Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

I had plans for this past weekend, big plans. Well, big plans for a writer. I planned to stay in the bed or on the couch all weekend and write my little heart out. I needed some time with just me and my manuscript. In case you didn't know, us writers get a little cranky when we don't, well, write. It can be a really big deal, though not everyone understands that.

Luckily, the hubby does, so this was the plan. Other than a soccer game, the kids had no obligations and neither did I. Then Saturday, I woke up not feeling well. Luckily, not a headache. I can write through a lot of things, but a headache isn't one of them. Got 2 scenes revised and wrote 1000 words on another. Sunday was to be more of the same. But I awoke Sunday feeling even worse than Saturday and ended up dozing on and off until mid-afternoon. But that was okay, because I should still have the evening, right?

Actually, I shoulda known better! Got up to cranky kids who didn't want to empty the dishwasher or clean their rooms. Dinner that had to be fixed. Air conditioner that froze up (no wonder I'd started sweating during my nap). And then there was the turtle incident...

Turtle, you ask? Yes, we all know that Instigator has tons of animals, but I've accumulated my fair share over the last year. A frog, 2 dogs, and the cat we already had. Yesterday Drama Queen came home with a turtle scavenged from the skimmer of a friend's pool. "It would have died in the chlorine," she insisted. Now, mommy takes some responsibility because she didn't put the turtle in a bigger bowl like she thought she should. But in my defense I was trying to figure out what to do with it. Never had a turtle, never wanted one. Didn't know they could climb out of a bowl. And certainly never want another now that I know one is wandering around my house unsupervised.

Drama Queen's punishment is to be unplugged until she gets her room spotless (can't believe the mess I had to wade through trying to find said turtle). And my air was still out by bedtime. In the midst of the chaos, no writing got done. No characters spoke. No scene ideas showed up. So my big plans went down the tubes pretty quick.

It happens, very often in life. And more often if you have kids.  :)  But as another writer and I were discussing, the best thing is to let it go and pick up where you left off. I'm getting better at this-better at not feeling guilty (one of the dangers of being a "planner"- guilt with a capital G). Maybe one day I'll be able to do the same in other areas. Maybe one day it'll be easier. Maybe one day picking up where I left off will come naturally.

Until then... I've got a turtle to find.


Friday, April 27, 2012

The End of the Road

The groupies are tired, the bus is out of gas and its time for this tour to come to an end. It's been a great month of hopping through cyberspace to celebrate the release of my first book, What Lies Beneath. The time has just flown by.

I'd like to thank everyone who joined me for the ride. Thanks to:

Harlequin Desire Author's Blog
Writer Wednesday with JD Elliott
Book Reading Gals
Authorial Moms
Get Lost In A Story
Okay, Listen Here
Love Cats Down Under
Minxes of Romance
and The Pink Heart Society

for hosting me. I had a lot of fun answering interview questions and talking about important subjects like reality television and recipe swaps.

And now, for the part everyone has been waiting for. The grand prize winner announcement. :) I have over a hundred entries of folks who commented on the tour and signed up for my newsletter. In the end, I randomly chose entry #45 because I hit #45 on the Bookscan Adult Romance list last week.

And that means .... BW/Lori is my grand prize winner!

:: cue confetti and balloons falling from the ceiling ::

Lori, please confirm your email and mailing address by contacting me at: author (at) andrealaurence (dot) com. I'm in Puerto Rico at the moment, but I'll get your seaglass locket and autographed copy of What Lies Beneath in the mail to you once I get back!

Thanks to everyone for joining me and celebrating my debut!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April Best of the Bookshelf

It's Best of the Bookshelf time again and I'm barely making it for April. So what are the Playfriends reading? Keep reading and find out!

I'm reading BAREFOOT IN THE SAND by my very good friend Roxanne St. Claire. Well, I'm not reading it yet because it was just released yesterday and I wanted a paper copy rather than the e-book. CORRECTION: I couldn't wait. The e-book version is on my Kindle now to be started tonight after work. ~grin~. This is the first book of her new Barefoot Bay series. You may be familiar with her romantic suspense titles, but she writes terrific romances without the bad guys, guns and killing. Here's the blurb:

When all you hold dear is taken away . . .

When a hurricane roars through Lacey Armstrong's home on the coast of Barefoot Bay, she decides all that remains in the rubble is opportunity. A new hotel is just what Mimosa Key needs, and Lacey and her teenage daughter are due for a fresh start. And nothing, especially not a hot, younger architect, is going to distract Lacey from finally making her dreams a reality.

A second chance is the only thing you have left.

Love has already cost Clay Walker everything. And if he's going to have any chance of picking up the pieces of his life, he needs the job as Lacey Armstrong's architect. What's not in the plans is falling for the headstrong beauty. Her vision of the future is more appealing than anything he could have ever drafted for himself. Will Clay's designs on Lacey's heart be more than she can handle, or will she trust him to build something that will last forever?

Smarty Pants is reading DEAD IN THE FAMILY by Charlaine Harris.

I lost a little steam in reading the series when I had to wait for book 10 to come out. Fickle as I am, I never got around to reading 10 once it was finally released. Meeting Charlaine Harris and finding out how nice she is got me fired up to read the books again. So I picked up a copy of Dead in the Family and I’m throwing myself back into the vampire-riddled, werewolf smelling, fairy-dusted world of Sookie Stackhouse. (Look back at last Friday's blog and you can see a photo of SP and Ms. Harris.

Problem Child is reading WHAT LIES BENEATH by our very own Andrea Laurence.

RT Bookreviews gave it a “Top Pick” and says it’s a great book by a debut author to watch. I totally agree. I love the twist on the amnesia trope, and Laurence’s voice is fantastic. I’m looking forward to many more books from this author!

Instigator is reading THE CALLING by Kelley Armstrong

Uh…the only book I’m reading right now is my own. But as soon as I’m done with that I’m rewarding myself with The Calling by Kelley Armstrong. I’ve been waiting for the 2nd book in her Darkness Rising Series forever (at least it feels that way). Looking forward to losing myself in it.

Angel is reading DARKNESS DAWNS by Dianne Duvall

Recently I needed a nice break and ran across this hunky cover in the local bookstore. Add in a type of vampires and I'm sold! Lucky me, this book was great. So good that I immediately bought book 2 on my Kindle and read it the next day. Darkness Dawns pairs centuries-old Roland with school teacher Sarah, who isn't about to let his gruff exterior keep her from rescuing him from the vampires staking him to the ground beneath the rising sun. She's a great force against the wall he's built between himself and the world. But can she prevail against a species that should only exist in fiction?

What are YOU reading? We're always open to new books and authors.

PS. Today is the last stop on Andrea's blog tour. Join her at the Pink Heart Society for the extended cut of her call story and get your final entry to win the seaglass locket!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Too bushed to boogie...

I've reached a new level of exhaustion.

I spent a week at the RT Convention with Andrea and Lynn and 2000 other people -- which was so much fun, as always, but was also exhausting, as always.

I came home on Sunday to a family that needed attention and a week's worth of email to catch up on. Then it was straight into the week of regular Mom/Wife duty of taxi services and such. On Friday, I played Good Mom at AC's school, then packed up and headed for Montgomery for the Alabama Book Festival (again with Lynn Raye Harris and Andrea Laurence). It was a great day and well worth the trip, but it was also a long day and over six hours of travel time.

Sunday was spent at church listening to AC's choir sing, and then a trip to the gym 30 mins south of here for a training session for the new BodyFlow release so that I'd be cleared to teach it.

Yesterday, I had to go to Birmingham for a funeral.

I'm so sick of traveling -- in any form or fashion -- that I just want to lock the doors and refuse to go anywhere for a year or so. (But one look at my calender and I know that's just a pipe dream.)

I'm also exhausted. Like bone-weary. I'm so tired that my conference cough picked up while at RT is still lingering. It gives me that sexy, slightly raspy sound -- until I begin hacking, that is.

I need a long soak in a hot tub, a massage, an uninterrupted night's sleep and possibly a pedicure to recuperate. But I have a book to write, a child to ferry about, a newsletter that needs to go out, a luncheon to prepare for (including speeches), and a workshop to prepare. I'm also due at the radio station to record a spot for one of their local programs. So guess what all I'm not getting any time soon?


I know that I'm the one who signed myself up for all of this, so I really shouldn't complain. But honestly, some of this stuff has been on my calender since this time last year.  It all seemed doable at the time...

And yeah, I'm already booking things into 2013, guaranteeing that this isn't the last time you'll hear this whine.

Anyone want to join me in a small, tasteful freakout followed by a temper tantrum?


Monday, April 23, 2012

Critique Partner - For Life?

As a writer, I've found critique partners invaluable. Several of the Playfriends critique my work in various stages, along with my sister, and the occasional feedback from a Maven, fellow writer, or contest judge. These invaluable people offer me encouragement on what I'm doing write, notes on what I'm doing wrong, and invariably awesome advice on how to improve my writing.

Its only recently that I realized I have people close to me that I turn to for Life critiques, too. These are the women (okay, occasionally its my husband, too) that I check in with life isn't going exactly as I planned. I present the situation, and they do a combination of any of the following: smack me with a wake up call, sympathize, offer advice or different strategies for coping, or share similar issues that they've had and how they dealt with them.

You know who these people are in your own lives. They're the ones you itched to call just as soon as the pressure is on, the ones you could stay up all night talking to, the first person you want to invite to lunch when you have a few minutes to spare.

I know a few women who don't have these types of people in their lives, and I find that very sad. Women thrive on interpersonal relationships – whether its one or several (as is my case and I count myself exceedingly blessed). And whether these relationships help you to blow off steam, figure out a solution to a difficult problem, or simply let you forget your worries for a while, they are more valuable than gold and to be protected with constant vigilance.

Today I want to celebrate these wonderful relationships in our lives! Tell us, who helps you critique your life (in the best possible way)?


Friday, April 20, 2012

Romantic Times

I recently got back from my first Romantic Times convention. It coincided well with my release, so I packed up my promo and went to Chicago with PC and Lynn Raye Harris. What an experience! Parties, costumes, workshops, mixers, signings... I fell into bed exhausted every night. But it was fun.
A few highlights...
First, my very first booksigning. Barbara Vey with Publisher's Weekly had a reader's luncheon in Milwaukee the day before the convention started. The three of us drove up there for the day. After hosting a table and giving away a doorprize, there was a booksigning. Here I am.
Another cool event was the series social organized by our very own event planner extraordinaire, PC. All the Harlequin passion authors hosted a get together for readers to come and mingle. We played romance trivia and gave away a ton of books. Of course, my team won. I can't be sure, but I think Emily McKay's (not pictured) team was cheating... :) (L to R: Cat Schield, me, Janette Kenney, Maisey Yates, Mira Lyn Kelly, Zuri Day, Caitlin Crews, Lynn Raye Harris, Jade Lee/Kathy Lyon, Kimberly Lang & Lisa Renee Jones)
The booksigning on Saturday was insane. There was something like 500 authors there, including folks like Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris and JR Ward. Then, me! Crazy. My line wasn't nearly as long as theirs. Luckily, PC was next to me alphabetically and we kept each other company. Aren't we cute?
More imporantly, though, is that I got a copy of Dead Until Dark signed by Charlaine Harris. She was so nice. I had to go up to her right as she came in so I could get back to my seat before the doors opened. She was very gracious and posed for this picture with me.
In addition to all this, I gave away a crazy amount of promo and came back with twice as many books. My poor luggage. I got new trading cards for my July book - More Than He Expected and cool purple pens.
Have you ever attended RT, RWA Nationals or any other big event like that? Ever gone to a big booksigning where you live? Any authors you'd love to meet and get their autograph, but haven't gotten the chance?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


This week has been so great! So much good news to share...

First, I got my head-shots earlier this week. I'm so excited
about them. She did a fantastic job and if anyone's looking for a
photographer in the Huntsville area I can't recommend A Green Field
Photography enough.

Yesterday I found out that Caught Off Guard is a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards in the Series Suspense category. I was absolutely
thrilled! I emailed everyone and posted on Twitter and tried to go about the rest of my day (but I'll admit it was hard to concentrate on anything).

Then, late last night I learned that What Might Have Been is also a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards in the Contemporary Series category. I think I'm still in shock. :-) And so excited to be a double finalist!

Today life has to get back to normal. Spring Break is next week and the girls and I are going on vacation since Zilla can't take time away right now. I've never taken a vacation with just the girls so it should be interesting - and fun! We'll miss Zilla, but my mom is coming so we're going to turn it into a girl's trip. And I get to visit my Grandma! If only my ducks would take it upon themselves to get in a row things would be great.

I want to spread the joy so I'm giving away a signed set of all three books in my Island Nights Series. Comment for a chance to win!

And if you haven't joined my Fan Page come over and see some more head-shots (including a couple funny ones). I've just started a newsletter as well if you'd like to keep up with all my news (We all know me, so chances are you'll only get a handful of emails a year).

To double your chances of winning, I'm holding a contest on Pinterest. Repin the cover for Bring It On, Take It Down and/or Rub It In by April 30th for a chance to win a signed copy. I'll also give you an extra entry for each repin your pin gets. Right now your chances of winning are pretty darn good! :-)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Invisible or Fly

I'll apologize up front for the poor quality of the following video. I used my digital camera and filmed this off my TV. But I'll never apologize for Dean Cain. ;-) This is a scene from the 1990's era TV show "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." WE all know Clark Kent is Superman, but Lois doesn't, and at this point in the show (it is the fourth episode of Season 1) she's intrigued and smitten. In this episode, Superman has become a big celebrity and Clark is overwhelmed by the growing industry of Superman t-shirts, ball caps and anything else someone can put the "S" logo on. Meanwhile, an invisible Robin Hood has appeared on the scene. Then folks begin reporting serious crimes, and our intrepid Daily Planet reporters are trying to figure out what's going on. The original Invisible Man appears to help them, and this scene occurs just after they've met with him.

Over the weekend I dreamed I could fly. I love dreams like that -- the freedom, the joy, the exhiliration. And then I started wondering (actually, I've always wondered) what these dreams mean. So off I went to Google and here's what I found at Dream Moods.

Flying dreams fall under a category of dreams known as lucid dreams. Lucid dreams occur when you become aware that you are dreaming. Many dreamers describe the ability to fly in their dreams as an exhilarating, joyful, and liberating experience.

If you are flying with ease and are enjoying the scene and landscape below, then it suggests that you are on top of a situation. You have risen above something. It may also mean that you have gained a new and different perspective on things. Flying dreams and the ability to control your flight is representative of your own personal sense of power.

Having difficulties staying in flight indicates a lack of power in controlling your own circumstances. You may be struggling to stay aloft or stay on set course. Things like power lines, trees, or mountains may be obstacles that you encounter in flight. These obstacles symbolize something or someone who is standing in your way in your waking life. You need to identify what or who is trying to prevent you from moving forward. Difficulty flying may also be an indication of a lack of confidence or some hesitation on your part. You need to believe in yourself and not be afraid.

If you are feeling fear when you are flying or that you are flying too high, then it suggests that you are afraid of challenges and of success. Perhaps you are not ready to take the next step.

In reality, we cannot really fly, of course. Thus, such dreams can be representative of things that are beyond your physical limitations. In your mind, you can be anybody and do anything. Another way of interpreting flying dreams is that these dreams symbolize your strong mind and will. You feel undefeatable and that nobody can tell you what you cannot do and accomplish. Such dreams are sure to leave you with a great sense of freedom.

In my dream, I flew with ease, so apparently I have a new perspective on something or have risen above it. I should probably dig out the manuscript I was working on or the short story I began last month and give them another try.

And to follow up with Lois Lane's game, I checked to see what Dream Moods had to say about dreaming you're invisible.

To dream that you are invisible signifies feelings of not being noticed or recognized for what is important to you. You feel you are being overlooked. Alternatively, the dream indicates that you are trying to withdraw from the realities of life.

I've never dreamed I was invisible though many times I feel I am. However I can see some advantages to being invisible. They're all situational though I expect a person might end up learning more than they really wished to learn this way.

So what about you? Invisible or fly?

SP is at the next stop on her blog tour today - Minxes of Romance. Come read and comment on her insightful interview to get another contest entry! Also, she will be featured as a debut author on Dear Author later today. Come see.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Advanced Southern Grammar

This is cute, but it's wrong:

"Y'all" is a plural form of "you." That's it. It makes no difference how many "yous" I'm referring to.

Example: "You Brits? Well, y'all are are always spelling things funny. Like 'colour' or 'Kimberley.'"

See how I just lumped millions of people into a y'all?

"All y'all" is a plural plural and is used when there might be y'all subsets within a population.

Example: I'm in a classroom with 30 students. They are divided into two groups for homework assignments.

"Group A -- y'all read chapter four and write an outline. Group B -- y'all read chapter five and do the outline. All y'all need to be ready to discuss chapter six tomorrow."

Fifteen students will outline chapter four. Fifteen students will outline chapter five. All thirty students will be ready to discuss chapter six.

Make sense?

The moral of the story: Don't trust non-native speakers to correct your grammar.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cool Places to Visit in the Writing World

While I whole lot of time on the computer-but not nearly as much as others–I thought I'd share a few of my favorite writer/reader hot spots on the web today. These cool places include reader news, humor, inspiration, motivation, and more. Check them out!

Barbara Vey's Beyond Her Book on Publisher's Weekly
(link in sidebar)

I first met Barbara Vey when she interviewed the Playfriends at an RWA National Convention, and whenever we're at conventions together, we try to schedule a breakfast date. Smarty Pants and Problem Child just attended Barbara's first ever Readers Luncheon last week! This woman is smart, funny, and one of the most intuitive readers I've ever encountered. Her blog covers everything from romance, to celebrity spottings, conventions, and her thoughts on writing, reading, and publishing. I know you'll love her just as much as we do!

The Romance Man

This is my go-to place for a good laugh! My good friend (and newly contracted Entangled author!) Gina Leigh Maxwell introduced me to this hilarious, naughty man-view of the world of romance. This blog is written by a man who indeed reads romance, and offers an opinion on everything from books, dating, condom use, communication, living with a wife and daughters, and many things I can't name here because we try to keep it PG. But if you don't mind raunchy language, this one is hilarious! Oh, and your hubby would love it too! (Warning: Rated R)

The Mutual Admiration Society

This accountability blog for writers, run by my sister Ella Sheridan, is a place I hang out almost daily. Here I and fellow authors offer encouragement, motivation, hugs, and pep talks through this wacky world of writing and publishing. We post daily/weekly goals and accomplishments, and give each other swift kicks in the rear when necessary. Plus, I love to watch my little word ticker go up!

Deviant Art

This totally cool site has inspiration in many different forms. It’s a social networking site for visual artists and art enthusiasts who can exhibit and share their artwork with the community at large. I love to simply type in a word in the search bar and click to see where it goes. There are line drawings, unique photography of people, places, and some really creepy things, digital art, and much, much more! The art here is evocative and draws me into the mood/style I'm looking for in my own work, even though my pictures are created with words. The perfect place to boost your creativity!

There are quite a few more places/people listed in the Field Trips section of our sidebar, including lots of cool writer friends of ours! But I'd love to hear where your favorite places to visit on the web are (excluding Facebook and Twitter – which are a given!).


Friday, April 13, 2012

Someone, Please Love Me

As you read this blog, I am at the Romantic Times Conference in Chicago. Last week my book came out and this week, I'm doing the big author thing. A sort of baptism by fire. Two booksignings, a luncheon, an author event and unlimited social opportunities for authors to mingle with writers. Bless my poor, unprepared, introverted heart.
People like me. Really. It just uh, usually takes a while for me to warm up. Initially I come off a bit snobby, arrogant, shy, bored or disinterested. I am incapable of getting hit on in a bar unless my friend attracts a pair of guys and I get the wingman by default. It's counter-productive for me to hide in my hotel room, I'm trying to sell my book. So that just leaves alcohol. Which they frown upon at breakfast, so I'm going to have to at least go half the day without any social lubrication.
Sans tequila, my default defense mechanism is just to shut up and be invisible. I have the option to simply not speak to people. Seems snobby, but really, I'm just protecting us both from an awkward exchange. But when I do the author thing, I have to be sociable. I have to talk to people I don't know. I have to smile and nod when they start going on about their medical conditions. I'm scared to death that I'm going to be bad at the public persona-thing. That I'm going to make one of my faces without knowing it and offend someone.
But I'm even more frightened of being ignored. The luncheon has presold seats. As of the cutoff, I have a whopping 7 left over. Fortunately, they sold a lot of tickets so someone will have to sit at my table. Hopefully I will figure out what to say to them. Not the case at the booksignings. I just have to sit there while people avoid eye contact and scan over me in the search for the author they want. With my luck, I'll be near someone popular, like Sherrilyn Kenyon, and my table will be blocked by the mile-long line of people who wouldn't read my book if they were paid to. Then the one person that did come to see me, can't get to me.
But I can do this. I have my whole alternate persona together. I have snappy clothes. Flashy jewelry. Cute clothes. I'm getting my hair done and some cool nails. My facade will be carefully crafted. Let's just hope it holds up!
What kind of questions do you like to ask authors when you meet them? Give me some ideas so I can prepare answers. There's still two whole days of this thing left...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Logo & Headshots

My house isn't the only thing under siege from my bout of Spring Cleaning Fever this year. I've suddenly gotten this urge to change everything. I dyed my hair dark red and changed the cut. I've been buying new make-up for no good reason (because I don't wear it most days) and I've been eyeing every New York and Company sale email with envy because I feel the need to replace my entire wardrobe.

I also hired the wonderfully talented Laron at Ninth Moon to design a new logo for my website. And I LOVE it! What do y'all think? Sometime later this year I'm going to be revamping my website to match the nifty new look as well.

And tomorrow I'm getting new headshots taken. I'm so excited! My previous picture is 5 years old and I'm so ready for a change. And I love the photographer. She shoots only in natural light and I'm giddy about her her candid style. I'm partial to the kind of settings that add character to the photographs so we're meeting at a local historic site - a beautiful building that survived burning during the Civil War. I can't wait to see the finished product. Hopefully I'll be able to share in the next few weeks.

Is there anything you're dying to change?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pareto's Law of Maldistribution

You know what this is. You've just heard it by another name: the 80/20 rule. It's the law of distribution that has 80% of the work done by 20% of the workers. Microsoft found that if they solved the top 20% of the most reported software bugs, 80% of the errors and crashes would stop. In health care in the US, 20% of patients have been found to use 80% of health care resources. And criminology studies have found 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals.

The law was named for Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He developed the law after observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden held 80% of the peas.

But I'm not going to blog about workers or customers or criminals or peas. I'm going to blog about...


I've been doing some spring cleaning. You'd think I wouldn't have much to clean since I've only been in this apartment for about 2 1/2 years (has it been THAT long???). But I'm amazed at the stack of stuff in my front bedroom that's ready for the church yard sale.

I caught part of an episode of Nate Berkus a while back and scribbled "clutter 80/20 rule" on a piece of paper and just recently found it on my desk in the pile of stuff I cleaned off. When I Googled it I found a blog post about Peter Walsh, clutter guru, and his appearance on Nate's show. I'll quote a couple of very insightful things from the post.

Without looking around, could you find the following?

Car keys
Unpaid bills
Insurance policies

A. I know exactly where everything is 71%

B. Not sure where some important things are 26%

C. I need an hour to find important things 3%

That's encouraging! This was a group who was on top of things.

Could you have a party without cleaning up first?

A. My house is always party-ready 22%

B. I need to clean up first 67%

C. I can’t ever throw a party in my house 11%

Well, they were only on top of their car keys.

Peter said, “If you de-clutter your house, it will save you 40% of the time you currently spend cleaning.”

40%? Wow!

Do all of your clothes fit easily and well in your closet?

A. Clothes are hung in perfect order by color and season 39%

B. I have no idea what’s on the top shelf in my closet 42%

C. My clothes fall on my head when I open my closet 19%

Obviously they don't keep their car keys on the top closet shelf. ~snicker~

Here's what Peter had to offer about clothes:

You wear 20% of your clothes, 80% of the time. To prove that to yourself, when you go home today, turn everything back to front. Turn it back after you wear it. At the end of the month, get rid of everything you haven’t turned and worn.

Put your winter clothes in bins under the bed or top of the closet.

Wow again! Of course, that doesn't include the winter coat you only wore a few times this winter because it was the warmest winter on record. Or the formal you bought for RWA conference and have no other place to wear. But the everyday clothes? It's a radical concept and I'm going to try the hanger-turning thing and see the results. I can't promise I'll toss things I haven't worn.

And some of Peter's other tips for controlling clutter?

~ Keep flat surfaces clear. That means tables, counters, desks. And to do that he suggests you

~ Maximize vertical space. Put up bulletin boards, magnetic boards, hang bins on the wall, put up hooks for purses, backpacks, coats.

~ Create a message center for your home. This is where you control the business of your home. It's a place for mail, charging phones, posting your schedule. It ties in with the vertical thing too.

~ Go digital. He suggested using any sort of online capability to eliminate paper like online bill paying, online schedules and digital photo sites. I have very few paper photos these days. I have one entire external hard drive devoted to nothing but photos. I need to de-clutter that too because I have a lot of duplicates.

I love this quote from Peter: Letting go of stuff you don’t need or use lifts the weight off your life & lets your life soar!

I don't know about you, but I like to soar. And I definitely don't want to get to the point of this:

Have you done your spring cleaning yet? Got any good de-cluttering tips?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Funny Stuff

I'm away this week, so I leave you with videos to amuse yourself until I return.

First, another cat translation...
Cat in the Box

Tank In the Trash

Cute Sleeping Dog

Learning to Share

Monday, April 09, 2012

Crockpot Mania

In a desperate effort to spend less time in the kitchen, I've found myself using my crockpot to make dinners a lot more often. Before the past few months, the only thing I knew how to make in the crockpot was beef roast, cheese dip, and waissal. Now I'm expanding my repertoire as quickly as possible, especially since I discovered the new slow cooker bags that mean I don't have to spend days cleaning up my crockpot after cooking with it. Those things are awesome!!!!

But I digress. The joy of coming home to a dinner that is at least 80% ready to serve has me hooked. Luckily for me, the ladies that I work with are excellent cooks, making a variety of quick and easy meals after years of cooking while they were raising families. Here's one of my family's new favorites:

Chicken Tacos

(or nachos, burritos, whatever you want to do with it)

3 to 5 chicken breasts (if frozen, thaw before putting in the cooker)
¾ of a jar of Walmart brand black bean and corn salsa (other brands may work too, but this is the one I like)

Layer the meat and salsa in the crockpot and, after the pot is heated, cook on low. I usually cook it from 7:30am to 5pm, but I'm sure its ready way before then. Shred the chicken and use it for any of the above Mexican options with your choice of sour cream, cheese, refried beans, various veggies (I roast onions and red peppers in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes), and/or guacamole. My kids like tacos, but I like nachos.

Here's another recipe that I've put on the Must Try list. My family loves chicken, and anything with bacon and ranch (that's how hubby makes meatloaf!). I found it at a site Playground Monitor recommended to me called Crocking Girls.

Bacon Ranch Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp real bacon bits
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
cooked egg noodles

1. Combine bacon, garlic, ranch dressing mix, soup, and sour cream; mix well.
2. Pour over chicken in the slow cooker.
3. Cook on high 3-4 hours.
4. Shred the chicken and put back in the pot and then add the egg noodles; mix together.

What are your favorite crockpot recipes? I'm always on the lookout for more!


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Join Us! HOD Reader's Luncheon


They say variety is the spice of life. NY Times and USA Today best-selling author Lora Leigh has learned this lesson well, giving readers more than eighty novels in four subgenres and fifteen different series. She has created worlds we long to return to again and again, and enduring characters full of flaws and failures and the strength to rise above. From the formidable undercover agents of her Elite Ops series to the reckless affection of the Nauti Boys and the genetically enhanced drive to mate in her ever-popular Breeds series, Leigh has offered a buffet of searing hot romance that captivates readers from all over the world. And this May, she’ll be here to share it all with us.

Leigh will be the featured speaker at the 15th Annual Readers’ Luncheon hosted by Heart of Dixie, the north Alabama chapter of Romance Writers of America. This annual event celebrates romance and literacy in the north Alabama community.
Registration is now open for the event, held at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL, on May 5, 2012, from 11am until 3pm.

Special guest author Lora Leigh will share tales from her prolific world of writing during the keynote speech. She, along with over twenty other favorite romance authors, will host a table for lucky romance readers and sign books at this year’s event. Other attending authors include Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones, Peggy Webb, Rhonda Nelson, Lynn Raye Harris, Kimberly Lang, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Kira Sinclair, and Melanie Dickerson.

HOD's Annual Luncheon includes lunch with guest authors, door prizes, raffles, and much more. A book fair and autograph session with the attending authors following the luncheon is open and free to the public at 2pm. Profits from this year’s book fair will be donated to the Hackleburg School for their library, helping encourage children in this area devastated by last year’s tornados to embrace literacy and the love of reading.

Join us as we celebrate romance in all its various forms! Registration is $25 and must be received by April 21st. Seating is limited, so register today. More information and registration forms can be found at or call 703-861-4271.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Launch Party

I feel like I've spent a good part of the last year celebrating. Every few weeks is another cool milestone on the road. There has been flowers and fondue and charm bracelets and sparkly shoes. Celebrating my sale with friends and family, getting a title, a cover, my first review, my first fan letter... But now we've finally gotten to the time I've been waiting 11 months for - hell, that I've been waiting my whole life for!
It's real. Really real. They can't change their mind or take it back. I AM a published author. My book is on shelves (after a minor setback where the local stores weren't in a hurry to stock), online, and downloading to e-readers everywhere. People other than my editor and critique partners are reading my books. People I don't even know!
Can I get a "squeee" up in here??
It is time to party, people. Bust out the champagne. We've got gourmet cupcakes and a chocolate fountain, as all good parties do. Dip a marshmallow in some milk chocolate goodness and celebrate.
PS. I'm blogging with the Love Cats Down Under on Sunday - The Sunday Smooch. :) Pop in for another entry in my contest and read a steamy excerpt from What Lies Beneath.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Easter? Already?

I swear I think the calendar is lying to me. It can't already be April. And Easter can't really be this weekend. Is it just me or has it snuck up on us this year? And that's saying a lot since it even falls late. But I'm so not ready. I haven't dyed eggs with the girls, and I'm not sure when we'll get the chance. I haven't told the Easter Bunny what the girls would like in their Easter Baskets. o_O I haven't bought the ingredients for our breakfast casserole or my contribution to Easter Dinner. It's...3 days away. Yikes!

I think part of my problem is that we haven't had our Spring Break yet. That'll come the end of this month for my girls. I'm so used to a week off in March - usually the week of Easter so that I have plenty of time to get some of this stuff done. But for some reason our school system moved it - an entire month! I think it had something to do with keeping the kids until standardized testing was done... Ask me again at the end of the month if I liked it a little later in the year.

Do you have any Easter traditions? I'm looking for interesting (and easy) ways to dye eggs if you've got any tips. Has Easter crept up on you or am I the only one?


PS. Andrea is blogging at Okay, Listen Here today. Join her to talk about new beginnings, get an awesome cookie recipe and get another chance to win the seaglass necklace!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Guest Blogger - Louisa George

Romance in the kitchen

Hi Writing Playground! Thanks for having me here! As I’m hijacking What’s Cooking Wednesday this week I thought I’d talk about romance and food.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
- Virginia Woolf

Boy, do I love food. I own 85 recipe books and have stacks of cooking magazines. Every Sunday evening I troll through these recipes and plan the week’s menu. (Yep, I’m pathologically organized, but I also LOVE to know what I’m going to eat each day so I can imagine it. I have Italian ancestry, what can I say?) My mom taught me how to bake, but my husband taught me how to cook. In the early part of our courtship we spent hours together in the kitchen, planning, cooking and eating. Food formed an important part of our lives- so much so that when we had our first child I started writing recipes for an organic vegetable delivery company to supplement our income (I got paid in vegetables!).

There’s something immensely sexy about a guy providing food for his woman- maybe it’s the hunter-gatherer thing, or just that it’s romantic (at least to me), when a man thinks ahead and plans a meal. After a hard day’s work I like nothing better than to sit down and be looked after. The day we brought our first baby home my husband cooked a particular meal…and every single time we eat that dish (15 years later) I remember how excited I felt with my brand new baby, my life turned upside down and my husband putting food on my plate. Now my baby is getting grown-up I’ve started to teach him a few things in the kitchen too- hopefully one day his wife will thank me!

So it’s no surprise that food figures in my books. And usually, it’s the hero providing something for the heroine. As a writer this is a great tool to forge a connection between the reader and the characters. We all have to eat, to some it’s a chore, to others it’s a labour of love. To all of us it’s a necessity. As a reader I like to have my senses stimulated and what better way than by delicious cooking aromas? In my debut book One Month to Become a Mum, Luke cooks a divine hot hummus and garlic prawns. As they eat, sparks fly and what begins as a semi-innocent picnic ends in a sizzling night of passion.

In book two, Waking Up with His Runaway Bride, (due out July 2012) heroine Mim’s heart begins to soften as she sees Connor working at a breakfast club providing food to impoverished kids. And in book three (as yet untitled) I indulged my food obsession further by having brooding hero Adam provide two meals for heroine Skye, carefully picking out ingredients he knew would have a meaning for her – an action which, she realizes, means much more than words.

So I’ll be looking forward to reading the What’s Cooking Wednesday blog and taking note of the recipes! What about you, do you find men in the kitchen sexy, do you have a particular meal you and your partner like to share? Or do you cringe at the thought of your man/son/brother being let loose with a spatula?

You can visit Louisa online at her website.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Facebook outrage

The outrage I see in my Facebook feed doesn't surprise me, but the calls to action often do.

Boycott Starbucks because they support gay

Boycott Chick-Fil-A because they don't!

Jelly Belly gives money to Romney! Ben and Jerry's supports Obama! Boycott!!

Boycott Whole Foods because they support Planned Parenthood! Boycott Curves Fitness because they don't!

No matter where you stand on a social or political issue, someone can provide you with a list of companies you should boycott because they support the other side. Some people feel it's a social responsibility to patronize (or withhold patronage) from companies that support issues they feel are wrong. And Facebook seems to be the venue of choice for that message these days.

Okay, but things are rarely as simple as the Facebook boycott activists seem to think they are.

For instance, Select Comfort (the makers of the Sleep Number Bed) supports Planned Parenthood. But they also advertised (until recently, at least) on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. Are they evil or not?

Because I do like to consider myself a socially responsible person, I do want to support the businesses that have the same social views as I do. But I like both Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A, and I'm selfish and self-gratifying enough to want them both, regardless of their leanings. I don't think I'm alone there, either.

I also know that the employees who make my Chai Lattes and chicken nuggets have no say in how the corporate Powers That Be spend their money, and a successful boycott could cause them to lose their jobs. It doesn't seem fair.

I've got outrage fatigue. Social conscience exhaustion. It's depressing and I need both jelly beans and ice cream to combat it. (And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have Jelly Bellys on my desk and Ben and Jerry's ice cream in my freezer. I may not agree with the social or political views of a company, but I know quality yumminess.)

And, in a way, these kinds of social and political issue boycotts seem a bit useless. While there may be people who do decide to boycott Starbucks because of their stance on gay marriage, there are other people buying an extra latte to show their support and mitigate the impact. The same issue will turn some away while others flock in.

I've never heard of a single boycott over a social or political issue actually changing the company's leanings. Disney faced an eight-year boycott by religious groups and didn't change a thing about the policies being protested. Ellen DeGeneres is still the spokesperson for JCPennys. The same feelings of right and wrong that fuel the protests also fuel the consciences of the company's decision makers -- and it's hard to adjust someone's ideas of right and wrong.

Every day when I log into Facebook, I'm faced with the social-political boycott call of the day. And because I have such a large, diverse group of people filling my newsfeed, I often see calls to action from both sides of the issue.

Personally, I think it's wrong that Facebook allows people to add me to groups without my consent, or changes the way the page looks or works because it will "improve my experience," but Facebook thinks they're right and they're not going to change. It's my personal choice whether or not to put up with it, and Facebook won't cry if I cancel my account tomorrow.

I kind of figure Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A and Jelly Belly and Ben and Jerry and JC Penney and the rest wouldn't cry either.

But at least the Facebook outrage belongs on Facebook, right? ~grin~

Monday, April 02, 2012

MOANDay: Ooh la la!

MoanDay this April is no joke! Hope these hotties can inspire you today!





Happy MoanDay!


PS. Today, Andrea's blogging at Get Lost in a Story about reality tv. Come over to get another entry to win!