Wednesday, November 30, 2011


In less than twenty-four hours, National Novel Writing Month will come to a close, and for the first time in four years, I didn't hit the 50K mark. I blogged a couple weeks ago about my struggles. I've been doing just what I said I would -- reading books in various short contemporary lines to get back into the feel of a short contemporary romance.

Back when I used to read four to six of them a month, I could feel how the story should go. I knew to drop backstory in a little at a time, to use all five senses, to show and not tell. Or maybe I was fooling myself into believing I was doing all that. At any rate, I was putting words on paper.

If I was a Tweeter or a Twitterer or whatever a person who uses Twitter is called, I could come up with a lot of hashtags for how I'm feeling now:


You get the picture. And that brings me to something I realized a few days ago.

I wasn't sure who my characters were. I mean, WHO they were, as in I needed pictures of them so I could look at a photo and remember to describe the hero's blue eyes and the heroine's brown hair. I learned a few years ago that I'm a visual learner, and pictures help me cement things in my mind.

In the past, I've done a story board -- or at least had some things printed out and taped around my office for reference. Hugh Jackman was the hero of my 2008 NaNo book. Lucky Vanous was last year's hero. And who is the hero of Seduction with Style?

I swear I had him picked out to be Max Brown before the People magazine thing. The outdoorsy clothes and hat, the whiskers, the too-long hair -- they all fit with a guy who 's been doing his own thing in the great outdoors for the past seven years and whose mother thinks he needs an makeover so he'll fit into the corporate image of his father's empire. But he was really the only character I had a clear picture of. So I went on a hunt and I think maybe this is the rest of the cast.

I originally had this woman (found on the Max Talent site) as my heroine, Victoria Sharpe. She's an image consultant and I felt this woman had the right look for that.

But then I came across this photo of Ashley Judd and thought maybe she's Victoria.

Max's mother, Julia, plays a part in getting him and Victoria together. And I needed to know who she was too. She's in her late 60's or early 70's, stylish and proper but with some mischief in her too. For a while I was picturing English actress Helen Mirren.

And then it hit me! Who better than another actress who actually portrayed a TV character named Julia -- the late Dixie Carter.

Another character who has a small but relevant part is Victoria's business partner, Sophia. She's fun and quirky. I was getting nowhere finding her until I stumbled across this photo. It's self-explanatory.

She's fun and quirky, right?

I still have to cast Victoria's brother, Nick. It's important to get him right because I think he could be the hero in another book. He's in his early to mid thirties and he's an attorney. He was an associate in a firm until, with the help of information obtained by a private investigator, he won a high-profile divorce case for his client. It was the case no one thought he could win. Now he's the golden boy. And the female PI is going to be his heroine but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Who is Nick?

Help me out here. My knowledge of today's actors and actresses is very limited. All my heroes would be Hugh Jackman if I was left to my own devices. Help me find Nick. And if you have suggestions for the others, tell me those too. Oh, and Max has a younger sister, Kate. She has an MBA from an Ivy League school and would love to work in the family business, but Father is old fashioned and thinks she doesn't belong there. She's sharp as a tack, adores her older brother and is frustrated as all heck that her father is such an old fuddy-duddy. She has a cute scene with Max where Victoria thinks she's his woman du jour. Any idea who she might be?

Because this is all about looks, I'll pick one commenter at random to receive a nifty make-up collection in a zipper bag.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Release Day to Me!


The Power and the Glory is out now!

You know, my birthday was Sunday, so you could run out and pick up a copy as a little b-day gift to me. Just saying...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. And I was tickled when RT Bookreviews gave it 4 stars and said, "With its fresh twist on a familiar theme and a hero and heroine who balance each other perfectly, this second installment of the Marshall family saga is a pleasure to read."

Squee with me!!

And pop over to the RomCon blog for a chance to win a copy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday Skeptics

Forgive me while I rant for a moment. You see, I confess, I'm a Black Friday shopper. I've gone on and off for quite a few years since the kids were little, if the hubby could be home to watch them that day.

I know, you're probably expecting me to fuss about some crazy person I saw fighting over something, but frankly, I don't see a lot of that while I'm out. Its all orderly lines and yes, lots of complaining, but as long as no one is throwing fists, I'm okay with that. I know the rowdy stuff happens, but maybe since I never go out to try to get that computer I have to have, I don't get to witness it.

Actually, I'm more than a little irritated by some people's attitude toward Black Friday. Now, as I said, I go with a list, but I never go for something I HAVE to have. So maybe I'm not the usual BF shopper. For example, this year I wanted a basketball goal for Little Man. Would have loved to have it for $69 -- the main reason I braved Walmart at the starting gate for the first time. But if I didn't get it, that's fine too. I'll pay the higher price with a wince and move on. Really glad I no longer needed the trampoline I was interested in, because those went really fast. But I finished all my Christmas shopping, and when I figured it up, I saved over $600 on that day alone.

Back to my rant -- I come home from BF shopping at 5am (Sis and I started at 10pm Thanksgiving night). I sleepily log into Facebook while I wind down and what do I see but a ton of posts on how crazy it is to shop on Black Friday, and a slew of people who would rather poke their eyes out than go out that day (wow, not many people value their eyesight, I guess). It reminded me of an article that I read recently on NaNoWriMo. There were comments aplenty about how stupid NaNo was, how people who participated only produced crappy writing, and how these "literary" authors wouldn't be caught dead participating. You know, that's all fine and dandy, but do you really find it necessary to call me "stupid" in a public arena? If the method doesn't work for you (or you have absolutely no desire to deal with hundreds of people in a store at one time and hour and a half checkout lines), not a problem. But don't denigrate me because I want to.

I also heard several "scientific" types touting how much of a myth Black Friday is. "Oh, you can get good deals like that year round." Maybe so -- but I shop for this stuff all year long, and I can't save $600 on a single shopping trip for Christmas presents any other time of the year. I get most of my Christmas finished up on that day, so I save TIME and MONEY. And I rarely see DVDs on sale for $1.97, at least, current DVDs. If you don't shop for this stuff all the time, you have no idea how often it goes on sale or whether you can get to the actual store while its on sale. Huff...

Okay, down off my soapbox for today. :) I'm sure y'all have plenty to say about Black Friday -- and I promise not to judge, now that I've gotten that off my chest.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Still Thankful

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The nasty economy probably kept folks up all night shopping for all the black Friday deals that have crept back so far, people are shopping in their turkey coma. But I'm still thankful.

My family isn't the kind that sits around the table and tells everything they're thankful for at dinner. That's a little too touchy feely for my crowd. But I still think about it, or blog about it as the case might be. And this year, I am obviously unbelievably thankful for the turn my writing career has taken.

It has been less than six months since I got the call that I'd sold my first book WHAT LIES BENEATH. The rest has been a blur of revisions, contracts, line edits, proofreading and art fact sheets. I met my editor, made friends with the other writers in Desire and walked in the footsteps of my characters in New York. I signed with a great agent at Bookends. I sold my second book, a July release which just got titled as MORE THAN HE EXPECTED even though we're still working on revisions and waiting on contracts. I'm spending the rest of my holiday weekend eating leftover pumpkin pie and finishing up that book for my deadline. Then, hopefully, I'll spend the rest of December working on the single title for my agent to shop and putting together a proposal for my next Desire contract. By spring and my first release, I'll be in full promo-mode. I can't wait.

Wow. Its just crazy. I mean, this time last year, I was hopeful that a couple projects I had out might go somewhere. The holidays were kind of depressing me. Normally I love it, but I was feeling dumpy. I wouldn't have put up a Christmas tree if DB hadn't flipped out when I made the suggestion. This year, I'm crazy busy between my two jobs and yet I can't wait to decorate. I even think (since its oddly warm today) that I might decorate some outside. I haven't really done that since my new house (uh, 4.5 years ago). No way am I stringing up lights on a 2 story house. And yet I want to, though probably as a revisions avoidance tactic.

So this year, even with Thanksgiving come and gone, I have to say that I am still extremely thankful. Thankful to find an editor that 'gets' me and is actually like a twin separated at birth. (We had a discussion about Ninja Turtles once and I knew it was meant to be.) I'm thankful for an agent who thinks I have great potential and was willing to sign me without knowing if aliens landed in chapter fourteen. I'm thankful to have sold to a line that has room to grow new authors and has a community of writers that are welcoming and friendly to the newbies.

Finally, I'm thankful for the friends that kept me writing when I felt like giving up. I would never have gotten this far without them.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Glitter Graphics

We hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving
filled with family, friends, food...and football!

Comments by

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers. We're so lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I've been having knee problems for a while now and finally went to the doctor back around the first of September. After x-rays and a lot of poking and bending and questions, he determined I have inflammation under the kneecaps and possibly a torn meniscus in the right knee.

The doc put me in a knee brace for six weeks. Within hours it had rubbed a raw spot on my leg, and when I wore the protective sleeve under it the next day, I got an very red and very itchy welt from whatever keeps the sleeve from sliding down. So I improvised with the cut-off top of a sock until the doctor's office gave me some cotton material they put under casts. I also left with a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medication and orders to take it easy on the knee.

When I went back for my check-up, the pain had improved a LOT but he was still concerned, so he ordered physical therapy -- twice a week for four weeks. At that point he will re-evaluate and possibly do an MRI. He is hoping I can avoid surgery with the therapy (and I an hoping for this in a very big way).

Physical therapy is also called PT, and I've come to believe those initials also stand for Pain and Torture. Heaven bless her, my assistant therapist is as sweet a woman as they come. We talk about all sorts of things while she's ripping my hamstrings and quadriceps from my body. She tells me I'm doing a good job, but darnit, I swear there's a little gleam in her eye when she sees the tears in mine or watches me breathe through a series of 60 leg lifts.

What sort of person becomes involved with pain and torture... er... physical therapy? The curriculum is tough. My main therapist has DPT after her name -- Doctorate in Physical Therapy. After she got her B.S. in Kinesiology, she did three more years of study in physical therapy plus an internship. She's a smart cookie.

But geez it hurts. And I have exercises to do at home too. If it means I can avoid surgery, I'll do my Lamaze breathing and tuck a tissue in the pocket of my yoga pants and gut it out.

Keep your fingers crossed. And if you see me, ask, "Have you done your pain and torture physical therapy today?

Have YOU had to do PT for anything? Tell me about your tor... er... treatment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey and cake

About this time every year, I start getting calls from Counselor Shelley with vague-y, "So how was your day? Anything special happen?" comments sprinkled throughout.

This is because even though I've known Shelley for twenty-something years, the girl still can't remember my birthday. Oh, she knows that I'm a month older and that my birthday falls right around Thanksgiving (think of turkeys, think of Kimberly), but never gets the date right.

I've learned to play dumb and string her along until she just has to outright say it. ~grin~

I've told her that she will never earn her BFF merit badge if she doesn't even know when my birthday is. It's not like I've changed it recently or something.

It doesn't hurt my feelings; she has problems remembering everyone's birthdays. (And she's trying hard to forget her own.) Plus, you're looking at the girl who can't remember her anniversary. (Thankfully, it's the same day as Lynn Raye Harris' birthday, so I can get hints!)

I do quite like having my birthday close to Thanksgiving. There's usually a family gathering for Thanksgiving, so it turns into a birthday party, too. It also helps me launch the holiday season, as each year, I give myself permission to eat anything I want between my birthday and New Year's Day, diet be damned.

Do you share a birthday with something or someone, or do you get the event all to yourself? (DG and AC share a birthday with each other, so that's fun. DG likes having princess birthday cakes...)

And have a happy Thanksgiving, y'all!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Coffee Shop Craze!

The holidays are approaching and most of us are busy thinking of the many, many things we have to do – groceries for the big meals coming up, shopping for presents, preparing for parties, decorating the house, the list goes on and on. And this is all on top of the normal routine and responsibilities.

There are all kinds of ways to make the holidays easier, but one thing I try to do is get a little time away from it all to relax, breathe, treat myself, and indulge in some uninterrupted writing.

My favorite place to do that? A coffee shop.

Starbucks in the first place that comes to mind for most people, but I must admit it isn’t my go-to place. The music is too loud. I can’t think in there, whether I’m trying to write or simply figure out the next item on my shopping list. And there’s just something about the atmosphere (Yep, I’m one of those touchy-feely kind of people!). The high noise level and kind of hectic pace creates a pressure inside me, instead of letting me relax.

What I really love is any place that feels casual (and I’m not above one of those girly cafĂ© places either). Music is fine, but at a background rather than screaming level, friendly employees, and I must admit, I’m a sucker for a delicious-looking (and tasting) bakery section. Panera (the pictures below were taken there), Barnes and Nobles (which oddly enough is a Starbucks but without the Starbucks atmosphere), and a few local eateries that don’t mind people hanging out. If I can’t get to one of those, I’ll settle for Atlanta Bread Company or Books-A-Million (our local one can’t seem to regulate the temp in their building).

This time away is about pampering myself, and that usually means a hot drink (cocoa is preferable, but occasionally flavored coffees) and a sugary indulgence. I love to sip, nibble, breathe, and think. Soak it all in, regain some sense of equilibrium, and prepare myself to jump back in the race once more – no matter what time of the year it is!

So, if you had an hour to just relax at a coffee shop, what would you order?


PS. SP is blogging on the Desire blog again. Join her to share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


We've got a couple of honorary Birthday Girls from yesterday!!!! These ladies won "gifties":

Quality Time giftie: Addison

A True Surprise Present giftie: the Brunette Librarian

Congratulations!!! Please send Angel your snail mail address at readdaniwade @ gmail .com (no spaces) to claim your prize!

Thanks for all the birthday love!

Friday, November 18, 2011

We're Six!

Things are hustling and bustling for the Playfriends with lots of changes, both professionally and personally. Today we celebrate our 6th birthday. We’re big kids now, with lots of exciting “firsts” to discover and even bigger Playground equipment to climb! *squeee*

When we first started the Playground, eons ago, we were focused on helping other writers on their writing journeys. Now, as more of the Playfriends join the published ranks, we find ourselves also meeting our readers and providing a place for them to get to know us. As those goals collide, we’ve decided to make some exciting changes around here! Our main website has been converted to pages right here on the blog. Any of our past articles or interviews can be found by clicking the link on the appropriate page – they aren’t going away, we just won’t be adding to those sections any longer. If we interview wonderful authors, it will be here on the blog as guest authors, so be sure to keep an eye on upcoming Playground visitors!

Many of us have individual websites now (links are in the sidebar), but the blog is our special place to speak our piece -- in more than 140 characters -- so we hope you’ll continue to visit with us on the swing set every day. Our newsletter is still active, so feel free to sign up from the link in the sidebar, but it will be coming out quarterly now and focused on special events, guest bloggers, and releases. And don’t forget our Facebook page, where a lot of those special announcements and guest bloggers show up right in your news feed! So “LIKE” us as the Writing Playground.

We hope you enjoy our streamlined site and new “look”. These past six years have meant the world to us as we’ve gotten to know you, our readers, and celebrated life’s ups or commiserated life’s downs. We want to celebrate once again by giving away 2 “presents” today! Two of our commenters will be given one of the following gifties – so be sure to comment! Tell us your favorite way (presents, activities, whatever) to celebrate your BIRTHDAY!!!!

Giftie 1: Quality Time, includes a thermal mug, English breakfast tea, bath goodies, and of course, books!
Giftie 2: A True Surprise Present, includes mystery goodies (because some people like a good surprise) and of course, books!

Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday dear Playfriends, Happy birthday to us!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I just got back from my first trip to the desert. It's someplace I've always wanted to visit, but never had the chance. It's silly to say that it always seemed so far away, but it's the truth. Well, actually it's more like the closer places on my must see list always took precedence. So I was really excited about the chance to visit.

And I wasn't disappointed. Despite the fact that everything seems to be in varying shades of brown and dark green, it's beautiful in a stark kinda way. Possibly because it was different than anything I've experienced before. Dried up washes just waiting for rain, huge cactus that are probably older than the trees standing in my front yard and spiked plants that look like they belong on another planet.

Not to mention the mountains. We have a few of those in Alabama and Tennessee. They're nothing compared to the mountains that surround Tucson. Every direction you look there's another sharp peak. Here our mountains are covered with trees and somehow seem green and alive. There the brush can't disguise the hard rocks and shear edges.

Despite one day of rain, most of the time the sky is such a bright blue that it's almost painful to look at. And the clouds were perfect and fluffy. Arizona definitely lived up to my expectations. I can't wait to visit again!

Is there any place you've always wanted to visit? When you finally got there did it live up to your expectations or leave you disappointed?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Sixteen days ago I began my 4th NaNoWriMo adventure. I had an idea. I spent countless hours thinking about the characters and the story. My awesome friend Kristi Gold and I brainstormed one night until about 2:00 a.m. I had copious notes about goal, motivation and conflict. As I headed into November 1st, I felt very good about this book, which I have been calling Seduction with Style.

However (isn't there always a however?), as I've struggled through the past two weeks, I came to realize something was very wrong with the 18K words I'd written. I finally pinpointed the problem. The words are a mere recounting of the characters' actions. There’s no emotion, no sizzle, no passion, no tingle, no secksi. Just oodles of blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

And why? I believe I've figured that out too. I haven’t read enough romance in the past two years to stay in touch. I used to read 4 to 6 books a month. In the past year, I've only read 9 romances. NINE! It's not from lack of desire to read them; it's been from inability to focus and concentrate. But that's been getting better lately. Last Saturday I picked up a category romance that I had begun a few months ago and started reading it again. As I read I would see things and think, "I didn't do that in my book and it's a basic element." Things that used to come naturally when I wrote are just not there. I even took a couple pages of notes to remind myself what was missing (like the fact my hero has shockingly blue eyes). The novel-writing part of my brain just isn't firing on all cylinders.

So I’m taking a short break from writing. Last Sunday I bought two category romances and an anthology and have begun reading them with hopes of refilling the well and jumping back into NaNo this weekend. If I catch up and hit 50K by November 30, that’s great. If not, that’s great too. Okay, maybe not. I’ll be upset and feel like I failed. But I will have given it my best shot and that’s all anyone can do. It’s just very difficult to write about happily ever after when your own had a stop date (and FYI, my divorce papers were signed a year ago tomorrow, but who’s keeping track???).

It’s been a difficult time (and do not dare say to me, "You need to just get over it" because until you've walked in these shoes, you have no clue about the devastation to your self-esteem and trust). But I’ve also learned a lot about myself over the past two years. I’m in a better place, I have a strength I never knew I possessed, I am blessed beyond measure with great friends and a supportive family. Yes, I whine from time to time. If you have been divorced, you understand. If not, I hope you never have to go through it. But every time I think I have the crappiest life on earth, I see something that makes me realize I don’t.

Once I hit the publish button for this, I'm going to pile up on the sofa with one of my new books and immerse myself in it.

Writers, do you think it's important to read to keep your writing at its best? And readers, does reading enhance your life?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Blogger Emily Rodmell

Today, the Playground welcomes Love Inspired editor Emily Rodmell. I met her on Twitter and found out she's my editor's cube-neighbor. She's here to share some info for both readers and writers, so let's give her a warm, Playground welcome. - SP

Good morning, everyone. I’m Emily Rodmell, and I work as the associate editor for three Harlequin lines: Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical. I would like to thank Andrea for inviting me here today to share with you a little bit about these books and a great opportunity we have for historical romance writers.

All three of the LI lines are what you would call “inspirational” romance. That means that they are targeted toward women of faith. You’ll find a great romance with compelling characters in all the Love Inspired lines, but what you won’t find are things like sex, cursing or drinking. Our stories are what you would call “clean”, and the characters are people of faith. But that doesn’t mean boring by any stretch of the imagination. Our suspense books contain edge-of-your-seat suspense, real danger, murder and mayhem. Our characters in any line can be flawed. Perfection is not a requirement. And we work really hard to ensure each book has a compelling plot and intriguing romantic conflict. I’ve found in my years working for the Love Inspired lines that many regular romance readers tend to think that they wouldn’t enjoy an inspirational novel, but I’ve also found that when challenged to read a great one, nearly everyone finds themselves surprised by how much they like the stories. We’re proud of the books we put out, and if a cover or plot line ever interests you, I encourage you to give one a try. You might find yourself surprised at how much you enjoy the book.

I’d also like to take a moment to talk to the writers among you about writing for Love Inspired Historical. While each of the three lines are always open to great stories, well told, Love Inspired Historical is particularly looking for exciting new voices these days. LIH recently expanded from 2 books a month to 4 books a month, and that means we need double the amount of writers than we did last year. So if you have a love for historical romance and a great story, we’re interested in seeing it. LIH is looking for historical romance manuscripts of 70-75,000 words. They can be set in any setting or time period up to World War II. I especially like to see unique settings that aren’t the norm, but we also buy a lot of Western romance. Our readers can’t get enough of them. We don’t require books to be “preachy”. In fact, we’d prefer that they aren’t. Our books simply are books that women of faith can relate to. Ones that offer a romantic fantasy that upholds the values that Christian women live by. We’re actively looking for new writers, so send your stories my way at : 233 Broadway, Ste. 1001 New York, NY 10279

Thanks again for having me. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have, and I hope that you’ll all give inspirational a shot one day both as readers and writers. Our writing guidelines can be found here: And our books can be found here (including free samples):

Thanks for joining us today, Emily! For anyone out there thinking about reading or writing a inspirational romance, here's your chance to ask all the questions you may have.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Yikes! Where's My Brain?

Do you ever have those days when you feel brain dead? Boy, I am SO there! I can’t begin to count all the things I’ve forgotten this week alone – because I’ve forgotten them again! My thoughts are just slogging through some kind of resistance that feels like thick mud.

I thought it was just all the pressure – I work, I have kids, I’m doing NaNo, plus arguing with the phone company every couple of days because they’ve messed up our phone – that’ll take a lot out of ya. And writing so fast! I don’t see how authors who write books in less than two months do it! That is really not something I’m capable of and still able to have a life – and a brain. I can fast draft for a bit, but I can’t maintain the pace.

Last night, I took a nice hot bath, shut down the computer, and piled up in the bed with my Kindle to read. I needed that break. But this morning, I still don’t want to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes I wonder if I should just power through, but then when I finally DO rest, it can be difficult to pry me out of bed (or off the couch) for days. Ugh!

But today, its back to the grindstone. Gotta make up for the words I didn’t write yesterday! And I might just reward myself with more of the book I was reading. What are you rewarding yourself with today?


Coming Soon!

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!!! The Playground is celebrating its 6th birthday this Friday! Drop by for the cyber-party and comment to win one of two “birthday presents”. See you then!

Guest Blogger: Tomorrow we welcome Editor Emily Rodwell, who works with Harlequin Love Inspired!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Free Book Friday - Historical Edition

Today is 11-11-11. That's weird! I bet there's a lot of people getting married today so their husbands can remember their anniversary. Personally, I'm holding out for October 11, 2012 and 1:14 PM... 10-11-12, 13:14. :)

Okay, now lets focus on something that's not weird - historicals. Historicals are the meaty backbone of romance and today I'm giving away a great one.

Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran

She's been burned not once but twice by London's so-called gentlemen...

Gwen Maudsley is pretty enough to be popular, and plenty wealthy, too. But what she's best known and loved for is being so very, very nice. When a cad jilts her at the altar--again--the scandal has her outraged friends calling for blood. Only Gwen has a different plan. If "nice "no longer works for her, then it's time to learn to be "naughty." Happily, she knows the perfect tutor--Alexander Ramsey, her late brother's best friend and a notorious rogue.

So why won't a confirmed scoundrel let her be as bad as she wants to be?Unbeknownst to Gwen, Alex's aloof demeanor veils his deepest unspoken desire. He has no wish to see her change, nor to tempt himself with her presence when his own secrets make any future between them impossible. But on a wild romp from Paris to the Riviera, their friendship gives way to something hotter, darker, and altogether more dangerous. With Alex's past and Gwen's newly unleashed wildness on a collision course, Gwen must convince Alex that his wickedest intentions are exactly what she needs.

Today, share what your favorite historical book or author is. And to win, comment with the phrase, "Wicked Becomes Me!"


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cover Joy

I have to admit that aside from getting a box of shiny new books, getting a first glimpse of the cover is one of the best things about this business. Somehow seeing it in bold color instead of just black and white makes it real.

And then there's the fast moving timeline. By the time I get a cover I've written the book, revised it, gone through line edits and AAs and probably read the thing anywhere from 5 to 25 times. But at the cover stage the heavy lifting is done and all that's left is the anticipation. About six weeks after I get the cover that box of author copies arrives on my doorstep. And a couple months after that it's on the shelves.

So I wanted to share my new cover with you guys today. It's for my Feb 2012 Blaze - Bring It On, the first book in my new Island Nights trilogy. I love the purple-blue background, the intensity in the way he's looking at her and the models abs. :-) Although, my favorite thing is the awesome cover quote from Vicki Lewis Thompson.

I've also seen an advance preview of my March cover and I have to say it's gorgeous! I can't wait to share it with y'all.

So my question today is, how important is the cover for you as a reader? And if you have an ereader do you find the cover has more or less impact on your book choices?


P.S. Here's the back cover copy...
Breeze in to Escape, where every sense is seduced and every desire is fulfilled....

This adults-only Caribbean island resort may cater to your every need, but it’s also a business. And what could be better advertising than tantalizing photos of a real couple on their honeymoon?

Unless, of course, the couple is faking it....

Graphic designer Lena Fuller fled the chaos of her ruined wedding with her best friend, filmmaker Colt Douglas. But she wasn’t expecting the “honeymoon” her ex arranged would be a weeklong photo shoot. As the sets become more intimate, Lena and Colt find that their libidos are slipping deliciously out of control. Sure, they can fake it...but when the week is over, will they be able to forget it?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Things That You Think Work But They Don't Really

You've read about placebos, haven't you? The sugar pills they give to certain segments of a drug study to see if the real deal really works or if just thinking you get the real deal helps you? They work on the principle that sometimes just thinking something will make you feel better actually will. This involves something called confabulation, which is a fancy word for making up a believable excuse to explain something we don't understand. I guess mothers have been doing it for eons -- blaming everything on teething. Junior cried all night? He's teething. Sally cried at her birthday party? She's teething. Tommy flunked out of college? He's... uh, no.

And here are some examples of things you think work but they don't really.

The Elevator "Close Doors" Button

Color me stunned to learn it's really a dummy button. Well, it CAN be used, but only by the right person who has a key. Maybe it's to give passengers the illusion of control? The article said they could put up a sign explaining it doesn't do anything, but that would cost money and there'd still be folks who push it, convinced the sign is part of a government conspiracy to take away elevator door rights.

High-Def TV

In order to really get a high definition picture, you not only have to have a high-def television, you have to watch a high-def channel and have high-def service and everything hooked up correctly. But according to a Dutch study, when folks were shown identical video clips on different TVs but were told one was high-def and the other was a standard TV), the viewers overwhelmingly said the "high-def" picture was better.

Walk Signal Buttons

In many cities, crosswalks have buttons to allow pedestrians to make the WALK signal come on. But in New York City, officials admitted several years ago they'd deactivated the buttons and put all traffic lights on an automated system. The WALK signals in the Big Apple are like the CLOSE DOOR buttons on elevators.

Leg and Fanny Toning Shoes

I'm sure you've seen the shoes with curved soles that claim to tone up your legs and fanny. Well... the Federal Trade Commission just ordered a major shoe manufacturer to pay twenty-five milllion dollars in refunds to customers for whom the claim didn't work. Despite this FTC ruling, many of the shoe's purchasers sing their praises. Confabulation perhaps?

Office Thermostats

In my office, we have a definite heating and cooling problem. Areas of the building (which has a reception area, two conference rooms, a break room, three storage rooms, a file room and offices for the three attorneys, two paralegals and me) get too hot in the afternoon and we have to adjust the thermostat.

But can you imagine the results if a company in a fifty-story office building let employees adjust the thermostat on a whim? That would be a utility bill catastrophe. "Just lock up the thermostat," you say. But then the employees would complain.

So what do they do? They go to the fake elevator button people and order a fake thermostat. The buttons work, the digital numbers go up and down but it's not connected to the heating and air conditioning system. Yet the employees are happy because they think they're making the office hotter or colder.

More confabulation.

I guess I'll stop pushing the close-the-elevator-door button now. I have a high-def TV AND high-def cables so I'm really seeing high-def broadcasts. I don't have to cross too many streets in my daily life. I never thought those shoes worked anyway. And as I said, the thermostat in my office really does work.

Are you surprised to learn these things? Or did you already know and I was the only one who was taken aback about the close-the-elevator-door button?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Guest blogger editor Tanya Saari

You all know that I'm a big fan of the fabulous Julie Cohen. Well, Tanya bought Julie Cohen's first book, so you know she's one smart cookie! And the advice she offers today is awesome (and exactly what I needed to hear...)

Stuck In The Middle With You
Or, Help! I Don't Know What To Do Next!

Hi, everyone! Thanks so much to The Writing Playground for having me here today. For those who don't know me, my name is Tanya Saari and I'm a freelance fiction editor. I thought I'd talk a bit today about what to do when your novel's wheels of progress grind to a halt.

There are any number of reasons why you're stuck. You know your story better than anyone else, so with a little thinking and detective work, you should be able to figure out what the problem is. Today, I'm going to talk about three major areas where you might have problems, and offer a few suggestions for solutions.

Problem One – Plot
So things are moving along fine and dandy in your story when you hit a brick wall. You have no idea what's supposed to happen to your characters next. For the plotter, this shouldn't be as large of a problem. I'd presume you've planned most (if not all) of your story beforehand, and at this point you should be able to look at your outline (or whatever notes you have) and see that Jim and Sue are currently at point X and need to get to point Y. Here you would ask yourself: what needs to happen to either Jim or Sue (or both) to get them to that next point? (As a friend of mine would say, Throw in penguins! With machine guns! but I am loath to recommend that as a legitimate solution.) And that action to move Jim and Sue forward should ideally be in line with your story arc and character growth. Essentially, you know your destination – you just need to get your characters there.

For the pantster, or the person who doesn't plot things out beforehand, this problem is a little bit trickier. You don't have your series of dots to connect – heck, you might not even know exactly how the story's going to turn out at all! – so your best friend in this situation is the question WHY? Ask yourself: Jim and Sue got to point B. Why are they there? Why did Jim and Sue make the decisions they did to this point? Why are they behaving the way they are? Why do they need to keep moving on? Brainstorming here can help. If you know the resolution of your story, you will have a basic idea of what your characters need to do to reach that conclusion. It's a matter of working backwards to reach your goal. If you don't know what's going to happen at the end, brainstorming can also help by giving you ideas for new directions, new paths to take. You never know when one idea can spark a whole new plot point!

Problem Two -- Characterization
Another reason why your story might be stalled could be due to characterization. Are your hero and heroine behaving the way you'd imagined? Are they fleshed out deeply enough, well-layered in motivation and personality? Is the problem of moving from point W to point X because Sue simply wouldn't do something like that? Perhaps you need to tweak Sue's character (which would mean going back through your manuscript to make all of her character modifications through the earlier pages as well – don't forget!) or you need to figure out a different way for Sue to get to point X, a way that remains true to who she is. Readers will have trouble believing the actions of a heroine (or hero, too!) if she behaves in a way that conflicts with the way you originally outlined her. Don't try to force your characters to do or say things that wouldn't match with who they are. If you need to rethink your characterization to make your book even stronger, then I say go for it! (I know, this could mean having to do a lot more work, but the end result is better, isn't that the most important thing?)

Another question to ask yourself is: are the characters' growth arcs solid? Jim and Sue have to change in some way by the end of the novel, right? Otherwise, what's the point? So if you think characterization is what's causing problems for you, investigate their character arcs. Have Jim and Sue learned their lessons (so to speak!) already? Or are they still too unchanged for where they should be at this point? Their behaviour should reflect where they are in their growth. Perhaps you need to tweak either the story arc or their growth arc – or maybe even both – to tighten up the story and get it back on track.

Problem Three – Conflict
Have Jim and Sue resolved all of their differences halfway through the book? That's certainly one way to stall your writing. Remember that for every action there should be a reaction. It doesn't matter so much what kind of reaction this is, as long as it keeps your story moving and is related in some way to your plot and your character arc. It doesn't even have to be a large, dramatic reaction (in fact, most of them probably shouldn't. Readers will start raising disbelieving eyebrows as your characters face one life-threatening problem after another.) You can imagine this to be somewhat like a chess game. Jim makes a move. Sue reacts to that move and makes one of her own. External forces, secondary characters and villains can make their own moves, as well, and the characters should react appropriately to those moves.

And finally, when all else fails, I strongly believe in the value of a great critique partner, or at least a fresh pair of eyes to give you a read-through. Other people will think about things differently than you do, and may just have vital suggestions that will help with your story.

Well, gang, I hope that this post helps in some way. Thanks again to the Playfriends for having me here! And as a special bonus, just for being here and reading today, I'm offering an exclusive discount coupon! Just quote the code TWP1111 in your query email and you'll receive 15% off any of my services! (Code is valid until December 15, 2011. One code per person, please.)

Cheers, and good luck with your manuscripts!
Tanya Saari has been working in the publishing industry since 1998, when she started as a Proofreader with Harlequin Enterprises. From there, she became an Editorial Assistant, in turns working with the Temptation, Duets, SuperRomance and Blaze series. She also maintained a presence in the eHarlequin community (under the name Tanya Starratt) first as a contributor, then later as a host. In 2005 she left Harlequin to pursue other avenues, but has continued to edit in a freelance capacity.

Tanya has a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine Publishing from Centennial College in Toronto, Ontario, and an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.

Rates and services for Tanya Saari, Fiction Editor are available on Tanya's blog:

Contact Tanya with any queries at

Monday, November 07, 2011

Most Wonderful Time of the Year?


I know the song says Christmas is the happiest season of all, but for me, the favorite part of the year is fall. The kids return to school – hallelujah! The cooler temperatures sweep in, and the countdown to the holidays begins.

Whenever my children start back to school, it feels like the beginning of a new year. Yes, I know that technically the calendar doesn’t change for a few more months, but I just find myself renewing my commitments, creating new schedules, and of course, buying lovely office supplies. (Hint: I’m an office supply addict!) I purchase a new daily calendar book, so I can fill in not just the coming months, but commitments that run through the next year. I usually spend some of my precious alone time before the kids get out of school taking a good long look at my writing and professional goals, evaluating what’s working and what isn’t.

Then there’s the weather! I love the outdoors, but I hate the heat. I pretty much only do yard work during the spring and fall. The fall is my favorite because it combines lovely breezes, amazing colors, and an indulgence in my organizing gene. I get to trim limbs, dig out weeds, and prune overgrown plants. Lots of fun, and good exercise too. All without sweating like a pig. Not to mention the annual trip to the local Pumpkin Patch!

I usually start my holiday shopping around September. I don’t like waiting until the end of November because I’m a bargain shopper. I want to get things my family and friends will enjoy, but at a good price. This year, our Toys R Us moved a store and had all their merchandise up to 50 percent off. Yahoo!!! I also hit a Books-a-Million that was closing to get some things. But I do try to hit a few stores the day after Thanksgiving, especially for stocking stuffers.

I have to be careful, or all my books would be set in the fall. :) So what’s your favorite time of the year and why?


Coming Soon!

Tomorrow join us as we welcome Tanya Saari, and learn more about the freelance editing world!

Friday, November 04, 2011

10 Pairs of Shoes You Need. Really.

The Playfriends love shoes. We all are drawn by different styles, but the shoe adoration is universal. Just in case you need an excuse to buy more shoes, I ran across an article from Glamour Magazine that lists the 10 pairs of shoes every woman needs! Take note!

1. Nude, Peep-toe Pumps. They're supposed to go with everything and make your legs look longer. I have to admit I just added a pair of these to my collection a few weeks ago. Nude/camel/beige is not my go-to neutral, but I like them.

2. Black City Boots. I've never heard them called this, but basically the black leather boots that go from mid-calf to over the knee depending on your preference. They say if you go with a low to medium heel, they're comfortable, wear anytime shoes. My black boots just go above the ankle. I tend not to buy many much higher because of my large calves (and they're hot!).

3. Ballet Flats. Casual, comfy and cute. I'm a recent convert. I bought a pair of black suede and a pewter leather the other day. I had a hard time finding ones that fit, but I do like them. A nice alternative to the heels.

4. Wooden Platform Sandals. Recommended as the sassy in between of too casual sneakers and too fancy heels - daytime with attitude. I do not have a pair of these. Unfortunately when you get to feet as big as mine, wooden platforms and wedges get darn heavy.

5. Canvas Sneakers. They're talking Keds and Converse here for the comfy, chic ensemble. I don't have many of these anymore, but the Converse I do have are sparkly as the Playfriends can attest.

6. Black Pumps. The basic of basics for daytime, nightime, anytime. I actually don't have plain black, patent leather pumps. Shoes are always so done up anymore that they're hard to find. My closest pair is actually black glitter, but they work.

7. Metallic Sandals. Perfect summer shine to glam up a frumpy bridesmaid dress or go out on the town. Just make sure your pedi is up to date! I have lots of sandals but none are metallic. And lots of strappy dress shoes that are sparkly or metallic, but I can never tell if they're considered sandals or not.

8. Suede Booties. Perfect for fall with jeans or a sassy dress with tights or leggings. My booties are gray leather, but I'm going to take credit for this.

9. Flat, Leather Sandals. Designed for those lazy days. I'll admit I fail in this category. I have no flat sandals, they all have a bit of a heel. If I'm that lazy, I'm wearing flip flops (which, sadly, did not make the list.) Flat sandals make me feel oddly barefoot, short and like a Roman Solider marching to battle.

10. Gorgeous, Work of Art Shoes. These, I have! A totally frivolous, sparkly, make you smile pair of shoes. I think every girl needs these. They make you feel pretty.

Looks like I've got some gaps to fill, although DB would adamantly disagree. How did you do on the list? Do you have the basics covered? Anything they missed? I'm still lobbying for some nice Teva or Yellowbox flip flops. Are you currently lusting for a pair of shoes you can't have?


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Guest Blogger - Lynn Raye Harris

Lynn has been a friend to the Playground almost from the very beginning. And we're always excited to welcome her back! I have to admit that I've heard a lot about this book over the last few months and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Not to mention that I have serious cover envy. So clear off a swing and give Lynn a warm Playground welcome.

THE MAN WITH THE MONEY - Book 5 in the Notorious Wolfes Series

I love this book trailer! It’s my first book trailer ever, and my first continuity (a set of stories with an overarching theme). Harlequin did a fabulous job making this trailer. It’s moody, sexy, and intriguing! Who are these Wolfe brothers (and one sister, ahem) and what happened to make their lives fall apart?

To find out, you’ll need to read the series! There are eight books, and mine is number five (each book stands alone, but if you want to know about the central conflicts of the Wolfe family, you’ll have to read them all).

THE MAN WITH THE MONEY is available in stores right now, and it still doesn’t get old to see my book on the shelves. I love the cover of this one, and the fancy cameo around the couple. It really stands out!

Jack Wolfe is a loner who gets his thrills from high-stakes finance – whether it’s cards or the markets, Jack is a whiz. He needs no one and nothing, but when a card game goes wrong, he finds himself on the run across France with the lovely croupier who’s been dealing the cards.

Cara Taylor is tough, smart, and determined. She’s been working hard to funnel money home to her family in New Orleans, who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on their lives, and she has absolutely no time for a gorgeous, useless gambler like Jack Wolfe.

But of course Jack is much more than a gambler, and Cara can’t help but be pulled in by his dark, delicious charm. I have to admit that Daniel Craig’s Bond was my inspiration for Jack – not the physical Jack, but the broody, moody, dangerous man who is utterly addictive.


I hope you enjoy reading about Jack and Cara! Today, if you leave a comment, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of THE MAN WITH THE MONEY.

RT Book Reviews awarded this story 4 Stars and said it has, "intense emotional turmoil, a tortured hero and toe-curling intimate encounters." Rawr!

Back cover:

Jack…Red-Hot. Renegade. Restless.
Notorious gambler Jack no longer gets a buzz from the risks he takes at the card table. In fact it bores him. Until one night he wins more than he ever bargained for…
His prize is stunning Cara Taylor – she might be down on her luck but she certainly doesn’t need rescuing by a card-shark like Jack! Now she’s stuck with him she doesn’t know whether to love him or loathe him.

For more information, including a red-hot excerpt, visit my site at

Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes powerful, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents. You can learn more about Lynn and her books at You can also follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnRayeHarris or visit her author page on Facebook,

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Guest Blogger - Diane Kelly

I met Diane when I attended a great workshop she presented about writers and taxes. Then the next year I watched her win the Golden Heart Award for the book that's coming out NOW! She's blogged with us before about selling a single title without an agent, and her tax articles have appeared on the Playground website. So please make room round the fire pit so Diane can squeeze in, warm up and tell us her news.

My Debut!

Thanks to Marilyn Puett for inviting me to guest blog today!

My debut novel, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, has just been released. It’s such an exciting time!

When I first began writing seriously over a decade ago, one of the first pieces of advice I heard was to “write what you know.” But as a CPA/tax attorney, what I knew were the rules for itemizing deductions, who qualifies as a dependent, and a half dozen methods for computing depreciation. Not exactly fodder for an interesting novel, huh?

But I knew some other things, too. I knew about criminals. Not your standard burglar or purse-snatching thug, but savvy and sophisticated criminals who knew how to pull off a financial crime.

One of my first jobs after law school was working as an assistant attorney general at the State of Texas Attorney General’s office. Many of the cases I worked on involved white-collar crimes. Ironically, it later came to light that the state AG was falsifying documents in order to fraudulently divert tobacco company settlement funds to his cronies’ law firms. He later pled guilty to criminal charges and spent some time in the slammer. Sheesh!

My innocence tarnished, I took a job with a large accounting firm, proud that such a prestigious outfit would hire little ol’ me. After my experience at the AG’s office, I was glad to now be among nerds who were surely too straight-laced to engage in criminal activity. Then, lo and behold, one of the partners was indicted for tax shelter fraud.

Was there no one I could trust?

Worried I’d find myself in jail as an unwitting accomplice to my next employer’s criminal deeds, I decided self-employment would be a good idea. I also realized my experiences with white-collar crime made excellent fodder for mystery novels. My fingers hit the keyboard and thus began my “Death and Taxes” series, which stars a female criminal investigator for the IRS.

Ever worked with a criminal? Maybe been the victim of a financial crime?

We’d love to hear about it! Post a comment to be entered in a drawing to win an autographed copy of Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, book #1 in the Death and Taxes series. The winner will be announced at 9:00 pm central time.

For more information about my series, please visit me at

Thanks for stopping by the Writing Playground!

P.S. Catslady is Addison Fox's winner from Monday. Please email Angel at to arrange for your prize.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


That hashtag above is my Geek's equivalent to a sarcastic "how horrible for you." Just goes to show you how much of a Geek he is, using Twitter lingo in casual conversation...

I was complaining that the downside to a mini versus an iPad was that an iPad turned on instantly, whereas a mini took a while to warm up, find the internet, etc, and how much of a pain that was. DG's response was "#firstworldproblems"

Yes, I know there are children starving in Africa, and it does rather seem like a small problem in comparison, but we were talking about technology, not feeding the world.

Other #firstworldproblems I have...

My phone has eaten one of my ringtones. I did an update for the software and it reset half of my phone back to the defaults. Then, when I went to reset everything, I realized it didn't give me one of my ringtones back. I can see it, but I can't use it. It's annoying, and iTunes won't let me repurchase because, according to them, I already own it. I need ringtones... it's how I know if it's worth it for me to dig through my purse to answer the phone or not.

My DVR keeps losing our Favorites setting, which means I have to sort through thirty-five shopping channels and fifty sports channels to find a rerun of Bones.

I can't get my Bluetooth to recognize my accent, so I can't voice dial by number in my car.

I need to replace my yoga mat, yet all of the ones I can find are very slippery and I can't get traction on them in my down dog.

My email client, Outlook, is messing up, taking twenty seconds to open an email and twenty more seconds to decide that I can respond.

Wow. I'm pretty darn shallow. Any and all of these things have caused rants this week, yet the world still continues to turn, and the sun still continues to rise every morning.

First World Problems, indeed. I have food and shelter and I'm not living in the middle of a war zone or natural disaster. For that, I am truly thankful. Even if it does make me feel shallow at times. (I do want my ringtone back, darn it.)

So what are your #firstworldproblems rants of the week?