Monday, December 24, 2012

From Angel, Instigator, Playground Monitor, Problem Child, and Smarty Pants:

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!!

From The Writing Playground

Thursday, December 20, 2012


There are the books everyone has heard about: Twilight, The Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Gray. But what about all those other wonderful books out there? Some of them are treasures, just waiting to be found, and that’s what this blog hop is all about: the books you might not have heard about, but that you might end up loving.

This blog hop is like a game of tag. One author posts and tags five other authors who link back to their website the next week and tag five new authors. If you follow the blog hop long enough, you’re bound to find some books you’ll love! Maybe you’ll even discover a book that ends up being the next big thing.

I was tagged by Lucienne Diver. You can learn more about her new book Fangtabulous on her blog,

This blog hop includes ten questions to help you learn more about an author’s current work in progress, so here’s a little info about my current project:

1: What is the working title of your book? The Risk-Taker

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
This book is an installment in the Uniformly Hot series for Blaze.  When I was asked to participate it was easy to choose a guy from the Rangers - they're the guys on the front line fighting every day for our country.  That's something I admire!

3: What genre does your book fall under? The Risk-Taker is definitely hot!

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
I definitely pictured Andrew Stetson for Gage Harper.  Abs of steel, but a little mischief lurking in the back of his eyes.  For Hope I pictured Charlize Theron. She's cool and contained and clings to her polished exterior even though it doesn't always fit in with the relaxed world around her.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
A reckless Army Ranger and POW returns home from Afghanistan with only one plan in  ming - to forget.  But a discontented journalist - the girl who got away - won't let him.  His story is her ticket to her dream job and she's willing to do anything to get it.

6: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book is out with Harlequin Blaze and was represented by my fab agent, Lucienne Diver.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took me about 6 weeks to write the first draft.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
If you enjoy Rhonda Nelson, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Linda Howard and Andrea Laurence then you'll love The Risk-Taker.
9: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Our men and women who selflessly serve to protect our country inspired this story, but specifically those that are wounded while doing so.  Like most of our veterans, Gage has plenty of scars - seen and unseen.  The Wounded Warrior project is mentioned in the book and I'm very proud to be a supporter of the organization and cause.   

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I loved delving into an old unrequited love for this story.  Gage and Hope have a past which gave me plenty to explore and torture them with.  Given the option, Hope would have avoided Gage - and her feelings for him - forever.  But when forced to deal with the past she can't ignore him anymore.

Here is a list of authors who will be joining the hop for week 27 on December 24th. I hope you’ll visit their blogs next week and learn more about their books. Maybe one of them will become your new favorite author!

Dani Wade
Andrea Laurence

Friday, November 23, 2012

A New Playground

As PC posted a while back, the Playfriends are spending more time on their Playground Facebook page these days. Come on over and 'like' us to keep up with all the Playground happenings, just in a shorter format. We will still blog over here from time to time, but we'll let you know via our fanpage when we're having a party or a fun announcement here.

You can now keep up with us individually...

Problem Child/Kimberly:  Facebook link   Twitter:  @booksbykimberly   Website
Instigator/Kira:     Facebook link   Twitter @KiraSinclair     Website
Smarty Pants/Andrea:  Facebook link     Twitter: @Andrea_Laurence  Website
Playground Monitor/ Marilyn:  Facebook link
Angel/ Danniele:   Facebook Link     Website Twitter: @DaniWade1

Remember all of our archives are still available, so be sure to check out our interviews and articles here.

Until our next post, see you on the fanpage!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

For the First Time...


I’ve been through some pretty exciting “firsts” in my life: my first kiss, my first (and only!) wedding, buying our first house, the birth of our first child…

Firsts have a very distinctive place in our lives. They create strong memories filled with emotion, something I love as a writer. If we’re lucky, they are good emotions that enrich our relationships, encourage us to push forward, and root us in our lives and beliefs.

There have been many writing firsts for me too, experiences that have spurred on my drive to create, including finishing my first book, finalling in my first contest, making my first sale. And now…


(yep, that’s my first official cover too!)

Today, I’d love to celebrate all your wonderful firsts together! Tell me your favorite “first” memory! One commenter will win a Release Day goodie pack: Fall Festival Candle, Godiva chocolate caramel gems, and a $5 Amazon gift card.

In Snow Bound, heroine Tori Anderson has her own set of “firsts”, especially as hero Damon West sets out to fulfill some long-held fantasies. If you enjoy sexy heroes, southern heroines, unexpected stalkers, and close quarters with no way out, this novella will spice up your night!
Now available on Amazon. Coming soon to Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.
Keep up with author Dani Wade on her weekly blog:

If you'd like to find out more about the inspiration behind hottie hero Damon West, he's showcased in today's Friday Feature Foto on The Mutual Admiration Society's blog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Little Trick With Your Treats

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  This is no surprise to the other Playfriends who are forced to participate in costume theme parties occasionally. If I had the time, I would go all out. Host a costume party with fun themed treats like mummy dogs and caramel apples. Intricately carved pumpkins lining the walk up to the house with orange and purple twinkle lights... I prefer the fun part of Halloween over the gory part, so no haunted houses or scary masks for me.

Reality is that it's become a last minute rush. No parties. Very few decorations. I don't have children to take around. If I didn't have foam pumpkins carved in the closet that I could haul out last minute, I wouldn't even have that. DB and I like to hand out candy and see the little kids' costumes. That's about it. It's sad, but time is at a premium these days while I work full time and write nearly full time to keep up with deadlines.

What have I been working on to keep me so busy, you ask? Well, I just so happen to have a paranormal novella out now, just in time for Halloween. Here's the blurb:

SEXY AS HELL: A More Than Men Novella
Strong, sexy and powerful...the kind of man every woman wants in her life and in her bed. But these men are more.  Oh, so much more.

Seth gave up everything to circumvent death, including his freedom. Now he's an immortal warrior serving the Archangel Michael. But Seth has been compromised and he may finally earn his life back. He's just got to send one sexy, stubborn succubus back to hell.

Camille always thought her neighbor was mysterious and handsome, but she never imagined what kind of work really kept him up so late. The succubus Isra has targeted Seth and she has taken Camille as her host as a surefire way to get to him. Isra has twenty-four hours to seduce Seth and steal his immortal life-force by the most pleasurable means possible. The clock is ticking...
I'm really excited about this novella. It's the first in a series that will be coming out over the next year or so with myself and a couple other authors. Each man will be of the sexy and supernatural variety. I'm currently working on the follow up featuring some creepy zombie fun. Nothing like a man with an assault rifle. Here's a super secret sneak peek of the cover that you'll only see here until it debuts online!

If you're looking for some sexy Halloween tricks with your treats, you can download the Sexy as Hell from If you have Amazon Prime, you can even borrow it for free! It will be available from other online retailers in early 2013. Check it out, and if you feel inclined, help me out by clicking the 'like' button. It helps Amazon decide what books to recommend to readers. Also, if you do buy it, please review it. I'd love to hear what people think of it.

So, I've got no candy to offer you this ear, but who needs it when there are some super sexy abs up for grabs? Hmm... that rhymed awkwardly. Oh well. Tell me about your favorite Halloween treats? I'm a big fan of candy corn and those mini Almond Joy bars. Yum.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pink, pink, pink

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and every where I turn, I see pink, pink and more pink

I see pink ribbons.

The Space and Rocket Center lit the Saturn V rocket bright pink.

We're even being encouraged to light our porches with pink light bulbs.

You can get a ride in a pink taxi and they'll donate $1 from each fare to the hospital foundation.

I saw a pink trash bin on the way to work.  I actually did a double-take, but yep, it's pink.

Every year for the past couple of years I've had someone do a guest blog about their experience with breast cancer as a way to get out the word that (1) it's important to be aware about breast cancer, (2) it can strike anyone and (3) it's survivable.  In 2009, it was my former neighbor Kelley.  In 2008, Problem Child's critique partner, Pam, blogged about her experience.  2010's guest blogger was a high school friend, Deborah,  I'd reconnected with on Facebook.  Last year it was the sister of a friend from church.

I was trying to come up with a guest blogger and then breast cancer struck close to home.  No, I don't have it, though I did have a suspicious mammogram back in June.  A closer look with ultrasound revealed small, fluid-filled cysts that need no further attention.  I actually blogged about an earlier experience like this.

However, last week my mother called with the news my aunt has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will have surgery October 16.  I have a relatively small family -- one parent and one sibling (she has a husband and grown son), two sons with one daughter-in-law and a granddaughter plus one on the way, one uncle (my mother's brother) and aunt (the one with breast cancer) and their children and grandchildren, and various and assorted cousins that I see when I'm able to make the annual family reunion in North Carolina.

I don't want that family to get any smaller.  My aunt's cancer was caught early, and she and her doctors feel very good about her prognosis.  So buy a pink light bulb, donate to cancer research in some way and be sure to do breast self examination each month.  You can even sign up for email reminders here.  Have your mammograms.  Yeah, it's uncomfortable but I imagine surgery, chemo and radiation are a lot worse.  There's no excuse not to do this, ladies.  And gents too!  Men can get breast cancer too.

Let's fight like girls, get our pink on, light the town pink, save the ta-tas and not let cancer steal second base! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

One more!

I received a contract for another story on Thursday afternoon.  This makes 41 short stories I've sold.
The working title for the story is "Dreidels for Christmas."  It's scheduled for the December issue of True Confessions.
Mazel Tov!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Nice Round Number

I wish it was my age, but it's that's another blog.

It is, however, the number of short stories I have sold to the Trues magazines.  Last night I got a contract for my 40th sale.  The working title is "It's Love -- in Any Language" and it's tentatively sheduled for the December issue of True Story magazine.

Looks around...

Are those cabana boys still around from Angel's party?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Angel's First Sale Party!

“We’d like to offer you a contract.”

After 10 years of writing, I thought I’d prepared myself for hearing those words. I’d honed my craft, listened carefully as the Playfriends, Mavens, and chaptermates discussed the business side of publishing, and handled quite a few phone calls about contest finals, including the RWA Golden Heart(R).

But on August 27, 2012, I learned that nothing could prepare me for hearing those words. They came when I least expected it.

I’d been working with Shana Smith, Associate Editor for Harlequin, on a submission for the Desire line. This was a book that Smarty Pants had read for me and loved. When Senior editor Stacy Boyd put out a request on Twitter for submissions, SP insisted I get it in. Ms. Boyd liked it and passed it along to Shana Smith. I completed a full revision and received another detailed email from her that I opened just knowing it was a rejection. I kept searching for the line that said, “But this just isn’t right for us…”

It wasn’t there!

She requested another set of revisions on the proposal and I found myself almost paralyzed. What if I screw this up? The Playfriends and my sister, Ella Sheridan, assured me I wouldn’t and we brainstormed some changes to fit the request. I received great editorial suggestions, too – Shana’s notes were thorough, encouraging, and spot on. I turned in the revisions just shy of my self-imposed two week deadline.

Now Shana had told me she’d read it “quickly”, so I was thinking a few weeks at the earliest. Imagine my shock when she called a mere 4 days later. 4 DAYS! I think my brain short-circuited when I heard, “This is Shana Smith from Harlequin.” But I know it did when she started talking about a contract and release date.

August 2013 – I’ll actually have a book with my name on it in August of 2013, exactly a year from now. Amazing. I think my exact words were, “Oh, wow.” The rest of the conversation was sparkling on Shana’s end and only halfway intelligent on mine. Definitely in shock.

The reality hit me as I told family and friends. I’ll never forget the Playfriends and Mavens excitement, thanking my sister for all her help, my husband’s hugs, and most of all, my children bouncing all over the car on the way home from school, squealing with joy. That was the moment I first teared up.

It’s been an exciting ride ever since. Lots of celebrations! My family even got to celebrate with me because they just happened to be visiting the following weekend from out of state. The flowers below were from the Mavens. So much fun!

And today I get to have even more fun with y’all! I’m pretty sure there will be cabana boys, massages, and all manner of alcoholic beverages in cyberspace today, but I’ll start us off with Krispy Kreme donuts (my fave!) and chocolate martinis. LET’S PARTY!

writing as Dani Wade


Massages? This guy would be great, I think.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Seat of My Pants

Everyone has their own writing process.  You'll often hear writers talk about whether they're a plotter or pantster. 

I fell into the former category.  The first short stories I wrote and the first book I wrote all had lots of notes and outlines and lists.  I even went so far as to do a storyboard for the book.  I changed the heroine's picture later because I found someone who looked more like I thought she looked.  But I digress.

This story was mapped out chapter by chapter.  The blue sticky notes were the hero's POV; the pink were the heroine's.  I could move things around if I needed to thanks to the wonders of 3M.

That method worked for that book.

And it worked for a lot of short stories.  But last month I wrote and submitted a story and by golly I did something different.

I flew by the seat of my pants.  Well, not totally.  I had a few notes with the characters' names and ages and a general idea of the plot (two people end up booked into the same mountain house at the same time).  But beyond that, I really didn't have much of an idea what was going on.

I just started writing.  And by golly the story took me places I hadn't imagined.  The characters ended up being different than I'd originally planned, especially the hero.

A couple times I had to backtrack a bit and write myself out of a corner.  But the really amazing part was that this writer, who used to struggle to hit the minimum word count for a story, ended up with 700 words too many!  I had to go back and cut the equivalent of almost three pages.  I discovered I apparently have a love affair with the word "just."  50 of the 700 I cut were probably "justs."

But the whole process was FUN!  And it was surprising and revealing and by golly I think I'm going to try it again for the next short story once I figure out what that story is going to be about.  I saw the phrase "the new normal" in a book I was reading and think that may be something worth pursuing.

So... writers, are you plotters or pantsters?  Or are you one of those hybrid plotzters?  Have you switched from one to the other method and lived to tell about it?

P.S.  I got an email from the editor that she wants to hold onto it for future consideration.  Good news!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

RWA Conference Advice

This is a repeat post from years past with a few changes to update location, circumstances, etc.  I hope it helps you if you're going to the RWA conference for the first time -- or for the umpeenth!

I love going to the annual RWA conference. And I'm especially happy to go this year because I didn't get to go last year.  No, that's not really it.  I'm happy because the conference hotel is across the street from the place where happiness began -- Disneyland!

You might not think this is such a big thing, but back when I was a little girl and not that many households even had a TV, we did.  And every Sunday night I'd watch The Wonderful World of Disney and dream of going to Disneyland.  But it was in that far, far away place called California and I didn't hold out much hope.  In 1973 I was able to go to Disney World in Florida.  And don't get me wrong.  It's wonderful.  I've been back several times with my sons and loved it.  But DISNEYLAND!  It's where the whole dream began.  And I'm going to get to go.  And the Disney folks have also been kind enough to offer conference attendees a reduced ticket rate.  Yay Disney!   But enough of my sentimentality about Mickey and Minnie and  back to the subject at hand:  conference advice.

I enjoy the RWA conference.  I just don't like all the stress of getting ready to go. You have to pay your registration fee right after Christmas. Then you monitor airline fares and pounce the moment you see a great deal. You have an email loop with you and the others in your chapter who are going too so you can all obsess over baggage fees and how to get enough clothes for a week into one suitcase -- especially when you have to have not only business casual but sightseeing clothes and formal wear as well.  You have to all get together at least once for a pre-conference fashion show to make sure you have things matched up right, have all the right accessories, loaned someone the top that matches their new skirt just perfectly and given each wardrobe the Playground Seal of Approval.

But once I've pared the clothing down to bare minimums, squeezed it all into the bag along with shoes, toiletries, jewelry, et cetera, flown to the conference city, negotiated that city's transportation system and checked into the hotel, the stress falls away (mostly) and I'm ready to learn and see old friends and make new ones too.

This year I get to go to something new -- the chapter leadership seminar.  Since our chapter president can't go, she asked for a volunteer and I said I'd do it.  I'm very excited to get a more inside look at how things operate and then come back and report to the chapter at our August meeting. 

And then there are the workshops.  I've poured over the listings and decided which ones I want to attend.  I'm even moderating two of them.  And on Saturday night, I'll be helping out at the RITA awards, which for those of you who may not know, are like the Academy Awards of the romance writing world.
Anyway, I thought I'd borrow from a previous blog and offer a few tips I've gleaned from both past experience and some of my ever-so-helpful writing friends from around the world.

* Volunteer because it's a great opportunity to meet other writers. And you'll be giving back to the organization that gives us so much.  AND, volunteering puts your name in a drawing to get your registration fee paid for next year's conference.  How cool is that???

* Wear comfy shoes.   This is especially important for me after my foot fracture earlier this year.  I have two new pairs of shoes that will accommodate my orthotics (my gawd, I sound like I'm 180 years old!), but are also attractive (or as attractive as orthopedic shoes can be).  I have no choice.  It's this or pain.  So I plan to have lots of cool necklaces and earrings so folks will all be looking at that and not my feet.

* Take a jacket or shawl to wear in the conference rooms. They keep the temps at a level comfortable for a man in a wool-blend business suit, which means a woman in slacks and a blouse will have blue lips and goosebumps before you can spell Antarctica.

* The workshop schedule is online at the RWA site. Take an afternoon or evening and go through it. Make a chart with Word or Excel for every day you're at the conference. Write down the workshops you want to attend. Add the get-togethers with various groups of friends you only see once a year. With a schedule, the whole affair seems a little less overwhelming, especially if this is your first conference.  And remember that most workshops are taped (the schedule will indicate this) so if you have to choose, go with the untaped one.  You can always get the conference CDs and hear the taped one later.

* Do not, I repeat, DO NOT do as I did at my first conference and try to attend a workshop during every slot of every day. By Friday night I felt as if I'd slammed into a concrete wall. I had major brain overload. Select the workshops you really want to attend, and if it's a popular one, arrive early to assure you get a seat. Then when there's an hour where no workshop really calls to you, visit the Executive Conference Room AKA the hotel bar or the hotel coffee shop and rest.

* If you are targeting a particular publisher, be sure to attend their spotlight session. You'll get a world of information straight from the horse's mouth.

* Speaking of mouths, be careful what comes out of yours. You never know who may be at the back of the elevator car. It could be the editor who has your manuscript or her best friend. Be especially careful not to enjoy the ECR too much because loose lips sink ships -- and writing careers too. When I first wrote this blog years ago, I spoke of not becoming next week's blog fodder.  But with Twitter and the wide availability of smartphones, you'll be Twitter fodder (would that be Twodder?) in SECONDS!  And it'll be retweeted until every person in the universe knows what you did.  There.  Have I scared you enough???

* If you see someone who looks lost or scared, walk up to them and say, "Hi, my name is _______ and I'm from ________. Is this your first conference? What do you write?" Invite them to sit with you at lunch. Introduce them to your friends. A big part of this business is networking and just saying hello may lead to something big.

* One of my writing friends is really big on goals -- even at conference. She doesn't leave home without a goal in mind. I try to do this too and come up with something that is tangible and can be measured, such as networking with five new people or learning about several publishing houses you were not familiar with before the conference.

* I always take a new bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever. I carry it with me everywhere for my own aches and pains or for the editor in the elevator who complains of a splitting headache. This is a great way to make a new friend too.

* Remember to take your camera and remember to use it so you can take home memories of the week. I have photos of myself with favorite authors and love to go back and look at conferences from years past. Remember the charging cable too!

* If you take your cell phone, be sure to TURN IT OFF during workshops. Put in on vibrate and stick it in your pocket. You'll know when someone calls but it won't disturb the speaker (unless you shriek when it vibrates). And remember the charging cord for it too.

* The conference hotel has a Starbucks in it.  I enjoy an afternoon cup of tea, so I plan to pre-load a Starbucks card and take it with me.  Then all I have to do is order my tea and hand them my Starbucks card.  It just simplifies things for me a little.  You may want to do the same if you're a coffee, frappe, tea, whatever lover.

* Leave your favorite perfume at home. Many folks have allergies, and even if they don't, fifteen women all wearing different perfume in an elevator can be olfactory overload.

Have I forgotten anything? Please tell me if I have because right now my brain is beginning to turn to mush.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical Packing List Rises

I just looked at my calendar and realized I'm leaving for the RWA conference in Anaheim in less than two weeks. Not ready? Neither am I. I have been crazy busy. But not too busy to revive this list from the dead. I depend on it, every year, so I thought I'd bring it back to life to help others.  It's tradition and a great place to start building your own list if you don't have one already.

Mine is broken into sections, starting with what I'm wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I've racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I've been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 5 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

Wear on Plane :
- Shirt
- Jeans
- Sweater
- Sneakers (or slip-ons for walking to make getting them on and off in security easier)
- Socks

Then I have the list of what goes in my backpack. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your small roller bag, laptop, your toiletry bag...whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. Must have stuff. You don't want it to end up in DC while you're waiting at the luggage carousel in Orange County

Backpack :
- Plane Itinerary / Ticket
- Camera & Battery Charger
- Cell Phone & Charger
- 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)
- Book or e-Reader of choice (& charger) to read on the plane
- ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket - one that zips for security - for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)
- Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won't need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)
- Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle (They don't feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food. As for the water bottle, you can refill it as you travel, but it must be empty to get through airport security.)
- Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)
- Travel Alarm Clock (If you can't set your cell phone, and you can, I'm pretty sure)
- Mini flashlight
- Business Cards
- Presentation Materials and/or laptop (I'm doing a workshop this year, so anything I need is staying on my person.)

Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you're carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a clear, one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes.

Toiletry Bag :
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash
- Deodorant
- Hairbrush
- Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)
- Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can't, pack your own)
- Hair Products - Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler
- Hair Electronics - blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc. (coordinate w/ roommates to cut down on unnecessary appliances)
- Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators, good mirror, tweezers
- Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you'll be outside a lot)
- Razor & Shaving gel
- Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)
- OTC Meds - Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills
- Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs
- First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you haven't read this blog for very long)
- Mini Sewing Kit
- Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray & Febreze
- Bandaid Friction Block

Luggage :
- Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag
- Panties x # of days, plus one or two if you're going siteseeing and might get sweaty
- Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed
- 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)
- Regular bras & dress bras (as needed for formals, etc)
- Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed
- Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days
- 1 pair jeans (if you aren't doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary, especially as I'm wearing a pair on the plane)
- Seasonal Jacket, etc, as needed (depends on where you're going, as SFO was cold, NYC is NOT)
- Pajamas (I don't know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)
- Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)
- Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, etc.
- Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point
- Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins
- Shoes - At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you're inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. I do not recommend wearing the same shoes every day, even if it matches. I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over. You will do a lot of walking.
- Jewelry - Make sure you know what you're wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don't have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like black capris or a skirt that I can use a couple times. Microfiber is awesome - it doesn't wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here's my breakdown based on my typical activities...

Wednesday - black microfiber skirt, pink top, black sandals, pink jewelry
Thursday - black capris, blue microfiber top, black sandals, blue jewelry
Thursday Night - eHQN PJ party attire, flip flops/slippers
Friday - black microfiber skirt, purple microfiber top, black sweater, black heels, purple jewelry
Friday Night - black formal, sale shoes, black/silver jewelry
Saturday - black capris, pink satin top, black sandals, pink jewelry
Saturday Night - black and pink formal, pink heels, pink jewelry
Sunday - t-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home (add days as needed if you're siteseeing)
Pitch Outfit - if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you're wearing
Extra Outfit - a fabu just in case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you're already planning to bring

Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What's on your must pack list?

Andrea AKA SP

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Launch Party

The day has arrived! Today my second book, More Than He Expected, hits shelves and ships from online retailers. At least, in theory. I found last time it took a couple days for it to show up on store shelves. With the holiday, maybe even a day or two longer. But I'm celebrating nonetheless!

I love this book. The hero, Alex, was just so much fun to torture. He's sole heir to a steel fortune, a real estate tycoon, and a real dog when it comes to the ladies. He's got everything he wants, but that's where the joy of writing comes in - making him want something he can't have and has never wanted before. Mwahaha. <-- Evil laugh

The heroine, Gwen, was a lot of fun, too. She's short and spunky. In a way, she reminds me a little of my great grandmother. She was four foot, eleven, but that never stopped her from giving her grandsons (all 6 foot plus) a piece of her mind. She even broke a chair spanking my uncle over her knee once. Gwen has the same fire in a tiny package, and I love that about her.

She's also got a little bit of my mom in her. Gwen is a caretaker, a giver. She'd do anything for anybody and ask for nothing in return. She's a nurse, and a surrogate for a desperate couple. If her apartment were larger than a postage stamp, she'd probably take in stray animals and unloved children. She deserves so much more than her life has given her and Alex is just the guy to give her everything she needs.

If he'd just get his head out of his rear end. Men.

Anyway, so let's celebrate! Let's pour some mimosas and pretend we're in the Hamptons for the 4th of July like Gwen and Alex are in the story. We're surrounded by sun and sand, country charm and subdued elegance. Tell me how you're spending your 4th of July holiday and you could win a copy of More Than He Expected!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A small change...

Remember when you got your first swing set? The monkey bars seemed like they were miles high and when you were on the swings you felt like you were touching the sky?

Then, as you grew, you had to lift your feet to keep them off the ground when you hung from the monkey bars and the seat of the swing got a little too small?  It’s not that you didn’t love the swing set, it just didn’t fit right anymore?

That’s kind of where the Playfriends find themselves today.  We love to hang out on our swing set, but over the last five years we’ve grown so much it doesn’t quite fit right anymore. Put all five of us on it and the poles groan and sway a little dangerously under the weight. I can almost hear an adult yelling, “Not all of you at the same time! That doesn’t look safe!”

We obviously can’t all play on the swing set all at once anymore, but we don’t want to tear it down. So what do we do?

Well... okay, I can’t work this metaphor any longer.

Here’s the situation:  Things have changed a lot in the last five years.  Our lives, yes, but also the opportunities for connecting with people on the internet.  In addition to the Playground blog, we have our own websites, our own Facebook pages, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumbler…. And we’re trying to cover all the bases without going insane.  That’s not working so well (says the one with her hair on fire all the time).

We love having this space to visit with y’all, so I don’t want you to think that we’re tearing down the Playground.  We just won’t be here every day anymore.  Please come over and like our Playground Facebook page, and you’ll still get updates from all of us, only in a shorter format.  When we have big news to share, book releases, contests, or just something that doesn’t fit on Facebook, we’ll post it here on the blog. And then we’ll post a link on our Facebook status to send you over here for all the details.

We also hope that you’ll go find us on Facebook and Twitter if you haven’t already.  (Links below)

The Playfriends want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your friendship and company here on the Playground over the years.  You have no idea how much it means to us.  We hope you’ll continue to visit and share with us on these other social media outlets.  And we’ll see you back here soon for a reunion!

Problem Child/Kimberly:  Facebook link   Twitter:  @booksbykimberly   Website
Instigator/Kira:     Facebook link   Twitter @KiraSinclair     Website
Smarty Pants/Andrea:  Facebook link     Twitter: @Andrea_Laurence  Website
Playground Monitor/ Marilyn:  Facebook link
Angel/ Danniele:   Facebook Link     Website

Some additional thoughts from the others….

Smarty Pants: I wanted to thank everyone who has supported us. We started out as five aspiring writers with no reason for anyone to care what we had to say, but we’ve come so far since then. We’ve made so many new friends in the nearly seven since this blog launched. It’s been a lot of fun and I hope everyone will join us over on Facebook so the fun can continue there. In addition to our WP Fan Page, be sure to check out my personal fan page and Twitter accounts. I wouldn’t want anyone to go into Smarty Pants withdrawal. J

Instigator: I’m not sure I can really explain what having the blog has meant to me over the last several years.  I’m a writer, but I just don’t think there are enough words. At least not that do the experience justice.  I’ve met so many wonderful people – people who quickly became more than just readers but friends.  When we first started I was astounded that anyone would come to visit.  I didn’t have confidence in myself or that I knew what I was talking about so the fact that anyone else did just…floored me.  And gave me a much needed boost for my writing.  I gained self-confidence, honed my writing skills and made some lifelong and amazing friends.  It’s been such a joy.  And I look forward to continuing those friendships in other ways - on facebook and twitter.  

Angel: Over the last 5 years, this blog has been the way we could share our live's highlights, the low dips, the funny parts, and the surreal moments--with each other and with you. And in sharing all the cool things in my life and learning about the cool things in yours, I've discovered the ME brave enough to be herself out in the world, and people who actually find that ME friend-worthy. For an extreme introvert, that's nothing short of a miracle. As a person and a writer, it has allowed me to find and embrace my personal voice. I look forward to continuing that conversation with so many wonderful friends, occasionally here on the blog, on my personal web page and often on Facebook. 

Playground Monitor: On November 16, 2005, I posted my first blog post on the Writing Playground.  It was called “Serendipity and Other ‘S’ Words.”  And what a serendipity the blog has been!  How could I possibly have known how dear these wonderful women with whom I joined forces are.  They’ve seen me through good times and bad.  I was desperately afraid my lack of writing ability during and after the divorce might just have them nudging me toward the door.  That’s never happened.  Thank you to all our readers for being here with us for all this time and please do come over to Facebook and like our page there.  That’s where we’ll be sliding and swinging and teeter-tottering now.  I’m not on Twitter(yet) but if/when I start tweeting, I’ll let you know.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Congratulations to Laurie G who won a free copy of Anna DeStefano's newest release Her Forgotten Betrayal.  Please email me at kira @ KiraSinclair (dot) com to claim your prize.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Little Inspiration

I've always been a visual person. Before I started writing (and not nearly as often since then), I scrapbooked. I don't consider myself a visual artist. Mostly I scraplift (which means to take another idea and put your own spin on it). After I started writing, I spent part of my plotting time finding pictures of heroes, heroines, places. I even created my own version of collages to inspire me as I work.

Now I can't start writing without pictures. Sometimes they aren't exact. Sometimes I change eye colors or add tattoos. But I must have that starting image, because after that the story unfolds like a movie in my mind.

And who couldn't write with such inspiration?

Are you a visual person? Or do you prefer audio? Don't even get me started on my iTunes collection!


Friday, June 08, 2012

Behold, The Power Of Sugar

Y'all remember those cheese commercials a few years back? The little girl who left Santa cheese instead of cookies and got all sorts of gifts, like a pony? Well, same general idea, but not about cheese. I love cheese, don't get me wrong. But no amount of mozzarella is going to help me write a book any faster.

That takes more powerful stuff. Namely sugar and caffeine. I know, they're both bad for you. Offer no nutritional value. But I can't argue the fact that they work. A chapter can be stalled out and if I crack open a diet coke and start munching on peanut butter M&Ms, the words just start flowing. Caffeine and sugar both help you think, so its no wonder. And being kinestheic (move to think) at heart, chewing helps my brain work better, too.

Oh, but I feel guilty about it. Two week ago, I wrote four chapters over the long weekend. Four! It was awesome. And fueled by Jelly Belly jelly beans. Primarily strawberry daquiri and fresh pear. I plowed through that bag, then moved on to the rest of the M&Ms I had set aside when it was gone. Then, in desparation, I switched to gum, but that only half works.

When it comes to my fuel of choice, I'm not too picky. Things that are small, easy to pop in my mouth and don't get my fingers sticky, usually rank pretty high. Wouldn't grapes qualify? Uh, yeah, whatever. M&Ms (usually peanut butter or peanut so I can convince myself I'm getting protein) are my go to. I've been on a jelly bean kick since Easter. I had a bag of Jolly Rancher ones that I loved, but they disappeared from shelved after the holiday. I've been munching on trail mix more recently, with mixed results. Girl Scout cookies work well. As do those bags of mini Oreos. I even mowed through a box of Lucky Charms the other day. Dangerous stuff.

I tell myself that it's okay as long as I only eat that junk when I'm working. And I drink diet soda with it for the caffeine (can't drink coffee) so its only mildly criminal, right? What will I do when I write full time? Gain twenty pounds, probably.

Do you feed your muse? Any go to choices for you? Any suggestions on some stuff I could try that wouldn't induce self-flaggelation later?

Thursday, June 07, 2012


So there are several changes going on in my life at the moment.  Zilla started a new job on Monday.  We're very grateful for the opportunity!  But this means that his schedule - and therefore my schedule - are changing.  For the past, eh, six or seven years he's been doing all of the cooking in our family.  It made sense.  He got home first.  Now I'm going to be getting home first which means cooking will be my responsibility. 

I've discovered something this week. I like cooking.  My skills - and recipes - are just really rusty.  It's going to take me some time to get back into the groove of things.  Ask Angel, she was on the phone with me during my first attempt (which was a huge hit with the family!) and enjoyed the entertainment of listening to me fumble around the kitchen.  She also answered  my stupid questions as I figured out how to make meatballs. :-) 

I've been scouring the internet and Pinterest and bugging all of my friends for their go-to recipes.  I want a nice stable of usuals so that I can vary our weekly menu.  I'm also trying to find different crock pot recipes to add to my repertoire. 

So my question today is, do you have a go-to recipe?  One that's always a hit with everyone you serve it to? Something that's quick and easy to throw together after a long day at work?  I'll start things off by sharing what I made Monday night.


Tangy Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 glove garlic (crushed) use powdered if you want
½ tsp salt
1 can (8oz) jellied cranberry sauce
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce

Mix well beef, Worcestershire sauce garlic and salt. Shape into 1-inch balls. In large skillet over moderate heat brown meatballs. Add cranberry sauce. Cook and stir until sauce melts. Stir in tomato sauce. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until meatballs are done. Serve with (No Yolk) noodles.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Order of Things


~ the disposition of things following one after another, as in space or time; succession or sequence: The names were listed in alphabetical order.

~ a condition in which each thing is properly disposed with reference to other things and to its purpose; methodical or harmonious arrangement: You must try to give order to your life.

It's cotton growing season here in the Tennessee Valley, and I pass this field every day on my way to work.  I've watched it go from a field left over from last year's crop, to a freshly plowed patch of earth to wee seedlings poking up toward the sun and now to these well-established plants.  And there are rows and rows and rows of them -- in this field and the one across the road and along roads all across the southern United States.

This field makes me happy, because I like order.  I like things to be in nice, neat rows.  Not OCD crazy-as-a-loon order, but within-the-range-of-normal-mental-health order.  I know where things are in my apartment (most of the time) because everything has a place (or the vicinity of a place).  The Playfriends kid me about my car because it's all clean and neat (hey, you should have seen it when I had kids) and it's like flying in an airplane used to be (there's a small pillow and blanket in the backseat and I think I walked off a Continental flight with the blanket because they had turned me into an icicle).

Lately, though, my sense of order has begun to wane.  I still keep my day planner on my desk and my life is in that book.  My cabinets are all arranged with dishes one place, glasses another and the silverware is in an organizer with knives, forks and spoons all separate and lined up like good little soldiers.

But the front closet I've been saying I needed to clean out for the last six months is still in disarray.  I finally cleaned out under the guest bathroom sink mainly because I was sure I had some Benadryl cream under there that would soothe a rash on my neck (and yes indeed, I did).

I used to make my bed every single day.  Now, I pull up the sheets and blanket and prop the pillows against the headboard.  I can't make myself leave it all messy, but I don't do the comforter/shams/extra pillows thing every day. 

I suppose I've hit a balance.  I've stopped (for the most part) expecting perfection, though you'd never know it from my obsession over my recent photo shoot.  More about that in another blog.

I guess now my life has become a little more like this part of the field.  There's still order but you can see some gaps and a few weeds here and there.  Not perfect, but good enough.

And sometimes "good enough" is well... good enough.

How about you?  Are all your rows in order?  Or do you have some gaps and weeds?  Or do you even have rows?

And now I need to stop messing with this blog post and quit trying to make the spacing perfect. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Today is release day for Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet!

(And isn't he just pretty!)

The tabloids just couldn’t get enough of A-List couple hotshot Producer Finn Marshall and Hollywood wild-child Caitlyn Reese. Then Caitlyn fled the glaring lights of Tinseltown, leaving an indelible mark on the Walk of Fame – and an empty seat on the back of his motorbike.
Now Cait is back! She’s still got the X-factor, and Finn is struggling to banish his X-rated thoughts! Because one thing is for sure…he isn’t just interested in a quick Hollywood retake…To interest him, it’ll have to be a full-budget epic remake…

I love, love, love Finn and I'm so glad his book is finally out!  (This is the last book of the Marshall brothers series (sob): the other two are The Privileged and the Damned and The Power and the Glory.)

Handy Links to buy your copy:   Amazon    B&N   eHarlequin

Monday, June 04, 2012

Make-up Monday

Ugh! I have to totally apologize. I'm not feeling well, and have been pouring every extra second into my current revisions. Needless to say, I'm out of words today.

I'll try to make it up to you, though.  :)  Enjoy!

Hope we all have a great Monday!


Friday, June 01, 2012

Plotter's Paradise

A couple weeks ago, I turned in my January 2013 book and now, I'm waiting for my revisions and line edits. In the meantime, I thought, maybe I'll start tinkering with my next book. It isn't due until October, but it couldn't hurt to start. The book is part of the 2013 Desire Continuity. My book is #5, the May 2013 release.

This is my first continuity. I'd heard mixed reviews on what its like to do one of those. I guess a lot of that has to do with the bible and what plot you're assigned. I also think the experience depends very highly on whether or not you're a plotter or a pantster. I could see a pantster being absolutely miserable. They already know how the book is going to end. Someone has told them. The excitement and creative high is over for them before they even start.

A plotter, on the other hand, is in HOG HEAVEN. After receiving the bible (which is what the call the series overview with all the basic stories, characters and how they connect) we have a few weeks to put together a synopsis. I did have a few bugs I had to work through on mine, my logical brain rebelled against a few plot points I was given, but I got permission to change them. I sat down on my patio one afternoon and wrote the synopsis. It was twelve pages and I got a massive sunburn, but I didn't notice because it was all going so well. Yes, the bible gives you plot points you have to hit and a general overarching storyline, but I still had to develop the characters and fill in all the plot holes. I kind of enjoyed that, as a 12 page synopsis would tell you. The continuity editor was very pleased with me. He said it was the work of a seasoned professional. I like him. :)

That was back at the beginning of April, so last Friday, I decided to sit down and start writing. I didn't want to get too far ahead with my book in case the other stories had changes that would impact me, but my book is fairly stand-alone, I'd say. I took my approved synopsis, broke it out into chunks for a chapter by chapter outline (the pantsters are cringing right now) and started. Before I went to bed Friday, chapter one was done. Saturday, chapter two was done. Sunday, chapter three was done. Monday, chapter four was done. It was awesome. The words just flowed. I knew exactly what I needed to write and where I was going. I'm hoping this helps me with the miserable middle where I lose track of the plot and get stuck. That would be great. I hate chapter seven. Like the title says "Plotter's Paradise." I might add "Pantster's Personal Hell."

I'm hoping the whole book goes this well. Last night I started putting around and wrote half of chapter five without meaning to. Nice. Did you ever have a project where everything went smoothly? Usually, whether its writing or assembling furniture, I run into a snag. Writers, have you done a continuity before? Did you like it?

Thursday, May 31, 2012


School's out.  Summer is finally here...along with ultra high temperatures in Alabama.  I've managed to get my first (and hopefully only) sunburn of the season.  We've gotten our season passes to the local water park and already used them several times.  The next few months are going to be filled with fun, home improvement projects and bar-b-que.

Today I'm turning in my next Blaze (Yay!).  Of course this means I've been a mad woman for the past couple weeks juggling everything.  This weekend I have a long list of things I need to catch up on.  Yes, laundry is there, but so is sitting at the pool with a good book in my hand.

I hope you get to do the same!


This song is older, but somehow it's what I always hear in my head when I think of summer.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We interrupt this programming...

I had another blog mostly written for today but it's just going to have to go on the back burner because...

My older son and daughter-in-law are expecting baby number two and learned yesterday that it's another girl.  BabyGrand, who will turn 6 next month, is DELIGHTED (because someone told her little brothers were mean).

I think the kids found a great way to break the news to her.  What do you think?

The search for a name is on, but they have until roughly the first of November to decide.   If she's born on Halloween, at least #1 son is grown up enough not to name her Jaysona or Freddye.  We got a female cat on a Friday the 13th once and the boys wanted to name her Freddy.  I nixed that quickly, but she ended up being named Spook.

I'm excited about another granddaughter.  I've LOVED shopping in the pink department but I'd have been just as excited about a grandson.  After all, I have years and years of experience with little boys.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Once again, I've been spending too much time on YouTube (I'm avoiding revisions, can't you tell?).

I must now share these videos with you so that I can say I was doing blog research and not just killing time.

So here are the videos that made me smile this week.

Fighting Baby Ballerinas:

Stella's first big audition:
(You may want to skip to about 3:05 if you just want to see Stella, but the whole thing is quite sweet. Stella has talent!)

Another SYTYD audition:
(Skip to the one minute mark for the drool-worthiness to start. He's a phenomenal dancer as well.)

The Chihuahua's Escape:

And just because I like to make Smarty Pants squirm:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Some days, I feel like an imposter. Yes, I know today is Memorial Day. Its been all over Facebook with poignant pictures like this one.

They're beautiful, and remind me to feel truly grateful and proud of my many family members (including my father and several uncles) who served in every branch of the armed forces except the Marines. I even grew up in a town centered around a navy military base.

But I also feel slightly unpatriotic. You see, as an adult (and even in my teen years), we never celebrated these holidays in the traditional sense. We don't go to any local parades or Memorial Day events. My husband (in his former career and his new one) has always worked on these patriotic holidays. The kids and I are on our own for most of the day, so we rest, hang out, maybe catch a movie. Some years we'll get together with extended family or friends for a BBQ, but for the most part our holidays are simply a break from the rush of our normal routine.

And I'm very grateful to the men and women who gave their lives so I can enjoy this time with my family! What about your family? How do y'all normally spend your Memorial Day holiday?


Saturday, May 26, 2012


Happy Memorial Day weekend! The winner of my "Win It Before You Can Buy It" giveaway of a copy of More Than He Expected, my July Desire, is.... JANE! Email me your information at author (at) andrealaurence (dot) com. Congrats, Jane!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Book of Your Heart

Everyone talks about writing the book of your heart. That when you're frustrated or not feeling like your career is moving forward, that maybe the thing to do is stop and let yourself write the book you really want to write. The story and characters that call to you while you're writing what you 'should' write.

I have that book. Its the one I've been tinkering with for years. The one that has always been special to me, but that I always felt was a little too out there. It needed work, which is part of the reason it was rejected in the past, but it also didn't fit into any of those neat marketing boxes that the publishers like so much. Yes, it is a special snowflake book. But I love it. Everyone who reads it loves it, including my agent, who signed me after just reading the first few chapters. I don't think there's anything quite like it on the market right now.

Which is why I'm holding my breath. After years of polishing, multiple revisions and incarnations, the book of my heart is being shopped. Today. I'm so nervous. This book has definitely grown up and gone to college since most people saw it. So I'm hopeful. I'm not expecting news to come any time soon. It takes time. While I'd love to have a couple of my top publishers fighting over me in an auction that lands me a "nice" deal, right now, I'll be happy to have any publisher take a chance. Self-publishing, if nothing else, has shown publishers that a book can be commercially successful without fitting neatly in a box.

So, we'll see. I'm going to be a wreck for weeks. Have you written the book of your heart yet? Any luck getting it out into the world? As a reader, can you tell when an author is really and truly in love with their stories and their characters?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Best of the Bookshelf

Summer is starting.  What does this mean? BEACH READS!  I know I"m looking forward to some serious time lounging next to the pool with a book in my hands.  Our local water park opens this weekend and I intend to be there for three days straight.

Angel is reading My Reckless Surrender by Anna Campbell.
I love, love, love this author – even though I rarely read historical romance any more. Her characters are always out of the box and powerfully motivated! I can’t help but be drawn into her impossible situations where love triumphs when you least expect it. In Reckless Surrender, widow Diana Carrick ached to own the house where her family has always worked, but it will soon pass into the hands of rogue Earl Tarquin Vale. Imagine her surprise when she offers her body to him, and he turns her down! What kind of rogue is that? Her desperate plans force her to tempt him in other ways, leading to all manner of naughty exchanges and unconventional circumstances. But it is ultimately her secret motivations that might cost them their love. Reading Reckless Surrender will lead you down a fascinating path with a surprise ending!

Smarty Pants is reading Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet by Kimberly Lang

I know what you're thinking - this book isn't out until June. But lucky me scored a copy at the Romantic Times conference and I couldn't wait to find out how the Marshall Brothers trilogy would end. If you read the first two - The Privileged & the Damned and the Power & the Glory, then you've probably been waiting impatiently for the youngest brother Finn to have his shot at love. Readers won't be disappointed as he finds it on the front page of the tabloid news with Hollywood bad girl Caitlyn Reese.

Playground Monitor is reading A Deeper Darkness by J.T. Ellison
As a medical examiner, Samantha Owens knows her job is to make a certain sense of death with crisp methodology and precision instruments. 
But the day the Tennessee floods took her husband and children, the light vanished from Sam's life. She has been pulled into a suffocating grief no amount of workaholic ardor can penetrate—until she receives a peculiar call from Washington, D.C.

On the other end of the line is an old boyfriend's mother, asking Sam to do a second autopsy on her son. Eddie Donovan is officially the victim of a vicious carjacking, but under Sam's sharp eye the forensics tell a darker story. The ex-Ranger was murdered, though not for his car.
Forced to confront the burning memories and feelings about yet another loved one killed brutally, Sam loses herself in the mystery contained within Donovan's old notes. It leads her to the untouchable Xander, a soldier off-grid since his return from Afghanistan, and then to a series of brutal crimes stretching from that harsh mountainous war zone to this nation's capital. The tale told between the lines makes it clear that nobody's hands are clean, and that making sense of murder sometimes means putting yourself in the crosshairs of death.

One of my fave TV shows is about a medical examiner and this heroine is an ME too. The book involves the recent floods in Nashville. And J.T. Ellison will be our luncheon speaker next year. Sounds like a winning combination of reasons to read this book!

Problem Child is reading Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

There’s an awful lot of hype about this book, but I’ve heard mixed reviews.  One person I know is convinced I’ll hate it, but wants me to read it anyway because she hates it and wants someone on her side in the fight. Another friend loved it and is convinced I’ll love it too.  Throw in the number of people who love it and think I’ll hate it or vice-versa, and you can see why I’ve put it on my TBR pile.  There’s obviously something there that’s attracting and polarizing people, so I’m curious.  Plus, most people assume I’ve read it and are then surprised when I can’t carry on a conversation about it.  So, I’ve gotta see for myself what’s going on.

Instigator is reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I've been waiting for the release of the second book in the Divergent series for what feels like forever.  It released at a dangerous time - when I had my own deadline to worry about - and I knew the moment I started it I wouldn't be able to think about anything but tearing through the pages.  And I was right!  Insurgent is a face paced read that hooked me from the first page and just wouldn't let go.  But the secret to this series success is in the main character Beatrice Prior.  She's what every person wishes they could be - strong, honorable, selfless - while still managing to struggle with the same issues we all do - love, loss, self-understanding.  Her struggle to find her place in the world is interesting to watch and something everyone can relate to.

So, what are you reading this month? 

P.S.  I'm blogging about baby cougars at the Blaze blog today. Stop by!