Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Heart New York

By now conference is in full swing and I'm likely sleep deprived. I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow in the last few weeks my days have become completely booked. This was supposed to be an easy conference but...not so much.

While I'm very excited to see my editor and agent (I only see them once a year), I have to admit that I'm looking forward to something more this year. Thanks to the wonderful Barbara Vey at Beyond Her Book, I'm attending a taping of the Colbert Report.

I'm a huge Stephen Colbert fan! And have been since his days on the Daily Show. I watch the show every night and have to admit that all of my political news comes from Comedy Central. I know I should probably feel guilty about that but I don't. I can't wait to report on how the taping went when we get back.

In the meantime, is there a show that you've always wanted to visit? A celebrity you've always wanted to meet? Who would you hope to run into on the streets of NY?

Instigator

P.S. PM's winner from yesterday's game is Renee. Send your full name and snail mail info to her to claim your prize.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And I'm not in the city that never sleeps



It's quiet around the Playground this week because PC, Insti and SP are all in New York City attending the RWA conference. It didn't work out for me to go this year, and while I'm okay with not being there, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it. The conference is a chance to learn and rub elbows with industry professionals. It's also a chance to see writing friends who live all over the world. I figured out once that the sun hardly sets on my circle of romance writing friends.

Next year's conference will be in Anaheim, California, and I'm sure hoping to be there.

So since it's so quiet here, I thought we could play a game -- a romance author name game.

I'll name a romance author and the next person names one whose first name begins with the last letter of the previous name.

Example: I name Nora Roberts. The next person names Sharon Sala.

Now it's your turn. You must name a romance author whose first name starts with "A."

Let's see how long we can keep this going.

And one randomly selected commenter will win a book from my stash. :-)

Ready, set, go!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I’m in the city that never sleeps – (and I’m not sleeping, either)


The RWA conference is always busy. There are too few days and too much to do, too many people to talk to, too much everything. This is the one time a year I get to see all those folks I talk to online, network with the important people, make new friends, and go fan-girl over my favorite authors.

I’m so busy during conference that even though I’m rooming with my CP, if we don’t come in a day early for dinner, our time together boils down to a few minutes before we crash at night and shouted conversations in the mornings over the hair dryer as we both get ready for the day.

I go to bed late and get up early. I run all day from one thing to the next, drink too much wine in the bar with my friends, laugh until my face hurts, and talk until I’m hoarse. Sleep is for people who aren’t at conference, trying to fit several weeks’ worth of writing goodness into four days.

And I’m not even talking about the workshops. I haven’t been to a workshop in ages unless I was giving it. There’s just not enough time – and since RWA records all the workshops, I’ll listen to them later. I can’t hang out with the other writers from my line any other time, so workshops don’t win out in the time battle.

(By the time I get home, I will be ready to collapse and die for a couple of days. Unfortunately, I have a book that needs finishing before July 15th, so my recuperation period will be limited. Between conference-lag and deadline, I hope my family doesn’t need me for anything at all. I probably won’t even be unpacked by then!)

So, while I’m a busy, busy girl this week, I’m a happy girl. I love my job. The business trips are way too much fun!

PC

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Addition



Recently, my family took on a total new adventure! Something I swore I wouldn’t do for a long, long time…

We got a dog.






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This beautiful husky puppy is a tornado refugee. Smarty Pants (who is like a stray dog magnet) called to ask if we were interested in him. She texted me a picture. I took one look into those blue eyes and fell. Hard.

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A visit overnight showed him to love being with people and good with the kids (very important to me!). The vet said he’d travelled for several days on hot asphalt and done damage to the pads on his feet. But other than that and worms, he was surprisingly healthy. Soon, I’d picked out a name – Griffin (after Griffin Powell in Beverly Barton’s Protectors series for Harlequin.

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Once his feet healed, he went back to normal, rambunctious puppy behavior, which had Little Man backing off a bit, but I’m teaching the kids to play with him in ways that expend that overabundance of puppy energy. Drama Queen has become addicted to the “Dog Whisperer” show and takes Griffin on a walk almost every day, without me having to ask her to. The only thing they don’t like about him is scooping poop. LOL

Despite declaring myself “not a dog person” for many years, I find myself smiling as I throw the ball for him and sitting on the back porch at night, rubbing his tummy with my bare feet. I didn’t think I had time to add a new pet to our household, but its been wonderful for us, and I hope wonderful for Griffin as well.

So today we celebrate our pets! Tell me all about your favorite… or the one you wish you had.

Angel

Friday, June 24, 2011

June's Best of the Bookshelf

It's my turn to host best of the bookshelf! (Which is why it's a week late... oops.) This is where we share what we're reading and ask you to do the same. It's summer, the perfect time to relax on the beach or inside with the A/C cranked up and read a good book. We've had a streak of 90+ degrees around here since the end of May, so I'm definitely opting for indoors with the A/C.

Here's what the Playfriends are reading this month!



Smarty Pants
This month, I'm reading both for business and for pleasure. To help with my revisions, I'm reading Lynn Raye Harris' June book Behind the Palace Walls. Lynn helped with my alpha hero breakthrough a while back, so I knew her latest book would be just the thing I needed. It's the perfect read to help me research crafting not only delicious alpha heroes, but on how to drive the emotional stakes high, for which Lynn is known. This story seriously delivers on both with hot and dangerous Russian prince Alexei Voronov, corporate espionage and a secret baby.



Problem Child
I’m reading Rhonda Nelson’s Real Men Wear Plaid. Rhonda’s books are always fabulous, and this is one is no different, but it’s extra special because I was there when she was “researching” this book. It’s fun to see how she worked in the places we went and the things we did, and it brought back great memories of great times. Sadly, though, we didn’t meet any real-life MacKinnons on our travels. But y’all know I have a thing for Scots and men in kilts, so this book pushed all the right buttons for me! (Real Men Wear Plaid is actually three novellas in one book, so you get three times the Hot Highland Honeys!)



Instigator
I’m reading Ally Carter’s latest in her Heist Society series Uncommon Criminals. The series is about a teenage girl who just happens to be an excellent thief from a long line of thieves. In the first book Kat is pulled back into the life she tried to leave behind. In this second installment she finds herself with a legendary reputation and a request to return a priceless jewel to its rightful owners. If you haven’t picked up Ally Carter’s books I highly suggest you run to the nearest bookstore! Between her Gallagher Girls series about teenage spies and the Heist Society of thieves, she has unique characters and compelling plot lines that always keep my turning the page.



Angel
I love the Lauren Dane contemporary romantic suspenses that I’ve read, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this series previously released by Samhain. Somehow I mistakenly downloaded Book 2 instead of Book 1, but this one was so good, I can’t wait to go back and read the first. This book centers around Shane and Cassie. Shane is the town sheriff and Cassie is on the run from her extremely violent ex-husband with a new identity and everything on the line. Shane knows she has something to hide, and her skittishness gives him a hint as to what it is. Slowly gaining her trust, he attempts to tame the fiery female, but she’s learned her lesson about take-charge men. Their relationship becomes a series of compromises until Cassie’s life is once again in danger. They learn to work together to conquer not only the man stalking her, but the fear her past has given her.



Playground Monitor
PM is reading something different this month – ONCE A SPY by Keith Thomson (who happens to be the father of one of her granddaughter’s schoolmates).

Charlie Clark is a gambling addict whose father has Alzheimer’s. Charlie always thought Dad was an appliance salesman, but Dad was really a deep cover CIA operative. Now someone is shooting at Charlie and his father, Drummond. But Drummond has no idea what secrets his brain holds anymore. And when he hints at having millions of dollars stashed away, Charlie becomes just a little more interested in taking care of his father because it may be the answer to his loan shark problem.



What are you reading? We're always looking for a new author or series to pick up, so share any good finds!


SP

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Conference Tips and Tidbits

Yep, my life has been taken over by preparations for RWA. I'm so not ready. But I thought I'd take a few minutes to pass along some of the tips and tricks that I've gleaned from several years of conference trips.

Comfy Shoes - Yes, I realize this probably seems counter intuitive - especially if you glance at the shoes that will adorn my feet at conference. I don't necessarily advocate comfy shoes all the time, but you definitely need to take a pair with you just in case. PC learned this lesson the hard way when she injured her knee one year and hadn't thought to bring anything flat. I have several pair of five inch heels in my bag, but I also have some flip flops and flat dress shoes in case there's a day where my vanity just can't trump the pain.

First Aide, Band-Aide Stick and Gel Shoe Pads - You can never have too many band-aides or blister pads. I also highly recommend investing in this little stick that Band-Aide makes that you rub on your heels so your shoes don't give you blisters. I've found it also works wonders at preventing chaffing on your thighs if you happen to have a pair of short shorts and are heading out into a steamy New York day. Ditto for those gel pads that go in the ball of your shoe. They can make the difference between sheer torture and looking effortlessly fabulous.

Nap - No, I'm not kidding. I realize that we're not in kindergarten, but conference tends to involve late nights followed by early mornings. If you run non-stop you will hit a wall the last day. Your brain will stop absorbing information and you will become useless. A bad situation if you have a pitch or workshop presentation ahead of you.

Don't Forget the Bar - Even if you're not a drinker, the bar has many functions. Not only is a great (usually centrally located) meeting place, but inevitably you will run into someone you've always wanted to meet. Networking is one of the most important functions you'll do at conference and the bar is a great place to get pulled into a conversation only to discover that your dream editor is sitting across the table from you sipping a drink and sharing stories about her dog.

Those are my top conference tips. Anyone else have others they'd like to share?

And I'd like to take this time to shamelessly plug my workshop with Smarty Pants, Rhonda Nelson and Vicki Lewis Thompson scheduled for 4:30 on Thursday. If you come well give you the secret handshake...and if SP's efforts at organizing us have worked we might also talk about Voice.

Instigator

P.S. robertsonreads is the winner from yesterday's blog. Please email your name and address to Playground Monitor to claim your prize.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Blogger -- Cat Schield


I’m very excited to be with you today to share my journey to publication. In my mind, it’s a lot like sailing. Both can be fun. Both can be scary. You get bruised. You can’t control the wind or the publishing industry. You can only adjust your sails or what you are writing to take advantage of the environment.

Rarely can you get directly from point A to point B. Both journeys might require a series of direction changes in order to draw ever closer to your goal. Most of the time, long periods go by where nothing appears to be happening, but you’re making headway. Interspersed with the waiting are short burst of frantic activity when you change the boat’s direction or do a quick polish on that requested manuscript.

Why am I making this comparison? Because if it wasn’t for sailing, I never would have sold my first book.

In 2006 a sailing buddy of mine, Erik Westgard, pestered me to write an article on our sailing adventure in the British Virgin Islands. He’d been writing for magazines for years, but had his eye on the glossy pages of International Yacht Charters and Vacations. To my shock, they chose my article for their June 2006 issue. I was going to be published.

Despite having tried and failed to sell a book at various times over the previous two decades, this pub credit gave me reason to believe in my chances of become a published author. My voice had matured. My dedication had ballooned. This time around I was going to sell or die trying.

I knew contests were a good way to get feedback and bypass the slush pile. In the fall of 2006 I’d finished two manuscripts and started entering them in contests. A lot of contests. To my delight, I made the finals in the the first two contests I entered. I was on my way. Or not. The next few gave me some eye opening feedback. Undaunted, I fixed my problems and got my first request for a full in the summer of 2007. And my first rejection. Slow pacing and not enough conflict.

I began to study craft and revise. More contests gave me more feedback and more full requests. Late 2008, after receiving great feedback on all my rejections letters, I got a form rejection. At a loss for how to move forward, I decided a change of genre was in order. So, I started writing YA. But I never lost my dream of selling to Silhouette (now Harlequin) Desire.

When I pitched to Kevan Lyon at the 2009 Nationals, I had a book at Harlequin and a two time requested manuscript I’d never submitted. She looked at both. And signed me. The editor who’d asked to see A Case of Meddling, my Silhouette Desire targeted book, had left by this time, but the new associate editor was happy to take a look. And to provide revision notes three weeks later. Believing this might be the one, I quickly turned around a revised manuscript.

To keep myself distracted while I waited to hear something, I entered the Golden Heart. In the past I hadn’t had much luck, but this year proved different. Of the two manuscripts I entered, I thought A Case of Meddling had the best shot. I was wrong. The book that finaled was Fake Fiancee, Real Love. And to my shock, it went on to win the Golden Heart for series contemporary romance.

A month later, Kevan called to tell me we had an offer. A Case of Meddling re-titled Meddling With A Millionaire hit the shelves as a Harlequin Desire this month. Dreams do come true. Sometimes you just have to be patient and believe.

Cat Schield lives in Minnesota with her daughter and their Burmese cat. Winner of the Romance Writers of America 2010 Golden Heart® for series contemporary romance, when she’s not writing sexy, romantic stories for Silhouette Desire, she can be found sailing with friends on the St. Croix River or more exotic locales like the Caribbean and Europe. Contact her at her website.
Or follow her on Twitter or Facebook .



Meddling with a Millionaire

No Man’s Bargaining Chip

Emma Montgomery wouldn’t be manipulated into marriage as part of Daddy’s business deal—even if he cut off access to her trust fund until she complied. The talented jewelry designer would just make her own way. Or go down trying. Too bad her intended groom--maverick businessman and former crush Nathan Case--made her stubborn stance so difficult. The heat of his touch had her nearly betraying herself at every turn. Resisting Nathan and regaining her money were the name of the game—but meddling with this millionaire might land her right back in his arms!

Tell us about how patience and/or belief paid off for you. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Cat's book!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NYC – I’m coming and I’m hungry


Things have been all a flutter here at Casa PC as I plan for my very first trip to New York City. I’m very excited and making all kinds of plans to sight-see and go to Broadway shows, but one of the things I’m most looking forward to is the food.

I love food. All kinds of food. I’ll try pretty much anything at least once (except bugs. I draw the line at eating bugs.). And when I travel, I always want to try the local cuisine. No, I will not be eating at McDonald’s in NYC.* I can eat that here. I want to eat at out-of-the-way places that only the locals know about. I want to eat at the places I see on TV. If there’s a specialty of the area, I want to try it. I think it’s important to the experience to eat the way the locals do. (When folks come south, I feed them BBQ, biscuits, and sweet tea. It’s part of the experience!)

So, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been emailing the folks I know in NYC and asking for recommendations. And, boy, do I have a list. Pizza in Brooklyn, dim sum in Chinatown, kosher delis, an Ethiopian place, a Turkish place. This is the kind of stuff I can’t get here, and I’m so hungry just thinking about it.

I also intend to break every rule I have about hygiene and get a hot dog from a street vendor. It just seems like the right thing to do while in NY.

Are you an adventurous eater? When you travel, what do you consider important to the experience?

PC

*Although I did eat at a McDonald’s in Paris. I’d been there a week on a student budget and limited French skills, so I wanted food that I knew what the heck it was. That was the best Big Mac ever.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Life Lessons




This past week has been an interesting adventure in juggling family, work, and a sick child. We had our first childhood surgery last week – Drama Queen had her tonsils and adenoids removed. She did wonderfully, while I was a nervous wreck. LOL I’ve learned a lot about myself and my daughter through this entire process. Here’s just a few things:




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1. My daughter is growing before my eyes – literally and figuratively.

When the nurse measure her height, DQ had grown over 2 inches to hit 5 feet – I’m 5 feet… and devastated. With their father being 6’3”, I knew this day was coming. I just wasn’t prepared for it to be so soon.

She also found ways to manager her nervousness before surgery and the dreaded liquid meds after surgery (she HATES them!), without me prodding or guiding her. This sign of maturity makes me very proud, but I’ll also admit to a touch of sadness, too.

2. My daughter isn’t me – and that’s a good thing!

I’ve always had a difficult time with any kind of surgery, especially anesthesia. Nausea, vomiting, difficulty waking… yuck! But DQ had none of those issues, for which I’m very grateful. Better she be more like her daddy… at least in that area. :)

3. I’m a planner, but life happens.

I packed and planned for days ahead of this surgery, then realized late the night before that no one would be at the hospital with us. Just me, the hubby, and Little Man. But all the literature said parents would be allowed back into pre- and post-op. Nothing about minor siblings. So I frantically put out an email for Playfriends who might be available to help.

The next morning, despite the lateness of my request, Playground Monitor surprised me by showing up with her Kindle and lots of comfort. Though they did let us take LM back, it was wonderful to have someone to talk to and distract me while DQ was in the operating room!

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4. I’m getting better about letting other people be responsible for stuff.

Since taking on a day job, I’ve had to accept that I can’t be available for everything, especially this summer when the kids are often with a sitter. I never imagined leaving my child the day after surgery, but my husband already had that day off and there wasn’t a logical reason to use up a vacation day. This went against my motherly instincts, but I hugged her twice and left her with daddy.

You know what? She was perfectly fine. He gave her food and meds while they watched movies and he did laundry. And that’s a wonderful thing!

This balancing act I have going on is far from easy, but it becomes easier as I grow and learn and trust those in my life to love and support me. So tell me, when was the last time life taught you some positive lessons?

Angel

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List Strikes Back

It's June and RWA Nationals is early this year. Not ready? Neither am I. My whole world is off kilter and my recent sale has made me that much more aware how unprepared I am. I've barely had time to consider things like "What am I going to wear?" and "How many shoes can I cram into this bag without going over the weight limit?" In honor of this important event, the Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List has returned. It's tradition now and a great place to start building your own list if you don't have one already.

Mine is broken into sections, starting with what I'm wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I've racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I've been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 5 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

Wear on Plane :


  • Shirt

  • Jeans

  • Sweater

  • Sneakers (or slip-ons for walking to make getting them on and off in security easier)

  • Socks
Then I have the list of what goes in my backpack. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your carry on, laptop, your toiletry bag...whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. Must have stuff. You don't want it to end up in DC while you're waiting at the luggage carousel at LaGuardia.

Backpack :


  • Plane Itinerary / Ticket

  • Camera & Battery Charger

  • Cell Phone & Charger

  • 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)

  • Book or e-Reader of choice (& charger) to read on the plane

  • ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket - one that zips for security - for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)

  • Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won't need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)

  • Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle (They don't feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food. As for the water bottle, you can refill it as you travel, but it must be empty to get through airport security.)

  • Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)

  • Travel Alarm Clock (If you can't set your cell phone, and you can, I'm pretty sure)

  • Mini flashlight

  • Business Cards

  • Presentation Materials and/or laptop (I'm doing a workshop this year, so anything I need is staying on my person.)
Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you're carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a clear, one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes.

Toiletry Bag :


  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash

  • Deodorant

  • Hairbrush

  • Clips/Bands/Barrettes

  • Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)

  • Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can't, pack your own)

  • Hair Products - Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler

  • Hair Electronics - blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc. (coordinate w/ roommates to cut down on unnecessary appliances)

  • Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators, good mirror, tweezers

  • Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you'll be outside a lot)

  • Razor & Shaving gel

  • Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)

  • OTC Meds - Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills

  • Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs

  • First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you haven't read this blog for very long)

  • Mini Sewing Kit

  • Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray & Febreze

  • Bandaid Friction Block

Luggage :



  • Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag

  • Panties x # of days, plus one or two if you're going siteseeing and might get sweaty

  • Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed

  • 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)

  • Regular bras & dress bras (as needed for formals, etc)

  • Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed

  • Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days

  • 1 pair jeans (if you aren't doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary, especially as I'm wearing a pair on the plane)

  • Seasonal Jacket, etc, as needed (depends on where you're going, as SFO was cold, NYC is NOT)

  • Pajamas (I don't know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)

  • Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)

  • Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, etc.

  • Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point

  • Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins

  • Shoes - At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you're inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. I do not recommend wearing the same shoes every day, even if it matches. I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over. You will do a lot of walking.

  • Jewelry - Make sure you know what you're wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don't have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like black capris or a skirt that I can use a couple times. Microfiber is awesome - it doesn't wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here's my breakdown based on my typical activities... (note conference is a day off this year, so its all wonky). This year, I'm coordinating everything to match my pink "First Sale" ribbon. :)



  • Tuesday - black microfiber skirt, pink top, black sandals, pink jewelry

  • Wednesday - black capris, blue microfiber top, black sandals, blue jewelry

  • Wednesday Night - eHQN PJ party attire, flip flops/slippers

  • Thursday - black microfiber skirt, purple microfiber top, black sweater, black heels, purple jewelry

  • Thursday Night - black formal, sale shoes, black/silver jewelry

  • Friday - black capris, pink satin top, black sandals, pink jewelry

  • Friday Night - black and pink formal, pink heels, pink jewelry

  • Saturday - t-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home (add days as needed if you're coming early or staying late to sitesee)

  • Pitch Outfit - if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you're wearing

  • Extra Outfit - a fabu just in case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you're already planning to bring
Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What's on your must pack list?

SP

The winner of Shana Smith's guest blog giveaway is Cynthia because that's the name of the heroine in my first book. Sorta. Makes sense when you read it. Cynthia, please send your snail mail info to me at smartypants@writingplayground.com to claim your prize!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Good:

This week I found out that my next Blazes will be released in Feb, March & April 2012. They are connected books all set at an adults only resort on a secluded Caribbean island. We're still hammering out individual titles, but the series is titled Island Nights. I can't wait to share these stories with y'all! I've turned in book 2, am almost finished with book 1 and just started writing book 3 today. I have to say that these characters rock! I'm definitely in the loving it stage with book 3.

Which brings me to the Bad:

I'm in the middle of revisions for book 1. It happens with every book. There's a moment where I hate it, no matter how much I loved it when I started. I'm definitely there. That strong emotion is usually accompanied by the thought that I suck and will never be able to get what I see in my head down onto the page with any amount of skill. I've come to realize that this too is part of my process. Don't worry, I'll love it again - definitely when I hold the finished product in my hands, but probably after my wonderful editor gives me notes and I get to work to make it the best it can possibly be.

And that leaves us with the Ugly:

My preparations for conference. I'm leaving in less than two weeks and I'm not ready. I started to pull together my schedule and realized that somehow I'm completely booked. This was supposed to be an easy conference. No pitch appointments. Only one workshop to give. Meetings with my agent and editors aren't work but something I look forward to. I only get to see them face-to-face once a year so I really enjoy catching up and just chatting over a cup of coffee. But I've discovered that leaves little time for anything else - like attending workshops, site-seeing or catching a show. So, today I came to the realization that I'm going to be running for six days straight. I should be used to it, but I'm always surprised when I can't get it all in.

So, do you have your own good, bad and/or ugly?

Instigator

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Blogger - Harlequin Assistant Editor Shana Smith

Ok guys - SP here interrupting your normally scheduled Wednesday for a special guest. I've invited my editor Shana Smith with Harlequin Desire to the Playground to visit with everyone. She's got some great insider info, so everyone be on your best behavior (yes, you), don't embarass me and be sure to comment because there's two great books up for grabs!

Secrets Editors Want You to Know
7 tips for finding your “in” and making the most of it

by Shana Smith, Assistant Editor for Harlequin Desire & Romantic Suspense

1. Submit to the assistants. Editorial Assistants, and even Assistant Editors, are hungry. We’re looking to build an author list and raise our own profile within the company. We also have more time to devote to working with an author who may need some help to get a manuscript in selling condition. So instead of automatically sending your project to—or making a pitch appointment with—the Senior Editor, consider the assistant.

2. If an editor or publisher says they’re “actively seeking” a certain type of submission, you have a better chance of getting published with that line or imprint. Maybe it’s a new line, maybe the program just expanded, but they need books. If you have one, or can write to the guidelines, submit! Two Harlequin series that are actively acquiring right now are Love Inspired Historical (Christian historical romance) and Nocturne Cravings (paranormal erotica digital short stories). All writing guidelines for Harlequin (including Love Inspired and Kimani lines) can be found here: http://bit.ly/l6XSYX

3. Contests sponsored by a publisher can also be a good way to get your foot in the door. Harlequin contests/online writing events such as Mills & Boon’s New Voices and So You Think You Can Write have both resulted in manuscripts bought from new authors.

4. Read editors’ blogs, follow them on Twitter and attend their panels or workshops at conferences. These are all ways you can learn more about them and what they’re looking for and find someone you might connect with.

5. Send editors manuscripts that fit what they’re looking for. If they say they want historical manuscripts, don’t send them contemporary. If they say they don’t like paranormals, don’t send a story with a werewolf.

6. However, if you find an editor you really connect with, stick with her/him and keep submitting to that same editor. At Harlequin, editors can acquire across lines and imprints. So if you’ve sent manuscripts to, say, a Desire editor who liked your writing but for whatever reason the project didn’t work out, and you find your writing changing to better fit Love Inspired, ask the editor if she’d be willing to read the manuscript. It may be that her particular interests don’t extend to that line, and she may recommend another editor. But she also may be happy to read it. Give her the chance.

7. If an editor sends you a revision letter with suggestions for changes to your manuscript, it’s not a criticism of your work. We want to help you make your story stronger. And if we say we want to see the manuscript again or ask you to send us something else—we mean it! We have tons of manuscripts just waiting to be read, so if we’ve read something of yours and specifically ask you to send us more; you’re definitely on the right track.

Thanks for visiting the Playground, Shana!


Those are some great tips! I know I have personally benefitted from following a couple of these suggestions. Knowledge is power, people.


Shana will be popping in throughout the day to answer any questions. Comment today and you could win a copy of The Billionaire's Beside Manner by Robin Grady and Meddling with a Millionaire by Cat Schield.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Things that should go without saying...


You know, when I’ve been head down in a book all day and finally come up for air, I do like to find out what’s going on in the world. The country, the world, and the planet are all rapidly changing places, and it’s hard to stay on top of things. So imagine my horror (and disgust) at the fact that every time I turn on the news these days, I have to hear about some man’s penis.

Like the constant Viagra commercials and enhancement spam didn’t clutter up enough of my time with their desire to help me with genitalia I don’t have. Now even the news is full of penis discussions and pixilated pictures I really didn’t want to see.

Now, the broader discussions about sexting, fidelity, honesty, etc, are beyond the scope of this blog. My question is simple – why do men feel the need to take pictures of their junk and post it?

Why? For the love of dog, WHY?

I understand that men are visual creatures. This is why bikini-clad women sell everything from cars to beer. Boobs get men’s attention. Fine. What I don’t understand is why they think woman work the same way.

I don’t know a woman alive who hasn’t been approached with some form of “you have nice breasts” as a pickup line. Even flat-chested me has had conversations where the man’s eyes never got higher than my collarbones. But I challenge anyone to find a man who has been approached by a random woman with “gee, I noticed your penis from across the room and had to come meet you in the hopes you’ll let me touch it tonight.”

Ask women what they find physically attractive, and you’ll hear all about chests, shoulders, backs, eyes, a nice smile. A nice butt will usually make the list, but it’s not always a naked butt. It’s not that we’re not visually stimulated. We are. We can be just as shallow as men and objectify with the best of them. However, I’ve never met a woman who swoons with delight over the sight of a penis and MUST MUST MUST meet the man attached to it.

It’s not that I’m not interested in a penis, it’s just that the penis is not the first – or even the 47th – thing I notice about a man. (And if it is the first thing I notice, there’s something really wrong. Like that the man is showing it to me for no good reason.)

But, yet, penis pictures abound. I checked out Craig’s List looking for a bookshelf and found (guess!) penis pictures. I can only assume that the man in question was talked into buying that bookshelf by a salesperson with nice breasts, and figured he’d sell that the same way. (I have to believe that or else just weep for mankind.) ChatRoulette seemed like a fun idea in theory, but it took about 30 seconds for it to become just one penis picture after another.

I understand there are twisted folks who get their thrills showing their genitals to unsuspecting (and unwilling) viewers. Counselor Shelley can tell you all about them and their problems. They need help. It’s the other men – the ones who honestly think that their penis is their best feature and the opener to all potentially romantic encounters – that worry me.

Poor men. They have their definition of masculinity, virility and attractiveness all centered on one piece of unruly* anatomy. If that’s their trophy, fine. I understand the desire to show off a trophy. I also understand that not everyone wants to see my trophy. It’s not really interesting to anyone other than me and a few close friends. Maybe 1% of the people I show a trophy to are jealous or impressed. The other 99% don’t care and really wish I’d put it away.

So guys, if you’re reading this… please quit posting pictures of your penis. I’m not saying it’s never appropriate to show your penis, but like so many things, there’s a time and a place, and I assure you, you’ll know when that time and place is appropriate. You will hear words to the effect of “please show me your penis.” And please, anyone who requests a picture of your penis should be questioned to their motives. Because you never know where it might end up.

Like the five o’clock news. Where I – and a million other people who tuned in to hear about the Middle East and unemployment numbers and are now disappointed – have to see it. And I could’ve done without that.

PC

*(Other than their ability to urinate anywhere, I’ve never envied a man his penis. After all, any inappropriate tingle I might get when faced with a good-looking guy can be easily attributed to either an overheated room or a chilly breeze. Guys have no such luck.)

Monday, June 13, 2011



Yikes! It’s been a crazy weekend here at the Worsham household. A birthday party for my son (though his birthday isn’t for a few weeks, but it was the best weekend we had), birthday celebrations for me, client work, and the infamous roofers finally decided to show up.

Warning, Rant Ahead!

I contracted to have my roof replaced in January. This is June. Now, for the first two months, I can certainly understand how the roof didn’t get put on. Every weekend they scheduled for, it either rained or snowed. But its been six months now, and the guy couldn’t find a single weekend that would work for him? Hmmm… And I couldn’t just call someone else, because the shingles were already sitting in my yard and yes, I’d paid him. (I know, I know – count it as a lesson learned. I’d never had any kind of construction like this done before. Now I’m older and wiser.)

I finally had to give him an ultimatum to get someone here this weekend. Since then, well, its been one issue after another. Maybe other clients of his are less hands on and aware than I am, but after getting the run around for so long, I wanted to make sure my roof got put on… RIGHT. So my step-dad walked me through the process over the phone because he lives a long way away (what the guys should do to prepare the roof, how to make sure the shingles weren’t ruined from the heat, etc.). I watched what they did and they honestly seemed to do a good job and were friendly.

My problem was with the man I contracted with. He was here a total of 15 minutes and I never saw him again (so much for not being able to put my roof on because he was UNAVAILABLE). The problem was, work was slowed the first day because he didn’t show up with the dump trailer. During a phone call, he claimed he had one but it broke, and he had to go hire one. But apparently they were backed up. When I finally called at noon to get the above explanation, he said he would be here in an hour. I called him back… AT SIX.

And frankly, I blew a gasket. Despite going back on his word again and again, he apparently felt I should believe my roof was going to go up and be quality work. I firmly stripped him of this idea. Recounted every mistake and lie he’d told me in the last six months, and informed him that I expected everything to get done in a correct manner. Although the crew came back the second day, I may have chewed him out too soon.

Last night, I left for my birthday dinner. When I came home, the roofers had cleaned and gone. And my gazebo was still the original shingle color.

So despite being reassured that my roof, porch, gazebo, and detached garage would all be done, my gazebo hasn’t been touched. Granted, the roofers may show up for a third day, just to finish my gazebo, hmmm…

We’ll see. How do you handle contractors who don’t do what they agreed to? (Besides report them to the BBB, which I can assure you I will.) Obviously, I need to sit at the feet of Maven Linda and get lessons on how to handle these guys. Sigh.

Angel

Free Book Friday Winner!
Donna Michaels, you are our FBF Winner. Please contact Playground Monitor with your snail mail address to claim your prize. playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com

SP Interview!
SP has her very first interview up on the Harlequin Desire blog today. Pop on over to read it and say hi. She'll be answering questions today from her iPhone since her firewall has blocked it. *sigh* http://community.eharlequin.com/content/theres-new-kid-block

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June News

Guest Bloggers

Wednesday, June 15th -- The Playfriends welcome Andrea's new editor. Harlequin Desire and Romantic Suspense Assistant Editor Shana Smith will join us on the blog.

Wednesday, June 22nd -- Also paying us a visit is author Cat Shield, who will make an appearance on the blog.

Appearances

Playground activities are slowing down in the heat of summer, but you never know where you might find us. This month Kira Sinclair is making the rounds in cyber-space, along with RWA Nationals.

Wednesday, June 15th -- Instigator is also visiting the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter of RWA on their blog. http://www.romance-ffp.com

Tuesday, June 28th -- If you live in or near the New York City area, RWA Nationals will be near you this year. On Tuesday, June 28th, they'll have the annual "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing and our very own Kira Sinclair and Kimberly Lang will be signing. Proceeds from the books sold at this event go to support a literacy charity in the area -- and besides that its lots of fun. Check out the list of authors attending and the deets here: http://www.rwa.org/cs/literacy_autographing

That's it for us this month! We hope to see you on the blog while we weather the heat this summer. Until then, stay cool.

As Always,
Angel

The Writing Playground
www.writingplayground.com

Friday, June 10, 2011

Free Book Friday -- The Celebration Edition!


We're switching the schedule up a bit this week, and I'm hosting Free Book Friday today. In honor of Smarty Pants's recent sale to Harlequin Desire, we're having Free Book Friday -- The Celebration Edition.

And today's free books are... Desires! Two of them are from a while back, but absolute favorites of mine.

First we have THE SINS OF HIS PAST (an autographed copy) by Roxanne St. Claire.




HE HAD SOME ATONING TO DO
For one incredible night, Kendra Locke gave Deuce Monroe everything she had. Then he walked away without a backward glance to chase his big-league dreams as far as they would take him. Years later, after one daredevil stunt too many, Deuce was back in his hometown, ready to pick up where he left off.

Kendra had no intention of letting him. The consequences of that one night had shattered her dreams. Now what Deuce wanted threatened her future...especially when he tempted her with the sensual promise of more time in his bed. Could she be the one to walk away?


Next we have HIS STYLE OF SEDUCTION also by Roxanne St. Claire.




TAILOR MADE
When powerful businessman Jackson Locke found Lily Harper soaking wet on his doorstep, he couldn't believe his luck. Little did he know the dark-haired beauty had been hired to do a job and not the one Jack might have fantasized about. Now a storm had left them stranded, hot and bothered, and Jack was stuck between lust and pride. Lily's assignment was to change him into something he wasn't.

But Jack's destiny was to rock her world, and he intended to do it on his terms...


And finally, we have a brand new Desire from debut Desire author Cat Schield -- MEDDLING WITH A MILLIONAIRE, released just last week.




Emma Montgomery wouldn't be manipulated into marriage as part of Daddy's business deal — even if he cut off access to her trust fund until she complied. The talented jewelry designer would just make her own way. Or go down trying. Too bad her intended groom — maverick businessman and former crush Nathan Case — made her stubborn stance so difficult. The heat of his touch had her nearly betraying herself at every turn. Resisting Nathan and regaining her money were the name of the game — but meddling with this millionaire might land her right back in his arms!
To enter to win, comment with the phrase "Let's celebrate SP's sale!" One lucky commenter will win all three books.

And come back on June 22 when Cat Schield will be guest blogging with us.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I Need a Hero

I'm in the middle of revisions for my current manuscript. They're going...fine. Have I mentioned before that revisions aren't my favorite part of the process? My mind tends to wander in the middle of things to whatever idea is percolating in the back of my brain. It's always better and more exciting than whatever is on the page in front of me. I know, I think I have writer's ADHD - Oooh, look at the shiny new plot. Honestly, the book is great - I had this feeling about this one at one point, too. And I know by the time I get through with the notes from my editor it will be fantastic. In the meantime, I trick my brain by dangling the ability to plot as my carrot.

What I always have the most fun with is fleshing out my heroes. I have to fall in love with him first before I can let him fall in love with my heroine. I've heard editors say that authors tend to play with the same kind of heroes and heroines over and over again. It makes sense that there are qualities from my husband that I naturally put into my books because they're what I find attractive. Physical and emotional attributes. I like me some bad boys - there's something about redeeming them that's so much fun. A man with the ability to be naughty and reckless and loyal and demanding can be so enjoyable to tame. Yeah, bad boys are my favorite.

I know what I like in my heroes...my question is, what do you look for in a hero?

Instigator

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Pigs Do Fly

You all have no idea how long I've waited to write this post. How many times I imagined how The Call would go. How I would react. Who I'd call. And yet, in my wildest imaginings, it never went down anything like last Tuesday.

We will start with some backstory. I'd been working closely with Shana Smith at Harlequin Desire. I'd gotten good feedback. Things were going well despite the first book not working out and having to start over. But I was so close. Agonizingly close. But I wouldn't let myself believe it until I heard the words. I dream big, but I'm not one to get my hopes up and be disappointed. At the same time, I was doing everything in my power to seal the deal. I wrote a new book from scratch in 3 weeks. I revised it in a week. I wanted to do everything I could to sell before conference.

After I finished revisions, I mailed the book, nauseated. Maybe I hadn't spent enough time on it. What if I'd worked too fast and blew it? Either way it was too late. I started work on another book and worried about my upcoming vacation. DB's niece was graduating high school and his brother was retiring from the Navy after 25 years. We were flying to Baltimore for a few days with his parents. I figured it would be a while since Shana had to read it, the senior editor had to read it and whatever magical editorial mojo had to happen. The office was closing for a couple holidays. No big deal. I tried to forget it was even out there and headed to the airport with my family.

I was none too pleased to find out that our flight was 4 hours delayed when we reached the gate. We'd arrived early, so I was due for at least 5 hours in the airport with DB and his parents. While gearing up for a game of spider solitaire on my iPhone, a NYC number called. I figured it was a telemarketer. I'd gotten a lot of those calls lately. But what else did I have to do? So I answered. Not once did it register until I heard the woman introduce herself as Shana Smith. Not really even then. I figured she was calling about her guest blog or something. It could possibly be that.

Then she said she had great news and wanted to buy my book. This was the point in time where the universe slowed to a crawl. I was stunned. I didn't know what to say or do. I was dumbstruck. I couldn't yell or cry. Not only was it not cool, I was in an airport terminal and didn't want security called on me. I think my first words were "oh my god, I'm in the airport." That was followed by a lot of 'wow' and 'that's great' while she talked about contracts and revisions. I think she knew not to say too much given I was reduced to muttering those two phrases over and over. I wrote things down on the back of my boarding pass so I wouldn't forget. I tried to think of intelligent questions and failed. I was a spacey mess. But the message came across - my first book was tentatively scheduled for spring 2012.

After about 10 minutes, I hung up and turned to DB. He smiled and hugged me, having heard my stupid rambling and knew what had happened. I sat back in my chair for a good 15 minutes. I knew I needed to tell people but I wasn't ready yet. I needed to come to terms. It just didn't seem real. Finally I told my inlaws, who were very pleased for me, but really didn't understand what a big deal it was. So I called my Mom and cried. Then I called each of the Playfriends and squeed. I had to leave a message for PM because she was at the doctor. Then I called the Mavens and a couple others. I ended up sitting on the floor in the airport near an outlet so I could charge my phone while continuing to call everyone who had supported me and kept me writing when I wanted to stop. They deserved to hear right away. Then I texted a slew of people. Posted it on Twitter and Facebook, and went back to waiting for my flight.

Of course, my call story had to be weird! It all went down in an airport. I couldn't leave, couldn't fully celebrate. I was in a damn airport. The bottle of champagne I've neurotically kept on hand for just this occasion was in my fridge at home. And I'm at the airport. Then I was in Baltimore, with more family celebrating other people's big life events. Family I love, but still people who don't get it, really. No Playfriends or HOD people to dance around and squeal with. I was trapped in a LaQuinta Inn with nothing but my iPhone to connect me to the people that understand.

But now, now I am home! And I'm ready to celebrate with my peeps. Grab some cyber champagne and a cupcake! I've sold my first book! Check the news because pigs are flying around the world this week.



SP



PS. The picture at the bottom is me in my "sale" shirt. I bought it 3 years ago at a RWA conference and put it in the closet. I hadn't even let myself try it on in all that time. On Tuesday, I pulled it out of the closet and wore it. It fit, thank goodness! :)



PSS. Kira is blogging over at the Blaze Author's blog today. Pop on over and say hi.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A game!


Forgive me, Playfriends, but I'm sick and exhausted and trapped under a book, so the brain isn't working quite right. I almost forgot to blog at all (and only remembered after I took the nice medication that will put me to sleep and end this long day. Typing is fun when you can't feel your fingers and your head is floating a foot above the rest of your body...)

So, I have no deep thoughts -- or the ability to think them either -- so I thought we'd play a game instead.

Grab the book closest to you.
Turn to page 123. (If the book doesn't have a page 123, turn to page 12)
Go to the first full paragraph on the page.
Find the second sentence and type it here in the comments section.

The box from Amazon with my new copies of Skye O'Malley (I will stalk Bertrice Small at conference for an autograph) is closest to me. So, let's see what Skye offers up...

"They were fluffy creatures who would amply fill the bill."

Wow. With all the fun stuff Skye O'Malley has to offer, page 123 is obviously not the best bit! That's kind of anticlimactic.

So play along. I have gifties (including my March book) for a winner!

Monday, June 06, 2011

MOANday: Luncheon Hotties

I realized recently that with the tornadoes and power being out and all, I never posted a Moan Day in May!!! What’s up with that?!?!

So we are due for a good dose of hotness this month! I picked a few from the hottie archives for your viewing pleasure. And this first guy is actually really sweet and nice – I had the pleasure of meeting him this past weekend at the HOD luncheon, where he took pictures with our attendees so they could make their own romance cover. Yep, the Playfriends who attended managed to survive the luncheon another year, and enjoyed hearing Kerrelyn Sparks’s hilarious speech! You must ask her about the Cabin #9 fan mail. And I got to have lunch and dinner with Barbara Vey, which was awesome because I’ll be missing the annual breakfast with her at RWA Nationals this year. And dinner with Kerrelyn, Emily March, and Barbara Vey. Woohoo!

Now, for the hotties:

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Simon, who appeared at the Heart of Dixie Luncheon, who was fantastic with the ladies, and graciously carried our very heavy HOD author basket to its recipient. And his pecs are even better in person. ;)


Photobucket

Gotta love a cowboy and his... chaps...

Photobucket

Hmmm... I may have a slight thing for tattoos that I may have mentioned...

Photobucket

Is that a baseball bat or...


Photobucket

I'm a sucker for a guy on a motorcycle. Well, only if he looks like this one. :)

I really need some new ideas for MoanDay hotties! Who would you most like to see?

Angel

Coming Soon!
Check in this Wednesday, June 8, on the blog for a big surprise announcement! And next week we welcome editor Shana Smith to the blog. Don’t forget!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Addictions

I've realized lately that I have an addiction. For the most part, it doesn't hurt anyone else, but I can see it progressively becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Have you seen those commercials for the Windows phone that has all the people distracted, looking at their phones while life is passing them by? The woman in the nightie being ignored, the dad playing catch while looking at his phone, people running into each other walking down the street... they all say "really?"


*Sigh.* Yes, really. I can't help it. While DB is talking to me, I'm listening, really I am, but I can't help looking down at my screen. I steal a quick glance down at the screen, ignoring the gesturing of his hands he feels is absolutely necessary for me to understand what he's talking about. Reloading my inbox. Checking in on my Twitter feed. Refreshing my Facebook News Feed. Its this compulsion. And usually, there's not much going on. But I can't not check. And I usually get in trouble for it.


I identified this as an issue for me when I was at the spa the a couple weeks ago. They ask you to turn off your phone. Fine, I'm not so far gone that I must tweet during a massage. So I turned it off and locked it up with my clothes. But I'd arrived early and had to wait a good half hour in my bathrobe before my treatment. I didn't want to get in the sauna and be all hot and sweaty for the masseuse. There wasn't much else going on in there, just a trickling water fountain, some lounge chairs and spring water with trail mix cups. You're supposed to be getting in 'the zone.' So I sat there, aimlessly flipping through an old magazine. All the while my brain was jonesing for my phone. I'd keep it on silent, but I had this compulsion to check my stuff. What if something was going on? I didn't really care, but I had this huge gap of downtime and not having my gadget to fill the space was painful. Literally painful. I just couldn't risk getting thrown out before my massage.


The saddest part was when it was done, I turned on my phone and I had no email or facebook updates. Pathetic.

Then, of course, The Great Blackout of 2011. No power, no phone, no internet and no cell service. I was going out of my mind. I drove to Tennessee to get my iPhone to work again. Must have it. Need it! I felt so disconnected from the whole world.


So, have you developed any new addictions lately? Do you have the same problem with your smartphone?


SP

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Summer Here We Come!

Summer is here!!! Can you hear the excitement in my voice? For me this means I get to sleep in an extra 10 to 15 minutes every morning because I don't have to get up and make the girls lunches. It means trips to the local water park (we bought season passes for the first time this year). Picnics, watermelon, grilling out, hearing the girls giggle as they run through the sprinkler.

Sure, it also means summer thunderstorms, mosquitoes, sunburns (yes, I've already gotten my first of the season), hurricanes and heat advisories (which we have today). But, it's all worth it. This time of year is more laid back. No homework to worry about when we get home, instead I get to spend the time with my family.

What are you looking forward to most this summer? Any traditions you have? Do you plant a garden? Visit the beach?

Instigator

P.S. The girls and I picked up their report cards this morning. I'm happy to report that both of them made the A honor roll for the entire year. I'm so proud of them!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Journey or The Destination?






A friend's son graduated from high school recently, and she blogged about the speech he gave at the graduation ceremony. He quoted from an essay his father had told him about. The essay is called The Station and is by Robert J. Hastings. You can read it in full here.


Hastings's essay, which first appeared in Ann Landers's column in May of 1981, suggests that we spent way too much time focused on where we're going instead of the journey to get there. He likens life to a train ride where we sit in the passenger car, oblivious to everything whizzing by outside and we focus only on our destination. He even goes so far as to say there isn't really a "station" in our lives. There's no finish line. We only have the road we travel and we often miss the real joy in life because we're so intent on that non-existant "station," which he calls "a dream that constantly outdistances us."

He writes, "We think that on a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be fit together. How restlessly we pace the aisles… waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station."

When I first began writing, I had no destination in mind. I just wrote. Then I learned about the "station" and set it in my sights, with various scenic points along the way, such as submitting, perhaps getting an agent, finaling in a prestigious contest, winning a contest, getting "The Call" and the list goes on.

In life we have these scenic points too -- finish high school, then finish college, get a good job, marry, have a family, raise the kids and get them out on their own, retire comfortably and that list goes on too.

And all during the time we spend focused on those, we often miss the little things -- the quiet moments snuggled on the sofa with a toddler, the rainbow after a thunderstorm, the first fireflies of summer, the bird nesting in the backyard tree, the quiet of a January snowstorm.

And if we don't get "The Call" or win the contest or get the big promotion, what then? Have we failed? Everyone tells us to be goal oriented, and that's a good thing. We need goals or we wander around aimlessly. You can't hit a target if you don't know what or where it is. But are there limits?



Right now the journey seems rather like this maze of train tracks and the destination... well, I'm not sure what it is anymore. The magazines I wrote for are folding one by one. The online class I was scheduled to teach over the next two weeks has been cancelled due to lack of enrollees. I'm sure the economy played a part in that along with the very precarious nature of the magazines.

Looking back, perhaps I put too much effort into those magazines and not enough into book-length fiction. But I had a good thing going and my sales over the past few years paid my way to the RWA conference. OTOH, with the magazines in flux, maybe lots of folks will just stop submitting to them and it'll be easier to sell to the remaining two.

Or perhaps I should stop worrying about selling anything and get back to the joy of writing I had when I first started.

What about you? Have you missed the sights along the way because you were too focused on the destination?