Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Keeping abreast of things

Okay, so it’s a corny title. But after the events of yesterday I thought it was a good idea to veer away from writing for a moment and hop up on my soapbox to talk about breast self-examination (BSE) and mammograms.

I had my annual mammogram two weeks ago and normally I would have received the results within a week. But between the doctor’s son graduating from high school and the Memorial Day holiday, I got the results yesterday. And instead of the little card reading “No problems. See ya next year!” I got a phone call asking me to come in for an ultrasound. Seems they spotted what the doctor thought was just a fluid-filled cyst and they need to check it further.

I had this happen five years ago and had to wait a week to get in for the ultrasound. It was a LONG week. Luckily, they had an opening yesterday afternoon and I grabbed it.

They’d marked the old cyst on my charts and the doctor had recommended “No Action” since it was harmless and there was no reason to remove it.

This turned out to be another of the same. Whew!

Despite doing BSE, I can’t feel these things. So I depend on my annual mammogram to bring them to light.

Every one of you should be doing BSE monthly. If you can’t remember, mark it on your calendar or pick a date that’s regular – like the first day of your period or the first day of the month. Or you can Google “BSE email reminder” and get several hits for sites that will send you an email to remind you. That's what I do.

As for mammograms, different organizations have different recommendations for when and how often, but most recommend a baseline mammogram at age 40 and then repeat mammography at regular intervals for the rest of your life. Ask your physician and check with your health insurance provider to see what they recommend.

A mammogram is awkward and a bit embarrassing and depending on the sensitivity of your breast tissue, it might even be painful. But don’t let the awkwardness, embarrassment or possibility of a little bit of pain keep you from having this important test. Breast cancer is very curable when caught early and a mammogram is quite often the way that such cancers are caught early enough for successful intervention.

You can learn about breast cancer, BSE, risk factors and prevention, and a whole lot more at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website.

I’ll hop down off this soapbox now. I had way too much excitement yesterday along with a bit of angsting and obsessing even though the results were good.

Have you performed BSE lately? If you’re old enough, have you had your mammogram? Are your mothers, sisters, best friends keeping abreast of their own health? If not, I'm giving you a nudge and you can nudge them.

P.S. Happy birthday today to my wonderful daughter-in-law who is expecting Grandbaby2Be on June 16 but found out today they're going to induce her next week.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chapter One

Typing those two words opens up Pandora's Box. They signify that a whole new adventure is about to begin. I'm excited about what's to come. I’m not afraid of the 200+ pages to go after Chapter One; I’m enough of a plotter to have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen when (but too much of a pantser to actually go and outline the thing). Places to go; people to manipulate in god-like ways. Ahh, what a rush.

But that little blinking cursor waiting on the line below the words can terrify me as well. Chapter One is the first step on the journey, and it’s one heck of a doozie. Let’s consult the list of all we must do in the first chapter, shall we?

1). Hook the reader (preferably in the first few lines).
2). Introduce the main characters.
3). Give enough information to make the characters seem rounded and interesting while avoiding the dreaded “info dump.”
4). Give the reader an idea of the conflicts—internal and external—that will drive the story.
5) Make the reader care about what’s about to happen over the next 250+ pages.

Five things? That’s not much of a list! My to-do lists routinely run to multiple pages, so five measly things can’t be too hard. I can normally cross five things off my to-do list before lunch.

But those five things on the list are loaded…I might as well add “Create World Peace” and “Cure Cancer” to that list while I’m at it. Sheesh, who would’ve thought five little items could cause so much angst.

I feel sorry for what my CP is about to go through. It will take many, many trips through Chapter One to get it right. But Chapter One is where you make it or break it with a reader. Chapter One has to be good. Your reader will never see Chapter Two if it’s not. I’m about ten pages into Chapter One, and I’ve already re-written each of them. (Yes, I know I really should be farther along, but, hey, life happens.) At this pace, it may be a while before my CP gets to read it. It takes me a while to get to Chapter Two, but I know it will be a bit easier going from there.

For you writers out there, what’s the hardest part of Chapter One for you? But I’d really like to hear from the readers on this one as well—what makes it or breaks it for you in Chapter One?

(who really needs to be writing today, but will probably be packing for the upcoming Odessey…)

Monday, May 29, 2006

In For the Long Haul... Or Am I?

I've got to be honest with y'all. Perseverence is not my forte. Shocking, I know, but true. There are only three things I've entered into with determination and stuck with: marriage (my husband told me up front that divorce wasn't an option), motherhood (guess I have no choice there), and writing (I'm still wondering about that one). :) Well, maybe a few more things, but they weren't nearly as important.

My child made a statement this weekend that had me reevaluating my commitment to writing. She told a man we'd met less than a hour before that, "Mommy doesn't like having children when she's a writer." Granted, I'd just bemoaned trying to get my children to listen to me and obey after telling both of them about a hundred times to get out of the muddy water puddle. Granted, my husband assured me that what she MEANT to say was "Mommy doesn't like children bothering her when she's writing." Granted, Counselor Shelley has assured me that if you worry about whether you are a good mommy or not, then you are a good mommy (must repeat this to myself over and over and over...).

I still cried after they went to bed.

Yet today, as I worked on the plot for my next book, I knew that I couldn't stop writing. The excitement I felt over these new characters and the conflict and the realizations, I just don't think I could give that up. I don't want to. Which means this is a really big deal to me. A life changing deal. Writing is the one thing I've persisted in for me and me alone. My husband and children couldn't care less if I stopped writing tomorrow, as long as I was happy. This gift is mine alone.

Though I think it is good for my kids to see me pursuing my dream, Mommy-guilt continues to rear its ugly head. I doubt it will ever go away. I'm doing my best to combat it with extra hugs and special outings this summer. I'll never be Mommy of the Year, but hopefully sometimes I can be Mommy of the Moment.

And I'll dream of the day when I can take my daughter into a bookstore and show her Mommy's book on the shelf. Better yet, one day she'll be old enough to actually read it. Then again, I may have to tear out all the love scenes, even if she is thirty. :)


P.S. What do you do when you're ready to quit the race? I usually call on my husband or a Playfriend or two or three. I can't hit the chocolate because I'm dieting for Nationals.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

On the outside looking in

by Kathy Bone

I recently read an article about the Georgia Aquarium, which opened this past November in Atlanta and was amazed to find how spectacular and popular the Aquarium has become. Housed in downtown Atlanta, the Aquarium has almost exceeded 2 million visitors, a goal originally anticipated to have been met by its first anniversary. Now with the Aquarium’s surging popularity driving the helm, this ship-shaped building has taken on a life of its own. On a daily basis the Aquarium is visited by nearly 10,000 people. Housing the world’s largest indoor fish tank, it has also become a gathering place for weddings, parties, and bar mitzvahs. Between 4,000 to 6,000 people can be in the building at any given time, and advance tickets must be purchased to keep from waiting in long lines. Hours of operation have been moved back to 8:00 a.m. and stretched so that closing isn’t until 8:00 p.m. on certain days in answer to consumer demand. Venturing indoors you will find a spectacular fish show which includes a giant Pacific octopus and penguin exhibit as well as an up front and personal view of a beluga whale.

We go to places like these to get in touch with nature and glimpse life other than we know it. We stand mesmerized, looking from the outside in, watching life as it passes us by one swish of a tail at a time. I’m reminded of an etching by an old Art School friend. Envision, if you will, a fish bowl. In it, and this is not where you say I see a fish. Oh no, in it is a cat’s head and our dear little fish is looking from the outside into the fish bowl at a waterlogged cat.

Here’s my thought. Fish in an Aquarium seem isolated, impossible to reach and in some cases like sharks, thankfully so, behind impenetrable glass. Our minds would never conceive of putting a cat in a fish bowl but imagine you are that cat. Imagine you are what the fish are looking at in the Aquarium. Imagine barriers of time and space, goals and recognition of those goals, race, culture and speech, are all broken. Ropes do not bind an energetic runner. Chains do not hold back the momentum of purpose. We are works of art transposed by hopes and dreams, not caged behind partitions that bind.

As many of us prepare for the National Romance Writer’s Conference coming up in July, appointments with editors and agents weigh heavy on our minds. Wardrobes suddenly appear too sparse for comfort. Pitches must be fine-tuned and our hearts have already begun to beat to the sound of a ticking clock. Dare I suggest that we don’t have to be the fish anticipating the cat’s next move? We can be like the cat, ever poised, no longer looking from the outside in.

Decide to visit the Aquarium in Atlanta and while you’re thinking about it, what advice do you have for all the other fish in the tank?

For more information including hours of operation and pricing, go to .

Friday, May 26, 2006

Long Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us. Thank goodness - I could use the day off. DB went down to his parent's house and I'll be following him later today. His brother and family are in town so we're going to spend as much time with them as we can. If I'm lucky, I can wrangle a trip to his cousin's house with the inground pool. There will probably be no grilling out in my world, however. For my birthday, DB got stuck grilling for 20 and informed me that in the future we either: A) will have no more than 6 people over at once, B) will buy a bigger grill with either gas or expensive charcoal that will stay lit, or C) I can cook it myself. :) He did spend the most part of 2 hours grilling and talked to virtually no one, so I'm inclined to agree. We'll probably pick up pizza instead of the traditional summer spread.

Even without the grill, Memorial Day is the unofficial herald of summer. Temperatures are creeping to the 90s, mosquitos and lightning bugs are on the prowl, and both my co-workers and Playfriends have started penciling in their vacations. Looking at my calendar filled with personal and business trips, the next few months will probably pass as a blur. Atlanta will come and go and the next thing I know, I will be unwrapping my Christmas Dictionary from PC. It always went that way when I was a kid, but probably just because I was dreading going back to school. Not an issue anymore, fortunately.

I'm glad time will go by fast because I'm waiting to hear back on my partial. I am able, at some points of the day, to forget that it is "out there." I don't pray on the way to the mailbox each evening. Occasionally it will strike me that I haven't heard anything yet, but then I forget again as some other crisis arises. Some people say this is crazy talk. How could I forget?? I'm actually glad I don't agonize over every day spent waiting to hear back. If I keep busy, work on my craft, enjoy some great trips, etc., the time will pass as it should and hopefully will bring good news to my doorstep. The longer it takes, also, the longer I can live in my own delusional fairyland thinking the editor will think its fabulous and snatch it right up. Hard to think that way with a quickly returned form "R" in your hand.

Instigator mentioned a weekend filled with hot air balloons. To be honest, I've lived in the area long enough to have missed 6 of these events, each year swearing that I'm going this time. I said it this year, even going so far as mentioned I might be able to help their crew out. But again, plot foiled and off to Gadsden I go. With three whole days off...what does everyone have planned? Anything exciting?

PS - In light of this holiday to recognize those that have served our country, here's a little patriotic eye candy to kick off the weekend...just love men in (and out) of uniform. :)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Unexpected Joys

The other night my family and I had an unexpected joy (and no I don't mean I found out I was pregnant - we're done with that).

Every Memorial Day weekend - since I was fifteen anyway - my family and I (consisting of my parents, sister, brothers, various significant others and friends) crew for a hot air balloon rally in my hometown. I've flown several times (it's awesome. If you ever have the chance GO!). I absolutely love to crew. There is nothing like pulling out that cold silk, laying it out over the dew soaked ground, holding open the mouth of the balloon as a blast of fire whooshes past and finally watching it lift gently into the sky. At the rally (one of the largest in the Southeast) there are usually anywhere from 40 to 70 balloons all lifting off at the same time. Against the backdrop of an early spring dawn, I think it's the most beautiful sight on earth next to my children's smiling faces. So what might you ask was the unexpected joy?

On my way home from a hectic day of work, both girls yelling in the back seat, we passed by three balloons putting up in the front yard of a neighbor. We live out in the country - and by country I mean the closest thing to a store for miles is the double wide grocery, tanning bed and video store - so it's the perfect place to put up. Lots of pastures to land in too. Anyway, we rushed home all excited, stuffed dinner into our mouths (because it was ready) and then raced out the door again ten minutes later with DH in tow. The first balloon was just coming over the tree line at the edge of our property when we piled into the car. And the expression on my girl's faces was priceless. Both of them screamed with delight.

And it was a wonderful thing for me. Until this past year Sweet Pea had been frightened of the loud noise of the propane going off. But not that day. She was simply excited. And so was her sister. They both stayed that way for an hour while we sat in the car driving around backroads, chasing the balloons. We got to watch several touch and gos (where they land and then take off immediately) and a couple splash and dashes (where they touch down in water and then take off again - Even as long as I've been involved with ballooning I've never seen a splash and dash).
We had so much fun. But I think what was most important to me (aside from the fact that we managed to all find an hour to enjoy together) was seeing the wonder in my girl's faces. This is something I absolutely love and to know they do too means a lot to me. I hope in years to come it will be something we can share.

This weekend is going to be hectic with numerous trips in and out of town, getting up before our rooster and probably sunburns because Mommy forgot the sunscreen again. But to see that look on my girls faces again will make every second of lost sleep worth it.

What do you share with your children or family?


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Alabama's own Taylor Hicks, winner of American Idol.

Look! It's a Desperate Housewife

No, it's not Susan, Bree, Lynette, Gabrielle or Edie. It's just one housewife who's realized all my favorite shows are having their season finales this week or have already ended. All the dangling plot threads have been tied up in neat bows, mysteries have been solved, new suspense elements have been introduced, contests have been won and there’s been a cliffhanger or two.

I make it sound like I’m a couch potato but I’m really not. I only watch about 5 shows with regularity. Then there's the odd documentary on PBS or something on Discovery that catches my eye. And I'm a sucker for reruns of the Andy Griffith Show. "Nip it! Nip it in the bud!"

So what’s happening in my TV world?

1. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES had its two-hour season finale last Sunday night. There was a murder. We have a new creepy character (Orson the dentist), the Applewhites have left town, Lynette is dealing with the repercussions of Tom’s premarital fling, Gabrielle is finding that what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily what she wants the gander to be doing and Mike Delefino is lying in the street after being hit by a car.

Ah... hello, Mr. Cherry. You simply cannot kill off Mike. He and Susan are just way too cute a couple, despite their ups and downs. And besides, what’s not to love about a guy who reads romance?

I'd like to send a big shout-out to Dianne Castell. She had this photo as a huge poster at RWA in Reno last year and probably could have auctioned it off for enough money to pay off her mortgage and mine.

2. AMERICAN IDOL is rolling to the end of its fifth season. The final songs have been sung, the votes are in and later tonight the winner will be announced amidst fanfare and confetti. Will our fellow Alabamian Taylor Hicks be the next American Idol? Stay tuned.

3. SURVIVOR: Exile Island ended about two week ago. I’ve been hooked since Survivor: Africa. I watched because it was set in Kenya and the DH had spent six weeks in Nairobi on business. I love the drama, the competition, the conniving and alliances. I enjoy watching them outwit, outplay and outlast. And I was totally bummed that Terry didn’t win. He played a hard, clean game and in my opinion was most deserving. But we all know that the most deserving doesn’t necessarily get the prize.

4. CSI ended last week too and Captain Brass lives! Nick Stokes also found his comb and after a short but terrible hairstyling detour, his hair looks good again. I’m talking about the original show set in Las Vegas. I’ve never been able to get into the Miami version and I didn’t even bother to start watching the New York show. It’s odd that I don’t like them all since they’re all about crime investigation. But the difference is the characters, which is also true about good writing. You can have a great premise and plot, but unless the characters work with each other and work for the reader, the whole story will fall apart.

Was anyone else shocked at the final scene of CSI? Grissom and Sara? Ewwwww. I could imagine him with former stripper turned crime investigator Catherine Willows. Or better yet I have had this weird desire to see him hook up with Lady Heather the dominatrix. Now that would make for some unusual television. Grissom is one of my favorite TV characters. He’s a brainiac and makes being a geek look chic. His humor is dry and he's a big "buggy" sometimes. But when and where it counts, he cares.

Of course we all know that CSI is really just an educational tool for criminals and that DA’s hate potential jurors who say “Oh, I watch CSI all the time.” But how else would we know what luminol was for or about the pheno-blood test or that there really are chimeras?

However, the title of absolute favorite TV character goes to…

5. MONK. Adrian Monk, the quirky detective with OCD has to be one of the most unique and endearing characters on television today. His vulnerability should make him weak. But despite it, he’s a brilliant detective. And just when you think he’s going to surrender to his obsessions and compulsions, he digs down deep inside and comes to the rescue.

I just hate that the USA network can’t see fit to give us more than six new episodes at a time. Clearly it’s one of the best shows on television, so why do we only get twelve episodes a year – six in the summer and six in winter? Maybe to keep us wanting more?

So much of what I love about these shows is true of writing: great characters with good motivation and conflict, catchy premises, hooks and plots, action, suspense and intrigue, a good love interest and quality writing that keeps me coming back for more.

So what will I do now that my favorite shows are done with their first-run episodes? Maybe I can begin to tackle that mountain range of books in my office. Perhaps I’ll be able to devote a little more time to writing. Keep my flower beds weeded? Dust more often? Keep up with the ironing? That TBR pile sounds the most appealing.

So what’s your favorite show?

And what makes it your favorite? Is it the story? The setting? The characters? All or a combination of the above?

And what are you going to do now that it’s ended for the season?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dancing...writing. Same thing, right?

As you know, Saturday night was AC’s first dance recital. She did great (as great as a four-year-old can do), and has been bitten by the bug. The diva in her has found an outlet, and she can’t wait for the next one.

As her mom, I am as proud as proud could be. I even got a little teary-eyed as she made her entrance. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to dance. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until Saturday night.

But it was a surreal experience. In my entire life, I’ve been a true audience member for recitals and ballets only a few times. Most of the time, I watched the action on stage from the wings, waiting for my entrance. Sometimes, if I had a long enough break, I could sneak up to the balcony and watch for a while, but that was rare. If, for some strange reason I wasn’t dancing that night, I would be in the audience (but never in the good seats—those were for the paying folks), but I still knew everyone on stage. Being “just another mom in the audience” was really strange.

(And I know my mom was feeling it as well. This was the first time she’d sat through a recital when I wasn’t dancing. She wasn’t running backstage between acts to help me change. She didn’t know 90% of the kids on stage because she’d shuttled them all over town or had them eat her out of house and home every weekend. It had to have been weird to have AC coming out of the wings instead of me…)

So, I’ve been thinking about dance most of the weekend. There’s a list on the bulletin board above my desk that one of my high school friends sent to me called “Everything I needed to know, I learned in ballet.” Over the last couple of months, I’ve looked at it and realized that what I learned in ballet also applies to my new dream of writing books. So to tie my dancing mood to the blog, I give you “Everything I need to know about writing I learned from ballet.”

1.) Balance is vital. (You have to keep any one part of the story from overwhelming another. You also have to balance writing with the thousand other things in your life. Like dance recitals.)

2.) Timing really is everything. (Getting published is sometimes a matter of getting the right book into the hands of the right editor at just the right moment in time. That’s a bit trickier than remembering you step on the two, not the one.)

3.) Nothing is magic, or flawless. (Take one of your favorite books. There may be a typo that slipped through. But there’s probably also a passage that the author isn’t quite happy with. But it’s still a great book.)

4.) Fancy tricks can’t make up for sloppy technique. (The best, most compelling plot in the universe can’t make up for bad writing. Great ideas can only get you so far; you still have to study your craft and nail down the basics of strong technique.)

5.) Anything that looks easy usually isn’t, but hard work pays off. (That beautiful paragraph of description that made you feel like you were there? That perfect retort that popped out of the heroine’s mouth? That took a lot longer to write than it did for you to read it.)

6.) Practice makes better. (No one is perfect. But working hard will make you better at what you do.)

7.) Listen to teachers, then work hard. (Read all the craft books; go to the workshops. At some point, you have to actually take that theory and put it into practice.)

8.) Looking at yourself in a mirror all the time does weird things to you. (Yeah, like give you an eating disorder—wait, sorry, we’re talking about writing. You can revise all the spark out of a book by rereading it over and over again. And don’t compare yourself to the others you see next to you in that mirror. Write your book the best way you can with your own spark in it.)

Okay, I can only push this analogy so far…I can’t make the last two items on the list work. But you get my point, right?

I was told once to “dance like nobody’s watching.” There’s a freedom to doing what you love simply because you love it. But the whole point is that you want an audience. But nobody in the audience wants to see the ballerina sweat. No one wants to see the bleeding toes or know that her knee has her in physical therapy twice a week. They want to see the magic. But the magic only comes from hard work. And if you love something, you should be willing to put in the effort.

So, go. Work hard. Make magic.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Exercise of Writing

And no, I'm not going to whip out a writing exercise like Instigator. I promise. :)

Actually, I was thinking last night about how many ways writing is like exercise. I had a lot of time to think last night because our power went out. I spent some time rocking Little Man by candlelight after thunder woke him from his usually deep sleep.

But for me, there are many correlations between writing and exercise. People who've never tried to write with publication as a goal don't understand this. But I'm sure all you published and aspiring writers out there do.

Ways Writing is Like Exercise:

1. Just like exercise does a lot of good for your body--strengthening bones, building muscle, working your heart--so writing does a lot of good for your mind. Every writing session builds those writing muscles, expanding your ability to endure, to focus, and to create. Increasing activity keeps your mind on the story, training your mind to "see" the characters, "hear" the dialogue, and translate the pictures into words.

2. Just like exercise builds balance in our lives between activity and inactivity, so writing allows us to take care of ourselves as well as others. I'm sure this doesn't just apply to Moms, but I know that writing has helped keep me in touch with me during the sometimes overwhelming demands of my daily grind. I have to schedule time to be creative. Get out of the house so I can write without interruptions or the whisperings of a dirty house. Find a baby sitter so I can attend meetings and workshops. And in doing so, I honor my dreams.

3. Just like I have to force myself to get off my behind and move, many times I have to force myself to insert butt in chair and write. Especially when I'm just starting a book or have hit a snag. When everything is flowing (you know what I mean), life is wonderful and writing is easy. Let the flow dry up and writing can be torture. But the only way to start the stream again is to, well, write. In that way, writing becomes a discipline. One with rewards beyond the obvious, rewards I don't know if I could describe to someone who doesn't have the need to write.

4. Just like exercise quickly falls to the wayside when life gets busy, so writing often gets put on the backburner in times of chaos. At least for me it does. Of course, I don't have the joy and burden of a deadline. The urgent things often get the most of my attention. But I'm learning how to get back on the wagon. By the way, my husband will attest to the fact that I don't view dishes or laundry as urgent.

5. The rewards are proven. For exercise, this might be obvious. With writing, it might be a little harder. Sure, we can see the hundreds upon thousands of books on the bookstore shelves. But if you aren't published, are the results as satisfying? Well, I'm not going to lie and say that seeing my name on the front of a book on that bookstore shelf wouldn't be one of the biggest thrills of my life. But there are other rewards. The joy in finally realizing what I am: a writer. The excitement of plotting a new book or story, with all the possibilities that come with it. The satisfaction of writing THE END. The pride in submitting a work I'm not embarrassed to let someone besides myself see. And to be honest, those rewards beat exercise hands down. :)

So, what will you get off your behind and work on this Monday morning?


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Fun and Games Part 2

I bet you thought I'd forgotten didn't you? Nope. Here are the entries I received from my Fun and Games post on Thursday. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Thanks everyone for playing.


What was Scarlet to do? Supreme Court Justice Wallace Hornbuckle’s ruling had made it clear that her life at Tara had been a complete falsehood.
Standing by the window in her Manolo Blahnik shoes, she observed uniformed men escorting C.S. Lewis to an awaiting van. Margaret had warned her about the lynch mob. No one, she had said, was safe from the media’s brutal interrogation. And though she repeatedly denied her life might be gone with the wind as she watched Mr. Lewis disappear, it was suddenly clear Margaret was right. Lawyers were splitting hairs over fact vs. fiction and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Malfunction was an excuse to give another author a ticket to Polar Bear alley, where temperatures fell below zero degrees.
Dark shadows cast eerie shapes upon the empty courtyard and Scarlet turned back in disgust. Entering Margaret’s inner sanctum she grabbed a bottle of Scotch, poured herself a libation and swallowed quickly.
“Miss Scarlet?”
Whirling around, Scarlet stared at the large man filling the doorway. “Lurch!”
“You rang.”
Scarlet gasped for breath. “Yes, yes, I did. Heavens, you gave my heart a jump start!”
“Sorry, madam. Luncheon is ready.”
“Tell Gomez I’ll be there shortly,” she offered.
Turning with a hand clutched to her chest, she regarded the bookcase. Hornbuckle’s elite had plundered it, erasing every adaptation of the imagination. His private war forced writers into hiding and characters like herself to huddle in secrecy and fear.
Lies gave the media power. Centuries of fiction had been erased, stolen from archives so that cuddle kids, a generational faction nurtured by Hornbuckle’s new order, would not be influenced.
Tears filled her eyes. Twain, Jakes, Tolstoy, Austen and Pasternak, El Libro Gestapo had taken them all.
“Are you coming, Tish?” Gomez entreated.
Scarlet wiped her eyes and nodded demurely. Poor Gomez hadn’t been the same since Morticia’s accident. Walking towards him, she took his hand and together they passed the stairs where Morticia met her death after catching her feet in her gown, a tragedy that had forced her designer to shoulder the blame.
In the dining room, Lurch held out Scarlet’s chair and Gomez took his seat. Thing produced a card and Gomez read it aloud. “Le Cordon Blue is to be our main course tonight.”
The code. Scarlet acknowledged the warning. El Libro Gestapo had been sited on grounds. Her time was up.
“To the bat cave, Scarlet! I shall confront these fools myself. A woman like you was meant to survive. I have already lost Morticia, I will not let them take you. Lurch will take you below and see to your safety.”
“Thank you, Gomez. Do be careful.”
“Careful, madam. Frankly, I don’t give a snarkistic damn about danger!”
Heading toward sanctuary with Lurch at her side, Scarlet shook her fist above her head and vowed. “As God is my witness, Gomez, I shall never forget all you have done for me.”
“Go, Scarlet. You must live on.”



“I don’t care if you went and got yourself appointed Supreme Court Justice,” Charlotte remarked acidly as she peeled her Manolo Blahnik off with one finger. “You can’t just waltz in here and expect to jump start a relationship with sweet talk and perfectly aged Scotch.”
Gordon grinned. “It was recommended in Le Cordon Blue, your favorite culinary magazine. I thought you liked the designer stuff.”
He held his arms out, indicating both himself and the bottle in his hand. Charlotte looked him up and down, taking in the worn work boots, the faded jeans and comfortable plaid flannel shirt over a white tee shirt tinged with dust.
Her bitterness ebbed and she laughed. “You’re not exactly the designer stuff, Gordon.”
“Come on, love, you don’t have to be so snarkastic.”
Charlotte groaned, still laughing. She should never have turned him on to that phrase. Darn that witty Miss Snark, anyway. What stellar advice would she give Charlotte in this situation? Turn down this hunk and you get dubbed Nitwit of the Day?
Her laughter faded with a sigh.
“Look,” she said. “I have to get ready for this luncheon. They’re presenting me with their special Narnia award for my contributions to the library’s children’s program, and I have to change. If you don’t leave now, in a minute you’ll be witnessing the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe malfunction.”
Gordon looked at his watch. “You don’t have to be at Cuddle Kids for another hour.”
He cocked one eyebrow rakishly and held up the bottle. “What say we blow the lid on this baby and throw ourselves a party?”
Crossing the room, he put one hand behind her back and drew her close, holding her gaze. “I could even help you with that wardrobe malfunction.”
Charlotte couldn’t stop the sigh that escaped her lips as his proximity flamed her body temperature up a degree. The sweet, pungent scent of his cologne made his soft flannel shirt the most comfortable thing she’d bumped up against in a long time. Why did he have to be so darn sexy? And why did she have to turn into a polar bear every time he entered her world?
They were all wrong for each other, complete opposites. She, the chic businesswoman on the fast track to success. He, the hardworking rancher with little to offer but his unassuming charm and honesty.
Come to think of it, Charlotte thought as his lips brushed hers, maybe that offer wasn’t so little, after all.

And congratulations to J.B. for being our winner! Your prize is on its way :-)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Making a List and Checking it Twice

No, not that list. It’s only May, although I’m certain several of us are well on our way to the “naughty” side of Santa's check sheet.

The Playfriends have a few hardcore list writers in the group – myself among them. I just love a great list and the feeling I get when I check them off. With my writing, it takes a lot longer to “check” off some things – like sell, cash royalty checks, go on autographing tour, interview with Katie Couric, win my RITA, hit NYT best sellers list…stop laughing. Anything is possible.

With my current project in final revisions, I’ve allowed my mind to wander to what’s next. I’ve strictly prohibited such thoughts previously to counteract my bad habit of writing three books at once and finishing none. After PC’s post the other day about a similar quandary, I opened my trusty file called “story ideas” and read over a few of my old ideas. I deleted some I no longer cared for, reorganized them by current lines, then started adding to the list.

First, the sequel to my current story. Researched a couple plot points, brought in some fabulous mythology and got really excited about the premise. Of course, if the first book doesn’t sell, a sequel isn’t going to help much, so I went on to another idea, and another, and another. I’m most interested in a single title book series about paranormal investigators. I have the characters all lined out, named, quirks assigned…pity selling a single title is near impossible at this point. (Not all of us can be as fabulous as Ms. Kelley.)

When I was done, I had a pretty healthy list of ideas for books. I had been in a minor panic a few weeks ago since I had no idea what would be next, but I’m feeling better now. I’ve got plenty of paranormal and romantic suspense in me, so I’m good for now. It only leaves the question of which one do I start next? None - until my current MS is sparkly and the full gets requested.

I’ve heard interviewers asking authors where their ideas come from. This exercise has proven to me that when Katie asks…I don’t have an answer. Out of the air? Out of the infinite realm of possibilities that a devious mind like mine can concoct? Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of time to come up with an answer since our interview is scheduled for...uh…well...lets just say they haven't called to confirm a time and place yet.

But let me play the Katie for all you writers out there… “where do your ideas come from?”

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fun and Games

No, we will not be playing dodge ball on this playground. I hate that game. I always ended up taking a ball to the face and walking around the rest of the day with the waffle imprint from the red rubber on my cheek. Can you say humiliation? I can.
We're going to play a writing game of course! I'm going to shamelessly steal an excellent idea from Ms. Snark (because ideas aren't copyrighted). I'm going to list several words and/or phrases below. Write me a scene with all, some or a few of the items from said list. Make it as emotional, humorous, dark or seductive as you'd like. There is a scoring system. There are prizes. 500 words submitted by 6 PM CST to I can't wait to read what everyone comes up with. Even if you don't consider yourself a writer please try it. It can be very fun to let your imagination run wild. You'll see.

The lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Malfunction
Manolo Blahnik
Cuddle Kids
Supreme Court Justice
Polar Bear
Le Cordon Blue
Jump Start

Have fun!

And if you missed PM's second post yesterday make sure you check it out! We're very proud of her.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

News Flash!

I was still reveling in the excitement of seeing my name in the magazine yesterday when I received an email from the editor this afternoon. The subject was URGENT, NEED REWRITE. I opened the email to learn that she wanted me to revise a short romance story I'd mailed to her late last month. I needed to change it from a male POV to a female POV.

And the good news is that she needs those revisions TOMORROW!

They tell us to be careful what we wish for. I've just been introduced to the exciting world of publishing and eleventh hour revisions.

After I quit saying "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" I printed off the formatted copy she'd attached and tackled the piece line by line. Then I did a little research on a few things and re-read it line by line. I think I'm ready to type in the revisions, sleep on it and email it back to her tomorrow morning.

I am now 4 for 8 with my submissions to Dorchester Media. That's not too shabby, especially since I haven't received the other 4 back in the SASE with a big R stamped on them. Oops! I better not jinx myself.

Oh Oh Oh Oh What a Feeling -- Again -- But look for the real blog after the hoopla

You may remember when I posted a month ago about a short story being published in the May issue of True Confessions magazine. Well today I found the June issue, which contains not only an article I wrote, but an article with a by-line. The "trues" don't give a by-line on fiction, but several months ago I saw that they have several feature articles in the back of the magazine and those are non-fiction. I had a short article I wrote last year for another market, but it wasn't picked up. So I went onto the email loop for "trues" writers and asked the editor if only the editorial staff wrote features or if they accepted submissions from other writers.

She told me to send her a written pitch. I mailed it on a Friday and the following Tuesday she called to say it would be perfect for a column that targeted mothers and to send it on. Yay for me!

I had a little bit of a problem though. The original article was only 500 words and this column is more like 1200 words. So off I went in search of more material to get the article up to the required word limit. With the help of the Internet and our own Counselor Shelley, I located the material I needed and set out to re-write the article and mail it in.

It's on the shelf and I made the cover too! Look at the bottom right -- HELP FOR THE STRESSED OUT MOM -- 30 Ways to Say I Love Me.

Just in case you couldn't see it in the photo above, here's the close-up.

And here's the article, with MY NAME. :-) You can even see Counselor Shelley's name at the start of the second paragraph.

I learned on April 30th that I sold another short story to the magazine for their July issue. It's tentatively titled "Wedding Belle Blues" and of course, my name won't appear on it. But I'm cool with that because my name will be on the check. And everyone's gonna know anyway because I'll burn up the cyberworld telling them.

Now the hoopla is over and I'll get to the real message of this blog.

I've had two interesting and eerily connected events happen over the weekend.

Last Saturday I sat by the pool at the campground where we have a little getaway trailer and listened to a woman talk about reading "trashy romance novels." Several years ago, I'd have let that comment slide. But no more.

I turned to her and asked her what authors she read. She mentioned La Nora and several others that I haven't read. Then the name Linda Howard was spoken. I don't know La Nora, but I have more than a passing acquaintance with Maven Linda. We've had conversations. She congratulated me on my first magazine sale. We've sat at the same table for dinner. And trust me, she doesn't write trash.

I told my poolside neighbor that I read and write romance and so do many, many friends of mine. None of us consider it trash and neither should she, because in doing so, she not only lowers her opinion of herself but she besmirches the reputation of writers who put in long hours at the keyboard to keep their readers entertained and in some cases, put food on the table and a roof overhead.

Also on Saturday, a member of the "trues" email loop posted and said she'd talked to a friend who also wrote confessions stories and aside from her husband, this friend had never told anyone. This member then asked the group if they told anyone other than family and/or the email loop about their sales.

Thus was unleashed a flurry of posts, most of which said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Heck yeah! I tell everyone and if they have a problem with it, it's THEIR problem and not mine." Most agreed that a "sale was a sale" and that it's a good way to put your writing skills to use, earn money for whatever reason. (Hello Atlanta! *g* ) and add to your writing credits.

Then another woman posted and said she'd bet good money that the friend lived in the South, which unleashed yet another flurry of posts about the differences in Southerners, sweet tea and why on earth is it so darned cold in the middle of May.

I've told EVERYONE about my sales. Heck, I bought copies for my mother and sister and shamelessly autographed the page my story appeared on. I considered it practice for my first book signing. When I told my mom about the first sale, she said she used to read the magazine when she was younger but got away from it and more into magazines dealing with home and family once I was born. My husband said he was proud of me. The other Playfriends celebrated with me as did my other writing friends.

So my question to you is this? Do you tell people that you read and/or write romance? If you're reading a romance novel in a crowded airport, do you hide the cover with yesterday's issue of USA Today? Or do you not give a rat's patootie what other people think?

I say we start a club. I have the t-shirts ready. *g* And yes, we can make it in blue.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What shall I write about?

Darling Geek and I had our normal Monday night conversation over dinner…

Me: “I have to write my blog entry and I don’t know what I’m going to write about.”

DG: “Write about the Luncheon.”

Me: “Possibly…”

DG: “Then write about your trip to the beach.”

Me: “Eh, maybe, but how interesting would that be?”

DG: “Didn’t your CP get a request for a full? Write about that.”

Me: “I could, I guess, but…”

DG: “Then write about the husband you’re driving to drink.”

Me: “Well…”

I think you get the picture. But that little exercise in seeming futility did actually inspire me. Substitute “next book” for “blog entry” and you get an idea of the state I’m in at the moment.

It’s time to start a new book. I’ve got ideas for several, but I don’t know which one to choose. There’s the book about the girlfriends who do a weekend in Vegas. There’s the one with the etiquette expert. Or how about the one where the image consultant makes over a cowboy chef? The characters in two books are more “alive” in my mind right now, but the other book has stronger plot ideas.

I need to pick one and jump in. But which one? How do you decide which idea is the one you need to chase down next? It’s not like one of my famous To Do lists, where the next logical project is easy to see. I don’t want another false start like I had on the book I shelved.

So how do you decide? Eeny-meenie-minie-mo? Numbers in a hat? Put the characters/titles in ABC order?


And, yes, my fabu CP got a request for a full on (what I think) is a really cool book—off a simple query, no less! Congrats and SQUEEE!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day, Part Deux

I'm going to take the easy way out and talk about Mother's Day today too! :) Hey, I've got to take advantage when I can.

My very understanding husband realized that the best medicine for me after the last few hectic weeks would be some time to myself. So we had a leisurely breakfast, then he threw me out of the house with some money and told me not to come back until bedtime. Bless him!

I went to the movies and saw Poseidon, which was great. I love the old one and the remake is just as good! Then I went to the craft store and clothing store and browsed to my heart's content, picking up some bargains along the way. My children gave me a gift certificate, so I bought some new bras (can't go wrong with good, quality underwear, right ladies!). Then I went flower shopping and out to dinner with my mother- and sister-in-law. It was great to enjoy adult conversation without any of us being interrupted by someone who wants the attention returned to them. Then I went to a coffee shop and had a caramel macchioto while I worked on my synopsis.

All in all, a wonderful day! I came home to lots of hugs and kisses before my husband put the kids to bed. Now I feel tired and happy and reluctant to start my week. But I know it will be a better week for the break I had today.

Many times as a mother I've felt under-appreciated and over-stressed. Many times I've felt invisible and tired. But there are other times my heart has swelled to bursting as I watched my children or cuddled them. I experience awe as I watch them grow up and learn new things. And through it all I wish with all my heart to be the best mother I can be. As a very smart person once told me, "If you worry about being a good mother, then you are one." I must be a great mother, because I worry about it a lot! :)

I'm not a traditional mother. I'm not a disconnected mother. I'm not a young or old mother. I'm just a mother hoping to make a peaceful, loving home for her family, while not losing myself in the process. Today I received hope that I've succeeded in some small way, for I received the following card from my husband:

You're more than a wonderful Mom--
you're the keeper of memories,
the maker of everyday miracles,
and the one whose love brightens the ordinary days
and makes every occasion special.
You're more than a wonderful Mom--
you're a remarkable woman who's thought of today and always with love
and a wish for everything that brings you joy.

Coming from a husband who normally goes for the funny cards, this one is extra special! His regard and insight means the world to me.

I'd like to remind all you mothers out there how special you are. You work hard, look out for everyone, do the grunt work nobody else wants, and second-guess your struggle to do the right thing, all the while trying not to lose yourself completely. Now that I'm a mother, I realize how hard all that really is. So here's to you! Great job!

How did all you ladies spend your Mother's Day?


PS The Children would like to wish our friend, author Rhonda Nelson, a speedy recovery from her surgery today! Take it easy, Rhonda, and milk the sympathy for all it is worth!

Moms Rock

The Playfriends want to wish our moms a wonderful Mother's Day, because our moms really rock.
(They put up with us, so you know they are the best.)
To all the moms who read this blog--a Happy Mother's Day to you as well! Momhood is often a job with little recognition, but we think you rock too. (Maybe not as much as our moms, but we're a little biased.)

Now, go call your mother...


PS: This marks our 200th blog post. That rocks, too!!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Gone Flat

I was running late this morning. I know I’m late if the school bus is going through my subdivision as I leave. If I don’t get out before it comes through, I will be even MORE late waiting for them to load up my neighbor’s 7 children. So, today I dashed out to my car and flew out of the driveway. As I headed down the street I noticed my car was really loud – like I was driving with my door open. What was all that road noise?

I pulled over and a truck behind me pulled along side to tell me my right front tire was VERY flat. No slow leak there. “So that’s what that noise was,” I said with girlish naiveté. I hadn’t left my subdivision yet, so I turned around and went back to my house very slowly (waiting, of course, for the bus to load up my neighbor’s 7 children). I made a phone call to my boss telling him I’d be late, one to my mother asking if I could ride to work with her and another to wake up DB and have him come outside to look at the car.

(Yes, the same car with the vacuum seal leak and the acceleration problem I’m ignoring.)

I might have driven twenty miles on that rim, my radio cranked up to block out the obvious. Sometimes my mind just misses the details. Had I even looked at my car, I would have noticed the tire. My mind was elsewhere.

I would have to say the same applies to my writing. I’ve mentioned that my revised partial is sitting as a paperweight in someone’s office in downtown Manhattan. That revision, with insights from the editor and the playfriends, is a far cry from the original one. The original that I thought was fine. There may have been some extra road noise, but I was bound and determined to ignore it until the editor pointed out the obvious. It needed work. Lots of work, but thank goodness they thought it was salvageable.

It was not as easy to fix my partial as it was for me to have DB take my tire in to be patched, but the results were the same. I came out with something much better than I started with. My MS had been flat, but I was too distracted to see the obvious problems. To be honest, I read my revision letter going “yep,” “yeah, I thought about that,” and “I understand what she means there,” all the way through. I knew I had a flat, I just wanted to get to work.

Obliviousness or denial – your call. Do you turn a blind eye to problems in your MS? How do you handle the obvious issues that you’re not ready to address yet? I know we’ve got more than a few tile scrubbers around here when the flow isn’t flowing.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Deadline? What deadline?

My title this week is a quote from Stephanie Bond's speech at our Reader's Luncheon this past weekend cause at the moment it fits. I've put myself in deadline hell, because really, I need the practice and like Stephanie I seem to thrive on stress and drama. I must have this book finished, revised, and readable by Saturday because whether I'm done or not Angel will get it to read. Yes, I realize I could simply wait a day or two and mail it to her if I don't finish by Saturday but then I would equate that with missing my deadline and I see no reason to start unprofessional habits before I even become a professional. I'm knee-deep in another rewrite of the second half of this book. I simply haven't been satisfied up till now. But I'm getting there. I'm also heading to being over my word limit but that's something I can live with. I much prefer having room to tighten as opposed to needing to pad.

So here I am at eleven o'clock at night hopped up on caffeine (the pepsi variety because I hate coffee) and staring at the computer screen. I've spent all day staring at it and plan to spend a couple more hours staring at it before I head to bed. Then, bright and early, I will get the girls up and dressed, head to the day job and work on my writing some more. I just hope my bosses (one of which is my father) don't expect much from me the rest of this week.

How do you handle stress? Do you thrive on it or does it leave you winded and jittery?


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Endings and Beginnings

I’ve read a lot of blogging lately about impotence (writing related, not the other kind *g* ), writing schedules, letting go and being a good mother. Somehow, guilt always seems to factor into the equation.

Let me set your worried minds at ease. Waiting won’t kill you and your life won’t end if you take a morning or even a whole day away from writing and instead spend the time watching kid movies. Relaxing is actually good for your blood pressure, and if you weren’t a good mother, the authorities would have figured it out by now and knocked on your front door.

There’s too much worry in the world – myself included. And I’m trying to get a handle on it before it gets a grip on me.

Last weekend we had a big ending in our family. #2 son graduated from college. His degree is in Business Administration with a Law minor. He had a stellar athletic career during his university days that was capped off with a conference championship and MPV award two weeks ago. Now he has a new beginning as a college graduate.

We’re not quite sure what that beginning is going to be. His graduate school plans sort of got shanghaied when someone entered the coaching program unexpectedly and took the graduate assistantship slot he was hoping to get. He’s looking at his options and while I’m concerned about his future, he’s a big boy now and I have to trust that he will make the right decisions.

The graduation ceremony had the usual speeches but one in particular really caught my attention. The Alumni Association presented a distinguished service award to Dr. Frances Owl-Smith, the first female member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation to become a medical doctor. She entered college at age 29 as a non-traditional student and graduated four years later with a degree in medical technology. She then entered medical school and is now a practicing pathologist in a town near the university.

Her message to the students was this: Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. That line got quite a round of laughter from the graduates, but you could see quite a few parents nodding in agreement.

Dr. Owl-Smith then advised them to “get a life.” Careers are wonderful and she challenged them to do well in their chosen fields. But she also told them that in addition to doing well, they should do good. They should strive to make their community, their state, their country and their world a better place. Getting a life can be picking up trash along the roadside near your home. It can involve volunteering for any number of agencies who desperately need not only dollars but warm bodies to help. It can be reading to a small child and instilling the love of the written word in that still-developing brain.

So for those of you who are feeling helpless, pressured, unplugged or just frustrated in general, stop, take a deep breath, go outside and listen to the birds sing and say a little thanks for your blessings.

E-mail your best buddy or get together with your best friend or friends and take a little break from that rat race I mentioned earlier. I know it’s not always easy, especially when you have a deadline to meet. Whether self-imposed or set by your editor, it can usually survive a short break. Heck, it might be a benefit if it means getting your head screwed back on straight.

I tend to get a little preachy in here sometimes. I think it probably stems from weathering thirty-three years of marriage and the notches I’ve carved in the steering wheel after traveling the teen years with two sons. I’ll climb down off my high horse now. The saddle is beginning to chafe a little anyways.

Just as Dr. Owl-Smith was a non-traditional student, I look at myself as a non-traditional writer. Unlike the rest of the Playfriends, I got into this late in life. My passion for publication and devotion to writing is not nearly as strong as theirs. I admire them every day for their hard work and thank the good Lord that they included an old rat with an arthritic toe and a bum shoulder into their playground.

Do well, but also do good. I won’t put you on the spot by asking what you’ve done good lately, but if time and money were no object, what good would you do?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What's there to smile about?

What's this fellow smiling about?

It's Smarty Pants's birthday, that's what!

Happy birthday, SP, from the Playground gang. And here's to many more.

Best wishes from Angel, Instigator, Problem Child and Playground Monitor

We also have something else to smile about. Sometime Saturday we had our 8000th hit on the blog!

Time to Relax

Let’s see. The semester is over; I graded all the papers and crushed the GPAs of several students when I turned in final grades. The rewrite of my book is back in New York, and I start the waiting game all over again. The Luncheon is done (except for some paperwork), and I think it went really well. So what’s a girl to do?

Go to the beach.

That’s where I am right now. Our condo is right on the beach, and I’m typing this to the sound of the surf. It’s time to relax.

Well, I’m going to try to relax.

There are several more projects in the pipeline, just waiting for me to get home. AC’s first dance recital. My baby brother-in-law’s wedding (which involves overseas travel). Synopses for my next books to write. Workshop proposals to be written and mailed off. RWA Nationals in Atlanta. So much to do.

But none of that can really be done this week, and I’ve told myself I’m not going to try. I’m not even going to think about it. I’m not good at relaxing or at sitting still, but I’m going to try. I’m going to read books, build sand castles, and frolic in the surf. DG is looking forward to having a wife who’s not consulting one of four to-do lists all the time.

The world will not stop spinning because I’m not obsessing over it, right?


So if I’m quiet this week, it’s because DG has limited my laptop time, and I can’t obsessively check my email and the blog. We’ll see if this “relaxing thing” actually works, or if it just drives me insane.

The control freak is letting go of the reins for a few days. (Only because I know one of the other Playfriends will keep the world in order.) Wish me luck.

How do you let go? How do you trust everything will get done?


Monday, May 08, 2006

Professional Schedule?

There's something that's been bothering me for quite a while. When I first decided I would pursue a writing career, I read somewhere that in order to attain that goal I had to behave like a professional. Show up at the computer and write every day, even if it was just a little bit. No slacking or I'd never see the fulfillment of my dream.

Being the perfectionist that I am, this became the vision for my writing path. I purchased a calendar and proceeded to log in every time I did something writing-related. I was never so proud as when I had a whole week with something listed for each day. That stretched into a month, then two. Finally I had several months under my belt with most days filled with little notes. This is it, I thought. I've finally established a writing schedule.

Then the unexpected happened: I became pregnant. I didn't know at the time that the baby was a boy, but I should have considering my mind turned to mush before I even found out. There's something about those male hormones. My brain hasn't been the same since. What I did know was that I was terrified. Having been through three previous miscarriages, that first trimester becomes a pregnant woman's worst nightmare. Every cramp and ache saw me running to the bathroom, fearful I'd find evidence that I was miscarrying.

As you can imagine, all this drama had a negative impact on my writing schedule. I spent a great deal of time in doctor's offices; the rest of the time I tried to hold and console my daughter. At three, she didn't understand why Mommy couldn't pick her up or do a lot of our normal activities together. Then there was that mush factor again: I couldn't string two words together to save my life! This continued throughout the pregnancy, compounded by stories from acquaintances who always had a tale about so-and-so who quit writing the minute she had a baby. I feared my dream of publishing a book wouldn't survive the pressures of "newborn baby land".

I've since learned this isn't true. Life does go on. My urge to write returned about six weeks after the birth of Little Man, though I didn't have much time to indulge. Instigator and I were pregnant at the same time, so we reassured each other a lot and encouraged each other to continue writing when we had the chance.

Though I'm slowly learning that my writing schedule must change according to my life circumstances, I still struggle with the notion that in order to truly succeed I must work on my book every day. That if I don't, I'm a failure in some way. That I'll never be a true professional. Probably that perfectionist side of me again. Now I look at my calendar and see many blank days. Some because I just couldn't find the time to write or didn't make the time. Others because I was in such a hurry that I got the writing done, but forgot to write it down. :)

Do you feel pressure as an unpublished writer to produce at a certain rate? If you're published, how did you handle this before you got The Call? What kind of writing schedule works for you?


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Presenting the New Graduate

Being the oldest member of the Playground crew (yeah PC, I KNOW I've been married longer than you've been alive) has its advantages. I no longer have to worry about the high cost of college tuition because #2 son graduated from college yesterday. It was a momentous occasion to say the least. We had quite a few family members there -- grandma, older brother, aunt, uncle and cousin -- and afterwards had a wonderful catered dinner at the B&B where the DH and I were staying to celebrate the other momentous occasion, our 33rd wedding anniversary.

Of course now I have other things to worry about -- #2 son's current jobless situation, whether he's going to get into grad school and the high cost of college tuition for the grandbaby that's due next month.

We're never without worries. We just trade one set for another.

This is #2 son on the big screen just after he was awarded his diploma.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Rest time on the Playground

The Playfriends are tired.

Well, I know three of us are...Kira, Alex and I worked our chapter luncheon today. I love those two--hardworking and uncomplaining. I never would have made it through without them. But I had a good time at the luncheon, my mom won a nice raffle basket, and I got to meet a lot of nice people. I think we raised a goodly amount of money for charity as well.

I'm assuming Danniele is tired. With her Mom's wedding today, I imagine she's dragging too.

Marilyn is at graduation--sometimes boring, but at least not exhausting. I won't speculate on the anniversary part of the weekend. :-)

I think it's time we pull out the rest mats and lie down...

So how's your weekend?


Friday, May 05, 2006


I bet you're wondering what that title is all about. Well, rest assured it has nothing to do with "ED." It's about me. In December, I paid off my car. Five long years of payments at an end at last! Income freed up for other bills. My joy, however, was short-lived. For those of you without a car payment, you know this angers the Car Finance Gods. They insist you continue to pay their monthly tributes, if not to Ford Finance, than to the local dealership or garage.

About a month ago, I paid a large tribute to the local dealership for a vacuum seal leak. Of course, they insisted on the add-on of other ridiculous things like a throttle flush or some stupidity that’s overpriced and probably unnecessary. It worked fine for about three weeks. Now my car sputters and coughs when I’m trying to moderately accelerate. Let me just say that I know very little about cars. DB has been trying to teach me. I have learned how to change my oil, spark plugs and even changed my own brakes and rotors last year. But that’s it. When my car makes a sound I don’t like, something that is obviously beyond my skill level, I turn up my radio. Total denial.

As we have established that we’re all control freaks, you can understand how much this bothers me. Unlike most things, I can’t just pop the hood and fiddle with it until its running right. It’s not a casserole or a scene from my story that I can fix. If I can’t fix either of those, I can always toss it and start over. Not so with a car. Gotta have it. The whole situation makes me feel impotent. I hate that. Seems to be going around lately.

Monday, the USPS confirmed that my revised partial has successfully arrived in New York City. I edited, cut, plotted, planned and revised my heart out for two months. I printed and packaged it up with love. Now, it’s out of my hands. Nothing I do now will have an impact on what the editor thinks about my partial. They may never see the changes I’m making on the rest of the story which makes it hard for me to focus on the rest of the MS. Why bother fiddling with the rest of it if the partial gets rejected? Of course I can submit to other places, wallpaper my office with rejection letters…yippee.

Part of me just wants to wait. Hold my breath until I turn blue or I hear back from NYC – whichever comes first. Really, it’s all I can do. Turn up the radio and focus on something else. Hopefully, my car won’t die a horrible death in the middle of a highway or major intersection. Hopefully it will clear up on its own (ha!), need something simple like fuel injector cleaner (ha!), or can be easily fixed by a local handyman that isn’t trying to put his kids through college. The same goes with my MS. I’ll just turn up the radio and keep working on other things to keep me from obsessing about the strange sound until there’s something I can do about it. Hopefully in this case, I’ll get to send on the full instead of launching into a head banging tirade of frustrated tears.

Don’t think SP is capable of that? Oh you just wait. I save it all up. So…what makes you feel completely helpless? What do you do to help yourself along?


PS. It’s Cinco de Mayo, people! I don’t care if you’re Irish or Pakistani – get out there and have a margarita!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ho Hum

For a writer I have surprisingly little to say tonight. This entire week has been a bit...there. You know what I mean? Just blase. I've been surviving but not really enjoying anything. For an optimist like me these kind of weeks drive me crazy. There should be something exciting, something surprising, something to enjoy. So far it's all been the same old same old. Perhaps it's the fact that I've come home from the day job every night this week with a headache. It makes dealing with hyper children, bath time, bed time, us time, a bit daunting and uninspiring.

There is something to look forward to though. This Saturday is the Reader's Luncheon for the Heart of Dixie chapter of RWA. Most of the playfriends will be there (the ones that won't have an excused absence from PC, the event coordinator). And while I thoroughly enjoy this weekend every year (who wouldn't like to sit and talk to their favorite authors?) what I'm really looking forward to is the opportunity to host my own author table. Maybe next year. Or the year after that - although I hope it's next :-). I'll get there. In the meantime I'm going to use the anticipation to pull me out of this funk I've sunk into.

What helps get you through the blue patches in your life?

Instigator - who's hoping everyone else is having a more upbeat week than she is.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What I Did on My Weekend Vacation

I traveled 800 miles last weekend to attend a college track meet. I know that some folks think track meets are about as exciting as oh… watching paint dry. But that’s because they don’t have a dog in the race so to speak. I had a son in the race and it was the most exciting day I’ve had in years.

Last December I wrote about #2 son's journey as a runner.

Last weekend was his swan song as a collegiate runner and he ended his college track career with a bang. He earned a third consecutive individual outdoor championship in the 1500 meter run, placed third in the 800 meter run ninety minutes later and in an absolutely amazing show of talent, skill and just plain guts, he finished fourth in the 5000 meter run just an hour after running the 800.

His coach asked him to run the 5000 because the team needed the points. He didn’t have to win; he only had to beat the four runners from the only team with a chance at taking the point lead. After one lap, he was in last place. But one by one, he used runners as shields against the wind on the front side of the track, and then picked them off on the backside. He finished to a standing ovation from not only his proud parents and teammates, but to other spectators who were awed by his performance. By the way, he beat those four runners.

The coaches were also awed by his performance and voted him as the Most Valuable Performer for the meet. I’d say he ended his college career in style.

He will graduate this Saturday and I'll get all blubbery and then we'll have a wonderful family celebration dinner with 8 family members and 2 guests present.

So… what does this have to do with writing? Maybe not a whole lot but I’m running in circles this week and it’s easy for me to write about #2 son and running.

On the other hand, maybe it has a lot to do with writing. Writers need to believe, they need a support system, they need a plan and a dream and goals. A trophy or a t-shirt every once in a while makes you feel pretty good and a pat on the back and recognition from your peers is an unbelievable feeling.

Runners are classified as sprinters, middle distance and long distance. Writers are the same. A good coach will play to each runner’s strength and have him or her in the event that showcases that strength. Writers should do the same. Write to your strength. Write what you love be it poetry, short stories or novels, comedy, romance or suspense.

Sometimes you win and score all the points. Sometimes you just don’t finish last and you think “Hey, I’m not so bad after all, am I?” Sometimes you just gut it up, keep putting one word after another on the page until you cross the finish line and type “The End.” And that will always get you a standing ovation from the Playground gang. We understand the importance of that feat.

Here’s a photo of #2 son crossing the finish line in his second race of the day. During the first race I was still figuring out how to use the new digital camera. By the third race I was a blubbering mess.

Back in that December blog I wrote
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.

I had a nice surprise waiting in my mailbox when I returned from the track meet. It was my third contract from True Confessions magazine. This one is for a story called "Wedding Belle Blues" and it's tentatively set for the July issue.

Ya know -- I'm beginning to believe I might be a writer after all.

How about you? Do you believe?

P.S. I had an orthodontic adjustment today and if it accomplishes what it's supposed to, these braces will come off on June 6th! Yippee!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Books I can't live without

You know that game where you have to pick five books to take with you to a desert island? I hate that game. First of all, no matter which five you pick, someone’s going to argue with you or make fun of your choices. Second, I rarely believe the lists people make—half the time, they’re just trying to impress somebody. (Yeah, right, like you really want to spend what’s left of your lonely life slogging through Moby Dick over and over again.) Third, how could I possibly choose? There are too many books out there that I haven’t read yet—how can I possibly make a list when I don’t have all the choices?

Maybe I’m making this game too hard. Maybe I should just quit playing it with English grad students (hence the whole Moby Dick one-upmanship). Heck, I can’t choose a favorite song or movie either. Too many possibilities.

But there are some books that are indispensable. Books that should be on everyone’s shelf—whether you want to be a writer or not. So, while not necessarily the books I’d take to a desert island, I wouldn’t want to live without them.

1). The Dictionary. Seriously. Yes, I’m enough of a geek that I find the dictionary an endless font of entertainment and have been known just to flip it open for fun, but every house should have at least one. Three would be optimal. I don’t care if the dictionary is on-line these days; nothing beats looking up a word. The definitions in a real dictionary are far more complete than the ones on-line, and you often stumble upon a new word while you’re looking up a different one.

2). A thesaurus. I can barely say the word, much less spell it, but a thesaurus can stretch your vocabulary in wondrous new ways. Synonyms require you to distinguish fine shades of meaning as you search for le mot juste. Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

3). Bartlett’s Quotations. So you can do what I just did and go look up exactly what Mark Twain said about the “right word.”

4). A grammar book. Because no one can honestly remember where all the commas belong.

5). The Bible. I don’t care what religion you are (and y'all know I'm not exactly a theological scholar, so this has nothing to do with religion, per se). So much of literature, art, music-- you name it-- is either directly based on, alludes to, or builds from the Bible.

6) A good mythology book. Again, so much alludes to or builds on mythology, a good working knowledge opens up a world of meaning.

7) The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Because there is a whole world waiting for you in those plays and sonnets. The language may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see how powerful writing can be. The man’s a freaking genius.

Four of these books are on the shelf directly above my desk at all times--and they wouldn't be on the list going to the island. The other three are only a bookshelf away. Of course, they share that bookshelf with all the other books I love—a couple of hundred at least that I just can’t bear to part with. No way I could just pick five of them to come with me to the desert island.

So I’m not going to ask you to do the impossible and pick the five books you’d take with you…I’d worry if you were able to narrow it down to five anyway. Instead, what books do you think are indispensable—as either a writer, a reader, or simply a human being?