Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And now for something completely different (at least coming from me)

I’m basically a perky, optimistic person, but like most folks, I like to whine about all the little things that tick me off or make me angry. This Blog, of course, gives me the perfect forum (and there have been plenty of idiots recently begging to be blog fodder), and I’ve subjected y’all to plenty of my rants about this and that. It’s easy to concentrate on the small annoyances of life to the extent we ignore the small things that make us happy.

So here are ten random (and possibly odd) things that make me happy and cause a smile— excluding the obvious (like the sound of Amazing Child’s giggle) and the clichéd (like rainbows and puppies).

1. Halloween Candy. I love to bring home the candy for the Trick or Treaters. (I know, I don’t need the calories, and my mother is probably calculating the amount of money she’s invested in my dental work, but hear me out.) The cute little individual packages bring back memories, but more than anything I love the smell of the Super Bubble Bubble Gum. (Admit it, you know exactly the smell I’m talking about. Nothing else smells quite like it.) That’s the taste and smell of proper bubble gum—even if it sticks to my fillings and has a sugar content that has put many a dentist’s child through college. Super Bubble is a fabulous treat (at least until it turns into that flavorless concrete after about four minutes) that I only indulge a couple of times a year.

2.) T-Ball. Now, we all know I’m not the sporty type, but even I love to watch kids play T-Ball. First Base is making a daisy chain while the center fielder braids the left fielder’s hair. So what if the batter runs the bases in the wrong direction? One good T-Ball game will have you practically peeing in your pants from laughter. And the kids have such a good time—win or lose.

3.) Hot Showers—especially on cold days. I don’t normally have time for long soaks in the tub, but a hot shower is the next best thing. Something about the shower clears my head—anything from plot problems to world peace can be solved when I’m in the shower. Once I’m warm all the way through and squeaky clean from head to toe, I feel like I can conquer the world.

4.) Rainy days when I don’t have to go anywhere. Rainy days beg to be spent under the duvet. Naps, book reading, maybe a snuggle with DG and AC— I love a day when I don’t have to get up and go anywhere. And the sound of the rain is unbelievably relaxing.

5.) Fluffy socks. I will wear shoes designed by sadists destined cripple me as long as they are cute and fabulous, but when I’m home I want warm, soft, fluffy socks. I’m cursed with cold toes, so the warmer the socks the better, but they must also be soft and fluffy. I don’t care if they are God-awful ugly as long as they warm my tootsies and feel good on my feet. God Bless the fluffy sock makers.

6.) Mundane things made pretty. Nobody likes scrubbing the bathtub, but doing it while wearing lipstick-red gloves with a spotted faux-leopard trim make it much more bearable. Storage containers in rainbow colors. Paperclip holders that look like frogs. A child-sized computer mouse painted to look like a lady bug. The smallest things can make a difference—including taking something small and normally ignorable and making it smile-worthy.

7.) The smell of my mom’s perfume. Instant comfort. Even if I smell it on another woman, it brings a smile to my heart and a feeling of security. Mom left a sweater at my house one day; I put it on and snuggled into a warm, mom-smelling hug. Excellent mental health moment.

8.) Baby shoes. First it’s the ridiculousness of the item—why on earth do babies need shoes? It’s not like they’re walking anywhere, and keeping shoes on a baby’s feet is an exercise in futility. (Ask Counselor Shelley—we decided the actual job of a Godmother is to keep up with the baby’s shoes during the christening.) But they’re so darn cute. You can’t help but oooh and ahhh over the things—even if they do cover the truly adorable thing: baby toes.

9) Wearing sweaters (or t-shirts) belonging to the Darling Geek. That line in Keith Urban’s song “Take your cat and leave my sweater,” is immediately understandable by both sexes. Every woman’s husband (or boyfriend) has an item of clothing that ends up on his beloved’s body on a regular basis. It’s a double standard—a woman is expected to wear clothes belonging to her man, but if the man raids her closet, it’s grounds for divorce or serious counseling. DG has two sweaters that routinely smell like my perfume, but they look cute on me, darn it. But the comfort (and fashion) aspect aside, what really makes me smile is that DG doesn’t mind when his clothes end up on me. That’s love.

10.) Reading comments on the blog. No, that’s not a shameless ploy to get lurkers to comment. Clicking over to the blog and finding someone has responded to my entry always makes me smile. I’m a writer with only this Blog as my forum; I love knowing I’ve made a connection with someone by something I’ve written—even if it’s over something silly like a common love of baby toes.

So, there are ten admittedly odd things that make me happy. What odd thing makes you happy and puts a smile on your face for no good reason?

The Not-So-Problematic-Today Child

P.S. And a Happy Halloween to all. Cross your fingers that it doesn't rain tonight or else I'll have a very grumpy AC on my hands.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Y'all will have to bear with me this morning. After a weekend of house painting, I'm completely brain dead. So if this post is rambling or doesn't make much sense, just pat me on the head and say, "Bless your heart." (That's what we do here in the south.)

Last week, I began reading a book I'd really been looking forward to. Said book was by an award-winning, well-known author I'd never had the chance to read, so I was really excited to see what the hoopla was about.

I gave up after chapter four.

It wasn't the writing or the plot, it was the characters. I simply couldn't bond with the heroine. She was, in writer speak, TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). Not only that, her thoughts were chaotic and hard to follow, without any clear cut process leading from one place to another. While I wasn't quite to the point of wishing her killed off, I figured if she was going to make such dumb choices, so totally against logic with no apparent reasons to back her decisions up, then the police were fully justified in arresting her for the murders. And it wouldn't bother me a bit.

And don't even get me started on the other characters in the book... not one of them was relatable or even remotely likeable. If this is the world she lives in, no wonder this heroine is so screwed up. (Though I don't feel sorry enough for her to wade through 15 more chapters, especially since I've already guessed who the killer is. A quick glance at the back before I throw the book against the wall proves me right.)

Now, my heroines have made mistakes. They may have made wrong decisions based on their feelings at the time instead of what would have been the logical choice. But I sincerely hope that their mistakes endear them to the reader rather than push the reader away. And even if the reader doesn't agree with the decision, he or she may at least understand WHY the character chooses that particular action.

As I've heard said before, you can mostly do whatever you want in a book, as long as it is well motivated.

Needless to say, it would take a lot of prompting to get me to read another of this author's work. The plot would have to be really spectacular to draw me in again. Which is unfortunate, because I know lots of readers out there love her work.

What is it that helps you bond to the heroine in a book? Does she have to be like you? Have similar tastes in food, clothes, men? Or just have similar values and beliefs you can relate to? What, in your opinion, makes heroines TSTL?

I'll check back in later when my brain has kicked into drive.


P.S. No, I'm not talking about the fabulous book by Beverly Barton listed in our What I'm Reading section. You can see a review of that book and Close Enough to Kill on the Playground in November. But I purposely didn't mention the author's name because that's just rude.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Road Warrior Returns

Last year at Christmas my sister and I decided instead of exchanging presents, we would promise to take two trips together this year. We'd done a girls' trip to Nashville a few years ago and had a blast, so we knew traveling together was a good thing. In June, I spent a week at her home on the coast of Georgia. She lives in a resort area so why go somewhere else during the summer?

Last Saturday she arrived at my home and got to see our new house for the first time. Then on Sunday we drove to Birmingham so that Great Auntie Bev could meet Baby O for the first time. Then on Monday morning we headed out to travel the Natchez Trace Parkway.

En route to the Trace, we stopped in Tuscumbia, Alabama to see Ivy Green, the childhood home of Helen Keller. And as an added treat, we had lunch with Beverly Barton.

We ended our day in Tupelo, Mississippi in a wonderful bed and breakfast across from Elvis's elementary school. Sadly, we missed fellow Heart of Dixie member Peggy Webb's booksigning by a day.

The Natchez Trace was a 440 mile trail used by Native Americans and early explorers as both a trade and transit route as well as a post road for mail delivery by Pony Express riders. The Parkway follows the general path of the original trace. In some spots you can visit the original trace as shown in the photo below.

The Trace Parkway ends in Natchez, Mississippi, which sits on the mighty Mississippi River. At this time of year, the camellias are in bloom and grace the city with their vibrant color.

Natchez is also home to a number of antebellum mansions, which are open for tour. Stanton Hall is shown below. It covers an entire city block.

Rosalie, which sits at the site of the old French Fort Rosalie, has extensive gardens and sits on a bluff overlooking the river.

The best part of our trip was our night at Bluff Top, an old Victorian house, which has been lovingly restored and turned into a B&B. Our host, Neil Varnell, creates such an atmosphere of warmth and welcome and treated us (and the other couple staying there) to an elegant breakfast in the house's beautifully furnished dining room. The pièce de résistance was the view from the balcony. You just can't help but relax watching the river flow by.

The big surprise of the trip was a little detour off the Trace to a place called the Ruins of Windsor. This home was built by a wealthy planter and is considered by some historians to be the largest and finest antebellum mansion built in Mississippi. An artist rendering of the mansion is shown below.

The house survived the War Between the States but burned to the ground in 1890 when a party guest threw a cigarette into a wastebasket. Twenty-three columns and some sections of brass balustrade are all that remain today of Windsor. We traveled about ten miles off the main road and then turned onto a gravel path to reach the ruins. As we rounded a curve, the columns appeared before us and both of us said "Wow!" I was reminded of the ruins in Rome and Athens -- columns standing like quiet sentinels as a reminder of another time and way of life.

Sadly, however, someone in the department of transportation failed spelling.

Our trip came to an end yesterday (we did get to visit Baby O again!) and my sister left this morning to make her way back to the coast via Atlanta where my nephew is a student at Georgia Tech. Now I get to deal with the tons of emails, stack of laundry and empty fridge and pantry.

Life must go on but it was sure nice to take the break for a few days and see a new part of the country. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll do this again next year. But where???

What's been your favorite road trip?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anyone Can Do It...

One of my local radio station morning shows has decided they are going to write a romance novel. The premise is that they, along with contributions from the listening audience, will write a page a day and that the finished product will be published and the proceeds go to Toys for Tots. You can read the story here.

I’m hoping there is some sort of explanation for this on the radio that I missed. Perhaps that there is an e-publisher working with Toys for Tots that is guaranteeing to publish the books from various radio stations and donate the sales. Or that they’re auctioning off printed copies of the ‘book’ somewhere. I’m really not sure. I just hope they aren’t doing this expecting the book to just sell the old fashioned way. Every editor in NYC would laugh this off their desk and it certainly wouldn’t be published in time for Toys For Tots to make money this Christmas. Or next Christmas for that matter.

All I do know is that it annoys me. It shouldn’t. It’s for charity. But it does. Not enough to keep me up at night, but everytime I hear them talk about it on the radio, I wince. Maybe it is because as romance writers, we are always fighting the stigma of quick read trash that is EASY to write. So easy a couple DJs and some radio listeners can do it. Then publish it. No problem.

Yeah. Ok. So I’ll just run out and write a story and publish it so I can donate the money to Toys For Tots too, if its that easy. Heck, I’ll sell three! And if they can do my job so easily, maybe I can run out and run the radio station for a while. Easy as pie.

I won’t go into the story itself except to say that I find it to be a little choppy, it head hops, moves too quickly, they tell instead of show and the heroine keeps referring to the hero as her prince. (suppressing gag reflex) All as to be expected from novice writers, really. It takes a lot of work to write well enough for publication, a fact they seem oblivious to. (As an aside, if they do manage to really get this published, I'm going to have kittens.)

But I have to ask - why a romance? Why not write a mystery? Or a war drama? Why not a coming of age tale of a young boy coping with the stigma of his family’s harrowed past?? Why did they choose a romance novel? Just brings me back to the stigma. Cause its easy. Sure. I’m sorry I can’t suppress my bitterness about this. I guess it has just brought to the surface in my mind every person that has said they’re writing romance so they can get published, get an agent, then write a real book. Cause everyone knows romance novels are formulaic. Cheap. Trashy. They don’t offer any real messages or contribute to literature as a whole. It’s just housewife entertainment.

...Deep breath...Ok. I’ll stop now. I’m writing this blog as a substitute for actually contacting the radio station itself. I want to write them and explain to them where their story has gone awry. Give them some pointers. Make sure this goes out into the world as a reasonably well written piece of romantic fiction that represents the genre well. But I won’t. I don’t want them to say – well, who are you to tell us what we’ve done is bad? Have you published anything??

Not exactly. Doesn't mean I don't have an opinion or know something about the biz. But I still don't want to answer the question.

Anyway...despite what people might say or think about the romance community (sidenote - did you hear about the political race in Texas where a female candidate is accused of being a pornographer by her opponent for writing a romance novel in 1990?) I still am proud to be a part of it. What about the romance writing industry (whether you're a writer or a reader) makes you proud?


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Minivan Mom

Learning to drive on a minivan would be enough to scar any teenager. Which is why at sixteen I swore I'd never, ever, never drive one again.

Oh how things change. At thirty - with two kids - I've had mine for two years. I will admit I fought the idea at first. Now I absolutely love the thing. In fact, when DH and I began discussing the merits of trading in said minivan for a car - better gas mileage, lower monthly payments, the kids are getting older - I was surprised to find myself disappointed. There are so many things I would miss - most of all the automatic sliding door that makes coralling two children that much more manageable.

But the very fact that we've been discussing the pros and cons of the minivan begs the question, when did I become the minivan mom?

It's definitely not what I had planned for my life. Sure I knew I always wanted to have kids but somehow I thought I'd miss that PTA Mommy factor.

Apparently not. And the fact that I've just spent my entire day tracking down a wooden picnic table in October (I won't mention how many people bit back laughter when I asked if they had one in stock...) proves that I've truly crossed that threshold. I've become my mother.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Mom. She was a really good mom! But I always thought I'd be different. Not better, just different. And yet I'm not. I spend my mornings rushing to get lunches packed, children dressed, permission slips completed. I write checks, dole out milk money and run to Wal-Mart at 7:45 in the morning because we need icing for our homework.

My life has become a merry-go-round. And I wouldn't change it for a thing. Which is why we've decided to keep the van. Please pray that gas prices stay low.

How is your life different than you'd imagined it would be?


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Seven Habits to Build On

Last week I heard Dr. Stephen Covey on the radio talking about his newest book. While I enjoyed listening to him, I was reminded of one of his earlier books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My husband read the book first and then raved about it so much that I took a look at it too. It's a guide to personal and professional life management based around simple principles.

I needed a blog topic for this week and had to write it early (as you read this, I'm with my sister on a girls' road trip along the Natchez Trace and are probably touring an antebellum mansion or visiting an antique shop), so I began to think about the 7 habits as they would apply to writing. I looked for my husband's copy of the book and finally determined it must still be packed away. But never fear -- the Internet came to my rescue. So without further ado, I present The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers.

1. Be Proactive

Covey uses the definition of proactive coined by Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who survived the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. He coined the word proactive to mean someone who takes responsibility for everything in life instead of blaming other people and circumstances.

So how does this apply to writing? You've decided to be a writer. It's probably in your blood and you can't NOT write. So write. Just do it. If you don't write, then don't point the finger of blame because whenever you point one finger at someone or something else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.

Sure, things are going to happen to stand in your way. Your boss wants you to work overtime. The baby gets sick and demands your full attention. Crap happens. But it's how you deal with it that counts. Self-imposed deadlines are different than deadlines imposed by someone else, but there's usually a way to resolve things. Be proactive as opposed to reactive. See the glass half full rather than half empty.

2. Begin with the End in Mind
The end, as defined by Covey, is your purpose. And you must define that purpose before you can begin the journey toward fulfilling it. You cannot hit a target that does not exist. Your purpose will involve goals and those goals should be realistic and achievable. Then be accountable for your progress toward your goal. Find someone to report to and reciprocate the favor. It's much harder to sit on the fence and do nothing when you have to account for yourself.

Don't merely have a dream to write. Stop sitting on the fence. Have a goal to write. A goal is a dream with a deadline. Set yourself a realistic writing goal. Tell it to someone and then report your progress daily.

However (isn't there always a "however"?), be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. Make sure you can handle the consequences.

3. Put First Things First

For this habit, Covey talks about prioritizing the work necessary to achieve your goal. He distinguishes important from unimportant and urgent from non-urgent. Determine where your activity falls in that matrix. It's very easy to expend excess time on busy work that looks important but may very well move you no further toward your goal than you were yesterday. Look at where you want to be and determine what has to be done first in order to get there.

Take a good look at the amount of research and planning that goes into your writing. Do you really need all that information or are you simply stalling or justifying it because it looks like work. Write down how you spend your time for a day and then evaluate each task in terms of importance and urgency. Perhaps you'll re-think the two dozen email loops and message boards you visit daily. Develop good time management skills so that deadline won't creep up on you when you're unprepared.

4. Think Win/Win

Win/Win is an attitude that looks to find solutions that are beneficial both to the individual and to the group as a whole. It has a basis in character and responsibility. The phrase "all for one and one for all" aptly describes this habit as does the term "deal or no deal." The win/win solutin isn't your way or my way, it's a better way.

When I think of this habit I immediately think of the Writing Playground. We conceived the idea over a weekend and had it operational in a month's time. We brainstormed and planned and chose solutions that benefitted the group. The website's success a testament to the character of each Playfriend.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Our natural inclination is for our brains to rev into action as soon as we hear something. As a result we often only half-listen to what someone is saying and then begin to offer advice. Because we've only half-listened, we offer advice based on half the facts, and that advice is more likely to be rejected. Listening thoroughly will give you all the information and you'll be more likely to establish a good relationship to the other person.

How does this relate to my writing? I don't feel like I know enough about writing to offer much in the way of advice to anyone. So mostly I listen and watch and understand more and more each day.

6. Synergize

Synergy is the effect of two or more persons working together to produce a total that is greater than the sum of the parts. Sounds impossible?

Look at the Writing Playground. It's a classic example of synergy in action. There is no way one person could have accomplished all that in the short amount of time. Together we were able to generate a total greater than the sum of the parts.

7. Sharpen the Saw

This habit focuses on balancing your life. Renew yourself in body, spirit and mind. Cultivate your interpersonal relationships. The well-balanced individual will be more productive in the long run.

This one is easy: it's not all about writing folks. Yes, writing is important. Yes, you have deadlines. But at some point you need to have fun. Read a book by a new author or re-visit an old favorite. Take a long walk and tune into nature. Visit a friend and chat over a cup of tea. Visit an attraction in your town that you've never been to. Learn a new game or skill. Take up a new hobby. You'll be a better person for it and your writing will benefit as well.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. It's as easy as that.

Which habit or habits do you struggle with? Which habit or habits do you excel at? Do you believe Covey's 7 habits can help your writing?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wuuuv, Twue Wuuuv! (Updated!)

(Sorry, gratuitous Princess Bride reference. I just love that movie!)


I really am tickled to hear everyone's wuv--I mean, love story. This, my friends, is why I write romance.

I'm also so tickled that we had new commentors today! Yay! I love it when y'all de-lurk.

To reward the de-lurkers and celebrate everyone's love stories, all four of our new commenting friends get books from the Playground bookshelf. So, pearl, ellie, crystalg, and alissa--send me an email at problemchild@writingplayground.com, and we'll get you a book in the mail.

Don't you just love happy endings!

PS: Sharon, you came in just under the buzzer. I'll share the love and send you a book as well if you contact me at the above address.

Do you believe in destiny?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingLet me tell you a story…

My junior year of college, I decided I wanted to study abroad. My University had a great exchange program, so I applied and crossed my fingers I’d get accepted. While I waited to hear back, I started looking for possible summer jobs. The campus newspaper had an ad for counselors for a girls’ camp in Massachusetts. I thought that sounded like a nice change from the same ol', so I wrote off for an application.

Shortly thereafter, I found I’d been accepted into the exchange program. I was going to England!!! While a summer job at a New England camp might be fun, it didn’t pay nearly enough to finance a year abroad. The camp application went in the trash, and I got a job waiting tables. Less fun, but more money.

Come September, I crossed the Atlantic and checked in to my dorm. (It was actually my third choice of dorms, but I was over my disappointment about that by then. Really. I was.)

That’s when I met the Darling Geek.

Oddly, though, DG was sporting a pretty good tan that fall—something you don’t see much of in a cold, rainy country. I asked him about it. Turns out, he’d spent the last summer teaching sailing at a boys’ camp in Massachusetts. He’d had a great time—not so much with the pre-teen boys at his camp, but with the counselors from the girls’ camp across the lake.

The same girls’ camp I’d gotten an application for.

If I hadn’t been accepted to the exchange program, I’d have spent the summer at that girls’ camp. And I’d have met the Darling Geek there. Instead, we end up in the same dorm five thousand miles away.

DG claims not to believe in destiny or fate, but I think DG and I were meant to be together. One way or the other, I would have met him. I guess if your soulmate lives in another country, Fate has to get creative and hedge her bets.

We just celebrated our 11th anniversary. Thanks, Fate.

Do you believe in Fate? What about soulmates? Do you think you were destined to be with your Darling? Tell us your (or someone else’s) love story. Best tales will win books.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bum Glue

One can't be part of the writing community for long without coming across the concept of "butt in chair." This is writer speak for show up and do the work, whether you feel like it or not.

Contrary to popular myth, writers can't just wait for inspiration to hit before they get to work. For published authors, there's an editor-imposed deadline. Miss that deadline without a monumentally good reason and a black mark appears on your track record. Industry professionals have long memories for multiple marks of this type.

Unpubbed authors or those without contracts may not have an externally imposed deadline, but we better have an internal one or the book will never be finished. It's like saying you'll do something some day... Reaching The End is hard work, making self-motivation essential.

So why all this talk about getting the butt in the chair? Well, not all manuscripts just flow out of us in a sparkling river of words. Sometimes they have to be dragged out one grueling piece at a time. Or certain parts don't come easily, like the synopsis I'm currently hacking to pieces. (Instead of killing 3 pages I added 1.5. Ugh!)

Though it isn't always the case, most times this difficulty leads to avoidance, creating an uncomfortable cycle that keeps me away from writing. After a bit of reflection time, I simply have to force myself to work, one paragraph at a time, until it gets easier. And it does; each time I dread plopping my butt in the chair a little less.

I ran across a reference to this phenomenon recently as "bum glue". Charming, huh? But I have a feeling that if I could bottle and sell it, I'd make a fortune. Writers, especially newbies, are always looking for some magic formula to make this daunting process even a smidgen easier.

However, its just plain hard work. (If it wasn't, everyone would do it.) You either do it or you don't. For me, love of the process—no matter how hard it is at times—becomes the "bum glue" that brings me back to the chair even if I don't feel like it. Memories of the days where everything flows like magic are what keeps me there.

So how long does it usually take you to force yourself into the chair? Any motivational hints or stories you'd like to share? Any suggestions on how to bring this synopsis under control?!?!


Friday, October 20, 2006

Auf Wiedersehen!

My favorite t.v. show of the moment is Project Runway. Wednesday night was the season finale, where the four finalists presented their collections at Olympus Fashion Week and one of them won the big prize. ** Warning: Spoilers ahead for those of you behind on your TiVO. **

So out of the final four, I went into it rooting for Michael. I’d loved his work all season and if Kayne, my all time favorite, couldn’t make the final four, Michael was my next choice. Unfortunately, when the pressure was on, he didn’t deliver. I didn’t care much for his stuff at all. Laura’s designs were beautiful, classical, but not remotely innovative. Uli was the biggest surprise, forgoing her typical Miami beachwear for something a little more sophisticated and wearable outside a Caribbean resort.

But the winner was Jeffrey. Ahh...Jeffrey. He could be a jerk. He wasn’t above making family members of other players cry. He was all rock and roll with a tattooed neck and a soft side that you didn’t get to see until you saw him with his son. Love him or hate him, his designs were brilliant, innovative and edgy. You could argue that no woman over 22 would wear his stuff, but half the stuff that goes down the runway or gets put in a fashion magazine is over the top and more art than clothing.

In the end, no one really lost. Yeah, Jeffrey got the $100000 towards starting a line, the car, etc., but the other designers still got their work out there. I have no doubt that we will be hearing from all of those designers again in the future. Really, they all did such different work, it is hard to compare one to the other. If you aren’t a fan of sparkly evening wear, Laura wouldn’t be your favorite, but if you’re all about hip hop fashion, Michael is your guy. It’s subjective. Like writing and writing contests.

Yes, I’m finally bringing this around to writing. I recently saw some copy edits of a friend’s book that she’d gotten back from her publisher. If you’ve never seen these before, I fully recommend you harass a published associate into letting you see one. It was enlightening! As writers, we go to these workshops where editors tell us they are looking for a fresh voice. Unfortunately, that’s not something we can put our arms around, so we start nitpicking the details. Instead of making sure our 12 piece collection is cohesive and fashion forward, we spend hours fiddling with the hems and buttons. Yeah, an unfinished hem, or in our case, a bunch of odd typos may not impress a judge or an editor, but if the outfit shines, the details fall to the wayside. That’s what copy editors are there for. They don’t fix the storyline. They can’t fix your voice. They do fix comma and contraction issues, however, so do your best and let it go.

All this time I’ve been beating my head against a wall for using passive instead of active verbs. I should have been focusing on the story, the voice, the character development. That’s what they’re really looking for. Jeffrey’s pieces were made well, yes, but so were Laura’s. The difference was in the overall picture, the story, the voice. And yes, you may write historicals and your judge hates historicals and might lean more towards contemporary stories. But in the end, if it’s well written, those biases can be overpowered. And if they aren’t, even if you don’t win, you’re getting the exposure. Your name gets out there. You compete until you get better, then eventually, you do win.

So, if you watched PR, who was your favorite designer? I loved Kayne. He was way over the top, more Libarace than Ralph Lauren, but he could dress a woman’s shape like no one else on that show. I also liked Malan, but he was voted off before we could see much of what he could do.

If you didn’t watch, what was your last ‘a-ha’ moment with your writing? They come around now and then, something clicks in your brain and you think – I can’t believe I’ve been doing that all this time! Share yours.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Michelle for being a guest blogger with us yesterday! We really enjoyed having you on the playground and hope you'll pop in for some down time on the swing set again soon.
You know, there's a lot about becoming published that scares the bejebbers out of me. But nothing puts the fear in me quite like the thought of missing a deadline. And being the procrastinator that I am, it's probably not an unfounded fear. Well, it is in the fact that given a situation where my editor is waiting for my book and turning it in late means more work for her, a mark on my reputation and a point against her ability to trust me, then I'll be up around the clock in order to accomplish my goal no matter what.
But as an unpublished author there isn't the incentive of professional reputation and money on the line. It's just my own personal sense of accomplishment and ability.
And wouldn't you know that today I'm going to miss a self imposed deadline (really a playfriend imposed but an extremely necessary one). There are excuses - and some valid ones at that - but it doesn't matter. I'm disappointed in myself.
Life is a series of choices. No one said they'd be easy. In fact, as someone else more wise than I once said they're usually between crappy and crappier. At the moment I'm making the right choice but that doesn't do much for the disappointment.
How do you make the difficult decisions?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Michelle Buonfiglio GuestBlog: My Own Best Playfriend

Stacy and Bamabelle, you've won the Pirate Treasure! Please send your snail mail to romance@ibsys.com. Congratulations, thanks for playing and please visit us again!

In case you're wondering, the correct answers were (1) Linda Howard, Beverly Barton and Linda Winstead Jones, (2) private investigator, (3) she has a ripped bodice to mend and (4) Fabio Cannavaro AKA Canna.

I discovered our guest blogger’s website quite by accident while Googling for reviews of a friend’s book. But what a fortuitous accident it was! She has a literary background and is a true champion for the romance genre. I had the privilege of meeting her in Atlanta (she’s beautiful both inside and out), and when she suggested a joint blog venture I had to contain myself to keep from screaming. Okay… I screamed when I told the other Playfriends. *g*

Please make room on the swingset for Michelle Buonfiglio. And check below for the scavenger hunt for pirate treasure. But please -- no spoilers on the answers.

Ciao, Playfriends! Finally – a playground where I probably won’t be the last kid picked for the team!

It’s great to belong, to feel like somebody “gets” who you are and what you do. And though cliché, I think that’s part of why a lot of us become writers.

Oh, but I forget myself. Here in the States, you’re not really a writer unless you’re getting paid to do it, and there’s a hierarchy even to that. Writers publish, and real writers publish novels.

So, you’re slogging along on your manuscript, and you’re poppin’ your daily page goal, but you’re not really a writer because you’ve not yet sold anything, right? And on top of that, even the folks we love most often seem to think the prose we sweat is some kind of hobby, an insignificant pastime.

I write Romance: B(u)y the Book, a column and features syndicated and published over the Internet, the most important medium connecting romance readers and writers. It’s the best job I’ve had, and I dig making friends with readers, talking with them about the romance fiction and sexuality and snaxy guys (note from the Playfriends: this snaxy guy is here today just for Michelle), while hooking them up with authors whose books they love to buy and read.

I spend a lot of time hanging with writers in real life, too, so I’m sure you can imagine how many pitches I hear about their novels. Yet I’m jazzed about that, cause I understand what authors go through, heart and soul, getting from blank screen to book.

But guess how many times I’ve heard these questions from those very women: Do you write, Michelle? What are you writing?

Only the columns that are gonna sell your books, biatch.

Of course I only think that, because being out-loud snarky would sap too much of my good karma, and Pollyanna here is so not about making people feel bad.

We’re really fortunate if we find support for our writing anywhere. But when we can’t always get it from our sisters-in-arms, it can get kinda hurtful, especially if our careers nudge forward faster than our friends’, or vice versa.

Sure, a paycheck can go a long way toward soothing our bruised ego or feelings, but:

What do we do when it seems we’re the only ones who believe in us? How do you and your fellow writers support one another? What’s the dumbest thing anyone’s ever said to you about your writing or wanting to write?


Pirate Treasure Hunt:

Find the answers to the following questions, then email your answers with HUNT in the subject line to the Playground Monitor tonight by midnight (CST). Two lucky winners chosen randomly from all correct responses win Pirate Treasure: A 12-Pack of New Romance Novels!

  1. From www.WritingPlayground.com The Playfriends have fabulous Mavens. Name them.
  2. Last week’s www.WritingPlayground.blogspot.com 's guest blogger, Linnea Sinclair, had a very interesting and sneaky job before she turned to writing full-time. What was it?
  3. Go to www.WNBC.com/romance and read the feature review of “The Vampire Who Loved Me.” What’s keeping Michelle from writing more great things about Teresa Medeiros?
  4. Oct. 6th at www.RomanceByTheBlog.blogspot.com : Who is Michelle’s European of Choice?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pride and Prejudice, part 2

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I know, we've been through this already. Sadly, I'm forced to go there again.

(Kicks out soapbox and climbs on in a huff…)

Dear Huge Publisher of Literature Anthologies,

As I prepared to use your Literature of the Western World, Volume 1 (Fifth Edition) for the first time, I was appalled and dismayed to find the following statement in the introductory material to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

Romance, as a literary term, refers today to a kind of formulaic fiction about love affairs, written quickly, sold cheaply, and consumed thoughtlessly, as a pleasantly erotic diversion. […] A ‘romance’ is generally a vulgar, subliterary work. (1613).
As an instructor, it is difficult enough for me to convince a sophomore engineering student that literature has anything worthwhile or important to teach him. Your statement only makes a bad situation worse, as it perpetuates the myth of an arbitrary standard set by academic demi-gods separating Great Literature from Trash.

When faced with sweeping statements that denigrate a very popular genre, students are led to believe that if they read and enjoy such “vulgar” works, then they are obviously unable to read, understand, and appreciate the texts taught in literature classes. Perceived literary elitism is the bane of all classroom teachers; to have the elitism spelled out and endorsed by the class text practically guarantees that many students will not even attempt to connect to the texts in any meaningful way. After all, they aren’t part of that academic elite that is too good for genre fiction.

It is the height of arrogance for anyone—regardless of his or her academic credentials—to condemn an entire genre in such a manner. I also find the editors of the complete volume to be negligent in allowing such a discriminatory statement to pass uncontested. Northrop Frye found ten common characteristics in all of Shakespeare’s comedies. Is Shakespeare a “formulaic” writer? Austen’s Northanger Abbey is easily consumed in one sitting and seldom requires the reader to participate in any manner of deep thought. As most “great” texts can be bought in student paperback editions costing less than $5 each, the price of fiction does not seem to be a strong argument to its greatness. Shall we disregard both Sappho and the Amarushataka because they may be a “pleasantly erotic diversion?”

May I remind the author of this statement that Shakespeare, Austen, Bronte, and countless others were once dismissed as nothing more than popular trash. Only time and academic study have raised these authors to their current level of literary respect. To quote Samuel Johnson,

Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes cooperated with chance; all are perhaps more willing to honor past than present excellence […] The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns and the beauties of the ancients (A Preface to Shakespeare).
Perhaps the author of the introductory material should be less quick to pass judgment on any modern text.

Although the Preface to the fifth edition claims to avoid “imposing a single interpretation” (xxii), you have done just that. You have provided students with only one narrow, prejudiced point of view about a genre many of them enjoy. In doing so, you have alienated them from the text, the class, and literature as a whole.

That is unacceptable.

I hope the editors will remove this dismissive and arrogant statement from the sixth edition of the anthology. In the meantime, I will be lobbying the department heads at my university to find a text that encourages its readers to approach all literature (regardless of its genre or time period) with an open mind for its possibilities.

The Problem Child

That's what I wrote Monday instead of my WIP. It'll be going in the mail soon.

I hate arrogant, elitist academics. Literature snobs give all English teachers a bad name. Yes, it's their textbook, but they don't own the literary canon. They just need to pull the sticks out of their as...ahem. Sorry.

(Gets off soapbox and goes to get a strong drink to calm self down)

Don't forget--tomorrow is our super-duper dual guest blog with Michelle Buonfigulio of Romance: By the Blog. Lots of fun and great prizes!

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Toast!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In case you haven't already heard, next month will bring the one year BIRTHDAY for the Playground and this blog! We're extremely excited and have lots of surprises upcoming in November.

But this past weekend, the Playfriends celebrated a different birthday. Our first birthday as actual Playfriends. You see, at our chapter's annual retreat this time last year, we officially brainstormed and set the Writing Playground into motion. We created a place to play, to laugh, to learn, to commiserate... for each other, but with the hope of doing the same for other writers and readers like y'all. The results have surpassed our every expectation.

So we couldn't let this weekend pass without a private celebration between the Playfriends (with a little help from the Mavens). Special doesn't begin to describe the moment—being surrounded by other writers, bonded by a common goal, growing in confidence, and love (or sometimes hate) for the process of writing.

I sincerely hope that you too have found a place of such camaraderie and support, whether from a local RWA chapter, writing or reading group, critique partner, or online group. Whether you have or haven't, you are always welcome to experience it here on the Playground. We've always got an empty swing waiting.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Speaking of playground equipment, the Playfriends and Mavens created a new drink in honor of our toast this weekend. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. (We may have enjoyed it a little too much... especially on top of the marguerites and daiquiris!)

We've aptly dubbed it... The Teeter-Totter.

In a champagne flute, pour roughly half and half:
Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante Champagne
Archer Farms Sparkling Green Apple beverage

Toast and enjoy!!!

So tell us, what's your favorite celebration drink of choice? If you'd like to see more pictures of us at the retreat this weekend, check it out in the Playground Yearbook.

Angel (dreading getting back into the daily grind today)

PS-The above wine glass charm was made by our very own Playground Monitor! Not only is she a great writer, she creates the most beautiful book thongs and beaded accessories.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

And the winner is...

Congratulations go out to Lis for sharing her embarassing Friday the 13th story and enjoyment of Rock Hudson movies. We hope the copy of the new Silhouette Nocturne "Eternally" by Maureen Child will give her another way to retreat like we did.

Congrats, Lis. Email me at smartypants@writingplayground.com with your snail mail address and we'll ship you your prize!

Friday, October 13, 2006


Re-treat  /ri-trit/ Pronunciation Key - [ri-treet]

noun - 1. the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action; 2. the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion; 3. a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy; 4. an asylum, as for the insane

–verb (used without object) - 1. to withdraw, retire, or draw back, esp. for shelter or seclusion; 2. to make a retreat; 3. to slope backward; recede

I am very pleased to announce that today, the Playfriends are retreating. I included the Webster’s online definitions of the word ‘retreat’ because we will be doing so on several different levels. First and foremost, we are attending a ‘retreat’ in the sense of place of refuge and seclusion. Some could say asylum, but we’ll just stick with refuge and seclusion. :) The cool, foggy mountains of Tennessee with the changing fall colors is just the place for it. Our RWA chapter HOD is gathering this weekend for our annual trip away.

Many of us are also retreating, in the sense of making a retreat. I can hear the voices of Monty Python in my head as they scream "RUN AWAY" and the livestock rains down on their heads.

Yeah, that’s what we’re really doing. Running away from our lives for a few days. No husbands, kids, dishwashing, day jobs, or home renovations. No dogs, cats, or even fish to care for. Just our very own selves, in comfy clothes, sans makeup, eating junk food.

Of course, there will be writing. Some of us take laptops and legal pads to steal away moments of peace and inspiration to write. Others gather in groups for brainstorming sessions. There will be craft discussion and mentoring. There will, of course, be good food and margaritas. There will even be massages and belly dancing. My kind of retreat. Even if someone doesn’t participate in the physical act of working on their writing, there is always the well to fill. Fun, laughter, relaxation – it all lends to recharging those creative batteries.

Myself, I’m looking forward to Playfriend time. Last month, our traditional few hours of plotting and brainstorming were usurped by our day-long chapter workshop. We fit in a few dinners and field trips to make up for it, but I’m still anxious for our time. I’ve got a digital voice recorder and a new book to plot. This is just what I need to get the new story rolling. I’d like to think that several great books have been plotted when we got together. Heck, my last book came out of a late night session at the Krispy Kreme after a chick flick. Certainly greatness can appear after a lounging weekend at a B&B.

By mid-afternoon, the Playfriends will have loaded into their vehicles of choice and hit the road. That doesn’t mean you can slack off, though! If you’re new to the Playground, know that we never truly leave our home unattended. We leave it in the hands of our honorary playfriends – ahem – that’s you! So, keep the blog active this weekend by commenting.

Riddle me this, Batman…

When the world gets to be too much for you, how do you retreat? Bubble bath? A good book? A weekend away? Chocolate overload? Share your favorite tips for keeping down stress and keeping up the creative juices.

Also, today is Friday the 13th. (cue scary music) Whether or not you're superstitious, almost everyone has a great Friday the 13th story. Share yours!

One commenter will be selected to win a fabulous prize! Um…let’s see…in the spirit of Friday the 13th and the Paranormal Pleasures Contest, one commenter will win a copy of a new Silhouette Nocturne – Eternally by Maureen Child.

And if you haven’t entered the Paranormal Pleasures Contest yet, do it now! Time is running out for this great prize.

See you all Sunday night!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Announcing our winners

The winners from yesterday's guest blog by Linnea Sinclair are

Kathy -- you win an ARC of her book Gabriel's Ghost and a tote bag


CrystalG -- you win a t-shirt and mug

Please email me at playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com with your full name and snail mail address.

Congratulations and thanks for playing at the Writing Playground!

Writing Superstitions

Before I get started I just want to say Thank You to Linnea for visiting with us yesterday! I know I really enjoyed her blog and the words of wisdom she shared and I'm sure you did too.

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. Whenever this day rolls around there's always a flurry of discussion (usually on the morning news shows) about superstitions - black cats, ladders, broken mirrors, etc. And when a Friday the 13th falls in October... well, it gets even worse.

Now, as someone born on a Friday the 13th (well, okay, I don't think I was actually born on one but I definitely celebrate on one every 7 years or so) I say it's a bunch of hooey. In fact, I've taken the opposite tact of every hotel and high rise who refuse to have 13 numbered rooms or floors. 13 is my lucky number. Whenever I play the lottery it's always my powerball choice - just don't hold it against me that I've never won.

As the topic of superstitions rolled into the forefront of my mind I began to wonder. Athletes are notorious for having their own superstitions and quirks. How many times have we heard of a baseball or football player who refused to wash some article of clothing while on a winning streak?

So what about writing? Do we have our own set and I just don't know it?

I actually did a google search on the subject (no one faint) and believe it or not very little showed up. There were a few random hits about writing superstitions as they relate to grammar rules (never split and infinitive, never begin a sentence but but or and, that sort of thing) but nothing much about what we as writers do for rituals when it comes to our writing lives.

I know for me, writing in the bath tub is a part of my process. But I suppose it could also be considered a superstition. I CAN write in other places but in the bathtub I'm pretty assured of uninterrupted silence. There are a few things I can't do though - like write a love scene while I'm at work. There's just something wrong with the thought of turning myself on when my father and brother are working down the hall or Baby Girl is in front of me watching a video.

It's common knowledge that all the playfriends check their horoscopes every month. I enjoy having my Tarot cards read. I've even been to visit a psychic. But I don't think any of these things are specifically related to my writing life, or necessarily qualify as superstitions. I will admit, however, to checking my daily horoscope on a more frequent basis when I have a submission out. Not that I set my life by the words of wisdom found on MSN. I simply think in that instance it's another way for me to mark the time.

So, what are your writing superstitions? Do you have to light a certain candle? Write with a special pen? Will the words not flow if you're using a different computer? How about if your chair's messed up?

Instigator - who washes her underwear on a regular basis no matter how many submissions she's got out!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Guest Blogger Linnea Sinclair: Pondering the Paranormal

Thin threads connect the events of our lives. Last year I wrote several articles for an online magazine and just adored my editor, Carla. Well... she told me my articles were brilliant, so what else was I supposed to do but adore her? She left the magazine and began doing author PR. When one of her authors had a book nominated for a Rita I emailed my congratulations.

Fast forward to July 29, the Rita awards are in full swing, La Nora is doing a great job of emceeing, fellow Alabamian and RWA President Gayle Wilson is charming the pantyhose off every attendee and then they announce the finalists for Best Paranormal Romance. And the winner is...

Carla's author! I sent congratulations again. Meanwhile she's checked out the Playground, loves our swingset and says "Can my authors come over and dig in the sandbox?"

We were thrilled at the prospect and since our contest theme at the Writing Playground for the past month has been "Paranormal Pleasures," we decided to shoot for the moon.

The 2006 Rita winner for paranormal romance is blogging with us today and we're delighted. Linnea will be popping in during the day to answer questions, so fire away.

Prizes! Prizes! Linnea is offering two prizes to randomly selected commenters. First prize is an ARC of Gabriel's Ghost and a tote bag. Second prize is a t-shirt and mug. The winners will be posted tomorrow afternoon so check back to see if you won!


I’m sure every author gets asked that question. A lot. But most questioners probably ask it with the usual kindly, somewhat knowing smile.

When I get asked, however, it’s posed with eyes wide open. And more often than not, the questioner takes a step or two back.

See, I write science fiction and science fiction romance. Not your usual kind of story or your usual kind of characters. Starships, seedy spaceports, and odd aliens populate my pages. Matter transporters are normal accoutrements. Loquacious ’droids, renegade space pirates and feisty starfreighter captains flicker in and out of the shadows. Battles rage. Passions are high. Stakes can be galactic in scope.

Rather flies in the face of “write what you know,” you know?

So when readers ask me where my stories come from, the wide-eyed wondering or the quizzical furrowed brow is right there along with the words: where do your stories come from?

I wish I could answer that I had some whiz-bang intergalactic portal transmitting ideas to me, or that I’d unearthed an outer-space alien’s PDA and day planner during one of my forays as a private detective (which is, yes, another story…). But the plain truth of the matter is, I get my stories from the same place every other writer does: from somewhere inside me. From the emotions and experiences I’ve lived through. Not in a galaxy far, far away. But right here.

You see, science fiction romance is no more about tech than regency romance is about reticules. I get a lot of that kind of misidentification from women who come to my table at a book signing, only to back away with, “Oh, I’m not smart enough to read all that technical stuff.” As if one needs a PhD to understand love, jealousy, fear or loyalty.

Because that’s what my books are about: love, jealousy, fear, loyalty. Pride, passion, resentment, determination and hope.

They just happen to be set—for the most part—someplace you’ll likely never go. (But then, I’ve never been to 13th century Scotland, either. Or to Phoenix, Arizona for that matter And there are certainly enough books set in both places.)

So, yes, while a science fiction setting molds my characters, what drives them are the same things that drive characters in books set in Phoenix. Or Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries, Scotland. Love, jealousy, fear, loyalty and the rest.

Let’s talk about love and fear and loyalty. Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren is a military brat, now a patrol ship captain in a galactic fleet. After years of dedicated service, she finds herself—inexplicably—court-martialed and sent to a prison world to die. A mercenary, her former nemesis shows up—equally as inexplicably. I won’t say “to rescue Chaz” because if you’ve met her (or intend to read her story, and I hope you do), you know she’s fully capable of protecting herself. But show up inexplicably—this enigmatic man, this ghost from her past—does. And Chaz finds her loyalties torn, her fears coming forward. And love…well, that’s perhaps her greatest challenge of all.

Gabriel’s Ghost—Chaz’s story—won the RITA award last July, not, I’d like to think, because it was so chock full of high tech. But because it was chock full of love and loyalty and fear.

So where did Gabriel’s Ghost come from? Specifically two things: a creative writing class assignment to craft an opening scene about fear, and a song off Santana’s Supernatural album, entitled “Put Your Lights On.”

But where it really came from was deeper than that. It came from my own experiences with being wrongly accused (and haven’t we all been, at some point). It came from my own experiences of dealing with prejudice. It came from my own experiences of learning to extend blind trust in someone. It came from my own experiences of loss. It came from my own experiences of love.

The settings—the cold, foreboding planet of Moabar, the sterile environment of Moabar Station, the sleek opulence of a ship called the Boru Karn—are simply the canvas on which those emotions are presented.

But these otherworldly settings, readers often note. If you’re never been on a starship or a space station, how can you write about them?

Because I’ve been on a cruise ship, in a jet, in a shopping mall, in the interior stairs of a high-rise building. Exactly the same? No. But a stairwell is a stairwell and—unless you want to factor in a change in gravity, which I didn’t in that scene in Gabriel’s Ghost—Chaz and Sully desperately running down tight corridors and up several flights of stairs (okay, they were ladders but you get the point) still results in an exhaustion factor. One I’ve experienced and one—if you’ve ever taken a gym class as a kid or a step class as an adult—you’re familiar with as well.

Do I research these things we’ve yet to invent, these starships and stations I write about? Of course, though my research is probably more speculative in nature than the author who writes a murder mystery on a cruise ship. But it’s not dissimilar.

And it’s not—in my books—the most important thing. Yes, I want to be as accurate as I can, just as the mystery author wants to be. The key elements, however, are still the characters and their emotions. Love. Fear. Loyalty.

My February 2007 release, Games of Command, involves a galactic fleet captain with a dark secret, a half-man, half-machine (bio-cybernetic) admiral, talking furzels (overgrown cats) and an evil alien energy source. No, not things you’d likely encounter at your neighborhood grocery store. But the issues my characters face are ones that, yes, you may have encountered: the fear that you might lose your job if someone finds out something in your past; the fear that someone you care deeply about might not care at all about you; the regret of never telling someone you loved them; and, the recognition of the innocent, unconditional love of a companion animal.

My current science fiction romance work-in-progress is—rare for me—set here, on this planet. In Florida, in fact. Fictitious city but one that Floridians (and many tourists) will easily recognize. Jorie Mikkalah, the intergalactic zombie hunter, her Hazer micro-rifle and her mech-organic data scanner will be new to them. But her emotions, her motivation to save this nil-tech planet aptly—in her view—named after dirt (Earth) are very common: dedication to a cause, loyalty to her profession. A strong sense of duty. Her reaction to her unexpected partner on this mission—Florida homicide detective Theo Petrakos—should also be familiar: initial exasperation that changes to reluctant admiration that changes to… well, I guess you’ll just have to wait for The Down Home Zombie Blues to be released by Bantam to find out.

I guarantee that my stories will be both exciting and yet familiar. Because where my stories come from is the same place most other authors’ stories come from: from the heart.

Linnea Sinclair is a former journalist turned private investigator turned science fiction-fantasy novelist. Her award winning novels include Finders Keepers, Gabriel's Ghost, and An Accidental Goddess (all from Bantam Spectra) with Games of Command, The Down Home Zombie Blues and Chasidah's Choice due out in 2007-08. She’s also a Pushcart Literary Award and John W. Campbell Award nominee.

For more information on her books, visit her website at: www.linneasinclair.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Come on Baby, Light My Fire

Or at least light a fire under me.

I’m having motivation issues at the moment. I won’t bore you with the details (the poor Playfriends have heard it all ad nauseam). Let’s just say I’m lacking any feeling of urgency about anything.

It’s not that I don’t like my WIP or that I’m not excited about it. I am. Really. I just don’t have that sense of urgency to get it done. I think about it and toy with it, but I’m not making great progress.

Y’all saw how much I whined and procrastinated about reading the Aeneid and Inferno. And I didn’t even have to read the entire texts—just Book 1 and 2 of Aenied and Cantos 1-4 of Inferno. Even I know that’s nothing. Please-- you’d think I was one of my students with all that whining.

I’m less busy than I’ve ever been in my life, and yet I’m not writing much. I was more productive, page-wise, when I had thirty other things going on. What’s that saying about if you want to get something done, ask the busiest person around you? I think I’m more productive in general when I’m overscheduled and in a panic.

But I look at how stressed I was earlier this year, and I know I don’t want to go back to that—even if it means I’ll get pages written. Darling Geek likes me much better when I’m not a raving b*tch.

Angel has granted me a stay of the WIP whip. I have another week or so to get used to my new life, but then the Playfriends expect me to start producing on my own or else I'll be posting my pages each and every day. Ack!

So it’s time to get motivated. And I need advice on how one does that. I’m open to any and all suggestions. Heck, I’ll even do affirmations if y’all think that will help.

Help me. Please. How do you light the fire, and how do you keep it burning?


Don't forget, RITA winner Linnea Sinclair will be here tomorrow!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Theme Songs... Kinda Like Rocky

I love music. I've always loved music. From the time I was a teenager, I can remember day dreaming when my favorite songs came on the radio... sometimes I pictured what the song was about... sometimes the theme would tie in to a book I was reading or had read... whatever emotion the song called up within me, there was a story that inevitably came along with it. And living on a farm with lots of busywork meant a great deal of time to day dream while my hands were working on some mindless task like weeding the garden (yuck!).

It wasn't until I became a writer that I learned that I was story building. Day dreaming in this way wasn't something to be embarrassed about, but a natural part of the creative process. I still do my best solitary plotting to music of some sort.

These days, all my heroes and heroines have their own "theme songs". I'm not talking about writing to music, because I can only write to instrumental. The words distract me. Instead I'm talking about particular songs that cross my path and stand out because they embody the primary issue or emotion of my character. I can listen to the song to put me in the mind frame of my hero or heroine, drawing on the emotion to illuminate their actions or remind me of the lesson this character will learn throughout the story.

The book I'm currently in revisions on has only one character with a theme song: the heroine. Her song wasn't apparent to me right away. It was one I'd heard before, but not many times. One day I was listening to the CD and BOOM!, I heard it in an entirely new light. What is her song? Gone by Kelley Clarkson (Breakaway Album). The lyrics are obviously written about a lover, one that needs to be left in the dust after all the havoc he's caused. But this doesn't hold true for my heroine. For her, the song is about her mother, the same mother that willingly dragged her child through a humiliating and lonely childhood. It encapsulates my heroine's determination to build her own life, a better life, and leave that unstable childhood far behind.

My husband burned his favorite rock/alternative play list to a CD for me and I love it! It's full of songs that express emotion from a male point of view, and not just longings of the erotic kind. I have no doubt my future heroes' theme songs are hidden among these gems sung by 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Creed, Lifehouse, Evanescence, and a lot of other bands. Ah, my hero came through for me!

I know many of you write with music playing in the background, but do your characters or books have theme songs of their own? Any particular artists that you find "speak" to you?


Appearing in a Blog Near You

What's golden, shiny and coveted by every member of RWA?

It's the RITA award, and this particular one was won by the author who will be our guest blogger on Wednesday.

Join us on Wednesday and see what Linnea Sinclair has to say about where her stories come from.

There'll be lots of fun and a contest!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Can I get a SQUEEEE!!!!

I am so thrilled to announce that my fabu CP, Pamela Hearon, has SOLD her first novel to Triskelion! The Timestone Key will be released early next year.

Way to go, Pamela!! I'm so proud of you. It's a great book, and I can't wait to get a "real" copy.

Cyber champange and chocolate all the way around.


Who's Our Next Contestant?

Ok, so I'm out of town. Again. This time, a road trip to Memphis, Tennessee to attend a users group conference. Woo hoo. At least I don't have to fly this time. The venue was close enough for me to rent a car and drive with a co-worker. I got back late last night and took today off work as my reward.

I'm writing this blog ahead of time so I don't have to be witty on cue when I get home late after 6 hours of driving.

Now, a topic...hmm....

I've been trying to decide what book to work on lately. It's funny - a few months ago, when I was finishing FE, I started to panic - I had no books in my head to write next. Everyone else was chatting about their next idea and I was dumbfounded. So, during one very important business meeting (I'm so naughty), I started brainstorming some new ideas. Well, that just opened a floodgate, let me tell you. I jotted all the ideas down in a word document and forced myself to write the sequel to FE because it was the most immediate in my mind and all the vampire stuff was still fresh.

Well, now I've finished DD. Well, 95% of it. It's in such a state that I could quickly clean it up and get it out if I needed to. I'm tired of it, tired of vampires, and I'm ready to start working on something else. The question is...what? One of my story ideas, which I lovingly refer to as PIMPS, could be next. What worries me is that it is meant to be a single title (the first of four) and I'm not sure I can pull that off yet. I've already got two well received chapters of it written, but I need to do a lot more plotting before I can move on with it. Another project, DALD, is a fully plotted paranormal suspense. It's an old story that I wrote originally when I was twelve, but have tweaked and fleshed out. I could write that one. The hero was very loudly proclaiming his distrust of women last night as I got in the shower. I could easily start that, since he's louder than usual. There's also the third and final vampire book, which is rolling around in my head as well.

Not as well formed are about five other plotlines, each itching to get out. One of the problems I've had in the past was working on too many stories at once and finishing none. I've beat this by only allowing myself to work on one story at a time. I've finished three books this way and I know its what I have to do. If I get an urgent idea for something else, I jot it down so I don't forget and I put it away.

So...what do I write? The third in the series I've started while I can still remember what I said in the last two? That's the practical choice, although a wasted effort if the other two don't sell. The category paranormal that is plotted and ready to write? That's the easy choice. The single title that is going to whoop my butt, but could very well be my breakthrough book (someone else's words, not mine)?

My instinct says to write the book that feels the most vivid and alive. The one that has the characters and story that excites me the most. That's the single title. Unfortunately, I'm scared to write that one. I don't know that I'm ready for it. The high page count, the intricate plot, the subplots, the character development...its a big task for someone this early in their career. I can hear the Mavens sitting at their computers saying "just suck it up and write the book." And its true. I'll never know unless I try, but would the effort be better spent on a category book right now that is more likely to do something.

Sigh. Which one would you write next?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ugly/Cute Kitten

I finally managed to get my camera to talk to a computer....

Here's the ugly/cute kitten. We've decided he has a remarkable resemblance to a bat. His ears are just huge, his face is sharp and skinny, and his eyes are pretty big too.


Unusual Day

I had an unusual day Tuesday. I expected it to go badly because Baby Girl was sick. But after a dose of Tylenol, dropping Sweet Pea off at school and a quick trip to Wal-Mart for Children's Motrin and a new Strawberry Shortcake DVD she seemed much better :-) (we won't mention the 10 times I've been forced to sit through that DVD....)

We snuggled together in bed, her watching TV and me reading the new book I'd treated myself to. I know it wouldn't have been nearly as pleasant if she'd still been sick but she wasn't (at least then) so we both enjoyed the day.

It was nice. Relaxing. I even took a nap. And fixed dinner - which is something I never do :-) I enjoyed it. Being a stay-at-home mom. Now, I'm absolutely certain SAHM's have hectic days!And I also know that on occasion I have a completely empty day at work to enjoy. To everything there are ups and downs, good and bad. But Tuesday was good. And made me really want to spend more time at home. With my girls. Taking care of my family and doing those things that get left behind because I just can't do it all.

For me it made me realize the things I'm giving up. The sacrifices I'm making - not just for myself but the sacrifices I'm forcing my kids and my husband to make as well. But even as I envy the greener grass on the other side I know that what I'm doing is right for me and hopefully right for them too.

And of course, the good day turned into a terrible night with about three hours sleep so....


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I know, I know, I'm tardy

As my mother has already pointed out to me, I didn't post the next Kill the Competition winner last night.

AC did her part, but after she went to bed, I was, well...ahem...busy.

Then PM put her blog up and I didn't want to knock her off-point.

So now I'm tardy. Sorry.

BUT ...

Congrats to Patricia W. She's the next lucky reader of KTC.

If Patricia sends it back, we'll do this again. Thanks for playing along!