Saturday, December 31, 2005

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
Happy New Year from
The Writing Playground

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Fresh Start

2005 is almost officially behind us, 2006 hovering in front of us, full of possibilities and hopes. 2005 was a roller coaster year for me. Careerwise, it stank. My job and everything about it was enough to drive me nearly to quit and work wherever I could just to get away. "Would you like to supersize that for 49 cents more?"

Putting all that aside, though, my year had some great high points. My writing has blossomed as I joined HOD and got involved with the group. Reno, Mentone...all fabulous experiences that brought me closer to the Mavens and my playfriends. Even though January started off with a big, fat R from SIM, it got so much better - the R even earned me my PRO pin. Personally, things have gone well. I got a puppy. I got to travel to Germany and Austria which was awesome. My DB and I are doing great and although I have yet to receive the something sparkly I'd hoped for, I really can't complain. I got a jigsaw. Practical SP loves power tools.

As Instigator said, its a great time of year to look back on everything we've accomplished this last year and give ourselves a pat on the back. Who would have thought this time last year that we've have such a fabulous playground or so many awards to our credits? Or so many feet pictures to share? :)

So, on to 2006. What will it hold for me? Will the new paranormal line at HQ be the break I'm hoping for? Will the lower word counts mean I won't have to ramble unnecessarily to meet the minimums anymore? Will Atlanta be a great year for networking and promoting the Playground? It all remains to be seen, but I'm optimistic. Yes, me...the reigning Queen of Pessimism. All of the playfriends are doing so well that I hope that for all of us, this might be THE year.

I know that PM poo-poo'd resolutions, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway. Let's even keep to writing related resolutions so we don't have to read three months from now about how we said we'd do pilates every day. Yeah, that will happen. Anyway...writing resolutions for 2006...


1. Finish Forbidden Embrace/Angel of the Night and get it off to somewhere, be it SIM, the paranormal line, whatever, just out the door before Atlanta rolls around and I get black listed at HQ!

2. Continue my 1 page a day goal.

3. Find a CP to work with that won't make me cry, scream or hand it back and say "it's good."

4. Start developing my 4th book with a solid outline to help me through the middle.

5. Plan a kick a** MBTI session for the HOD workshop in September.

Ok. I showed you mine. Time to show me yours.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Well, my household seems to be functioning a bit better than it did a few days ago. Everyone appears well and Baby Girl is recovering from her headlong dash into the coffee table and tangle with the dog. New toys are put away. Leftovers are eaten. And ten trash bags will be picked up bright and early in the morning.

This time of year my focus always turns to the coming New Year and the dwindling days to the current one. Two of my critique partners (Hi Lori and Leeanne) both began the week by looking back at what they were doing this time last year. It's a wonderful exercise - both to remind us how far we've come and to bring to mind those goals we let slide as the year progressed.

At this time last year - my youngest child was 6 months old. I had just completed my second book, subbed it to Silhouette. Was working on my third and fouth at the same time and entering contests left and right.

Simply reading my work from this time last year provides plenty of evidence to just how far I've come. I can't open one of those old documents and read a page without wanting to make adjustments here and there - to make the story and writing better. It's nice to realize exactly how much I've learned and grown as a writer in 365 days. If I can do that this year just think what I can do next!

So as the New Year barrels towards us and the urge to make promises to ourselves we know we won't keep gets too strong to fight - remember to look back and pat yourself on the back for a year well spent. And tell us where you were this time last year.

Happy New Year!

P.S. If you guys haven't tried out Sudoku puzzles run to your nearest bookstore and buy a book of them today! My family discovered these over Christmas and let me tell you they are addictive, challenging, stress-relief fun.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bear with me

Learning to read opened a new world to me. For a plain little brown-haired girl from a mill town in piedmont North Carolina, books offered an escape from everyday life and opened doors to fairy-tale castles, foreign countries and new adventures.

Sadly, college brought lots of reading that was NOT exciting, and after graduation I left books behind. But after moving overseas and being frequently left at home alone because of the travel required by my husband’s job, I sought out the library at the nearby American military base and once again jumped into the world of books. A new American star was rising and I jumped on the Stephen King bandwagon.

After reading THE SHINING into the wee hours of the morning during one of my husband's absences and not being able to sleep, I jumped back off. *g* I found plenty of other authors and books.

When I visited Paris and walked by the Ritz Hotel, I remembered scenes from Sydney Sheldon’s THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. In London, I drank tea and imagined listening to Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple solve an intricate mystery. A visit to Amsterdam prompted me to re-read ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL with a new perspective.

Then I became pregnant with my first child and I devoured every book that little library had on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and taking care of babies. When I went into labor six weeks early, it was my steady diet of books that got me through the experience since our Lamaze classes were scheduled to start two weeks AFTER the baby arrived.

From Lamaze I moved to Dr. Spock. And before I knew it, I began building a library for my son. GOODNIGHT MOON and PAT THE BUNNY were early favorites. As he grew, so did the number of books on his shelf.

A second son followed four years later and new titles continued to be added to the collection. Among them was a series of books by a husband and wife writing team named Jan and Stan Berenstain who had an interesting road to publication.

After a successful career in cartooning for publications like Collier’s and Saturday Evening Post, they submitted a book in the early 60’s to the editor of Random House’s Beginner Books -- Theodor Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Berenstains co-wrote and illustrated over 200 titles in their Berenstain Bears series, and two generations of children have been raised with the Bear family, which consists of Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister and Honey Bear, who was “born” into the family in 2000.

Their first books were written with the goal of teaching kids to read while entertaining them. That goal evolved over the years to include books that showed kids, and their parents, how to deal with childhood challenges.

My own children were introduced to the Bears when our family dentist presented them with a copy of THE BERENSTAIN BEARS VISIT THE DENTIST. Additional books taught my boys about good manners, junk food, messy rooms and peer pressure. But our favorite by far was THE BERENSTAIN BEARS AND THE SPOOKY OLD TREE.

Three little bears… Do they dare? Yes, they dare!

Stan Berenstain died on November 29, 2005 and is survived by his wife and two sons. Son Michael, who had already been collaborating with his parents, will continue working with his mother to produce more books for future generations.

Thanks to an audience that continues to read the Bears’ adventures, Stan Berenstain’s work will live on, as will the bears “who live down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country.”

Stan Berenstain
09/29/1923 – 11/29/2005

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Evil Synopses

I waited until now to post this so I wouldn't knock Angel off point too soon.

Miss Snark, the literary agent, is critting synopses over on her blog. It's too late to submit one, but reading her comments on others' is eye opening.


Monday, December 26, 2005

New Beginnings

I love the arrival of the New Year. Hokey as it sounds, this seeming ordinary day has always brought me the hope of a clean slate, the chance to once again learn, improve, and refocus my life.

I spend a lot of time during the last week of December contemplating what I want the next year to be like. I don't really set New Year's resolutions. I've broken too many of them in the past. (Like the 10 pounds I needed to lose that has slowly turned into a number I'm not going to admit to anyone!) Instead, a recurrent concern that needs attention will come to mind with a clear certainty. Many times there is an overall theme that touches several areas of my life like reconciliations, healing, balance, or spiritual renewal. And, oddly enough, I'll see that same theme reveal itself over and over again throughout the coming year.

The same is true of my writing. I have the priviledge of beginning a new book this January. A new beginning, blank pages to fill with dreams and people dear to me. The chance to learn more about my chosen craft and myself as a writer.

All of my stories, long and short, have had a theme running through them. Most often it is a variation on women coming into their own power and self-worth. This strand of theme draws me through the pages, popping up in unexpected places, just like my own life theme of the moment. Isn't it interesting the way writing often mirrors the writing life?

So many times we look at those blank pages as a chore, work that needs to be done. It is, but they can also be the opportunity to explore our own life themes and pass that little bit of knowledge on to someone else. Cool, huh?

So here's to new beginnings! May you move into this exciting new year with purpose, lots of pristine white pages, and words burning to get out. Happy Writing!


The Denouement

Whew. Christmas is over. All in all, I had a pretty good day (a heck of a lot better than Instigator’s by the look of yesterday’s comment. Sorry, hon.) Santa was darn good to me, we had no major catastrophes, and the joy on AC’s face as she came down the stairs and saw the cookies were gone and presents were left next to the tree was just amazing. Technically, Christmas isn’t quite over for us, as we head up to Tennessee today to see the rest of the family, but the big push is over.

The week after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve always seems a bit like the Twilight Zone. The tree is still up, but there aren’t any presents under it. There’s no big rush leading up to New Year’s like there was for Christmas. After the endless Christmas carols, the radio seems a bit bland. (Why aren’t there any New Year’s songs?) My to-do list seems manageable, and there’s no longer this big looming date that everything must be finished by. There’s time to think about my New Year’s resolutions, but I still have a week before the diet begins and I start doing yoga three times a week.* I’m in limbo; 2005 is pretty much over, but 2006 hasn’t started. This week doesn’t really count, so I can eat all the chocolate out of my stocking without guilt. I can laze on the couch while the exercise machine functions as a clothes rack without worry. Leftovers make darn good meals, and I’m not yet concerned about where all the new toys will actually live.

But after my week in Limbo Land, I’ll be back to the real world. And, as always, I have a long list of resolutions. I won’t bore you with them here. I know you have your own. But I do know that my writing avoidance must come to an end. No more excuses. I know if I don’t get busy, the Playfriends will have an intervention on me, and I’ll end up having to post *my* homework every day…

So, enjoy this week, everyone. My next official post will be day one back in the real world, and I expect everyone to be ready to go. If big things are going to happen in 2006, we need to get moving.

Problem Child

*I heard that snort of disbelief. Ye of little faith. Or ye of great knowledge of Kimberly…

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Ho, Ho, Ho

I don't have any fancy graphics to post like PM always does, but the holiday sentiment is the same.

Merry Christmas, Playfriends!!

Problem Child

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Visit from St. Nick

T'was the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, --not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Merry Christmas from the Writing Playground.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Eve Eve

December 23rd. For all you procrastinators out there, time to hit the mall, bake those cookies, wrap those gifts and buy a tree at Lowe's for $5 (I actually did that once). For those of you that planned ahead, its hopefully time for you to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. This is, of course, it you haven't been tapped for roasting a turkey, baking pies or playing hostess to 30 of your closest relatives (I'm sorry, LJ - call if you need rescuing, backup, or a pitcher or margaritas!).

To the few - and I do mean few - that were brave enough to add to their "to do" list last week's challenge of a page a day - I salute you. I'm certain everyone that participated feels great about what they've accomplished and to those caught up in the holiday whirl - it might have even offered a little retreat from family drama and other stress.

Myself, I've written 27 pages with three days to go until my official "assignment" ends. I will continue of course, although not necessarily under the watchful eye and whip of my playfriends. I feel really great myself, having written more in the last two weeks that I had managed in the last two months. I've broken 200 pages and will shortly be officially out of the muddled middle and into the sprint towards the finish line. Rumors of changes at HQ/SIL also have me excited and thinking perhaps I have procrastinated just long enough to do me some good!

I'll keep this short - places to go, people to see. Odds are, no one will come back to the blog this weekend, so I'll go ahead and wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Yuletide, etc., etc. Hopefully you'll pop in around the New Year with your writing resolutions and catch our fabulous series of Maven interviews along with our first official Writing Playground contest!

I almost forgot! I also wish a very happy birthday to our Maven Beverly - 29 and holding!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Pet Peeves

Okay, after PM's wonderful post yesterday I had wanted to be steeped in the Christmas spirit, post something profound and spiritual. But it ain't gonna happen. I've been staring at the screen (my head pounding) and have erased several spewing rants (because I didn't want to infect anyone else with my bah humbug mood). I know the exact cause of my emotional downturn - I spent yesterday with a very sick child (who seems much better today), am now fighting off my own cold and sinus headache, and have filled the last week with family...issues. Thank God I haven't had to brave the malls. Someone would probably have lost their head - and I don't mean me.

I hate feeling this way. Heck, I'm usually complaining about people like me at the holidays. And finding myself as THAT PERSON is really annoying me (just one more thing :-). So, in an effort to purge this feeling and get back to the true meaning of the season (and hopefully find my normally cheerful, optimistic attitude) I'm going to list one pet peeve of the season and then one thing I love the most. Hopefully it'll remind me what to embrace and what to let go.

Feel free to join me!

Pet Peeve - having to share this holiday season with family who don't understand the true meaning of Christmas

Love - Singing carols with my girls (not to mention listening to my 18 month old try to sing) while driving around with them and my husband looking at Christmas lights.

Now that's a happy thought I can get behind :-)

May Santa bring what your heart desires and the New Year find you prosperous.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It’s four days until Christmas and the frenzy of the season is in full swing. I don’t know about you, but I want everything to be perfect. I want everyone to receive the perfect gift that is perfectly wrapped. I want to serve the perfect menu cooked to perfection. You'd think after fifty-mumble years of living, I’d have learned that there’s no such thing as perfect. Yet I strive for it every year.

I’d like to share an article that I cut out of the December 1987 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. I’ve used it several times for Christmas programs because its message is enduring and oh so true. I hope you enjoy is as much as I have.


By Rev. M.L. Lindvall

Last year I received a Christmas card from a former seminary classmate of mine. Inside the card was a letter – not one of those mimeographed Christmas letters in which people proudly share news of their children’s extraordinary achievements and their own various illnesses of the past year, but an honest-to-goodness letter, written to me personally. I sat down recently to reread this unusual piece of correspondence, and I want to share its contents with you here.

Dear Michael (it began), I accepted the call to that little church I told you about last winter – and yesterday was our annual children’s Christmas pageant. It was wonderful, but now that it’s over my blood pressure has probably dropped about 20 points.

The whole saga really begins 47 Christmases ago when Doris Peterson first directed the pageant, something she continued to do through seven pastors and who knows how many Christian Education Committees. Presidents came and went, three wars were fought, hundreds of children passed through Sunday school, and Doris Peterson directing her Christmas pageant was like a great rock in a turbulent sea.

I never saw one of Doris’s pageants (we’ve only been here since spring), but I’ve heard about them. They always had precisely nine characters, no more, no less: one Mary, one Joseph, three Wise Men, two shepherds, one angel and one narrator. The script was the Christmas story out of the King James Bible, which meant that two six-year-old shepherds had to learn to say “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

Doris’s goal was nothing less than perfection: perfect lines, perfect pacing, blocking, and enunciation – perfect everything. That is not easily achieved with little children, even with nine carefully selected ones. Critics said Doris would have worked with nine midget actors if she thought she could have gotten away with it.

Time and again people tried to get Doris to open things up so that every youngster who wanted a part could have one. “Doris,” they would say, “scripture says there was a heavenly host, not just one lonely angel.”

“Doris, why not have a few more shepherds, and then everybody could take part in the pageant?”

“Doris, if there were shepherds, there had to be sheep, too, right? We can make little sheep costumes.”

“No,” Doris would say. “When there are too many youngsters, there is no control.”

Early this fall, however, something happened. The Christian Education Committee included three mothers of last year’s rejected Marys, Josephs, shepherds and Wise Men. These young mothers passed the following motion: “Resolved: All children who wish to be in the Christmas pageant may do so. Parts will be found for them.”

Doris heard about it that night and was in my office the next morning at 9 A.M. sharp. “If those women know so much, let them be in charge,” she spit out. Before I could reply, she resigned as director of the pageant.

The pageant, as I said, was yesterday. The young mothers didn’t fall flat on their faces, but the program was, well, different from what everybody had come to expect over the past 46 years.

There must have been a dozen shepherds and 20 angels (a real heavenly host). And then there were the sheep – a couple dozen three, four, and five year olds who were dressed in fake sheepskin vests with woolly hoods and their dad’s socks, which were pulled up over their arms and legs.

Now, in your suburban Christmas pageants, I imagine sheep are well-behaved and fairly quiet. The only sheep suburban kids have ever seen are on the church-bulletin cover – quiet, grazing sheep who just stand there and look cute. But half of the kids in this church live on farms and they’ve seen real sheep. They know sheep wander around. They know that all sheep want to do is eat.

So, some of the sheep started doing an imitation of grazing behind the communion table. Some went to graze over by the choir and down the aisle. Some had donuts they found in the church parlor to make their grazing look more realistic. When the shepherds tried to herd them with their shepherds’ crooks, some of the sheep spooked and scattered, which is exactly what real sheep do.

Doris was watching all this from the last pew, and I could just see her from where I was sitting. She noticed me looking at her and lowered her head to hide a smirk.

The real climax of imprecision came, however, at the point of high drama when Mary and Joseph enter, Mary clutching a doll wrapped in a blue blanket. This year’s Mary, whose name was actually Mary, was taking the role with an intense and pious seriousness. Joseph was another story. He had gotten the part because he had been rejected from pageant participation by Doris more times than any other youngster in the church (and for good reason, some might say).

Anyway, Mary and Joseph were to walk on as the narrator read, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem… to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.”

At least this is what the narrator was supposed to read. It was what the narrator had read at the rehearsal. But one of the young mothers had observed that none of the children could really understand the English of the King James Bible, so they voted to switch to the Good News translation for the performance.

So, as Mary and Joseph entered, the narrator read, “Joseph went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant.” As the last word echoed through the P.A. system, our little Joseph froze in his tracks, gave Mary an incredulous look, then looked out at the congregation. “Pregnant? What do you mean, pregnant?” he asked.

This, of course, brought the house down. My wife, wiping tears from her eyes, leaned over to me and said, “You know, that may well be what Joseph actually said.”

Doris was now wearing a look that simply said, “I told you so.” But as the pageant wound into its concluding tableaux and the church lights were dimmed for the singing of Silent Night, a couple of magical, I would allow, miraculous things happened.

The sheep, when they were finished with their parts, bleated their way down a side aisle to sit in the last couple of pews and watch the end of the show. Doris suddenly found herself surrounded by a little herd. Then the church went dark, and we could all see what had been happening outside for the last hour. The first snow of winter was falling. Big, fat snowflakes floated down, covering everything with a white blanket. From both children and grown-ups, there was a group “Ahhh!”

We sang, “Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright.” Our voices were soft, and all the sheep were quiet, even the ones who were awake. Everybody looked at the snow. When the last verse of the carol finally died away, no one stirred for a long time. It wasn’t planned. We all just sat there and watched.

Then Minnie McDonnell broke the spell. She’s hard of hearing and always talks too loudly. She probably meant to whisper to her husband, but everybody heard. “Perfect,” she said. “Just perfect.”

And it was. It wasn’t perfect in the way Doris had tried to make her pageants perfect; it was perfect in the way God makes things perfect, the way He accepts our fumbling attempts at love and fairness and covers them with grace. Have a Merry Christmas, my friend.

There just isn’t anything more I can add to that because it’s – well, it’s perfect.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Brain Drain

Ever feel like your thoughts are whirling and twirling like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz? As writers, we are by nature "thinkers". This comes in handy when puzzling out a plot or trying to find just the write words to describe what's in our minds. It isn't good when we're worrying about what might happen, obsessing over all we need to get done today, or trying desperately to juggle bits of dialogue , ideas, and worry over whether we're good enough to ever be published.

All this thinking tends to clutter my mind and stress me out. How about you?

Two years ago I discovered a wonderful tool that helps me focus and calm my mind. It's called morning pages. Those of you who've read "The Artist's Way" are probably familiar with this term. I'm not talking about your daily written word count. Morning pages are three hand-written (you remember how to do that, don't you?) pages of simple stream-of-consciousness writing. Their main purpose is something I lovingly refer to as "brain drain". In other words, I spew the millions of things racing through my mind onto the pages. It may be a to-do list (okay, it often is), project ideas, a rant about a particular problem or issue, or self-pitying meanderings that I'd be embarrassed for anyone else to see. Something profound might ocassionally appear on the page, but that's a rare occurence. But that's okay, because these aren't intended for anyone else to read.

Though I haven't been as consistent in the practice as I'd like, when I do use the pages I'm less stressed and my thinking calms from a hurricane to a gentle breeze. The drop in noise levels makes it easier to hear my characters and those lovely ideas for my current work-in-progress. But most important, it makes it easier to hear ME.

If you'd like to know more about morning pages, you can read about the practice in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Whether you use morning pages, meditation, breathing or some other practice, I hope you go into the New Year focused and bursting with creativity.

Happy Holidays,

Monday, December 19, 2005

'Twas PC's last post before Christmas...


The semester is over; my grading is done. My shopping is finished; presents are piled under the tree where AC inspects them twice a day. I need to make a batch of cookies so we’ll have something to leave for Santa, but all in all, I can sit back with my chai latte and relax.

But relaxing is impossible for me. I don’t sit still well. I’m a fidgeter, a multi-tasker with a To Do list a mile long. There’s always something I could be doing, should be doing. My mind doesn’t turn off—there’s a book to be plotted, a recital piece that needs to be choreographed, and darn it, I forgot to get cheese while I was at the store. I’ll just make something else for AC’s school Christmas party—her friends won’t realize the difference. Friends. Did I write thank you notes to all the Play Friends for my fabu Christmas presents? Which reminds me, the postal rates go up on Jan 6, so I need to buy some 2 cent stamps. I’ll add that to my To Do list for tomorrow. Oh, crap, that means the SASE I included with that full won’t have enough return postage now. Hmm, we’re past the 90-day response time on that book; I wonder if I should send a follow up letter? But how do I word it without sounding whiney? Dear Editor, I sent my requested book to you… Maybe I should just get busy finishing the book I’m working on now, but I don’t know what my hero does next…

No wonder I drive my DG crazy sometimes.

So I added something else to my To Do list: Learn to meditate. Meditation is supposed to help me relax and recharge by letting that stream-of-consciousness flow by. Ideally, it will help me focus, quiet my mind, and release some stress.

So I tried it. The book I bought told me to set a timer and focus on my breathing for eight minutes—no more, no less. I think I managed to focus for two whole seconds before the “gotta do, gotta go” set back in. For eight minutes, I tried to reign in my rambunctious thoughts each time they disturbed my focus. All in all, I think I managed less than a minute, total. But it was a nice minute. A minute I wanted to do again because I liked the calm—even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

That one minute taught me one thing: Focus makes a difference. It was hard for me to focus on something I take for granted (when was the last time you focused on your breathing?), but I did, and the world didn’t fall apart in the minute I quit worrying about it. Wow.

The next couple of weeks will be crazy for most folks, but don’t forget to focus on what’s really important. The love of your family. The joy of your children. The symbols of your faith (whatever it may be). The support of your friends. The hope and good will this time of year brings out of people. The possibilities to come. Enjoy the smallest of moments, and be there—fully there—for each one.


However or whatever you celebrate, I wish you a calm, peaceful, and joy-filled holiday.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Christmas Story

Silly me went shopping today and battled long lines and horrendous traffic to get those last few items on the Christmas list. I came back home exhausted and disgusted -- both at myself for going out today and at others who pushed and shoved.

After a relaxing dinner with the DH and some much needed decompression, we headed back out to the Von Braun Astonomical Society planetarium for a program about the Christmas star. It wasn't what I expected, but it was informative and I learned a few things.

On the drive back down the mountain, I spotted something that made me laugh and forget the traffic, the lines, the rude shoppers and the disappointing planetarium show. What did I see?

I saw this!

A genuine "Leg Lamp" straight out of A Christmas Story. Its owner is obviously an aficionado of the movie because it was prominently displayed in the front window for all to see. And before I could quit laughing (and explaining to the DH just what was so funny) I saw another one!

May you all have a great weekend and remember to keep laughing. Laughter is indeed the best medicine.

Friday, December 16, 2005

One Day At A Time

For those that are checking in on me, my intervention has proven, thus far, to be a success. I gave myself a task in last week’s blog – I had to write at least one page a day. My play friends upped the ante by requiring me to post what I’ve written every day for two weeks. Accountability, as Angel has mentioned, is important.

So day 1, I sat down and despite my dry spell, wrote three pages. Day 2, I wrote two more pages. Day 3, I wrote three pages. Today is Day four and I just emailed out my “homework” including two written pages. I wouldn’t allow myself to blog until I had finished. Despite the whining, the moaning, the excuse making – I’ve cranked out 10 pages in 4 days. If I did this every day – at least one page, maybe more – how quickly would I have a book done? Certainly quicker than I do now.

2 pages a day x 150 days = 300 pages (a 75k word count!) That’s TWO books a year. That’s great! If I – or you – just wrote two pages a day, every day, we would be that much closer to making our writing dreams happen.

I think, perhaps I look too often at the successful and prolific writers who crank out a new book every two months and complain about having to cut down their stories to meet the line’s word count limit. Then I see myself, struggling to finish one book a year and praying that when I’m done writing that I’ve met the word count MINIMUM. At times the words flow, but all too often, each word can be agony to pull out of me. I can’t spend ten pages describing scenery and clothes and food like my teenage idol Bertrice Small. I don’t have the words in me. Someone told me my writing is lean. Wouldn’t you know I’m not aiming for one of the 50-60k word count lines? If I could pull a 100k Luna out of my head, I’d be thrilled.

I’m practical, though, and these past couple days have shown me something that looking to another writer can never do – I CAN write 2 pages a day. No schedule on this Earth, barring a coma or traction could keep me from 15 minutes a day. It's like exercise. I won't say I can committ to an hour of aerobics every day - I'll set myself up to fail - but 8 minute Abs three times a week? Right on! What I need is to build the writing habit and discipline. During these two weeks, I am going to build the habit. I will write every day and I will continue to write every day.

So...who out there wants to take the challenge with me? Say just one week, starting Saturday (so you'll be done by Christmas Eve craziness). 7 days...7 pages minimum. I know a lot of people have said they can't write during the holidays, but I think with the exclusion of LJ, we all need to be doing it. A page a day. Think about it. If you want to join me, email me at: Email me every day with the number of pages you've written and we'll have a virtual party Christmas Eve to celebrate our week of accomplishment. Then we can go into the holiday without writing guilt and enjoy ourselves knowing we are writing a day at a time.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Drawing a Blank

I got nothin. Not a blessed thing. And after PM's wonderful post and all the fun yesterday I'm a bit worried I'm going to kill the blog. We had so many new friends post for the first time yesterday (Hi everyone!!) and I don't want them to visit again today only to delete us permanently from their internet browser because my post is boring.

Oh the pressure.

Then I realized I've been doing the exact same thing in my writing. Drawing a blank. Not sure what comes next. Well...that isn't exactly true. I know what comes next. Heck, I've got several of the scenes already written just waiting to be strung together. Maybe that's where the true problem lies. After those scenes are done I've got nothin.

So what am I gonna do?

Probably wait until after the holiday season to panic for starters. I'm just like everyone else - I've got a ton of things going right now and not a lot of extra time or energy. But then what?

Here's the Instigator's list for starting your writing brain:
1.) Take a bath - the peace and quiet (hard to find at my house sometimes), hot water and steamy air all seem to combine to jump start my imagination - and usually my character's voices.
2.) Go someplace different. Go to the mall, a local coffee shop, a park if it's warm enough. Anyplace that might spark a different perspective.
3.) Have an intervention. Talk to your friends, people who understand what you're going through and might be able to help you pinpoint the problem - either with your writing environment or your story.
4.) Free write. It doesn't take very long writing "I've got nothing to write about" 100 times before your imagination will kick in and take over.
5.) Writing exercises. Normally, I hate these sorts of things. It reminds me too much of school (sorry PC!) but if the first few things don't work, by this time I'm usually desperate and willing to try anything.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do to kick the blank page blues. What do you do when the words don't pour out onto the page?

Instigator - who at least managed to remember she had to blog this week ;0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Answers!

It's 12:25 AM but I deliberately pre-dated this so it wouldn't bump Instigator's blog because even though she thought she had nothing to say, I thought she mentioned some pretty good kick-starts for your brain.

Many thanks to all the folks who played the Christmas carol game with me. I've enjoyed your personal emails and the comments to the blog. We hope you'll come back to the Playground again and play some more.

For those of you who asked, here are the answers to the "mixed-up" Christmas carols. And no, I didn't make these up. I wish! My mom sent them to me in the days before email because I have had them in my files for years on a xeroxed piece of paper. Feel free to share them with your friends and let them play along too.

1. Approach everyone who is steadfast. Oh Come All Ye Faithful

2. Ecstasy toward the orb. Joy to the World

3. Listen! The Foretelling spirits harmonize. Hark the Herald Angels Sing

4. Hey, Minuscule urban area southwest of Jerusalem. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

5. Quiescent Nocturnal period. Silent Night

6. The Autocrat troika originating near the ascent of Apollo. We Three Kings

7. The primary carol. The First Noel

8. Embellish the corridors. Deck the Halls

9. I'm fantasizing concerning a blanched yuletide. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

10. I apprehended my maternal parent osculating with a corpulent unshaven male in crimson disguise. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

11. During the time ovine caretakers supervised their charges past midnight. While Shepherds Watched Their Flock by Night

12. The thing manifests itself at the onset of a transparent day. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

13. 288 Yuletide hours. The 12 Days of Christmas

14. Jovial Yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by us. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

15. Geographic state of fantasy during the season of mother nature's dormancy. Winter Wonderland

16. Creator, cool it, you kooky cats! God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

17. Valentino, the roseate proboscises wapiti. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

18. The slight percussionist lad. The Little Drummer Boy

19. Father Christmas approaches the metropolis. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

20. Seraphim we aurally detected in the stratosphere. Angels We Have Heard on High

And a great big congratulations to MelJPrincess. Of all the correct entries, hers was the name drawn from my lucky Santa hat to receive the autographed book and wine glass charms.

Name That Tune!

There are 11 shopping days til Christmas. This is about the best blogging I can do.

You've shopped.
You've wrapped.
You've addressed, stamped and mailed.
You've decked the halls.
Now it's time for a little fun.

Can you guess the titles of these Christmas songs?

Email your answers along with your name and snail mail address to me at by midnight CST tonight (December 14). Be sure to put "Blog Contest" in the subject line. And while you're at it, how about leaving us a comment on the blog. We love hearing from y'all.

The person with the most correct answers will win an autographed copy of SHADES OF SCARLET by Linda Fallon (one of the mavens) and a set of six wineglass charms.

In case of a tie, the names will be put into my Santa hat and I'll draw a winner.

1. Approach everyone who is steadfast.

2. Ecstasy toward the orb.

3. Listen! The Foretelling spirits harmonize.

4. Hey, minuscule urban area southwest of Jerusalem.

5. Quiescent nocturnal period.

6. The autocrat troika originating near the ascent of Apollo.

7. The primary carol.

8. Embellish the corridors.

9. I'm fantasizing concerning a blanched yuletide.

10. I apprehended my maternal parent osculating with a corpulent unshaven male in crimson disguise.

11. During the time ovine caretakers supervised their charges past midnight.

12. The thing manifests itself at the onset of a transparent day.

13. 288 Yulitide hours.

14. Jovial Yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by us.

15. Geographic state of fantasy during the season of mother nature's dormancy.

16. Creator, cool it, you kooky cats!

17. Valentino, the roseate proboscises wapiti.

18. The slight percussionist lad.

19. Father Christmas approaches the metropolis.

20. Seraphim we aurally detected in the stratosphere.

Good luck! And no fair using Google. ;-) Or Yahoo. Or Blingo. Or... **gg**

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Over the weekend, the playfriends held a brainstorming session to try to help Smarty Pants break through the wall she's having with her current manuscript. We determined that the problem wasn't plot or character or anything concrete, but more a problem of motivation. After stalling about halfway through, SP just couldn't seem to get herself back on track. So we issued a challenge: For the next 2 weeks, post 1 written page so we could see that she'd been writing. We hope this will help her move past her hesitations and just get something, anything written.

I talk about the issue of accountability in my Holiday Writing Smarts article on the website. This is a hectic time of year. Not only is your body being pulled in many different directions with shopping, parties, decorating, cooking, but so is your mind. There's a lot of competition for your attention. It can be very helpful to have someone hold you accountable, have you report in daily or weekly with your accomplishments. Make sure you are on track with meeting your December goals.

Some people have this with a critique group. That's great, but it doesn't have to be so formal. Just call or email a writing friend and ask them to be your accountability buddy for December. Your goals don't have to be big, just enough to keep you in touch with your work-in-progress through the holidays.

And be sure to attend your writing meetings in December. Nothing fires me up more than talking with fellow writers about anything. Great inspiration!

If you have any suggestions for keeping on track through the holidays, let me know. I'm always on the look-out for a little help.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Words, words, words ~Shakespeare

Egads. It’s Monday and my turn to blog. How I wish I had something pithy, witty, and interesting to say, but I just don’t. I long to be insightful. I’d settle for being mildly amusing, but nothing’s coming through...

My brain is tired and is taking a much needed break.

So, instead of sharing any of my own words, I decided to share others’ words with you. Some words that resonated in me enough to cause me to write them down and pin them to the corkboard above my desk.

Do one thing every day that scares you. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Act as if it were impossible to fail. ~ Dorothea Brand

I am in the world to change the world. ~Muriel Rukeyser

Success breeds confidence. ~Beryl Markham

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison

The great artists of the world are never Puritans and seldom even ordinarily respectable. ~ H. L. Mencken

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. ~Max Ehramann

Dreams are necessary to life. ~Anais Nin

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. ~?

Writing is nothing more than a guided dream. ~ Jorge Borges

It is only trifles that irritate my nerves. ~Queen Victoria

The first and great commandment is, Don’t let them scare you. ~Elmer Davis

The worst sin—perhaps the only sin—passion can commit, is to be joyless. ~ Dorothy Sayer

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want. ~ Ben Stein.

Feel free to share your favorites…maybe one of yours will spur my brain back into action.

I remain,
The Problem Child

Friday, December 09, 2005

Take Time to Make Time

As you may recall, my last post was primarily me whining about all the things in my life that keep me from writing. I got a sound slapping for my round of excuses and will be the subject of a plotting session Saturday morning to spur me on. An experience tantamount to being naked in front of people, but I guess if you're going to flaunt it, do it in front of others that are willing to do the same when their turn comes around. You'll get honest but kind answers.

Of course, I'm sure every writer on the planet could create a list of things that could get in their way. I'm not the only one with issues. Spouses. Kids. Household chores. Work. Personal crisis. Illness...

Between my work and trying to keep up my household, I have a hard time. I don't have a clue how anyone with children can manage. I give a hearty round of applause to any writer with small children, especially my fellow playmates. They've shared their recent trials and tribulations and I can't fathom how I could manage my current life while also adding in a small, helpless mini-me or two to the mix.

But they do it. Authors everywhere do it. They let the dishes sit in the sink. They hang a "do not disturb unless you're bleeding" sign on the door and they start pounding on the keys. They take the time to make the time. That's what I really need to learn how to do. To make my writing the priority it deserves to be. It's not something I'm playing at. It's not a hobby like scrapbooking or knitting. It's a dream, but it is also business. Something based in fantasy now, but something that can be very much a reality if I take time to make time.'s my goal. Once I say it out on the blog where God and Country can read it, I'm held accountable, so I'll say it. I will write 1 page per day, minimum. Regardless of what crisis comes my way, I can squeeze out 10 - 15 minutes to crank out a page. Not a perfect page, but a page. Letters on a screen that can be molded into my story. I'm going to give myself this gift, Merry Christmas to me. 10 - 15 minutes a day to write. If I can manage that, I can work up to a half hour. Maybe 2 or 3 pages, depending on if I get on a roll. Either way, I'm going to sit - butt in seat, hands on keys and force myself to do this. I owe it to myself.

What are you going to do to help make the time?


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holiday Madness?

Well, okay. The fact that I'm late posting my blog can't exactly be blamed on Holiday madness. And in reality I'm not late as it is still Thursday morning - but I usually post late on Wednesday night so it feels late to me.

But I suppose I can probably be excused as I've had alot going on in the last few days, not all holiday related. My father is gone for 2 weeks to Russia, my mother is home alone which means I worry about her. A squirrel got out into their house while my pregnant sister was up visiting and interviewing for a job up here (please pray that she gets it as I'd love for her to move home) and my mother was watching my nephew. Let me tell you, panic ensued. And they all looked to me to fix it.

But that excitement can't be blamed for my tardiness either as that happened on Tuesday. My brain just shorted out. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't specifically thought about the blog last night and went, "It's Wednesday. I don't have to post until tomorrow night." Hello! We've been doing this blog for weeks and my day has never changed.

What is it about this time of year that scambles the brain?

I am not a list person. Ask any of the other children. I break out in hives at the mention of a list.
But low and behold I have several - including one for the food that will be cooked at my house when I host the family Christmas dinner for the first time this year. (Don't worry too much my mother is coming over to cook the turkey. I'm such a chicken.). I'm so wrapped up in what I need to be doing when and where and how that I'm not enjoying this holiday season at all. Maybe I'll start to feel in the spirit this weekend after we put up our decorations and take the girls to pick out a Christmas tree. Or the week before Christmas when most of the things on my lists have been taken care of - maybe then I'll be able to breathe a bit.

Until then, I guess I'll just have to resign myself to the holiday hoopla and my brain malfunctions. Oh, and the fact that writing is so far down on the list it ain't even funny. I've been working on chapter five for over a week. I can usually finish a chapter in two or three days. Oh well, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortuantely, I know it's the high speed train of my brother's wedding which is the end of January. Here's hoping I can get out of the way.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

But You Don't Look Like a Writer

Back in 1987, when my four-year-old son announced that he wanted to be a runner like his brother, I was not surprised. Big brother was having a bit of success at local road races and I’d learned that the running community was encouraging and supportive of young runners. So I filled out an entry form for the Autumn Chase Run. It was only a mile and if he finished, he got a neat t-shirt. Why bother to tell him that he was built more like an offensive lineman than an Olympic-caliber runner?

I deliberately put a red shirt on him so I could keep him in sight. Most of the course was in the open but there was a small patch of woods. Course monitors would keep an eye on all the children so there was no danger of him getting lost. And after all, isn’t the purpose of childrearing to raise an independent child who can stand on his own two feet? Or run as the case may be?

The starter fired the pistol and a crush of preschoolers surged across an open field in pursuit of trophies, ribbons and those coveted t-shirts. I kept my precious baby in sight as long as I could and then he disappeared into the trees. Imagine my surprise when the first clump of runners emerged from the woods and my child was among them! My offensive lineman might just be a runner after all.

He was thirteenth across the finish line and brought home a ribbon in addition to the shirt. I washed that shirt almost daily until his brush with fame faded.

As night follows day, so spring follows winter and the track club sponsored the Spring Fever Run. My little champ was determined to run again. Armed with confidence, he tackled the challenge and this time emerged from the woods in… first place? Ah, the thrill of victory! He wore that t-shirt like a crown of laurel. And little did I know what lie ahead for him and us.

More Autumn Chases and Spring Fevers.

Qualification for the state sports festival.

As a six-year-old veteran of the local racing circuit, he set a state age group record for the five kilometer distance that still stands.

Middle school.

High school.

In his senior year he won five individual gold medals in indoor and outdoor competition along with the Most Valuable Player trophy for his outstanding contribution toward his team’s state championship titles.

He earned a full college scholarship and in the spring of 2004 he achieved one of his major goals – a conference championship. His eye is on the Olympic rings and I’ve no doubt that he will get there. Why? It’s not that he likes to win.

It's that he hates to lose.

Because I never told him he wasn’t built like a runner, he never believed he could be anything but a runner. I let him dream his own dream and achieve it. What better gift could I give my son?

One of #2 son's heroes is the late Steve Prefontaine, an American Olympic runner who at one point held the American record in every running event from the 2000 meters to 10,000 meters. Prefontaine was killed in an auto accident in 1975 at age 24. As runners go, he's a legend, and my son has a collection of shirts and posters with "Pre" quotes on them. Here's a sample:

You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

I've had a few minor successes as a writer -- some online magazines and blogs, a regular feature piece on an author's website and an article picked up by a couple RWA newsletters. That sense of achievement keeps me going because I don't want to be eighty and singing that old Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is."

I believe I am a writer.

And if you believe you are a writer, then you are. Period.

#2 son competing in a EuroCross

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Flying by the seat of your pants

As of 7am this morning, I had nothing to write for my blog entry, so I'm flying by the seat of my pants. Shocking, I know. I'm a plotter through and through, so my mind is racing with fears of how dumb I'll sound. :)

My creativity has been severely hampered the past two days by almost constant conflict with my 5 year old, my little drama queen. My mother never told me there would be days when I didn't like my own child. I may love her, but I don't particularly like her at the moment. Mostly because I'm a people pleaser and pleasing this little person all the time isn't what's good for her. Thus, the conflict. It's good for fiction, but in real life isn't quite so pleasant.

The point to this little rant is that sometimes life gets in the way. I want to be creative right now. I've even jotted down a few awesome ideas for my newest manuscript, including a wonderful ticking clock that will give them a deadline. But I just can't devote full-time focus when I'm having to stop every 15 minutes to discipline my little drama queen. (My goodness gracious, what will the teenage years be like?)

So in the meantime, I'll make use of all the sage advice I've heard about just this very thing. I'll reread my Holiday Writing Smarts article, now posted on our website. I'll make use of little pockets of time to plot and jot down notes, while being thankful for the peace and quiet. Even if it is only 5 minutes. I'll mull over my story line and character motivations instead of stewing in my frustration. And I'll try to hold on to the belief that love can see you through anything, if I just believe in it and show it often enough.

Wow! I think I've discovered a new form of therapy. :)


Monday, December 05, 2005

Santa Baby

The holidays are in full swing around here. Saturday was Amazing Child’s Christmas party—just to put us into the holiday spirit. Or should I say, holiday exhaustion. Seven children, assorted parents, cookie decorating, the works. Thankfully, children’s parties end early, and we were able to get AC into bed (if not asleep) and collapse ourselves by 9 pm.

As Darling Geek and I lay there, he let out a long sigh and asked, “So what do you think you want for Christmas?”

Excuse me? I wanted to smack him but couldn’t muster the energy. I’ve been in holiday mode for weeks now—shopping, decorating, cooking. Before anyone thinks I’m some sort of obsessive-compulsive Martha wanna-be, let me defend myself. A good portion of my holiday shopping gets shipped overseas; therefore I must shop early and ship early. I jumped straight from Thanksgiving to shopping/decorating/etc. for Saturday’s party. I’ve addressed Christmas cards (again, so many of them could go to far-flung areas of the globe) and stood in line at the post office. AC’s holiday spirit means we sing carols all day long and count down to Christmas on the advent calendar. DG is just NOW starting to think ahead to the holidays?

I know it’s still technically early, but since Christmas decorations have been up at the mall since November 1, and Santa staked out his spot weeks ago, it seems as though the run up to Christmas gets longer every year. Hence, the Christmas burnout comes earlier each year as well. It’s barely December and I’m already struggling to find my holiday spirit. Right now the only thing I know I want for Christmas is twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep followed by twelve hours of uninterrupted writing time.

Okay, to be completely honest, “Book Contract” tops my Christmas wish list. Don’t look at me like that; you know you want one too. What aspiring writer doesn’t? Might as well wish big, right?

Unfortunately, that’s out of DG’s power—along with peace on earth, a cure for cancer, and an end to poverty and hunger. All those things we forget to wish for because we’re blinded by the giant XBox advertisements.

So, I’m fighting my Christmas burnout by backtracking to Thanksgiving and reminding myself of all the things I have to be thankful for (and one day, I’ll get to add that book contract to the list).

So what’s on your Christmas list?

Friday, December 02, 2005


We recently posted Marilyn's article called "When the Muse Takes a Hike" in the Playground library. I read it, thought about it, rationalized it, but still find myself in the same pickle I've been in since Reno. My brain is on pause. I've been writing paralyzed since I got the full request. I've always been the kind to write 20 pages in one day, then not write again for three weeks, but this time its serious.

When I signed up for an editor appointment, six months before the conference, I was certain I would be done with my MS. By the time Reno came, I was sadly about 2/3 done. After absorbing all that data from Reno, I had to go back and incorporate what I learned into the story. Since Reno, I've written approximately, oh, say 25 pages. "What??" you say? "Your editor requested the full and you haven't sent it yet??"

Uh, well, yeah, that's about it. I've thought, revised, plotted, added a subplot, etc., but I'm still not done. I told myself that I WILL be done in time to submit to the Golden Heart. No deal. I sent a card to the editor thanking her for the appointment and telling her I was doing some more revisions and would hopefully have it to her early in the new year. Other than that, the file is taunting me from my flash drive.

My characters are silent. My muse apparently on hiatus. The rest of my life is on full speed, however, making the time to sit at the computer and force the words virtually impossible. Excuses. Call it what you will, perhaps the truth is just that I'm afraid. Afraid to finish and send it in. Afraid to get rejected. Afraid to get accepted! I'd build an entirely new playground website to avoid finishing this book. It's horrible. I thought that if I did well in a recent contest that I'd be spurred on. That I would know my book wasn't crap and I could leap in and finish, sending me on my way to publishing stardom. I finished 3rd. Pretty good, but yet the fire hasn't lit.

So here I am. The holidays are barreling towards me. The Inlaws are visiting for Christmas and my house is getting dirtier by the second. My boyfriend and I did some serious engagement ring shopping over Thanksiving sending my mind into a whirled frenzy of wedding thoughts. Work is intensifying, making my brain, which often focuses on my stories as I drive home, focus instead on employee relations issues and training classes. Plenty to keep my mind off Quinn and her dilemma.

In my mind, I can see my brooding Irish hero as he glares at me from time to time, looking at his watch. I don't know why he's so impatient. He's immortal. I'm the one with the time crunch here. Hmmm...blogging...another way for me to avoid writing the book...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

That Sinking Sensation

I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to blog about when I realized I had experienced something this week that probably every writer, published or unpublished, has experienced. It's not the joyous emotion of hitting that perfect scene, or finally having your hero or heroine pop off the page fully formed. Nor was it the bittersweet sensation of typing the end on a first draft.

Nope. On Monday I sent my baby into the big bad world. Okay, it was only a partial - but one that's been revised based on an editor's feedback - so I don't suppose I got the full shot of adrenaline rushed anxiety that I might have if it had been a full. I did still experience that familiar sinking dread. Although it's entirely possible that rolling sensation in my stomach could just have been because of the $20.00 check I wrote to send my baby to Canada.

Either way, I know the clerk behind that long, lonely counter thought I was bonkers. Not only did I need IRCs (something that seems to baffle every USPS employee), an envelope so my precious pieces of paper could be sent back to me at my expense, and verification that it had gotten to the right place so that I wouldn't spend hours or days of my life worrying that my wandering child had made it safely to protective arms. But then, after my friendly US Postal worker looked askance at my unusal requests he had to practically pry the envelope from my hands.

I really didn't want to let it go.

I have such high expectations for this story. it's hard not to. And don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining because I realize just how lucky I am to be in this position, but I've spoken to my (hopefully) editor about this book. She's read part of it and liked it. But what if she doesn't like the rest? What if everything falls apart? She hates the changes I made to my heroine? She doesn't like the direction of the subplot we discussed. And the new ending to chapter three just sucks.

What if this is my one shot and I've just blown it?

I think that's probably why I stalled sending this baby out - it was ready a week ago. And why I have difficulty ending each and every story I write.

Because as long as I'm working on a story I can always make it better. Anything I learn, any ah ha moments, can be incorporated, and if I wake up tomorrow with that one last piece of the publishing puzzle suddenly in my brain then I still have a chance to fix whatever was wrong with my story. But once it's out of my hands and into the wonderful postman's then my job is done.

And I no longer have control.

That's the toughest part for me. As a control freak in every other aspect of my life I find it exceedingly difficult to place my dream in the hands of someone else.

So how do I get through it?

I have wonderful friends who support me (yes, that's you guys :-)) and an inate sense of confidence (Thanks Mom and Dad!). And a realization that if I want to be published then I have to submit, take that chance, and keep trying no matter what. I've made my mind up to succeed and I will. No matter how long it takes or how hard I have to work to get there. I'll make it - and I know every one of the other children will too!


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Empty Nest

I've enjoyed the past two days' posts and believe it or not, I wrote this to use last week and then replaced it at the eleventh hour. It's karma because it fits right in with what Problem Child and Angel wrote yesterday and the day before.

For years I’d heard about the “empty nest” and approached it with mixed feelings. It meant the end to non-stop loads of laundry and herds of boys traipsing through my house, grazing at the open fridge and raiding the pantry of anything remotely resembling food. No more athletic events to attend. No more PTA Open Houses. No more haggling over who got to use the computer.

It also meant saying good-bye to my boys.

I anticipated scads of free time to finally do what I wanted. Now, there is no “i” in team, and I considered my family to be a team. But the team had moved on and it was time for me to be able to pursue some of the dreams I’d let slide in the wake of motherhood. Make no mistake, I believe that raising children is the toughest job on earth, and the most under-appreciated one as well. I have no regrets that I didn’t pursue a big career and climb the corporate ladder. I had interests outside the home but my main focus was my famiy. Yet there I was, with #1 son out of college, engaged to his college sweetheart and making his way in his chosen field, and #2 son well established at an out-of-state university. I made lists and lists of the things I wanted to accomplish. It included projects around the house, books to read, places to go and people to visit.

My mother always said that junk expands to fill your available space, as verified by my overflowing closets (and we just moved into a new house last March). I soon discovered that junk expands to fill your available time as well.

Several years ago I added “writing a novel” to my list of things to do. I’d played around with writing for a long time but never pursued fiction. In 2000, I began writing fanfiction (I can hear the hissing now) but it gave me a place to practice and learn some craft. Then through a bizarre act of serendipity, I discovered romance novels – specifically category romance – and I felt as if I’d found the Holy Grail. Reading romance led to a job as review coordinator for a website and that led to a desire to write my own stories. I found my local RWA chapter, got involved and made new friends.

And then my nest filled back up again. You may have noticed that I’m the Playground Monitor and that’s because they needed someone to keep the “children” in line. Age-wise, I’m right there with the Mavens, but that’s where the similarities end. Age-wise, I could be mother to any of my cohorts in crime at the Playground. But they’ve brushed aside the age difference and included me in their adventures, let me room with them at the national conference in Reno this past summer (and guess who was last in bed every night?), and invited me to join their playground.

We all have something to offer. We balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We offer each other encouragement and support.

I’m part of a team again. And there is no “i” in team. But I sure as hell hope that I can get my current WIP completed and get my PRO pin so that I won’t be the only one on the Playground without one. I feel a little naked.

Happy Wednesday from The Playground Monitor

P.S. Speaking of naked...

Happy Birthday Rocki. ;-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Since Problem Child brough up the issue of parenting, I think I'll wade into the fray.

Recently, on a difficult morning when I was trying to leave for my monthly RWA meeting, I found myself in the firm clutches of my beautiful 5-year-old daughter. Her beseeching eyes begged me not to leave. "I don't want you to go," she said.

Mother guilt reared its ugly head. But luckily my husband was watching out for me. Taking my daughter into his lap, he looked her in the eyes and said, "She's going. Mommy is allowed to have a life outside of us."

Inside, I jumped up and down at my husband's words of support. I've worked hard to find a balance between nurturing my children and teaching them independence. After all, one day they'll grow up and leave. What' the point of making them completely dependent on me for everything?

Don't get me wrong. I grew up in a very traditional family. My mother was a stay at home mom, as I am though I recently started my own resume writing business. Our church encouraged conservative ideas, including non-working mothers, cloth diapers, and home schooling. As a teenager, I baby-sat for numerous women who didn't do anything except be mothers. No jobs, not even hobbies. I dont' condemn that mentality. I just learned early on that it wasn't for me.

Writing is a part of who I am, just as daydreaming was as a child and teenager. I couldn't stop even if I wanted to. My writing friends have become my support, a source of understanding and a dose of reality in this crazy business. Does having this dream make me less of a mother? I don't think so. In fact, I hope it is teaching my children something of value.

I hope my daughter learns that she has more value than just having babies, especially if she has infertility problems like I did. I hope she suffers less guilt when her interests fall outside the home. I hope she realizes she is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to. I hope my son learns to support his future wife's endeavors just as his father does mine. And that he, too, learns to reach for the stars. Anything is possible with hard work and love.

And I hope that one day, when I sell my first book and my second and third, that my family will join me in a group hug, then jump up and down in shared excitement. Because that's the kind of family I have.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Some days are better than others

I promised myself I wouldn’t write about my amazing, adorable child in the blog, as not everyone wants to hear about her, but I couldn’t let this slide by. My Amazing Child spent the night at her grandmother’s, and Grammy called me with one of those “you won’t believe what she said” tales.

Apparently, AC told my mother and my mom’s roommate—apropos of something—“My mommy can save the day, and she doesn’t even need a cape.”

Dun dun ta da! SUPERMOM. Able to leap tall piles of dirty laundry in a single bound. Faster than grape juice headed toward a white carpet. Able to wear Spandex in public and look fabulous doing it. (I don’t need a cape, but I do want really cool boots.) SUPERMOM to the rescue!

I did the Snoopy dance around my kitchen—not because I’m Supermom, but because, at least for today, I’m not The World’s Worst Mother. Nope, not me. Not today. The Golden Coathanger Award will have to go to someone else. Tomorrow, when I send her to her room for back-talking, and she tells me she’s never speaking to me again, I’ll be back in the running, but right now, I’m Supermom.

I think all Moms have days when they feel they just don’t measure up—those days when you aim for Good-Enough Mom or Doing-The-Best-I-Can Mom. Most days, I’m just trying not to do permanent damage to my kid or turn her into a serial killer. But comments like today’s make me realize I’m not doing such a bad job after all.

To top it all off, I got a note from an editor that said my writing was “quite good.” Granted, she still didn’t want it, but the comment made me realize I’m not doing a terrible job there, either.

So let’s see… I don’t suck as either a parent or a writer.

Today is a good day.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Birthday!

Please join the rest of the children in wishing our very own Problem Child a

Join the party! Grab a hat, a balloon and a piece of cake.

We love ya PC!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Good ol' Rocky Top

Hope there aren't any Kentucky fans out there...

A little weekend entertainment

I enjoyed this post from Jenny Crusie. Maybe it'll make you laugh too.

The DH has reached the turkey saturation point -- we went out for Chinese tonight. It was a nice break from decorating. I can definitely say that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mommy, I want an XBOX!

I'm writing my blog early this week because for the holiday I am venturing into the world of my in-laws - an internet free zone. I've just finished reading PM's very touching friendship post, so I'm feeling a little sentimental, which is not normally my style. The holidays make me think warm, fuzzy thoughts about friends, family, togetherness. The reality is usually not as Norman Rockwell-like as the images in my memory, but I still approach this season with the hope and anticipation that this year will I will truly get to celebrate the spirit of the holidays.

In speaking of the spirit of the holidays, by the time you read this, it will be the infamous day after Thanksgiving. The stores will open at 5AM for caffeinated shoppers with a mission. Old women will push each other down to get a shot at a free gift for the first 100 people in the door. Parents will wait in line for hours for the opportunity to get their hands on an XBOX 360. There will be honking and cussing in mall parking lots across the nation as people fight for "good" parking spots and inch their way around to the stores they need to get into.

If you are one of these people, I bid you good luck. I, however, will be fast asleep under lots of blankets with a belly full of turkey and pie. Why is that? Because there is not an experience on this earth that can douse holiday spirit faster. The time of year that is supposed to be about brotherhood and love becomes a competitive battle where the civilized masses lose all common sense and manners in their quest for some doll. We all dread the disappointed face of the little girl who wants it and believes Santa will bring it to her, but I still cannot stand to face that mess. At least to face it and hold on to my holiday cheer.

To be honest, I've gotten 90% of my Christmas shopping done, thanks to a trip to Germany and That leaves me to enjoy this upcoming weekend and the weeks to come. Maybe I'll bake cookies. Maybe I'll decorate outside and freeze my fingers off. Maybe I'll sit around and watch the episodes of House and Nip/Tuck I have on my Tivo. Maybe I'll feel inspired to write and will actually have the time to crank out the pages I've been procrastinating about.

This holiday season, whether you venture out into the shopping jungle or not, I wish you all short lines, the perfect parking spot, some chocolately indulgence (and some non-chocolate indulgence for Linda H), and a dash of writing inspiration. May your muse stay in town (and perhaps help you giftwrap if nothing else) and the voices in your head whisper enlightening information to help you through the season.

Smarty Pants

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Food, Family and Football

It didn't take me long to figure out my topic for this blog. It might not be very original but given that today is Thanksgiving I think it's necessary. I'll save the wit for next week :-)

This day marks the beginning of the holiday season (I don't care what Wal-mart says! The day after Halloween does not!). And I think it's rather appropriate that before we start the holiday parties, christmas school programs, baking frenzy and shopping spree (and no, Kimberly and Danniele I do not want to hear that you're already finished!) we take time out to appreciate the things we have in our lives - the things we usually end up taking for granted during the head-long rush to the end of the year.

Certainly we all have problems in our lives but they're nothing compared to the blessings we share. We have families and friends who love and support us, healthy children, granchildren on the way, and a dream no one can take from us.

I'm sure the other children will join me in saying

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Nope. This isn't about the television show of the same name. In fact, I think I'm the only person in America who never watched that show.

This is about writing friends. They are friends who understand that you have voices in your head and don't think you should consult a psychiatrist. They are friends who understand that just because you work at home in your pajamas that doesn't mean you don't really work. And it doesn't mean that you're available at the drop of a hat to pick up their kid from school, take off on a shopping excursion to a nearby outlet mall or write their Christmas letter because "you're just so much better at it than I am."

They are friends you can call upon to rant and rave about the injustices of the writing world, the hero who won't cooperate and the plot holes you could drive a Peterbilt truck through.

Writing is lonely. It's you and the computer and, if you're lucky, those voices in your head.

My writing friends come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors and socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities. They live in all parts of the world. They also come in a variety of success levels -- from just-started-putting-words-on-paper to USA Today, Waldenbooks and New York Times bestsellers.

Yet regardless of their level of success, the sincerity of the friendship is the same. Maven Beverly Barton commented that someone said writers were crazy for training their replacements. BB scoffs at that idea. So does Po Bronson, co-founder of The Grotto, a writers' community in San Francisco. He says that writing is not a zero-sum game. Your sale doesn't automatically put a minus in someone else's scorebox. Your success doesn't mean that someone else won't succeed. There is room for everyone and the absolute best way to work toward success is to support each other.

I have my friends here at the Writing Playground. I suppose you could call them my playmates.

Uh... not that kind of playmates. More like this.

They're cheerleaders and butt-kickers. They're confidantes and advisors. They're problem-solvers and trouble-makers. I can tell them absolutely anything and know that "Vegas Rules" apply: what happens on the Playground, stays on the Playground.

We share our toys.

Girls, girls, girls. Not that kind of toys.

We share our joys.

We share our woes.

We share our toes.

We don't really share our toes, but it made the rhyme work and I had an appropriate photograph.

They're wonderful friends who hopefully understand that I love to put words on paper but am still trying to find my niche. How was that pronounced, teacher? ;-)

Noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright wrote, "The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen."

A friend will believe in you, and that's a priceless gift.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I'm thankful today, tomorrow and always for my wonderful writing friends. They make my world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Playground Monitor.