Monday, March 31, 2008

Mind Power

It never ceases to amaze me how much power the imagination holds.

Last night, I was watching the latest episode of I Can Make You Thin, a new show on TLC where Phil McKenna talks about his methods for losing weight. This time he discussed how to use the power of your imagination to lose weight! As much as my creativity plays a role in my life, it never occurred to me to use it in this way. More often than not, we use our imagination to tempt us by wondering how delicious that chocolate cake will taste, but he suggests dumping worms on it (in your mind's eye) and then seeing how tempting it really is.

After thinking about this concept for a bit, I remembered ways I've used my powerful imagination for things other than just writing. I took a hiatus from reading popular fiction during college, because I barely had time to breath on top of my full course load and 2 part-time jobs. But I returned to it in full after my first miscarriage. That ability to escape for a while, to allow my mind and emotions to heal, proved to be wonderful medicine, but I think the most powerful help was being able to imagine a world where love and happily ever after still existed. Light to the darkness.

The technique of visualization, using your mind's eye to visualize a positive healing process, happy outcome, or your own special place of rest and rejuvenation, is widely encouraged by mental health professionals. The power of the mind can heal not just our mind but our body as well. It can work in the opposite direction too. Obsessively worrying about problems and imagining a bad outcome, while great for a book, is not so helpful in real life. In fact, it can prove to be extremely harmful in the long run.

Have you used your imagination for good lately?


PS Don't forget to check out the winners from last week below!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


What a party! Lynn, Maven LJ and the Playfriends would like to thank everyone for coming by and making it a success, although we'll be cleaning up all week. There's chocolate on the slide, a bra hanging from the monkey bars and... hmm... Captain Jack is passed out in a tire swing. Never a dull moment around here. :)

Anyway on to the WINNERS...

From last Tuesday's nickname post, PC has selected LeeAnn! Please email with your snail mail info for your Black and White prize pack.

From our celebration Friday, we had such a great response, I chose 2 winners. Congrats to Tina Martinese and Michelle L! You each pick up prize packs that include 3 of the 6 books below and of course, chocolate.

  • 2008 Rita Nominee Fall From Grace by Kristi Gold (2 autographed copies)
  • 2008 Rita Nominee Traceless by Debra Webb
  • 2008 Rita Nominee Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • 2005 Rita winner Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
  • & 2007 Emma Merritt winner Gayle Wilson's Suicide Club.
Email with your snail mail info to claim your prize.

Small Print: Items not claimed in 7 days will be reawarded (or I just might keep it for myself!) so contact us ASAP.


(And yes, I know I re-used the same graphic, but I'm in love with glitter art right now and I think its pretty!)

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Best Week Ever

If any of you watch VH-1, you'll know they have a show called The Best Week Ever. They go over all the events (and non-events, like what Britney Spears ate for lunch) of the past week, poke fun at it, and talk about why this past week was the best week ever. Well, around here, this week - at least for Lynn Raye Harris and Maven Linda Winstead Jones -WAS the Best Week Ever.

Lynn won the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction contest last Friday with her entry for THE SPANISH MAGNATE'S REVENGE. She beat out 599 other entries to take the prize. Then, she found out Tuesday that she is a Golden Heart Finalist in the Adventure/Suspense category with her book HOT PURSUIT.

Maven Linda was named the 2008 recipient of the Emma Merritt Service Award to be presented at Nationals this year. She also got the call Tuesday to find she is a double RITA finalist in the paranormal category with PRINCE OF MAGIC and RAINTREE: HAUNTED!
Congratulations to them both! Also, special congrats go out to Playground friends who've picked up RITA nominations - Kristi Gold, Allison Brennan, Maureen Child, Cheryl St. John and fellow HOD Member Debra Webb. Also, a big SQUEEE for all the RT nominees, including Maven Linda Howard and Maven Beverly Barton!

So much good news around here. Of course, this means we're having a party. If there's one thing we do well on the Playground - its celebrating. We'll take all the positive energy we can get. The margarita machine is buzzing (lime = fruit, perfectly acceptable for breakfast). The chocolate fountain is flowing, the petit-fours are plated. The shirtless hunks will be here any second to cater to our every whim. Grab a Teeter Totter at the bar and celebrate with us.

One well-wisher today will receive a prize pack that includes chocolate and books by RITA and Emma Merritt winning or nominated authors. Put the phrase "SQUUEEEE" in your comments to win. (UPDATE - The prize just got sweeter! Kristi Gold has graciously offered a copy of her Rita nominated book - Fall from Grace. Thanks, Kristi!)


Thursday, March 27, 2008


I came to a startling conclusion today. I need some inspiration. I'm a little over 80 pages into my next book and I don't know what my characters look like. I know THEM. I know their attitudes, their mannerisms, their wants and needs but I have no idea what color eyes they have. Or whether they have a tattoo or pierced ears. Oh, I've filled in the blanks as I've written but I know my hero has changed eye colors at least twice so far. Yes, I could smooth out these details later because honestly, at this stage in my writing process it doesn't much matter to me. Except now that I've noticed the problem, every time I write down blue eyes I second guess myself and wonder if they're really supposed to be brown and that just interrupts the whole process.

What I need is a really good picture for both my hero and heroine. I've scoured my hero and heroine files. I have several dozen pictures in each. Nothing fits either of my characters. I've looked at a couple of online sites for models/actors. None of them have really been right either.

I'm hoping my friends on the playground can help me solve this problem. I need to broaden my search for pictures of sexy men and women but I've exhausted my resources. Anyone have any good links/sites they use for inspiration? If you use pictures to help you visualize your characters where do you find them? Do the characters start out in your mind like someone you've seen before, like an actor or model?


P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MAVEN LJ! We hope you have a wonderful day.
P.P.S. The winners from Rocki's blog yesterday are Lynn (signed ARC of THEN YOU HIDE) and Sherry (signed copy of FIRST YOU RUN). Please email PM here to claim your prize. Prizes not claimed within seven days will be re-awarded.
P.P.P.S. There have been so many wonderful things happening on the playground this week that we've decided to throw a Festive Friday party to celebrate. Please join us tomorrow as we congratulate our friends on some fantastic news.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Guest Blogger: Roxanne St. Claire

Once again my friend Rocki St. Claire has joined us on the Playground, and as always she has something great to say. It's supposed to be 68 degrees today, so let's enjoy the sunshine and have fun with Rocki!

DNA: Do Not Ask…About My Process.

Hello, Playfriends! Thank you for inviting me back to one of my favorite writer hangouts. Today, I am euphoric. I’ve finished a book, turned it in, and have spent the last 48 hours rediscovering the family I’ve ignored for a few weeks as I’ve lived under the weight of a deadline. Of course, I’m thinking about what matters most in my career…the next book. Not the story. Not the hero. Not the title. No, I’m thinking about how to make the whole painful, agonizing, brutal, miserable, yucky process of writing a book…easier.

Why is it that the two most beautiful words in an author’s arsenal of thousands are: The End?

Because writing a book is so dang hard. Maybe you’re like me – holding firm to the belief that there is an easier way and someone out there will be able to explain it. I always ask other writers about their process, I always listen to the answer, and I always pick up a tidbit that I try to use.

And I always fail to change my process. I think how we create a novel from idea to submission is stamped in our DNA. It’s like our looks, our personality, our shoe size. Just like I will never be a 5’10” willowy brunette with delicate bone structure, a ladylike laugh, and the ability to do calculus, I will never write “fastdraft” in two or three weeks. I will never know the nuances of my characters before I start writing, nor will I follow the plot in my synopsis, no matter how detailed. I am not able to open a new chapter until I am relatively happy with the one before; I would prefer a slow and painful death to writing scenes out of chronological order; and the idea of putting a timer on my desk and not getting out of the chair until the bell rings is just laughable. On the contrary, I need a bomb to go off to remind me to stop. Well, maybe not a bomb. A glass of wine in my husband’s outstretched hand usually works around dinner time.

But some aspects of my process are like those character traits that are not pressed into our gene code, but have some room for man-made improvement. Plotting, for example. I never do it the same way twice and I love to learn other techniques. Sometimes I use a plot board with sticky notes for every scene, other times I jot notes on a yellow pad, and other times I just barrel forward, blind and optimistic. Sometimes I know exactly what scene should come next and why, sometimes I just throw stuff on the keyboard until it sticks. (Messy, but so satisfying when you finally get it right.)

The amount I write in a day also varies, depending on the book and my mood. Sometimes I write a scene a day, no more, no less, sometimes I power through a chapter or more, then spend the next four days reworking those pages to death. Sometimes I get up early and write at 5:00 AM every single day, my imagination oddly fertile at that ungodly hour; other days you can’t blast me out of bed and I don’t write a decent word until late in the afternoon.

The easier books always start with characters that have rock solid GMCs. Of course, I try to set the conflict and motivation of each character in stone, but there are always those books that require a month of chiseling at that granite to discover the why these people are doing what they are doing and how that could blow up in their faces. Why is that? Could I improve that process next time? Sometimes I know my villain better than the hero…sometimes I don’t know who the bad guy is until he tries to kill the heroine in the climax of the book. (I don’t recommend that to anyone except my enemies, by the way.)

I’m sure this topic has been front and center on the Playground before, but inquiring guest minds want to know. What’s in your process DNA that can never change, and what do you find you do differently from one manuscript to another? One commenter wins a signed copy of my new release, FIRST YOU RUN, which Marilyn has, of course, pimped so exquisitely*…AND a brand new hot-off-the-Pocket-Books-press Advanced Reader Copy of the next book in the Bullet Catcher trilogy, THEN YOU HIDE.

Thanks for inviting me to play!

*My review of FIRST YOU RUN will be posted on the Writing Playground website in April.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's in a Name?

Anthroponomastics is a branch of Onomastics which studies anthroponyms—the names of human beings. I’ve been interested in anthroponomastics recently because I’m considering changing my heroine’s name as it doesn’t really seem to fit her in the new rewrite.

Her current name also doesn’t have any cool nicknames I can have the hero call her, and for some strange reason, that’s really a problem in this rewrite. That lead me to thinking about nicknames in general—sadly, the study of nicknames doesn’t have a cool fifty-cent word to describe it.

I’m a Kimberly who also gets called Kim. (If you know a Kimberly who manages not to be called Kim, please let me know how that miracle happens.) My family calls me Kimmy (yes, even as an adult. Can’t seem to shake it.). I despise being called Kimbo, so that’s what my brother calls me, of course. (Although my stepdad used to call me Bo, which was short for Kimbo, but not as appalling somehow.) I was even a Kimber for a while, but thankfully those days are long past. Nicknames like that are pretty run-of-the-mill as far as nicknames go; anyone with a shortenable name can probably rattle off several like them as well.

Then there are the nicknames that are plays on a name. Counselor Shelley calls me Kimzolabob (don’t ask). Sunny calls me Kimborling. A whole group of my Hawaiian friends call me Kimchee (Chee is the Hawaiian Pidgin for ‘girl’ and kimchee is a type of food. It didn’t take long for that to get run together and stuck to me). My mom has a nickname for me along these same lines that’s just mortifying, and won’t be mentioned here.

But the nicknames I find really interesting are the ones that aren’t simply derivations of your given name. They’re the nicknames that require explanations for those not “in the know.” Tucker calls me Hadji. I call Counselor Shelley Bella. My mom’s nickname is Eliot. Of course, around here, I’m PC—but none of the Playfriends call me that in real life (at least not to my face ~grin~).

And, no, despite my fascination with Outlander when we met, I never could get DG to call me Sassenach—or anything else in Gaelic. Sigh.

I think that’s probably the key to nicknames—the kind that require (sometimes embarrassing) explanations: you can’t give them to yourself. Someone else has to start calling you by a nickname, and then it starts to stick as other folks pick up on it. Then it spreads. With a shortened or derivative form of your name, you just introduce yourself to new people by that name. You can’t do that with true nicknames. I mean, I can’t exactly walk up to someone and introduce myself as Hadji, now can I?

But nicknames, however embarrassing or appalling, do have a great purpose. I can place people by what they call me. Even if I don’t recognize the voice or the number on Caller ID, a “Hey, Kimchee!” narrows down the possibilities pretty quickly.

So what’s your nickname? If it’s an odd one, you should tell the story behind it too. (But no cruel nicknames, okay? That dipwad who called you Horseface in third grade doesn’t deserve the air time. We hate him on your behalf on principle.) My favorite will get a cool Black and White prize pack.

~A nickname I happen to love~

Monday, March 24, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

I've been gone since Wednesday and missed everyone on the Playground more than I expected! But I enjoyed visiting with my family and watching my children do the same.

Before I left, I came down with some kind of virus that gave me a painful sore throat. But I went ahead with my plans anyway, because my Mom and the kids would have been extremely disappointed if I cancelled. It will go away, I reasoned.

By Friday, I had no voice. When I tried to talk, my words came out all croaky and broken. This presented several challenges.

Since the hubby stayed home to work, I was the only disciplinarian present. (Grandparents don't count, because they've forgotten discipline exists.) Do you know how hard it is to make kids behave or give the simplest of instructions with no voice? Whispers don't carry a lot of weight. As a matter of fact, Little Man started whispering back at me. :) I finally resorted to growling at them when they misbehaved, but it didn't have much impact either.

Also, Friday night was the extended family get-together. So I spent the night surrounded by dozens of people I hadn't seen in two years, but could barely make myself understood. At least I got to listen to them talk to each other.

I still have no voice. Laryngitis is a weird thing. I guess I didn't realize how much I talked before this (my hubby is choking with laughter right now, I'm sure). I didn't appreciate how much I enjoyed sharing my thoughts and ideas through conversation, or used my voice to give directions to others. As a writer, words are important to me. Being without them, even for a few days, isn't fun!

If you lost your voice for three days, what would you miss saying the most?


Friday, March 21, 2008

Define “Done”

I’m sure you all remember late last year when PC and I got wrapped up in a writing challenge. At some point, I finished and we declared the contest over. The book was done. Er...well, the first draft was done. It was a coherent story with a plot arc and all that, but it defintely wasn't ready to mail off. I write pretty close to final draft the first time through, so at this point its really just a matter of tidying up. This means going back over it ninety times, editing, having others read it, more editing, getting contest feedback, doing some more editing, then finally, its done. (With a little more editing added in for good measure.)

I don’t know that a book is ever really done. I think an author either gives up, or the editor sends it to press and tells them to go work on something else. I probably wrote this book about 4 times with all the changes I made and it ended up nothing like the story I originally came up with in 2006. (Yes, it took me that long.) Back then, all I had was a scribbled note that said "girl ghost hunters." Fortunately, it turned out way better than I’d expected. Unfortunately, this just raises my hopes for a greatness few ever achieve.

But today, my friends, Ghost of a Chance is done. DONE! I’m not touching this book again unless an editor tells me to! It was printed at Kinkos last night and is making its way to New York City as we speak.

I feel like a load of bricks has been lifted off my shoulders. Of course, the weight will be replaced with the next project and the anxiety of hearing back on it, but for now, for today, I’m going to revel in the joy of it.

What are you excited about today?

(We know why Lynn is excited - Teeter Totters for everyone - Lynn WON the Presents Contest! That is awesome! Congratulations! Go over to Lynn's blog and help her celebrate!)


Circle of 5 Status:
1 Agent Query Pending
2 Agent Partials Still Pending
1 Agent Full Pending (in the mail, baby!)
2 Contest Entries Submitted to Lauries (final round status announced March 31st)
3 Short Stories & 4 Short Features Submitted to Trues, 2 Sales so far!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Finally Here!

My very first cover :-D Can you tell I'm excited? I was absolutely ecstatic when I got the email from my wonderful editor. I thought it would be at least another month before I'd get my cover so I was very pleasantly surprised.

Now the fun begins. I need to update my website (I know, SP, I need to get my butt in gear). Design postcards for an upcoming promotional opportunity. Order my promo for our annual reader's luncheon. And on and on and on. :-) August will be here before I know it and somehow I feel like I'm behind the eight ball already.

On another note, my galleys also arrived by DHL the other day. I get to read the book one more time before it all becomes official and I can no longer fix the his that was supposed to be her. I'm slightly nauseous with nerves at the thought.

So, tell me, if you saw this book in the store would you pick it up?


P.S. Congratulations to Wendy and Joyce Ann, PM's winners from yesterday! Please email her here to claim your prize. Prizes not claimed within seven days will be reawarded.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We are here! Where are you?

Horton Hears a Who! was written by Dr. Seuss in 1954. And if you think the Whos sound familiar, they made an encore appearance in his 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas (though they seem to have grown a bit in three years).

The book is about Horton the Elephant who hears a speck of dust talking to him. The speck is actually a tiny planet that's home to a city called Who-ville. Horton can't actually see the Whos, but he can hear them. They ask Horton to protect them and in doing so, he is ridiculed by other animals for believing in something they can't see or hear.

Horton finally tells the Whos they need to make themselves heard or they'll end up in the stew pot. So they gather all the members of Who-ville to yell "We are here! We are here!" as loudly as they can.

My town won a special pre-release screening of this movie last week. Our mayor, 300 soldiers and a crowd of children and adults, many wearing Horton ears, gathered outside our civic center to yell "We are here! We are here!" for a minute. Sound levels were recorded and in the end, we beat out eleven other cities to win the special screening of the movie.

Neat, huh?

Well, there's something that we at the Playground can't hear. On Thursday, March 13, we had 340 hits on the blog, but only 8 comments. Three of those were from the other Playfriends and Problem Child would have commented had she not been in the wilds of Scotland and away from high-speed internet access.

We know you're out there. This picture shows it. But we can't hear you. Yesterday you came from the US and Canada, the UK, Germany and Austria (not to be confused with Australia, where we also have lurkers), Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovakia, Israel, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Bulgaria, Serbia & Montenegro and Japan. Heck, you even came to visit on Sunday.

You need to yell "We are here!" so we can be sure you're really there.

Give us a shout in the comments section and two lucky shouters will be selected to win some Easter chocolate. Tell us who you are and how you found us (did we blow in on a breeze like Horton's speck of dust?). Tell us about where you're from. What is its claim to fame? Invite a friend and shout in stereo with them.

Go ahead and shout!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The World's Best Mom

And no, it’s not me. Pigs aren’t airborne yet. I’m giving props to my mom today.

(A little background—Mom isn’t living in town right now. She moved back to Tennessee several months ago to help care for my grandmother who’s having some health issues. Hopefully, she’ll be able to move back sometime this summer.)

So we got back Friday night from the whirlwind trip to Scotland on the world’s worst travel itinerary. Despite my plans to work on my book while I was gone, I didn’t accomplish much due to, well, due to lots of stuff. Saturday morning, Mom calls to check in and I bemoan my lack of progress and worry out loud about how I’m ever going to get this book finished with AC home all this week for Spring Break. She commiserates, but she’s not much help from four hours away.

A couple of hours later, she calls back and tells me if I’ll meet her half-way, she’ll take AC to Tennessee for the week.

The whole week.

Leaving me the week to work on these revisions.


See why I’m not the world’s best mom? I packed AC’s bags and headed to Chattanooga. Now I have the whole house to myself while DG’s at work and I should be accomplishing tons.

I should be, at least.

Unfortunately, being gone last week meant a ton of stuff landed on my To Do list for Monday and between the phone and the emails, not much got accomplished book-wise.

So if I’m AWOL most of today and the rest of the week, you’ll know why. It’s because I’m trying to make the most of the time I have to get this book done. If I’m going to suffer the Mom-Guilt of shipping my kid off with just a cheery wave, I should get a decent page count out of it, right?

So three cheers for my mom. You rock, Mom. Try not to spoil AC too much. After last week with her other grandparents and a week with you, I’d hate to have to beat her when she gets home.

Who’s your hero this week? Anyone deliver exactly what you needed?


Monday, March 17, 2008


Those who are close to me know that planning ahead is essential for me. There is no such thing as spontaneous in my vocabulary, especially for big events. That only leads to stress. I'm a plotter and planner all the way.

That's why this week's behavior is so unusual for me. I'm packing up my children and driving six hours to visit my parents on Wednesday.

That's not very spontaneous, you say. I beg to differ. I didn't even start my packing list until Sunday. Sunday!

I haven't begun packing. I still need to get the oil changed in my car, pick up some groceries to take, and clean out the car so there's room for all our stuff.

I'm haven't started to stress yet, to my surprise. I'm sure by Saturday I'll wonder what the heck I was thinking... But for now, I'm excited by this adventure.

What adventure are you planning this week? What's one thing you would totally do (or not do) on a whim?


Friday, March 14, 2008

SP and PC Do : Yoga

PC and I both started out the New Year with a desire to be better to our bodies and therefore, take some fitness classes. We opted to start out with yoga. I’d done yoga before and always found it relaxing, even if it was tough at times. The classes I took before were part of a gym membership, so this time, we found a place that just does yoga.

So we went to the first class and liked it enough to buy a 5 class discount pass. There were various classes with different teachers, so we decided to try a couple different ones out. PC decided she liked Marcy. (Just as a note, as a former dancer, PC is attracted to instructors who punish her. Me, not so much.) Anyway, Marcy looks about 22, although she mentioned having a kid graduating college, so she must be in her 40s. She’s tiny, blonde, very cute. You almost like her. Then class starts.

She always starts off with easy stuff – classic beginner poses like these -

Downward Dog

Triangle Pose

For a beginner, these are hard enough. Sometimes they feel good at first, then you hold it for 10 slow, even breaths and its no longer fun. The teachers “adjust” you to get you in the right position, usually making me pray not to tip over and take PC out like a domino. One instructor (just happened to be a guy that day) patted her sides to get her to tense up the muscles and from my position on my head, I could've swore he smacked her on the hind end. This, of course, launched me into a massive giggle fit, which is a yoga no-no. As is talking. PC and I have some issues with these rules. We’ve managed to get by with eye rolls and muttering the occasional “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

This usually comes around the time that Marcy steps it up to harder stuff like this –

Side Plank. This pose gets even worse, but I’ll spare you the modification. My knee goes down every time. The problem with this pose it that you have already been up on your arms in various poses for quite a while, so by then, you’re shaking like a leaf and about to face plant into the concrete floor.

The Plow Pose. In class, I could’ve swore she said "cloud," but this is what the website called it. I probably misheard her because all the blood trapped in my head was flooding my ears.

Monkey Pose, otherwise known as the fricking splits! She asked all of us if we’d done this in class yet this year. I announced that I hadn’t done the splits since birth. Little did we know that this was just a warmup for doing splits up against the wall.

Shoulder Stand. I know this was pretty for people watching all of us try to do this.

I have this rule about my butt going over my head. The shoulder stand was bad enough, but then she wanted us to do an actual handstand. Despite attempting this pose up against a wall for support, I still must protest. I am not 7, therefore handstands, splits, and cartwheels are out of my league. Can we just go back to child’s pose?

So, PC and I have completed our 5 class pass. She was eyeing the 10 class pass, so I think there may be more headstands in my future. Think I could talk her into belly dancing classes instead?

All I know is one thing - the day she asks us to do this one, I quit.

The Firefly Pose (sounds pretty, right??)

Anything you could do in the glory days of your youth that would warrant a trip to the ER or the orthopedic surgeon if you tried it now?


PS. Today is the One Year Anniversary of Beyond Her Book - Barbara Vey's blog on Publisher's Weekly. Come join the party!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Simple Pleasures

It's stupid, sometimes, the things that make us smile. I have a new set of pots and pans. Every time I walk into the kitchen and see them I smile. This is idiotic because I don't cook. I will probably be able to count on one hand the number of times I will actually use them over the next year. But they're so preeettyy :-)

I spent almost the entire day yesterday in bed reading a book. The reason I was there wasn't pleasant (Sweet Pea is sick) but it's been so long since I've indulged myself in that pleasure...

And Whispers in the Dark is now listed on and It's a little thing. I don't have a cover. But I do have a title. And it's my name on the screen. It's becoming more and more real every day. :-)

What's your simple pleasure?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Has Sprung?

It's March 12 and already this month we've had temperatures in the 70's, temperatures in the 20's, tornado warnings and as shown on the left, a winter weather event that caused major highways to be closed. I know it's not much by Buffalo, New York standards, but it was enough to delight every kid in town and ice every overpass and bridge in the northern part of the state.

Welcome to Alabama! If you don't like the weather, hang around a day or so because it's sure to change.

I went out in my yard on Monday and noticed some unusual things. I did a little investigating and discovered there's been sexual activity in my backyard. *gasp* I live in middle-class suburbia. How could this happen?

I checked on the bluebird houses and one has eggs in it. I love watching the bluebirds. We never had bluebirds at our other house because it was in a wooded area, and the Eastern bluebird prefers open fields. Since our subdivision used to be a cotton field, it's pretty open. When I spotted my first bluebird three years ago, I made the DH buy houses and put them up. This is our third year to have bluebird babies. These photos are from other sources because I can't get close enough to the birds, but the photo of the eggs looks exactly like the nest in my yard.

Yes, that's what you think it is, and we have another nest as a result of their little rendezvous. But this nest is a little different. The kildeer is a member of the plover family and the first time I saw and heard it, I thought a shore bird had wandered way, way, way inland. It has a very loud call, and when it feels threatened, or feels its nest is in danger, it makes a screeching noise and will run along the ground, dragging a wing as if injured to lure the suspected predator away from the nest.

Instead of nesting in houses or trees, kildeer nest on the ground. These are photos of last year's nest, but if you look carefully to the bottom right of the spirea bush, you can see the nest and four eggs in the mulch. Here's a closer photo of the nest.

The mother lays the eggs over a period of days. I first noticed the nest late last week. Monday afternoon I saw one egg in it. As of yesterday afternoon, it still only had one egg, but the mama and papa are probably off somewhere having bird sex so they can fill the nest up with the usual four eggs. In about a month they'll hatch. Unlike the bluebirds which are tiny and helpless when they hatch, kildeer babies are born able to walk and fly right away. So within a few days of hatching, the mother will destroy all evidence of the nest.

My daylilies are sprouting up out of the ground, my rose bushes are putting out leaves and pretty soon it'll be time to plant flowers and spruce up the herb garden I planted last year. Most of the herbs are perennial but I'll have to re-plant my sweet basil. I sure enjoy having those fresh herbs to cook with. I don't think I'll bother with parsley this year, though, because an infestation of parsley worms destroyed it last year. But how can I complain when those worms become black swallowtail butterflies? And who eats parsley anyway (except those worms)?

Is spring showing itself in your neck of the woods? Do you garden or watch birds? If so, what birds do you see and what does your garden grow?

P.S. One of my bestest friends has a book coming out on March 25. FIRST YOU RUN is the first in a three-book connected series featuring Roxanne St. Claire's oh-so-hunky Bullet Catchers. You can read a review of the book
here and her publisher, Pocket Books, has donated 10 ARCs for that review site to give away. All you have to do is comment on the thread by midnight Thursday (I think it's Eastern time). It's an awesome book (I'll be doing my own review of it on the Playground website next month) so here's your chance for an early peek.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The hard part

No, not that hard part. Get your minds out of the gutter, people!

I’m in Scotland this week, blogging in absentia. While DG and AC visit with the in-laws, I’m working on revisions.

It’s appropriate, in a way, that I’m revising this book in Scotland, as I finished this book in Scotland many moons ago. (For those of you new to the blog, I play Miss America chaperone to AC and escort her overseas every summer. I use that time to write. Usually.)

Once the euphoria of “I don’t suck” waned, I was faced with the prospect of actually revising. I knew it would be a major undertaking—not just a tweak here or there or just a rearranging of scenes. Pretty much everything after about chapter four would have to be cut or completely rewritten. Yikes.

The first cut—the stuff I knew had to go—took my book from 56k to 18.5k in two quick keystrokes. I had to go lie down in a dark room after that.

Once that nausea passed, I knew I was on the right track. Until now, I lacked the distance necessary to objectively evaluate what was really in this book. Of course the book was dragging—I stretched the action out over eight freaking months. (Yes, if you’d asked me if that was a good idea for your book, I would have told you no way. My book, however, was special and that rule didn’t apply.) That supporting cast of interesting and quirky characters—complete with backstory for each—had to go. Needless to say, the scenes written from their points of view also had to be slashed.

What can I say—it was my first book and I’ve learned a lot since then. ~shrug~

Let’s just say that the first cut is the deepest, and while it may be painful, it can improve your book exponentially.

Then, of course, came the question of what will I do now? The Beautiful Editor did give me some suggestions, and after much personal angst, I decided which ideas I could use to create an actual plot past page 50.

Then, just as I’d come (almost) to terms with all that was cut, I started wondering what I might be able to keep. Can I salvage that wonderful scene I love in chapter ten? Maybe I can work some of it in in chapter six? It’s a great scene—full of angst and self-discovery. Maybe a few tweaks will make it work in the revised version.

Or, maybe since it’s “cut” right now, I should leave it as such.

I’m not saying this is easy, but it’s a growing experience for me as a writer. I’m really trying to push myself to go deeper with these characters and their story, because I do love them and want them to have their chance to see the world.

But it’s tough, trying to figure out if I’m making this book better or worse with the revisions. Honestly, at this point, I’m not sure.

But the only way out is through, so I’m slogging along, unsure if this is the best stuff I’ve ever written or if I’m a complete talentless hack. I guess I’ll find out once I finish it and send it off to Beautiful Editor, huh?

So send creative thoughts my way, okay? And maybe today would be a good day to practice our affirmations. I’ll start: “I don’t suck. I don’t suck. This book is great.

Your turn. What’s your affirmation?


Monday, March 10, 2008

To Sleep or Not To Sleep...

I'm blogging this morning about the only thing on my mind: Sleep (or lack thereof).

I'm exhausted, and not looking forward to the day of juggling ahead of me. I've already been tired a lot lately, and I was looking forward to the weekend to catch up on some precious zzz's.

Friday night I stayed up late to write. Worthy cause, and I figured I could make up for the lack of sleep on Sunday. But Friday night it snowed and I was awake at 6am, worrying about the roads and the fate of our local RWA meeting (I'm on the board). We finally decided to cancel. That night the hubby wanted me to watch a movie with him, one we couldn't see until our children were in bed, so it was late to bed that night too.

No problem. Sunday is usually a good sleep day, the one day of the week I can fit in a nap. But the time changed and my children got up early. I dragged myself, very grumpily, out of bed and made muffins. Then proceeded to spend the morning cleaning and clearing. Right about nap time, the hubby decides to go into town. Uh oh, no one to run interference and sure enough, the children made noise all afternoon. No nap.

Okay, I'll go to bed early. And I did—9:30. Only to have the hubby come to bed too. Oh, alright... Finally, everyone leaves me alone so I can sleep. Until 4am. I hear the youngest crying in his room. Finally get him settled again, get me settled again. No sleep. The brain won't shut down. Takes over an hour to drift off. I jerk awake to find the oldest standing near my bed. She had a bad dream. Comfort dispensed, I glance at the clock. 5:50. Great. I lay there, determined to get just a little more sleep, but no dice. The alarm finally forces me from my warm cocoon at 6:30am.

Now I'm tired, grouchy, tired, and wishing I could make my house empty for about 3 hours so I could get some much-needed, good-mood inducing SLEEP!!!


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Friday's winners

From Cheryl:

Thanks to all my gracious hosts at the Writing Playground and to everyone who stopped by and joined the discussion. I enjoyed this day tremendously.

I'm drawing two names, and the winners will each receive a book from my backlist (as long as I have copies--there are a few I don't have), so moving right along:

reaching into the fishbowl....

and the two winners are....

Sherry W



Please select a book from my backlist:

(and a 2nd choice) and send your choice to me at:

And remember: They're only words!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Guest Blogger - Cheryl St. John

Let's give a big Playground welcome to today's guest blogger - Cheryl St. John!

Is Fear Holding You Back?
In one form or another fear is probably the number one culprit that keeps us from going after our dreams. Fear is often insidious, disguised as procrastination or poor time management, but it can be debilitating in any form. I guess the first step to overcoming fear is to figure out exactly what it is that scares you.

Are you afraid of trying to write because you might find out you’re not very good at it? Are you concerned you might give it your all and never get published? Recognizing that something is holding you back is s huge step. Now take another one and figure out exactly what it is you’re worried will happen.

First, understand this: The first thing you write won’t be publishable. Neither will the first book, most likely (okay it does happen) and most likely neither will the second. But you will never learn, you will never grow, you will never know that you can, until you put the words on the paper. It took me a long time to figure this out, but once I did it was a revelation, so if this sinks in for you, I’ll consider this a successful blog: They are only words. You can write more.

Repeat after me: They are only words. You can write more. If they’re not great, you can toss them out and come up with different ones. There are plenty more words where those came from. Thousands, millions, in all sorts of combinations and patterns. And -- you don’t have to get them all right the first time! Now, that’s liberating.

Whenever a new member joins my RWA chapter or my critique group, I understand their nervousness. I was in their shoes once. I make it a point to tell them: “We all started out in the same place.”

Years ago my brother knew I was writing, and he brought me a newspaper article featuring a published author whose husband had been transferred to the air force base in my city. This woman was forming an RWA chapter. I’d never heard of RWA. I was too inexperienced and uncertain to even call the contact number. Another year or more went by and one of the chapter members was featured in the Sunday paper. My brother brought me that article, too and said, “You have to get with these people.”

It took me weeks to get the courage to call that phone number. And when I did, I got an answering machine and hung up without leaving a message. I felt completely out of my league. I knew I’d be stepping into a world of English and history majors, all professional people of course, and who was I? Just little old me making up stories after my kids went to bed.

Well, I finally did it. I made the call and left a message. The woman called me back and she was warm and welcoming and delightful. I went to my first meeting with my knees knocking and learned everyone there was someone like me – someone just making up stories for the pure love of it. It was months later when I finally showed a manuscript to that founding published author. She Xed out page after page and wrote “nothing happening” in red in the margins. That hurt. But she also showed me the things I did well, and showed me how to change and fix and rework the story. She was the first person who said to me, “You can do this.” Her name was Diane Wicker Davis, a warm Southern lady who mentored other writers and shared her knowledge. She passed away over a year ago, and everyone who knew her remembers her laugh and her encouragement.

I pushed on after her critique, learning, studying, rewriting, until a few years had slipped by and a stack of rejections piled up. I became so frustrated and so hungry for someone to tell me I could do this thing.

No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to sell a book, publish fifty more or be a success. As much as we’d love for there to be, there’s no writer’s crystal ball to foretell the future. We all wonder if we have the stuff it takes. As beginners we wonder if we have an inkling of talent. Once other writers and readers validate our talent, we still wonder if it’s good enough, if we have what it takes. It’s good to acknowledge that we don’t know it all and we must have a desire to learn and grow.

But sometimes doubt holds us back.

We shoot ourselves in the foot by creating and feeding feelings of inadequacy, by being unwilling to stick our necks out and show our work. Submission requires opening ourselves up to criticism and rejection. I know a few writers who don’t even submit for fear of rejection.

Confidence comes with practice and with maturity.

Consider an athlete. He might have a desire to run a hundred meter race. So he goes out and gives it a shot, but he doesn’t do very well. Why not? Because he didn’t practice! He didn’t study how other runners achieve endurance through diet and exercise. He doesn’t know how good he really is until he’s trained by learning all he can, eating properly for energy and muscle and all that -- and after he’s ready, after he’s prepared, by stretching to limber up and then by RUNNING. Then running again and again and again until he’s fast and he knows he’s fast, and he’s ready to compete.

In many ways submitting a book is a lot like that. Your manuscript will be compared to all the others that cross an editor’s desk. It will be scrutinized for its ability to make the publishing house money in the marketplace. Bottom line in this business: Will your manuscript make an editor look good if she buys it? Will your book make money for the publisher? The only way you can have the confidence to know you’re submitting something with a chance of making it past that test is to learn your craft and practice, practice, practice. Work at writing and work at it until you get better, until you hit your personal stride.

Sure, sometimes self-doubt is much deeper, it’s inadequacies we’ve carried with us from childhood and relationships and past hurts and experiences. But there’s help for those things, too, in recognizing it and getting help if need be and working on it. You’re a valuable person. You’re worth it. You deserve to give yourself the gift of improving yourself and reaching for your dream.

What else holds you back?

Fear of Embarrassment
Honesty time. This is actually your pride getting the best of you. We all had to start somewhere. We all wrote crap when we first started--well most of us anyway. When babies first learn to feed themselves and walk, we don’t make fun of them; they don’t know any better. You didn’t get on a bicycle the first time and smoothly take off. Training wheels aren’t embarrassing to a four-year-old. Why do we think our first attempts at writing are humiliating? You have to be willing to make mistakes.

You have to be willing to write poorly. You can fix bad. You can’t fix nothing.

Sometimes we’re just our own worst enemy!

Fear of Failure
What if I do the very best I can, give it my all, and fail? Failure means to fall short; failure is a lack of success. This is where your thinking needs to change. Set realistic goals. Goals must be things within our control. Instead of setting a goal like selling a book this year, set your goal for taking all the steps to finish and edit and submit the best possible manuscript. You can’t control whether or not the book is contracted, but you can control the steps it takes to make a publishable product.

Then when we go back and look at the realistic goals we planned for ourselves, we can see where we didn’t fall short in our commitment or resolve or our mission. If you take the steps you planned to reach your goal, you succeed in doing the things that are within your power. Taking that action reduces fear and increases your options. Since failure is defined as an omission to perform an expected action, you haven’t failed if you’ve taken the steps to reach your goal.

Failure is not in being rejected; it’s in not taking the steps. You can succeed by changing your thinking and your self-defeating behaviors.

And here’s the question I’m famous for asking. I ask it of myself and then I ask if of others who hesitate: WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?

Okay, people, we’re talking about writing a book here, not jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle! The worst thing that could happen?

Your first three chapters could suck bilge water and need to be thrown out. Remember, I said there are more words where those came from.

It could take you three years to sell a book once you know how. This is my story – it is so bad?

You could write four books over twice as many years, not sell a one and give up. So? You met wonderful people, you had a great time, you learned a lot, and you stayed out of the casino. What was the worst thing about that?

I’m giving you things to think about. I’m asking you to face your fears. I’m suggesting you take steps to put doubt and lack of confidence under your feet and stomp on them a few times -- then don’t pick them up and resuscitate them!

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Fear is a lack of knowledge. Learn all you can about yourself, about how you work and the things that get you motivated or the things that hold you back and then take the menace out of the hindrances by taking positive action to put them behind you.

Remember, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. If you want to kick it up a notch and get rid of some junk that’s holding you back, face your fears and plan new strategies to defeat them.

Ask yourself now:
How do you want to do things differently to see better results?

P.S. I'd like to send autographed books to two visitors who comment today. You can choose from any books available from my backlist. Check out my backlist here: I'll draw names tonight!

You can visit Cheryl at her website and her blog.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Down on the Farm Part 2

I was awoken yesterday morning with the exclamation, "It's goat day! It's goat day!" Let me just say that these are words I never thought would be part of my life. The things we do for those we love. *shakes head*

So, as most of you know from last week we have 3 new baby goats - Austin, Uniqua, and Tyrone. (We have a Backyardigans theme going - Tasha is Austin's mama.) Baby Girl came home from school on Monday with a calendar that said Wednesday was bring a farm animal to school day. Somehow, I don't think her teacher expected real farm animals to show up :-) But DH graciously agreed to spend the afternoon letting 3 and 6 yr olds manhandle his babies.

Here are some pictures of Sweet Pea and Baby Girl with the goats.

(Pictures Removed)

The kids were the most fascinated with the umbilical cords the little guys are still sporting and the fact that both goats peed on the floor. Considering several of the 3 yr old's are still working on that issue themselves, I had to laugh.

My life has seriously taken a turn I never expected. Somehow, I think their teachers are feeling the same way right about now. The end of the month is bring a bunny to school day. Guess what DH is taking?

Instigator - who promises to blog about something other than farm animals next week.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fuzzy Logic

As y’all know, I had foot surgery on Valentine’s Day and I had to spend the first seven to ten days in bed with the foot elevated. I still have to keep it elevated but not as much. It lets me know when it needs rest.

This is your foot. The big toe is called the hallux and this photo shows a normal metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, which is where the big toe meets the foot.

This was my foot. I had arthritis in the MTP joint. Those red things are osteophytes, or bone spurs, that form in a degenerating joint. Additionally, I had a bone chip because I broke my big toe about a decade ago, though I didn't know it until the x-ray showed the chip. Surprise!

I'll spare you the surgical photos. Suffice it to say I have about a three inch scar on the top of my foot, but it's a nice scar. My orthopedic surgeon is also a good seamstress. He cleaned out all the osteophytes, removed the bone chip and shaved a little off the bone on both sides of the MTP joint.

My plan was to get lots of writing done. After all, between my AlphaSmart and my laptop, I had easy access to a keyboard of some ilk.

This is your brain.

This is your brain on prescription pain pills.

What I didn’t plan on was being under the influence of Lortabs for ten days. Writing while life is all fuzzy around the edges just isn’t fun. Or productive. Or smart. I gave it a couple tries and everything was garbage. Of course, everyone always says “You can fix garbage, but you can’t fix a blank page.” But it was just too difficult to even try to create the garbage, plus is was really bad, stinky been-in-the-dumpster-for-a-month garbage. So for ten days I did nothing much but watch television shows and movies (thanks Smarty Pants for the bag of DVDs you loaned me). I’ve seen lots of true crime shows, medical programs and discovered “My Big Redneck Wedding.” I’ve never seen bridesmaids wear camouflage before or have the bride mud wrestle in her wedding gown.

I did manage to write a short story two days before my surgery, but it was based around a true situation I was very familiar with, so I didn’t have to create the whole thing from scratch. I knew the plot and the characters; it was mostly a matter of putting the story on paper. And the morning of my surgery (I didn't have to report in until 12:30 PM) I wrote a short feature article and submitted it. The subject matter was #1 son’s birth, so again, I was very familiar with the story and just had to put it into words.

Since I stopped taking the pain pills, I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. I’ve written two short features (again based on my own experiences) and yesterday I FINALLY finished a story I started about a year ago. It was based around a one thousand word writing challenge I did back in June 2005. You never know when something that’s been hanging around on your hard drive will come in handy.

I’m rather proud of myself. I’ve submitted 11241 words since February 13. I have another story in progress (I started it last year too and got stumped with it but now I think I have it all sorted out) and I also began plotting a May-December romance story Monday night. I wrote about two pages of it because I had some dialogue in my head that I wanted on paper before I forgot it.

It feels really nice to be back in the driver's seat (literally and figuratively) and have all the cylinders firing again. I just wish I didn’t have this one bad tire. But this too shall pass.

However, after reading yesterday's wonderful blog by Carla Cassidy, I realize I don't sacrifice enough. Even without pain pills, I watch three episodes of American Idol, one episode of Survivor and one episode of Celebrity Apprentice each week. Sunday night I got hooked on Oprah Winfrey's The Big Give, and Dancing with the Stars begins again on March 17. Maybe I can write a story about a singer/dancer who's marooned on an island with Donald Trump after his chopper crashes while they're looking for a total stranger whose life they'll change with money from Oprah. Yeah, that's the ticket.

What have you done lately that you’re proud of? Are you upset that YauMan was voted off so early? Does David Archuleta rock or what? And what's up with Omarosa? I'd have fired her on week one.

P.S. Yesterday's winner of Carla Cassidy's newest releast is LauraP. Please email Smarty Pants with your name and snail mail info to claim your prize.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Guest Blogger - Carla Cassidy

The Playfriends first met today's guest blogger while waiting in one of the long lines at the RWA Conference in Dallas last summer. We were staggered to find she has a backlist of over a hundred books. Yeah, I said, HUNDRED, people. We knew then that we had to invite Carla to the Playground to talk about how in the heck she manages to be so prolific. Please give a warm Playground welcome to Carla Cassidy!

Being Prolific and The Creative Process

I have a confession to make. This is my first time guest blogging and I’m terrified. I feel this compulsion to make myself sound super intelligent and professional, but to tell the truth that just takes too much work!

So, I’ve decided to just talk to you about working and the muse and being prolific. I sold my first book in 1988 and since that time have written and sold over a hundred books.

One of the first things I learned when I got into the business of writing was that if I waited for my muse to come and sit on my shoulder and whisper plots and conflicts into my ear, I’d be sitting there a very long time with nothing on my computer screen.

Most of the time my muse is on vacation and it’s just the computer and me together to create. I’ve always believed that the imagination is like a muscle and the more you use it the stronger it gets.

As I was thinking about writing this blog, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I ate a meal at our table. I always eat while I work at my computer unless hubby is taking me out. I also don’t remember the last time I sat in my living room to watch television. I always watch television while I’m sitting at my computer and working.

Early on when I first started getting contracts I told my husband he had a choice – he could have a nice hot meal every night or he could have sex, but I didn’t have time for both. Needless to say I haven’t cooked much over the years.

The key to being prolific is what writers hear all the time – butt in chair. There’s another component to that as well, and that is sacrifice. I don’t go to movies, I don’t do lunch with friends. I write. I don’t take naps, I don’t spend hours at the mall. I write. Boring? Yes, that’s my life, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

If I had to come up with one tip for increasing productivity it would be to identify the time when you are most creative. For me it’s before noon and after seven at night, so I try to plan the ‘have to’ stuff between those times of the day.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned much about the creative process. I’m not sure how it works for others and to tell the truth I’m not exactly sure how it works for me. I just have stories I want to tell, stories that I hope others will like to read. Let me hear about your writing process and maybe you can some of the secrets you’ve found to being more prolific!

And now, I would be a fool not to mention that my latest Signet Eclipse romantic suspense, Every Move You Make, hits the bookshelves today.

Hopefully my first guest blog wasn’t as painful to you as it has been for me!


Be sure to check out Carla's newest release, Every Move You Make, which comes out today. One lucky reader will win an autographed copy by commenting on the blog today. You can also visit Carla's website at

Monday, March 03, 2008


The thing I love about today's MoanDay Man? To me, he seems like a regular guy. He's not extraordinarily handsome; he's not ugly either. In terms of his face, he's just an average guy with some character. He's actor Jason Statham:

But not many average guys have bodies like this one:

Though I imagine you have to be ripped to appear in action adventure movies like The Transporter, Crank, and War with Jet Li.


What do you think of average... with a touch of Wow!


Tomorrow join us for guest blogger Carla Cassidy! And on Friday we'll welcome Cheryl St. John.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Darkness & Light Winners

A big congratulations goes out to our grand prize winner - Cherryl Whitmire! Cherryl picked up a couple books, stationary, Lindor truffles, a flash drive and more!

Also, our runner up prize goes to Selina Williams! She won 3 books and chocolate!

The best part is that I mailed them Saturday morning, so you should get them soon (completely out of character for me)! Congratulations to all the winners.

Be sure to enter our March/April contest - Spoil Me Silly! Every woman needs some pampering!