Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pen Pals

I belong to a small writing group of extremely talented, extremely supportive women who call ourselves "The Writer's Playground" (not to be confused with another group out there who call themselves the Playground, too, but whatever *grin*). Our group began when we got our hands slapped for having too much fun on a bigger loop, so we naughty girls spun off and formed a group of our own - we even invited the 'handslapper' to join us, and she did! We joke, giggle, laugh, cry, share dream hunks and even bigger writing dreams, critique, encourage, comfort and support each other. You can see most of them in my photo gallery.

Since we formed our Playground in March of 2004, 7 of our 18 members have finaled in the Golden Heart (multiple times), there have been more RWA chapter contest wins than I can possibly count, 8 of us have signed with literary agents, and 6 of us (including me) have gone on to achieve our ultimate goal of publication.

Last year we began a new tradition: when one of us sells, the rest of us chip in for gifts: a customized 'Build-A-Bear' based on the genre of our books, a bookbag imprinted with the book cover, and/or a beautiful, personally engraved fountain pen to sign those precious contracts. Here's mine... ain't it purty?

And here, without further ado, are the newest contract signings by my Pals:

New Harlequin Blaze author Tawny Weber signing her contract for 'Double Dare', with her purple pen.
New Harlequin Historical author Stacey Lynn Reimer (a/k/a Stacey Kayne) signing her contract for 'Mustang Wild' with her green pen.
And yours truly, signing her contract with Avon HarperCollins for 'Dead Girls Are Easy' and 'Where The Ghouls Are', with my green pen (Stacey always copies me *snicker*).

Do you have any 'Pen Pals' in your life? Someone to share the ups and downs of your writing with? If you don't, find some. I was extremely lucky to find mine, and it's made the journey all the sweeter.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Day of the Dolphins

Living in Florida has its perks.

Late yesterday, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice seafood dinner at one of our many local waterfront restaurants. Life has been a bit stressful lately because of some family issues, and we felt the need to relax, unwind, breathe some of those salt air 'ions' that really do give your mood a lift. (They work - trust me.) We asked for a window seat overlooking the bay, and sat there (cold beer in hand), watching the ripples on the water, the sunset reflecting on distant high-rises, a tall white heron stalking fish along the shoreline.

And then I saw them. Three fins breaking the surface, three quick blasts of air and water marking them as a trio of dolphins, out for an early dinner in the shallows of the bay. We watched, oohing and aahing as they appeared and disappeared, breaking the surface, gray backs glistening as they dived and circled. And suddenly, I was reminded of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. If you haven't seen this one, you should: directed by Jodie Foster, starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr., a young Claire Danes, and the very hunky Dylan McDermott. Holly Hunter has gone home to be with her elderly parents and completely dysfunctional extended family for the Thanksgiving holidays. Though she loves them, she finds herself very quickly going nuts, locked in a bathroom for some privacy, and talking to her teenage daughter on the phone just for the sense of normalcy and sanity it gives her. Her daughter reminds her of a scuba trip they took together where they watched an angel fish swimming peacefully beneath the sea, all silence and beauty, and tells her mom, "Remember the fish, Mom. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."

Not only can I relate to the dysfunctional family part :), the advice was perfect. I can only do what I can do, and what other people do is, for the most part, beyond my control. I'll just keep swimming, one eye on the shore and the other on the unknown deep. Every once in a while I'll come up for air, splash around a little for good measure, then submerge myself back into the water that is my life. A life which, for the most part, is pretty darn good.

It got me wondering, though... what's your favorite way to make a splash? A night out, a day in your jammies, an afternoon at the mall? What helps you 'keep swimming'?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Enjoy Being A Ghoul

Meet Grandma Ghoulie. :)

She was kind enough to direct my friends and neighbors into my backyard last year for my annual Halloween party, better known as 'Madame Zelda's Haunted Graveyard.' The lawn is transformed into a cemetary, the garden shed becomes a fortuneteller's hut (complete with a real Madame Zelda, thanks to one of my equally ghoulish ghoulfriends), spooky music plays and fog machines abound. It's so much fun!!!

Yes, it's true...everyone who knows me knows I have a problem... I'm a Halloween fiend. Nothing makes my evil little heart go pitter-patter more quickly than to see the first rows of skeleton heads leering at me from the store shelves; the fake tombstones looking totally out of place in the brightly lit aisles; the orange pumpkins, black spiders, purple glitter and grinning ghosts. Luckily for me, Halloween retail madness begins a little earlier every year, so I don't have to go as long between my 'spooky fixes'. :) August isn't over yet, but I'm already planning this year's party.

Here are some more highlights from last year. Don't you wish you could come?
Shh...don't wake the spirits...
I'll get you next year, my pretty! I see some serious therapy in your future...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Baby? Maybe.

What is it about biological urges, anyway?

Someone I know really wants a baby (no, not me! Been there...done the t-shirt!), but I remember the urge very well. How could I not? I vividly remember the moments when my boys were placed in my arms for the first time. The sight of their tiny, scrunched-up faces, their teeny little fingers and toes, the unbelievable clench in my heart that sealed them as the loves of my life forever. Babies are wonderful. Helpless little cuddly bundles whose first smiles, first words, first steps, first everythings bring joy to your life. The diapers, the fussiness, the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the high fevers, the worry... all of that pales in comparison, and is shuffled off to the darkest depths of our minds until we have to actually deal with it. Then, like childbirth itself, we forget about all those inconveniences once they've passed.

God is very, very clever. He makes babies too adorable to resist. Life would cease to exist otherwise. We must have them. We must take care of them. We must shower them with love and affection, and they will be our perfect darlings, always and forever.

Right. How many times have you heard a childless person say, "My child will never pitch a fit in the grocery store - he/she must just be a bad parent. If only they'd talk to the child." Or, "My child will never lie to me. We'll always be able to talk honestly, about anything." How about the classic, "My child would never behave like that in school - is there anything wrong at home?".

Knowing what I know now, everytime I hear someone say "I want a baby", I resist the urge to point out that the baby will be a toddler one day. That baby will go from clinging to your neck to screaming his/her head off every time he/she is denied, delayed, or simply feels like, well... screaming his/her head off. That cute little toddler will become a pre-teen, rolling his/her eyes every time you open your mouth. That pre-teen will become a bona-fide teenager, and you will go from being the center of your child's universe to being the stupidest person on the planet. If you're lucky (and I am), you'll survive it all, and the day will come when you look up and see this responsible, mature young person who can actually bring themselves, once again, to say, "I love you, Mom."

You want a baby? Might as well cut to the chase and say, "I want a teenager."

Doesn't have quite the same effect, though, does it? :-)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Whine Time. Not.

This is one of my favorite t-shirts.

Kinda says it all, doesn't it? I'm not big on whining... never have been. It's not that I'm unsympathetic -- I know how to pat somebody's head or hold somebody's hand when they need it, and most of the time I don't mind a bit. That's what friends are for, aren't they? But some people take it to extremes, and that's when my sympathy tends to wane.

I'm willing to bet that we all know someone who's always having a crisis of some kind; someone who's so focused on themselves that they can't see the forest for the trees; someone who isn't happy unless they're miserable.

There are plenty of real reasons to whine, cry, get depressed and need a shoulder to lean on. We all have problems - some more than others, and some more often than others. It isn't good to hold them in, and it's a real blessing to have someone there when you need them.

But whining for whining's sake is a very unattractive quality. Do you or someone you love have a life threatening disease? Has someone you love died? Catch your significant other cheating on you? If not, maybe life ain't so bad.

I prefer to think about all the things I have to be thankful for... I like to imagine my glass half full instead of half empty, because I'd always rather have a little wine than listen to one. :-)

How about you?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Does it really matter?

Guests for dinner mean that I have to cook and clean instead of writing on my current work-in-progress, IF YOU GOT IT, HAUNT IT. I'd much rather be writing about the continuing adventures of Nicki Styx instead of being a domestic diva for a day, because... well, let's face it...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Make Believe Mondays

My friend and American Title II finalist, Debra Parmley, does a feature on her blog once a week she calls 'Make Believe Mondays'. She interviews different authors about the uses of creativity, imagination and dreams in their writing. Isn't that a clever idea?

Anyway, this week she was sweet enough to feature yours truly. You can read the interview on her website.

Thanks, Debra!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shaken, Not Stirred

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0

You scored as James Bond, Agent 007. James Bond is MI6's best agent, a suave, sophisticated super spy with charm, cunning, and a license's to kill. He doesn't care about rules or regulations and somewhat amoral. He does care about saving humanity though, as well as the beautiful women who fill his world. Bond has expensive tastes, a wide knowledge of many subjects, and his usually armed with a clever gadget and an appropriate one-liner.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh. My.

I love my husband. I really do. In fact, I've been known to... dare I say it? Gush. Fourteen years of marriage, three kids, the house in suburbia and all that jazz. I look forward every evening to the time he comes home after work, but I could never live up to the tips from this article from Housekeeping Monthly in 1955, entitled 'The Good Wife's Guide':

'Prepare the children. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. At the time of his arrival, minimize all noise.'
Prepare the children and keep them quiet? As in tie them to their chairs, slick back their hair and stuff socks in their mouths?

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner without you, even if he stays out all night. Never question his actions or ask questions about where he's been.
Yeah, right. That'll happen.

Be cheerful and interesting. His boring day may need a lift and it's your duty to provide it.
Lift this, buddy. (It's called a vacuum.)

Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
Only if you truly enjoy hearing about stocks, financial planning, interest rates, and the crisis in Iraq. Oh, and let's not forget germaphobia, the benefits of exercise, wheat grass and obscure vitamins that nobody's ever heard of, and the value of alway wearing clean underwear. (I'm serious.)

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll look refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.
Um... gee. Thanks for the 15 minutes to rest, even if it's just for his benefit.

We women have sure come a long way, baby! I'm far from being the perfect spouse, and so is he. Luckily, I love him anyway. And luckily, he loves me, too, even if I forget to put a ribbon in my hair.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Let No Man Write My Epitaph

I'll write it myself:

*tee-hee* Ok, so I'm a little weird! Is that such a surprise? I don't have a cover yet, so I'm making do!