Friday, February 26, 2010
I know. Honestly, its a weird process that has developed out of necessity. I spend most of my day at the computer. My work load is adequate, but I'm very good with time management and I usually get my stuff done pretty quickly. A lot of my work is 'hurry up and wait' while I send stuff out for review and such. So, with my free time, I started working on my books. Some people can write with Hannah Montana music in the background, while keeping one ear on dinner and the other on the laundry. I can't even imagine. However I can write with the constant interruptions of the phone, emails, IMs, and the occasional engineer standing in my doorway asking me questions. I do pretty well, actually.
But all good things come to an end. My job sort of disintegrated while I was on vacation and I ended up working on a new program in a new building with all new people (except my boss, who moved me with her and is awesome). The environment is... different. My old program was mature with lots of documented processes and procedures. This one is 2 months old and we've got nothing in place. There's lots of scrambling. Lots of pressure to get all our initial contract award deliverables in place (like 100). Its chaos. Interesting. Different. But chaos. Makes me a little twitchy to be honest.
I also have... and officemate. I haven't had a roomie in years - like 2001. He's a nice enough guy - a recently discharged Air Force weather specialist who's working part time and going to school. He's got a funny sense of humor. He tolerates my quirks, which is great. It isn't a bad pairing. Its just... that if he turns around he can see my computer screen. And it makes me paranoid. I hardly have time to write anymore, but even if I did, I'm nervous about trying.
So I'm busting out of my process. I've been writing some at home in the evenings, but I'm curious as to what my other options are. What about you? What's your writing process? If you don't write, how have you bounced back from having your schedule messed with?
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I've been glued to the TV for the last 2 weeks. It started out on a high note with a great opening ceremonies and has just gotten better. The fact that the US is currently leading the medal race hasn't hurt either. There's something fun about watching our athletes succeed.
Zilla and I have spent several nights together picking and fighting over the events. We've argued about figure skating. We've laughed at ski cross and snowboarding and we've become enthralled with curling.
I've watched sports I didn't even know existed...and come to really enjoy them. Although, it's always the human interest stories that get to me. The snowboarder that broke his neck, the skier who fought addiction, Lindsey Vonn's injury and of course the Canadian who lost her mother just days before she had to skate. These are the stories that get my interest and keep me watching.
I realized, after days of lapping up these stories, that I could learn something from this. Personalizing the sport - putting a face on the competition - helped to snag my interest for events that I normally couldn't have cared less about. I think it's a lesson we can apply in writing too...make the character believable, compelling and with a story that holds your interest and the readers will enjoy it too.
I will say there's one thing I'm tired of...the commercials. If I have to hear the world say ah one more time I think I'm going to scream, and if I never see another DayQuil commercial it'll be too soon.
So, are you watching? What's your favorite event? Have you been disappointed by a competitor? Is there something you're still looking forward to seeing?
I'm looking forward to seeing the closing ceremonies although it will be a little bittersweet. I'll be sad to see these games end.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I can hear you asking, "Huh? What on earth is this about?"
Until a few days ago, I didn't know either. WriMo refers to National Novel Writing Month, which occurs each November and entails writing a 50,000 word book in 30 days. If you know anything about writing, you know most of us can't create a clean product in 30 days. I've done NaNoWriMo the last two years and just vomited words onto paper.
If you want to do anything with the finished product, like, oh say, submit it, then you need to clean it up. And that's what NaNoEdMo is all about.
National Novel Editing Month happens in March and by signing up you commit to putting in 50 hours of editing during the month.
I did edit work on the novel I wrote in 2008 and entered it into an online contest at eHarlequin. The editor requested the full manuscript and I edited some more before mailing it. It was rejected, but with some feedback, so my EdMo goal is to take that feedback and fix the problems, namely pacing and characterization.
Each week I have to log my hours at the EdMo website, and with a firm goal in mind and a time limit, I hope to whip this sucker into shape and maybe pitch a new and improved version of it at the RWA conference this summer.
I have the manuscript printed out and have a green pen all ready. I like to edit in green because it's less depressing than red ink. Green means go and it doesn't look like something's bled all over your paper (unless maybe a wounded Martian has hovered over the pages).
So... is anyone else up to putting in 50 hours of editing starting next week? Do you have any good editing tips for me?
PS. Also, Trish has picked a winner for yesterday's blog - californiameaghan! Please email SP at email@example.com to claim your prize.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Some of these series or sequels have me so anxious to return that I’m at the bookstore on release day, ready to fork over my credit card so I can rush home and dive in. For instance, after reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, a young adult novel set in the dystopian future country of Panem, I was hooked – by the concept, by the characters and by the world itself. I wanted to know what happened next so much that I couldn’t buy the second in the trilogy, Catching Fire, fast enough. I inhaled it. Now, I’m counting down the days until Mockingjay, the final book in the trilogy, releases in August.
But a desire to return to a favorite literary locale doesn’t have to be some fantastical place like Hogwarts of Middle-earth. It can be the homey towns depicted by popular authors such as Debbie Macomber, the Alaskan bush showcased in mystery author Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak mystery series, or the Scotland and England of long ago detailed by Diana Gabaldon in the Outlander series.
This returning to already created settings is also attractive to me as a writer. I spend so much time creating a place that it’s hard to let it go when a single book is done. And I like having lots of relationships in my books – families, friends, co-workers – so there are always more stories to tell in my small towns. Such is the case for my March release from Harlequin American, The Family Man. This book is connected to my first book, A Firefighter in the Family. We return to the Gulf Coast town of Horizon Beach to follow the love story of Detective Sara Greene and Adam Canfield, who was the best friend of Zac Parker, the hero in A Firefighter in the Family. Adam was one of those fun-loving secondary characters who provided comic relief in the first book. But there was more to him, I was sure of it. So I returned to Horizon Beach, which is one part fiction and one part actual locales in the Destin/Ft. Walton Beach area, to tell his story. It was fun to return to some of the places I’d described in A Firefighter in the Family and see some familiar faces crossing Sara’s and Adam’s paths.
What about you? Do you like books that return to familiar settings? Do you like to write these kinds of books? Read them? What are some of your favorites? One commentor will win a copy of both A Firefighter in the Family and The Family Man.
Monday, February 22, 2010
I’m a list person. I write everything I need to get done for the day down and try to make sure I have enough time to do what I have scheduled (Although, I NEVER do!). And it never fails that things come along to distract me. Some I LET distract me, some I have no choice over.
Here are my Top 5 Distractions:
1. Immediate family. Is there a reason they have to eat every day? Couldn’t we stretch that out a little? Do kids really need baths? A little dirt never hurt anyone, right?
2. Illness, mine or someone else’s. It seems like, since December, we’ve gotten quite a few bugs around the house, no matter how many vitamins I keep pushing on everyone or how isolated I keep the infected. There’s nothing like that call during your mid-morning writing sprint to inform you that your child has thrown up at school. Then there are my various foot and neck problems (I absolutely can’t function with a headache. Aleve is my new best friend!).
3. The Internet. Yes, this is a self-control problem. I’m addicted to my email and have even been known to click the Send/Receive button as soon as it tells me I have no new mail. Just in case. Sigh. Then there is Facebook. I resisted for a long time before I finally created a Facebook page. Now, the little status updates call to me on a regular basis. Double sigh. And my blog, and other people’s blogs, and my horoscope… You get the picture.
4. Day Job. I haven’t figured out how to get out of this one yet. I run a small resume writing business that basically provides enough income to support my writing habit. At least once a week I get a call that says, "There's this job I want to apply for, and the closing date is in 48 hours." Um, a little forward thinking would be nice, people! There are many times I’d love to just drop it so I can focus solely on my fiction writing, but since fiction isn’t paying me anything, yet…
5. Housework. This isn’t so much a distraction as a necessity. With a hubby (who doesn’t do dishes) and 2 kids, the house gets dirty, quickly. While I’d like to say that I’m June Cleaver, it would be a lie. I pretty much leave the house until I can’t stand it any more (for instance, we’re sticking to the kitchen floor, much to my mil’s dismay) then I clean thoroughly. Unfortunately, some things can’t be put off as long, like needing clean underwear. If I could just remember to get the clothes out of the dryer when they are done… My ultimate publishing fantasy is to make enough money to hire someone to clean for me once a week. That's all I ask, I swear! (Okay, I'm lying, but still...)
I’m slowly learning to cope, though I’ll never be the gal who can “Go With The Flow” and embrace interruptions like they are life’s way of telling me to slow down and all that jazz. Instead, my body and psyche view most interruptions as stress-building exercises (except in the case of the internet, where it is a stress-relieving exercise). But a few chosen techniques are making me better in this area. I just have to stop long enough to remember to employ them. :) Deep breathing (heck, breathing at all), prioritizing, exercising daily, accountability partners, and instructing my kids on how to take over more responsibilities are going a long way.
One such technique I’ve instituted is a weekly Write-Out. Many people think that because I get to stay at home all day, I have more than enough time on my hands to write, along with anything else they want me to accomplish. In addition to outside influences, problems also come from me allowing my focus to be pulled in other directions. Lately, in order to get writing done, I’ve found myself leaving the house 1 day a week. I’ll go camp out in a restaurant or bookstore, plug in the hubby’s laptop or drag out my alpha smart, and get to work. Except for my cell phone (which I try to only answer if it is the kids’ school calling), there are no distractions. I don’t know how to get on the internet on the laptop, so the computer becomes a work only zone. Clients can’t reach me because they need something Right Now! No email. No Facebook. And someone else will serve me lunch. These “Write Out” days have helped my output and focus tremendously, and I often come home ready to work even more. I justify this by reminding myself that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a café, so there’s nothing wrong with running away from home, right?
Have you found any techniques that help keep you focused and on task? I’d love to find some more that I can utilize!
P.S. I’m blogging today over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood on Author Burnout. I’d love to see you there!
Tomorrow drop by to meet adult contemporary romance and young adult romance author Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I'd always thought that if for whatever reason I ended up in prison (Yes, I think about that. You don't?) I would be perfectly fine. Sure, I'd probably look at somebody wrong and get shived in the yard, but in terms of killing time, I'm an expert.
So why, oh why, is it that when I need to focus on my writing, I'm like an antsy five year old?
Every other toy is shinier. Every other story is better. I want to work on the next big idea instead of following through with the one I need to finish. Like today... I'm supposed to be finishing my Modern Heat proposal. There's nothing wrong with the story or the characters. I like them both and am no where near killing them in a fiery crash. But last night, I started toying with an idea for an Intrigue. A quirky Intrigue. It immediately stole my attention away. My brain is all a twitter with ideas of murder plots and narcoleptics. (Don't ask.) My inner five year old wants to go work on that now. At least until something else new comes along.
At the moment, it's not the worst thing in the world for me to have a couple ideas bouncing around. I'm trying to put together several projects to send out to a variety of places. I'm just doing the partials... waiting to put the effort in after I hear back from an interested editor. I'm tired of completing books that no one wants to see. I know I can finish a book, not a problem, I just need the incentive and reason to do it.
I think learning to finish a book and ignoring the shiny new story is one of the most important things I've learned to do as a writer (Even though I struggle). Take some notes so you don't lose the idea and go back to finish the first one. Otherwise you never finish anything. Today I wrote about a paragraph in my idea file to capture all my thoughts on the new story and tucked it away. It pains me, but I did it.
Are you like this? Is the thing you're not doing (be it a book or some other task) the thing you always want to do?
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Guilt has worked well in my life as a motivator - if I don't clean the bathroom the next time I have people over it will be gross and I'll feel like crap. But it isn't always available.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about whether I'm motivated by the carrot or the stick - the goal of being a size 8 again or the fear that I'm gonna gain another five pounds to get my rear to the gym. After some serious soul searching, I've come to the very disappointing realization that I'm definitely motivated by the stick.
The fact that there are rewards when I finish this book (namely payment for my work) doesn't motivate me nearly as much as the possibility that I'm going to be late turning the book in and gain a reputation with my publisher. Until that possibility is eminent...I can procrastinate with the best of them. Some people like to morph this into, "I just work better under pressure." It's a lie. The pressure isn't the motivator, the fear of failure, the potential repercussions, these are what motivate us stick people. We just have to wait until the stick is whistling at our rears before we really fear.
I had myriad carrots dangling before my nose to get this book done early. I had plenty of time to make that a reality. Did I do it? Well...yes, I probably will do it because I'm almost finished with the book. Could it have been done long before now? Yep. I couldn't feel the heat of that stick swinging behind me yet.
The thing is, I don't just do this with my writing. I do it with everything. Why do laundry on Saturday morning when I could wait and do it Sunday night? What's the stick? If I don't do it then I don't have clean clothes to wear. I did it in school. Why write the paper today that's due next week when I could read a book instead? To us stick people, there is an endless supply of time and tomorrows.
It's taken me a very long time to come to grips with this aspect of my personality. I'm absolutely certain that it bugs the hell out of the people in my life. The question becomes, is it something I want to change? I'm really not sure. So far, it hasn't caused me great pain or suffering...I might just have to take the stance that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Until then...
So, are you a carrot or a stick person? Do you wish you could change to the other? Is there anything you routinely procrastinate on?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
When I started researching last week’s blog, I ended up with more info than I could use in one week. Oh yay! So today’s blog is a carry-over and will cover idioms. If you’ve ever studied a foreign language, you know that idioms are real stumpers. They never translate exactly. For example, I studied German in college and came across the phrase “Er hat einen Vogel,” which literally means “He has a bird.” That makes sense if there’s a parrot cage sitting in the living room. But when the phrase is uttered in the middle of a busy street or while riding the subway, it no longer makes sense. Er hat einen Vogel” is the way of saying “He's nuts” and is often accompanied by gesturing toward the head.
So what about American idioms? We have loads and we use them every day. But how did they come to be used?
Armed to the teeth: This is a pirate phrase originating in Jamaica in the 1600's. Pirates had only single shot pistols and cutlasses, and they would carry as many weapons at once so they could fight longer. One of these weapons was usually a knife carried between their teeth.
Back-handed compliment: Back-handed is synonymous with left-handed. For example in tennis, a backhand stroke is a strike by a right-handed player from the left side of the body. The Latin word for left is sinister, and back-handed has come to mean roundabout, indirect or devious.
Close, but no cigar: Carnival games of skill, particularly shooting games, once gave cigars as prizes. Someone who did not quite hit the target was close, but did not get a cigar.
Dressed to the nines: Common lore tells us that a top quality suit requires more fabric and that the best ones use nine yards. This is because a properly made suit requires all pieces to be cut in the same direction of the fabric’s weave. Thus, there’s a lot of waste in suit-making, but if you want to be “dressed to the nines” you must pay for the waste.
Eyes are bigger than your stomach: Someone seeing a table piled high with delicious food has a tendency to take too much. The problem is brought on by the eyes and a lack of reason and control.
From stem to stern: The very front of a ship is called the stem, the rear is called the stern. From stem to stern includes the entire ship and also refers to the entirety of anything else..
Get a leg up: This has nothing to do with a urinating dog. Getting a leg up is an equestrian receiving help in mounting a horse. A stable helper cups his/her hands to help lift the rider up and onto the horse.
High on the hog: The best meat is on the upper portion of the pig. Rich people have always been afforded this luxury while the servants, slaves and poor have always had to eat pig's feet, chitterlings, cracklings, etc. - low on the hog.
In the doldrums: Doldrums is the name of a place in the ocean that is located near the equator and is noted for unstable winds. A sailing ship caught in the Doldrums could be stranded from lack of wind.
Jump on the bandwagon: Old time political campaigns would use parades with bands to woo supporters for a candidate. Jumping on the band’s wagon showed support for the candidate.
Knock on wood: One theory has this phrase originating in the middle ages when pieces of the cross on which Jesus was crucified were in circulation. Touching one of these pieces was supposed to bring good luck.
Long in the tooth: A horse’s gums recede with age, so the age of a horse can be determined approximately by looking at the teeth. The longer the teeth appear, the older the horse.
Mind your Ps and Qs: This comes from early pub days when beer and ale were served in pint and quart containers. A chalkboard was used to tally the number of pints (Ps) and quarts (Qs) consumed.
No spring chicken: New England chicken farmers found that chickens born in the spring sold for higher prices than older birds, which had survived the cold winter. Some unscrupulous farmers would try to pass off older birds as new, spring-born chickens. Buyers would complain that a tough, old bird was no spring chicken.
Once in a blue moon: Two full moons in the same month are extremely rare, but they do happen. A second full moon has come to be called a blue moon. This is apparently because the Maine Farmers Almanac used to list the date of first moon in red text, and the second moon in blue.
Passed with flying colors: An early use of the word “color” is flag, pennant, or badge. "Passed with flying colors" comes from sailing ships that would fly their colors when passing other ships so they could be properly identified.
Quickie: This was originally used in the late 1920s in Hollywood as slang for a Grade B movie – a movie that was comparatively cheap and quick to produce. A decade later, the term was being used to mean a quick sex act.
Rule of thumb: Based on the use of ones thumb as a rough measurement tool. Generally correct for course measures. Most old English measures of distance were based on the body measurements of the king -- the length of the foot, inch (thumb tip to first knuckle), cubit (elbow-to-fingertip), and yard (nose-to-fingertip).
Sleep tight: Before box springs were in use, old bed frames used rope pulled tightly between the frame rails to support a mattress. If the rope became loose, the mattress would sag making for uncomfortable sleeping. Tightening the ropes would help one get a good night sleep.
Toe the line: This term comes from military line-ups for inspection. Soldiers are expected to line up, that is put their toes on a line, and submit to the inspection.
Under the weather: Passengers aboard ships become seasick most frequently during times of rough seas and bad weather. Seasickness is caused by the constant rocking motion of the ship. Sick passengers go below deck, which provides shelter from the weather, but just as importantly the sway is not as great below deck, low on the ship. On a ship the greatest swaying action is on deck, and the most stable point is down near the keel. Hence seasick passengers tend to feel better below deck.
Vicious circle: A vicious circle was the name given by 18th century logicians for the proof A depends on B, B depends on C and C depends on A.
White elephant: From the Burmese belief that albino elephants are sacred. They can't be used for work and they must be lavished with the ultimate amount of care.
Giving a gift of a white elephant would be done to someone considered an enemy. The idea being that you would eventually wipe out your enemy's wealth with the care of the sacred elephant.
X marks the spot: This is from the earliest days of newspaper photography where the scene of the crime would be shown with an X to mark where the deed was done. It goes back even further in romantic accounts of such things as pirate treasure maps.
Your name is mud: Samuel Mudd, the doctor who set the broken leg of Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth is sometimes given as the origin of the. However, other sources show recorded instance in 1823, ten years before Mudd's birth, and based on an obsolete sense of the word mud meaning a stupid fellow.
Zero hour: This comes from the military and indicates the time at which a planned operation is set to begin. Military time uses a 24 hour clock that begins at midnight or 0000 hours.
So there you have it – idioms from A to Z. Got a favorite amongst these? Or another favorite? How about our foreign readers? Tell us about idioms from your country.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
But there is one kind of research I really do enjoy: the field trip.
What better way to get a feel for how things work than to go someplace and witness it first hand? Thankfully, there are people out there who don’t mind being watched while they do their jobs and answering stupid questions from me at the same time.
Like Dan and Dingo from WDRM- 102.1 in Huntsville.
See the current WIP has scenes that take place in a radio station during a live broadcast. Unfortunately, the sum total of my knowledge about radio stations and how they work was gleaned from reruns of WKRP, Frasier episodes, and the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
I very quickly learned that wasn’t enough info to write a book on…
Enter Dan and Dingo, who allowed me to come observe their show, and in doing so, saved my hide from huge errors (I won’t tell you how much rewriting I had to do just on what I already had…).
There was one small problem: Dan and Dingo are the morning show hosts. Do you know what time they get up in the morning? ZOMGWTFBBQ!!1! kind of sums it up...
But nothing shall stand between me and research, so I dragged my sorry carcass out of bed at 4.30 and went to the radio station. (And though it was radio, I did put on makeup. Eyeliner before dawn is not easy…)
By the time I arrived at the station a little before six (earlier than planned, but I didn’t stop to think how little traffic there would be on the road before dawn), Dan and Dingo had been on the air for an hour already. And they weren’t the least bit grumpy about it.
They were both super-friendly and never laughed at my stupid questions (and there were some doozies!). I was immediately impressed at their ability to multi-task (answer the phone, find something on the internet, and never lose track of the exact moment they had to go live again). I was also floored by the patience they had with long-winded callers – including the guy who obviously calls in regularly just to chat and bring them up-to-date on his life. (It was kind of sweet, actually, the way they knew who he was by his voice, asked how he was recuperating from his surgery, listened to his story, etc, all while keeping the show going. I got the feeling this caller was an older man who didn’t have a lot of other people to talk to, and looked forward to checking in with Dan and Dingo because they cared enough to listen.)
But, back to my field trip…
I started snapping pictures and asking questions (and taking lots of notes that I’m having a hard time reading now because did I mention it was six o’ freaking clock in the morning? My hands weren’t awake.)
I have to admit I was rather disappointed to find out there wasn’t a CD in sight. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that all the music would be digital and instead of CD players and fancy stuff like that, it would all be computer screens and mouse clicks.
Then came the words to strike fear into anyone’s heart – especially before sunrise: “Let’s put you on the air!”
Um, okay. Totally unprepared for that. Me, mouth-of-the-south, struck dumb by the thought of going on the radio. Talking to people doesn’t bother me, but talking to thousands of people I couldn’t even see? Risk the chance of sounding really stupid because my brain wasn’t fully awake? (Did I mention how freakin’ early it was?) Take the risk that in my nervous, sleep-deprived state, I might get flustered and say one of those seven words you’re not supposed to say unless you want FCC fines? Oh, the possibilities for shame and humiliation were endless and abounding…
But the next thing I knew, I was seated at the mic, Dan was introducing me, and I was live, baby.
Sadly, I remember very little of the conversation – mainly because I was so nervous. But my mom taped it, and I don’t think I sounded all that bad. Since Dan and Dingo were there in the studio and I could make eye contact with them, it made it much easier to talk and not focus so much on the microphone in my face. It was kind of like a conversation, only with a lot of expensive equipment around for me to worry about breaking while trying not to stick my foot in my mouth too much.
I guess the first go-round went okay, because they put me back on the air a few more times. I assume if I’d sounded too bad or screwed up too much, they’d have thanked me nicely and moved my chair away from the microphone.
Instigator and Smarty Pants both tried to listen, but neither of them heard me. My mom, DG and AC* all heard me (AC and DG were listening while getting ready and in the car on the way to school.) My aunt in Tennessee found the WDRM website and listened to the live stream, so she heard me too.
So, many thanks to Dan and Dingo for having me on their show and letting me observe how it all works. My book will be much better for it, and it was a lot of fun as well. If you’re in the area, you should give them a listen in the mornings, or check out their live stream on the website. They’re on the air from 5-10 am.
And while I hope they’ll invite me back one day, I’ll probably try to wait and show up after the sun comes up. There’s just not enough caffeine in the world at five a.m.
(*Those of you keeping score will be happy to know that being on the radio did get me a bump up on AC’s Famous-O-Meter. Thanks Dingo and Dan…)
Monday, February 15, 2010
Of all the gifts I could receive on Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite would have to be a gift card to the bookstore. As a matter of fact, my lovely hubby gave me one for Christmas this year, and I had so much fun spending it! I found 2 new-to-me authors who luckily had out several books in their series each and I was able to purchase in bulk. Unfortunately, that also meant I wasn’t getting as much writing done, but I couldn’t resist. These books were like caffeine to an addict. I had to have my daily fix! Now, I’ve read everything they have out in those series and am eagerly awaiting the next releases. The next best thing would be sharing these authors with you!
So here are my newest reading obsessions:
Jami Alden: The Gemini Men series
What do you get when you combine a trio of hot brothers, women who know just which buttons to push, and rampant murderers on the loose? A darn good read, that’s what!
Jami Alden’s trilogy on the Gemini brothers, private investigators and security specialists, are wonderful romantic suspense with lots of spicy sex scenes and mysteries that can and do surprise you. The newest is UNLEASHED, the last Gemini brother in his quest to clear a woman he loved long ago from a murder wrap, while not getting himself swept back up into his attraction for her. (Like he’ll ever succeed at that!) These guys are strong, sometimes *ssholes, but always fall hard for the women that sweep into their lives. YummO!
Larissa Ione: Demonica Series
I’m not sure how I’ve missed seeing this author before, considering there are 4 books currently out in this hot paranormal series. Larissa sets up her own paranormal world pitting demonic forces against the Aegis (humans dedicated to protecting humankind from demons and others). She started the series off with Seminus demon brothers (BTW, those are SEX DEMONS! Yowza!) who blew the lid off the hottie charts! These are your typical bad boys in demon form. But the women who tame them are just as bad. ;) If you like paranormal (including demons, vampires, weres, ghosts, and fallen angels), you won’t want to miss out on this series. I gave the first 2 books to my sister after I finished reading them, and she got really upset with me… because she’s so busy devouring them like I did that she’s not getting any writing done either. What can I say? I must share the procrastination… uh, wealth. :)
The newest book in the series is ECSTASY UNVEILED, pitting a Seminus demon against an earthbound angel. Talk about power plays! My next indulgence will be to check out the series she writes with author Stephanie Tyler under the pseudonym Sydney Croft. Those sound good too. Maybe as a reward when I have actually gotten some work done…
So tell me, what are your newest reads? Found a new (or new-to-you) author lately? A great new release by one of your must-have authors? Tell us all about them and share the, um, wealth. :)
P.S. The winner of Tawny Weber’s book from last Thursday is Caroline Storer! Caroline, please send your snail mail address to Tawny at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Sigh. "Sunday," I told him. He went into a panic and immediately started grasping at cards. His wife should thank me.
You know, Valentine's Day is the same day every year. It doesn't change like Thanksgiving or President's Day. Its pretty easy to keep up with. And yet it sneaks up on men every year. I used to work at Hallmark in high school. We'd have Valentine's stuff out December 27th, but the men would show up on Valentine's Day after work, like clockwork. We were always prepared with inflated balloons and pre-assembled gift bags and ribbon for them to buy in a rush. And would they! Prices they would normally scoff at - like the $50 3-lb heart box of Russell Stovers candy that no one had touched since we put them on the shelves. Sold out by 5:30. You could taste the desperation in the air as they rushed into the store, completely caught off guard by the sudden onset of the holiday they dread.
And they do dread it. They must. DB grumbles at every stupid, sappy jewelry commercial on television. They have all this pressure to deliver some grand romantic gesture. The same pressure doesn't really fall on women. The truth of the matter is that instead of overpriced roses and jewelry I'll rarely wear on some random day in February, I'd prefer a year of helping me keep the house clean, unloading the dishwasher, rubbing my shoulders when I've had a long day or maybe offering to cook or pickup Chinese when I've got no enthusiasm to cook. Unexpected flowers on a Thursday in July just because. There really is truth in those "Porn for Women" calendars. Unfortunately, that's not something they can sell in stores like teddy bears and candy.
Have you ever played that game "Would you rather...?" where you have to choose between two things (usually unpleasant)? Like, would you rather eat a bowl of live crickets or pull out your toenail with tweezers? Ouch. Anyway, I read a report not too long ago that said that one in five people would rather spend their Valentine's Day with their pet than a lover. It's no wonder. I'm not sure how excited I'd be if my guy looked at it as some obligation - some annual sacrifice to the sex gods for continued hanky panky and (at least in my house) biscuits and gravy over the next year.
Got any exciting plans this Valentine's Day? What's the best or most original gift you've ever received from your significant one? Would you rather spend it with your dog? DB is working, so I'm spending it with my pets whether I want to or not. I should be kind and offer to babysit so someone else can have a nice night. Hmm...
PS. The winner of last week's FBF is Magnolia! Magnolia, please send your snail mail info to email@example.com to claim your copy of Magnate's Mistress... Accidentally Pregnant! (which is in its 3rd week on the USA Today Bestseller List)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I remember a few years back – I’d just sold my first book and was over the moon!! I’d done it, sold! OMGOMGOMG YAY! It was like finally getting to dig my spoon into a huge, calorie-free hot fudge sundae with tons of whipped cream, strawberries and extra pecans. In other words, deliciously awesome. To add a bright shiny cherry on top of that hot fudge, I sold just a couple months before the RWA National conference. Where (see, this just keeps getting better and better, right?) I was invited to lunch with my editor.
No, this isn’t where the fear comes in – although I will admit to a certain degree of nervousness in that first lunch. If only over what angle I might find to best fit my foot in my mouth (that it’d happen was a given, the degree of pain is always up for grabs). But no fear. Yet.
Fast forward to lunch. Now – let’s be perfectly clear, my editor is fab. She’s so fun and easy to talk to, tops in what she does and has a way of telling you to do something you find absolutely terrifying, and making you think it’ll be easy.
Yep, that’s where the fear comes in. She suggested I give a workshop the following year at the National conference. Me. Stand up in front of people and talk. Intelligently (okay, I’ll admit, she didn’t specify intelligently. But it was implied!) Ack!!!
So... a workshop. At National. Despite my fear. What’s a girl to do when faced with that suggestion but nod and say ‘sure.’ Then prepare like crazy. And you know what, that first workshop went pretty well. It wasn’t easy, but I had some killer advice (the best – seed the audience with friendly faces). And my editor was right, once I’d done one, the rest did get easier. Facing the fear took the edge off. Just this week, I gave my first all-by-myself Valentines talk to a non-writing women’s group. How’d it go? It rocked. And it reminded me that just a few years ago, the idea of this would have sent me hiding under the table at worst, or at best, headed straight for the bar to tequila up beforehand.
How about you? There are so many fears we face in this business, aren’t there? The blank page. A new story. The end. That first submission? Our first (or tenth) pitch appointment? Book signings, presentations, revision letters. Rejection letters, resubmissions, oh man, the list could go on and on, couldn’t it? But... we become stronger writers because we face those fears, right?
How about you? What fears have you made yourself face lately? Do you feel great about it? And speaking of fears, want a copy of my latest Blaze story? In it, the hero has to face some serious fears to overcome one whammy of a curse. YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS is a part of the Blazing Bedtime Stories III anthology with the amazing Tori Carrington!! I’ll give away a copy to one random commenter, just as a thanks for keeping me company today :-)
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
As writers we make our living with words (or we try like heck and hope to). Words can be used in so many ways besides novels and short stories, and that’s the topic for today’s Playground blog – Plays on Words.
I’ve always liked jokes that use words to create the humor. Puns have long been a favorite of my mom’s and she has a stack of books devoted to puns. In my research over the last few days, I discovered there are three types of puns. Homographic puns make use of multiple meanings from a single spelling. For example, did you hear about the man who impulsively got a cat despite his allergies and later realized it was a rash decision? And homophonic puns use similar sounds with different spellings. It's been said that seven days without laughter makes one weak.
My favorite is pun jokes that go beyond the one-liner.
Once upon a time, a Wisconsin baseball team acquired a pitcher named Milt Famey. As it was, Milt had signed an endorsement deal with a local brewery and was provided a lifetime supply of their product. And boy, did Milt use the product. One day, a game went into extra innings and Milt was called on to pitch. He had been partaking of his endorsement product and was a bit wobbly on the mound. In the bottom of the sixteenth inning, he walked four batters to load the bases and then walked in the winning run. After the game, a reporter commented that he’d seen cans of beer in the bullpen where Milt had been warming up. A player from the opposing team grinned and replied, “Yeah, that’s the beer that made Milt Famey walk us.”
The friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone likes to buy flowers from men of God, the rival florist thought this was unfair. He asked the good Fathers to close, but they wouldn’t. He went back weeks later and begged them to close, and they ignored him. So the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest thug in town to persuade them to close shop. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed the shop, saying he’d return if they didn’t close their doors once and for all. They were terrified and immediately went out of business, which proves that Hugh and only Hugh can prevent florist friars.
Puns aren’t the only ways to play with words.
Malapropisms (named after Mrs. Malaprop, a character in a play by R.B. Sheridan) are the unintentional and humorous misuse of a word. Mrs. Smith wanted to learn to speak better so she signed up for electrocution lessons.
Spoonerisms switch the initial sound of two or more words. It is often kistomary to cuss the bride. Or, last Sunday night the Saints dealt the Colts a blushing crow.
Palindromes are the spelled the same backwards and forwards. Obvious ones are the words mom, level and kayak. More clever, however, are whole sentences, such as “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.” In palindrome sentences, punctuation and spaces are not taken into consideration, as in the one above. However, Napoleon supposedly uttered one that does not discard them: Able was I ere I saw Elba.
Tom Swifties play on a relationship between an adverb, and an action spoken in dialogue. We all know that good writers never use adverbs, so we’d never write something like, “I’d love some Chinese food,” said Tom wantonly. Or “I need a pencil sharpener,” said Tom bluntly.
Oxymorons combine contradictory words like jumbo shrimp, deafening silence, definite maybe, unbiased opinion, original copies, pretty ugly and exact estimate.
Tongue twisters are audible plays on words that don’t deliver a message but exist to trip up the speaker. How many of you grew up reciting about Peter Piper and his pickled peppers, seashells by the seashore or rubber baby buggy bumpers? Here’s one I found, but don’t try it in public.
I am a pheasant plucker,
I'm a pheasant-plucker's son,
I will be plucking pheasants
'till the pheasant plucker comes.
Redefinition is giving new meaning to an existing word. The Washington Post has a yearly contest where readers can submit alternative meanings for common words. Among the 2009 winners were:
Coffee (n), the person upon whom one coughs
Negligent (adj), absentmindedly answering the door in your nightgown
Esplanade (v), to attempt an explanation while drunk
Balderdash (n), a rapidly receding hairline
Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist
I’m not sure how the following are classified, but I found them worthy of a chuckle.
If a pig lost its voice would it be disgruntled?
Would a cardboard belt be a waist of paper?
Would writing with a broken pencil be pointless?
Are tennis players cold-hearted because love means nothing to them?
And last, but definitely not least are the humorous church signs found across the country.
Do you like word play? Share some with us!
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I was pleased to find out that the model for my brainy heroine Ally has a great brain behind that pretty face. When she's not modeling, she's quite involved with marine biology and ocean policy. She just recently returned from Florida (her home state -- let's hear it for Southern Girls!), where she was working on a web series about protecting ocean life.
But she's here today to talk modeling and romance covers...
Was this your first time modeling for a romance cover? How’d you land the job?
Yes, this was actually my first time modeling for a romance cover. I was contacted by my agent and she explained that the job would be for a book cover and so I went to the photographer's studio to meet with them. After the photographer saw me at the casting, she called my agent to book me on this job.
Are you told anything about the book you’ll be gracing? Title? Plot basics?
No, that's what's funny about it! I wasn't told anything. I was literally told that I should bring a bikini..that's it! This is actually how it happens sometimes...they don't tell you very much information, so you have to be ready to take all the curve balls. When I booked a job for Cosmo, we shot in a beautiful apartment in SoHo. The wardrobe stylist gave me a tube top and yoga pants to wear. The photographer told me to lie on the sofa, and tilt my head back and laugh. I didn't think anything of it, because after all, it's not like I was nude. It was shot from behind the sofa so all you can see are my face and shoulders; you couldn't see the tube top or the rest of my clothed body. When the article came out, to my surprise, it was entitled "Cosmo Climax Clinic" and there is a full page picture of me not looking like I was just tilting my head back and laughing...my mother said she probably wouldn't be showing this one to the elderly neighbors back in Florida and we all had a good laugh.
So what’s it like – the actual photo shoot? How long did it take?
When I got to the studio, I was given a dressing room to change in, and do hair and makeup. As, a model, it's really important to be able to do your own hair and makeup and know what looks good on you because you might have a makeup artist and you might not, so if you don't, you have to be prepared. The makeup table at the studio had what I call the "Hollywood Star Lights"; the mirror that has all the bright lights around the perimeter so you can really see what you're doing. Good lights are really important! The shoot was about 2 hours long.
You’re in a hot clinch with (I assume) a total stranger. And neither of you are wearing much. What’s that like? What’s the professional etiquette for steamy snuggling with someone you just met?
Well, I was kind of nervous when I got to the studio, as this was my first time. But it turns out, I knew the other model. We had worked together on a job a while back and that made things much more comfortable because we could joke around. Even thought New York City is a big place, I find that a lot of times you run into the same people on jobs, and that's really fun because it's like working with your friends.
The male model on the cover is still a bit of a mystery. I can’t even see his face (because he’s nuzzling your neck!). Can you tell us anything about him?
His name is Todd and he is really tall! I had to stand on an apple box, which is just a wooden box used on film sets, to be a good height to cuddle with him. So its a good thing you can't see my feet because otherwise you would know I was cheating!
Are you a romance reader?
What I really enjoy about modeling and acting is that when you book different jobs, you get exposed to things you may not know about in your own life and it really broadens your interests. This job piqued my interest in romance novels so I can now say I am a romance reader. Besides, I think it's pretty cool to say the first romance novel I read was "about me."
Have you been on any other covers? Any plans to? Have you done other modeling recently?
I will be on the January cover of a German magazine called "Hair und Beauty". I have been in Cosmo, Gourmet Magazine, People in Espanol, Real Simple, and Parade Magazine. I am also a shoe, hand, and hair model, and I am one of the fitness models for Women's World Magazine. Currently, I am producing and hosting a web series about protecting ocean life, called The Blue Room. I would love to be on another romance cover...I think Ally needs to have another adventure!
Lauren has agreed to hang out on the Playground today and answer any questions y'all may have about romance covers, modeling, etc.
Thanks, Lauren! We're glad you're here!
Monday, February 08, 2010
Music is a key fuel for my creative world.
Every time I meet a new character, at some point they lead me to their “theme” song. This soundtrack for their book gives me a glimpse into deeper issues for the character or summarizes their personality. Listening to the music makes it easier to slip into their point of view for writing sessions, quickly and easily.
We’ve also talked about “anthem” songs here on the blog, songs that inspire and encourage us when life is tough or frustrating. I have several of these on my iPod and they also encourage me in my writing. When I’m tired, frustrated, or simply lost in my journey, these songs urge me to stay connected and fervent in pursuit of my dreams.
This was especially important last year and the first part of this year. In the last 3 months I’ve received 3 rejections and had to pull 1 submission because it had been tied up too long with no show of interest from the editor. Quite discouraging.
Then my sister sent me this song, and I have to admit it has quickly become my new favorite. I hope you enjoy it too:
Stand by Rascall Flats (I had to put the link because I can't figure out how to get this particular YouTube video to embed. Sorry!)
I especially love the video, with the words they use at the end. I'm a word kind of girl and use it a lot outside of writing too, like in decorating and scrapbooking. :) Very inspirational! I already have a character who has claimed this song as her own.
What kind of roll does music play in your life? Does it fuel creativity, influence your moods, or provide hours of entertainment? Do you secretly dance around your house with it up loud or blast out the car when you drive alone? (I’m guilty as charged!) ;)
P.S. Instigator is blogging today over at the Blaze Author's blog. www.blazeauthors.com. Drop by and see her!
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Prolific reviewer and Honorary Playfriend Marilyn Shoemaker joins us in the Sandbox this month. She's a doll; you're going to love her (if you don't already!): http://www.writingplayground.com/sandbox.html
Smarty Pants goes in search of that thing they call "voice" this month in School: http://www.writingplayground.com/school.html#speak
Instigator brings you our Book of the Month, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskey.
Don't forget to enter our Jan/Feb contest, if you haven't already!http://www.writingplayground.com/contest.html
Friday, February 05, 2010
And don't take my word for it - Magnate's Mistress... Accidentally Pregnant! has been #5 on the Walden Books Bestseller List for two straight weeks and... wait for it... just hit the USA Today Bestseller List at #93! All those people can't be wrong. A big congratulations to Kimberly!
Magnate's Mistress... Accidentally Pregnant!
by Kimberly Lang (AKA Problem Child)
Pregnant by the wild and wicked billionaire!
Ally Smith might have dumped her cheating fiancé, but she refuses to waste her non-refundable honeymoon in the Caribbean!
Trying to embrace her freedom, Ally meets sexy stranger Chris Wells… Not recognizing him as the famous thrill-seeking tycoon, Ally throws caution to the wind and allows Chris, with his hot body, to sweep her into an even hotter summer fling!
But back home Ally realizes that, unlike her tan, memories of their wild night will never fade… Oh-so-sensible Ally is expecting the playboy's baby!
Since it is Free Book Friday, we're also going to be giving away a copy of Magnate's Mistress... Accidentally Pregnant! to one of our commenters. To enter, comment with the phrase "I want a hot summer fling ...uh... I mean, read!" Also, for fun, share your best vacation souvenir. Not everyone can come home with a billionaire's baby, but maybe a nifty snow globe or something. My favorite is a pair of Swarovski crystal champagne flutes that I bought at the Swarovski factory in Innsbruck, Austria. They're absolutely beautiful and one day I hope to use them at my wedding.
PS. We also have some winners to announce! Liza is the lucky winner of Cristina Lynn's fab CD - From All Sides. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize. Also, Valerie Peck is Wednesday's winner of Last of the Ravens by Linda Winstead Jones. Please email email@example.com to claim your prize.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
I love the fashion. I love the wacky special numbers. I love the failed attempts at humorous intros. I love the crazy pairings they usually bring out for musical numbers. I love it all.
What I don't like are the acceptance speeches. Does that make me a bad human? Seriously. I was excited to see Jeff Bridges with the Golden Globe but I really don't care who he wants to thank. I don't need to hear a list of people I don't know, don't care to know and/or never will hear anything about again. I have no desire to hear you praise God, your director, producer or anyone else for that matter. I don't want to see your teary eyed spouse in the audience. I understand that this is the most important night of your life...but it isn't mine.
I know. I suck. But it's just so dang boring. I'm an instant gratification girl. If you put all those acceptance speeches together that's probably at least an hour of my life I'll never get back. Rarely, very rarely, there's a funny one that I'll enjoy. But for the most part I flip to another channel during the speeches and would miss it even if everyone was freakin' hilarious.
So while I'm very excited to watch the Academy Awards, I'm hoping there's something else interesting on TV that night so I can avoid those painfully boring minutes.
Do you watch award shows? Which is your favorite? What's your stance on acceptance speeches? Are you pulling for anyone specific this year?
P.S. Every year I promise myself I'm going to watch all the Best Picture nominees. I never do. This year there are 10 - count 'em - 10. There's no way. I don't think I've seen a single one of them either.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
The government is not allowed to buy land for national park use, so the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, which would share the park, appropriated state funds and additional monies were raised by private individuals and groups and even school children who gave their pennies to the cause. A large donation by the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund provided the remainder of the funding.
The first park Superintendant arrived in 1931. Between 1933 and 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps worked to develop facilities and restore early settlers' buildings, and on September 2, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the park "for the permanent enjoyment of the people."
While not the largest of the national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the distinction of being the most visited park with close to ten million visitors each year. The park contains 800 miles of hiking trails (including sections of the Appalachian Trail), 700 miles of fishable streams, camping areas, white water rafting and other family oriented activities. October brings a huge influx of visitors to the park for the fall leaf season.
The area is called Smoky Mountains because they always appear to have a blue haze hanging over them. This is a natural fog caused by warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling quickly at high elevation and also by the respiration of he trees. The mist appears blue because evergreens emit natural hydrocarbons that appear blue in sunlight.
Last week the Playfriends visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park, specifically the areas of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Both areas are filled with fun for everyone including Dollywood, a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the Ripley's Aquarium, Ober Gatlinburg ski area, river rafting companies and plenty of shopping. Candy shops abound to showcase what has become a mountain tradition -- lots and lots of fudge. And the area also is home to the Rocky Top Wine Trail, which features three wineries within three miles of each other.
When our visit was over, we returned to Alabama with fudge, fabulous beef jerky (who knew they had a beef jerky outlet?), Christmas decorations, new clothing and accessories, jams and jellies (another mountain tradition) and wine. We did our part to stimulate the economy. :-)
Our week was cut short because of the snow storm moving in. While we'd have loved to be snowed into the mountains, we all had obligations at home requiring us to come on back. ::sigh:: We had a terrific time and the week was filled with lots of fun and laughter. We played board games, ate, shopped, ate, sampled wine, ate, plotted books in the hot tub every night, ate and laughed lots. It's safe to say a fun time was had by all.
Have you ever visited any areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Every visited any of the United States National Parks? Tell me about your experiences. One lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Linda Winstead Jones's recent book LAST OF THE RAVENS, which is set in the Smoky Mountains.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
See, I write “those” kinds of books, and Cristina plays in bars. Neither of us drives a mini-van. ::grin:: Some people might say we’re setting the wrong example…
But Cristina rocks! And I mean that literally. This lady has a voice that’s unbelievable, and I’m so excited that her new CD is out! Cristina’s a bit of a local secret, so I’ve brought her here to the blog today to give all our Honorary Playfriends a chance to hear her sing.
Click here to hear "The Next Goodbye" (It will open in a new window.)
Oh, and did I mention she plays guitar AND writes her own songs? (And she volunteers at the school way more than I do… ~wonder woman, grumble~)
Cristina’s the first professional musician we’ve had visit the Playground, so she’s agreed to hang out and answer questions. I’ll get us started with a couple…
Unlike some of us (ahem) you got to choose the title for your CD. Why’d you call it “From All Sides”?
I so wanted this CD to showcase who I am as a person, who I am as a vocalist, who I am as a songwriter and who I am as a passionate musician who is so blessed to get to do what I do. So, when I heard the mixes and saw the pictures I knew we had accomplished a lot!! There’s still a lot left in me, but ‘From All Sides’ is a really good beginning!!
I happen to know you have an adorable and active child…how do you manage the whole mom/wife/artist balancing act?
Aw, Thanks….. I have two wonderful men in my life that step up when life is crazy! One is my hubby, Kevin, and the other is my Little Man. They believe in this crazy dream and love & support me through everything! One day after school my Little Man said he had to write about someone he admired. He wrote about me!! He said, “Mommy you do what you love and still take care of me. Everyone is going to hear your voice one day.” (tears, tears, tears…)
I won’t ask you to pick your favorite song off the CD – because I know that’s impossible – but could you pick one song and give tell us a little about it? What inspired it and how you wrote it?
I have trouble picking just one, so thanks for not asking me to do that. ; ) I can tell you that I love ‘I Miss You’. I love singing it and sharing my passion for the sacrifices made by our military women and men. It’s simply a tribute to our soldiers and their families.
I started this song about 4 years ago. One evening I was watching a news clip showing soldiers getting on a bus and leaving their families to fight for freedom. As I watched, I really wondered what the one common denominator was. It was three simple words: I MISS YOU. I put it aside for a while because I was basically told ‘I Miss You’ was not a strong enough hook. You know, the title of the song. I was also told that I needed to have someone die in the song to really push the feeling of missing someone. Both of those thoughts totally went against why I started the song. I believe you can totally miss someone even when they are in the next room. Of course our military families are going to miss their soldiers! They are usually serving in another part of the world!! So, I picked it back up a couple years later and finished it with a friend, Chuck. It’s #7 on my CD, ‘From All Sides’!!!
Now you're fightin' everyday, God I pray you're safe
I thought I heard your voice in my pillow, you whispered my name
When the wind barely blows I think I feel you
It's just a breeze but I pretend that the breeze is you
You've been gone so long I swear I feel you everywhere...
I really wanna hold you, hold you so much, that my arms ache and my heart breaks
You're half a mile away, it's more than my heart can take
I really wanna hold you, hold you so much, that my arms ache and my heart cries
You're half a world away, it's more than my heart can take
If I could just kiss you, I know I have to risk you...
Baby I miss you...
I Miss You – Cristina Lynn & C. Rutenberg – © 2006
The comment tail is open and Cristina is willing to chat. She’ll also give away a copy of her CD to one commenter.
For more information on Cristina, her music or to order her CD, visit http://cristinalynnblog.com/.
Monday, February 01, 2010
He’s a combination of strength, humility, comedy, and dark good looks. What could make a better hero?
~PC hijacks MOANday to ask everyone to hop over to the RomCon blog and say Hi! (link should be fixed now!)~