone layer? It started above Shelley's house.)


Instigator models a perm and Mall Bangs!
Maven LJ rocks a perm with those large-frame glasses...


Honorary Playfriend Dina has Big Hair *and* a striped parka!


Unfortunately, the picture is a bit dark, but check out those side wings with my Mall Bangs (over my shoulder you can see more of my bad bleach job...) The electric blue lame dress with the asymmetrical tired skirt and hip bow is just the bomb!

That's Maven Linda with her big glasses and wow! She's a big-haired brunette!


Smarty Pants spent quality time with a curling iron to achieve this 'do.


The Playground Monitor was monitoring kids in the 80's and decided to share the start of big hair with us instead.

Ellen Hartman would like me to note here that her hair is naturally straight -- this is the result of the wonders of 80's perm technology.

Maven Beverly has some fabulous big hair to go with her shoulder pads.



The Playfriends relive their youth at SP's birthday party. The sad thing is that I think I wore all of those outfits at some point in my life...


Dina wins a prize for being brave enough to play. Now let's vote for bragging rights... which hairstyle is *your* fave?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthdays: Blessing or Curse?


This past Friday I turned 35.

I’d been really dreading this birthday. It felt like a milestone, and not really a pleasant one. Now, I know some of you out there are thinking that I’m still a baby. I can appreciate that. And I know some of you out there are commiserating my “old lady” status. I'm not the oldest Playfriend, or the youngest. I'm just... I'm 35.

I honestly wasn’t ready to turn 35. I tried not to make a big deal of it, because I knew how irrational the feelings were, but it just felt like this birthday was telling me that more of my life than I cared to acknowledge had now passed me by and I still had some things that hadn’t made it to the accomplishments list.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m usually a big birthday person. I feel like everyone should have that one day when they are made to feel really special and celebrated. It drives me crazy that my hubby's birthday is on Christmas, which makes it difficult to celebrate his big day. There is nothing better than being appreciated and what better day to do it than the anniversary of your birth? For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it this year.

But as much as I was dreading it, the day itself went really well. My sister had my children for most of the day (we’re doing a child swap this summer) and I managed to write 25 pages to finish my book. Yay me! My husband sent me a dozen roses and a gift card for Barnes & Nobles. He’s a keeper, alright! My in laws cooked dinner to celebrate and after being on a low carb diet for 3 weeks, I enjoyed every bite of my taco salad and brownie sundae. The next day, I got to celebrate with my Playground sisters and spend the day talking writing with fellow authors. Awesome!

I went to bed happy and actually feeling better about myself than I have in a long while. I was surrounded by people who love me and that can make all the difference in the world. I’m not sure what this year will hold, whether it will be full of joy or the same old struggles. But if it is one thing I’ve learned in my first 35 years, having people there to support me is the best gift in life.

What was your best/worst birthday year? If you could have anything you wanted for your next birthday, what would it be?

Angel

PS. Jean is Julie Cohen’s prize winner from last week. Please email Instigator with your snail mail address to receive your prize. Prizes not claimed within 7 days will be regifted.

Coming Soon!

Tomorrow is Big Hair Day and we have some awesome pictures to show you! Join us for wild looks, prizes, and a big dose of nostalgia.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Parlez-vous l'interview?

Did you know I could speak French?

Well, I can't (much to the dismay of Mme Lee, my high school French teacher) -- unless you count all those ballet terms as actual French. (And I know from experience that ballet terms do you absolutely no good at all when you're trying to communicate in France.)

But I can be translated into French!

Many thanks to Callixta at Blue Moon for reviewing my books and liking them enough to want to interview me! You can find the interview here. Don't worry -- the interview is up in both English and French.

The reviews are very positive, even if running the page through translation software creates some interesting sentences.

Amazingly enough, Callixta reads the books in English, then reviews them in French. Maybe I'll have a some fans when/if I get translated and released in France.

Merci et adieu.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Speak Up!

When we brainstormed the idea for the Writing Playground way back in 2005, we had no real idea of what it would become or how it would change over the years. We ran with our theme, creating cute and pun-filled features. We snickered to ourselves when we setup “Under the Bleachers” and put up the picture of PM and her whistle.

So now, almost four years later, things have changed quite a bit around here. A few of us have sold. Parts of the site have become more important while others have faded to a less updated feature. As we sat down to start planning our schedule for the next six months, we started discussing the site and what we want to do with it next. We tossed a couple ideas around, then came up with an important thought.

We’d ask you.

Sure, we can post what we want to keep ourselves amused, but our readers need to have a reason to come back, too. So, commenters and lurkers unite! Step up to the plate and answer a couple questions for us. Your input will help us make the site a more fun and useful place for you to visit.

Now, the focus of this is primarily the website, not our blog, so if you haven’t hopped over there in a while, check it out: http://www.writingplayground.com/ then answer these questions...

1. What is your favorite part of the Playground?

2. What would you like to see more of?

3. What would you like to see less of?

4. Is there something you’d like us to add that we haven’t had on the site before?

5. For interviews and guest bloggers, is there anyone in particular you’d like us to invite over to play (authors, editors, other industry types)?

6. Are you signed up to receive the Playground News?

7. What is it about the Playground that brings you back each time?

Speak up! Have your voice heard! Win prizes! I’m not above a bribe. At least one, if not more of the commenters today will win something nifty for helping us out. Prizes will probably include a book and possibly more – chocolate perhaps? Let us know what you’d like to see and I will reward accordingly. (Extra points for lurkers who've never posted before.)

SP

PS. Oops, I almost forgot! It's Angel's birthday. Happy Birthday!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest Blogger - Julie Cohen

Julie has long been a friend of the Playground! Which is why we're so excited to have her back today to celebrate the release of her newest book, Girl from Mars. Please give Julie a warm Playground welcome.

Chic or Geek?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

You may think that I’m a glamorous romance writer who lives her life making up stories about rock stars, male models and celebrity chefs. Effortlessly hip, always looking good, forever able to toss out a quick and witty line in any situation, without even breaking stride in my Jimmy Choos.

Nope. I’m a total geek.

I’m here to tell you that I spent large chunks of my teenagerdom, perfectly good days when the sun was shining outside, playing Dungeons and Dragons in a shed. I have been known to put on a sheet and run around with homemade magic wand. In high school, I wore oversized men’s clothing that I found in charity shops. I had pink hair and I could quote any page you liked from The Complete Sherlock Holmes or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When I met my husband-to-be, I was wearing purple Doc Martin boots with day-glo laces and a denim jacket I’d hand-painted with gremlins and which was so desperately ugly and uncool that, as soon as we were a couple, he urged me to burn it.

And I’m proud!

A lot of chick-lit type books are written about women who are fashion buyers, or executive PAs, or have high-flying and aspirational lifestyles, who hoard shoes and read magazines and are generally, well—chicks. I wanted to write a book about geeks. People who grew up like me, who wouldn’t know “hip” if Mick Jagger gave them the bump, who always had the wrong hairstyle and felt like everyone else knew a secret they didn’t.

That’s why I loved writing Girl from Mars. The heroine, Philomena Desdemona Brown (Fil for short) is a total geek. She’s an artist for long-running (and poorly-selling) comic Girl from Mars, and she spends all her time drawing or hanging out with her three geeky male friends, arguing about Star Trek and The X Files. She’s got two pairs of shoes and both of them are sneakers. She hasn’t worn a dress since she was about six and she thinks the word “date” is a synonym for “slowly having your fingernails ripped out.” I absolutely love her.

But she still has the same dilemmas every chick-lit heroine—every woman—has. About her job, about her friendships, about her family, about her self-image, about falling in love. These things are universal, no matter what shoes a heroine wears.

And it’s my deep-seated belief that geeks turn out to be the coolest people anyway. Being an outsider in some ways can make you understand what it’s like to be an outsider in other ways. It can give you compassion and focus you on what’s important in life. It ain’t shoes. It ain’t Star Trek either. It’s people.

Go on, tell me: are you chic, or are you geek? Reveal your deepest geeky (or chic-y) secret to me in the comments, and I’ll choose the best one to win a signed copy of Girl from Mars, and some extremely non-fashionable space age day-glo bracelets.
Girl from Mars is published TODAY (11 June) by Little Black Dress books. Julie’s website: http://www.julie-cohen.com/

Link to buy Girl from Mars from The Book Depository (free worldwide shipping!): http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780755341399/Girl-from-Mars

Link to buy GfM from Amazon.co.uk:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Mars-Little-Black-Dress/dp/0755341392/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231345183&sr=1-8

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I've always depended...


It’s been weeks since I mailed my full manuscript to New York City. Eight and a half weeks to be precise, but who’s counting. Surprisingly, that time has flown by.

It’s been a week since I got the cast on my foot. A week and a day, but who’s… you know. This first week has flown by too. But I’ve a stinking suspicion time is going to slow down soon. Yeah I have to stay off the foot as much as possible, so that means couch time with my foot propped on pillows and either a book in my hand or a Law and Order SVU rerun playing on the DVR. However, I learned last year after my foot surgery, which required two weeks of having the foot elevated, that cabin fever sets in quickly.

Smarty Pants took me to the movie Friday night (we saw Angels & Demons and I enjoyed the heck out of it, especially since I’ve been to Rome and have seen many of the sites shown in the film) and then I let my rarely-used adventuous side allow her to introduce me to Vietnamese food (also very good). On Sunday, Angel took me with her to Barnes and Noble where I actually wrote three pages on a short story. I know I should be working on the next book, not a short story, but I’m still pondering the next book, and with conference coming up I need some extra income for my expenses. Today I’m tagging along with Problem Child and she’ll drop me off at an appointment and pick me up afterward. At least there’s a Books-a-Million close by where she can stay entertained.

I’m reminded of the line from Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire where Blanche DuBois says, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Of course the Playfriends aren’t strangers and I’m not going to be hauled to the insane asylum as Blanche was just after uttering the line. I don’t often ask for help and I think many women are the same. I trudge along, doing for myself until I’m put into a position where I can’t. Maybe I feel like I’m saving up favors for a day when I really need them so I can call them in during the thirty more days I’m in this cast (but who’s counting?).

Whatever the psychology, I’m grateful for the Playfriends. Here’s also a shout out to my friend Eileen who took me to get the cast put on and drove me yesterday to get a temporary handicapped placard so I don’t have to clomp in from the back forty in the Walmart parking lot. Thanks, too, to my neighbor Elizabeth who took me to the drugstore and the bank last week.

The cast has also affected my wardrobe. Whatever I wear has to fit over the cast, and so far I’ve managed with capris. I also have to wear a firmly fitting shoe on the left foot to give me stability. Around the house I wear a Croc; outdoors I wear a Sketcher sandal, a Clarks sandal or a tennis shoe. Real fashionable, huh?

And then last week it dawned on me that when this cast comes off three days before I leave for RWA conference, my leg is going to look like crap. I already have this notation on my calendar for July 10:

10 AM – cast removal
Immediately after – spa pedicure

And the cute little black dress I bought months ago for a party just isn’t going to work since it’s knee-length. My leg, even with a couple coats of Jergens Natural Glow, is gonna glow all right. It’ll probably illuminate under a black light. I’m having to re-evaluate my wardrobe for that night. I guess the cute little black dress will have to wait til next year. Besides, I needed to firm up my thighs and had begun doing lunges before the cast went on. Do you know how hard it is to lunge in a knee-high cast? Hard enough that these thighs will have to remain flabby til after July 10, another reason for the wardrobe re-evaluation. Le sigh.

Meanwhile, I continue pondering the next book, waiting to hear on the one I submitted, writing the short story that’s due Friday and depending on the kindness of a great bunch of friends.

P.S. Our big hair celebration is approaching and today's the deadline to send your photos to Problem Child to be included in the embarrassment fun.

ATTENTION Housemouse88. You won Christie Craig’s prize from her blog last week. Please email Angel with your name and snail mail info to claim the prize.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Being the Author, part 2

You know, there are certain phrases you practice in front of your mirror, so that when the time comes to use them, you’ll be ready to say them with style, panache, and just the right amount of calm collectedness. Like:
“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille”

“I’d like to thank the Academy…”

“My fellow Americans…”

“I, Kimberly, take you, Jon Bon Jovi…”

And

“I’m off to London to have lunch with my editor.”

Well, I still haven’t had the chance to use any of the first four, but practicing that last one really came in handy recently. Because I did go to London and have lunch with my editor. Squee!

Okay, so I got on the wrong train (totally not my fault and I wasn’t the only one on the wrong train. It had been announced incorrectly), and then I got a little bit lost in Richmond and went the long way around to the Mills and Boon office, but those mishaps aside didn’t take the glam out of the event. Other than showing up at the office a little sweaty from my trek.

Sadly, I have no pictures (sorry, Angel, but you weren’t there to remind me).

I presented myself to the receptionist and told her who I was. She had to call up for someone to come get me. (Boy, security is tight. I was wondering if aspiring authors wander in off the streets occasionally trying to find an editor.) There’s a M&B rack in the lobby, so I perused the books while I waited. Happy of happiness, I found one of my books on the rack! I’m on a lobby display rack! How cool!

Then Lucy (Gilmour – my lovely editor) and Bryony (Green – Senior Ed of Modern Heat) came down to get me from the lobby and took me upstairs into the M&B sanctum. Just the thought of all the creative energy and book-making gave me the shivers. Alas, it looked a bit like any other office (I’m not sure what I was expecting). But then, editors came out of their cubicles to say hello: Tessa Shapcott (head of the Modern/Presents line), Jenny Hutton, Sally Williamson (Lynn Raye Harris’s editor), Joanne Grant, Kimberley Young (who let me interview her for the Playground a couple of years ago) – if anyone from the M&B office is reading this and I’ve left you off the list, my apologies. A newbie author can only absorb so much fabulous editorial at one time. Talk about feeling special – after so many years of stalking editors at conferences, having so many actually want to say hello is just surreal.

Then it was off to lunch. Lucy and Bryony led me to a wonderfully hidden-down-a-back-street French restaurant where we sat in a walled-in courtyard. A bottle of wine, a menu of things I didn’t quite recognize, everyone around me with either a British or French accent – I felt like the punch line to every Alabama Redneck joke ever invented.

And then I began to babble. Hmm, seems I should have spent less time practicing accepting my Oscar and more working on making small talk with my editors. I don’t know why I was nervous. Bryony and Lucy are both wonderfully friendly people, and I know this wasn’t a job interview, but still… Babble city. Ugh. Did I mention the Alabama Redneck part?

But all good news from my editors. My books seem to be doing all right. They seem happy with what I’m writing and want me to write more books. Lucy has confidence I’ll be able to get the revisions on the current book done (glad one of us does!). And I was told that I could come back for lunch again when I bring AC over to see her grandparents next year. (Annual lunch with my editor in London? Really? Man, I love this job!)

Then I was back on the train headed back to central London with a couple of M&B books in my bag for the ride home. (Okay, so I asked for books. Tacky, but I’d read my entire magazine on the wrong train earlier.)

Back in London, I met up with the fabu Heidi Rice, fellow Modern Heat author, who continued my day of author glamor by taking me to the National Gallery CafĂ© for drinks. Drinks overlooking Trafalgar Square while talking about editors and books and royalty statements made me feel very Author-like indeed. I didn’t miss the surreptitious glances of “Are they famous people?” from the folks at the next table as we tossed around publishing terms. Good for the ego -- if not great for my liver or waistline.

The most horrible train ride ever followed as I made my way back to where I was staying with some friends. However, in the midst of my misery (and trust me, crowded commuter trains out of London when there’s been an accident on the tracks and mucked up the entire schedule is misery indeed), I came up with an idea for book number five. Yep, I felt like an author.

Now I’m home in Alabama and there’s absolutely no glamor to be found as I dig through the post-vacation mess of laundry/mail/empty fridge – oh, and let’s not forget the optimistic deadline I gave Lucy about my revisions looming on the horizon.

But I had lunch with my editor in London. Squee!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Keeping Pace...




For the past month, I’ve been juggling two projects. One is a proposal for a Harlequin line, the other is the second half of a book I’ve chosen to transform into a single title. I’d work on one until something came up with the other, then switch. Now, this isn’t a very efficient way for me to work, because there’s always a period of adjustment for me to really get back into the story I’m working on. And, quite frankly, I was starting to get tired of both projects because they were dragging on so long.

But I wanted to get the single title done before Nationals. That is my goal, because I’m pitching this book to an editor and agent while I’m there. Plus, if I get too tired of it, I’ll just give up and move on to something more exciting (like the brand spanking new idea for a single title series I have roaming my brain at the moment), and that would be a waste of the six months I have invested in this story. Not to mention that I haven't abandoned a story yet... I don't want to start with this one.

I decided I needed help and external motivation to accomplish this task. So I signed up for a class called Fast Draft (taught by author Candace Havens) where you write a book in 2 weeks. And that’s exactly what she expects you to do. 20 pages per day. No excuses. Lucky for me, I have 1 very good caveat: my book was half written already. So my goal has been 13 pages per day and in a week I’ve written 98 pages. I’m quite impressed and finally seeing the end of the tunnel after a long time in the trenches.

Not that it’s been easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Though I’m sure I have it a lot easier than women who have to work full time. But I do have rug rats underfoot all day, who require being fed and toted places occasionally. It’s really hard to keep your focus when munchkins come in asking you questions all the time or just wanting to tell you about something interesting. I can shut them out for a little while, but not all day.

According to the teacher, the average author can write 20 pages in about 3 hours. I’ve always thought I was a slow writer and now I know it for certain. It takes me 4 hours (approximately) to write my 13 pages. On a good day. Add in interruptions, and it is taking me quite a large chunk of my day to get this accomplished. But accomplish it, I do. Of which I’m very proud.

My birthday is coming up this week and someone asked me what I was going to do to celebrate. My answer? Write. The class won’t be over yet, but the book will be almost done. :)

When you are working on a project, do you like to sprint to the finish or pace yourself? Authors, do you think fast drafting would work for you? Why or why not?


Angel

Our very own Instigator is blogging today on the Blaze Authors loop.



Coming Soon!

On Thursday, June 11th, welcome author Julie Cohen to the Playground.

Don’t forget!! 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!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Day 11...

... without carbs. Yes, three more days until I can eat a piece of fruit or whole wheat bread. Three more days until I can eat lowfat yogurt or a high fiber granola bar. Not all at once, mind you... one to two servings a day to start out and see how my weight loss progresses. So far, I've done ok. Had my exercise routine not fizzled, I'd probably be doing better. But the scale keeps going down and I haven't hurt anyone. Can't ask for much else.

Except that I'm getting bored. There's a reason this phase only lasts 2 weeks. Eggs, meat, cheese, veggies, nuts. Repeat. Yawn. I'm sure it doesn't help that I really don't care much for eggs and meat. I think half the reason I lose on this diet is because I lose my will to eat. I'm trying to expand my horizons, try some new veggies, embrace what I can eat instead of worrying about what I can't.

So, I'm throwing this out there to see if any of you have suggestions. Any no or very low carb recipes to share? Can't have noodles, potatoes, rice, sugar or starchy veggies. (I say this because someone brought me an extra brownie into my office and asked if it has carbs. Sigh. Yes. All carbs.) Any veggie side dishes to spice things up a bit? I have a zucchini, some yellow squash and a eggplant in my crisper, but no clue what to do with them. They'll rot soon, I'm sure. As will the mushrooms, the red pepper and the asparagus. I mean well, I buy them, then they rot. I really need to stick with frozen veggies.

Have you been on a low carb diet like Atkins or South Beach before? How'd you fare? Any favorite recipes I should try? I need to refill my arsenal before I single-handedly wipe out the chicken population of North America.

SP

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Baptism by the Helmet

Everyone probably knows that Rhonda Nelson and I went to Toronto last week to meet with our editor (see last week's Thursday blog if you don't). So I thought I'd share some pictures from my trip and my baptism by the helmet. I don't think I was a true Blaze Babe until after I went down the 1000 meter zip line off the side of a mountain. It was amazing!! And I'd do it again in a heartbeat...possibly upside down.


Here's Rhonda, me and Brenda with all our paraphernalia on - including helmets that aren't crooked. The body of water behind us is Georgian Bay and we're standing on a huge suspension walking bridge. The view was gorgeous.


That board beneath my butt is what we walked on in the treetops for the eco tour. Brenda was Speedy Gonzales and we were way ahead of the other groups behind us so I decided to sit down and take a break while we waited. The whole thing was really fun and being up in the trees was very relaxing. At one point we saw a mother raccoon in a hole in the tree. Soooo cute!

And here's evidence that I did in fact go down a zip line. This was the first one - 333 meters long. It was so much fun and by the time I got to the bottom I was yelling at the brake man that I wanted to go again. Luckily I had that opportunity. We hiked through some caves, which still had snow on the ground. No one could understand why I was taking pictures of the dirty snow until I explained that I was from Alabama. After that we went to the next zip line.

I had watched Brenda come down upside down on the first one and thought that it looked fun and I might try it on the second line...until I saw how high it was. I'm not kidding. We jumped off the side of a mountain. I don't know the exact height but...it was high.

They had to weigh us with our equipment on (I'm still telling myself it all weighed 40 pounds) and as they handed up my special counter weighted equipment I found myself praying they hadn't gotten it mixed up with someone else's. I stepped inside the padlocked fencing and let them get me all hooked up. While they were waiting for the all clear call from below I got to stare out the little opening in the fencing at the space I was about to throw myself off of...great way to build terror.

When the time came they looked at me, smiled, and told me to walk off. WALK OFF? In my head I was thinking someone was going to have to push me. In the end I did it without even hesitating. There's a metal ladder with about five (I seriously didn't stop to count) steps going down. They just end. And when you take that final step off into nothing the harness picks you up and sits you down, the wind whistles past your ears and the view is amazing.

I didn't end up going upside down...but I probably will try that next time. It was so much fun. The funny thing is that I loved it but when they'd unhooked me from the lines at the bottom and my feet hit the ground again my left leg wouldn't stop shaking. I have no idea why. Apparently it was upset that I hadn't used it to come down the mountain instead. Didn't last long though.

I really enjoyed the entire weekend and can't wait to visit again.

Have you ever stepped off the side of a mountain? Zip lined? Sky dived? Anything else extreme? Do you want to?

Instigator

P.S. Congratulations to housemouse88, Christie's winner from Tuesday's blog. Please contact angel at angel@writingplayground.com to claim your prize.

P.P.S. And our very own Playground Monitor has a free story up at Long and Short Reviews. Visit http://www.longandshortreviews.com/LASR/story.htm and check it out. We're so proud of PM!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Boots and Spurs


Nope, this isn't a cowboy blog. It's about my foot. If you've hung around the Playground for a while, you'll remember I had foot surgery in February 2008. And you'll be glad to know the surgery was a success.

However, last December I began experiencing heel pain. I figured I'd bruised it since I have a habit of going barefoot around the house. After a month, though, I went back to the doctor who did my surgery and he diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis. I have a small bone spur in my heel, but according to the doctor, it's not large enough to be causing the level of pain I've experienced. You can see from the diagram that the plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot and supporting the arch. Sometimes that band gets a tear or rupture, becomes inflamed and causes pain. It's common among athletes and also can be caused by improperly fitting footwear.

No one's ever accused me of being an athlete, and the Playfriends gently tease me about my sensible shoes. So the doc and I are still a bit unsure how this happened, but it did.

Plan A for treatment was a three-month round of thrice-daily stretches plus OTC anti-inflammatories. After four months, the pain has increased, so I went back to the doc last week and he said we needed to move to Plan B. He also said there was cause to believe I might have a stress fracture.

Yesterday morning I had an MRI and later in the day I returned for the verdict. No stress fracture but there's definitely a small rupture near the point where the plantar fascia connects to the heel.

The treatment? A short leg walking cast. In case you're not familiar with that, just keep reading.



This is Jeffrey, the very nice man who put on my cast. He's also a licensed massage therapist and showed me how to massage the foot once the cast comes off.








<-----This is the beginning of the process. He put a cotton sock on my leg and then wrapped it with cotton padding. And then he began applying an off-white fiberglass wrap.

Here's Jeffrey smoothing down the final layer of wrap. -------->

They handed me a selection of cast colors and had me choose. I figured dark blue would go with most of my clothes and not show dirt too much. Oh my gosh at the flab on my thigh. Don't guess I can do anything about it now.





<------------ The finished product.

The finished product with the walking boot, which looks like a Keen water sandal and probably costs ten times as much. ----->







And the Playground Monitor modeling her latest couture. Think Clinton and Stacy would approve?

The cast comes off July 10, just three days before I leave for the RWA conference in DC. I'm already seeing ugly shoes in my future and possibly an ankle brace since my joint will have been immobilized for six weeks and will most likely stiffen up. The muscles will probably atrophy too. Sightseeing is gonna be a ton o' fun.

Have you ever had a cast? Any tips on caring for it? Dealing with the inevitable itch about halfway down my calf? I did order something called a Shower Guard that's supposed to keep it dry in the shower. And Jeffrey warned me that if it got wet and had to be replaced, the insurance won't pay for the replacement.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

10 of the Stupidest Things I've Done

Photobucket

Please welcome back to the Playground guest author Christie Craig, a talented author, motivational speaker, and all-around funny lady.


We’ve all done them. Stupid things that we look back upon and think: Was I bat-shit crazy or what? I know, I know, most of us prefer to keep those moments/mistakes to ourselves. But hey, sharing our dim-witted moments with one another may help someone avoid falling into the same trap. Plus, they are really funny, so I’ll go first. However, remember, you need to share yours with me, too. I don’t want to be the only fool here today.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with something, just ask yourself what you did that you will never, ever let your child do. That pretty much will bring up a few memories. Oh, and one lucky person who posts a comment will receive a signed copy of Gotcha! as well as some neat promo items. So with no other delay, here are the top ten stupid things I’ve done, things I’ve lived through, and luckily, learned from.


1) Hang up on Tom Selleck because I needed to go pick up my son from school.

I was interviewing Mr. Selleck for a magazine article and we got to talking about everything from the NRA to his horses and when I realized I’d been talking to him for almost an hour and was late for picking my son, I told him I had to go. (Tom, give me one more shot, the kid was cute then, now he just eats a lot and leaves his dirty socks everywhere!) :)

2) Get on a Sky Lift during a windstorm in China.

Hey, I asked if it wasn’t too windy, and my translator told me the sky lift operators said it was up to me. I got on and then the translator told me the operators also said they wanted to see how smart Americans really were. And when the little tiny gondola was blowing to and fro, and I needed a clean pair of pants, I didn’t feel really smart. But in my defense, in America if there’s any danger, don’t they shut the dang things down and in China they obviously leave it up to the idiots.

3) Go to second base with an elephant.

I’m afraid you pretty much have to read this one to believe it: Elephant Blog

4) Take Your Step-Grandmother to Chippendale’s.

Seriously, I should have known better. I couldn’t get her to stop stuffing the dollar bills into the men’s underwear. And when she went through all of hers, she started going through my purse. And my mother just thought it was funny.

5) Tell a New York Taxi driver to hurry.

It made the gondola ride in China seem tame.

6) Crawl into the cage with three red pandas.

In my defense, the zoo keeper said I could do it. And I got some really good photographs (before they decided to charge me) never mind that I needed to change my shorts when I got out.

7) Allow my husband to go through the drive-through window at Burger King on the way to the hospital to have our son.

You’d know the minute he rolls to the window would be when my water broke, or I should say burst. Then I screamed out like an animal, and ended up with about twelve pimple-faced teens, their faces pressed against the glass window as if I was a show and tell, while my husband special ordered his Whopper.

8) Argue with a French waiter in Paris about the meaning of well done.

What can I say, I’d had two glasses of wine, was starving, and that piece of meat was so rare it not only mooed, it passed gas when I stuck my knife in it.

9) Call a cop a “friggin’ pig” and then break his windshield with a beer bottle.

Yeah, this is another one you might have to read to believe (but I swear it happened) and if you go to the link below for the complete explanation. There is even the bonus lesson of how I got caught by the police with a freezer bag of weed and didn’t get arrested.

Christie’s brush with the law.

10) Get caught by a lot of cops when you’re in a closed Pizza Hut on your knees, during a bad hair day, with thousands of dollars of cash strewn around you.

Yup, it was the beginning of a really bad day. You can read all about it at Dorchester’s website in the special feature section. Dorchester It’s funny and it will give you a clue to why I write humorous romantic suspense and maybe even a little insight into where the whole idea of Gotcha! came into being. Plus, you’ll see the contest where someone will win a whole basket of books and goodies.


Okay, so there you have it. Ten stupid things I’ve done. What about you? Come on, like that Country Western song says, “We all have some junk in the trunk, and it’ll all be fine, if I laugh at yours and you laugh at mine.” Plus, one lucky commenter will win a copy of Gotcha!. Which I’m proud to say, earned me my first Publisher’s Weekly Review, a Booklist Review and a Top Pick 4 ½ stars from Romantic Times. Also, today I’m blogging over at Killer Fiction and giving away a copy of Gotcha! over there. Plus, today I’m guest blogging at Wicked Authors and giving away a copy of Gotcha! there as well. So pop over, take a moment to laugh a little, and maybe you’ll win a copy of GOTCHA!.

Monday, June 01, 2009

MOANday-Jay Hernandez

Recently, my husband rented me the horror flick Quarantine, which I enjoyed until I reached the end. :) And yes, he did it on purpose. I’m a horror movie junkie. But while watching the movie, I got quite attached to this guy:


Photobucket

This is Jay Hernandez, who plays one of the fire fighters in the movie. I found him quite cute, and thought he would be perfect for our monthly hunk viewing. In addition to Quarantine, he's appeared in the Hostel movies, Grindhouse, and the Friday Night Lights television show.



I’ve always been drawn to dark hair and skin on a man. Makes them more brooding and mysterious, don’t you think?



And those eyes!



And muscles are always nice!

Photobucket

So tell me, who is your current hero obsession?

Angel

Coming Soon!

Join us tomorrow for author Christie Craig's return! She'll be making some shocking confessions. ;)

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.