Friday, October 29, 2010

Eureka, I've Found It!

Some of you may recall me lamenting a few month's back because my process was all out of whack. I tended to get all my stuff done at work early, then spent a few hours every day working on whatever manuscript I needed to. I had learned to write sex scenes amongst quibbling engineers, constant interruptions, and inane phone calls. It sounds crazy, but it worked for me.

Then, the work situation changed. Don't get me wrong - in this economy I am damn glad to have a job, much less a good, secure one that pays well. But the new job meant I had enough work for me and three others so I watched my precious writing time slip away...

Over the last few months, I've been trying to find a new process. I'd been writing some at home in the evenings at my desk, but once we got Shadow, I wasn't comfortable leaving them alone downstairs. I didn't have a laptop of my own, so if I wasn't at my desk, I wasn't working.

On our recent vacation, I took my work laptop with me in the hopes I could keep up with emails and deal with anything dire while I was away. I ended up not having to use it for that, but something else happened. Something wonderful. I curled up in a big chair with the laptop and a drink and I worked on my book. And I worked and I worked. I got so much done!

So, when I came home, I decided to try bringing my laptop home with me on nights when DB worked. I crawled into my big oversized chair, fired up my laptop and voila! Book magic. Even now, I'm writing this blog on said laptop from the chair.

I'm hoping the chair and I will have a long, wonderful life together. I paid a fortune for the chair, so I'm glad to finally have a good use for it. I may have to breakdown and buy my own laptop so I'm not hauling my work one back and forth all the time, but for now, its working great. So productive!

Under what conditions do you get the most work done? I've noticed me in the chair plus some peanut M&Ms or jelly beans works even better. Have you had to cope with a death blow to your process? How did you recover?


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bad Parent Moment

You know, for the most part I think I'm a pretty good mom. I try to put my kids first. I don't have a problem ferrying them around to their various activities. I occasionally let them get away with staying up late or eating candy right before bed but not usually. I make them do their homework. I talk to them when they're having problems at school. I'm involved and I think that's probably the most important part.

But then there are incidences that just make you question everything. I left Baby Girl sobbing at school this morning. SOBBING. As in hiccups, crocodile tears, the whole nine yards.

I've taken a couple trips over the last month so have been gone for a few days here and there and I think that's where this is coming from. Baby Girl is a momma's girl. Always has been and always will be. Usually, she cries when I leave but she was very quick to tell me when I got home that she didn't cry at all while I was gone this time. Apparently she waited until I got home.

I do think I might have brought this on myself though. This morning I took her to the book fair before school started. We love the Llama, Llama books and they happened to have one - Llama, Llama Misses Momma. Yeah, might not have been the brightest moment when I pointed it out to her. The tears started a couple minutes later, about the time it took her to start thinking about missing me.

So, have you ever had those moments that make you question whether or not you really know how to raise your child/children? Please tell me I'm not alone with my guilt.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are you ready for some... baseball?

The 106th World Series starts tonight and is a study in underdogs -- two teams that had losing records in 2008 and were last in their respective divisions in 2007.

The Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants overcame huge odds and beat the big guys to end up in the race for the Commissioner's Trophy. That race begins tonight on the Fox network at 7:30 Eastern time.

I don't follow baseball but this story about never giving up has captivated me and I'll be watching tonight when the first pitch is thrown. We have had a minor league team here in town since the 80's and I used to take my boys to watch games. As it was, we got to see several players who went on to the big leagues and fame -- Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Sadly they also went on to shame because of steroid use.

It's a World Series filled with novelties. The Giants haven't won a World Series since 1954 and the Rangers have never even played in the fall classic. Both teams defeated their league's defending champs to make it to the World Series, and each team played a six-game play-off series to get there. The official birthday of the Rangers is October 26, 1960, so they'll be celebrating their 50th anniversary in a very big way.

But perhaps the most interesting tidbit of all (at least to me) is this:

Rangers catcher Bengie Molina will get a World Series championship ring regardless of which team wins. He's going to be the first catcher in baseball history to face a team he played for earlier in the season. He played 57 games for the Rangers and 61 games for the Giants during this year's regular season. Talk about having your bases covered!

I can't quote you any statistics other than these I've gleaned from the past few days' sports pages. I don't know who any of the players are. I'll be cheering for the Rangers since (1) it's their first World Series appearance and (2) my BFF Kristi is a Rangers fan and I'd love to see her fave team win.

Are you ready for some baseball? Will you be glued to the TV to see who takes the best of seven games? Or will you be fully ensconced in college football?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No Place For Wimps

Wow, if I've ever bemoaned the lack of excitement in my life or implied that being a writer was rather well, boring at times, I take it back. I take it all back. Some days a girl just can't keep up with the highs and lows in this business -- especially when they all seem to come at once.

I feel like I need a time out just to catch my breath.

I'm writing one book while promoting the release of another (ahem) and pre-promoting (is that a word?) yet another one.

So the current WIP has it's highs and lows... days when the words just flow and other days when I wonder if I can get my old job back.

Then I get the covers for my next book -- one is UK (Jan) and the other is US (March), which I must then obsess over and analyze with a microscope.

And the reviews and comments on BOARDROOM RIVALS, BEDROOM FIREWORKS! are coming in -- some love it, some don't. Some think it's okay, and others think I should find a new hobby.

I'm at the point to where I'm sometimes afraid to touch my computer.

So how do I deal? Sometimes I whine. Other times I wine. I eat cupcakes. I do the happy dance. Send the yay me! emails. Sometimes, I'm doing more than one thing at a time.

It's the nature of the biz.

And though it's not always good for the ego or the ulcers, it's always a hell of a ride and a million times better than my other options. I have good friends and a great family who know it's a series of ups and downs. I try to keep it all in perspective -- I'm a writer, after all. No children or animals will be harmed in the ongoing saga of my career. The sun will come up tomorrow, regardless.

And the highs really do outweigh the lows, so I try to always keep that in mind.

This job is a roller coaster, and since I'm in it for the long haul, I'm going to hit lots of highs and lows. Normally I love roller coasters, but my stomach is still getting used to this one.

So how do you ride the roller coaster of life and career? Hands high and screaming? Holding on for dear life with eyes squeezed closed? Someone waiting for you with a nice glass of wine?


Calling Kelly Fitzpatrick! Your ISP is refusing delivery of my messages, and I can't mail you your book without a mailing address. Please send me your address:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Childhood Treasures

Over this past summer, Drama Queen’s reading abilities grew like one of those tiny toys you put in water, then watch them enlarge and take shape instantaneously. Not only did the amount she read expand, but the difficult of the books she chose rose as well. She’s now reading at a 9th grade level in 5th grade. With surprise, I realized she is reaching the same age I did when reading became my favorite activity.

Her favorites are the Warrior’s books (Erin Hunter) and she’s now reading a historical YA romance by fellow HOD member Melanie Dickerson. She doesn’t seem to be interested in Harry Potter, even though she enjoyed the movies. But watching her sit at the table and read after school brings back so many memories.

My mother began taking us to a local library on a regular basis when I was about eleven. I started in the youth section before moving on to tackle the adult books under my mother’s close supervision. The librarians came to know us very well over the years, until my sister and I started college, and they were always impressed that we each checked out the maximum books allowed: 13 per 2 week period. They were astounded when my mother told them we actually read all those books.


I remember one book in particular, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast titled Beauty. I remember the beautiful language, vivid imagery, and intriguing story of sacrifice and love in that book, as well I should since I read it repeatedly. A quick Amazon search revealed a YA book by the same name, by author Robin McKinley, that sounds like it might be the one. I’m hoping to purchase a copy for my daughter for Christmas. Maybe she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Do you have a book that stands out from your childhood, one that had a special impact on you and your reading habits?


Friday, October 22, 2010

Dog Wars

I am pleased to report that as best I can tell, Dog Wars have come to an end. It was iffy for a while there. My little pit bull Buddy was simply not going to let this bigger male come into his house and take over even though Shadow is just a year old and not terribly bright. So there was fussing. Snippy-snarling. Lots of uh... dominance humping... which would inevitably turn to more snarling and kennel time. They were separated quite a bit those first few weeks.

Then we went through the 'hall monitor' phase. Buddy, who has spent every day of the last four years chasing my two cats, has now become their protector. Once Shadow takes off after a cat, Buddy gets in between them and snaps at Shadow in her defense. I guess its like a little sister. You can make her life miserable, but nobody else can. Buddy became a grumpy old man. "Hey there, no running. Hey there, no barking." Everytime Shadow got all fired up, Buddy was there to intervene in the situation. I had to keep remining him he wasn't in charge. That was my job.

Now they seem to be at a comfortable truce. They roughhouse and play, but in the end they fall asleep on the rug together licking each other's ears. (Well, as long as Shadow stays away from Buddy's food and bones.) Dogs are funny. I can't be certain, but I think Buddy won. He struts around the house like he's the boss. Of course, my beagle Licorice may be the true alpha dog. She sat on the couch, got petted and watched the boys fight. She's no dummy.

To the left is a picture I took the other night. I was trying to cook, but failing miserably because the beagle blocked the sink, the husky blocked the pots and the pit bull blocked the stove. All I could do was stand there hopelessly and take this picture instead. My uncle refers to this phenomenon as the 'geographical center of attention.' Animals, specifically cats, will always lay in the exact location you want or need to be. That's why my cats sprawl across the hallway or my beagle stretches the entire length of the stair.

Whatever. At least they aren't fighting. Have you experienced you own version of Dog Wars? How about the Geographical Center of Attention? I believe this has to be a universal truth like gravity or something.


PS. The Playground has a Facebook Fan Site! Come "like" us and we'll keep you posted on what's going on. There will even be special prizes. For example, since Monday, we've gotten 80 fans. If we hit 100 by midnight tonight, I will randomly award a prize to one lucky FB fan. So click here to follow WP on Facebook and you can win!

Also, the winner of Free Book Friday is Summer! Email me with your snail mail info at: to claim your prize.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Most everyone who visits the Playground knows that Zilla (my husband) is on animal restriction. This restriction has been going on for several years and is mostly ignored. Several birds, a bunny and the guinea pigs that continuously procreate have all been brought into the fold during this restriction. Unfortunately, I can't blame Zilla for our latest pet saga. It was all my idea.

Friday afternoon I saw a segment on our local news advertising some pets that were available at our county animal shelter. At the every end they mentioned they had a sugar glider. Thanks to a book that Smarty Pants wrote with a sugar glider in it I knew a little about these furry guys. I had always been interested in having one but because they're exotic they aren't exactly readily available here. Zilla and I have both worked for a zoo and a vet and we like interesting pets so I thought it might be a good fit. We could rescue an animal and give it the good home it needed.

Saturday morning we stopped at the shelter. The volunteer who took us back acted like the small handful of fur was a Tasmanian devil instead of a glider. But we just assumed he didn't know what to do with her. They told us that the glider had been through a very traumatic few days. A woman found her on their front step, brought there by the family cat. The local vet they'd taken her to told them she was a glider and they sent her over to the shelter to find a home. After much discussion, we decided to take her.

The girls named her Abigail and we put her into her cage and left her alone to snuggle under her blanket and get used to her new home. She did eat but it was dark and we didn't get a good look at her until the next night when she came out to explore and snatch an apple. I knew within thirty seconds that this was no sugar glider. I'd been doing a lot of research online and she didn't have the right markings, the right tail, the right demeanor. What she did have were the flaps of skin connecting her legs. One quick google search and I realized what we had in a cage in our bedroom was a baby flying squirrel. As my mom later pointed out, we've spent a lot of money to keep squirrels out of our house and here was one in a warm, snugly bed eating apple pieces because I'd put her there.

The first picture is a sugar glider. The second is Abigail. Do you see a stripe down her head? Do you see a little pink nose or toes? How about white markings? Yeah, neither did I.

The next morning I called the shelter to tell them they'd adopted us a squirrel. Their reaction was, "Really?" Yes, really. We had a good laugh over the situation...I mean, what else can you do? They told us they'd be happy to refund our money and that we needed to bring Abigail back because they couldn't let us keep a wild animal...they intimated it was illegal. The really funny part is that the shelter contacted the vet's office to tell them what had happened and they are still insisting that what we had was a sugar glider. I can tell you, I won't be going to that vet every again.

Needless to say, the girls were upset at losing their new pet in such an unexpected way. So, we've found a wonderful woman who will have a baby gilder available for adoption right around Christmas. She's sent us pictures of both daddy and momma. We're looking forward to watching the little one grow. As soon as we get him/her home I'll be sure and let y'all know. I'm absolutely certain having a sugar glider will provide new and funny animal stories for me to share.

It's been awhile since we've had a farm story so we haven't talked about pets lately. Have you ever wanted an exotic pet? Ever had one? Anyone else have a sugar glider?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest blogger -- Lessons from a Survivor

I always like to do a "boob blog" in October (past blogs are here and here) since it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this is such an important topic for women. I put out the call on Facebook Monday and in a couple hours I had my guest blogger lined up. Ya gotta love Facebook! So without further ado, here's Deborah Stephenson.

I was playing with my new oversized Doberman puppy and he kept pawing at my breast. I just laughed, since he was a male dog and thought he was just nuzzling me. He continued and then without warning, he swung his head terribly hard into my right breast. I grabbed my breast in extreme pain and to my shock, a huge lump became obvious. This lump had not been there before but now protruded enough to be quite apparent, even visually.

I made an appointment with my primary care physician to check it out. It was a very large tumor that had been totally hidden until the dog hit me, and it had begun to hemorrhage. The doctor was fairly certain that it was malignant and sent me to a cancer specialist for a biopsy.

Lesson #1 Do not assume that you will be able to detect a lump by self exams only.

Lesson #2 Sonograms are better at identifying suspicious lumps than mammograms.

Lesson #3 If in question, see a qualified specialist right away and order a biopsy.

Lesson #4 Some dogs can smell cancer. Notice if they act strangely towards any part of your body.

Lesson #5 Research! Find the very best surgeon and cancer specialist. Never rely on your current doctor just because you like him. Find someone with a very high percentage of successes and one that specializes in breast cancer only. They read sonograms with 10 times the magnification and their radiologist read only breast x-rays. Select the most extreme treatment since you have only one first chance to beat a cancer diagnosis. I have lost many friends that chose saving a breast instead of the priority to save their life.

Marilyn and I attended school together and she may even share our 7th grade picture together at Clara Harris School in Concord. It is a blessing to be sharing this story with you, at her request.

I battled cancer again in 2007. The picture above was taken during my chemo treatments. I actually had no hair, no eye lashes or eye brows, but still have a song in my heart. The most important personal lessons that I learned: Never let your circumstances change your joy of living. Live each moment as though it were your last!! Live in the now, always.

Schedule your check up today. Early detection can be a life saver.

Thanks Marilyn!!!!

And here's that 7th grade photo she talked about. Folks who can correctly identify both of us will be put into a drawing for a book.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unexpected Awesomeness

I spent the weekend in Jackson, Mississippi. The nice ladies at Magnolia State Romance Writers invited me over to speak at their meeting (they seemed to think I might know something about something...) and I did a book signing at the local Borders for my BOARDROOM RIVALS, BEDROOM FIREWORKS (ahem, available now at a store near you!). They're a neat group of ladies, and I had a great time with them. I really hope they'll invite me back one day!

Plus, since Jackson is a nice meeting point between Counselor Shelley and me, she drove over and we made a weekend of it. We expected the weekend to be rather low-key since we're old and boring these days, but Jackson held some unexpected awesomeness...

Friday night, we hit the internet to find a place to eat. We passed on the stuff like Applebees, Chili's, etc -- after all, we can get that at home. But there was a place my iPhone app recommended called 119 Underground. A quick trip to Google to look at the menu also told us they had live music in addition to great-sounding food, so we set out guided only by the GPS to get us there. (The adventure of finding 119 is a whole different story...)

You'll have to pardon the quality of the photos... they were taken with my phone in a dark room.

A picture of the stage from our table. The place has atmosphere.

Let me tell you, the food was FANTASTIC. UNBELIEVABLY good. So good, that we ate until we were nearly ill, then ordered something else interesting off the menu. So good, that we decided we'd have to come back Saturday night to try the rest. When the manager stopped by our table to check on us (they have great service, too!), we told him we'd be back the next night, but I guess he didn't believe us.

Until we showed up Saturday night. We were the first ones there. Ready to eat.

Those are fried green tomatoes, topped with hollandiase sauce and lump crab meat. The bottom dish is orange-garlic shrimp, which was very tasty, but sadly was up against some very stiff competition and just couldn't compete. I really wish I had pictures of the crab quesadilla from Friday night... DIVINE.

The top plate is the three-cheese and crab stuffed pork loin, which is just a happy party in your mouth. The bottom plate is the beef empanadas with salsa verde. OMG, good.

And I didn't get a picture of our server, Patti, but she was a good sport, bringing food and listening to us rave and not saying anything when I started photographing the plates.

Because we were the only people in the place -- or perhaps because no one was really expecting us to come back, and therefore thought we were just a little odd -- the owner came by to chat.

Andy Wilson is a self-taught chef who used to be a golf pro. I don't know how good a golfer he is/was, but, damn, the man can cook. He's also a sweetie, who posed for pictures.

Andy talked us in to staying for a while instead of just eating and running off to the hotel, so we moved to the bar, where two adorable bartenders made us a very yummy drink from caramel apple infused vodka, butterscotch Schnapps and cream. Okay, so they made us several drinks.

And they flirted with us. (Now, I spent many years on the other side of this equation -- the young cute thing flirting with the middle-aged customer in the hope of a big tip. I know how this game works. That doesn't mean that I didn't eat it up all the same and love the ego boost.)

Mike the bartender and me.

Chris and Shelley (and Shelley is holding one of those yummy drinks.)

Yes, we are very aware how very young they are. Yes, we felt just a little bit dirty about it. We got over it, though.

And the band was fantastic! The Fearless Four (that's their name) played great jazzy-bluesy music, perfect for grooving and dancing, and it wasn't long before the 119 was jumping! I got to dance with both Andy and Mike (granted, they were pity dances, but, again, I'll take what I can get these days!).
This is Bob, who played both keyboards and guitar for the Fearless Four. Yes, it's a little late in the evening, and maybe Shelley's hands weren't quite as steady as they could have been.

We made it out of there sometime after 1 a.m., which is really late for us these days. But, wow, what a great time! Many thanks to Andy and the gang for entertaining us so wonderfully.

Now Counselor Shelley and I are hoping for more invites from MSRW. We need an excuse to head back to Jackson. Hell, we might just plan a girls' weekend in Jackson just because we can. Because we now know where to go.

If you're in the Jackson area, find the 119 Underground (Andy needs a bigger sign, because it's not that easy for out-of-towners to find). Wear elastic-waist pants because you'll need the extra room. Come ready to dance. And tell Andy, Mike, Chris and everyone else that we sent you.

You'll have a blast!

So, have you ever stumbled upon a great place in your travels? Something that wasn't listed in the travel guide but really should be?



Laurie -- you're Jillian's winner from last week. Email to claim your prize.

Kelly Fitzpatrick -- I got your email claiming your prize, but my response to you is bouncing (your host "refuses" it. What did I do to it?) Please send me another email with your snail mail addy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guest Blogger Natalie Anderson

The Playfriends welcome Natalie Anderson back to the blog today! She brings with her tidings of Christmas -- which would normally make me have to throw something at her for bringing this up in October, but I will get on board with this time because it's all about food. And you know how I love food.


Sweet As Christmas!

As it’s October, all the Christmas decorations are up in the shop and the countdown has officially begun. In fact there are Christmas themed romances available already – and yes, I’ve got one out there too! ~g~

Here in New Zealand, it's summer at Christmas – although invariably its an overcast drizzly day (the real summer heat doesn’t hit us here in the South Island until late January and February). For me the best thing – apart from catching up with all the friends and family of course – is the food. It doesn’t take much to release my inner glutton and Christmas is one of those times when she’s fully unleashed. In fact we have a phrase in our house if anyone has overeaten at any time – then they’re feeling ‘Christmas Uncomfortable’.

For years we did the ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner – roast lamb or something, roast potatoes, okay maybe some new potatoes as well, cauliflower and cheese sauce, peas, carrots… sometimes Turkey although not that often. There’s always a giant ham. Nowadays we tend to cook on the BBQ. Actually, I should mention I’m vegetarian, so I just dive into the veggies. I love vegetables and don’t need a separate veggie main dish. Well okay, it leaves more room for PUDDING.

Yes I admit it, it’s the pudding I love at Christmas. Here in New Zealand the traditional is the Pavlova (the Australians will argue it’s ‘their’ national dish, but they’re wrong). It’s made of egg whites and sugar and is like a giant meringue, with a crunchy crust on the outside and a wall of marshmallowy yum stuff on the inside. We top it with whipped cream and then either raspberries (perfection) or strawberries, flaked chocolate at a push. It is heaven on a plate and everyone loves it. Everyone. It takes a while to cook – we often leave it in the oven overnight. And thank goodness for electric mixers because back in the ‘old days’ my Great-Uncle used to beat the egg whites by hand and it was a lot of work (you know they’re ready when the whites are smooth and glossy and when you hold the bowl above your head, it doesn’t all fall out!) And then there’s the terribly tricky moment of having to transfer it from tray to plate – fortunately you can cover a lot of sins with all that whipped cream ;)

There might be a Trifle as well, or Spanish Cream, Christmas cake, fruit salad, but it’s always the Pav that has my heart. But here’s the real secret. The Pav is not the best on Christmas Day. Nope, if ever you have Christmas in New Zealand here is what you must know.

Early, EARLY in the morning on Boxing Day you must get up, tiptoe to the kitchen and find the plate that’s on a precarious angle near the back, balanced on top of a ton of other stuff – hopefully far away from the ham. Fridges are never big enough at Christmas, do you find that? Anyway, under a piece of cling wrap, you’ll find that very last piece. Now it isn’t going to be that pretty – Pav tends to fall apart once you cut into it – so it is like a more marshmallowy version of Eton Mess at this point. But it’s cold and so delicious. You eat it standing up in front of the fridge, still in your summer PJs and quietly. Because there’s only ever enough for one. It is the most decadent breakfast of the year. And it’s MINE. But if you’re ever in New Zealand for Christmas, I will share it with you – maybe! Of course we have Pavs all year round – there’re at any BBQ or celebration. But it is that one early on Boxing Day Morning that’s the best of the year. Maybe its like the dessert equivalent of ‘hair of the dog’ or whatever, and giving you that little sugar lift after the crash down from the Christmas Day feast – I’m not sure, but its soooooo good. And I’m very much looking forward to it this year.

What Christmas foodie traditions are you most looking forward to this festive season? Is there something always served up on the day that makes you smile just to think of it? Comment below and be in to win a copy of ‘TIS THE SEASON – an anthology of Christmas novellas by Carole Mortimer, Alison Roberts and me.

Natalie’s Christmas novella “The Millionaire’s Mistletoe Mistress” is in the ‘TIS THE SEASON anthology is out now and will be followed up by CAUGHT ON CAMERA which is out in the US in December. For more details on her other stories, check out her website.

She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.


I have some winners to announce:

robynl, you're Angel's winner from last Monday. Email Angel to claim (

Kelly Fitzpatrick, you're my launch party winner -- email me with your snail mail addy. (

Friday, October 15, 2010

Free Book Friday (The Late Edition)

I know, I know. Free Book Friday was supposed to be last week. But we had a special event to commemorate our vacation. So it got pushed out to today, tardy, but meaning well.

To go with this month's theme of being late, I'm giving away two books that you may have missed when they came out. Its one of the frustrating things about category books - in a month, they're gone! Sure, you can pick them up on Amazon for a few months and now you can get them as an ebook, but some really great books completely drop off the radar after a year or so. Well, this month, I'm giving one lucky commenter a second chance to read some titles that might've slipped through their fingers the first time.

The Guardian by Linda Winstead Jones

Dante Mangino was a man committed to one thing: his job. A top security specialist, he had no ties to anyone, just the way he wanted. Falling for a client was strictly taboo. But his latest assignment was about to remind him that even a man like Dante had a weakness. And her name was Sara Vance.

Mayor of her hometown, Sara needed protection against a stalker. But having the man who'd loved her and left her prowling around on guard simply wouldn't do. Dante was too intense. Too...tempting.

And that would make her stalker very, very angry....

Indecent Suggestion by Elizabeth Bevarly
There has been a mistake!

When best friends Becca Mercer and Turner McCloud go to a hypnotherapist, they expect to be cured of their smoking habit. Clearly the treatment hasn't worked, because they're both still smoking. Oh, and now they're having sex. Lots and lots of sex. And it's definitely changing things between them.

Lovers come and go, but friends? Is she ready to sacrifice her best bud for the sake of a little - okay, a lot - of seductive satisfaction? And yet, how can she possibly resist such an indecently sensual suggestion?

Can men and women have sex and still be friends?
To enter this month and win these books, comment with the phrase "Better late than never!" Are there any books you loved but can no longer find? Did your best friend in 9th grade borrow your worn out, well-loved copy of Skye O'Malley and move to Arizona without giving it back? Enter to win!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guest Blogger - Jillian Burns

We're very excited to have Jillian Burns back with us on the Playground today! She's brought a great blog, some eye candy (if you read all the way down :-)) and she's generously agreed to give away a copy of the Australian release of her first book, Let it Ride, which just so happens to contain Afterburn as well. I was very excited when I found out that my book would be released with Jillian's! She's an awesome writer and a wonderful friend so please give her a warm welcome.

Happily Ever After

In 4 days my second Blaze, SEDUCE AND RESCUE, will be on shelves everywhere and I’m so excited. click HERE to read an excerpt. This is the story of Lt Col Ethan Grady, who lost a bet to Major Cole Jackson in LET IT RIDE but still hadn’t paid off his debt by the end of that book. So, this story begins with Ethan forced to get a massage.

The inspiration for this story began as a Sweet November with a happy ending. Keanu Reeves plays an emotionally repressed man who’s life is changed by a meddling, free-spirited woman. He falls in love with her, but (SPOILER ALERT) she is dying of cancer. Great movie, BAD ending. So, I rewrote it the way I wanted it to be. This story also has a bit of An Officer and a Gentleman in it, and just a touch of Bridget Jones’ Diary.

I did a lot of research for this book, and I also love to have a lot of pictures to help me visualize places and things.

F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet flying over Nellis Air Force Base

Monte Carlo Resort and Casino

You may prefer to visualize things in the book with your own imagination, but if you don’t mind some help, here are a few of my favorite images from my collage for this book.

Lily's herb Shop

Volcano in front of The Mirage Hotel

And if you’re wondering about Captain Mitch McCabe and Captain Alex Hughes from LET IT RIDE, their story continues in SEDUCE AND RESCUE and they’ll be getting their own book, NIGHT MANEUVERS, in Sept 2011!

Here’s my question for you: Do you mind if a movie has a sad ending, like Sweet November or Nights in Rodanthe? Or do you prefer a Happily Ever After ending like Officer and a Gentleman, or Bridget Jones’ Diary?

I’m giving away a copy of the Aussie version of LET IT RIDE to one commenter –it’s a two-in-one book that also features your own Kira Sinclair’s AFTERBURN!

Thanks for visiting with us today, Jillian! It's always a treat when you stop by.

Jillian Burns lives in Texas with her husband of twenty years and their three active kids. She likes to think her emotional nature—sometimes referred to as moodiness by those closest to her—has found the perfect outlet in writing stories filled with passion and romance. She spent her youth with her nose in a book, immersed in the worlds of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett, and believes romance novels have the power to change lives with their message of eternal love and hope. Her first Harlequin Blaze, LET IT RIDE, was released May 2009, and the sequel, SEDUCE AND RESCUE, is in stores October 1! She will have 3 more Blazes out in 2011. For more information and excerpts you can visit her website

P.S. Congratulations to DBurton973, PM's winner from yesterday. Please email her at with your snail mail address to claim your prize.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Embracing Our Inner Tourist: Mountain Weddings

When we planned our Inner Tourist series of blogs, I didn't have to think long before I knew what mine would be -- mountain wedding chapels. I went to college just an hour or so away from Gatlinburg and remember the abundance of wedding chapels in the area. There don't seem to be as many now. Or maybe they're hidden away in little valleys and coves or are perched atop a mountain. Perhaps the beach has become more popular as the spot for a destination wedding.

I had a small church wedding. My dress was the sample from the local department store and cost $50 including the headpiece and full-length veil. My aunts gave us a pre-wedding party the night before the ceremony. In my neck of the woods that was common. They called it a "cake cutting" and you only had to invite the wedding party, family and very close friends. We had the wedding cake and other assorted finger foods plus punch. It was much cheaper than a reception, and it was a gratefully-accepted gift from family members. My aunt Polly, who had been a professional wedding director, came out of retirement for the day and made sure everyone knew where to go and what to do. My flowers were simple. My maid of honor and one bridesmaid made their dresses and wore big straw hats (it was the 70's you know). They were ready to vote me "Bride of the Year" because their out of pocket cost was about $25. The whole thing cost me and my mother about $1000 in 1973 dollars.

I watched "Say Yes to the Dress" with my mother when I visited her this summer and was appalled at the amount women spend on just a dress. With what some bridezillas spend on the wedding, you could make a sizeable downpayment on a house, furnish it and start married life debt-free except for your mortgage.

A minister friend of the family once commented that it's too bad people don't spend as much time on their marriages as they do on their weddings. Maybe pre-marital counseling should include what a divorce attorney charges for a retainer ($5000) and how long you have to wait in this county to get a court date (18 - 24 months). I've met lots of folks in the last year whose divorces have run well into five figures. But here I go, getting cynical when I'm supposed to be talking about mountain weddings.

The place I'd hoped to find to use as the focus of my blog is the Hillbilly Wedding chapel. Yes, you read that right. For $75 you get married by an ordained Christian minister in their rustic mountain chapel or garden complete with bouquet and boutonniere, souvenir hillbilly wedding certificate, the minister clad in bib overalls and free photos if you use your own camera. We tried to find it. Honest we did. But the GPS only led us to their post office box.

I did find Cupid's Chapel of Love. On their website, they boast of 15 years of service and over 15,000 successful weddings. I just have to wonder how successful the marriages were. But before I sink into divorce statistics, let me tell you about Cupid's Chapel of Love. The chapel itself is quite charming. It's reminiscent of an old country church, complete with stained glass windows and a steeple.

They offer a variety of packages starting with the "Forever Rose." It includes:
Music and Our Ordained Minister
Candlelight Ceremony
Two Nights Complimentary Lodging at our Honeymoon Inn for the Bride and Groom
One hour Simplicity Reception for Your Guests at the Gatlinburg Wedding Center
(40) 5x7 Portraits Matted with Album
(6) 8x10 Portraits
(8) Wallet portraits
16 x 20 Framed Canvas Portrait
Groom and Best Man's Tuxedo Rental
Designer Unity Candle Ceremony and Song
Fresh or Silk Bridal Bouquet and Groom's Boutonnière
Two Corsages
Fresh or Silk Maid of Honor Mini Bouquet and Best Man's Boutonnière
Video, Guest Book
Toasting Glasses
3-Tier Wedding Cake
A Matted Copy of Your Wedding Vows
Rose Petals for Your Honeymoon Comforter
Just Married Sign and Bridal Garter
$1,399 Saturday or $1,049 Weekdays
Includes up to 40 Guests

And on the opposite end of the package deals is the "Just Get 'r Done," which is described as "Walk in, Say Your Vows and Sign the Papers $99.00."

They offer elopement packages and also have two specials on their website. They were open last Sunday so you could be married on 10-10-10. And they'll be open New Year's Day so your wedding day will be 1-1-11.

You're just as married if you spend $1399 for the Forever Rose or $75 for the Hillbilly wedding. Just make sure the minister is real. A while back Gatlinburg made headlines because one of their wedding chapel preachers wasn't legit and lots of couples weren't legally married.

Tell us about your wedding. Was it big or small? In a church or at the courthouse? Or maybe you had a destination wedding? If you were getting married again, would you do anything different? I'm not shopping for a wedding venue. I have to get the divorce finalized first. But should I ever decide to tie the knot again, that $99 package looks pretty good. It lets me hold on to some money in case I have to re-hire my divorce attorney. Oops, there I go getting all cynical again.

One commenter today will win a book from my stash -- a book where they all live happily ever after.

P.S. Problem Child is guest blogging over at the I Heart Presents blog today. Please pop over and say hi to her.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Embrace Our Inner Tourist: Dinner and A Show

When traveling, dinner and a show is a wonderful evening out. Especially with your closest friends.

Unless you're with my friends, of course...

So I should have known something was up when I was told (with great glee) they'd bought tickets to a dinner show -- one of the very best in the Smokies. I love dinner theater! Yay!

Where'd they take me? The Dixie Stampede!

In case you are unfamiliar with the Dixie Stampede, it's dinner and a show -- lots of horses doing impressive stunts, chicken chasing, pig races, and a pseudo-stampede of longhorn cows, plus some singing and dancing.

Three words folks: Oh. My. Dog.

Not to sound ungrateful for a planned evening out by those I love, but I have two basic rules about dinners out:

Rule 1: All food will be served with the proper utensils designed to eat said food.
Rule 2: Livestock is not to be in within spitting (or smelling) distance of my table.

You know, I don't think these are over-complicated. I didn't even think they really needed saying. Basic assumptions, right? The Dixie Stampede violates both of those very basic rules.

But I'm game for anything -- and everyone is so excited -- so we're off to the Dixie Stampede for a Girls' Night Out.

Here's our dinner entertainment behind us resting up before the show:

And then we were entertained by some very talented musicians doing some Pickin' and Grinnin':

Notice our souvenir cups shaped like boots.

Then we went into the arena for the show. Here come the animals. Here comes my dinner. The Mavens and Playfriends can barely control their glee.

But I had a little surprise of my own. The Mavens and Playfriends made a slight tactical error in making sure I knew that both of my basic dining rules were about to be violated in order to make me squirm. I had several weeks notice of this, so I came prepared.

As soon as we got settled and the nice server dressed as a Rebel solider ladled soup into a cup -- without providing me with a spoon -- I reached into my purse and pulled out my silverware.

Not some plastic crap I picked up at Wendy's either. I brought a real knife and a fork, wrapped in a cloth napkin with a wet nap tucked inside so I could wash my hands before I ate. Of course, it was a little dark in there, and I unrolled the napkin backwards, causing my silverware to clatter to my plate.

Oh, I wish you all could have seen the looks on the Mavens' and Playfriends' faces when they realized what I'd done. SP took a picture (it's from SP's phone, so the quality isn't great, but that's a knife and a fork. The only ones in the building.).

Even the server was taken aback when he brought me a chicken (a whole chicken! to eat with my fingers!) and saw my silverware.

Having gotten a little of my own glee, I did put my silverware away and embraced the experience -- and my inner tourist. The animals were well-trained and I was quite impressed with the show. I will also say that this was the cleanest livestock I've ever been near. They didn't stink like I expected.

So all and all, dinner and a show with friends is still a great night out.

Next time though, the animals starring in my dinner show better be Cats or The Lion King.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Embracing Our Inner Tourist: Fabulous Fit

Whenever the Playfriends head to the mountains, one stop is for certain. Well, make that two, because Dunkin’ Donuts is on the list too. ;) But we always, always head to the outlet mall for some down and dirty retail therapy. The outlet malls we visit have everything from high end Coach to low end Pepperidge Farms goldfish, and everything between the two. They also have some great deals.

I’ve bought lots of Christmas and birthday gifts from this outlet, all at 40-50% off retail prices, which is great for name brand clothes and toys. But this year I checked out something new: Socks Galore. Why would I want to buy socks at an outlet? you ask. Well, let me tell you…


I have a small, wide foot. My shoe size varies between a 6.5 and 7.5, sometimes wide, sometimes not. It all depends on the shoe. But one thing is for certain: socks will be too big. Because I’m at the low end of the sock range, there is always extra materials. I inevitably pull the socks tight so I don’t have extra material bunching at the toe, which puts the heel somewhere around my ankle. But at least I’m not fiddling with extra material inside the shoe.

We were discussing this issue, which more than a few of us have, when Playground Monitor gave me the best advice: Pick socks that are part cotton, part lycra or spandex. This give the soft comfort of cotton, but a much better fit and elasticity. So I stepped into Socks Galore to see if I could find a good deal on new socks. Sure enough, they had some buy 1 get 1 50% off. And the sizing was different also. They weren’t 4-10s, but 6-8s, which seems to have helped. I bought a pack for me and one for Drama Queen, who has outgrown all her socks this summer.

As soon as I took them out of the pack and slipped them on, I had to smile. Sure enough, they fit perfectly. Now I’m just praying they make it through the wash with the same shape. Fingers crossed…


So tell us, what are your sock issues? Do you have a favorite kind, brand, or fit? (I prefer ankle length.) Let’s talk about this burning issue today. ;) I’ll pick one commenter to win a free book from my stash.


Check it Out!
Our very own Problem Child, Kimberly Lang, explores Alpha Love at the Novel Thoughts blog today! (And yes, there’s a book to be won!)

Coming Soon!
Join us in welcoming author Jillian Burns when she joins us on Thursday, October 14.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October Website Updates

Hello Honorary Playfriends!

First off, thanks to everyone who entered my little impromptu contest for the newsletter subscribers. Not only was I tickled to have so many entries, I was amazed at how quickly some of you responded! No "I'll read it later" in this crowd! Congrats to the winner, Marelou! Maybe we'll do this again.

Now, on to the updates! Over in School, Instigator goes over the problem of perfect characters and how tomake them more interesting by exposing those fatal flaws:

Smarty Pants brings the funny and fabulous Jill Shalvis to the Sandbox this month:
(Be sure to check out Jill's blog if it's not already on your Blog roll. Hysterical!)

Angel chooses a fabulous (ahem) book as our Book of the Month and gives it a great review:

Don't forget to enter Instigator's Young at Heart contest - it's the last contest of 2010!

Over on the blog, we have three more authors lined up for October: Leanne Banks on 10/6, Jillian Burns on 10/14, and Natalie Anderson on 10/18. Hope you'll stop by!

And, just in case you weren't aware. yours truly has a book out in October! BOARDROOM RIVALS, BEDROOM FIREWORKS! will be on a shelf near you soon and is available for pre-order now.

I'm going to go make a cup of tea and enjoy the wonderful temps of fall on the porch tonight. I hope your weather is wonderful and that you have a great October!

I remain,
The Problem Child
The Problem Child Kimberly Lang

Saturday, October 09, 2010



It's October, and my BOARDROOM RIVALS, BEDROOM FIREWORKS is at a bookstore near you!

The billionaire's business arrangement...

Jack Garrett enjoys biddable women -- sharing the vineyard he's inherited with his fiery ex-wife does not appeal. His agenda is clear: visit Brenna, make her a deal, and leave. Immediately.

Her steamy surrender!

But one glimpse of Brenna's sun-kissed skin has Jack's rugged body recalling their fevered nights together... As their red-hot passion erupts, ten years of ice cold separation melt away. Now they're back where it started all those years ago -- in bed! Suddenly negotiations are looking much more pleasurable...

RT Bookreviews gave it 4 stars and said: "A realistic portrayal of a relationship in turmoil and endearingly flawed characters make for a refreshing read."

And it's dedicated to my mom, so it's special. :-)

First sighting:

Squee with me for a chance to win this book!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Embracing Our Inner Tourist: The "As Seen on TV Store"

Hello. My name is Smarty Pants and despite my high IQ, I am sucker for informercials. There, I said it. My mind is just drawn to the myriad solutions for people apparently too incompetent to shave their legs or boil pasta without assistance. I just love those commericals...

"Tired of paint that drips and rollers that slip? Taping off the corners and windows can take hours! Oh no! That paint just got all over your priceless antique quilt! Put an end to the struggle with the Point and Paint."

If you're that bad at painting or it takes you hours to tape off edges, I've always thought maybe you should hire out. Or at least put down a tarp and move your valuables to another room before you start. I don't think that $19.95 gadget (which I bought, by the way) is going to convert you to a pro that can paint an entire room in an hour. For the record, it works for about 5 minutes, then the paint gets on the edges and it just gets everywhere after that.

Doesn't matter what it is. For a flash of a second, I usually consider it. Ron Popeil's Rotisserie (set it and forget it!). Mighty Putty. Tae-Bo. Definitely thought about it. Almost bought an Emery Cat before I remembered my cats are declawed. Green Bags, Hercules Hooks, Aqua Globes... I bought them all. And I got the Ginsu knives free for ordering in the next fifteen minutes.

When we were in the mountains, I was lured in by the giant "As Seen on TV" sign. I was expecting to walk into a place filled with sorrowful people unable to tie their own shoes and employees hyped up on caffeine ready to sell them the solutions with the enthusiasm of Anthony Sullivan or Billy Mays. Sadly, I was disappointed. Not even someone as weird as the ShamWow guy in there. But fortunately, most Walmarts and Targets eventually carry the products I'm interested in (granted, without the free gift for ordering now) and I don't have to pay shipping. And I can take it back in three days if it sucks.

Are you entranced by informercials? Held captive by QVC? What's the best, worst, or craziest thing you've ever ordered off TV? I'm always curious as to how well half this stuff works...


PS. Kimberly and Kira are out and about this weekend. Come visit!

Then, come back tomorrow to celebrate with us as we launch Kimberly's new book – Boardroom Rivals, Bedroom Fireworks! The wine is on us!

PPS. Leanne Banks's winner from Wednesday is Michele L. Please contact Playground Monitor to claim your prize.