Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Blogger: Addison Fox

Have y'all recovered from your sugar comas yet? :) Happy Halloween Daze! Today, we're gonna jump right into winter with my fellow Ruby Slippered Sister, Addison Fox. She's gracious enough to give us some insight into her writing process, and give away a copy of her new book, Baby, It's Cold Outside. So scoot over and make room on the teeter totter for Addison (we'll share our leftover M&Ms, I promise!).

Process... A Peek Inside The Writers Toolbox

First of all, my thanks to the Writing Playground for having me back to play. I love visiting these gals and am so excited to come back and play! And an extra-special thank you to Angel for inviting me back!

So I had someone ask me a question recently that’s had me thinking. I sort of just answered it off the cuff, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I keep thinking about it, if you know what I mean.

My new contemporary series is about to launch with BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and up to now, all of my published work has been paranormal. The question posed to me was how different I found it writing contemporary versus paranormal. And my answer…

I didn’t find it different at all.

Literally – not one bit.

And what I’ve found, as I’ve thought about the question over the past week, is that how I write and what I write are inextricably linked. For me, the “how” is character driven. I’ve yet to write a story where the characters didn’t come to me first. Even in cases where I had a sense of the plot more firmly in my mind, it always comes down to characters. And the “what” is the story I’m going to wrap around them.

For me, the process of getting them from the “how” to the “what” simply doesn’t change. The process of telling “their” story (because we all know those characters become very real people in our minds) is my writer’s journey – not the world I’ve set them in.

After thinking about this for a while, I also began to understand why I write romance (seriously, I’m sure my friend had absolutely no idea she’d send me down this path of self-discovery!). While I’m an avid reader across genres, I’ve never thought about writing anything but romance. And I think it’s because for me, the fun in telling the love story is the joy in figuring out what makes these two people tick.

All of this self-discovery has only reinforced something I’ve believed for a long time now – that a writer’s process is sacrosanct. There is no class that will teach you about your process because it’s as personal and distinct as your fingerprint. In fact, if there’s one single thing I would like every writer starting out to believe – “live it, breathe it, be it” sort of belief – is that your process is not only special, but it’s the thing that makes you unique. None of this is to say that there isn’t always room to improve craft, technique, etc, but it also means that how you get the words on the page is your special gift and it’s not to be trifled with!

OK – Stepping off soapbox now!

So….now that I’ve rambled about process, I’d love to hear from you. As writers, what have you discovered on your writers journey that helps you understand your process? As readers, are you drawn to the characters or the plot first? One lucky poster will get a copy of my new release BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE – choice of format is up to you.

Happy Writing!

Check in later this week to find out Addison's winner!

Kate Walkers' winner from last week was Chey! Please contact Kate with your contact information. Also, don't forget to click on the link in the sidebar to enter the September-October Playgroud Contest! Today's the last day!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Irrational Fears

The other day, I was listening to the radio and Rick Dees (apparently we're almost completely syndicated on this station now) announced that a recent survey said the majority of men polled would rather swim with sharks than propose to their girlfriend. As an unmarried woman, I just have to say, "really?" Is it the actual proposing or the life altering circus that follows? The next 50 years of your life with one woman or the fear of rejection? I posted this on FB and my 50 yr old single uncle posted that he read a survey that said most women would rather read, take a bath, watch a movie or even watch the superbowl than have sex. Maybe that has something to do with it. :)

With Halloween just around the corner, it got me thinking about fears. Mainly irrational ones. I guess we all have them. PC even posted a while back about things that creep her out but other people don't understand. I have plenty of those, in addition to the standard phobias and fears. Mine are usually irrational. Some fears are self-preserving, like fears of fire and snakes. Mine aren't. Not really. I know several people around here have issues with stormdrains like I do. Apparently reading "It" at the tender age of ten was a bad idea. Which of course leads me into my clown phobia. No clowns. Ever. I don't curl into a ball and cry or anything, but I'm going to avoid them and stay well out of the range of their razor sharp teeth. What? They don't have razor sharp teeth? I'll take your word for that.

I have other silly fears. Watching the migrating birds in the spring, a chill ran down my spine. I really dislike birds. And not in a Hitchcock kind of way. I don't think they're going to swarm me. And I don't cower in fear from a cardinal in my crepe myrtle, but I think the idea of the bird is the problem. There's just something about their talons and their beaks and beady ideas that bother me.

The beak thing also translates over to my irrational fear of squid and other cephalopods. Big, squishy bodies, pretty harmless, right? Sure, except for their giant, crushing parrot beaks. And their teeth-lined suction cups. You didn't know they were lined with teeth, did you? Teeth is probably the wrong word since its really more like a hard cartilage ring, but if a larger squid grabs hard onto you, it can break the skin. It helps them lock onto prey. Sperm whales that eat giant squid are often found with hundred of circle scars around their face.

I have taken it on as my mission to inform people about the little-known creep factor of squid. Spreading the fear through knowledge, that's me.

Got this quote from Convergence, a science magazine from UC Santa Barbara. “Squid can be aggressive, whimsical, suddenly mean, and they are always hungry,” said Herb Waite, co-author and Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) at UC Santa Barbara. “You wouldn’t want to be diving next to one. They’re very aggressive feeders… a dozen of them could eat you, or really hurt you a lot.”

HOLY CRAP! Maybe my fears are no longer irrational. At least in the water. On land, its sort of a "Land Shark" thing. Whatever, I'm not getting my scuba certification any time soon. Eat calamari, keep them in their place on the foodchain.

Do you have any irrational (or perfectly rational if you have the right information) fears? Share the information and spread the fear through knowledge. :)

PS. I'm blogging on eHarlequin today about Halloween candy so come on over and weigh in on your favorites!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dead People

I hesitated about what to title this blog. Up on that cold white line those two words could sound pretty disrespectful. But in the end there really wasn't anything else I could call this blog so just bear with me.

It's been awhile since I blogged about my girls' exploits. Possibly because life has been pretty normal - and by normal I mean hectic. But Baby Girl did something the other day that made me spew water across my steering wheel while simultaneously questioning my skills as a parent. And so I thought I probably needed to share the experience.

The other day we were driving through town on our way to yet another appointment on our never ending schedule when from the back seat I hear, "dead people!" in this bright little voice. I have to say it shocked me. Especially since the car had been relatively quiet and it came out of nowhere. I could not figure out what the heck she was talking about. I looked around for a hearse, but there wasn't one. And then I saw the small cemetery we'd just passed. Not one of the big ones, but the kind that's probably no longer used - a little shaded and dark with crumbling headstones. And realized she was talking about the graves.

I have no idea where it came from, but have since discovered she does it every time we pass a cemetery. What gets me is that she says it with such...enthusiasm. It made me wonder if she realized what those headstones really meant. The only funeral she's ever attended was my uncle's and she was 9 months old at the time. I started to admonish her for being disrespectful, but then I remembered holding my breath every time we drove by a cemetery when I was a child. And when we went past a monument store and she did it again I realized she really didn't understand.

And I suppose that's not a bad thing. It means she hasn't been touched by loss yet. And while I know it's inevitable at some point in her life, I sorta hope both of my girls can put off that life lesson as long as possible. And until then I guess I'll be hearing, "dead people!" from the back seat every time we pass a headstone.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Blogger - Kate Walker

What do you plan to read – and where?

It’s almost November 1st. I’ve just been planning ahead, realising that the AMBA (Association of Mills & Boon Authors) lunch I’ve been looking ahead to is actually next week. On Tuesday – just as this blog is launched - I’ll be heading for London, meeting up with so many fellow authors and friends, and the event I’ve been thinking of as ‘late in the year’ is actually just a few days away. And after that . . . I just turned over another page on my office diary to see that then we start off a whole new month. . And as I did so, a nursery rhyme from long ago came into my head. It’s the one that begins:

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.
And then goes through all the rest of the months,

The lines for November go:
Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves go whirling past.

They couldn’t really be more appropriate to the sort of day we have outside. It might not be November quite yet, but the wind has been howling round the house, whirling the leaves wildly and throwing heavy cold rain at the window panes. After a short but beautiful and amazingly warm ‘Indian summer in October, winter has definitely come a lot closer as soon as November appears on the calendar. But once I’d done my daily walk - getting drenched and feeling frozen as I did so – had my shower and I started to feel virtuous as a result, the idea of staying in and keeping warm really appealed. And then my DH lit a real fire in the grate so that the cats and I could get really cozy and curl up beside it and it seemed just the perfect place to sit and read to my heart’s content.

OK, I can’t quite do that just yet. I’m on a very tight deadline ( I call them dreadlines) and I need to deal with the black sheep prince who is my current hero before I can look forward to tackling the huge TBR pile I have waiting for me. And then the fire is going to be so welcome.

But then I had an email from my sister who lives in Australia where of course everything is ‘upside down’ and so she’s heading into summer. So she’s talking about taking her TBR books out into the garden (also with her cats!) and soon, hopefully, on to the beach. (The cats will stay at home then.) And that made me remember how much I loved sitting outside under a tree . . . or on a beach, enjoying the sunshine . . . and reading. I’ve been trying to decide which is my absolute favourite place to be when I have a pile of books I just want to dive into. In the end, I couldn’t choose. OK, I admit that right now the fireside wins but that’s because the weather is so dreadful and cold – and WET.

But it made me wonder – do you have a favourite place to curl up with your latest books you buy and lose yourself in a story? By the fire? On a beach? In the woods? By the pool? And what books are at the top of your TBR pile right now? I have The Night that Changed Everything by Anne McAllister, The Kanellis Scandal by Michelle Reid, a fascinating novel about a heart transplant patient – Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Oh yes and the other three books in the Powerful and The Pure mini series.

The Powerful and the Pure is a special mini series where Presents Authors took the themes of classics of romantic fiction - Jane Eyre, Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights. I was thrilled to be asked to take part in it, especially when I learned that the book they wanted me to work on was my own favourite - Wuthering Heights. I've had an amazing time looking back at this great book and honouring it by using it as the inspiration for my own Presents version of this amazing story in The Return of The Stranger. I've had to make changes of course - Wuthering Heights isn't really a love story. It's a story about passion and possession and power - so while all those other books had happy endings already set, I had to create one for my characters. I also had to take wild, willful Cathy and dark, dangerous Heathcliff and give them the happy ever after ending that Emily Bronte's story never had.

The Return of The Stranger which is my own contribution to this mini series is out in Presents Extra this month – and I’ve been getting so many emails from readers saying how much they’ve enjoyed it – and some really great reviews (one reviewer said : Ms. Walker does a splendid job weaving a modern-day tale of Heathcliff and Lady Catherine in The Return of the Stranger. Rich with intrigue, scandal, revenge and forbidden, unleashed desire her take on the classic Wuthering Heights reminds us why some love stories are truly timeless. And Ms. Walker’s current story based loosely on that epic tale lives up to the bar set by Bronte.)

You don’t have to have liked or even read the original Wuthering Heights to enjoy The Return of The Stranger – it’s a stand-alone romance that can be read as a classic Harlequin Presents as well as a story inspired by that great classic novel. And I want to read the other three books to see how my fellow authors have dealt with the stories they were working on. So three more books (by Sharon Kendrick, Kate Hewitt and Cathy Williams) on my TBR pile.

But first I have to finish dealing with this black sheep prince and send him to my editor – and then I’m really going to read . . .and read . . .

So what about you – where do you prefer to read, indoors or out? And what’s on your
TBR pile that you’re looking forward to getting your hands on? Tell me what you plan to read and where and I’ll get Charlie the Maine Coon to pick a winner of a book from my backlist – that’s if I can get him away from the fire! And that way you’ll have even more titles on your TBR pile!

PS I know I’ll be in London but I’ll hope to be able to visit as often as possible and chat with your all – always providing the wifi in the hotel works!
Happy Reading!



Standing high on the windswept moors, the lone figure of Heath Montanha vows vengeance on the woman who destroyed the last fragments of his heart...Lady Katherine Charlton has never forgotten the stablehand with dangerous fists and a troubled heart from her childhood. Now the rebel is back, his powerful anger concealed under a polished and commanding veneer. When ten years of scandal and secrets are unleashed, with a passionate, furious kiss, Heath's deepest, darkest wish crystallises...Revenge - and Kat - will be his!

Amazon UK
Mills & Boon
Ebook at Harlequin
Mills & Boon Australia

Readers can find me on the web:

Author Page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Know When to Say When

It’s not just an excellent slogan for responsible drinking – it also applies to writing.

I actually find that it comes up a lot. It’s not uncommon for a writer to have so much research material (okay, so writers who aren’t me) that fascinates them so much that they want to include all of it in the book. You have to decide how much research is enough to weave in to give good support without becoming a textbook for whatever.

Some writers have such extensive background stories for their characters that it’s hard for them not to dump it all in so that the reader can really understand the hero and heroine.

Do readers really need the detailed description of the hero’s house, all the way down to the number of pictures on the walls? Do they need to know exactly what the heroine is wearing? Do you need to know the history of that secondary character?

The answer is “it depends.” And the writer has to decide when to say when on all those details. It’s tough, but it’s a decision I make on every page, every day. I can make those decisions.

But I did the hardest thing of all recently. I realized it was time to say “when” on the WIP.

This is not an easy decision. I have a contract and a deadline and an editor who’s waiting on a book about X, Y, and Z. That’s the book we talked about and, trust me, it sounded GREAT in theory. In practice, the book sucked. It dragged its clunky, boring characters through page after page of nothing. The Playfriends tried to help, but I could see the pity in their eyes. They knew I was slogging, and they had no brilliant ideas to get me out of the muck any more than I did. The book had no spark, no plot, and no joy.

But the clock was ticking; hello looming deadline. Even as I kept my countdown (if I do ten pages a day, I’m still fine. I only have to do fifteen pages a day to get it done in time. ) I knew it was a losing battle. I just wouldn’t admit it. And when you know you’re rapidly approaching the point to where you’ll have to do twenty pages a day to finish and you’re currently averaging three… Yeah, that’s not good.

So I asked myself – what could I do instead? Like a gift from the muse, an idea sparked. It sounded good. Then there was another one. And another one. Scenes came to mind. Dialogue started to speak to me. I could see my hero and heroine interacting and (maybe more importantly) actually attracting each other. Hello sexual tension! I knew this was the book I really wanted to write.

But there’s always a danger when you’re writing anything – especially when it gets hard. The new idea is always brighter and shinier and seems like much more fun. It’s not always a good idea to let the new idea drag you away from the current idea or else you’ll have a hard drive full of Chapter Ones, but no The Ends.

But I had to know when to say when. And it was time to call that book the turkey it was and send it to hard drive limbo. And you know what? I’ve written more in the last few days than I have in months. I’m still behind, but I’m catching up. And since the words are actually coming now, I have a shot at actually finishing in the same decade as my deadline.

Know when to say when.

It’s responsible writing as well.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Long Road Home

All relationships have their ups and downs. There are moments you feel incredibly close to someone, and others when you wish they’d just go away and leave you alone. Other things in our lives offer bumpy roads too. Those jobs that we love, until we have a frantic deadline and then we don’t love them so much. The house that’s ideal, except while going through a tough renovation. The baby we tried so hard to conceive, only to endure 2 months of colic.

Just like all things in our lives, authors’ connections to our writing also waxes and wanes. Sometimes because we don’t know where we’re going. Sometimes because we neglect it. Sometimes because circumstances in our lives push it to the side until they are resolved. That’s what happened to me.

I had to step away from my writing for a while – not without guilt, not without grief – but eventually, as always happens, life settled down. My creativity returned. First in drips and drops, then a trickle, then a stream. But that stream has to be nurtured.

So I worked through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, read other creativity recovery books, became involved in an accountability group, and above all, wrote. Edited. Wrote some more. And slowly found my way back to my writing.

I learned one very important thing on this journey: nurturing my creativity means I must honor it. I honor it by making my writing a priority in my daily life, by listening when my characters speak, and by behaving as if the seven years I’ve invested into this dream have a purpose.

To that end, in addition to my writing, I started working on my author website. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it! It reminded me of my scrapbooking endeavors. I had a lot of fun, and it was rewarding to celebrate all I’ve accomplished over those seven years and the purpose I had for doing so. Acknowledging the successes I’ve had, no matter that they aren’t recognized by others.

So in a way, my author website isn’t about “making a web presence” or “preparing to be a published author” or “establishing a brand”. It’s a way for me to celebrate my own journey, to remind myself that there is beauty and happiness in the act of creation.

So celebrate with me! Tell me the most important dream you’ve pursued in your lifetime to date. And where do you want it to go from here?

Check out my new website, under my brand spanking new pseudonym:

Angel writing as Dani Wade

Coming Soon!

Join us on Wednesday when we welcome Harlequin Presents author Kate Walker, who will be celebrating her newest release!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Competitive Streak

You all will probably not be surprised to hear I have a massively competitive streak. I didn't always. As a kid, I was never the one that tried to out run another kid or outdo them in some other way. In fact, I was kind of the opposite. I was naturally good at several things, sports obviously not being one of them, and it actually made me uncomfortable. As a kid, I didn't like being smarter than other kids. I got put into an advanced program in second grade and cried every week until they let me quit. I didn't gloat about my grades or test scores. If someone else's parent compared their kid to me in a chastising way (Why can't you be more like SP?) I would feel awful for both of us. I just was who I was. No sense is making someone feel bad for being who they were. I didn't play a lot of games as a kid. For one thing, I was an only child and rarely around kids outside of school. And for another, I almost always won unless Cyndi Trujillo would steal money from the Monopoly bank while I was in the bathroom. So the fun factor was lacking.

Then in high school, I found myself surrounded by people who were pretty much on the same intellectual level. Not maturity level, but they were pretty bright. I think it was around that time that I started to enjoy competition. I had a couple friends that I would battle for the best grades or fastest test times. It was just a healthy motivator. By college, add some tequila, and this bookworm was coming out of her shell. I wasn't exactly in the frat crowd, I lived in an honor dorm after all, so our wild late nights usually involved playing board game or cards in lobby of our dorm. Myself and several friends worked at the front desk and it was easy to hang out and work at the same time. That's when the competitiveness started getting ugly. The taunting, the name calling, the harassment to get the other people to miss their question... fun times.

I'd like to think that I'm not as bad as I used to be, although I'm still very competitive. My college roommate, Dr. Brilliant, and I won the Scattegories and Outburst tournaments on our Alaskan cruise. (Nerd alert!) I just love to play games, especially trivia ones. I like to watch Jeopardy! (their exclamation point, not mine) I guess that makes me weird, but I just love knowing the answer or if I don't, learning something new for next time. I get this giddy euphoria when I announce to the room that "Bridget Jones' Diary" was the first officially designated chick lit book and watch the others look at me like I'm some kind of human encyclopedia. I'd like my blue pie piece, please.

But it's not all about winning. No, really, although PC will insist that I'm a poor sport and only like games I can win. I disagree. I like the challenge of playing with people that can beat me. Those years as a kid were not fun. If I lose, I lose, and I'll respect you more for beating me, even if I taunt the crap out of you and not so subtly accuse you of cheating. (I'll admit I am a stickler for rules.)

Why do I mention all this? Because the Playfriends are going on a retreat this weekend! On the agenda - massages, margaritas, karaoke and game night! I'm packing Totally 80s Trivial Pursuit, Outburst, Cranium and anything else I can think of. It should be fun, although the tequila will undoubtedly make me loud and irritating like it did in college, so be prepared.

Do you like games? What are some of your favorites? I think mine has to be Taboo but my recent introduction to Cranium has moved it quickly near the top. Its trivia, charades and Pictionary all rolled into one. Are you a sore loser?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rocket City Rednecks

I've recently discovered a new TV show - Rocket City Rednecks. I started watching it because I heard the guys on a local radio station. They're from Huntsville - the Rocket City and birthplace of the space industry for those unfamiliar with our area - and so I thought I'd support some locals and check it out. And I was hooked! Anytime you can combine rocket scientists (with PhDs), thick southern accents, explosives, guns and drinking beer I'm in.

On the radio these guys sounded like the biggest hicks - and I can say that since my own personal scientist sounds pretty similar. They definitely play into the stereotype of a redneck. There's plenty of mention of kegs, camo, hunting and trailers. Although that's were the expected ends. It's clear after the first five minutes that these guys are some of the smartest scientific minds we've got.

What I really love about the show is that the tasks they tackle have real world applications. The first episode I saw they built a rocket and launched it with moonshine. Sure that plays into their image, but it also has far reaching potential - like the ability to power our next generation rockets and space shuttles using a renewable resource like corn. Or building an iron man suit that could protect our troops while in combat zones. Or freezing watermelons because they closely resemble the structure of a comet and figuring out what could actually be used to destroy/deflect one if it was heading for a direct collision with the Earth. They might look like they're just goofing off in the garage on a weekend, but the stuff they come up with has potential.

The five guys on the show are either family or lifelong friends. They share a male bond that's interesting to watch in a research sorta way. And there's just something about a cute, smart guy who respects his daddy the way that Travis does. Seriously, if that isn't hero material, I don't know what is.

So, if you haven't watched Rocket City Rednecks yet I suggest you try it. I don't think you'll be disappointed. It airs on National Geographic at 9 Est/8 Ctl on Wed nights. I can't wait to see what they do next!

Are you a science geek? Have you seen the show? Do you watch something similar like Mythbusters?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Guest Blogger

For the past couple of years I've invited a guest blogger to talk about her breast cancer experience as a way to promote breast cancer awareness to our readers. Here are the links to 2010, 2009 and 2008. Being aware is just the first step. Self-examination and mammograms are others.

Today's guest blogger is the sister of a church friend, and after I posted on Facebook for a volunteer, Joe volunteered his sister. Isn't that just like an older brother? ~grin~ But she graciously agreed and now I'll turn the the floor over to her.

September and October are a time of reflection for me. While my friends are wearing pink and talking about breast cancer walks, I quietly remember my mother. A quiet spirit, calm and gentle. Determined. People tell me I look like her. I don't really remember. It’s been so long since we lost her. Diagnosed at 22 with breast cancer, her life was turned upside down. She beat the odds that time and was able to raise my older brother and me. My entire life was spent in her remission. I was only 13 when the cancer came back with a vengeance, and she died a year later. I tell myself that cancer treatments have come a long way since 1984. I tell myself that doctors know so much more now. I tell myself that women (and men) are better about listening to their bodies and taking preventative steps to protect themselves.

I have always been extra careful with my health, and have done everything "right". For years I have paid out of pocket for mammograms when insurance wouldn't pay the bill because of my young age. Last year I celebrated the BIG 4-0 and believed that 40 really was Fabulous. My mother died when she was 36, and I am grateful for the extra years. Extra time to hold my children and love my husband.

Insurance finally paid for my mammogram. It was a day of celebration for me to finally have a free squeeze. I didn’t mind the test so much, but having to pay for it always insulted me. Haven't I paid enough already in my life to cancer? I knew something was wrong when the technician grew quiet and took extra images. She lied and said the image had messed up, but I could see it in her eyes. I tried to joke and laugh because I know it’s never easy to look a young mother in the face, knowing the challenge that was most likely ahead. A week later I saw that image with my surgeon and immediately knew it was inflammatory invasive breast cancer. There was no lump. No warning. No signs. The most aggressive breast cancer there is was growing and spreading quickly through my body. We found my cancer early because I was diligent about my health care and educated on my choices. I was never really scared. Not because I am super woman, but because I know God walked before me in every tough decision. 2 Chronicles 20:17 "The battle is not for you to fight. Take your position and stand still and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf."

It's been one of the toughest and also sweetest years of my life. My husband and I made some bold choices and are still struggling with the aftermath from surgeries, infections, and chemotherapy. I will never be the same, but I will give thanks in all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Be joyous always. Pray continually. And give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for your life in Christ Jesus."

I have no regrets and I am still in the battle.

My whole life I have called myself a cancer survivor because my mom died from cancer, and I survived! It made me tough and my faith has made me fearless. I know I can face any challenge with God's help. Now as a cancer patient, my doctor isn't quite ready to call me a survivor, but I'm almost there. Until that day comes, I will wear my pink, grow my hair and encourage others to seek preventative care. A mammogram saved my life! Have you been squeezed lately? Have your friends? Are you spiritually prepared to face LIFE? Are you prepared to give an answer to the questions others ask?

Colossians 2:2 "I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.”

And we've been shown the mystery! I'm telling you this because I don't want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or "the Secret."

I thank God for the rough road. It has made me who I am today and I know with God's help, cancer isn't an ugly word. Cancer is just another bump in the road and I plan on enjoying the rest of the ride. I won't survive. I will THRIVE! Every day in October, I have challenged myself to post a list of thankfulness on my Facebook page. Looking for the good things that have blessed me during my battle with cancer. Thankful for all the obvious things, but also thankful for the nurses in radiology who blew out 8 different veins in my arm. They cried with me. It reminded me that Jesus faced much worse all alone, because of my sin. If he could suffer so much for me, then I could handle needles and tests. It's been a really long year, confident and at rest.

So in October, what are YOU grateful for? How have you encouraged others in breast health and preventative care? How are you celebrating life this month?

Jeri Parker Mercier is happily married to her knight in shining armor and together they are raising their three boys, ages 14 and 10-year-old twins. "Cancer doesn't care that I used to teach preschool or sing in churches," she says. "Cancer doesn't care that I graduated from Samford University with honors. Cancer only cares to seek and destroy. All that really matters in this life is Jesus and family. And my dog, Sam, is my best cancer buddy. He sat with me all winter long while the rest of the world kept spinning around me."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Parenting Moment...

When AC was approaching the age where she was figuring out that boys and girls are different, I bought her a book. It’s a great book – it covers puberty, the basics of sex, etc, in an age-appropriate way. I explained to her what it was, encouraged her to read it and come to me with questions about anything and everything. Very cool, very straightforward.

I was a "good parent." Hell, I write romance novels for a living; I don’t see sex as dirty or shameful or something that we don’t talk about. I had the only seven-year-old who could use “mistress” properly in a sentence. I had to define “sexy” when she was six. (Thank you, Victoria’s Secret catalogue.) AC had probably overheard far more than she let on just because the Playfriends tend to talk about things like sexual tension. I was ready to be there for my child as she entered puberty and the wild waters of boys and hormones.

I pictured it as a scene straight from a Lifetime movie--- AC would come to me, and we’d have this long, lovely, mother-daughter bonding moment while sitting on her bed with her stuffed animals. We’d talk about love, and finding the right man, and how beautiful it can be. Cue the music, the hugging…

That’s not how it works at all, ya know?

No, children are far more likely to ask “but what do you do with your legs?” while you’re at the dinner table so that you can spit pasta across the table. Kids are much more likely to casually ask from the back seat “Mom, what’s oral sex?” while you’re trying to merge across six lanes of traffic at 60mph. They’re going to ask “What’s a hooker?” in front of the priest.

No Lifetime movie moments for me. Just sputtering and the occasional Heimlich maneuver. But, by dog, I still tried. I still held out hope that AC would give me the opportunity to prove that I can be Cool Mom.

And then it looked like my chance had come. We’re setting the table for dinner, and AC asked “What’s a homosexual?” Imagine my big smile because I’ve got this. Not only can I answer this in a cool-mom, straightforward manner, but depending on where she heard it, it might be a teachable moment that can springboard us to larger issues about bigotry and acceptance, the power of love and the rights of all people. It doesn’t matter; I’m ready. (As long as she doesn’t ask where their legs go.) Here’s my chance to reset the clock and live down that oral sex lane-swerving curse-fest. It’s my moment, people. Cue my music.

I start my warm-up. “Well, some boys want to date girls and some boys want to date boys. And some girls want to date girls…”

AC interrupts. “Oh, so they’re gay people.”

Me: “Yes. Homosexual people are gay people.”

AC: “So lesbians are gay girls.”

Me: “Uh-huh.” I take a deep breath, ready for the next question. Where will we go from here?

AC: “I need Dad to help me with my math after dinner.”

I felt slightly deflated, but not defeated. “Gay people are just people. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”

AC nodded. “I know. Can I have a Sprite?”

And the moment had passed. I did make a point of telling her that “gay” had other definitions, but she already knew that, too. I even tried to explain the hetero/homo prefix thing, but I was grasping at that point and had already lost my audience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad AC hadn’t heard something horrible that I had to sort out. I’m glad that the biggest issue she has with other people’s sexuality is vocabulary. But it was my moment, and it was snatched away, dammit, before I had a chance to shine.

Le Sigh.

(Hey, the next time some mini-van swerves across three lanes of traffic, be kind. Dog only knows what question just came from the backseat…)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting Away From It All

The Playfriends are prepping for a trek to the mountains of Tennessee for our local chapter’s Annual Retreat. I’ve always loved a good retreat, from the time I attended my first for my youth group at age 12. These times of getting away from the daily grind and just relaxing are even more precious to me now.

For our chapter retreat, we don’t do a lot of writing (although my sister and I plan to do some writing sprints while we’re gone). We talk a lot of writing – plotting, industry, process, etc. and I’ve learned some of my most important lessons during these impromptu discussions. But we also talk a lot about life – family, jobs, and the struggle to make our work a priority in the midst of the chaos. Those chats are even more precious to me!

That is an annual retreat that I indulge in once a year. Sometimes I have to scrimp and save to be able to afford, but I just can’t not go. I think after all my hard work all year, I deserve it. And so does my creativity. Its really hard to sustain a consistent writing pace in the chaos that is my life. But it isn’t the only type of retreat. There are authors who get away in little groups of 3 or 4 to brainstorm story ideas. Some chapters have actual WRITING retreats where the goals is to get a lot of pages done while you are gone. And then there is the solo retreat.

I haven’t been away by myself for a weekend since my son was little. My husband gave me a weekend at a bed and breakfast, alone, for Mother’s Day that year. This year, I’m taking a little bit of time and money and running away from home for a few days. Oddly enough, the hubby is supportive. LOL I think he hopes I’ll come back more sane and rested… and did I mention sane? Wishful thinking.

But I plan to sleep, write, swim, write, eat, write, nap, write, and maybe do a little sightseeing to refill the well. I can’t wait! I’m more excited about this than I have been about anything in a long time. Pathetic, huh? But to me it sounds like heaven.

Have you ever retreated with a group or by yourself? If you could get away BY YOURSELF for a few days, where would you go? What would you do?


Friday, October 14, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Yes, I've been watching too much Guy Fieri on Food Network. Today is a mish-mash blog focused primarily on all the contests we've had lately and have been neglectful in announcing winners.

So... first, the winner of Free Book Friday is.... Diane Rains! Email me at smartypants @ writingplayground (dot) com with your snail mail info to claim your prize.

Next, the winner of Maven Linda Winstead Jones's Fairy Tale giveaway is... Laurie G! Email me at smartypants @ writingplayground (dot) com with your snail mail info to claim your prize.

The winner of Paula Graves's blog giveaway is... Chey! Email Instigator at instigator @ writingplayground (dot) com with your snail mail info to claim your prize.

And finally (NEW ADDITION) the winners of Christina Hollis's giveaway are Petite and Desere. Email Instigator at instigator @ writingplayground (dot) com with your snail mail info to claim your prize.

There are still more prizes to be won. You have until the end of the month to enter to win the Everything You Desire Contest! Enter here to win some great books and things every woman wants - things that smell good, things that feel good and things that taste good! The winner will receive:

Four Autographed Harlequin Desire Titles and an Autographed Showcase 2-in-1

  • Dante's Honor Bound Husband by Day LeClaire

  • The Proposal by Brenda Jackson

  • King's Million Dollar Secret by Maureen Child

  • Acquired: The CEO's Small Town Bride by Catherine Mann

  • The Littlest Marine & The Oldest Living Married Virgin by Maureen Child
Black Fleece Throw Blanket
Love Candle
Yardley English Lavender Soap
Bath Scrub
Lindor Truffles

I'm also running a second contest. Join my mailing list by clicking here and you'll be entered to win a second, super sekrit prize! Right now I have 15 people (and most are ineligible, like Angel), so I'm feeling a little sad. Good news for you, though, if you join, your odds of winning are GREAT! :)


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Blog - Christina Hollis

I'm very excited to welcome Christina Hollis to the blog today. Her first book was published with Mills and Boon Modern in 2007 and she's had many more since then. And while she's a new friend to the Playground, I hope she'll be back often!


I love the autumn. It’s a time for long walks through the woods that surround our home, which is a perfect place to find inspiration. There are deserted, secret spots were I can go to work out some tricky plot developments, but there are also areas loved by dog walkers, cyclists and tourists, which are great for people watching. We’ve recently had the mildest October day for years and as the weeds kept growing and I’ve been so busy working, my poor garden has been sadly neglected. It’s going to take a lot of hard work over the next few months to get it back into shape for spring. My weekends are pretty full already, transporting my son to his dance lessons, food shopping and at the moment, writing entries for my blog tour. While the weather is still fine, I try and work outside for an hour or so every day but it isn’t always possible. During the working week I have to juggle things very carefully. After the morning school run I settle down to work. My target is to write a minimum of two thousand words for my latest work in progress, which I do first thing, while I’m fresh. Then I read over what I’ve done and edit it. Only when this is all finished can I go out into my own “Writing Playground” - my garden. Sometimes there isn’t time to do much before I have to go and meet the school coach, but even a few minutes in a garden recharges my batteries. Everyone needs their own private space, and writers are lucky. Even if we can’t get away physically, we can always escape into our work.

In my latest release, Weight of the Crown, I got a lot of pleasure from inventing my own little kingdom of Rosara. Actually, it isn’t mine - I handed it over to the care of Lysander Kahani, a man who has been forced to give up the life he loved to take command of his country. While his brother was King and his nephew next in line to the throne, Lysander had all the privileges of position and money with none of the responsibilities. With his brother’s death, everything changed. Lysander is now regent of Rosara, until his little nephew is old enough to be crowned. As regent he has to shoulder all the burden alone - until he insists that the best English nanny is employed to care for the little king-in-waiting. Alyssa has suffered a tragedy and a broken heart in quick succession. She doesn’t have any sympathy for Lysander’s loss of private life - but then he makes her a royal offer she can’t refuse!

Thank you, Kira and company, for inviting me into the Writing Playground. I’ve really enjoyed my visit, and now I’d like to ask everyone a question.

Where do you find your inspiration? I’m giving away signed books from my backlist for the most evocative comments!

Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance (which appear as Presents/Presents Extra in the US) for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Her most recent titles are The Count's Challenge for Harlequin Presents Extra(USA) and Weight of the Crown for Harlequin Mills and Boon Limited (UK)

You can catch up with her latest news at:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Best of the Bookshelf - October edition

Here's what we're reading this month.

Smarty Pants is reading WEREWOLF IN THE NORTH WOODS by Vicki Lewis Thompson

There’s nothing I like better than a fun, paranormal romance. Give me a little magic, some sizzling passion, and some laugh out loud moments and you’ve got me hooked. Once again, Vicki Lewis Thompson doesn’t disappoint in her second Wild About You novel. In Werew olf in the North Woods, Abby Maddox goes to Oregon to convince her aging grandfather to move closer to her after he starts claiming to have seen Big Foot. Anthropologist (and werewolf) Roark Wallace steps in to diffuse the situation and discredit the old man before every kook in the country comes to Portland looking for Big Foot and finds the local wolf pack instead. Of course, his job would be easier if he didn’t have to choose between pack loyalty and the sexy redhead distracting him.

Problem Child is reading GARTERS by Pamela Morsi

This is an older book (1992), and a friend’s mom loaned it to me when it was brand-new. The story stuck with me, though, and I went searching for my own copy a couple of months ago. It’s a sweet story (but still sexy), and a real change from historicals filled with Dukes and Ladies and Lairds. Instead i t’s set in the hills of Tennessee, with a barely-literate hillbilly heroine and a fish-raising, non-dashing hero. But it’s a fun story, very real-feeling, and a quick read.

Instigator is reading HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost

I admit I'm a little behind, but I recently discovered Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. The first book, Halfway to the Grave, was on sale on Barnes and Noble and so I thought I'd give it a try. And so far I've devoured three books within a week. A half-vampire kick-ass heroine. A master vampire hero who chains the heroine and threatens to kill her the first time they meet. Yeah, these characters grab you and just won't let go. What I've really enjoyed about the series so far is that while both of the characters quickly admit that they love each other, that doesn't prevent them from having issues they must learn how to deal with together. This series offers a real opportunity to see a relationship as it grows and changes
through more than just that initial meeting and euphoria stage. Set against the backdrop of danger, power and a cleverly built paranormal world, I promise you won't be disappointed if you pick up this series.

Angel is reading MIDNIGHT SINS by Lora Leigh

I’m trying to catch up on reading for next year’s luncheon speaker, Lora Leigh. The concept really intrigued me. This is the start of a new series featuring 3 cousins who have been ostracized by the entire town, including their own family. The hero, Rafer Callahan, lives with the grief that he couldn’t a woman killed during a summer of brutal murders, and the knowledge that many believe he and his cousins committed the murders themselves. Cambria Flannigan lost her sister to the murderer, and now she’s being targeted. She turns to Rafer for protection and the love she’s denied herself all these years. But her connection to the outcasts will test her loyalty and just may cost her her life.

And alas, life took a crazy turn and I'm still reading the book I posted last month: THE LOST RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS by Barbara O'Neal.

Elena Alvarez always wanted the chance to run her own top-notch restaurant kitchen. And on the day she's fired from one chef's job, she's offered the chance to be executive chef by Julian Listwood who is trying to get his teenage daughter away from Hollywood and hoping to turn his Aspen restaurant into a success like his others. She moves to Aspen with her sister and her dog, calls two old friends to join her kitchen staff and starts anew -- again. Still haunted by an accident that killed everyone but her, she hopes that maybe this new start will reveal the lost recipe for happiness. Elena does share some of her favorite recipes and the one for Mayan Hot Chocolate has me longing for cold weather so I can try it out!

What are YOU reading?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Le Bon Temps Roulez!

I spent the weekend in one of my favorite cities: New Orleans. NOLA was a huge part of my youth – Counselor Shelley lived right outside the city and we’d go dancing there on the weekends (or go to the parades during Mardi Gras). Some very good times were had. (Yeah, I thought I was immortal. I know now that I was just darn lucky!)

But NOLA is the setting for my next two books, and not only was my last trip to NOLA over eight years ago, let’s just say that many of my memories of NOLA are a bit, um, fuzzy. At least as those memories pertain to locations and things I’ll need to actually know. Since it was Fall Break weekend, Darling Geek, Amazing Child and I headed for the Big Easy.

To do research. (Oh, I love my job!)

Now, I’ve set books in places that I haven’t personally visited, and I did all the research online or by calling people I know who live there. It’s a valid way to research. But NOLA is a special place. The city itself has character. It infuses everything and affects everything. The city is as much a character in the stories set there as the protagonists are. You can’t just plonk any ol’ story in New Orleans and expect it to fly. So I needed to go there and experience it all again.

Of course, this was a very different type of trip than the ones of my youth. I mean, I had a 10-year-old in tow. That very much affects where I could go and what I could do. I was back in my hotel room every night by 9pm and asleep shortly thereafter. (My inner 21-year-old is horrified. The party was just getting started at 9pm!) There was no bar-hopping down Bourbon St. or dancing with frat rats to questionable cover bands. You know, that was probably a good thing; Bourbon St. is for tourists, and the locals go elsewhere for a good time.

But I did take AC down Bourbon St… But just a couple of blocks, and it was four o’clock in the afternoon, so it was relatively tame. That’s responsible parenting, right? DG put her on top of a paperbox and took her picture under a Bourbon St. street sign. Yeah, we expect CPS to be by any time now…

So what did I do? I explored the other streets of the French Quarter, visiting art galleries and stores that don’t sell t-shirts or Mardi Gras masks. We walked through the Garden District, picking out the type of house my heroine’s family lived in, and got a feel for what the neighborhood felt like. I rode the streetcar to the Warehouse District to see how long it would take for my hero to travel between his house and his studio. I walked the path to my heroine’s apartment three different ways and talked to a few of the people who live in that neighborhood to see what is was really like. I took a carriage ride through the French Quarter and learned some off-beat history from someone who knows the city and it’s secrets well.

And then I had beignets at CafĂ© du Monde. (Okay, so I did that twice. They’re really good.) For fun (but I don’t think it will show up in a book), we toured the Voodoo Museum. That was AC’s choice of activity. (It was actually very interesting, but it really, really, needs a good dusting.)

I was actually worried that a post-Katrina New Orleans would be different, and not the city I remember and love. (And no, I didn’t personally tour any of the devastated areas. To me, that type of voyeuristic tourism borders on skeevy. People lost lives and property and I should not be gawking at their loss and misfortune. That is the research I’ll do online. I did talk to a couple of locals about it, but I didn't go see it.) But New Orleans is still New Orleans and it still calls me to come sit on the steps across from Jackson Square with a drink in my hand and listen to the clop-clop of the mules, the horns from the boats on the Mississippi River, and the musicians who play with varying degrees of talent, but massive amounts of enthusiasm.

I love New Orleans. It speaks to me. What cities speak to you?

(And in true Problem Child style, I injured myself. I almost made it, but then slipped off the curb as I was getting into the car (literally two seconds from being in the clear), and sprained my ankle. Sigh.)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

To Bathe or Not To Bathe

And no, I’m not talking about optional hygiene. :) Although that's a view my pre-teen often takes.

We’ve talked before on WP about baths. Some of us are big proponents of them, both for relaxing and for writing.

I shower every day, but I take a bath a couple of times a week, usually at the end of a hard day or when I want some down time where everyone leaves me alone. Often I take a book with me, reading away an hour while my body lets all the tension melt away. Sometimes I take my journal or my alphasmart so I can write or jot down notes when scenes start to play in my head. And on rare occasions I take nothing with me, simply closing the door and sinking deep into the heat, letting my brain go blessedly numb.

As I lay in chin-deep warm water last night, I thought about something I heard from a non-bath proponent. She said taking a bath seemed like laying in your own dirt. Well, I guess it could be seen that way, although I don’t. I’ve usually had a shower earlier that morning – I take most of my baths at night. Baths aren’t usually for “bathing” for me, but instead for relaxing, brainstorming, reading, or clearing my mind. I’ve never gotten out of the tub and left a film of dirt in the bottom.

I’ve often wondered if “showerers” do the same thing. Obviously you can’t read in the shower, although I’ve heard of having televisions installed in showers. And I have taken a quick shower at night if I needed that proximity to water but just didn’t want to mess with a long soak.

But my favorite form of a bath isn’t really a bath at all – it’s a hot tub. We used to have one until we moved. The Playfriends sometimes take trips to the mountains and the house we stay in has a hot tub. Lots of brainstorming going on there!

It was on another mountain trip that I found my ideal bath tub – the one that I’ll buy if I ever become a millionaire. It’s a stand alone whirlpool that maintains temperature and has a fireplace as a focal point. Here’s a picture:


Heavenly, isn’t it?

So, to bathe or not to bathe… What's your most memorable bath?


P.S. I’m blogging today at The Mutual Admiration Society about motivation through action – like baths that prompt brainstorming. :)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Free Book Friday - Halloween Edition

Fall has arrived. I'm so damn excited, I can barely contain myself, and if you know me at all, that must mean I really like fall. It's like my reward for putting up with summer. Or a bribe to get me through the winter. Honestly, I'm not used to seasons. I grew up in Arizona and Nevada where its really just hot or cold. Dry or wet. No shades of gray. Fall is just a slightly less warm and more wet transition on the way to our winter, which while not super cold, was freezing to us. When summer hits 120, 55 is a parka weather. I grew up with no changing leaves. No pumpkin patches to visit, just a patch in the parking lot with them lined up to buy. No college football madness. At best, we had great weather for Halloween, guaranteed.

Which brings me to Free Book Friday! Since its October, I thought I'd offer up a great paranormal to get everyone in the spirit of things. This one is autographed, folks!

Dead Girls Are Easy by Terri Garey
(Book 1 in the Nicki Styx Series)

There's something about almost dying that makes a girl rethink her priorities. Take Nicki Styx--she was strictly goth and vintage, until a brush with the afterlife leaves her with the ability to see dead people.

Before you can say boo, Atlanta's ghosts are knocking at Nicki's door. Now her days consist of reluctantly cleaning up messes left by the dearly departed, leading ghouls to the Light . . . and one-on-one anatomy lessons with Dr. Joe Bascombe, the dreamy surgeon who saved her life. All this catering to the deceased is a real drag, especially for a girl who'd rather be playing hanky-panky with her hunky new boyfriend . . . who's beginning to think she's totally nuts.

But things get even more complicated when a friend foolishly sells her soul to the devil, and Nicki's new gift lands her in some deep voodoo.

As it turns out for Nicki Styx, death was just the beginning.

To win, comment with the phrase "I'm in some deep voodoo!" and tell me your favorite thing about the fall.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Guest Blogger - Paula Graves

I'm very excited to welcome Paula Graves to the Playground today! She's been an honorary Playfriend for a very long time and it's always a pleasure when she visits. Please give her a warm Playground welcome.

Ever heard of Medical Student Syndrome? It's another name for the hypochondriasis common among medical students studying diseases: they become convinced they're experiencing symptoms of the diseases. I have a similar experience, in a way, when I'm researching books. I usually end up identifying with the psychological or emotional experiences my characters have, to varying degrees, even if I haven't experienced those actual feelings in my own life.

I think it boils down to the fact that some emotions are universal, even if we haven't experienced them in the exact same way as our characters have.

For instance, when I was writing CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE (Harlequin Intrigue Feb. 2010), even though my mother is the best woman in the world and our relationship is rock solid, I was still able to experience my heroine's horror during flashbacks of her mother's mental breakdown that led to the murder of her children. I think it's probably the intensity of my love and respect for my mother that allowed me to delve deep into the emotions such a betrayal of nature might evoke. Imagining my own mother turning on me that way was intensely horrific and helped me understand, to some small extent, what a shattering and life-changing experience my heroine had faced as a child.

I don't have children of my own, but I do have nieces who live with me, and in writing ONE TOUGH MARINE (Harlequin Intrigue, August 2010), in which the heroine's son is threatened with kidnapping if she doesn't find the secret files her late husband was hiding, I drew on my feelings of love and protectiveness toward my girls to understand and convey the desperate lengths to which my heroine would go to keep her child safe. There are few things I would die for, but I'd die to protect those kids. I used that emotion in writing the book.

My latest book, MAJOR NANNY (Harlequin Intrigue, October 2011) features a heroine whose young son has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. I don't know anyone with Asperger's, but as I was researching the disease, I realized that both my brother and I showed strong symptoms of the syndrome, especially when we were children. I don't think we actually have it—we're able to read other people's social cues much better than an Aspie would, but we did share enough of the socialization problems as children that I was able to draw on my own experiences to write the character of Zachary.

I think research can take a writer only so far. At some point, she has to immerse herself in the characters and situations and find the truth through her own experiences. If you're a writer, how do you plumb those depths of emotions and experiences within yourself to bleed onto the page? And if you're a reader, do you find yourself identifying with characters more if their experiences resonate with your own experiences in some way? Or can it become too painful if you identify with them too much?

One commenter today will win either a signed copy of one of Paula's backlist or a $10 Amazon gift card, winner's choice! And don't miss Major Nanny, Paula's latest release, available now.

P.S. Vicki Batman is PM's winner from yesterday. Email her with your snail mail info to claim your prize.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

I finally got there

At 10:06 a.m. this past Monday I finally got there -- the last page of the Internet. It was a long journey that began some time back in the 90's when I discovered the 'net.

I love the Internet. Yeah, it can be a huge time suck, but it's also entertained me, informed me and helped me earn some money.

Now that I've reached the last page, I took time for a little retrospective look down memory lane at some of the sites I've bookmarked as favorites.

Google -- Need I say more?

eBay -- I'm a buyer and seller.

etsy -- A world of wonderful handmade items.

Internet Movie Data Base -- How can one live without this site?

US Newspaper List -- Another great resource site.

Free Rice -- Improve your vocabulary and help others. What could be better?

Facebook -- I plead the 5th. Actually, I've reconnected with childhood friends and a best friend from high school, among others.

Snow Days -- Winter fun.

Snopes -- Great place to debunk urban myths and those annoying emails about getting money from Microsoft for forwarding emails.

All Recipes -- When you're looking for a new recipe.

Max Talent -- Terrific place to find photos to use as visuals for hero and heroine of your book.

Squirt's Place -- My favorite hunk site. NOT SAFE FOR WORK though.

Vista Print -- I just love all the great things you can order for just the cost of shipping.

Grammy Tales -- THE most adorable child in the world.

Go ahead. Click on this link and visit the last page. And then come back and tell me YOUR favorite sites. One randomly selected commenter will get one of my handmade beaded bookmarks.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Y'all may know some of this already -- because I've posted on Facebook and elsewhere about it -- but it doesn't seem real until I post it here. ~grin~

Sometimes, life is good *and* fun at the same time, and the good
and fun stuff happen about the same time...

Good Thing;


Well, What Happens In Vegas... won the Maggie in Series Contemporary. I wasn't able to go to the ceremony, so I haven't actually seen it yet (so it doesn't seem quite real yet). But SQUEEE nonetheless.

Fun Thing: I went and got some new head shots made, and the photographer had some fun with me. I think this photo is what some people think romance writers *should* look like. (amazing what Photoshop can do, huh?)

(I do not have that much hair or that much cleavage, alas...)

Good Thing: The final Marshall book has a title : Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet. I'm kind of sad to know that it's done and dusted. I've loved writing the Marshall books, and now it's over. ~frown~ I'll have to find new hunks to crush on.

Fun Thing: Finding new hunks to crush on. ~grin~

Good Thing: The Power and the Glory is #9 on the Mills and Boon top 10 this week (along with Lynn Raye Harris's Captive But Forbidden*). It will be available in the US next month!

Fun thing: Planning a trip to New Orleans to research the new book. I haven't been down there since before Katrina, so I'm excited to go visit an old friend (because that's what New Orleans is like -- an old friend who shows you a great time and feeds you fabulous food every time you come to town). Note to self: pack stretchy pants...

Good thing: Fall is finally here. I'm loving the cooler temps and I even broke out the frog feet this morning to keep my toes warm. My frog feet slippers are also a fun thing. They make me smile.

Do you have good things or fun things happening? What's making you happy these days?

*Edited to change Lynn's title to the actual title. Sorry, Lynn.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Life as a Circus

No one told me, when I chose to become a mother, than one of the life skills I would desperately need would be juggling.

Huh? How does life become a circus act? And I’m just the sideline performer. :)

I thought I juggled a lot in college: a full-time student (minimum 5 classes) and 3 part-time jobs. But now I juggle 2 kids, 2 schools, 2 jobs, 1 husband, writing, and a house that never stays clean. Some days one thing will need the most attention (like kids), then other days I can compensate and go a different direction (like writing).

But the hardest part of juggling is the balance. Its actually easy for me to go gung ho in one direction. That focus is the part I enjoy. What’s hard for me is balancing that with something else that can’t be forgotten entirely, like my writing. I try to spend SOME time each day with it, even if its only 15 minutes of plotting. And that is much more difficult than an entire day immersed in my characters and plot.

Guess I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way! But I get by with the help of my friends... the Playfriends, my sister, accountability partners, and even sometimes the dear Hubby. :)

So tell me, what’s your hardest juggling act?


Our very own Andrea Laurence is guest blogging today on eHarlequin! Check it out here.