Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Blogger - Tawny Weber

I can't remember when I first met Tawny Weber. What I do remember is that she's a wonderful, friendly and generous woman who never hesitated to answer my silly newbie questions or offer me insightful advice. We're very excited to have her on the Playground with us today!

Thanks so much to the ladies of the playground for letting me hang out today! Thanks, especially, to Kira for inviting me. I’m always happy to visit anyplace that has swings and slides.

I recently mentioned the idea of taking a break – a little mini-vacation, if you will. The person I was talking with isn’t a writer, and she gave me this frowning look of confusion and asked “well, how hard do you really work that you need a break?”


How wrong was that?! I mean, so much of writing is work. No, really –that staring off in space? That’s work. Checking out hunks on the net? Research type work!! The gentle bouncing of the forehead off the desktop? Sometimes a little painful work. The hours spent preparing to write? Getting the iPod playlist just right, making sure I have enough colored sticky notes to plot, stocking up on my emergency writing stash of chocolate? ALL WORK!

My argument didn’t impress her much. She came back with “Well how hard is it to tell a story?”

Hmmm, methinks the only stories she’s told are the ones Mother Goose wrote.

So I outlined how hard writing is, the characterization, the plotting, the pace. She claimed she walked in once and heard me giggling while I was writing. Hmm, probably COMING ON STRONG (that story did amuse me to write). I pointed out that just because I love what I’m doing, that I enjoy it, that doesn’t mean it’s not—ahem—work!

Oddly enough, while she doesn’t quite accept that writing is work, she readily believes that promoting the books is a really hard job! Finally, some sympathy. Although I do have to say, promoting my recent Blazes, COMING ON STRONG and GOING DOWN HARD has actually been a lot more fun than work. I get to visit playgrounds and meet cool people and talk about writing. Which is totally fun.

Doesn’t it figure? So I’m curious, do you ever get that? The blithe dismissal of how hard it is to do what you do? How do you deal with it?

Be sure to check out Tawny's newest releases - Coming on Strong out now and Going Down Hard out next month! Trust me, you won't be disappointed. And be sure to visit her at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Root bound

Define: Root Bound
"When a plant grows for too long in its container, it generally becomes root bound. With no room for additional growth, roots become tangled, matted, and grow in circles. Root-bound plants placed in the ground without having their roots untangled often fail to overcome their choked condition. This results in stunting the plant's growth and potential."

This is a split-leaf philodendron that we got in 1975. It was a tiny thing, delivered by the florist when my father-in-law died. A year later, we moved to Germany and obviously couldn't take live plants, so we gave this to my sister and brother-in-law. They live on the same island as my mother whom I have been visiting for the past week and a half.

Sis and BIL planted it outdoors since they live in a climate conducive to plants like this. You can tell from the photo that it reaches nearly to the roofline of their house and the trunk has split off into multiple branches. Our baby has grown up even with several severe prunings. I was amazed.
I've come to the conclusion my writing had become root bound last year. It was sorta tangled and matted and I was going in circles. Jumping into NaNoWriMo was the equivalent of re-potting me. I had room to spread out. I had room to grow. The most I'd ever written before was 30-something thousand words on a fanfiction piece. My manuscript ended up at just over 61,000 words.
I think the new pot worked, don't you?
Have you ever felt root bound? Stifled? Frustrated because you don't have any wiggle room?
P.S. I'm back home now and my mom is doing good. I won't tell how old she is since she DOES read the blog. *g* We had a great visit, did a little shopping in the village and ate out a couple times. Of course now I have to catch up on all the things that piled up while I was gone.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Perils of Pantsers

If you’re not a writer, you may not be familiar with the terms “Plotter” and “Pantser.” Plotters, um… actually plot their books before they write them. They know what’s going to happen in chapter eight before they get there. Pantsers, though, fly by the seat of their pants. Pantsers start writing and see what happens. It’s an adventure! Who knows what will happen? The possibilities are wide open! Chapter eight? I'll worry about chapter eight once I finish chapter seven.

For me, every book is like a college road trip with a group of friends. I know I'm leaving campus and heading for Graceland. I have a general map – I know which direction I need to go at least – and I’m pretty sure I want to See Rock City, stop at the outlet mall in Nashville, and do some bar-hopping on Beale Street on the way. (That’s the synopsis I turn in to my editor.) But when I see that sign for the Giant Ball of String or The World’s Biggest Sweet Potato, I turn because it sounds like it might be fun. I figure I'll get to Graceland eventually.

And because I’m with friends, I enjoy the ride. Except when I don’t. Someone is going to keep changing the music to a crappy station and then sing along off-key. Someone else is going to conveniently “forget” their wallet and never chip in for gas. No one wants to take a turn riding in the middle of the back seat. After a while, I’m wondering why I ever thought I liked these people in the first place and contemplating ditching them at the next rest area (where, if I’m really lucky, a serial killer will find them).

Know what I mean?

Now, when I get stuck, I’m stuck. That general road map is kinda helpful – I know I’m at Rock City, and the next stop is Nashville, but I don’t know how to get back to the interstate. And it’s not like I can skip ahead and write that great scene that takes place on Beale Street. I don’t know what happens between here and there, so there’s a good chance that conversation won’t work by the time I catch up. Maybe my characters will have already had that moment by then – in a rest area on the side of I-24. And, of course, there’s an equally good chance they won’t make it to Beale Street at all. Hell, they might not make it to Nashville.

Another problem with Pantsers (or at least this Pantser) is that we end up writing ourselves into scenes we don’t have any research on. All of a sudden, my characters are pulling into the parking lot at the World’s Biggest Sweet Potato, and I don’t know how big the sweet potato is, who grew it, who decided it was the World’s Biggest, what purpose it serves in the tourist industry of the surrounding area, or even how much it costs to get in to see it. (In particularly exciting circumstances, I’m not even sure exactly where they are or what I hope to accomplish with this little side trip.) Everything has to come to a grinding halt while I frantically start Googling “giant sweet potatoes.” And, should I happen to find the email address of the country’s leading expert on exceptionally large yams, he’s always out of the office until Monday.

What? I’m supposed to just leave my hero and heroine in the Sweet Potato parking lot for a couple of days? Um, I’m on a deadline, people.

But Pantsing through a book has its charms, too. Because I don’t have everything plotted out, I never get bored of the story or feel it’s getting predictable. Because I don’t have a plan set in stone, I’m fine with adding interesting details and side trips and just weaving them into the book as I go along. So my characters stop at the Giant Sweet Potato. The heroine has a soft spot in her heart for sweet potatoes because her mother used to make them for her. (Go back and stick that in chapter 2). But her mother is dead now (quick trip back to chapter one), so this is an emotional and healing moment for her. Later, in chapter twelve, when I need the hero to make a grand romantic gesture, he’ll cook her a sweet potato casserole from his mother’s recipe. Ooh, when he asks his mother for the recipe, they are able to break down that estrangement barrier that I will go back right now and add in chapter five, and then reconcile in a way that makes him realize he’s not his father – run back to chapter three -- and can therefore commit to the heroine in a satisfying HEA. And they’ll get married at Graceland!

Plotters reading this just dropped dead from a heart attack – and it wasn’t from the butter and marshmallows in the casserole.

Road trip and sweet potato metaphors aside, this is exactly how I write books. Ask the Playfriends – they have to listen to me whine and argue my way through every single book because my people have gone off chasing giant yams and I don’t know how to get them back on the road to Graceland. It’s painful. For everyone. But eventually, it gets the job done.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go research giant balls of string. Ooh, and Elvis impersonators!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Road Trip! Wet Jeans! Cold boobs!


Smarty Pants and I played hookie last week for a road trip to Atlanta, GA, where we saw the group Nickelback in concert at Lakewood Amphitheatre. This is an outdoor arena where we’d purchased lawn tickets at a fraction of the price for the covered seats. Of course, what should have been a fun and relaxing time with Soapbox Queen Jennifer LaBrecque turned into a regular Playground Adventure (those of you who are regulars here know what I mean… need I say Meth Lab?).

Well, this sheltered Angel learned a lot along the way:

1. The odds aren’t ever in our favor. There was a 30% chance of rain during the concert time, so as soon as we arrived, the bottom dropped out – complete with booming thunder and scary lightening. We stood outside the amphitheatre for 45 minutes during this downpour that stopped once they let us inside. Then started again on Nickelback's second song. Hmmm… maybe we should play the lottery?


How is it that SP's hair looks the same and mine is just grossly flat? :(

2. Some people don’t care anything about remembering a concert they paid good money to see. Imagine that.

3. I’m too old to play in the rain. I haven’t been that soaked while still wearing clothes, well, ever. My coat was still dripping the next morning. And in case you didn't know, padded bras don't dry out any quicker than jeans. Did I mention that the temperature also dropped into the 50s? On second thought, those padded bras were probably a good idea.

4. Chad Kroeger, lead singer for Nickelback, is quite fond of the F-bomb. I heard it more in 3 hours than my entire lifetime. :)

5. Even soaked, I love dancing to music so loud it makes your heart pound in your chest. Of course, it is a lot easier to dance when you are dry and not worried about slipping on a wet grass hill.

6. Drunk guys don’t care who their arms hit when they are “getting down.”

7. Pot smells much different than cigarettes. (I did mention I was sheltered, right? I missed getting a drug education in college.)

8. SP and I agree that there were 2 things that made this concert worthwhile:


This was my favorite part! Ryan Peake is one of the guitarists and singers. Yum!

Daniel Adair, drummer. Let’s just say this guy can make you think really naughty thoughts during his drum solo. Wow.

What has been your favorite concert experience? Ever have any trips that just don’t go exactly as you planned?
P.S. Friday's comment by Gina won a book from Anna Cleary. Please check out Friday's comment tail for instructions on claiming your prize!
P.P.S. Don't forget this is the last week to enter the Good VS. Evil contest. Check out the sidebar for the link.
Coming Soon! Join guest blogger Tawny Weber here on Thursday!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guest Blogger Anna Cleary

I'm tickled to welcome another of the Modern Heat gang to the Playground! Anna Cleary may seem sweet and nice, but she's one of those tough Aussie women (Australia, I'm convinced, is one of the most dangerous places on earth, and therefore, I'm afraid to go visit). Give her a big Playground welcome!

Hello, Playfriends! Anna Cleary popping in, with a gentle smack on the soft, pure cheek of my brave and talented Mod Heat sister, Kimberly Lang, and a warm thank you to all the gang at the Writing Playground.

(Must admit, I’ll be treading quite carefully with Smarty Pants. )

In a very few days my third Harlequin Presents, Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin, will launch in bookstores across North America. In honour of this momentous occasion, it would give me the greatest pleasure to award a copy to the reader who can post a comment that makes me laugh, cry, or experience a rush.

As its title suggests, Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin is a romance. In fact, it may even be my most romantic romance to date. It stars Sophy Woodruff, a tender girl and one of those dreamy, intuitive Pisceans you meet under willow trees. The sort who are affected by moonlight, small children and handsome, laughing devils with dark, satanic eyes and wounds to their souls.

Ah yes, I hear you sigh. Another fantasy filled romance. Blatant, wanton escapism. Isn’t it time these romance writers learned to keep their feet on the ground?

Impossible in my case. My poor editor’s having a terrible time of it, though maybe I did have one delicate toe touching the rug when I dreamed this one up. Some of it grew from a little net cruise I took one morning— Yeah, yeah, procrastinating—in which I stumbled upon a website where people post messages. Messages such as this.

Dear Jenny L*****, who gave birth to a daughter in the Wallsend Public Hospital on 21st April 1986. Kate would love to contact you.

There were hundreds of them. Heartbreaking little messages, every one of them signifying a world of pain and loss and sacrifice. And hope.

So then I thought of Sophy, my neverfailing optimist.

The mysterious Connor O’Brien is the love of Sophy’s life, but resistance is uppermost in his frozen heart, and the beautiful virgin has quite a time of it reeling him in.

She meets the brooding secret agent at a moment when she’s at an emotional crossroads, a time when the fates have chosen to tantalise her with the possibility of love in the guise of her birth family, confronting her with her essential loneliness.

My darling Connor—oops, I mean her darling Connor, is tempted by her beauty and vulnerability. Sorely tempted, in truth, and now he faces a crisis. To love her and leave her, or just to leave her?

Ah, the dilemma. But, I hear you cry...Is it emotional? Is it steamy? Does it live up to The Promise?

Well, I cried often enough. My heart was wrung, and I was the one making it up!

Was I crazy for Connor O’Brien?

Yes, yes, and a reverberating YES!!!

As for The Promise. Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself.



PS. Did I mention that Sophy’s a virgin? (At the start of the book, that is. Don’t want to say any more.) Oh, and I have a very strong feeling that SP may do well here in Australia.


Okay, gang, time to make Anna laugh or cry with your comments. No fair telling stories about PC's ongoing adventures and mishaps! I warn you, she has a wicked sense of humor. She's the reason I'm now afraid of platypuses...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stealing Moanday

My body and mind still haven't quite recovered from my whirlwind trip this past weekend. In less than 5 days I drove a total of 24 hours. So...I'm not exactly creative, intelligent, or frankly coherent at the moment. However, I did stumble across a beautiful man who has now become the inspiration for my next hero and I thought I'd share. He's a Greek singer named Kostas Martakis...and you guys can't have him! He's mine. But I'll let you look :-D


P.S. Don't forget Anna Cleary will be guest blogging with us tomorrow! Be sure and head over to the swingset and make her feel welcome.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sending my baby off

Back in the fall of 1997 I sent my older son off to college. I still remember standing on the front porch, watching him drive away, waving at me through the sunroof of his gray Honda Accord.

Then in the fall of 2001 I sent my baby (who, by the way,turned 26 ten days ago) off to college.

So you'd think I would be used to sending babies off into the world.

Nope. Not when the baby in question is a 267 page manuscript that I invested small parts of several years, the entire month of November 2008 and a great deal of February, March and April 2009 in.

I wrote the majority of this book during NaNoWriMo last November, then finished it up in February so I could enter an online pitch contest. Much to my surprise, I finaled and then had to pitch the book online to the editor of Silhouette Special Edition. I studied up almost as much as I did before giving birth the first time. I had a cheat sheet beside me during the pitch. I had the conflict written out in a open Word document, ready for cutting and pasting. I hoped I knew the answer to any question she could throw at me.

I guess I must have done okay because she asked for the full manuscript.

Uhm... I had the whole book written, but it was word vomit as one of the Playground's best friends likes to call it. And as we all know, vomit must be cleaned up. My original goal was to edit and revise and mail off the book by April 1st. Oops! Didn't happen. So my revised goal was April 10, my birthday.

April 10 started off okay but Mother Nature reared her head and we had tornadoes that day. At one point I was in the utility closet with the civil defense sirens blaring and my manuscript in my lap, marking away with my green pen. I was able to finish the revisions, enter them into the Word document, print off a clean copy of the manuscript and make it to the post office about 6:30 that afternoon. I used the automatic postage machine (greatest invention since the microwave) and before I put the package down the chute, I gave it a kiss for luck.

I met my goal. Happy birthday to me!

And now I wait -- just like I waited for my human babies to grow up, graduate and make their way in the world. It's all out of my control now and worrying about it serves no purpose except aggravating my already sensitive gastro-intestinal system.

I'm out of town this week, checking up on my mom. She has some usual age-related problems and perhaps a problem with one of her medications that needs to be discussed with her physician. At least this is keeping my mind off my baby being in the Big Apple. Well, almost. I think about it sometimes. OKAY, all the time. It's what a mother does. Right?

Meanwhile I've also been brainstorming an idea for the next book and revising a short story that exceeds some recently revised word count guidelines. I finished teaching an online class last Friday and am tying up loose ends with that this week too.

I'm trying to stay busy so I don't worry, but it doesn't entirely work. Those of you old enough may remember a TV commercial for Bayer children's aspirin where a little boy asked if his friend could come out to play. The mother replied that the little girl wasn't feeling well. "Does she hurt and have a temperature?" he asked. The mother assured him she was taking good care of her daughter, to which the boy replied, "Mothers are like that. Yeah they are."

This mother is like that. Yeah she is.

Have you sent a baby (human or otherwise) off into the world?

P.S. I still love this make-believe cover for the book. Don't Hugh? ;-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PC is knocked off her feet...

By a good romance? Nope.

By a romantic gesture from the Geek? I wish.

By another of SP’s flying elbows? No.

I’ve been brought low by a box of Writing Playground pens.

You read that right. A box of WP pens.

See, my office isn’t tidy on the best of days, but the deeper I get into a book (and the closer the deadline looms), the more disastrous the mess becomes. By the time the book gets turned in, I’ll need a backhoe to clear a path. So the arrival of our new shipment of lovely Playground pens was met with a hearty “Where the hell am I going to put these?” My choice was next to the bookshelf in my office. Turns out, that’s not quite the best place to have the edge of a heavy box sticking out and awaiting unwary toes.

When the foot turned purple and continued to swell even after 24 hours, DG made me go get an x-ray. Sure enough, it’s broken. Of course, there’s not a lot the docs can do for a broken toe except tape it to the toe next to it and hand out painkillers.

Of all the interesting and painful things I’ve done to my body, I’ve never had a broken toe. (You’d think with all the dancing, I’d have broken a couple, but nope.) This is not at all fun. Little toe does not equal little pain. Plus, all the hobbling about has made my knee start to hurt. Sigh.

I’m supposed to stay off of my foot for a couple of days and then take it easy for about a week after that. If I behave, I should be okay by the time the HOD Luncheon comes around. I’d better be; I really don’t want to wear flip-flops to the luncheon instead of my pretty red patent-leather peep-toe stilettos. Shoe vanity has accomplished what my friends and family have tried to get me to do for years with no luck: actually follow the doctor's instructions and stay off it.

So I’m ensconced on the couch with my laptop. The rainy weather is perfect for napping, and the painkillers make napping a tempting choice. It’s tough, but I’m determined to ignore the siren song of the nap and make headway on this book.

The sooner I get it turned in, the sooner I can get my office cleaned up, and the safer my other nine toes will be.

Based on my many trips to the ER over the years, I’m convinced the docs and nurses ask you to describe what happened in detail only because they need a good laugh at the stupidity of some people. And I know I’ve given them some good stories to tell. What’s the craziest way you’ve ever injured yourself?


Monday, April 20, 2009

Never Again!

I have to admit, I don’t really participate much in the activities at my children’s schools. Those times when they are gone, when I know they are safe and completely occupied, are to be coveted by the work-at-home mom. I do attend class parties and try to go on field trips when allowed, but last week the one field trip I’ve ever attended and absolutely hated came up: the baseball game.

My first experience with this was last year. It was an unusually scorching day for April and our seats ended up being in direct sunlight. Of course, never having been to a game before, I forgot about applying sunscreen. So I was sweaty and burning to a crisp for a game that none of the kids watched. There were way more children than parents, hard to keep up with when there were 5-6 other schools there on field trips also. Yikes! Who decided this madhouse would be fun?

Apparently the school did, because my daughter’s grade went again this year. It started off much better though. Our seats were right on the edge in the shade (although I had remembered to apply sunscreen, just in case). It was a much cooler day, with a slight breeze through the stadium. So far, so good. I just focused on the children around me, and left the rest for the teacher to worry about. Then it was time for my daughter and I to leave—having to pick the youngest up from preschool has its rewards. ;) So we headed out to the parking lot, only to find my car wouldn’t start. The same car I’d just picked up from the mechanic, who had assured me the starting mechanism was “all fixed”. After making arrangements to have the same mechanic tow the car and my inlaws pick up my son, I rushed back inside to ask a grandmother who lived close to my house if we could ride home with them. Sure, she said.

I didn’t realize she was staying until the end of the game. The rest of the kids left for school and still we sat, and sat, and sat. Why are baseball games so long? And, I’m sorry, boring? Something interesting only happened about 5 minutes out of the entire game! Once we finally leave and head for the car, she mentions she’d like to stop and get something to eat. Being an older lady, I realized she didn’t mean a drive-thru. There was another hour gone. Then there was the fact that she wouldn’t drive over 45 mph. By the time I finally arrived home, it was 3:30. Did I mention I hadn’t been feeling well that morning? But I could tough out 3.5 hours sitting at a ball field, couldn’t I? Sure. Until it turned into 5, then another 1.5 to get home.

Ugghh… Heaven help me. All I wanted to do when I got home was lie down. But then the mechanic called—car all fixed. Something they’d replaced had just come loose. Just. Come. Loose. I wasted my afternoon for that? Can you hear the scream building?

I comforted myself with the thought that next year Drama Queen would be old enough, I could safely send her on this trip on her own. Because there was no way I was returning for another disastrous year.

Until I remember… next year Little Man would be in kindergarten. Argh!

So what was your most interesting field trip experience? Yours or someone else’s?


Coming Soon: On Friday, April 24, join us for author Anna Cleary's guest blog!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The First Step


Hi. My name is Alex and I am addicted to formal wear.

Group replies : "Hi, Alex."

*sits back in the hard plastic chairs of the meeting room.*
They say admitting you have a problem is the first step. It wasn't easy coming to this conclusion, but the evidence was hard to ignore.

I am addicted to formal wear. The dresses, the shoes, the accessories...

First, in my old house, I had allocated DB a mere 2 feet of space. This was just for my regular clothes and shoes, there were no formals in that closet. They had all moved into the guest room closet. He's lucky he got 2 feet. In the new house, he got 6, but only because our new closet was huge and my clothes and shoes got 16 feet.

Second, my closet shelving in the new house collapsed. Sure, the builder's didn't mount a single bracket of the 12 foot shelf into a stud. At the same time, DB's side is holding strong despite the workmanship.

Then, of course, after redoing the closets, washing all the drywall dust off my clothes and rehanging them, I counted - 16 formals. Me! A girl who wears dress casual on most days. I get dressed up about 3 times a year (aside from the occasional wedding) and I have 16 formals. This does not include dressy outfits, sundresses, church type ensembles or suits. Just glittery, satin, velvet, crenoline, beaded formals. Just check out the Playground Yearbook page to see me in my various finery over the years. 16...

Er, make that 19. As Angel mentioned earlier this week, I hit a sale at Ross this weekend. I have this inability to turn down a formal priced below $30. I have to buy it. How can you turn down a $250 dress that will cost you $30? When it looks good on you? You can't. Can't, I say! So I fell in love with this dress at Ross. Imagine it in deep royal purple. It was $27, marked down from $169. Great. It was also marked as a size 10. Since I got it on, I must, in fact, be a size ten. (HA!) So, of course, I bought it. And one very much like this one. And another. And the one for Angel. (See, I spread the love, too.) But the problem comes later in the accessories. The shoes I found to go with it...

$247 on Zappos. Ouch. They're Stuart Weitzman and absolutely adorable. At least they're on sale. Yeah. Not in this economy. Unfortunately, even if I could afford them, PC has informed me that suede is inappropriate for a summer shoe, so the shoe hunt continues.

So, what is your clothing addiction? I know I'm in good company with shoe addicts around here, but some people have a purse or jewelry thing, too. Is there anything at the store you just have to buy regardless of whether you have one just like it at home, or you have no real use for it?


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pray For Me

Today me, the girls, my mom, my sister and her 2 boys are heading to Florida for a whirlwind trip. Please pray for us. :-) While I'm not truly worried about it, I've never driven the 12 hour stretch of road. We will be trading off driving (3 adults and 2 cars) so I will have some down time in the car which I will be using to work on some chapters for my fantastic editor! But for stretches of the trip I'll be in my car alone with my 2 girls.

And while both of my angels are very competent and self sufficient, my brain has begun to conjure up the possible disasters that could strike while I'm driving 80 down the interstate and can't pull over. Spilled juice boxes in my new (and newly clean) car. Skipping DVD players (a traveling must!). She's looking at me temper tantrums.

In reality, my girls are wonderful travelers and we probably won't have any problems. We're actually breaking the drive down into 2's the drive home - 12 hours straight - that I'm dreading. Although, my plan is to exhaust them this weekend so that they sleep for hours in the car on the way home. Considering the size and excitement of my family that should not be an issue.

So, I'll be leaving about mid day today and I'm not sure when I'll be checking back in. I'm taking my laptop - because I can't be disconnected from my people! - but I have no idea when I'll be able to hook up again.

Instigator - off to finish the packing list.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Little Engine That Could

I'm all about dark horses and comeback stories. Some of my favorite movies are Rudy, Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans and We Are Marshall. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than hidden talent being given a chance to shine and people overcoming difficulties to succeed.

I'm sure some of you watch reality TV including American Idol and America's Got Talent. Both these shows are spin-offs from British shows and Britain's Got Talent just kicked off their season. When Susan Boyle walked onstage the judges and audience appeared to dismiss her. Simon Cowell delivered his usual eye-roll and sneer. But...

Watch Susan perform and see how you just can't judge a book by its cover.

Susan Boyle Sings on Britain's Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 @ Yahoo! Video

The full clip can be seen here. Youtube has disabled embedding.

I am ashamed to say I rather expected a female British version of William Hung or some other horribly awful wannabe singer. But when she began to sing, I sat in front of my computer and my jaw literally dropped. She's amazing, and I've no doubt she'll go far in this competition. I've watched this clip at least five times a day since I first saw it on Monday. Of course, I'll have to follow Susan's progress on the online news sites and YouTube.

Do you like comeback stories too? What are your favorites?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bad girls, bad girls, watcha gonna do...

On Sunday, I took one of the (many) Facebook quizzes out there to find out which Joss Whedon character I was. The answer was Faith, the other Slayer from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is interesting because I like Faith, and I’d love to have her body and her moves, but rather funny because of today’s blog topic.

(I'd love to look this good ---------------->)

The Playfriends are always up for something new and different, and two weeks ago, Angel, Smarty Pants, and I signed up to take a women’s self-defense class. Yep, one of those classes where you get to beat up on guys wearing lots of protective gear. We learned how to get loose if someone grabs us from behind, and how to stomp, hit, kick, and elbow men in sensitive areas

Now, I haven’t been in a fight since high school, and then only twice. (I think I’m still banned from that skating rink.) I have dealt with my fair share of drunk guys in bars who wanted to get a little too friendly. I’ve slapped some faces and brought my knee up where it counts, but the whole punch-stomp-kick thing was new for me. But I think we all learned a lot and had a pretty good time.

Of course, part of the fun of doing something different with your friends is that you get to see them in a different light and learn something new about them. And let me tell you, Smarty Pants has some aggression issues, and you do NOT want to mess with her. I don’t really know what she did to the instructors, but I was her biggest casualty of the day. (No surprise, I know. This is ME we're talking about. It's not a true Playfriend adventure until PC gets hurt...)

Not ten minutes into class – when we’re supposed to be learning the proper movements and practicing *gently* on each other – SP nearly sent me to the hospital. It was partly a size issue – SP has about six inches on me, so when she lifted her arms and turned to face her “attacker” (ahem, me) her elbows were right at head height. This wouldn’t have been too bad, except for the aforementioned aggression issues coupled with some overachiever excitement. WHAM! SP’s elbow into PC’s temple. I saw stars. Tears welled up. I’m surprised my weenie self didn’t pass out from the pain. (I’m no Faith the Vampire Slayer.)

I had two black eyes the next morning. Even with copious amounts of concealer, I looked like a battered woman and Darling Geek got many strange looks at church. I had a monster headache for two days. There was swelling and tenderness that lasted longer than that.

The girl can certainly throw an elbow.

And I never could get her back. Check out the pictures of us on the Playground. She seriously has six inches and about twenty pounds on me. If I grabbed her from behind, she just leaned forward until my feet were off the ground and I was helpless. I was more than happy to turn her over to the well-padded and well-trained instructors and let her beat up on them.

Angel also let loose and wasn’t quite as angelic as normal, but honestly I don’t have a lot to report because the concussion caused a little bit of amnesia. I was also pretty busy keeping SP’s elbows in sight at all times so I didn’t accidentally get in the way again. (And we won't mention about how she tried to take out my *good* knee...)

For proof (and laughs), I present the photographic evidence of our adventure:

Angel grabs me from behind. Hmm, she doesn't look too Angelic at the moment, does she? She seems to be enjoying it. Bit of an aggressive streak in her too...

Now it's ON. There's about to be some hair-pulling and b*tch-slapping going on...

Angel takes on the instructor.

SP was behind the camera (this is unusual, because usually it's Angel behind the camera) and I was off nursing my concussion, so there are no shots of SP in class, alas. There are also no photos of my black eyes.

Good times. :-)

Ever take one of these self-defense classes? Did you unleash your inner Slayer on the instructors? What kind of revenge should I be planning for SP?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Shopping Surprise

The Playfriends know first-hand that I’ve been obsessing over RWA National conference because of my Golden Heart® final. First, it was the pictures that would be flashed up on the big screen during the ceremony. Then editor/agent appointments, which I still haven’t decided upon yet. Then there was the ever-looming issue: what will I wear?!?!

Now, one of our wonderful Mavens gave me a dress to wear to the RITA ceremony. Its beautiful peach color and flowing skirt make me feel like a true princess. But I’ve also been invited by a fellow Playfriend to be her date for her publisher’s party and I was just going to pull one of my formals out of the closet to wear. Until Smarty Pants showed up at my door the other day…

It all started with a phone call. “What size do you wear?” she asked. If it had been anyone else, I might would have been offended, but we’re too close for there to be many boundaries left. So I told her. “Hmmm… that might work. I’ll come by later.” Now I was hopelessly curious. What was going on?

Imagine my surprise when she unveiled a sassy black and purple party dress that she deemed perfect for me. Hope was instantly squashed when I eyed the bodice. There was no way my abundant girls would fit in those cups. “Trust me,” she said. So I tried the dress on. The fit was perfect. I almost cried in happiness.

“I have even better news,” she said. I gasped as she turned over the price tag. $16!!! That’s right. ONLY SIXTEEN DOLLARS! OMG! I never get deals like that, because I’m hard to fit and am one of the only Playfriends who usually ends up paying full price. SP is now my shopping hero!

And since both dresses are sleeveless, I have even more motivation to stick to my weight training between now and July. :)

What great bargains have you picked up lately? Do you obsess over what you are going to wear to big events?


Friday, April 10, 2009

Where Are My Peeps?

There are few holidays that tempt my willpower like Easter. I always give out candy I don't like at Halloween. I put mostly non-edibles in Christmas stockings. DB knows better than to give me a giant heart shaped box of candy at Valentine's Day. I'm usually safe. Until Easter.

I don't know what it is. It's not as though I give up chocolate for Lent or anything. There's just something about Easter candy I can't resist. I'm on a diet and this is foremost on my brain, so here are the top ten reasons I'm going to stray wildly off Weight Watchers this weekend.

10. Lindor Truffle Eggs - This wasn't a problem before, but Lindor has gotten smart and started marketing their chocolates for all the holidays. I saw a bag of these at Rite Aid and I'm coveting them. I just adore the way the center melts on your tongue.

9. Jelly Belly Jelly Beans - Do not mistake my fondness for Jelly Bellys for regular old jelly beans. I hate jelly beans. Bleh. But the gourmet flavors of Jelly Belly are an entirely different story. I don't like them all, buttered popcorn is disgusting, but strawberry daquiri, pear, coconut, strawberry cheesecake, peach... YUM.

8. Coconut Eggs - Yeah, they're just an Almond Joy or Mounds repackaged for Easter, but I love them. They're also the perfect size - bigger than just one piece of Almond Joy, but not as much as eating the 2 pieces that come in the standard wrapper.

7. Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Bunnies/Eggs - My mom always used to buy what looked like a carton of eggs, but was filled with chocolate covered marshmallow eggs. We'd freeze them and nearly break our teeth eating them. Yum. Those are harder to find anymore, so I usually settle for the bunnies dipped in chocolate now.

6. Butterfinger Eggs - These little milk chocolate eggs have flecks of crunchy Butterfinger bits in them. Individually wrapped, I can keep a bag stashed away somewhere and squirrel away a piece or two as the urge strikes me.

5. Marshmallow Peeps - It used to be you could only get these at Easter, although now they've branched out into almost every holiday. I prefer the bunnies to the chicks, myself. My mom always liked to open the package and let them sit a while to harden and get stale. That doesn't work in the South, we've found, so I've had to learn to eat them soft and fresh. Darn humidity.

4. Whopper's Robin's Eggs - They're malt balls covered in a bespeckled candy shell that turn your lips funny colors. My mom's favorite and DB really likes them too.

3. Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs - Again, I know these are exactly the same as the peanut butter cups available all year long, but there's something about the egg that is harder to resist. Maybe the larger peanut butter to chocolate ratio.

2. Easter Bunny Cake - It's not candy, but a long standing tradition in my house. Every Easter when I was a kid, my mom made an Easter bunny cake out of two round cakes - one is the head and the other makes two ears and a bowtie. It was usually white cake with vanilla icing, coconut fur and jellybean decorations. The coconut has since been restricted to the ears since neither my stepdad or DB like coconut. This year, I've volunteered to make it, so I might fancy it up a little, but you have to have Easter Bunny cake.

1. Cadbury Creme Eggs - I don't even know what that goo inside is made of. All I know is its like little chocolate meth balls. Try it once and you're hooked. The caramel centered ones aren't bad either.

One thing you've probably noticed is missing - chocolate bunnies. I actually don't really like them. They taste weird to me. I don't know if its the brand or the foil or what. The solid ones are too rich, the hollow ones uninspired. Just too much chocolate at one time for me.

If you're celebrating this weekend, hope you have a happy day with your family and friends (and chocolate)! So, what's your favorite Easter treat? Is there another holiday specialty that you're incapable of resisting?


PS. It's also our very own Playground Monitor's birthday today! Hope you have a happy one, PM!

PPS. Congrats to Rhonda Nelson, the winner of Molly's tea sampler from Wednesday. Send your snail mail info to to claim your prize.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Where'd That Apple Fall? - UPDATED

I've talked about my girls quite a bit over the last couple of years. I hope everyone knows by now that I'm very proud of both of them. They're very different but so strong in each of their own unique ways. However, Sweet Pea has recently taken up a hobby that has me scratching my head. Not because of the hobby itself, but rather the inclination that brought it on.

Recently she's been cooking. That's right, my seven year old has taken up cooking. And I don't mean Kraft Mac N Cheese in the microwave. If given the chance she will watch Food Network before the Disney Channel. She knows the website addresses for not only FN but also Paula Dean, Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee and Alton Brown. She's even hand written recipes from each of these sites that she wants to try.

I'm amazed.

I admit to a small heart attack when I walked into my mother's kitchen and saw her with a very sharp knife cutting a tomato, whipping the blade around like it was nothing. I ended up with stitches from cutting an apple when I was about 12...I could just see her hand spurting blood. But she doesn't have any fear and she seems very confident in what she's doing (and my mother was right there). She's started cooking dinner for the entire family at my mother's house every Thursday. She picks out the menu, my mom buys the ingredients and they cook together. And she does most of it.

When I was growing up cooking was the chore I took on only if the alternative was starvation. Yes, I know HOW to cook...I just don't. Zilla is fantastic and does all the cooking for our family. But even he isn't exactly gourmet. He does a fantastic job but has no desire to aspire to Paula Dean recipes. I just don't know where she gets the excitement. But I'm very glad she's found something she really enjoys. And the fact that her passion could turn into a very nice career later on in life also doesn't hurt. And then there's the fact that in five or ten years she'll be able to make us gourmet meals for dinner. I have no problem what-so-ever being her guinea pig. Even at seven she's darn good.

Do you like cooking? Or is it more of a chore?


P.S. Congratulations to Sally Problem Child's winner of The Secret Mistress Arrangement and to Jane for winning The Millionaire's Misbehaving Mistress from Tuesday! Please email her at to claim your prize.

And Congratulations to Virginia my winner from last week's blog! Please email me at to claim your prize.

Please include your snail mail address. And as always, prizes not claimed within 7 days will be re-awarded.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Guest Blogger: Molly Reese, Tea Maven

My high school reunion is this fall (and we're not going to mention how many years it's been) and a lot of us from Concord High School in Concord, North Carolina have reconnected on Facebook. When I found Molly and learned she owned a tea shop in our hometown, I was fascinated. I've always drunk iced tea. What Southern Belle doesn't? But one summer in college, while reading Miss Marple mysteries, I decided to try hot tea with sugar and milk. Oh yum!!!!! And I've been a hot tea drinker ever since. But there's more to tea than tea bags and here's Molly to fill us in.

Thanks for asking me to do a guest blog on tea! Where to start?!?! Although I am a life long tea drinker, I began to discover the connoisseur's world of tea about 10 years ago when a friend of mine, Denise LeCroy, introduced me to estate teas. Denise is the "First Lady of Tea" in South Carolina and a tea maven. From her knowledge of teas I developed a real "thirst" for more information about teas and a curiosity about the brew.

Tea is grown in almost every country in the world. It is the second most consumed beverage on the planet, with water holding first place. All tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. Where it is grown will affect its flavor and how it is processed after harvesting determines whether it will be green, black, oolong or white. There are thousands of varieties of teas.

Black tea is the predominant tea in America. Black tea is fully oxidized, which means after it's harvested, the leaves are bruised and it's left to ferment, or oxidize, for about 24 hours. It is then pan fired to stop the oxidation process and dried. Any flavoring is usually added at this time. Then the tea is graded and packaged. Black tea is where my drinking habit started! Some of my favorites are estate teas, which are grown in a particular area of a country. One such example is Sylvakandy, which is produced by the Sylva estate in the Kandy district of Sri Lanka. It is a Ceylon tea (Sri Lanka used to be Ceylon). Ceylon teas are often used as the base tea for flavored teas such as Earl Gray. They are medium bodied. I also like the Assam teas, which are produced in the Assam district of India. These teas are full bodied and malty. I love a bracing cup of Assam on a cold morning with a little sugar and a splash of milk.

India also produces two other varieties of tea, Nilgiri and Darjeeling. Darjeeling tea is often referred to as the champagne of tea because of its light muscatel flavor.

Green tea is the most consumed tea in China and Japan. Green tea is very high in antioxidants, which fight free radicals. There have been hundreds of studies on green tea's disease fighting properties, particularly cancer, and general health benefits. It was green tea that was thrown into the Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party. Green tea is picked, then steamed, dried, and packaged.

Oolong teas are between greens and blacks. It is partially oxidized, which makes this tea milder than most black teas, but without the vegetal taste of most green teas. Oolong teas are good for allergies and skin problems such as eczema. My favorite Oolong is Quanzhou Milk Oolong. It has a sweet flavor somewhat reminiscent of fresh milk.

White teas are fairly new to the American market. White teas are picked before the cillia falls off the leaves, then the leaves are dried. Because of their rarity, white teas are more expensive than the other varieties. White teas are very delicate, and most can be infused several times before the flavor is gone. At one time, only the royal family was allowed to drink white tea. One of my favorite white teas is Tangiers Lemon. It is delicious iced or hot.

What to drink?? After Denise introduced me to the world of tea, I would periodically go a little nuts with the tea catalogs and order several different varieties. When the packaged arrived, I'd often brew three cups at one time because I couldn't decide what to try first. This habit led to more and more purchases of tea, expanding my collection from a small basket on the kitchen counter to opening a tea shop to make room for it all!

I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to try something new in the world of tea. It's good for you, helps hydrate the body, and the experience of brewing and drinking a cup of tea can be a most rewarding experience. When it seems that the world is at my door with too many problems and not enough solutions, fixing a cup of tea and taking five minutes (or more!) just for me helps put everything back into perspective. Bottoms up with your cups!!

You can learn more about Molly's Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Shop here. I love their slogan: We Encourage Heavy Drinking. Also, one lucky commenter will win a tea sampler that includes her mentioned favorites plus one of her house blends and a couple of her best selling green teas . She sent me a sampler pack and I can vouch for how great her teas are. Yep, it's a lot more than tea bags.

So tell us. Coffee, tea or something else? What do you drink?

P.S. Our very own Blaze Babe, Kira Sinclair, is on the Blaze authors' blog today. Hop over and join in to find out about what happens in Vegas.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Launch Party!

Oooh, I’ve been waiting for this day, and now the giddiness is practically paralyzing me as all I can do is squee at the oddest moments.

THE SECRET MISTRESS ARRANGEMENT is finally on a bookstore shelf near you!

While it’s been exciting to know the book was out in the UK and Australia, NOTHING beats going to your local bookstore and seeing your name on a real book.

I love this book, of course. It’s my first-born. But it seems a few other folks liked it as well, and that is really exciting! Romantic Times gave it 4-stars and said, “This enjoyable tale … treats readers to all the emotions, and all the highs and lows, that love entails." The fab Marilyn Shoemaker of Marilyn’s Romance Reviews made my day when she called it “magnificent” and said I crafted a “beautiful and romantic love story” (and gave me five stars on Amazon!). Then, when I debuted at #9 on the Waldenbooks Bestseller list for my first week, the giddiness knew no bounds at all. (Now it's #8! Squee!)

So let’s launch this baby properly!

And, my overseas friends, we’re launching my second book, THE MILLIONAIRE’S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS, today as well! I’m out in two countries at once.If I were any more excited, I’d have to split into two pieces to hold it. (TMMM will be an October release in the US.)

Cue the cabana boys! Rev up the chocolate fountain and jump right in!I’m giving away copies of both books today (although the winner of THE MILLIONAIRE’S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS will have to wait for a copy until I get my author copies in.)

Grab a drink and cut a rug, then be sure to head over to the Soapbox Queens where I’m reigning as Queen For A Day (and get another chance to win)! (Edited to add -- I'm also up on the I (Heart) Presents blog today. Please stop by!)



**And in case you haven't ordered your copy already (grin), here are the links: THE SECRET MISTRESS ARRANGEMENT and THE MILLIONAIRE'S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS.

Monday, April 06, 2009

MOANday-Jamie Bamber

The hubby is a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, and I have to admit to taking notice of this hottie every once in a while: Jamie Bamber




Join us tomorrow for Problem Child's very own LAUNCH PARTY!!! We'll be celebrating her first US book release and there will be prizes. So check in tomorrow!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Running Without A Wild Animal In Pursuit

I've never been much for exercise. Even as a kid, I'd much rather draw or read a book than play softball. I wasn't on a single team aside from P.E. where I usually got picked close to last (aside from basketball where my height was deemed an advantage.) I did jump rope and ride my bike around, but sports were just not my deal.

My mother attempted to route me though the traditional ballet, tap and gymnastics classes at the YMCA, but I don't recall making it for more than a few weeks at a time. After a particularly nasty growing spurt, my doctor actually took me out of ballet for good. (Just in time, too, because I'm was far too endowed far too early for all that jumping around.)

I just wasn't meant for physical activity. For one thing, I was never particularly coordinated. I was tall and lanky with far too much arm and leg. Dribbling a basketball or moving a soccer ball down the field with my big feet was just a bad idea. I was also not very strong. I could never do handstands or cartwheels like the other kids. I'd fall off the monkey bars. And then, of course, I was also a big chicken. Even at seven, I had a pretty hard and fast rule about my rear end not going over my head. It was just asking for trouble.

And so, I developed quite quickly into an "indoor cat." Like my cats at home, the outdoors is nice and interesting, but I'd rather look at it from the safety of the windowsill. I excelled at academics and left the physical stuff behind me. Speaking of "behind," you'll see where this became a problem. I've never been particularly thin. Weight is always a battle and given that I didn't care for physical endeavors, exercise was even more of a challenge for me. I wasn't the kind that would go hiking or rollerblading for fun. Exercise was a chore, a box to check off.

For some reason, I got fired up this year about exercise. Better late than never, I suppose. I joined a local gym and set myself the ambitious goal of going 4 days a week (M-Th). I leave straight from work dressed in my gym clothes, work out, then go home. I know better than to go home and think I'll venture out again for anything as mundane as exercise.

I started February 2nd and I'm pleased to report I haven't missed a single day - 36 straight workouts. I think I've actually gone to the gym more in the last two months than I have in my whole entire life combined. I've been using the ellipticals, walking and running (yes, running) on the treadmill, taking the occasional aerobics class, and doing a good bit of weight training. I have lost some weight, but mostly inches in addition to gaining a few muscles I've never seen before. Hopefully I'll look fab when Nationals rolls around this summer.

After my first month without missing a day, I rewarded myself with a very nice pair of running shoes. This month, I'm thinking perhaps a massage is in order. Maybe a pedicure. The scariest part of this whole thing - I'm actually liking it! If only I could manage to be as consistent with my writing... Why is it I can only be 'on the ball' with one part of my life at a time?

Do you have a love/hate relationship with exercise? Just a hate/hate one? Or are you one of those people who just love it? What's your favorite type of exercise? Honestly, I'm still waiting on that feel good rush that people claims makes them addicted to exercise. I'm nowhere near addicted yet. Do you have any suggestions for a reward?


PS. The winner from last week's blog post is Caroline. She's picked up two autographed Jacquie D'Alessandro books. Please email me at to claim your prize. After seven days, unclaimed prizes will be covered in gravy and fed to my dogs. Or not.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Good News Galore

It's been a week for good news on the Playground. It seems like we've been celebrating forever now. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE to celebrate on the Playground. If there's anything we know how to do, it's throw a party. Give Problem Child or Smarty Pants a task and a clipboard and we'll end up with the most amazing bash. We can drink, dance and squee with the best of them and I see no good reason to break the cycle at this point. I'm going to shamelessly promote my next book, Afterburn, while talking about some fantastic news of my own.

Afterburn received 4 1/2 stars from Romantic Times. Woohoo!

This is like...I don't know, amazing just seems like too tame a word. It's a red letter day when this writer is at a loss for words. I'm very excited. And while I realize that simply because one person enjoyed my book doesn't mean that everyone will...I can't help but hang on to the idea that SOMEONE likes my book (and while I realize the Playfriends, our resident Queen Rhonda and my fantabulous editor all liked the book...they kinda all have to say that. It's like your mother saying you're beautiful). Apparently, my ego is a fragile and fickle thing that needs stroking on a regular basis. Who knew? No comments from the peanut gallery.

Which started me wondering...are we writers because we're neurotic and slightly crazy or are we neurotic and slightly crazy because we're writers? And does this question resemble the chicken and the egg conundrum just a little too much? (And there I go again, blogging about the farm animals).

So, while I think we've probably talked about the good things in life quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, if you have news to share we'd love to hear it! If you don' me puzzle out the intricacies of the creative mind.


P.S. Because I really feel like spreading the joy (and because along with a great review I also received my author copies this past week) I'm going to give a copy of Afterburn to one commenter.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My last blog

I'm sorry to say this but, this will be my last blog post.

Things have been a bit tough for me lately and life is getting shorter and shorter. I want to take time and smell the roses. So I am going to quit blogging here at the Playground and travel full time with a biker gang to see the country and enjoy life while I still can.

Don't worry about me - they all seem like really nice people. It has been nice knowing all of you, but it's time to say good bye.

Here is a photo of the gang.

Happy April Fool's Day!

What's NOT fooling is the new Blaze Authors' Blog. Blaze senior editor Brenda Chin kicks things off with the first post and they are launching with a huge contest -- they are giving away the first quarter of 2009 Blazes. Six books a month times three months equals 18 fabulous books! Pop on over and join Instigator, the Playground's Blaze author, in the fun.

AND our very own Problem Child is guest blogging at the Pink Heart Society today. Hope over there and keep her company too.