Thursday, December 29, 2005

Random Stuff At Year's End

Thought about posting New Year’s Resolutions today, but I’ve got this theory that writing them down just sets you up for failure. Not that I’ve ever actually made a list, so I can't say I have empirical evidence to back up my theory. I’m going with my gut here.

After all, what am I gonna write?

Lose weight? That’s an annual “given.” Putting it on a list ain’t gonna make it any more (or less) doable. (Hmm...is that a word?).

Write more? Uh-huh. I will, I will.

Blah, blah, blah. So much for resolutions. Is there anyone in the history of the world who’s ever kept one? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Another topic I thought about for today has to do with religion. Now, I’ve been trying to keep religion and politics out of this blog (sex is fair game, but since I’m not having any, it doesn’t seem to come up too often--but, I digress).

Anyway, I have a lot of on-line relationships with writing buddies I’ve never met. As you might expect, sometimes bad things happen in their lives. Parents die, spouses get sick, tragedies befall their children…and when something dreadful has been announced in a post to the board, I never know what to say. A lot of people write “Your family is in my prayers” but, for some reason, I’m not comfortable with that. Not that I’m some agnostic pagan—or that I don’t care about these faceless strangers. It’s just that I’ve already got a rather lengthy list, and I can’t promise to remember each and every person I’ve met on-line who’s going through tough times. Plus, I’d feel bad (greedy, maybe) throwing in a generic line asking God to look out for everyone I know (either personally or through cyberspace). Anyway, just something that’s been on my mind.

Last, but proverbially not least, I have some news to share. Oh, it’s not publishing news—all those people are on holiday--so don’t get too excited. Still…did you know Google is better than a way-way-back machine? I mean, you can find anything there. Cool stuff like my mother’s unclaimed $468—she’s been dead 42 years—and long, lost, friends. Lucky for me, today I found both (waving madly at Cynthia)!

So, do me a favor. Make this coming year the one you reach out and cyber-touch someone you’ve meaning to track down for ages.

In fact, make it one of your New Year’s resolutions. But, please. For the love of you-know-who, don't write it down.

If all else fails, and you're really stuck for a resolution of your own, go here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Old Habits Die Hard

Duck and cover! Here comes another writing epiphany!

Okay, so after struggling with “process” for what seems like an eternity (but which is only the past three years), I’ve finally figured out my brain is stuck in graduate school mode. Yep, I can blame all my problems on those two years mired in academic methodology.

Whew, lucky I figured it out, huh?

Consider this: no matter the field of study—in my case it was organizational behavior—when you write a paper, you start with an hypothesis. Next, you establish your research methodology, then you gather the data and analyze it. Finally, you record your conclusion.

In other words, the end comes from the means.

Well, in fiction, it’s the opposite. You start with the end, then create the means.

(Knocked your sox off there, didn’t I?)

The first clue glimmered in something I read in Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. I’ve always written scenes in a linear progression: Character A does or says something causing Character B to say or do something appropriate in response, yada yada, until I arrive at the scene-ending disaster, surprise, cliffhanger, whathaveyou. So, I’ve been laboring over creating those A to B chains when…hmmm…mightn’t it be easier to start at the end and work backward?? Ah, start with the end, then create the means. I like that!

Likewise, last night I was reading Karen Wiesner’s book First Draft in 30 Days when the same thought struck me regarding secondary characters. Remember those children in my current WIP? The ones that keep getting in my way? Well, guess what? I’ve gone about creating them all wrong. Instead of trying to figure out who they are, I need to figure out who they need to be at the end. And, more importantly, who my main character needs them to be in order for her to be who I need her to be at the end. (Are you following this? No? Well, trust me. Again, start with the end, then create the means.)

I love epiphanies, don’t you?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Why is it that we look forward to the holidays, and then when they get here we long for them to be over?

Is it just me??

Frankly, I'm exhausted. Too many parties, too many people...too much food and Christmas cheer. I'm ready to get back to the mundane routine of work, gym, writing, and silence. Blessed silence.

Oh, yeah. First I have to get through the whole New Year's thing.

Oh, wait. Then there's Marty's 60th birthday the weekend after.

Hm...and then, after that, there's...there's always something, isn't there?

I need new vitamins. (Well, not new ones...I need vitamins PERIOD...or maybe Geritol or something.)

And a vacation from all this time off.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Vegas Update

So I finally had an actual conversation with the lovely Stacey who is really the lovely Jennifer. I changed her name in earlier posts to "protect the innocent" but today that just seems silly.

Anyway, all she did was reiterate that I'm not guaranteed a room and that they're oversold by 600 ROOMS! I may know ZILCH about the hotel business, but that seems pretty stupid. She allowed for the fact that this oversold situation is THEIR problem, and I pointed out that they're making it MY PROBLEM. I also pointed out that a fairer solution would be to contact people in the reverse order of when the reservation was taken...you know...like NOT the people (me) who made 'em back in early October. She mumbled something about how she wasn't in charge of that part.

Once again, she cautioned that I might wanna have this all settled BEFORE I arrive and "get walked to Bally's"--I'm assuming "walked" is a figurative term, not literal. Anyway, I said that if that all happened when I arrived, I'd probably get right back on a plane and go home to contemplate my lawsuit.

She didn't flinch.

So, I'm gonna stop bitching and complaining about this, however. After all, I realize I'm lucky to be going at all...I'm lucky to have friends to party with...I'm lucky I can afford a New Years' trip to Vegas...I'm lucky to have lived another year...I'm lucky all my friends and relatives have lived another year...

So that's my last word on the subject until I report back on what actually happened.

Merry Chrismas everyone!!

P.S. Okay, I lied. One more word. I keep forgetting my Seinfeld line, but you can be sure I'll trot it out when I get there: "You're very good at TAKING reservations, you just don't know how to HOLD them."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Just In...

It’s official. I’m an idiot.

The good news is that I'm GUARANTEED not to lose RWA’s Golden Heart contest this year. The bad news is, I’m not entered at all.

Yep. DISqualified, thankyourverymuch. On account of my entry arrived a day late.

I opened RWA's letter last night and was dumfounded. And very certain heads would roll at Federal Express. When I got to my office, I hauled out the bill and looked at the pickup and delivery dates. Hm. Both a day later than they should be. Still mystified, I checked my blog (hey, having an on-line diary comes in HANDY!) and confirmed I’d shipped it out on the proper date.

Sadly, it’s my word against Fed Ex’s. Did the driver miss it? Or did I somehow drop it in the box too late?

At the office, we debated the pick-up time. Four-thirty, I said. Four-twenty, claimed my sister-in-law.

Whatever.

Turns out it says 4:00 these days.

Okay, so it’s possible my assistant dropped it off too late. But I could swear I had her take it early in the day.

Oh, well. Moot point.

Lesson: Take stuff that absolutely, positively, has to get there the next day, to the Federal Express office yourself.

But, like I say. You can’t lose a contest you’re not entered in, so maybe Fed Ex helped me out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And I'm Checkin' It Twice

I’ve been compiling my pop culture Christmas list, but since it grows bigger by the day (you know how shopping NEVER seems to end???) thought I’d go ahead and post what I’ve put together thus far.

For Tom Cruise…A kidney stone, specifically one that’s not big enough to warrant zapping, so that he has to pass it. Maybe the experience will help him re-think Scientology’s alleged prohibition against articulating pain during childbirth

For Katie Holmes…a pregnancy free of post-partum depression

For Donald Trump…humility, and of course it goes without saying, a new hair stylist.

For Kevin Federline…an air-tight prenup

For Brittney Spears…a career past January 2006

For Nicole Richie…a career

For Paris Hilton…a boyfriend who can drive while blindfolded and a breed of dog small enough to fit in her ear like a phone

For the Olsen Twins…lifetime supply of Big Macs and Krispy Cremes

For Lindsay Lohan…an extended prison stay for dear-old dad

For Anna Nicole Smith…smart pills

For Michael Jackson…any prior version of his face

For Meg Ryan…less botox, more hit films with Tom Hanks

For Joan Rivers…heavily-armed guards to prevent entry to all cosmetic surgery clinics

For Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown…continued delusion

For Angelina Jolie…a co-starring role with George Clooney

For Brad Pitt…a co-starring role with Catherine Zeta-Jones

For Jennifer Anniston…a front row seat to the future divorce proceedings and/or custody battles resulting from either of the above

For Demi Moore…a new baby. Oh, wait. She just got one.

For Renee Zeilwegger…Lessons at the Brittney Spears School of Ill-Conceived Marriages

And, last but not least, for Colin Firth…Me! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Las Vegas Rio Update

I see y’all out there in blogsville, perched on the edge of your seats, nails bitten to the quick, waiting to hear the outcome of my New Year’s Eve dilemma.

So here’s the scoop.

I call the lovely Stacy this morning from my office. (In case you’re wondering why I waited, it’s because…well, I conduct all my personal business from there and yesterday I was too busy with stuff.) Anyway, I get Stacy’s voicemail which informs me she doesn’t work Tuesdays. Grrr. I can leave a message or ask the operator for a casino host.

I do the latter.

Pause, pause.

I’m put through to a guy who answers on a cel from his car. (?) I explain why I’m calling, stressing my objections to their “plan.”

He interrupts my rant with: “We offered to comp you for three nights.”

“No,” I correct him. “Stacey’s first call said three nights. Her second call said one. The point is, my friends are staying at your hotel and it will be seriously inconvenient for me to stay elsewhere.”

He proceeds to yank my chain. “Let me get your name, and when I get in I’ll talk to my boss. I’m sure Stacy’s got your number, and I’ll call you back within a couple hours.”

“Let me give you my daytime phone number then.”

He supposedly notes the number and we hang up.

Meanwhile, I start to think, holy crap. What if they truly offer to comp my entire stay? And throw in tickets to a party I hadn’t even planned on going to? (I mean, we’re talking serious money here.) So, I call my ringleader, Marty. He suggests I offer him and Ann as sacrifices too.

I wait for the guy’s callback (shoot, I forgot to get his name) and peruse first the Bally website, then the Rio. Damn. I start deciding I really, really, wanna stay at the Rio. It’s got that cool lounge way, way, up top with a terrace overlooking the city. I’m a sucker for a terrace with a view. The money savings are looking less attractive.

Ten o’clock turns into two, then three and four, and by five I leave my office. No word from the Rio, despite the promise.

I’m feeling like the layer of scum on the underbelly of one of their slot machines.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So Tell Me How This Works

Friday, I get home to this message on my answering machine: “Hi, this is Stacy calling from the Rio in Las Vegas. Sorry, but we’re overbooked for New Year's Eve weekend. What we’d like to do is put you up at Bally’s, but don’t worry, we’ll honor the rate you had at the Rio.”

I stare at the phone.

Huh? How can they do that?

I go to my next message.

Stacy again. “Sorry, I forgot to tell you that we’ll comp one of your nights and give you free tickets to our party. Oh, and by the way, please be aware that your reservation does NOT guarantee a room here at the RIO so you may wanna accept this offer now instead of going through the inconvenience at check-in on the day of arrival.”

HUH?

Let’s dissect this to the fullest, shall we?

First of all, “we’re overbooked for New Years Eve weekend.” And this is my fault how…?? Did I not make my reservation October 1st BEFORE they were overbooked? Could someone tell me what a reservation is for if not to reserve a room before they’re sold out?

Second, “What we’d like to do is put you up at Bally’s.” And I guess it doesn’t matter that the rest of my party (who DID NOT RECEIVE THIS PHONE CALL) will be blocks away at a different hotel??

Third, “We’ll give you the same rate you had at the Rio.” Gee, thanks. I just looked up Bally’s on Expedia, and although they’re “sold out” on Friday and Saturday night so I can’t see the rate, Sunday night is available for $230 LESS than I’m paying at the Rio, so there’s a real bargain, huh? Even if they comp a night, they make out fine.

But the worst is that last line. That THREAT, really. That no matter what I say, I’m not guaranteed a room. Now, I know (because I’ve been told this at other Harrah’s properties) that guaranteeing your room with a credit card means shit. Basically, it only works the other way—you’re guaranteeing THEM that you’re gonna show up, and if you don’t, they charge your credit card.

But, hey listen. I understand that business is business, and that I’m not totally savvy on how the hotel industry works. I can understand the concept of overselling one property and then making an offer to reroute guests to the other one. But only on a voluntary basis…not with the threat they threw out in that last line.

Particularly because….

THEY ALREADY CHARGED ME FOR THE FIRST NIGHT!!!

That’s right. I paid for the first night on October 10…TWO MONTHS ago. And they have the NERVE to tell me I’m not guaranteed a room at the Rio? What exactly did I pay for then?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Gift Giving Idea

Okay, admit it. Someone on your Christmas list makes your blood boil so bad, you'd rather wrap up a dead frog than give them that bottle of perfume or that tie.

Y’all know who I’m talking about.


The mother-in-law who checks for dust on top of your ‘fridge.
The boss who makes you stay late on Christmas Eve.
The teacher who gave your son detention when all he did was throw ONE spitball.
The friend’s new boyfriend (who you KNOW is history after the holidays, i.e, after she collects the gifts).

Yep, I know the dead frog is tempting but (trust me on this) it's not really an option—no matter what kind of temporary insanity you might plead later.

That’s why I’m here, folks. To help you out with the perfect solution. (Good thing you read this blog, huh?)

In brief, the link below takes you to a site where you buy, in your recipient’s name, an animal for a poor family somewhere in the world. Depending on how much you wanna spend, you can buy a cow, a goat, some chickens—you get the picture. Read about it for yourself. These animals provide so much—whether it's milk, eggs, and/or fertilizer—THEN (and this is the coolest part) they manage to have offspring so, over time, your gift really divides and multiplies.

I’m telling you, you can’t miss. I dare anyone to sneer at such a wonderful gift.

So, click here now and give the female on your list a heifer and the man on it a goat.

Get it? A heifer to a woman, a goat to a male? Isn’t there an ironic bonus there?

(Shhh. Let’s keep that part to ourselves.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For The Person On Your List Who's Got Everything

It’s available at Verizon wireless which is the only part of the ad that makes sense to me.

Splashed across a page of the LA Times this morning is a Brad Pitt lookalike sporting a pair of Oakley sunglasses with one of those phones attached that make you look like you've got a cricket growing out of your ear.

The copy reads (in part): “Oakley and Motorola bring you the first phone with UV protection.”

Um, excuse me? Has the ozone hole grown so large we now need to protect inanimate objects from melanoma?

The ad continues: “Introducing RAZRWIRE. With a Bluetooth headset that leaves your hands free for more sun-inspired activities. Here, sunglasses make phone calls.”

Um, excuse me? I wasn’t aware that my sunglasses were yearning to reach out and touch anyone.


They ARE kidding, aren’t they?


I feel like such a cavewoman.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hallmark Should Thank Me

The annual Christmas card ritual is so daunting, isn’t it?

This year I decided to give my writing hand a break (not to mention the eyesight of all those poor postal workers) by getting my computer to spit out address labels. First I had to figure out how to do it—an activity which involved a few well-chosen epithets sandwiched around trips to the MS Word paperclip guy.

Then I had to actually locate the addresses.

Um, I don’t really have an address book anymore. You see, once I finally got a decent cell phone and learned how to put the numbers in, I sorta let the address part of things go to hell. Now they’re scattered in a helter-skelter mishmash system across three address books, two computers, and various pieces of scratch paper wadded up and stuck in mysterious places.

Back when I had an extensive, well-kept, address book, I sent out a ton of Christmas cards…and I got a ton back. But, like I say, lately my info’s gotten a tad disorganized, so last year, I resorted to the FIFO method—first in, first out-- and guess what? I hardly got any at all. Turns out all these years, a heckuva lot of people only sent me a card ‘cuz I sent one to them.

That sucks.

So, this year, I decided to return to the old method of sending to everyone I know. Only problem is that unless a lot of these people have 5-year forwarding service, they may have a hard time getting their card. The mission, should I decide to accept it, is to figure out what’s most current. A tricky task since there’s no rhyme or reason as to what’s listed where in the aforementioned sources. Like, does Gini live in Yakima (as recorded in the little blue address book)? Or does she live in Spokane (as claimed by the black one)? Do I really need to send a card to that couple I met on a cruise in 1985?

The next dilemma is what to put on the card. Do I enclose one of those nauseating Christmas letters—yanno, like a bio listing my achievements for the year? (Ha. That’d be more like a note than a letter.)

Do I refer them to my blog? Happy Holidays—if you want the blow-by-blow, please point your browser to www.randywrites.blogspot.com. But do I really want Uncle Chuck to read about that guy who thought “I’d like to sweat all over you” was a great line?

I could always go with just signing my name, but I figure what with the 37 cents for postage plus the cost of the card, I should at least remind the recipient who I am. Yanno, in case they’ve forgotten and wanna send me a card.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Quick Note

I can't help it. I have to tattle.

Remember Joe? The ex-boyfriend of five years...the guy I've known for ten years overall and still hang out with on occasion? The guy who BELIEVES in horoscopes and who's even been known to PAY CASH MONEY to a psychic...?

Didn't know I was a Virgo until he read it in my blog.

Yep...I think, Ladies and Gents, we now have indisputable proof he never once listened to a word I said.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Constructive Blog Surfing

So, here’s the dilemma I’ve been facing with regard to my current WIP (which is titled “Leftovers” by the way). First, a little backstory.

You guys who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know that in the past I’ve been more of a “pantser”, i.e., I write by the seat of my pants. Then I took a plotting workshop and decided for this manuscript (my third, but who’s counting) I’d make a serious effort to see whether I’m really a “plotter” in disguise. So I did a bunch of prep work before starting to write, including a 10-page synopsis and an Excel spreadsheet that lays out most of the scenes and an estimate of their corresponding page length.

Well, guess what? It turns out that when you hone down “Rose moves in with Sam and his daughters” to the actual scene, stuff happens. Bad stuff.

Like who ARE these daughters? What do they look like? What are their issues? How do they fit in? I mean, really. They were supposed to be minor characters, not integral to the plot.

Okay, so as reported in an earlier post, thanks to Jenny Crusie’s blog, I got a handle on the daughters and I continued to move forward.

Then, BAM. The creative door closed.

It took a couple weeks before I realized these damn daughters are to blame. I didn’t set out to write a book populated by children, and despite their new role in my heroine’s character arc, I find writing them tedious. I keep wanting to scream, “Get out of the way—go haunt someone’s YA (young adult) novel!” even though I’ve come up with the semi-creative idea of making them oddly stepford-like.

For about a week, I deliberated ditching them altogether. Yep. I considered tossing ALREADY WRITTEN PAGES and rewriting loads of scenes, just to get rid of these bitches. I’d find ANOTHER way to bring Sam and Rose together, minus the kids.

Thank God, I’m a regular reader of Miss Snark’s fabulous blog. The other day, a post of hers touched on a lesson I’d learned but forgotten. (Damn memory—see, this is why I re-read craft books all the time.) Anyway, while answering a Snarkling’s question about freshness, she used the following illustration:

"blonde bombshell"
"evil banker"
"snarkolicious poodle"

You want evil blonde, bombshell poodle and a snarkolicious banker.

That’s when I had an AHA moment. What if I flip the concept of stepford children so that they’re only that way when Dad is around? Hmmm…and write them as the children from hell when he’s not?

Now, THAT could stir up loads of trouble for my heroine and make the kids a lot more fun to write about.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign


People who consult their daily horoscope before making a decision bring out the cynic in me.
What—you can’t afford a shrink??

Historically, my disbelief stems from the litany of traits associated with Virgos (yep, that's my sign--oh, you couldn't tell?). Amidst the usual mumbo jumbo, the word “perfectionist” pops up--as in someone who’s anal about neatness. Trust me on this, people who know me cluck their tongues as if to say, well…there are exceptions to every rule…

But, to be honest, there’s a kernel of truth in whole perfectionist thing (hence today’s epiphany).

You see, I really AM a perfectionist—just not a proficient one. In other words, I strive for perfection, but fail miserably on account of I also happen to be exceedingly lazy—alas, too lazy for a competent perfectionist.

And, yanno what? My feeling is, if no one’s around to witness my perfection, why bother?

So, I had a party last night that took me two days to get ready for and all I had to do was provide the wine and dessert. Since I pay to have my house cleaned, little of the energy went toward sprucing up. Nope, it was the little things like making sure there was Kleenex in the downstairs bathroom…and that the candles were positioned just so…and that in case someone peeked in a cupboard, everything was neat and orderly (well, okay…so I sorta let that one go—proves my theory above).

Anyway, I DO try. Sometimes. I’m just not very good at it and, since the need doesn’t arise that often, I don’t get a lot of practice.

Having had the above rush of self-perception, I “googled” Virgo and here’s the first paragraph:

Virgo is the only zodiacal sign represented by a female. (Hm. Never thought of that—makes me feel special!) It is sometimes thought of as a potentially creative girl, delicately lovely; (ah, so true) sometimes as a somewhat older woman, intelligent but rather pedantic and spinsterish. (!!!!!!!) The latter impression is sometimes confirmed by the Virgoan preciseness, refinement, fastidious love of cleanliness, hygiene and good order, conventionality and aristocratic attitude of reserve. (Well…I dunno…you shoulda seen the leaves on my patio) They are usually observant, shrewd, critically inclined, judicious, patient, practical supporters of the status quo, and tend toward conservatism in all departments of life. (Uh-oh) On the surface they are emotionally cold, and sometimes this goes deeper, for their habit of suppressing their natural kindness may in the end cause it to atrophy, with the result that they shrink from committing themselves to friendship, make few relationships, and those they do make they are careful to keep superficial.


Gulp. A lot of this really nails me. To read more, click here but stop paying attention around paragraph five. A career in fashion? A flair for dress? HA! I think not! And disregard the possible health concerns altogether. No stomach or bowel problems for this Virgo and, contrary to how much I should probably be worrying about my Virgoan persnicketiness, guess what? I don’t give a flying….

What really tickles me though, is that by definition, a Virgo wouldn’t put any stock in horoscopes anyway. We’re too busy being uptight pragmatists.

Oh, yeah. And spinsterish.

Right on.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Back To School

So, my WIP’s going to hell. Not contentually (hm…spellcheck doesn’t like that word, but then it doesn’t seem to like the word spellcheck either). If the lives of the characters were going down the tubes, that’d be okay. In fact, that’d be cool. That’s what you, Sally Jo Writer, are supposed to do: torture your characters.

Instead, they’re torturing me.

I decided it was time to return to the craft books. One of my faves is Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. The truth is, I’ve never made it all the way through because there’s so much good stuff in the first 100 pages that I usually get all excited and ditch reading in favor of putting his ideas to work.

Mostly what I focus on when I pick up his book is scene structure. What’s a scene? Hey, thanks for asking. Not quoting, mind you, ‘cuz I don’t have the book handy here at my office where right now I'm getting paid to blog, but my memory says it’s a unit of conflict experienced in one continuous time period. Inherent in that definition is the notion that each and every scene must have a central conflict your character has to live through. And guess what that means? I’ll spell it out for you: it means you wanna avoid all that filler stuff like character greetings, settings that go on and on unless they’re germaine in some way to the conflict—basically, all the mundane stuff we newbie writers tend to be guilty of throwing into our novels.

Broken down, the scene is divided into three segments: goal, conflict, disaster. A sequel follows next, during which the character assesses the dilemma growing out of the disaster, evaluates his/her alternatives, and decides on an action which becomes the new goal.

Dry as shit, huh?

Wish it didn’t make so much sense.

Wish there were more of it in my WIP.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas...

…now that my on-line orders are streaming in courtesy of UPS and Fed-Ex. I swear, this couldn’t be more fun…unless they were all for me…

Two of my favorites arrived today: a Christmas tree ornament from Katherine Hepburn’s estate for Annie (who bears a striking resemblance to the late actress) and for my dad, the personally inscribed memoirs of a fellow P-38 pilot.

Yes, Internet shopping is a dream come true. No wasting gas while you circle the mall parking lot…no bumping up against short-tempered, germ-laden shoppers…no long lines at the cash register…

In short, no muss—no fuss.

Click, click, click. Abracadabra, you’re done.

Now, if only we could get the folks at PayPal into the wrapping business, life would be perfect.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Feedback

Not the audio kind. I’m talking about the cacophony in writing contest results.

I’d heard the stories before, just hadn’t been the victim of one. But then I guess experiencing all there is to writing is what this is about, eh?

So yesterday, I received a set of contest results back on the first chapter of Stealing Amy.

Want the good news first? Okay.

Judge #1 gave me 186 points out of 200. She wrote nice comments like: “Very fresh and fun; really enjoyable, fast paced!” and “these characters are so much fun to read and I love the way they talk to each other—very realistic.” Finally, “Very funny, fresh, and witty. I felt like I was reading a ‘beach book.’”

I wuv Judge #1.

Judge #2 was less enamored of my work. She gave me 162 out of 200. Although she termed the characters quirky and fun, she wasn’t sure if the story supported genuine character growth, or if the book would turn out to be a print version of (shudder) the Keystone Kops. And whereas Judge #1 thought it was a “fast read,” this one said: “the story is slow moving and takes a while to develop; needs tightening.”

Hm. Fast read? Or, slow moving. Take your pick between Judge #1 and Judge #2. (Personally, I believe Judge #1 has more credibility ha ha.)

Now let’s move to Judge #3 for the bad news. Ready? Got your thick skin on?

Judge #3 gave me 118 points out of 200. Yikes! Referring to the grid provided, the lowest score listed is 137! Okay, deep breaths. The way it works is that your lowest score is dropped and the remaining two are averaged. Assuming Judge #3 is just one of those people who doesn’t give high scores, maybe all of the entries she judged have been dropped from the list…? (One can hope.) I mean, geesh. Could she think I suck that much? Well, maybe.

But….but….let’s take one example. Judges are supposed to rate on a scale of 1 to 5:

5 = Outstanding
4 = Very good; just needs minor polishing
3 = Good; nice work but could be improved
2 = Fair; needs development; rework suggested
1 = Problematic; substantial revision recommended

Okay, so get this: in the Style category, under the question: Is the author’s voice engaging and readable?

Judges 1 and 2 gave me a perfect 5. Yippee!
Judge 3 gave me……a pathetic TWO!!!!!

In fact, in the Style category as a whole (6 areas to rate) judges 1 and 2 gave me all 5’s—for a total of 30 points while Judge #3 gave me 18.

Can you spell s-u-b-j-e-c-t-i-v-e??

Worse, Judge #3 didn’t write ONE comment. Not ONE. In my humble opinion, that’s not right. That’s not what you pay money to a contest for.

Oh, well. Live and learn. At least, the other two judges provided constructive feedback and I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

And this experience just confirms what I already knew. That to reach the finals, you need good writing and luck—luck that the judges assigned to your work happen to be high scorers and like your "voice."

Friday, December 02, 2005

You Won't Find This On Ebay

So, guess what I stumbled across in my desk today? Amid the business cards of people who may well be dead…tucked between credit cards bent in half…and buried beneath a ton of worthless pennies…

A cocktail napkin. Oh, not just any cocktail napkin. This one’s dated August 5, 1995—ten fricking’ years ago. Back when I was almost young. I can so picture us sitting on the patio of the Westlake Inn (now known as Bogie’s). No doubt I was wearing one of the ten basic black cocktail dresses I favored at the time. No doubt we’d had a few adult beverages, as evidenced by the topic of conversation that night, namely, who was most likely to get married next.

If memory serves (and it does), a heated argument ensued--mostly defensive in nature--as in…

“I’d bet my Lexus you’ll be married before me.”

“The hell, I will. I’m never getting married again.”

Yes, it was a scintillating conversation. Loaded with tales of connubial bliss and matrimonial inspiration. Kidding.

The upshot, after much debate, was that we agreed on the following odds (in order of likelihood) and recorded it on the napkin:

Sandy: 1-1/2 : 1 (backstory: divorced after 20+ years of marriage)
Paul: 2: 1 (backstory: divorced; prone to over-imbibing--making him not-so-attractive)
Me: 2-1/2 : 1 (backstory: never married)
Fidel: 3 : 1 (backstory: married once; divorced several years)
Jeff: 5 : 1 (backstory: married once? Twice?)
Joe: 10: 1 (backstory: married once; divorced several years)
Bob: 200 : 1 (backstory: married once—bitter divorce)

As a bonus, we all signed a promise that, should a wedding occur, it would take place at the Ritz Carlton Cancun, and we’d all show up. Then we had Cynthia, the cocktail waitress, sign as a witness, making the document legal and binding.

So…ten years have passed…shall we see how we did?

Well, first of all, some faded into the woodwork and lost touch. Including the “winner” who was…………Jeff. At 5:1, he’s the only one who took the plunge in the following ten years. And, last I heard, it didn’t “stick.”

Updates on the rest:

Sandy: Has dated the same guy for 10 years
Paul: When last heard from, Paul had cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good
Me: Well, if you’ve been following the bouncing ball, you know I’m still single—although about three months later, Joe and I got together for five years
Fidel: Has lived with Susan for 10 years
Joe: See above (currently single)
Bob: Currently single

Which puts to rest the rumor that divorced men are more apt to jump back into the frying pan, huh?

Okay, I’m off to dig through the rest of my desk in search of the SECOND napkin. That’s the one where Fidel promises to spring for the entire trip if he ever marries again. Might explain a lot to the long-suffering Susan.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Uncle," she cried.


Yep, I gave in last night. I went to the mall and bought new jeans in a size larger than the ones I currently own. When I got home and tried them on again, it was like what the hell happened? These fit almost like the old ones. I peered at the labels and saw the difference—the old ones were “stretch.” Damn.


The good news is that I got on the scale this morning and had lost three pounds. Maybe you heard the cheer coming from my neighborhood.

Then I remembered.

In the past, whenever I’ve finally broken down and bought new clothes in larger sizes, voila. I lose weight. No really, it happens. And then, unlike the skinny clothes that get pushed aside waiting for their day in the sun, I give away the fat clothes without a trace of regret for only having worn them a couple times.

I’m hoping to have a reason to clean out my closet real soon.


In writing news, today’s the last day to overnight (remember when that wasn’t a verb?) entries to RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, so natch, I waited until the last second. I’m almost embarrassed about taking up a spot with a manuscript I have (agent/editor alert: stop reading here) such little confidence in. Crossing my fingers that I’m a poor judge of my own work and that little things like rejection letters and other contest losses mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November

This morning I accidentally wrote the date as 3/29, and gee, for a moment I basked in the fantasy…if only...if only I could blink and leap ahead past the harsh winter months.

(Okay, you people in the Midwest—so what if it was 48 degrees? It’s not polite to laugh at southern Californians.)

I know daytime highs in the 60’s aren’t mind-numbingly cold. I know nighttime lows in the mid-40's don’t leave icicles hanging off the eaves. And yes, I fully realize Mother Nature could add the quintuple whammy of wind, rain, sleet, hail, and/or snow to make my life really miserable.

I should be thankful for sunshine and cloudless blue skies.

Still…

When November pokes its ugly head around the corner, I wanna make like a bear and hibernate.

The misery starts before I even get out of bed. I can’t leave the heat on overnight or I’ll roast, and the timer thingy doesn’t seem to work. Bottom line: my bedroom’s an igloo. Oh, wait. Bad analogy--igloos are toasty, right? Anyway, sure I could get up and turn on the heat—but then I get fooled into thinking it’s warm outside and end up wearing a summer dress in the middle of December.

Which I do on an alarmingly frequent basis.

I mean, I can’t cover a purple tea-length dress with a red leather jacket that stops mid-thigh, can I? (The answer is, no I cannot. I must wear a full-length coat of say, camel, saving the red leather jacket for the black mini-skirt…which translates, at least for me, into a need to buy tons of outerwear to go with the innerwear.)

Please don’t mention the word layers because the concept is over my head. In fact, if you ask me, layers came out of a super-secret meeting of department store conglomerates way back in the sixties. What am I supposed to do? Wear a tank beneath the blouse that’s beneath the sweater that’s beneath the coat? How do I mix and match the colors and lengths? (I tell you. It’s a corporate conspiracy.)

Don’t get me started on evening clothes during the winter. Well, okay. Go ahead. Get me started. See, I’m going to Vegas for New Years. I’m thinking, hmmm…New Years…Vegas…it’d be a sin not to wear something strappy and sexy in Sin City, right? But I also don’t wanna freeze my (fill-in-the-blank)s off. Nor do I wanna lug around a heavy coat that I’ll have to check every time we switch casinos.

(Ugh. Did I mention I hate Winter??????)

And, no matter what I do or how hard I try…wherever I go, between now and March, if you see a girl shivering like a puppy left out in the storm, say hi. It’s me.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Excu-u-u-u-use Me

When I was nine years old, I wrote my first “book” by typing it on a manual typewriter.

If only I had an electric, I thought. Then, I could really write.

By the time I owned an electric typewriter, IBM “correcting selectrics” were all the rage.

If only I had one of those, I thought. Then, I could really write.

Yada, yada, yada…word processors came into being.

If only I had one of those, I thought. Then, I could really write.

This year I’ve been lamenting the 3’ x 2’ desk on which my state-of-the-art computer sits.

If only I had a proper desk and chair, I thought. Then, I could really write.

I work an 8-hour day job.

If only I could stay home all day. Then, I could really write.

Now that I’ve had three days off in a row, I realize I prefer writing at night.

If only I could write all night………

Hm. I’m running out of excuses.

Friday, November 25, 2005

No, No...Say It Ain't So


I don’t know about you guys, but (other than my life being perfect—hey, that was supposed to be sarcasm—see previous post) the holidays started out with some pretty glum news, didn’t they?

I mean, sure we’d heard all the rumors and yes, the whispers had intensified over the last couple weeks.

But…there’s always hope, isn’t there? Hope that maybe the stories are false…that the claims are merely exaggerated?

Sadly, it appears that once again this is not the case.
Yes, Nick and Jessica have broken up after all. Another beautiful Hollywood marriage down the crapper.

Below, I give you my evidence. If I hadn’t taken this with my cell phone, I’d have been able to point out the spot, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Casa de Simpson/Lachey is dark and empty on Thanksgiving night.

Meanwhile, the paparazzi at the intersection of Parkway Calabasas and Park Granada wait…and wait…and wait…

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving


How many bloggers do you suppose waxed poetic about the stuff they’re thankful for today? Yanno, all those blessings in life like their kids, their health, their jobs, their homes....


Well, as a public service to my readers, I decided to give you a break from the schmalz, and let you in on what I’m NOT thankful for today.

The grey hair in my eyebrows

That’s it. Otherwise, my life is perfect.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

November 22

I was a 5th grade band geek. Hard to believe, but I was. I played the flute (badly). The best thing about being a band geek was getting to skip class for practice.

On that day in November, when we were finished, I packed up my flute in its velvet-lined case, and trudged back to Miss Stanke’s room. Usually I walked in on a boring lesson about comets or early California history. My fellow classmates, their eyes glazed over (except for Lance—whose eyes were bright and alert, his hand permanently stuck high overhead) would briefly glance toward the door as I entered, then go back to their self-imposed stupor.

Not this day.

Today the natives were restless. Some sat forward in their chairs, others exchanged quizzical looks. Miss Stanke’s cheeks were flushed and she kept blinking rapidly.

As I slid behind my desk, someone whispered that the principal had walked in and murmured something in our teacher’s ear which had prompted her to burst into tears. A visit from the principal was odd enough, but to have made our teacher cry? My heart went out to her as I wondered what had happened. Had her mother died like mine had just two months before?

That afternoon, Miss Stanke escorted the entire class to the library for a research project. By this time, uneasiness had settled in my stomach. Something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was, but a sense of unarticulated fear permeated the school, although I seemed to be alone in noticing it. I couldn’t concentrate. I was a good student, but my mind was elsewhere.

When Miss Stanke asked why I wasn’t looking for research material, I answered that I intended to use the public library over the weekend.

“I don’t think it will be open for awhile,” she cautioned.

My throat went dry as I watched her turn to help another student.

Libraries wouldn’t close just because a relative of Miss Stanke’s had died. It must be something much worse. And then I knew.

We must be going to war with the Russians. With each growing minute, I strained to hear the air raid sirens. Why hadn’t they sent us home already?

Now I thought I might get physically sick. In all my school years, this was the only time I asked to go the nurse’s office. Once there, I wasn’t sure what to do or say. I’m not one to feign illness nor cause a scene, so I ended up going back to class.

A short time later, I boarded the bus for home. In front of me, two girls chatted in what I would describe years later as a manic fashion.


“Did you hear the news?” one asked the other. “President Kennedy is dead!”


This came as a total shock. I didn’t know whether to believe it, and I didn’t understand her glee at all.


Soon enough, I learned the news was true, and with it my fear disappeared. The death of a man so far away, who I only knew from television, couldn’t affect me personally.


I didn’t know then that a lot more than a man had died that day.


A nation’s innocence, for one.


Because, isn’t that when the 60’s went to hell? Here I’d believed in the romantic comedies where women dressed stylishly and life was about love and laughter. Instead I got more assassinations and riots. I’ve always felt gypped by that.


In July of 2004, I visited Dallas and went to see Daley Plaza where the event that changed the world occurred 42 years ago today. Like everyone says, it’s an eerie place and not the parade route you’d expect. Just one quick turn, really. And yet, so close to the building from which Oswald took aim. As I heard Jack Valenti say this morning (he was six cars away at the time) you could have thrown a baseball from that window and hit your target with ease.


I was barely ten at the time it happened…my strongest memories are of Jackie Kennedy’s blood-spattered pink suit and of John-John saluting the casket as it passed.


Other than that, it’s just another one of those moments to measure time by.

You know…like when I ask a guy where he was when he heard the news, and he answers with a blank stare and says, “I wasn’t born yet,” I know to move on.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Things I Should Probably Get Rid Of Or Replace

  • My iron and ironing board--purchased in November of 1974.
  • Magnavox console stereo (with 8-track!) won on a game show in 1978.
  • Blue and white pot (and assorted kitchen utensils) bought to take to college in 1971.
  • IBM PC my company bought circa 1980 which ended up in my garage.
  • Car not driven in two-and-a-half years.
  • Pair of shoes from 1981.
  • The outfit they went with.
  • Blouse from 1973.
  • The bed I’ve slept in since I was five.
  • Kody’s chew toys.
  • Assorted canned goods from….??
  • Half the stuff in my freezer…??

Let’s not discuss the size 6 clothing in my closet.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Links For The Lazy

Click here to read one of those amazing "road to publication" stories (unless you read Miss Snark's blog, in which case you've probably already seen it).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Only A Matter of Time

I thought I’d giggle like a nervous schoolgirl.

This is so embarrassing!

I thought I’d feel like I do when I walk into Target with a $100 bill in my pocket.

I want it all! I want it all!

Turns out, I was wrong on both counts.

What I’m talking about is the seminar I went to on Thursday night. It was...er, it was...that is, it was…oh, hell. A seminar on cosmetic surgery.

There. I said it.

(Draws deep breath)

And, nope. I didn’t sign up for anything. Yet.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

SWF SO SWM

Okay, I confess. I browsed the Yahoo personals last night.

It’s not that I’m dying to have a man in my life—more like I think it would be good for me. Yanno…sort of like ten years ago when I got a puppy ‘cuz I thought I needed to learn about responsibility.

Anyhoo…that’s the idea. So I entered some parameters, specifically: age range, the “woman seeking man part,” and my zip code. (See? Not too picky.)

Voila.

Pages of men just waiting to meet me.

Let’s see how I eliminated them one by one, shall we?

“Fun, Witty Guy Seeks Princess or Queen”: I don’t wanna be on anyone’s pedestal, thankyouverymuch. NEXT.

“A New Start, A New Love, A New Life”: Um, can you spell r-e-b-o-u-n-d?? And, here’s what he wrote: “I am a sales manager for a manufacturer of protective products for people, vehicles and structures (body armor {bullet resistant vests} and armored limo's…”

HUH? Call me a romantic, but “body armor” and “bullet resistant vests” are two phrases I don’t need to see in a personal ad. NEXT.

“Need a Girl to Couch With”: He writes: “i am cool, laidback, spotanyes, like to find a woman who makes alots of bank so i can relax a wile, must be goodlookinf,in shape and set.no more bimbos please.”

Not that I’m marking off for typos or misspellings, but…is this guy serious?? NEXT.

“Retired, Not Dead”: (See above for my recommendation against certain words in personal ads.) This guy writes that he’s now 40 pounds lighter than he was in the picture posted.

Okay, so good that you’re not a fat zombie and all, but could ya make the effort to post the new pic? NEXT.

“Looking for that 1 4 Me”: (Gag, that’s just too cute, isn’t it?). This guy loves sushi, romantic dinners…hey, wait. Sushi comes first?? Out of everything he could love? NEXT.

“Walks on the Beach?”: Not if you look anything like the picture you posted, buddy. Maybe try smiling next time. Or getting rid of that evil-looking moustache and goatee. You look like a serial killer. NEXT.

“Lake Man Looking for Lady of the Lake”: Ah, now we’re talking. This guy’s into boating! Think of how excited my friends Ann and Marty would be! He writes: Well I head for the lake about two weekends a month. (Cool!) I'm very easy going , (Me too!) Love to leave to go on a road trip at the drop of a hat (Just give me 15 minutes to pack!) Love to spend time with my girls (No problem!I respect that!) My favorite thing to do is to go out on the boat (Yep, you said that—I’m ready!) The type of lady I'm looking for is a go with the flow type of person (I am! I am!) Someone that is with me to enjoy are time together (I will! I will!—even if it’s “our,” not “are”!) And loves to be outside camping , (Um, outside?? Camping??) dirt bike riding ( Huh?) , going to the race track (Yes!) auto (Oh), I’m not a gambler (NEXT).

Let’s not even discuss the guy with the scary eyes. I’m sure if the photographer had pulled back, we’d see the upraised knife in his hand.

Okay, so I haven’t mentioned the decent, relatively sane-looking men who knew how to spell relationship and are looking for something more than “a woman to take long walks on the beach and enjoy romantic evenings in front of the fire.”

I told you I was only browsing.

P.S. I may be a writer, but I didn't make any of these guys up.





Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blogs And Dads

Time and Place: Sunday evening, dinner at a Mexican restaurant
Participants: Daddy, Annie, and Me

Conversation:

Daddy: Randy, what’s a blog?

Me: It’s short for weblog.

Daddy: But, what is it?

Me: Um, it’s sort of like an on-line diary. There are political blogs, writing blogs, wine blogs…

Daddy (shaking head): But, what are they for?

Me: Well…writers use them to build a fan base—to keep their fans up-to-date on their upcoming books and stuff.

Daddy: Are they free?

Me (unsuccessful at keeping my mouth shut): Yep. Um, I happen to have one.

Daddy (uncertain smile): You do?

Me: (praying) If you still have that business card I gave you, the address is on it.

Daddy: Really?

Me (quickly doing a mental catalog of over 200 posts): I wasn’t sure you should read it.

Daddy: Does anyone want another margarita?

So, there you have it. Did he go home, dig out the card, and seek out my blog? Probably not. Would I wither and die if he did? Probably not. Outside of a few swear words, I don’t THINK I’ve written much to offend him. But, just to be on the safe side, maybe I’d better read EVERY SINGLE POST again.

Oh, the hell—er, heck—with it. There aren’t many things about my life I haven’t told him. (I’m pretty sure he knows I’ve had sex even though I’ve never been married.) And, I’d love for him to read what I wrote about him on Father’s Day.

On second thought, maybe I’ll paste it into an email.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

This Is Progress?

Are we all fooling ourselves? Does anyone really believe the IT age has made commerce run more efficiently? More efficiently for whom, by the way?

If you ask me (which you didn’t but, hey—this is MY blog), it’s all a bunch of hoo-ha. Large corporations should go back to building products and/or providing services.

Period.

See, I deal with aerospace and defense behemoths like Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman (all of whom could be merged into one by the time you read this—you never know.) Anyway, they each have their own super-duper, uber-tech way of dealing with suppliers (me) involving a myriad of org id’s, passwords, password prompts, supplier codes….argh. Oh, and let us not forget that for security purposes, these systems require a change in password practically every time you log on.

Now, I’m no dummy. I’m even a little computer savvy. But when it takes me three weeks to complete the initial registration for a system, I just gotta believe something’s wrong. I’m not talking complicated info here. I mean the first page where you type in stuff like name, address, and phone number. For one particular application, I hit submit and what did I get? A blank screen with the message “invalid data form” in the upper corner. Nothing else…not which field, not what kind of data, nothing.

Well, I tried everything. I tried typing the phone number with a variety of punctuation, then with no punctuation. I tried typing our Federal ID number with and without punctuation. Same with our Duns number.

All returned the same error.

I finally picked up the phone (high tech, I know) and contacted a woman who promised to email me a list of unacceptable words.

Huh?

Like I said, we’re not talking complicated information here. Well, I never got the promised list. Meanwhile, every day, I received automatically generated emails from a buyer trying to place a purchase order and whining about my failure to get registered. I’m trying, I’m trying. Finally, I called again and found someone to walk me through it.

Are you ready for this??

Their system “didn’t like” the word “union” in our street address. THAT’s what tossed me out every time. So, I had to add an ‘s’ to make it happy. Ah, yes. Progress.

So, now that I’ve registered in like a gazillion of these wonderful systems, I actually have to use them. (Remind me again how this is supposed to reduce our workload?)

Take my go-round with Raytheon yesterday. Seems that updating the date field in a column isn’t enough. Every time you make a change, you have to add verbiage as well. Even if the verbiage merely reiterates the numerical data. WTF? Not only that, but check out this system: say, I promise to deliver my widget on 11-15-05. One would assume that’s the date I’d put in the delivery column, no? No. Because it could take A WEEK for them to get said widget properly received ONCE IT HITS THEIR DOCK, so unless I stretch out that date, I’ll get a black mark for being tardy. Strangely enough, I get the impression that we’re all more concerned with making this cute little graph the right color than in actually delivering on time.

Okay….AND ANOTHER THING. A buyer just called and said they can’t purchase directly from us because we have a poor delivery record. Well, guess what? I happen to know that our vendor record contains entries for ANOTHER COMPANY BY THE SAME NAME. Hey, there’s a system for ya, huh? Yeah, Progress.

All I know is that before computers, before fancy “supply chain collaborations,” and before the proliferation of on-line vendor/supplier communication, we got paid (which is all I really care about) in 15 days. Now, we’re lucky if its 45. And, that’s if they haven’t forgotten to log their PO in the system, lost our receiver, or sent payment to the wrong company.

Ah, yes. Progress.

Monday, November 14, 2005

From The "Only In L.A. Files"

An old friend I haven’t seen or talked to in three months just called from the set of SCRUBS to ask how to spell commemorate.

Could be just me, but I found that amusing.

Yes, I'm in high demand for my writing skills.




Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Solution To Writers' Block?

Writers don’t have to dress for success. They can do their thing without having to brush their teeth, wash their hair, or get out of their jammies.

Or so I thought.

I pretty much spent yesterday in the above described condition. Off and on, hour after hour, I plopped myself in front of the computer, trying to make progress on my WIP. I’d write three sentences then delete, delete, delete. I’d write three more, then backspace over them in one fell swoop (what the heck does that phrase mean, anyway?).

By late afternoon I was seriously wondering what had ever given me the impression I could write a complete sentence.

Finally, it was time to go out for the evening, so I dragged myself from the computer and did the shave, shower, and shine routine.

With fifteen minutes to spare, I returned to the computer…and banged out the rest of the scene.

Grrrrr. Does this mean I have to “get ready for work” to put me in the proper mood?

Why can’t I ever be like other writers??

Friday, November 11, 2005

No News

In case anyone’s wondering, I haven’t had any news yet on the requested full I sent to the unnamed publishing house. Nor have I heard on the partial I sent to another house. Shoot, I haven’t even heard anything on the contest whose finalists were supposed to be announced “by the beginning of November.”

As they say, no news is good news, right?

Well….most houses don’t promise a quick turnaround…some even tell ya up front it could be a year before they get back to you. But, I suspect that if your initial query really piques their interest, they put you on the fast track. Or, not. Sigh. Who knows?

Meanwhile, my little fingers should be tapping out a new book with record speed…but for some reason, they’re moving like slugs over the keyboard. Am I looking for validation before I put forth the effort? I dunno. I hope not because the odds of hearing anything favorable on any of the above submissions are so, so, minimal…and yet, sometimes it’s hard to forge ahead when it could all be for nothing.

Take my second manuscript. (Please, ha ha.) I write a pretty good query letter and NO ONE seems to wanna see this orphan. Not that I’ve even begun to saturate the market with submissions but still…to have queried 15 agents and not even get a partial requested…that’s not a good sign. So, did I spend thousands of hours on something no one will ever look at??

Good thing I have a day job, huh?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Probably TMI

Lying isn’t my strong suit. Never has been. Maybe if I’d been more successful with my initial stab at it, I’d have gone forth and flourished, but oh well.

I was about six years old and my father asked if I’d put my shoes away like he’d told me to (of course, I hadn’t). In that instant, I had an epiphany. Why not say I had? What was the harm? Who would it hurt? He’d be satisfied, and I’d avoid a reprimand. No harm, no foul, right? Brilliant, I thought.

Except my father easily discovered my shoes just where I’d left them.

So much for epiphanies.

And because I sucked at lying, I went on to overcompensate with too much honesty. Take today’s post for example.

I am seriously thinking of “having some work done.” In California parlance that means anything from botox injections to bolts in your skull to lift your brow. Ugh. All of it makes me cringe, wince…no, wait. RECOIL. That’s the word. And yet…and yet…I’d do it all if I had the time and money.

God, do I wanna cling to my youth that badly?

In a word: Yep.

God, am I that vain? That shallow?

Yep and Yep.

And, like I said above, painfully honest. Hey, at least I’d have something to blog about.






Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Best Show On TV

Who says the Golden Age of Television went out with Truman? (Not that anyone actually does say that—in fact, I just made it up.) My point is, that I believe some of the best programming EVER can be viewed on commercial TV these days.

Oh, sure. Many of you probably think the reality glut is a sign of Armageddon--I disagree (see March post)--but today, I’m talking about drama. Specifically, LOST. Man, this ain’t your father’s Gilligan’s Island. Just like Grey’s Anatomy ain’t his Medical Center, nor Boston Legal his Perry Mason.

Watching LOST is like having a front row seat to Storytelling 101 at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. (Not that I’d know, not having been a student in their program--gee, are you surprised?--but I imagine they offer something along those lines.) Each scene is so masterfully crafted, each character so organically complex, each flashback so artfully woven into the main story so as so make you believe it IS the story…then, to top things off, the writers fling you a fresh twist just when you think you’ve nailed what’s about to happen.

Even their promos are ingenuous. To wit, this week’s ads promised one of the survivors would be “lost permanently.” Well, about three quarters into the show, a minor character—one we’d barely gotten to know—disappeared, and I have to admit I fell for it. Thought I’d been “had” by misleading commercials. Then, pow. One of the main characters buys the farm with about a minute left to go.

Don't even get me started on how the previews promised a whole NEW direction...

Sigh. Makes the writer in me feel woefully inadequate.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mush For Brains

Yep. That’s the situation today.

Let me back up to Saturday. After zipping down to San Diego for my Uncle’s 80th birthday (which was a blast, by the way) I met friends Marty and Ann at the Ramada Inn-San Marcos. You read that right. The Ramada Inn-San Marcos. See, Harrah’s Rincon was booked, so after much Internet research, well…that’s where we ended up.

That night we drove to Harrah’s and let’s just say I made another of my ongoing contributions to the Native American community. Assuaging my white woman’s guilt and all.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah…we checked into Harrah’s the next day. Writer friend Brooke trekked over from Fallbrook and we had a delightful poolside lunch. Later, I went to my room for a nap, halfway believing I’d spend the rest of the night there. The notion of getting in my jammies, ordering up room service, and hunkering down for an episode of Desperate Housewives was enormously appealing. After all, my plan was to get on the road about 6 a.m. in order to roll into work mid-morning.

I’ll bet you can already guess things didn’t exactly go according to plan, huh?

So, Ann called about 6 just as I (don’t laugh! don’t laugh!) finished donning gym clothes. No, really. I’d decided to hit the treadmill before the aforementioned jammies plan. With very little arm twisting, I agreed instead to go downstairs for “just awhile.” (Plus, I was feeling a little flush from an earlier Wheel Of Fortune interlude and figured I owed those poor Native American children who might need a new school or something.)

I should have recognized the first sign of my plan’s disintegration. That was when Marty abandoned the poker table and started looking for slot machines to get rich on. Then, exhausting that inadequate revenue producer, we stumbled on the source of my doom.

A Texas Hold ‘Em table.

Not exactly how you see it on TV…for instance, you play against the dealer not each other, nevertheless, essentially the same game but without the stress and strain (and intimidation) of a serious poker table. Suddenly, without so much as a nonverbal cue, Marty and I were “catching the flop,” “betting on the river,”…all that good Texas Hold ‘em stuff.

Meanwhile, Ann sat out, claiming she didn’t know how to play. Well, y’all know how that turned out, right? After Marty and I dragged her kicking and screaming into the game, she virtually took over. We even named pocket aces the “Ann Hand.”

The next thing I knew, it was last call. Not a good sign unless tribal casinos shut down their bars at 10. Which they don’t.

And the NEXT thing I knew, it was 3 a.m.

Bad, bad, bad.


We’d spent HOURS at this stupid table, with only a couple of interruptions for, as Ann put it, “doin’ the Harpo walk.” (This is “casinospeak” for the odd gait of a person suddenly in need of a bathroom break who’s so stiff from sitting in one position that he or she can barely walk to the restroom. Trust me, it’s aptly named.)

As we left the table, the casino folk generously provided a $60 comp for food (at three o’clock in the morning???) but I declined and said good night. The last I saw Ann and Marty, they were headed for steak and eggs.

So, that’s why the mush for brains today. Alcohol + sleep deprivation + long drive = mucho exhaustion.

Not to mention boring blog.

Friday, November 04, 2005

New Rule (Since Tuesday)

Treadmill: 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at night

Tuesday: Check
Thursday: Check
Friday: Check (so far)
Tomorrow...before I drive down to San Diego (cross your fingers)
Tomorrow night...after I check into the Lake San Marcos Ramada (cross your toes)
Sunday...after I check into Harrahs-Rincon (cross your eyes)
Sunday night...........??????? Cross whatever's left!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

0 for 3 At Bunco

That’s my record. Just call me the big L-O-S-E-R.

When Ann, Thea, and Pam first proposed putting together a “Bunco group”, I thought: “Oh God, isn’t Bunco an irregular heart beat away from Bridge? What’s next…Pinochle? Quilting bees? Or, worse (huge shudder)…shuffleboard???”

Then I heard from ex-boyfriend Joe that his 30-something daughter, Renee, had joined a group in her neighborhood. What a relief! I figured if SAHMs (stay-at-home-moms—and, please note, I did not use the pejorative “soccer moms”) are gathering to play Bunco, it couldn’t hurt to get together with women my own age, right?

So, here’s how it works (at least with our group). Once a month, twelve of us meet at 6:00p.m. to share cocktails, munchies, and gossip. Then we play a round of Bunco, followed by more cocktails, munchies, and gossip. Round two comes next and after that we…no, you’re wrong. This time it’s cocktails, DESSERT, and gossip. (Are you sensing a pattern here? There’s a spot for round three on the scorecard doohinky, but so far, what with all the drinking/eating/talking, we haven’t been able to squeeze it in. Oh, well.)

Lastly, the winners are awarded honest-to-God cash. Not a lot, but hey—something tells me this Bunco craze is not about getting rich.


The game is rather simple (which is probably a good thing since our aptitudes are somewhat impaired right off the bat). I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say it involves rolling three die (yep—that’s the plural of dice) and looking for “ones,” then “twos,” and so on. (Not a game for Mensa candidates, but then with all the wine involved, probably about the right speed, intellectually speaking.) I don’t know if it’s the game itself or the wine ingested, but somehow the decibel level stays in the mosh pit range. Must be those screams of “TRAVELING” and “BUNCO” which, no doubt, cause the neighbors some justifiable concern.

Anyway, yours truly gets to host the December gathering. Time to re-stock the wine rack!






Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Y-a-a-awn

Last weekend I stumbled across a “woman’s” magazine. You know the kind—the ones with ten tips to the best sex ever—ten tips to more manageable hair—ten fashion “must haves” for the coming season—and blah, blah, blah. While ruminating over how much paper gets wasted on the same tired subjects, I landed on one that made me shake my head.

Ten tips to losing weight. Geez, I thought, only ten? What…eat less…exercise more?

Get your stomach surgically excised?

Wait a minute. The tenth one caught my eye: “Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.”


Yeah, right. Who were they kidding? Wasn’t that counterintuitive?

Then, I read on and (gulp) the explanation actually made sense. It turns out that when we don’t get enough sleep, we screw up a couple of hormones. Important hormones. Guys involved in things like fat storage and appetite control.

Ding, ding, ding!!!! Eureka!!!!

When I started writing, I decreased my per night sleeping time by about two hours. No wonder I gained weight!!! I need to spend more time in bed than at the computer!!

Wow…if only all our problems could be solved so easily.

Click here for one of many articles I found on the Internet.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

'Tis The Season For NaNoWriMo

And this year I’m not there.

Hoped to be. Wanted to be. Planned to be.

Alas, that’s the way it is when you’re trying to be a writer. Life intervenes a lot—which is the antithesis of National Novel Writing Month.

Beginning today, November 1st, wannabe writers (and some pubbed) from all over the globe embark on a 30-day journey of scribbling (okay, mostly typing) a 50,000-word (200-page) novel. The idea is to put everything aside (spouses, kids, parents, laundry, landscaping, personal hygiene if that’s what it takes...) and just write, write, write. The founder, Chris Baty, has a motto: No plot? No problem...in fact, he’s written a book with the title.

Anyway, my interpretation of the whole thing is this: there’s a ton of people out there (including some who read this blog) who have been meaning to get around to writing the great American novel—or memoir, or sci-fi fantasy. Whatever. Only, they don’t. Writing is the easiest thing in the world about which to procrastinate (I should know). And, it was NaNoWriMo that finally got me off the dime four years ago.

Not really knowing much about the craft of writing, I dove right in and, yes, completed a 50,000 word novel that month. Not only that, but I had a vacation planned for the fourth week in November, so I had to finish it in three weeks, not four. And I did. I forget—you do the math—but I wrote something like 10 pages a night. (Ouch--now that I’m a “better” writer, I can do about 2 a night but, oh well.) Still….about five months later, I thought: shoot, the stuff I wrote wasn’t so bad. Not long enough to be publishable, but maybe if I could add to it....

Well, the rest is history. That thought sent me on a journey that’s changed my life in a lot of ways--taken me to cities I’d never seen and brought me friends I would never have met. (Not to mention subtracted 100’s of hours of television viewing that wouldn’t have added a scintilla of worth to my life.)

So, I salute all the NaNo participants this year and wish them oodles of luck. Not everyone will “finish.” Not everyone will use it as a stepping stone toward a writing career (like Lani Diane Rich did with her NaNo Novel of a couple of years ago).

And to all those people sitting down to write their novel for the first time, welcome to a world you’ll learn to love to hate!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloweeeeeeen

Sigh. Well, it was one of those years I had to ‘splain my costume. My first clue came when my housecleaner left a note after seeing some of the components on my bed. “Wish I could have seen you dressed up as a Mexican lady. I’m sure you looked beautiful!”

Um, Mexican lady? Is that what people would think I was??

So, here’s the deal. I wore a southern belle dress with the flouncy skirt, the pouffy sleeves, and the lacy gloves. Then I topped it off with……a Mexican sombrero. And, for the piece de resistance, I carried a couple bags of tacos from (have you guessed yet?)…Taco Bell.

Get it?

TACO BELLE.

I was Taco Belle.

And here’s the pic (and others) to prove it.


Marty and Ann...tattooed and pierced!

Dodi and Cathi...AKA...Minnie and the Bride From Hell Alexis and Penny...the mother/daughter duo

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Party's (Almost) Over


Yep...my birthday 2005 RIP.

Okay, I know it's October 29th and my birthday was way back on September 16th...I'm living proof that if you know how to work it....

So it's off to Laguna Niguel where I'm bidding farewell to the 2005 birthday season by celebrating with my oldest girlfriends in the world (I mean that in two ways hahahahahaha). Yikes. I've known Juli for about 47 years; Kath and Nance for about 35.

Hopefully the discussion won't center on our aches, pains, and hormonal imbalances.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A command performance looms on the horizon. One filled with relatives I rarely see.

Already, scouting reports have begun. A call this morning delicately suggested a new hairdo—the kind that takes ten pounds off your face. The next one will fish for what I’m planning to wear.

Sigh. Family gatherings.

Isn’t it enough to be a good person?
I have to be thin, well-dressed, and appropriately coifed, too?

I swear. Only in California.

Or is it just my family???

(File this under the heading of rant--and is it any wonder that my characters all have self-image issues???)

(And yes, maybe I should upload a more recent picture with the longer hair and added pounds.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The truth is, I hate writing.

However, to paraphrase author Debra Dixon, I love having written.

I love having written most when I got a kick out of living in my characters’ world. For example, I set Stealing Amy in a fictional beach town south of Puerto Vallarta. Even when I ran into roadblocks with that manuscript, it was always fun to picture myself in their world

Which brings me to the scene that’s been giving me trouble in my current WIP. One of the recommendations you hear is: change the POV character (that is, change the perspective from which the scene is being viewed). Well, I can’t do that ‘cuz I’m writing in first person. Another recommendation is to change the setting. Okay…but that’s the only part of the scene I was enjoying—it’s on the beach.

Then it occurred to me that my character has nothing (so far) to do in this scene. She’s entered, she’s greeted, and now she’s sitting back observing. Ho-hum. Big yawn. What I need to do is cut to the chase—get right to the conflict that will make this scene come alive.

I can do that. I know exactly how to do it.

And when it’s finished, I’ll be happy to have written.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Nothing New Under the Sun

What are the odds? Three months into this whole writing endeavor, I attended a conference in Denver where I met my first honest-to-goodness published author. Her name was (is?) Beverly Brandt and she generously offered advice to this newbie on a host of topics. In the course of our conversation, I learned she sold the first book she wrote which, as you might well imagine, impressed me to no end.

Two years later, I saw her at a book signing at the conference in Dallas and she told me she’d sold five books that year. Not only that, she’s now writing in a different genre under a separate name (Jacey Ford) and one of her romantic comedies has been optioned as a movie for Jessica Simpson.

Um. Can you spell o-v-e-r-a-c-h-i-v-e-r??

Meanwhile, I slog on, still unpublished. (Big sigh).

I probably shouldn’t write this here…ya know, I should probably stick to touting my successes. But the truth is, my second manuscript, Stealing Amy, hasn’t exactly met with resounding demand, which is to say, my query letter hasn’t resulted in requests for partials. My writing friend, Brooke, suggests maybe the topic is off-putting (Amy goes off on a search for the woman who stole her identity).

Well, guess what?

Today I was browsing at B&N and came across a new release by Beverly Brandt. Yep. It’s about a character who’s searching for her identity thief. The opening scene is strikingly similar to my own.

Eerie, huh? Like I say. What are the odds?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ann: “PBS is taping a show at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and I’ve gotta a bunch of free tickets. Wanna go?”

Me: “Did you say FREE?”

So, that’s how I found myself at a TV taping last night for an upcoming PBS pledge drive special on Movie Themes. In the front row, no less. (See my earlier rant on the impossibility of getting a good concert seat in L.A.)

Anyway, how much FUN. First off, we rehearsed our standing ovation technique. I opted for a gasp of recognition, a quick turn of the head to the friend seated next to me, followed by a launch from my seat with enthusiastic hand clapping and long, drawn out screeches of “Woo Hoo!” (The cool ex-television professional that I am, I never ONCE looked directly into a camera.)

When the director thought his audience sufficiently trained, the performances began. Here’s the rundown and my thoughts on each:

1. Bill Medley—Grey haired but in strong voice. Sang “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” with the keyboard guy doing the Bobby Hatfield part (so sad).

2. Jennifer Warnes—Okay, this is too, too weird. That morning, I’d come across an old CD of hers and listened to it all day, NOT KNOWING I’D BE SEEING HER LIVE A COUPLE HOURS LATER (insert eerie Twilight Zone music here). I mean, I hadn’t even THOUGHT about her in years, let alone listened to her music. (Whoa) Anyway, lookswise, she’s still a cross between John Lennon and John Sebastian (Loving Spoonful). She and Bill sang their duet from Dirty Dancing, “I Had The Time Of My Life,” and then she soloed on her song from Norma Rae. Personally, I thought her voice was amazing.

3. Frankie Laine—who, it turns out, is 92 fricking’ years old (and WAY before my time). Had to hand it to the guy. He hadn’t sung publicly in two years (since recuperating from a vocal chord problem). The first run-through was horribly off-key, but the second improved considerably. Nice patent leather loafers in beige.

4. Patti Page—Again, before my time, although I sorta remember “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” (which she did NOT sing). By the way, we were informed that Frankie and Patti were slated to appear in the second night’s show (“Pop Songs from the 50’s) but were taping their performance on the evening we attended. (Ahem…bonus.)

5. Nick Clooney—Omigod, what a charming man. His role was to tape intros, outros and pledge pleas. Plus, he sorta held Patti’s hand at times (remember: before Nick was George’s father, he was Rosemary’s brother!). During some of the usual downtime (makeup touch-ups, scene shifting, etc.) he kept us entertained with his self-deprecating wit. (Example: “I’m so afraid my obituary will read like this: Nick Clooney comma, brother of 50’s pop stylist Rosemary Clooney comma, and father of actor-director-writer-producer George Clooney comma........died today.” Well, you probably had to be there.

6. Lulu—Remember her? Think she’d be old and fat by now? No such luck. She’s tiny and adorable. And, man…she can still belt out “To Sir With Love.”

7. The Fifth Dimension—well, at least three of the original five. No Marilyn McCoo, although I’m pretty sure one of the guys was her (ex?) husband. Not surprisingly, they sang “Aquarius” from the movie, “Hair.” (Sidebar: these folks need to re-think their costumes. I’m not a fan of leather on men, but when you add seafoam green to the mixture and put it on guys older than God, well….let’s just say this is the EVE (not the dawn) of these aging Aquarians.

8. BJ Thomas—remember this sweet, southern guy? He sang three songs, ending with “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Another guy who can still sing (and apparently does).

9. Last, but not least, The Cowsills—the REAL Partridge Family, as they pointed out. Only three of the originals but entertaining just the same. Don’t know the names of the first two songs but you’d recognize them. The last was, of course, “Hair.” That one got the audience standing and singing along for real.

And then it was (yawn) over. Four and half hours of strolling down memory lane with a smile plastered to my face, ever-conscious of the camera searching for cutaway shots, and trying to look just as enthralled the second (or sometimes third) time the song was performed.

What made the evening enjoyable instead of tedious (trust me, there was lots and lots of downtime) was the obvious joy expressed by each and every one of the performers. Maybe it’s because their heyday has past; maybe it’s because they appreciate doing what they love; maybe they’re all just really good actors, hamming it up for the TV exposure (note to self: stop being so cynical). Anyway, their attitudes made the audience feel like friends, and how nice is that?

My one regret…not being able to tell Patti Page about the role she played in a moment of great disillusionment for me: I was about six years old and PLEADING with Santa for a Patty Playmate doll. (Remember her? The life-sized doll? Well, life-sized to a six-year-old.) Anyway, in discussing my Christmas list with my father, he kept referring to my request as a Patti PAGE doll. No matter how many times I corrected him, he couldn’t get it right. So on the big night—Christmas Eve—“Santa” made his customary in-person visit to my house and what did he bring? A frigging’ Hasbro sno-cone maker (probably something my DAD wanted). So, Santa says: “Sorry I couldn’t bring you a Patti PAGE doll, but I thought you’d like this instead.”

Me: Patti PAGE doll? What a coincidence that SANTA and DADDY would make the same mistake.

Five minutes later, when I caught “Santa” tip-toeing through the backyard with his mask off, I confirmed the truth.

So, I blame the death of my belief in Santa Claus on Patti Page. Sure woulda loved a chance to tell her about it.