Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A rant, a PSA, and unsexy pirates

As you know, I have Google Alerts set up for my name and the titles of my books. These let me know when someone has kindly (or not-so-kindly) reviewed my book or mentioned me on a blog. I like to go check them out, and when appropriate, leave a comment to let them know I appreciate the plug for me or my books.

Unfortunately, like many authors, many of the Google Alerts I get are for illegal downloads of my books.

Pirate sites: the bane of anyone who has intellectual property they’d like to remain control of.

Some folks have objected to the use of the word “pirate,” as it brings up romanticized notions of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, but “pirate” really refers more to the mangy, unwashed thieves of olden days. No offense to my fellow romance authors who write lovely books about sexy pirates, but outside of Romancelandia, pirates aren’t in the least bit sexy or exciting.

Now, I’m not accusing any of our Honorary Playfriends of participating in piracy and theft of intellectual property. I assume that if you’re here, hanging out on author blogs, you appreciate that authors – like everyone else – like to be paid for the work they do. After all, they, too, have mortgages, kids who need braces, power bills… and the books they write are how they pay for those things.

Consider this more of a rant and a helpful argument you can use the next time you hear someone talking about how great it is that so much stuff is available for free out there on the internet.

Many pirates are proud of what they’re doing. They ignore take-down notices and brag about their thievery. Some will argue that they’re doing the authors a favor – suggesting that they’re advertising for the authors. Very few are repentant when the law is pointed out to them. Some assume that authors are rich and therefore aren’t hurt by the loss of sales (but some pirates do get a kick out of the possibility that the author might be!). I’ve seen some stunning – yet tragically flawed – arguments that intellectual property doesn’t have the right to protection.

The cold fact is that piracy does hurt authors. It hurts their bottom line as they aren’t getting a royalty off a pirated book. It also hurts them when the pirates cut so deeply into sales that the publisher decides not to invest money in the author’s next book. This hurts readers, too – if publishers don’t offer new contracts to authors or authors can’t pay their bills off their writing, then that’s fewer books from that author for the reader to enjoy.

Some ISPs are very responsive – shutting down the site entirely. Some legitimate file-sharing sites will quickly pull down illegally uploaded material. Others don’t care. I could spend days doing nothing but sending take-down notices, but that’s time taken away from my writing and is often as productive as banging my head against a wall.

(And yes, I dream of uploading some kind of horrible virus to every pirate site, but did you know creating viruses and setting them loose is illegal too? ~sigh~)

But one thing I have learned is that some readers don’t *know* that they’re not getting a legitimate copy. After all, publishers do give away free books and there are many sources for buying ebooks online. And with everyone’s pocketbook feeling the pinch these days, a cheap copy of a favorite author’s book is tempting. But how do you know if you’re unwittingly supporting pirates? A quick checklist:

1) Yes, publishers do often give away free downloads. 99.9 percent of the time, this will happen on one of their websites. And it will not be every author and every book they publish.

2) A big or very popular blog may also have the occasional giveaway. The author herself may have free copies to give away. The chances of some random blogger being the portal for publisher-approved free downloads are very, very slim. If they do have free copies provided by the publisher, those copies will be limited in number. The file won’t just be on their site available for download by anyone who comes along, and they won’t just randomly send it to you because you ask. Any site that has hundreds of titles from multiple publishers listed for free, immediate, and unlimited download is an illegal site.

3) * Anyone who says they’ll send you the book on a disk is a pirate. All legitimate e-book retailers do business through downloads. Period.

4) * Anyone who is selling ebooks through eBay is a pirate. Unlike paperbacks, there is no “used” market for ebooks.

*This only applies to titles that were published through your standard publishers (like Harlequin, Pocket, etc). Yes, there are some authors out there who have written and self-published their own titles and are selling them in various ways – including on disk. But trust me when I tell you Harlequin has not moved to letting just anyone on eBay be an official retailer of their books.

One eBay seller claimed to have purchased the rights to resell the books they’d listed. Either the seller was lying or they’d been had. Publishers still get their cut from the ebooks sold on legit sites, and there are multiple hoops and contracts and such that those online retailers deal with to be a distributor of the books. The right to sell copyrighted material on behalf of the publisher is not a quick-and-easy one-time form. Legit online retailers still have to pay the publisher and report sales – otherwise, how does the author get paid?

And here’s the kicker: It’s not only illegal to upload copyrighted materials to the internet for free distribution, it’s illegal to download them as well. Remember when the RIAA went after grandmothers and high school students and slapped them with fines for downloading illegal content? The pirates are guilty, but those who download from pirate sites are just as guilty – even if they didn’t know the site was a pirate site. It’s the digital equivalent of receiving stolen goods.

There are some things you – as a lover of books – can do to help the piracy problem.

If you find an author’s books available for free (or really impossibly cheap) downloading, email the link to the author or the publisher. They’ll thank you for it. If it’s a pirate site, the author and the publisher can file the appropriate paperwork with the ISP, the site owner, and the FBI. If the site’s legit, no harm has been – or will be – done. On sites like eBay or blogs run through Blogspot, you can report them yourself. (Be a crusader!! But still send us the link.)

Don’t let your kids download copyrighted material. If your friends/relatives/coworkers brag about how they found this great site with all kinds of free books and movies and software, call them on it. Remind them that online theft of intellectual property is no different than shoving a book or a CD down your pants and sneaking out of the store. (Since files are such intangible things, people don’t necessarily make that connection for some reason.)

Piracy isn’t a victimless crime, nor is it one that never gets prosecuted. And while the uploaders can get fined and/or jail time, and the downloaders normally get fined, I’d really like to see us put the Pirate attitude back in piracy. Keel-hauling sounds pretty good, doncha think?

(And yes, I do know that there are scant few people out there who can say they’ve never participated in any kind of piracy. Who hasn’t burned a CD for a friend? Or made a mix tape for a boyfriend back in 1985? It’s all illegal, but it’s the scope and frequency that the internet allows that really chaps my butt.)

So, putting any past sins (like that mix tape) aside, who do you think is more guilty: the pirates who upload or the folks who download? Does it come down to supply vs. demand?


~Don't forget that debut author Melanie Dickerson will be here tomorrow!~

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

Recently a conversation with a friend got me thinking about the books I grew up reading, especially as a teenager, and their influence on my life. Yes, romance books introduced me to more sex than my mother wanted me to know about, but I also learned a few other things along the way.

Two important things that come to mind—

1. Falling in love meant respecting each other.
Even if they started out surly, heroes did not belittle, dismiss, or tell the woman they wanted to spend the rest of their life with how stupid or useless they were.

2. There is hope for a better way of life.
No matter what life throws at you (conflict, sorrow, betrayal, etc.) there is hope for a better life, a better love, if you keep striving for it. And above all, there is hope for someone who cares to go through it with you.

I think I’d be in a very different place in my life, a much darker place, if I hadn’t learned those lessons and many more. (I’ve also learned that those lessons are also true, instead of just fairy tales, like some people claim.) Which makes me very grateful to authors like Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, Francine Rivers, and so many more.

So tell me, what did you learn from your early reading? What change did your life’s direction take because of those books? Who were your first favorite authors?


Coming Soon!
Join us this Wednesday, September 1, as we welcome debut inspirational author Melanie Dickerson!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sucker is Spelled "S-m-a-r-t-y-P-a-n-t-s"

A week ago, if you told me I would be writing this blog post, I would've laughed and cursed you for even suggesting such a thing. And yet, here I am at my desk, picking long, white wiry hair off my shirt and wondering how I got here.
DB and I have two dogs - a pit bull mix and a beagle mix. They're small, about 30-35 pounds and full of energy. We've had them for four or five years. That, combined with my two cats I've had ten years, was more than enough pet owning for me. Too much, really. These are my last cats, for sure. Dogs, maybe, but 4 was definitely my animal capacity.

Tuesday morning, I wake up to much hullaballoo about the time DB gets home from work. He called me. "Don't let the dogs out, there's a wolf in the front yard." Um...kay.

The wolf turned out to be a giant Siberian Husky with the biggest, ice-blue eyes you've ever seen. I had to go to work, so I didn't worry too much about it, but I could see the look in DB's eyes. He was in doggie love. He barely got any sleep as he tried to track down the owner, but we didn't have any luck as his license was old and from the breeder, who sold him.

I could feel us slipping into the abyss. DB called me the next day and told me "they" were going for a ride in his truck. They went to Tennessee to buy lotto tickets and get a hamburger. By the time I got home from work Wednesday, I knew that this giant furball wasn't going anywhere. He slept in bed with us last night. I'm doomed.

So now, I have five animals. *sigh* Two little cats, two small-medium dogs, and one giant, furry horse that masquerades as a dog. It was hard for me to say no. He's really sweet. Mellow. Good with kids (as every neighborhood child was drawn to us like a magnet when I was walking him). He listens to commands. Doesn't bark. I honestly have no complaints about him aside from him shedding like crazy. He and my male pit bull aren't buddy-buddy yet, but the beagle tolerates him alright. Wish I could say the same of the cats. He won't rest until he had them both treed like squirrels.

But he does like the couch. And me. I didn't realize how much I missed having a big dog. Of course, I still love my others (and have to keep pestering DB to give them equal attention) but... I'm such a sucker.

Do you have a soft spot for animals? How many do you have at home and what kind? Have your kids or husbands ever brought something home against your will? I have a hard time telling this face, no.


PS. Angel's winner from Monday is catslady! Email your info to angel@writingplayground.com to claim your prize!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guest Blog - Tawny Weber

Tawny Weber is no stranger to the Playground. She's been with us before and we absolutely love it when she stops by! It's always fun to see what she has in store. So, please give Tawny a warm Playground welcome.

Fantasy Vacation

Summer is winding its way to an end and I’m winding up for a new release this week! Both of these had me thinking… My book, RIDING THE WAVES, opens with my heroine’s fantasy vacation. Well, for her it’s more living out a boy toy fantasy while ON vacation, but my thoughts turned more to the whole vacation itself dream.

There are as many versions of fantasy vacations as there are vacationers. I know people who’d kill for a vacation in Europe, others whose idea of a great time is kayaking and camping. Both sound fun, but also sound like work. Educational, healthy, exciting. But not quite my version of vacation fantasy. My kids adore Disneyland for vacation, but as much as I love the Mouse, spending the day with a few thousand strangers waiting in line to for an elevator to take a dive isn’t quite my idea of relaxation. And road trips? Oh no, that’s more nightmare than fantasy in my book!

So then what is my fantasy vacation? It all revolves around pure indulgence. A warm beach is preferable, but I’d take a nice lakeside resort in a pinch. Just as long as there is water. A great bar, with a cute bartender who flirts just a little, and keeps my margarita glass topped off with a deliciously frothy, perfect margarita. A fabulous spa would be available, with a masseuse with hands like magic. Romantic restaurants with delicious –and shockingly low-calorie—meals, soft music playing in the background. And a hotel suite filled with sensual pleasure (not that kind!) Silk sheets, velvet pillows and the scent of flowers wafting in from the French doors leading to a balcony that overlooks the water.

Yep. That’s my fantasy. Pure relaxing indulgence.

Have I been able to live out that fantasy yet? Nope. But it’s on my dream list now and I’m hoping to make it a reality someday soon.

How about you? What is your fantasy vacation? And have you taken it yet? Did you get to have a vacation this summer and how was it?

Ooh, one of my most favorite topics...running away from home. :-) Be sure to comment because Tawny is giving away a copy of her newest release RIDING THE WAVES to one lucky commenter. Thanks for visiting with us, Tawny!
P.S. Playground Monitor's winner from yesterday is Rebekah E. Please send your snail mail info to Playground Monitor to claim your prize.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

These are a few of our favorite things

A week or so before the RWA conference last month, I realized I needed a full-length mirror. Up til then I'd been making do with standing as far back from the bathroom mirror as possible or even catching my reflection in the sliding glass door. But that wasn't cutting it, so I went on a search for some sort of full-length mirror that would hang over a door.

I live in an apartment now and while they don't mind that I put nails and screws in the walls for art work and curtain rods, I thought they might frown on the mounting hardware for a mirror on a door. I'd dearly love a cheval mirror, but I have no room for it. As luck would have it, I found the perfect mirror at the first store I visited. Once home I pulled out my handy dandy pink girly tool kit (a gift from the Playfriends) and prepared to mount the over-the-door hooks. Then I spied a little package of something else and discovered something I think is one of the greatest things since sliced bread.

Command Picture Hanging Strips.

They use the same adhesive technology as regular Command strips that allow you to hang things damage free on walls. But these picture hanging strips are like Velcro with the Command adhesive on it. I decided to try this because it would give me a more finished look. I stuck the Velcro-like pieces together, pulled the liners off and positioned one on each corner of the mirror. Then I pulled the rest of the liners off and positioned the mirror on the back of my bedroom door. I held it in place for a minute, them gently lifted from the bottom and pulled the mirror away from the door. One set of strips stayed on the door and one on the mirror. An hour later I stuck the mirror back up and fully expected to hear it come crashing down in the middle of the night.

The mirror's still there.

Yesterday I put a cork bulletin board on the closet door in my office/spare bedroom. It's still there too.

These little things are FABULOUS! I've loved the regular Command hooks since they came out, but the picture hanging strips are now on my list of favorite things.

I figured others had favorite things too, so I polled my Facebook friends and some other friends on various Yahoo loops and have compiled a list of things that make like special or easy. I told them up front to just skip computers, cell phones and DVRs because those are a given.

Here, in no particular order, are the responses I received:

~ Digital camera
~ Handheld calculator -- my first one in 1975 cost $25 and only had 4 functions. Now they give away free ones that will also compute percentages and square roots.
~ Cordless phones and answering machines
~ Ball point pens
~ Birth control pills
~ Polio vaccine (and any other vaccine too)
~ Superglue
~ Disposable diapers
~ Fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water
~ Sunless tanning lotion
~ Microwave oven
~ Wireless networks
~ Caller ID
~ Fleece
~ Microfiber
~ Electric kettle (I know I love mine)
~ Memory foam
~ Netflix
~ Post It Notes
~ Mechanical pencils
~ Remotes -- car, TV, garage door
~ My own washer and dryer as opposed to visiting the coin laundry each week
~ The Popeil Pocket Fisherman (I have some weirdo friends)

But my absolute favorite answer was this:

Yeah, I rather like the ones in my bathrooms too. I'm old enough to remember the chamber pot my grandmother put under the end of the bed at night because the bathroom was off the backporch and unheated.

What are YOUR favorite things? What makes life special or easy for you?

One commenter will win a book from the stash I brought home from the conference!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Odds and Ends

Just a few things today that I've been meaning to mention, but they didn't warrant their own posts. So I'm combining them today into one miscellaneous post...

I -- along with 125 other authors -- was asked to submit a recipe to the Snap4Kids cookbook fundraiser. (I sent my grandmother's recipe for yeast rolls.) Snap4Kids helps special needs children and their families with info and resources as well as grants for therapeutic equipment. The cookbooks are ready to be pre-ordered and will be shipped after November 1 -- just in time for Christmas. Wonderful gifts for a good cause. You can order yours here.

The editors at Mills & Boon are running another contest -- this time in a very public way! The New Voices competition opens on Sept. 6, with American Idol-style voting and everything. It's a great way to get your stuff in front of the M&B editors and start building a fan base. You can find all the information here.

A huge welcome to the most beautiful nephew in the world. Born Friday, August 13th, at a very healthy 9lbs, 11 ozs, Baby James is one cutie-patootie! Looks just like his daddy. We've already bought plane tickets to the UK for Christmas so we can meet the newest addition to the family. AC is thrilled to have a cousin.

And finally, if you're in our neck of the woods (Huntsville/North Alabama), there's a book signing this Friday at the Main Library in downtown Huntsville. Full details are here. Want to see me talk about the event -- and a few other things -- on the local news? Oh yeah, click here.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Girls' Night Out!

If you are a regular reader, you know that last week was a rough one on the Playground. I myself had to deal with two car breakdowns and client confusion. Yikes!

But then on Saturday night a bunch of ladies from our RWA chapter (including most of the Playfriends) met up at the local bookstore in support of one of our Mavens, Beverly Barton, who was having a book signing.

Yes, its great to see our wonderful Maven and be there as she visited our town, though she definitely had enough fans show up that she wouldn’t have been lonely without us. But we also had lots of fun simply hanging out in the coffee shop and plotting out new books, fixing problem plots, and simply catching up on progress.

As women, I think we all recognize the renewing power of a night out with the girls. Afterward, you feel refreshed and problems don’t seem so huge. After a night out with fellow writers, I also feel energized to write again (I came home and wrote 4 more pages) and happy from spending time with others who “get” it.

So let’s head wipe the slate clean and start a new week this Monday. Tell me your favorite activity or thing to kick the doldrums! (Is a week away an option?) One commenter will win a copy of one of Beverly’s books.


Coming Soon!
This Thursday, August 26, we welcome author Tawny Weber to the Playground. Drop by for a good chat and encouragement. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

So, I'm going to break with this week's theme and talk about something a little more upbeat. This year's conference was a little weird for me. A little conference, a little Harry Potter, a little Disney, a lot of foot pain and an overabundance on sweatiness. I may never set foot in Florida in July again, if I can help it. And yet, despite all that, I was determined to make the most of the trip.

While visiting Epcot, we rode on the Finding Nemo ride in the Living Seas. The ride is cute, you sit in a big clamshell and go through watching the characters dance around amongst the coral, then they even manage to project the characters into a tank with real fish so it looks like they're swimming around with the animals. Whether you're a seven year old girl or a sweaty thirty-something, you have to appreciate the 5 minutes of air conditioned darkness, and of course, the chance to enjoy a few of my favorite characters, including Dory.

I love Dory. Way back in the day, I remember Ellen Degeneres' stand up routine where she talked about being a goldfish with short term memory problems. It was hysterical. Seeing it translate into a character on screen is even better. But even a silly fish who can't manage to keep up with much more than her own name can pass on wisdom. At one point in the movie, Marlin is upset because he thinks he may never find his missing son, Nemo. Dory makes this suggestion...

Hey, Mr. Grump Gills!
You know what you gotta do when life gets you down?

Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

It's a simple message. A silly one, even as she sings it and darts around in the ocean. But even this can be applied to life and writing.

I've been at this a while. There's big ups, big downs and a lot of mediocre dead space in between. But in the end, if you want to succeed, you've gotta keep swimming. (Singing optional.)

What's your favorite Disney cartoon? Any nuggets of wisdom you've gathered from them that you can share?


Huntsville Area Book Signing
If you live in northern Alabama, one of our fabulous Mavens--Beverly Barton--is having a reading and signing of her new book Don't Cry at the Books-a-Million at 1001 Memorial Parkway in Huntsville, AL, tomorrow Saturday, August 21, from 7-9pm. Hope we see you there!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Theme Week

We seem to have a theme going on the Playground this week so I thought I'd continue it. :-) Something has been bugging the snot out of me for months now and I've finally reached my breaking point.

I hate when my bluetooth lies to me!
I don't know what the heck is wrong with it. There is no rhyme or reason. But at random times (read whenever it wants) it'll tell me that it's calling so and so but never actually dial. In most cases, I only use the voice dialing feature when I'm in the car which means that picking the phone up and hand dialing the number defeats the purpose of the bluetooth in the first place. Seriously. Frustrating.

I've tried to figure out what's wrong. I've charged it thinking it was losing power and getting wonky...did it immediately after a full night plugged in. There is no rhyme or reason for who it does this to, Zilla, my mom, Smarty Pants, Applebee's... It doesn't just happen during busy times like rush hour or early morning. I can not come up with a cause for the behavior other than the thing wants to screw with my brain.

I realize that I'm giving this inanimate hunk of plastic more credit than it probably deserves, but I swear it waits until the worst possible moment to malfunction and then does it on purpose. Anyone else have a piece of technology that periodically revolts? We've had a rash of messed up plumbing, misbehaving cars, crashing computers and short circuiting printers on the playground over the last week. Are we alone in our misery? Anyone have a suggestion for how I can get my bluetooth to straight up and fly right?


P.S. Congratulations to DonnaS, Smarty Pants winner from last week. Please email her at smartypants@writingplayground.com in order to claim your prize.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And so it goes

Like Problem Child, I too take my blogging duties seriously, but sometimes...

My foot is doing well after the surgery nearly two weeks ago. I had the stitches removed on Monday and aside from it looking like an experiment straight out of Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory, the foot looks and functions pretty well. I won't gross you out with any foot photos. But here's the Buddha I found for my foyer. I rub his belly whenever I can.

But apparently I didn't get Buddha soon enough. Late Sunday night, when I was really in the writing zone and the words were just flowing onto the page, I heard a drip, drip, drip, drip and went into my living room to see water dripping from the smoke detector mounted on the ceiling.

I put a plastic trash can under the drip and immediately called the emergency maintenance number and waited for their return call. When they didn't return my call I called again and then had the maintenance guy show up with some garbage about the wrong apartment number. Whatever. Let's deal with this water. He went upstairs and discovered a pipe had burst in the bathroom and the unit above me was about two to three inches deep in water, which by now was coming through the ceiling in a steady stream. Then it started coming through the ceiling fan. I grabbed more trash cans and buckets and pots and pans and tried to catch as much water as I could, but I had an area of carpet that was pretty well soaked.

All I could think about though was, "If this messes up my new sofa I'm gonna kill somebody." I know that's selfish. Children are starving all around the world, people die from cancer and other diseases, families are losing their homes to foreclosure, workers have lost their jobs and Marilyn is whining about her sofa.

Meanwhile, the carpet people have shown up and begun to vacuum extract the water from the upstairs unit (which I have learned is a corporate rental and that's why I only see the tenant every couple weeks). Slowly the dripping stops, but by now I'm seeing water stains in the ceiling and on some of the walls. The sofa is safe though.

After he's sucked about 100 gallons of water from upstairs (and that's not an exaggeration; the carpet guy said his truck holds 100 gallons and it was almost full) carpet guy comes to my place, sucks up the water in my carpet and then brings in a big air blower aimed at the ceiling.

By the time he left, it was nearly 2:30 AM, I was absolutely exhausted from dumping cans of water and soaking up the carpet with a Sham-Wow (which actually worked pretty well) and my foot hurt like bloody heck because I'd been on it too much dealing with the water mess. So I took a pain pill and went to sleep.

At 10:00 yesterday, two other carpet guys showed up, and using some little gauge thingy, told me I have a lot more wet carpet than I think. I have to move everything off the floor of my bedroom closet and they move all but the big furniture out of my living and dining room areas. I told them to put stuff in my guest room/office but to leave me enough room to get to my computer since I need it to work. Then they pull up the corner of the carpet in the closet and position a blower so it blows under the carpet. Likewise in the living room. And I have a dehumidifier sitting in the guest bathroom, sucking humidity from the air and generating an enormous amount of heat.

I'll have this machinery for two to three days they tell me. Oh joy. I can't hear the TV over the roar of the blower (but on the plus side it's like having a big white noise machine for sleeping). My teensy kitchen is filled with knick-knacks, a floor lamp and my dining room chairs. I can't get to my stove to cook. I'm arguing with the apartment management about their responsibility for my inconvenience (and I'm gonna win that battle, trust me).

So I'm going to continue in PC's vein.

I declare today to be Whining Wednesday.

What's gone wrong in your life? Who's ticked you off? What idiot nearly ran you off the road talking on the cell phone? Which of your creditors made a mistake on your bill this month?

Tell us! Whine all you want because what good is life if you can't whine once in a while? Getting junk off your chest lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress. Consider today a free visit to a shrink.

* Whine graphic from
Tracey Buchanan Studios website. Go look at her website because there's some really cute stuff there. I may have to do a little early Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tantrum Tuesday (and a winner)

Hello my Playfriends--

I'm going to be a very bad girl today. I take my blogging responsibilities very seriously. I figure if you take the time to come here, you deserve something from me. (The what is very debatable, but something to amuse and/or interest you for a few minutes.)

Today, I must disappoint, and I beg your forgiveness and patience. I'm a little stressed and behind and the brain just isn't working and I want to scream with the frustration of it all.

So, I dub today Tantrum Tuesday on the Playground.

Today you may get as bent out of shape as you like about the smallest (or largest) of things. You may rant and kick your feet and even hold your breath until you turn blue. We will applaud and commiserate.

Because sometimes you just gotta let it out. The comment tail is open, and all Tantrums will stay here on the Playground so the neighbors and the boss don't hear about it...

Go. Get it out of your system. You'll feel better.


*** Summer! You are Natalie Anderson's winner. Please send me your snail mail addy so I can pass it on. (problemchild@writingplayground.com)

Monday, August 16, 2010

So You Want a Tattoo, Huh?

I’ve talked several times in the blog comments about getting my first tattoo, but things have been so busy I haven’t actually had a chance to blog about it. :) So I thought I’d fill everyone in, especially those who didn’t get to see it in person at Nationals.

This year, my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it, but it has actually been that long (we married when we were babies—wink). Heaven forbid we go with something traditional for gifts like linen, silver, or even a trip. Oh, no. We started talking about tattoos several months back. I’d always been intrigued by them, but never thought I’d get one myself because I had a fear of needles.

Well, after years of being stuck for infertility and pregnancy issues, I’ve learned to live with needles and their purposes. The pain wasn’t usually too bad unless I ended up with a phlebotomist who couldn’t get to the vein good. Now, I breathe my way through giving blood. But let someone stick me over and over just to create a design? I wasn’t sure…

But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted one. I wanted something on the outside that would signify the changes in my life that have occurred on the inside. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I think I’ve come a long way in terms of strength, self-confidence, and maturity. So I started looking long and hard for the symbolic representation of how I felt. The hubby joined me, and we finally settled on something we loved.

We chose patterns based on a Celtic shield, which symbolizes strength and spirituality. The knots inside represent eternity. We each used our favorite colors (green for me, purple for him). The tattoos aren’t exactly alike, but instead are an inverse of each other with matching knot work. His looks more masculine and mine more feminine. I love them!


Adam inking the tattoo—We chose Kreations in Huntsville, AL, based on a friend’s recommendation, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the artist’s talent, the clean and cool atmosphere, and their clear explanations of the process (because I’m way too uptight to go into any new situation without asking a bazillion questions).


Finished: Mine—I’d been so worried about how much it would hurt, that I was amazed when it didn’t hurt that much at all. It’s like a scratching sensation. I had some pain the closer he got to my wrist because of the nerves that run through there, but he seemed to know just when I needed him to pause.


Finished: Hubby—Of course, my husband didn’t even flinch while he was being worked on. And his took much longer than mine because it was so much bigger. He said that after a while it just got irritating, but nothing he couldn’t handle. He’s talking about getting another and I’m going to see if I can go with him and watch it being done.

Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I was fascinated with the process, with the stories of the people who came into the shop, with the artist and why he chose this career, seeing the design as it came to life, and on and on…

I debuted my new tattoo in Orlando at National Conference. Even some of my chaptermates hadn’t seen it before then. Lots of people commented on it while I was there, which was flattering but also disconcerting. I wasn’t used to having it, and don’t really think about how noticeable it is (mine is located on the inside of my left wrist). Perfect strangers would stop and talk to me about my tattoo. But all the comments were positive, so I’m not complaining. :) Of course, if I ever have to hit the pavement for a corporate job, I’ll probably have to invest in a slew of long sleeved shirts.

So there’s the tattoo story. Tell me, would you consider getting a tattoo? What about if it was guaranteed not to hurt? What would you get, and where?


Friday, August 13, 2010

Free Book Friday (Conference Edition)

I came back from conference with SO MANY BOOKS this year! I would've gone over my weight limit if Angel and I hadn't gone together on a second bag full of books. 29 pounds worth, to be exact, plus the 12 pound increase in my regular luggage. There's stacks on my desk and I still need to get the ones at Angel's house. This bodes well for the future of Free Book Friday!

To start into our new stash, I'm going to give away two books by our awards luncheon speaker Jayne Ann Krentz (who also, I recently learned, writes as Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle. I had no idea.) Anyway, she offered some great advice about writing, about not self-sabotaging, and we each got two of her Arcane Society books, which I'm passing along to you.

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz

A heroine who can see dark energy flashes in a villain's aura and a hero who can squelch villainous thoughts before they're put into action go to paradise to find a murderer, but find love, sex and a nest of drug-enhanced evildoers instead in Krentz's latest Arcane Society novel. Librarian Grace Renquist and ex-cop-turned-bartender Luther Malone, both members of the centuries-old Arcane Society, join forces when the psychic investigative agency Jones & Jones hires Grace, with Luther as her bodyguard, to find a killer in Hawaii. Luther quickly realizes Grace is not your normal paranormal, but their hot romance is put on hold as they learn that Nightshade, drug-fueled supernatural baddies, are after the same murderer—as is the lethal psychic hunter La Sirène, an opera diva with a killer voice.

The Perfect Poison by Amanda Quick

If Lucinda Bromley doesn’t discover who stole her fern, she could end up being charged with murder. Lucinda frequently used her unusual psychic gift to discern death by poisoning to help the London police, but when a nobleman is poisoned by a compound containing elements of a rare fern, one that can only be found in her conservatory, Lucinda knows she better act quickly. To help her find the real murderer, she hires Caleb Jones, a psychical investigator. Believing there is a connection between Lucinda’s fern thief and a deadly dangerous secret society, Caleb agrees to take the case, but he never expected to become so distracted by his new partner in detection or to find himself flummoxed on so many fronts. New York Times best-seller Quick delivers another fascinating addition to her original and spellbinding Victorian-era series about the Arcane Society, a 200-year-old secret organization founded by an alchemist and devoted to paranormal research.

Jayne Ann Krentz has lots of personalities. I do too! I'm me, I'm Alexandra Frost, I'm Smarty Pants... so many sides to one person. To enter to win this month, comment with the phrase "All my personalities would love to win this book!" and tell us about any run-ins you've had with the luggage Gestapos at the airport.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Guilty Pleasure

I have a confession to make. I've become obsessed with those reality slash competition shows that have started cropping up on every channel. I think it all began with the first season of Project Runway which I was able to avoid for awhile until Smarty Pants pulled me down into the bedazzled, fringed and marabou feathered mud. I was hooked. And when it was over I was set adrift in a sea of uninspiring television until I found some replacements.

Luckily, Project Runway has recently returned for another season...but in the meantime I've been hopelessly hooked by The Next Great Artist, Cupcake Wars, The Next Food Network Star, Design Star and my old favorite America's Next Top Model.

Maybe it's my creative side that's intrigued by watching someone else in the middle of a creative breakdown/fit. And that's really what all of these shows boil down to. Lets take someone talented in their own field, give them little to no materials to work with, give them some inspiration or parameter that they have to incorporate into whatever they're doing and then give them just enough time to get close to done but not quite finish whatever vision they finally come up with. It's a nightmare of phenomenal proportions that I seriously hope I never encounter. But it makes for dang good television.

Tension. Drama. Personality clashes. Emotional investment. It's interesting to watch their minds work, to see evidence of the creative process captured forever. And they come up with some crazy and inspiring stuff.

I've given myself a pass, telling myself that watching these shows is a character study for some book I'll write down the road. I'm not sure I could get away with putting the eccentricity I've seen on the page. So, do you have a guilty pleasure? Have you watched any of these shows?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Knots

My minister recently completed a three-week trip to Bangladesh and India where he and a group of other clergymen visited various sites and spoke with members of the predominant faiths in that part of the world, one of which is Buddhism. I’m not going to delve into Buddhism. You can Google it for yourself, but I did want to touch on something he mentioned in last Sunday’s sermon, which was titled “Untying the Knots.”

When most folks think of Buddha, the picture that comes to mind is the laughing Buddha like the photo at the left. I have been looking for one of these jolly fellows for my apartment as part of the feng shui I’ve been working on. Having Buddha face the main entrance to your dwelling helps revitalize dead or negative chi (energy), relieves tension and summons fortune and riches. Rubbing the Buddha’s belly is supposed to bring good luck.

Call my crazy, but I’m very open to positive energy, good fortune and riches and less tension.

Here’s a different image of Buddha the minister used in his sermon last Sunday. Take a close look at the hands. Without an explanation I might have thought it was some sort of far eastern gang sign. However, the pundit who took their group to the site of Buddha’s first sermon explained this is the position one’s hands would be in to untie a knot.

The good reverend went on to say "the way of Buddha is about untying the knots in our lives." In our western world, we often use the expression that we’re “tied up in knots” over something.

Included in our bulletins Sunday morning was a small gift from his trip – a piece of red thread a little over three feet long with a knot tied near the middle. We were invited to put the thread on our wrist as a reminder of our faith. He also told us the Dalai Lama distributes red threads at his public audiences.

As I wrapped the thread around my wrist, I thought about all the knots I’ve had to untie over the past year. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I can sum it up in one word: divorce.

But I also started thinking of the red thread in terms of writing. When we craft a story, our characters have something they want (a goal), a reason for wanting it (motivation) and a great big knot in the red thread of their lives that keeps them from that goal (conflict).

As writers, we want to have good GMC in the story, but we also want a satisfying resolution to the story. In other words, we want that knot completely untied so our hero and heroine can live happily ever after. I'd even like to take the red thread and tie my characters together with a nice, neat bow. How we untie the knot depends on our skill as a writer and also the circumstances of the plot. But until the thread is un-knotted, the story isn’t complete and we can’t type “The End.”

With regard to the synopsis and three chapters requested by the Harlequin editor at the RWA conference week before last, I haven’t begun working on that yet. I’m still a little fuzzy from the anesthesia from my foot surgery last week, and I do not want to send off anything that could be classified as “writing under the influence.” Aliens don't need to show up in chapter fourteen.

But with regard to the other parts of my life, the untying is a work in progress. My fabulous fellow Playfriends and the Mavens have been an invaluable part of this process. My family has been behind me one hundred percent. And I leave church every Sunday with my bulletin filled with notes I’ve scribbled in response to the sermons. I like that my minister makes me think. I even appreciate that sometimes he makes me cry because it means the knots are untying and another part of my life is working through to a good resolution.

I have an extra red thread from Sunday and one lucky commenter today will get it. I don’t want you to feel like you have to bear your souls today and talk about the knotted parts of your life, so just tell me about a good book you’ve read lately and what made it so good.

I’ll go first. I’m reading RED’S HOT HONKY-TONK BAR by Pamela Morsi, which is about a woman whose life suddenly gets turned upside down when she has to take responsibility for two young grandchildren she hardly knows.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another Happy Dance!

I know the Playground isn’t my own personal Brag Blog, and posts like this probably aren’t why you tune in, but I just can’t help it. I’ve had an extraordinary run of wonderful things recently. My cup runneth over. And I just have to share or else explode from the squeeing.

First came the double final in the National Readers’ Choice Award. Then the Maggie final. Then the NRCA win (squee!). Now I’m tickled to say that I’m a finalist in the Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice award as well. The Secret Mistress Arrangement had been getting all the attention, but I’m pleased that The Millionaire’s Misbehaving Mistress is seeing some love now too from the Heart of Excellence judges.

HoE announces winners in Sept, and the Maggies are announced in Oct. Keep your fingers crossed for more squeeing (or not, if you’re tired of blogs like this ~grin~).

The other exciting thing book-wise is my newest foreign edition. I love foreign editions – seeing how the titles, covers and blurbs are revised for each country’s readers. It’s fun to see what other countries pull out or focus on as their marketing. (Thank you Google Translate!)

And foreign editons are one of the really awesome parts of being a Harlequin author. After only 18 months of being published, I’m already around the globe. My books have been translated into Italian, French, German, Dutch, and Greek (there may be more, but I haven’t found them yet).

And now, drumroll please…. I’m in Czech.

Breaking into a new market is exciting, yes. I hope the Czech readers enjoy it. But the main reason I’m so excited about this market is because of my name.

Yes, my name.

See, in Czech – like Russian and other languages in that family – you name can differ depending on your gender. I won’t bore you with the linguistic details, but long story short, females usually have the ending –ova added to their names. So, in the Czech Republic, my book is written by Kimberly Langova.

Why does this tickle me? Because of my years in ballet. ~grin~ All those great ballerinas—Markova, Pavlova, Arova, Ulanova

And now I have a name like theirs! It makes me smile a little.

So The Secret Mistress Arrangement becomes TÝDEN V RÁJI (A Week In Paradise) by Kimberly Langova.

I’m so easy to please…

Anyone speak Czech? Wanna take a stab at how that’s pronounced?


Monday, August 09, 2010

Guest Blogger: Autumn Jordon

I'm pleased to welcome another of my Ruby Slippered Sisters today. Author Autumn Jordon has been a delight to get to know, and her first book, Evil's Witness, released in June of this year. Join me in welcoming her to the Playground (although we may have to sit under the pavilion because it is too hot to play out in the sun!).


What would you do if someone told you your story line didn’t work? None of the elements worked? It in fact, the plot sucked? Would you give up writing the story, because after all, time is precious and you have so little now and you can’t afford to waste it? Or would you give up writing?

This actually happened to me. I was told by someone in my early writing days that my idea would never sale. I was told this by someone whom I admired. The words hurt and I never forgot them even though I did forgive the person for being so harsh.

I also let the story go for a number of years until I met another author at a conference who I hadn’t spoken to in a while. She was signing her books and doing very well. (Back-story: Muliti-pubbed author also had critiqued the first three chapters of that same book years ago. We were both pre-pubbed at the time) After our initial greeting and hugs, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Did you ever finish that book?” When I hung my head and said, “No.”, she asked, “Why not? I loved that story. I still remember the scene….”

I can’t tell you the feeling of JOY which welled up in me as I listened to her enthusiasm for my story. I hugged Multi-pubbed author again. Wow! YEARS later, she still remembered my story. That is the goal of every writer, at least of those I know. God, I love her.

After the conference, I found the file on a floppy disc and unfortunately was able to retrieve it. I worked on the story with the enthusiasm of a new writer. The ideas flowed. The characters once again came to life and I was so happy.


The moral, don’t ever let any ONE person stop you from writing the book of your heart. Passions for books are so subjective. There are books on the NY Times list that I wonder how they got there. I’ve tossed books aside because they were a waste of my time and money, and there are those I’ve read released from small publishers that have touched my heart and will remain on my keeper shelf.

I finished my story. Its first pages went on to final in the Golden Acorn contest. It won the NJ Single title PUT YOUR HEART IN A BOOK contest, it was a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist and Evil’s Witness sold to that same year to the Wild Rose Press. Since its release on June 18 it has received two great reviews from review sites and great comments from readers on B&N.com and Amazon. Com.


Don’t’ you ever let anyone take your dreams from you. I will find you if you do.

BIO: Autumn Jordon, a quiet nut with a reputation for finding trouble, lives with her husband who supplies her with support and tons of laughs along the Appalachian Trail in northeast Pennsylvania. Crafting stories has always been part of her life. While in fourth grade, her first novel, A Night To Remember, sold three copies: to her best friend, teacher and mother. When not writing or blogging she enjoys her family which includes a Yorkshire Terrier and an Irish Setter, her friends, great books, gardening, walking the trails and traveling with her dear hubby . Her favorite destinations, so far, farther from home are Vermont and Arizona. Visit her at http://www.autumnjordon.com/

Thanks for joining us today, Autumn!

So let's discuss dreams today--what dreams have you pursued throughout your life? Have you given up on some, discovered new ones, or followed one in particular with the determination of the tortoise (slow but steady)?


Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Winners!

Because my trophy continues to make me smile, everyone who said they hadn't read The Secret Mistress Arrangement gets a copy!

susanwilson44, Laurie, gigi, chey, kimh -- you're all winners! Send me an email with your shipping address and we'll fill this shameful gap in your reading history... (problemchild@writingplayground.com)

Thanks again, everyone, for the congrats! I love that we have all of you to celebrate with us!


Website Updates

Wow, my post-conference recovery time was a bit extended this year. Guess I'm just getting old and can't party anymore! But I'm back on my feet and feeling good (and caught up with the laundry), so on we go!

First off, the Playfriends had a fabulous time at conference - pitches were successful, trophies were collected, Mickey Mouse was hugged, and Hogwarts explored. While Orlando was miserably hot and humid, we managed to look good most of the time and I came home basically uninjured. All is good. We'll chalk this up as a success!

But, I'm here to catch you up on what's new on the Playground proper. First off, we welcome my friend S.L. Carpenter (or as he's known around here, "Not John Scalzi") to the Sandbox, where he dishes on art, my stalking attempts, writing erotic romance, and the allure of rubber chickens:


Our Book of the Month is the fabulous Vicki Lewis Thompson's BLONDE WITH A WAND. When a book tickles SP's funny bone, you know it's worth reading:


Flash back to our first ever article posted in School (2005, if you can believe it) - Instigator's tips on Winning Contests:


Over on the blog, you'll find our reports of our adventures in Orlando, plus three visits from fab guest bloggers: Natalie Anderson on 8/6, Autumn Jordan on 8/9, and Tawny Weber on 8/26. Plus, since it's us, you never know what else might go on over there.

Alabama is giving Orlando a run for its money in the hot and humid department, so I'm staying indoors as much as humanly possible. Hope the weather is better where you are! I'll see you next month with the update -and hopefully cooler temps. (Because this is just insane.)

Until then, I remain, The Problem Child

Friday, August 06, 2010

Guest Blogger: Natalie Anderson

My fellow Modern Heat author makes an appearance on the Playground today...hopefully, bringing some cooler temps from down under with her. Please welcome the fabulous Natalie Anderson!!

The Not-so-simple Necessary Notebook.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all writers love stationery – and can spend hours (and dollars!) in those gorgeous stores. After all, almost any writer’s guide will tell you to keep a notebook on hand so you can scribble when inspiration hits!

Ah yes, notebooks. I have so many notebooks. It truly was an addiction for a while. I’d hit those sales at the start of the school year – rush in and buy a zillion little notebooks for five cents and a ton more exercise books. This was despite the fact that I hadn’t used up all of the previous years stockpile. I just couldn’t resist.

I’d have an exercise book or notebook for each story I was working on (which can be up to four or five at least in the planning stages), plus a notebook for recording dreams, one as a journal, one as a goals/to do list, one for ideas… another for other ideas…

The trouble was I wouldn’t have the right on me at the ‘write’ time – so I’d scribble notes relating to one book in that back of the notebook for another. I’d see something in the street and get an idea and scribble that in the middle of whatever notebook I could get my hands on. Dialogue in the middle of another. Random names I like in a page somewhere else. A thousand notebooks for a million ideas. Of course, do you think I could then find what it was I’d written when I wanted to?

Of course not. It became ridiculous. And frustrating.

So I decided to pare back completely – to one. That’s right, ONE notebook. It’s pretty (pink) – I figure if I’m only getting one, then I get to get a posh one, right? It’s a small enough size to fit in my handbag and to be able to fit a decent amount of words on each page, but it’s not too big to be too heavy or awkward. And in it I write everything – my journal elements, plans for the day/week, notes from non-fiction I’ve been reading, dialogue snippets from the wip plus character analysis etc. I’ve also been starting from the back page – a page with random words I like, another page with character names I like, occupations, settings, other random ideas. But all in the one book. So now I only have to flip through and find what I’m after. If it’s dialogue for the wip I just put a line through it once I’ve keyed it in – so I can still read it, but I know I’ve used it…

And so far, so good. It’s really working for me and I’m doing more analysis on my stories as well as more journaling – which hopefully helps my writing in general.

For a while I was going to be terribly sophisticated and use different colours for different entries (eg blue for the current wip, red for dreams, green for new ideas)… but of course that’s completely impractical…

But you know there’s still that stationery hunger to fill… I walk past those shops and feel them calling to me.

Naturally, I have a plan… I read an article about ‘de-plasticifying your life’ – things like using a Sigg instead of plastic water bottles etc. One of the tips was to use a refillable ink pen rather than using and discarding biros all the time – that way you’ll leave less of a plastic legacy. Nice idea, huh? Only trouble is I’m left handed and my writing is messy enough without leaving ink smudges all over the paper. But the thought of a ‘proper pen’ to go with my posh notebook, is so romantic…

So I’ve been browsing the lovely pen market… oh okay, it just gives me a lot of excuses to look at this lovely Johnny Depp ad… Montblanc anyone???

So is your house littered with notebooks and pens or do you keep all your notes online? Are you totally organised and have files for ideas? Or perhaps you do the dialogue on the back of receipts thing too? Let me know in the comments below and be in the draw to win a signed copy of your choice of my current releases:

Out this month in the US is To Love, Honor & Disobey, in the UK you can get Unbuttoned by her Maverick Boss, while in Australia/New Zealand get Caught on Camera with the CEO.

To find out more about Natalie’s books, visit her website.

PS. Yesterday's winners are Linda and Page. Email Instigator at instigator@writingplayground.com with your information to claim your prize. Also, don't forget to check back in next Friday for Free Book Friday (Conference Edition).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Oh, Wait...

It's Thursday? While conference was FANTASTIC, it has definitely messed up my internal clock. I've been a day off all week. Add to this (and the fact that I hit the 'conference wall' yesterday) that the girls start school on Monday and I still have to buy supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, new shoes and clothes for them both. I have 3 deadlines in the next 2 weeks - and Art Fact Sheet, AAs for Caught Off Guard and revisions for my April book. My brain is already fried and I'm trying to force it through the ringer just a little bit more.

So, to save what little brainpower I can manage to scrape together today, I'm offering a chance to win some of the goodies I brought home from conference. And I have a ton. Seriously. I bought a new suitcase and upgraded to first class in order to get 2 free checked bags.

So, tell me what's happening in your life and I'll enter you in a chance to win a stack of books (including mine :-)).


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Student-Teacher Conference

I don't have cover models or agents or editors or fabu critique partners to blog about today, but I do have something equally as wonderful -- my former students.

Twice a year I teach an online class on how to write for the confessions and romance magazines. I've been doing this for a couple years now so I have quite a few folks who've taken my class.

Many, like me, also belong to RWA and write novel-length fiction, using the money they make from selling to the Trues to bankroll their RWA membership and conference fees.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting several of my former students. Most of them recognized my name from my badge and came running over to introduce themselves and tell me how much they'd enjoyed the class and how it had helped them to sell to the magazines. One woman even promoted my class to another woman sitting at her table at the Nora Roberts keynote lunch.

That, my friends, is validation. Recognition. Appreciation. It's the pat on the back I've needed after the kick in the teeth I've taken over the last year. But even without the teeth kicking part, knowing you've made a difference in someone's life and helped them achieve their goals is a real boost. And meeting these women made this a very special conference for me.

It was also special because I did my first ever face-to-face pitch to an editor. She was so nice and reminded me to breathe when I sat down. "No one is allowed to pass out during a pitch to me," she said. That helped break the ice and after a couple deep breaths (I'm a stickler for doing what people tell me to do), I started into my pitch.

Silence. And panic on my part.

Then she asked me a question. And oh my goodness, I was able to answer without babbling, drooling or making a general a$$ of myself. She asked me what line I thought my book might fit, and I told her I thought it would work quite nicely for the line for which she's the senior editor and I gave her reasons why.

More silence. And more panic.

"I'd like you to send me a synopsis and three chapters," she said. She added that she likes a detailed synopsis, so in addition to polishing the three chapters, I am going to have to put my current synopsis on steroids and build it up.

All this, however, will not take place until at least next week because remember that foot problem I blogged about a while back? I'm having surgery tomorrow to correct the situation in my right foot. I'll be in a drug-induced haze for a few days, propped on the sofa or the recliner with my foot raised above the level of my heart to keep the pain level down. I'll either be reading the two Rita nominated books I bought Monday or the historical set at Biltmore Estate or watching one of the mountain of DVDs a friend is loaning me. A wonderful new friend from my divorce recovery group (she's the one with all the movies) is accompanying me to the Surgery Center, bringing me home and staying as long as I need her. And the Playfriends have told me to call on them if I need anything. I am beyond blessed with terrific friends.

So think about me at 7 AM CDT tomorrow when my foot goes under the knife. And as soon as possible, I'll repeat the process on the other foot. Am I a glutton for punishment or what???

And just so you'll know I really WAS at the conference, here are a few photos (and a few is all I have because I just didn't take that many).

Our hotel. Pretty fancy digs, huh?

Me and my BFF Nora Roberts. Okay, so she's not my BFF but she IS an amazing woman and her "Chat with Nora Roberts" workshop is one I'd recommend to anyone.

Fellow "Trues" writer Dee Gattrell.

Now this *is* my BFF -- Rocki St. Claire -- and we're all decked out in our awards night wear.

I just don't think you've lived til you've had a driver meet you with your name on a board. I felt so special. And he was a great driver too!