Monday, June 30, 2008

Rollercoaster of Love

Just like any normal relationship, writers have periods of ups and downs with their books. Yes, I realize that stories are inanimate objects, but trust me, we spend as much or more time thinking about them as we do our significant others. Think back to that first blush stage of infatuation. Well, we experience that with our books too. We fall asleep wondering about it and wake up with it on our minds after dreaming of the characters and plot points. We spend the day distracted, turning over various scenarios. And can’t wait until everyone will just go away so we can spend time with it. ;)

But this relationship involves many ups and downs, albeit in a much shorter time period, as you can imagine after reading our comments about wanting to kill off our characters in a fiery crash. The blush of the beginning is intoxicating. I love that excitement of meeting new characters and discovering their story (as a plotter, I do this all at once). Then there’s the actual writing. That’s when I reach my most recent phase…

I recently received a request for a proposal, so I’ve been busting my hump trying to get it ready to mail. I started off with what was probably a pretty decent piece of work. Unfortunately, like any woman who looks at her thighs in the mirror, no matter what her size she thinks she’s fat. Well, no matter what is on the page, I always think it must suck. Because I wrote it. It can never be more than passably mediocre. So I spend my days in a dark cloud, wondering what the hell I was thinking becoming a writer. I spend most of my time during the rough draft stage with this attitude (yes, my husband will confirm that I live in varying degrees of emotional melodrama at all times).

Now the revision stage is a whole different matter! Finally, finally last night I was able to look at my proposal and think, “Well, I may not truly suck after all.” There may actually be something salvageable in this book. Hopefully someone out there will not completely hate it. Maybe that’s why this stage is my next favorite, besides the very first. I can actually begin to hope again.

Ah, the roller coaster of emotions a writer must live on (and the poor people who have to live with us). At least life is interesting, if nothing else…

All you writers out there, what are your favorite stages of work and why? Do you suffer these emotional ups and downs, or am I just a tiny bit psycho? My husband would say… Let’s just not go there.


Heads UP!!!! Today is the last day to sign up for my Happy Birthday contest. I had a great B-day, and I'd like to pass along the joy to one lucky reader. Sign up by clicking the contest icon in the sidebar!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Charlie: One Year Later

Last year I posted about Charlie and the happily ever after story of his birth. It that story doesn't make you believe in love, nothing will.

Charlie's first birthday was yesterday and he's a big boy now. AND, after six years of infertility, his mother found out a few months ago that she's pregnant! Charlie's going to have a baby brother or sister later this year. You can read all the details at his mom's blog.
Happy birthday Charlie!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Inner Workings of PC's Revision Process Caught on YouTube

In case you were wondering what it was like for me to cut 180 pages from my manuscript and completely rework it, I give you this.

Just imagine it's me on *both* sides of the desk...

It was an awful lot like that. Or not :-)

(If the video isn't working for you try this link)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stop the World, I Wanna Get Off - Update

After a couple weeks of fairly amusing blogs, I find myself at a loss this Friday. I've used up all my cleverness and I’m not quite sure what to write about today. This week we've already covered the ever-popular bad boys, tomatoes, bicycles, waterparks (from which my body has still not recovered), and galleys. We've posted yummy pictures of Daniel Craig. That's a tough act to follow.

I've pondered this for most of today and aside from amusing scenes with sugar gliders attacking my hero in an aerial assault, I've got nothing. I think my brain is being pulled in too many directions. Let's make a list since I'm not already feeling completely overwhelmed.

  1. I got a full request on RH, so that’s good news.

  2. My novella was rejected, so that’s bad news. Expecially worrying is the fact that it didn't bother me much.

  3. My mom’s wedding story made it into the July issue of True Love Magazine, so again, good news. In not so great news, they keep asking for stories for the fall issues and I haven't done the slightest thing to start one.

  4. I’m contemplating cat-napping to advance my career. (I don’t mean sleeping; I mean physically stealing a cat. Don’t ask.)

  5. I’m worrying about our workshop at Nationals. Why did we sign up to do this, again?

  6. DB’s birthday is coming up, along with nearly every Playkid birthday. Cupcakes and chaos all around.

  7. Work, of course, is busy with everyone going on vacation leaving the others to scramble and do their jobs. The nerve of going on a two week cruise with your wife for your 40th wedding anniversary! So inconsiderate of me and my feelings! I might take it better if he didn't have such a back-@ssward way of doing everything.

  8. Those extra pounds since last conference have not magically disappeared, so I don’t even want to think about what I’ll wear next month.

  9. This is despite the fact that my yoga instructor is out to kill PC and myself. (And we wonder why I don't make it there more than twice a month...)

  10. One of my college friends has announced her engagement and has filled my inbox with questions about colors and locations and favors and whatever else. This only reminds me that I have no wedding of my own to plan. Sigh. I guess this is just as well since my calendar is filling up for the next few years and I don't even know when I'd be able to squeeze one in.

  11. I’m pondering some home improvement projects that have home-owner association reps, concrete, drywall and fencing contractors showing up at my house at random intervals.

  12. I'm still fielding calls from various law-enforcement agencies about my credit card theft. None, however, have announced that the schmuck has been arrested. (Yeah, I'm onto you, boy! Better watch your back.)

  13. DB is dead-set on getting the surround sound and A/V stuff fully set up. This requires multiple phone calls, long discussions and the constant mantra “Baby, look at this” as he finds things online we need.

  14. Oh, and did I mention I’ve gotten wrapped up in a writing challenge with Instigator and Angel? Sadly, it’s the only thing motivating me to work on my new book right now. Mercury in retrograde or something has my brain on pause.

What’s on your brain today? I'm sure I've forgotten something and one of you will be kind enough to remind me. Just be warned it might be the straw that sends this camel into her bathroom with the door locked.


The Dear Author blog has a poll up for who should win the Best Rita for Paranormal Romance. Maven LJ has 2 books up for the prize - Raintree: Haunted and Prince of Magic. Click over to vote on the right-hand sidebar! (It has no real bearing on who actually wins the Rita, but I hate to see such good books trailing to her competitors, even on someone's blog...)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guest Blogger - Nicola Cornick

I'm so excited to welcome Nicola Cornick to the blog today! I recently went on a historical kick and discovered Nicola. And simply fell in love with the stories and rich characters she creates. Please show her a warm Playground welcome!

I’m so thrilled to have been invited to blog at the Writing Playground! I thought I’d talk about hot historical heroes today for no better reason than that I like them, and one type of historical hero in particular – the rake. I love writing rake characters. Perhaps the clue is in my book titles – The Last Rake in London, the Rake’s Mistress, the Rake’s Bride… I hope you share my preferences!

This week a news item caught my eye. It was everywhere in the British Press: “Bad Boys Tend To Get The Girls.” Well, duh. We romance writers could have told them about the appeal of the bad boy hero. Apparently a researcher at a US university has identified a “dark triad” of qualities that make a man irresistibly attractive to women. These are epitomised by the character of James Bond and are: “the self-obsession of narcissism, the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of the psychopath and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism.”

Doesn’t sound very attractive when put like that, does it? But if we’re talking arrogance, supreme self-confidence and an edge of danger, well, then I’m there. In fiction at least!

For me the historical bad boy is epitomised by Richard Sharpe when he kicks the heroine’s bedroom door down in order to kiss her and then stands there saying: “Begging your pardon, ma’am, but the door was locked.” Or Charles Brandon in The Tudors when he interrupts his card game to seduce the King’s sister and puts the cards down with the words: “Pity. I had a winning hand…” Now that’s where I get my inspiration!

This month I have a book out that features Jack Kestrel, the bad boy last rake in London of the title. Jack is drop dead gorgeous, a self-made man who sees what he wants and goes after it. But in the heroine Sally Bowes he has met his match because Sally is the one who is going to redeem this rake through the transforming effect of her love for him. And it is the power of love that will always tame the rake.

For more hot historical heroes and the women who tame them visit

So who is your favourite bad boy hero? I’m giving away a copy of The Last Rake in London and my new Regency historical Unmasked and I’ll ask the Instigator to choose a winner from amongst those commenting. Thank you for inviting me to visit the Playground!

Thanks, Nicola, for sharing the sandbox with us today! And trust me when I say, you'll love anything that Nicola writes. I've just finished The Last Rake in London (available now) and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I'll be first in line on July 1st to snap up Unmasked.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A (Love) Apple a Day

On Father's Day, the DH and I visited with #1 son, DIL and BabyGrand. We wanted to take them out for lunch and asked them to suggest a restaurant. They chose the Irondale Cafe, better known to movie-goers as the famous Whistle Stop Cafe in the film "Fried Green Tomatoes," which has two of the most memorable lines in movie history: Face it, girls, I'm older and I have more insurance and Towonda! Of course, I chose that famous dish as part of my meal, and my oh my, were they ever good.

I don't know about you, but I'm missing tomatoes. They're reappearing in the stores but they look a little anemic, and some news reports are saying the salmonella scare might not be over yet. Yearning for a big, red, juicy ripe tomato reminded me of something I'd written as a filler article for an online magazine a few years ago. I found the history and facts about tomatoes interesting and hope you do too. I'll never take them for granted again. The tomatoes, not the facts.

It is bright red, plump, juicy and grows in gardens around the world. However you serve it, the tomato is the world’s most popular fruit. Yes, in strictly botanical terms, it is not a vegetable at all. This is because a fruit is defined as the edible part of a plant that contains seeds and well… that’s a tomato. However in 1893, the Supreme Court ruled in NIX v HEDDEN, a case involving import duties, that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables. Regardless, more than sixty million tons of them are produced worldwide each year. And in case you’re wondering, the next most popular fruits are bananas, apples, oranges and watermelons in that order.

The tomato was first cultivated in Central America in 700 A.D. by the Aztecs and Incas. When Cortez and his Conquistadors reached the area in the sixteenth century, they discovered the “tomatl” and took seeds back to Europe where they were quickly assimilated into the cuisine of Spain, Portugal and Italy. The Italians considered the tomato an aphrodisiac and gave it the name “poma amoris” or love apple.

The tomato traveled north on the continent and eventually made its way to England where it was declared poisonous. This same myth held favor in the American colonies as well until Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the Salem, New Jersey courthouse steps on September 26, 1820 and took a big bite of a love apple. And another and another until he’d eaten an entire basket of them to the astonishment of a shocked crowd. Around this same time, Creoles in New Orleans, many of whom were of Spanish or Portuguese descent, began using the tomato in gumbo and jambalaya. Soon after, the flavorful commodity made its way into seafood dishes in Maine. According to a 1997 study, sixty-eight percent of chefs use canned tomatoes for cooking either for flavor, convenience or quality.

Tomatoes belong to the deadly nightshade family and are a cousin to the eggplant, potato, tobacco and red pepper. The relationship to nightshade gave rise to the rumors of toxicity. Some even claimed they caused conditions such as appendicitis, “brain fever” (commonly known as meningitis) and cancer.

Today scientists all over the world are studying the tomato, and recommending its consumption, for its health benefits. Low in calories, absent of fat and cholesterol, and low on the glycemic index, tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, fiber and lycopene.

A powerful antioxidant, lycopene has been shown to have a multitude of benefits. In Italian studies where participants ate at least seven servings of tomatoes a week, a sixty percent reduction in colon, rectal and stomach cancer was noted. Harvard researchers discovered a forty-five percent reduction in prostate cancer in men who ate ten servings a week and in Israel, scientists have found lycopene to inhibit lung, breast and endometrial cancer cells. Lycopene can also help older people stay active longer.

Tomatoes also contain an alkaloid called tomatine, which may prevent or heal certain fungal skin diseases, and the yellow jelly that surrounds the tomato seeds has been found to contain a substance that prevents the formation of blood clots. According to researchers in Scotland, this “tomato factor” may have a similar effect as aspirin on circulation by interfering with platelet clumping, which can cause circulatory problems, heart attacks or strokes.

Tomato factoids

* California leads the world in the production of processed tomatoes, but Florida has the largest fresh tomato industry. Consumers became acutely aware of this after the 2004 hurricane season decimated the tomato crop in Florida and prices skyrocketed.

* Every man, woman and child in America eats almost eighty pounds of tomatoes per year, more than half in the form of ketchup.

* The largest tomato on record, grown in Oklahoma in 1986, weighed seven pounds, twelve ounces.

* There are more than ten thousand varieties of tomatoes.

* Tomatoes range in color from yellow, pink, orange and red to deep maroon, purple and bright green. Sizes range from the thumbnail-sized to enormous 3-pound specimens.

* Tomatoes lose their nutritional value when refrigerated. If purchased or picked while green, they will ripen in a few days on your kitchen counter.

Thanks to Cortez (for bringing it back from Mexico) and Colonel Johnson (for his sensational repudiation of the tomato’s ill effects), we now can all enjoy the many uses for tomatoes. They end up in pizza, pasta, mixed drinks, various sauces and my particular favorite, the tomato sandwich. It’s simple: take a ripe tomato straight from the vine, wash and slice. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper and put between two slices of your favorite bread, which have been liberally spread with mayonnaise. Take a big bite and relish the flavor as the juice drips down your chin.

Whether you say tomato or you say tomahto, it seems that a love apple a day might keep the doctor away. So enjoy that pizza, douse your eggs with ketchup or just chop one up and sprinkle it on your salad and enjoy the benefits of the world’s most popular fruit. Recipes

And here's the recipe for that famous dish from the Irondale Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes (from


3-4 green tomatoes sliced ¼ inch thick
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
vegetable oil

Mix together flour, cornmeal, salt & pepper. Add enough milk to create a thick batter. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet. Batter each tomato slice, and wipe off excess. Carefully place in hot oil, browning on both sides. (may or may not need turning, depending on the amount of oil) To cool, drain in a colander to keep tomatoes from becoming soggy. Salt to taste.

Are you a tomato lover? Or has the tomato shortage not fazed you at all? What foods do you look forward to every summer?

P.S. Dear Muse, Whenever you want to come back home is fine with me. Your room is ready and the pantry is stocked. I've left the porch light on for you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another step...

Since Kira brought it up…

No, Kira didn’t really mention much about what went on between The Call and the issue of Whispers in the Dark (aside from the really important stuff—title, release date, cover). No discussion on the blog about edits or galleys or art fact sheets. Don’t feel bad or left out, Honorary Playfriends, she barely mentioned any of that to us! I often wondered if Kira was trying to be sensitive—not rubbing our un-published noses in the “Nyah-nyah, I have a book contract! Isn’t it cool what I’m doing and you’re not!”

I imagine many of the Honorary Playfriends wanted to hear all that minutiae between sale and store—after all, many of you are aspiring authors too, and I know I found all of that to be terribly fascinating when she did talk about it (still do, by the way.). At the same time, it can be rather depressing to have a good friend do what you’re wanting to do—even if you do get to live vicariously through her. It’s a double-edged sword. Of course, then there’s also the fact that a lot of our Honorary Playfriends aren’t writers, and it’s hard to guess how much or how little information readers want to know about the behind the scenes stuff.

I, however, am the Problem Child and, therefore, won’t worry about any of that. :-)

I got my galleys last week!

I’d heard of galleys before—the last chance to look over the book for typos and such before they become immortalized in a book for folks to email you about. I was eagerly awaiting mine, and I must say, they arrived long before I expected them. (And, yes, I’m still in Rejected-far-too-many-times Mode and cringed when a big envelope arrived from Harlequin. Never mind that I had to sign for them and no one sends rejection letters by courier service. Old habits die hard, people.)

I held my breath as I opened the package. These are Galleys-with-a-capital-G! They are Important! They are Special!

I don’t know what I was expecting—thicker, fancier paper, maybe? Some kind of binding—even just a 3-ring notebook? Bells? Sparkles? Fireworks that went off when I opened the package?

I was sorta disappointed.

They look remarkably like any other manuscript on my office floor.

Really. Just unbound paper with a rubber band around it. Courier New 12-point font, double-spaced with one-inch margins on 8 ½ x 11 paper. Pretty much exactly what I sent in, only this time the header is different and the lines are numbered. I was afraid to put it in my office in fear I wouldn’t be able to tell it from the other manuscripts in there. (Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration. It has a title page with important-looking numbers on it and a cover letter telling me when I have to have them back to my editor. Important distinction from all that other junk in my office.)

And, trust me, going through this book with a sharp eye on every comma and preposition (because, after all, I don’t want folks emailing me to point out mistakes in the book) isn’t half as glamorous as it sounded either.

But it’s still pretty freakin’ neat. It puts me one step closer to that really cool picture Kira posted of books with her name on them.

Hmm, I wonder if they put the fireworks and sparkles and stuff in that box? (Maybe Kira just didn’t mention it…)


Monday, June 23, 2008

Ah, The Days of Youth

I shouldn’t leave putting together my blog topic until Sunday night. I usually don’t. Typically I’ll mull it over throughout the weekend, so I’m pretty set by the time Sunday night rolls around.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—I had a very busy weekend. My husband took off work and booked us into a hotel Friday night, where we went to the movies, out to dinner, and some window shopping. We also bought a bicycle for my belated birthday present. Yep, this 30-something year old asked for a bike. I haven’t had one since I was about 15, but I’m now the proud owner of a purple Sunflier. It’s pretty and I didn’t fall when I tried it out. Hopefully that’s a good sign.

I got home in time to run the kids to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, where I spent the entire afternoon trailing Little Man while he played games. I’m glad the kids had a good time, but I consider that place my personal version of H*LL.

Sunday the Playfriends and families headed out to a local water park and spent the day getting crisp around the edges. I’m not usually an outdoor cat—I burn VERY easily—but I love to swim and enjoyed this very much. With that many children, there is going to be a bit of drama at some point (why does it always have to be one of mine that causes it?), but we made it through with only a few tears. His and mine…

Wow! Now that I have totally bored you with my weekend activities, I guess I should say something inspiring and tie it all up in a nice little relevant bow. Well, I’ve got nothing for ya at the moment. Nothing the least bit profound. Sorry.

How about this for a discussion topic? Just like the bicycle, I hadn’t been to the water park in many years, but as a teenager we used to go every summer. Seems like this might have been a weekend for getting in touch with my younger self again. Or at least the things I used to enjoy back then. What about you? What is one activity you’d like to revisit from your younger years that you’ve let fall by the wayside because of age, weight, or lack of time?


PS. This Thursday Nicola Cornick will be here at the Playground. Instigator has been raving about her book! Check it out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dear Reader,

Instigator and PC have recently tackled a task on their road to publication that I'd never given much thought to – the "Dear Reader" letter. I'll be the first to admit that I usually don't read them. I usually skip straight to the story. For all of you authors out there that agonize over each word of these letters, I apologize.

One reason I've always skipped over them is because they always seem sort of forced. As a writer, I can imagine it's awkward to have to write this letter to an audience explaining this book and where it came from. The creative process is complex and it evolves over time. I don't always remember where stuff starts. And writing this letter months or years after the original idea came to you makes it even more difficult.

Then you have to wonder – do the readers really want to know the truth? Do they want to know that you came up with it while standing in line at the grocery store? Is that the glamorous answer they want? Probably not, so you feel this pressure to make the story sound more interesting than it was.

To demonstrate my point, I'm writing two Dear Reader letters for the last book I wrote. One is what would go in the front of the book. The second is what should go in the front of the book. Note the subtle differences. :)

Dear Reader,

I am so excited to get the opportunity to share Isabelle and Ethan's story with you. I've always been intrigued by the idea of being able to read someone's mind. Adding the element of touch took the concept to a whole new level. The questions instantly started swirling in my head. What if you could read your lover's mind when you touched? What would you do with the knowledge? Would you drive him wild in bed fulfilling his every desire? And then I had to consider the consequences. Sometimes it's better not to know everything about someone. How far would you take it to protect yourself from the thoughts of everyone around you? What if the thoughts you uncovered held the potential to save someone's life?

Tackling these questions was a challenge, but an exciting one. I hope you enjoy reading Isabelle and Ethan's journey as much as I did writing it. Please share what you thought of the story at my website and email me at

Sincerely, Alex

Take 2...

Dear Reader,

You cannot imagine how relieved I am to be writing this letter. After well over a year of writing, editing, revising, and multiple bouts of nausea, this entire process is almost over and I am one step closer to holding my baby (and the check) in my hands. On the flip side, I'm having difficulties because I'm afraid I don't have a good story to tell you. I know you want to hear that the idea for this book came from some romantically divine moment, but the truth is that it came to me while my cruise ship was rocking and rolling in the Gulf of Alaska. I was hiding in my cabin watching Inside Edition to keep from puking the salmon croquette they insist on feeding tourists at every port.

Once the idea came to me, it sat in a story file for a while. I had no idea where to go with it. I spent several late nights with friends drinking and tossing around ideas. This is the process I use for most of my books, but by midnight after a couple margaritas, anything sounds good. The first incarnation of this book actually gave the heroine an albino ferret for a pet. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but my editor disagreed. Don't fear, the albino ferret might make an appearance in another story. I'm not ready to let that idea go yet.

When I sat down to write this book, I faced a couple major problems – If she doesn't touch people how the hell were they ever going to have sex? And when they did and she reads his mind, what does a man think about? If it's anything like a woman, I'm afraid he'd be thinking of whether or not he remembered to run the dishwasher before bed and if he looks fat lying on his back with his breasts slipping into his armpits. That's not very Blaze-worthy, is it?

So that's the story of this book. I wish I could say I enjoyed every minute of writing Camille and Sloan-- I mean Isabelle and Ethan's story, but to be honest, there were a few weeks where I wanted to hit my monitor with a baseball bat and go work at Hardees. Hope that doesn't show in the writing. My editor assures me we've addressed all the issues, but I'm certain you'll write to inform me otherwise. Direct that mail to my website at

Sincerely, Alex

So, honestly, do you read the Dear Reader letter? Would you rather hear the truth or something that maintains the fantasy? As a writer, do you enjoy writing your Dear Reader letter or is it a chore?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another Step Up - with picture

It's been brought to my attention that I've sort of neglected sharing my journey over the last year. I brushed over copy edits, galleys, filling out art fact sheets and everything else that's happened in the process of my first book going from idea in my head to words on a printed page. I'll be honest and say I'm not sure why I didn't mention all these things. Probably because I was worried about baby goats or new donkeys. Or maybe it was because once I marked those things off my to do list something else was immediately there to take its place. But there's one step that I can't ignore.

My author copies arrived this week.

And there is no feeling in the world like holding your first book in your hands. DH has been amazing, talking it up to everyone he knows. I honestly think, if it's possible, that he was more excited to see that box arrive than I was.

So it's real. There's no denying that my book will be hitting the shelves in just over a month. Yikes!

On another bright note, I just signed my second contract. Afterburn (the tentative title) will be released as one of a twelve book military series within the Blaze line. Writing about an Air Force pilot and the daughter of an Air Force General was challenging but I've enjoyed every minute of it!

And, since I brushed over everything, if anyone wants to ask any questions about the process - copy edits, line edits, art fact sheets, bios, marketing or anything else - fire away.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guest Blogger: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a radio reporter, a proofreader, a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first mysteries, Prime Time (which just won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2007, and is a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel of 2007, a DAPHNE nominee, and a 2007 Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and Face Time (Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers. They'll both be re-issued in 2009 as MIRA Books. The next in the series, Air Time and Drive Time, are also coming soon from MIRA Books

She and her husband, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live near Boston.

We've spiffed up the Playground today, installed lights, microphones, video monitors and a teleprompter, and we'll be live in five, four, three, two... Take it away, Hank!

I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians and chased down criminals. As a television reporter for the past thirty (yikes) years, I’ve battled ice storms, hurricanes, and power outages. In my fledgling days, I covered basketball games, cat shows and science fairs...then moved on to murders, fires, building collapses and explosions. Since 1989, as an investigative reporter, I’ve blown the lid off mortgage scams, gotten people’s homes out of foreclosures, had people confess to murder, proved the jury selection process was flawed and that if you call 911, emergency responders might get sent to the wrong place.

I’ve won 26 Emmys and countless other journalism awards. And yet, when I sat at my computer, knowing that the next keystrokes would begin my very first novel—that was much scarier and much more intimidating.

Ever since I read my first Nancy Drew—The Clue in the Old Clock, remember? And then Clue in the Diary. (Which I thought, most of the way through, was clue in the “dairy,” and I couldn’t figure out why there weren’t cows.) Anyway, ever since then, age about 7, I knew I wanted to write mysteries. I just never had a good enough idea for a plot.

Then, at age—yes, I’ll say it, 53, I got an email. It was obviously spam, and the subject line said something about mortgage refinancing. For some reason, instead of deleting it, I opened it. But the email was nothing about mortgages. It was lines from what looked like an Elizabethan-era play. (And Mom said my majoring in Shakespeare would come to naught.) Anyway, I remember thinking: Why would there be lines from a play in a spam about mortgages?

And then it just—whisked though my mind—“maybe it’s a secret message.”

And I can tell you now, I remember that moment. Clearly. Because that’s when I though—ding ding. That’s the plot I’ve been looking for all these years.

I thought and thought and thought about it. I was obsessed. And then one night at dinner—over seared tuna and martinis—whatever my dear husband was telling me went all blurry. I dug into my purse for a pencil and found a scrap of envelope. And I wrote: “Between the headache, the hot flashes, and all the spam on my computer, I’ll never get everything done. I came in early this morning to get ahead, and already I’m behind.”

That became the first line of PRIME TIME, my first novel. (Romantic Times later gave it a Top Pick calling it “a perfect combination of mystery and romance.”) And through revisions, changes, manuscript disasters and major-league revamping, those lines never changed.

And my obsession never wavered. I wrote through all my vacations, all my days off. One entire summer, I never sat in the sun. Never went to a movie. My husband, out of sheer necessity, did the laundry. And we ate a lot of pizza. But I had to, had to, had to, write my book—a mystery about a 46-year old TV reporter who’s married to her job but wonders what happens when the camera doesn’t love her anymore. (And I was working, full time, as investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. Still am.)

I had doubts. At one point, about half way through, I realized I’d chosen the wrong bad guy. Yes. I was writing the book, so you’d think I’d know who did it. But no. One night I sat bolt upright in bed, and had the shocking revelation that I’d outwitted even myself. The next morning, I checked my manuscript-in-progress, and hardly had to change a word to create what turned out to be the final story. Talk about a surprise ending—it surprised even the author.

Another time—maybe 40,000 words in—I hit the wall. I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I was bummed, fearful, and almost defeated. I called my mother, as I sometimes do, and said: “Mom, I love my book so much, but I’m not sure I can finish it.”

She paused, as she sometimes does, and then she said “Well, sweetheart, you will if you want to.”
And that was that. I remembered I was in control of my destiny. I wanted to write it. And I did. And it just won the Agatha for Best First Novel.

Hank with author Louise Penny, Agatha winner for Best Novel

Next time on the Playground, I’ll tell you all about the agent search (sigh) and then the publisher search (sigh.) Each one tough and tear-inducing, each one with a happy ending.

But I can’t resist telling you about the day the phone rang. I was in my office, at channel 7. “Seven news!” I said, picking up the receiver.

“Hank Phillippi Ryan?” someone asked. I didn’t recognize the voice.

Was it a going to be a big story? Or some wacko telling me the Martians had landed in their back yard? You never know.

Yes,” I said, hesitantly.

“I’m calling about the RITA’s,” the voice continued. “Congratulations.”

Please come visit my website at

And just for you on the Playground? I’m giving way two autographed copies of PRIME TIME and two of the Book Sense Notable Book FACE TIME. Just go to my website, and tell me which famous romantic suspense author is “holding a yellow bag.” Everyone who enters will also get a coupon for 50 per cent off the all new AIR TIME. (Click on “contact” to enter.)

Can’t find Prime Time? Yeah, I know. It’s pretty much sold out. Face Time too. But here’s the scoop: Prime Time will be re-issued by MIRA Books in July 2009. Then the MIRA edition of Face Time in August, and the all-new Air Time from MIRA in September. Drive Time, the 4th Charlotte McNally Mystery, will be out in 2010.

P.S. For some reason I keep humming the tune to "On the Cover of the Rolling Stone" so nudge me if I start to get annoying. I've read PRIME TIME and the secret-messages-in-the-emails is a quite clever plot. And I could so identify with the heroine because I too wonder if age is catching up with me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So it begins...

My Darling Geek got my website ( up and running, so I’m really out there, on the web, claiming to be an author. Honestly, I didn’t have much to put up on the site, so I copied over all those Grammar Gremlins articles from the Playground archives.

I’m glad I did. According to DG, I’m getting a lot of hits from folks looking for grammar help. I’m not proud; I’ll take my visitors however they get there.

Of course, with so little traffic, I can’t expect email from folks not blood kin or BFF from the site (thanks, y’all), but that doesn’t stop me from checking the inbox regularly, eagerly waiting for someone I don’t know to email me.

Last Thursday, I finally got one! I was so excited. Until I opened it, at least. It certainly wasn’t fan mail of any sort.

One of the visitors to my site looking for grammar help had issue with a few of my comma suggestions and had emailed me to let me know.

Now, y’all know I’ve ranted before about the proliferation of garbage masquerading as information on the internet, so I understand the need to email the authors of such pages to question their “expertise.” But I normally try to do it as a friendly “but what about this…” or “according to Dr. Expert Author of Every Book on the Subject…” or even “maybe this wasn’t what you meant to say…”

Nope. Not this email. I was WRONG. Not mistaken. Not possibly off-kilter. WRONG. And I was “spreading misinformation.”

Yes, my hackles went up. But so did my adrenaline levels. Did I really screw up somehow? Did the file get corrupted somehow during the upload and say something different now? I checked the site, but the articles seemed fine. I pulled out my grammar books to look for exceptions to the rules I’d forgotten to mention. Nothing. I even did some web searches to see if the rules had changed in the months since I wrote the articles. Nope.

I know the general rule is not to reply to such emails. After all, when you engage, you enrage, and we all know what happens when you try to argue on the internet. But I couldn’t help it. I wrote the person back.

I tried very hard not to be snarky or pompous, and I put on my very best professional “voice” as I tried to explain how I thought the writer must have misread the article and invited her to provide me with examples to support her interpretation of comma usage. Then I spent the next few days wondering if I should have hit Delete instead of Send.

She wrote me back.

But this time, the email was totally different. She apologized for her earlier email, thanked me for being a good sport about it, and provided the source of her confusion. (Note to self: remember to write LEGIBLY when correcting student papers.)

I’m glad I responded, and I’m glad I didn’t get my back up or write snarky rebuttals. Hopefully, this will be good practice for the emails I’m bound to get in the future when folks take issue with something in one of my books.

But I’m still looking forward to getting the email…

Have you ever sent email to the author of a web page who has something totally and completely wrong on their site? How did they respond? Have you been on the other side and been the receiver of an email like that? How did you handle it?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Isolation Madness

There are times when I love my computer. Now is not one of them.

A week ago Sunday I woke up to find my computer not functioning properly. Even though it wasn't the blue screen of death, it wasn't much better. It wouldn't move past the opening screen, which froze no matter what I did to it. PC's hubby came out to pronounce last rites over my mother board later that night. I've been in mourning ever since.

I was able to borrow a laptop for a few days, which allowed me to check my email and finish up the few clients I still had open files on. Even then, the tedious process through which I had to check my email and the blog was frustrating, and left me feeling out of the loop. Replying to emails was even worse.

As an aside: I don't see how you laptop people type with that touchpad right where your palms are supposed to rest. I was constantly brushing against it, changing the screen, closing stuff, and twice losing emails I was typing. Don't care for that at all.

Luckily, I spent the weekend with the Playfriends and had a RWA chapter meeting this past weekend, or I just might have slipped into isolation madness. Even though I'm an introvert, I'm still moderately subject to it. You know what I mean. The paranoia that slips in when everyone else is talking and you aren't in on the conversation. Are they having fun without me? What did I miss? Are they bonding? Will I be left out... or behind? and the dreaded Have I done something to offend someone? Is that why they aren't answering?

Yes, isolation madness is not a pretty sight. I managed to hold it off with quite a few phone calls (I know people had to be groaning when my number showed up on caller ID), a late night Starbucks run with PC, and our weekend activities. Unfortunately, this just gave me a brief glimpse of how lonely I'll be while the rest of the Playground is at Nationals this July and too busy to be constantly on the computer with me. Sigh... Note to self: schedule some activities for that week.

Back to the computer issues: We ordered a new tower, which should be arriving tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Even the hubby is getting antsy by now, despite the fact that he owns an iPhone. Please pray the computer gods will look kindly on our affliction and speed up the shipping process. ;)

What's your latest computer snafu? What obsessive thoughts run through your brain when isolation madness sets in?


PS Instigator and Problem Child are making a guest appearance on today, or rather, their feet are. Check out their special First Sale shoes when you drop in. Thanks to Michele Hauf for inviting them to come play!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Perfect Pitch

This weekend, an editor is attending our local RWA chapter meeting. After her workshop, she’s taking pitches. At this precise moment, there are about ten or fifteen people hyperventilating in the Northern Alabama area. In honor of this, I’ve put together my take on the different types of pitches with the help of Wikipedia (since I have no actual knowledge of baseball aside from nachos and beer.)

(Note to those of you pitching tomorrow – none of this will actually help, sorry if I got your hopes up.)

The fastball is the most common pitch in baseball and also in the world of writers. Most authors have some form of a fastball in their arsenal whether they know it or not. It is basically a pitch thrown very fast, some with movement, some without. An example of this would be the eight-minute rehearsed pitch that is delivered to an editor in exactly 47 seconds. Some wildly gesticulate with their hands, some nervously clutch their index cards, but the common factor is the lack on breathing on the part of the author. The downside of the fastball is the remaining 9 minutes and 13 seconds of uncomfortable silence before the appointment is over.

A variation of the fastball is called the sinking fastball. This has extra movement that affects the trajectory of the pitch. Most commonly, this pitch is thrown when the author senses the book is hopelessly doomed in the eyes of the editor, but continues to throw the ball quickly to get it over with. This is usually followed by a walk to the bar.

Another variation is the cutter fastball, which slows slightly as it reaches home plate. This pitch is long-winded and manages to take up the entire allotted time. When the appointment keeper announces that one minute remains, the author will switch to the cutter fastball, cramming everything else they have to say into 30 seconds, leaving the editor enough time to request a partial, but not ask questions.

The curveball is known for its movement, usually sideways or downward in response to pressure. This pitch is thrown when the author realizes that the editor is completely disinterested in their project and starts changing the storyline in response to her facial expressions. This makes the pitch difficult or confusing for the editor/batter and she is less likely to be able to hit it back (ie. decline the proposal). Although this pitch provides the author with a sense of euphoria when they receive a request, it is usually followed by a panic attack when they realize they have to produce a book that doesn't exist.

The curveball is similar to the changeup, which also tricks the editor. It’s an off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much slower to the plate. This is used most often when an author wants to pitch a book in a genre the editor isn’t really interested in (but if they just read it, they'd love it). They disguise the book (a paranormal, for example) describing it primarily as a romantic suspense in the hopes of getting a request. The reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery are meant to confuse the editor/batter’s timing. Its a temporary victory, usually followed by the quick return of a SASE when the editor regains her footing and realizes she's been mislead.

Last, but not least, is the slider. This is the pitch scheduled deliberately as the last appointment of the day. This author counts on the editor to be tired in the hopes that she will agree to read their book regardless of what the author actually says or does, simply so she can be finished and move on with her life.

I couldn't come up with anything witty for a spitball, so I'll stop there. I admit I'm guilty of the fastball. Of course, I was also the only kid in my 10th grade English class who could deliver the entire 3rd Act soliloquy of Mark Antony from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in under a minute. How about you? If you've never pitched, what's your favorite superstition (it's Friday the 13th, if you haven't noticed)?


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guest Blogger Natalie Anderson

This week we bring you another of my new friends from the Modern Heat line who's just been fabulous about welcoming the newbie. Natalie's from New Zealand, so we could have another vocabulary lesson today. Natalie also has four small children (including a set of twins) and still manges to write. While I hang my head in shame and wonder how she does it, eveyone make Natalie welcome!


Seeing Nicola has stolen the Swot tag, I guess I’ll have to settle for Chatterbox – ‘cos I am known for waffling on and on about anything and nothing and digressing a heap and circling around and getting nowhere… ok, I’ll stop with that and get on with the topic.

My name is Natalie and I am Obsessive. Bet you are too.

Now not all obsessiveness is bad – I tend to think you have to be obsessive to achieve and maybe more obsessive to really achieve. I do think most writers are obsessive – why else would we sit at a desk for hours at a time talking to no one but those millions inside our heads? And finishing a book (whether it gets published or not) is achieving something huge. But wait, I’m digressing already…

Now some obsessiveness IS bad. There is no point obsessing over things we can’t control – so while its fine for me to obsess over what my characters are doing and what am I going to make them do next, it is not fine to obsess for hours/days/weeks over what my editor thinks about the manuscript I just submitted and do I still have a contract, or is she about to say “No Way” and rip it up.

That’s bad obsessing and must be stopped.

How? With a new obsession of course.

Everyone says to get on with the next while you wait but frankly, I find this really, really hard. Fortunately my daughter has inadvertently helped me out this time. She’s gotten into reading in a big way and now she’s onto chapter books she’s declared herself ready to read my books.

She’s five.


So that’s a NO then!

But at the same time I love that she’s so supportive of me and wants to be involved. So, while waiting for my editor’s views on my latest offering, I’ve been toying with writing a junior fiction chapter book just for her. I have a character called Leah (her favourite name), while my son has enough alter-egos for me to fill out the rest of the cast: Riffy-the-dog; Roaldo- the-calf; Molly-the-meercat; Noi-Noi (we don’t quite know WHAT he is) and so on. They’ve also provided the location – ‘Danger Kid Mountain’ (otherwise known as our stairs). The story is as cheesy and self-referential as I like because it’s only for us – and I’ve discovered that that is so liberating!!!

It can be wonderful to break out of the genre you usually write in and take a holiday somewhere else – indulge in some cliché and complete melodrama and craziness and not give a stuff about it being good enough for publication – or good enough for anything other than a laugh.
Of course, it’ll probably never be finished – revisions will come from the editor, proofs for the previous one will arrive, the deadline for the next will start to loom… Then again, I am obsessive.

So what about you, if you were going to take a holiday from your usual writing hole to experiment with something completely different, where would you head – fantasy? Paranormal? Thriller? Gumshoe Detective? Non-fiction? Kiddie Lit? The Great (Insert Nationality Here) Novel???

And meanwhile, if you’re over the age of consent and like some sauce with your story (like a whole bottle), you can check out my two June releases:

Thanks so much for letting me prattle on in the Playground!
For excerpts and more info on Natalie’s saucy stories go to:
Hey, y'all check out this cool widget thing I figured out how to put on here...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Playlist of My Life

Music has always been an important part of my life, and when I listen to music, I especially pay attention to the lyrics. So when I saw Playlist on someone else's blog I decided to do a short list that would be appropos for my life today.

Track 1: Hot, Hot, Hot by Buster Poindexter

It's a bazillion degrees outside and the humidity is like a gazillion percent.

In other words, it's summer in Alabama, but it's more like August than our usual June. What's up with that, Mother Nature? Are you going to give us another drought summer? What's the weather like where you are? Are you hot, hot, hot? Or maybe you're in a part of the country that's wet, wet, wet.

Track 2: Hot Stuff by Donna Summer

The DH and I were young and mostly childless during the disco era and have danced our share of dances under the sparkling disco ball. I especially love the music of Donna Summer and "Hot Stuff" is what I am right now. And I don't mean in any sort of sexy-outfit-with-high-heels way either. It's not simply a matter of the temperature and humidity; I stopped taking my hormone pills about two weeks ago (yeah, TMI, but guess what? One of these days YOUR ovaries will stop producing estrogen and you'll be making these decisions too. ;-) ) and I can't decide if (1) I'm really having hot flashes, (2) I'm sick or (3) if it's just my reaction to the ninety-degree weather. I'm hoping for #3.

Track 3: Taking Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive

I wake up every morning to my alarm clock's warning and instead of taking the 8:15 into the city, I head first to the kitchen for a cup of hot tea and then hit my office to check my calendar for the day. Lately it's been filled with stuff like haircuts, family doctor appointment, mammogram appointment, take the DH to his oral surgery, go to exercise, take the DH to the airport, pick up the tiller from the shop, eye doctor appointment, go exercise again, go back to pick up my new prescription sunglasses (and they are SO cool!), exercise some more, pick the DH up at the airport, shop for groceries, feel like I've been robbed when I put gas in my car, attend Homeowners' Association meeting and weasel my way out of being the newsletter editor (don't ever let them know you're a writer because they'll use it against you).

Between all the "stuff" and the heat (internal and external), I just haven't been in the mood to do much of anything but stretch out on the couch, turn the ceiling fan to high, sip a tall glass of sweet iced tea and either read, watch TV or nap. On the plus side, I've read some good books. On the down side, I've written absolutely zip since about this time last month. I re-did the outline for a story over the weekend and that's as far as I got. Right now I could care less if Undercover Mom helps the FBI or not.

What songs would be on the playlist of your life now?

P.S. Be sure to come back tomorrow when Natalie Anderson, another of Kimberly's new friends from Mills & Boon, visits to guest blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer TV Programming

You know, there are some pretty wicked new shows coming out for the summer viewing season. Some of them just look cruel. Wipeout. If you haven't seen the commercial for this show it involves things like boxing gloves punching you off a minuscule ledge. Or having to bounce from one humongous red ball to another while avoiding the pit of mud beneath you.

Or the one where they shipped the players to Japan to compete in a Japanese game show. I think it's called I Survived a Japanese Game Show. I think the title says it all. It surely will involve pain and humiliation - a game you can never win. My brother was telling me about one where they had to contort their bodies into different shapes and jump through a moving wall. Yeah, sounds like fun.

My favorite though is the Mole. It hasn't been on for awhile but it's very interesting. Mind games and physical challenges that would make me sick to my stomach. The first night they had to fall over a waterfall while jumping for a bag of money. Everyone would think I was the mole when I refused to jump.

Then, of course, there's So You Think You Can Dance. I love this show! It reminds me of my childhood dream to be a professional dancer. I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell but I enjoy watching the flexible, talented dancers working to achieve their dream.

On the whole though, I'm looking forward to a summer of watching people get covered in mud and humiliate themselves. What are you looking forward to this summer?


P.S. I want to know what happened to June. It's been in the mid 90s here for over a week. It's supposed to rain later in the week and drop the about 2 degrees. Something tells me I don't want to be here in August.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I vant to be alone...

(Editorial note: Angel's computer is toast, so you're getting me today and Instigator tomorrow. Hopefully, Angel will be able to borrow a laptop and get online soon to check in.)

I'm an extrovert, and one of the defining characteristics of an extrovert is that we "recharge our batteries" in large groups. Extroverts make good performers because we draw energy from the crowd. More importantly, being in large groups of people doesn't suck all the energy from us like it would an introvert, leaving us drained and exhausted. But that doesn't mean that extroverts have to be around people all the time. In fact, we need our alone time too.

And I desperately need some now.

School is out, so that means AC is home with me every day. Now, she's pretty good about entertaining herself, but almost-seven-year-olds have a limited attention span so she does have to "check in" quite often and let me know what she's doing and why, and can I come see this, and can she have a snack... you get the picture.

Plus, the Geek has been sick for the last week, which means he's been home quite a bit coughing and wheezing and being miserable. I have pretty strict rules about being sick--if you're miserable, go be miserable in your room. I don't fluff pillows or fetch orange juice unless you're on death's door. I'll check on you every now and then and see if you need anything, but otherwise, I'm not a good nurse. And I really don't want your germs, so please stay away from me. DG knows this, and has tried to stay out of my way as much as possible, but that doesn't change the fact that he's home.

I'm just not used to this. I'm very used to kissing everyone goodbye and ushering them out the door at 7.20 am, leaving me alone in blissful silence until 3 pm. Instead, I had both of them home and it drove me insane.

I love 'em both, but I last week was tough. Really tough. I knew it was getting to me, but I didn't realize how much until Thursday. Thursday night is Game Night for DG. Usually, he leaves around seven, and I don't see him until the next morning. AC goes to bed around 7.45, and I have the house to myself.

Well, on Thursday around 6.45 I said something about DG heading off to game night (he'd been well enough to go to work most of the day, so I just assumed he was going.). He said he was planning on staying home. My loving, caring, wifely response to the news he planned to stay home and rest?

A horrified look coupled with an equally horrified "Seriously?"

Not my best moment, I admit it, but geez, I was about to pull my hair out. Although I tried to take it back, DG ended up going to Game Night anyway to pass along contagions to the other Geeks. I sent AC to bed, watched So You Think You Can Dance, talked on the phone to Instigator for a while, and reveled in the silence.

Then he stayed home most of the day Friday. Um, hello, I have a book to write. The one I'm contractually obligated to produce, remember?

We took AC to camp Sunday afternoon and dropped her off. She's gone until Tuesday. I pronounced DG well enough to go to work today (And he is, thank goodness, but sick or not, he was leaving this house, by God.)

Now I have all day today. Alone. In my quiet house. Bliss. Call me a bad wife. Call me a horrible mother. I don't care. I'm home alone.'s your day? :-)


Friday, June 06, 2008

My Favorite Part

I'm pleased to say I'm at my favorite part of my writing process. I've brainstormed an idea, kicked it around for a while, done enough research to make me dangerous, and put together a synopsis and outline to follow. Now, the fun part - I get to start the book.

Some people really hate this part. The blank page with the blinking cursor daunts some writers, but not me. I love opening a new file, formatting my margins, and typing out the header "Chapter One." Within no time, I usually have the first chapter finished. Right now I'm at 12 of a planned 15-20 pages, so its a solid start. Readers have met the heroine, found her to be quirky, yet likeable. They've gotten a quick glimpse of the hero; enough to whet their appetites until he returns in chapter 2 with a vengence. They've met the villians and have little insight into their troubles. It's a good start. At least, I'm still on track with my outline. :)

I love the thrill I get when a story idea clicks in my head, but that's always a short-lived high as I realize I've just set my sights on a bigger story than I can probably manage. I always have these doubts that if So-and-So wrote this story instead of me, it would be as fabulous as it was meant to be. So I do a little research, get over it, and once I get myself out of the corner I've painted into and start writing, I can really enjoy what I'm doing.

At least until about chapter 5 or so. :)

Anyway, I'm hoping to have a partial put together before the 13th. I've already got a synopsis done, so just 2.5 chapters left in a week. Think I can do it?? We'll see.

What's your favorite part of the writing process? If you're a reader, what is your favorite part of your hobby of choice? (picking plants for your garden vs. planting vs. clipping them for vases).


Circle of 5:
1 full manuscript pending with an editor
1 novella pending with Nocture eBites (I emailed the coordinator since they had trouble opening the file and they assured me it worked fine now and was with the editors...)
2 short stories and 4 short features pending with the Trues

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

My children have turned into little matchmakers. And I'm not sure my Baby Brother (changing names to protect the wicked) appreciates it. He's home from college for the summer and like most children, mine are easily impressed by the fact that he stays up until 4 AM and sleeps until 2PM. They love Baby Brother, partly because he is usually this phantom person who breezes in for several days on random holidays before disappearing again for months at a time. Right now though, he's not taking classes this semester so has decided to stay home - while my mother watches my 2 girls and my sister's 2 sons for the summer. Lots of Baby Brother time for my girls. And apparently, they have decided he needs a woman in his life. Of course, this decision was helped along nicely by my husband.

DH, me, the girls and my 2 brothers were loaded up into my van at 5AM one morning going to the hot air balloon festival to crew and my husband yells towards my brothers - who are hilariously squeezed in the backseat of the van along with a humongous car seat -"Hey, Baby Brother, I've found you some hotties at the feed store. They were wearing their bikini tops." My girls immediately popped up with just how hot these hotties were since they'd both been with daddy while he ogled the jail bait.

However, while bikini clad women surrounded by hay excites my husband, Baby Brother didn't exactly seem thrilled. He just smirked and gave a non-committal chuckle. He isn't the type of guy to go for girls hanging out at the feed shop...Now if they were wearing bikini tops at the local Electronics Boutique he'd have been all over that. However, since that day my children have made it their summer mission to find the 'hotties' all over town for Baby Brother. They delight in telling him each and every day about the eligible young women they've seen at Wal-Mart or the drug store or the park.

To Baby Brother's credit he's handling the situation with his usual calm and silent demeanor. He doesn't say much just grunts at them and smirks. I'm not worried about him. I'm worried about my 6 and 3 year olds who seem to be obsessed with this new summer mission. I can only imagine what hell my life will be when this single-minded determination turns to finding matches for themselves. The men better watch out. Sweet Pea will just wear whoever she wants down until he eventually gives in. And Baby Girl...she'll either take a hit out on any man who dares to turn her down or simply back him into a corner, smile impishly into his eyes and wait for him to melt at her feet.

My only consolation is that it's going to serve their daddy right for ever mentioning the word 'hottie' in front of them.


P.S. Diane Graham is the winner from yesterday. Please email the Playground Monitor with your snail mail info and she'll get your books and chocolate out to you ASAP.

Also, Eva S is Nicola's winner from Tuesday. She needs to email the Problem Child with her snail mail info to claim her prize.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What Happened?

I saw a quote recently that really resonated with me.

Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.


The Playkids have been plagued lately with a barrage of ailments (Smarty Pants doesn't have a kid, but she has a DB, which is pretty much the same thing). And when a kid is sick, that means Mommy gets to be a nurse instead of a writer. Also, school is out and the kids are home all day long. This means you must feed them three meals a day, keep them entertained, play referree if you have more than one child and in general relinquish any semblance of a personal life and schedule.

Been. There. Done. That.

And now I'm in the position where I don't get yanked out of a night's sleep by a vomiting child or called from school because my kid has a one hundred degree fever. I can pretty much sleep til 8:00 every day with the only disruption being the DH's snoring (though praise be for ear plugs).

We moved into a new house a few years ago and I tell folks it's our "middle-age-friendly" house. It's all brick with vinyl trim so the maintenance is low. It's all one level (except for a bonus room over the garage, which I graciously gave to the DH for his "stuff") and the lot is flat. It's the first house I've ever had that wasn't decorated in early mother-in-law hand-me-downs, outlet store bargains and Little Tikes.

Every time I visit one of the other Playfriends' homes, she begins to apologize for the toys and things scattered about. And every time I tell her not to worry because I've been there and done that. When they ride in my car they joke that it's like being on an airplane because there's a pillow and blanket in the backseat. They also comment about the lack of Cheerios and Happy Meal wrappers in the floor. And once again I tell them that I've been there and done that.

The oldest Playfriend was born seven months before I got married and the youngest is the same age as my older son. We have a generation gap in some respects, but I've never played the "Mama card" with one exception. In Reno they were going clubbing and I told them "I won't bail you out." I told my own kids the same thing. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. ;-)

Trust me when I tell you that the days of sleepless nights and Happy Meal wrappers will be over before you know it.

Now I'm in a new stage of life: being a grandmother, or Grammy as BabyGrand calls me. She will be two years old next Sunday and inside this old Grammy is a young person wondering what the heck happened and where the years went.

Have you had any age-related revelations lately?

P.S. The Writing Playground blog had its 100,000th hit yesterday! In celebration of this milestone, one lucky commenter will be picked at random to get a selection of books in a variety of genres, some autographed, along with some chocolate since BabyGrand has obviously tapped into the whole female and chocolate phenomenon. ::grin::

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Guest Blogger Nicola Marsh

Within hours of news of my sale hitting the internet, the other Modern Heat authors were emailing their congrats and welcoming me into the fold. They were all so great and friendly, I had to invite them to the blog, so you'll be getting to meet some new friends of mine in the near future!

Nicola Marsh was one of the first to say Hi, and she's been super nice about helping the Newbie learn her way around, so I'm tickled to welcome her to the Playground for her first guest blog. Make Nicola feel at home, okay?


It is great to be in the Playground!

Unfortunately, you gals have snaffled all the cool names, so as a guest I guess I’ll have to be the Swot. Doesn’t quite have the same ring as Angel or Problem Child or Smarty Pants or Instigator, does it? :-)

I’ve brought my crayons along so thought I’d draw you a picture.
Picture a pristine beach, a cerulean ocean, a semi-naked buffed guy…you with me? Can you see it?

Well, that’s where I’m at. Down Under. Australia.

Okay, so maybe the Swot just told a little fib out of school.

I’m in gorgeous, cosmopolitan Melbourne where the beaches are okay and Port Phillip Bay isn’t cerulean. As for the buffed naked guy…my hubby’s having a conniption reading this over my shoulder.

But the place I described exists.

The Whitsunday Islands, in the tropical north-east of Australia, are exquisite. Beautiful one day, perfect the next (and yes, that’s an ad slogan!)

There are 74 islands in total but only a few are inhabited. The islands are situated in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world. Cool, huh?

(sounds like the Swot’s giving a geography lesson…)

If you’ve never been to this part of the world, you absolutely must visit.

Or if you want to do it vicariously, check out my current release HOT NIGHTS WITH A PLAYBOY (Harlequin Mills and Boon Modern Heat, June)

Here’s the back blurb:

Working by day...
Abby Weiss could make her name as a stylist to the stars on a two-week photo shoot in a tropical island paradise. Even better, Judd Calloway, her best friend, will be the photographer. Nothing could be more fun than working with him...

Naughty by night!...

except spending hot, sexy, passionate nights with him! In the years since they last met Judd's become a charming, muscled, gorgeous hunk! Abby can't keep her hands off him-and the attraction's mutual.

And now Judd's got a proposal that he hopes will keep her right where he wants her: in his bed!

Think hot: hot weather, hot nights, hot chemistry, hot bods…phew, is it hot in here or is it just me? :-)

So to continue my steamy theme, share your dream destination, tropical or otherwise, in the comments, and you could be in the running to win a copy of MISTRESS TO THE TYCOON, my latest Harlequin Presents (set in Brunswick Street, the boho central of Melbourne: think cafés, art galleries, tapas bars, comedy clubs, vintage boutiques…love it!)

Thanks for having me in the Playground.

Looking forward to coming back to play next month!


For more info on Nicola and her books, be sure to visit her website:

***In addition to Swot's geography lesson, it seems like we'll be learning some new words on the Playground today...starting with "Swot." :-)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Guest Blogger Karen Rose Smith


The Playfriends are very happy to welcome back one of our special guest bloggers, Karen Rose Smith. So pull up a swing and let's talk writing, romance, or just life in general...

Hi, everyone! It's good to be blogging with you. I'm excited about my May and June releases. My May release HER MR. RIGHT? is a romance that takes place in a broader context - a hospital takeover. The book wrote easily because I've had too much personal experience with doctors and hospitals! But my experience lent reality to my descriptions and secondary characters. Writing what I knew about made plotting and tempo easy. It also added depth to my heroine - a social worker in the hospital setting.

My June release is the second book in my Dads in Progress series. Sam is probably my most likeable hero in the series. He is a veterinarian so I had the chance to add another one of my loves to the book, a fondness for animals. My heroine is a veterinary assistant and she also loves animals. So these two characters were meant for each other. This heroine also is a bit different from some of my heroines - more guarded until Sam brings out her best qualities.

I'd love to discuss any aspects about writing that interest you, so feel free to ask questions and to comment.

Have a great Monday.

Karen Rose Smith

Check out more about Karen at her website . And don't forget her May release from Silhouette Special Edition, Her Mr. Right?.

Tomorrow we'll be hanging out with author Nicola Marsh, so stop back by for a cool drink and conversation. Boy, the Playground is booming this week!