Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day

Most MLB teams play their opening day games today. Anyone else in the mood to sing a little Take Me Out To The Ball Game?

After watching the Nationals game (and oohing and ahhing over their new stadium), I celebrated the beginning of the 2008 season by joining ESPN's Baseball Challenge. If you like the idea of playing fantasy baseball, but don't have the time to commit to a draft or following stats/trading players each day, this is a great way to go. Join up and see how you's not too late, and it's very easy. You get $50 million to spend on a team, then you pick and choose from a list of available players. The pitching staff is something you select in its entirety...instead of picking individual pitchers, you would, for instance, nab the Tampa Bay pitching staff for one low (low, low) price. I opted to go for the Tigers pitchers. Let's hope they were a good buy.

(And no, I did not create an all-Rockies and Red Sox roster of position players, though I did snag Matt Holliday for center field.)

Let's hope my Baseball Challenge team fares better than my Geek Pool entry for the NCAA tourney. I'm now in 20th and 24th place with my two entries. Talk about sheer suckage. I don't think even a Kansas-Memphis final could pull me out of the basement now. So if anyone has tips on creating a first place baseball lineup--under that $50 million salary cap, of course--please let me know. I need to redeem myself!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Brackets

Happy Easter to all! I'm spending mine inspecting/picking up the yard, doing a bit of housecleaning (Easter is all about renewal, right?) and enjoying the bright spring sunshine.

Of course, I also have a stash of Dove chocolate at the ready, most likely to be consumed while watching the NCAA basketball tourney. For the last twelve years or thereabouts, I've participated in what my husband calls the "Geek Pool." A group of around 40 - 50 of us make our selections every year, but instead of making out brackets, we number each of the tourney teams from 1 - 64. You put 64 on the team you think will win it all, and a one on the team you feel is most likely to go out in the first round. From there, it's all a bunch of spreadsheet fun. For the first time EVER, I'm leading the pack (thank you San Diego and Siena!) It's unlikely to hold up past the first round, but I'm going to enjoy being in first place while it lasts. (In the interest of full disclosure: I submitted two entries this year. Nic #1 is in first place, Nic #2 is in 40th. Out of 45. That's far more indicative of both my college basketball expertise and my math abilities.) If Kansas wins it all, taking out Memphis in the final, I might actually have a shot at the whole thing. But I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I'm celebrating another rite of spring. The Sox are about to play their season opener! They're taking on the Oakland A's in Japan after both teams play exhibition games against the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants. (Wouldn't it be a blast to attend a game in Japan? Kick back with some sushi, listen to the fans singing songs for their teams and going nuts when a ball makes it over the wall...whoo-hoo! Going to see baseball in Japan is on my must-do-before-I-die list.)

Back in the USA, our group ticket draft is tonight--we split our season tix six ways, and have a "draft night" once a year to determine who gets to attend which games--and I can't wait. Fenway, here I come!

Have a wonderful Easter holiday, first week of spring, MLB opening week, and NCAA Tourney! (And gooooo Jayhawks!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Year Six

Today marks the beginning of the sixth year of the US operation in Iraq.

No matter what your politics, I hope you'll consider doing something today for those who've been harmed by the war. There are several charities that aid both soldiers and civilians caught in this conflict, and several groups that offer assistance to veterans. If you live near a military installation, inquire about volunteer opportunities. Consider sending a service member abroad a care package via Investigate charities that help civilians who've been affected. I made a donation yesterday to the Vietnam Veterans of America, which offers assistance to all vets (not just those who served in Vietnam.)

Let's hope year six is the final year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pulse Blogfest is ON!

Pulse Blogfest is on NOW! Dozens of authors, including moi, answer all your burning questions about writing, upcoming books, and more. Check it out right here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Love Libraries

I'm an Army brat, which meant that packing up and moving to a new home every 2 - 3 years seemed normal to me. While most non-military types are aware of how often soldiers (and their families) move, what they don't realize is that all this moving means you can't accumulate too much stuff. Soldiers are given a certain weight allowance, and that's all the Army will put on the truck. Go over it, and you pay a hefty price tag. Per pound. As a result, I didn't have much furniture--only the bare necessities (and if we were living in military housing, which we often did, the Army can supply some of it for you.) I also didn't have that many books. I'll admit, "many" books is a relative term; most of my friends thought I had a ton! However, I read several books a week, and my parents are big readers, too. Owning that many was out of the question. Therefore, when we moved to a new post, one of the first places we'd visit was the post library. It was simply the thing to do.

Here's what leaves me gobsmacked now: libraries have incredible programs for teens. If you're looking for a great place to hang out, meet with friends, and (shocker!) find some fantastic books, check out your local library. Many have active teen groups, an area specifically for teens to hang out, and programs that are actually (gasp!) FUN.

For instance, the Shrewsbury Public Library in Massachusetts has a loft area with comfy chairs, a TV, and video games. There's space to study or just chat with your friends. At the library in Glendale, Arizona, you can participate in a Guitar Hero contest (yes, there are prizes!), take a babysitting course, or even take glass art workshops.

You don't have to live in a big city to find these kind of library programs, either. In tiny Waterville, New York (with a population around 1700), the library hosts teen lock-ins, where you can spend the night in the library with your friends, eat pizza, watch movies and talk books. And yep, authors come to visit--I was there just last year.

If they'd had programs like this when I was in high school, I'd have lived in the library. (I was there often enough as it was!)

What about you? Have you looked at what's going on in your local library? Have you ever attended an event there, such as an author visit, a movie night, or a book discussion? If so, what's been your favorite event?

(This is me with some of the Canastota Librateens in Canastota, New York!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cover Gown Auction

Those of you who've read my romance novels probably remember the cover of The Knight's Kiss, which won the 2004 RITA Award for Best Short Contemporary romance:

At one point in the story, the main character, Princess Isabella, hosts a black tie charity event at the palace. She needed serious glamour, so I modeled her gown after the one actress Mena Suvari wore to the 2000 Academy Awards, and sent photos off to the cover artist so he could replicate the look.

Well, that gown is now up for auction!

Clothes Off Our Back, a charity organization founded by actress Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm In The Middle") and her husband, actor Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”), is auctioning the gown to raise money for children's charities. Bidding ends on March 17, so if you know someone who's got the $$ and is dying to wear an elegant, size 36 Euro Escada gown to their own charity event, send 'em right here.

I think it's fabulous that a dress that was (fictionally!) worn to a charity ball can now do some good for kids in the real world.