Monday, August 31, 2009
Some days, I feel older than my years. Not because of life experiences or troubles, but because my body seems to be falling apart. I have that problem a lot with exercise. I’ll get going in a good stride, exercising consistently, then hurt myself or strain something and have to stop. So frustrating!
This weekend, something really weird happened. I’d felt fine and spent Saturday morning excited because the children were going out with their grandmother and my husband offered to take me to lunch. Just the two of us. Yay! So we go to lunch and everything is fine, except I can’t get comfortable in the booth. At barely 5 feet tall, I often have that problem because my feet don’t reach the floor once I sit. But it shouldn’t bother my feet. My back, maybe, but not my feet. Well, when we got up to leave, my big toe on my left foot hurt the moment I put weight on it. Thinking it would pass, I winced, but proceeded out the door. I attempted to ignore it through a touch of shopping, determined to enjoy this day with the hubby. But by the time we got home I was limping noticeably.
That night, through to today, I’ve had a horrible pain in the joint connecting my big toe to my foot. I’ve tried several different kinds of OTC pain meds and icing it, but nothing has helped. By Sunday night, I whimpered when we had to leave for a family dinner, even though I’d spent the majority of the day in bed.
This wouldn’t bother me so much if there was a reason for it. My in laws had all kinds of theories, from a sprain to gout, but I have no idea why it would start hurting all of a sudden. Wasn’t exercising or wearing really high heels (more like moderately low wedges). Why is this happening? And, of course, my exercise scheduled – the one I’ve tried to reestablish since school started – will be all blown to hell because I can’t stand on my own 2 feet at the moment.
Sigh. So make me feel better. Tell me I’m not alone. Where do these mysterious aches and pains come from? Do they make you feel old, too?
Join us on Wednesday, September 2, when author Kylie Brant makes a visit to the Playground!
Friday, August 28, 2009
Since my world shifted about a month ago, I'm in a holding pattern. No sense wasting my time marching down a path when I'm not sure where the heck I'm going. So as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'm gutting an old book for a single title. And I'm done. I think. I've added over 22,000 words, a subplot, another bad guy (yes, the drug dealer) and some good lovin'. But does it work? I have no idea.
My writing process is unusual. I don't do rough drafts unless I'm forced by a schedule to move faster than my brain wants to. When left to my own devices, I write in final draft. I write in sequence, plowing forward chapter by chapter to the end. I have an outline and I stick to it unless struck with creative brilliance that works better than what I already had. When I'm done with a chapter, I'm done unless my critique partners say otherwise. Hopefully one day I will hone my craft to the point that I will really, truly be done and not need to go back for additional work.
This means that revisions are hard on me. They're hard on everyone, but to go backwards and start trudging through old territory is exceptionally painful. The internal navigator in me gets lost when I'm plopped into the middle of an existing story and forced to forge new ground. I get tangled in the weeds. I see where I am and where I used to go, but getting someplace new? Ugh. In time I can use my machete and work my way through it, but while standing in the jungle of my story, I can't help the nagging sensation that somehow the book has become horribly and irrevocably screwed.
I pretty much have to finish what I'm doing, take some time off, then go back and read through the whole thing to make sure all the parts of my monster have been sewn back together properly. All the plot lines are connected. Anything removed or added is consistent throughout. This is where I am now. I've finished going through the book and after some "trunk time" I'm starting to read through it for the 27th time. I pray it makes sense. I don't want to do this again. Ever. If this book doesn't sell, I'm going to set it on fire in the backyard.
Have you ever gotten so immersed in a project, you couldn't tell which way was up anymore? Be it a book or a home improvement undertaking? When you finally found your way out, was it worth the trouble?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
It's so much fun to tunnel out of my own backyard, and to be invited over to play with the cool kids at the playground ;o) One of the perks of being a writer is finding yourself surrounded by people who inspire you to want to be better and to have more fun at what you love to do. That's the vibe I get from both readers and other writers—and here at the playground, I get to be surrounded by both. Score!
Yes, Dark Legacy (which is IN STORES NOW!!!—did I scream that out loud???) is a paranormal romantic thriller about psychic twins whose ability to project dreams is being manipulated by government scientists. It's a non-stop suspense of a ride you won't want to put down. But it's also a book about love and community and the kind of relationships that define a life. Our characters have to learn to trust the people around them, or there's no hope of overcoming the insurmountable odds they face. Which is an excellent metaphor for what it's like to be an isolated writer, who's surrounded by a community of readers and other writers who help transform her solitary work into magic. There's no way to get to that writing Oz, without a support network that makes you feel like "playing" every day. At least not for me.
Think about your life. Your dreams. Your challenges. Sure, they're not as dramatic as discovering your sister's nightmares are being programmed and projected into your mind. Or as damaging as losing parts of who you are to your psychic legacy and the "evil" twin you thought has been in a coma for the last ten years. Or as hopeless as thinking you can ever trust and love and believe in your heart's desire, when you can't even trust your own dreams. These are the larger than life trials Dark Legacy's hero and heroine face.
But we each have our own very real fears. And they're usually wrapped around what we want most. And we all have to decide if the promise of pursuing our heart's desire is worth the risk the journey will bring. That's the emotional core of Dark Legacy—learning to believe in your dreams, no matter how scary they are. Then letting the people you need to make those dreams happen close enough to help you, even when that's a very scary place, too.
Thanks for letting me "close" today. Thanks for opening your playground to me and the crazy cast of characters in my paranormal romance/romantic suspense/urban fantasy/romantic thriller... (reviewers can't seem to agree on exactly what Dark Legacy is, but I'm assured it's a whole lot of fun trying to figure it out ;o).
Friends like you are the part of this publishing journey that I'll cherish always! Enjoy tons of Dark Legacy Excerpts here http://annawrites.com/blog/category/excerpts/ and a few reviews here http://www.annawrites.com/paranormal.html. And be sure to tell me what you think!
To celebrate my continuing blog tour, today I'll be giving away two signed copies of Dark Legacy and a fabulous, custom-designed pendant that features part of DL's awesome cover! It will look great on any necklace you own ;o)
So, talk amongst yourselves. The Playground's open, so dive in and tell us how community and family have helped shape your life and dreams. And if you get a chance to read the excerpts and reviews (or if you already have a copy of Dark Legacy, because IT'S ON SHELVES NOW!!!), let me know what you think of my quirky, dark, paranormal suspense/fantasy/romance...
Leave a comment to be in the running for prizes!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Mistakes happen, and sometimes out will go through instead of our, and because it isn't misspelled, the spell checker in my word processing program won't catch it. Just look how this poem illustrates that:
Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar
I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Bee fore a veiling checker's
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.
I've discovered a real lack of good spelling skills lately. I've been perusing Craigs List looking for some items and I'm just appalled by what I read.
30" by 60" Marble Dinning Room Table and 4 Chairs - $200 (Arab)
I have a beautiful dining room table and 4 chairs for sale. Can e-mail photos but please if you are not interested do not contack me. I have had many in the past and when I sent them photos they did not even take the time to replay saying they were not interseted.
That should be dining room table. And contact. And reply. And interested though you got that one right the first time so I'll give it to you as a simple typo.
Queen Solid Oak Rice bed with chester/Dressor - $400 (Scottsboro)
Queen Size Solid OAK Rice Bed with Jamison Versa Pedic Bedding (Bedding -Value$1100) . Sleeps WONDERFULLY. Moving MUST SALE. Comes with Dresser with Mirror. and Chester drawers (5drawers)Medium to dark in color. Asking $400 or make respectable offer. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX. this is a steal.
Excuse me while I laugh over Chester drawers.
Armour cabinet/ Cherry in Color - $125
Cherry ARMOUR . Stands aprox 6 Ft. . Two doors with small shelving down one side and two larger shelves on the other.
I believe that should be armoire. I really hoped I was going to see a photo of a cabinet to hold a British knight's jousting suit.
Polish brass bed full size - $100 (madison)
Polished Solid brass bed with black laquer fininsh on parts. posts are solid brass. $100.
I wasn't aware Poland was a hot spot for the manufacture of brass furniture and then I saw they meant it was shiny and not from the land of kielbasa. Okay, so it's not misspelled. But it's a good example of how the wrong word can change the meaning of something.
L-SHAPED DESK MUST SALE!!!! - $150 (Huntsville)
L-Shaped Desk in Excellent Condidtion. Storage Kept - No Weather Damage!!!! Priced to Sale!!! Very Sturdy Dimensions 8 X 6(roughly)
The photos were taken outside dis-regard the sun shadows on the desk.
Dear desk owner!!!!
The correct wording would be priced to sell!!!! I will dis-regard the sun shadows if you'll exercise restraint with your exclamation points!!!!
Beautiful Dinning Room Set Never Used - $600 (Harvest Alabama)
Great for Small Dinning Room or Kitchen Paid $1500 never used. Looks New. Beautiful Chairs and table. Custom Made Chairs. Gold and Silver color of chairs. Goes with any room.
I see Harvest has the same dinning room problem as Arab.
Dinning room table and chairs - $250 (Huntsville)
Dinning room table, with leaf and 6 chairs, 1 is a hoast, with arn rest. Made of maple, with fruit wood stain, was my grandparents and bought in 1960.
And so does the city that put man on the moon.
Occasional Arm Chair - $100 (SE Hsv)
Occasional arm chair, color dark green background with small mauve print. Outside measures 28"W x 27" D x 33.5"H. Comfortable and in good condition. Relatively small size makes this chair a good choice for apartment or small living room.
Are there frequent arm chairs?
Bakers Rack (Rod-Iron) - $100 (New Market, AL)
Beautiful Rod-Iron Baker's Rack!!! Two glass shelves, and built in wine bottle rack at the bottom!!! Would be beautiful in a a kitchen and perfect for a college student, or for someone who is just starting out!!!
Wrought iron!!! Wrought iron!!!
Wood folding dinning table w/ 2 wood chairs - $70 (Madison)
Apparently all of north Alabama has a dinning room problem.
Bedroom suite - $200 (Madison)
Cherry wood Bedroom suite including Chester Drawers, full size bed head and foot boards --Sliding mechanism broke on one of the drawers but every thing else is in good condition.
Now I'm laughing my arse off over Chester. And he has bed head too. Maybe I should take the exclamation point shaker and add some of those!!!!
enternment Cabnets (Winchester,Tn.)
2 enternment cabnets with storage made for TV also just make offer. one is brown in color and the other one is black
Just shaking my head here because I can't even think of a smart comment. The only thing that comes to mind is internment camps during World War II and those weren't funny.
Are these simply random exceptions to the rule? Do you guys find things like this online? Or am I making too much of a deal over this?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
You know, the kinds of things that when you see them you say, “That’s so nifty!” I promise you, if you hear the word “nifty” come out of my mouth, you can bet real money I’m trying to figure out a way to get said nifty-ness home with me.
A lot of people are attracted to the Nifty – admit it, you have at least one gadget in your kitchen you picked up because you went “How Nifty!” when you saw it. (Tupperware Deviled Egg Carrier anyone?) It doesn’t matter if you never use it; you bought it for its inherent Nifty-ness.
My purse holder is nifty – it hooks over the edge of the table at a restaurant so I don’t have to put my purse on the floor or on the back of my chair.
The cup holder SP got me for my birthday is tres nifty. It was designed for scrapbookers to keep unfortunate spillage or condensation issues from spoiling their hard work. It clamps to the side of the desk.
A ball point pen/highlighter combo that sprouts Post-It flags from its cap? Nifty.
The app for my iPhone that registers all of those customer loyalty cards in one place? Nifty.
The Solutions website is just full of Nifty things…
And how have I lived without these:
Not that I do home improvement projects, but hey, nifty!
I’m not sure who really needs this, but ….
This would solve some problems:
Kitchen timers! On a string! So you can hang it around your neck! Nifty.
(Solutions sends me catalogs. You know how teenage boys are about the Victoria’s Secret catalog? That’s me and Solutions.)
Nifty. I’m addicted to it.
Am I alone here with my nifty need? What truly nifty things do you have?
(BTW, if you type “nifty” enough, the word really starts to look strange. Like you made it up or something…)
Monday, August 24, 2009
Occasionally I love to pass along information I find out about new-to-me authors. I just love finding a new author, especially on the recommendation of someone who has read and enjoyed their work. I really like it if they have several books already published I can dive into. Besides, authors are always readers, and I enjoy reading more than the average person (though I feel guilty, because I think I should be writing).
Anyway, my sister recently told me about a writer for Loose Id, Cherise Sinclair, who has some hot and steamy books out (definitely not G-rated, if you get my drift… okay, not even PG-13). I read the Master of the Shadowlands series. Hot, hot, hot!!! And oh, so good. The characterization in them is wonderful and I can’t wait to try some of her other books.
I also picked up a new-to-me author at Nationals, paranormal author Pamela Palmer. I have to say that her Feral Warriors novels are the first books I’ve bought based on a bookmark/postcard. This author sent promotional materials to the HOD Readers Luncheon. The postcards were actually pictures of her covers and they were wonderful! After visiting her website, I realized the first in her paranormal series would come out right before Nationals (she is also published in historical). So I decided to wait and get a signed copy while there. Since then, I’ve devoured books 1 and 2, and 3 comes out this week. I can’t wait!!! If you like sexy paranormals, these are great.
And though she isn’t new to me, I also picked up Rita Herron’s new Demonborn book (book 2 of the series, I loved book 1). Talk about sexy paranormals! Seeing a trend here?!? But I’ve also read Maven Linda Howard’s Burn (really good! but now I’m even more afraid to take a cruise) and several Harlequin Presents, including Lynn Raye Harris’s Spanish Magnate, Red Hot Revenge (gotta love those sexy Spaniard’s!).
So let’s talk about what you’re reading today. Got any new authors to tell me about? Current favorite books or obsessions? I need something else to distract me from my own writing. :)
Friday, August 21, 2009
I'm not pretentious enough to use big words to make other people feel stupid, but I jump at the chance to add to my vocabulary. Reading the Sookie Stackhouse books recently has made me consider a ‘word of the day’ calendar. Sookie makes multiple references to the word of the day and how they fit into her day to day life. If I only I wouldn’t forget to flip it and fall weeks behind, I'd get one.
This year at conference, and more recently in a contest announcement I read, a new term has been tossed around that I hadn't heard before - steampunk. I don’t know about you, but to me it brings up confusing images of guys with Mohawks wrapped in fluffy bath towels playing loud, annoying music in a spa resort sauna.
I had to Google it. So not even close. :) It’s not new, but has recently started gaining a foothold in the romance genre, so it has become more relevant to me. Apparently it refers to a fantasy or science fiction sub genre that focuses primarily on the 19th century or Victorian period (where power was mostly generated via steam) but contains adaptations and uses of more modern or fantastical elements like robots or computers. It's also known to have anti-establishment undertones and has cousins like cyberpunk, which was described as more 'dystopian.' It just makes my head hurt to even consider it.
Examples include older scientific romances like H.G. Wells's Time Machine or more modern books or films like Wild, Wild West or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If you haven’t seen or read any of these, they’re historically based, but the characters either live in an alternate reality or might be inventors that have creations well ahead of their time. I wonder if something like The Prestige (which blew my mind) would fit in this category. I’d seen this stuff before but never considered it was its own genre, or that if it were, it would have a title like “steampunk.”
Whereas steampunk does not have the potential to become one of my new favorite words, I've tucked the concept away in my brain for future use. I thought I would share my knowledge so that you, too, could add it to your word arsenal and when you come across it at some point, will already know all about it.
Have you heard of steampunk before or was I living in a cave? Ever read any? Any new words pop into your vocabulary recently that you’d like to share?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
If you've been on the Playground long you've probably heard me mention my bathtub or conference table time. What is that you ask? Well, this is my process for getting my head in the game, so to speak. I have two very different writing processes depending on where I am.
If I'm writing at home chances are I'm doing it at night after the girls go to bed which means I'm in the bathtub. Yep, I write in the bathtub. I'm not exactly sure how this habit started. I vaguely remember thinking that I always came out of the shower with thoughts of my book whirling in my head. Many times I'd find myself firing up the computer at 10 at night because I'd started getting ready for bed and inspiration had struck instead. One night I wondered if the same brilliance would strike in the bath as in the shower and I was surprised when it did. No, I do not take paper or my laptop into the bathtub. I do, however, take my alphasmart. And in at least four years of doing this have never once dropped it into the water (the lip of my whirlpool tub is rather large).
I think this process works for me for two reasons. First, there's just something about warm water, steamy air and the muted lights of the bathroom that seems to click on the creative side of my brain. Second, I think the bathroom is about the only place in my house where I'm not constantly interrupted by, "Mommy!" I can lock the door and bring my focus down completely to my book.
Now, if I'm at work, that isn't exactly an option. Not just for the fact that we don't have a bathtub in the place. I have a hard enough time writing love scenes when I'm in the office. And while the chances of hearing, "Mommy!" drop drastically when I walk in the office door the chances of the phone ringing or the printer running out of ink increases exponentially. I've found that my writing time at work is better in the afternoon (when everyone else is sleepy and lethargic from lunch). But the problem is so am I. To combat that and get my brain in the right frame of mind - jumping from crunching numbers to conflicts - I have to focus. Laying on the conference table might look silly (and I'll be the first to admit that I have never let anyone actually catch me doing it) but there's something about staring up at the blank, white drop ceiling that makes me concentrate. let me tell you, those white tiles are boring. If the table weren't so hard I'd probably fall asleep. But usually within five minutes of climbing up there I've got a scene playing through my head.
So, that's my crazy process for writing. PC has mentioned in the past that when she was in college she had to put on her shoes before she could write a paper. Writers, do you have any zany habits that help get your creative juices flowing? Readers, are you interested in knowing how warped and weird we really are? Are there any other questions you've always wanted to ask about how we do what we do?
P.S. The winner from yesterday's blog is Gigi! Please send your snail mail info to Playground Monitor. Prizes not claimed in 7 days will be re-awarded.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Kathie DeNosky's first book, DID YOU SAY MARRIED?, was released by Silhouette Desire in May 2000, and a year or so later, when I was discovering the wonderful world of romance novels, I discovered Kathie's books (she had a couple more out by then). A couple of fan letters later she called to offer me the job of review coordinator at a new website her late husband was starting. I stayed with Writers Unlimited until I knew I had to write and not review romances. So in a way, it's all Kathie's fault that I'm in this whirlwind world of romance and writing.
Kathie is a two-time Golden Heart finalist, a Waldenbooks bestseller and HIS BABY SURPRISE (Silhouette Desire, June 2001) received the National Readers' Choice Award for Best Short Contemporary Romance of 2001.
She's a great writer, a fabulous mentor and one of my dearest friends, and I hope you'll come to love her books as much as I do.
The Birth of a Mini-Series
One of the most popular questions asked of an author is where they get their ideas and how they connect the stories to make a mini-series. Usually my stock answer is, “My stories come from just about everywhere and connecting the books is as easy as having some of the main characters be either friends or siblings.” But there’s an interesting story behind the way I connected the Illegitimate Heirs mini-series that only a handful of people know about and few would recognize as being based on a movie we all know and love. When I was asked to be the guest blogger here at the Writing Playground, I thought it would be a great opportunity to let everyone in on the secret and show just how easy it is to turn a crazy suggestion into a bestselling mini-series.
During a late-night phone conversation with my good friend and sister author, Kristi Gold, a tornado watch came across the weather alert radio and I jokingly commented that I was going to have to base my next mini-series on the Wizard of Oz because it looked as if I was going to be carried “over the rainbow.” She laughed and as we continued to joke about the possibilities, I realized that I might be onto something.
What if I turned the Scarecrow, aka “man without a brain,” into a handsome farmer who, because of family obligations, hadn’t been able to go to college and regretted his lack of education? What if the cowardly lion became a good-looking guy who had been forced as a teenager to flee his family’s ranch in the middle of the night for fear of doing jail time for a crime he didn’t commit, but couldn’t fight? And what if the Tinman, who didn’t have a heart, became a sexy helicopter pilot who felt responsible for the death of his fiancée and vowed never to lose his heart again to another woman? And how on earth could I connect these heroes in a way that made sense?
I needed a set of circumstances that would land them all in unfamiliar territory—their Oz—and an all-seeing, all-knowing Wizard to orchestrate everything. Enter Emerald Larson of Wichita, Kansas, self-made bazillionaire, CEO of Emerald, Inc. and the mother of a narcissistic, world-class playboy who, in his youth gave a whole new meaning to the Biblical passage, “be fruitful and multiply.” Knowing about the three boys he’d fathered, but not wanting them to be tempted by the endless wealth and self-indulgence of her son, Emerald waited until they were grown before contacting them to tell them who their father was and offering them one of the many companies she’d acquired over the years. That set each of them on a journey, much like Dorothy’s, to find their way to their heart’s desire.
Wonder of wonders, the editors at Silhouette Desire loved my crazy idea and the Illegitimate Heirs became a three book mini-series—ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN ENEMIES, January ’06, REUNION OF REVENGE, February ’06, and BETROTHED FOR THE BABY, March ‘06. But the story doesn’t end there. Two weeks after the first book was released, my editor called asking for three more Illegitimate Heirs—making it a six book mini-series.
Obviously, I couldn’t come up with anything that would connect these three books as strongly to the Wizard of Oz concept. (Somehow I just didn’t think readers would want me to base a hero on a flying monkey and I doubt there would be any way to redeem a heroine based on the Wicked Witch. LOL) But Emerald is still the all-knowing, all-seeing icon of the series and the three Garnier siblings feel as if they’ve landed smack dab in the middle of Oz when they discover they are her illegitimate grandchildren in BOSSMAN BILLIONAIRE, out this month, ONE NIGHT, TWO BABIES, to be relesased next month, and THE BILLIONAIRE’S UNEXPECTED HEIR, to be released in October.
What’s the moral of this story? Given the right amount of thought, enough brainstorming with writer friends and a unique twist or two, a writer can turn even the craziest idea into a bestselling mini-series. So give it a try. Let your imagination run wild and never dismiss an idea without giving it the proper amount of thought. You just might be discarding a bestselling mini-series if you do.
P.S. One random commenter today will be selected to win a copy of BOSSMAN BILLIONAIRE. I don't know about you, but I'm going to start writing down every throw-away comment I make to the other Playfriends.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
AC didn’t bat an eyelash over the death of the fish. Way too many have passed through our tank over the years for floating fish to bother her. But the death of Curious the Gerbil hit her hard.
DG and I were folding laundry and AC was supposed to be cleaning the gerbil cage. We hear “Mom! Dad! Curious isn’t moving and I think he’s dead!” (This is only barely understandable through the tears, mind you.) Sure enough, Curious wasn’t moving and DG pronounced him dead a few minutes later.
Perky, the other gerbil, wasn’t in the least bit fazed. He was busy running on his wheel.
Now, I’m feeling a little guilty because (as you are all aware), I don’t particularly care for the rodents living in my home. But the tears and anguish from AC did break my heart. The wails of “He was so young!” though, had me burying my face in AC’s hair so she couldn’t see me laughing.
Curious (June 09-Aug 09) was laid to rest in our backyard Sunday afternoon in a tissue box with three mourners present. We then, in the Southern tradition, went back to the house for something to eat. Fifteen minutes later, AC and DG were headed to the pet store to get a new gerbil.
We mourn deeply, but quickly, it seems.
Chews, the new gerbil, looks a lot like Curious and seems to be settling in well. I just hope whatever minor deity we’ve angered is over his snit and will let the pets in our house live for a while. Or that he goes back to killing the fish. Death of a fish I can handle. Death of a gerbil is much more difficult because it breaks my heart to see AC so upset. I’m just glad PetSmart is open on Sundays and has plenty of gerbils.
(Now, just to be contrary, I’m going to randomly throw the word Sex into this blog post, because I want to see how many hits we get this week from people searching for the terms “gerbils” and “sex.” Those stats will probably depress and disgust me, but since we seem to get a lot of hits from people searching for “goats” and “sex,” I figure we’ll toss another animal into the mix just to confuse them. Because I’m ornery like that. :-).)
Now, someone explain to me why fish get flushed but gerbils get burials…
Author Kathie DeNosky will be here tomorrow!
Monday, August 17, 2009
I have this little writing problem. Okay, it’s a big problem. I call it AVOIDANCE. You see, I find myself stuck in the planning stages of my writing projects quite a bit. I hide there, because it is safe and enjoyable. It doesn’t require blood, sweat, and tears. I don’t have to force myself to do it. Those planning stages are fun. They come with a rush, like those first few months of falling in love.
But the hard work looms ever closer. So I find myself twiddling even more with plot, characters, goals, conflict, etc. If I’m honest, it’s because I’m afraid. Of quite a lot of things, but mostly of failure. And mediocrity. So I avoid…
I’m not a lazy person. I work really hard in other areas. But usually those are areas where I can easily see the progress and the results come quickly. Not so with books. Even though I’ve gotten to the point where I can write much quicker than in the beginning, I would never term writing “quick” or “easy”. I don’t even want to talk about waiting for the results. :)
What’s really weird about this is that, once I get started, I enjoy the writing. Maybe it is just something about the blank page that stirs up the fear? Good thing I have writing scheduled for this week!!! My accountability partner will beat down my door if I don’t start showing some progress.
How about y’all? Is there a particular project or job you love to avoid? Any advice? I know, I know… Just Do It!
Check out author Kathie DeNosky on Wednesday, August 19th!
Friday, August 14, 2009
We plot a lot. Sometimes we get together and do it deliberately. Other times it pops up in the discussion when one of us runs into an issue. This was my weekend to have an issue. In the edits of my book, I realized I needed another subplot, another shady character to threaten and confuse. For the life of me, I had nothing. I was tossing around a couple things, but nothing clicked. Within three minutes of us talking, I had it nailed. It clicked. I love that.
It went something like this:
"I need another bad guy."
"Like a bad guy, bad guy?"
"No, just a kinda bad guy who isn't the bad guy, but could be."
"Who's the real bad guy again?"
"The good guy."
"Oh yeah. Does he have to be a vampire?"
"No. I'd really rather it be a human."
"What about a drug dealer?"
"I actually do have a drug dealer in the book."
"I like the drug dealer idea. That could work for you."
"Yeah, but he has to be a big time dealer. Not the streetcorner guy."
"Ok, I can do that. What does he want?"
"He wants what the hero has."
"Ooohhh... he could be blackmailing him."
"Yes, he turned him down, but then he found out about the heroine and is threatening to turn them in."
"That's good. Whew. Finally. Hand me a biscuit."
Now, that conversation made perfect sense to me, but I'm sure the people sitting in the booth behind us at the restaurant where it took place were probably confused. Especially when the underground "drugs for blood" topic came up.
Sitting by "civilians" while plotting is always dangerous. At any one time, we could be discussing how to kill someone, the legal implications of a marriage of convenience, whether its lye or lime that's used to disintegrate a corpse, a variety of sexual positions or situations, or how one accidentally gets married. Its not uncommon to hear one of us say "What about a dead baby?" or "I didn't know you could do that with buttercream icing." We've gotten more than one weird looks from waiters that approach the table just as one of us says "But is it really infidelity if she slept with the other guy while she was possessed by a demon?"
Suffice to say, we always try to be seated away from the general population, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. What about you? Have you ever overheard a disturbing conversation and wondered who, exactly, you were sitting near? Ever frightened your waiter or gotten strange looks from people around you?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
And while I love the giddy, happy feeling of knowing I have a job for a little while it also means I have to actually start doing the work. It's been a little while since I submitted this story and I was having a hard time getting back into it. Part of that was bad timing I think. The call came in right as I was making plans to get the girls ready for school. Part of it was I wasn't excited about it anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love this story and I love these characters but in the weeks since I'd put it aside I seem to have misplaced my enthusiasm.
Well, I found it again yesterday when I finally had a chance to open the first chapter up again and I remembered that I actually do love this story. And that I'm not a complete and total hack (My ego is a fragile, fragile thing apparently. I'm not sure I like that about myself). So I've set myself a deadline of having my first draft done by Sept 10th. This is totally doable and allows me to walk away from the project for a week while we're on vacation and come back to it with some distance and fresh eyes so that I can layer in those pesky details I always seem to forget.
That's the plan anyway. We'll see if it actually happens. I have a turkey leg at Disney riding on my getting finished so I think I probably will.
Have you ever stepped away from a project and found it difficult to go back? Ever walked away from a book only to discover those files months or years later and remember why you loved it so much?
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Boy was I ever wrong!
This was a great movie about writing. It's a study in comparisons and contrasts about Julia Child in post-war Paris, struggling to figure out her identity and what she wanted to do with her life, and Julie Powell, a temp employee in post- 9/11 New York City, struggling to figure out her identity and what she wanted to do with her life.
Julia attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and then taught French cooking to American women. Later she joined forces with two other women to write a French cookbook for Americans. In the movie we see her struggle to complete the book and then get it published. In the scene where she boxes up her manuscript to send it off to a New York publisher, I felt every emotion she felt too.
Julie graduated from Amherst with a degree in theater and creative writing. Her one attempt at a novel was rejected and in the movie she declared you weren't a writer if no one published your book. The Julie/Julia Project was a blog where she chronicled her effort to cook all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook in 325 days.
The movie's dialogue is brilliant and filled with innuendo that makes the task of boning a duck both a culinary coup and a dirty joke. Some of you will remember Dan Ackroyd's famous Julia Child skit on SNL, and that skit appears in the film.
Mostly, it's a movie about persistence. When Julia Child receives a letter telling her a prospective publisher is declining to go ahead with her book, she reacts with, "Eight years of my life. It just turned out to be something to do, so I wouldn't have nothing to do. Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"
She was obviously heartbroken but she was also part of the Depression and World War II era and simply met bad times straight on. And like the writers we all know, she took her book seriously and was hurt when passed over for publication and then later for awards.
When Julie Powell learned that Julia didn't like her blog and thought she wasn't being serious in her cooking attempt, she had a meltdown too. But she picked herself up, dusted herself off and cooked the rest of the recipes by her one-year deadline.
In case you aren't familiar with Julia Child, here's a short clip of her explaining about chickens. The voice is for real and she was as imposing a figure in real life as she appears on screen -- six feet, two inches tall.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
AC: Mom! Mom! My gerbils got out of their cage!
You’ll often hear writers lament that no one respects our writing time. So many people think that since we’re home all day in our sweats, we have loads of time on our hands to do all kinds of things – organize PTA bake sales, run errands, make costumes for the school play, etc. I’ve worked very hard over the last year to try to make people understand that I’m working. I may not be in the office, and I may not have bathed, but this is my job and it’s just as demanding and time-consuming as theirs. “At home” does not equal “available.”
But, no matter how I try, there’s one thing I can’t make respect my writing time: Life.
Take the gerbils, for example. I don’t even like the ugly rodents. But I get out of my chair – leaving my hero and heroine panting and frustrated – and go help AC catch the things and return them to their cage. This action is not entirely motivated by parental love; yes, AC would be heartbroken if her gerbils disappeared into a vent to never be seen again and that would hurt me, but the reality of the situation is that my office is right next door to AC’s room. If the gerbils are loose, there’s a very good chance they’ll make it into my office and run over my feet (thereby guaranteeing squished gerbils and upset child. Not to mention the ICK factor.).
Life just gets in the way sometimes. John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” And what’s that saying? “Man plans; God laughs.”
Oh, yeah. Life loves to screw up your schedule.
I’m not saying my situation is any different than any other working parent’s. If the child gets sick, someone has to take off from work to do doctor runs and push the orange juice. It doesn’t matter where you work; “child with fever and vomiting” is blind to career choice, deadline, day of the week, time of the night, or vacation plans. Gerbils escape. Roofs spring leaks. Tires go flat. Goldfish die. People die. Someone falls and needs nine stitches on their forehead the day before school pictures. Ants invade the pantry.
And my hero and heroine are left breathless and on the edge while I go take care of it. What else can you do?
AC started back to school yesterday, which means that I can get back on my schedule and, hopefully, get this book back on a timeline that includes making my deadline. (Note to self: remember the craziness of summer when we go back to contract and plan accordingly.) I'd appreciate it if Life laid off me for a little while and let me get caught up.
Any blog readers good at keeping Life under control? Care to share how you manage that? Heck, I’d settle for a link to an escape-proof gerbil cage…
Monday, August 10, 2009
We’ve established before that I’m a Nickelback fan, but I have to admit I’m loving one of their most recent songs, If Today Was Your Last Day. Now, the title pretty much says it all. This song opens with a friend giving some great advice: “Each day’s a gift and not a given right.”
I like the idea of living each day with purpose and meaning, but I find the practicality of it hard to grasp. You see, I’m a doer. I get bogged down most days in the minutae of family/home/work life. There are dishes to wash, kids to wash, laundry to… you get the picture. I like the list given in Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying: sky diving, bull riding, speaking sweeter, being a better husband and friend, going fishing, and stopping to watch an eagle overhead. These myriad ways of making life meaningful are simple and easy to grasp.
All last school year, I kept telling myself that each day, when my kids got home from school, we were going to sit down at the table and have a snack together. Talk about their days. Take a breather before the rush of homework, dinner, baths. But it never seemed to happen. Now, they had a snack every day, but I never got around to joining them because there was always something to do.
I find my To Do list often runs me, instead of the other way around. There is always more on there than I can accomplish in a day (or probably 2). And I feel guilty about that. I’ve tried to curb it, and I often can for a day or 2, before the urgency of a dozen tasks once again overruns me. I know, it’s a personality problem. :) At least I recognize my neurosis.
The 1 thing I love about the new school year is that feeling of newness, of resetting the clock and starting something over. I think we need that mid-year just as much as we do January 1st. This year, my world is changing, with both my kids being in elementary school for the first time. In addition to all those lovely writing goals I have, I am also revisiting my daily snack time goal. I really want to do this. I think it will give us a chance to reconnect after being away from each other, and find a touch of centeredness during our hectic days.
Do I wish I’d done this last year? Yes. Do I feel guilty that I didn’t? Yes. Should I let that stop me now? No. I can only live as if TODAY is my last day, not yesterday.
So aside from the nebulous ideals of forgiving enemies, embracing life, etc., what practical way would you like to enhance your life the rest of this year? What 1 simple thing would you embrace to give meaning to your life, in light of each day being a gift?
Friday, August 07, 2009
But deep inside, in the part of my brain usually tucked away, is that five year old. The one who fell in love with Prince Charming and was an honorary member of the Mickey Mouse Club. (I placed in an art contest when I was a kid and got a pin and ears and everything.) The one who got every Disney movie when they came out on VHS for gifts and when she got old enough, bought them for herself on DVD. I have all 4 Disney Classics CDs, so I know the words to little known songs from movies, rides, parades and shows. Just ask me to serenade you. DB missed the whole Disney thing growing up in the 70s and he just doesn't get it when I dance around the house singing "Hoggity, poggity, woggity-wack!"
It's this inner child that is the driving force behind the scope of our upcoming trip to Disney World. I've been waiting for Little Sister to be old enough to remember and enjoy the trip. When the others said they were considering going, we decided to make a big thing of it. From there, with the help of Instigator and the power of the internet, it exploded into the grand Disney extravaganza. Any second now, PC and Angel are going to tell us we're on our own and ban us from the email loop.
A million emails and schedules and scenarios have flown around and for good reason. A lot of these things require advanced planning and reservations. There will be several character meals, autograph books and princess makeovers. Gifts from Tinkerbell and matching shirts. Trading pins and fairy god-mailers (long story). We're staying on property in awesome condos with dining plans and special after hours parties. I think if we could manage to get the kids on a parade float, we'd do it. I'm thinking perhaps we can manage to get Little Man to drive the Monorail. We're already dressing up for the Halloween party. Well, some of us are, anyway.
I'm pretty sure I've lost my mind. I'm also pretty sure that LS won't be nearly as impressed with this trip as I will be. I'm sure she'll love it, but the appreciation for this will likely come much later in life. This is the trip I wanted when I was 6. To see and experience all the magic of Disney when I still believed in it. To spend a week exploring everything - seeing the shows and the parades, not just going from line to line in a rush to cram everything into one day. Money just wasn't happening back when I was that age, so I dreamed that one day, this would be the kind of trip I would take my kids on. No kids yet, but when and if I do have them, I will be a seasoned veteran.
What brings out the kid in you? Do you have any fond Disney memories or big trips you took your kids on?
P.S. Instigator is blogging tomorrow on the Blaze Author blog. Stop by and say hello. www.blazeauthors.com/blog/
Thursday, August 06, 2009
My problem is I've been spoiled for the last several years. At the school the girls used to go to I could buy a box of supplies that magically appeared in their classroom the first day. Yes, I was one of those people who would stand on the fringes of the melee at Wal-Mart and laugh at the poor people scrambling for that last 10 cent notebook.
This year? Well, this year I've been the one driving from one store to the other looking for Fiskar scissors (why the hell don't these stores carry the right brand if they know we're all gonna need them?) and plastic brad folders, 6 of them, in different colors that my child will actually agree to carry. At one point in this process I spoke to the manager of a store I won't name and told him I was looking for plastic brad folders. His reply? "Good luck." Unfortunately, he was right. Not in his store, not in the two down the street. I did eventually find them one town over.
I seriously want to go back to paying for my box. I've already spent way more money than I have in years past and I still owe the school their fees. However, I guess I can't complain too much since I'm no longer paying for their education.
My girls start school next Monday. They are not excited for summer to end but mommy is. Baby Girl starts Kindergarten. No, I will not be one of the parents crying in the hallway. Sweet Pea is in third grade. They're both starting a new school and very worried about it. But I think everything's going to be fine. They, however, have not learned that mommy is always right yet and are a little panicked. We're going shopping tomorrow (tax free weekend here I come) for some clothes and then I'm taking them to have their nails done. I'm hoping a little girl time and shot of confidence will help.
Have you ever started a new job? Gone to a new school? Moved to a new place? Do you find it easy to make new friends, find new places and settle into the new environment? Or are do you have a hard time putting yourself out there?
P.S. Congratulations to Karen and Marcy, Lynn’s winners from her guest blog with us yesterday. Please send your info to her at email@example.com to claim your prizes. Colleen is Playground Monitor's winner from yesterday. Please email here at firstname.lastname@example.org with your info. As always, prizes not claimed within seven days will be re-awarded.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE
by Lynn Raye Harris
Available NOW from Harlequin Presents
Nobody messes with Alejandro de Ramirez. He doesn't suffer fools, and certainly has no time for manipulative wantons. Rebecca Layton was both. Five years later, Alejandro's life is still in turmoil—and he's more merciless than ever. The Spanish magnate wants retribution….
Unusually, and frustratingly for Alejandro, his plan doesn't go smoothly. Surely Rebecca wasn't this alluring before. And did his body always respond in this way—with such passionate fury? This is no longer just revenge…this is red-hot and dangerous!
Hello, Playfriends and Honorary Playfriends! I’ve been a visitor to this blog since I realized in early 2006 that I was moving to Alabama. I remember going searching on the web one day for the RWA chapter closest to where I would be and somehow stumbling upon this site. The Playground quickly became a favorite stop on my morning blog tour, and I began to feel like I’d found friends even though no one here knew me yet.
When I arrived in Alabama in November 2006, the Playground Monitor emailed to ask how I was and to introduce me to the Instigator, who worked in an office close to where I was staying at the time. I quickly met up with Instigator for lunch, and felt just as welcome as I’d known I would when I still lived 5000 miles away.
Fast-forward nearly three years (really? Three? OMG, how time passes!) and the Playfriends are my friends in truth. From the moment I arrived at my first Heart of Dixie meeting, I knew I’d found a home with wonderful, welcoming, and crazy women just like me. (Not to mention I’d landed in the Mecca of Shoe Fabulosity!)
So when it was time to have a blog book launch party for my very first book, SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE, there could be no other place to celebrate than with my friends on the Playground (and that includes all you Honorary Playfriends too!).
It’s been a long journey getting to this point. It’s been filled with tears and frustration, but it’s also been filled with laughter and joy. There’s nothing better than seeing that book on the shelves finally. Nothing better than getting reader mail or receiving a great review.
Writers spend so much time laboring in isolation and waiting for the day when their work is available to the reading public. It seems rather surreal that my day has come. Just yesterday, in fact, I learned that my book debuted at #7 on the Borders Bestseller List for series romance. You may think I jumped up and down and called everyone I knew.
But I didn’t. I sat there looking at that list and remembering the journey that brought me to this point. I quietly told my husband. A bit later, I decided to share the news on my Facebook page and on Twitter.
It still seems unreal to me, you see. As if it could all disappear if I blink too hard. It took so long to get here that surely, surely it’s a dream.
But my friends assure me it is NOT a dream. I’ve seen my book in stores, I’ve signed copies, and I’ve talked to readers at the Literacy Autographing in Washington D.C. last month. It’s real, my book is real, and this day here with all of you is real.
So let’s get this party started! I’ll have Smarty Pants bring out all the Moan-Day hotties and get them busy serving the official Playground cocktail, the Teeter-Totter. (Because she’s super-organized like that.) They’ll also be serving whatever drink your heart desires, and they’ll be providing massages and bringing you unending supplies of chocolate. (We hope to see Captain Jack today, but he’s been a bit busy sailing and plundering the seven seas.)
I’m in such a happy, party mood that I’m going to give away not one, but two signed books to commenters! So get your party hats on and, for fun, tell me who your favorite romance hero is and why. (Or your favorite inspiration for a romance hero if you’re a writer.)
Postscript from the Playground Monitor:
I started reading this book at home, then brought it along to my mom's house and finished it on the beach. See?
Today I toured the Millionaire's Village on Jekyll Island, Georgia. It was begun as a hunting club for the uber-wealthy and a few of the "cottages" are open for viewing. These cottages are anywhere from 8000 to 15000 square feet and were only used for two to three months each year. I imagine Alejandro might have had a house on Jekyll if it were still a thriving hunt club today.
To go along with the books Lynn is giving away, one additional person will get my copy of the book, which is a little shopworn from the trip and may still have sand in the pages. Plus I'll throw in a little sea turtle paperweight and some sand I scooped from the shore on Jekyll Island, where real-life Presents-type heroes used to sun
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
The idea behind any kind of online community is to create a connection and a conversation between us and you. From a marketing standpoint, it’s supposed to create a relationship between the writer and the reader so that 1) the reader will want to buy the author’s book , and 2) to keep from falling off the reader’s radar during those months that the author doesn’t have a book on the shelf. (What five unpublished authors hoped to accomplish by creating a blog is still up in the air. ~grin~)
But there’s always the question of How Much is Too Much? Long-time blog readers probably have a pretty good idea of what I’m like in real life – I’m neurotic about my weight, I talk too much, I preach the importance of good foundation garments, I’m afraid of storm drains, etc. And, presumably, because y’all keep coming back to visit, you kinda like me – strange storm drain neurosis and all.
But what if you found out I was an atheist? Or that I’d been to jail? Or that I fervently believed in a cause you’d give your last penny to shut down? What if I used the blog as a way to preach my opinions? It would probably keep you off the Playground, right? (Okay, the other Playfriends would have beaten me to death long before then, but let’s just keep going for the sake of argument.)
From a marketing/promotion point of view comes the big question: Would you quit reading my books?
I ask because of some things that I’ve seen on facebook recently. I’m friends with a lot of authors on facebook, and I’ve seen several of them post strong points of view in their status updates – things about politics (like health care reform, the conflict in Iraq, whether they like Sotomayer for the Supreme Court, if Obama should be drinking American beer), things about religion (existence and non-existence of a supreme being), things like that. Things that make me wonder whether I’d be this author’s friend in the non-facebook world. Sometimes, they’ve even started a spirited debate among their friends in the comment thread, with their facebook friends arguing both sides of the issue.
I’m all for healthy debate. I also know that authors, like everyone else in the world, have their own beliefs and values that may not line up with mine. For the most part, it comes down to “to each his own,” and honestly, I never put much thought into what the authors I loved to read were doing with their spare time.
But then their beliefs started showing up on my facebook news feed.
Any media figure takes a risk when they make a stand about an issue. They might lose fans (remember the Dixie Chicks debacle? Or the Beatles for that matter?), or they may gain fans (Jenny McCarthy – former Playboy model – gained lots of soccer-mom fans from her stance on the MMR vaccine-Autism link).
So where’s the line? Do you care if your favorite author votes Democrat or Republican or Independent? Do you care where they stand on Sotomayer’s confirmation or if they’re a Rush Limbaugh fan? Do you care if they like the Yankees or the Dodgers or if they yell “Roll Tide” or “Go Vols”?
Does any of that bleed over into how you view their books? Can you still love the author’s work, even if you found out they stood on the opposite side of an important (to you) issue? Or would you quit reading their books altogether? Would it have to be a big ideological thing (like gay marriage)?
Or can you just put it aside because the work is what really matters?
I’m serious. Enquiring minds really want to know. What do you think?
My facebook status might depend on it (kidding).
Monday, August 03, 2009
In addition to modelling for clothing designers like Abercrombie & Finch, Channing Tatum has played in CSI: Miami, Step Up, Fighting, and most recently, in Public Enemies with the Playground's very favorite Johnny Depp. In looking up information on Channing, one significant fact stood out. He was born in Cullman, AL, which is where our local RWA chapter holds its meetings. Goes to show Alabama CAN raise some prime specimens!
Are you an action film kind of girl? Or romantic comedies? Suspense or horror? What upcoming movies are you most looking forward to seeing?
Join us on Wednesday, August 5th, as we celebrate the launch of Honorary Playfriend Lynn Raye Harris's debut Harlequin Presents!!!