Thursday, March 31, 2011

Something New

I'm getting ready to head to the RT Convention. I've spent the last several weeks picking out my wardrobe and getting my promo material ready (as previously discussed, this is a weakness of mine). Someone (and I'm not even sure who) has started something new at RT that I'm pretty excited about - romance trading cards.


Mine arrived yesterday. I maybe be biased, but I think they're awfully pretty.




My question is, as a reader, would you be interested in collecting these cards from authors that you like? I'm just wondering if my excitement is generated from seeing my cover and character info on something fun or because it actually is fun.


If you're going to be at RT be sure and stop me, Problem Child and Lynn Raye Harris as we'll all have cards to share. And I have to say that PC's and Lynn's are just as awesome as mine.


Instigator

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guest Blogger: Lynn Raye Harris

Today we welcome honorary Playfriend and fellow Heart of Dixie member Lynn Raye Harris. Lynn writes super sexy alpha heroes set in glamorous faraway places for Harlequin Presents. Please make room on the swings for Lynn (and maybe some extra room so one of her uber-alpha heroes can join us too).

I never know when I start a new book just where it's going to take me. I have the characters, of course, and I have an idea of what the problems are between them. But where we go after that is always a surprise.

When I started writing The Devil's Heart, all I knew was that I had two characters with a past together and, as my friend Jean says, a big ass diamond. The diamond is central to the story because it's what drives the characters together again. Once they're together, however, there's a whole lot more to solve than just exactly who owns the diamond.

And that's where the fun begins. Marcos Navarre and Francesca d'Oro both have their reasons for wanting the diamond, and of course those reasons are in opposition to each other. Once I knew this, all I did was set them loose on the page.

They surprised me with the things they revealed about themselves. I had no idea until I was writing it what they'd been through in their pasts. I can't say everything went smoothly, however. I turned in the first draft of the book and waited for my editor's opinion.

It wasn't what I wanted to hear, I have to admit. While the core idea was sound, and the characters were sound, I'd gone way too far in the direction of exploring their past together. The first chapter is pretty much exactly as I wrote it, but much of the rest of the book had to change. I wrote non-stop for two weeks. I didn't shower (often), I didn't cook, and I didn't leave the house.

But at the end of those two weeks, I had a book that I knew was stronger. Fortunately, my editor agreed. Part of writing is rewriting. I don’t mind it, though I do grumble a bit while I’m doing it. ;)

The lesson for the writers reading is this: don’t fear rewriting, and don’t fear revising. We all do it, whether we’ve written 10 books or 100 books (trust me, I’ve asked the authors with 100 books and they told me the same thing!). Some books will be easier to write than others. The Devil’s Heart was a bit of a devil, but my reader mail so far tells me I succeeded. And RT Book Reviews Magazine awarded it 4 stars, saying, “Lots of conflict, hot love scenes and a satisfying ending make this an entertaining read.”

Here’s the back cover copy:

A diamond, and a deal with the devil…

Francesca D’Oro was just eighteen when darkly sexy Marcos Navarre swept her up the aisle—then fled before the ink on the marriage license had dried. Marcos might have given Francesca a jewel for her finger, but he stole another: the Devil’s Heart—a dazzling yellow diamond he believed belonged to his family…

Years later Francesca, no longer so youthfully na├»ve, is determined to reclaim the precious gem! But she’s forgotten that Marcos lives up to the treasure’s name—and dealing with the devil is always dangerous!

And here’s a bit of a teaser if you aren’t quite convinced yet:

“I beg your pardon?” Marcos Navarre stared at the slight figure dressed in dark clothes. The gun pointed at his heart never wavered.

“I said move.”

This time the voice was less gruff. Marcos stepped away from the hotel room door, hands up just enough so this intruder wouldn’t think he was about to do something crazy.

Like lunge for the gun.

If he could get close enough, he would do just that. This wasn’t the first time he’d been on the business end of a weapon, and fear was not what motivated his seeming compliance. He’d become inured to violence during the years he’d spent living in South American jungles with a guerilla army. He knew without doubt there was always an opportunity, in situations like this, to gain the upper hand. So long as his hands were free, there was a chance.

No, fear was not at all what he felt. Rage was the word he was looking for. Bone deep rage.

The person facing him was small, though he knew better than to mistake small for weak. Darkness shrouded the room and he couldn’t make out any details about his visitor. But he had several inches of height, and many more stones of weight to his advantage.

The moment he had opportunity, he would act. The key was to remain free, and to keep his senses on high alert. He refused to consider what he would do should this intruder attempt to restrain him in any way. Memories flashed into his mind: a dark room, the sharp odor of sweat and rage, and the feel of his own blood dripping down his wrists.

No. Focus.

“You are wasting your time,” Marcos said mildly. “I am not in the habit of keeping large amounts of cash in my room.”

“Shut up.”

Marcos blinked. The gruffness in his intruder’s voice was gone. The person holding a gun on him so coolly was most definitely a woman…

**

Today, I’ll give away one signed copy plus some LRH goodies to a random commenter! Since a fabulous jewel is at the center of this book, tell me what your favorite gemstone is. Truthfully, I like them all … sparkly…. ;)

Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents. You can learn more about Lynn and her books at http://www.lynnrayeharris.com/. You can also follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnRayeHarris or visit her author page on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLynnRayeHarris

P.S. Instigator is guest blogging at
Southern Romance's blog today. Please hop over and join her.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Bitchy Teenagers Can Make Me Do Something (other than want to hit them)


Most of you may know that I've spent the last year really trying to lose weight and get back into shape. I've tried hard not to talk about it much at all, but that doesn't always work. But as someone who struggles constantly with body issues, too much introspection about my body doesn't lead to good things.

I had to do something. While my weight was still within the normal range, I was starting to really be affected by it. I felt fat and ugly. Depression and self-loathing were starting to creep in around the edges of my psyche. It didn't matter that other people didn't see me the way I did. In fact, anyone telling me I looked fine (or even great) only made me feel like I was being patronized. Yes, I knew my weight was still in the normal range and that I'd never be as thin as I was in high school. But knowing something rationally and believing it in your heart are two different things. I could rationalize that cookie, but it didn't stop me from hating myself for eating it.

If alarm bells are going off in your head, then pat yourself on the back. Yes, these are warning signs. Counselor Shelley keeps a close eye on me -- while I've never crossed that line, I've come close at different points in my life. I've always managed to keep what I believed from overtaking what I knew.

Of course, now I have AC to worry about. I know that it's not good for her to listen to me obsess about my weight. It's not healthy for girls to get that message, and they're getting it enough from popular culture without a parent giving it credence in the home.

So I set a reasonable goal weight (I'll never see 105 again, so why set myself up for failure?). I took a long look at our family meals and started cooking healthier. I cleaned all the junk food out of the pantry. And I started taking a class called BodyFlow.

BodyFlow is a mix of tai chi, pilates, and yoga. It's all about stretching and building core strength. We work on our breathing. We mediate at the end of every class. It's good for the body and the mind.

And between diet and exercise, I hit my goal weight last fall. I gained some back over Christmas, but I've lost that now, AND I've passed my goal and hit a number on the scale I haven't seen since Clinton was in office. I feel stronger, more flexible, and if the light is just right, you might see a little bit of ab definition.

I've told you all of this so that you'll understand the epiphany I had recently. I was waiting for our BodyFlow class to start, and this very skinny, very young, very cheerleader-type girl attending class for the first time proceeded to talk at the top of her lungs about how she was going to take the class, but she didn't know how a class designed for "old chubby" people would be advanced enough for her. Classes at gyms were designed for "old chubby" people who just weren't in good shape and she doubted she'd get anything from it. And she went on and on for a good five minutes. (Can we cue every neurosis I've ever had?)

I cleaned her clock. Showed her how it was done. She was panting and struggling through the whole class and shot me death looks in the mirror as I hit an extended Warrior One that she couldn't top no matter how hard she tried. And she tried, trust me. Not to brag, but my lunges were deeper and I could hold them longer. My extensions were better. I felt like Queen of the World every time she caught my eye in the mirror and shot me another dirty look.


Not me, btw...

It was the best class I've ever had. And knowing she hated every second I held something longer than she did... well, that challenged me to work even harder, just to piss her off. (So I'm shallow. Sue me.)

For the first time, I felt strong and flexible. Yeah, I kinda knew I was getting there because my instructor has been talking to me about getting certified to teach BodyFlow, but I didn't believe I was strong or flexible enough. But, thanks to Little Miss Skinny, I believe it now. And for the first time in a very, very long time, I was proud of my body. Not for what it looked like, but for what it could do. And for someone who's spent a good portion of her life hating her body for one reason or another, it was a powerful moment.

I've been watching RuPaul's Drag Race on TV, and he ends every show with, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anybody else?" I may not love my body yet, but I'm developing an affection for it. That's progress, right?

And to Little Miss Skinny: I totally hope to see you in class tonight. This "old chubby" chick will kick your butt again. And if you think my extended Warrior One is good, just wait until you see my Standing Bridge...



Problem Child

Monday, March 28, 2011

Change -- Part Deux


In the space of a matter of weeks, life has changed once again around my house. I’ve got a new job – one in an office with my own desk, computer, and insurance, where I wear dress clothes and am climbing a steep learning curve. Brand new adjustments for everyone – hubby now has to get the kids ready and take them to school, and I’ve had to back out of a field trip. But we’re all learning.


I’m enjoying the structure this imposes on my time, the women that I’m getting to know at work, and the knowledge that for the first time in my marriage I’m significantly contributing to the financial side of our lives without having to put our children into daycare. I’m being trained in a field that most people have to go to school for, and I’ll always have this skill and experience.


On the other hand, this event is bittersweet. This isn’t where I envisioned myself since I started on my writing journey. I know plenty of writers have day jobs and families, but I’m struggling to find some kind of compromise that give me any writing time at all. Obviously work can’t give, and when I get home there are many things to do, none of which involve writing. If we do anything on the weekends, it significantly eats into that time. Add in school stuff, homework, and Little Man’s first foray into kid’s sports (soccer) and evenings are pretty crowded too. Its tough. Its strange. And its good. I know we’ll find a way through this too, and the benefits make me extremely grateful for this opportunity. Change is tough, and I’ve been through more change in the last year than I’ve had since I had to adjust to having 2 children instead of 1. ;)

So tell us, what’s the biggest change you’ve ever had to adjust too?


Angel


Coming Soon!
Join us this Wednesday when our dear friend, Presents author Lynn Raye Harris, joins us on the blog!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Favorite Part

I think every author, although they might love the whole process of writing (or hate the whole stupid business and the book they're writing which sucks and will destory their career, depending on which day you ask) probably has a favorite part. I know just from talking with the playfriends that each of us either enjoys, or performs best at certain stages that are all different.

I, no doubt, am a 'partial' girl. Three chapters and a synopsis are no sweat. Once I come up with a story idea and flesh it out a little in my mind, I can write a 5-7 page character based synopsis without much effort. Don't throw things. I know it's not normal. The pansters don't understand it and the plotters envy it. Its just something I don't have to try too hard at. The same with the first three chapters of a book. Usually, as a story formulates in my mind, the opening scenes sorta play out in my head. I know exactly where to start, how to introduce my characters and all their quirks and motivations... I can't wait to start a new story. I could write partials all day as long as I have enough new ideas to back them up. You have no idea how many files on my hard drive I have for books with only two or three chapters.

For me, starting is easy. It's that damn middle that messes me up. I'm great at the cute-meet and setting up everyone for a wild ride. But when the drama starts to play out... I lose interest. It gets too hard. I'd rather start another new story, which of course is more interesting and shiny. And if I force myself to slog through, its painful, but I usually pick up speed and start barrelling toward the end. The only thing that stops me then is that darn tricky emotional realization scene. Sometimes I just skip them entirely and go back and write them later. Nothing slows me down like alpha male emotional angst.

What's your favorite part of writing? The plotting? The revising? The joy of a new story or the glory of finishing one? If you don't write, do you have a favorite hobby that you enjoy parts of more than others? Planting the flowers, but not pulling the weeds?

SP

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Might Have Been

I'm so excited! My newest Blaze, What Might Have Been, is on the shelves now. This book was a labor of love in many ways. I've been working on it for a very long time. And in fact, if you've been on the Playground for awhile you might be familiar with our term "the book has been peach farmed". This is the peach farm book.

For those that aren't familiar with the story, it was originally set at a nudist resort. My editor thought that might be an issue so I made an emergency phone call to the Playfriends and amazing author Rhonda Nelson for some help in fixing the problem (because moving it from the nudist resort kinda killed most of my plot and character arc). We were throwing out ideas. It was late. PC went outside for...three minutes at the most. She comes back and suddenly the book is set on a peach farm in the middle of Georgia. And there's a secret baby. And a past relationship. Needless to say, the book was completely different. In three minutes.

But it turned out absolutely fabulous. I know I'm not supposed to say that a book is my favorite. It's sort of like saying you love one of your kids more than the other. But...it totally is. The entire story just tugged at my heartstrings and writing it was a complete joy. Trust me, that doesn't always happen.

And, as if that wasn't enough, the wonderful, amazing and talented Linda Howard gave me the most awesome cover quote! I had a serious Sally Field moment when I saw the quote. She really did like it.

So, What Might Have Been should be on shelves at a store near you right now. If you pick it up (and I hope you do), let me know if you loved Ainsley and Luke's story as much as I did.

For the writers out there, have you ever had a story turn on a dime like that? Completely morph into something else? For readers, have you ever read a book and wished it was set somewhere else? Or you would have changed some specific thing about the book?

Instigator

P.S. Robertsonreads is the winner from PM's "Getting to Know You" blog. Email your info to playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com to arrange for your prize.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting to Know You


I am totally stealing this blog post from Leanne Banks over at Riding with the Top Down but it was so good I figure she won't mind since I'm linking back to her.

Y'all know a lot about me, but there's more. And we'd like to get to know you. One random commenter will win a book from my stash. I'm looking forward to reading your answers, and please feel free to elaborate.



1. Are you

A. A dog person

B. A cat person

C. Your home is a no-pet zone

2. Are you a

A. City person

B. Country person

C. Burbs

3. Do you prefer

A. Country music

B. Rock music

C. Classical music

4. Are you a

A. Beach person

B. Mountain person

C. Lake person













5. When given a choice, you would choose to watch the following television shows:

A. Castle

B. American Idol

C. Harry’s Law

D. Glee

E. Just stick a pencil in my eye

6. Your favorite spectator sport is:

A. Football

B. Baseball

C. Basketball

D. Just stick a pencil in my eye

7. Your dream car is

A. An expensive Italian sports car

B. A BMW

C. A Tesla Roadster (electric roadster)

D. A car that runs on cow poo

E. Give me a horse










8. Your favorite non-alcoholic beverage is:

A. Coffee

B. Tea

C. Soda

D. Water

9. The craziest person currently featured in the media is:

A. Moammar Gadhafi

B. Charlie Sheen

C. Lindsay Lohan

D. All of the above

E. Other (name names ~g~)

10. If you could have dinner with one man other than your husband, it would be:

A. Abraham Lincoln

B. Steven Tyler

C. Barack Obama

D. Glenn Beck

E. Your son

F. Other (name names ~g~)

My answers? 1. I like cats but don't have one now. 2.Burbs. I like trees AND close proximity to shopping. 3. I like most types of music with a couple exceptions. 4. Mountains. 5. Castle for sure! And while I didn't think I was going to enjoy the new AI judges, I'm enjoying Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. 6. Baseball. I watched it with my daddy when I was little and still enjoy the game. I really need to support the local farm league team this summer. 7. The car I have -- it gets good mileage and most importantly, it's paid for! 8. Tea. I like it iced and sweetened and with lemon. I also like it hot with sugar and milk. 9. All of the above. I could also name names but I won't. 10. Since I have no husband any more (and it's my game), I could pick my favorite hunk Hugh Jackman, but instead I pick Barack Obama. This isn't any sort of political statement, just that I think it would be fascinating to have dinner with the president. Dinner with my sons is a given -- any time I can arrange it.

Your turn!

P.S. Summer is the winner from Instigator's St. Patrick's Day contest. She got all the answers correct! Please email Instigator to claim your prize.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leadership is overrated...


Are you a leader or a follower? We’re told how important it is to be a leader. Every college in America claims to be “creating tomorrow’s leaders.” We’re told to “develop our leadership skills” if we want a good job or to get ahead in life. Leaders are important, we’re told.

I heard a story recently about a young woman who was filling out a college application for her Dream College. She had the grades, the SAT scores, the extracurricular activities, a kicking essay and great recommendations. But there was one question on her application that she struggled over. That question? “Are you a leader?”

She knew, deep down, that the correct answer – at least as far as admission departments are concerned – is a resounding “YES!” But that wouldn’t be honest. She wasn’t a leader. And she wasn’t going to lie about it. She said no, and waited to be rejected.

But when the letter came, it read, “Dear Applicant. As Dream College welcomes an incoming class of 1500 leaders, we are happy to admit at least one person who might follow them.”

“Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” is a problem. Nothing gets done when everyone is in charge.

I’m often a leader, but it’s very often by default. I don’t necessarily have to be in charge, but if you’re just going to screw it up, then yes, I’ll step forward. (I’m a control freak, I admit it.) I believe in service to an organization or group that serves me, and I’ll volunteer because I’m a busybody. I’m happy to follow a good leader, but I do have a “Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out Of The Way” philosophy.

Personally, I believe we’re creating too many leaders. If everyone thinks they’re destined to lead, then nothing is ever going to get done. I’m struggling right now with AC. AC wants to lead. She doesn’t want to follow (especially if they’re just going to screw it up). I’m trying to get her to see the merit and the worthiness of being a good follower.

Followers are important. Hell, you can’t lead a Conga Line at wedding reception without followers. Leaders without followers are useless. They are the nutjobs that stand on street corners at shout at cars passing by. They get nothing for their effort – regardless of their message.

The book I just turned in is about an activist heroine who accidentally starts a political movement. A friend helping me with some research sent me a link to a video about movements, and specifically the importance of the First Follower. It’s worth watching, because it stresses the importance of followers, but specifically the First Follower. In three minutes, one lone shirtless dancing guy creates a mob of happy dancers – but only because he was able to get that First Follower.




So I’m working with AC on the importance of being a good follower. Her “Followship Skills,” if you like. And if she learns something about being a good leader in the process, then, well, she’ll probably conquer the world.

So how are your Followship Skills?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chores, Chores for Everyone!



Recently a friend told me that on her children’s 10th birthday, she wrapped a bottle of Tide and gave it to them. The message: Time to wash your own laundry.

I don’t remember when I started doing laundry or how MY mother taught me to do things like dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc. I just know I could take care of most household tasks solo. By 18 my sister and I were self-sufficient enough to take care of the house and farm by ourselves while my parents lived at the hospital in a nearby town when my baby brother was treated for spinal meningitis for 21 days.

Now, we don’t live on a farm, so I don’t need as much help as my mother did. But I do believe in children pitching in because the work of maintaining a family should simply not fall to one person. And while I’m getting a handle on my family’s new situation (my new job, hubby’s long days, and extra childcare) our strained finances require me to do more cooking, with virtually no eating out. That takes time – which I have less of.

I say all that to say this – my children need to step up to the plate and assist in the tasks that are required to keep family life running smoothly. Currently, they put away their own laundry, empty the dishwasher, and pick up their rooms. So they don’t do chores on a daily basis.

That has to change, because I can’t do it alone.

Only 2 months from 11, Drama Queen is about to start doing her own laundry. I think she and her brother could also fold the towels for their own bathroom too. Maybe empty the trash? Wipe down the table after dinner every night (they already do this at school). Dust sometimes?

It’s amazing how having one small thing done by someone else can lighten a mother’s load.

So tell me, what tasks did your kids do at what age? When do you think it is appropriate for them to learn new chores? How much do you ask them to help around the house?

Angel

Friday, March 18, 2011

Behold, The Power of Candy

There are many things that inspire a writer. The spark of an idea for a new story can come from almost anywhere. But even the best idea can hit a roadblock. You sit down at the desk, stare at the screen and even if you love the idea and think it could be the best book ever, sometimes the words don't come.

My writing productivity varies. Sometimes I can sit down and easily write fifteen or twenty pages. Sometimes each sentence is like pulling teeth. That's just life.

Recently, an editor I've been working with asked me for a project I hadn't started yet. I'd just been kicking the idea around, so of course, that's the one she liked. So I sat down over the weekend with my laptop and prepared to pound out the pages. With a diet soda and some girl scout cookies by my side, the words started to flow. Before the end of the first day, I'd written 38 pages and the box of cookies were empty. It was my personal daily record, but it wasn't without a price. I was torn between joy at writing so much and guilt from stuffing my face.

It isn't the first time. Sit me at a desk with a diet coke and a bag of peanut M&Ms and I can write myself out of any corner. Nothing quite like that surge of sugar and caffeine to crank out the words. I don't drink coffee and tea doesn't quite cut it, but diet soda and candy are a magical combination. I fear that one day if I write for a living, I might pack on twenty pounds.

I had another writer tell me that she gained, then lost 15 pounds with each book. Another with a similar love of M&Ms and Twizzlers. There's just something about the repetitive hand to mouth motion that lulls me into a sugar fueled surge of creativity. How about you? What crutches do you fall upon to get the words flowing or kickstart you for chores or work you'd rather not do?

SP

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day Quiz

glitter graphics

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the Playground!
In honor of my Irish heritage, we're going to test your St. Patrick's Day knowledge today. I'm giving away a signed copy of Caught Off Guard and an advanced copy of What Might Have Been to the person who gets the most questions right.* Post your answers to the comments and I'll announce the winner tomorrow. To keep things fair, please don't discuss answers on the blog.
And for fun, tell us if you've got plans for tonight. Drinking green beer? Got your green on? Have you had to pinch anyone yet?
1. In Ireland, what does the color green stand for?

a. Spring
b. Countryside
c. Hope

2. What colors are on the Irish flag?

a. Green, white, orange
b. Blue, red, white
c. Green, red, white

3. Where was St. Patrick born?

a. Ireland
b. Britain
c. Africa

4. What did St. Patrick do?

a. He was a great explorer.
b. He was a missionary.
c. He was a war hero.

5. What is St. Patrick best known for?

a. Driving the snakes out of Ireland
b. Leading the country to war
c. Discovering Ireland

6. What is March 17th?

a. St. Patrick's birthday
b. The day St. Patrick died
c. None of the above

7. What do Irish people say about Saint Patrick?

a. He watches over them.
b. He decides if they will get into heaven one day.
c. Both of the above

8. What symbol stands for St. Patrick's day?

a. Shamrock
b. Egg
c. Snake

9. What is a shillelagh?

a. Leprechaun's outfit
b. Wooden pipe
c. Short, stout, oak club

10. According to legend, what should you never do if you catch a leprechaun?

a. Kiss him
b. Take your eyes off him
c. Tell your friends




glitter graphics


Free Glitter Graphics, St. Patrick's Day Glitter Graphics

* if there's a tie I'll draw from everyone with the highest number of correct answers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our hearts go out to you

Today's blog comes straight from Snopes, the leader in urban myth debunking.

CLAIM: Map issued by Australian Radiation Services shows expected path of nuclear fallout across the western United States.





I hope people realize this is amazingly serious if a meltdown happens. The Fallout will travel according to the trade winds...

80-120 rads - You have a 10% chance of vomiting and experiencing nausea for a few days
130 -170 rads - You have a 25% chance of vomiting and contracting other symptoms
180-220 rads - You have a 50% chance of vomiting and having other severe physical effects
270 More..-330 rads - 20% chance of death in 6 weeks, or you will recover in a few months.
400-500 rads - 50% chance of death
550-750 rads - Nausea within a few hours ; no survivors
1000 rads - immediate incapacitation and death within a week or less.

Japan has "lost control" of 4 out of 5 nuclear reactors at two facilities hit hard by the earthquake. Radioactivity outside the buildings was reported earlier at 8 times 'normal'--a six-mile radius has been evacuated. Potentially, this could be the worst nuclear accident in history. If you have an iodine supplement (even kelp) take it immediately at a maximum dose and be prepared for fallout across North America in three days, lasting indefinitely.

It would be unprecedented to get accurate news about this event.


F A L S E ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !


THE TRUTH: This map showing the projected path of fallout across the western United States following a possible meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan began circulating shortly after a massive 8.9 earthquake hit that country in March 11, 2011. The map bore the logo of the Australian Radiation Services, an organization which has disclaimed any connection with it:

Australian Radiation Services is aware of information about radioactive contamination being spread from the Japanese nuclear reactor incident released under the ARS logo and name. We wish to be clear that this information has not originated from ARS and as such distance ourselves from any such misinformation.

News accounts regarding Internet-circulated information about the situation regarding nuclear reactors in Japan noted that:

Some postings were criminally absurd and flat-out wrong.

One map that went viral showed color-coded plumes of radiation moving eastward across the Pacific and the prediction that radiation levels measuring 3,000 rads would reach the Aleutian Island chain in three days. Levels of 1,500 rads will hit the northern coast of British Columbia within a week and western North American "from Alaska to the Baja tip in 10 days, with radiation levels of 750 rads," the posting warned.

These numbers, which would kill or sicken quickly, have absolutely no basis in fact at all. And, according to a radiation expert at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they are more typical of the levels that might occur after a nuclear attack.

In fact, Japanese nuclear officials have said repeatedly that they're dealing with "a minimal level of radiation that does not harm human health."


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concurred with that assessment:

There is little chance that harmful radiation from Japan's damaged nuclear plants will reach American land, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko.

"Based on the type of reactor design and the nature of the accident, we see a very low likelihood --really, a very low probability -- that there's any possibility of harmful radiation levels in the United States or in Hawaii or any other U.S. territories," Jaczko told reporters at the White House.


Snopes ends here, and Playground Monitor starts.

So while pranksters are spending their time scaring the pants off folks, the people of Japan are in a world of hurt. Yes, there's danger from the nuclear plant. There are also food and water shortages, gazillions of dollars in damages, planned power outages to conserve energy for the rescue operations, thousands of bodies needing to be cremated.

Not surprisingly, there is no looting in Japan. The peoples of this country have long been schooled in discipline, and one expert in Japanese culture said he wasn't even sure the Japanese language contained a word for looting. At stores where limited supplies of food and water are available, people wait in line politely to receive their fair share.

I've watched in pure shock as this tragedy has unfolded. I've seen the YouTube videos showing the wall of water sweeping over a seawall. I've seen a video showing skyscrapers swaying as the ground shook. I've seen maps showing how the geography of the country has changed as a result of the quake.

The rest of the world has watched too, and sent their good wishes and, if so inclined, prayers.

They've also sent their money because much of the help needed right now must come from outside sources. Here's a link showing how you can donate to help the people of this battered nation. If you can, give til it hurts, because those people are sure hurting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Best of the Bookshelf -- March

It's the March edition of Best of the Bookshelf, where the Playfriends bring you gems from our collections...

Instigator is reading:
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones.







Charley Davidson is a part time private investigator and full time grim reaper. While her extra powers give her a leg up on her day job, they also complicate her life in ways that are interesting and imaginative. Great read!!










Playground Monitor is reading:
The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax.





Four writing friends join forces to help one of the group who is having personal problems that have led to writer’s block. They collaborate on a book, which becomes a surprise bestseller and then the scrutiny of their lives begins. What’s fact and what’s fiction? And can their friendship survive?











Smarty Pants is reading:
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran



Everyone knows what happened to Marc Antony and Cleopatra, but what of their three orphaned children? In Cleopatra's Daughter, Michelle Moran blends history and fiction to bring to life the tale of Selene and Alexander, the two children who survive the journey back to Rome after their capture by Emperor Octavian. A fascinating portrait of the intrigue and danger of Imperial Rome as seen through the eyes of a young girl.









Angel is reading:
Roane by Marie Harte



My sister introduced me to a great paranormal erotic author whose series I am just starting. In the three years since Project Dawn disbanded, Roane Weston and his men continue to fight the good fight. Now civilians, his squad--Circe's Recruits--works for a private organization bent on cleaning up the mess left in the wake of Project Dawn's rebirth. Run by Elliot Pearl, a ruthless millionaire, Pearson Labs continues to create Circs, people who have been genetically changed. When needed, these Circs take on an altered form, one neither man nor animal, but something in between. But unlike Roane and his squad, the Circs coming out of Pearson Labs aren't sane... Except for Caitlyn Chase, a female Roane can't get out of his mind. Intense, sexy read!






Problem Child is reading:
Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger by Heidi Rice





I actually had a different book picked out for this month, but then a package from Heidi appeared in my mailbox and this little gem was inside (available in the US next month!). Heidi’s heroes are always hot and the stories suck me in. And anyway, how many romance novels start with the heroine having to literally save the hero’s life with some mouth-to-mouth!











And a bonus book for March in case you haven’t been around the Playground at all recently…
Ahem.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Small Steps to Successful Living: Refilling the Well



Have you ever driven all week in your car, rushing through all the To Dos on your schedule, only to have your car stop on Friday, right in the middle of the road?

Out of gas.

Sometimes our bodies and minds are like that. We go and do, because our family needs us, friends need us, employers demand us, and the muse is running on high. Before we know it, our tank is on empty and we want to do nothing more than collapse.

Because the car can’t keep going if we don’t fuel it up.

Commonly called “refilling the well”, the idea is to replenish your energy and Can Do spirit by giving back to yourself in a way that energizes your mind and body.

Unfortunately, I don’t read my energy meter very well, so I often find myself on E. I’m trying to be more mindful of this. As a mother… as a writer… as a wife… I need to reward my body and mind for all the hard work it does for me. And be gentle with myself (an extension of last month’s post).

So how do we refill the well? Some ideas:

1. Artist’s Date -- Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way recommends Artists Dates. This is the chance to go somewhere new and different – a museum, antique store, model home – anything that you’ve wanted to do but put off because its silly, unnecessary, or no one else wants to go. It is supposed to be done alone, and I can see why. If I take someone else with me, then I worry about whether they are having a good time, ready to leave, etc. Instead, immerse yourself in YOUR enjoyment of the experience.

2. Reward Day – My sister and I came up with this concept. Before I get so overwhelmed that I crash, I schedule a day to do only what I want to do. I read all day if I want. Eat (or order out) what I want to eat. Claim the big screen TV for myself. What defines your Ideal Day? Do it! No excuses! (and I don't want to hear how you don't have time. I REALLY don't have time. If I can do this once a month, so can you!)

3. Go to the movies – There’s nothing like vegging out with a great movie and popcorn. Check the local theaters and make seeing something YOU want to see a priority. Low on cash? See if you have a Dollar Theater in your area. I can go see a movie I missed in a regular theater for about $5, with snacks.

4. Girls Night Out – Actually, it doesn’t have to be at night. Try lunch, coffee, shopping. You could even meet at Walmart – you have to get groceries sometime). I have a friend that I have “tea” with occasionally. Any girl time is refreshing and rewarding.

But none of these things will ever become more than ideas if you don't make them a priority and actually DO them. Don't just think about refilling your well, make it a regular part of your life.

So tell me, what do you do (or want to do) to refill your well?

Angel

PS. SP's Free Book Friday winner is CrystalGB. To claim your prize, email your snail mail info to smartypants@writingplayground.com.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Free Book Friday - Cowboy Edition

Harlequin recently did a poll in their newsletter asking readers to pick their favorite types of heroes. They pitted vampires against shifters, cowboys against cops and sheiks against millionaires. Then they took the top three (none of the ones I voted for won, sadly) and they came out with the fan favorite...

COWBOYS

Well, yee-ha. I just happen to have a 2-in-1 Harlequin Showcase featuring the sexy cowboys of Vicki Lewis Thompson. Here's more info on what you'll get.

Two red-hot reads by "New York Times" and "USA Today" bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson

"Two in the Saddle"

Travis Evans loved beautiful women--and Gwen Hawthorne was definitely a beauty. But before he could make Gwen his, another tiny female stole his heart. Gwen might have been able to withstand Travis's sensual assault when he was just a charming cowboy. But when Don Juan turned into Mr. Mom, she was lost. Gwen knew her happiness was short-lived, though. Because where there was a baby, there had to be a mother....

"Boone's Bounty"
Boone Connor liked being a loner. Women just got a guy into trouble--and Shelby McFarland had trouble written all over her. But Boone couldn't leave her and her young nephew stranded in a storm. Just as he couldn't help falling for her and her too-tempting body. But as good as they were together, Boone couldn't make Shelby any promises. Because he'd just discovered he had a baby girl....

To enter to win, comment today with the phrase "Ride Em' Cowboy" and tell us what your favorite hero is. My absolute favorite, I think, would have to be a shifter. I guess I just have this love for animals and if I could talk to one and have him actually listen to me, as opposed to my dogs who just cock their heads and go on shredding the paper, that would be great.

SP

And don't forget to pop over to Barbara Vey's blog today. The party is still going strong and Instigator has offered up a free copy of her book to one of the commenters. There's free books everywhere!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finished

I've been busting my butt the last couple months to write my next Blaze. It's the second book in a trilogy that will be out in 2012 (and, no, I haven't written the first book yet. It's complicated). I finally finished...at 9:56 last night. I've been trying to get it done for the last few days and things just kept getting in the way. I was determined that last night was the end.

Well, not really the end as I'm just finishing the first draft. I still need to do my own editing. And then I know my fabulous editor will have revisions for me. And copy editing. And AAs. And, so, really, the book isn't finished. But I feel like I've jumped a huge hurdle and can now breathe easy at least for a little while. I'm even ahead of deadline by several weeks. A nice feeling.

So, yeah, this means I've ignored quite a bit over the last few weeks trying to push through and get this first draft written. The minute I type The End the guilt starts rolling in. My kids think I've had my headphones surgically implanted into my ears. I have a workshop I'm giving on Saturday with our very own PC and honorary Playfriend Lynn Raye Harris. I'm certainly they'd like me to prepare so I have coherent sentences to contribute. I'm not sure I have any words left over though. I suppose I have a couple days still to find them.

I'm pretty drained. But I'm also excited about these books and can't wait to see them on the shelves.

Have you finished anything recently? Accomplished a goal you set for yourself? How are those New Year's resolutions coming (mine have been kicked to the curb)?

Instigator

P.S. Niki Bowers is the winner of Katherine Garbera's book. Please email Playground Monitor with your snail mail info. Congrats!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Guest blogger: Katherine Garbera

We're pleased to have Katherine Garbera back on the Playground today. In case you missed her last visit, here's a little bit about her.

Katherine Garbera is the national best-selling author of more than 50 books. Writing is the chief focus of her time after her family and the only thing she likes more than working on her own books is reading other authors. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and loves the opportunity to talk about writing with anyone who'll listen.

Garbera started making up stories for her own benefit when she was on a competitive swim team in high school. Though she went to State and usually medaled at swim meets, Katherine says her heart wasn't in swimming but rather in the stories she created as she swam laps at practice.

She worked for The Walt Disney World Company for 15 years and did everything from being a hostess on It’s a Small World, to saving swimmers at the Grand Floridian Resort, to touring around VIPs such as Jack Valenti at the Disney-MGM Studios and being a production page on the New Mickey Mouse Club--yes, it might be possible that Britney, Justine and Christina owe her a nod of thanks for keeping all those kids who had to go to the bathroom from interrupting their performances.


Today, she's blogging about her March release, which is the middle book of her Miami Nights series. You can learn more about her and her books on her website. Take it away, Katherine!

I'm one of those people who just wants everyone to get along. I'm the family peacekeeper and am not afraid to compromise to ensure we have good family gatherings.

My characters in SEDUCING HIS OPPOSITION are the same. They will do whatever they have to for family. For Selena Gonzalez this means facing down the ghosts of her past to return to her home. She doesn't count on falling for Justin Stern and as they battle their attraction and each other in the boardroom they slowly realize that they both aren't willing to compromise where each other are concerned.

What about you? Is it your way or the highway? Or are you a peace keeper who always compromises?


P.S. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Seducing His Opposition!

P.P.S. The Playfriends are participating today at Barbara Vey's blog. It's her 4th anniversary and lots of great prizes are up for grabs. Come on over and say hello and maybe you'll win something!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Scenes from my marriage (two-ply quilted edition)


So... the Geek and I are cooking dinner the other night (okay, he was cooking, I was puttering about in the way), and we got into a rather "spirited" discussion where we did NOT agree. Not one little bit. There was no shouting or anything; it was just "spirited" without being mean-spirited as we stand on completely different sides of this issue. (This happens more often at Casa PC than you'd think.)

(Although he is completely wrong in his stance on Life-of-Copyright and Intellectual Property protections, we finally had to agree to disagree. If he insists on clinging to his erroneous conclusions, that's his prerogative. It's a free country. He has a right to be completely wrong.)

Unbeknown to us, AC had overheard the entire conversation. She carefully brought it up at dinner.

DG and I were quick to reassure her that it was okay for people to disagree. That it was healthy as long as everyone remembered to discuss and debate instead of just argue.

Then the Geek said, "Mom and Dad disagree on a lot of things," and something in his tone made me (glutton for punishment that I am) ask, "Such as?"

DG looked at me, and in a voice I can only describe as "earnest" said, "For one thing, the way the toilet paper is supposed to come off the roll."

Unfortunately, I had a mouthful of food at this moment and we nearly had to perform the Heimlich on me as literally inhaling pasta is not good for your lungs. Once I could breathe again, my response was. "You actually care?"

It seems not only does my Geek hold strong opinions about how the toilet paper should come off the roll, he seems to think I actually have a preference as well.

Let me assure you, dear Playfriends, I don't care one way or the other. As long as there is toilet paper when I sit down, I'm happy. I don't care how it comes off the roll, because it's toilet paper. The direction of toilet paper isn't even a blip on my radar.

Here's the kicker -- the Geek has such strong feelings about TP directionality, he confessed to reversing the roll when he finds it coming off in the wrong direction.

Now this whole thing Fails on three levels:

1) After 15 years of marriage, I was unaware my husband had a TP-directional preference.

2) After 15 years of marriage, my Geek is unaware that I don't.

3) For 15 years, this man has been going behind my back and changing the direction of the TP even though he thinks I prefer it the other way.

I had to ask what difference it made, because if he was willing to wage guerrilla TP warfare over it (but not brave enough to take a direct assault), there had to be a good reason (beyond his own anal-retentiveness.)

And in that tone Engineers use when they are trying to explain important, complicated things to Liberal Arts majors, my Geek looked me dead in the eye and said...


"You get a better pull."
I sincerely wish I hadn't just put another bite in my mouth after asking. ~cue Heimlich~

So this conversation Wins on two levels:

1) After 15 years, my Geek still has the ability to surprise me.

2) And he can still make me laugh so hard my sides hurt the next day.


Although I'm sure there's a forum somewhere on the internet where the Over folks fight the Under folks in bloody, deadly, "You're a TP-Nazi" combat (because this is the internet we're talking about -- people will fight to the death over the strangest things...), I want to know where the Playground as a whole stands on this obviously important and divisive issue.





I am sorry, but I stand by original statement. I don't care how you replace the roll as long as you do. *

I do, however, have every intention of taking great joy in making sure I turn every TP roll in the house the other way. After all, I've got a minute to kill while I'm sitting there.

After 15 years, I gotta get my kicks where I can, right? ~grin~


PC

*However, while I am Switzerland in the TP directional wars, I do have strong TP opinions otherwise: one-ply TP is an abomination.

Monday, March 07, 2011

MOANday: Superheroes

I read a LOT of paranormal romance – I think because the heroes are dark and mysterious, often wounded creatures who lash out at those around them until the one person they can connect with comes along to turn everything around. This month I thought I’d celebrate MOANday with some of the hottie superheroes on the big screen.

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Chris Evans as Johnny Storm (Fantastic 4)

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David Lyons as Vince Farraday (The Cape)

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George Clooney as Batman

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Wesley Snipes as Blade

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Milo Ventimiglia as Peter Petrelli (Heroes)

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James Marsden as Scott Summers, Cyclops (X-men)

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Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (X-men, Wolverine)

And this guy isn’t from a movie, but he’d make great inspiration for a paranormal hero, don’t you think?

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So who’s your favorite Big Screen Superhero?

Angel

P.S. I'd like to say a big Happy Birthday to my beautiful Drama Queen! You've made my life exciting and sweet in our 11 years together!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Expedia, Take Me Away!

Calgon ain't gonna cut it, folks. There is only one thing to cure what ails me and it's a vacation. The proposal, the nasty winter, a painful rejection... I just NEED something. Preferably warmth and sunshine. Maybe a cocktail with a paper umbrella. A week to forget about all the crap, get a massage and enjoy a little R&R.



Unfortunately, I'm failing. My attempt to rally a couple friends into a girl trip has gotten more complicated than necessary. One's cheap, one doesn't like to fly, one is low on vacation and doesn't want to go for too long, and one doesn't want to waste her whole trip driving somewhere (me!). I don't want to drive 8 hours each way for a long weekend. And if I'm going to pay $300-$400 on a plane ticket, I'd rather go to Puerto Rico than Savannah or Orlando. I want to go somewhere I've never been and do something I've never done. Going clubbing in Atlanta is a snooze. Sitting on the beach in Destin lost its appeal once I graduated college and spring break is behind me. We've tossed around a million things, including cruises and nothing is settled. When its all said and done, I'm not sure we'll end up going anywhere. But I need this trip!

So here's where I'd like to go. Anyone want to join me?


Rockhouse Hotel - Negril, Jamaica

Rockhouse is a boutique hotel stretching across the cliffs of Pristine Cove in Negril. The resort, nestled amongst eight acres of tropical lush gardens, boasts a 60-foot cliff-top horizon pool and an award winning restaurant set on a balcony suspended directly over the water. Thatched roofed villas with private sun-bathing decks perch on the cliff's edge, and throughout the property, ladders and stairs carved into the rock lead down to easy water access for swimming and snorkeling on the reef.

Rockhouse is consistently ranked one of the top resorts in the Caribbean. In 2010 it is nominated for three World Travel Awards including best Boutique Hotel in the Caribbean for the sixth consecutive year. Patricia Schults names Rockhouse as one of the "1000 Places to See Before You Die" in her New York Times Best Selling Book.

Or how about this one?

Ladera Resort - St. Lucia

A thousand feet below, an intensely blue Caribbean Sea dashes against the volcanic Piton Mountains. Faintly scented tropical breezes cool your skin. Your private plunge pool beckons. There are only 9 villas and 23 suites in this ultimate rainforest open-air hideaway. Each offers fine linens, luxurious amenities and four-poster beds made of polished tropical hardwood. And each, deliberately without a fourth wall, invites the spectacular sunsets and astonishing views right inside, to be a part of your very private, very special retreat.


Looks good, huh? At this point, I'm fairly easy to impress, but 'heavenly' doesn't even sum it up. What's the most wonderful, relaxing place you've ever been? I need more suggestions. If you haven't been, but are dying to, share your dream trip.

SP

P.S. PC is guest blogging today at Romance Author Buzz. Pop on over and and say hi so she doesn't get lonely. http://romance-author-buzz.blogspot.com/

P.S.S. If the formatting looks wonky on your screen, I'm sorry. When I edit it, it looks fine. Then I pull it up and its all crazy. I have no idea what's going on. Please forgive me.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Craving

When I was pregnant I had some fun cravings - cheese pizza and egg rolls. Together. I couldn't eat one for lunch and one for dinner. They had to be eaten a bite of one and then a bite of the other. Zilla was awesome and didn't complain once about my desire to take out egg rolls and bring them into Pizza Hut so I could eat both. He sat right next to me and ignored the stares of the other patrons and the raised eyebrows from the wait staff.

The other day I got the sudden urge for the exact same thing (and I promise you, I'm not pregnant). I think it was probably more nostalgia than anything else. And the fact that I'd skipped both breakfast and lunch, was starving and couldn't decide which treat I wanted more.

I don't often deal with cravings. Occasionally I'll have this unavoidable urge for chocolate. I try not to keep it around because if it's in the house I eat it. But when I get that craving...I'd walk to the ends of the earth to get some. Other times I need something salty. Yesterday all I wanted was a salad. But not just any salad. One from Wendy's. With their ranch dressing and the pecans that have a touch of sweetness - the perfect balance of sweet and tangy.

Great, I'm making myself hungry. So while I go get myself a snack, what do you crave most often? Do your cravings change with the day/month/year? Do you crave your favorite food or find that most often you want something exotic?

Instigator - hoping I don't gain 5 pounds just from writing this post.

P.S. Congratulations to Marcelle Dube our winner from Monday's post. Please email angel@writingplayground.com with your snail mail address to claim your prize.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Wardrobe Wednesday: Sock it to me

The recent tease of warm weather here has made me start thinking about short sleeves, bathing suits and sandals. Thoughts of sandals led to thoughts of socks and my love/hate relationship with this article of clothing.

When I was in high school, I COULD NOT WAIT to start wearing nylon stockings. Pantyhose had not yet come about so we wore regular stockings held up by a garter belt. Now men may think garter belts and stockings are sexy, but I can assure you as one who wore one of the damned things for several years, they are anything but. But I digress.

My senior year in high school, I was privy to the newfangled pantyhose. You see, my father worked in a hosiery mill and was able to get some for us. They were un-dyed, so I remember my mother dyeing them in the washing machine. We had nude ones, darker tan ones and even navy ones. No more garter belts! Yay! And pantyhose made mini skirts much nicer to wear. No more worries about flashing the tops of your stocking where the garters were fastened. Life was good.

Fast forward forty years, and I cannot tell you the last time I wore pantyhose. It might have been my son's wedding in 2005. I hate the things. In the heat of a southern summer, they should come with a health warning: CAUTION! Wearing these could cause you to sweat to death.

So what do I wear now? Socks! The very things I couldn't wait to get rid of back in my high school days. And as I put away a load of laundry last weekend, I realized I have more socks that Carter's has little liver pills. Here's a sampling from my sock drawer.

Angora blend socks on the left and fleece on the right. Maven Linda introduced me to fleece socks several years ago and OH MY GOSH! Talk about comfy and warm!




White Thor-lo on the left and World's Softest Socks on the right. I love the Thor-los because they have a compression band around the arch and just make my feet feel great. The world's softest ARE pretty darned soft. And they're pretty warm too. I also have the Thor-los in a quarter top sock to wear with tennis shoes in the summer.




Black dress socks with various designs. On the left we have gray and white dots and on the right are pink flowers. These go great with black dress pants and some sort of ugly, boxy but comfy shoes.




More socks to wear with slacks. On the left are my "coffee" socks. Kinda funkyk, huh? And on the right are hearts. I don't reserve them just for Valentine's Day, especially since I have decided I'm no longer going to celebrate Valentine's Day. I can wear them with jeans and various tops to match the various colors of the hearts.




Argyle anyone? It's made a comeback and I have a sweater that matches these socks. The stripes are just fun, though I wonder if those horizontal stripes make my feet look fat.




I'll be glad to retire my socks soon. This winter's bitter cold has had my tootsies covered with socks a lot. I was re-doing part of my closet a few weeks ago and re-positioned a hanging shoe rack that holds about 8 pairs of sandals. I long to wear them and let my feet breathe. I'll admit publicly that one pair is Birkenstocks, those ugly sandals that are designed to make your feet feel good while they look like hell. The rack also holds three pairs of Teva mush flip flops. If you haven't tried these, RUN to get a pair. They actually have an arch support in them and even with my foot issues (plantar fasciitis and Morton's neuromas) I can wear the Teva mushes with great comfort. And in the interest of full disclosure, I also own two pairs of Crocs. I know... I am running the risk of being voted out of "The Cult of the Shoe" by making the public admissions.

But before I break out the sandals, I have to follow the rules for wearing sandals, which I have posted below for everyone's benefit. Heed them or run the risk of having folks talk behind your back.

Rules when wearing sandals and open-toe shoes

Just a friendly reminder, it's that time of the year again. Please raise your big toes and repeat after me:

As a member of the Faux Paux Sisterhood, I pledge to follow The Rules when I
wear sandals and other open-toe shoes:

~I promise to always wear sandals that fit. My toes will not hang over and touch the ground, nor will my heels spill over the backs. And the sides and tops of my feet will not pudge out between the straps.

~I will go polish-free or vow to keep the polish fresh, intact and chip-free.

~I will not cheat and just touch up my big toe.

~I will sand down any mounds of skin before they turn hard and yellow.

~I will shave the hairs off my big toe.

~I won't wear pantyhose even if my misinformed girlfriend, coworker, mother, sister tells me the toe seam really will stay under my toes if I tuck it there.

~If a strap breaks, I won't duct-tape, pin, glue or tuck it back in to place hoping it will stay put. I will get my shoe fixed or toss it.

~I will not live in corn denial; rather I will lean on my good friend Dr. Scholl's if my feet need him.

~I will resist the urge to by jelly shoes at Payless for the low, low price of $4.99 even if my feet are small enough to fit into the kids' sizes. This is out of concern for my safety, and the safety of others. No one can walk properly when standing in a pool of sweat, and I would hate to take someone down with me as I fall and break my ankle.

~I will take my toe ring off toward the end of the day if my toes swell and begin to look like Vienna sausages.

~I will be brutally honest with my girlfriend/sister/coworker when she asks me if her feet are too ugly to wear sandals. Someone has to tell her that her toes look like they've been dragged behind her car on the way to work and no sandal in the world is going to make her feet look good.

~I will promise if I wear flip flops, that I will ensure they actually flip and flop, making the correct noise while walking and I will swear NOT to slide or drag my feet while wearing them.

~I will promise to go to my local beauty school at least once per season and have a real pedicure (they are about $15 and worth every penny). I suggest spending another $15.00 and get an even better one.

What's your favorite pair of socks? Or favorite pair of summer shoes? Do you follow "The Rules?"