Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guess what set me off today...

I try to be a friendly person. I try to be nice. I certainly can’t claim to be the nicest person on the planet and I can’t claim that I like everyone I meet, but I do try to be at least nice.

Even when it’s downright painful.

I’m not always tactful, and sometimes the filter between my brain and my mouth malfunctions, but I’m rarely rude on purpose.

Even when I really, really, want to say something ugly.

I’ve bitten my tongue until it bleeds sometimes, but I’ll keep snark and insults behind my teeth where they belong.

Most of the time. Some still slips, through. I usually feel very bad about it when it does.

My point is… I try. I try very hard.

Now, you all know that poem about “when I’m an old lady, I’m going to wear purple.” Since I fully intend to remain fashionable when I’m an old lady, I’m going to adopt something else. When I’m an old lady, I’m going to say whatever the hell I want to, whenever the hell I want to, to whomever I want to. Filters be damned. If your panties are in a wad, I’m going to call you on it. If you’re evil and bitchy, I’m going to tell you to your face that you’re an evil bitch. If I don’t like you, I’m not going to waste time talking to you. I’m not going to listen to whining, or BSing, or excuses or anything else.

I’m just not. Not. Not. Not. I’ll happily wear my label as a curmudgeonly, mean old bat.

It will be good for my blood pressure.

Once upon a time, I decided that 40 would be the cut-off date for this. My 40th birthday present to me would be freedom: freedom from other people’s crap and attitude problems.

Unfortunately, the Geek has evilly reminded me that I’m closer to 40 than 30 these days, and did I really want to declare myself an old lady at 40?

Darn him and his rational, reasonable approach to things.

It looks like I can’t be a curmudgeonly old bat just yet. I guess I’ll keep being nice, watching my mouth, biting my tongue and working on that tactful thing.

But it gives me something to look forward to, right?

~grumble, grumble~


Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Monday, Alright!

And I forgot to post my blog last night. Unfortunately, if I type it out this morning, I'll be late for work!!!

You know how those weekends go, right? You've got this place and that place to go, and a list of a bunch of little things to do that add up to a whole bunch, and before you know it the weekend is gone. Sorry, guys!

Make me feel better here. What whittled away at your weekend?


P.S. Congratulatoins to BW, Sara's winner from Thursday. Email Instigator @ kira@kirasinclair.com and we'll get your prize out to you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bucket List Failures

No, I'm not dead. The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated and my bucket list is still alive and kicking, thank you. Unfortunately, there are a few things on the list that I'm not fully in control of. You think you have time, you pass up on opportunities you should sieze because of money or schedules or whatever. Then, you realize years later that was YOUR CHANCE and you let it go by.

That makes me absolutely crazy. I'm a list maker anyway, so having a bucket list really appealed to me. It gave me a chance to really think about and list all the things I want to do before I die. I get immense pleasure from checking off items. Knowing there are items I can never check off makes my completion-driven heart die a little bit. Swim with dolphins? Check! Take a cruise? Check! See R.E.M. in concert... hmm...

It seems that if you're going to include an item like that on your bucket list, you need to account for the fact that said group is aging like you are. And they may not want to tour with their wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. Not that R.E.M. is that old. But apparently they have a bucket list of their own that includes something other than music and they've decided to break up and focus on, instead.

Crap. Crap. Crap. R.E.M. was my first CD when I as ten. When I finally got a CD player six months later, I nearly exploded finally getting to listen to Out of Time. Since then, I've acquired about five other CDs of theirs. But never managed to see the show. When I was in high school - no money. Then I moved and they never came close enough to make it convenient. Would it really have killed me to drive over to Atlanta? But it was a Wednesday night show, I'd miss work, blah, blah. I always had time to see them later. Until I didn't.

You'd think I would've learned from the Simon & Garfunkel tour. They weren't on my bucket list because they swore they'd never tour again, but then, magically - 5 shows. One in Atlanta. Tickets were upward of $300-$500. I passed it up. Stupid. It was Simon & Garfunkel! They hate each other and will probably never ever do it again. There goes that chance.

I can only hope that in a few years, R.E.M. will get nostalgic or need money and will put together some kind of reunion tour like the Eagles or the Stones. Until then, I'll have this glaring failure on my list. Do you have a bucket list? Are there any items on there that you'll probably never be able to do through no fault of your own?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guest Blogger - Sara Ramsey

I met Sara last year when we served on the RWA awards ceremony committee together. And I knew very quickly that I liked this girl! She's smart and dedicated and I can't wait to read her book! Please give Sara a wonderful Playground welcome.

I’m really excited to visit the Playground today – the Instigator has lived up to her name by inviting me and letting me wreak havoc. I’ll try not to break anything!

I love the idea of a Writing Playground, even though I was always way more into books than monkey bars. I grew up on an eighty-acre farm in Iowa that was miles away from the nearest kids, so my play tended to be dress-up and make believe rather than basketball or soccer – it’s no wonder I still love making up stories.

Playground took on another meaning when I was twelve. My father accepted a year-long assignment with an agricultural nonprofit in Ukraine, just after the fall of the Soviety Union, and my mother, younger brother, and I moved there with him. My mom homeschooled us so that we would stay caught up with our classmates, but my dad took it upon himself to teach ‘playground’ – all the slang and bad behavior he thought we would have learned on the playground back home. Let’s just say that, between my father’s playground lessons and the Johanna Lindsey romances I started reading that year, it was pretty much inevitable that I would grow up to be a romance writer!

Nowadays, I still love to dress up, even though it’s more expensive to buy my own shoes rather than tottering around in my mom’s heels. And I still like to exchange dirty stories with my friends, although doing it over drinks is way more fun than passing notes in chemistry class. But I’ve found a couple of other kinds of play that I absolutely love, even though I couldn’t imagine liking them a few years ago.

The first is going to the gym. I’m the antithesis of an athlete, and at 5’ tall, I’m at a serious disadvantage when it comes to running, walking, reaching the machines, doing step-ups – basically, everything. But I started working out with a trainer last year, and it turns out that I love having a couple of hours a week where I think of nothing but breathing (and trying not to pass out). It’s probably the best kind of play I could recommend to other writers, since I think we all need some downtime in order to bring renewed energy back to our work.

The second is interacting with other romance readers and writers, particularly on Twitter. When I first started using Twitter, I thought it was just a stupid marketing tool. But as I’ve gotten to know people through it, it’s fun to connect to other writers when I’m struggling, excited, happy, sad, needing a distraction. Even though I work from home, I can still feel like there’s a water cooler conversation waiting for me to join in. I just have to be careful not to spend all day at the water cooler, since it’s easy to get sucked in!

Regardless of what your passions are, I think it’s really important for writers to play at something every day. If you don’t have some way to relax and blow off steam, how can you find enough quiet within yourself to let your stories and your voice come out?

What do you to do relax and play? I’ll give one lucky commenter a copy of my debut Regency romance, Heiress Without a Cause – it’s all about a proper heiress who indulges her very improper desire to play as an actress, so it seems fitting for the Playground.

Heiress Without a Cause – Muses of Mayfair, Book #1

One title to change his life...

A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he secretly desires the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.

One chance to break the rules...

Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.

One season to fall in love...

Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?

Sara’s website: http://www.sararamsey.com

Sara’s Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Sara_Ramsey

P.S. Instigator's guest blogging at Okay Listen Here today. Stop by for a chance to win a signed backlist book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." ~ Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

I've heard this quoted numerous times, but I've never seen the movie. That's surprising since I grew up watching old movies, and this movie is old. It was made the same year I was born. *g*

But Tennessee Williams isn't the subject today. Kind strangers (and friends) are.

It's been about 3 1/2 weeks since my unfortunate accident, and yes, I'm much better, thank you. I still have some neck and shoulder issues from whiplash and I have to build my energy levels back up. I went back to work a week ago after two weeks in the recliner with my foot propped up, and hoooooooooo boy! By quitting time I was ready to crawl under the desk and cry. But I made it through the week.

My foot is still bothering me, and today I'm seeing an orthopedic specialist about it. It's still a bit swollen. It still hurts when I walk. And I can only wear tennis shoes and Crocs. I'm not a shoe fanatic, but good gracious, I'd like to not have to wear Adidas to work. They've been very nice about it. They were just happy to have me back in one piece. One of the attorneys even gave me a big hug as she proclaimed how glad she was I wasn't hurt any more than I was.

But back to my topic: kindness. I was the beneficiary of much kindness from strangers and also from folks I know.

A very nice couple stopped at the wreck site, called 911 and waited there til the EMTs arrived. The wife scrolled through my cell phone calling names to help me think of someone to call. Let me tell you that when you've t-boned a car doing about 60 miles per hour, your brain is just a smidgeon jarred and names and phone numbers don't come to mind right away. I asked someone to get their names and contact info so I could thank them later, but I never got it. So whoever you are, thank you so much for getting involved when you could just as easily have kept on driving.

Thank you to the First Responders who got a neck collar on me and got me out of the car and onto a backboard along with the help of a couple of firefighters. Thank you to the EMTs and the ambulance driver. And special thanks to the EMT for making the call to bring me to my hometown hospital instead of one an hour away. At the time I couldn't think of a soul who could pick me up from that hospital, though now I could name a dozen. 60 mph t-bone brain, remember.

Thank you to the terrific Trauma staff at Huntsville Hospital. They were lined up and ready when I was rolled in. With precision, they took my vital signs, got an IV going and cut off an almost brand new pink sweater I'd only worn twice before. ~sniff~ They cut off everything else too except my underpants and socks. I was poked and prodded, x-rayed and scanned, then pronouced banged up and bruised and sent home with a prescription for pain pills and the words, "It'll get worse before it gets better." That was an understatement.

Thank you to the Playfriends. Smarty Pants was the first person in the cell phone scroll whose name clicked and Kind Lady called her. She sprung into action and by the time I got to the hospital, Problem Child and Angel were there. They'd also called my son who arrived in time to take me home. He stayed overnight, helped me arrange a rental car the next day and took me to the grocery store since my cupboards were bare.

Lots and lots of phone calls were made that night. Thank you for all of them. The Playfriends also brought food the next day. I missed our New Year's Eve party, so they brought the party -- or part of it -- to me. A fellow Heart of Dixie member who lives in my apartment complex brought me a container of chicken fettucine Alfredo. Yum! Thanks Kellie.

Thank you to my sister for gently breaking the news (though just how gentle can a major car crash be) to my mother. She and my mother and my mother's brother have called frequently to see how I'm doing.

Thank you to my minister (who said my mother called him) for checking on me. And many thanks to his wife for driving me 150 miles roundtrip to get my belongings out of my car.

Thank you to my neighbor for getting my mail every day. It's a small act, but when every part of your body hurts, it's nice not to have to make the trek to the mail boxes daily.

Thanks to Lynn, one of my Red Hat friends, for driving me to the doctor's office on Monday after the wreck.

And thanks to everyone who sent a card, an email or a message on Facebook. I appreciate them all. It means a lot to know so many people care.

If I've left out anyone, please forgive me. 60 mph t-bone brain, remember.

I got a new car last week cause the old one was totaled. It did its job -- front end crumpled, airbag deployed and seat belts locked down. So I bought another one just like it, just newer. I hope I never have to test its airbag. I'm still dealing with paperwork from the insurance company, getting the tag transferred, etc. I think I see an end in sight.

Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 13-19 this year. I hope you'll take time to perform at least one act of kindness, be it random or not. You never know how much it will mean to the recipient.

Tell me about some random act of kindness you've given or received. Or both.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reality Bites

I really, really hate “reality” TV.

Reality shows dominate the airwaves, but I’m not a fan. I like fiction. I like shows that have been written by people with talent, are acted by people with talent, professionally produced… You know, television. Entertainment. I’ll admit that I watch some weird stuff – I’m a big fan of crime shows – but reality TV scares me and upsets me more than a Criminal Minds marathon ever could. (And Criminal Minds often leaves me sleeping with the lights on.)

So, shows I hate…

Hoarders: Hoarders have a sickness and this show exploits them. Aside from the car-wreck fascination or the feeling of superiority that my house isn’t that bad, I don’t see the value of the show. I have a problem with exploitation for entertainment purposes. I dislike the concept of Storage Wars for this reason as well. These storage sheds are being auctioned because the renters quit making payments. These people have fallen on hard times and now they’re losing the things they wanted to keep. Televising it is exploitation of someone’s misery and that’s wrong.

The Bachelor/Bachelorette and any of the 37 spin-off dating shows they spawned: I don’t believe for a second that the participants are looking for love. They’re looking for fame. But pitting people against each other to win the “love” of another makes me a little ill.

I reserve special hate for pretty much every reality show where people are pitted against each other and the producers encourage bad or extreme behavior for ratings. (Jersey Shore, Survivor, Big Brother, Real Housewives, etc.) I will however, watch competition shows (okay, one -- So You Think You Can Dance) where skill is prized.

Any show where celebrities are doing anything other than their jobs: (Dancing With the Stars, Celebrity Apprentice, etc.) These folks are good at their jobs; they’re not very good at other people’s jobs. It's just painful to watch.

Shows where people are doing their jobs: Shipping Wars, Swamp Loggers, Pawn Stars. Really? Why? As I’ve said before, ninety percent of everyone’s job is really boring. Why is this television? And the ones where they’re doing something dangerous – like Ice Road Truckers – make me want to scream at the TV. If it’s so freaking dangerous, why are you talking to a camera while you do it?

Toddlers and Tiaras/Dance Moms/etc.: These shows are worse than reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother, etc, because the children are being manipulated by their parents and the parents are setting the worst example. And by watching, we’re rewarding and encouraging that behavior.

I know that reality shows are popular – they wouldn’t have so many of them on the air if they weren’t -- but I just don’t get the attraction. So are you a reality TV fan? Which shows? Why?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Let's Hit the Road!

This past weekend, my sister and I went on an impromptu road trip.

Now, for those of you who haven't been with us for long, let me explain a few things. First, neither my sister nor I are "impromptu" people. We're planners all the way. Second, we both had kids this weekend. Third, weekends are extremely precious time at the moment, so giving up one day is hard. Fourth… did I mention we don't usually do "spur of the moment"?

Anyway, the call came from my sister mid-Sunday morning. "Want to make a trip to Nashville today? Our blog buddy is coming through and we could meet her." Awesome!!! She seems like a totally cool person, and this might be our only chance. When? "Um, I'll be at your house in 30 minutes or so…" Alrighty then…

Threw the kids together, changed out of my comfortable "Sunday at home" clothes, and we were out the door. And we all had a really good time! The kids enjoyed a trip to the Cool Springs Galleria, because we let them buy stuff. Sis and I had a great time having lunch with our cyber friend and meeting her IRL. And she's just as cool as she is on the web.

So maybe I should do this "seat of your pants" thing more often… aw, who am I kidding? When was the last time you did anything at the spur of the moment? How did it turn out?


Coming Soon!
Check out hip Regency writer Sara Ramsey when she joins us this Thursday, January 26.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Best of the Bookshelf

It's that time again! Time for the Playfriends to share what they're reading. This month we've got an interesting mix of fiction, writing craft and essays on life.

Smarty Pants is reading - Highly Charged! by Joanne Rock

I'll admit I'm a fan of the Uniformly Hot Series. Maybe I spend too much time with Instigator and Rhonda Nelson who both write books in this series. But who doesn't like rock-hard military men? Especially one in a wet t-shirt like on this cover? Poor thing. He should take those wet clothes off before he catches a cold.

Anyway - just as he's distracting me, Navy Lieutenant Brad Riddock is also distracting professor Nikki Thornton from her home renovation project. Understandable, right? And how is she supposed to get anything done when someone starts threatening her and Brad offers her some very personal protection? *fans self*

Angel is reading - Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader From Beginning to End by Karl Iglesias

This book was recommended as one that deals in-depth with character creation, and boy was she right!!! Iglesias focuses on what the reader sees on the page, how the reader responds psychologically, and how we as the authors can invoke chosen emotions in the reader. It sure wasn’t the way I thought! He offers hundreds of techniques from a screenwriter’s background to pack that emotional punch. I’m enjoying the unique approaches and clear psychological explanations. A must read for any author!

Instigator is reading - Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the idea of giving the Romeo and Juliet story we all know a new twist. It was an enjoyable read and I have to admit I’m hoping for a sequel, although I can’t find any evidence that one’s been contracted.

Playground Monitor is reading - The Husband Recipe by our very own Maven Linda Winstead Jones.

Why? Because it’s by LJ. And because it’s her first strictly romance short contemporary book. And because I’ve loved her books since I picked up my first title by her. And because the back blurb sounded like a book I’d love: It Started with a baseball . . . Which shattered Lauren Russel's perfectly ordered life. Lauren's new neighbors were about to see the Southern lifestyle columnist's temper! Then she met Cole Donovan, the sexy single dad. He was not the man from her husband list; he was too tall, too sexy - and definitely had too many kids! But somehow, looking into his blue, blue eyes, she forgot all that . . . Lauren was too elegant, too prim and didn't understand that his three rambunctious kids were the focus of his life. But his tempting neighbor smelled delicious, looked delicious, and cooked like a dream. Cole wasn't looking for a wife, but he couldn't stay away from Lauren. Was it a recipe for disaster - or marriage?

Problem Child is reading - Ha by John Shore

Maybe I shouldn’t tell y’all that, because it’s a collection of essays about a lot of topics, but also about sex, politics and religion, and I’m not supposed to talk about two of those things on the Playground blog. I find Shore to be both genuine and realistic in his beliefs, and he has a great sense of humor and an eye for the absurd – especially the absurdities of sex, politics and religion. While he has very strong beliefs that shape his work, he doesn’t feel the need to convince or defend, but instead places his essays inside that belief structure for examination. He also realizes that not every situation needs to be analyzed – much less inside a religious or moral matrix. The essays range from thought-provoking to simply amusing, and are easy to read and digest.

What are you reading this month?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

On a recent stop to pick up the girls my mom met me at the door and pulled me inside. This is enough of an anomaly that my first thought was Aw hell, what kind of mischief have my two little hellions found now?

When she started with, "Your daughter said something interesting today," my sense of unease didn't get any better. Anyone who knows me won't be surprised to hear me admit that I have a bit of a swearing habit. I taught my youngest brother the 'F' word when he was four. At the time I thought it was hilarious...until he turned around and pointed out the f-ing lizard to my mother. Whoops.

Having kids has cleaned up the worst of my language, but not everything. We have a rule in my house that if I say the word in front of the girls then they can't get into serious trouble for repeating it. I can tell them they shouldn't. And admonish them for using a word we've agreed they're not old enough for. But I can't ground them or take away privileges. And my mom's aware of my propensity so I figured whatever Baby Girl had said must be really bad.

And then I saw the glint of humor in her eyes as she proceeded to tell me she'd overheard my seven year old using the word fiduciary. Fiduciary. I don't think I learned that word until I started college level accounting classes.

She can't tell me if Baby Girl used it correctly because she hadn't been paying close attention to the conversation between Baby Girl, Sweet Pea and my oldest nephew...but that isn't the kind of word you just stumble into. My mom thought it was hilarious that my seven year old apparently has the vocabulary of a college freshman. I think it's pretty cool.

Have you ever overheard something that made you laugh? Have your kids ever said anything that shocked you?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Blogger -- Helen Lacey

We have a special guest today from the opposite side of the playground... er... world. Helen's first book hit the shelves this month so let's help her celebrate and give her a big welcome!

A Day in the Life of . . . Helen Lacey

I can openly admit I have a wonderful life. I am a full time writer, I have a very nice husband and live in a house just a couple of hundred meters from the Pacific Ocean, at the southern most point of the Great Barrier Reef. There are dolphins and turtles and sometimes even migrating whales almost on my doorstep. There are
Lorikeet parrots on my patio most mornings. Plus I get to seriously indulge my passion for horses. Oh, and dogs. I have three dogs, three birds, eight horses and a house cow named Ginger. Did I say I had a very nice husband too?

But I also have youngest child syndrome, little patience and a short attention span. So sitting at a computer for hours a day can sometimes be a monumental challenge. Even though writing is a pleasure and now something I can do as a career. Of course I’m delighted to be in this position, and try to be grateful for my luck every day. I start out early – around 4.45am. I usually crank up the computer and then the kettle. I get emails done straight away – particularly anything that comes over night from my agent or editor. My husband leaves early so I see him off to work and then attend to my horses and dogs. After that, its full steam ahead …. Right? Well, only in the fantasy world of nothing-interrupts-my-writing-time. You know that place? No telephone calls, no knocks on the front door, no kids to drop off, no errands to run or people to see. Yeah, that place … I’ve heard it exists. Just not in my house.

Ideally I like to write one thousand words a day, seven days a week. Which means I should be able to write a novel every 8.5 weeks. Then again, maybe not. In the middle of those good intentions edits arrive, revisions need to be done, blogs have to be written, contests need to be judged etc. Things get in the way. Sometimes those elusive one thousand words come out at barely a hundred. And sometimes none at all.

I often wonder if really organized people suffer from the same kind of distractions. Or if my lack of attention to things is my way of procrastinating. I know some authors who steadfastly work for four hours, write their projected word count and then down their tools for the day. I mean, it’s not as though I’m avoiding writing the book, right? Maybe that depends on the book. Like right now I’m in the middle of revising book four in my series before I send it to my editor for consideration. I know these characters, I know the town they live in, I know their family and friends. It should be a breeze. I should be able to sit at my desk, look out at the ocean for a moment, call on my muse and write. Or at least revise and polish. But like every job on the planet, some days are diamonds, some days are... well, you get the picture.

Maybe that’s why some of my favourite romances are the ones where the heroine has those really bad days at work. Where she hasn’t always got it all together. Where she daydreams and stares out the window or has a meltdown in the boardroom. This girl knows. She gets how it feels to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, to break a heel, to get someone else’s coffee order, to miss the train home by a second. When she gets her happy ending it feels all the sweeter.

So when the procrastination passes I get back to the book. If I get four hour work in the day I’m happy and I like to write at night when it’s quiet. I also like to hear the faint hum of the television in the background, or music playing. (Maybe they are just more things to distract me?). Everyone has a different process and no one way is the right way. Some writers like complete silence, some have plugs attached to their ears and Coldplay or Adele belting out tunes. If I get my thousand words I’m happy, if not . . . well, Scarlett said it best – tomorrow is another day.

Do you plan? Makes lists? Have a itinerary of your day? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and wait for things to happen? Leave a comment and go into the draw to win a copy of my January 2012 release from Harlequin Special Edition, Made For Marriage.


Equestrian Callie Jones was used to difficult parents at her riding school. But Noah Preston took the cake.
How dare he question her teaching abilities, after his headstrong daughter paid no heed to rules—her teacher's or her father's?
Single dad Noah was ready to apologize for overreacting. But he wasn't sorry for the way the stunning American riding instructor made him feel. And he soon learned that there was more to Callie than her smarts, sass and fire: a shattered heart that threatened to splinter even further. Could he make her see that he — and his family — were for keeps?

Learn more on Helen's website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What to say...

I've been invited to speak at a luncheon. I have to write a speech. This is much harder than I thought when I accepted the invitation six months ago. I'm really nervous.

It's not the public speaking part that bothers me. I know a lot of folks hate it, but it doesn't bother me. Heck, after lecturing freshmen, groups don't scare me. I can honestly assume any crowd will be much friendlier -- or at least less openly hostile. (And since I did yoga in the middle of a restaurant last Saturday because we were locked out of our usual location and I was the program for my chapter meeting, I think it's safe to assume that I don't fear making a fool of myself in public!)

But the speech is killing me. I'm used to having a really specific purpose for talking to a group -- a lecture on Beowulf, a workshop on characterization, a welcome to an event, etc. -- but this event lacks a theme for me to latch on to. I'm just the speaker -- go speak about something. Be interesting, be amusing, be coherent. That's pretty much all I was given to go on. And I have to fill almost thirty minutes. That's a long speech!

I don't even know my audience. It's a community women's organization, so all I know about them is that they are women and they all have access to the military base. They could be military, or military wives, or civilian contractors, or work at one of the restaurants on base. It's a pretty wide net. I can't even guarantee that they read romance -- although they are women, so I'm hoping the demographics work in my favor on that one. Otherwise, I'll have nothing to say.

So I'm working on this speech. I should really be working on my new WIP, but unless I plan to get up in front of eighty people and read from chapter one, I had to write a speech. Oh, and did I mention that I'll be speaking on Valentine's Day? I hope they're not expecting me to wax poetic on the holiday because it's one of my least favorite (beaten only by April Fool's Day. I hate pranks of all kinds.).

But I have the draft of the speech. At 4000+ words, it's almost the equivalent of a chapter, but hopefully more appropriate to the occasion. I'll need to spend some time with it over the next couple of weeks, practicing it and smoothing out the rough places, because I do want the event to go well.

And, yes, I am bringing a friend. Someone I know will laugh at my jokes and hopefully set an example for the others.

But keep your fingers crossed for me. And if you have any brilliant ideas for the speech, please let me know. I just might add them in...


Monday, January 16, 2012

You Should Rest...

I hate being sick. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

But I think I hate it because I get frustrated easily. Take this past weekend: Over the last week, I’ve felt more and more tired, my throat hurt on and off, and my brain just wasn’t up to speed. I blew it off as some extra things going on at work and popped some Vitamin C. Woke up Friday morning and my immune system had given up the ghost!

Turns out I had sinus and ear infections. I spent most of Friday and Saturday sleeping. That was the best thing for me, BUT I was frustrated.

Like most people, I have a list of things that need to get done (mine’s an actual list, as opposed to a mental one). Its hard for me to ignore it for any reason. (An online instructor recently got on to me for not playing more.) LOL So when I’m walking around on Sunday, moaning and hacking, and the hubby tells me to go back o bed, I say, “But I have so much I need to do.”

Now, I’m not stupid. Logically I know I need to rest. I’m sick. But I still feel the mental pull of that To Do list, of all the things that were supposed to get done this weekend. The result? Frustration.

Am I the only one with this problem? Because I have no idea how to turn it off. I did what I could Sunday morning until I HAD to lay down. Then I got up and wrote this blog – because it was On The List.

Heaven help me!


Coming Soon!!!

Join us on Wednesday when Harlequin Special Edition author Helen Lacey visits the Playground... all the way from Australia! :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Free Book Friday - Frosty Funk Edition

I was perusing my giveaway shelf today and a gem caught my eye. I thought it would make a great giveaway for this month's Free Book Friday.

Why? Well, sadly, the title leapt out at me because this is my least favorite time of year. I pretty much slip into a funk and stay there until May. I don't get any holidays off work until Memorial Day. It's cold. Work usually triples, time disintegrates, and I constantly obsess about losing weight and other resolutions I won't keep. Like flossing.

When I looked at the shelf, I thought it said "Killing Me Slowly." Yeah, that's how it feels. Then, on second glance, I realized it was "Killing Me Softly" and the song implanted in my brain for the duration. And even worse, it was the Fugees cover of it. But here's your chance to pick up this autographed copy to help you out of your own winter funk!

Killing Me Softly

by Maggie Shayne (autographed!)

The Nightcap Strangler, who terrorized the town of Shadow Falls sixteen years ago, has finally been executed. Case closed. Until Bryan Kendall's lover is murdered in the notorious killer's unique style and the rookie cop stands accused. Has someone committed the perfect copycat crime...or was the wrong man put to death?

A continent away, Dawn Jones hears that her first love has been accused of murder and knows that only she can help him. But to do so, she'll have to face the very fears that drove them apart.

Together they'll work to uncover secrets someone's willing to kill to keep, and renew a love as dangerous as it is inevitable. And their best lead is the girl found dead in Bryan's bed, reeking of the whiskey poured down her throat before her killer squeezed it shut.

A killer who thinks that Dawn, too, could use one last drink...

To win, comment today with one of the things you like BEST about this time of year so I can find some positive ways to spin this time of year.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guest Blogger - Christina Hollis

Our regular readers might remember Christina visiting with us a couple months ago. Well, we're very excited to have her back with us today to talk about her newest release! Please give her a warm Playground welcome.


Thanks, Kira, for inviting me to blog here today.

I hope everyone at the Playground (residents and visitors alike) had a good party season. This time of year can be a bit of a letdown after the excitement of the holidays, unless you got a stack of books for Christmas. On the other hand, it’s a great time to start that new writing project. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it solely for you own pleasure or with the aim of getting published, you want to produce the best piece of work you possibly can. Here are five top tips I’ve found most useful in my own writing life...

1. DIVE IN - Read as widely as you can, and write all the time. Take classes, whether ‘real’ or online. Visit your local library to find out about local groups for readers and writers, and check out online sites such as http://romanceuniversity.org. Join groups such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association (http://www.rna-uk.org/) in the UK or Romance Writers of America (http://www.rwa.org/) who provide lots of useful information and contacts. If you intend trying to sell your work, research the market and target your writing carefully before you start.

2. PUT IN THE TIME - which means setting aside some time for yourself every single day. Preferably this should be dedicated writing time, but thinking time can be equally productive as long as you remember to write all your brilliant thoughts down the second you get the chance!

3. READ YOUR FINISHED WORK ALOUD TO YOURSELF - It’s amazing what a different perspective this gives you. It’s best to do this when you’re on your own somewhere, whether in the house or outside in an isolated spot. That way, you can really inject some feeling into your precious words.

4. FIND AN HONEST HELPER - Writing what pleases you should always be top of your agenda but if you intend writing for an audience, constructive criticism is invaluable. Once you are completely happy with your work, hand it over to someone you can trust to tell the truth, whether good or bad. What they didn’t like, and why is as important as what they did like.

5. NEVER SAY ‘I CAN’T BE BOTHERED’ - Fact or factoid? Double check, and always keep your spellchecker switched on. Most importantly, always make notes when you think of them. It’s only too easy to forget to do it later. Like ‘tomorrow’, ‘later’ never comes. Keep a pad and pencil close at hand at all times. Follow up that lead - you never know when you might strike lucky. Polish your manuscript until it shines, and when you send out a query letter make sure you go the extra mile and find out the name of the person best placed to help you. A personally addressed letter or email shows you’ve taken special care. And finally...


If you’ve got a good story to tell and you take the time and trouble to hone your craft, you’ll always find an outlet for your talent.

What are your favourite tips for authors? A copy of my latest release for Harlequin Mills and Boon, Weight of the Crown, will be awarded at random for one of the comments.

Don't forget to check out Christina's website at http://www.christinahollis.com or her
Twitter at http://twitter.com/ @christinabooks

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lights, Camera, Netflix!

PM here, still bruised up and recuperating and starting to drown in the paperwork involved with a major auto accident. I already have a folder filled with letters and copies of forms, a day-by-day listing of the calls I've made and received. And oh yeah, my car's license tag. Once I get confirmation (and $$$$$) from the other driver's insurance company, I'll be buying a new vehicle. I've already been doing my research online about cars and different models and the various features of each. I know what I want; it'll boil down to who makes me the best offer.

But I can't do that all day, and I'm on doctor-ordered bed rest for my poor foot. I have been reading but after a while my eyes cross. So last week I borrowed some DVDs and fired up my DVD player to discover, oh no! It was broken!

More online research and some discussion with Smarty Pants led me to buy a blu ray player. And I decided to go ahead and spring for one with a wireless connection. I got a 30 day free trial of Netflix and joined the streaming video generation. I'm sometimes slow, but I catch up with technology eventually.

And so far I'm loving this! I look through the available programming, click to put it in my Instant Queue and then watch while I'm propped on the sofa with an ice pack on my foot.

And what have I been watching?

First, I watched the movie "Secretariat." This is a wonderful movie about the great race horse of the early 70's who won the Triple Crown. And even though I knew the horse won all three races, I still found myself on the edge of my seat, cheering him on and feeling excited (and vindicated) for his owner. She was the daughter of a horse farm owner who was thrust into a bad position upon her father's death. A coin toss put Secretariat (or Big Red as she called him) in her barn. Everyone told her it couldn't be done, but she refused to give up and her belief paid off. Watch this if you haven't already.

Then I watched a great documentary on the Amish people in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Having visited the Amish settlement in Ethridge, Tennessee last summer, I was able to appreciate this documentary more, though the Lancaster folks look absolutely modern next to the Tennessee group because they are member of different sects. Still, a good show with good insight into these plain folks.

Next up was "Spirit of the Marathon," which follows six runners on their marathon journey. My sister ran her first marathon last February, and I remember the impact it had on her. She basically said what the film poster states: When you cross the finish line it will change your life forever.

After that, my queue had "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." It's a combination documentary and parody about Tammy Faye Bakker whose husband Jim Bakker ran the PTL Ministry in North Carolina. I grew up very close to where they were and followed the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy in the newspapers. I learned a lot about the duo, like the fact they started the 700 Club only to have Pat Robertson overthrow them and take over. Then they started the Trinity Broadcasting Network and had that pulled out from underneath them too. PTL followed those and eventually Jerry Falwell voted them off that island too. I'll go on record to state that I own a t-shirt that was shown on the video.

Still in my queue is "Ancient Aliens" from the History Channel. This show attempts to answer this question: "Is it possible that extraterrestrials with superior knowledge of science and engineering landed on Earth thousands of years ago, sharing their expertise with early civilizations?"

And what is entertaining me now?

Don't recognize him? Try this photo.

If a stranger looked at my instant queue, I'd be rushed to the nearest mental facility for therapy because my genres are all over the place. And right now I am watching a show called "RuPaul's Drag Race." It's a combination of America's Top Model, Celebrity Apprentice, Survivor and American Idol with 12 drag queens competing in different challenges each week to be named America's Next Drag Superstar. I am positively amazed at the effort to which these men go to look like women. And talk about cat fights and dissing! Oooooooh girl!!!! They can fling the insults and barbs. And then they help each other with eye shadow and hair and cry when one of the group gets voted off each week. It's wild and crazy and has fabulous guest judges like Debbie Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, Jackie Collins and Kathy Najimy. Netflix streaming only has seasons 2 and 3 and I'm going through a couple episodes a day.

It's been fun, but once I'm through with it, I'll move onto the possiblity of spacemen building the Pyramids or maybe watch an old episode of Saturday Night Live when Gilda Radner was still on the show. I sure did love her.

So now I'll sashay away to my recliner and heating pad. Got Netflix? What's in your queue?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reality is boring..

There are readers out there who take great pleasure in pointing out mistakes to authors. Whether it’s typos or the fact that the author made a New York street one way in the wrong direction, you can be sure that the author has received several emails about it. Of course, these emails accomplish nothing: the book is written, thousands of copies have been printed and bought. No one is going to go change it now.

I do understand the impulse of the reader, though. If it’s something you know or are passionate about (or you live on that street in NYC), it probably does irk you to see it improperly in a book. Personally, I read a book once where the professional ballet dancer heroine kept talking about her “toe shoes” and “dancing on toe.” (They’re pointe shoes, and you dance en pointe. Of course the assumption is that if you’re a female dancer over the age of 13, you’re en pointe anyway – and if it’s a professional company, it would be exceedingly strange for you not to be.) But did I write the author? No. She may have done it out of ignorance – and it’s not like the book’s plot hinged on this fact – or she may have consciously decided to use “toe” instead of “pointe” because not every reader in America knows what pointe shoes are.

And therein lies the rub – was it intentional on the author’s part?

With every book, I’m faced with a choice: how much of this research do I put in the book? And I’m often faced with an even harder choice: do I write it like it is or like people think it is?

And when I say “like people think it is,” that’s a bigger issue than folks might realize. After all, after my first book came out, I got an email from a reader telling me that she enjoyed the book overall, but it was ridiculous that my heroine was wearing shorts on the beach in October. It would be much too cold. It totally pulled her out of the book. Um, The Secret Mistress Arrangement is set in south Alabama – it might be a little chilly in October, but cold? Not really. (Of course, I’ve also learned that not all beaches are warm, either. I have a great picture of me on the beach in Scotland in late June – wearing boots, a wool coat, and a hat.) That wasn’t a mistake on my part as an author – that was an erroneous assumption on the part of the reader.

And those assumptions cause big hassles. Have you ever watched Law and Order and noticed how when the victims take the stand to testify, they always still have very visible bruises from the attack? Now, anyone who has ever had the misfortune to get tangled up in the legal system should know that the chances of getting a trial date before the bruises heal would be close to impossible. But the story would lose its immediacy and pacing if the show had to do a “six months pass” montage to be realistic. I know it drives lawyers crazy, but lawyers are a small percentage of the population and an even smaller percentage of the target audience. So the writers ignore the reality and go with what’s best for the story.

Anthologists interviewing witnesses for the FBI? Lawyers sleeping with their clients? Cops beating confessions out of a killer? These things make for great TV, but they’re not realistic.

We all know that police officers spend more time writing tickets and directing traffic than they spend in high-action shootouts. For every ride the ER doctor takes on the gurney desperately doing CPR, they spend months dealing with ingrown toenails and kids with stomach flu. I’m not saying that this isn’t important stuff – it is, but it’s hardly drama. And we all know that every job has paperwork, and watching someone do paperwork is deathly boring.

Not only would readers doze off if books were overly realistic and true to life, there’d be a whole bunch of people who would be thinking the author made a mistake because that’s not how it is on TV or in other books, movies, etc. (I read an article recently that all those medical shows have had an adverse affect on medical students. They’ve seen a procedure on TV – like “Insert a chest tube!” – and they think that’s what it’s supposed to look like. But it’s not.)

And I’m not saying I’m immune, by the way. I’ve written things without researching it because I *think* I know (or I’ve seen it on TV), only to find out later that I was really wrong.

On TV, one bullet to a car will blow up the gas tank in a fiery ball. (Want to get a science nerd worked up? Ask him about fiery explosions in space.*) The hero can take a bullet to the shoulder and still wrestle a gator to the ground (or make sweet love to the heroine). These things are all very handy for creating entertainment, but they’re not realistic.

So what’s an author to do? I have a scene in a book (I won’t say which one) where the hero and heroine are doing something (I won’t say what), and since I happen to have a good friend who did exactly that for a living, I sent it to him for some fact-checking even though I’d seen and read characters doing this dozens of times in books, TV and movies. I thought he might be able to add a little depth or a fun fact. His response was immediate and succinct: You couldn’t be more wrong if you had them setting fire to hamsters. He then proceeded to enlighten me. My response was also immediate and succinct: No one will believe that (activity) is that freaking boring. I want to kill them and myself just thinking about it.

It just got ugly from there.~grin~

So, y’all are smart people. You read widely, watch TV, and know what “fiction” means. You are probably also an expert in something that you’ve seen totally messed up at some point. Does it bother you? Can you just let it go and enjoy the story for what it is? Should entertainment strive to be factual or is it okay to bend the facts in order to be entertaining? What’s the breaking point for you where you finally roll your eyes and walk away?


*There’s no oxygen in space. No oxygen, no fireball. Yes, my Geek felt the need to explain this to me. He feels very strongly about it.

Monday, January 09, 2012

MOANday: Favorites - Really This Time!

It’s January, the season of recap shows, so I’ve decided to celebrate the first month of 2012 by revisiting some of the hottest MOANday hotties of 2011. Enjoy!






But what list would be complete without…


Happy New Year!


Coming Soon!
Join us this Thursday when Harlequin author Christina Hollis joins us on the Playground!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Cover Love

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Free Book Friday to show you my new cover! I'm in LOVE.

April 2012, Harlequin Desire #2152

She’s Awake. So Why Can’t She Remember?

They say she’s Cynthia Dempsey, fiancĂ©e of media mogul Will Taylor. But try as she might, she can’t recall their high-society life or the man sitting by her hospital bed. Though her body certainly remembers him. Even as she senses the distance between them, the electricity when they touch is undeniable.

Will can hardly believe Cynthia’s transformation. Gone is the ice queen who betrayed him, and in her place is a woman who seems genuine and warm. But can he risk his heart again, not knowing what might happen when her memory returns?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

New Start...Or Not

It's that time of year where everyone seems to be setting goals, making personal commitments and starting new projects - like going to the gym. I'm going to be honest, I hate this time of year. First, I'm not a huge fan of winter. Despite the fact that I spent quite a few of my younger years in Michigan, I do not like the cold. I guess my Florida blood wins out.

I also have to admit that I usually get a severe case of the blahs every winter and that isn't alleviated by the letdown that follows Christmas or the pervasive idea that everyone should suddenly be improving themselves. Maybe it's just my general bad mood, but the abundance of diet commercials, exercise equipment ads and talk of 'a better you' makes me want to scream that there's nothing wrong with me!

What I really want to be doing is holing up beneath a pile of blankets and hibernating until at least March. Not waking up early to brave thirty degree weather to get to the gym for a workout I won't enjoy. Please. That's a recipe for failure if ever I've heard one. So I've decided not to make those kinds of doomed New Year's resolutions. Yes, I'm trying to get into a better health routine, but that's something I've been working on since this summer. And I have a lot of writing goals, but those have been set for months now and are more about time conservation than anything else. Striving to be a better person is something I do all year long...not just a couple months out of the year.

Yes, I understand that changing to a blank calendar seems to offer the perfect opportunity to make other sweeping changes. Those shiny new pages just scream to be filled. But for me this time of year ends up being the worst time to make the kinds of resolutions that are already difficult to keep. So I'm not doing it now...check back with me in July for my New Year's resolutions.

Did you make resolutions this year? Have you already fallen off the wagon?


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Guest Blogger - Lisa Dale

Happy New Year to all, and please welcome Lisa Dale to the Playground. While she's a newcomer to the swing set, she's not a newcomer to writing. She has a few under her belt including one just released yesterday. Happy New Year to her!!!

What Do You Collect?

First, thanks to all the Playground writers for having me on today! It’s so nice to be visiting at such a friendly blog of fellow writer-ladies. I’m a lucky girl!
Here’s what I have planned for today. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my new release (so you can decide if it’s the kind of thing you would be into).

Then, if you think my writing sounds interesting, you can enter to win your own copy of my previous release, SLOW DANCING ON PRICE’S PIER, which was a Top Pick at Barnes & Noble was well as BookPage magazine.

Ready? Break!

Let me start by sharing the summary of A PROMISE OF SAFEKEEPING, which just came out!

Nine years ago, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the case of a lifetime. But her error in judgment sent an innocent man to prison. Now Arlen Fieldstone’s finally been released, and Lauren has only one thing on her mind: asking forgiveness. But how can she make up for nine years of his life?

To get to Arlen, Lauren must first get through Arlen’s best friend, Will Farris. Will hasn’t forgotten Lauren from those days, and hasn’t forgiven her for destroying his best friend’s life. He is Arlen’s keeper — protecting him from suspicious neighbors as well as from Lauren.

In the steaming summer streets of Richmond, Virginia, three people’s lives collide. Lauren needs forgiveness. Arlen needs hope. And Will? He needs something too, something that no one can know—especially not Lauren…

The kernel of inspiration that A PROMISE OF SAFEKEEPING was born from stemmed from a fateful trip to a bookstore in New Jersey—one of those second-hand bookstores where a portion of the profits go to charity.

I stumbled across a book about reading body language, and I thought — Wow. What kind of person would you become if you could read body language? If you always could hear the story beneath the story?

In a courtroom, the stakes are high. Lives are on the line. So of course, my body language expert found herself in a courtroom…so blinded by youthful ambition that she ended up prosecuting an innocent man.

Yeah—it’s a little heavy. I like books that tug the heartstrings. Books that make you think, but that also have a happily ever after and a love story at the center.
In the book, Will — who may be my favorite hero ever — collects keys (there’s lots of themes of keeping — people, secrets, etc.). So here’s my question if you’d like to win a copy of SLOW DANCING ON PRICE’S PIER:

What do you collect?

Wishing you all good things,

Lisa Dale

P.S. Today, Smarty Pants is blogging about resolutions on the Desire blog. You can find it here. After you've told Lisa what you collect, pop over and talk with SP about what you're resolving to do in 2012.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


I kinda forgot it was Tuesday. After having DG and AC home for long weekends, they finally went back to work and school, and today just felt like a Monday instead of a Tuesday. So I forgot to blog. And I have no idea what to blog about!

Getting back into the swing of things is going to take time. And a lot more tea...

Am I the only one who has holiday hangover? Unsure of what day it is, what I need to be doing (yet full of the nagging suspicion I need to be doing something really important)?

My hangover cure-- for hangovers of the usual type -- is lots of water and a high-protein snack. I don't think that will help with this though.

What's your holiday hangover cure?


Monday, January 02, 2012

MOANday... with a twist

I know. You were expecting Angel and her cadre of hot guys. But I've co-opted her Monday to share my moan-day experience.

Last week I was on vacation visiting Asheville, North Carolina. #2 son lives there so I had a wonderful chauffeur and travel companion. The hightlight of my visit was going to see Biltmore House all decorated for Christmas. I also did some shopping and had a spa afternoon with a facial and massage.

Then last Friday I bid a fond farewell to the mountains and headed home. I was about 70 miles from my destination when a car suddenly pulled out in front of me. I hit the brakes but it was too late to avoid a collision. I broadsided the other car and all I remember is the sickening crunch of the two cars colliding and then spinning around and around.

If anyone saw the collision, they did not stop. I sat in my car with my neck and shoulders in pain for at least five minutes or more until a couple in a red pick-up stopped. They called 911 and soon the EMTs had me in a cervical collar and out of my car on a backboard. Then I heard the helicopter come to take someone from the other car to the hospital. After a long ride to the trauma center at our local hospital, I was wheeled into a cubicle and the team went to work.

I was praying they didn't cut off my jacket. It's new. I love it. It is worth more than the rest of what I was wearing combined. My prayers were answered but my sweater, camisole, bra and jeans weren't so lucky. I was poked and prodded, asked a ton of questions, had x-rays made of my foot and pelvis and then taken to have a CT scan of my neck.

After the films and scans were read, I was declared free of any breaks and told I could go home. Two of the Playfriends were there at the hospital with me and the others were working in the background to notify my family. My older son came here (he lives two hours away) and brought me home from the hospital. He also stayed the night, took me the next day to get a rental car and helped me navigate Walmart to pick up a couple things.

The Playfriends came over later that afternoon with food and promises to help in any way they can. I have to tell you that it's wonderful to have so many friends who will drop everything and come to the ER at 10 PM (at least I think that's what time it was).

But back to the cut-off clothing. When it was time for me to be released, I reminded Penny-the-nurse that I had nothing to wear home but my coat, my shoes and socks and my underpants. She said she'd get me something and came back in a bit with some gray sweatpants and a t-shirt. When I saw what was written on the back of the shirt, I pointed it out to Angel and Problem Child. Then the nurse saw it and began to apologize.

"Oh no! I love it!" I said, clutching the shirt to me. "It rocks."

"Uh, do you have another one?" asked Problem Child.

And just what does this shirt look like?

Don't you love it? It's my new favorite t-shirt.

I walked away from the accident without any broken bones. My car is totaled and I'm going to have to go car shopping this week or next. But despite no breaks, I have plenty of bruises and strains. I'm feeling like a big truck hit me and then backed up to see what it had hit. Today (and the past couple) have been moan-day for me.

But just so you won't feel cheated, here's a little treat for you.

Seeley Booth does a lot more for a hospital gown than I do. ;-)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Holiday Winners

The winner from Sarah M. Anderson's guest blog is BW. Please email me your info at author @ andrealaurence dot com.

The winner from the Christmas carol game is pjk! Please email me your info at author @ andrealaurence dot com.

AND - I've just found out that Sarah's grand prize locket winner was from our blog, so congratulations to Laurie G! Please email me your info at author @ andrealaurence dot com.