Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's summertime and the mom is guilty...

Today is the last day of school. AC is quite excited, but me… not so much.

Oh, I’m glad for the break from the after school activities, the homework hustle, the pulling-a-grumpy-child-out-of-bed mornings, and the unscheduled trips to the school because AC forgot her lunchbox.

But I have a book that needs to be written (thank you Lovely Ed for the extension) and child-at-home is not good for my process. It’s not that she’s disturbing me (which she does sometimes. She likes to be fed on a regular basis), it’s the guilt I feel.

When she’s home, I feel like we should be doing things together. I want to spend time with my kid even though I know she’s perfectly happy to rewatch Harry Potter movies in her PJs on the couch all day and would rather do that most of the time. It doesn’t make me feel less bad about l letting her do that so I can work, though. Even though the work brings in money that buys the Harry Potter DVDs and the PJs.

Ah, Mom Guilt. It’s so much fun. A dual-edged, dammed-if-you-do, dammed-if-you-don’t reason to feel guilty for just about anything.

So I’m coming to a bit of an agreement with myself – and AC. A couple of hours in the morning for me to work and her to veg in front of the TV or her computer. Then, we’ll spend time together at the pool or something. Paint our nails, braid our hair, that kind of thing.

And I will then suffer Writer’s Guilt – that guilt that nags at you when you could be writing and aren’t (and gets worse the closer you get to deadline).

So, again, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

There are two words that will save me though… Sleep-Away Camp. Five whole days when I’ll have the house all to myself while DG is at work (strangely, I have no Wife Guilt ignoring him when he’s home and I need to work. And he can feed himself. And me, too.).

Or should I feel guilty for sending her to camp… sigh.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Creative Outlets

My quest to find balance between my day job, writing, and family life has led me to say “no” quite often this year. “No, I can’t take off work to go on that field trip.” “No, I can’t do all the chores by myself.” “No, I don’t have time to cook tonight.” I've even set aside some much beloved activities in order to pursue my writing, like keeping my scrapbooks up-to-date.

But I’ve found there are some things I don’t want to give up yet. One of these is basket making.

No, I don’t mean literally. I mean decoratively. For years I’ve been in charge of assembling the raffle baskets for our local RWA chapter’s annual Readers’ Luncheon. I also assemble some for authors who provide baskets as door prizes.

I admit, I’m addicted to the creative process of finding the perfect goodies and putting them together into something eye-catching and appealing to our romance readers. This is the “Mental Health” basket I put together for Problem Child this year:


She’s a big “hot tea” fan, so I included a sturdy teacup and tea, salt candle, bath stuff, gel eye mask, and a book with 1001 ways to relax. For Instigator, I searched far and wide for “peach” themed items, because her newest book was set on a peach farm. And while I love the end result, I’ve asked her that we never do this particular one again. I never realized how hard it was to find peach stuff anymore!


I found peach tea, peach antibacterial hand soap, a peach sachet, a peach candle (that I had to search 5 stores to find) and peach preserves with cornbread crackers (this is the south, after all). Playground Monitor found me some sparkling peach juice at World Market in Birmingham.

I’ve also assembled the “official” Published Author basket for our chapter, which features books from all our published authors (23 books in all). This year’s theme is “summer fun” so it contained lantern candle holders, a beach towel, after sun gel, sunglasses, and freezable drink mixes, among other things.


So much fun, but I’ll admit that it bites into my spare time (not that I have spare time anyway). And sometimes I feel guilty for enjoying this creative outlet when I feel like I should be channeling that energy into my writing.

So tell me, what do you say “no” to in the name of balance? What is one thing you simply can’t give up?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

May/June Contest

Don't forget to check out the latest contest!!! Enter for your chance to win a Rose-Themed prize pack filled with lovely historical romances.

Instructions can be found here:


I'm looking forward to your entry!!!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Blockbusters

This weekend is Memorial Day, which kicks off the official Summer Blockbuster movie season, although several big films like Thor and Pirates of the Carribbean 4 are already out. A couple weekends ago, I went to see Bridesmaids with Angel and PM. The advertisements for summer films made me realize I have no real clue what's coming out. So I did a little research and thought I'd share what I found.

Seems like a summer of sequels. Thor & Captain America are both follows on to Iron Man and precursors to The Avengers coming out next summer. Pirates 4, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Hangover 2, Harry Potter 7.2, X-Men First Class, Cars 2, Transformers 3... They're even doing a prequel to Planet of the Apes. Seems like we might need some fresh ideas in Hollywood. But here's the five that caught my eye and just might catch my ticket revenue.

#1. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part II (Release July 15th)

School is out for good; the time for preparation is over. Harry Potter and his steadfast friends Ron and Hermione have reached the end of their journey, and all roads lead to a confrontation between Harry and that reptilian cheater of death, Lord Voldemort. The final installment begins with a journey back to Hogwarts to locate the last pieces of Voldemort's soul, and quickly escalates into a careening, non-stop, action-packed, headlong rush toward destiny.

I know I will see this movie, but there's a part of me that doesn't want to. I haven't even watched part 1, but I will before I go to the theater. I don't want the magic to end, but I also don't want some of my favorite characters to die. Unfortunately, me not going won't change that.

#2. Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (Released May 20)

Captain Jack Sparrow finds himself thrown for a loop when he runs into Angelica, a mysterious woman from his past. Before he can sort out her motives, she outmaneuvers him and forces him to accompany her on an expedition to find the Fountain of Youth. The ship that will take them is none other than the "Queen Anne's Revenge," captained by the most infamous of pirates: Blackbeard. The crew will encounter dangers both from within and without as they sail the high seas in search of immortality.

I love me some Captain Jack. I'll miss the Elizabeth Swann / Will Turner storyline, but let's be honest... I watch it for Jack. And Geoffrey Rush is great, too.

#3. X-Men First Class (Release June 3rd)

Long before Charles Xavier is known as "Professor X," he's just a troubled young man who can read minds. His best friend Eric understands what it means to be a mutant and an outsider. Together, Charles and Eric try to organize fellow mutants and foil the plans of the Hellfire Club, an elite society bent on dominating the world. But the two young men's different worldviews drive them farther and farther apart, pushing them toward their respective destinies as archenemies Professor X and Magneto.

Little known fact: I have always been a fan of X-Men. Way before the movies came out, I collected the trading cards and watched the cartoons that came on Saturday mornings. I've enjoyed the other X-Men movies, they were well done, and I'm looking forward to more mutant excitement. If nothing else, I've always found it to be an interesting dialogue about civil rights. No really, it was written in the sixties as a metaphor for civil rights struggles. Deep for a comic book, eh?

#4. Cowboys Vs. Aliens (Release July 29th)

Picture a gritty, bleak Arizona town named Absolution, in 1870. An unwelcome stranger with a mysterious past wanders into a saloon, and immediately sparks a rivalry with the hard-bitten Colonel who runs the town. Then... spaceships attack. Yes, you heard right. This stranger, Jake Lonergan, has no memory of his past, but he possesses a weapon which is the town's only hope against these demons from the sky who seem intent on wiping out humanity.

I know. But it has Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. It can't be all bad. Seriously, how can you see that title and not want to know what the heck is going on.

#5. Bad Teacher (Release June 24th)

If you think you've had a bad teacher, you've never had Elizabeth Halsey. Foul-mouthed, drunk, and disorderly, she skates through her day job and waits for her sugar daddy to pop the question. When he dumps her instead, Elizabeth decides to save up for some "enhancements" to attract the eye of a new rich substitute. To get the dough she needs, she is forced to turn her class around so that she can earn a hefty bonus. The trouble is, her goody-two-shoes rival is competing hard for the bonus and for the boy!

The preview sold me on this one. It looks hysterical. Crude, but funny. Definitely a departure from a summer filled with super 3D alien effects.

What are you excited to see at the theater this summer?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Best of the Bookshelf - May Edtion

It's our favorite time on the Playground - story time! Today we get to talk about the great books that we're reading and we'd love to hear what books you've enjoyed. Do you have any beach reads you're dying to dig into? How about an upcoming releases you're chomping at the bit for?


I have to say that when May 3rd rolled around and I could download the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel I was in heaven. Charlaine Harris is awesome and my children and husband just had to put up with being ignored for a few days. If you love Sookie, you're going to enjoy Dead Reckoning, the 11th volume in the Southern Vampire Series.

Problem Child

PC is returning to the comfort of her keeper shelf with Bertice Small's This Heart of Mine.
Skye O’Malley was the first romance I ever read, and this story of Skye’s youngest daughter, Velvet, introduced me to the idea of a “family saga.” Velvet’s story is like comfort food and a visit with old friends. Plus, it is everything those 80s historicals should be – including a ripped bodice or two. From London to Scotland to India and France, Velvet’s story is big, sweeping, sensual and fabulous. Alex and Akbar are both wonderful heroes, and reading it brought back memories of high school and good times. Just what I needed right now.


I’ve been desperate to read the latest installment of JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series ever since Payne appeared in the last book. Lover Unleashed follows Payne, twin sister of Vishous, who was imprisoned for eons by their mother, the Scribe Virgin. Her freedom comes with a high price: a devastating injury that offers its own form of imprisonment. Dr. Manuel Manello is forced by the Brotherhood to utilize his spectacular medical skills to save her. But one look upon his new patient brings more feelings and complications to his life than he ever imagined possible. So good! I read the entire thing within 24 hours.

Playground Monitor

PM is paying tribute to our own Maven by reading Beverly Barton's Dead by Morning. Maleah Purdue’s skill with the Powell Security Agency is unquestionable. Then someone starts killing her colleagues one by one. The Copycat Carver strikes before dawn and uses a knife with the skill of a surgeon, and his M.O. is identical to that of an already-incarcerated serial killer, Jerome Browning with one exception -- he’s sending pieces of his victims to Maleah. So she and fellow Powell agency consultant Derek Lawrence team up to find the killer. Lawrence is a former FBI profiler and they visit Browning in prison to see if they can learn something – anything – to stop the killing before Maleah becomes his latest victim.

Smarty Pants

SP is enjoying His High-Stakes Holiday Seduction by Emilie Rose this month.
Paige McCauley ran away to Vegas to start a new life and kicked it off with a disappointing attempt at a fling with Trent Hightower. Or at least, so she thought. A year later, he's back in town for the same conference and she's ready to get her revenge. Only problem - he had no idea who she is. This time, she's determined when he leaves Las Vegas, he'll remember her name. Part of my Desire line research. Made me homesick for Vegas. A great holiday story, even to read in June!

So, what are you reading this month?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Carolina's on My Mind

I'm going to be out of pocket today because last night I went to the James Taylor concert and spent the night with a friend so I didn't have to drive home so late. I'll blog later and let you know how it was, but I wanted to share with you my absolute favorite JT song accompanied by pictures of my home state, North Carolina.

North Carolina is a vacation paradise with beaches on the eastern end and mountains on the western end. It has skiing, whitewater rafting and some of the best golf in the world. The central, or Piedmont, section is home to the Research Park Triangle, the largest research park in the world (and Huntsville's research park is second). This is the section of the state where I grew up. When I was young, the Piedmont also had a thriving textile industry as well as a large furniture industry. The textiles are mostly gone, but there's still a fair amount of furniture made in NC.

The state is home to a number of top-notch universities and boasts any number of famous sons and daughters, including the late, great Dale Earnhardt.

North Carolina is filled with history from the Lost Colony to Old Salem, the first manned flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Trail of Tears when the Cherokee were forced from their homeland.

Want a great place to visit on vacation? How about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has the most visitors of any national park in the US. Or you can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for some of the most beautiful scenery you'll ever see. Visit Biltmore Estate and see how the Vanderbilts lived or climb Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.

North Carolina is also home to Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Pepsi Cola.

The state bird is the beautiful cardinal, and the state flower is the dogwood.

The state motto is "Esse quam videri" -- "To be rather than to seem."

And we ARE the great Tarheel state!

Just in case you're interested, here's a list of the slides in the video:

North Carolina map
The Outer Banks
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Wright Brothers Memorial
Concord (my hometown)
A cardinal, the state bird of NC
Dogwood blossoms, the state flower of NC
Fort Raleigh, site of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony
USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial sign
USS North Carolina
Western Carolina University logo (my alma mater)
NC State Wolfpack logo (my sister's alma mater)
UNC Tarheels logo
Giant chair in Thomasville, which is representative of the state's furniture industry
Dale Earnhardt
Old Salem in Winston-Salem, NC, a Moravian settlement
The Smoky Mountains
Biltmore Estate
Maggie Valley skiing
Rafting on the Nantahala River
#2 son and me at Newfound Gap
Blue Ridge Parkway sign
Cherokee Indian Reservation sign
Carving of Sequoyah, native American who invented the Cherokee alphabet
Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign
Grandfather Mountain sign
Mile High Swinging Bridge atop Grandfather Mountain
Linn Cove viaduct, part of the Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather Mountain
Mt. Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi River
James Taylor
North Carolina sign

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Putting some fun in fuctional

When we moved into our new house last year, we got new living room furniture as well. As one does when one gets new furniture, I’ve been a bit anal about not-messing-up-the-new-furniture. No flopping onto the couch, no shoes on any of it, no one under the age of 20 allowed food or drink near it.

And coasters. I’m now a coaster fanatic. Monica from Friends would get tired of me nagging about coaster usage. But coasters, of course, aren’t really that exciting. They’re functional, but rarely fun.

Until now. (hee hee)

At Christmas, I was at a shop near my in-laws’ where they sell all kinds of cute things (including my frog shoes). I found a whole rack of nifty coasters with cute sayings, cool pictures, etc. They were all sold separately, so you could have a stack of coasters on the table where no two were alike. This tickled me for some reason, and I now have a set of coasters that makes me smile (and helps encourage others to use them without me going all Monica on them.).

And yes, I have the ubiquitous Scotland souvenir – a coaster showing a kilt being blown up to expose a very nice butt.

But I love quotes, so my new coaster collection says…

“My idea of camping is when room service is late.”

“Computers let you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history… with the possible exception of tequila.” – Mitch Ratliffe

“Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.” – Joss Whedon


“There are no good girls gone wrong. There are only bad girls found out.” – Mae West

All the quotes “speak” to me in some way, making a collection of useful items much more personalized. I’ve been out on the internet looking for a company who’ll make individual coasters, but CafePress hasn’t really conquered that one yet. But when they do, I’ll be there and my coaster collection will grow exponentially.

If you could put a quote on a coaster that really reflected you, what would it be?


Monday, May 23, 2011

Run... Run... Runaway...

I gave myself a wonderful gift this past Friday – a weekend getaway.

My sister and I decided to attend a writers’ meeting hosted by the Nashville RWA chapter. Music City Romance Writer’s Annie Solomon gave an excellent presentation on plotting the romantic suspense novel.

But we decided to treat ourselves further. We reserved a hotel room and headed up Friday night. We had dinner with some of the Nashville girls, laughing and talking over Cajun food. The meeting the next day was followed by lunch with many of the chapter members, then this mother’s favorite luxury – an uninterrupted nap.


We had talked about going to see a movie, but decided to instead see something of downtown Nashville during a walking ghost tour. We got to experience some beautiful sights in the twilight, including the state capital building and grounds (above), the Hermitage Hotel, and the Rymen Auditorium. Our tour guide was entertaining and really nice too! Can you imagine having to walk for 90 minutes on sultry southern nights in this dress and heeled boots? But she never once complained!


Sunday we met the morning with some writing, then lunch and shopping at the Cool Springs Galleria before the drive home.

The best part? I returned to my family relaxed, happy, and inspired. I’m a firm believer in these little getaways – whether its for a few hours or a few days. I call them “mental health days”. They give me a chance to step out of the daily grind and gain a new, more objective perspective on life’s little (and big) issues.

Sometimes I can only do a weekend getaway once a year, more if I’m lucky, but I at least make time for one day a month with my writing friends and Playfriends. In my opinion, it makes me a better wife, mother, and writer.

So tell me, what’s your favorite getaway? How do you keep yourself sane amidst life’s daily pressures?


Friday, May 20, 2011

Identity Crisis

Regardless of how much I whine, I feel like I'm making positive strides in my career. I'm getting closer to... something. And as I get closer to having to make decisions that I'm stuck with, like the name I'm using to write, the more I question the choices I've made.

I chose Alexandra Frost as my pen name waaaaay back in 2005. I'd always liked the name Alexandra. My mom had actually intended to name me that but they gave cesarean mothers a lot more morophine back then and for whatever reason, that's not what happened. Frost was just a name that sounded good with it. So I went with it.

The Mavens had always told us if we pick a pen name we should use our real first name. That no matter what your last name is, when someone yells "Bob" and that's really your name, there's less confusion. The problem... I hate my name. I've never really cared for it at all. It probably suits me, but the sound of it grates on my soul like listening to my own voice on a recording. Bleh. So I'd deliberately picked something different.

I'm questioning it now. Now the name sounds too cheesy. I can't say it without making a face. I just read a blog by Angela James with Carina Press and that's one of her points on picking a different name (so, also, is sounding like a porn star). So Alexandra Frost has to go. I started brainstorming. Came up with several options, although usually when I Googled them, I found they were strippers or had murdered their children (crossed off the list). Then I uncovered a NYT bestseller named Andrea Kane, so that eliminated any rhyming names (I kept Lane). And I narrowed it down to about 7. On Facebook, I posted a question and asked people to vote on what name they liked the best.

I decided I really liked Andrea Bennett and so did everyone else. Changed all my stuff to say it. Then realized if I sell to Desire, they have someone with that last name. I don't care, but I don't get to decide necessarily. So, if that's a problem, I have to pick something else. Back to square one.

I tried a Quibblo quiz but it wouldn't work. So, vote in the comments for your favorite!

- Andrea Bennett
- Andrea Wilde
- Andrea Lane
- Andrea Laurenti
- Andrea Lawrence
- Andrea Frost
- Andrea Winters
- Keep Alexandra Frost

Don't like any of these? Suggest a different one! I could use some suggestions in case what I pick doesn't pan out. How do you feel about your name? Love it or hate it? Sometimes I wonder what our parents are thinking...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Blog - Anna DeStefano

It appears that Blogger had technical difficulties last week when Anna was here so we're reposting her blog today and welcoming her back again.

Anna DeStefano has long been a great friend to the Playground. She's one of the sweetest people that I've ever met and I love it when she visits with us. So, let's clear off a place on the slide and enjoy!

Secret Legacy:
Book 2 in my now fantasy series...

Like a Dream...

I can't tell you what it means to be back in The Writing Playground, for this guest blog and for this book. It's been a long time, too long a time. But if you told me it was only yesterday that I chatted with you ladies about my first psychic thriller, Dark Legacy, I might just believe you.

Time's passage can be that way, in reality and in dreams. Fey, illusive, while we cling to what seems more tangible. Yet if life has taught us anything, it's that focusing on the abstract can at times be a more healing choice.

I've come to consider the pursuit of the surreal to be absolutely necessary for good mental health ;o) The dreams I've based my Legacy series on came from a life long fascination with first the concept and then the science of lucid dreaming. I've always tended to believe in the near-there more than the next person. And in the 18 months since Dark Legacy's release, I've found myself living more in the in between now than ever before.

I was saddened along with so many others when I heard of Beverly Barton's sudden passing. I felt for her family as I read of her pride in being an active wife and mother and grandmother. And I felt for the Heart of Dixie Romance Writers and the Playground's "children" that she loved so much. And then came the recent storms and the violence and devastation they showered on Alabama and beyond. And there you all were again, in my thoughts every day as I hoped and prayed you were well. I wished then as I do now that there was more I could do besides sending positive vibes your way.

I wished, too, that I could dream you into a better place, and that I could somehow step into the stress and fear and pain you were experiencing and take it away. That’s how things work when mayhem strikes in books like mine. In my fantasies, characters must conquer their fears, of course, and fight their own battles. But past pain is always rewarded with future dreams come true and a happy ending.

Alas, my psychic twins have supernatural abilities that give them a fantastical leg up over us mere mortals. My wish for The Playground remains, nevertheless, that you, too, could wield the same power over reality and the hardship that life inflicts from time to time. I'd dearly love to send you ladies a flash or two of pixie dust ;o)

This was supposed to be a "blog tour" post for my new psychic fantasy, Secret Legacy. So:

• Follow this link to my blog for book info and lots more about the Dream Theories and Psychic Realm that feed my contemporary world building.

• If you're interested in a .99 cent download of Book 1 in the series, go here.

• I've sent Kira a link to the fabulous author interview/book trailer Sheila and her group at Circle of Seven put together for me, hoping it could be added here.

• And I’m talking about the business side of this journey with my publisher, Dorchester, over at my Publishing Isn't for Sissies (PIFS) blog series. Chris Keeslar was just over for a visit.

There... Business done. Now, let's get back to my real reason for being here.

I hope all my stories speak to readers about creating their own reality out of their dearest fantasies. I hope I inspire them to dream beyond the every day we're often forced to endure. And I hope this post has somehow inspired you to do the same.

Harshness and loss will be part of our lives now and again. But these realities can't define us, if we refuse to cling to them. The healing and love that thrive in the energy around us—these are the building blocks of our futures. These are the beginnings of a bright, powerful tomorrow. Whether you call that inherent goodness awaiting our attention the "collective unconscious," as dream scientists do in my books, or if you think of it more simply as positive juju, I wanted my Playground post this time to be about dreaming the world into a better, calmer, promising reality for all of you.

That's what I wish for, as I create and share every story—for myself and my readers and my writer friends. And today most especially for Beverly's "children."

That's my dream for you ladies of The Writing Playground most of all...

Anna, I know I speak for everyone on the Playground when I say thank you for your thoughts and dreams for us. In tough times, knowing that there are people out there supporting you can make all the difference.

Anna's publisher, Dorchester, is offering a free download of Secret Legacy for a randomly selected commenter so be sure and leave her a message!


P.S. I just found out that Dark Legacy is #1 on the Gothic Romance Kindle list, #20 on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Kindle list and #22 on the Contemporary Romance Kindle list. That's awesome, Anna! Definitely great reason to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Idle

I don't think it's news to anyone that I'm a fan of American Idol. I like music. Always have. Took lessons as a kid and played piano regularly up until a few years ago. I think I stopped playing when I started writing. There's probably some weird connection there, but I don't care enough to research it.

Anyway, we're down to the final three contestants on American Idol tonight and I'm probably not going to watch, much less vote. Yeah, yeah, I know it's a contest where American gets to choose, but all the cell phone companies should cut off service to pre-teen girls during that two-hour voting block every week.

The finalists are good, but to me they don't offer anything that hasn't already been done. There are plenty of great country artists and singers like Adele and Lady Gaga.

Now, it's also no secret I was a big Paul McDonald fan. He is the hometown boy. And I LOVED the suit. Even the Sweet Potato Queens say everyone should have a little Porter Waggoner in the wardrobe. I was upset he was voted off, but I think he'll find his feet and have a music career of some sort. I do know for a fact his parents are throwing their support behind Lauren Alaina, the girl from Georgia.

Everything is coming to season's end on TV. Dancing with the Stars will award the mirror ball trophy next week. Desperate Housewives had a two-hour finale Sunday night. Castle left us all gasping for breath Monday night. (Can you believe it??? Rick said "the words"!) Mid-season replacement Body of Proof ended last night. Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU have finales tonight.

Looks like my DVR will be idle for a while. But wait! The Closer's final season begins in July. And I'm hoping maybe Covert Affairs and Rizolli and Isles might reappear over the summer. And who knows what new crime drama the networks might have up their sleeves for us.

Gonna watch Idol tonight? Missing anything already? Tell me about it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I don't why, but they do...

Fears, phobias, neuroses... we’ve all got ‘em. There’s a sub-category, though, that I can’t decide if it goes under “fears” or “phobias.” It’s the “freaks me out and gives me the willies” category. These are the things that make your skin crawl but other people look at you like you’re crazy when you admit it.

Now, as crazy as my list may be, Counselor Shelley assures my Darling Geek that as long as these things don’t keep interfere with living a normal life, they’re really not problems that require therapy– no matter how strange DG thinks they are. (Of course, Counselor Shelley can turn her eyelids inside out and that’s just gross and cringe-worthy, but that doesn’t stop her from doing it just to watch me squirm. Yeah, she’s real helpful like that.)

So, my list of “things that freak me out and give me the willies”:

#5: Gerbils. ‘Nuff said there. There’s nothing about a gerbil that doesn’t make my skin crawl. Ugh.

#4: Crunchy Peanut Butter. It’s a texture thing – smooth and creamy with bits in it, too? Blech. It’s just wrong.

#3: Water Chestnuts. I know they don’t taste like anything, but I swear the sound and the texture makes me think I’m eating a bug.

#2: Teeth. Specifically loose teeth that need pulling. (My skin started crawling just typing that.) AC learned after her very first loose tooth not to come to me. I don’t want to see them wiggle and I sure as hell do not want to pull it. Once it’s out, I’m fine. The actual tooth doesn’t bother me – it’s the process of getting it out that just gives me massive willies. Once when DG was out of town, AC had a tooth that was about ready to be pulled. I was ready to make WonderMom drive all the way out to my house to pull it so I wouldn’t have to.

#1: Claymation. Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run.. I’d rather watch a slasher flick where people are slathered with crunchy peanut butter so gerbils will gnaw their heads off. It would be less nightmare-inducing than Claymation. I don’t know why it bugs me, but it does. It’s just wrong. I sat through one Wallace and Gromit movie in the theatre with AC and I read the whole time so I didn’t have to see the 20-foot tall claymation bunny and be scarred for life.
And while it’s not the same type of animation, that stop-motion puppetry they used in the 60s to make movies like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer is just as bad.

And this guy gave me nightmares for years.

I can’t believe I just searched the internet for those images and posted them on my blog. I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

I’ve banned those “classic childhood movies” from my house entirely. I’m afraid the evil will permeate the walls and cause the house to be haunted.

So, there are five things about me that you may find charming and cute or you may decide I’m truly insane. (Reason number 3 I married DG is “he thinks my brand of crazy is kinda cute.”)

What creeps you out but no one understands exactly why?



PS: Everyone think happy thoughts for Counselor Shelley over the next couple of weeks and send “smart” vibes her way. She’ll be sitting her Ph.D comps in late May/early June.

PPS: Contest winners! I’m behind announcing contest winners!! Pat L, you’re the winner of some books I picked up at RT (yes, I’m very behind announcing that winner). Email me with a shipping address to claim!

And the winner of the March/April “Take a Mental Health Day” contest is Tabatha B. of Corpus Christie, TX!

Monday, May 16, 2011

De-Stress - In the Best Way Possible

Yikes! Blogger went crazy last week and ate some of our posts, along with some of your comments. Check back this week, because those posts will make a reappearance this week so we can enjoy them to their fullest.

Yesterday, the Playfriends had a low-key get together, hanging out for lunch, gossiping and talking over chips and cheese dip, then a few of us hit the movie theater to see Bridesmaids (both funny and poignant).

You know, there is nothing better designed to help me de-stress than an afternoon with the girls. I also enjoy:

* reading for a few hours
* losing myself in a good movie
* brainstorming a new plot
* a nice long conversation with my hubby
* a hot bath with bubbles

What about you? What are your favorite ways to de-stress after a long week? How do you relax?


Friday, May 13, 2011

Free Book Friday Winner

Since Blogger is being stupid, this is going to be my post for today!

The winner of last week's FBF is... Chelsea Rafferty! Since she lives in Florida, she'll need something to keep her busy when tornado season ends and hurricane season starts.

Email me at smartypants@writingplayground.com to claim your prize!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


A friend sent me this last week from her desk calendar. At heart, I believe what it says. But lately I've had my share of challenges. More than my share actually. I've discovered who I am, thank you. Hello Universe! You can stop sending the challenges.

We blogged last week about the tornadoes that devastated our area. For me, life has pretty much returned to normal. After six days without power, I still am not quite sure what day it is, but I'll figure it out eventually. We even had a short power outtage yesterday because a transformer in one of the tornado-ravaged areas gave out. The utility company seems to think it's because the temps have hit the 90's and folks are running their air conditioners at settings low enough to keep meat frozen. How quickly we forget just how fragile our electrical power structure really is. Keep that thermostat turned up to 78 so the rest of us can have lights, okay?

I feel a little out of sync and I wish the world would do a slight quarter turn one way or another so everything would fall into place.

And in addition to the tornadoes, I've had a couple other things going on.

~ I ran into ex-husband at eye doctor on what would have been our 38th anniversary last week. We live about six miles apart and shop at some of the same stores. Yet until last week I'd only seen him at our granddaughter's birthday party almost a year ago. What are the odds we'd have back-to-back appointments at the same doctor's office, especially when I'd just called the day before and mine was an emergency appointment? At least the eye doc gave me good news. I don't have pink eye!

~ I've realized the book I had requested has big problems with the hero and heroine. When I really look at it, why WOULD she agree to let this man she obviously dislikes father her child? Do I just chunk it altogether? Or do a complete re-write? I think I know how to fix this in theory. But I’ll need to sit down and brainstorm just how to make it work and how to deal with the row of dominoes that will tumble one after the other after I make that first change.

~ Living without power for 6 days and figuring out how to make sure everything was taken care of (like getting money transferred to my checking account so my auto drafts for bills wouldn’t overdraft my account) left me with a feeling of pride. I discovered I’m a little tougher than I thought I was. I saw on a friend’s FB page that being without power was kind of like camping, but with a really great tent and a soft bed. I won't dwell on the fact I hate camping.

Ex-husbands, no power, rejections – or realizing your book has a big flaw that would probably cause it to be rejected – can be paralyzing. We allow wallowing on the Playground, but only for a short time. Then we get up, brush ourselves off and tackle things head on. I'm working very hard to brush off the dirt.

Oh, and I’m definitely going to have to check into this calendar. My friend has sent some other sayings from it and it has some pretty good stuff in it. And as for being a bitch, what’s wrong with Being in Total Control of Herself. Or Beautiful Intelligent Talented Creative Honest?

What's paralyzed you lately? And what did you learn about yourself?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

They're almost right...

If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.

What a lovely phrase and a wonderful reminder about the importance of personal satisfaction with a career choice.

And what complete and utter drivel.

The person who came up with that quote was obviously high, and I reserve the right to get squinty-eyed at anyone who dares spout that nonsense at me.

I don’t care how much you love your job or how much personal satisfaction you get from it, there are some days when it’s not only work, you wonder why you thought you wanted to do it in the first place.

I love being a writer. I think it’s beyond cool. I get to write books, and that’s just nifty. Look at all the people with cool jobs – like rock stars and astronauts – who also want to write books. That’s how cool this job is: it the dream job of folks who already have dream jobs.

And it’s also a lot of work. Like any other job, it has its ups and its downs. You’ll win an award on the same day a reviewer rips you apart. You’ll have books that fly off your fingers and books that are the writing equivalent of giving birth to a pineapple. Sometimes every word on the screen feels like a little golden drop of goodness, but there are times when you feel like you’re the biggest hack on the planet. There are days when you want to beat the computer with a hammer and days when you feel like Barbra Cartland, pink boa, bonbons and all.

And I wouldn’t trade any of the days for a job doing anything else.

Yes, I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of my job. I love it and I hope to have a long career – even if that career includes days of shouting obscenities at my computer screen and feeding my hero to the sharks with evil glee. It’s extremely satisfying – but it’s still work. Hard work.

And it only gets harder, because you do love it and so you keep pushing yourself to be better at it. Which is more hard work.

And that’s one of the reasons it’s so satisfying. I think there’s a real sense of accomplishment that comes from hard work. Yeah, it’s nice when things come easy, but it also feels really good to wrestle the bear and win. (And then you stuff and mount the bear on the wall to remind you of that satisfied feeling – and remind you that you did it once and can do it again.)

So I’m going to amend that old platitude: If you love your job, you’ll work every day of your life, and you’ll work harder than you ever thought possible. But at the end of the day, you’ll still love your job.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart!

Wow! I haven’t blogged in quite a while, it seems. And after all that has happened, I could use an extra helping of positivity. After a nice, lazy Mother’s Day surrounded by family, I have a lot to be thankful for. But this morning I’m going to try to think out of the box.

Besides family, a house, and your life, what are you most thankful for?

For me:

1. Coffee with Italian Crème creamer.
2. Super hugs from my kids and the words, “I love you, Mommy.”
3. Sitting on the deck with my hubby, talking under the cover of night.
4. Friends calling to see if I’m okay.
5. Plotting and planning a new idea.


Coming Soon!
This Thursday May 12, the Playfriends welcome author Anna DeStefano!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

May Happenings!

Goodness, it has been awfully quiet on the Playground lately! We've had lots of downs during the month of April and am hoping for a much better spring. We hope you'll join us as we move into warmer (and hopefully tornado-free) weather.


We are back to our normal blogging schedule now, so you can join us daily over on the blog to find out what's going on in our lives at the moment. We'd love to hear your opinions and happenings too!


We've started a new contest for May/June. My own Love Blooms Roses contest features rose-themed goodies and single title historical books for the winner's enjoyment. Everyone must enter with each contest, so don't forget to send your email in. If you enter after receiving the newsletter, simply feel free to say "newsletter" as the way you found us. Some of you have been with us for a long time, and I know it isn't always easy to remember how you first came to the Playground.


Due to the tragic natural disaster that hit Alabama, the local Romance Readers Luncheon that we were scheduled to attend was postponed. If you live near northern Alabama, or are interested in visiting, please consider registering to attend this wonderful event, which has been rescheduled for June 4th. Same location, same time, same amount of fun. We'd love to see you there!

We hope your spring is much less eventful than ours!! Check out the blog for good news, book releases, and all kinds of interesting stuff throughout the month of May.

And from all the Playfriends, we want to emphasize how much we appreciate you, our readers, who have comforted and cared about us this last month. Thank you so much!

As always,

Friday, May 06, 2011

Free Book Friday - Twister Edition

I have to admit, the last two weeks have been some of the longest and most difficult weeks of my life. I'm emotionally spent, physically exhausted and waiting for the next shoe (of course an expensive, fabulous stiletto, but a shoe nonetheless) to drop.

So what kind of book giveaway is appropriate for something like that? This might be in poor taste, but after searching my bookshelf and finding this title, I figured, well, will there ever be another time to give this away? I certainly hope not. So here it is.

Blown Away by Sharon Sala

Writer Cari North thought she knew all there was to know about plot twists--until she stumbled across her ex-fiance, Lance Morgan, digging a shallow grave in the Louisiana woods. After one horrifying moment of shared recognition, Cari knew her life hinged upon whether she could outrun Lance and the hurricane-spawned tornado that was barreling down on their heels.

Just when she thinks she's lost Lance and heads for home, the storm throws in yet another twist that will change her fate--forever.

Cari's house, her family--her entire life--have been wiped out by the storm. Badly injured herself, and knowing Lance will come after her, she trades clothing and ID with the near-identical cousin who'd been visiting and flees to Baton Rouge. While the world mourns Cari North, she begins an agonizing recovery as her cousin Susan--until Susan's boss calls her bluff and finds himself drawn into her incredible tale.

Hunted by a man she once loved, sheltered by a man she hardly knows, Cari chooses to become the bait...and plots the twist of a lifetime to catch a killer.

I kinda feel bad for the characters - its enough to deal with a tornado, another entirely to deal with a tornado and a killer. But I bet it makes for a better story to read than it is to live. Everyone make it through okay? Got any storm stories to share? To enter to win, comment with the phrase "I'd rather be blown away by a great story!"


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Silver Lining

This past week has been difficult. There are no words strong enough or descriptive enough for the total destruction left in the wake of the tornadoes that hit Alabama. I've lived with the threat of tornadoes most of my life. I've even lived through close calls before. I've seen the pictures and watched the despair on TV. It doesn't come close to seeing it in person. To knowing the spray paint on the outside of a house tells whether the family inside lived or died. I hope I never have to experience this again, although I know that's probably not realistic if I stay in Tornado Alley (and I have no plans to leave).

There is a silver lining to all of this though. I've watched as neighbors helped neighbors and strangers helped strangers. I spent 3 1/2 days without power, Internet, cable and very spotty cell service. And I realized that I could survive without those things.

I spent those days sharing a home with my parents, my husband, girls and youngest brother. My sister, brother-in-law and nephews also spent quite a bit of time with us. We played games. We laughed. We sat quietly and shared the newspaper. We listened to the battery powered radio - our only connection to the outside world. We spent more time together in those days than we probably have in the last several years.

I don't wish the kind of tragedy that struck last week on anyone, but I think it's important to find the good that can come out of those kinds of experiences.

Do you have a favorite silver lining? Have you ever made lemonade out of lemons?


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

One week ago

One week ago today, this is where I was, hunkered down as the civil defense sirens wailed and the TV weatherman was telling everyone to take cover. Lots of people were in basements. As you can tell, this is my bathroom, the innermost room of my first-floor apartment. I like to weather storms comfortably.

And this is what the sky looked like as the first of three supercells moved through our area.

And this is the back entrance to my apartment complex. Multiply this by a couple hundred thousand and that will give you an idea of the level of devastation in this state.

I am writing this on Tuesday morning from a Starbucks where I'm charging my laptop, cell phone and Kindle. I'm not sure when I'll have my power restored. I was able to get charcoal and have been grilling the contents of my freezer. I bought bread, peanut butter, Kashi bars and fresh fruit at Publix and have not starved.

Actually, I have had some pretty nice dinners -- a steak and corn on the cob and grilled chicken. Last night I fixed "hobo dinners" with hamburger patties, sliced onions and potatoes and shared with two of my neighbors. It was grill it and eat it or let it spoil and throw it away. There have been a lot of steaks on grills around my apartment complex during this.

The devastation is beyond description, but I'm sure you've seen it in the papers or on TV. All I have is minor inconvenience and a lot to be thankful for. I've managed quite well during this, including having my morning cuppa thanks to a can of sterno and a coffee-can stove.

If I can, I'll pop in here and reply. But if the power's not been restored or it is and cuts off again, think of us and keep us in your prayers.

Here are a few photos of the destruction.

Power transmission towers doing a one and a half twist in the pike position.

An area about five miles west of me. Scenes like this -- and worse -- are all over north Alabama.

And what else do you have after six days without power? A mountain of garbage!

I'm just waiting for the t-shirts to come out. You know -- the ones with "I Survived the Big Blackout of 2011" emblazoned across the front. I'm gonna get me one because just like the old Loreal commercials used to say, "I deserve it!"

P.S. Tuesday, 5:45 PM. I have power! It came on while I was gone to get a haircut and pick up a few things to eat. I almost bought another bag of ice but decided to wait and see if perhaps I had power. If not, I could zip round the corner to the grocery and get a bag. Good thing I didn't because the fridge was humming away as I walked in. We must be careful not to overload our very delicate electric system, though, because there are no back-ups. So I won't be washing clothes or taking long, hot showers any time soon. Patience and conservation are still the order of the day. But squeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I can watch Castle and the wedding online!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Sorry for my tardiness, y'all. With all the craziness of the past few days, it's taking a while for me to figure out what day it is.

The tornadoes that tore through Alabama missed the Playfriends (although often by the "too close for comfort" margin), but so many in the Southeast are suffering the loss of loved ones or property. Power still hasn't been fully restored to the area. Please keep those folks in your thoughts and prayers, and if you'd like to help, the Red Cross is always an option. They are here operating shelters and helping with the many needs in the area.

We know we owe you some news of contest winners and such, and that's on the to-do list, I promise!

I did get a bit of good news on Saturday -- my October book, Boardroom Rivals, Bedroom Fireworks! won the NEC Readers' Choice Bean Pot award! I'm quite tickled. I understand that I'll get an actual bean pot as the trophy, and I'm quite keen to see what one looks like in person. It's being mailed to me, so I'll post a photo once it arrives.

Please forgive the short post, but I'm still catching up. We hope to have the Playground up to full speed very soon!