Friday, July 29, 2011

Lessons From Drag Queens

Last week, I got sick and spent an afternoon on the couch feeling puny. I perked up my day by watching episodes of DragU on Logo. For the uninitiated, RuPaul's Drag Race is his reality show to choose the next drag superstar. DragU is where the best contestants from Drag Race are recruited as mentors for women to help them unlock their inner drag queen.

I have to say, regardless of your personal feelings about drag culture in general, there are lots of lessons they can teach women.

1. Confidence. So many of the women they bring onto the show have absolutely zero confidence in themselves or their appearance. But it's not just them. We are surrounded by these women. We're probably even one of them. If a man in a dress and six inch stilletos can strut out onto a stage exuding confidence and feminine power, by damn, any woman can. You don't have to necessarily believe in it, one hundred percent, but you absolutely need to fake it. A local prostitution bust has proved to me something I've never really let myself believe - men aren't nearly as picky as we think they are. Unfortunately, a lot of men use a woman's low self esteem to gain power and build up their own egos, so don't let that happen to you. The truth is that a confident woman who knows what she has can disguise a lot of flaws and draw the attention she wants the same way a woman is drawn to a confident alpha hero. There's an aura about them.

No one is perfect. Own your power. And strut it, girlfriend. :)

2. The Imporance of Foundation Garments. I know I'm preaching to the converted around here, but I can't tell you how many women are just oblivious. And I'm not even talking about pretty undergarments vs. granny panties. I'm talking basic fit. They haven't been sized for a bra since their mom took them at sixteen. They're busting and oozing out of every side, most especially the backfat they can't see. They think underwire is some kind of circus act. They wear sports bras when they are not, in fact, playing sports. You must have well-fit and flattering undergarments or even the fanciest, priciest outfit at Bloomingdales will look awful.

Then there's the discussion of shapewear. Drag queens don't have waists or hips. They have to sculpt them using corsets and padding. Heck, I've even seen them use a 'ghetto corset' which involves wrapping the waist with saran wrap, then duct tape. Never underestimate the power of duct tape. Most of us ladies don't need to add any padding to get curves, but the glorious Spanx or other lines of girdles and such can help smooth out the lumps and let clothing wear better. Modern shapewear is a lot more comfy these days that what your grandma used to wear, but I have to say I get nostaligic sometimes for the long line bras with the pointy cups that let those tight little 50's sweaters fit so gloriously.

And, since we're on the topic, there is something to be said for pretty bras and panties. I think wearing a pretty (not uncomfortable, but pretty) matching set with a little lace or satin can go a long way in boosting a woman's confidence, even if no one sees it but her.

3. Embracing Femininity. For some reason, I have "It's Great Being A Girl" in my head right now. Okay, now I know painful heels and digging bra straps leave something to be desired. A t-shirt and a pair of sweats with a pony tail can feel like the best outfit ever. The danger is in letting that take over or using it to hide behind. I will admit I'm the first to go to jeans and a t-shirt. I've never been much of a primper. My cousin takes nearly an hour and a half to get ready in the morning (that was to go siteseeing in NYC) and I think that's a little much for everyday. But I can pull it out when I need to. I think I need to more often. Its just easier to put on whatever when I know no one really cares. But I should care.

Put a sexy outfit and heels on a woman and watch her whole carriage change. If she's rusty, yes, she's going to bobble along and fidget, but if she's wearing something that really suits her, eventually it will evolve into a saucy sashay. Drag queens are masters of illusion and they know what to wear and how to make them look more feminine. Heels make your legs look longer and thinner. The right length of skirt can make you look leaner and taller. There's an art to it, but every woman should know what she looks best in and how to work her body, in whatever shape and size, to her advantage. Women should feel good in their clothes.

4. Posture. As I sit here, slumped over my keyboard, I know I'm guilty. Unless I'm posing for a picture where I mentally tell myself to stand up straight, suck in the gut, push out the girls and tilt the head up to avoid double chins, I usually pay no attention to it. I strut around in the mirror in an outfit, sucking it in to see how it looks, but then wear it all day without so much as holding my breath. I'm just fooling myself. Recently, one of the drag queens looked at his girl and said, "damn girl, posture!" And he was right. The Harvard graduate looked like a hunched over troll. Once Mariah was done with her, the girl was standing tall and ended up winning. I think part of the importance of heels is that it does affect your posture and for the better. You have to work harder to keep your balance and it brings everything up and into alignment.

5. Behold the Power of Eyeliner. There's a transformative power in make up. If the right makeup can turn a scruffy Puerto Rican man into a Latino Princess, imagine what it can do on an actual woman! I think most women just don't know how to put make up on properly. They don't know how to accentuate and highlight to make them look their best. Each face is different and how the makeup goes on is different. I wish they'd spend more time on that on the show. That seems to be something they skim over. Trade secrets, I suppose.

That's all I have for today, although I'm sure there's much more to learn at their platform-heeled feet. To the right is Raven, one of my favorites, although she can be quite harsh (she would say she's keeping it real.) She shows me up in a swimsuit. Got any other tips from drag queens? What about you? Are you guilty of letting your femininity slack? I know I am.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Free Time...Uh, Oh

We've had a rash of turning in books this week on the Playground. I just finished my extremely extensive revisions for my Feb Blaze - Bring It On. The book is so much better, but I had to turn them around so fast that I'm brain dead. Or so I thought.

My plan was to take it easy this week. I'm waiting on feedback from my wonderful editor on my next proposal (my April Blaze - Rub It In) and it isn't due until the end of Sept. so I have a little down time. I could do laundry but my wonderful husband Zilla has actually been keeping up with it for me lately. I could do the major overhaul my landscaping needs but it's too damn hot out. I could clean my desk off but what fun is that?

Do you know what I've done? Think about my next book. I promised myself I wouldn't write a single word for the rest of the week. I have a feeling I'm going to cave tomorrow. I just can't help it. I've filled my time with mindless games that are quickly losing their appeal in favor of something that uses brainpower. I'm itching to dig into what comes next. I think maybe I need to take a course on relaxation and learning to make the most of my down time.

Do you have trouble relaxing? Is taking time off difficult for you to do? Do you find that even on vacation you set a schedule and fill every moment? Or are you one of the people I wish I could be and enjoy your downtime?


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another New PM Adventure

Until a few years ago, the most metaphysical/paranormal/woo-woo thing I'd done was read my horoscope and play with my mother's old Ouija board.

Then I met the Playfriends and the Mavens and made my first visit to a psychic, had my tarot cards read and was introduced to the concept of guided meditation.

The guided meditation was good. It's a great way to relax and level out. I have a progressive relaxation track on my iPod and use it to help me sleep on nights when my brain won't shut down.

The psychic and tarot cards? Ehhhhhhh. The readings were never right. They were so far off in left field I had to laugh. I pretty much dismissed it all as a fun way to spend an afternoon, but beyond that, nothing. I even remember getting into a discussion on Facebook with someone who basically called me an atheist because I mentioned tarot. A friend, who is an ordained minister, put that person in his place when she said she studied tarot in Divinity School and quoted off some facts about religion and the metaphysical. I think the guy unfriended me after that. I don't consider it a loss. Having a negative person move out of your life is never a loss.

After the ex and I separated, I had another tarot reading from a man I'd seen featured in the local newspaper. I figured at worst I was blowing $20 at the flea market. But OHMYGOSH! He was spot on. And I was careful not to tell him anything he could use to guess at anything going on in my life.

Apparently my metaphysical plumbing had contained a huge clog. And a dose of woo-woo Drano had flushed it right away.

Fast forward a year or so, and a friend from church was talking about something called Reiki. I asked what it was and I won't go into a long explanation because you can read about it here. Interestingly (or oddly) enough, I'd just reconnected with a woman I'd met when I first moved to Huntsville over 35 years ago. She'd told me she was a Reiki master and a massage therapist. And these two women know each other. The Universe was conspiring, and it wasn't against me.

I was having some serious physical issues all related to stress, and my church friend suggested Reiki and massage might help (she's not only a Reiki Master but a licensed massage therapist too). I knew massage would be great, but I went into the Reiki with a healthy dose of skepticism.
I came out of the session as a true believer. She never actually put her hands on me during the Reiki session, but when she had her hands over my abdomen because I'd told her I had gastric issues, I felt intense heat, like a heating pad set on high. She told me this indicated release of negative energy. During another session, I never mentioned pain in a particular part of my body, but when she had her hands there, that heat returned. She felt it. I felt it. Okay, something was going on there.

I was on a massage table, all relaxed and covered with a light blanket, with an mask over my eyes to block out the light. Af first everything was black behind my eyelids. But then I began to see vivid colors coming in waves. Let me back up a bit and say that during the guided meditations we did with the Mavens, we were supposed to "see" the white light of the Holy Spirit around us as we began, see a green meadow, see a white rock path, see this and that and the other. What did I see? NOTHING.

And now I'm seeing colors, mostly green and purple. It was awesome!

Last week I visited an acupunturist because of some knee issues. I also went in with a bad low-pressure headache and ask if he could help with that too. As soon as the first needle went into my face, the light show started. I saw green and purple. Before I could say anything to him, he asked if I saw any colors. When I told him about the green and purple, he said those are considered healing colors.

I walked in with a killer headache. I walked out without one. And those low-pressure headaches ususally last two to three days. I've been headache-free since last week.

My blog title is "Another New PM Adventure" and that new adventure is Reiki training this weekend. I'd talked with my friend about it a few months ago and decided to pursue Reiki a little further. It's for me and my own personal healing. Some people do Reiki sessions for money and maybe at some point I will too. But right now I'm going to be selfish, get my own energy lined up and flowing right and heal myself. The Playfriends might get to be crash test dummies at some point though. ~grin~

Are you into any alternative or complementary therapies such as Reiki, acupunture, Rolfing? Tell me about it. I certainly won't laugh.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Y'all know I love a list.

Making a list helps me feel like I've got a grip on what I have to do. It makes it seem manageable. Regardless of the length of the list, the fact it's in a nicely organized format makes me feel like I've got it under control.

And I love the feeling of crossing things off my list. The sense of accomplishment makes me smile. It doesn't matter how small the item on the list was, it's the fact I have crossed it off (which I always do with a flourish!) that makes me smile.

And there's nothing quite like the feeling of crossing the last item off a list. Not only have I accomplished all the little goals, I've accomplished the big, overall goal. You have to understand that my lists are extensive, multi-page events. There are often sub-lists or even sub-sub lists.

Yesterday, I spent all day working my way through a list. And I finished it!
Today I have another list to work my through. I doubt I'll get this one completely finished, though, because there's one item on my list that could take much longer than expected: a trip to the pool with AC.

With the book finally in, I've planned a little fun time with AC. She's been a real trooper this summer putting up with me and my characters. And yes, I've added it to my list of things to do.

I know I'm more likely to spend too much time worrying about what needs to be done that I forget about the things I want to do. I want to spend time with my kid. So I add it to my list. It's just as important as going to the dry cleaners or picking up a light bulb for the fish tank. Actually, it's even more important.

Making a list allows me to prioritize. If I have six errands to run, I list them in the order they should be done. Since my kid is a priority, I'm adding her to my list today and moving her right to the top.

What does your to-do list look like today?


Monday, July 25, 2011

A Little Bit Here... A Little Bit There...

“Fantasizing about pursuing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time – or at all.” Julia Cameron, The Artists Way

This quote has haunted me from the moment I first read it. There are quite a few things I’ve failed to pursue part-time as I adjust to adding an outside job to my workload.

I’ve always been the type of person that wants to tackle one job at a time, working diligently until it’s done and I can move on to the next item on the To Do list.

That process isn’t really an option anymore. There are too many things that need to be tackled, to many distractions, and not enough daylight to allow for that kind of long-term focus.

Take the yard, for instance. I was so overwhelmed last year that the extent of my yard work was paying someone to mow. Needles to say, the jungle has multiplied here in the south.

I keep avoiding it, pretending if I don’t see it, all those saplings, overgrown bushes, and weeds don’t really exist. But that doesn’t work for long – as a few people have taken the time to point out. After reading Cameron’ quote, I decided to tackle the yard 30 minutes at a time (with the kids at my side – which helps me accomplish even more). And only on weekend days, because that’s the only chance I have to do it in the cool of the morning (I’m not desperate enough to see the work done to be doing it in 100 degree heat.).

It’s slow going. And I have to admit that it’s very hard to stop when I hit that 30 minute mark. Just a little more, my brain says… No. No more.

But at least I have the “done” parts to focus on when I pull into the driveway. I smile and go back to pretending the jungle doesn’t exit… for now. I’m attempting to do the same with my writing. Instead of rushing headlong into a project, then petering out in 3 days, I simply ask myself when I have a bit of time, “What can I do, right now, with my creativity that would be fun? Which of my stories do I want to work on? What part (brainstorming, editing, writing, critiquing my work) do I have the energy to do at this moment?”

And I leave the rest for another, hopefully better day.

So tell me, are you a “dig in until I finish” kind of person, or “a little bit here, a little bit there” kind of person?


Friday, July 22, 2011

A New Kind of Pressure

So, its been a little less than two months since I got the call. It's amazing how quickly things can change. Sure, there's the parties and the excitement. The rites of passage and open door to new opportunities. But then, things quiet down and you realize your entire career, your writing and how you look at it has instantly changed.

I'm experiencing this more acutely in the last month.

First, there were the revisions on the book they bought. While intimidating, I thought I was doing pretty okay. Word from the editor may prove otherwise, but given my initial panic, things were on track to give them what they asked for. One of the things my editor requested was the addition of a love scene. The original only had one, so I shifted things around and added another earlier in the book.

It was then, as I typed their romantic interlude (down by the fireplace... sorry, Barry White moment there... or it is Chef from South Park?), that I realized things had really changed. Someone was going to read this. I mean really read this. Not just Instigator or whomever else I could rope into it before I sent it out. Not just the editor. The sex I was typing at that exact moment would be in the hands of my friends, family, coworkers and total strangers in less than a year's time. I'd never really had this worry before. I don't know if a part of me figured most of what I did would never see the light of day or what. So I started looking over it. Did it reveal too much about me? Would someone reading it think they'd gotten some insight into my freaky side?

I pushed the panic aside and finished. A little too late to worry. I mean the whole point or writing is for it to be read. I had to remind myself that.

Then I started the next book. I plotted it, put together a synopsis, and jumped right in. Then, once again, I was aware of this new layer of expectations on me. This wasn't just another book. This had to be another publishable book. My sophomore release. The evidence of my growth as an author. A book good enough for my editors to sigh in relief because they hadn't made the mistake of acquiring a one hit wonder.

No pressure. :)

No worries, though. I'm working through my neurosis and have completed two chapters without a meltdown. A third chapter is questionable... It was just a shift I didn't expect with all the excitement and hullabaloo of the 'sale.' When you're unpublished, all you're striving for is crossing that line, getting into the clubhouse. Then when you get there, you're like... hmm... Now I'm settling into the reality of being a professional, published author. I imagine its like getting engaged or finding out you're pregnant and realizing that a million little things will be different from here on out.

So, have you ever done something you've done before, then suddenly realize that everything is different now? How did it change things for you?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

I can't be that old

Ten years ago today Sweet Pea was born. You'd think my birthday last week would have been enough to make me feel old. I'm in my mid thirties now and my body is starting to remind me I'm not as young as I used to be. But what's really hit me hard is realizing I have a child in double digits.

She's growing up. Starting middle school. And she'd kill me for mentioning this here, but she's definitely working hard on those pre-teen hormones. She's moody and starting to value her privacy. I can see so much of my own teenage struggles when I look at her (which hopefully will make the next 8 years bearable since I can remember and relate).

My life seems to be changing and I'm not ready. I thought I had more time. Time to cuddle her. Time for us to color and play games and laugh over movies together. Lately, she'd rather spend time in her own room than with me. I realize, logically, that this is what's supposed to happen. We raise our children to rely on themselves so that eventually they can live their own lives. I can see Sweet Pea taking those first steps and I'm not ready to let go.

For her birthday she asked to take her good friend to the movies...alone. They want me to drop them off and pick them back up later. It'll be the first time that I've actually done that. I will admit that I don't plan on going far (actually, I'm just going to see a different movie). She's chomping at the bit to grow up. But I think I'm going to keep hold of the reins for just a little while.

Have you ever had to let something go?


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Back-to-School Time

I'm going back to school this weekend -- to writing school. I'm taking a workshop given by Margie Lawson. It's called Empowering Characters' Emotions. The blurb about the class is below.

Want to add a psychological punch to your writing and editing?
Want to learn how to capture the full range of body language on the page?

Want to turn your work into a page-turner by powering up emotion and hooking the reader viscerally?

Look forward to learning:

The EDITS System
Basic, complex, empowered, and super empowered passages
Backstory management
Kinesics, Haptics, Proxemics, Facial expressions, Paralanguage
Proprioceptive stimuli, Involuntary physical responses
Mirroring, Communication Accommodation
Levels of intimacy, Love signals
Nonverbal gender differences
Emotional authenticity
In-trancing the Reader
Writing fresh . . .
Projecting Emotion for a Non-POV character
Carrying a Nonverbal Image Forward
Objective Constructs
Empowering Characters’ Emotions Checklist

I have to tell you that none of that makes sense to me, and I was a psychology major. Of course, that degree is thirty-mumble years old and I was more into maze-running rats than Freud and Jung.

But I saw this workshop and had heard good things about it and decided, what the heck! Maybe this will jump-start my recalcitrant muse. If nothing else, it will get me back into the book I wrote 50K words on for NaNoWriMo 2010. Of course, after I cleaned up the manuscript, there are only about 42K words left. I need to finish this book. My soul needs for me to finish this book to prove to myself I can do it again.

And aside from taking the class, I'm going to get to meet a new friend in person. Pam Asberry and I met online, and she's actually the one who told me about the workshop. When I decided to take it, I let her know, and to make a long story short, we're going to be roomies on Friday night.

Whatcha doing this weekend?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Under a screaming deadline...

Well, something is screaming... it could be me, of course.

Deadline is Friday, and Friday is fast approaching and no, I'm not done. I've never had a book run this close to the wire and I'm not liking the feeling.

I was the one in college who wrote papers long before they were due and slept the sleep of the righteous the night before. (Only once did I have to pull an all-nighter to get a paper done and that was only because it was a group project and the rest of the group waited until the last minute. I was not a happy camper.)

But some books just don't come easy, and this one has been a Problem Child like the likes I've never seen before. Will I get it done? Yes, because I've already had one extension of my deadline and I'm not asking for another. If it kills me, I will finish.

But it means this blog post is short, and the list of things I have to do once I turn in the book is getting long. (Guest blogs that need to be written, a newsletter that needs to go out, pictures from the RWA conference to get uploaded, websites to update... sigh.) What I need now is a list of rewards.

First on my list is a trip to see the new Harry Potter movie.* Help me out and give me something to look forward to as this deadline deadens my mind...


*AC is away at camp, so seeing the HP movie hasn't been an issue yet. Before she left, she came into my room asking how the book was coming along, was I going to get it finished, etc. I felt kinda bad that my deadline stress was affecting my child, so I told her it was coming right along and would be finished soon. She seemed happy. Later on, I find out that her concern was strictly due to the fact that DG told her we would all go see the HP movie together -- after my book was done...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Characterization and Those Potter Kids...

Like most of America, I spent this weekend with the Harry Potter characters. These films have been amazing – not surprising as they’re based on amazing books.


While the Potter books have an intricate plot that astounds me (how did she think to plant all those clues along the way?), it is the characters that make me care about what’s happening. Because its happening TO THEM. They are what keeps me coming back for more.

And it wasn’t just the heroes that intrigued me. I even found myself engaged in the pain of Draco Malfoy in the last few movies, despite his previous bullying ways.

The longevity of interest in a group of characters throughout a movie series is rarely seen, though we do get attached to our television characters. I also have characters from books that I’ve enjoyed over a series, besides the Potter brood. I don’t really care for long running romance series that feature the same couple in every book, but I love return appearances of previous heroes and heroines that grace me with ongoing glimpses of their lives.

The biggest that comes to mind is the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward. This author doesn’t promote the traditional Happily Ever After. Instead she continues to publish glimpses of the couples’ ongoing struggles and how they work through them to preserve their love for each other.

Each glimpse also deepens the characterizations and makes the characters appear even more three-dimensional and real. I get to “visit” with them again and catch up on their lives like old friends. That investment keeps me coming back for more – to the point that this is one of the few authors I’ll spring for when the books come out in hardback first. I simply can’t wait an additional 6 months for the paperback.

So tell me, what series characters have you fallen in love with and why?


Free Book Friday Winner

It is late in coming, but I've finally picked a winner for last week's FBF giveaway. The winner of "No Mercy" by Sherrilyn Kenyon and "With This Fling..." by Kelly Hunter is... CAROLINE. Email your snail mail info to me at smartypants (at) writingplayground (dot) com to claim your prize!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Idea, Bad Idea

When I was in high school, I became infatuated with the Steven Spielberg cartoon Animaniacs. There were the Warner's, Yakko, Wakko and Dot, Pinky & the Brain, Buttons & Mindy, Rita & Ralph, ChickenBoo, Slappy the Squirrel and Mr. Skullhead. 30 minutes of animated fun all dressed up for kids but secretly for adults. I mean, really... would kids understand a Woodstock sketch doing a "Who's on First" bit using bands playing at the concert? Nope. But I giggle like a fool to this sketch. ("What's the name of the band?" "Who." "The band on stage?" "Who." "Who is on stage?" "Yes." "Yes is the band on stage?" "No, they're playing later.") Look it up on YouTube. Seriously.

But another favorite of mine was "Good Idea, Bad Idea" with Mr. Skullhead. Mr. Skullhead didn't talk, but he got put in a lot of short skits, including this one, that were mostly pointless. But basically, this one would have something like :

"Good idea... finding easter eggs on Easter morning."
"Bad idea... finding easter eggs on Christmas morning." Eww. :)

I found this compilation on YouTube if you want to amuse yourself for two minutes.

So I was thinking the other day on how I could apply this to writing. Maybe you all can help me come up with some good ones. Here's a couple to get started.

Good idea... making your submission stand out with a well-formatted, well-edited, engaging manuscript and coversheet.
Bad idea... making your submission stand out with pink unicorn paper, glitter, handcuffs, or a personal photo with you in lingerie at your laptop.

Good idea... researching the line or publisher you're submitting to, to make sure your work fits the guidelines and what they're publishing.
Bad idea... copying one of the publisher's recent books word for word and just changing the character's names.

Good idea... making an appointment at a conference to pitch your book to an editor or agent.
Bad idea... following your targeted editor or agent into the bathroom to pitch your book while they're, uh, busy.

Your turn!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Odds N Ends

I'm sorry for my tardiness today. Yesterday was my birthday and I sorta blew off all my responsibilities. Shhh, don't tell my editor because I'm in the middle of some major revisions that I really should have been working on. (But I plan on making it up today so I think it's all good).

Yeah, speaking of those revisions, these are heavy duty. I think I've probably said this before, but revisions are one of my least favorite parts of this business. Usually, by this point I'm sick of seeing, hearing and dealing with my characters. However, this time I'm actually pretty excited because I think this book is going to be awesome when I'm done. This book is definitely proof that stories can always be improved and that doing the work pays off in the end. You can all tell me if I'm right (about it being a good book) next Feb when Bring It On hits the shelves.

I haven't talked about the animal front in awhile at my house. Mostly because I've managed to keep the additions to a minimum. Aside from a brief stint of multiplying guinea pigs (which we've nipped in the bud) things had been fairly quite at Sinclair Stables. However, Sweet Pea had the bright idea this weekend to move her guinea pig from the little house (separate building outside our house) into her room (which is right across the hall from our room). And then just HAD to give her a wheel to run on. All. Night. Long. The guinea pig is keeping me up all night - I'd like to point out that Zilla seems oblivious - not to mention Sweet Pea. I'm wondering how I explain eviction to a guinea pig because if she doesn't chill soon, she's going to find her furry little butt back outside.

So, yeah, that's what's going on in my life. Anyone else care to share?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You'd better watch out

It's only 166 days until Christmas. Yeah, I know. It's hard to believe, but it's true.

Given how fast this year has gone by, it'll be here before I know it. It's mid-way through July already and all those goals I set back in January with a June 1st deadline are shot to Hades and back.

Meanwhile, you can have a little taste of Christmas ahead of time.

The contest on the Writing Playground website is called "Let's Have Christmas in July (and August)." And you can learn more about how to enter the contest here.

Here's the prize package I've put together for some lucky winner.

This will give you a head start -- given it's already July.

Or are you one of those shoppers who already has your Christmas shopping done?

P.S. Today's a very special day for one of the Playfriends. So here's something very special for her!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I (heart) NY

I would love to post pictures – and I will, eventually – but the camera is acting up and I simply don’t have time to argue with it.

As I’m regaling folks with my stories of what an excellent time I had at the RWA Conference in NYC, I’m hearing grumbles that their conferences and conventions are never quite as much fun.

And I had a BLAST in the big city…

I started off the week feeling horribly selfish – I flew out on Monday, which just happened to be DG and AC’s birthday. I tried to balance it out – I got up early to take them both to a birthday breakfast before they took me to the airport, but it didn’t quite seem like enough. Thankfully, by the time I landed at LaGuardia, the guilt had passed. ~grin~

Highlights of my trip? Oh, there are so many…

Dinner at Sardi’s with the Lindas, Insti and SP to celebrate SP’s sale. Talk about a special dinner!

Going to a taping of the Colbert Report with Barbara Vey, her son Andy, and Insti. I touched Stephen Colbert, gang!!!

Finally getting to meet more of the Modern Heat gang: Lucy King, Heidi Rice, Kelly Hunter, Aimee Carson, and Amy Andrews. We had great times hanging out – and massive thanks to Maven Linda who let me take her to lunch with the gang like it was Show-and-Tell day.

Tea at the Plaza. (OMG, I can’t thank Jane Porter enough for that experience.) The Black and White Ball at the Waldorf. (Harlequin can throw one hell of a party!)

There’s so much more – five whole days of feeling very special, very author-like, jumping into cabs and meeting people for drinks and dinner.

When DG, AC, and WonderMom arrived, I had to remember I had a life beyond the glamour, but experiencing NYC with my family was great too. Going to the top of the Empire State Building, seeing the Harry Potter Exhibition, seeing a show on Broadway and the fireworks over the Hudson River.

I’m hard-pressed to pick my favorite moment. Let’s just say I wore a grin the whole time.

Then, I came home from NYC only to be slapped in the face by the horridness of real life. Goodbye, long lunches in charming bistros; hello messy house and deadline.


When can we do it again?!?!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Oh, dear Lord, help me! The unexpected happened this weekend – on top of an HOD meeting and cleaning house, I had family come in this weekend. My dad, and lovely man that he is, he has pitched in to do some stuff that has needed doing for a long time. Not on my timetable, but I’m not complaining because, frankly, it needs doin’. :)

But I forgot my blog today. Sorry! Since I’m on a time crunch, why don’t y’all tell me what little projects are lying around unattended at your house? (Maybe that will help me not feel so bad about mine.)


Friday, July 08, 2011

Free Book Friday - Conference Edition

Man, I'm whooped. Conference kicked my tail. But as always, it was fun. As an introvert, it pretty much sucks my soul out and I have go crawl under a rock for a few days to recouperate.

While I'm recovering from my normal post-Nationals hangover, lets give away some of the books I picked up while I was there. I hit several of the obligatory publisher signings, got a bag of books from RWA, guest speakers, etc., so there's plenty to give away this next year.

First, one from our Awards Luncheon speaker, Sherrilyn Kenyon.

No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Live fast, fight hard and if you have to die then take as many of your enemies with you as you can. That is the Amazon credo and it was one Samia lived and died by. Now in contemporary New Orleans, the immortal Amazon warrior is about to learn that there's a worse evil coming to slaughter mankind than she's ever faced before. Shapeshifter Dev Peltier has stood guard at the front of Sanctuary for almost two hundred years and in that time, he's seen it all. Or so he thought. Now their enemies have discovered a new source of power- one that makes a mockery of anything faced to date. The war is on and Dev and Sam are guarding ground zero. But in order to win, they will have to break the most cardinal of all rules and pray it doesn't unravel the universe as we know it.

Next, one from RITA finalist, Kelly Hunter, who was very nice to me when the last martini hit me like a ton of bricks at the HQ party and I became an idiot.

With This Fling... by Kelly Hunter

Successful archaeologist Charlotte Greenstone has no time for men, so invents a convenient one--who bears a highly "inconvenient" resemblance to sexy stranger Greyson Tyler! To protect her mortifying white lie, Charlotte begs Grey to act as her temporary fiance....

One glimpse of Charlotte's killer curves, and Grey can't resist making his own outrageous proposition--he'll pretend to be her fiance... if they can enjoy "all" the benefits of being a couple! Smoking-hot Grey is definitely fling material, but Charlotte knows that's all it can ever be.... Isn't it?

To win, comment with the phrase "I want to stow away in your luggage & go to conference next year!"

Thursday, July 07, 2011


I know I don't usually talk about craft here on the blog, but a couple of things have happened recently and I thought this might be a good place to talk about it. First, last week in NYC I did a workshop with Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson and our own Andrea Laurence on voice. And second, I'm in the middle of judging some contest entries.

I don't know how many times I've heard or seen an editor say the most important thing they look for in a submission is voice. Plot, characterization, grammar - all of these things can be taught, but for the most part voice is something you have to find within yourself.

It's who you are - as a person and as a writer. It's the decisions you make as you tell the story. What scenes you write, what reactions your characters have, what conflicts you gravitate towards, what overarching themes you tend to use. It's the personal experiences you draw from when you're writing. The situations you remember when you're trying to invoke a certain emotion in a scene.

It's what makes your writing stand out!

Everyone is different. Everyone's writing voice is different. The best way to find and hone your voice? Write. And write some more. You can't figure out what you're good at unless you experiment and try something new. I started out writing romantic suspense but after several books realized that I naturally gravitate towards emotional, dramatic and sensual stories. Even if I hadn't set out to write a book with those specific qualities, I always found myself throwing them in. I just can't write a light and fun book...I can't help but sprinkle in emotional angst even if I'm not supposed to. It makes no sense to fight my natural inclinations. It's who I am and where I'm strongest.

As a writer, have you found your own voice? If you have, share it with us. As a reader, can you hear an individual writer's voice when you read? Can you pick up a book and just by reading the first few pages know who wrote that book?


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I'm late to the party

Have you ever been late to a party and felt like you missed all the good stuff?

I kid with the other Playfriends, who are all children of the 80's, that I completely missed the 80's because I was raising my children then. I completely missed out on hair bands while I was changing diapers and watching Big Bird and Mr. Rogers. But I have no regrets. I have two wonderful sons, and one has given me a terrific daughter-in-law and the prettiest granddaughter in the whole wide world.

But I seem to have missed more than the 80's. I've recently discovered several highly acclaimed TV shows that have been on for years. I'm not sure why I wasn't watching them before. I also don't know why I never read a romance novel prior to 2001. But I digress.

I present to you the shows in question.

The Closer

Kyra Sedgwick plays a woman from Atlanta who's hired to head up the priority homocide division of the Los Angeles Police Department. She has a background with the CIA as an interrogator. She's shrewd, smart, sexy and one tough cookie, especially in the interrogation room. Hence her reputation as The Closer.

The 7th and last season of this show starts on July 11. I'm sorry to see this show end since it portrays a southern woman in such a positive light as opposed to having her dumb and wearing short shorts and a tube top.

Law and Order: SVU

This is a spin-off of the original Law and Order franchise and deals with the department of the New York police department that investigates sex crimes. The subject matter is often gruesome and dark. But life is often gruesome and dark. I found this show in reruns on one of the cable channels and then started watching the first run episodes. I've seen them all with all the various and sundry Assistant District Attorneys (I'd like to start a "Bring Back Alex Cabot" campaign) and a few detectives who've come and gone. I especially like the pairing of Fin and Munch. They are such opposites and play off each other so well.

I read recently where the network wouldn't meet his salary demands, so Chris Meloni will not be returning in the fall as Detective Elliot Stabler. I can't believe NBC will bankroll such glop as Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice and The Marriage Ref but won't cough up more money for Meloni. Jennifer Love Hewitt will be added as a new detective this fall, but I'm afraid Benson and Whatever-Her-Name-Is may fall as flat as Benson & Hedges.

Criminal Minds

This show deals with the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. They are the ones who figure out that serial killers all played with fire, tortured animals and wet the bed past age six. At first, this show was too dark for me, but once I began focusing on the psychology of the show (my college degree is in psychology), I got hooked. I love the character of Penelope Garcia, the genius hacker who was hired by the bureau after she hacked into their system. If you can't lick 'em, hire 'em! And Shemar Moore ain't bad either.

Two of the characters in the photo below have left the show -- JJ and Emily. I don't think Emily will be back, but I'm curious if they'll bring JJ's character back. She was the one who greased the skids between the FBI and the media, an important resource to have when you have a group of people with combined IQs of a gazillion and the social skills of skunks.


And speaking of social skills -- or a lack thereof -- I just discovered Bones. And OMG what a season finale! Fortunately my local branch library has all the Bones DVDs through season 5 and I found all of season 6 online. So after an intensive two-week Bones-a-thon, I've been able to follow Dr. Temperance Brennan and FBI agent Seeley Booth from their first meeting to "I'm pregnant and you're the father." Booth is the stuff romance novel heroes are made of -- pure alpha male but with flaws that make him vulnerable and lovable. And kudos to the show for keeping the sexual tension going for so long before putting them together. I just hope the show doesn't fall victim to the "Moonlighting" curse.

I read a few weeks ago that the fall debut will be delayed until the first of November because the actress who plays Dr. Brennan is pregnant in real life and they want to give her maternity time. Just keep that sexual tension going and I'll be a happy camper. And I'll continue to avert my gaze during the gory parts. I also now know what a manubrium and a xyphoid process are. And given the symptoms, I accurately diagnosed a case of progeria seconds before Brennan did.

Then there are shows I never saw and really have no desire to watch, and they're too numerous to list. They primarily fall into the sitcom genre. I have no idea why I'm so drawn to crime dramas. Maybe my psychology-degreed mind has some secret desire to solve mysteries. I just don't want any part of the shooting and the dead bodies.

Have you discovered any gems AFTER they've been around for a while?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

You won’t believe what I did in New York…

But I can’t tell you right now, because I’m still in New York and not able to post a run-down and pictures and all. Believe me, though, when I say I’m having the BEST time, and I’ll be sad to get on the plane tomorrow.

I (heart) New York. Can I stay here forever? There’s so much to do that I’d never get bored. I’m not even a little bit done. Although I live in the suburbs, I really do love a city. There’s an energy that I can feel and it makes me happy. I don’t know how long I’d have to stay until that feeling wore off and I’d be ready to retire to the ‘burbs again, but I’m willing to give it a try.

London and New York. How I love you both. Can I have a little apartment in both places?

~note to self: Must write Harry Potter level book and make a billion dollars…~


So, next week I’ll give you a rundown of my adventures in the Big Apple. And I’ll cry because it’s over.

Anyone know why they call it the Big Apple?


Monday, July 04, 2011

MOANday: Patriotic Heroes

It's the 4th of July on the Playground and America is celebrating Independence Day!! I figured these hotties would fit right into the party. What about you?






Happy Independence Day!!!


Friday, July 01, 2011

I Heart NYC

Today is the last day of National Conference. I'm having lunch with my editor today. The RITAs are tonight. Most people will be packing up and flying out tomorrow. Instigator and I are hanging around until Sunday to get in a little siteseeing. I anticipate pounding through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, seeing Central Park and catching a show tonight, if we can manage it all.

I love New York. July is not my optimum visiting time, but conference is when it is. I've been there at Christmas, which I think is the best. I've been there in the spring, which is still quite chilly, but without the benefit of Christmas decorations. I have yet to go in the fall, but I really want to see Central Park with all the leaves changing. One day.

The book I just sold is set in Manhattan and I've found I've used a lot of my personal experiences to come up with things for my characters to see and do. When I'm there this time, I hope to capture a couple choice memories to put on my website when the book is published (like me in the My Little Pony car at Toys R Us in Times Square) but I also want to find some new things. If this book does well, then follow on books will be in NYC too and I don't want to run out of options. Of course, this requires me to do more than eat off the hot dog carts and hang out in the hotel bar. I need to get out there, for sure.

Have you been to NYC? What are your favorite things to see and do in the city? If not, when you travel, do you have any must-do activities? Maybe trying a new food or seeing a museum?