Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: Rita Henuber

I'd love for y'all to welcome one of my fellow Ruby Sisters, Rita Henuber. Her first book will be out in August with Carina Press, and we are all excitedly following her progress to publication. Let's have a nice sitdown under the pavilion on the Playground, for protection from all the stormy weather around here, and talk about the stories we all love.

Photobucket I'm Rita and I write romance. Romantic suspense. I write about strong women, not Alphas, who know what they want and go after it. Women in the military or law enforcement. They are attracted to strong men who love them for who they are and stand beside them.

When Danniele invited me to blog my first thought was to tell you all about me (boring), my book being released in August with Carina Press (exciting- to me anyway) and my views on writing (this has the potential of being double boring).

My mind was changed after a ladies gathering where the discussion turned to books. The conversation led to "why isn't there a book about…?" The ladies said they were tired of searching the local book store for something different and how few books were actually on the shelves. I explained about the economy. Booksellers were being careful with inventory and publishers have to go with stories that sell and make the best sellers lists. One lady harrumphed and asked how Kate Gosselin's book make the NYT list and still hasn't sold seven thousand copies. She had me there.

I have my own wish list of books. I love a good historical, but honestly I would sooo prefer to read a story about the women who left everything in Europe and came to the New World. The adventures of those strong, brave women who made homes in the wilds of North America. Strong men with long flowing hair and muscled bodies who could ride a horse, build a cabin, kill a bear, and make love to his woman the way she needed. A Revolutionary War story, a Civil War story. A long list of potential plots there. Like Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a physician in the Civil War. She received the Congressional Medal of Honor and was an advocate for women's rights. Some generals, who shall not be named, tried to take the medal back. One reason they felt her unworthy was she wore pants in battle field hospitals. Dr. Walker refused to give it back. I have a friend writing a YA about the Civil War based on her own ancestor's journal. Can't wait to read it.

There are amazing stories out there. How many of you know about the Orphan Trains? Between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children from large cities in the US were gathered up, some say rounded up, placed on trains heading west and to Canada. At each stop the children were taken off the train and displayed. Families took them in and treated them as their own. In some cases they were little more than slaves working in households and fields. Can you imagine what these children went through? I had no knowledge of it until a friend's great grandpa shared his story at a family gathering.

What about women who cared for family while her man went off to find work in the depression? Did you know that Canada held German prisoners of war in camps scattered across the country? After the war many stayed and became Canadian citizens. Did you know that the whole US East coast was blacked out during the WWII because German U-boats cruised the coast? Many cargo ships were sunk by the submarines within sight of land. Spies came and went via the boats.

Okay I've gone on too long. What I'm getting at is there is a rich history of intrigue, love, strength and evil right here, all around us. I would love to see these stories told.

Now tell me, what kind of stories do you want to read? Can you find books written on the subjects you like to read?
The really big question is, are YOU writing these books?


Though Rita's book isn't out yet, I'll be giving away a romantic suspense book to one lucky commenter today! Angel

Rita Henuber grew up running the beaches of a barrier island on Florida’s east coast. She married a Marine and feels fortunate to have lived many places and traveled to the states and countries she didn’t live. She writes contemporary women’s fiction and suspense thrillers weaving her experiences into her story telling.

Her first, as yet to be named, book will be released from Carina Press in August 2011.
The story follows Coast Guard helicopter pilot Olivia Carver and sexy DEA agent Declan O'Conner from a torrid one night stand to a fierce gun battle at sea as they work to take down a drug cartel.

Visit her web site .

Friday, February 25, 2011

10 Reasons I'll Never Truly Be A Southern Lady

As of February 28th, I will have lived in Alabama for ten years. Wow. Its amazing how time has slipped away from me. When I got out of college, I moved back to Vegas and lived with my mom while I got a job. Started working for the company I work for currently (although the name's changed a couple times). By the end of 2000, we'd lost the contract I was working on and I was given a choice of switching to the new contractor and maintaining the status quo or taking a chance, staying with my company, moving cross country and getting a decent raise for my trouble. It was scary, but I went with the latter. Hadn't set a foot in the state of Alabama until the day my mom and I (who was much more enthusiastic about moving out here than I was) drove across the state line with two cats howling in the backseat. But I'd been in Vegas a long time and to be honest, it was getting old.

Ten years later, I think I've adjusted pretty well. Don't get me wrong, it was rough. Rough for maybe three years or so while I got my bearings. If I hadn't met DB that first year, I probably would've bolted. I was way too liberal for even Huntsville, the most progressive area in the state. It was years before I didn't curse trying to buy beer for football on a Sunday, eat out on a Monday night, or try to do anything after 9PM. Fortunately, Huntsville has grown with me and mellowed me out. When I first came here, we didn't even have a Target and my neighbors told me the best place to eat in town was Shoney's. (*gasp*) But now, we have several Targets, great shopping, and lots of good restaurant choices. It's not Atlanta or Vegas, by any stretch, but it also doesn't have the traffic, the crime or the general hassles of a big city, so it's a trade off I'm happy with.

But, alas, I find that even 10 years later, I doubt I could pass the test to get my "Southern Lady" license. Its a good thing there really isn't one, cause I'd get booted out for sure. Here's my list of reasons why, most of which are food related since its such a large part of southern culture:

1. I don't like sweet tea. I don't know how many events I've gone to where this is the only option aside from unfiltered tap water they serve me with disgust in their eyes. If it wasn't for a nation being swept by diabetes, I doubt they'd have added unsweet tea as a choice in the last few years. Personally, I prefer hot tea. I can tolerate iced tea with splenda, but I'd really rather not go there at all. Thankfully, I can make sweet tea if I have to, so maybe that earns me back some points.

2. I haven't mastered the use of 'bless his/her heart.' If I'm going to say something ugly about someone, I just do and always forget to invoke the southern caviat. That's why I have to keep my mouth shut unless I'm in the company of people who understand my southern handicap in this area. I also lack the skill of being able to tell someone to go to hell and have them offer to send you a postcard when they get there. I'm not that smooth.

3. I don't like grits. Not at all. Not even with butter and cheese and shrimp on top. I eat oatmeal almost daily, but just can't stomach grits. Or if given a choice between a few things dining out, usually go with the hashbrowns instead.

4. I'm not good with enjoying 'Southern Time.' I'm way too type A to just sit and sip tea (obviously an issue right there) and enjoy the breeze on the porch. Why would I want to look at my stupid, trashy neighbors, anyway? I don't want to just go for a drive. I have to have a destination. There has to be a point. I have road rage when I get stuck behind PawPaw in his 1973 Ford pickup truck hauling a bunch of hay on a two lane road where I can't pass. I go absolutely insane. Hell, even if I'm sitting in a jacuzzi with wine, I have to plot a book or something. I am working on enjoying the journey instead of the destination, especially since the publication industry has forced me to. But its a struggle.

5. I don't like biscuits. I know. This is probably one of the biggest cardinal sins of all. But I just don't. A small, extra flaky one slathered in honey and butter is ok now and then, but I don't want a big, fluffy one. I don't want it smothered in sausage gravy. I don't want one with every meal. I prefer whole wheat toast. Or an english muffin. Or a bagel. Or a frozen waffle. Pretty much any breakfast bread ranks over biscuits with me.

6. I'm uncomfortable with random home visits and phone calls. I guess its just as well I don't live in the south back when people would just drop in after church and drink tea and eat the cake you just magically had on hand for company. If you want to come to my house, you have to schedule it in advance and be willing to turn a blind eye to my housekeeping skills. I might magically have cake, but that's just cause I'm weird, not because I'm a good hostess. If you're calling me just to chat, you have to tell me that up front or I'll keep wondering when we're going to get to the point. The Playfriends are working hard on my phone training, so its getting better, but I'm still just bad with small talk.

7. I don't like pickled anything. Eggs, okra, pickles, peaches, pig's feet... forget it. Relish trays are a total waste on me. And really, while I'm at it, I really don't like much fried either. I'll eat chicken fingers, french fries... the occasional fried ravioli (which is completely unsouthern and doesn't count) or specialty fair food like deep fried oreos or funnel cake, but otherwise, I'll pass. No deep fried okra. No country fried steak. I'll eat a hushpuppy or two, but usually I just depend on them so I don't starve when I'm forced to a catfish restaurant which I dislike even more. I just don't dig all the grease. Paula Deen is starting a campaign to have me extradicted to California as we speak.

8. I'm not good at letting a gentleman do things for me. Makes DB absolutely insane, but I was not raised to sit around and wait for a man to do something I can manage. In my family, you'll wait a long time. Also, out west, it isn't that ingrained in the culture. Men aren't rude, they just aren't raised by southern women to go that extra mile. So I'm bad at letting men hold doors for me. I even get uncomfortable when the bag boys at Publix want to take my cart out. When people call me ma'am, I look for my mother.

9. Let's just lump all the last foods into one here: greens of any variety, black eyed peas, potato salad, cole slaw, Moon Pies, pork rinds, casseroles (I just don't trust them), gelatin salads (again, don't trust them)... I'm sure there are more. Suffice to say that most potluck events are an experiment in terror for me. And people wonder why I always insist on a sign up sheet for those things. Its so I know what I'll eat and what I need to bring so there's at least one item I can fall back on aside from dessert.

10. I haven't overcome the language barrier. For those of you confused, you've never been in the south. To say everyone speaks English is a lie. There are regional phrases I will simply never get used to or use. I've picked up the accent, will fully endulge in 'y'all' but things still trip me up. I drink a variety of soda. If I say coke, I literally mean Coca-Cola (TM). Don't ask me what kind of coke - sprite is not coke. Its sprite. I don't 'carry' anyone anywhere. I take them. I don't drive around Target looking for a 'park.' I'm looking for a parking space. Just the tip of the iceburg here.

For the most part, I guess I fit in, but the little things can really add up. Any regional foods or customs that you just can't go along with even if you were born and bred there? Ever been transplanted in a new area and have to adjust to the culture shock?


P.S. Playground Monitor is guest blogging with several other writers today at Handbags, Books... Whatever. Come on over and see what she has to say about telling secrets.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh To Be a Child Again

A few days ago I picked the girls up from school. Sweet Pea is quickly (too quickly if you ask me) becoming a tween. She starts middle school in about six months, something momma ain't ready for. Anyway, as she got in the car she pulled something out of her backpack that I hadn't seen in years - like twenty five of them. An origami fortune teller.

She proceeded to ask herself, her sister and me several questions. Important questions. Like whether a boy liked her or what she would be when she grew up. I found it exceedingly funny. Not that she'd have a burning desire to ask these questions - I mean, I was a tween once too. But that these things were still around, being used to ask the same dang questions I'd asked my own fortune teller when I was her age.

However, as an adult, I have a bit of a new perspective. I remember when the most pressing question in my life was whether a boy liked me or if I should ask him out to the valentine's dance. Instead, the questions I'd like to ask my origami fortune teller today would involve whether or not my family would survive without a brush with cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease and/or diabetes. Whether my kids would grow up happy and well adjusted. Whether they'd find good men to share theirs lives with. Have fulfilling careers. Just be happy. My questions would involve whether I'm making the right decisions so that these things could come true for them.

In short, my questions are too damn deep to be answered by the origami fortune teller. And it made me wish for a few days where my life was as simple as it used to be. I have to admit that I don't often miss my childhood. Don't get me wrong, it was great. But I enjoy being an adult with the ability to make my own decisions and live my own life. I am a control freak after all. But I do miss the simplicity and innocence of childhood.

So, what do you miss most about your childhood? Did you ever ask an origami fortune teller a question about your life? Did it come true? If you had one today, what would you ask it?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How full is your glass?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines optimism as having "hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favourable or hopeful view."

Most times, that ain't easy for a writer. But if you're going to succeed in this business, you have to be persistent and remain optimistic.

Theologians and philosophers have encouraged optimism for centuries. But a Harvard study several years ago showed a correlation between optimism and good health. They weren’t sure which came first – good health or optimism. But optimism appeared to lower blood pressure and reduce the incidence of heart disease.

So how does one go about seeing the glass half full instead of half empty?

1. Stop playing the martyr. Some people are pessimists because of family influence. Figure out why you feel the world is against you, dump those feelings and start looking for the silver lining in every cloud.

2. Even if you’ve had bad experiences in the past, that doesn’t mean your entire future is doomed. This attitude can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

3. If you don’t like your life, change it. Learn from past negative experience and use it to make better decisions. A lot of life includes taking risks and not all of them will have a happy ending. But some will, so why miss out on the good out of fear of the bad? Step out on faith and hope for the best.

4. Let the power of positive affirmations work in your life. If you have trouble thinking them, write them down and post them where you will see them – on your bathroom mirror, on your computer monitor, on the visor in your car, on the wall beside your desk at work. Some examples are “I can only control MY attitude” or “I choose to be positive.”

5. When you start to view the glass as half empty, remind yourself that life is short and the time you spend worrying takes time away from enjoying life. Pessimism is counter-productive because you are worrying about things that might never happen instead of working toward goals that can happen.

6. Balance your optimism with a healthy dose of pragmatism. Pollyanna’s “Glad Game” was great for the movies, but sticking your head in the sand and ignoring all the possibilities can set you up for failure too. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best. It’s a win-win attitude.

Need some tips for staying optimistic? Smile! It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, and when you smile, the world will smile back. Share your optimism with others. If someone is being negative, share a little optimism with them. Watch positive TV shows and listen to upbeat music. Who can listen to the theme song from “Rocky” and not want to conquer the world? Practice random acts of kindness. Count your blessings, no matter how small. Focusing on a blue, sun-shiny day helps take your mind off the negatives.

Are you a half-full or half-empty person? If you answer half-empty, I challenge you to practice some of the tips above for a month and see if you don’t see the glass differently.

P.S. The first photo is my first cat, Graycie, may she rest in peace. I love this photo of her and her optimistic attitude.

Now listen to a little Rocky music and go conquer the world!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good lessons from strange places

Some time ago, I wrote a post based on one of those “All I Need to Know I Learned in…” things. This one was about the ballet, and it had been sent to me from a friend. Now that I’m a bit further along my path, I realize there are some things – sadly, not in cute, quip form – I learned from ballet that really made a difference in how I approach things. The parallels between ballet and writing may not be obvious, but I’m glad I had these lessons before I started writing…

Frustration is a waste of energy. I’m not saying I have some zen-like calm that keeps me from getting frustrated. Everyone gets frustrated. But frustration really is just anger turned inward. Anger and frustration are not your friends. It takes energy and brainpower to be frustrated. If you are trying to accomplish something, the frustration only makes it harder to do, which also means you’re going to be doing it longer. When you know you’re not leaving the studio until you push through and manage to hit the most complicated sixteen counts of choreography you’ve ever come across, you realize the energy and brainpower you’re using to fume and be frustrated is better applied to just figuring out those damn sixteen counts. And when you’re working with a partner or a corps and you all have to hit those sixteen counts together, frustration will get you nowhere. At all. Whatever it is, it is. Being pissy and angry won’t fix it, so take a deep breath, let it go, and go again. The lesson – You may think your editor has set you on Mission Impossible, but they wouldn’t have told you to do it if they didn’t think a) you could, and b) that it will be worth it. Swallow your frustration, and get on with it.

Do. There is no Do Not. There is no Try. (Yoda was almost right.) Those sixteen counts aren’t going to be changed because you can’t hit it. You will hit it, because there’s no other option. You do what you need to do in order to hit it and make your Artistic Director happy. The lesson – same as above.

There’s a gap between “Good” and “Good Enough” Sometimes “good enough” is a phrase we use when we mean “it’s enough to get by on for now.” In ballet, you can be “good” but not “good enough.” If you’re not good enough to hit 32 fouettes on demand and on tempo, you will never dance the Black Swan pas de deux. Period. Thirty-one fouettes is good, but not good enough. Thirty-one fouettes keeps you in the corps. The lesson – there’s a standard you have to meet. Don’t expect the bar (barre?) to be lowered for you. There's no reason why you should think you can't hit it.

A rejection isn’t the end. I was cut from an audition before the music even started. First cuts were made on body type, I didn’t fit the type they were looking for. If I'd let that convince me I was fat, I'd have developed a brutal eating disorder. The lesson – You have to shake it off or it will destroy you.

Critique is not criticism. Critique points out your flaws, your weaknesses, and shows you where you can improve. As a student, not getting corrections and critiques in class is a bad thing. It means the teacher isn’t looking at you or doesn’t care if you advance. The lesson -- Critique is good. They're looking at you and want you to do better. Take the critique, apply it, and get better. It still hurts your feelings sometimes, but at least you know what you need to work on.

You will survive that horrible costume. I still have nightmares about my costume for Coppelia. I have never seen such a travesty in tulle. We’re talking so bad, that my friends would laugh every time they hooked me into it. I was ashamed to go on stage wearing it. (It’s one thing to picture the audience in their underwear, but they’re really seeing you in that hideous outfit.) But I put a smile on my face and acted like what I was wearing was the most beautiful tutu I’d ever had on. The audience didn’t care that I hated my tutu. They were there to see me dance. The lesson – If you have no control over the title or cover of your books, there’s no sense in getting upset over one you don’t like. It may not be as bad as you think, and it may look really good to the reading public. Marketing, like costume designers, usually know what they’re doing. And even if they’re having an off day, a good book can overcome a bad title or bad cover. It's the content that really matters.

Don’t look down. Your body normally goes in the direction of your eyes. If you look at the floor, you’ll be landing on it very soon. Find a spot to focus on, or else the turns will make you dizzy. Look up and out in front of you. Act proud, even if you don’t quite feel like it at the moment. Smile – even when you’ve just landed on your butt in front of 500 people. The lesson – Remember where you want to go and where you want to be and keep your sights on that.

If you worry you will fall, you will. You have to believe you can do this. If you’re worried you’re going to fall out of a turn, I guarantee you will. If you’ve done this choreography before, you can do it again. Worry and fear of falling shift your focus, and if you lose focus, you *will* be on your butt in front of 500 people. The lesson – don’t set yourself up for failure by worrying you will fail.

Go all out, all the time. Half-assed efforts get half-assed results. Half-assing it is also a good way to get hurt. Go all out or go home. Every class, every rehearsal, every performance may not be your best, but you should have given it everything you had in you. You owe it to yourself and everyone who is working with you. And you especially owe it to the people in the audience. The lesson – don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t fall back on excuses. Don't allow yourself to play the half-assed game. Show respect for yourself and your CP/editor/reader/spouse-who-supports-your-dream by always giving all you've got.

So, ballet may have twisted my perception of my body, messed up my feet and caused me to have irrational attractions to men in tights, but it gave me some strengths, too.

Have you ever looked back at an experience and realize it taught you a lot more than you thought? Even if it took years to make sense to you?


Monday, February 21, 2011

Small Steps to Successful Living: Internal Monologues

I’m finding myself at what I think is an important crossroads. With each small step I choose, I find resistance building. This may sound like a bad thing, but I’m not so sure it is.

A small setback appears? My internal monologue kicks in, “See, you knew this would never work” or “This is too hard, and if you can’t cut it for the small steps, you’ll never make huge strides.”

As Julia Cameron writes in the Artist’s Way, “As we gain strength, so will some of the attacks of self-doubt.”

The more I allow these attacks to continue, the less desire I have to pursue my goals. And why not? It’s just more chances for that internal voice to beat me up again (same goes for writing and the internal editor). You know the one – the voice that tells you you’ll never succeed, your writing isn’t polished enough, that you aren’t losing so you might as well eat that cookie…

The solution lies solely in our imaginations.

I’ve begun practicing one of Cameron’s strategies for fighting self-doubts. She calls these doubts ‘blurts’, and she instructs artists to counter each one with positive statements of truth. For example:

“A nap? Well aren’t you just lazy!”

“I work hard every day to support my family and deserve to rest.”

“Told you this would never work.”

“Each small step is working. My body feels more energetic when I exercise. Today simply didn’t work out.”

So many times we allow ourselves to be beat up by that internal drill sergeant, but we are hard-working mothers, wives, friends, employees, and volunteers.

Be gentle with yourself. We deserve it.

So tell me, how do you fight self-doubt and the internal editor? What is one of your most common blurts and a positive statement to counteract it?


I'm doing moderately well with my small steps goals. I'm currently on track in The Artist's Way, but not so on track with my exercise goals, so I'm renewing those goals for the rest of this month. How are your resolutions going?

Coming Soon!
Join us next Monday when guest author Rita Henuber visits the blog.

Friday, February 18, 2011

22 Down, 22 to Go

So today is day 22 of me working on a proposal at work. I got kidnapped from my day job at the end of January. If I'm one of the last people out the door (and its highly likely) I'll be here another 22 days. Proposals, while painful, are thankfully short. That's because there's only so much someone can handle of proposal life until they implode. Or gain 20 pounds. Or get divorced. Really, a mid-twenty something with no pets, kids or relationships is the perfect proposal person. If they work 15 hour days and weekends, no one misses them.

I, however, have pets and relationships, in addition to a million other things, so its been rough. There's nothing quite like having your entire routine thrown off to make you appreciate things. I'm a taurus and if you know much about astrology, I'm a homebody who really likes my routines and schedules. I can do anything as long as I do it repeatedly (except flossing, if you ask my dentist).

I had a pretty good thing going from the New Year. Got up early, made breakfast, packed lunches, went to the gym, worked, came home and cleaned... super productive and feeling pretty good. Then, the proposal hit and everything flew out the window. Yeah, I wasn't exactly Miss Fitness, but I tried to go twice a week, had yoga on Mondays and I met with my trainer on Wednesday. For sanity's sake, I've stopped going to all of it and pushed off my appointments so I wasn't constantly having to cancel on her if work ran late. Add to the fact that proposal life is like that of veal - kept in small booths, not allowed to move, and fed a steady stream of free junk - and you can probably slap the 10 pounds I've lost right back on my rear end. (Just in time for my friends to invite me on a Memorial Day cruise. Didn't know the beluga whale was native to the Carribbean, did you?)

My non-luxury luxuries have dwindled away. Doing laundry and grocery shopping is exciting. Cooking is a splurge. Spending time with friends is heaven. One weekend I got a Sunday off and was so excited, I bought a big screen tv for no real reason.

So I'm halfway through my journey and ready to crawl under my desk. I guess something like this helps you appreciate the little things. Like the ability to sit on the couch and watch five episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race back to back. Read a book. Go to the bathroom without multitasking with your BlackBerry.

Ever had your routine interrupted? What were the kinds of things you missed (and then appreciated) when life got back to normal?

*going back to my cage*

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Am I Really Doing That?

I've recently started doing something I never, ever thought I'd be doing. But the economy sucks, the price of everything is going up and my girls have suddenly become ravenous eating pits.

For those of you that know me, you might say I'm a bit...obsessive. And I mean that in the best way possible. When I get involved with something I jump in with both feet. My enthusiasm might not last very long, but while I'm in the middle of it, I'm 110%.

So, what have I started doing? Couponing. I mean I even have the binder. Yep, the one where I've got all my little pieces of paper categorized by aisle and department in pretty plastic sheets. I used to sneer at the women I passed in the grocery store with their binders open, staring at the little tags on the shelf. My MIL used to give me coupons for diapers and wipes when the girls were little...I threw them away. I was one of those people who couldn't be bothered. I have enough to do in my life and couponing was just more time I didn't have.

However, I've decided I was wrong. Last night I spent $98 and saved $92 with coupons and sales. I bought what we needed, what we actually use. I refuse to purchase something simply because it's on sale. I will not be one of those people who spent $4.00 for a week of groceries but they're things no one will actually eat.

So, yeah, I've become one of those people. I now proudly tool around the grocery store with my binder open, flipping pages to see if I have a coupon for that. My pantry is busting at the seams. I had to promise Zilla I wouldn't buy another box of cereal for a couple weeks. But, when you can get the one that the girls love for $.50 kinda gotta stock up.

So, anyone else coupon? It might be interesting to see just how long my obsession lasts. It does take me at least an hour to prepare to shop...although, that might not be a bad thing. I used to come home with tons of junk that I really didn't need. Now, at least when I come home with junk it's the junk that was on sale.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Bucket List

Last Thursday morning, I sat poised at the computer, waiting for concert tickets to go on sale. I wanted to put in my order as quickly as possible, hoping for a decent seat. And why did I do this?

Because it's a James Taylor concert. I've loved JT's music since a friend introduced me to his music waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1971. Back in my college days, I had all his albums and knew every word to every song. The albums are long gone but I have his greatest hits on my iPod and I need to brush up on my Fire and Rain lyrics before May 24. Attending this concert has been forty years in the making.

JT grew up in North Carolina, my home state, where his father was Dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Every trip back to North Carolina begins with JT's song "Carolina in My Mind" playing in the CD player.

So why the sudden urge to go to a James Taylor concert? Maybe it's a Bucket List thing, though I've been hesitant to make an official bucket list because I don't want to think about kicking the bucket. But I suppose if I had to make a list, it would include the following in addition to seeing James Taylor in concert.

~ An "adventure trip" all by myself just to prove I can do it. I'm thinking maybe Sedona, Arizona where I can immerse myself in red rocks and vortices and become one with nature.

~ Going back to Europe to re-visit where I lived during the late 70's and seeing some things I didn't get to see then.

~ Seeing Barbra Streisand in concert (though I doubt this even stands a chance since she rarely performs now and given what the JT ticket cost, I doubt I could bankroll a Streisand ticket).

~ See Barry Manilow in concert. Laugh if you will, but can you hear Copacabana without singing along or at least tapping your foot?

~ Ziplining. This was going to happen last fall but circumstances got in the way. I'm certain it'll happen. I do not, however, have any desire to sky dive or go bungee jumping.

~ Learn to dance the salsa. Maybe the samba, mambo and meringue too.

~ Swim with the dolphins. Ever since watching Flipper as a kid, I've thought this was just the coolest thing.

~ Visit the 18 states I haven't been to: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Dakota, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio (I thought I'd been to Ohio until I learned the Cincinatti airport is actually in Kentucky), Rhode Island, Washington, Idaho and Utah.

I could think of more if I wanted. But in researching bucket list ideas, I realized I'd done a lot of things on those lists like riding a camel at the Pyramids in Egypt, seen the Mona Lisa, seen the Acropolis, prayed at the western wall in Jerusalem and saw where Jesus was born in Bethlehem, skiied the Alps, seen a Broadway play, visited the Grand Canyon, watched the Space Shuttle launch live, stared in awe at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and more.

Do you have a bucket list? Tell us about it.

And here's another JT song. I always imagine he's singing it to only me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Tuesday...

It was a beautiful sunny day in Alabama Monday -- highs around 65 and blue skies. Amazing considering we had snow on the ground Saturday. It's supposed to be another lovely day today.

Ahh, spring.

Now it's only February, so I know Mother Nature is just teasing me with the weather, and I'm sure we have some bitterly cold snaps still ahead. But it was nice to take a book outside onto the porch and read for a while today.

The weather has been wild, though. Thursday was the 5th time this winter we've had snow on the ground -- and not just dustings of snow, actual snow. So far, AC has missed six days of school due to snow. I think we're now eating into Spring Break to try to make up the days.

Maven Linda said something about La Nina being the cause of this wild weather. Well, I now hate La Nina. This doesn't bode well for what awaits us before Spring officially springs.

But it did seem rather like a sign. On Thursday -- when school was canceled for snow -- I sent the newest book off to Lovely Editor, then spent the next couple of days digging out and catching up. Now my desk is clean, my to-do list is manageable, and with the arrival of pretty weather, it seems like a fine time to get my next hero and heroine on the path to their HEA.

So while this may be just a tease, it was much needed. All that cold and snow had my head foggy and now I'm feeling a bit more like myself. I just needed a little warmth and sunshine to get me moving again.

the lovely sunny Monday brought with it another fabulous surprise to lift my spirits. BOARDROOM RIVALS, BEDROOM FIREWORKS! received a Reviewers' Choice Award from CataRomance. I'm just tickled to death!

So what's making you happy today?


Hey, CatsLady -- While I do love a practical gift, Smarty Pants is right: Can opener for Valentine's Day = Free Book Friday winner. Email her with a shipping address!

Monday, February 14, 2011

February's Best of the Bookshelf


This month we decided to introduce a new feature on the blog: The Best of the Bookshelf. Once a month we’ll talk about some of our favorite reads, either current or from our keeper shelves. As writers and readers, we love talking books, and we’d love the opportunity to find out what you are reading and enjoying. And what better day to kick it off except Valentine's Day!!! I, for one, plan to immerse myself in the romance of the day.

For our inaugural Best of the Bookshelf:

Problem Child:

WHEN HE WAS BAD… by Anne Oliver


So maybe I’m cheating reading within my line, but I’ve been waiting on this book to come out in the US for a while now. I’m a sucker for cocky charmers like Matt and not at all ashamed to admit it. Anne has a wonderful voice that’s easy to lose yourself in, and the book is just great fun all the way through.


MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins


If you’re been involved with the Hunger Games series then this is a book you were desperately waiting for. The series didn’t end the way I expected, but it was definitely worth the read!

Smarty Pants:



Once again Robert Langdon has found himself tangled in mystery and danger, this time in Washington, DC. Some of the science is making my head hurt, but I'm excited to learn more about the intriguing past of our forefathers, the Free Masons and what's hidden in plain sight all around us.

Playground Monitor:

ON WRITING: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.


ON WRITING isn’t just Stephen King’s take on writing. It’s also a collection of anecdotes about his life and what led him to write. I usually cringe in fear over his books but this one had caused me to actually laugh out loud in spots.


TO CRAVE A BLOOD MOON by Sharie Kohler


I’ve recently read To Crave a Blood Moon, a book I picked up somewhere at RWA Nationals this past July. I found out it was the 3rd in the series, and after reading it, went back to find the previous ones. Really strong paranormal romance series, featuring lycans.

This particular book really spoke to me, because the characters were placed in an untenable situation with no way out. The hero is a starved lycan, being tortured by his enemy by locking him up with a human at the full moon. The villain fully expects the hero to kill the heroine, but the hero manages to free them (against his lycan instincts to eat her), and they run for their lives. Hot hero. A heroine I can relate to – whose own psychic powers make her a match for her hero.

If paranormal romance is your thing, you’ll love this author’s books! I can't wait to find the ones that come next...

Have you ever had a book sitting in your To Be Read pile for forever, then when you pull it out to read it, you wonder, “Why didn’t I get to this sooner? Its awesome!”? Tell us all about it!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Free Book Friday - Valentine Edition

It's that oh-so-romantic time of year where people who slouch in their relationships the rest of the time get off their rears and overpay for flowers and candy as though that makes up for 364 days of neglect. Yes, it's almost Valentine's Day. Not that you could miss it with the aisles of red and pink junk in all the stores. Maybe I'm just a Valentine cynic here, but do any of us over the age of 15 want a stuffed gorilla that says "I'm going APE over you?" Or a giant box of candy, that while tasty, dooms us to at least a 2lb weight gain that will be nothing compared to how badly we'll beat ourselves up for eating it all?

I guess I'm a purist who thinks people should value their relationships all year and not just when the companies that sell things tell them to. Although I'm sure some of us would get nothing, ever, if it wasn't for the holiday to urge them into action, albeit reluctantly. So I'm giving away a Harlequin Showcase 2 in 1 with heroes that (once the heroine drives them to their knees) show their women just how much they care all year.

Sin City Wedding by Katherine Garbera

Three years ago Jake Danforth spent a steamy, sheet-twisting night with Larissa Nielssen. He'd never forgotten her—even though Larissa had left him before the morning light. And he'd never known the consequences of their desire… Larissa had kept her son's birth a secret all this time. But now she had to tell Jake the truth before someone else did. She was prepared for Jake's shock and anger. She was even prepared for the desire flooding her veins each time he touched her. She was not prepared for the quickie Vegas wedding that followed!

The Forbidden Princess by Day Leclaire

Minutes before walking down the aisle, Princess Alyssa Sutherland—possible heir to the Verdonian throne—vanished into thin air. Rumor had it that the lady in question wasn't marrying for love. Did Her Highness catch a case of cold feet? Perhaps a certain oh-so-uninvited guest crashed the party. Did the dangerously sexy rebel kidnap the princess for political gain? Or had he simply swept the royal beauty off her feet?

What's been your best (or worst) Valentine's Day present?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Day

Yep, I'm several days early. It's been that kind of week. Between a sick child, snow on the ground, ice covered roads, and yet another day off from school for my kids, nothing has gone right this week. Valentine's Day has crept up on me. Well, sort of. I mean, I've been perfectly aware that it was coming. Heck, I've even bought a couple bags of cute little chocolate hearts because I couldn't help myself. My problem is that I'm not ready for it. And who put it on a Monday anyway? Worst day of the week!

So, Zilla is wonderful at a lot of things. Valentine's Day is not one of them. When I was younger I'd pout about the fact that I didn't get flowers or candy or whatever. But I refused to tell him that I wanted those things. Childish? Probably. But, I wanted the sentiment to be from him. For him to realize that I needed that gesture. Somehow it lost it's meaning if I had to TELL him how to show me he cared.

However, lately I've realized that isn't exactly fair. He isn't a mind reader. And, frankly, isn't so hot with the BRGs (big romantic gestures). He does a ton of other things instead that show he cares about me and our kids. Things that are a hell of a lot more practical than a box of chocolates that my hips really don't need. These are the really important things, and I'm not so blind that I don't notice it. But, is it asking so much that once a year I get a BRG?

This year I told him that it would mean a lot to me if he put some effort into Valentine's Day. I even handed him a coupon for $10 off of a flower delivery. I'm a romantic at heart and I'd really like that gesture from my husband, even if most of my brain realizes it shouldn't be that important.

My problem? After all the fuss I've made over it this year, I have no idea what to get him. I've come to the conclusion that Valentine's Day is for women. End of story. He doesn't want flowers. He doesn't eat chocolate. He really doesn't want a stuffed animal because our kids are already drowning in them. One year I balloon wrapped a six pack of beer because frankly it was really the only thing he wanted. But after 16 years together I'm apparently out of cute Valentine's ideas.

So, what are you getting your significant other for Valentine's Day? I'm not above borrowing a brilliant idea. I could use all the help I could get.


P.S. The winner from yesterday's blog is Lois Sloan! Please contact Playground Monitor to claim your prize.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Friends With Benefits

Friend: –noun
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?

Of course, Facebook has turned the word into a verb, but I want to talk about the nouns. The people who can turn a crappy day into a good one with an email or a phone call or a spur or the moment invitation to lunch.

A good friend will listen to you whine (and then kick you in the butt when you've whined enough and help you fix the problem), loan you clothes, shoes, jewelry, whatever you need, help you pack and move, water your plants and pick up your mail when you're gone, read your latest masterpiece and be honest and drive you to the auto shop when you car's in for repair. A friend will also get up at 5 AM to take you to day surgery and then bring you back home and watch you drool in your drug-induced sleep. And they won't post photos on Facebook!

TV is full of famous pairs of friends -- Andy Taylor and Barney Fife, Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Starsky and Hutch, Mulder and Scully, Bert and Ernie. The movies have them too -- Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Bambi and Thumper, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Famous pairs appear elsewhere too -- Barbie and Ken, Barnes & Noble, Abercrombie and Fitch, Dolce and Gabbana, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, gin and tonic.

But there's more to friendship than borrowed jewelry and mail call. There's a big benefit from friends. "Feeling cared for and supported within a social network is particularly important for women in fostering self-care," says Todd Jackson, PhD, author of a 2006 study linking high levels of social support and community involvement with healthier diet, exercise and sleep habits, among other positive effects. A good friend will motivate you, support you and hold you accountable. They'll celebrate the most joyous of days with you and get you through the darkest times of your life.

I count the Playfriends among my dearest of friends. We've traveled together, roomed together, dealt with cut fingers and blown knees, helped each other move, advised about automobiles, insurance companies, plumbers and various other home repair situations. We survived the meth lab raid in the motel room next to ours, introduced Instigator to Krispy Kreme doughnuts (on the same trip as the meth lab raid), plotted books and accepted each other's quirks.

Oddly enough, my divorce has led me to a new group of great friends. We're all members of the Sisterhood of Divorcees and we've kept each other sane. These new sisters have been there to listen to me cry, they came to court with me so I'd have a friendly face in the courtroom and they've told me it's okay to be angry. Never once have they patted me on the knee and said "Just get over it," because they all understand you have to work through the pain, not skirt around it.

A world without friends would be a bleak world indeed, and I consider myself beyond blessed to have so many great friends.

Got friends? Tell me about them and one commenter will win a package of conference goodies and books from my stash.

And now my favorite "friend" song.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Free Books! Prizes!

The RIVA launch is in full swing, folks seem to be loving the new covers, and the buzz is buzzing.

Now, these are the same books from the same authors you already love in the Modern Heat/Presents Extra and Romance lines, and the RIVA titles will come out in the US in their usual lines (with different titles and covers, but that's marketing for ya!).

Any time Harlequin/Mills & Boon launches a new line, the authors bite their nails in the hope the readers will follow the authors to their new home *and* that we'll attract new readers along the way. But it also means free books and great prizes as M&B spreads the word.

M&B just launched a new site,, that gives readers the chance to take RIVA on a date to see how you click with the new line. There are also cash and spa prizes up for grabs! Now, I'm not sure if US readers will be able to enter the prize giveaways, but they can download the free ebook on the site! (I checked.)

UK readers can also get a free RIVA book from The Sun on February 18th. And folks in the London area need to check out our Pop-Up Shop in Selfridges before it closes after Valentine's Day. The awesome Heidi Rice is giving writing workshops there this week; check out her blog for details.

And, I hope you all will help us spread the word about these fab books -- both in the UK and US (and worldwide! We authors are an emotionally needy bunch.).

So now I'll go into Blatant Self Promotion Mode and put up *my* lovely RIVA cover:

And remind you it will be out in the US in March looking like this:

Go. Get free books! Win prizes!


Monday, February 07, 2011

MOANday: Paul Marron

Today’s hottie isn’t someone I’m familiar with, but I looked him up after hearing someone else expound on his hotness. :) He’s a model/actor and has apparently done romance covers. I love the broodiness of his look.





Nice abs don’t hurt either. :)





Friday, February 04, 2011

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Kid

Recently, the Playfriends had a discussion about naps and how you know one of your kids is really sick when they'll take a nap without complaining. Which made me think... I'd kill for a nap. I'd gladly buy one of those mats to leave at work if they'd let me take a 20 minute nap every day. I don't think kids realize just how good they really have it.

When I was in 11th grade, we had to do this self-awareness poetry all year. It was painful, really, but one of the poems I wrote (which I won't share) was about how I wished I were five again. I mean, really, that's a prime age. Six, tops. By that point, your parents start pushing chores on you and school starts tackling real subjects like reading and math. Boo. I want to be five.

When You're Five...

- You can go to bed at 7PM on a Friday night without ridicule from your friends.
- The biggest stress of your day is remembering a triangle has 3 sides and that red and blue make purple.
- Your diet can consist of nothing but chicken nuggets, french fries, chocolate milk, cheeseburgers and Pop Tarts and your doctor won't get onto you about it or your high cholesterol levels.
- If you put on some extra weight, everyone will just say you're about to hit a growth spurt - and they're right.
- Boys have cooties and for the most part, they leave you alone.
- People cook for you and do your laundry.
- Taxes and the IRS are nothing but hard to spell.
- If you're sad, candy or a trip to the park is a cure-all.
- Your biggest responsibilities include making your bed (half @ss) and remembering to change your underwear.
- People drive you around everywhere and you can just sit in the backseat and color.
- You never go over on the wireless minutes of your pink, plastic Barbie phone.
- Magic and all the stories your parents tell you are still real.
- "Hormones" are just the word your mom whispers when she talks about your older sister flipping out over something dumb.
- There is a world outside your neighborhood, but you don't know about it or any of the horrible things that might happen there.

That's just a start on why I want to be five again. What about you? If you could be any age, what would it be and why?


Thursday, February 03, 2011

To Tempt a Sheikh

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Olivia Gates is classy. She's one of the most brilliant, friendly, generous women I've had the great fortune to meet. Because she lives in Egypt I don't often get the chance to see her, but whenever I do she's always treated me like a wonderful friend.

Which is one reason that I want to take today to give something back to her. I'm sure you're all aware of the unrest currently taking place in Egypt. Olivia has a Desire out this month - To Tempt a Sheikh - which she can't promote because she can't get access to the Internet.

So I'd like to do it for her. I haven't had the pleasure of reading the book yet, but I fully intend to read it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. I've read some of her other books and they're always wonderful!

To Tempt a Sheikh by Olivia Gates

He rescued hostage Talia Burke from his royal family's rival tribe and swept her into his strong embrace. But Prince Harres Aal Shalaan soon discovered there was more to the brave beauty than he knew. Talia held information vital to protecting his beloved kingdom…and she had every reason not to trust him.

Marooned together at a desert oasis, Talia couldn't resist Harres. Yet even as his sizzling seduction entranced her, his loyalty to his family and country would always make them enemies. Falling for the sheikh would be her heart's greatest mistake…but she feared it was already too late….

To read a first chapter and visit Olivia's webpage, click here


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Take *THAT* South Beach!

I have been battling an extra 15 to 20 pounds for the past two years. I've tried the South Beach diet (aside from being expensive, I have enough health issues without taking on the "South Beach Flu" that comes with carb withdrawal), portion control (I just eat small portions of too many foods) and the 11-Day Diet that mixes foods up in an effort to speed up your metabolism (all fruit day is okay, but all veggie day sucks).

I like food. Period. I eat well overall. That's a big rationalizing statement, I know. I have cookies in my pantry and frozen yogurt in my freezer. I also have lots of lean meat and fresh fruits and veggies.

One reason for my battle of the bulge is stress. My gastroenterologist told me about something called cortisol. It's called the stress hormone. It can do good things, like mimic hydrocortisone and help reduce inflammation.

It also causes you -- or more specifically, ME -- to gain wait around the middle. The doctor as much as told me that until my stress levels drop, I can eat a proper diet and exercise and I'm still going to have trouble losing this spare tire.

So I've concentrated on those lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies and limited amounts of complex carbohydrates (except for those cookies and frozen yogurt, but a gal's entitled to SOME fun, isn't she?).

Now I read online that certain carbs can actually help you lose weight. OH HAPPY DAY!

I'm going to quote the article in full and to give credit where credit is due, the original article can be found here.

Eating a diet packed with the right kind of carbs is the little-known secret to getting and staying slim for life.

When we talk about the right kind of carbs, we mean Resistant Starch. Hundreds of studies conducted at respected universities and research centers have shown Resistant Starch—such as grains, beans, and legumes—helps you eat less, burn more calories, feel more energized and less stressed, and lower cholesterol.

Sound too good to be true? Here are eight evidence-based reasons you must get carbs back in your life if you are ever to achieve that coveted sleek, slim look.

Eating carbs makes you thin for lifeA recent multi-center study found that the slimmest people also ate the most carbs, and the chubbiest ate the least. The researchers concluded that your odds of getting and staying slim are best when carbs make up to 64% of your total daily caloric intake, or 361 grams.

That's the equivalent of several stuffed baked potatoes (a food we bet you've been afraid to eat for decades).

Most low-carb diets limit you to fewer than 30% of total calories from carbs and sometimes contain as few as 30 grams of carbohydrates a day.

Carbs fill you upMany carb-filled foods act as powerful appetite suppressants. They're even more filling than protein or fat. These special carbs fill you up because they are digested more slowly than other types of foods, triggering a sensation of fullness in both your brain and your belly.

Research done at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that consuming Resistant Starch in one meal caused study participants to consume 10% fewer calories (roughly 150 to 200 calories for the average woman) during the next day, because they felt less hungry.

Carbs curb your hungerAccording to researchers, when dieters are taken off a low-carb diet and shifted them to an approach that includes generous amounts of fiber and Resistant Starch foods, something wonderful happens: Within two days, the dieters' cravings go away.

The fiber and Resistant Starch fills them up and satisfies them while allowing them to eat the foods they crave. These good-news carbs also raise levels of satiety hormones that tell the brain to flip a switch that stifles hunger and turns up metabolism.

Carbs control blood sugar and diabetesThe right mix of carbs is the best way to control blood sugar and keep diabetes at bay. In one study at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Center at the USDA, participants who consumed a diet rich in high Resistant Starch foods were able to lower their post-meal blood sugar and insulin response by up to 38%.

Eat the carbs you want, but you need to combine them so that they don't cause a spike in your blood sugar. Instead of eating white rice, switch to brown and combine it with beans, corn, or other high Resistant Starch foods that keep your blood sugar more balanced than low-carb diets.

Carbs speed up metabolismCarbs high in Resistant Starch speed up your metabolism and your body's other natural fat burners. As Resistant Starch moves though your digestive system, it releases fatty acids that encourage fat burning, especially in your belly.

These fatty acids help preserve muscle mass—and that stokes your metabolism, helping you lose weight faster. Researchers set out to fatten up two groups of rats, feeding one group food that was low in Resistant Starch.

A second group was fed Resistant Starch-packed food. The rats fed the low Resistant Starch chow gained fat while losing muscle mass. Rats that ate the high Resistant Starch meals preserved their muscle mass, keeping their metabolism moving.

Carbs blast belly fatCarbs help you lose your belly fat faster than other foods, even when the same number of calories are consumed.

When scientists fed rats a diet rich in Resistant Starch, it increased the activity of fat-burning enzymes and decreased the activity of fat-storing enzymes. This means that the belly-fat cells were less likely to soak up and store calories as fat.

Carbs keep you satisfiedCarbs keep you satisfied longer than other foods. Here's why: Your brain acts like a computerized fuel gauge that directs you to fill up whenever it notices that its gas tank (stomach) is empty

Foods high in Resistant Starch flip on every single fullness trigger in the body. They release fullness hormones in the intestine and make your cells more sensitive to insulin.

By increasing your consumption of filling foods and releasing satiety hormones, you'll minimize your hunger and cravings.

Carbs make you feel good about you!"Dieters feel so empowered once they lose weight on carbs. For the first time, they are able to lose weight by eating in a balanced manner, without cutting out entire food groups," says Sari Greaves, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

And what are these resistant starches they talk about? Here's a list:

Legumes such as black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, edamame, great northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, split peas and white beans.

Whole, intact grains such as pearl barley, bulgar wheat and long grain brown rice.

Bananas that are slightly green.

Yams & Potatoes best served cooled after cooking.

I LIKE most of these foods.

I think I'll hit the grocery store and get me some green-ish bananas! And for supper I can have lentils and brown rice.

Are YOU as excited about this as I am???????

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

And it better not be fake blood, either....

This blog may sound like a whine, but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that I’m at the end of my rope, and the knot I’ve tied doesn’t feel real sturdy.

I’m in what I call “Blood and Fire Mode.” That pretty much means that unless something is actively on fire or there’s massive amounts of blood, I really can’t help you. My To Do list has reached critical mass, my calendar causes me to hyperventilate, and I can’t even face my inbox. I can’t make a list because it will only depress me – instead of getting a kick out of breaking down the task into things I can scratch off once I accomplish them, I’m left wondering where to start and is it even possible to break this down into organized steps?

This is a different feeling than that one I get when it’s three days before I leave for conference and there’s so! Much! To! Do! This is a feeling of dread that settles in my stomach. I’ve learned to recognize it over the last thirty-something years. I know myself. A meltdown is approaching.

I know it’s coming because I don’t want to check my email. Watching twenty messages download onto my computer doesn’t give me a thrill. I don’t really care what’s there, don’t want to face it, and I go surf blogs instead. Then, two hours later, I’m still just as far behind only now I feel really guilty for not using that time more productively. Then some fresh hell does ping into my inbox, and all I can do is roll my eyes before I go off to read blogs that make fun of Twilight.

If I try to make progress on the To Do list, there’s always something throwing a monkey wrench into the plans: people not returning my calls, a piece of paperwork that must be done before we can move to the next step – only that piece of paperwork is in Nebraska, and the only person who can fax it to me can’t find it, and even if she could, the person who needs to sign it is out on vacation until Thursday. Forward progress comes to a screeching halt, and the ripple effect screws everything else.

Meanwhile, the To Do list grows longer and more emails ping into my in box. Sigh.

Unfortunately, it’s not something I can rally the Playfriends around to get through. I can’t call in support troops. They’re already in place, holding the hill and drawing enemy fire while I muddle through. Someone told me it sounded like I was on the edge of Depression, so I asked Counselor Shelley about it. Not only did she not offer me drugs (or sympathy, for that matter; free BFF counseling lacks nice “So-how- does-that-make-you-feel?” statements), she found no signs of depression. Overwhelmed? Maybe. Stressed? Probably. Depressed? No.

No way out but through, so get moving, kiddo. (Remind me to find a more sympathetic counselor. I’d add it to my To Do list, but…)

So Blood and Fire Mode is really a self-protection mode. In a way, it’s good, because it allows me to focus on what I *need* to be doing, instead of being talked into making eight dozen cookies for the PTA bake sale. The PTA is neither on fire nor bleeding, so they don’t get a place on my to-do list at the moment. (And even if they were on fire or bleeding, the PTA is full of adults who know how to call 911, operate a fire extinguisher, and if necessary, tie a tourniquet. ) I get to prioritize my list without feeling guilty. I can ruthlessly decide that No, I don’t have the time (or the energy or the inclination) to drop everything and work on someone else’s problem. My plate is full, thankyouverymuch. Call me next month.

So, if you’re on fire or bleeding (Or under the age of ten and about to vomit), then make sure the subject line in your email clearly states that.

Does this make me sound like a raving, selfish bitch? Or have you gone into Blood and Fire Mode yourself?