Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's RWU Tag Week

Remember that tag I did two weeks ago? Well, this week the RWU members are posting their responses on the RWU blog.

Why not stop by and read a few?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday 13: Reasons Everyone Needs a Skitten

Hi! Little Miss Bella Wigglebottom here. Also known as "The Skitten." Why? Because I'm a skittish kitten. (I know. But the humans think they're clever so let's just go along with it, shall we?) Since yesterday was Mr. A's birthday, Mrs. A is allowing me to fill in for her on the Thursday 13. I thought I'd show you why a Skitten is an invaluable member of the Ardito household. Maybe you'll consider getting one of your own!

1. Wake up time's around 5 am. The humans don't have to wake up 'til 6, but I consider it imperative everyone's up with plenty of time to start their day! Thus I walk across heads, meowing, until every family member is on their feet.

2. Time for your workout, Mr. A! Since he had knee surgery last year, he has to use his "Step" three times a week. I keep him on schedule.

3. I'm great company for manicures. (Look! My nails are purple for spring!)

4. I help Mrs. A find those pesky items that go missing on her desk: paper clips, pens, staples, etc. Occasionally, I'll knock an earring to the floor and then it's playtime for me as I bat it everywhere.

5. I'm excellent at waiting for Santa!

6. I make a great companion at bathtime. Just don't ask me to sit inside when there's water in the tub. I prefer to press my wide backside to the bottom immediately after the water is drained out, while the porcelain's still warm.

7. Look how cute I was when they first got me! Now, if I annoy them, I just pull the snuggle kitty routine, and I'm home free.

8. I guard the house against birds, squirrels, and other varmints who think they can attempt to sneak in through the window. (That's Miss Savannah with me. She's fun to play with and tease, especially in the middle of the night!)

9. I'm very good at picking up after myself and others!

10. Who's Mrs. A's favorite writing partner? You guessed it! Me! Especially when I leap into her lap when she least expects me. (We've spilled a lot of coffee with that game...)

11. We're running low on laundry detergent!

12. I watch over my family while they sleep.

13. Finally, when the house is quiet, and they've all gone out somewhere, I snuggle down with my favorite toy and catch a nap.

Come on! Admit it! Don't you want a skitten of your very own?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Let's Talk About Class

The last month or so has seen some prime examples of Authors Behaving Badly. For those on the outside, this may seem like the "norm." But I assure you. The reason this topic gets so much press is because it is such an anomaly. Allow me, then, to pay homage to a few ladies I've been fortunate enough to meet who consistently represent all that's good about our genre: the generosity, the poise, and love we should all strive for. When I grow up, I want to be any one of these ladies. And btw, aside from one who happens to be a chapter mate, I do not have any "personal" relationship with these women. They have merely gained my respect due to their professionalism in person and online. My personal top five:

1. Nora Roberts: No one walks away from her without a smile. She, truly, is the Queen of our business. Open, honest, often blunt, but never mean-spirited.
2. Bertrice Small: If Nora's the queen, Bertrice is Empress. Even before I was fortunate enough to call her "friend" I was a recipient of her encouragement, her enthusiasm, and her warmth.
3. Allison Brennan: Still a fairly new writer, Allison has shown support, knowledge, and grace to anyone lucky enough to spend an hour or two with her.
4. Shirley Jump: Another lady who is constantly cheerful, encouraging, and eager to help others.
5. Sylvia Day: Savvy, fun, and all-around terrific lady who shares her knowledge and sense of humor with anyone who asks.

So...let's hear it for the romance ladies who embody all that is good about our business! Feel free to add your own personal heroines (but not to promote a book for a friend or CP, please!) Share your experiences with me. Who's made a major impact (positively) on your writing life?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday 13: Things I Wish I Could Write Off on My Taxes

So this past Tuesday was the day everyone dreads: April 15th. Tax Day. How'd you do? I know; I know. Same here. Wouldn't it be great if you could write off some of those day-to-day expenses that Uncle Sam doesn't see as necessities? Things like:

1. Pets--Why can't I deduct Kismet, Miss Savannah, and Little Miss Bella Wigglebottom as dependents? They cost a fortune to feed and care for. The dog graduated obedience school, which makes her a student. The cats were adopted from a homeless shelter. And they're all members of the family, too! So why not give me a little bit off my income for having a heart? And along those lines...
2. Vet bills--If I have to take my dog for physical therapy three times a week, why can't I deduct that as a viable medical expense? Do you have any idea how much money I've spent on my dog's torn ACL? Especially with gas creeping close to 4 bucks a gallon? And while we're still on the subject of dependents, how 'bout...
3. My kids' friends--You know that house in the neighborhood all the teenagers flock to 'cuz it's full of "good crap to eat"? Yeah, well, it's my house. The same day I go food shopping they invade like Huns, tearing through my cupboards in search of Oreos, Jif, and ooh, look! The last box of Girl Scout Thin Mints! Note to my kids' friends' parents: So what if it has a high fat content? Buy a box of Twinkies, for God's sake! Cut my grocery bill in half.
4. Coffee--I don't know about you, but my coffee's as vital as blood plasma to my daily life. Without my coffee, I can't get out of bed. If I don't get out of bed, I don't go to work. If I don't go to work, I don't make a salary and therefore the U.S. government doesn't get to take a sizable portion of that income in taxes. So letting me write off my caffeine addiction is an economically sound plan, in my humble opinion.
5. Razzaritas (Raspberry Margaritas)--Used for medicinal purposes. 'Nuff said.
6. My daughter's hair fees--Call it a scientific experiment, but that girl of mine has a different hair color, length, and style every few weeks. The most recent experience, she went blond. Too blond. So now we have to take her back to the salon to have a brown added so she doesn't so closely resemble Storm from the X-Men.
7. Kids' sports equipment--Baseball, lacrosse, football, basketball. Every sport requires different sneakers, different mouthpieces, different helmets. I'm going broke at Sports Authority whenever the seasons change. Since I'm hoping the boy will get a sports scholarship to help pay for college, this should fall under the guidelines of an investment portfolio and should only be taxable if it pays a dividend (i.e., if he actually gets drafted by the Carolina Panthers like he dreams).
8. I-tunes--Since I use my music for inspiration to write, this should be considered a legitimate business expense. And hell, yes, I can prove listening to The Archies sing Sugar, Sugar gets my creative juices flowing.
9. Jujyfruits--Yes, they're horrible for my teeth. But they also keep me from killing the dh when he starts getting on my nerves. (I buy a big box every Friday to survive the weekend.) So they're really a crime deterrent.
10. AA batteries--Let's just call it "research" and move on, shall we?
11. Gifts for weddings, communions, birthdays, etc.--We all get invited to those shindigs for people we barely know or can't stand. Shouldn't the gifts we're forced to bring to those occasions fall under the category of "charitable donations"? And while we're on the subject, how about those...
12. School fundraisers--Who in their right mind spends twelve bucks on ten feet of wrapping paper? No one. Except when your son or daughter comes home with the big envelope (generally sometime during the second week of school). After the wrapping paper, it's some kind of bakery item, or food product, or restaurant coupons. You know you wouldn't buy any of this crap if a stranger tried to sell it to you. But we pry open the checkbook because our kids want a two dollar pen with a fuzzy head that lights up when you write with it. Now, that's charity!
13. Anything I have to buy because it's the law--kids' bike helmets, baby car seats, car insurance, etc. If the government insists I have to have it "for protection", why not cut me some slack on the cost?

How about you? What would you like to write off?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Oh no. Not again!

Umm...yeah. When I saw the tag on Dana Belfry's T13 this week, I just knew Kaige was going to hit me. Sometimes it stinks to be right all the time. :-) But okay, here we go:

1. You're feeling: relaxed, but anxious.
2. To your left: The big screen TV (currently playing Little Miss Sunshine), a hallway, and an exercise ball dh uses for PT.
3. On your mind: Promo ideas for the release of A Little Slice of Heaven--JUNE 27, kids! And squeezing in time to work on revisions to my historical, Kismet's Revenge.
4. Last meal included: Coffee, Multi-Grain Cheerios with skim milk and half a banana.
5. You sometimes find it hard to: keep my big mouth shut. Hence, I have a tendency to volunteer too often and to get involved in heated debates.
6. The weather: Sunny, a little breeze. 60's right now.
7. Something you have a collection of: Books (naturally!) No matter how often I weed through them and donate boxes worth to my local hospital or charity, they still overflow my bookshelves and spill into shelves in the garage.
8. A smell that cheers you up: Anything in the oven. Apple pie, brownies, pumpkin, even a roasting chicken.
9. A smell that can ruin your mood: Burnt coffee. (Oh, the humanity!)
10. How long since you last shaved?: Last night.
11. The current state of your hair: It's 9 am on a Sunday. I'm still in my jammies. So the hair is what you'd call, "rumpled bedhead."
12. The largest item on your desk/workspace (not computer): A book called, "The Secret Universe of Names."
13. Your skill with chopsticks: Doesn't matter if it's the song or the utensils. I'm useless at both.
14. Which section do you head for first in a bookstore?: Generally, I have a book or two in mind when I go to the bookstore, so I head straight for that section. After that, if I'm not already there, you'll find me in Romance (natch!)
15. Something you're craving: Right now? A day with no one home so I can write, write, write with no interruptions!
16. Your general thoughts on the Presidential race: This is one time I think I'll keep my big mouth shut.
17. How many times have you been hospitalized this year: None. Please don't jinx me.
18. Favorite place to go for a quiet moment: Get in the car and drive! Doesn't matter if I wind up at a park or at Starbucks.
19. You've always secretly thought you'd be a good: teacher.
20. Something that freaks you out a little: Gory movies
21. Something you've eaten too much of lately: Pizza
22. You have never been to Paris (but want to go!)
23. You never want to allow my kids to lose faith in me.
24. The four people I'm tagging: For kicks, I'm going to tag the RWU blog for the week of April 27. Let all the fabulous members there post their responses. I hope you'll pop over and read them! Don't worry. I'll send a reminder.

Thanks, Kaige. Luv ya, cupcake!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday 13: Board Game Characterization Questions

One of the family's favorite board games is called "Imaginiff..." Basically, you choose a list of people you're familiar with (family members, neighbors, close friends, etc.) and as you move around the board, you draw cards that begin with the phrase, "Imagine if..." Filling in the name of a person from your list, the players choose an answer from a list of six choices. They don't have to be right; this game is all about appearances and perception. Which got me thinking (always a dangerous thing, I know.)

What if I used these questions for my characters? Oh, the fun I could have delving a little deeper with the more bizarre rather than the typical, "What's his deepest fear?" type stuff. Here's a sample of Imaginiff questions and answers for your own character study. Remember! You must choose an answer from the list provided. I hope you learn something from these. (Otherwise I wasted an afternoon of my time and a perfectly good Thursday!)

IMAGINE IF (Your character)...

1. ...were the chorus of a song. Which would (s)he be?

a. "You're so vain, you prob'ly think this song is about you."

b. "I can't get no satisfaction."

c. "How much is that doggy in the window? The one with the waggly tail?"

d. "Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong."

e. "Red, red wine, stay close to me."

f. "Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!"

2. ...were an invention. Which would (s)he be?

a. Penicillin. (Hmm...that brings up some interesting insight into your hero, doesn't it?)

b. Laptop.

c. Phonograph

d. Atomic bomb

e. Blow dryer (Please don't pick this for your heroine unless you're writing about a crack whore.)

f. Zipper

3. ...were on a ten hour car trip. Which would upset him/her the most?

a. Being stuck behind a little old lady traveling at 30 MPH

b. Running over a bunny rabbit

c. Children fighting in the back seat

d. A small scratch on the paint work

e. Sound system breaks down

f. Mobile phone goes out of range

4. ...spent a relaxing day alone. What would (s)he do?

a. Go shopping

b. Surf the 'net

c. Watch TV

d. Meditate

e. Enjoy the great outdoors

f. Work on the tan

5. ...were a piece of jewelry. Which would (s)he be?

a. Diamond ring

b. Anklet

c. Stud in nostril

d. Rolex

e. Brooch

f. Earring

6. ...had a garden. What would be its predominant feature?

a. Weeds

b. Manicured lawn

c. Flowers

d. Concrete

e. Native trees

f. Gnomes and fountains

7. ...were an animal? Which would (s)he be?

a. Sheep dog

b. Chimpanzee

c. Koala bear

d. Bull

e. Panther

f. Toad

8. ...were a dessert. Which would (s)he be?

a. Fresh fruit

b. Port and cigars

c. Cheese and coffee

d. Banana split

e. Brandied kumquats

f. Jell-O

9. ...were at a construction site. What would (s)he be doing?
a. Setting up cones

b. Taking a coffee break

c. Drawing up the plans

d. Getting fired

e. Doing something with a jack-hammer (I just know someone's gonna have something to say about this choice. Don't let me down, kids!)

f. Complaining about working conditions

10. ...could keep only one of the following. Which would (s)he choose?

a. Television

b. Books

c. Computer

d. Telephone

e. Blow dryer (There's that crack whore again!)

f. Wine collection

11. ...were a cliche. Which would (s)he be?

a. Wolf in sheep's clothing

b. Born with a silver spoon in the mouth

c. Burning the candle at both ends

d. At one with nature

e. Look what the cat dragged in

f. A sight for sore eyes

12. ...were the subject of a photograph. What form would it take?

a. Police mug shot

b. Pulling a funny face

c. Bikini-clad

d. Sporting pose

e. Seated, formally dressed

f. Cover of The Enquirer

13. ...had to select a way of dying. Which would (s)he choose?

a. Peacefully in sleep

b. Hit by a golf ball

c. Fighting in war

d. Murdered by a jealous lover

e. TV falls into bubble bath

f. Overeating

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Because Nothing is Set in Stone

I've just received word that A Little Slice of Heaven will be available sooner than the original date my editor provided. We're moving from August 1 to June 27 (with a paperback release slated for 1/2/09.)

Writers know what that means: time to order bookmarks, set up signings and talks, and begin the big promotional push. For readers, it means free goodies (maybe even a contest or two) and reviewers will begin seeing copies of my book in their inboxes for their perusal.

Stay tuned for all the fun, kids.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thursday 13: Qualities I Admire in my Friends

I'm super fortunate to have a great circle of friends. (You all know who you are. And if you don't know how I feel about you and why, this T13 should help.) Here are the qualities I admire most in those I call "friend." I only hope I give as much as I get from them!

1. A sense of humor: crucial to anyone who spends time with us. My friends are able to laugh at themselves (and me), at anything that goes wrong with well-made plans, and the world at large. Those with low capacities for silliness need not apply.
2. Undaunting support: Whether or not I'm around to hear them take my side, they always TAKE MY SIDE. They don't throw me under a bus or publicly humiliate me. Men, beware! Don't take complaints about your wife's quirks to us. We'll just toss back your own...ahem!...shortcomings for you to consider!
3. Understanding my serious moments: You know that old song, Laugh, Clown, Laugh? Yeah, well, even someone who finds humor in everything goes through gray days or experiences hurt feelings every once in a while. My friends never tell me I'm full of crap or I deserve to be slapped down. They offer hugs...and raspberry margaritas. Unlimited and unconditionally.
4. Sharing my failures and successes: True friends don't run away when the going gets tough. And when one of us has a minor victory of any kind, the others are truly happy. We do not diminish someone else's accomplishments or denigrate each other to make ourselves look better, smarter, or superior in any way.
5. They're upfront: If they question my motives or think I'm behaving badly, they discuss it with me before going to outsiders for explanations. And they don't speak for me unless I've asked them to!
6. No demands: We may have differing opinions on a subject and debates might get heated. But apologies are given freely and not because of threats or demands for them. And we all know sometimes the simple "agree to disagree" maxim works better than a grudging and hollow, "I'm sorry." If we fly off the handle and say things we don't mean, we're quick to 'fess up and buy the next round. Who could ask for anything more?
7. They know my faults (and I know theirs) but we don't share them with outsiders. And we love each other because of these faults, not despite them. (And then we poke fun of those faults, which kinda goes back to #1!)
8. They see me: Not my house, my clothes, or my car. They don't care if there's dust on the fireplace mantle, if I'm in my sweats, and if I haven't vacuumed the Honda's floor mats for a while. We get together for fun, love, and laughs--not for perfection.
9. No keeping track: No one counts the calories in that brownie sundae, mentions one of us is on her fifth cigarette of the evening, or discloses our bar tab to the outside world. So what if our combined bowling score is less than 100? We're a united front, and on Girls' Night Out, everything is good for you, low cal, fat-free, and inexpensive. (And no, there's nothing wrong with a little flirtation with that cute, young-enough-to-be-your-baby-brother waiter. Just don't ask if you can take him home.)
10. Honesty: If my work is crap, they tell me it's crap and make suggestions on how to de-crap-itize it. This goes for writing, cooking, or any other chore I attempt. (But they take the gardening hoe from my hands before I can wreak havoc since I have the blackest thumb in the universe!) Friends don't allow friends to buy outfits that don't look great on them.
11. No paybacks: We don't keep score when it comes to favors, phone calls, emails or even birthday cards. We do things for each other because we can and want to, not to put someone in our debt.
12. Integrity: We keep secrets. We don't test each other's loyalty. And there's no need to put on airs or pretend to be something we're not. (Which kinda goes into play with #'s 7 & 8.) If one of us gets too full of ourselves, the others will take the air out of that swollen head fairly quickly--with gentle snark, not condemnation!
13. An enormous capacity for love: Really, what these other 12 items all have in common is love.
So in case you haven't figured it out yet: I LOVE YOU! And thanks for being my friend.