Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sugar and Spice Contest Winners

The entries are in. The winners' names have been drawn. And the winners are:

First place, receiving the items pictured above, is Kim Bea. Congrats Kim. I'll mail out your package after the weekend.

And the runner up, receiving a beaded bookmark, note cards, spiced tea and a Writing Playground pen, is Melissa Bradley. Congrats to Melissa too.

Thanks for entering the Sugar and Spice contest. Be sure to enter the new contest, which starts tomorrow. Check the website for details.

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

Clothes have been on the Playfriends’ minds recently. Have I written my pitches for my editor appointment? Looked at the conference schedule to choose workshops? Made a list of networking goals? NOPE. Do I have a fabulous dress to wear to the Rita and gorgeous shoes? You bet. I’ve already decided what I’m wearing each day and have it all itemized on my packing list.

PM made an excellent point about trying on your clothes to make sure that they haven’t developed a hole somewhere, but may I suggest (plead) that you also make sure you’ve packed the appropriate undergarments for each outfit?

No, really. I’m serious. I know many of you hate your bra. You may feel it’s itchy or constricting, or (like my Women’s Studies teacher) feel it’s a restrictive garment designed by a repressive male-dominated society in order to keep women in their proper place—barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Look, if you’re in your kitchen—barefoot or no, preggers or no—you have my blessing to go braless. Go commando, if that makes you feel good about you.

But Conference isn’t your kitchen. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the key words to remember about your Conference wardrobe are “Professional” and “Comfortable.” You may define Professional and Comfortable as a suit or Capri pants and a twin set, but trust me, nothing says “I’m a professional” like proper foundation garments.

But it’s more than keeping the girls under control. I’ve seen beautiful evening dresses ruined because the wearer didn’t invest in the right bra (or slip, or whatever). I, for one, will be wearing a girdle under my Rita dress because the dress is designed to be form-fitting and should create a specific silhouette. Bulges left over from AC ruin the line of the dress and the silhouette isn’t pretty if I forgo the girdle. (Relax, it’s not one of those 1950s industrial girdles—it’s more like Super Panties.) My other dress has a halter top, and my girls aren’t big enough to fill the cups correctly. In steps Victoria with her best Secret, and viola! Dress fits properly. (Trust me, I knew the underwear requirements from the moment I tried these dresses on and made a conscious choice to wear a dress that would require a girdle or fancy bra. There were plenty of options that would not have required girdles or bras, but they weren’t as pretty. We all make our choices.)

I’m not trying to be the underwear nazi. Really. But think as you pack. I’m from Alabama—I understand that pantyhose and July are not a good combination. But I’m not bringing a business suit that looks unfinished with bare legs. If you don’t want to wear pantyhose in 98 degree heat (but it’s not that hot in the hotel anyway, and how often do you leave the hotel?) then wear a pantsuit. Being comfortable in your clothes is important, but remember the “Professional” part as well.

Remember, it’s not just about wearing clean underwear; it’s about wearing the proper underwear.

(This has been a public service announcement from the Problem Child.)


Now for lots of winner announcements!

We have two winners for the "Keep Marilyn Company" contest. Nini and Lady Vampire need to contact me (PC) with a shipping address. Thanks to everyone who kept the blog going while we were away!

Smarty Pants has two winners as well: robynl for her Travel Adventure Story and crystalg for her Spooky Edinburgh submission.

Angel picked catslady's story.

Instigator chose ChristyJan and Lois as her winners.

Our email addresses are easy: playfriend' Email the Playfriend that picked you with your shipping address so goodies can go in the mail.

We have the coolest blog friends and we really appreciate your comments! Thanks for hanging out with us!

And finally, Marilyn will be drawing the winners of her Sugar and Spice contest today. Check tomorrow to see if it's you. And with the start of the new month, we have another contest on the Playground--this time, the theme is Highland Fling!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Closer to the Ending

No, not the ending of my book. Surely, you can’t be serious? (I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.) That’s lurking on a flash drive wishing someone would rub it and let it out like a genie in a lamp. At the moment, I don’t even know where that flash drive is. Somewhere safe, knowing me, where I’ll pay hell finding it. I do back up fairly...often...sometimes. I’m sure it’s somewhere safe.

Anyway, I mean I’m closer to my endless home selling/buying/moving process. I closed on my new house Wednesday and I have movers scheduled tonight to start bringing the furniture from storage. Hopefully before I leave for Dallas I will have some semblance of a normal life resuming.

I doubt it.

At the very least, I will have the kitchen and bath put away, a bed assembled, and the computer and TV up and running, because sadly, I can’t live without the last two. I’m ahead of the game from my last home purchase – the power is on. My last house greeted us frigidly on Valentine’s Day because the builder forgot to put in the connection notice with the utilities company. Brilliant. This time the house will be frigid because I’ve cranked up my brand new A/C system and have both my ceiling fans running full speed. Much better.

When I planned the trip to Scotland, the scrapbooking retreat, the conference in Dallas... I didn’t have an inkling of moving. I have this tendency to make a decision and go with it. Without much build up, I just sort of bought a house and worked all that it entailed in with everything else I had going on. I’m looking forward to July 16th. No special reason, of course, other than I won’t have any travel or major activities until a wedding at the end of September. It will be the first chunk of time I’ve had since early December where I don’t have anything to pack or paint or move or clean. If I do, it will be because I want to, not that I have to. Maybe I can have some peace, decorate my house, and write the book, of course. If DB is lucky, I might even cook again, something I have done maybe 4 times since we moved into our tiny apartment.

So, here’s my brick and mortar baby. She’s so pretty I can barely believe she’s mine. At least until I get my first mortgage statement. She's a 2300+ sq ft, 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath, storage wonderland. I have cubbies and closets and shelves everywhere. My pantry is bigger than my old kitchen. It screams for new furniture. New bedding. New everything. All in good time.

I am looking forward to a long stretch of peace in my new house, sprinkled with paint swatches and new furniture. What are you looking forward to this summer?


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan

And into the fire. Despite still suffering from jet lag (I've been nodding off to sleep at 8:30 every night when I'm usually up 'til 11 or 12) I'm in the midst of nationals mania. In less than 2 weeks I'll be boarding the plane to Dallas. I just got off a plane. I'm not sure, after the hoopla it took to get home, that I want back on that merry-go-round.

But I'll go. Because it's Dallas. Because I get my pink ribbon. Because I get to have lunch with my editor (I love that I can say that).

However, the fact that I just returned from the vacation of a lifetime means that I am in no way ready to leave again. I have no idea what to wear. I haven't tried a single thing in my wardrobe on - my daily life doesn't usually call for business casual let alone dress formal (I know, shocking. The goats just can't appreciate sequins). I pull the same clothes out from the back of the closet each conference. Normally that wouldn't be a problem...except for the 15 pounds I've lost this year. Who'd have thought I'd ever complain about that?

There are lists to be made, schedules to pull together, shopping trips to plan, not to mention packing. I'm squeezing into two weeks what I normally spread over six. I guess it's good practice - working against a tight deadline :-) So, anyone have advice on how to streamline my process for efficiency? Or even a really good deal on dress pants or little black dresses?


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Define: frazzled

Main Entry: exhausted

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: tired Synonyms: beat, bleary, bone-weary, bushed, crippled, crispy, dead, dead tired, debilitated, disabled, dog-tired, done for, done in, drained, effete, enervated, frazzled, had it, limp, outta gas, played out, prostrated, run-down, sapped, shot, spent, tired out, wasted, weak, weakened, wearied, worn, worn out

Example: Playground Monitor after a day of frantic shopping

Just when I thought I had it all together for the RWA conference in Dallas, I found out I needed another dressy outfit. You'll remember that I found a dress last week for the Saturday night awards ceremony. Even being the fashion goober that I am, I know I can't wear the same dress to both functions.

So off I went yesterday morning on the quest for another dress. Luckily Tuesday's are "Old Lady Discount Day" at Ross and apparently they'd gotten a shipment in since last week because I hit the jackpot. I came home with three dresses and today I'm getting together with PC and Angel to play American's Top Runway Model and see which dress is best.

I go through this every year at this time and with three national conferences under my belt you'd think I'd have my act together. Well, I do to a certain degree. But add in the "fancy factor" and I'm out of my league. Which brings me to my "Lessons Learned from Conference," which I hope will be of some help to anyone else going.

1. Never underestimate comfort. When selecting your clothing, be professional but keep comfort in mind as well. You're going to be in an outfit all day and perhaps half the night. If it pinches or binds, you're going to be mighty miserable.

2. But does it fit? Try your clothes on before you pack them. It sounds obvious but nothing is worse than reaching your destination and discovering your black pants don't fit anymore or they have a rip in the seat. Check them all out carefully before packing.

3. Shoes. The best advice Linda Howard ever gave me was to invest in a good pair of comfortable black shoes. My feet might not be the most stylish, but my black flats with the cushioned soles are a must. I can't think if my feet hurt. If you're one of these women who can wear pointy-toed high heels all day, I'm in awe. I can hardly wear running shoes all day without my footsies complaining.

4. Share more than your room. Before you leave home, get together with your roommates and figure out what items you can share. There's no need to take 4 bottles of PC's favorite Wrinkle Spray. One person can take it and another can take another necessary item. This saves room for everyone, especially when you're flying to your destination. And check the hotel's website to see what the room ammenities are. No need to pack a hair dryer if the room has one.

5. Be mindful of others' noses. While you want to be fresh every day, please leave your perfume at home. You'll be in close quarters in your room and in the meeting rooms. A hundred people in a workshop multiplied by a hundred different fragrances can get mighty stifling. So just wear the fresh-showered smell for the duration of the conference.

6. Prepare for contingencies. I always pack an over-the-counter pain reliever, antacids and pills for diarrhea. And I carry the pain reliever with me wherever I go. You'll make a friend for life if you offer a fellow workshop attendee a pill for her headache. And if it's the presenter, or an editor or agent, well... :-) If you take prescription medication for any reason, make sure you have enough for the duration of the conference.

7. Use your vibrator. Most of us carry cell phones and they're a great way to stay in touch with your family back home and your friends at the conference. But please remember to put it on vibrate during a workshop. Nothing is more embarrassing than having your cell phone ring out "Achy Breaky Heart" in the middle of a senior editor's presentation.

8. Drink a lot. Water that is. ;-) If you get dehydrated, you're more likely to get a headache and feel achy and lousy in general. The hotel usually provides water in the meeting rooms so take advantage and stay hydrated.

9. Network, network, network. This is your chance to be around thousands of other writers as well as agents and editors. Introduce yourself. Ask them about what they do or write. You never know when that chance meeting might come back and work in your favor. I have a little networking challenge for the Playfriends (ssshhhh, don't tell cause I haven't mentioned it to them yet, but they'll thank me for it) that will be fun. Honest.

10. Stop and smell the roses. At my first conference I believed I had to attend a workshop during every session. By Friday night I had literally hit the wall. I was in an evening workshop, sitting in a chair against the back wall. I leaned my head back and next thing I knew I'd dozed off. Apparently I didn't snore because I didn't get any ugly looks. The next year I was more selective and made time to sit down and rest, and also scheduled lunches and afternoon drinks with friends. I already have several things lined up for Dallas.

Based on your experience, what other good tips do you have for conference-goers? You may not have been to RWA, but I'll bet you've been to a business seminar, a church-related weekend or some other such affair.

P.S. Lady Vampire needs to email me because I want to send her a prize for suggesting the title of my current story.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guest Blogger Kelley St. John

Kelley St. John has always been a good friend to the Playfriends, and we're so excited to have her back on the Playground! Kelley's new series from Blaze is hot, hot, hot, and we're loving each book. She's here today to talk about the series and what scares us, so give Kelley a big welcome to the blog.

(You can check out her earlier Playground visits and get to know Kelley a bit better in the Sandbox archives.)

Some like it hot. Some like it hot…and spooky.

I’m so excited to be guest blogging on the Playground today! Thanks so much for having me! And first and foremost, I want to congratulate Kira Sinclair, one of the amazing Playfriends, on her recent Blaze sale. I’m thrilled to have a fellow Blaze Babe hanging out on the playground, and I am SO looking forward to see where each of the Playfriends land in the publishing world. It won’t be long until you’ll see all of your friends on the shelves, and like me, you can grab those books pronto!

Okay, now to today’s blog topic – quick – what movie is this from?

“I see dead people.”

(imagine Jeopardy music here)

I bet you didn’t need the first two beats of the Jeopardy music to answer that one, did you? Since the movie The Sixth Sense grossed over $600 million worldwide, chances are you saw it and immediately thought of Haley Joel Osmont speaking those now famous words.

While I didn’t know it at the time, those words and that movie generated the premise for my first Harlequin Blaze mini-series, The Sexth Sense, a series about a Cajun family whose heritage involves helping ghosts who can’t find their way to the other side. All of the current Vicknair mediums (six cousins—three boys, three girls) are in their twenties, at the peak of their lives, and to-die-for sexy (this is a Blaze series, so you know there’s lots of sexy going on.) Oh, but don’t think that the sizzle stops with the family; those ghosts have plenty of heat going on as well.

I’ve had a blast writing about the Vicknair family and using my knowledge of Louisiana and Cajuns (I’m married to one, btw) to depict the beauty of the state that faced so much devastation not so long ago with Katrina. In fact, a thread that runs solid throughout the series is the family’s beloved plantation, which was nearly destroyed by Katrina, and their determination to save the home from destruction.

Here’s the movie trailer for the first three books in the series (three come out this year, and three more next year)…

Let me know what you think of the book teaser!

Now for my questions to you: I love intense, spooky movies, but I don’t like gory. Examples of my favorites are The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osmont) and What Lies Beneath (Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer). And I’m always looking for great books and movies that are along that line. So…tell me your favorite books and movies that are intense and spooky (but not gory; I do like to sleep at night). I’d love to add your favorites to my “to be read” and “to be seen” lists.

Kelley St. John

Kelley will be dropping in all day, so be sure to comment, ask questions, etc. As always, we'll be giving away a book to one lucky commenter!

PC here. Guest bloggers and other special events will keep me from having a regular blog for several weeks, so I'll be taking over Saturday this week. Be sure to come by, because in addition to your dose of PC, I'll be announcing all the blog winners from assorted Scotland-related contests!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Behind The Scenes Look


I must say that Scotland was more beautiful than I could have imagined. There is something so awe-inspiring about seeing in 3D what you've only seen in books before. And the wonderful conversations and experiences that come with seeing it with friends. This truly was an awesome trip.

Since my jet-lagged brain can't come up with anything else (all I can think about is the trip and being with my family again), I thought I'd talk about a few Behind The Scenes happenings. Since we wrote our blogs before we left, they didn't include some of the funny, embarrassing, or memorable experiences we had. I hope these entertain you a bit today:

1. Never underestimate jet lag, combined with insomnia and motion sickness. Unfortunately I did and got up close and personal with the thistles on the side of the road outside Glasgow. Puking is not a great way to start the Vacation of a Lifetime.

2. Smarty Pants + Ambien = A Surreal Eating Experience. The Ambien kicked in while we were being served dinner on the plane. It was late because we sat on the tarmac for 2 hours waiting to take off. She was very funny.

3. Note to self: I'm allergic to stinging nettle. Those emerging whelps weren't pretty. Thank goodness Smarty Pants carries Anti-Allergy meds with her.

4. It is kind of hard to sleep and eat on a schedule when the sun comes up around 4am and goes down after 10pm. But you can get in a lot of sight-seeing that way.

5. I love Scotland's version of bacon, scones with clotted cream and jam, and PC's mother-in-law's rhubarb cobbler and meringues. I don't care for haggis.

6. I abhor flying all day, and don't particularly care for the airline we used. I also don't like the idea of people going through my things, especially when they abscond with one of my packages of shortbread.

7. Scotland has a very weird taste in chips, which they call crisps. I brought my husband home Roasted Chicken, Steak and Onion, and Prawn Cocktail flavors.

8. PC is awesome driving on the wrong side of the road, except when tour buses decide to drift into her lane. That leads to some interesting curse words. She also performed some pretty nifty parking.

9. Dramamine is my friend.

10. The sight of my children's faces when we met in the airport will live with me forever. Remembering still makes me cry.


P.S. Tomorrow Kelley St. John will be visiting the Playground!

P.P.S. Thanks so much for all the comments while we were gone. Once I've recovered from the jet lag, I'll be going over the past posts and choosing a winner for my contest. Stay tuned!!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Doing the Happy Dance

I just wrote "The End" a little while ago and I've started typing the story into the computer. Based on a couple sample pages, I see I've grossly miscalculated my word count. I've under-estimated it so I have a revised word meter to post.


Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
5,800 / 6,000

Yay! I'm in better shape than I thought. After I get this typed then I'll print it and edit off the hard copy. I know I need to add descriptions and smooth out some rough places. I should hit my 6000 word goal with no problem and get this baby mailed to NYC next week right on schedule.

P.S. Remember that the Sugar and Spice contest on our website will end at noon CST on June 30. If you haven't entered, rush right over and get your name in the hat. The link for the contest is to the right in the sidebar of the blog.

Whoa There!

Our trip to Scotland has almost come to an end. Tonight, we drive back to Glasgow, where we're staying in a hotel before catching our early flight back to the US. Today, we're taking it easy (in comparison) and catching anything we might have missed in Inverary since a big chunk of our first day there was spent on our mini-adventure.

Mind you, my definition of adventure is loose. Very loose.

Whenever I go to someplace I'm likely not to come back to, I always try to do three things. One, I try to buy myself one small, special item that I can only get there. I'm not inclined to load up on Scotland t-shirts and teddy bears in kilts, etc. I'm very selective. I always buy a magnet for my fridge, an ornament for my Christmas tree, and something special (and usually expensive) just for me. Second, I try to sample the regional foods and drinks, regardless of what my picky palate may have to say about it. I have to at least try it, even if I high tail it back to the Munich McDonald's later that afternoon. Third, I have to do that special thing, regardless of cost or potential cheese factor, that is outside of the norm, outside of my comfort-zone - something I can't do back at home. Hence - adventure of some sort or another.

When I went to Austria, I took the very creepy hillside train up to the Salzburg Fortress and spent a fortune on crystal from the actual Swarovski factory. I ate this horrible white sausage in Munich, knowing full well what was in it and drank beer because that's just what they do. When I went to Alaska, I went kayaking in the ocean and blew big bucks on whale watching and hot stone massages. I ate salmon, although it isn't my favorite, because it should be the best, freshest salmon I'd ever eat. When I went to the Bahamas, I swam with manta rays, drank lots of rum and let little island girls overcharge me to braid a few strands of my hair with beads. If I went to Venice, I'd have to ride in a gondola. In Paris, I'd have to climb to the top of Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower. You've just got to do it because the chance may never come up again.

In Scotland, I will probably have taken at least one bite of haggis and one sip of Scottish whisky. I'll probably stop there, but I will have done it. (I do reserve the right to change my mind about this, however.) I will have bought myself some beautiful celtic jewelry and maybe a wool or cashmere sweater. As for the adventure - its going to be horseback riding through the Scottish countryside. I know you're thinking that I live in the country and that riding horses is commonplace, but I'll tell you - this city girl hasn't ridden a horse in 20 years. It isn't something I do everyday and it certainly isn't ever going to be through the Scottish hills, even if I took up riding when I came home.

There's several places that ofter "Pony Trekking" through the Inveraray Argyll countryside and the shores of Loch Fyne. The one we're going with is called Brenfield Farms. I've ridden on a horse once. When I was 8. It says the riders do not need to be experienced for the tour we're taking. They'd better mean it. If that horse so much as trots, I'm likely to take a head dive into Loch Fyne, if not a rocky crag. Instigator mentioned something about them not using real saddles - some English thing that means there's little for me to grip to in abject fear. Should be fun! :)

Even if my horse does have a mind of its own and does something crazy, it will be memorable at the very least. A great two page layout in my scrapbook to remember the trip. Then I can say I did something very cool in Scotland that most people haven't done. Hopefully we won't be too saddle sore.

What has been your biggest travel adventure? Have you flown in a helicopter over a Hawaiian volcano? Swam with dolphins? Rode on a donkey to the bottom of the Grand Canyon? If you haven't got a story to share, what is your dream travel adventure? Share your story and one commenter will get a Scotland magnet for their fridge.

P.S. from PM
They're coming home tomorrow! And I won't be here! I guess I'll catch up with them via email over the weekend and in person next week.

Eye of the Beholder

Either I've terribly mis-guestimated my longhand word count or it's not going to take 6000 words to tell this story because I'm nearing the end. Yay! But I like to at least end up around 5000 words because that gives me a check with a nice round number -- provided they buy it that is.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
3,100 / 6,000

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Far East

Today we're traveling to Callander, the Trossachs and Loch Lomand. We've got a jam packed day full of castles, cathedrals and Rest and Be Thankful. The area itself is huge and there are a million different dirrections we could go in.

We're planning to visit Doune Castle of Monty Python and the Holy Grail fame. SP is very excited (as we all are) to visit this important site. :-) I'm very certain there will be many quotes from the movie as we tour the castle.

Next, we're hitting Dunblane Cathedral a church with it's beginnings dating back to 600 AD. For someone from a country less than 250 years old, that's just mindboggling.

Then we're heading over to Lochleven Castle the site of Mary Queen of Scots imprisonment. It was here that Mary was forced to abdicate her throne to her son James.

Next, we're planning to drive through the Trossachs National forest, by Loch Lomand and up to a place called Rest and Be Thankful. According to PC, it's a spot at the very top of a hill. Once there, you're supposed to rest, look at the vista around you, and be thankful that everything is downhill from here :-) Of course, we're driving up there instead of walking. I'm still planning to be suitably thankful (that I didn't have to walk).

Tell me what you're most thankful for. There will of course be prizes.


P.S. from PM

Here's the latest word count on "Eye of the Beholder." The writing is going better now. It's all just a guestimate at best since it's all written in longhand right now.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2,125 / 6,000

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keeping Marilyn Company

Before the Playfriends left the country, they asked our kind readers to keep me company while they were gone. And you guys have really stepped up to the plate. You've popped in daily to read the travel posts and commented accordingly. A few of you have emailed me offline to say hi.

Lately I've been bemoaning my lack of focus for writing. I have managed to write 13 pages longhand but that's only about 1/3 of what I need for a full story. And that's only the first draft. Then I have to edit and polish and have this ready to submit by July 15. Well, July 9 actually, because I leave for RWA Nationals on July 10. And before then I have to find a dress and figure out which clothes in my closet still actually fit. I need a new pair of comfy black shoes. I did buy some new undies from Victoria's Secret Monday with part of my last check from Dorchester.

So while I've been running around in at least partial chaos, one of our readers took the time to send me this wonderful email with advice on how to deal with some of my problems. Here's what she wrote.

I'm passing this on to you because it definitely works, and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives. By following simple advice heard on the Dr. Phil show, you too can find inner peace. Dr. Phil proclaimed, "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished." (Note from me: Does the man have a clue about how many unfinished stories I have on my hard drive?????)

So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished, and before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of merlot, a bottle of white zinfandel, a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, a bottle of Kahlua, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates. You have no idea how good I feel right now!

Please pass this on to those whom you think might be in need of inner peace.

How many of you are suffering from unfinished-itis? Let's all take Dr. Phil's advice and tie up those loose ends. Hunt down those unfinished things in your house and git 'r done!

I also got an email from another reader and it reminded me why I am so afraid of snakes. Read on.

Garden Grass Snakes also known as Garter Snakes (Thamnophissirtalis)can be dangerous. Yes, grass snakes, not rattlesnakes. Here's why.

A couple in Sweetwater, Texas, had a lot of potted plants. During a recent cold spell, the wife was bringing a lot of them indoors to protect them from a possible freeze. It turned out that a little green garden grass snake was hidden in one of the plants and when it had warmed up, it slithered out and the wife saw it go under the sofa. She let out a very loud scream.

The husband (who was taking a shower) ran out into the living room naked to see what the problem was. She told him there was a snake under the sofa. He got down on the floor on his hands and knees to look for it. About that time the family dog came and cold-nosed him on the behind. He thought the snake had bitten him, so he screamed and fell over on the floor. His wife thought he had a heart attack, so she covered him up, told him to lie still and called an ambulance. The attendants rushed in, wouldn't listen to his protests and loaded him on the stretcher and started carrying him out.

About that time the snake came out from under the sofa and the Emergency Medical Technician saw it and dropped his end of thestretcher. That's when the man broke his leg and why he is still in the hospital. The wife still had the problem of the snake in the house, so she called on a neighbor man. He volunteered to capture the snake. He armed himself with a rolled-up newspaper and began poking under the couch. Soon he decided it was gone and told the woman, who sat down on the sofa in relief. But while relaxing, her hand dangled in between the cushions, where she felt the snake wriggling around. She screamed and fainted, the snake rushed back under the sofa.

The neighbor man, seeing her lying there passed out, tried to use CPR to revive her. The neighbor's wife, who had just returned from shopping at the grocery store, saw her husband's mouth on the woman's mouth and slammed her husband in the back of the head with a bag of canned goods, knocking him out and cutting his scalp to a point where it needed stitches. The noise woke the woman from her dead faint and she saw her neighbor lying on the floor with his wife bending over him, so she assumed that he had been bitten by the snake.

She went to the kitchen and got a small bottle of whiskey, and began pouring it down the man's throat. By now the police had arrived. They saw the unconscious man, smelled the whiskey, and assumed that a drunken fight had occurred. They were about to arrest them all, when the women tried to explain how it all happened over a little green snake. The police called an ambulance, which took away the neighbor and his sobbing wife. The little snake again crawled out from under the sofa.

One of the policemen drew his gun and fired at it. He missed the snake and hit the leg of the end table. The table fell over and the lamp on it shattered and as the bulb broke it started a fire in the drapes. The other policeman tried to beat out the flames, and fell through the window into the yard on top of the family dog who, startled, jumped out and raced into the street, where an oncoming car swerved to avoid it and smashed into the parked police car.

Meanwhile, the burning drapes were seen by the neighbors who calledthe fire department. The firemen had started raising the fire truck ladder when they were halfway down the street. The rising ladder tore out the overhead wires and put out the electricity and disconnected the telephones in a ten-square city block area (but they did get the house fire out).

Time passed! Both men were discharged from the hospital, the house was repaired, the dog came home, the police acquired a new car, and all was right with their world. A while later they were watching TV and the weatherman announced a cold snap for that night. The wife asked her husband if he thought they should bring in their plants for the night.

That's when he shot her.

What's unfinished in your house? (And I don't mean bottles of wine and boxes of chocolate.) And are you afraid of snakes?

P.S. Many thanks to Carol for the "advice" and to Lis for the snake story. As soon as I read them I knew I'd found my blog topic for today. A nifty Writing Playground pen is headed to each of them way.

P.P.S. Late-breaking news! I went back to a store I visited Monday and I found a dress! Whaddya think? The color doesn't show up well in the photo but it's deep, dark purple and is tea length rather than full length. I have black dressy sandals that I can wear and I think it just screams for diamond jewelry, don't you think?

P.P.P.S. I don't like the title of my story. If you remember, it's about a woman who has a double mastectomy and worries that her husband will leave like her father did when her own mother battled breast cancer many years before. I was calling it "More Than Enough Woman" but that just isn't right.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday in Scotland

Today is a another busy day. We spent last night in Inverness at a B&B, and have to be up at the crack of dawn for our day trip to Orkney. The coach leaves at 7.30 am.


We’ll cruise from Inverness up to John O’Groats—which is about as far north as you can be on mainland Scotland. There, we board a ferry for a 40-minute trek even further north to Orkney. (My mom, my aunt and I did this day trip many moons ago. It’s a “running tour” where you don’t spend a lot of time at any one place. More of a “taste of” as opposed to a “full meal.”)

Since we’re on a tour, all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery. Places we’re going and things we’ll see include:

Skara Brae: A Neolithic village inhabited from 3200-2200 BC and remarkably well-preserved.

Standing stones: Okay all you Outlander fans—we’ll be visiting not one, but two sets of standing stones on Orkney (and pretty close to the Solstice too. Guess we’d better be careful!) One is called the called the Ring of Brodgar

And the other is the henge monuments and both date from the Neolithic period.

A stop in Kirwall will provide a quick lunch and shopping and a chance to see the Cathedral there.

There’s some driving sightseeing—Orkney was important during the war so there’s some military history—but one stop will be the Italian Chapel, an amazing church built by Italian prisioners of war in 1943. The pictures here don't do it justice. Check out the site.

And if we're lucky, we'll get to see some puffins.

Another ferry ride and coach ride back to Inverness, then the long trek back to Glen Orchy. If we’re lucky, we’ll be home around 11.30. I just hope no one wants to be up too early tomorrow.

P.S. from PM
Ha! I've seen puffins in Alaska. They're so cute. I hope the Playfriends and Miss Rhonda get to see some. Remind me to tag along on their next Scotland trip. These sights today are just too cool (not that the others haven't been).
P.P.S. The winner of a nifty Writing Playground pen from Saturday when we were heading for 50,000 hits is ..... Nini! Send your snail mail info to the Playground Monitor and I'll get that pen out to you as soon as I get back home.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Hunting We Will Go...

For the Loch Ness Monster, that is. Today we trek to Loch Ness, hoping for a glimpse of the famous Nessie.

And it looks like we have a great chance of seeing her. Recently, an amateur scientist caught what is believed to be video of the famous monster. Very Cool!

My daughter has given me specific instructions to bring her home a stuffed Nessie, which we saw online while searching for pictures. I shall endeavor to succeed, just in case I can't get a picture of the real thing.

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After scoping out the old girl, we'll drive further along Loch Ness to Culloden. There we'll visit the Battlefield, Exhibition, and Visitor Center that memorializes over 1300 Jacobites and Government soldiers killed in the last battle to take place on Scottish soil. The entire battle lasted only an hour. Mass graves here are simply marked by clan, though the coming government strictures brought about the breakdown of the clan system.

Then it is on to Inverness, where we hope to visit the Inverness Castle, rumored to be linked with the murder of King Duncan featured in Shakespeare's play MacBeth.

Across the river is Saint Andrew's Cathedral and several historical houses, then it's off to the B&B for some sleep. We'll have a very early morning, so turning in on time is imperative. :)

While you are waiting for our return, you can go on a hunt for Nessie yourself. Check out this live webcam located on Loch Ness.

Talking with my daughter about the Loch Ness monster has made me think a lot about various "monsters" in our culture. We watch the Adams Family and Munsters a lot on TV Land. There are all those old B movies of the Swamp Thing and giant radioactive ants. Paranormal is really popular right now, but I'm talking about old school monsters. There's even another Nessie-type monster seen in one of the Great Lakes called Champ.

What's your favorite "monster" story, from when you were a kid or old movies or tv shows? I'll choose my favorite to win some paranormal books and a Nessie trinket when I return.


P.S. from PM

Y'all are doing a great job of keeping me company. I've hardly missed the Playfriends at all. I should have gotten a bunch of writing done this weekend but I just vegged instead. And read 2 books. And went for a motorcycle ride with the hubby yesterday. Tomorrow I resume the hunt for the perfect Rita dress. Stay tuned for details.

Saturday, June 16, 2007



The Writing Playground blog received it's 50,000th hit today!

Many thanks to our loyal readers who drop by every day
to swing or slide or just chat with us. The hits are all about YOU!

Angel, Instigator, Playground Monitor, Problem Child & Smarty Pants

A Scottish Weekend

Our weekend in Scotland will have some definite highlights!

We'll start off Saturday by taking the bus through Edinburgh and on to Rosslyn Chapel. For those of you familiar with the movie The DaVinci Code, this is the chapel at the end where Sophie meets her family.

Founded in 1446 by the St. Clair Prince of Orkney, it is a smaller portion of what was to have been a larger structure. It wasn't completed after the death of the Prince, but what remains is undeniably beautiful.

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I particularly love the inscription on the Apprentice Pillar, "Wine is strong a King is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all." The master mason who began carving the pillar left for Rome to receive further guidance as to completing it, but upon his return found that his apprentice had continued working to the pillar's completion. The master was so angry that he killed the young man, thus earning the pillar its name.

After finishing up in Edinburgh, we'll travel to our home base along the Glen Orchy river and get settled. The next day we'll take in Inveraray. The castle there looks gorgeous. Check out the website, it's interactive and you can view various rooms on the web. We might also check out the Maritime Museum, restored jail, or whatever takes our fancy.

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Check back in on Monday for a chance to win a paranormal prize pack that includes a Nessie souvenir. And don't forget our "Keep Marilyn Company" contest, going on all week!


P.S. from PM

1. No writing yesterday because the workmen came at 8:00 AM to install the lights on the front of the house and didn't finish untiol 3:00 PM. They were drilling and hammering and generally not conducive to writing. Once they left I headed for the campground, where perhaps I will be able to write. Perhaps.

2. The blog is very close to its 50,000th hit! We should reach that big milestone today. Yay us! I'll pick a commenter today to receive a fabuloso Writing Playground pen.

3. So what if the other Playfriends are seeing castles and chapels. I saw a dead deer by the roadside and a dust devil in a carwash parking lot. Not the same, huh?

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's Pronounced Ed-den-burra

Today, Instigator, PC, SP, Angel and Miss Rhonda are conquering the capital city of Edinburgh. We’re taking the bus into the city from our seaside B&B to the Royal Mile and Prince’s Street.

After much discussion, we decided that we are going to start our day at the Edinburgh Castle. This is the most famous Scottish castle. The oldest part, St Margaret's Chapel, dates from the 12th century; the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510; the Half Moon Battery by the Regent Morton in the late 16th century; and the Scottish National War Memorial was built after the First World War. The castle houses the crown jewels of Scotland, known as the Honours, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun, Mons Meg, the One O' Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.

After we finish touring the castle, we’re going to make our way down the Royal Mile. There will be much shopping, whisky tasting at places like the famous Scotch Whisky Heritage Center, and touring of beautiful old buildings like the St. Giles’ Cathedral. A more grisly turn might take us to Mary King's Close. In 1645, plague victims were barricaded inside these narrow tenament rooms and left to die. City Chambers was later built on top of the closed off area and its said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland.

At the other end of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is The Queen's official residence in Scotland. Highlights include the royal apartments, with intricately carved plaster ceilings, floor-to-ceiling tapestries and mythological paintings. Most recently, a Gallery has been added.

This should take up the bulk of today. Fortunately, the sun doesn't set until about 10PM, so we can go as long as our little bodies (and gift shop hours) will let us. That evening, after a good Scottish dinner (maybe some haggis, maybe not) we may take one of the haunted Edinburgh tours - either the Murder & Mystery Tour or the Ghosts and Gore tour. From what I've heard, Edinburgh has a grisly and dark history, so there may be trouble sleeping tonight, despite being totally exhausted.

There are several live webcams set up around Edinburgh, so click to try and catch a peek of us (note the time change - Scotland is 6 hours ahead of CST!).

The streets of Edinburgh are thought to be haunted (and not just by the tourguides that jump out at you as you go by). Have you ever had a run-in with what you believed was a real ghost? If not, what's your favorite ghost story? One commenter will receive a spooky treat from a Royal Mile gift shop courtesy of me!


P.S. from PM

Great travel stories yesterday!

And my writing ? Eh... Had to go to a picnic and then rushed home for workmen to install lights on my house. But when they got there they didn't have the lights. Communications snafu. They're back today, lights in hand and they knocked $50 off the job. Anyway, I only got a smidgeon written. Maybe I can write today.

More Than Enough Woman
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