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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Five Signs Spring Has Definitely Sprung

1. Birdsongs awaken you at the crack of dawn because you’re sleeping with the windows open. One of my favorite wake-up songs is the Towhee’s. Its song sounds like “Drink your tea.”

2. Testing at School. Whether it’s CRTs, IOWAs or LEAPs, the kids are being tested—a lot.

3. People all around you are wearing flip-flips and sandals. Yup, time to schedule or do your own pedicure.

4. When two or more teenage girls gather, talk turns to prom—dresses, dates, limos. Take a gander at some of last year’s “Stuck at Prom” contest. All these outfits are made with duck tape, and the teens who make them wear them to prom. How cool! www.

5. You gird your loins as you pass by the bathing suits being displayed in department stores and decide you might want to get back into that exercise routine that fizzled out with the cold weather.

What other signs do you see around you this spring that let you know the season has definitely sprung?

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Break

Springing Forward sometimes involves stepping back to re-energize. What better way to reinvigorate ourselves than to take a Spring Break?

Spring Breaks don’t have to be expensive. Last year, thanks to some friends and really good luck, we were able to spend a week in Orlando, Florida visiting the Disney parks and even ventured to Cocoa Beach one day to jump waves. This year we scaled way back. No, not a staycation exactly. We visited my parents in Louisiana. Visiting family not only reinvigorates relationships, it allows you to explore or rexplore nearby attractions. By visiting my mom and dad, I also had the opportunity to see old friends, which I did. Nothing re-energizes me more than spending time with my buddies.

During this trip, my mother and I took my daughter to Nottoway Plantation, located in White Castle, which has just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. www.nottoway.comThe White Ballroom--a space with the most amazing plasterwork, walls and floors, all painted in glossy white and featuring gold furniture is truly spectacular. My daughter and I also spent a day in the French Quarter with the obligatory visit to Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait. We introduced some Georgian friends who met us there to our powdered sugar tradition—we blow it on each other. Yes, immature at best, but fun nonetheless. A word to the wise, wear light-colored clothing if you plan to indulge in our favorite French Quarter pastime.

Another spot my daughter and her friends wanted to visit was the French Market, where they purchased masks and jewelry from local vendors. While revisiting the place I used to call home, I made sure I got a muffletta—the best sandwich in the world, crawfish, and some fresh, locally grown strawberries. As they say in Louisiana, “the rest of the world eats to live, but in New Orleans we live to eat.”

So what did you do for Spring Break?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cleaning the Skeleton Closet

I'm a little behind time today. It's Release Day for my spies and smugglers book, SINS OF THE HEART, and I'm preparing a fabulous contest called The Most Beautiful Place on Earth. Come and share your "Most Beautiful Place" with us in comments or photos, and win a fabulous Hawaiian basket, straight from the Islands on my coming trip in June!

I don't know about you, but over the winter I build up a lot of accumulation in my closets, and when spring comes, I can't wait to get rid of the excess. A lot of it is stuff I've worn out or "out-grown", or maybe I've just lost interest in it. Fortunately I'm aided in having a spare closet in the guest room a.k.a. my office, which catches the overflow from the main master bedroom closet. I can't compete with hubby for closet space- he has a thousand shirts and jackets that all look alike to me and take up 2/3 of the rod space, so my off-season clothes have to be transferred between closets every spring and fall.

Really, that is a good thing. It forces me to look at everything I stored away six months before and once again say to myself, "but do I really want to have this hanging around yet another six months or year?" My inherent laziness prompts me to keep a black trash bag or two handy, and every spring at least two bags full of my clothing closet skeletons head off to Goodwill.

I guess after all these years I just automatically associate chirping birds and cherry blossoms with cleaning all my closets, including the mental ones. Including the writing closet. Yes, I do mean cleaning my hard drive. There's all sorts of clutter there, too.

Mostly, I see it as a time to mentally update myself and my writing. What kinds of attitudes are left over from a "hard winter" (mentally speaking. Winter is never really harsh out here in the Pacific Northwest). It's time to dump out any traces of depression and languishing negativity. This, for me, is the time to make a new plan, not New Years, like most people, because there's a spirit of rejuvenation in the air that infects me now.

This is the time for me to haul out all my old plot ideas and re-evaluate them. Have I let a great plot slip out of sight because of deadlines or duties? Are there some that I haven't written because in truth they don't interest me? Could I possibly look at those from a different perspective? Could something new, innovative be infused that would make them the stories that will inspire me to buckle down to something I can truly love writing? Is there something blocking a great story, perhaps a missing piece, that if I could find it, the story could be written?

I also look at how my writing tastes have changed, over the last year and over several years. It's a time to see how what I want to write fits with the market, and a time also to look at the market for what editor and readers find they want. And most of all, how does all this fit together.

Sometimes this means setting a once-beloved story aside. I have had many ideas that touched my heart, yet I never found the right spark to write them. For whatever reason, I think they will continue to be set aside. It's just true that not all stories will make it, even when we love them as we write them. Maybe later, but then, maybe not.

The one thing I can't seem to do, though, is completely give up on a story. So instead of shoving it in a black garbage bag to send off to a metaphorical Goodwill, I save it to a Skeleton Folder, a sort of file for all the odds and ends and leftovers. And every now and then, an idea comes to me, and I know somewhere in the Skeleton Folder, there will be something that can flesh it out.

SINS OF THE HEART started out in just that way. A contemporary scene I couldn't use was set aside until one day it merged with an abstract idea in a historical setting. Something out of the Skeleton Closet fleshed out. And Merritt and Juliette stepped up and became real.

What do you have in your writing closet that needs cleaning out? Can you re-cycle it? Up-date it? Should you put it in your Skeleton Closet in hopes of using it another day?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning Your Closet? Side-tracked by Renovation

By Debra Holland

When I originally signed up for this blog a month ago, I decided to tackle a Spring cleaning topic. So I picked my closet—definitely in need of cleaning out. I have far more clothes than I need. Because I have a lot of closet space, I don’t have to get rid of garments. I just buy new ones. From time to time, I’ll go through my clothes and get rid of some, but not nearly as much as I should.

Actually, my whole house is in need of cleaning out. I’m the type of person who tends to accumalate STUFF. Between working as a therapist, corporate crisis/grief counselor, and writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I have LOTS of paperwork. Stacks. I believe they multiply during the night.

But it’s not just clothes and papers ... and magazines ... and books. When my parents and grandmother downsized their homes, my house became the family repository. Thus I have a lot of silver (from both mom and grandmother) china (mom and two grandmothers) brass, copper, and pewter (grandmother.) I also have more furniture than I need because both my grandfather and my grandmother made some furniture as a hobby. My talented grandmother also crocheted numerous afghans, doilies, placemats, and made needlepoint coasters, and other things.

I hope my neices and the children of my cousins might appreciate some of these things some day. One is getting married in August, and I’ll ship her my paternal grandmother’s hot chocolate cups and saucers.

Although I’ve never been domestic, my home has become much worse since I started writing. I’m sure other writers may have similar problems. Who has time to clean and sort when you should be writing? An every other week cleaning crew is a great help. At least I don’t have to clean toilets.

I’d hoped having a month to clean out my closet would be enough to provide me with material for this blog. What I didn’t realize was that the long overdue home renovations I’d planned would cause me to do a lot more organizating in other parts of the house—not my closet

My Wet Noodle Posse sister, Jennifer Smith, is living with me while she attends fashion design school. (Which means everything, besides furniture, which is usually in her room and bathroom is elsewhere in the house.) She’d planned to return to her home for two weeks during her school’s break. I wanted to get all my renovations done in the time she was gone.

While she was away, I planned to remove my popcorn ceilings in the entry, living room, office, dining room, and the landing on the top of the stairs. I also wanted to put in can lights in the ceilings of the living room, office, and dinning room. Plus, I wanted to paint the whole downstairs.

The problem came when I was deluged with crisis counseling jobs, leaving me no time to plan for the renovations. At the last minute, I scrambled to get bids and line up the work. Once I selected the contractor, I had two days to pack up everything (and I have a lot of everythings).

I really didn’t realize how much WORK I’d set for myself. And the time I thought I’d have to do this filled up with unexpected crisis counseling, forcing me to work late at night and get up early to pack it all away.

I wrapped and boxed everything, then stashed the boxes and stacks in my library and bedroom, until there was NO space to walk. I didn’t have the time to sort through papers, dust stuff off, or throw things away. Definitely stressful.

My wonderful contractor finished in three and a half days. Somewhere in that period, I decided to replace the chandeliers in the entry/stairwell and in the dining room, too.

Actually, I went to the store for some light bulbs for my old chandelier in the entry because I figured the guys would have to take it down anyway, and I could replace all the burned out blubs I hadn’t been able to reach. I walked into the store, took one look at a chandelier near the doorway, and went on a lamp spree. (It had been fifteen years since I’d last bought lamps.) Two hours later, I left the store with two chandeliers, one hall light, two table lamps for the living room, and two for my bedroom.

The rooms ended up looking wonderful. I love my ceiling lights—so much easier to read and work. The chandeliers look elegant. I still walk into the rooms and admire the new look.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

This week on the Wet Noodle Posse

Monday, April 27th: Debra Holland Spring Cleaning Your Closet
Tuesday, April 28th: Delle Jacobs Closet Cleaning—Get the Skeletons Out
Wednesday, April 29th: Maureen Hardegree Five Signs that Spring Has Sprung
Thursday, April 30th: Maureen Hardegree Spring Break
Friday, May 1st: Noodler New Releases and Introduction to May Topic of Sisterhood

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Q&A Friday

This week noodlers have explored what makes a book a good read and how the trends for interior design in the 1970's might not be where you want to go for a little spring DIY inspiration. We also discussed how writer's block and self-doubt keep us from springing forward. Sometimes to spring forward in life, we have to overcome a few obstacles.

What are some of the obstacles in your path this spring? How will you overcome them?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring DIY—How Not to Decorate

by Lee McKenzie

Last week I was looking for something on the bookshelf in our family room and came across The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement. The book is part of a multi-volume set. We have Volume 1—A to Ame, but none of the rest of the set, and I have no idea where it came from. The inside front cover is inscribed with W. N. Watson, March 3, 1970, which is also the year the book was published, but we don’t know anyone named Watson.

My house is always up for a little improvement and good decorating, so I opened the book and took a look. Fifteen minutes and more than a few belly laughs later, I decided this was too much fun not to share.

Since the book was published in 19070, I’m guessing most of the photographs were taken of homes that were decorated in the '60s.

I remember the ‘60s well, although I don’t remember them being this red.

The table and chairs are fabulous, in a breakfast-with-the-Jetsons kind of way, but this photo is not meant to be an example of good furniture choices. This kitchen, with it’s two red arches (the one on the right appears to be refrigerator), is in the section titled "Accessories and Accents—Flowers and Plants." According to the caption, "There’s really no need ever to do without some sort of table decoration when it’s so simple to compose one with the fruits so readily available in the grocery store."

Until I read that, I hadn’t even noticed the fruit bowl! I think I was too distracted by the gold wall, red arches and purple carpet.

While we're on the subject of red...

This photo is in the section titled "ABC’s of Decorating—Windows." Apparently "instead of unbalancing the room, the windows help round out the color scheme and become an integral part of the color scheme." When they say windows, they're actually referring to the red drapes and the red blinds.

And is it just me, or does color "scheme" imply more than one color, or at least more than one shade of a color?

The jar of cigarettes and the ashtray in the foreground caused one of those belly laughs I mentioned earlier. Times sure change, don’t they? I can’t imagine seeing those in a recently published decorating guide.

Okay, enough red. Let’s move on to green.

I find myself inexplicably captivated by this room. It's as though I’ve wandered onto the set of a Barry Manilow musical. This photo is categorized as "Accessories and Accents—Light fixtures and lighting effects." Once it was pointed out, I could see that the floor-level lighting and the top-lit black cube do add some interest. But once again I was distracted by the "color scheme," and all those containers of cigarettes and ashtrays. In case you can't see them, there are three of each. And then there's the chair that is oddly reminiscent of a toilet seat lid.

These days, the designers on TV decorating shows often say they want to add a "pop" or a "punch" of color to a room. Taken to it’s extreme, here’s what happens. The captions says: "Walls can do much more than stand there and be decorative..."

I love the built-ins and recessed lighting but if I was updating this room, the first thing I'd do is paint the wall to match the cabinets. Let the accessories do the popping. I love the red chair and ottoman, and the television made me laugh. Does anyone remember those pre-remote days when you actually had to get up and go across the room to change channels?

This dining room is in the "Accessories and Accents—Rugs" section. Yes, it’s all about that rug. Feeling crafty? According to the caption, it's made from a piece of indoor-outdoor carpet with fringe glued around the edge.

I really do love the simple, uncluttered lines of mid-century modern furniture, and I think this dining room table and cabinet could easily be brought from the last century into this one. Providing I got rid of the too-short gold drapes and the amber glass light fixture above the table. And the red-fringed green carpet would definitely have to go.

Saving the biggest belly laugh for last...

Speechless, aren't you?

Once again, it’s all about the rug, which "catches the eye and sets the theme."

Theme? The caption insists "The effect is one of harmony," but this poor guest room has been turned into a kaleidoscope! I think I’d have trouble falling asleep, fearing the headboard might fly open and I’d be trampled by a herd of animals.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as I did. And may I make one suggestion? If you plan to do a decorating DIY project this spring, you might look to something other than The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement for advice!

They say everything that goes around, comes around. Do you think that's true of '60s home decorating?

Until next time,


Lee McKenzie is not an interior designer. She writes lighthearted stories for Harlequin American Romance. Her second book, With This Ring is available as an eBook from and (Kindle edition). Her next two books (titles and publication dates TBA) are set in San Francisco, and the first book in the series was inspired by the '60s.

Tomorrow, Lee is being interviewed on the Harlequin American Romance Authors, and she'll be giving away an eBook copy of With This Ring. You’re also invited to visit her website and her personal blog, The Writer Side of Life.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Conquering that old evil: Self Doubt

Let me start off by admitting that I am the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. I am a sufferer of self doubt, sometimes masquerading as writer’s block, from time to time. If there’s anyone out there who can honestly say they haven’t, please let me shake your hand & bow at your feet. There are days I am not worthy to be in your presence. Yet, I am proud to say there are days where I feel I am.

Those are the days I want to focus on right now. The days when your character clicks with you. When the plot falls into place. When your character pulls up a chair to have chat about an issue with their story. When you final in a contest. Or win! The times you make your critique partner cry— from laughter or heartfelt emotions. The days you experience the sense of accomplishment when you type the words “The End”, literally or figuratively.

All of these positive, uplifting moments need to be in the forefront of your mind. Little snapshots of what you can and have done— steps leading you to your ultimate destination. Write them down if you need the tangible reminder. Set your winning plaque or certificate on your desk. Display it with pride. And when those doubts start creeping in, use your mementos as reminder to yourself that you can and have succeeded.

Your accomplishments will give you the push you need to get over the speed bump slowing you down. Enough push to have you on your way to success!!

What works for you when you need to push your doubts aside and get your positive energy flowing?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Makes A Good Read?

For me, it’s all about the characters. If I care about the main characters, I have a hard time putting the book down because I NEED to know what happens to them.

I am reading Lisa Gardner’s HIDE right now and the main character, Annabelle Granger, has been hiding, thanks to her parents, since she was seven-years old. Her father moved her and her mother from city to city, state to state, always changing their identities, never staying in one place for long. Her mother dies and years later her father is hit by a taxi and killed. Annabelle has no idea why her father forced them to run and hide for all those years. No pictures. No relatives. No fond memories. Her father has taught her to be paranoid, prepared, always on guard. She goes by the name of Tanya now. She’s still on guard but she is glad to finally settle down and have a life. She gets a dog and starts a business. She’s still not ready to use her real name, and she’s not sure why…until she sees on the news that the body of Annabelle Granger has been found. How can that be?

The first chapter is in Annabelle’s point of view and right away I feel for her as she’s swept away in the middle of the night time after time, never able to make friends, always told to look over her shoulder and be aware of her surroundings. Poor girl! What is she hiding from? Why is her father doing this to her? Is he crazy? What’s going to happen next?

What makes you read a book late into the night? Is it the story question, the characters, the fast pace, the great dialogue? Look at your own work in progress…what is it about your story that is going to make it difficult for the reader to set your book down? Feel free to share!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Writer’s Block: What does it really mean? by Diane Gaston

You have a deadline. Maybe it is from your publisher, or maybe it is for a contest, or even self-imposed. Whatever the reason, the deadline is important to you, but for some reason you sit at the computer and no words come. You have Writer’s Block and none of the tricks you’ve learned to unblock yourself are working.

Time to analyze why you have writer’s block; what is stopping you from typing away at this story.

1. Are you healthy? Is there any possibility that you are ill? Some possibilities might include thyroid problems or depression or Guillain-Barré syndrome or some other medical problem.
Solution: see a doctor.

2. Maybe it isn’t a medical problem, but it still could be physical. Are you eating lots of junk food? Are you getting enough sleep? A poor diet or lack of sleep can affect how you think.
Solution: Eat in a healthy manner. Get enough sleep.

3. Are you stuck in a plotting problem? Have you written yourself into a hole and you don’t know where to go from here? Getting stuck in the plot stops a writer cold. Solution: Go back to reevaluate your plot. Reread your manuscript from the beginning, if necessary.

4. Have you been working working working and now the words just came to a halt? Maybe you need some distance. It is hard to see the forest when you are merely trying to run past as many trees as possible.
Solution: Take a break, a rejuvenating break. Two hours doing something else may help you make that deadline.

5. None of these fit. You should be writing but you find yourself pining to rearrange your underwear drawer; you pick this time to clean out that closet that’s been cluttered for the last ten years; you spend time playing FreeCell instead of writing. So what’s going on? Has something happened to erode your confidence? Poor contest scores? A bad review? A painful rejection? Have negative thoughts taken over? “I’m no good.” “No one wants to read this drivel.” “I’ll never write another good book.”
Solution: Stop the negative thinking! Do you love to write? Then write. Write a book you’d want to read. Write for yourself, not anyone else.

If the first step to change is recognizing a problem then figuring this out will help you on the way to solve writer’s block. Go to it!

What other factors affect Writer’s Block? Have you experienced any of these? How did you get out of it?

Take a look at my website, all updated for April. A new contest, too.
You can order The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor from eHarlequin right now, a month before it arrives in stores. My estory The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is instantly available from eHarlequin and other ebook vendors.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

Please join the noodlers as we continue our exploration of Spring Forward month with the following blogs:

Monday, April 20th: Diane Gaston Writer’s Block: What Does It Really Mean?
Tuesday, April 21st: Theresa Ragan TBA
Wednesday, April 22nd: Priscilla Kissinger Accentuate the Positive to Avoid Writer’s Block
Thursday, April 23rd: Lee McKenzie Spring DIY
Friday, April 24th: Q&A

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Q&A Friday--Spring Fashion Trends

This year's spring fashion trends are, dare I say it, doable for many of us. After perusing my daughter's Teen Vogue and surfing the net for what's "in," ( is a great resource for fashion trends, by the way) I actually think I could incorporate a few of these trends. Here are a few:

Bright handbags

Oversized Jewelry such as bib necklaces, oversized earrings, big bangle bracelets (only one of these accessories at a time, though)

Peaches and Pinks

Hot Pink

Black on White Prints

Evening Trench Coats


What trends won't I be wearing? Ruffles, animal prints, 80's flair (been there, done that), Boho, and the relaxed fit harem-style pant that hits just below the calf muscle.

What spring fashions will you be sporting this spring? What fashion trends don't make the cut for you?


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Favorite Spring Dessert

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to make lemon meringue pie. I never liked a regular pie crust with it, so I made it with a graham cracker crust one time, and that version became the standard from which I never deviated. I make this pie every Easter. It’s now a favorite of my daughter. The picture shown has a regular crust. Unfortunately, my family ate the one I made before I could photograph it!


1 ¼ stick salted butter
½ box graham crackers
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 egg yolks beaten (save whites for meringue)

3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°
To make the crust, melt 1 ¼ sticks of salted butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. With a rolling pin, crush ½ box of Graham Crackers in a large ziplock bag until crumbs are no bigger than an pea. Pour crushed graham crackers into sauce pan with butter. Stir in ¼ cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Press mixture into pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool before filling.

Turn oven up to 350°.
To make filling, empty can of sweetened condensed milk into mixing bowl. Squeeze lemons (3-4 depending on size) until you have 1/3 cup juice. Remove seeds from juice. Pour juice into bowl with sweetened condensed milk and stir. Zest lemon peels (you only want the yellow— the white part of the rind is bitter). Add 2 teaspoons lemon zest and stir. Separate yolk from white. Beat yolk, then stir into pie filling. Fill cooled graham cracker crust.

Meringue Topping
Beat egg whites until frothy in a stainless steel bowl. Once frothy add cream of tartar and beat until peaks lean. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until peaks are stiff. With a large spoon, plop meringue onto pie surface covering all the filling. Create peaks with spoon by placing it on the meringue then lifting. Bake at 350° until tips are browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Once the pie has cooled, you can refrigerate it, but the meringue will fall a bit. My family likes it cold!

What desserts say "Spring" to you?


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day - Keeping the Record by Diane Gaston

April 15, the dreaded TAX DAY.

If you are like me, you hate the idea of doing taxes. It's been years since doing taxes was easy and all I had to find were the W2 forms. As life became more complex so did the taxes. A few years ago we decided to use an accountant to do them for us. Expensive, yes, but worth every penny to keep me from having an anxiety attack.

Using an accountant does not prevent my having to keep records, unfortunately. Every year I vow to do better so I don't have to search through five boxes to find everything. This year my first search failed to discover my husband's W2s (panic time....) I did find them, but I didn't find the record of my personal property tax. That required a phone call.

It did occur to me that I could make my life easier next year. Here's how. (and it is so simple)

1. Keep an excel record of my writing income and expenses. I started this a couple of years ago and even though I slacked off in the middle of the year, it saved me so much time.
Here are my writing categories:
Income, Website, Promotion/Advertising, Travel/Meals, Conference Fees, Contests, Dues, Books/Magazines (for research), Books Promotional (my own books purchased to use for promotion), Supplies, Postage
You might have other categories.

2. Keep all your tax records in one place.
I use a clear plastic envelope and this year I vow to put everything I'll need for taxes in it so I don't have to search through several boxes come April 10 next year.

I used to keep organized files of bills and statements in an accordion file, each section nicely labeled. Including one labeled "taxes" but I never actually needed 99% of those records. Now I keep everything in a box and search it only if necessary. I learned my lesson, though. For the few things I need for taxes, file them in one place.

That's it!

Any other tips? I'm open to learn....

You can order The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor from eHarlequin right now and receive it before it hits bookstores. The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is instantly available from eHarlequin and other ebook vendors.

Visit my website and enter my contest for a chance to win Scandalizing the Ton.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Top Ten Tips for Spring Cleaning

1. If it’s a gorgeous day, put off the spring cleaning. Enjoy the sunshine and balmy breezes outside! Think of it as . . . living in the moment rather than procrastination.

2. Assemble your tools and supplies and make sure the vacuum is in good working order before starting. That means removing the string and hair on the roller bar and changing the bag if you don’t have a bagless.

3. Start with your most public rooms. If you don’t ever get to the layer of dust on the blinds in your attic office, few people will know.

4. Listen to some great music while you clean, be it KC and the Sunshine Band, Prince, or Lady Gaga.

5. Divvy up duties among the residents of your humble abode. Have each person pick a room or a chore that they like. Maybe your youngest likes cleaning windows, or thinks cobweb removal is a form of entertainment. Maybe your daughter with OCD tendencies likes cleaning grout. Maybe your husband will vacuum the entire house if he can use his brand spanking new shop vac. Use their preferences to your advantage.

6. If you live in a region of the country that is currently boasting a high pollen count, don’t open the windows—unless you like dusting.

7. Cull as you go. Get rid of torn or stained clothing (or convert them to rags for polishing furniture). Donate your worn out running shoes to schools collecting them to recycle into a new surface for their track. Donate books to nursing homes or libraries.

8. Get it over with in one day. It might be a long day, but think of the rewards—no cobwebs (except in your attic office), a lot of calories expended, your house might actually pass the white glove test.

9. Eat a hearty breakfast, especially if you’re going for the one day blitz.

10. Treat yourself and your helpers to something fabulous when you’re done—a picnic at the park, a movie, or an ice cream sundae.
Do you have any tips to add that can make spring cleaning less of a chore? Do you spring clean?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Finding Your Way in a New Environment

One of the best things about spring is the flowers. I especially love the azaleas that bloom in the spring. When our house was built, the people who did the landscaping put in an overabundance of azaleas around our front door. If we had left them where they were originally planted, they probably wouldn't be nearly as beautiful. About a year after we moved in, we had all of the azaleas transplanted to another part of the yard because there were too many plants in a small area. We moved them into a row at the back of our house, where we can see them as we look out of the windows in our family room. They form a wonderful hedge between us and the golf green beyond our backyard. The others are planted along the side yard. They have had plenty of room to grow in their new places.

Thinking about these plants brought to mind how people can grow and flourish when they are pushed into a new situation. Sometimes we might have to change jobs or move to a new location. These changes may not be to our liking in the beginning, but often a new environment makes us grow and challenges us to do something that maybe we didn't think we could do.

In my April book from Steeple Hill, HOMECOMING BLESSINGS, both the hero and heroine are thrust into a new and challenging situation when the heroine's father teams them together to run a mission project to repair houses for the elderly and poor folks in north Georgia. Even the writing of this book presented a challenge for me when the editors at Steeple Hill requested a change in the original story. I was thrust into finding a new scenario for these characters. At first I wasn't happy about having to change my idea, but the rewriting made me adapt along with my characters.

Tell us about a time that a change in your life helped you to grow.


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This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

We hope everyone had a lovely Easter.

Please join us this week as noodlers expand upon our Spring Forward theme with the following blogs:

Monday, April 13th: Merrillee Whren TBA
Tuesday, April 14th: Maureen Hardegree Top Ten Tips for Spring Cleaning
Wednesday, April 15th: Diane Gaston Keeping Records for Taxes
Thursday, April 16th: Maureen Hardegree Favorite Spring Dessert
Friday, April 17th: Q&A

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Q&A Friday

Sometimes we need to make the time to spring forward when it comes to career. As writers, springing forward can mean trying our skills in a different subgenre, refining our writing process, or it can mean sending out queries to editors and agents.

What are some of the best tips you can offer about how to research editors and agents?


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Springtime Idoling

Okay. American Idol used to be my guilty pleasure but now I’ll freely admit that I’m a big fan, and have been for a long time. Every spring you’ll find me glued to the TV two nights a week, critiquing the performances and anticipating who will be eliminated this week.

I probably always say this, but I think this year is one of the best seasons yet. They’ve toned down the animosity between some of the judges, which always seemed too over-the-top to be real, added a fourth judge, and moved away from choosing an inappropriate final contestant.

I’ve never been very good at picking the winner, although I always have a couple of favorites. This year’s favs are Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta and Adam Lambert. These three have "mad skills" as the judges like to say, and their performances are a joy to watch.

Are you an Idol fan? A devoted watcher of another “reality” series, no matter what the season? Who’s your top pick?

Until next time,

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Cleaning out the Clutter

I love spring. It makes me fell renewed. Since green (in all it's many shades) is one of my favorite colors I'm happy to be outside communing with nature, and I'm just as happy sitting on the screened porch watching it.

I want (and need) to have some work done on the house this spring, and as preparation I've been reading a lot of decorating books, thinking about colorful walls instead of white and wondering where the junk in my closets came from. Clearly there was some unauthorized breeding going on in there last winter.

Then one day I found a book with a title that really caught my eye--Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh. In a breezy and engaging style Walsh talks about the clutter in our homes (and our inability to deal with it) and how it keeps us from moving ahead with other aspects of our lives. Since all my clutter is very neatly arranged I felt immune from the possibility that it was really affecting my life, but Walsh's words did make me yearn for the UN-cluttered life. At one point I was inspired to pick up a garbage bag and move a chair over to the kitchen cabinets, climb up and throw out some items that had been stored on the top shelf that I NEVER used. Bag partially full, I stepped down to the middle shelf where I had a bin for plastic ware that held no less than 20 lids for containers I no longer have (most were destroyed in the microwave and were thrown out). It was a freeing experience to toss those out and empty the bin. Out of date bottles of spices went in the bag, too. I had room to put the new storage containers in the upper cabinet instead of storing them down low, where they were hard to find.

My point (you were probably wondering when I would get to it) is that decluttering--yes, Spring Cleaning--isn't that hard to do in small doses. The day after the cabinets were done I went to the pantry and rearranged, moving the healthier choices to the front of the shelves where I could find them (that's the "Butt Look Fat?" part of Walsh's equation) and realized I actually had room for some healthier snacks. Out came a slip of paper, and a shopping list was born.

I still haven't gotten to the closets yet, but I'm not afraid of them any more. I have a plan now.

How are you planning (or ignoring) your spring cleaning chores?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Springing into style

by Terry McLaughlin

We had our first blast of post-winter warmth here last weekend. Ice jams shattering, snow melting, buds bursting, birds chirping, lambs frolicking, sap flowing, poppies popping, dandelions dandying–all those active verbs in motion.

You'll notice there's no closet cleaning on my list. That's something for which I have the utmost admiration and respect for other people doing at this time of year.

However, there remains one closet conundrum: the wardrobe situation. I'm always tempted to keep my comfy, oversized corduroys and sweatshirts hanging around in the closet for as long as possible, but as March marches on I begin to suspect they've overstayed their welcome. Now that it's April, I'm sure it's time to pack them in. Sniff, sniff. On the other hand, I don't have to rummage through my sock drawer looking for matching items. It's sandals time!

How do you mark this change of seasons? Lighter colors? A pedicure? A new dress? Another stab at that new year's diet?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Taking inspiration from nature

This time of year, I love to take a notebook out to a local park or to an overlook by the lake near my house. It's warm, the sunshine makes me happy, and I get a great wave of writing inspiration from being outdoors after a long, cold winter.

But surrounding myself with Mother Nature isn't just for putting myself in a good frame of mind to write. It's also good for inspiring story aspects. I've probably incorporated the outdoors and nature into every book I've ever written. After visiting particularly beautiful places, I come away with ideas for stories -- whether it's set in the mountains of Tennessee, as is my May release, Her Very Own Family, or the lovely beaches of Florida's Gulf Coast, like my first book, last September's A Firefighter in the Family. Nature can be a character in and of itself, a living, breathing entity. This is something the editor for my young adult books looks for in my YA books. In fact, it was something I had to incorporate even more than normal while revising this month's release, Heartbreak River (written as Tricia Mills), set in the mountains of Colorado. My editor pointed out places to really bring the setting to life, such as giving the river its own personality and having that personality change as my main character's journey progresses.

With the wonders of online research and television documentaries, nature can even inspire stories set in locales I've never visited in person. This was true for my second YA novel, 2010's Ice and Desire. It is set in Alaska, and I had a wonderful time researching all the nuances of Alaska's climate, flora, fauna, and landscape. Through my writing, I hope not only to provide an enjoyable story, but also inspire others to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer, to really stop and smell the roses (or pines or sea breeze or whatever wonderful scents are riding on the air).

Sunday, April 05, 2009

This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

Noodlers continue their exploration of Springing Forward this week with the following blogs:

Monday, April 6th: Trish Milburn Taking Inspiration from Nature
Tuesday, April 7th: Terry McLaughlin TBA
Wednesday, April 8th: Karen Potter TBA
Thursday, April 9th: Lee McKenzie TBA
Friday, April 10th: Q&A: What Are the Best Ways to Research Editors and Agents?

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Q&A Friday

Spring arrives with flowers, new leaves and warmer weather (usually). My favorite sign of spring is the arrival of baby animals. Nothing is cuter than a tiger cub, unless it's a duckling following his mom.

What's your favorite sign of spring?

As you’re out and about looking for signs of spring, don’t pass up the opportunity to read these April releases from your favorite noodlers:

Diane Gaston


e Short Story from, Fictionwise, eReader, Kindle

April 1, 2009

Harlequin Historical Undone

ISBN 9781426831942

An impoverished vicar’s daughter answers an advertisement from a disfigured former soldier and makes a wicked bargain with him.

Merrillee Whren
Homecoming Blessings

Publisher: Steeple Hill Love Inspired
Date: April 2009
ISBN: 978-0-373-87525-2

Big-city businessman Peter Dalton doesn't think he and fresh-from-the-field missionary Ashley Hiatt have anything in common. Until his boss—her father—pairs them together on a special project to help those less fortunate. Suddenly, instead of making money, Peter is making dreams come true. He's a changed man. Well, maybe not when comes to settling down. With his past, he's just not cut out for family life. But lovely Ashley seems to think otherwise...and is making it her mission to prove it for good.

Tricia Mills
Heartbreak River
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: April 16, 2009
ISBN-13: 9781595142566
Hailey Abbott's Summer Boys takes a weepy turn in this story of one girl's attempt to tell her childhood friend how she really feels about him.
Alex thought she'd be spending the summer focused on her family's rafting business, burying the memories of her father's death last year, and leaving behind all the messes she made in its wake.
But when Sean returns to town, she is forced to reckon with her mixed-up crushy feelings for him-more powerful than ever before. It takes another tragedy to make Alex realize Sean has loved her, and forgiven her, all along.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Five Ways to Put a Spring in Your Step

1. Take the time to walk in a park or your yard. What’s flowering? Red bud? Yoshino Cherry? Pear? Daffodils? Crocuses? Tulips? How about those trees? Which ones are putting out tiny bright leaves and seed pods? My apologies to those who are still dealing with snow.

2. Play in a Puddle. Surely as this is April there will be rain, so put on your galoshes and jump in a puddle. It’s fun.

3. Go to the store and look at all the cute Easter dresses for little girls. Remember how when you were a little girl, you preened over your new dress for Easter. Or, perhaps, you were a tomboy and hated being forced into wearing frills and tights, but did it anyway to make your mother happy. In this case, I guess you should remember the feeling of relief when she said you could change out of the dress!

4. Listen to the birds. See how many you can identify by song. It’s possible . . . with a little help from the internet or a bird call CD.

5. Wear something pink be it lipstick, blouse, or rose-colored glasses.

What else can you suggest to put a spring in readers’ steps?


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Spring Forward

April showers may bring May flowers, but the month itself and the lengthening days also bring the opportunity to see life in a fresh way.

Springing forward can mean making new strides in your writing career, sending out queries or starting a new project. Springing forward can mean putting something in your past behind you, whether it’s the ugly winter sweater your mother-in-law bought for you at Christmas or doubts that plague you when it comes to career or love. Noodlers blog this month on everything with a spring forward theme, from writer’s block to taking inspiration from nature. Please join us.

And in honor of April Fool’s Day, let’s start this month’s discussion by sharing some of the best pranks you’ve sprung on family and friends on April Fool’s Day.

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