Friday, October 30, 2009
Anyway, so I love Halloween. Well, parts of it. I like the fun, costume, pumpkin and candy apple side. I like seeing teeny-tiny fairies and storm troopers at my front door with wide eyes and parent's urging them to say 'trick or treat.' I like making ridiculous little treats (yes, PC) like cupcakes that look like spiderwebs, deviled egg eyeballs, and Frankenstein cakes that bleed strawberry pancake syrup. I like caramel apples and popcorn balls and watching It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV. I like carving pumpkins that make people look twice with surprise.
Unfortunately, with Halloween always comes the parts I don't care much for. Number one is the attitude-ridden teenagers that show up at my door for candy with a sense of entitlement. When I went out as a teenager, it was because I was dragging little kids around. Yes, I dressed up and yes, I collected candy, but there was a reason and I was certainly never rude. If one of them even looks at my pumpkins with thoughts of smashing them... anyhow...
Number two is haunted houses. The commercials are on the radio all the time and its just creepy. Aside from the one at Disney, I made it approximately 2 minutes in a Haunted House when I was 8. Out here they even have haunted corn mazes. As interested as I would be in walking a corn maze, I do not want men in masks with chainsaws chasing me around.
Last is the movies. Nearly every TV station has been playing bad horror movies nonstop. Is it too much to ask that Steel Magnolias be slipped in there between Saw IV and The Hills Have Eyes? Don't get me wrong - I'm all for the thrillers - Rosemary's Baby, Psycho, even the Exorcist, and I can appreciate some of the funny ones, but I have no interest in seeing half-naked teenaged girls getting impaled on meat hooks. Bleh. Give me Charlie Brown any day.
So, what's your favorite part of Halloween? Do you get into the scary stuff? What's your all time favorite scary movie?
P.S. Don't forget that today is the very last day to enter the Not-So-Scary Halloween Contest!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This is a rare indulgence for me, being able to disappear during the week - on a school night no less. And while part of me felt very guilty for neglecting not only Zilla (who happens to be sick) and the girls but also my almost finished WIP, I managed to suffer through that guilt. Cheese and chocolate - not to mention good friends - will do that for you.
The Melting Pot has recently become our go to place for celebrations, commiserations and just escapes. I love it. It's messy. It's yummy. It allows for the potential of licking chocolate off of copious things. It's become a ritual for us.
Do you have a go to restaurant? Where's your favorite place to eat? Or do you have a favorite type of cuisine?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Fall officially began a month ago on September 22. But here in the South, September can still be pretty hot and humid. Things have begun to change, though, and I'm seeing signs that fall might actually be here. Today I saw these bright red maple leaves and the pumpkins and mums in front of the landscaping business near my apartment. They really should have a song for this time of the year -- maybe something like "It's beginning to look a lot like Autumn."
Temps at night have dropped into the 30's several times, and I've dug out some warm jammies for night and fleece pullovers for the day. However, sometimes it's still getting warm in the middle of the day, so I dress in layers and peel off one when the temps rise. Or the day could be like today and be rainy and dreary. It's not unusual this time of year to have a forty-degree temperature spread during the course of a week.
Some of the trees like this one I saw by the grocery store today have even dropped all their leaves, which makes for a dismal landscape. Pretty soon everything but the evergreens will look like this, and we'll be shivering and waiting for spring to come around again.
Is it fall where you live yet? Or is summer still hanging on? Or maybe you're in a part of the country that's already had snow. Perhaps you're around the other side of the world and below the equator and ushering in spring.
What's your weather like and what's your favorite season?
P.S. Our very own Angel is blogging today at http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/ . This is the group blog for the 2009 Golden Heart finalists and today is her first time guest blogging. Please click over and say hi to her and show the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood how friendly the Playground gang is.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
And she writes great books. And did I mention she's so nice? I can't not like her. ~sigh~
So give a huge Playground welcome to fellow Presents author Kate Hewitt.
No one likes to wait. I’ll admit I’m not the most patient person, although I’m trying to improve in this area. Even when I take a good book to a doctor’s or dentist’s office, I can’t help but get annoyed if the wait extends past say, 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, a writing career involves a lot of waiting. Anyone in this business, whether aspiring or multi-published, knows that when you send your beloved manuscript to an editor, the wait can be looong. Like months or even years long. We’ve all heard the stories about manuscripts languishing on an editor’s tottering TBR pile for years—just like we’ve heard the stories about people who heard back in maybe a day. Or an hour. Generally I want to shoot those people. Nicely, of course.
And of course, there’s more waiting in a writing career. There’s waiting for an editor’s response, and then there’s waiting for a response to revisions. There’s waiting for the book to come out—usually around a year after it was accepted—and then there’s waiting for the money you made on that book—which is another year. Just as a quick (no pun intended, really!!) example, my first Harlequin Presents, The Italian’s Chosen Wife, was first submitted in July 2006, officially accepted in February 2007, released in January 2008, and I received royalties from its sales in November 2008. And that is actually pretty much a best-case scenario in terms of time.
So, waiting. We writers do a lot of it. But I’m not here to moan about the waiting (I just heard from my editor on my 12th book, so it’s all smiles here, really!). I’m here, actually, to praise the power of waiting.
Yes, really. Waiting—even, perhaps especially, enforced waiting—can give you perspective on your manuscript, your career, your creative process, even yourself. It gives you distance and objectivity that can be really hard to achieve as a writer, because we hug our stories so tightly to ourselves. Waiting can recharge the creative process, and sometimes it gives you those beautiful ah-hah moments. What’s an ah-hah moment? Well, for me, it’s the light suddenly going on in my brain, and I realize the crucial element that has been missing in my story, or how to fix a scene, or how to write the next chapter.
And the ah-hah moments always come when I stop brainstorming, or even thinking about the story, and just let my mind stew in its own juices for a little while. I wait. Then, when I least expect it—maybe I’m rocking my one year old at two in the morning or playing checkers with my five year old or brushing my eleven year old’s hair [yep, I have a lot of children!]—I get it. The ah-hah moment. It’s like an electric charge to my soul. Of all the writing moments—from thinking of an idea, to writing the first sentence, to getting that charge of realization, to writing The End, to holding the book in my hand, to holding the check in my hand, the ah-hah moment is my favorite. But there’s no guarantee I’m going to get it; it’s a little like waiting in front of an elevator and not being sure if it actually goes to your floor or that the doors are going to open [which in my ancient apartment building is a distinct possibility, alas]. So you need to wait—and hope. Think, and perhaps pray.
Now I write four books a year and I can’t necessarily wait for that little muse to land on my shoulder. Sometimes I just need to plunk down in front of my computer and write, even if it’s not something worth keeping, even if it’s painful and hard, because I’ve just got to get some words down. But there are some times when I recognize it’s better to close the laptop, take a step back, and wait for clarity, for creativity, for the ah-hah moment. Even if waiting is hard, or boring, or you forgot to bring a book to read.
Have you got an opinion about waiting in the writing process? And what’s your favorite part of writing? Just to make things fun, I’ll pick a winner from the comments posted and that person will receive a copy of my November Presents Extra release, Royal Baby, Forbidden Marriage.
Visit Kate's website at www.kate-hewitt.com. And you can read the first chapter of Royal Baby, Forbidden Marriage by clicking below:
Monday, October 26, 2009
I had intended to write my blog earlier in the evening. Instead, I’ve finally turned my computer on for the first time all weekend and am writing my blog at 10:30 at night. :) You see, the Playfriends were gone to our annual chapter retreat this weekend, so I haven’t been home since 11 am Friday morning. Then, the first thing I noticed when I walked into my home again on Sunday afternoon was that my husband had put together my last 2 sets of shelves. Finally, after much waiting, I have a whole wall of bookshelves in my living room!!! I’ve wanted this for a long time and can’t tell you how excited I am.
But of course, having the shelves up isn’t the end of the road. Now I have to put the books on them. I still had boxes of books in the garage that we hadn’t opened since our move to this house 2 years ago, because we had no place to put them. So I trekked out to the garage and started moving boxes inside. I’d completely forgotten how many of them there were!!! And how heavy!!!
I got most of the boxes inside, except for a couple of REALLY heavy ones I’ll have to get my husband to manage and a few boxes of cookbooks. Then I started peeking inside. Now, I vividly remember taking several boxes of books to the library before, trying to whittle down our collection in the process of moving. But as I started going through these books, I realized I had a lot more to get rid of.
Way more books have landed in the giveaway boxes than are going on my new shelves. I looked at each one and asked myself, Do I remember this book? Why did I keep it? Is it one I will read again? (I reread my favorites when I’m in the process of first drafting.) Does this story hold a special place in my heart? (written and signed by a friend, come from a special time in my life, etc) I also have a box of books set aside that are sweet romances I enjoyed during my teen years that I want to save for when my daughter reaches that age.
Yes, I’m excited about my new shelves, but only because I now have a place to display one of the most important aspects of my life: my books. And I want the books on those shelves to be “keepers”. The hardback copy of Little Women that I reread a bazillion times as a young woman. My first Harlequins. Stories that I reach for time and again because the characters are like old friends and I want to relive the magic of their love. Stories by authors who are wonderful friends and mentors to me, inspirations on my own journey to publication. I can’t wait for these to be a true part of our home.
So tell me, how do you decide which books to let go and which to keep? What is your most precious “keeper” book? Have you found a place to display your books or are your shelves overflowing (as I have a feeling mine will one day)?
We have lots going on this week!
Problem Child is blogging today at the Pink Heart Society! Join her on her field trip.
Tomorrow author Kate Hewitt will be guest blogging with us.
P.S. LeaAnnS is Pamela Hearon's winner from last Monday. Please contact Problem Child to arrange for your prize.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Until I applied it to housekeeping. I am not the world's greatest housekeeper. That, in fact, is my mother, so I will never wear that crown and I'm fully aware of it. Before my mother went to some intense therapy to determine why she was so obsessed with controlling her environment, she used to mop the ceilings. True stuff, but I digress... I don't like to clean. There are eighty other things I can do with my time. Unfortunately, I live with a packrat and four fur-babies that shed like crazy. When I lived alone, my cleaning habits were adequate because I just sort of cleaned up after myself as I went along.
It is no longer enough. I tried having a cleaning service come in, but I found I was cleaning up all the clutter (the real issue) before the cleaning lady came. Once all the clutter is gone, the cleaning is no big deal and certainly not worth what I was paying. I'm also kinda cheap, if I haven't mentioned that before. For that amount of money, I could pay my mother to come over and get my ceilings mopped as a bonus.
So (and this is where it loops back to the point) I've started my own cleaning version of 100 words a day. Instead of tearing the house down all at once, I'm going to clean one thing every day. I keep up with the kitchen out of necessity, but aside from that - one thing. Last night I cleaned all three toilets. The night before I swiffered up all the hard woods and linoleum. Tonight, I think I'll vacuum upstairs. Nothing earth shattering here, but its something. And a couple times, once I get started, I do a little more than I planned - maybe cleaning the sink or washing towels while I'm scrubbing toilets. A little something every night and maybe I won't feel like the authorities are going to declare my house a SuperFund site.
Now the 100 words a day makes more sense. There's progress being made and sometimes sitting down to write, even just a little, is the hardest part. It helps build the writing habit, and if you're lucky, maybe you end up writing not just 100 words, but 200 or 500 or even 2000 if you get on a roll.
Have you ever done a writing challenge like this or broken up your cleaning to get more done? Have you been able to stick with it for long?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
But at the moment, I'm more excited about what comes next. After living for months with these people in my head they've finally moved on. And new people have arrived. I woke this morning with the opening scene for my next book rambling away in my brain. Already, I love these characters and I can't wait to get these words down on the page.
This is the part of writing that I absolutely love. The beginning. I know a lot of people loath this part...the trying to figure out your characters, the plot, the black moment, their conflict, blah, blah, blah. I love the fact that they're brand new and almost anything can happen. I love that one tiny decision on my part can change the direction of their book, their lives.
This euphoria can be a little dangerous. On several occasions I have been guilty of abandoning a project (just for a few days) for the greener pastures of the new characters and idea that's just burning to get out. The bright side? Even if I do (or rather, if I have the luxury of time to do this) about the time I hit chapter four or five that new shine has worn off and I'm full steam ahead into the 'I suck' section that I talked about several weeks ago.
Later today I'm going to write down the scene that was playing in my head. I can't wait.
If you're a writer, what's your favorite part of the writing process? If you're a reader, what do you get excited about starting?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The last two years, I've written goals on a piece of paper on January 1st and filed them away in a small decorative box on top of my desk. Then at the end of the year, I see just how well I've done with meeting them.
Last year I did great. I exceeded the number of sales I'd set for myself with the confessions magazines and while I didn't finish writing a book, I wrote 50,000 words of it during the month of November.
On January 1, 2009, I wrote new goals, sure I could meet them. This is my list:
~ Finish writing a novel
~ Get my PRO pin
~ Pitch the novel at the RWA national conference
~ Write and submit 6 stories to the Trues magazines
~ Start a second novel
~ Get in shape and lose weight
I did finish the novel but I didn't pitch it at the conference because I had a chance to pitch it online at eHarlequin, where I got a request for the full manuscript. Unfortunately it was rejected, but the experience was fabulous and I learned so much. That opportunity earned me my PRO pin.
Then in July I added a seventh item: Survive divorce and come out stronger on the other end.
In 2005, we moved and our older son got married, and between the stress of those two things, my muse packed a bag and took an extended vacation to the tropics. She came back, though, in 2006 and I started my selling spree to the Trues. Things toddled along nicely until this year and when my world began to fall apart around me, the muse packed a bag, closed out her checking account, cancelled her subscription to the newspaper and applied for citizenship in another country.
Not only couldn't I write, I couldn't even read. Normally I read 4-6 books a month. I've only read 10 books all year. It's hard for me to sit still long enough to watch a one-hour show on TV even when I fast-forward through the commercials. Stress can be vicious. Aside from the mental effects, it has physical ones too. Remember my list above? I lost 15 pounds without dieting. I also lost a whole lot of junk when I cleaned out my stuff prior to moving into an apartment last weekend (thank you Playfriends, Playfriend spouses and Playkids for helping). The thrift store was excited.
Call it what you will -- a vacationing muse, writer's block or creative silence -- but it sucks, especially when you want to write and the words just won't come.
I recently had a small 2 x 3 inch ink drawing framed. My mom gave it to me and it sat in my kitchen window, still in the cellophane, without a frame, for over 25 years. I decided to frame it for my new apartment. It’s not a standard size so I figured I’d just have a new mat cut and put it in a standard frame. Nope. Wouldn’t work and look right. Soooo, $45 later it’s all framed and double matted and ready to be hung in a special place. What does this little thing say?
“God never closes a door without opening a window.”
I try not to focus on the closed doors behind me, and I've tried not to let my own personal drama spill over into other people's lives. But I figured it was time to say something here.
Rest assured I'm focusing on the open windows ahead. It isn’t always easy, but I’m going to do it.
I learned some lessons along the way:
Life is what happens while you are making other plans.
Don't sweat the small stuff.
There is more than one reality.
Trust your gut.
Good friends and family are worth more than their weight in gold.
And my favorite is from a magnet my sister sent me when the aforementioned crap began to happen.
Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.
I've no doubt the muse will be back in the end.
And so we end on a positive note, how about Donny "Puppy Love" Osmond and the Argentine tango???
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
(I made a couple of batches Sunday night for the school Halloween carnival. Yes, I know that’s not very fancy, but I’m on deadline. Anyway, I’ve decided that fancy cupcakes decorated like spiders and dipped chocolate bat cookies are made simply to impress the Other Mothers. It’s a competition sometimes to see who makes the fanciest treats for class, and I don’t have the inclination to participate. The kids don’t care – they just want something tasty and Rice Krispie treats fit that bill. The Other Mothers can fight it out for the title of Best Baker. I concede. Anyhoo…)
Rice Krispie treats are tasty, so I held one out of the batch for myself, and I had it for breakfast yesterday with a glass of milk. I’ve done this before, and the Geek always acts like Bill Cosby’s wife in the “Chocolate Cake for Breakfast” skit.
I don’t agree.
Rice Krispies are a breakfast cereal. You pour them in a bowl, sprinkle some sugar over the top and pour in the milk. Millions of people all over the world do this every morning.
So let’s examine my breakfast:
Marshmallows – which are just sugar and corn starch. (Fat free!)
What’s the difference?
If I add a piece of fruit, I have my well-balanced breakfast as advertised on TV.
Even if you want to object to the marshmallows, there are plenty of cereals out there with marshmallows in there (and dog only knows what’s been done to them when they went into the box. Lucky Charms are just gross.).
So you tell me: Breakfast or junk food?
Monday, October 19, 2009
The Playfriends are thrilled to host Pamela Hearon’s first release party! I realize I’m a bit biased because Pamela is my Fabu CP, but I’m so excited that her first book is now available from Lyrical Press.
This was the first manuscript Pam sent me when we started critting back in the Dark Ages. I knew right then, this book was something really special. It had everything – including the Arthur legend – and it’s written in Pamela’s flowing, lyrical, evocative style (that even after all these years I still fall short of emulating…).
Here’s the blurb…
When she was three, Halley Winsted was given a mysterious family legacy and told to follow her heart. But now that she’s thirty-three, love and commitment don’t come easy, even in the arms of sexy Tom Rutledge. A trip to England seems the perfect chance to sort out her feelings, and to indulge her obsession with the Arthurian legends.
But the legends are true. Arthur is alive in Avalon, teetering on the brink of madness, unable to fulfill his role in mankind’s terrifying future. Can the legacy Halley bears heal Arthur’s mind in time? Can she trust her heart to lead her to her destiny?
Tell me that doesn’t sound awesome. You can’t. Plus, you can take my word for it that this book ROCKS in all kinds of fantabulous ways.
And now, I cede the floor to the author herself...
First of all, I want to thank the Playfriends for throwing the launch party for my debut novel The Timestone Key, released today by Lyrical Press. I’m not sure what I did to deserve finding Kimberly Lang as a critique partner, but as Rogers and Hammerstein so aptly wrote: “I must have done something good!”
When I was 22, I was in my first “real” interview for my first “real” job, an English teacher position at the local high school. The superintendent asked, “What do you see yourself doing when you’re forty?” I realize now that the definitive answer would have been something that mentioned still being a teacher at that school. Instead, in my naiveté, I answered, “I hope to have written the great American novel.”
Well, it isn’t exactly THE great American novel, and I didn’t make it by the time I reached 40, but today is certainly the fulfillment of a life-long dream for me. And I’m thrilled to be here, celebrating with the Playfriends and YOU!
The Timestone Key is the story of my heart—a romantic Arthurian fantasy conceived while on vacation. Stonehenge. Camelford. Tintagel. Glastonbury Tor. The places themselves conjured a story in my mind. I couldn’t rest until I had written it down.
What is it that drives us to tell our stories? Where does the compulsion come from? In her famous diary, Anne Frank wrote: “I want to go on living even after I die.” Poignant words from a writer lost to us well before her time should have even begun. But I get what Anne was saying, and I think her reason is part of this compulsion for me. I want my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren to know who I was and what made me tick. It’s a way to touch immortality at some level.
So, today, we’re celebrating life and dreams that come true! Bring on the cabana boys and teeter-totters!
Share with us what compels you to write—or read.:-) I’ll be giving away a free download of The Timestone Key to someone who comments.
Now, who’s pouring the drinks? My glass is only half-full!
P.S. I got the teaching job :-)
Many congrats to Pamela! This is just the first of many great books!
Friday, October 16, 2009
I've gotten better over the years. I can hit a solid 65k without too much trouble now (as long as I can make it through chapter 7). I've even made it as high as 90k, which is just six pages shy of 400, actually. Part of it is layering. That's an important step for me now, especially with paranormals. You have to set the stage, establish the magic, which is something I sorta glossed over before. Another part that has helped is getting in touch with my voice. My inner editor had been axing a lot of the silliness that I came up with because I didn't think it fit into what a romance novel should be. Letting my quirk into my stories has bumped up my page counts significantly and earned praise that tells me I'm on the right track.
Which leads me to my new problem. Now that I've unleashed the beast, how do I rein it back in? How do I write a 50-55k category novel when there's all this cool stuff in my head? I start off with a simple enough idea - perfect category book. Then I start plotting. Now I've got enough plot to fill a good chunk of the pages and that's without the character development, the romance, the internal conflict or my favorite part... the funny characters and situations that aren't critical to the story, but are just dying to get out. How do I cut out the quirky, old Egyptologists or the loud, Italian family that is a big part of my character's lives? I mean, I could skip all that, but I think that would mean cutting out one of my strengths.
Wise people have told me that you should never waste a single title idea on a category book. What am I supposed to do now that I struggle to come up with a category plot? Emotion is one of my weaknesses. I can't just write a story with two characters in conflict that emote for 230 pages. There has to be more going on for me to write it. Something aside from tortured pasts and inabilities to trust. A bad guy. A curse. Possession. Even sex - which is saying a lot for me and how much I dislike emoting. All this, if done well or at least, done to my own satisfaction, takes up lots of pages.
Part of me says I should just embrace this idea. Accept that I have a single title voice and go with it. So, I'll just sell single title instead, right? Nope. The single title market is a bear. Hell, the business as a whole is rough, but saying I'm going to start out as an untried author and shoot for single title is crazy talk. Can't hardly get in the door without an agent, then you start the "need an agent to get published, need to be published to get an agent" nonsense. Sigh. Everytime I start with the kernal of an idea, it just blows way out of bounds, but in a good way I don't want to fight. I guess I'll just continue to write what I write and see what happens.
Now that I've come to this realization, I'll get an offer from a category publisher and spend my time banging my head against the desk during edits. Gladly banging my head, but banging nonetheless. What about you? Come to any conclusions about your life lately?
P.S. PC is on a field trip today. Pop on over to the Bare Ass Cottage and say hi.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
What's really been fun in all this is watching Zilla. The first night he was like a kid in a candy store. While I've had a smartphone for a year he hasn't...and had no idea what he was missing. While my phone wasn't working (Verizon did replace it immediately the next day) I received at least five phone calls from him exclaiming over some new trick his phone could do. The funny thing is that since the first night he hasn't played with it at all. While I've downloaded new themes, games, ringtone makers, efficiency software, etc. he hasn't even changed his background.
After spending several hours yesterday I think I've finally pushed all the buttons and figured out what everything does. Which means I can return to my regularly scheduled week. I have a book due in 15 days and I really need to finish it. :-) (Brenda, if you're reading this, I swear I only have about 30 more pages to write. :-)).
Have you gotten a new gadget lately? Do you get sucked into technology? Do you know of any great apps for the Storm?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Please scooch over and make room around the sandbox for Kelley.
Knowledge is power. I believe that is a very true statement. The problem comes when knowledge is also very scary. To be more specific, all my life I have been afraid to go to the doctor. I can’t tie it back to one incident that started this feeling or one doctor that was particularly frightening. All I know is when I am confronted with needing to go to a doctor, my instincts kick in and I go into survival mode. I know that sounds strange but that is how I feel. Every fiber of my being is screaming, “Don’t go!”. It is not that I am afraid of needles, white coats, blood, or even pain. I am afraid that I will learn something totally horrifying. After all, doctors have a knack for finding something wrong with you.
My breast cancer was thus discovered and diagnosed in a very unorthodox fashion. I presented myself to the emergency room with a very swollen breast. I thought I had a very bad infection and initially it looked that way. The surgeon on call that day who showed up to do a simple drainage of an abscess felt a biopsy was in order for a few reasons and did so while in surgery. He was right do to it because that biopsy proved to be positive. He delivered the news three days later that I indeed had breast cancer.
Scary knowledge. That’s what it was. Learning was scary. Scary pathology reports. Scary statistics. Scary choices. See, I was right! Doctors are scary!
Anyone who knows me, knows I am not lazy. I work hard as a mom and a wife and feel I do a great job. I am also not stupid. I understand the importance of preventive medicine and finding diseases in early stages to improve the chance of recovery. But to get up and walk to the phone and make that appointment is so overwhelming that I just can not do it.
So, how do you help someone like me. Nagging is not the way. Telling me over and over that I just simply have to do it doesn’t work. I know I need to do it. I just can’t. I think it might be as simple as calling that woman and saying, “I know you are scared. What can I do to help make it less scary?” Then, be willing to do that. Don’t patronize but be there to listen and to help.
To the woman with the fear, I hope you can find the strength to call someone and ask for the support you need. I know it is hard but there are people who are willing to help if you just ask. I hope you will be braver than me and find courage that I couldn’t. Can I promise it won’t be scary? No. What I can promise is that there are people that will help you and guess what? Some of them are doctors and nurses! Yes, I did get the rolling of the eyes and the shaking of the heads from some of them, but I ignore them and move on to the ones who treat me with respect and caring no matter how nervous I am. They are out there and if that gives you the knowledge you need to take that first step, then I hope I gave it to you.
As for me and my health, I am not quite ready to rehash the details and the specifics about my cancer but it was caught early and had not spread to my lymph nodes. I am done with my chemo treatments and am preparing for radiation to start. I am blessed with a family that has been totally supportive, friends that keep my spirits up, and a medical team that welcomes me with open arms and has the knowledge to give me the power I need to move forward.
For more information about breast cancer and what you can do to help find a cure, go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website.
And go to The Breast Cancer Site to help fund free mammograms for women who might ordinarily not have access to them.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
I’m always slightly darkly amused by the idea of a month for “Awareness.” I – like probably most of you – have had someone in my life battle with this disease. And even if I were lucky enough to be untouched by someone else’s fight with breast cancer, the fact I have breasts keeps my awareness of this disease pretty high.
I lost a beloved aunt to breast cancer six years ago. We lost a close family friend when I was 18. Two years ago, my Fabu CP faced her own cancer diagnosis. Pam, I’m glad to say, is fine – healthy and cancer free. She caught it early and beat it. I thank God for that at the same time I mourn for the women who don’t find out until it’s too late.
Like my aunt.
I can’t help but think that the debate (discussion, fight, debacle – whatever you want to call it) that is going on right now in the US over the future of health care should be coming to a head during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Of all the “awareness” we have of diseases, breast cancer is one that so many of us have personal experience with.
Whether it was (or still is) the battle you watched someone you love fight, or whether it was the suspicious lump in your own breast that scared the bejeesus out of you, you were probably very aware of health care at that time. Maybe these two things happening right now is some kind of sign.
So Save the Ta-Tas! Feel Your Boobies! Pick your slogan, but do it. Get your mammograms – they’re not the worst thing in the world your breasts have been through, and I’m now officially old enough to know for sure.
Go click to fund mammograms for women without health care. Walk for a cure. Keep an eye (and a hand) on your own breasts. And send good thoughts and healing vibes (prayers, if that’s part of your faith,) out to everyone battling breast cancer.
I’ll be making a donation to Breast Cancer Research this month. I’ll do it in memory of Carol and in honor of Pam. If you’ll post a name of someone you know and love who has been diagnosed with breast cancer in the comments, I’ll include them too.
Monday, October 12, 2009
A weird phenomenon has overtaken me this week. I’m nesting. You remember, those obsessive moments at the end of pregnancy where you felt you HAD to get everything in your house just so? Well, except for the pregnancy thing (I’m NOT), that’s exactly how I feel.
It all started with my mother-in-law telling me she needed her desk, which she left here when she moved a few years ago. At the time she didn’t need it in her new place. But now she does, along with the shelves we commandeered in the living room. So we’ve bought a new desk we are waiting to be delivered and picked out new shelves, which I’m getting one at a time. Not because I want to, but because Target seems unable to get them in any quicker.
So far I’ve bought 1 shelf, set it up, and started rearranging furniture and clutter to make space for it. I’ve also stripped everything but the essentials from the desk, so it will be ready when the new one comes in and the hubby puts it together.
Unfortunately, the need to declutter and clear out has spread from these two areas to anything that loosely resembles a “pile”. You see, we are “pilers” around here. One minute, I’ve got a good expanse of lovely clean carpet. The next minute, someone has heaped up a pile of stuff they don’t want to be bothered to put away. Now, I can’t point fingers, because we are equal-opportunity pilers. I do it just as much as everyone else. Actually, I might do it more, because after I’ve cleaned up after everyone else, I’m too tired to get around to my own junk. So I pile it up until I get the urge to “nest”. I’ve learned to go with the feeling when it appears (which is never at the traditional times, like spring), even if it might be 10 o’clock at night. You see, I never know when it might come again, so I jump in with both feet while it lasts. As for everyday cleaning, as long as we aren’t growing mold, we’re good.
And as of last night, in about 4 hours between 8 and midnight, I decluttered my hubby’s side of the bedroom, several living room piles (including the bookshelf area) and the pile on the chair in my office. We aren't pile-free by a long shot, but this week I've made a nice dent in the clutter. I’m hoping this feeling lasts for a while, since our local RWA chapter’s Christmas part is at my house this year and I have a lot of work to do before my house can go on display. Yikes!
How about y’all? Is your house magazine-ready or comfortably lived in? Do you clean on a schedule or when the urge hits you?
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Thanks for your support during the launch of our new theme week. We got a great response. Although we know you come here daily (although you don't always comment) check back the first full week of every month for our thoughts on beautiful men, tasteful goodies, travel, theater and books!
Our winners are:
Monday - M.V. Freeman (email angel @ writingplayground.com)
Tuesday - Chey (email problemchild @ writingplayground.com)
Wednesday - Kathy B. (email playgroundmonitor @ writingplayground.com)
Thursday - Catslady (email instigator @ writingplayground.com)
Friday - Marcy (email smartypants @ writingplayground.com)
If you're a lucky winner, send your snail mail info to the Playfriend listed. Also, be sure to check back at some of our previous posts to see if you won something. Guest bloggers and other special events almost always have giveaways, but if you don't email us your info, we can't give you your fabulous prizes! I know I personally came home with tons of goodies from Nationals that need to be given away.
Friday, October 09, 2009
"Wild and Hexy" by Vicki Lewis Thompson
After gaining twenty pounds, former Dairy Festival Queen Annie Winston dreads going back to Big Knob, Indiana. But Annie hasn’t changed half as much as her home town ever since Dorcas and Ambrose Lowell moved in. Former matchmakers for witches and wizards, they’re now plying their unconventional trade for humans—and they have the perfect match for Annie: shy computer whiz Jeremy Dunstan, who’s always lusted after Annie. Now he’s got a second chance—if only something could help him unleash his wild side.
"Ripped!" by Jennifer LeBrecque
Subject: Paratrooper Lieutenant Colonel Mitch Dugan.
Current status: Confident. Disciplined. And aching with sexual need.
Mission: Chaperone the brigadier general's daughter.
Obstacle: Eden Walters: the very hot, very willing brigadier general's daughter…
For tough-as-nails Mitch Dugan, the army is everything. Until he experiences the rush of another jump…into Eden's bed! The high he gets from leaping out of planes is no rival for their sexual chemistry. But Mitch is a proud military lifer…and former army brat Eden has no intention of staying with a man who's never around. It's time for this sexy soldier to pull the rip cord and save himself—fast. Or he might end up in a free fall with the one woman he can't have….
"Letters From Home" by Rhonda Nelson
Subject: Levi McPherson, Army Ranger.
Current status: Active duty.
Mission: Locate a sexy, unidentified correspondent. Conduct very private negotiations!
Obstacle: Natalie Rowland, longtime star of his X-rated dreams…
Levi McPherson's tour of duty has an unexpected benefit: anonymous red-hot love letters! Someone he knows is mailing the rugged soldier her very explicit fantasies. And he's loving every word. On an unexpected leave home, he discovers his sexy secret admirer—Natalie Rowland, the longtime star of his own X-rated dreams! But he's not letting Natalie know her cover's blown…yet. That way, the exquisite pleasure of fulfilling each and every one of her naughty ideas is all his—and hers….
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Since I haven't had a chance to attend a play recently, I'm going to focus on movies this month. This weekend I dragged SP out to see Fame with me. She wasn't overly enthusiastic about the prospect - she wanted to see Zombieland - but she's a great friend and went to the movie I wanted to see. Besides, I don't do blood and gore which includes flesh eating undead even if the dialogue is supposed to be funny.
I have to say I was disappointed. I mean, Fame was a cute, feel good kinda movie but in my mind it didn't compare to the original. Perhaps that's because I'm remembering the original through my adolescent (and ballet crazed) mind. I'll admit that when I was younger I wanted to be a dancer (unfortunately, my body just wasn't cut out for that career) and therefore could really identify with the teenagers struggling for their dream...my dream. This time maybe I was watching them through adult eyes. The eyes of a person who's achieved a dream of her own now and realizes that the struggles just don't end there.
To me the individual story lines just weren't developed enough. While I loved the dance numbers I would have liked more character development. It almost felt like they'd shoved in some dialogue because they had to have something between the soul belting songs and flashy dance numbers. Not to mention that several of those dance numbers seemed pointless to the entire plot of what little storyline was there. It was good. I think it could have been better. But maybe I was just expecting too much.
The girls also went to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs with my mom over the weekend. They absolutely loved the movie. They thought it was cute and talked to me for an hour, giving me the rundown of the entire thing.
I asked my mom for her take on the movie. She said it was cute but that she had a hard time staying awake through it. That might just be her exhaustion from trying to keep up with my rambunctious kids though. She did say that there was an overall message to the story...about overeating I believe. And while in theory I think it's probably a good message I'm not sure how I feel about an entire movie devoted to it. She did say that the message went completely over my girls' heads. I'm okay with that.
I think in the next month or so I'm going to be taking the girls to see Where the Wild Things Are. As much as I'm not sure how they can sustain a 2 hour movie from that short book it was always one of my favorites and I really want to see it on screen. I was also intrigued by a movie called The Men Who Stare at Goats that's coming out in November.
Have you seen either of the movies? What did you think of them? Any others you'd recommend? Any you'd tell us to stay away from? Anything that you want to see me review in the future? One commenter will win a signed copy of Afterburn so be sure and tell me your opinion!
P.S. I'm talking about my shoe catastrophe on the Blaze Author blog today. Come over and tell me about your shoe addiction. http://blazeauthors.com/blog/
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Welcome to the first installment of Walkabout Wednesday, my chance to share some of my travels with the Playground's visitors. Today's featured tourist spot, the Biltmore Estate, is located in my native state of North Carolina and is situated about fifty miles from where I attended college.
The lives of wealthy Victorian era Americans were filled with parties, travel and leisure. One notable name of this Gilded Era was Vanderbilt, a family that made its fortune in the railroad industry.
In 1888, George Washington Vanderbilt, grandson of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, visited the mountains of western North Carolina with his mother and fell victim to the lure of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.
Not yet married, George had a dream of building a vast country estate and he found the ideal location in Asheville, North Carolina. The area boasts breathtaking scenery and a climate that’s relatively mild for a mountainous area.
With a bankroll rivaling the gross national product of a small country, George purchased 125,000 acres of pristine wilderness area and set about to create a self-sustaining estate such as those he’d seen in his European travels.
He named his holdings Biltmore Estate from his ancestral Dutch town of Bildt and the English word Moor, which is an open, rolling landscape.
His next decisions were critical ones: who would design not only the house itself, but the gardens that would surround it?
Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study at the prestigious Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris and one of the founders of the American Institute of Architecture, was selected to design the house. Hunt is also know for his design of The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, the pedestal base of the Statue of Liberty and the Tribune Building in New York City, one of the first buildings with an elevator. Together, Hunt and Vanderbilt decided on a French Renaissance chateau design with a limestone façade and a steeply pitched roof.
Vanderbilt and Hunt not only created an architectural wonder, but a technological one as well. Biltmore House had all of the latest technology of its time. Central heating, indoor plumbing for all thirty-four bedrooms, electricity, mechanical refrigeration and two elevators are but a few of the amenities afforded Biltmore’s residents and guests. Some of Thomas Edison’s first light bulbs illuminated Biltmore’s passageways and the house contained an electric calling system for servants in addition to a newfangled gadget called the telephone.
A two-lane bowling alley with equipment by Brunswick and an indoor swimming pool with underwater lights provided indoor recreation for the Vanderbilts and their guests.
Hundreds of local workers and skilled European artisans were hired. Tons of Indiana limestone was brought in as well as imported Italian marble. To facilitate the transportation of these raw materials, Vanderbilt had a private three-mile-long rail spur built from the estate to a neighboring village. A woodworking factory was built on the estate to produce the ornate trim seen throughout the house and a kiln was erected that would produce 32,000 bricks per day.
Construction of Biltmore Estate took six years and while still incomplete, the house was formally opened on Christmas Eve, 1895. The finished product is a mansion that contains 250 rooms encompassing 175,000 square feet. Biltmore’s size earned it the title of “America’s Castle” and to date it remains the United States’ largest privately owned home.
The design and construction of Biltmore’s gardens were entrusted to Frederick Law Olmstead, considered by many to be the father of American landscape architecture. He is credited with designing the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C. and the campus at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. But his most notable design is New York City’s Central Park.
The various gardens cover sixty-five acres and include a shrub garden, walled garden, rose garden and conservatory and Italian garden. Each features various trees, shrubs and flowers, which provide an array of color and texture throughout the seasons.
When Biltmore Estate was completed in late December of 1895, George realized that he had a dream home, but no one to share it with. In 1898 he married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser and their only child Cornelia was born in 1900. Cornelia married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924 and their children share ownership of the Biltmore properties today.
Not content to simply sit back and enjoy his home, George and Edith Vanderbilt dedicated their lives to helping others. They purchased a nearby town where most of the estate’s employees lived and renamed it Biltmore Village. The town, with buildings and a church designed by Richard Morris Hunt, grew and is today designated as a historic district.
The Vanderbilts also founded the Biltmore Forest School, the first school for scientific forestry in America as well as Biltmore Estate Industries, an apprenticeship program to teach traditional crafts like woodworking and weaving. Edith founded the School for Domestic Science where young women were trained in housekeeping skills, which would give them a distinct advantage in the job market.
Biltmore House is filled with priceless artwork and custom made furnishings and was the scene of many social galas. But despite its grandeur, George strove to make Biltmore a warm, inviting home for his family.
In March 1914, Vanderbilt was rushed to a hospital in Washington, D.C. with appendicitis. An emergency appendectomy was performed. The surgery, however, was not successful and George Washington Vanderbilt died on March 6. He was buried in the family mausoleum on Staten Island. His wife remained at Biltmore until 1925 when she remarried. She left the management of Biltmore Estate to her daughter and son-in-law.
Biltmore Estate operated its own dairy, which provided products for not only the estate, but eventually all of western North Carolina. In 1985 the dairy operation was sold and the dairy barn on the estate was remodeled and turned into a winery, which is the most visited winery in the United States with over a million visitors each year.
William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, grandson of George W. Vanderbilt, owns the estate today and accepts no government funding to maintain the house or grounds. Imbued with the same “can do” attitude of his grandfather, he defied those who told him that the estate could not be profitable. Cecil, who had a background in New York banking, returned to Asheville in the 1960s to find it in economic trouble. He rolled up his sleeves, wore many hats and began to market his childhood home. By the end of the decade, Biltmore was showing a profit, a trend that has continued to this day.
Biltmore Estate is open to the public every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. During the Christmas season, the house is decorated in authentic Victorian tradition and special candlelight Christmas evening events are planned.
For more information, visit http://www.biltmore.com/ to discover the magic of Biltmore Estate.
Have you ever visited Biltmore? Another castle?
P.S. The Playfriends would like to extend birthday greetings to Barbara Vey, a very special friend of the Playground.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Today I’m defining “tasteful” in the best possible way – with a party for my new release! After all, the heroine of The Millionaire’s Misbehaving Mistress is an etiquette expert. She should know what’s tasteful and what’s tacky. And good manners are always tasteful. This book came out in the UK in April, and I’ve been waiting impatiently for its US release. Now it’s finally here! Here’s the blurb:
Perfect, polite… and passionate!
As Dallas’s most eligible bachelor and heir to his family’s fortune, billionaire Will Harrison knows how to handle the paparazzi – but his little sister Evie is a worry…
Miss Behavior, etiquette expert Gwen Sawyer, has only three weeks to work her magic on Evie before a society ball, and so moves into Will’s luxurious penthouse. However she discovers too late that etiquette is the last thing on devilishly handsome Will’s mind…
Coffee Time Romance gave MMM 5 cups, Blue Moon called it "fresh and charming," and CataRomance said it "entertains with witty repartee and sizzling passion." (They also called me talented -- squee!)
When I say I love this book, I’m not kidding. I know I should love all my book children equally, but there’s something about these characters that makes me smile every time I think about them. I hope you fall in love with these characters too, because I’m currently working on Evie’s story (tentatively scheduled for a late 2010 release)!
So to appease my etiquette-expert heroine and stick with the Tasteful Tuesday theme, we’ll have a very polite and tasteful party today. Break out the good china, tell Capt’n Jack to behave himself, and hold your pinkies up while you sip that Teeter-Totter.
I’ll give away a copy of the book to a commenter today, so party on!
With decorum, of course. ~grin~
Monday, October 05, 2009
Angel's MoanDay (wasn't about to give that up!)
Problem Child's Tasteful Tuesdays
Playground Monitor's Walkabout Wednesdays
Instigator's Theater Thursdays
Smarty Pants's Free Book Fridays
I think we're going to have some real fun with this! So tune in on the first week of every month to check out "Theme Week". And watch for updates on further improvements that will be coming to our website for the new year!!!
MOANday goes international this month with Italian actor Flavio Montrucchio, who I found while researching -- yeah researching -- some model sites. ;)
Tell me what you'd like to see on the blog during theme week and I'll send out a prize to one random commenter. Ciao!
Tune in tomorrow when Problem Child kicks off Tasteful Tuesdays in combination with her new book launch!
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Friday, October 02, 2009
New to the Playground this month:
We welcome author MaryJanice Davidson this month. She takes over theSandbox with a wild and wacky interview you don't want to miss.http://www.writingplayground.com/sandbox.html
Plus, MaryJanice has added goodies to the Sept-Oct contest, so be sure to enter the "Not-So-Scary Halloween Contest."http://www.writingplayground.com/contest.html
I actually learned something about the Process of writing while wandering through Disney World, and I shares it with all of you this month in School. http://www.writingplayground.com/school.html#disney
I also review SHADOWLIGHT by Lynn Viehl, the first book in her newKyndred series. http://www.writingplayground.com/school.html#shadow
On the blog, we unleash some fun next week, so be sure to check it out. (I believe there will be some prizes!!!) We'll also be celebrating the release of Kimberly's MILLIONAIRE'S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS on October 6.
We must now go pack and prepare for our annual retreat in the Tennessee mountains, where we'll be cooking up all kinds of great ideas for the coming months - including our birthday plans. The Playground turns four this year! WOW! Expect some exciting news in November.
Anyway... I have been writing for years. I started my first real, honest to goodness book in 1998. I'd always piddled with writing but this was the first time I sat down with the intention of writing a full, 400 page novel. I believe I finished it in 2000, and it was crap, but that's when I started writing. I started seriously pursuing publication around 2003 after I finished my master's degree and had time to think and breathe again. I found RWA in 2004 and went from there.
Since I started, I've written (including the crap) 9 books. A couple of them have been so thoroughly re-written that they should actually count as another book entirely, but for purposes of simplification, just 9. Out of those nine, I have queried or pitched 6 of them. (Two were sequels that hinged on the first one's acceptance and one was recent and waiting on the outcomes of other projects.) Out of those, I've had full requests for 4 of them, a couple more than once. Of those full requests, partials and queries, I've gotten multiple rejections. So many, PC and I are actually doing a workshop on what you can learn from rejection. How awesome is it to be qualified to teach that, eh?
At the beginning, the mere thought of sending my baby out into the world stopped me cold in my tracks. Once I handed it over to the postman, I felt a sense of dread that would pool in my stomach and stay there for the 3, 6, or 9 months it would take to hear back. Obviously since I haven't sold, they've all come back with rejections so far. The rejections used to knock me for a loop - send me straight to my friends Ben and Jerry - and keep me from writing for weeks.
Lately, not so much. I got a rejection last week and I didn't blink. I hadn't put 100% of my faith behind this submission, but still... I opened the email, read it, nodded as I saw what I expected, and went on with my day. This is not to say that if my most promising submittals came back with a rejection, I wouldn't be completely devastated - I would. But every single roadblock doesn't bother me so much. I think the introduction of e-queries has contributed to this. Now, with little effort, I can send off my query to 15 agents and get rejected at record speed. Seriously - I think I got a rejection back from an agent in less than 3 minutes. Impressive.
It's working both ways, too. Requests don't thrill me as much either. Mailing off my manuscript doesn't make me nauseas. I don't agonize over it like I used to. It is what it is. I'll sell or I won't. I'm hoping this is me growing as a writer and knowing that rejection might be less about me and my skills than it is about having the right project with the right editor at the right time. At the same time, I worry I may just be getting numb to the whole process. Disillusioned, perhaps. I've been at this a long time. Much longer and I'll be one of those people who do workshops on how I motivated myself to keep writing until I was successful after a decade of disappointment.
I guess that U2 video is more applicable than I thought. I think I've finally learned to be like the Edge - I just keep writing even if Bono starts screaming in my ear. Anyone else experience this or am I just the sole jaded one? Have you learned to push through a situation and not let setbacks disappoint you?
Don't forget to check back in next week as we launch our new theme week on the blog. Exciting topics and prizes are on the horizon, so don't miss it!
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Case in point, there was a nasty accident on the bridge over our creek on Tuesday. Semi crashed through the guardrail and ended up cab first in the creek below. Zilla sent me a picture of it. It did not look good! Fortunately, we knew right away that no one was seriously injured. The driver was damn lucky though. I honestly think if it had been my SUV to barrel through that rail and land nose first in the water that we'd have been SOL.
The problem is that the bridge has been out ever since. This is the way I get to work in the morning and return home at night. My commute is already 45 minutes and the detour has just added another 20 because there is no good way around the bridge closure. I don't have time for this! I'm up to my eyeballs in alligators lately and I really need that 20 minutes either to work or to spend with my family.
However, I've gotten a chance to see parts of the area where I live that I haven't ever seen. We've lived out here for 9 years now and I've just never bothered to drive some of these quiet country roads. I'm not sure why not. When Zilla and I were dating it was one of our favorite things - to jump in the car on a Sunday afternoon and just drive. But I suppose we were too far into life when we arrived here...new house, new jobs, new baby on the way. Now our Sundays usually consist of collapsing on the couch and wishing Monday wouldn't come.
The estimate is that the bridge might reopen late tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath. Baby Girl and I went to look at it yesterday and there is a gaping hole in the center of the guardrail. I've worried about the drop off the edge before this happened. I'll be honest and say the rail had been bent and beat-up long before this. I'd really like to know that the bridge is sound before I get back on it with my kids. While the detour is a pain in my rear, I'll deal while they make it safe.
Do you ever take the detours in life? Do they bug the hell out of you or do you find they offer a chance to see something new?