Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year's Luck??

Rumor has it the publishing industry grinds to a halt for the entire month of December.

That's why I was surprised to find a request for a partial in my inbox yesterday. Squee! Put the sucker in the mail this morning and so another waiting game begins. By the way, that cryptic post from a few days back? Well! At the prodding of my departing (sniff, sniff, sob, sob) editor at Dorchester Media (publishers of True Romance Magazine), I inquired as to the status of the partial that's been with their novel division for a year. (Yes, THAT submission.) Anyway, the news was pretty good--it's with an editor. More squee.

And while we're on the subject of writing...last night I finished up another story for True Romance using my new plotting tool. Still tweaking it (the tool, not the story)--and learning from it--but I'm encouraged. Have decided to practice writing shorts for awhile, then adapt the modified version to the long stuff. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ripped (off) From The News...

First, from the L.A. Times, a glimmer of hope:

MUSLIMS JOIN IRAQI CHRISTIANS 'TO PLANT THE SEED OF LOVE AGAIN'"

BAGHDAD -- Outside Mar Eliya church, not much had changed since last Christmas: Concrete blocks still surround the building and guards check the IDs of those entering.

But inside, hundreds of Iraqi worshipers -- Christians and Muslims -- were crammed into the overflowing Chaldean Catholic church Tuesday, celebrating the holiday and the fact that they felt safe enough to venture out of their homes to attend Christmas Mass.

"Last year was the year of misery, desperation and sadness," said Samar Jorge Gorges, 33. "But this year is better. So many people attend the Mass and you can see that their praying was joyful."

Read entire story here.


Second, how's this for a chuckle? It seems Chet Fitch (who died last October) was a man with a sense of humor. At Christmas this year, his many friends received greeting cards "from beyond" (in fact, the return address read "Heaven").

Inside, he wrote:

"I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't [tarry] there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.

"Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch."

Yes, he'd conspired for years with his barber, keeping her supplied with an updated mailing list and extra money when postal rates went up. This Fall he told her: "You must be getting tired of waiting to mail those cards. I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

Sadly, Chet was right; he died a week later.

I'm sure his friends were cheered by hearing from him one last time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Y'all!



And,hm...don't think I'm not givin' the idea of growing a beard to hide my neck some serious thought. Oh, and hey...if you click to make the picture large, you'll be able to see how my eyes apparently belong to two different people. Good thing I'm not vain or anything.

Much.

(Like I'm not heading for the phone to see if plastic surgeons work on Christmas Day.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Epiphany at 4 a.m.

So, you're probably guessing I woke up in the middle of the night thinking of last minute Christmas gifts I have to buy, right?

Wrong.

I woke up agonizing over my continued inability to move faster on my writing projects. Specifically, the untitled WIP (which I believe appears in last year's resolutions with a projected finish date of January 31--as in 2007), and a short story I'm working on for True Romance. Maybe the source of my insomnia also stemmed from writing friend Brooke's recent reminder that I once studied the snowflake plotting method.

I mean, geesh. What method HAVEN'T I studied?

Then, it came to me. I have to find my own method.

Period.

Perhaps a combo of the stuff I've found useful. Definitely something that attacks my deficiencies and weaknesses.

I have a bit of a plan in mind. (At least it looked good on the blank pages of my mental state with political pundits debating the upcoming primary race on "Morning Joe" playing in the background on MSNBC.) I'm gonna start with a plotting board but this time, instead of ending up with a big blank hunk of cardboard and four colors of post-it notes, I hope to have a computer spreadsheet that mimics it.

Then the hard part.

Figuring out how to make the instrument prod me for the story BEFORE the writing. AND, at the same time, how to get it to organically provide the proper structure and length. I'm convinced that if I can devise a scene-by-scene framework BEFORE I write, I'll increase my productivity by leaps and bounds.

Well, maybe just leaps, but at this point, I'll take leaps.

Hell, I'll take stutter-steps.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ho Ho Ho

Notice the lack of exclamation points.

Is Christmas over yet???

Geez, I hate feeling that way...like Christmas is something to get through rather than enjoy. It's almost cliche, and I don't wanna be that bah humbug person. I mean how hard is it, really? For me, anyway. I do most of my shopping on-line (with a big chunk accomplished at Rite-Aid last night--yes, a drug store!), and I don't do any baking or cooking anymore for the office party (which we hold at a restaurant).

I don't even have to wrap a million little presents for kids.

So, WTF?

Christmas carols are playing from a CD on my computer...how come I felt more Christmas-y when I heard them at St. Lucia's version of 7-11 in late October?

Why is writing cards a chore instead of a wonderful opportunity to reach out and touch old friends and relatives?

What's it all about, Alfie?

Okay, I comfort myself, knowing that at some odd moment, the spirit of Christmas may overtake me when I least expect it. I also know that the moment will probably involve alcohol. Preferably a Bailey's and coffee.

Hm. Wonder if we have any in the office kitchen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Britney's Gonna Be An Aunt, Y'all!

Lynn Spears, the mighty matriarchal figure to Britney and Jamie Lyn, got the bad news that her parenting book has been delayed indefinitely. This on the heels of her sixteen-year-old daughter's revelation that she's in the family way (and, man..."family way" takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the Spears siblings, doesn't it?).

So what I'm wondering is, how did this book get contracted in the first place? Granted, despite the current media hype, it doesn't appear to have been intended as a "how to" book on raising kids. (The title, "Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World" pretty much disputes that, doesn't it?) Still...what a sad state of affairs when a pop culture mom is an "expert" on ANYTHING.

I mean, what pearls of wisdom could we have expected? Chapters on How To Ruin Career(s) With Two, Now Three Fast-swimming Sperm? Adventures in Head Shaving?

I can't help but picture the family meeting over this, the Spears's last hope for cash cow offspring since Britney's career looks doomed. Lynn, with all her savvy experience in a "tabloid world" must have known a certain medical option held too much risk of exposure, leaving them with one choice (forgive the expression). So, Jamie Lynn, a child herself, is having a baby--one with plenty of cousins, thanks to her older sis.

It's enough to make a person long for the days of Madonna and Papa Don't Preach.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Can Waiting ACTUALLY Pay Off?

Seriously?

Honestly?

You're kidding, right?

That's all I'm saying for now. Don't anyone hold your breath. Don't anyone start counting chickens.

Just sayin'...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kill Me Now...

Oh, wait...No. Kill me in utero.

I knew it would come to this eventually.

If, in the future, you happen to be browsing this site and the link doesn't work, feel free to email me to ask what this was about.

By the way, I left a comment...y'know, like, defending my LIFE. Maybe I'll blog about it later.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Waiting for Godot

Ha. Did y'all have to read that in high school? I did. Don't remember what the big "message" was, if there WAS any (which tells you something about my literary prowess), but I always liked the title.

Anyway....so...speaking of waiting...I'd given up on my submission to the Christmas Memories anthology. I figured the book must be out by now and I never received a copy, let alone a final contract.

BUT!

I should know by now that the writing/publishing biz works in mysterious ways. Got an email from the editor today saying the book has been delayed until 2008 and has been retitled "Christmas Through a Child's Eyes" and that although she hadn't seen the galleys, if I was receiving the email, I should be in the book.

Fun, huh?

But...geesh...2008? I have to wait until 2008???

I'd rather wait for Godot.

Whoever/whatever he/she/it turned out to be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas at The Bellagio





Remember those cool pix I posted of the Conservatory at The Bellagio awhile back? (I'm too lazy to put the link in here, so use your imagination.) Anyway, on Sunday, Ann and I made a point of checking out the Christmas version.















The reindeer are made from pecans! The white flowers you see are carnations, and I don't remember the rest (yes, I make an excellent reporter).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dear Harrah's:

Just a couple recommendations for improvement at your Flamingo Hotel property.

1. Please get with the program and remove alarm clocks from rooms. Waking up at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning was not part of the plan.

2. You know that crack security chick you had patrolling the floors around 3 in the afternoon? Try putting her on the schedule between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. when all the crazies are out slamming doors, running up and down the hall, and generally keeping me from a good night's sleep.

3. That piece of tape substituting for the backing to the remote control doesn't work very well.

Other than that, thanks for the great time. Loved the view.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fascinating

From dictionary.com:

Fascinating - "of great interest or attraction; enchanting; charming; captivating: a fascinating story; fascinating jewelry"

Let's compare the above with Barbara Walter's ten most fascinating people of 2007 to see how they stack up, shall we?

Hugo Chavez - Now I see where he would have been an obvious choice what with all the power-grabbing he's failed at lately. Not to mention how he called President Bush a donkey. But WTF? Barbara's interview showed him to be, in actuality, a boring schmoe. No charisma and truly no charm.

Don Imus - Personally, I happen to like Don Imus, and I'm glad to see him back on the airwaves. And, okay, the EVENT many months ago was fascinating, but I'm not sure that makes the MAN fascinating. So which radio station did he wind up on? Oh...wasn't it WABC? And which channel was Barbara's special aired on? Oh. I get it.

Katherine Heigle - If I were a betting gal (and y'all know I am), I'd place a hefty wager on the proposition that the majority of Americans have never even heard of this woman. Charming and attractive, yes. But fascinating? Hardly.

The Myspace Guys - Granted, news coverage of Myspace has amped up in recent months (probably because of the sale) but in truth this craze started waaaay before 2007. Come on, Barbara. You're a little late to the party on this one.

Jennifer Hudson - I don't mean to be politically incorrect, but if this is the token pick of color, in my opinion it's a little lacking. Don't get me wrong, the girl oozes charm and talent--I'll give her that. But so do a lot of other Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. What? No Native Americans in the Top Ten?

Jason Timberlake - Hate to say it, but I rescind my earlier post on whether he's brought sexy back. He has. Plus, from what I gather, this is one down-to-earth, well-reared (no pun intended) guy. Good call, Babs.

Bill Clinton - Oh, can we say YAWN? What makes him fascinating THIS YEAR? Just because he happens to be married to a woman running for president? And oh--by the way--doesn't that make HER more fascinating than HIM?

David and Victoria (AKA Posh) Beckham - Okay, worse than yawn-inducing, we're talking coma time. Truly, I can think of no more boring couple. She has zero personality and doesn't smile. He's at least cute if you can get past all the tattoos. Fascinating? Nuh-uh.

J K Rowling - I buy the notion of her being fascinating, but not for 2007, so it's a timing issue. How about when the Harry Potter phenomenon really got underway...say about five years ago??

So, there you have it. The Top Ten Most Fascinating People of 2007 according to Barbara Walters--who's what, about 102? In an interview with Fox's Bill O'Reilly, she confirmed the selection process was less than scientific. In fact, there WAS no process. Oh, she says she discussed (argued about) them with her producer, but she had the last word.

Which probably explains the omission of Rosie O'Donnell from the list, huh? I mean, if Don Imus makes it, doesn't the ex-View detonator qualify?

Now that I've dissed Barbara's choices, you're probably wondering about mine. I'm workin' on it, okay? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Desperate Housewives

No, not me. Hahahaha. Although, if I WERE a housewife, I'd probably be the desperate kind.

I'm talking about the television show. I love love love when I learn about storytelling from a medium other than books. In this case, the lessons are abundant, including HOW NOTs and HOW TOs.

'Cuz one season (last season?) the show just sucked big time. Too many tangents, too many characters we didn't grow to love. Besides the whole mystery of the guy in the basement getting tedious, somehow they lost what they do best: combine comedy and drama.

This year, they've got it back in spades.

I may be biased, but to me it starts with the writing. From good writing comes great characters. From great characters comes riveting stories. Check it out:

There's:

Ditsy Susan--the TSTL (too stupid to live character) who redeems herself with a substance abuse storyline.
Manic Mom Lynette--the least-likely-to-be-a-mom-yet-has-four-kids character gets the cancer storyline
Bree--the Stepford wife character--gets the heartbreak of disappointing kids storyline
Gabriella--the simpering high-maintenance beauty character--gets the passionate-yet-impossible-love storyline
And last but not least--Edie--the woman who flaunts her sexuality and isn't afraid to use it as a tool--gets the unrequited love storyline.

I'm just saying. Being hooked on Desperate Housewives defines the meaning of guilty pleasure.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Nano Wrap-Up

Hm. By the looks of my calendar, NaNoWriMo ended at midnight on Friday...and...um...well, I guess I didn't make it to 50,000, did I? Not sure what the final total wound up at...nor whether I wrote more than I ordinarily would have. Bottom line, I wrote the beginning of one story, two entire short stories, the beginning of a third, and (hold your ears against the cymbal crash), about 750 words on ye old Untitled WIP.

Oh, and when I really slammed into the proverbial writing wall, I wrote queries. Actually sent them out, too.

Y'spose that counts?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Accomplishment This Past Sunday

So, I bought new tennis shoes.

Sadly, a humbling experience. See, the last time I procured footwear for the purpose of exercise, the year began with a one instead of a two.

Anyway, I go to the mall, I find the directory, and immediately locate Lady Foot Locker--figuring at least I won't mistake the men's shoes for the women's. Then I trot on down there (well, no...I walk since, y'know, I'm not wearing tennis shoes), and survey the display on the wall.

A zillion models of various shapes and colors are stacked in columns, all basically looking the same.

I decide to go with what's recognized the world over--the Nike swoosh. Now, you have to understand that to me, there's no such thing as a "cute" tennis shoe; nevertheless, I pick two of the cute-est and solicit the assistance of a clerk.

"Can I see these in an 8-1/2?"

"If we still have them in that size," she says, regarding me doubtfully.

While she disappears to the back, I contemplate whether it's the size she doubts, or my choice.

She returns with an apologetic smile. "Sorry. We only have them in a six or a nine." Again, the doubtful look. "You're a runner?"

"Uh, no."

Relief. "Those are for hard-core runners. What'll you be using them for?"

For taking up space in my closet. "Uh, aerobics. Y'know. Working out at the gym." And if I can't even tell the difference between a running shoe and an aerobics shoe, I'm obviously a sham. I wanna slink out of the store.

But I persevere. Swallowing my slacker shame, I allow her to choose a couple styles, I try them on, and in the space of ten minutes, I'm outta there, carrying my new workout shoes plus a brand new gym bag.

The hard part is over, right? I mean, 90% of fitness is just getting off your butt to get the appropriate shoes, doncha think?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ugh

You never know from whence inspiration will spring, do ya? In my case, it comes from the fabulous news that writing friend Brooke made the finals of RWA's New England Chapter's First Kiss contest. Her glee reminds me of the scattered moments I myself have enjoyed during this arduous writing process--the ones that made me feel like, hey, maybe I CAN write!

Somehow (and this is really kinda cool), her excitement was contagious 'cuz it sent me re-visiting the WIP I haven't worked on in...oh...let's just say a WHILE. I mean, how can I continue to write (and sell!) story after to story to TR (by the way, sold a 2-parter this month--part 1 appears in February, part 2 in March), but have so much trouble cranking out the novel-length crap?

I'll tell ya why. (Even though you didn't really ask--it's okay; I can HEAR you wondering.)

The answer is (drum roll, please)...it's the story, stupid (thanks, Bill and Hillary). Trust me on this. Thirty pages versus four-hundred is...sigh...need I explain?

Particularly for a pantser/quasi-plotter. (Oh, who'm I kidding? Almost TOTAL pantser.) So tonight, I did what I should have done...maybe eons ago...certainly months. I took the time (ah, so boring) to enter onto a spreadsheet, chapter-by-chapter summaries of the action thus far. 'Cuz here's the deal: I've written 258 pages of a 360 page book. It was time to see how the plot hangs together, whether the turning points (if any!) are in the right place...what we're building up to and where the big bang(s) should be.

And when I was finished...well, it'd be really cool if I were to write: DING DING DING! Epiphanies galore!

Didn't happen.

When I was finished...I faced the same dilemma that probably made me pause in the first place. I don't know whether to proceed in a linear fashion...or (I'm shivering as I type this) to play around with re-ordering some of the scenes. Okay, I know big-time authors do it constantly. I KNOW editors (who tend to see more clearly) suggest this kinda thing all the time. Definitely a skill to learn no matter what.

Doesn't mean the thought doesn't scare me sh*tless.

It's hard enough to write a book from A to Z. Now I'm considering rearranging Q R S T so that it's more like STQR...which, understandably, will screw up U, V, and possibly N or maybe L. Frightening.

And obviously, why I decided it was time to blog tonight, huh? Trust me, if I hadn't already checked in on every website I monitor, I'd be doing that, too.

Hm. Did I ever solve that last game of Free Cell?

Postscript: Just did the math. I've written 12 short stories this year, averaging 30 pages a piece. Yep. 360 total pages. Enough for a whole BOOK.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Contrary To The Lyrics...

Shari and I are sitting at the bar chatting with a man we haven't seen in quite some time, when I notice the telltale signs in his eyes. A stranger is approaching.

The woman stands between us, her attention on the man. "Is your name Tony?"

"Excuse me?"

"Sorry. I thought you were someone I knew. Tony."

"No." He shakes his head with a smile. "Not Tony."

She disappears.

"I get that all the time," the man tells us.

"I'm surprised more people don't mistake you for someone they used to hang out with at a bar," I say.

"Oh, I get that, too."

I ponder what it's like to walk into a bar where everybody should know your name, but doesn't...and then Shari went to dance with the star.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reasons To Query Widely, Query Often

1. Partial sent to Publisher X November 2006.

- A year later, no word.

2. Query sent to Publisher Y November 2006.

- A year later, no word.

3. Query sent to Agent X March 2006.

- 8 months later, no word.

4. Full sent to Agent Y August 2006.

- Three months later, no word.

5. Full sent to Publisher Z took 13 months to get the Ix-nay.

Okay, there ARE exceptions. Email queries usually get a pretty quick response. Partials and fulls, understandably, take awhile...but a year's kinda hard to stomach, ain't it? (Oh, and let's be clear: none of the entities referenced are in the camp who don't respond if they're not interested.)

The GOOD news is that by the time anyone reads my stuff, my genre may be back in action.

Ha. One can hope.

P.S. These "stats" are for different manuscripts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving...

and all through the house....oh, wait. Wrong holiday.

Anyway, was contemplating the upcoming evening, feeling odd about not having plans. Must be a hangover from college days when this was a night to celebrate--the end of mid-terms and a long drive home to family I hadn't seen in months.

Instead, this year, the highlight of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will consist of a stop at the market for old lady spinster food (Lean Cuisines) and a spot in front of the TV for Project Runway.

Geez. Is my life circling the toilet, or what?

Kidding.

So, Shoot Me

How rude. My computer died, taking with it, all but the title of my original post. Now I'm too bored with the topic to resurrect it. Trust me, though. It was full of original thought, persuasively presented, and charmingly flip.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why, Why, Why...

…do I get so, so, so, much pleasure from eating the wrong food? I mean, it’s some sort of curse, right? Or, maybe I’m one of those people who went AWOL while God was handing out the nutritious eating gene.

Whatever.

So, last night I’m sitting next to my step-brother (not the one from Peru/Chile, but the one from Santa Fe, New Mexico who I haven’t seen for eight years, and oh yes—he’s a health nut), and he asks me if I like asparagus.

The question causes me much soul searching.

How do you tell someone like him that the only vegetable you’re likely to consume comes in the potato variety, preferably French fried?

“I don’t eat fruits and vegetables,” I mumble pathetically. Then I add, kinda desperately, so he’ll know I’m not an idiot: “I’m gonna die young.” But just to take the edge off my comment—maybe fool him a little—I eat two spears of asparagus along with the chicken and salad.

Then I follow it all up with chocolate pecan pie and frozen yogurt. And for good measure I continue nibbling on crackers and salmon/cream cheese pate.

::Sigh::

Wait...uh-oh...did someone just open a bag of Fritos in the front office???

Watch me lay rubber down the hallway...



Saturday, November 17, 2007

It Kinda Works

When NaNoWriMo first kicked off this month, they didn't quite have their act together on the stuff fondly known as widgets. Well, the one I picked isn't the one I remember from last year, but it'll have to do. I mean, to my mind, the optimum would be a bar thingy showing progress toward the goal, and this one just makes it look like writer friend Jacqui Jacoby has finished, when in fact, she's just beating the hell out of me...which, I guess, may be the point.

Off to get my ass in gear....stay tuned.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

Oh, wait. I think that was what Gerald Ford said about Watergate.

Maybe I shouldn't equate it with the Triskelion debacle. Anyway, here's the deal: An epublisher named Siren bought the Triskelion contracts at auction for $1500, and in a gesture of good will, anounced its intention to release all rights back to the authors.

Now, I'm not sure if I need to do the Snoopy dance or what, cuz on Exhibit A in all the legal mumbo jumbo, there was a release date across from my name, so I think I was already "safe." Still...I'm thrilled to pieces for authors who had multiple works tied up in this mess. No doubt, they will find new cyberhomes for their books.

As for me, I'm done with the epub route. Finito. Finished. Not my thing. No offense to those of you making a career from it, but when you write straight contemporary nonerotic romance, epubbing isn't the place to be.

Did I gain anything from the experience? Uh, no Not really. It was a huge drain on my time with very, very little return--monetarily or otherwise.

Would I do it again? Uh, no. See previous paragraphs.

Am I sorry I did it? Uh, yes. At the time I signed the contract, I had a request for the manuscript from Dorchester. Knowing they take at least a year to read and respond--and that even then, the chances were slim of an acceptance--I went with the epub. For the instant gratification, you might say--always a questionable basis on which to make a decision.

Worse, though, is that I moved from Pro status to PAN status in RWA's eyes...which means, I can no longer compete in all the contests for unpublished authors...which, in turn, means I cut off one of the few avenues to editors and agents that exist.

Plus, ya think a New York publisher would touch an epubbed book even though it had only been on the market for a couple months? Uh, no. Probably not. So Stealing Amy basically goes in the trash heap.

Ah, well. Live and learn. Er, or not.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tell Me...

Why, why, WHY do they do it?

I’m talking about bull shitters. (And let’s be clear—there’s no such thing as a bull shit artist, because if he were an artist you wouldn’t know he was bull shitting. Um…did you follow that??)

Anyway, last night, the lovely Anna Margarita de la Cruz and I are sitting in a fine dining establishment, enjoying the first cocktails of the evening, when a man recognizes me from across the room and drops by to say hello.

Now, I’ve known this guy for years—okay, as well as anyone can know a bar acquaintance--I see him a couple times a month, I’ve met his wife, I know his friends—hell, I even dated one of them way back when.

So, why, why, WHY does he proceed to spend the next twenty minutes boring us with what he does, what he owns, where he travels, and what a hot shot he is? Permit me to pick a few words and phrases at random to paint the picture: my driver…my limo…I’m the guy they call…Vegas for four days…and (my personal favorite, said no less than five times) I’ll be out of the country.

I mean, what’s wrong with saying I’ll be traveling? I’ll be going out of town? And, trust me…this guy has NO limo, NO driver.

Oh, wait. The best part? Supposedly, he’s dropped by the restaurant because he’s “bringing some bands in” (although he’s, um, basically an insurance agent)…and he’s “consulting” with the owners, “helping them figure a way to rearrange the layout so that music in the bar area doesn't bother guests in the dining area.”

And, get this: when a policeman or firefighter goes down, this guy’s the first person they call.

Huh?

Wow…talk about a jack-of-all-trades.

Except that I know the truth. Speaking of jack, a friend of his once told me this guy has jack to his name (big surprise).

Grrr. It seemed he’d never leave. Our wine glasses sat empty, the waitress too polite to interrupt. Then he left, and she appeared instantly. Anna Margarita, never having met the subject of this rant before, questioned her about the guy’s relationship to the restaurant.

“None,” she confirmed. “No offense if he’s a friend of yours, but I don’t like him.”

Later, we got the same response from the bartender.

So, again…sigh…I ask, what for?? Why the need to impress—especially, when he must KNOW I KNOW the truth?

::Shuddering::

It’s creepy, that’s what it is.

Pathological and creepy.

And, yes. A bit sad.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where Have I Been?

14. Justin Timberlake - He may be bringing sexy back but so far, from what I can tell, it hasn't shown up yet.

13. Will Yun Lee - Who?

12. Adrian Grenier - Granted, he's got bedroom eyes and the tousled hair, but if we're going Entourage, I pick Jeremy Piven

11. Ben Affleck - Tired. Really. Just tired.

10. Shemar Moore - Who?

9. Javier Bardim - Who?

8. Will Smith - Okay, this choice makes sense

7. Dave Annable - Who?

6. Johnny Depp - I'll give ya sexy, but are we sure he bathes?

5. James McAvoy - Who?

4. Brad Pitt - Again, tired. Very, very, tired. And I've never been able to see past the chipmunk jowls.

3. Ryan Reynolds - Who?

2. Patrick Dempsey - Okay, I get it. Grey's Anatomy, which I don't watch. McDreamy, right? Can a man truly be sexy with such a stupid nickname?

And now...drum roll, please...this year's sexiest men alive....is....


1. Matt Damon - HUH? Come on, People. I don't THINK so. I mean, nice guy and all. Loved him in The Talented Mr. Ripley...but sexy? Here's my new litmus test: if I can't picture a guy in a romantic comedy, he's not leading man material.

Now, it's entirely possible I'm either old or out-of-touch, probably both ...'cuz this year's list baffles me. I've never even HEARD of half of them, and the rest don't do a THING for me (with the exception of Will Smith). I mean, whaddya think, ladies?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No, No, NaNo

Some of you may have noticed the NaNoWriMo logo I added awhile back. You're probably wondering about my progress.

Well, let's just say...I suck.

See, here's the deal. I'd planned to use vacation downtime to do some plottin' and plannin'. Y'know...like during airport layovers...while sunning on deck...time when I could let the muse work her magic.

Except things didn't turn out that way. I spent the airport layovers in bars chatting with strangers. I spent the time on deck comparing war stories with my young pal, Ali.

It seems the muse went on vacation, too.

Oh, don't get me wrong. In a moment of clarity the morning we hit St. Maarten, I wrote a 1200-word story for submission to Cup of Comfort for their next Christmas book, so the cruise wasn't a total lost cause in the writing arena.

But I came home with nothing, nada, zilch in the way of what to write for Nano. Then, the night before, I suddenly remembered an idea I'd had for a series. Kind of a Stephanie Plum meets Elle Wood meets Desperate Housewives thing. Even came up with a cool opening.

So, on the first day of November, I cranked out 2,000 words in true Nano fashion. The next day, I hit a wall. I kept writing, but I quickly lost enthusiasm for the idea. It just wasn't working.

That's the problem with doing Nano for the fifth time. Veteran blog readers may remember my first foray into crash-and-burn writing. Spit out 50,000 words (that's 200 manuscript pages) in 3 weeks. Ah...to return to the "ignorance is bliss" era. 'Course the output was out-and-out crap, but still...last year, I managed 36,000 words of a book I'm still trying to finish.

Anyway...so on day three of NaNo, I decided screw it. I'll use the time to work on short stories for True Romance. By NaNo standards, I should be able to spew out five or six.

Or, two.

Bottom line--it's day 13 of the novel writing frenzy month, and my total is currently about 8,500 words--far short of the 21,658 I should be at. Writing buddies keep saying things like, "hey--that's 8,500 words you hadn't written before," to which I say: "But I probably wrote 8,500 words in the same period of time last month."

In short, NaNo is a bust.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Homage to the M's and A's

Kathy Griffin may have "her gays", but I've got my M&A's...one set on the West Coast, the other on the East. Today's post pays tribute to them.

To the A's:

Thank you for not having a jealous bone in your bodies and for knowing romance isn't about the amount of time spent alone with your guy

Thank you for not getting upset when I accidentally know more about upcoming plans than you do

To the M's:

Thank you for lifting my heavy luggage and handling the taxi drivers

Thank you for not rolling your eyes when subjected to all the "girly" conversation

To all four of you:

Thank you for not adhering to society's rules that people oughta come in couples

Thank you for never making me feel like a third wheel

Thank you for never pressuring me to round out a threesome into a foursome

Thank you for sharing your zest for adventure and making it possible for me to experience mine

I feel blessed to have y'all in my life!

Marty and Ann








Marty and Ali

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

We Now Return You...

...to our regularly scheduled program. AKA Randy's normal life.

So, let's see how many of you are seasoned readers, shall we? Let's pretend we're back in college and it's SAT (GRE/LSAT/GMAT whatever) time, and your score depends on the proper answer to one--and only one--multiple choice question.

Here goes:

A. Randy got home from her cruise, went to bed, and unpacked the next day after work.

B. Randy got home from her cruise, unpacked and did laundry, then went to bed.

C. Randy got home from her cruise, unpacked what she needed for the next day, then completed the process when she had time over the following week.

D. Eight days after her cruise, Randy's open suitcase is blocking the front door, with clothes spilling out all over the foyer, and shards of broken mirror sparkling on the tile.

Okay, show of hands. Who picked A, B, or C...?

BUZZ. ROOKIES, ALL OF YOU!!

Longtime blog readers know D is the correct answer.

And, for extra credit, the essay question: WHEN and HOW will the situation described in option D change?

Ding Ding DING!

Right. The maid comes tomorrow.

Which means Randy will rise three minutes early, stuff all the crap back into the suitcase and throw it in the closet.

Class dismissed. (Gold stars for those who answered the essay question correctly.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Don't Try This With Dial-Up

More cruise highlights. And if I could figure out what happened to the utility I had that allowed me to capture video from my videocam, this would be Oscar-worthy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Cruise Shots

See, here's the thing. I really should have taken notes each night, because I've already forgotten the details of yesterday, let alone last week. So, let's rely on the pictures, shall we?

Oh, and I just uploaded them in reverse order. Geesh. And now what I've written isn't where it's supposed to be. Ack. Bear with me on the spacing.

Anyway, Ali and Marty on our first formal night. We were (where else?) at the casino bar just before dinner.


Next is a shot of some of our Boston friends. I believe that's Claudia on the left, then Sandy, Margaret, and Jimbo. If I were ever stranded on a desert island, these are the three I'd choose for partners, and here's why: Sandy would supply the food and the box of wine, Margaret would keep us in shape with line dancing, and Jimbo would entertain us by singing Red Beans and Rice!












Then there's me...trying out the self-timer in my stateroom. Trust me, it took several shots to get a good one. My cabin guy (who I met only once--guess the fawning service went out with the advent of prepaid tips) was a little towel animal-challenged. They all looked like elephants.

Sunset, first night out of Ft. Lauderdale. Not sure I saw another one the whole cruise, but I always like sunRISES better anyway. And, yes...despite the late nights, I got a bunch of good ones, particularly coming into St. Maarten and St. Lucia. More on those later.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Firsts

Frog legs (yep...just like chicken)

Rueben sandwich (omigod, y'all...why didn' t anyone tell me about these???)

Missed a formal night

Accessed the internet at sea

Conversed with a cross-dresser (and maybe got hit on???)

First time on St. Lucia

First time I didn't visit the photo gallery to see pictures (especially after the sour look on a new friend's face who reported coming across one of me and Ali)

First time I didn't purchase ONE souvenir on the ship

First time I didn't eat ONE breakfast (okay, that's a lie--but a spoonful of scrambled eggs hardly counts, does it? Oh, and unless you count pina coladas as breakfast--which, as a matter of fact, I do)

First time sailing through a storm that had a name (Noel--figures it'd be a guy)

And, now...for your viewing pleasure...Miss Ali on board the Carnival Miracle, accompanied by Larry The Piano Player with assistance by Buster.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back To Reality

While waiting for brain cells to reassemble and for the time to sort out and upload pictures, I thought I'd take a moment to make some random comments about what it's like to come back from an 11-day vacation.

First, in spite of living in a hooked-up world (and my meager efforts to obtain news first in Ft. Lauderdale and then on the ship), you can still miss a whole lot of what goes on. Maybe that's a good thing?? I dunno. But I'd hate to be the stupid one at the cocktail party who speaks of Robert Goulet as though he's still alive.

See, here's the thing. Our cruiseship had lots of network stations--only they came out of DENVER, so I'm all up on local Colorado news, but not so much on the rest of the nation. (Oh, and did you know Amelia Earhart is alive and well doing helicopter traffic news? Yeah, she looks pretty good for someone lost at sea decades ago). As for national stuff, well...Carnival skips right over that by giving us CNN international news. Let me just point out that there's a big old world out there, much of which I could care less about while I'm trying to figure out how close Tropical Storm Noel is to our ship (VERY close, for the record).

Don't even get me started on the SoCal fires. I'm STILL trying to figure out where they were...and weren't.

So, coming back to work is like waking up from a 10-day coma and trying to piece together what I missed. Thus far, I've gone through about 1000 personal emails and about 2000 business ones. Good thing I put some of my writing groups on "digest" or there'd be another 1000. To tell you the truth, I just deleted the jokes. At one time, I would have painstakingly opened them all--not daring to miss a gem--but these days, life's too short to read ONCE AGAIN what George Carlin supposedly said about today's America.

Do I sound cranky?

I am.

I wanna be back on the Caribbean with friends Marty and Ali...rain or no rain, I don't care.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blogging From The Caribbean

So far I've met three guys...who are gay (not that there's anything wrong with it)...and five who are...crossdressers (not that there's anything wrong there, either)..but geez...not boding well for a shipboard romance on this end, that's for sure!

Meanwhile, California burns, and all I've got is the local Denver news which isn't very helpful. Especially since it gives me the wrong time. Oh, and CNN Headline News, but seeing Qualcom Stadium over and over doesn't tell me much about what's going on in Del Mar Heights, Fallbrook, or Santa Clarita. (Oh, and note to the CNN newsperson--I'm pretty sure an ember from the Malibu fire did NOT fly all the way to Santa Clarita to start that one).

Okay, time is money in the old ship's internet cafe, so signing off for now....

Sunday, October 21, 2007

From Ft. Lauderdale...


Needless to say, it's always a bad sign when friggin LIFTING INSTRUCTIONS are attached to your bag. Hey, at least I handled the carry-on, and have the pain in my thighs today to prove it.


Anyway, with grey brows plucked and support garments packed (and on 3 hours sleep--gotta love it when your alarm clock goes off at 3:45 a.m.), I made it to Ft. Lauderdale yesterday. Met fascinating people along the way, including a professional weight lifting female who'd been on the Gulf Coast helping the reconstruction effort with her church group.


Met up with old cruise buds Marty and Ali at the Airport Hilton--the scene last night of a Homecoming Dance for the largest high school (5,000 students!) in Florida. Eight hundred kids converged on the hotel in the most stunning gowns seen this side of Oscar Night in Hollywood. And, MAN...so many hot young chicks! Poor Marty, I'm afraid his libido went into overdrive.

Had dinner at the Rustic Inn about a mile away. Large portions and my third meal of the day, but hey--I'm on vacation. Plus I did all that working out with the luggage today....
Okay, off to monitor the fire activity in my hometown. Geesh. Winds+October=some pretty frightening television coverage. Stay safe, Malibu!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oops

The day of departure approaches, and I keep a wary eye on my nails. Is one about to break? Are they too long to make it through the week?

Impulsively, I find a nearby nail salon that takes walk-in appointments. When I arrive, I like the looks of the place. All Asian men.

Right away, I'm seated in one of those spa chair thingies. One old Asian guy goes to work on my feet, the other starts massaging my back.

I'm in heaven.

All I can think about is how five minutes before, I was staring at a computer and now an old Asian man who I've never met is touching me more intimately than any man has touched me in years. (Okay, to be fair, NO man has touched me in a long time, intimately or otherwise.)

Thoughts race through my head at the wonderfulness of it all. I think about a friend of mine who does this on a weekly basis--although, let's be honest, she's one of those freaks of nature who actually reaches (um, shall we say...a sexual peak?) during a manicure. Then I worry about the fact that I'm thinking about my friend's sexual proclivities when I should be concentrating on making my next appointment. I'm also worrying about how this is all going through my mind as one long blog post.

Anyway, I get the whole ball of wax. The shoulder-back-arm-hand-finger-calf-ankle-foot-toe massage.

And it's bliss.

When it's all over, I look at my nails.

They're gone.

I mean, literally, they couldn't be any shorter.

Somehow "take them down to half"--his words, not mine--translated to "slash the suckers down to the quick."

I AM SO BUMMED.

Lesson learned: Asian men/massage = good; Asian men/manicure = not so much

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Random Thought On My Way To Work

About a year ago, an attractive single guy moved in next door. (Yeah, imagine the excitement chez Randy.) Anyway, it occurred to me this morning that in all that time, we've exchanged "hi's" on precisely two occasions.

Is it me, or is it him? Or, is it just L.A....?

Come to think of it, I've lived in my townhome for over 25 years and not ONCE have I received an invite to someone's house. (Okay, conversely, I've never asked a neighbor over, either.)

Is it me, or is it them? Or, is it just L.A....?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hot Babes

Amazing to what depths I'll sink for a post, huh? Does it count that one of the ladies pictured below celebrates a birthday tomorrow??

Ah...sixth grade...I remember it like it was yesterday. So many firsts. So much newness. In mid-year, we got transferred to a brand new school, so we got to choose stuff like our mascot (go Mustangs!) and our school colors (blue and silver). I was elected editor of the first school newspaper and (in quite the coup) got to assist the L.A. Superintendent of Schools with the ribbon cutting ceremony when we opened. (Yeah, I'm thinking I may have peaked in 6th grade).

For some reason, my posse and I decided we needed a cheerleading squad, although I don't recall there being a team to root for. (Note the homemade pom poms and the freakishly long skirts.)

In the back row, from left to right: Rhoni (check out the stylish glasses), Cynthia (happy birthday, Cynth!), and Lori (check out the sexy hair swoop).

In the front row, from left to right: Me (eyes closed, pre-braces, and no boobs--yet), Debbie B. (who I never, ever ONCE saw without her hair in a ponytail--not even at sleepovers), and Debbie W (keeper of the flame and owner of the original photo).
















We were inseparable that year and so, so busy. Concerts, boys, shopping at this new thing called a mall, boys, going to the beach, boys...oh, and did I mention we were crazy about boys?

This is probably the only existing photo of the six of us because, by high school, we'd morphed into different human beings. Cynthia moved to Seattle, Lori went to a private school, and Debby B. went to a different public school. I still see Rhoni and Debbie W, have a sporadic email association with Cynthia, and I hear Debbie B. lives close by but I don't know how to reach her. Lori, last I heard (and this was decades ago), was an opera singer in Australia.

Man...those were the days...when a girl could eat whatever she wanted without gaining an ounce... ::sigh::

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Don't Try Building This At Home, Folks



















One big-ass test chamber. I'll let y'all know when it ships so you can get off the road and out of the way.

The Infamous Bankruptcy Update

News flash: our government wastes an amazing amount of money on bullshit. But, you know what? WE, the so-called people make them do it.

That's my big epiphany regarding the brankruptcy filed by the ebpublisher with whom I was briefly involved. I've lost track of how many letters the court has sent me. Multiply that by about 117 authors, and you end up with a lot of postage, copying, and paper, not to mention high dollar billable rates (paid by--guess who? Yes, us taxpayers).

For what?

To protect everyone's rights, including but not limited to: the authors who have contracts tied up, authors owed royalties, miscellaneous creditors, and indeed the rights of the debtors themselves.

But if you ask me, no matter how you slice it, we all get screwed.

Meanwhile, as courts do, the trustee is trying to auction off assets. Well, guess what the assets are? Right. The author contracts, some software, an inventory of print books, and some miscellaneous furniture. I mean, we're not talking Donald Trump, here. Nevertheless, a whole lot of disgruntled authors kinda resent not having control over the books they shed blood, sweat, and tears over. Especially those of us who have letters from the publisher reconveying our rights!

So, along comes a white knight in the form of another epublisher. They've issued a press release stating they intend to bid $1500 for the contracts. Presumably they would then fulfill their end, i.e., publish the books under the original terms. To their credit, this publisher has publicly stated they will work with the authors, letting anyone go who so desires.

Meanwhile, a group of authors has hired an attorney to fight the good fight on moral grounds, hoping to set precedent establishing the rights of authors to their intellectual property. Let's just hope this particular effort doesn't end up prolonging the whole mess.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Stuff to Pack

Phone charger
laptop charger
wireless mouse
retractable phone cord
videocam charger
videocam/TV communication cord
digital camera charger
USB cable
iPod docking station
laptop
videocam
digital camera

And this is just what goes into my carry-on luggage. Whatever did we do before the electronic age?

Packed a lot lighter, I guess.

Friday, October 12, 2007

One Week From Tomorrow! ! !



Shoot. Blogger just ate my post and shut my computer down, and I'm too lazy to resurrect the whole story. Suffice to say, here are the infamous Ali and Marty--with whom I'll be sharing mucho de quality drinking time in the VERY near future.

SOCIAL!!!!!

(Ya had to be there.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Number Nine...Number Nine...

(God, I hated when the Beatles went all weird, like on that song...)

Anyhoo, yesterday I received my NINTH contract from True Romance! Squee! This latest is tentatively scheduled for December's issue but it's not Christmas-themed. (Hey, I'm no dummy--I figured there'd be waaaaay too much competition on those.) My working title was "The Man and The Mountain"--or something like that (I can barely recall)--but no doubt it'll have a better title in the end. Needing a winter setting, I dredged up a story about a woman caught in a horrific storm who takes refuge with a handsome mountain man. (Blah, blah...yadda, yadda.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Never Too Late

This morning, I decided to change careers.

Okay, I know what you're saying to yourself. But, Randy. You're 54 years old. Kinda late, isn't it?

To which I reply: When you discover your true calling in life, you have to follow your heart. And that's why I'm submitting my application to the MLE.







Yep, as you can see by the logo, I plan to become the Michael Jordan of competitive eating. I mean, how hard can it be? I'm pretty sure I possess all the qualifications.

And I'd elaborate on them here, but my brain is busy directing traffic to my digestive system in an effort to process all the FOOD I consumed yesterday at my brother's 60th birthday party.

Hey, when you're a part of the MLE, you're in training 24/7. Tough, but I think I can handle it.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

News Flash! I Finished Reading A Book!

Returning from the RWA National Conference in New York back in 2003, I almost had to pay the surcharge for overweight luggage because of all the freebie books I picked up. Ever since then, I’ve been a whole lot more discriminating when I browse the publisher signings. I even sift through the goody bag and leave behind the ones I know I’ll never read.

That’s because my bedroom is now a shrine to stacks of unread books. And we’re not talking TBR (to be read) piles; we’re talking NTBR (never to be read) and NTBF (never to be finished) piles.

So when Jessica Barksdale Inclan (remember when I met her at the conference in Dallas this year?) graciously offered to send me a book, I accepted but with little hope that it wouldn’t end up suffering the same fate as all the rest.

Well, I was wrong.

Yep, ladies and gents. Not only did I START the book, I FINISHED the book. . .because, FOR ONCE, I discovered a true gem.

I have to admit, my initial impression didn’t bode well. First, because I read mostly romantic comedy and right off the bat, we learn one of the characters has breast cancer. Second, because I favor fast-paced, snarky writing, and Jessica’s voice is more ponderous. . .but so lyrical I couldn’t put the book down.

I’ve never written a review, because I don’t know how to do it without spoilers. Plus I fear my interpretation may not be what the author intended. After all, as readers, what we get from a book is personal and subject to our own life experience, no?

Let me just give you this much: The Instant When Everything Is Perfect is written from three points of view: there’s Mia who’s been married 20+ years to a man she loves, yet craves to fill a void she can’t even define; there’s Mia’s mother Sally who, now that she’s facing mortality realizes she stopped living after her husband died; and Robert−a man afraid to connect.

See? I’m afraid I didn’t do them justice, because all three are so complex, they defy my meager stab at describing them. Take my word for it. You have to read the book.

Lucky for me, Jessica sent TWO freebies. While I go dive into the other one, click here to read an excerpt of The Instant When Everything Is Perfect.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Mixed Bag Of Google

Tracking down long lost friends on Google is one of my favorite time killers. It's kinda like playing Nancy Drew from my desk and cheaper than hiring a P.I.

Blog readers may remember earlier scores like finding my old friend Cynthia up in Seattle. Conveniently, she came complete with a picture and email address at the place she worked. Then there was my childhood friend, Diane. She took a little more effort since she goes by a married name, and it's changed a few times because her husband's a radio personality. I emailed him at the station and voila! Diane responded minutes later.

On both occasions, a flurry of emails ensued, catching up on a lifetime of marriages, divorces, kids...even (gulp)...grandkids.

Sometimes, like adopted offspring discovering birth parents who didn't wanna be found, locating people who somehow slipped from your life doesn't work out so well. Take my ex-boss, for instance. Susan and I worked together for a couple years in the late 70's/early 80's. I was in my twenties, Susan was in her thirties. Both of us just starting out in life. We produced several TV shows together and practically lived in each other's back pockets. I mean, seriously. One time, we worked in a darkened editing room for three solid weeks, only taking off to run home, catch 3 hours of sleep, shower, and return. In her acceptance speech at the Los Angeles local Emmy awards, she said we spent more time together than most married couples.

Cut to thirty years later. I tracked her down at some obscure political website she'd signed a petition on. Off went the email.

A month went by.

I finally decided the address must have been old, when lo and behold, there it was: a response from Susan. Reading between the lines, I detected the unhappiness. The frustration. A career begun with so much potential in the 70's somehow stalled and faded away. Still with the same guy but seemingly mired in a relationship now cracked with age and unfulfilled promise. She didn't seem happy at all.

I wrote back, suggesting we get together some time.

I never heard from her again.

C'est la vie, y'know? No biggie. More importantly, I was glad to have caught up with her. In a sense, I felt (cliche alert) closure.

Which brings me to the other kind of Google search. The one that leads to unexpected places.

Over the course of the seven years I spent in Irvine (college days), I shared apartments with an assortment of roommates. Most I'm still in touch with, but one of them slipped the noose. Naturally, she was on my Google radar, but I'd never found anything.

Until this week.

I clicked on the site without really noting what it was. Even when the Duluth newspaper showed up, I didn't pay attention to its content because--hey, I'm no rookie at this--I know Google's spiders catch the oddest things in their web.

Using "find on this page" to zoom to her name, there it was: Val's obituary.

I was stunned.

I had to read the opening line several times to confirm what it all meant. She'd died nine years before at the age of 45. Married, the mother of four children, and a faithful member of her local Catholic church. Employed for ten years at a beauty salon. Preceded in death by her sister, Gabrielle.

How. Could. This. Be.

To put it mildly, the news blew me away. I shot off an email to our third roommate (another Susan) instantly. Over the years, she'd been looking for Val, too.

Moments later, my phone rang. Sue calling from Houston. We commiserated, expressing a sense of bewilderment that didn't stop with a phone call. For several days, we exchanged emails, trying to get to the bottom of our emotional response to the death of a woman we hadn't seen in nearly thirty years. It felt odd to mourn 9-year old news.

She died so young, we lamented to each other. Was it suicide? Alcoholism? The fact that both possibilities surfaced in our brains says a lot about the Val we knew in our twenties...which made us sad in itself.

Sue suggested calling the hair salon where Val had worked to find out what happened. Meanwhile, I tracked down an address for her surviving sister. I think mostly, we wanted to know what sort of life Val had gone on to live.

Was she happy?

Did we really want to find out?

It's funny how some people exit our lives, and we could care less. Others we don't mean to lose--who, no matter how many years go by, we figure to catch up with one day.

Only, we don't and then it's too late. Suddenly, they're forever frozen in our memory--like the vision I have of Val in her faded purple shorts, high-heeled sandals, flawless complexion...the Nordic beauty belying a severe case of low self-esteem. I remember how she worked a full-time department store job while attending beauty school at night in order to make something of herself. I remember her shame when our apartment managers discovered Val's alcoholic parents living in our parking lot and using the rec room facilities to shower in.

I remember her laugh. And her unquestioning help if you needed her. Sounds trite, I know, but it's true.

I'm still not sure whether Sue and I should delve for more information. Maybe it's better not to know.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

An agent recently told me that because of its content and length, Leftovers is suitable for one-- AND ONLY ONE--place: Harlequin's NEXT line.

Well, guess what? Word came down yesterday that NEXT is folding. Yep. Harlequin's foray into category-like boomer lit is no more as of January.

Hate to say it, but I'm not surprised. NEXT was supposed to be about women in the next stage of life--y'know...empty nesters, late-in-life-pregnancies, women starting over after their marriages fell apart...a noble idea, to my mind. Only one problem: I picked up a freebie at the RWA conference in Dallas and was underwhelmed by the writing.

Which (I hate to say this even more) is how I feel about most books marketed as romance. The honest-to-god truth is, out of the hundreds of books I've picked up at the conference, I've read--as in gotten to the end of--about........two. Maybe three. I'm ready to admit this says more about me than the books. But then, since lines seem to come and go faster than new sitcoms, perhaps its a combo. Flipside, Duets, Bombshell, Everlasting...all category lines gone by the wayside.

And it's not just category...chick lit imprints have dwindled, too.

In fact, the only "romance" doing well seems to be the stuff that appeals to the younger demographic, e.g., erotica, paranormal, sci-fi, urban fantasy, and so forth.

I'm sorry, but yuck. Just not my thing. So forget writing and searching for markets, what's a girl like me gonna read?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Blog Topic Anyone?

I'm at a loss (yes, ME!) for blog a topic this week. Oh, sure. I COULD talk about the Saturday gambling trip--and how I spent approximately EIGHT hours in the car, but after that, you'd pretty much know the whole story.

Or, I could caution my readers about carrying your ancient dog outside to do her business lest you fall down the stairs and break your ankle in three places--well, but that pretty sums up THAT story too, doesn't it? (No, not me...Juli in San Diego)

Hm. What else? Happy Birthday to my dad who turned 85 yesterday and had to suffer through a family get together that was noisy and obnoxious...but fun.

Um...let's see...in writing news, I got a rather flattering request via email...and that's all I'm gonna say on THAT subject.

And far be it from me to jump on the Britney bandwagon. Talk about an easy target for bloggers!

So...until the news breaks, th-th-that's it for now ffffffolks.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Good News

This just in via email...

Dear Beloved,

I am Mrs.Ganeshwary Ajith Kumar from the war torn district of Jaffna in
Sri Lanka{which i suppose you know about} with my 6 year old son. I am
married to a contractor here who happened to loose his life in the war
zone because he is opposed to the rebel group. Since the death of my
husband and my 15 year old daughter things have not been the same.
We managed to get ourselves in the Chavakachcheri division of Jaffna
peninsula where we have been in a camp with more or less to eat and
drink. I have been making some arrangement to leave here with my son
and relocate to another country but it is not easy because i have no
money with me. I have a consignment which contains cash and other
valuables that my late husband always tell me about that he deposited
in a security firm in Europe which i will require your assistance to
get so that i could make haste and leave this war torn zone. I really
need the content of this consignment because for you to get out of here
safely you have to pay heavy money to the rebels so that they will
guide you safely to a safe zone and i have nothing on me to do that
that is why i contacted you to assist me get the consignment so that i
could make arrangements to leave this place.

At the moment my only means of communication is through my laptop which
i have with me here {because there is free internet connection around
here} We are afraid of leaving this camp because of constant shelling
and fighting outside. Please i will like you to assist me to have a
safe and better life and also for many more others that are here whom i
want to help get out of here too. I will forever be grateful to you for
helping me and for this kindness.

I will inform you more when i hear from you.

God Bless
Mrs. Ganeshwary Ajith Kumar


Okay, IMAGINE my surprise at my good fortune, because I also got this today:

Hello,

In a drive to ensure the safety of my family's fund for
Investment and safe keeping, I wish to inform you that
all necessary modalities have been concluded and the funds
have left to Europe last week by Express Cargo Flight
(Diplomatic Delivery Agency).
Note carefully the content of the crates is money \"U.S Dollar $14 Million
Cash\" but I did not disclose it to the Courier
Services as Money, rather I informed them that the crates
contains Vital \"DOCUMENTS AND EXPENSIVE AFRICA ART WORK\"
belonging to a family friend and also business partner
(that's you).

Please get back to me as soon as possible with your full
names, address and phone numbers so that I can give you
the shipment document and full contact information of the
diplomatic company so that you may open up a communication
with them to confirm the status and when the trunks would
be delivered to you.

Note that the deposit papers are ready and will be forwarded in due course.

Truly Yours,

Prince Mohammed A.

I mean, what are the ODDS that God would smile on me TWICE in one day? And, how...out of the ALL the people on the planet, did these people find ME?? See, I just KNEW when I informed that wrong number guy about the whole Mario thing the other day, the good KARMA would come back to me.

Can't wait to help these poor people out and collect my cash!

Oh, and I hear there's a bridge in Brooklyn I may be interested in....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Did I Do Before Google?

For Father's Day this year, I went a-huntin' on Google for the perfect gift. What, you ask, do you get the man who has everything? Well, a jigsaw puzzle, natch. Not just any jigsaw puzzle, mind you, but one I had to do research to find. (Hence the Google consultation).

Ah...there it was. The perfect picture. The ONLY puzzle I found with what I wanted. Click, click, click, BUY.

So, it arrives, my dad opens it on his special day, and hands it directly to Annie (the master puzzler in the family). It's then we notice something odd about the damn thing. Not only does it contain 1000 pieces (eek)--they're...um...all the same shape. Well, not precisely (although that's what the box says) but close. Maybe four shapes in all in addition to the ones with a flat edge.

I figure this puzzle ain't never goin' together.

But Annie starts on it right away in June. The first time I visit, she's pretty much got the frame. The second time I visit, she's got a large chunk of the middle put together.

Then it gets really, really, hard.

Progress dwindles. But still, she perseveres. I'm SO PROUD of her for not giving up (especially since I would have flushed the whole project MONTHS AGO).

Then, yesterday...new blood!! The visiting step-bro, his wife, and my sis-in-law STORM the puzzle. I mean, they ROCK!!! This sucker may get finished before the next millennium after all!!

So, here now...for your viewing pleasure...I give you THE PUZZLE. (Click on it for a larger view, but in case you can't tell, it's a P-38 Fighter--the airplane my dad flew in WWII.)

You'll never guess who manufactured this torture device...uh-huh. JAPAN. (Fill in your own irony here.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Uncle Mame Blows Into Town

When I was a little girl--about nine or ten--I dragged around one of those autograph books for a couple months. Y'know, not to collect celebrity scrawls, but to have friends and family pen a little remembrance. I have it stashed somewhere in the debris of crap collecting in the cabinets in my bar.

Anyway, in between all the Best Friends 4-Evers and the U R 2 Sweets, is a brief missive (can't remember what it says) to "Sis" and signed "Pat" (your brother).

Except we weren't related. Not at the time. Pat was my brother's best friend.

Well, a couple years later, his mother married my dad, and we indeed became sister and brother. Weird, huh? How did he see the writing on the wall?

So, today he arrives in town (well, in COUNTRY) after an eight year absence. As his daughter Shanan puts it: Duck and cover. Here comes a hurricane.

(To tell you the truth, I'm taking extra vitamins for the duration.)

'Cuz if there's one thing Pat's not, it's normal. Sorry bro' but it's true. Married twice, no three times, um wait...four...he's lived in between Peru and Chile (with time off for a year-long stay in Ghana) for the past couple of decades. Something about gold mines. At least that's the official story.

Catching up should be interesting.

Oh, and if you'd like to see a younger version of him, rent Damn Yankees. He's one of the four little boys singing "You Gotta Have Heart" at the talent show. Don't remember which position he's standing in--the only hint I can give you is that he's NOT the one who is John-Boy from The Waltons.

Oh, and here's a picture of Pat I posted on the 4th of July this year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No Habla

I get home tonight, and there's a voicemail on my machine from 1:30 this afternoon. The tone is rather strident, somehow urgent. Professional and methodical.

Only it's in Spanish, and it's for someone named Mario.

I try to decipher what it is this Mario needs to know. After hitting repeat a couple times, I piece together a location at the corner of Janss and Moorpark. But, um...that's about as far as my Spanish takes me.

I stare at the phone. What if it's a doctor's appointment? What if it's for, like, a CAT-scan and if Mario misses it, he can't get another one for weeks and weeks...what if...okay, slow down.

I may have heard some form of the word 'installation.' Maybe Mario's installing someone's windows? Garage door opener? Heart valve replacement?

I dial in my password again to hear where the call came from, and I punch in the numbers.

"Hi," I say. Then in slow, clearly enunciated tones, I add: "You left a message on my machine for someone named Mario at 1:30 this afternoon, and I just thought I'd better let you know you had the wrong number. I don't speak Spanish, so I hope you understand what I'm saying."

My new sister-in-law (who no-speaka-da-english), arrives tomorrow from Peru. Wait till she gets a-load of my Espagnol.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's New?

Anybody miss me? (Besides Blogreader John, that is?)

Sigh. Sometimes life gets overwhelming in Randyville, y'know? First, there was the Daddy-crisis. Ups and downs there, but (crossing fingers) we're back on the upswing.

Then there was a bit of disappointing writing news. Don't feel comfortable sharing it here, but suffice to say, things were moving forward, then they hit a brick wall.

Anyway, so on Friday evening, I made plans to meet Blogreader Joe at the usual spot for cocktails and "catching up." As I pulled out of my driveway, I thought: "This will be really nice--a way to feel like life's getting back to normal."

R-r-r-r-ring.

Uh-oh.

I answer. It's my brother.

(Remember that rain I was looking forward to? Well, did I mention the timing wasn't great since we're in the middle of putting a new roof on the building at work? And...um...like, it isn't finished?)

Right.

Niagara Falls is cascading onto our tenant's finished goods.

Nice.

My brother frantically asks me to come help move stuff. I give a thought to my four-inch heels and "nightclub attire." Oh, well. I throw the engine in park, dash inside for tennis shoes, tear back out to the car, run over to the bar to tell cellphone-less Joe I'll be back whoknowswhen, and race down the freeway toward Simi.

Halfway there, my brother calls to say never mind.

Crap.

Well, I'm already almost there, so I proceed. When I arrive, about six people are sitting around chatting. Apparently, I've missed the panic phase. There's still a pump to be found, though. And an employee who'll know where it is.

I locate the employee, get the info, pay my dues...yada, yada...and get the hell out of there.

Never a dull moment lately.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Very Rare and Cold September Storm...

...is making its way toward L.A.

We here in southern California are braced (that's what we do in this situation, we brace) for something we haven't seen, heard, smelled, or touched in, like, forever. I'm sure all the local TV stations are already on storm watch, and the Doppler Radar thingy has been dusted off and had its batteries checked.

Bring. It. On.

I. Can't. Wait.

(Although figuring out what to wear this morning posed a huge dilemma since I haven't yet shifted to winter-wear mode--not that I do much of that all year-long, but still...)

Anyway, the clouds are gathering, the temps have dropped, and Mr. Sun has disappeared. Can this truly be September?? I mean, they're predicting hail in some areas...and snow at higher elevations. Can Christmas be far behind??

And, um, too bad we're in the middle of re-roofing our building, huh? Talk about poor timing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Venturing Off Into Uncharted Waters

Recent experience tells me I need to think about writing longer books.

(Eek. Why can't I be like the rest of the world, i.e., those who write too much rather than too little?)

Anyway, so when my WIP took an unexpected turn last night, I figured what the hell...might as well see where it leads (hoping the result is heaps more pages). Only problem is that adding an unforeseen wrinkle means adding unforeseen moisturizer (ha). I mean, it's like (picture, if you will) you've created one of those if-then flowcharts and suddenly you throw in an option that wasn't there before. Next thing you know, you're going in ten new directions, each with its own set of exponentially increasing choices you hadn't even planned on.

I'm tellin' ya, folks. Don't try this at home.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Okay, How Much Does This Suck?

So, if you didn't read the earlier post, let me cut to the chase: I'm the proud new owner of an Applie iPod Nano...only, guess what? I can't friggin' download anything to it. Um...Apple Guys? Microsoft Guys? Can y'all get your act together, please??

See...one of the really cool things about my new gadget...I can watch up to 5 hours of TV on it. I immediately trot over to the iTunes store to see what's available. Right away I see an episode of Top Chef and I think, wow! Cool!

Plus, the iTunes store is where you buy downloadable music, right?

Right.

I click to download the iTunes crap...only, guess what? I need the XP or Vista Windows operating systems, neither of which is on any of my computers.

WTF?

Sure, my IT guy has "the right stuff," and he downloaded a couple of my CDs for me...but what if I didn't have him?? Would I have to spend even MORE MONEY upgrading to Vista? What if I don't WANT Vista?

Somebody, please explain this to me. For the past couple years, all I've heard is iPod, iPod, iPod...so I finally break down and buy one, and now I have to seek outside help to do anything with it?

At the risk of repeating myself, WTF????

Happy Belated Birthday

...to me.

So, I know everyone's wondering what FABULOUS thing I did on my birthday, right?

Um...pretty much nada.

I woke up with no plans (yes! imagine that! no plans on my BIG day!--what's a girl to do???).

Go shopping, of course. But not for clothes (ick--y'all know how much I hate that, although I let my fingers do the walking on Friday to the tune of several hundred $ for new cruisewear).

Nope. Yesterday, I made my way into the current century for:














And then...to go with it, I got this:





So, now I'm all set for the October cruise. No more lugging woofers, tweeters, laptop and speakers for quality music.

Squee!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mea Culpa

I totally screwed up. Somehow, I didn't provide the right link to Mike's story from my September 11th post. Please try again--it's worth it. Click here.

Where Ideas Come From

I haven’t talked too much lately about the Nano WIP, but fear not, trusty blogreaders. It’s full steam ahead!

Mostly due to a lot of driving. First, there was the Labor Day jaunt towards Santa Barbara (okay, let’s be honest—the Chumash Casino—but, seriously, I only went for the air conditioning), then there have been the daily hospital visits requiring 45 minutes each way.

To make constructive use of the time, I’ve been turning down the radio volume (hm...why don’t I just turn it OFF?), and letting my characters run around in my brain trying to sort themselves out. Well, all I can say is: Eureka! I should do a lot more driving!

Case in point…all along, I’ve been waiting for Daphne’s motivation to come to me. In other words, I know what she wants; I just don’t know why she wants it. Oh, a few ideas kept floating around, but I didn’t have anything to “hang” them on. And, I don’t believe in tossing stuff into the mix without grounding it somehow—and without having more than one reason for it to be there.

Most of the characters I create have parental “issues,” which is a little embarrassing ‘cuz I have wonderful parents, and if they ever read any of my books, there’s gonna be ‘splaining to do. In any event, one of the options I’ve been keeping in reserve for Daphne is the relationship she has with her mother. But I didn’t have any plans to bring Mom on scene, so I kept discarding the idea.

Until now.

‘Cuz meanwhile, I ran into a stumbling block where Daphne and Josh have finally admitted their attraction to each other, but I can’t let them act on it yet—I need a space of time to elapse first. I was able to stall them off a couple days by forcing Daphne to look after a sick kid (don’t worry—I haul in a couple plot threads to coincide with this event), but then what…? How to keep them apart?

LIGHT BULB.

Nothing derails a budding relationship better than a surprise visit from Mom, right?? So, here comes Mom…and with her appearance on scene, I can go back and weave in all the baggage she arrives with. Yippee!

Maybe I should plan a cross country road trip for plotting out my next book.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never Forget

My first memory of Mike was when he sat down beside me in a crowded economics class circa 1972. He wasn’t hard to miss, nor forget. A portly guy with an easy smile, a ruddy face, and vacant blue eyes.

His guide dog sat obediently at his feet.

I didn’t really meet Mike until four years later in a graduate seminar in Interpersonal Dynamics. We’d been assigned to the same group and would spend an entire quarter on a project designed to teach us how to work effectively as a team. The task was to pick a project—as banal as putting together a volley ball game or having a dinner party—then observe the process of how we went about doling out tasks, assuming leadership roles, dealing with conflict, and so forth. All skills to be used later when we entered the world armed with freshly-minted MBAs.

Besides Mike and me, our group consisted of an older Asian female mom, a transfer student from Spain, a highly-charged Type-A male, and an easy going young man who always went with the flow.

For some reason, we didn’t take an easy path toward satisfying the requirements of the class. We didn’t just plan a dinner—we planned a 24-hour, overnight stay, at my parents’ house up in Lake Arrowhead.

I’ll never forget our arrival. Instantly, as Mike and his dog stumbled into furniture and as the toddler (brought by the Asian mom along with an adult sister) yanked everything in sight off tables, I questioned the wisdom of having invited this motley crew to my folks’ pristine home. But in the end, we all settled down, accomplished our task, and at the end of the quarter received an A on the paper that I mostly wrote.

Twenty-seven years would pass before I saw Mike again. This time on television. Larry King, to be exact.

A couple days after 9-1-1.

Do you remember the story of the blind man who walked down 78 floors to get out of the first tower?

My old friend, Mike.

Read the riveting account of how Mike escaped on that fateful morning here.

Ground Zero January 2002