Thursday, March 31, 2011

Princess Tales at Petit Fours & Hot Tamales

I'm blogging about my desire to be a Disney Princess over at Petit Fours & Hot Tamales. Come share your favorite princess stories with me!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Disney Topiaries on Parade

It's been an eventful few days and I'm bushed. Speaking of bushed, I have some fun pictures to share with all my readers (and a way to shamelessly give myself a break). Please enjoy my pictures of the Disney World Epcot Flower Show :-).

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Making Smiley Faces! Celebrating All Day

Today we celebrate with all the RITA/Golden Heart finalists. And we also celebrate with those who entered the contest but didn't final. All the entrants had to take courage by the hand and enter this contest. It's tough to send our babies out into the world and have them judged. Instead of focusing on the tears, let's focus on making smiley faces today.

First, here is a fun blog for every one to check out throughout the day as the announcements are called in. Judy Fennel does a great job rounding up the finalists' names. You can link to her blog here. I know I'll be checking it out all day.

Second, I plan to pop one of my bottles of champagne today. I believe someone I know will final.

Third, I'm going to share things that make me smile throughout the day. I would love to see what makes all my cyber world friends smile, too. So leave a comment. Let us know how you are doing as you wait for the calls. Let's make everyone SMILE today.

Here are few of my favorite things that bring smiles to my face:

Dowager Feline Clancy purring on my lap while I write.
Sunshine and flowers.
My darling teenager who has such a zest for life--she amazes me!
Hugs & Cuddles!

Crossing fingers and toes for all of the entrants!

Smile Everyone!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Celebrating All My Courageous Writing Friends

Tomorrow is a big day for many romance writers. Many of us have entered the Romance Writers of America's contests for published and unpublished authors. The RITA and the GOLDEN HEART contests are our industry's version of the OSCARS for writers.

Today, as an unpublished writer, I'm getting all twitchy because I have two entries in the GOLDEN HEART. I have other unpublished friends who have entered as well. Tomorrow we will most likely be nervous and anxious as we wait for all the finalists to be announced. We'll pretend we don't care, but we do. It's a huge honor! A huge feather in one's writing cap. It opens doors. It doesn't guarantee publication, but it does mean that you've become part of a select sisterhood of writers. So it is a big deal. A very big deal. It's like getting a college degree: once you have it, no one can take that honor away. For unpublished writers it is also a huge affirmation that they aren't whistling dixie against the wind and completely delusional.

This is the creme de la creme. A finalist gets all kinds of writing princess perks. Who wouldn't want to be a Princess for four days at the RWA National Conference?

A lot of my wonderful published friends entered the RITA. This contest is important to them, too. I know it generates more interest. Gets agents interests, booksellers interested, but I'm not published so I have no idea how much extra oomph a RITA Award can give a published writer. I do know this: it's beautiful, bright and shiny. I touched one at a writer's meeting. The winner brought her RITA Statuette into the meeting and shared her victory with us. It was sweet. It was a moment. She was a Princess for four days during the RWA National Conference. Then she shared her sweet Princess moment with us.

The award mattered. A lot.

But for all the people who final, or win, these awards, there are many who don't. Tomorrow will be a day of highs and lows. Therefore I thought that today I'd focus on why we became writers--why we strive to create stories. Because we have to have more than shiny awards and statues to keep us going as writers. We have to have an inner drive that supersedes material recognition. Otherwise we won't keep writing--writing for no pay, no recognition, no awards.

So today, before the announcements are made, I want to say that YOU ARE ALL WINNERS! You entered, you wrote books, you took a chance, you put your heart out there, you risked losing. And in risking the disappointment you grew as writers.

I have a few quotes I want to share with you. Quotes that keep me going as a writer. Quotes that remind me about why I write:

I hope that your measure of success will be not the gratification of getting an agent or seeing your name on the cover, but putting together a novel of real depth--of having something to say and saying it in a story with lasting power. Donald Maass

The object of goals is getting there... the object of dreams is the journey. Delle Jacobs

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both. James A. Michener

Tomorrow will be a big day. I have three bottles of champagne chilling in the fridge. I plan to open one of them and to celebrate everyone's successes. I am also going to have a THINGS THAT MAKE ME SMILE party.

So join me tomorrow for a special blog that celebrates ALL of the writers who have entered the prestigious RITA/GOLDEN HEART contests. Let's be happy for the finalists. Let's celebrate their victories. But let's also remember to celebrate the gift of having the courage to enter the contests because we all love writing compelling stories that move people.

And that is what we're all about: writers on a journey who encourage and celebrate each other!!

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Welcome Author Kira Sinclair-Guest Blogger

Please welcome my fellow Heart of Dixie writing friend, author Kira Sinclair.  

She's a Harlequin  BLAZE author with a heart of gold. I'm excited to share my Veranda with her today as she shares about one of her favorite topics: Writing. Today's topic? Setting. And she's got setting nailed in her fabulous new novel, What Might Have Been.  I hope you enjoy meeting Kira as much as I enjoy knowing her!! 

Setting – More Than Just a Place

One of my favorite topics to talk about is writing.  Ask me a question, get me rolling and I can talk your ear off.  I recently had a nice discussion with a friend about settings.  Part of it started because of my bio – if you’ve read it you know I’m a self proclaimed city girl who’s been plopped down in the middle of the country.  The transformation started when my daddy moved us from Michigan to Alabama (and I seriously asked him if we could still wear shoes.  Hey, I was only nine). And continued with my husband’s penchant for bringing home critters...but that’s another discussion for another time.

I’ve come to realize, during my talk of settings, that up until What Might Have Been I’ve focused my attention on fairly urban locations.  Maybe I was feeling homesick.  However, WMHB returned me back to my present existence.  It’s set on a commercial peach orchard.  Now, I don’t live on a working farm.  At the moment the most we raise are goats and baby hamsters, but I do enjoy looking out my kitchen window and seeing the clear stretch of our land instead of my neighbor’s dilapidated trampoline and overgrown flower beds. 

There are definitely advantages to living in the country.  I just miss my pizza delivery guy sometimes. 
I did love doing the research for WMHB though.  Building a fictional small town where everyone knows your business.  The kind where there’s only one funeral home and multiple Baptist churches.  I enjoyed pulling out my learned Southern heritage and finally getting to use it.

So, do you find you gravitate towards a certain kind of setting?  Do you read books where that feel familiar or do you like to change up the pace?  Are you a city girl who likes to read about cowboys or a country girl who likes to travel to the urban meccas?


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walt Disney World Resort--Have a Magical Day

I'm on a fabulous vacation -- after working hard on the revisions and now letting them percolate!! DH, DT, and I moved from the Tuscany Hilton resort to the Yacht Club on the Disney World property. We love this resort because we can walk onto one of our favorite parks: Epcot. Not everyone considers Epcot their favorite resort, but my family loves it because it is mellow, there are fun foods to try, and there are some cool rides.

We're here to celebrate our anniversary. DH gave me the gift in August. When we booked our trip, we told them this was the reason we were coming (a few months later, but DT's pesky school schedule interfered with our travel plans). Any rate, this is the first total family vacation we've had in two years (guess where we went last time? Yah, hate to admit it, but it was Disney--we just love it here). The first few days were busy, hectic, and crazy with the rides. But now that we are here, our pace has slowed tremendously.

We've also been getting super spoiled by the Disney staff. Why? Because we have these fabulous buttons that say "Happy Anniversary" and the number of years we've been married. We wear them all over the parks and everyone says "happy anniversary" to--park staff, strangers, other people celebrating anniversaries. We are convinced these little buttons are giving us little perks like best seats on the rides and more. It's a lot of fun and we do feel special.

That's the beauty of Disney. The magic of Disney. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you are celebrating a special event, they make you feel like you're a kid again. We saw one couple that wore similar buttons--Happy Anniversary 60 Years!! Wow! We stopped and chatted with them, had a fabulous conversation about how a marriage lasts (it's not 50/50, it's 49/51 and the person who compromises the most changes from day to day--trust me). We're not married for 60 years, but this is a milestone: 25 Years!! (Yes, I was a child bride).

We're having fun. We're visiting theme parks, eating fabulous food, and just enjoying our special celebration with each other. Some people want diamonds and cars. Me? I just want to spend time with my two favorite people.

How do you celebrate your special days? Do you have magical days or do you prefer the "stuff" that you get for celebrating the magical day?

And now? Back to the parks!!

DT and I bought a cool anniversary welcome basket for DH. This arrived

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Harry Potter World, Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios: Owl Ratings

I've been on the road again! And this time I've got so much fun to share with you. First of all, we're in ORLANDO. This is one of my favorite cities. I love it here--the resorts, the weather, the rides!!

The rides. Oh, this brings me to Part A of my ride adventure--which would not be complete without my Darling Teen and Darling Hubby's input. So this time, with their help, and a little Harry Potter World Magic, I'm bringing others into the blog to give their Owl Ratings to the rides!!

Here are the rankings:


O: Outstanding (6)
E: Exceeds Expectations (5)
A: Acceptable (4)
P: Poor (3)
D: Dreadful (2)
T: Troll (1)

Islands of Adventure: 

The Hulk
Darling Hubby: 5
Darling Teen: 5
Me: 6

I love this ride. It shoots you out of a cannon and it is so amazing with corkscrews and cool loops. DH wants less jerking and DT wants more drops. Total Owl Score: E- Exceeds Expectations

Dr. Doom's Freefall
Darling Hubby: 1
Darling Teen: 1
Me: 0 (I don't do drops)

DT and DH say it was weak and more relaxing than exhilarating. Total Owl Score: T-Troll

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Darling Hubby: 4
Darling Teen: 4
Me: 4

Fine, not terrifying, but in comparison with other VR's it is not the best. However, it is a nice little ride. Total Owl Score: A-Acceptable

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
Darling Hubby: 5
Darling Teen: 4.5
Me: 4

I hate getting wet and the cartoons are a waste on me. However, my DT and DH love the show. So, that gives this ride an E-Exceeds Expectations
*wear a poncho

Jurassic Park River Adventure
Darling Hubby: 4
Darling Teen: 5
Me: 4

DH wasn't uber impressed, but enjoyed the various aspects. DT thought it was scary and exhilarating, too. Me?? Good fun. Total Owl Score is an A: Acceptable

Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey
Darling Hubby: 6
Darling Teen: 6
Me: 6

We LOVED THIS RIDE. Scary, terrifying at points, great transitions between virtual and real stuff, and it felt you were flying. Definitely worth it to wait in the long line to see the entire castle, the replicas really made you feel like you were there! Perfect for true fans! Total Owl Score is an O: Outstanding

Dragon Challenge
Darling Hubby: 6
Darling Teen: 6
Me: 6

Loved it! No jerkiness, great props, great redo on HP theme! Total Owl Score is an O: Outstanding.

For true HP fans it is worth it to wait it wait in line for the different stores, Ollivander's, 3 Broomsticks, Honeydukes and Zonko's. Don't wait in the Butterbeer lines -- just go into 3 Broomsticks and get your butterbeer and lunch there. Overall, HP World is best part of the parks.

Poseidon's Fury
Darling Hubby: 2
Darling Teen: 3
Me? 2.5

Hokey, and old, but good for little ones. The GUY THAT DID THE SHOW AND ACTED WAS AWESOME. Total Owl Score is D: Dreadful

Universal Studios
Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast
DH: 4
DT: 5
Me: 5

Fun for little kids who love the characters, not scary but funny and cute. Total Owl Score: E: Exceeds Expectations.

Shrek 4-D
DH: 3
DT: 3
Me: 3

In comparison to other virtual reality rides, it doesn't match up. Fun for little ones though. Total Owl Score: P: Poor.  

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
DH: 1
DT: 1
Me: 1

We all love coasters, and a little jerkiness is okay; however, you couldn't enjoy your ride because your head was getting thrown around the entire time. The concept of choosing your own music and having a video of yourself during the ride was pretty cool, but our cameras didn't work and we never got to see our video! Overall, it was awful. Don't do it! Owl Score: T for Troll. 

DH: 3
DT: 1
Me? 2

DT hated how weak and bad and awful and boring and not cool it was. DH was somewhat intrigued because he is a geek, but I just didn't like getting wet on a non water ride! Total Owl Score is D for Dreadful. 

Revenge of the Mummy
DH: 4
DT: 4.5
Me: 5

Pretty good ride! A cross between Rock N' Roller Coaster and Expedition Everest with some Mummies thrown in. Nice ride to get you out of the heat and get your blood running. Total Owl Score is E: Exceeds Expectations. 

The Blues Brothers Show
DH: 6
DT: 5.5
Me: 6

FUN! Great impersonations and DH looked like a kid in a candy shop when they came out. Good mid-afternoon break from all the running around. Total Owl Score is O: Outstanding. 

E.T. Adventure
DH: 2
DT: 6
Me: 5

DH says highly relaxing but nothing else. We on the other hand think it's cute and fun for little ones! Total Owl Score is A: Acceptable

Stay tuned! We can't wait to hit the next theme park!!

Do you agree or not? Share your ride stories!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hair, Glorious Hair: What Kind of Do Attracts You?

Help Wanted: Romance writer in desperate need of new ways to describe hero and heroine's hair is looking for creative solutions from her readers. 

I've written about my weak areas as a writer. One of them is setting. I know I need to weave it in, but it's not my favorite thing to write about. I have friends who love to write about locations. They can wax poetic about rooms, interiors and exteriors. Me? I have to remind myself to layer that stuff in cause I'm happy being in my people's heads.

Another area I'm weak in is the clothing department. What the heck are these two people wearing? And why? I honestly could care less about their clothing choices, but I know I have to put them in something. They can't be naked throughout the entire book. Sure, in bits and pieces it is okay, but then that has to be part of the natural progression of their story. I confess. I'm not a clothes horse--I had to go to Canada to visit my BFF before I went shopping. I trusted her to put me in great clothes. It is NOT my forte at all. I may have to hire her as a consultant when I finally do publish a book :-).

And here is another sad truth: the hero and heroine's hair has become an issue for me. The first book was easy because I used my hair color. Blond. I go to that one a lot. My heroine usually has blond hair. I know blond hair. I am trying to branch out to other colors, but I don't know what it is like to be a redhead or a brunette. I only know blond.

Help! Does hair color impact the personality of the heroine? What colors do you go to when you describe your heroines' hair color? Are they similar to your hair color or your friends? Share your secrets with me. I need a gorgeous auburn hair colored heroine. Or one with hair the color of a copper penny. What about a sleek brunette? A sable headed beauty? A rich caramel colored mane of hair? How does that compare to a honey blond?

My guys usually have tousled, slightly brown hair with gold tips. They have hair that reminds me of a man who is slightly on the wild side. You know the guy that rides a motorcycle and has windblown, wavy hair that begs for a woman to slide her hands through the locks. Sigh. I lean to a bit of curl in the hair. A bit of wildness. I don't think I've written about a sleek, dark haired hero. I've got one in the works, but brooding dark haired heroes don't often come to mind. I like my guys to be mavericks on the move.

What about you? What hair color choices do you have for your heroes? I wonder if readers prefer to read about the kind of guy that attracts them (now you know my type) or if all that matters is what is in the dude's head and how he treats the heroine. I remember my first book. I based the hero loosely on Viggo Mortensen. Lord of the Rings had just been released. Honestly, was he not beautiful in that movie? Oh my goodness I could watch him play Aragorn on a daily basis. What an amazing hero. Sigh. Oddly enough my BFF read the book and she had a different image come to her mind. Richard Gere! Granted, Richard is a hottie and on my hero wall of inspiration so I guess he bled into the pages.

Do readers just superimpose their own visual on top of the one writers try to create? Given my imperfect scientific data point--one--I believe so.

The thing is does hair matter? Does the color matter? Does the length matter? Will a short-haired, gamin heroine who is built like a pixie or Tinkerbell evoke different reader responses than a long-haired tall and curvaceous blond like Katherine Heigl? You tell me. I wonder about that. What about dark haired beauties versus blond bombshells? Will a dark, brooding hero with black hair the color of night give a different kind of ooh la la shiver to the reader than a hero with long, slightly unruly chestnut colored hair that looks like it was dipped into sunshine? You tell me.

Of course they're all beautiful, gorgeous, ruggedly handsome, broodingly attractive--they're perfection on the page. But they aren't perfect on the inside. They're flawed, afraid, needing to grow, needing each other more than they know before they can feel complete. Isn't that what a reader really is looking for in a hero and a heroine? The internal journey toward each other?

You tell me. And if you've got any tips about hair that I can use in my stories, please share!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flexible Writing (Yoga Optional)

I once met a mother who said she liked me because I was a "flexible" parent. No. I can't do the splits or turn a cartwheel, but I have learned that sometimes rolling with the child's schedule and adjusting the parenting dial of discipline helps me be a better mother.

I wish I could say I am always in tune and know when to adjust the dial, but I am not perfect. Sometimes I just realize that there are too many bumps in the parenting road and I rethink my position about how to handle my attempts to raise a well-rounded citizen of the world.

The same can be said about my writing. I'm a writer. I write stories. I have goals and personal deadlines because I treat my writing like a job, not a hobby. I am a professional, unpaid writer who desires publication. I tend to move forward in a nice, linear fashion when I start my books. I write fast. Messy, sloppy first drafts are my game. I like to get the story out.

It doesn't seem to matter how much I plan, the map is not even a guideline by the time I get to the middle of the book. Things get quite murky and I toss the dang outline aside just to keep writing forward. I've learned I'm better at tearing apart a first draft and finding the real story inside the shell I've created so I'm always itchy to finish my first draft. That's when the real writing can begin.

This year I set my writing goals. One goal was to complete two books in a four book series. I outlined four books. I had my characters all planned out. I had the story arc for the entire series written out in an overview. I had the first book plotted/outlined and I began writing it in earnest in January. It's "finished" but not really, because I had another project pop into my life that required my setting aside the book I was working on, rethinking the entire series in a new way, and working on a revision for another book.

I had to do the "downward facing dog" of writing yoga and look at everything from a different perspective. I had to be flexible as a writer. Twist my brain inside out and make it work in a new way. The only thing I knew I was capable of doing was the cutting of the debris that was no longer deemed necessary. But once I cut the debris out, would I have a story? Would the characters I had not hung out with for a long while actually come out to play again? I immediately went into "child's pose" and whimpered a bit at the prospect.

Even worse, I had to wait to start. I am not a patient sort, so waiting was very hard. Very very very very very hard. I admit it: I am not good at biding my time. I was actually quite worried about the waiting period. The dominoes of time were falling fast. I panicked. I was very scared I'd fail before I started because I'd lost so much time (my freakish obsession with time is legendary in my family--I'm not allowed to wear a watch when we go on vacation as a result). Thankfully, I have amazing friends and writing partners who encouraged me and told me I had plenty of time. The dominoes slowly reassembled into their neat little timelines during my biding time.

Waiting was actually a good thing. It gave me time to think, mull, ask questions, search my mind for solutions, and cajole my characters out of my noggin. Biding my time meant I could gently tiptoe back into the story while banging out the first draft of the other story I was writing. When I finally sat down to work on the revision, I had a more flexible attitude about the entire process.

Now that I am in revision mode, I've also realized that the type of writing I do often impacts where I sit down to write. I can write a first draft anywhere, any time, any amount of words. There are no constrictions to the writing. It flows. I can tune out the people and noises so easily when I am in first draft mode. I can write in airports, restaurants, coffee shops. I just write.

Revisions? Not so easy. I have to literally move my computer out of the office and sit at another table so I'm not tempted to do the "business" of writing--okay, check emails and facebook and tweet. I readily confess that I am great at distracting myself in the cyber world. During revisions, I need to sit at a table, in the kitchen area, with my notebook close at hand. I have to think more, jot notes, walk away, come back, sit down, pour tea, anything I can do to trick my characters into telling me more about their story.

It is their story. I know their story. I have it inside me. I'm slowly letting it come out and trying really hard to be patient with my characters. Whenever my patience is tried, I get up and walk away. I adjust my thinking. I return with a new idea and ask them, "Is this what you were trying to tell me two years ago? Oh, okay, I get it. Then I will write it for you."

I also take a lot of showers. No matter what kind of writing phase I am in, I tend to get the greatest inspiration while washing my hair and putting on my makeup.

How do you switch gears between different kinds of writing? Does place or time matter to you? And what brand shampoo works best for you should your go-to method for inspiration be the same as mine?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Realistically Impossible

I've been pondering the word "impossible" a lot these days.

Hmmmm. Why am I doing this? I do have a huge project looming so the word has marched into my mind a few times. How on earth can I possibly complete this task? Is it impossible for me to do what is necessary? What will I do with the information I have to transform what feels like an impossible task into a possible one? I've mulled the task. I've moaned about the task. I've danced around the task. I asked for encouragement about the task. And I received support in super spades.

But it wasn't until I started the task that I realized that it was possible. Sometimes just starting a task means you will find a way to finish it even if you aren't sure how you will accomplish the end result.

Okay, that was easy enough. Start working and the impossible can become possible.

When I have power over the motion of toward the goal, any task can become possible. Well, any task that doesn't require bungee cords, parachutes, trapezes, and a steady hand becomes possible. I've written about being realistic about setting goals. Not all of my goals were under my control. I knew when I posted the goals of "get an agent and get an editor" that I was going to hear that I could only control how I pursued that goal.

I learned from a workshop presenter that it's okay to set these goals because they become imprinted in my mind and can transform my internal thought processes. Sure, I know these goals are realistically impossible for me to achieve on my own. I can't hogtie an agent or an editor and tell her/him to take me on as a writer. That wouldn't go over very well. But I can believe in the goals becoming a reality one day.

Writing them down gave me ownership over my belief.

The mere act of writing down the realistically impossible gave me a little burst of energy. A power over my self-doubts. I developed a singularly strange inner confidence by sending my ultimate goals into the universe. I began to believe that all my goals were achievable. I was no longer constrained by the need to check them off my list in a timely manner. No. I was released from my inner demons of doubt and anxiety to do the other tasks that were necessary to achieving the realistically impossible.

Saying something can happen often makes it happen. I don't know how this works. I just believe it does.

"There is no  use in trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things." 
"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll

I've dissected the word impossible and discovered this amazing fact:

I'm Possible.