Thursday, November 30, 2006

Instigator's in the Details

The most important thing you need to know about me is that I'm the oldest of four. Everything else feeds from there - including my uninhibited need to be the center of attention and my drive to be the first in everything. I was after all until those other three showed up.

As for writing...It's kinda funny. I grew up thinking my sister would be the writer in the family. She had a short story published in our local newspaper at the age of seven. She says she plagiarized the idea - not the story just the idea. I say *cough, mumble, grumble* Writing the words down is what made it hers, the idea alone wasn't enough to get it published. Besides, my cousin, who she stole the idea from, lived in another state at the time. He wasn't likely to be trying to publish the story in our local paper.

So while I enjoyed reading - thanks to a $10 bribe from my parents the summer before fourth grade - I never really thought I could or would write.

Actually, I turned my sights to other arts - dancing (although I didn't have the body or talent to pull it off as a career), acting (while achieving moderate success in the local theatre and receiving a scholarship to community college still not enough talent for a career that could support me), I even considered painting for a brief five seconds.

But writing was always there in the back of my head. As a sophomore in high school I was given an interesting assignment in English class. We were divided up into groups and told to write a story. I think it had to be about 20 pages which seemed like an enormous amount to me. By that time I'd fallen madly in love with the romance genre, staying up until one or two o'clock in the morning quite often to read. So I, being the persuasive leader that I am, convinced my group (thankfully all girls) to write a romance. That's right, while everyone else in the class was writing about poverty, social issues, or government my group was writing a Scottish historical complete with a hero named Bryce.

Needless to say, I thought our effort was excellent - until I had to read it aloud in front of the class. I've blocked their response from my mind. It's better not to remember.

I went a long time writing nothing more than average college papers. But I read. I devoured every romance I could get my hands on. I even branched out into some fantasy stuff when none of my favorite authors had a new book out for me to read. I swear, I think I probably averaged 20 - 25 books a month, easy. But the more I read, the more I found myself rewriting the books as I went. Not that there was anything wrong with the way they were originally just wasn't how I would have told the story.

A couple of times during my adult life I started writing, thinking I could do this thing, I could write down what was in my head. I'd stop and start. Think about it, get a chapter, and get pulled away by my job, my husband, pregnancy, life. But the month after my daughter turned one I decided to take it seriously. I'd wandered aimlessly through jobs that meant nothing to me. Writing was something I enjoyed, something I was passionate about, something I could see myself happily doing for the rest of my life.

I wrote my first book in 4 weeks - don't laugh it sucks. But underneath the bad plot, convoluted storyline and inconsistent characters there was a kernel of something good. I found RWA, placed it in a chapter contest where it finaled. I figured maybe I wasn't just being idiotic about my dream. So after it was rejected I tried again, and again. Now I'm working on my fifth book, currently in revisions with Harlequin.

This dream has brought me so much - self confidence, a broader awareness of the world around me, wonderful friends and mentors. I hope my dream of publication comes true but if it doesn't, I've found so much and been so blessed.
We've shared several quotes this week and I'd like to leave you with a favorite of mine. I'm a big fan of successories. One of my favorites is entitled The Essence of Determination:

Determination is born out of purpose...knowing that you are gifted for something and this something must be attained. It is never enough to rely on luck or natural talent. You must, above all, believe in yourself, face your goals, and then fight as if your life depended on it.

Did the path of your life choose you - or did you choose it?


P.S. Today is the last day of our book-a-day giveaway so be sure and post for your chance to win!

P.P.S. Yesterday's winners are KimW (good thing you like NASCAR, huh?), Pat and amy*skf. Please email the Playground Monitor with your snail mail address to get your books.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Presenting the Playground Monitor

That sounds like the title of a romance novel, doesn't it? ;-)

Unlike some of the other writers you've heard from, I wasn't born writing. As a matter of fact, I hated creative writing in school because well... I wasn't very creative. Now, give me a topic and tell me to research it and write a factual paper and I'm happy as a clam. I could totally identify with Lt. Friday on Dragnet when he would say, "Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts." But make up a story??? Eeek! Give me those forks in the eyeballs.

I always did like to read, though. But my reading tastes as a child leaned toward Hardy Boys, Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mystery books and a mystery series about a family called the Happy Hollisters. In high school I discovered Mary Stewart but most of my reading was the usual stuff for English class, which included an unfortunate introduction to Herman Melville. Blech! I had the same English teacher for 3 years since she taught the advanced class. She L-O-V-E-D Melville; I strongly dislike his work.

College brought lots of reading for lots of classes and after graduating from college I vowed never to read again. I kept that vow for a while but my husband's job required him to travel a lot. I traveled with him but since I didn't work, it got lonely being in a strange city all day so I started reading novels to pass the time. His travel status also led to my first published work -- an article in HIS professional government agency journal about the trials and travails of the traveling auditor and his spouse. I got a nice plaque from the agency and a letter from the Comptroller General of the United States and the Atlanta Field Office director thought I was the bees knees. There might be something to this writing stuff.

Then my husband's job moved us overseas where he traveled about 90% of the time and this time I couldn't always travel with him. So more than ever I needed something to occupy my time. I located the Army library and got myself a library card and continued reading. I read every Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mystery they had. I discovered Stephen King (but gave him up after too many sleepless nights from his unbelievably vivid story-telling), Robert Ludlum and Sidney Sheldon. I remember walking past the Ritz Hotel in Paris and remembering that Sheldon had used it in The Other Side of Midnight.

Then I got pregnant and my reading switched to pregnancy and childbirth books, and then later child rearing books and stories such as Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny and The Pokey Little Puppy. After my children started school, I began to entertain the idea of writing again, but I never thought about writing novels; I wanted to be like my then-heroine, Erma Bombeck, whose column I read in the daily newspaper and whose books I devoured. I loved the humor she was able to find in everyday life. But everyday life intervened instead and I had to join the workforce. Instead of writing humor, I wrote shipping and receiving procedures. Yawn. I also kept track of communications equipment for a Space Shuttle contract, part of which was inventorying facsimile machines all over the world. A sign outside my cubicle read "Just the fax, ma'am. Just the fax."

Fast forward to about 1998 and I discovered reruns of a TV show called "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." I'd always enjoyed the Superman movies and this was a different twist to the story. This focused on the romance between Clark Kent and Lois Lane. I did a little internet searching and found an online community of fans and also discovered something called fanfiction. These are stories written by fans of a particular film, novel or TV show, using the characters and situations in the it and coming up with new plots and story ideas. After reading some of the Lois and Clark fanfiction, including some classified as "n-fic" (n for naughty though they're on about the same scale as your average Harlequin/Silhouette romance) I came to the conclusion one day that I could do this. I had an idea for a Valentine's story and in 2000 I wrote my first fanfic. I know... it's the dirty little red-haired stepchild of writing, but it got me interested in writing again. More stories followed, mostly short romantic and humorous pieces. The community had an annual awards run much like the Rita and Golden Heart, and I won a couple awards. I'd give you the URL for the fanfiction archive but --shudder--that early stuff is so bad.

Fanfic life was toodling along just fine until 2001 when a new writer began posting a story on the message boards. It was good. As a matter of fact, some people thought it was a little too good and it turned out it was a plagiarized Silhouette Desire. I helped track down the original novel and I read it. And then I looked up the author's backlist and read all of that. And darned if I wasn't soon hooked on romance novels!

Then just like with fanfiction, one day I thought "I might could do this" and I left Lois Lane and Clark Kent behind and started creating characters of my own. I also got to know the author whose book had been plagiarized as well as a few others. Somewhere in all this I was asked to be the review coordinator for a website that was under development and I accepted the job. I will forever be grateful to Writers Unlimited for the opportunities they afforded me and the contacts I made while reviewing.

Meanwhile I joined RWA and my local chapter. I struggled some more with the novel I was trying to write. Then one day in 2004 I happened upon the transcript of a chat by the woman who was our guest blogger last Tuesday. She talked about writing for the "confessions" magazines and once again I thought "I can do that." Lord 'a mercy, the DH and I had enough crazy family members to keep me in story ideas for a good long while. But I didn't do anything about it until late last year when I heard about a Yahoo loop for "confessions" writers. I joined, lurked, and learned all I could. I began writing in earnest and also resigned my review coordinator position because between writing and the Playground, I just couldn't do the job justice any longer. On February 2 of this year I submitted my first story to Dorchester Media. On February 6 I submitted my second, and on March 3, that second story sold. I've since sold 6 more short stories and a short feature article.

I still want to write a novel. I have two that have a couple chapters written. The line they were intended for has changed its guidelines and the books don't fit the new guidelines. So I'm pondering where to go with them.

Meanwhile, I scour the headlines, eavesdrop on conversations and take little bits of information and build a short story around them. I haven't achieved my total dream, but I've tasted a little bit of it.

Did you ever see the movie Pretty Woman? Remember the guy yelling "Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'."

Well I'm yelling "Welcome to the Writing Playground, the land of dreams! What's your dream? Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin'."

What is your dream? Have you ever abandoned one and returned to it later? If time and money were no object, what would your dream be?

P.S. Today I'll be giving away 3 copies of NASCAR HOLIDAY, a Christmas anthology by Kimberly Raye, Roxanne St. Claire and Debra Webb, to 3 different randomly selected commenters. But the best is yet to come!

Next Wednesday I will have 3 more copies to give away but those copies can only be won by new commenters. However if a new commenter mentions that one of our "regulars" sent them, the regular will go into a special drawing for 2 copies of KILLER CURVES by Roxanne St. Claire and 1 copy of A COLBY CHRISTMAS by Debra Webb, along with some other racing-related goodies. Confused yet? :grin:

So get the word out to your friends and family to visit the Playground blog, especially next Wednesday December 6, and share in the prizes.

P.P. S. The winner from yesterday is Dannyfiredragon. Please email Problem Child to make arrangements for your prize. Congrats!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Meet Problem Child

My turn in the confessional.

I know most writers say they’ve been writing since birth (or in Lindsey’s case, in utero). Sorry, I’m not one of them. I told myself stories, though. At night, as I’m drifting off to sleep, I tell myself a bedtime story. Always have.

Nowadays, I’m usually working on the current WIP, but when I was younger, my stories were more of the Mary Sue fanfic variety. But I never wrote any stories down.

Now, let’s digress to a little run-down of my resume. There was the whole ballet thing, which left me with scars from three foot operations, a bum knee, arthritis, and my eating disorder. There were several jobs in the food service industry that supported me through college. My first real job was for a non-profit organization, where (among other duties) I started doing event planning. Then we moved up to Huntsville, where I did conference and workshop planning for a group of scientists. Then came grad school (and more food service), and I started teaching.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I started saying I was going to write a book. Those stories I’d been telling myself quit being of the fanfic variety and more of my own characters and plots. Although I told a few people I was going to write a book, I never sat down to do it. Time was an issue (as it is for most writers with day jobs or a thesis to write), but I didn’t have the drive. Looking back, I just don’t think I was ready.

After AC was born, the desire to write became strong. I’m not sure why. I stumbled around, wrote some bad stuff, and, in general, didn’t accomplish much. Then I heard about a writing workshop at one of the local colleges. I actually came back early from a trip to Scotland in order to attend. That’s where I heard about Heart of Dixie and RWA. That sparked something, and I started learning more about writing, but it was several more months until I bucked up and joined. Even then, it was a couple of more months before I got serious. Yes, the longest journey starts with the first step, but making that first step requires courage, faith, and determination. It took a while for all three to kick in for me and get my butt in a chair.

My biggest obstacle to overcome is probably myself. There’s the fear of failure, of course. There’s that nagging little inner voice that tells me I’m just not good enough. (I come from an artistic background— I know full well what it means to be “good” but not “good enough” and how big that gap can be.) I’m also a procrastinator and a piddler— I’ll put things off by piddling with other things. Unless I’m seriously motivated, I’ll find twenty-seven other things on my to-do list that need to be done. And, Problem Child attitude aside, I can get frustrated and hurt pretty easily. Last week’s rejection letter hit me pretty hard and left me wondering if I’d forever be stuck at “good” and never make the cut of “good enough.”

But I know I’m lucky. I have the Playfriends to support me and lead the cheers. They also nag like you wouldn’t believe. (And in this game, nagging is often needed.) The Darling Geek is 100% supportive of this dream— I don’t have to listen to “why don’t you get a real job?” or justify the time and money it takes to pursue publication. The Mavens believe in me, and sometimes that I-have-to-justify-their-faith-in-me feeling is what gets me to the keyboard. Once I made the jump from just telling myself I was going to write a book to a community that expects me to produce said book (and other books), the dynamic changed. It has become a time of put-up-or-shut-up, and that, more than anything, makes me block out that nagging inner voice, suck up the hesitation, and get to work. And I couldn’t be happier or proud of myself for making that commitment to myself and my (future) career.

(Yes, the desire to write (or to succeed at anything) has to come from inside first. But the courage to actually do it sometimes needs shoring up from outside sources. During our birthday this month, many of you have thanked us for being here. Let me just say for the record: We thank you for coming here and adding your voices to the support system. The books and prizes we give away are the only way we can show that appreciation. And it’s pretty small in comparison for what y’all give to us.)

So I’m moving past the frustration and hurt of my last rejection letter and getting back to the WIP. I made a new goal list yesterday as part of my birthday musings, and if I’m going to meet those goals this year, I’d better get cracking. Nothing like a deadline to overcome that obstacle of procrastination.

Hmmm, feels like I should be giving away pom-poms as my prize today, but I’m fresh out. A book and a 2007 planner for your goals will have to do.

(Angel 's winner from yesterday is Kathy. Congrats! Contact Angel for your prize!)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Introducing Angel...

When we recently asked our readers what they'd like to see on the blog, one of you mentioned wondering about our mysterious pasts and how we came to be writers. Okay, maybe we don't have many skeletons lurking in our closets, but we hope our posts about pursuing our dreams this week will inspire you to make your own dreams a priority, whatever they may be.

Like most writers, I started out a reader. I know my mother read to us when I was little, but I remember becoming truly hooked on reading in my early teens. Being home schooled and living way out in the country, my mother would take us to the library "in town" twice a month. The librarians were always amazed because my sister and I would check out the maximum 12 books each time and my mother assured them we actually read each one.

I went to college as an English major, with the intention of eventually pursuing a Masters in Library Science. Life had other plans in the form of marriage and children after graduating with a BA in English Literature and a minor in American History. Despite being drawn to academic literary discussions, reading romance was my true passion.

It was actually a dear friend who put me on the first leg of my writing journey. Recognizing restlessness in me, she recommended that I attend a writing seminar being held nearby. Personally, I'd always thought my sister would be the writer in the family, because I could never live up to the papers she wrote in college. But my interest was peaked, so I went. Talk about an eye-opening experience! The author who spoke gave a test to the audience, asking true/false questions about our personal tendencies. Though totally unscientific, she said that if you scored 8 or higher out of 10, you were wasting a God-granted gift if you weren't writing in some way, shape, or form. I scored a 12 (there were bonus questions)!

Suddenly I knew that if I wrote anything, I'd want to write a romance. I went to the bookstore, read some how-to books, found RWA, and the rest is history. My only hope is that publication is one of the highlights of my journey. Even though I never thought of myself as a writer before that class, I now cannot view myself any other way. It was a part of who I am all along, I just hadn't recognized it yet.

Along the way, there have been many things that have helped keep me going, the greatest of which has been the wonderful women here at the Playground. But in those quiet moments when my heart wonders if publication is worth the hassle, I'm often encouraged by quotes that just seem to come my way. One of my favorite is:

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

A new favorite is:

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." –Anonymous

So today I ask you: What is it in your life that requires that kind of courage today? Do you have an unexpected dream for your life that gives it meaning and focus? Tell us all about it today!


PS: To kick off our final week of daily giveaways, I'm offering a Christmas bag to one of today's lucky commenters. It includes some Christmas candy and two books.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Y'all are some sick, twisted blog readers---and I love that!

Seriously, I'm going to need a new keyboard from the amout of Coke I spewed onto the keyboard (and thanks for making it come out my nose).

This was a toughie to choose... but after much thought and deliberation and consultation with DG, billie l is our Wish-Corrupter Du Jour. Not only did she sabotage tam's wish, she managed to tie it in with an earlier wish from tam, providing a double wish-slamming whammy. That's talent.

Billie, contact Marilyn ( to claim your prize. I promise it's a good one.

Thanks, everyone, for playing along. After reading that comment tail, dried-out turkey catastrophies pale in comparision.

Here's hoping your holiday wishes come a much better form than they did here!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Holiday Wishes (snort)

As we all recover from the turkey excess and extreme shopping, let's play an easy game this weekend. (It's a game I think I first saw over on Kris Starr's blog, but I can't be sure...)

We'll call it "Be Careful What You Wish For"

Here's how you play. I make a wish like, "I wish I had a million dollars."

Your job is to grant my wish in such a way that will make me miserable: "Wish granted, but it's all in pennies." You then make your wish ("I wish for a massage"), which will be granted and corrupted by the next commenter in the tail ("Wish granted, but your massuse is a hobbit who massages with his feet."), who will then make her own wish, etc, etc.

Get it?

The winner of this game will be chosen based on the creative way s/he totally screws up someone's wish. (Decsions will be made by me, based on how hard I laugh at your wish-corrupting ability. You know how warped I can be, so corrupt accordingly. Mwahahahaha.)

Let's get started:

I wish I could lose 10 pounds before the holidays.

Go ahead, make me regret I said that...

(jeannette j--you're SP's winner from yesterday. Email her to arrange for your prize.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Christmas Rules

The Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Yule (did I miss anyone?) season has officially arrived. This time of year always makes me get sentimental and start thinking about traditions. My family doesn’t have very many, but I am pretty hard core about the ones that matter because the holidays just don’t feel ‘right’ without them. Some of them have evolved into a set of Christmas Rules. (Bet you thought when you read the title that I meant Christmas Rules as in "Christmas is Awesome!")

Actually, my stepdad calls me the Christmas Nazi after the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld because of my staunch adherence to the Rules. It’s one of his favorite shows, although I could never figure out why. Like the Soup Man, there are rules, but that’s just because doing things in a certain way makes it easier on everyone and people don’t have to wait as long in the cold for their clam chowder. For me, Christmas is more enjoyable when a couple ‘guidelines’ are followed.

I’ll share my neurosis with you today...

1. Christmas lists must be posted by November 1st.

2. Posters of said lists in item 1 are not to purchase any items for themselves off posted lists until after such time that all presents are exchanged.

3. Any gifts that are guessed or peeked at will be immediately returned to their store of origin. (Santa keeps receipts). A replacement gift may or may not be purchased, depending on how annoyed Santa gets by your impertinence.

4. Only one gift is to be opened on Christmas Eve. Just one. The gift is to be selected by the giver, not the recipient, so Christmas PJs, etc. get opened instead of the big surprise PS 3 or something.

5. Christmas decorations are put up the day after Thanksgiving and taken down New Years Day. Epiphany at the latest. Live trees throw a wrench in this plan, but all non-living decorations are included.

6. Christmas cartoons, even the old cheesy ones you've seen a million times, must be watched. It doesn't matter that I can sit and recite them. I have to watch - at the very least - Charlie Brown and Garfield. Oh, and the Grinch. And Mickey's Christmas Carol. And...

7. On Christmas Eve, we will make crab wontons, eat boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce, have a cheese, sausage and crackers tray, etc., sip champagne or sparkling cider and listen to carols with the lights dimmed and the decorations twinkling. If we can get the darn thing open, we will also have chunks of fresh coconut.

8. Mariah Carey’s Christmas album is wholly unsuitable background music for this. Christmas carols must be sung by the classics – Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Burl Ives...I don’t want N*Sync doing their rendition of Santa Baby while I’m opening presents.

9. On Christmas Day, serve any of the big three meats - turkey, ham, prime rib, I don’t care...but there will be green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. This is not the day to experiment and have a Mexican fiesta for dinner. If that’s your tradition, fine, but not mine.

10. Stockings are not an afterthought. Their fillings are to be planned with careful consideration, not a 1:30 AM run to the gas station on Christmas Eve because you forgot. Slim Jims and Honey Buns are not appropriate items.

I don’t know why they call me that nasty name. :) Anyway, those are just a few of my hang-ups. There’s probably more I’ve forgotten. I guess they all develop from times when the rules weren’t followed and I walked away from the holiday feeling let down or unfulfilled.

One year my grandmother whined until we opened all our Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. The next morning, there was nothing. My mother had even grown tired of the Christmas tree and got up early, took the decorations off and threw it out so it would stop shedding pine needles on her floor. When I woke up, it was like Christmas never even happened. I hated that Christmas.

Another time my great grandmother made chicken breasts and burned one of those little preformed hams for Thanksgiving. Might as well have been any other dinner any other night. Phooey.

And that thing about Slim Jims in the stocking...1992, baby. Yuck.

And yet, for all the planning and plotting, I always walk away from the holidays disappointed. I build it up in my head to the point that it can’t possibly fulfill my expectations, then I get let down. It would be like Jello wrestling with Johnny. I’m sure it would be interesting, but it probably couldn’t touch what I imagine it would be. Then I’d be depressed and have a big ol mess to clean up once he high tailed it back to France.

Do you have any special holiday rules or traditions? How about the post-holiday blues? Do you get those too? What suggestions do you have to keep them to a minimum? I guess the “rules” are my way of helping hedge against disappointment, but they don’t always work.

Yesterday's winner is readingissomuchfun! Email Instigator to claim your prize.

Remember – November is almost over and so is our Birthday Celebration. Be sure to comment and get entered for your chance to win.


Doh! I'm only one page up from last week. Let's call it a case of Turkey Brain...

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
22,250 / 90,000

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Talented Group

There is no question that we have some talented writers and readers on this blog! The entries we received from the Fun and Games contest over the weekend clearly show that. Here are a few of the entries we received:

My girlfriend and I were having a chat. Twinkle, twinkle little star, I want to head on over to the Irish bar, I thought to myself. "Don't tempt me anymore", I told my friend Sandy. I feel so much stress lately. I long for the days when I was as placid as a marshmallow. There is too much to be done.

The holidays are coming and I am making homemade crispy noodles today. We are having Chinese for Thanksgiving. It is my favorite food next to chocolate. I always have seconds and then feel like an Orca whale when eating. I teeter totter on throwing up when I'm done. I do love it though. I will need to join the 5K Flying fun, Timed Run in town to lose some of the weight I will gain.

There are Summer days in the South, when the only way to avoid baking in the sun like crispy noodles, is to stay inside or in the water. Lilly and I had opted for the latter. We had been alternating between Marco Polo and making Orca sounds, when we heard moving trucks next door. Lilly jumped out of the pool with me close behind, as we ran past the teeter totter to look over the fence.

That was when I saw him. He was tall and lean, with eyes like melted chocolate. His tawny hair caressed his shoulders with disheveled waves. My heart felt as if it had been on a flying fun, timed run. He was better than homemade ice cream. He was everything my twelve year old heart wanted, but had no idea what to do with.

I suddenly realized that Lilly had been talking, but I had not heard a word. I was a little preoccupied, or mentally stunted, whatever.

"Emma Beth, I'm starting to think that you like that boy." Lilly cooed.

"Why would you go and say something stupid like that?" I retorted.

"Well, your mouth has been hanging open for the last five minutes. Either you like the boy or you are doing an impression of a large mouth bass."

"Lilly May Prescott, don't tempt me to tell Nick Mabry that you want to kiss him!" I fumed back.

"Oh, now that's mature Emma. Let's go!"

Lilly grabbed my hand, jerking my soaking wet self through the gate. I know that I look like a drowned rat. Lilly looks gorgeous. If she was not my best friend, I would totally hate her on principle. She continued towards the moving trucks, with me dragging behind as placid as a marshmallow.

There was a woman moving boxes into the house, a little girl doing a loud rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and him. The boy. He looked up, and our eyes met. This must be it. I was in love, or possibly dying. Either way, I feel as if I might be sick. I turned and ran fast to my house. I think I have reached a new level of spazdom. On the upside, I did not toss up my Oreos. That has to count for something. I never knew that love could make me act like Napoleon Dynamite receiving electric shock therapy. No wonder my parents are so weird. Love is the culprit, not stress or being old. Who knew?

It's going to be okay. I know in my heart that I will see him again. Okay, so we live next door to each other, the chances are good. The next time, I will be mature. I can do mature. I'm almost thirteen, that's practically an adult. This Summer I, Emma Beth Landry vow that the boy next door will notice me.

Instigator had convinced the Playfriends to make this excursion to Orca Island for multiple reasons. All outward appearances indicated that Playground Monitor was always placid as a marshmallow. In reality, the stress had her searching for chocolate. The playfriends set about unpacking their picnic lunch. Counselor Shelley was begging, “Don’t tempt me,” as she removed the first dish from the picnic hamper. It contained the homemade lasagne that Angel had prepared. It was at this precise moment that Problem Child made her flying fun, timed run past the two women on her way to her favorite teeter totter. The two women kept a tight hold on the pan, unwilling to have their lasagne end up on the ground. It would be an absolute waste to have the tender, melt-in-your-mouth lasagne end up as crispy noodles as a result of landing in the gravel of the picnic area. Success! They were able to save the dish. The rest of the picnic meal went off without a hitch. As darkness began its descent, Smarty Pants assembled her telescope. The other Playfriends gathered around and each took a turn looking through the scope at the twinkle, twinkle of the stars as they began to appear. The day had refreshed the Playfriends. They were once again ready to return to the Playground and bask in the attention of their loyal blog readers.

Beth-Anne McDowell spent most of her days as placid as a marshmallow, but the year her husband invited both sides of the family to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, she went from placid to complete stress in less time than it takes to pop a balloon.

Beth-Anne was the epitome of social grace, having been raised in a household with a mother who was president of the Mt. Pleasant Rose Society and the DAR as well as vice-president of her Sunday School class and recording secretary for the Shady Acres Homemakers Club. But even in the best of families, crazy relatives lurk like winos around a liquor store. And Beth-Anne’s family had their share of crazy relatives who seemed hell-bent on demolishing her best-laid holiday plans with their own ideas.

First there was her mother-in-law who insisted on bringing her “famous” homemade chocolate pie with the crispy noodle topping. Even the kids wouldn’t eat her concoction. And when Uncle Louie arrived and headed to the backyard to play with the children, they should have seen disaster in the making. The man resembled an orca dressed in dark blue polyester and when he offered to let the triplets ride on one end of the teeter totter with him on the other, the resulting sound of cracking wood could be heard three streets away. Nothing consoled Zoe, Zara and Zelda over their shattered playground equipment, not even their grandma’s offer of a slice of her pie.

But the final blow came when her father-in-law, who had gone on a health kick after a heart attack scare the previous April, informed everyone he’d signed them all up to run in the family division of the 8th annual “Twinkle Twinkle Flying Fun Timed Run” 5K road race, which was held at 7:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.

“I’ll put up with your mother’s pie, Franklin,” Beth-Anne told her husband, “and the broken teeter totter can be replaced. But I will not get up at the crack of dawn, put on a t-shirt that has ‘I'm the fast girl your mother warned you about’ across the back and jog through the streets of Mt. Pleasant.”

“Aww, Beth-Anne,” Franklin whined. “Dad got that shirt just for you. And he’s just trying to get the family involved in an activity together. Can’t you just humor him this once?”

“Don’t tempt me, Franklin,” Beth-Anne warned with a look that could have blistered an iron skillet. “I’d commit murder over far less than this.”

Thank you everyone for entering. And congratulations to Karen for being our winner! Please email me at

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
It's so easy to get caught up in the melee of our hectic lives and to forget to appreciate the blessings we've all been given. There may be sadness, stress, disappointment but there are always things to be thankful for as well.
I'm thankful for this wonderful, supportive group of friends! I'm thankful for my family, my baby girls, that we live in a place where they have a bright future ahead of them full of so many possibilities. And I'm thankful for the support, acknowledgement and encouragement that we receive each and every day from our friends and visitors on the playground. You might not post but we know you're there and we hope that we're providing something back to you in return.
On this day, I hope that everyone enjoys a happy, safe Thanksgiving.
I'd love to hear what you're thankful for!
P.S. Because it's Thanksgiving I'm not going to be giving away a book a day - I'm going to be giving away 2 books today. So post and maybe you'll have something extra to be thankful for.
P.P.S. Yesterday's winner in our book-a-day giveaway is Pearl. Please email
P.P.P.S Beth, could you please email me at to claim your prize from last week?
P.P.P.P.S Later today I'll be announcing the winner and posting a few of the entries from last weekend's blog contest. We have some very talented writers and readers out there!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Guest Blogger -- American Title Finalist Lindsey Brookes

And instead of your regular Wednesday blog with the Playground Monitor, today we have a really special treat -- Lindsey Brookes, who is a finalist in the Romantic Times American Title III competition. She's been kind enough to share a little about her writing journey and the AI contest experience. Please give her a big Playground welcome.

Three calling birds….Two French hens…and an American Title vote for me...

Have Yourself A Merry Little Voting Round...

O come, All Ye Voters...

Sound a little nutso? Welcome to the world of an American Title finalist. While everyone else is starting to get in the Christmas spirit, I’m consumed by each new American Title III voting round and so grateful to have made it through. It’s not a contest for the oversensitive. That’s for sure. The judges’ remarks can be pretty biting at times – Note: Full body armor required. But they can also be constructive in a positive way. You have to be open to criticism and willing to admit your book isn’t perfect. You can always make it better. The good thing is you aren’t going through this contest alone. There are nine other finalists to share the ups and downs with.

The American Title III finalists have formed a Yahoo group to support each other along the way and we are fortunate enough to have past American Title I winner, Janice Lynn – and American Title II winner, Gerri Russell - on that loop. They’ve been through this before and have given us great advice on how to be a finalist and maintain our sanity throughout the coming months.

Those of you who know me know that I’ve been trying for a very long time to realize my dream of selling, of seeing my book out there on the shelf where others might actually have the chance to pick it up and read my words. So this is such an incredible opportunity for me. I now have a one in eight chance of seeing my dream come true. I hope that if you haven’t voted, you’ll head on over to the Romantic Times website ( ) and cast your vote for OPERATION: DATE ESCAPE.

A little about me. Like most writers, I began writing in utero. I write both adult romantic fiction and young adult fiction. All my manuscripts have humor in them because I love to make people smile. Between my incredibly supportive family, agent and friends (waving to my pals!), the long and winding road to publication has been a lot less lonely. Now that I think about it, that road should come with a ‘Dangerous Curves’ ahead warning. Unless you’re one of the few lucky ones who sell their first book right away, there are write and rewrites, rejections, requests (yippee!), then close but no cigar rejection letters – please try again. And I do. One thing I’m not is a quitter. My motto, if you’ve been to my website – -- is Never Give Up On Your Dreams. That’s true for every writer. Hopefully we’ll all have the chance to see our dreams come true.

Thanks so much for asking me to come play on your blog.

Lindsey Brookes
American Title III finalist – OPERATION: DATE ESCAPE
Voting this round open until November 26!

P.S. from the Playground Monitor: I know all the writers here can relate to Lindsey’s post and the “Dangerous Curves” that the writer’s life contains.

But what about you non-writers? What big goals and dreams do you have for yourself? Do you write them down? And how to you stay focused on them and see them to fruition?

One of today's lucky commenters chosen at random will win a copy of JANE MILLIONAIRE, the first American Title winner, a book thong and a magnetic refrigerator memo pad that reads “Go in the Direction of Your Dreams.”

P.P.S. KarenG is yesterday's winner. Please email Problem Child to make arrangements for your prize.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Calling Jeanette!

Jeanette! Smarty Pants wants to go to the Post Office tomorrow and needs you to email her ASAP with your address to claim your fabulous prize!

Guest Blogger Sunny Lyn

This just in from Sunny

The third person to post after 3 pm EST wins a download of their choice from Lyn Cash OR Bobbie Cole's books with Samhain. Red Hot Lover is the erotic romance from Lyn, and Leaving Mama is the mainstream from Bobbie.

Hello Honorary Playfriends...Instead of your regular Tuesday blog with me, I get to introduce Sunny Lyn, who writes hot erotic romance for Loose ID, Samhain, and Ellora's Cave. She was kind enough to share some secrets Under the Bleachers this month on the Playground, and she's here to dish with us today. I hope you'll all give her a big Playground welcome--and feel free to ask questions...

TMI: How much is kosher to share with readers?

When I wrote confessions, I learned that anonymity had its rewards. The confessions (for magazines formerly owned by Sterling/Mcfadden that are now owned by Dorchester Media…magazines such as True Confessions, True Romance, True Love, etc)…well, these didn’t have bylines, so nobody save the editors and writers knew who’d written what.

With magazine articles, there were real names and pseudonyms. Nobody I know checks up on magazine writers to find out just who they are, where they live, what they feed their cat.

Novels? You’re out there. Exposed. So you’d better make a good showing. Ack. But what if you write erotica? There’s the rub, as the saying goes. Air the laundry,'s not easy. Do you show the stains on the sheets or let everyone assume perfection?

In confession writing, it’s fairly easy to emote, to share, to give everything you’ve got…but then not really. You can only go so far before you cross lines that conflict with magazine regulations. The stories, despite their titillating titles are really pretty tame as far as language. They may cover some territories with trepidation, but for the most part they’re ‘safe’ and carry no shame.

With erotica, self-confidence is paramount when you stick your name out there, because the lights surrounding you might as well be neon.
Occasional religious factions swear you’re heathen, writers who once thought they wrote ‘hot’ now look upon you with disdain since you’re stealing their thunder, and people who know you personally fall back in shock that you knew such words, much less such positions and that you had such an imagination. (I think that’s the shocking part for them, that they don’t know for sure just HOW you came to write the stuff, from imagination or experience. I swear, every old boyfriend or ex-husband at some point either asks me or asks a friend…”Is she talking about ME in this”? - They wish.)

And this brings me to my blog for today. (Don’t you just hate pre-writing? The prequel or the prelude or the prologue?)

My chief complaint from editors (and critique partners) is that I go so far and then pull back, that when the emotion builds to the point that everything is about to explode, I undercut myself with humor or an interruption of some sort. Close friends say it’s because I’m afraid of putting myself on the line, that I’m afraid readers will get to know the real me. Funny, that. Because when I write, I don’t see myself as the character. My question to you is this: Do you share this malady with me, and if so, what the heck do you do to remedy the situation? Thanks, and have a great day.

(psst…Thanks to The Playground for letting me host your blog today.)

Sunny Lyn


(Notes from PC...)

Book-a-day giveaway continues today. Don't forget to comment.

PS: My life has returned to normal. Everyone who's been patiently waiting on me to send them books and prizes will be pleased to hear I made a Postal Worker very unhappy when I showed up with a ton of packages to mail. He actually thought I was mailing Christmas presents. Ha! I only wish...

PPS: American Title III finalist Lindsey Brookes will be blogging on the Playground tomorrow!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Writing is a Gift...

And not just to those of us who want to do it for a living. We talk a lot about the gift of reading these days, but rarely about what we are granting ourselves when we write.

Drama Queen is currently in first grade this year. Last year, of course, the big accomplishment was learning to read. This year, her teacher is adding to the whole reading experience by getting them to WRITE. Often DQ is required to make up sentences using certain words for homework and during class too. But what excites me is the stories she makes them write. Yep, stories. She'll give them a topic and they write a paragraph story on it (usually in computer lab). In honor of Thanksgiving, the latest was "how to cook a turkey".

The teacher isn't concerned with spelling; the kids simply spell words the way they sound to them. Right now, she doesn't care about structure or plot, as long as the sentences make sense. Looking through my daughter's "story" folder on open house night, I was hit with what a gift this woman was giving my daughter. DQ had often made up stories for me. We'd even written some down. But this was a quick, easy, and frequent exercise designed to tap my daughter's budding imagination. She loves it and I love the validation it gives my daughter.

As adults, if you don't write for a career, you may wonder about the appeal of writing during your daily routine. Long before I was a "writer", I infrequently journaled. More and more research is being found to support journaling as a form of therapy. Getting emotions like depression, loss, and sorrow out onto the page can genuinely help many people work through their issues. Confusion is resolved as they "discuss" problems with themselves. For myself, I've found journaling an invaluable tool in calming my mind through daily pages (I've discussed this technique before). Though I'm rarely disciplined enough to do them "daily." :)

There's also a technique that ties into the themes for this time of year. It's called a thankfulness list. Each day right down five things you are thankful for. Naturally this reminds us of the good things in our lives. It also battles the natural pessimism I live with each day. Whether you are going through a rough spot or just want to deepen your appreciation of the season, a thankfulness journal is a great habit for the holiday season (or all year long).

So today, tell me how writing touches your everyday life. Are you a list maker? Do you doodle? Brainstorm projects for work? What are you thankful for this holiday season?


PS. Friday's winner is jeannette! Contact Smarty Pants at about claiming your prize.

PPS. Tomorrow we welcome guest blogger Sunny Cole to the Playground!

PPPS. Wednesday American Title III competitor Lindsey Brookes will be guest blogging on Wednesday. We'll learn all about this contest, the "American Idol" of romance writing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fun and Games

This week we celebrated 1 year on the playground (and had a great time partying with everyone!!)

But during this last month something has come to my attention. You all have spent that year listening to us yak. Now we'd like to give you an opportunity to contribute to the blog :-) Of course, there will be prizes (and we're going on a field trip to a local arts and crafts fair so the winner should get something interesting).

So, what is this task you ask? Well, I'm going to borrow shamelessly from Miss Snark. Below you'll find a list of words and phrases. Incorrporate them into a short story or scene (no more than 500 words) and email your entries to Entries should be in by noon on Sunday afternoon. I'll forward them to the other playfriends so that we can all read them and pick the winner. If you're willing to share your entry with our blog readers please provide a note in your email giving us permission to post.

What's the criteria for winning? Well, the more words or phrases from the list that you incorrporate the better your score. I'm sure we'll be awarding points for creativity, humor, interesting use of the word or phrase, that sort of thing.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, but I'm not a writer. Don't worry! This exercise if for everyone. Honestly, we really want to hear your story or scene.


Teeter totter
Placid as a marshmallow
Don't tempt me
Flying fun, timed run
Crispy noodles
Twinkle, twinkle

Can't wait to hear everyone's entries! Have fun!


Friday, November 17, 2006

26 Holiday Survival Tips

Since being overwhelmed seems to be as big a staple of the holiday season as the jolly fat man himself, I thought I'd share this list I received of some survival tips. Add this to Counselor Shelley's suggestions and you'll be good to go this year. I'm away for the weekend, so comment, comment, comment, and a fellow Playfriend will select one of today's commenters to win a book. I'll email you Sunday when I return.

Here we go...

  • Get the members of your household to make a list of holiday expectations (i.e., what they want to see, do, feel, experience). Share your lists and discuss.
  • Less is more. Get everyone to cut their seeing and doing lists in half. This in itself will help guarantee a “relaxing, old fashioned holiday.”
  • Make ‘things to do’ lists to keep you organized.
  • Get enough sleep. Fatigue can lead to stress, overeating, alcohol abuse, and numerous family problems.
  • Let go of family traditions that are too much work or simplify them (e.g., after tree decorating, spread a checkered cloth on the floor and have a picnic instead of the traditional 5 course meal).
  • Avoid family tug of wars. Ideas: 1) spend one holiday with one set of relatives, and the other holiday with another set, then alternate years. 2) choose a day before each holiday to spend with relatives and spend the actual holiday at your own home enjoying your own traditions.
  • Consider extending holiday get-togethers through the first 2 weeks of January instead of cramming it all into November and December.
  • Do something special for people you don’t know. Call a local shelter or nursing home to see how you can help. (Helping the less fortunate can help you put your own problems into perspective.)
  • If you live alone or are recently divorced or widowed, make special plans like a holiday vacation so you won’t feel lonely or isolated.
  • Plan a post holiday activity that everyone can look forward to.


  • Make a budget and stick to it. (Don’t forget hidden expenses like travel, postage, carpet cleaning, etc.)
  • Leave charge cards at home or clip and index card to the back of each card so you can keep a running total of charges. Don’t charge more than you can pay at the end of one month.
  • Shop alone so you won’t be distracted from your list and your budget. To avoid crowds, show in the morning or near dinner time.
  • Before buying big gifts like computers or appliances, check the product rating in Consumer Reports magazine.
  • Tuck a paperback in your pocket in case you have to wait in long lines.
  • Shop when you’re well rested and well fed. You can make very expensive shopping mistakes when you’re tired.
  • Draw names and put a dollar limit on gifts if you have a large family.
  • Decline department store’s ‘generous’ offers to delay payments until February or March, its easy to get in way over your head.
  • Consider giving homemade gifts.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise every day to reduce stress, take the edge off your appetite and help prevent winter blues.


  • If wheels (bikes, skates, etc.) are on your gift list, include the necessary safety equipment (helmets, knee pads) too.
  • If you’re a winter holiday skier, warm up, and keep the first runs light and easy. Quit before you get tired. Most ski injuries happen at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Never drive after drinking. If a friend has too much to drink, call a taxi or extend an invitation to spend the night.
  • Make sure your home smoke detectors are working.
  • Keep both fresh and artificial trees far away from fireplaces, radiators, candles, tvs, and heaters.
  • If you didn’t get a flu shot in October or November, consider getting one in December.

Got some holiday tips of your own to share? Please do! Any of the ones above resonate with you? Tell us! Remember one of today's commenters will be selected to win a book of their choice from my stash. By the time this month is over, I'm only going to own 5 or 6 books. :)

Yesterday's winner was Beth! Congrats! Email Instigator to claim your prize.


Woo hoo! Zokutou is back online! Almost 1/4 complete!
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
22,000 / 90,000

Thursday, November 16, 2006


It's too frickin' early for Christmas carols! We haven't even had Thanksgiving and yet they're playing everywhere I go.

The playfriends are getting together this weekend for a field trip to a local holiday craft/arts fair where I hope to begin my Christmas shopping. That's right, I said begin. Anyway, this trip and the incessant barrage of holiday marketing ploys have me cringing in fear. The next six weeks are going to be hell.

When did the holiday season turn into such a maddening, hair-pulling, money-grubbing season of torturous giving? Now don't get me wrong, there's plenty of things at Christmas time that I enjoy, like spending time with my family and friends, watching my girls open presents on Christmas morning, finding that perfect gift for someone on your list. Even listening to Christmas carols is enjoyable...AFTER Thanksgiving's over.

It isn't even December and I'm already stressed. And yes, I realize if I started my shopping and planning in the middle of the summer I could probably alleviate some of this anxiety. But let's be realistic, that ain't gonna happen.

Here's my problem. Even as I rant about the fact that corporate America seems to be inching the holiday season up every year, I'm also bemoaning the fact that there's not a snowball's chance in hell that I'm gonna get everything accomplished in time.

Just the other day DH and I were trying to schedule our yearly trek up to Nashville. We take the girls to the mall so they can do their shopping (and we can finish ours while they aren't looking) and then walk over to the Opryland hotel to look at all the lights and decorations, have hot cocoa and enjoy the atmosphere. We could barely find an available weekend in our schedules.

And something sparked this brilliant idea. I thought this year the girls and I would bake candies and goodies to give to the their teachers. (my Mom's a teacher and the family always enjoys sharing in her gifts :-) Before thinking thoroughly through this idea I voiced it out loud. Both of the girls eagerly pounced. They were tickled to death at the thought of spending an entire day cooking in the kitchen, just them and Mommy. And I smacked my forehead as I started trying to fit that day into the schedule too - before their school breaks no less.

DH and I haven't even discussed when we're going to pick out our Christmas tree. This is probably one of the most important traditions to me and will most likely be relegated to a last minute effort with two hours to spare between office parties and shopping trips.

We're having Christmas at our house this year too. I don't even want to think about that....

I'm exhausted and the season hasn't even really begun. What I really want to know is where's the merry gone in Christmas because at the moment I'm not feeling too full of cheer. And that's upsetting because Christmas used to be one of my favorite times of year. And when I'm together with family and friends it always is. I always rediscover that joy.

Maybe that's the problem, I'm focusing too hard on the details right now, on the things that have to get done and not on the end result .

So, how are your holiday preparations? Any special plans this year you're looking forward to?


And don't forget I'll be picking one commenter for our book-a-day giveaway!

P.S. Yesterday's winner was aBookworm! Please send your name and snail mail address to Playground Monitor. And congrats!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How Do You Follow a Party?

We had a kilted man serving Teeter-Totters, a chocolate fountain, tootie horns and confetti, Captain Jack Sparrow with his special rum punch that packed a punch, and a slew of friends both old and new. We couldn't have asked for a better birthday celebration than we had yesterday.

One year ago we all felt a little like the crew of the Starship Enterprise -- boldly going where we'd never gone before. Would we have any success at all or fall flat on our cute little faces? We all liked each other but would anybody else like us (besides our mothers, husbands and other family members)? In a world full of highly successful writers who had already built a fan base, would we be able to even make a blip on the radar?

Today answered a lot of those questions. Our cute little faces are free of bruises, but I do still see some chocolate smudges on a few chins. Y'all like us! You really, really like us! And based on what we hear from our website and blog visitors, we're on the radar and our blip is growing. The other Playfriends have had requests for manuscripts, finaled and won contests and I've had some success in the magazine market.

Of course, now the question is "What do we do next?"

The answer?

Keep smilin', keep shinin'
Knowin' you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for

What would YOU like to see us do in the future?

P.S. One lucky commenter from today will be selected to receive a book of their choice from my stash plus an assortment of goodies I brought back from the RWA conferences in Reno and Atlanta. I'm not telling what they are; it's a surprise! But I'm sure you'll enjoy them. Just ask the other Playfriends if they don't have really neat stuff in the Goodie Room. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see who won.

P.P.S. Since today is the 15th, we've updated our website. Go to The Writing Playground and look for the new material!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Winding down

What a fabu party!

Yikes! What a mess--jell-o and chocolate smeared everywhere. I'll never get our deposit back.

I hope you all had a good time...the Playfriends had a blast!

Every day can't be a birthday party, but we do hope to see you here again soon (don't forget, the party isn't completely over...there's still prizes to be given away through the end of November).

Now for the party favors:

Blueberri--contact Smarty Pants.

theresa n--email Angel

cheryl--you get Instigator's goodie bag

maureen and carol--you two need to contact me (Problem Child)

crystalg, robinl, lois, and tam-- the Playground Monitor has goodies for you

And now a special party favor: I went searching through the blog archives trying to find who of today's commentors had been around the longest. Both meljprincess and jennifer y commented on the Playground for the first time on December 14, 2005--just one month after we went live. And they were here today. Yay! You guys get special prizes for supporting us for this long. Call it the Playground Rewards Program. Contact me to get your special prize.

And Capt. Jack just needs to call me.

Thanks again everyone--not only for today, but for every day you hang out with us on the Playground!


Let's PARTY!!

(I turned off the music--feel free to sing "Birthday" by the Beatles at the top of your lungs anyway.)


Happy Birthday Writing Playground!!

One year ago today, I posted the very first blog and we waited with bated breath to see if anyone would come. You did, and now we are celebrating a whole year of fun and friendship.

So join the party and celebrate with us!

Darling Geek is over behind the bar mixing up large batches of Teeter-Totters for everyone. (Yep, he's wearing his kilt for the occasion.)

The big birthday cake made of entirely of petit fours is right over there; help yourself.

Hey! No swimming in the chocolate fountain--I don't care how many Teeter-Totters you've had.

(I've set out a bowl of strawberry jell-o, but Johnny Depp hasn't RSVP'd. Alex will just have to remain optimistic.)

Let's get this party started! Grab a drink and mingle. The Playfriends will be around all day; feel free to ask us questions--we love to talk about writing, reading, and the Playground. Or just introduce yourself and say Hi. Tell us how you found us or what you'd like to see more or less of on the Playground.

We have goodies galore to give away. Each Playfriend is putting together a bag of party favors--all you have to do is post a comment for your chance to win. Marilyn also has a bunch of book thongs looking for a book.

I'll be on the dance floor. Have a great day everyone!!!


PC--Today that stands for Party Chick

(A private note to the Playfriends--I love you guys! This has been an incredible journey and I'm so glad to have shared it with y'all. Here's to many more Playground milestones!!)

PS: Yesterday's Daily Book winner is jeanette j for being willing to wear an Elf costume at Christmas (even though her husband put a stop to it!). Email Angel at with your snail mail address so she can send you your prize.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rambling Post

I've just spent the weekend with out-of-town family. Luckily, its family I love and enjoy, but after a while being around so many people wears me down. My hubby, kids, and I came home after lunch and went to bed.

Unfortunately, I haven't the strength or energy to be witty and informative today. And my internet service is spotty, so I can't wait for inspiration to strike. :) That's okay. Tomorrow will be exciting enough for all of us. (Don't forget tomorrow is our birthday party! Woohoo!)

With the holidays approaching with the speed of a race car, I know most of us will be spending lots of quality time with our families. Only ten days until you get to hear all about Uncle Henry's gallbladder surgery, your dear aunt's newest kitchen gadget, and your deviant nephew's latest incarceration (what does this tell you about my family?) over turkey and dressing.

The book I'm currently plotting is about family too. Three cousins who return to the home town after the patriarch of the family dies, only to find themselves embroiled in some complicated situations and, of course, the lives of some beautiful women. So today I thought we'd talk about family. Tell me some of the oddball stories about your family. What's the funniest holiday memory you have? Favorite family holiday traditions? Weirdest member? (you know you have one) I'll consider it a "character study". :)


PS I'll choose one commenter to receive a book today!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

You guys know the toes--and that kind of scares me

I never dreamed so many of you would be interested in staring that closely at our feet.

I also never dreamed y'all would be so good at this. But of all the entries, only two people got all five feet correctly identified. AC was called in to break the tie.

But first, some interesting statistics.

1. Kira is my identical foot twin. Our feet were the most often confused.

2. Everyone seemed to be able to identify Alexandra's foot.

3. Many folks were able to get 3/5 in thier entries.

4. My mother had difficulty identifying my foot (not that she entered the contest, but you'd think your mom would know your foot, right?)

5. One blog reader took advantage of the opportunity to enter more than once and guessed at 8 foot pictures. (She gets points for being willing to stare at our feet for that long).

6. The "Rita feet" picture was the most popular choice for entries--I guess y'all like fancy shoes too!

7. The Playfriends had difficulty remembering exactly who was who and several emails had to be sent in order to be sure I was working from correct information as I pulled out my red teacher's pen to grade the entries.

But, with 5 out of 5 correctly identified and her name drawn from the yellow bucket by Amazing Child, our winner is .....



But since Zara got 5/5 as well, she'll be getting a prize too.

And catslady, you get a prize for sheer effort expended.

(I'll be in touch with the winners to make arrangements for prize shipping.)

Thanks to everyone who entered. We'll have another fun contest next weekend, but the book giveaway continues this week on the blog, so be sure to comment every day!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Who knows the toes?

Here's your weekend contest...

You know by now that we have a thing for pictures of our feet. In fact, we have a Hall of Feet section in our Yearbook on the site.

But which foot belongs to which Playfriend?

Your challenge is to pick a foot picture and match the foot to the Playfriend. Choose any picture you like from the Hall of Feet and identify any way you'd like (descriptions of the socks, clockwise-from-bottom-left, whatever works for you).

I'll be judging this contest, so send your answers to me (Problem Child) by 6pm Sunday. The person with the most correct answers will win a book of her choice, a scented candle, and a bag of wonderful-smelling goodies from Bath and Body Works. (In case of a tie, my Amazing Child will randomly choose a winner from the correct entries.)

Because there's a degree of difficulty here, I'll let you enter more than once, but you must choose a different foot picture for each entry.

Have Fun!

PS: I still haven't heard from my Tuesday winner, minna. Please email me ASAP so I can get your prize in the mail to you!

PPS: We're off to our chapter meeting today where 4 out of 5 Playfriends will be elected to the Board of HOD. (The 5th Playfriend is taking over a non-elected position). Here's to Playfriend World Domination!

PPPS: Jennifer Y is Smarty Pants's winner from Friday's comments. Congrats Jennifer--email Smarty Pants to arrange for your prize!

PPPPS: And a very happy Veterans' Day to all who have served our country.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Live Like You Were Dyin'

Now, it’s our birthday this month, so I don’t want to bring anyone down, but I do want to touch a bit on something that happened to me this week. A close friend of the family committed suicide Tuesday. One day he’s there, the next, he’s gone. I’m not really wanting to belabor the tragic impact of suicide on the family, etc., but something like that really makes you think about your own life.

For one, it makes you think your life is pretty good. Things may go wrong, money or health troubles might surface, but overall, things are okay. Good days and bad days are just a part of life. I find it slightly ironic that he did this in the season leading up to Thanksgiving. For one brief, dark, moment, he could think of nothing in his life that was valuable enough to stay alive for. I think this year, I will take special care listing out all the things in my life that I’m thankful for. Being able to see the good things makes you not only appreciate them more, but it makes it easier to get through the tougher things.

Two, it makes me glad to be alive and working towards my dream. Every day that I can wake up and work on my story is a good one. I caught myself deep in thought about my book as I sat alone at a Vietnamese restaurant the other night. Normally I would be self conscious about sitting alone or whatever, but I could’ve been anywhere as deep in thought as I was. I plot-plot-plotted all the way through my vermicelli shrimp and was quite pleased with what I came up with. Although I’m not the most optimistic person, you’ve got to have some level of hope to even attempt your dream. I might never get published. But I certainly won’t if I don’t try. And I enjoy writing, writing people, writing no matter what, I’m pursuing my dream. That's more than some people ever do.

Finally, it brings together the last two topics in that life is short. Sure, the afternoons at work seem to drag on for eternity, but when you look back at the years that have flown by, it’s amazing how quickly it slips away. Too many people spend their time thinking they’ll do something...someday. When I have more money, time, energy, interest, whatever. They wake up one day and realize they wasted their chance. Although this family friend made the conscious decision to end his journey, not everyone gets the choice. Accidents and illnesses pop up every day. Not everyone lives to 98. We should all go and do and live the lives we want to live. Although country music tends to make me cry and I avoid it, the Tim McGraw song really sums it up..."live like you were dying."

I don't want anyone on the playground to waste a single minute, so go out there and make someday, today! Be grateful for what you have and start working towards what you want right now.

Okay, I’m not sure if the inspirational ending outweighed the depressing beginning, but this question should certainly get some positive juices flowing....

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow and do anything (money and physical limitations aside) what would you do and who would you want to share it with? (Let's leave the obvious choice of strawberry Jell-o wrestling with Johnny Depp out of the equasion for this one.) One commenter will get a book of their choice.

Congratulations also go out to yesterday's winner MelJPrincess! Email Instigator with your snail mail address so she can send you your prize!

Word Count Update - 15000/90000 = 16.6% completed (1/6th done)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amazing Child

I know PC uses that term to refer to her daughter but tonight I'm going to have to borrow the title. My baby girl (Sweet Pea) learned to read. It was one of the best nights of my life, watching my little girl run through the words of Dick and Jane. My mom found a compilation book of stories and because we all learned to read with them, got them for the grandchildren.

We stayed up thirty minutes past bedtime tonight just so she could work through more pages. To see the delight, the pride, in her face when she got to a word she didn't know and fought through sounding it out all by herself...that was simply amazing, for her and for me.

Reading is important to me, because I love it, because I write, because it's a necessary life skill. But it wasn't always easy for me. As I got older, we put several clues together and realized that I probably have dyslexia. I was never diagnosed as a child but looking back it makes sense. It also runs in my family, although mostly with the boys, which is possibly why it never occurred to my parents. That and the fact that I never told them I was struggling. I just worked harder until I figured out how to catch up to the other kids in my class.

And maybe that's why this is such an important step for me to watch her make. She's actually shown some signs of dyslexia, although I'm told most kindergartener's do. Listening to her tonight though, I know that it won't matter. She wanted to read, wanted it so badly because she's such an independent, stubborn little thing and wants to be able to read books to herself in bed long after bedtime. I have to laugh because she reminds me so much of myself. I suppose it won't be long until she's coming to the breakfast table bleary eyed for school because she stayed up until 1AM reading for that happy ending.

What milestones, in your life or your children's, do you remember most?


Don't forget, I'll be choosing one commenter to win in our book-a-day giveaway!

P.S. Cheryl was the winner of the scavenger hunt. She optimistically included her snail mail address with her entry so PM will mail her book to her ASAP. Congratulations!

And for those who are wondering, the correct answers to the questions are as follows:

1. What happened on June 8, 2006? Playground Monitor's granddaughter was born.

2. What Broadway show did Smarty Pants see in March 2006? Monty Python's Spamalot

3. Who got a new kitten in September 2006? Instigator

4. Who posted the very first entry in this blog and what was the date? Problem Child on November 14, 2005

5. In January 2006, Angel posted about something that could have derailed the Playfriends' field trip. What was it? A drug bust the night before. The police raided a meth lab in actual operation in the hotel room adjacent to the Playfriends.