Friday, April 30, 2010
A WOMAN'S WEEK AT THE GYM
For my birthday this year, my husband purchased me a week of personal training at the local health club. Although I am still in great shape since being a high school football cheerleader 43 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try. I called the club and made my reservations with a personal trainer named Christo, who identified himself as a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and model for athletic clothing and swim wear. Friends seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started! The club encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.
MONDAY: Started my day at 6:00 a.m. Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Christo waiting for me. He is something of a Greek god-- with blond hair, dancing eyes, and a dazzling white smile. Woo Hoo!! Christo gave me a tour and showed me the machines. I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which he conducted his aerobics class after my workout today. Very inspiring! Christo was encouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time he was around. This is going to be a FANTASTIC week!!
TUESDAY: I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door. Christo made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air then he put weights on it! My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made the full mile. His rewarding smile made it all worthwhile. I feel GREAT! It's a whole new life for me.
WEDNESDAY: The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop. I parked on top of a GEO in the club parking lot. Christo was impatient with me, insisting that my screams bothered other club members. His voice is a little too perky for that early in the morning and when he scolds, he gets this nasally whine that is VERY annoying. My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so Christo put me on the stair monster. Why the heck would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators? Christo told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy life. He said some other crap too.
THURSDAY: Butthole was waiting for me with his vampire-like teeth exposed as his thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl. I couldn't help being a half an hour late-- it took me that long to tie my shoes. He took me to work out with dumbbells. When he was not looking, I ran and hid in the restroom. He sent some skinny witch to find me. Then, as punishment, he put me on the rowing machine-- which I sank.
FRIDAY:I hate that demon Christo more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. Stupid, skinny, anemic, anorexic, little aerobic instructor. If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat him with it. Christo wanted me to work on my triceps. I don't have any triceps! And if you don't want dents in the floor, don't hand me the stupid barbells or anything that weighs more than a sandwich.The treadmill flung me off and I landed on a health and nutrition teacher. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like the drama coach or the choir director?
SATURDAY: Satan left a message on my answering machine in his grating, shrilly voice wondering why I did not show up today. Just hearing his voice made me want to smash the machine with my planner; however, I lacked the strength to even use the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel.
SUNDAY:I'm having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank GOD that this week is over. I will also pray that next year my husband will choose a gift for me that is fun-- like a root canal or a hysterectomy.
Have you ever had a personal trainer? How'd that work out for you? Do you prefer the perky cheerleader type trainer or the mean Eastern European woman that yells? I think I respond better to threats than praise, but if nothing else, it gets me in the gym at least once a week and I have to provide a food journal, so maybe it will keep me on track for a while.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The good news was they knew exactly what was wrong with it even before they'd hooked it up to the computer. The bad news was that they didn't have the part because they aren't fully stocked yet. Two days later and my car is still sitting in their parking lot waiting for the part to arrive from Atlanta.
Baby Girl woke up yesterday with that I thought was another round of strep. It's a little difficult to get to the doctor and the pharmacy without a car. After much shuffling (and chauffeur service from my wonderful mother!) we had medicine and are waiting on the 72 hour strep test.
After days of wind and rain my roof is finally being fixed. Great! Except that meant I was home with a sick child as they banged repeatedly over my head. They're doing a great job and are moving very quickly...it was just bad timing.
So, I've really had one of those weeks from hell when nothing seems to be going right.
To spread some good cheer - and hopefully start today out on a better foot - I'm going to give away a copy of each of my books, Afterburn and Whispers in the Dark, the prequel to my upcoming Jan release. Whine about your week. Tell me about your nightmare car experience. Post a joke to make me laugh. Just post anything. Seriously.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I had another blog written for today about romance as literary fiction. But it'll have to wait til another day.
I'm having foot problems. Again. I apparently have Morton's neuromas in both feet. It only bothers me sometimes -- like when I wear shoes and walk. Warm weather has made things a little better for me because I can wear loose sandals and keep the pressure off those nerves, which keeps my third and fourth toes from feeling like someone set fire to them. Friday I see my orthopedic surgeon to go over my treatment options.
How did this happen? It can be caused by wearing pointy-toed stilettos. Have y'all ever seen me in those? Uh, no. Ask the Playfriends. I'm the queen of sensible shoes. It can also be caused by high impact athletic activities like jogging. Again, no.
This "just happened." Just happened like my medial epicondylitis (AKA tennis elbow), my lactose intolerance, the bone spur in my shoulder, my fibromyalgia and my restless leg syndrome.
Quite frankly, I'm tired of s%#t "just happening." I want to at least have had FUN before the pain and aggravation starts.
But what's really got my feathers ruffled is the all too cavalier attitude of some medical office personnel toward time. MY time. There seems to be an M. Deity attitude amongst some, and my orthopedic clinic displayed that attitude yesterday morning. I won't name names, but their shiny, new building sits like a domed cathedral on a hill.
I had an appointment for nerve testing on April 12, but it was cancelled at the last minute because the machine broke. At least they caught me before I'd left home. The test was rescheduled for yesterday at 9:00 AM. It takes 30 minutes for me to get from my apartment to this office and I allowed extra time for traffic. I signed in and waited.
At 9:30 I inquired at the desk only to be told the tech hadn't been told I was there, had begun another procedure and didn't have time to do mine.
"Can you come back at noon?"
If looks could kill, several of their staff members would be six feet under. Yes, I could come back at noon, but what about my time? What was I supposed to do until then? I didn't want to drive 30 minutes home and then 30 minutes back.
So I went to a shoe store and looked at even wider and uglier shoes than I already wear (why are wide, ugly, good-for-your-feet shoes so expensive?), used a birthday certificate to get a free grande latte at Starbucks, read the newspaper and then scribbled the bare bones of this blog in a little notebook I carry around for those times when inspiration (or wrath) strikes.
And. I. Fumed.
If I didn't show up for my appointment, they'd charge me for it.
If THEY don't show up, they offer lame apologies and reschedule. Why can't I charge them?
When I returned at noon, I signed in again and said quite loudly, "Would you please make sure the technician knows I'm here for the second time today?"
Within seconds I was greeted by the tech who apologized profusely. Apparently the office staff had screwed up her day too.
I'd consider going to another clinic, but that really isn't an option because this foot specialist is the best. Period.
So I'll continue going there, but maybe now they'll know not to piss off the bilateral Morton's neuroma lady because when they do, I speak loudly in the waiting room and write blogs about you.
So... what's ruffled YOUR feathers lately?
P.S. To answer my own question, $$$$ spells time.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I’m leaving today for the Romantic Times Book Lovers’ Convention in Columbus, OH.
Now, I’m not some conference newbie; I’ve done five RWA conferences and survived them all (albeit with minor injuries). But RT is a whole different animal. Maven Linda described it as Mardi Gras.
The fact I’m having to pack costumes might prove her statement correct.
I’m only doing one panel and the booksigning, so I’ll have a lot of free time to explore the conference and experience everything. That’s a nice feeling – not being overbooked for the week – but I’m also left wondering what am I going to do? (Because if I don’t know what I’ll be doing, how will I know I have the appropriate outfit with me to do it in? )
But where RWA is a writers’ conference, RT is a readers’ conference. The focus is different, so the activities are different. There’s a Fairy Ball, a Vampire Ball, the Mr. Romance contest, dance parties, ice cream socials, a tea party… Wow.
It sounds like a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it – even if I’m a little unsure of what all it entails. At least I’ll know a lot of people there and I’m looking forward to catching up with some friends.
If you’re headed to RT, let me know and look me up when you get there. We’ll have a drink. If you’re in the area, consider coming to the booksigning – again, find me and say hi. We’ll go have a drink. ~g~
I’ll take lots of pictures and post them with a run-down after I get back.
So who’s going to RT? Anyone been before? For our readers, what kind of reader events do you enjoy?
Monday, April 26, 2010
I'm currently reading a book about writer's block that has taken quite a different direction than I expected. The author discusses (sometimes in confusing detail) how our brain works and the implications on the creative process. Especially fascinating are the discussions of right brain versus left brain and the struggles between the two. A couple of sections really highlighted some patterns I've seen in my own life, but one in particular was spot on.
Creative types tend to be "pilers".
He says that creative people tend to make piles of items they use all the time or feel they'll need to come back to. One reason is because if we can't see it, then it doesn't exist (to a certain extent). I can't tell you how true this is for me! Though I try to keep them neat, I have several piles on my desk, and have had to resort to file holders that are out in the open, because if I put something away, I forget about it.
This same reason is part of the source of my "plotter" mentality. It isn't just that I have to know where I'm going. I write things down as I think of them, because if I don't, I'll forget it (same thing with my To Do list). When I first started writing I had piles of paper, scraps and napkins where I'd written down ideas. The organizer in me insisted this all had to be neater, so I started organizing in a notebook... and thus a plotter was born.
The author says this is a problem because though we pile things around us so we can keep track of them, the clutter distracts us when we're trying to write. We sit down to type and "see" all the stuff we should work on besides our books. His solution for his desk was an open filing system so he could see the files, but not the mess itself. I guess my own filing system and plotting notebooks are a similar solution, though I still have piles that need to be dealt with.
So what about y'all? Are you a "piler" or "neat and tidy"?
The Playfriends will all be attending our local writing chapter's 13th Annual Romance Readers Luncheon on May 15th in Huntsville, AL. If you live in the Tennessee Valley, this is a wonderful event! Registration deadline is May 1st.
Friday, April 23, 2010
You wouldn’t think a romance author would have them. Weddings are practically our business. I may not end all of my books with a walk down the aisle, but that scenario is a pretty sure bet for each of my heroes and heroines. And I love weddings. But right now my life is a continuous series of crises because my son is getting married in three weeks.
Three weeks! The knot in my stomach just tightened. Don’t get me wrong. My son and daughter-in-law-to-be are a perfect match. Their story is one that I could develop a book about. They met through an online dating service, and they are so right for each other. I love both of them.
But each day brings a new detail to check off my to-do lists. I have four of them—scribbled on paper plates on the island in my kitchen. One list for each life that I lead. First, the teacher. As an instructor in writing at Syracuse University, I have essays to read, and grades to turn in (all before the wedding). Then there’s the author, and I have a deadline for my next Blaze—in June! As Cara, the person, I have to get a new car by the end of the month because the lease on my current one is running out. But the longest list, by far, is for the mother of the groom.
And the one thing that seems to be giving me real anxiety attacks is deciding what I’m going to wear to the wedding! I ordered the dress out of a catalogue a couple of weeks ago, and last Sunday, I finally found the courage to try it on. (It was the only item left on that particular paper plate. I was very busy, finishing my taxes, and throwing a bridal shower. I thought those were perfect excuses for postponing the day I would have to face myself in the mirror.
The dress is pink—okay Rose Dore (a deeper shade of pink.) It’s a sleeveless sheath with a jacket. Perfect, I thought for the mother of the groom.
Only it’s not right for me. Pink? Okay, it’s a good color for me, but when am I ever going to wear the dress again? Certainly not at my day job where dress jeans and a good blazer work very well. And as far as the “writing job” goes, I can do that in my sweats or even better—my pajamas.
The dress fits—sort of. My goal is to lose five pounds before the wedding. I’ve already added to my MOG list: walking every day and digging out the Wave thingy I purchased while watching an infomercial on The Firm. But whenever I look at the scribbling on those four paper plates, I get an almost irresistible desire for chocolate!
I asked two of my doctors what I could do to survive and minimize the stress. One suggested yoga. The other wrote me a prescription for Xanax. (Love him! But the Xanax could interfere with paper grading and car shopping, etc…)
So my question to all of you is the same that I put to my doctors. Yoga and Xanax aside, what can I do that would help me through this stressful time? And if it would also allow me to breathe in the “pink” dress, that would be a bonus.
To the authors of the top five suggestions (the ones that make it onto yet another paper plate), I will send an autographed copy of my May Blaze, Led Into Temptation.
As an added motivation, let me tell you that Led into Temptation is my most wicked forbidden fantasy yet. And I had a lot of fun writing it.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We could have saved ourselves some sleepless nights. Both of the girls have settled in really well and absolutely love their new school. But what I'm most happy with is how they are both blossoming. (Excuse me while I brag for a minute :-)) Baby Girl is working at a higher level than I ever expected her to...they're learning subtraction and her homework this week included some word problems. I was surprised and really impressed when she had no problems reading and solving them all by herself. I don't remember doing subtraction until second grade.
However, I think there's a more important change that has come out of the move. Sweet Pea, my child who was reading at the top of her class in first grade had stopped reading. It bothered me. I knew she could handle the advanced material - that wasn't my concern. What upset me more was that she seemed to lose her love of reading. She just couldn't seem to find books that interested her. I even broke down and bought her some Hannah Montana books thinking that if she liked the show then perhaps she'd like the books. I don't think she even opened them.
That has changed. She has begun spending hours each evening reading. It makes my little heart swell with pride and happiness. In fact, she's started reading some of my own personal favorites from my childhood. She just finished Anne of Green Gables, has already tackled Black Beauty and currently has the first Harry Potter for free time at school. She loved Anne as much as I did (although, I admit I was older when I read it...I think in middle school at least). She immediately asked for the second book and when I told her there was a movie she requested a girls day to watch it. I'm looking forward to it. It's something we can share together.
I started thinking about all the other books I was looking forward to sharing with her. Misty of Chincoteague, Circus Shoes, Ballet Shoes, Little House on the Prairie, Gone with the Wind (eventually). I'm really glad that she's finally rediscovered her love of reading. It was so much a part of my childhood and my way to escape into a wonderful world of fantasy and imagination. I wanted that for her too.
So what are your classics? What books do you remember most from your childhood? Do you have a special book or series that you've shared with your children?
P.S. She's also discovered the Disney Fairy books. What can I say? I enjoyed a little Sweet Valley High mixed into the classics too.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Dear Blog Friends,
Sorry to say this, but this will be my last blog. Things have been tougher than usual lately and life is getting shorter and shorter every day. I want to take time and smell the roses. So I am going to quit writing and blogging, and instead I'm going to 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. A photo of my biker gang is below. Don't be sad, just smile.
P.S. And remember my motto: Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body. But rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, a glass of go Cabernet in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
P.P.S. Gotcha! Or maybe not. Maybe y'all know me well enough that this is the absolute LAST thing you'd expect me to do. But don't those guys look like fun? ;-)Anyway, tell me your favorite email joke and one lucky jokester will win a book from my stash.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Like when contest finalists are announced. ~g~
I was up on a ladder Thursday morning, stripping wallpaper from my kitchen, cursing my fate and the people who hung it on unprimed walls with way too much glue, when the phone rang. I debated climbing down the ladder (as you all know, there’s a good chance I’d fall off the ladder at some point anyway, so climbing up and down would just be tempting Fate a little too much), then decided I needed a break anyway.
I didn’t recognize the number, but I’m glad I answered. It was one of the Coordinators for the National Readers’ Choice Awards , sponsored by the Oklahoma RWA, calling to tell me that The Secret Mistress Arrangement was a finalist for Best First Book!
Many phone calls and emails had to be made, and I didn’t make my way back up the ladder for a good while. But when I did go back to the wallpaper stripping, my attitude was much improved.
Imagine my shock when several hours later, I got another call from NRCA, telling me that The Secret Mistress Arrangement was a finalist in the Short Contemporary category as well!
(Note to Lynn and others – no, it never occurred to me that BFB would mean a SC final, too. It was a massive shock.)
This is my first year entering contests with published books instead of manuscripts, so to final – much less double final – is exciting and provides much-needed ego stroking. (Take that, anonymous reviewer who called my book “lame.”)
My Secret Mistress Arrangement is up against some very impressive – and intimidating – competition, including my friend Rhonda Nelson’s Letters From Home. However, it is an honor to final, especially when the competition is so tough.
Winners will be announced at the NRCA reception at the RWA conference in Nashville in July. Very exciting stuff, y’all.
Monday, April 19, 2010
After a particularly harsh period in my writing journey, I decided that I needed some time off. Last week, I didn’t write at all. Not a single word. And it taught me a few things about myself:
1. I used to have a lot more time on my hands. Once upon a time, I wasn’t writing, or thinking about writing and I had an incredible amount of empty time. Returning to that this week felt weird, and sometimes I wandered around the house trying to determine what to do with myself.
2. I can only read, and watch television, so much. I’ve drifted through an entire season of CSI, a couple of movies, and an episode of Castle. I also devoured 5 books, but finally got bored with that too.
3. Depression is, well, depressing, and boredom doesn’t help. I’m used to having so much on my To Do list that I’m overwhelmed. This week, I deliberately didn’t keep a list and didn’t agree to do anything. Hell, I didn’t even clean the house until I got so tired of watching television that I had to have SOMETHING to do (voluntarily washing dishes tells you how truly desperate I was…).
4. When I’m bored, I organize. There have been a couple of times in my life when I’ve been incapacitated for a week or more while recuperating, and usually found myself dreaming up ways to reorganize or redecorate my house. This week, in an effort to feel productive, I spent time organizing materials for the raffle baskets for the upcoming HOD Luncheon, redid my daily planner, and cleaned out files on my computer.
5. No matter how much you might wish it, the characters in your head just NEVER SHUT UP! And this is the crux of the matter. I almost wish they would be quiet, so I’d have an excuse not to write anymore. But they won’t. I hope that is a sign I’m a real writer and that with time and hard work I can reconnect with my creativity on a level that is fulfilling and productive.
I haven’t started writing again yet. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, or maybe next week. Right now, I’m simply playing with the characters in my head, just like I did the first time my very own characters showed up. Not characters from someone else’s books, but my own. And I’m also trying to accustom myself to the idea that I’m about to start a book for which I have no avenues for submission, no ideas what will happen to it when I’m done. It’s scary, intriguing, and necessary. Here’s hoping I learn whatever lesson the universe is trying to teach me. ;)
So tell me, what immersion tactic do you choose when you are “avoiding”? Television? Reading (usually my diversion of choice, but for some reason wasn’t working for me this week)? Scrubbing grout?
On Friday, April 23, author Cara Summers makes a visit to the Playground!
Friday, April 16, 2010
The one at the center looks like this. In reality, it was actually smaller than I anticipated. Just one person wide. There's only one way in and one way out. There was a whole group of us, so a big bunch of them headed straight in. I did not. I didn't want all those people ruining my zen experience. They might represent the 'noise' in my life, but I was willing to hang back until I could walk freely most of the time. Angel and her sister did the same. Instigator and PM jumped right in, no problem.
Personally, I found walking the labyrinth to be a challenge to focus. I chanted a mantra to myself with each step, but it was hard. There were still people coming out as I went in, so I had to step aside a few times. No one was directly ahead of me, but they were all around. I had to force myself to just stare at the ground immediately in front of me. When I reached the center, I sat, let go of my burden and stayed long enough that when I left, I was alone and free on my path. All this says a lot about my life and my writing. Here's what I learned:
1 - If you don't pay attention to where you're going, you'll get off track.
2 - I don't need to worry about what everyone else around me is doing.
3 - I am allergic to grass, yet I walked it barefoot as recommended. Most of the time, my feet were irritatingly itchy and distracting. Just like the rest of my life when I'm trying to write.
4 - Looking over at the center (my goal) and who's already reached it is not helpful.
5 - Its a long and ridiculously winding journey, but I'll never get there if I stop. I might be close, but there's no close in publishing. The only way to get there is to focus on where I am and keep taking one step after the other. That's the only way to make progress.
6 - Achieving your goal is just the beginning of the journey. You've still got a long way to go from there.
Others had good insights. PM found herself stuck in traffic and couldn't move as quickly as she wanted to because of other people. She'd think she was close to being done, then found she still had a long way to go. She ended up hurting herself while trying to accomodate others. Says more than you would ever believe about her life journey, but she learned that you just have to put one foot in front of the other because sometimes any progress is progress. PC said she realized that sometimes you do stuff, even though you don’t fully understand why, and eventually the understanding will come. Instigator learned she doesn't like having a path set out for her. She preferred walking on the stone barriers instead of the grass.
Watching the others walk was certainly educational. I saw some people practically race through it and others jump over to another row in an attempt to get done faster. (Something that could seriously backfire depending on where you are. You could set yourself backward just by being impatient. Another lesson.) What's the point of rushing through it, I ask? I heard a few of them say they realized that they have to work at their own speed, even if its different from everyone else, and without the restrictions of a pre-set course. Pantsters. :)
I heard someone else say that they were surrounded by people, yet utterly alone. Wow. Some people got frustrated and quit. Other people were a distraction to some, but welcome noise to others. Some reached their goal and walked straight out, skipping the winding path to the end. Patience is apparently not a virtue of a writer. Angel mentioned that she saw the others 'cheating' and really wanted to, but couldn't make herself bend the rules and stayed on path. Who knew you could learn so much about people just from watching them walk on grass?
Here's the five of us, having reached the center and achieved our goal! :)
Have you ever walked a labyrinth? What did you get out of it?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I suppose there is the possibility that I'm trying to hard - that I want it to be perfect and sometimes things just aren't. There's also the distinct possibility that I suck at titles. They're tricky things. Sometimes I get to keep the title I turn the book in under. Sometimes I get to have some input on what we change it to. And sometimes my editor tells me what my title's going to be. While I like the input, I'll admit that if I'm struggling I'm usually okay with them telling me what it's going to be. There are smarter people than I in the marketing department and they know what they're doing. I'd be stupid not to let them do their jobs. Their goal and mine are the same - sell my book.
But this does bring me to my original question. How important are titles. Really? I mean do you buy a book just because it has a fantabulous title? I might pick a book up because of a title but ultimately the back cover copy has to grab my attention before I'll buy.
So do you pick up a book in the store based on a title? Is there a title that sticks out in your mind? Something that was funny or evocative? One you really remember even after the fact? If you're a writer, do you have a favorite title? Have you ever gotten to keep your titles or does your publisher always choose them for you?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
How many times have you read a novel, forgotten the plot but remembered a great character? Maven Linda presented a program at our RWA meeting recently about characterization and she told us it's all about the characters and not about the plot. Create a hero and heroine the reader will fall in love with. Make the reader care about what happens to them. Once you've done that, the rest will fall into place.
Last Saturday was my birthday. Last Saturday also marked the passing of actress Dixie Carter. She created one of the most iconic Southern characters ever to appear on television, and I am sad to say good-bye to Julia Sugarbaker.
Designing Women aired from 1986 to 1993 and portrayed the lives of four women who co-owned an interior design firm in Atlanta. Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker were complete opposites. Julia, the older sister, was elegant, eloquent, intellectual and outspoken. Suzanne, the younger sister, was also outspoken, but usually only as it related to her self-centeredness. She was also a former Miss Georgia World and never let you forget it.
Julia and Suzanne were always at odds but had formed Sugarbaker Designs together. Julia managed the firm and Suzanne was the major financial backer. Her money came from her numerous ex-husbands. Mary Jo Shively, a designer and divorced mother of two, and office manager Charlene Frazier, single, naive and a big fan of the tabloids, rounded out the company's roster. In the early seasons, Anthony Bouvier appeared from time to time to do the heavy lifting, but his role was expanded and he became a regular and a partner in the firm. One other character appeared with regularity -- Bernice Clifton, an absent-minded resident of a senior citizens' home who was a friend of the Sugarbaker sisters' mother.
While the show was a comedy, it was also tackled controversial subjects like AIDS, racism, homosexuality, females in the clergy, society's attitudes toward overweight people and spouse abuse.
Back to Dixie Carter for a moment. She was a native of our neighboring state of Tennessee, graduated from Memphis State and was first runner up in the 1959 Miss Tennessee pageant. She did theater in Memphis and then moved to New York City where she appeared on stage and later in daytime dramas. Roles on several TV series eventually led to Designing Women, and recently she appeared on the popular Desperate Housewives in a role that earned her an Emmy award.
Maven Linda told us that one of the secrets to creating memorable characters was to let them go off on tangents. This is where you get to the heart of the character and make them real.
Julia Sugarbaker often went off on tangents. Her famous monologues could move you to tears or blister asphalt. Sometimes she was chastising Mary Jo for considering using an inheritance to buy breast implants. Charlene was frequently reprimanded for reading gossip rags on company time and Anthony's "unfortunate incarceration" for a robbery he did not commit was mentioned from time to time. Frequently, she was taking her sister to task for her shallowness or for bringing her pet pig Noel to the office.
Dixie's character was liberal with left-of-center views, and because she did not share those views, she made a deal with the show's producers that allowed her to sing in an episode for every speech she disagreed with.
I will leave you with this clip from the show. For all their head-butting, Julia was very protective of her friends and especially her sister. It's been said this clip is Julia's most famous tirade. It's certainly my favorite.
After you watch it, let us know if you were a fan of Designing Women. Who was your favorite character? What was your favorite moment on the show? Do you miss it as much as I do?
Rest in Peace, Dixie Carter. Heaven just got another angel.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
And, of course, when it rains it pours. Since I’m having trouble finding anything, of course this is the time when I need to be able to find stuff.
The luncheon is coming up, so Angel needs books for the raffle baskets. Let’s see, my books are in which box? And where are my “Autographed Copy” stickers? A sharpie to sign them with?
On Wednesday, Instigator and I are going to be on TV talking about romance and some of our chapter’s upcoming events. Um, where are my red shoes? My nail file? (My nails look like crap from opening boxes…)
On Thursday, Insti and I (and Lynn and Maven LJ) speak at the Alabama Library Association meeting. I need bookmarks! My little rolly cart to haul the folders into the meeting! And, oh, crap, I still need to write my remarks.
Then, at the end of the month, Lynn and I go to the Romantic Times convention for the first time. This trip involves costumes! Promo items! Cute outfits with matching jewelry! I know where none of these things are, of course.
Then there’s the luncheon… with the added bonus of another workshop the very next day. If I can manage to put together one decent outfit – including shoes and accessories – do you think anyone would notice if I just wore that for everything?
And Nationals is right around the corner. Please tell me we’ll be settled in by July.
As I sort through box after box, I find myself swearing I’ll never move again. Ever. It’s a good thing I like this house. And I do. Really. I have my own office – which is fabulous, even if it is currently a mess. We have so much more space than we used to. I can actually have guests spend the night without them having to either crash on the couch or in AC’s room with the gerbils. (Or I will, at least, once I get furniture for that room…) I’m looking forward to painting the walls and stripping the wallpaper and buying new curtains and making this a home. (Once I find the box with the painting supplies in it…)
So another sigh. But a happy one this time.
It’s funny that Angel blogged yesterday about trying to be Superwoman. I’m not attempting that right now. And I don't think anyone expects me to. While it’s nice to not have that kind of pressure, I’m not sure I like the Survival Mode trade-off of camping indoors and playing “what’s in this box?”
So, if *you* had to guess, what would the box containing bookmarks and other writing promo be labeled as? Because it sure ain’t labeled BOOKMARKS AND WRITING PROMO…
Monday, April 12, 2010
For a long time, I’ve done my darndest to be Superwoman. In addition to writing and trying to publish, I’m also a mother of 2 with a part-time resume writing business, a wife, a daughter, a friend and sister, and active member of my local writing chapter. I’m also a perfectionist in some areas, while I let others slide (like housekeeping and I’ll admit to letting my children watch too much television). I’ve tried to do it all, often suffering from burnout and stress.
Unfortunately, I suffer from a medical condition that is heavily influenced by the amount of stress in my life. Until I started researching my condition I didn’t realize how important the concept of “stress relief” was to me. This is not good, because I have a very difficult time getting outside of the stress in my life and doing anything about it. And while others seem to take the bumps and bruises of life in stride, I tend to take it all to heart and overreact to each and every one (I admit it, Drama Queen gets her nature honestly!). This may not be readily evident to those who aren’t close to me, because I react internally rather than causing a scene, but the women in my life are used to talking me off the ledge on a regular basis (I’m ashamed to admit).
I don’t know if the fact that I’m finally looking at my physical issues with some degree of realism, or if my slide into the last half of my 30th decade is influencing my thinking, but I’m approaching acceptance over the fact that I can’t do it all. I’m not a super mom (even though Little Man likes to pretend he’s Batman). I’m not physically or emotionally capable of doing it all. Because when I attempt to do so, the important things fall through the cracks, pushed aside by everything else with a deadline.
What brought all this self-reflection on, you ask. Well, quite a few things, actually. I won’t bore you with the details. But interacting with the women in my life has taught me that I’m not the only one in this situation. So many of us try to be everything to everyone, because that’s just what women do. We feel guilt when we ask someone to help us or try to delegate a task to someone else. For instance, even though I know that teaching my children to take care of themselves is good for them in the long run, a small part of me insists I should baby them for just a little longer (it isn’t winning, but the little voice is still there). Even though I know there are 4 people who dirty up this house and we should all work to keep it clean, it doesn’t occur to me to ask for help. Sad, but true. Clients call insisting they need something done Right Now, and I find myself cramming more into a day than I can reasonably handle, simply because I feel like I SHOULD.
So today, I simply wanted to share with you my own struggles. Being a writer is a part of who I am, not just some hobby I ‘do’. Oftentimes I feel that the ‘writer’ part of me is submerged beneath the demands of my life and my own demands upon myself. Writers are people too. :) In my books, I often portray heroines who “come into their own”, who find their place in the world and learn the true strength that lies within them. Many days, I don’t feel nearly as strong. I’m not Superwoman. I’m just me.
Do you struggle with “Superwoman Syndrome”? How do you combat it?
Friday, April 09, 2010
Burdened by Grief, She Hunts a KillerThey never found her sister's body, but Detective Rebecca Montgomery knows her murderer is still out there. In the five months since Danielle went missing, there have been two more brutal abductions. A savage menace stalks the women of San Antonio, and the relentless detective will do anything to find him.
And a Seductive Stranger Shadows Her Every Move
But her latest case--the discovery of a young woman's remains inside the wall of a burned-down theater--plunges Rebecca from her grief into a brand-new nightmare. She soon meets handsome, mysterious Diego Galvan at the crime scene, and his shadowy connections will lead to her first break in both cases. But when Rebecca submits to his considerable powers of seduction, she will leave herself vulnerable to a merciless killer . . . and when he attacks, no one will hear her scream.
The Inquisitor by Gayle Wilson
An expert in the art of killing
The serial murderer dubbed the Inquisitor has already killed over a dozen women in various cities, and the authorities haven't a clue to his identity. He is organized, methodical and certain to kill again. And now he's set his sights on Birmingham psychologist Jenna Kincaid.
Convinced that the Inquisitor killed his only sister, ex-army Ranger Sean Murphy has been hunting for him with one thing in mind: revenge. If his instincts are right, Jenn Kincaid will lead him to his prey.
But Jenna has gotten to Sean in a way that no one has in a very long time. And now he's desperate to keep her safe -- because the madman is taking a terrifying pleasure in the game unfolding. And if the killer wins, it's Jenn who will pay the ultimate price . . .
To enter, be sure to include the comment "Danger is my cup of tea."
Tomorrow is also our Playground Monitor's birthday. Happy Birthday PM!
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Zilla got into the act as well. In fact, during one of the last plays I did we played love interests. We had just gotten engaged and I had a habit of putting my hand on his rear whenever we stood together. The director go so tired of telling me not to do that on stage! It was kind of funny...and embarrassing. But it was so fun to share that experience with him.
So what does this have to do with Theater Thursday? Well, for one I thought it might be fun to actually talk about theater. And for another I've been fighting back the urge to audition for months. I haven't done a show in years. I miss it. The problem is that it takes over your life for at least two months. I just don't have the time.
But I feel the itch. I've even started looking at getting Baby Girl involved. I got my start at our local children's theater and I honestly think Baby Girl would love it (and fit right in. Have I mentioned the time I caught her practicing her expressions in the mirror at 3?) The problem is, if I don't have the time to be at practice late into the night three days a week for the next two months then I really don't have the time to take her either.
So I've been suppressing the urge. I'm just not sure how much longer I can do it. Oh well, I will be able to get my fix when I take the girls to a local show. One of our high schools will be staging Beauty and the Beast in the next couple weeks. I hope they love it...and I don't come away from the show grasping for the paper and looking for auditions.
Have you ever done theater? Were you the green bean in the kindergarten school play? Or do you just love to be an audience member?
P.S. I'll be blogging today over at the Blaze Author's blog talking about our guinea pig infestation. Stop by and say hi! :-)
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Let’s start with a little ancient history.
I grew up in the piedmont section of North Carolina, in a small town called Concord. The town, and many of the surrounding ones, was dotted with textile mills, and many of my family members, including my late father, worked in those mills. My father worked in one of the hosiery mills, and during my early years, he helped manufacture women’s full-fashioned stockings – the ones with seams up the back. When seamless hosiery became the rage, that mill closed, and Daddy had to find work in another mill. Not to brag or anything, but we always considered ourselves a cut above the cotton mill folks. Cotton mill workers emerged from work with lint in their hair. But there’s no lint on nylon. ;-)
These mills were the bread and butter of the local economy, and the largest was Cannon Mills, home of Cannon product sheets and towels. Cannon wasn’t just one mill; it was a collection of operations spread around the county and at one point was the world’s largest producer of textile products, employing 15,000 people.
In 2005, Plant 1 of Cannon Mills was demolished. It covered an area the size of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Over the next year and a half, remaining buildings of Cannon Mills were demolished by implosion. Over 1,200,000 square feet of building space was destroyed, making it the third largest building implosion in the history of the United States.
Huntsville, Alabama, the town where I live, was part of the textile trail that ran from New England down the eastern seaboard, the trail that included my hometown.
Lowe Mill opened in 1901 as Huntsville’s eighth textile mill and produced yarn, gingham and shirts. Six years later it merged with another manufacturing company, and in 1931, Lowe Manufacturing declared bankruptcy in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Two years later, in 1933, the mill reopened but was involved in a tension-filled strike a year later. The mill was sold again a few years later, the Lowe Corporation was dissolved and the mill was turned into a warehouse.
In 1945, during the waning days of World War II, the facility became a shoe factory and by the late 1960’s it produced most of the boots worn by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. But like many other mills before it, Genesco Shoes closed in 1978 and the building was purchased and once again became a warehouse.
In the years since, Huntsville’s other mills have been destroyed, either by demolition or fire. But Lowe Mill survived thanks to a group of historians, businessmen and philanthropists. Lowe Mill Village, which includes a collection of houses generally rented to mill employees, escaped the wrecking ball thanks to these people, and over the last decade, the building has been restored and revitalized into Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment, a collection of diverse artisans and businesses devoted to the free expression of the arts.
Lowe Mill includes private studios and art galleries featuring works in a variety of mediums, shops such as Karma Rags and Fred Bread, and the Flying Monkey Arts Center. A decaying textile mill now teems with activity and life.
I was introduced to Lowe Mill back in February when several girlfriends invited me to attend a performance of The Vagina Monologues with them. Since then, I discovered that a church friend has an art studio there and I’ve been back several times to explore what Lowe Mill has to offer. The first time I visited the Saturday Artists’ Market, I felt as if I’d been transported back to the 1960’s. Of course, conventional wisdom says if you remember the 60’s, you weren’t really there. ;-)
If you live in this area and have not visited Lowe Mill, I encourage you to do so. It’s a unique experience. If you’re somewhere else, click to their website and check it out. In another part of town, the Merrimack Mill was demolished, but the old Company Store building has been turned into Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center, and the mill homes surrounding it are on the National Register of Historic Places. As a matter of fact, one of our RWA chaptermates, Debra Webb, has been restoring a home in Merrimack Village for the past several years.
Do you have anything like this in your area? It may not be in an old textile mill, but you might be surprised at what’s happened to an old school or retail facility.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Oprah used to talk about Gratitude Journals, where you write down five things each day that you’re thankful for. Can it help you find some inner peace or happiness? I don’t know, because I’ve never taken the time to do it. Mainly because I’m behind on my thank-you notes, and if I’m going to take the time to write down what I’m grateful for, I should damn well be thanking the person responsible in a written format.
Yes, today’s Tasteful Tuesday is about Thank-You notes.
Every etiquette maven, from Miss Manners to my own Miss Behavior, lectures about the importance of Thank-You notes. You can also put my mom in that group. ~grin~ The importance of Thank-You notes was instilled in me from a very young age, usually through threats of either not getting to play with said gift until I wrote the note or the possibility that I would not receive more presents from the giver unless proper notes were sent.
I will confess: these are the same threats I use with AC.
(I can guarantee there’s at least one person reading this who is thinking, “Um, PC owes me a Thank-You note. Pot, meet Kettle.” I know, and I’m sorry. I’ll get on that ASAP.)
Thank-You notes don’t have to be fancy or long, but they do have a few standards. I won’t lecture anyone here, but if you need a refresher in the writing of thank-yous, there’s a great article here.
My favorite tale to tell on my mom and her thank-you note crusade dates back to my high school graduation. Like most graduates, many of my gifts were money stuffed in cards. My mom’s youngest brother sent money as well. Now my uncle is only eleven years older, and as directed by my mom for years, I was trying to personalize each thank you note to the giver (but there are only so many ways to say “thanks for your generosity” when you’re seventeen years old.). But Fred’s note was easy to write, because I told him exactly what I did with the money: I bought tickets to the Aerosmith concert. (The Pump tour, for you Aerosmith fans.)
Mom was horrified, but I knew Uncle Fred would be very pleased to know I’d attended said concert. He would think it was an excellent use of the funds, and would possibly be disappointed he couldn’t go as well. I got great seats and the concert ROCKED! (My only regret is my date. He was a waste of a concert ticket.)
And I was right. My uncle was happy to learn I’d used his gift for such a great event. (I used money from another gift to buy a t-shirt while I was there, but I didn’t tell the sender of that gift I used the money for that. That person probably wanted me to buy college textbooks or something equally boring or proper, so I let them think I did. Everyone was happy.)
So, are you behind on your thank-you notes? Ever had to figure out the proper wording to thank someone for the tackiest gift you immediately gave to Goodwill? Have you received any “interesting” thank yous? Or, have you started wondering why the thank you note has become a rare thing (and can you still name the people who didn’t send you a thank-you note for that wedding present you sent five years ago)?
P.S. Congratulations to Kathy, Julie Miller's winner from last Thursday. Please forward me your snail mail address so we can get your copy of Takedown out to you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, April 05, 2010
This month’s hottie has garnered lots of notoriety as a modern, ancient, and futuristic warrior in movies like the most recent Terminator, Avatar, and the newly released Clash of the Titans. I SO hope to see this movie in theaters, though I’m not holding out much hope that I’ll find time to go. Still, I can post him here for our viewing pleasure… I mean, inspiration. ;)
What guy doesn’t look better wet?
Even all nasty from fighting, he's still hot, hot, hot!
May this month's hottie spark visions of hot summer days and hunky heroes for all!
Saturday, April 03, 2010
Instigator teaches us about revisions in school this month in You Thought You Were Done?.
I've reviewed erotic author Beth Kery's new book, Release. Check out this new-to-me author.
This is the last month in Smarty Pants's Spring Fling contest, so if you haven't entered, don't forget to do that!
The Playfriends will be appearing at Heart of Dixie's 13th annual Romance Readers Luncheon (guest speaker Julia London) in Huntsville, AL, on May 15th! Deadline for registration for this wonderful gathering of romance readers and writers is May 1st. Y'all join us!
We hope you are all enjoying spring in your little corner of the world. My Bradford pear trees have started blooming and we had the lawn mowed for the first time already. No more snow! Yay! :)
Until next month,
Friday, April 02, 2010
And that is why, this year, I'm mildly depressed. I started with a personal trainer about two weeks ago. For purposes of anonymity (and alliteration) I'll be calling her Wendy the Wicked on the blog. I prepaid 7 months of sessions, so I'm certain there will be a great many more blogs about the wackiness that ensues when Wendy the Wicked comes after me with that damned medicine ball.
Anyway, along with the training was a diet she recommended. No beef, no pork, no sugar. I'm limited to one potato a day (which can be french fries!) but I can have unlimited fruit, vegetables and whole wheat products. No beef, no pork has been easy enough. There's a couple things I'll miss, but I'm not much of a meat eater anyway. But the sugar.... oh, the sugar!
To prepare myself, I went to the store and scoured the shelves for my sugar free options. Russell Stovers and Hershey both make quite a few types of candy. I got a couple little bags, some SF chocolate chips to make my own cookies if I need to (I didn't even know they made these), SF creamcicles and some Murray's cookies. Normally I wouldn't bring home bags of candy, cookies and ice cream, but its not like I can pop over to the vending machine and get it, so I have to have stuff on hand to avert diet disaster. Doing okay so far. I don't mind the taste and you can't eat a lot of it cause it will make you sick. Instant portion control.
My only problem is Easter. Despite how much I've looked, they just don't make much in the way of sugar free Easter candy. Even Russell Stover's doesn't make a SF Bunny or coconut egg or anything. I haven't done a bunch of internet searching, just perusing the stores so far. My only shining discovery has been finding Sugar Free Peeps at Walmart. The idea of a marshmellow rolled in sugar that is sugar free boggles my mind. I have no idea what it is I'll actually be eating, but my choices are limited, so there is my Easter indulgence.
I can't say that I won't break down and have a Cadbury egg before Monday rolls around, but I'm trying to be good. Any of you guys have diets colliding with your holiday plans? Seen any sugar free Easter candy in your neck of the woods?
Thursday, April 01, 2010
RT Does Series Romance Right
Ha! Tricked you. You thought I’d be blogging about April Fool’s Day today. I figured most bloggers on the web would be, so I opted for something different. I’m just one of those out-in-left field kind of gals.
Happy spring! Besides the thankful end (fingers crossed!) to all the snow and cold of our long winter in Nebraska, did you know that spring is also the time for the Romantic Times Convention?
That’s right, the magazine/website that profiles authors and publishers, and reviews so many wonderful books every month also hosts an annual Book Lovers’ Convention. This year it’s being held in Columbus, Ohio at the Hyatt Regency Hotel from April 28-May 2. I call RT a “schmoozefest.” It’s a great opportunity for readers to meet with their favorite authors, to network with readers and librarians and booksellers and authors and publishing professionals, to pick up LOTS of books (many of them free!) and other goodies from authors and publishers, for aspiring authors to get some one-on-one advice from established authors and attend several invaluable sessions led by authors and industry professionals, to meet some gorgeous cover models, and to have a boat load of fun! Whew!
This year, in particular, I had the honor of being selected to captain the Series Romance panels at the convention. That means lining up some of your favorite Series Romance authors to speak at not one, but two, different workshops. I’ve also arranged for Harlequin/Silhouette/Kimani/Spice to give away free books to workshop attendees—and we’ll have a stellar bag of books, goodies and prizes to give away to one lucky winner at each workshop. This is a win-win event for everyone who comes to RT (have you registered yet? If not, check out all the details at http://guest.cvent.com/EVENTS/Info/Summary.aspx?e=39f9fb57-5ebc-49a4-b572-a2316b792e98). Free books? Great prizes? Your favorite authors? Some so new, their books haven’t been released yet. Plus, reader favorites and NYT and USA Today bestselling authors. They ALL write Series Romance. And they’ll be at the convention to meet with you.
RT is doing an amazing job of promoting Series Romance this year. Check their website, flyers and magazine. And check out the great reviews Series romance books are getting now. Series Romance books are no longer just those books that your great aunt Fifi read. They’re comfort reads. Thrilling reads. Emotional reads. Complete reads. They aren’t just a stepping-stone to writing single title books. They make bestseller lists. Single title authors are looking to break in to Series Romance. In fact, they’re the biggest, most consistently-selling section of the romance market during these tough economic times. RT even features at least one Series romance cover on the Top Pick! page of their magazine now.
My workshop authors will be on hand to answer questions about their books, the lines they write for, and more. If you’re a writer, we’ll be talking about tips and tricks for breaking into the series romance market, and about how you can have a career writing series romance. So come and pick our brains (gently, if you don’t mind). If you’re a reader, this is your chance to ask about favorite characters or tell us about story trends you’d like to see (or would like to see go away ;))
And if registering for the convention is out of the question for your time or pocketbook, how about coming by the hotel to attend one of the two great author booksignings—one for ebook and independent publishers on Friday evening, and another huge signing on Saturday of the conference featuring the print (and Series Romance!) authors in attendance. You may bring your own books to have them signed (be sure to register them when you enter) or purchase the latest release by your favorite author.
Now, let me rattle off the names of the Series Romance authors who’ll be at RT on the Series Romance panels with me. Brenda Jackson. Debra Webb. The Playground’s own Problem Child, Kimberly Lang. Lisa Childs. Anne Calhoun (a brand-new Spice Briefs author with 3 upcoming releases!). Delores Fossen. Ann Voss Peterson. Kimberly Kaye Terry. Nina Bruhns. Donna Hill. Lynn Raye Harris. And yours truly, of course.
Sounds pretty diverse and exciting to me. I hope we can see lots of readers there. I’m not schlepping all these books and prizes on the plane for nothing
So, tell me what you love about Series Romance. What are your favorite lines? Authors? What would you like to see more of/less of in Series Romance books?
If you haven’t read a Series Romance in a while (and especially if you’re a big fan!), I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my April release from Harlequin Intrigue, TAKEDOWN. It’s everything you love about romantic suspense packed into a neat package that you can read fairly quickly. And then move on to your next Series Romance novel!
I’ll give away a copy of TAKEDOWN to one lucky poster today.