Tuesday, July 31, 2007

That Blog Silence You Hear...

is the sound of me editing Leftovers. Yes, now that my third book is officially going out in the world, it's time to hack away. MAN.What a tedious process. I spent almost an entire weekend with my butt in the chair. (Yes, that means I didn't even go OUT on Friday night!! What is the world COMING to??)

See, here's the problem. La Nora is famous for saying: "You can't fix a blank page." Ergo, even when you're stuck, just write. Perfection can come later.

I'm starting to wish I'd spent more time being perfect from the get-go.

What's really weird is to spend hours on one scene--agonizing over every word, every phrase, every tag...then, getting to the next one and going: "Wow. What happened here? Not one change necessary." (Or, is it that I'm brain-dead from revising the previous scene?)

Anyway...in other news, I got a phone call today from the woman I submitted a short (and I mean SHORT) story to for a Christmas anthology. I'm still in the running...woo hoo!

And, I got an email the other day from the editor at True Romance, saying she definitely plans to use my latest submission. Double woo hoo!

Okay...back to editing (which is such a lie since I'm at my day job).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Say The Secret Word...

...a little birdie drops down and…

Oh, geez. You guys aren’t old enough to remember Groucho Marx, are you? Yeah, me either.

So.

The craft post. Finally.

And the word is…drum roll, please….

*

*

*

*

WOUND.

More specifically, UNHEALED WOUND.

Let’s back up.

After five years of studying the craft of writing, most of what I hear in workshops isn’t new. But once in awhile, someone says something in a different way that brings a concept into clearer focus. That’s what happened in the Michael Hauge workshop.

Those of us who call ourselves writers know all about backstory. “Backstory” is—hey, just like it sounds—the stuff that happened before the book opens. All the crap in the character’s history that makes him/her who he/she is today. More importantly, it shapes and defines the character’s goals and motivations.

The way Hague puts it: Your character should have an unhealed source of pain—a WOUND. This wound is typically suffered in adolescence and can consist of a single incident or an ongoing series of events or situations that results in a belief about what caused the wound. That BELIEF in turn results in a fear that the same behavior will lead to the same result, i.e., more pain.

Roll the above into one big ball of wax and, over time, you get a character who creates a fa├žade for himself as protection. Hague calls this exterior the character’s IDENTITY. He calls what you have when you strip away all the protective crap, the character’s ESSENCE. Inner conflict stems from the tug of war between identity and essence, i.e., who we "think" we are vs. who we “truly” are.

In a romance, when the hero sees through the heroine’s protective armor…when he breaks through the barriers she’s erected to ward off pain…and when the heroine does likewise with the hero—that “essence-to-essence” connection leads to falling in love. It’s the old case of “he sees me as I really am and accepts me warts and all.” (Cue swelling violins.)

Okay, so I whittled down an hour’s worth of workshop into a minute. To me, the whole unhealed wound business was worth the price of admission (basically free, unless you count the conference cost, the airline tickets, the room...). Like I said, I already knew about backstory. But to think of it as a wound...already, since I've been back, I was tying up the end of a short story, got a little stuck, asked myself about the character's wound, and voila. End of story.

Vive la wound!






Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Soooo Forgetful

Still waiting for that craft post? The one where I'll reveal THE WORD? (Okay, let's not be dramatic.) Yeah, me too. Waiting for it, that is. And trust me, the minute I remember to bring my notes to the office, I'll spew.

In the meantime, let's return to the mystery picture, shall we?



Those who've never done the RWA National conference thing may not know it, but the prep involved is monumental. I mean, there's the business-y stuff like getting cards made, making airline reservations, arranging the shuttle...but please don't think that's the end of it. Oh, no. There's also whipping YOURSELF into shape. Yep. It's all about updating the weave, snagging new outfits, locating the PERFECT shoes, and...and...um...well...in the case of the above pictured author, having FAKE TOENAILS APPLIED.

Yes, now it can be revealed. Those are feet of author Jacqui Jacoby and apparently two of her toenails fell off (?) so she had acrylics put on. Ah...what we writers go through for our art.


Speaking of Jacqui, I learned something important from her at this conference. And, that is...when posing for a picture...POSE BIG.

This is me, trying out her advice...and...omigod, is that a cigarette in my hand? Where'd that come from? Someone must have photo-shopped it in.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More National...Stay Tuned

I was gonna write the big "craft" post today, but my notes are at home, so y'all will have to wait. Be sure to check back though, because it promises to be a good one. Remember what I said in an earlier post: I jetted back with ONE WORD resonating in my brain--ONE WORD that could change the course of my writing!

Oh, and as long as we're taking a little breather...I might as well go with breaking news...I sold another (my sixth this year!) to "The Trues"--this time to True Experience for their Fall issue. Squee! These things are really starting to add up in the Cha-Ching department. AND...the August issue of True Romance is on the stands with a Randy Two-fer! Yep...that means, I've got TWO stories in it. Double-squee!

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled RWA National program: Here are a couple more cool pictures from
Dallas. Can you tell which one of the "building in clouds" picture was taken with my cell phone?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Movers and Shakers






Daphne Night! That's Jacqui Jacoby on the left and Elizabeth Dewey on the right.


And here's a photo of our annual Acme lunch. Missing from the picture this year: Kelly Ann Riley (Golden Heart Finalist). Apparently, Kelly was too busy SIGNING WITH HER NEW AGENT. Geesh. Some people just don't have their priorities straight.













Speaking of people with skewed priorities, here's author Roxanne St. Claire. See that shiny gold thing sitting in front of her? That's a Rita. She won it in the category of "Best Romantic Novella" for 'Tis the Silly Season' in A NASCAR Holiday. Roxi told me not once, but TWICE, how much she admired the dress I was wearing. Generous
person that I am, I offered to trade it for the Rita, but (can you imagine?) she refused.....those uppity award winners are so selfish, aren't they??

Finally, here are some FUTURE movers and shakers. That's me on the left, and the lovely-but freakishly-young-looking-for-her-age) Carol Burnside.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Movin' On Up

Friday night at National is all about the publisher parties, usually held off-site. Like last year, I scored an invite to the Bantam Dell/Ballantine party. Er, you may have noticed I don’t write for them (YET), but…well…let’s just say it pays to have friends in high places.

Anyway, appropriately gussied up, I met Brooke and Elizabeth in the lobby, and we walked outside to catch a cab (joining the zillions of authors, editors, and agents with the same urgent need).

Eeek. Judging by the commotion, we’d be lucky to snag a ride before the party ended.

Then, a bellman sauntered over. “Why don’t you take a limo?”

Me: “How much?”

Bellman: “Twenty bucks.”

Me: “Each?”

Bellman: “No, total.”

Well, crap. That was less than it cost to get from the airport to the hotel! SCORE!

Our driver, Earl, broke from the pack of poor, schlubby taxis, and pulled up under the portico, where we climbed aboard. Then off we went to the “Mansion on Turtle Creek” which is a famous hotel with an even more famous restaurant. (Okay, blogger isn't very caption placement-friendly, so here's the deal: that's Elizabeth with the flowered dress on; me with the black straps, and Brooke...well, Brooke is camera-shy, dammit.)







Check out the elegant entry and the undescribably gorgeous...uh...whaddya call it? Lobby centerpiece? Lobby floral arrangement? Whatever. They beat the ones I buy at Trader Joe's.

We found our way to the cocktail party and instantly met up with evil authors, Stephanie Tyler and Larissa Ione who also write TOGETHER as Sydney Croft.

I say evil because, although I'm sure they're perfectly lovely ladies in REAL life, in the writing world they're partly responsible for conning over 250 authors into a 70-day writing challenge. (Which is why for the FIRST TIME EVER AT NATIONAL, I actually spent some time WRITING...instead of BLOGGING.) Oh, and by the way, that guy Sven I added here? Their fault too. He's my "writing task master" for the duration. Since he must be Scandanavian, I've decided we were lovers in a previous life, so he'll have to go easy on me.

Okay, so check out the back of Larissa's dress. I don't know which I'd kill more for--the dress, or a body to fit IN the dress.

After the party, we called for our limo (I've always wanted to type that) and Earl took us to the next destination: our old stomping grounds at the Adams Mark from an earlier conference. Up to the 34th floor to our fondly remembered bar for cocktails, hors d'ouevres, live music and a few pix.

I truly can't explain what it is about that bar. It WAY outdoes the Reunion Tower at the Hyatt for magical ambience. Even when you're stuck with two other women (who I adore, of course, but still...). I'm putting it on my list (which is getting quite lengthy) of "romantic places to take a man...when I find Him.")

Eventually, we rounded up Earl again, and he got us "home" with a promise to pick me up on Sunday for the airport run. All I can say is alcohol imbibing resumed once we reached the Hyatt lobby and the rest of the night's a wee bit hazy.

Hey, what can I say? I survived another pitch appointment without anyone having to call paramedics. Worthy of a celebration, for sure.

Thanks for keeping us safe, Earl.



Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fashion Disaster Averted at National

Long-time blog readers know I have an issue with shoes…namely, a proclivity to mix, rather than match.
 
(There was the famous nightclub incident of two years ago when, sitting on the toilet, I realized that not only did my shoes not match, the heels weren’t even the same height. Then, there was the time I was on a blind date and meant to wear a pair of white pumps, but noticed instead I’d worn one white, one grey…both LEFT.)
 
So. Travel with me, if you will, back to Friday, with my agent appointment looming. I took a break from workshops to do a quick costume change that would say hip, yet perky and professional. This amounted to a swishy short dress with white polka dots on a black background. With white pumps.
 
Okay, now I remember being VERY careful when I packed. See, I have TWO pair of white pumps in my closet, one older than the other. Wanted to make sure I matched the newer left with the newer right.

Pawed through my suitcase.

Uh-oh.

You guessed it.

Two lefts.
(Missed trip to Dallas)

Please don’t think for a minute I entertained the notion of wearing a left on my right foot. Okay, yes. I tentatively stuck my right foot in (ya do the hokey pokey, and you shake it all about) but knew instantly this was NOT going to work. On to Plan B—black patent leather, which as we all know, is perfectly permissible between Memorial and Labor Days because of the patent leather part.

Whew.

By the way, who says you don’t learn anything at National? Five years ago, at my first conference, I teetered around for three hours before figuring out the beige pumps I wore were different heights.

As for the agent appointment…I did my usual fabulous job of blathering like an idiot. (Or, does an idiot blither?? As in, blithering idiot?) Anyway, my victim—I mean, my audience—Lois Winston (who’s both writer and agent, by the way) couldn’t have been more gracious in response. (‘Course, she didn’t know that at any moment my head could have done its quaking thing—another proclivity long-time blog readers may remember with fondness). Bottom line, I got through it, Lois requested the partial of Leftovers, and I’ll be shooting that sucker off to her sometime this week.

Later, as I pondered my performance, I remembered my go-to ice-breaker—forgotten in a spasm of nerves. Do you suppose Lois wondered why I wore two badges—one with my own name, and the other with that of my evil twin, agent Lucienne Diver?

Oops.

And that’s another story.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Too Busy To Blog

Okay, I really need to get wi-fi on my laptop. That way I could have used all that annoying time spent waiting for planes to take off to catch y'all up on the rest of the conference.

In the meantime, you'll have to settle for hints on the upcoming highlights:

Stuff like...

The shoe debacle prior to my agent pitch appointment

How I nearly walked off with a Rita award (don't get excited; "walked off with" is the operative phrase)

How my favorite quote of the conference (spoken by me) was: "I need to step outside to use my cell phone to call my limo driver"

Updates on the continuing saga of "ants on a bed"

How I became agent Lucienne Diver's evil twin

Larissa Ione's scathingly gorgeous dress

The one WORD I heard in a workshop that could transform my writing altogether

Y'know...it occurs to me that some people blogging from National provide really useful blog posts--complete with info on what publishers are looking for and other industry tips.

Not me.

I give you the entertaining stuff...stay tuned to learn who these feet belong to and why they're significant.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

From The Trenches

Okay, you non-conference goers need to understand one thing. I CANNOT BE EXPECTED TO COMPOSE COHERENT, WITTY (not to mention INFORMATIVE) prose under sleep-deprived, alcohol-laced, ANT-INFESTED conditions.

Deal with it.

Here now...random notes as they come to me.

Dragged myself out of bed, bid farewell to the little red and black guys (uh, for those of you getting here late, I'm talking the multi-legged variety) and made my way down to an eleven o'clock workshop. Uh...way too crowded for this chick. Quick exit.

Luckily, I ran into Brooke who was of like mind, so we wandered around until it was time for lunch.

(Oh, by the way, on the "lost badge front": NO NEWS. Got it replaced, but WHERE ARE MY LOVELY PINS? Will I be able to replace them by searching Ebay?? Now, there's a scary thought.)

Went to lunch...yada, yada. Great keynote speaker (Lisa Kleypas) who told a touching story about losing all her belongings to a flood, then going to Wal-Mart for "the essentials" and winding up with a romance novel in her basket because...well, when all is lost, there's always hope and promise in a romance novel, right?

Later, along with writing friends Brooke and Elizabeth, met new friend, Jessica Barksdale Inclan who is rumored to give great hugs whether you want one or not. Jessica put to rest my theory that the gorgeous guy haunting the bar was a cover model....oh, no....agent stalker.

Which, y'know, I really aspire to. Agent/editor stalking, that is. I had the quintessential opportunity this afternoon. Yep, just as I was entering a stall in the ladies' room, I realized the woman waiting behind me was none other than an editor I queried last November. According to this publisher's website, their query response time is two weeks so, duh. Mine probably got lost. Or trashed. Or burned.

I was dying to yell something stupid from the stall, but cooler heads prevailed.

Then, when I exited, I noticed new prey. The editor who sprung for my cab ride to the airport in Atlanta last year. Alas, I let her off the hook, too. (Recall: Conference Commandment No. 1: Thou shalt not accost publishing industry personnel where they pee--or, something like that.)

Let's see...what else? The RWA Board decisions began slowly filtering into conversation, although I suppose now that the AGM is over, watch out for flying fur. Likely to cause the biggest stir? Well, if I interpret correctly (read: ya better not quote me on this) they've abolished the traditional "RWA publisher recognition" as it relates to PAN membership. Now it's only about eligibility to participate in the conference...and...um...they ix-nayed publishers whose primary distribution is via the publisher website...in other words, epublishers.

Okay, everyone. To your corners. May the best man win.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Picture

So, Finally. The picture loaded from my cell phone. That's what I slept with last night, and keep in mind I couldn't get a wide shot.
In other news, I guess the RWA board has handed down its decisions on deliberations important to us guys. I'm not too politically minded when it comes to this stuff, but at first glance, it looks to me like they did a pretty good job taking everyone's input into consideration. On the other hand, on one of the writers' loops I'm on, I noticed some dissatisfaction. Maybe I'll blog about that later when I have more time. Funny thing at this point? There was absolutely NO BUZZ about the decisions here at the conference level. We're the last to know??
The night in a nutshell....um...let's see...where did we go??? Literacy signing was the first stop. Always an AMAZING sight. Picture a huge ballroom with nothing but rows and rows of romance authors--some big, some not-so-big. Personally, I feel so awful walking up the rows where authors look so lonely....so I made a beeline for people I know...saw my friend and awesome talent Janet Mullaney who's always great for a laugh....checked in with Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler and bitched to them about signing up for the writing challenge...got a chance to chat with former crit member Melissa Schroeder....
Later went to the Chick Lit chapter party. Maybe I just arrived too late....I ducked out for a cigarette, got tied up with a gal from the other conference that's here (CABI clothes lady)...heard about her 14-year old daughter and 2-month old granddaughter (HELLO! Interesting story)...and by the time I got back to the chick lit chapter party, Elizabeth and Brooke and left and caught me in the lobby...so we went up to the Reunion Tower lounge which overlooks the whole entire city and if I'd managed to take a good picture from there, I would be posting it here....anyway, that's where I LOST MY CONFERENCE BADGE. Not sure what to do about it yet. It, apparently, just FELL OFF. I KNOW I didn't take it off.
Crap.
Oh, well...I'll deal with it tomorrow. The main thing is, I'd hate to lose all my fabu pins (sniff, sniff).
More tomorrow. Sorry this is so discombobulated.
I've decided to give something up to advancing age: no more early flights! You can't sleep the night before so you start off at a disadvantage that's getting harder and harder to make up! (I'm writing this after a two-hour nap Wednesday afternoon that didn't put a DENT in my exhaustion.)

Oh, well...anyway...so I hopscotched over the Western U.S. yesterday, stopping in Vegas and Lubbock on the way. Can't remember now whether I mentioned it in this morning's brief post (see, that's another thing that's going--my memory) but, anyway, the 70-minute change of planes in Las Vegas was a fruitful one...to the tune of a $250 jackpot! Squee!

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Not until I stepped into my taxi at Love Field, did stuff start to get interesting. That's when I heard the touching story of a man robbed of the love of his life 21 years ago by a scheming rich uncle. (I got a clue when he said into his cell phone, "Just know someone out there LONGS for you.") Well, I'm on my way to a romance writers conference, I had to ask, didn't I? Long story short, the rich uncle married the girl himself, spawned five children, went on to other women, then died. Now my taxi driver, married himself for all these years, is getting divorced and hoping to resurrect the relationship with his true love...who lives in Nigeria.

Ack. Tangled webs and all.

Arrived at the Hyatt and immediately saw a familiar face: Nora Roberts. Not that I know her personally, or anything, but I almost feel like I do, she so's friendly and approachable.

Immediately located friends Brooke, Elizabeth, and Lori. Wow...if you ever need a way to measure how quickly a year goes by, join an organization where you only see people once a year. We caught up quickly, though....let's see...the rest of the night is kind of a blur (again, please blame the lost sleep)...didn't even have time to unpack before we were boarding the Dart for a quick trip to the West End and dinner at Gator's.

Flash forward to the important part of the story. I noticed a few ants on the floor in the bathroom before going to bed last night. Then, this morning, I was getting ready for the day when....EEEEK...I realized the bed was INFESTED with them. (Gee, maybe that's the biting sensation I kept feeling last night.)

Okay...more later...gotta go......

Ants In a Bed

Sorry. Gotta run. More on this story later (plus pics!)

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's Official...

I'm certifiable.

Yep, because I just signed up at Alison Kent's blog, committing myself to writing 4-5 pages a day for the next 70 days. Those of you who've been paying attention know I've been a little, er, stalled lately, so this is just the kinda thing I need to get off the dime. Or, to be more specific, off that paragraph/page/scene/chapter I've been writing for the last...what...three months???

Hey, I even came up with a tentative title (which I know must thrill you to death since even I've grown weary of calling it the "untitled NaNo WIP.") So...drum roll, please...Now here this: I'll be finished with "Deconstructing Daphne" by September.

Woo Hoo! Great news, huh?

I'm unacquainted with Ms. Kent, but I met two of her cronies--Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler last year. And, if they're at the same party again this year...or if I run into them in a workshop or at a lunch this week in Dallas...they'd better watch out! (Oh, and I blame Diana Peterfreund for bringing this challenge to my attention.)

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, but Randy...how can you embark on a writing frenzy just as you're leaving for Dallas?? (Good question.) The answer is that Alison actually made it a 75 day challenge to allow us Dallas-goers some leeway.

Whew. Especially since I'm already a day behind. Ooh, and what with packing tonight (yes, I haven't packed a thing yet, and my plane leaves at 8:15 tomorrow morning), it's gonna be a bit rough making my page count today.
BUT I WILL.

That's what happens when you publicly out yourself with goals like these.

Stay tuned.....

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What.A.Blast! ! ! !


And thank God for cell phones with photo-taking capability since, er, duh...the battery on my digital camera was finito.

First of all, the town of Fillmore is too cute. Like something from another era. And it turns out the train station is next to a winery. Bonus! We climbed steps onto the train, were directed to the right, where we passed first a bar, then an entire car devoted to a "dance club," then into the "Freedom Car" where linen-covered tables sat next to spacious windows with mini-blinds.

As we inched our way toward Santa Paula, the scene through the window reminded me of what southern California looked like when I was growing up. Nothing but miles and and miles of orange groves.

Inside, congruent with the "theme" of our journey, "the Fonz" stopped by to chat with the crowd while waiters delivered cheeseburgers, potato salad, and root beer floats. Too fun!

Once we arrived in Santa Paula, we were allowed to debark for an hour. Talk about more small town Americana! On the first Friday of each month, the main drag is closed off and given over to some of the coolest old cars you'll ever see. I even spotted a version of my very first car--a 1966 Mercury Cougar!

The time in Santa Paula was over way too soon, but the train was heading out, so we ambled back to our temporary home and arrived to find good ol' hot apple pie awaiting us. After scarfing it down, we congregated in the "dance club" and "rocked out" (okay, I'm lying here, I WATCHED) to some rousing oldies.

Folks, this couldn't have BEEN more fun! We can't WAIT to try some of their other themed trips--like the murder mystery tour! Woo Hoo!

Click here for more information

Friday, July 06, 2007

All Aboard!

CHOO CHOO! ! ! !

We're gonna SHAKE, RATTLE, and ROLL tonight--all the way from the picturesque town of Fillmore, California to the equally picturesque town of Santa Paula, a distance of...er...about 10 miles. Along the way, we'll boogie (ha--who am I kidding, we'll LISTEN) to a rock 'n' roll band, we'll chow down on cheeseburgers, and we'll drink good ol' fashioned root beer floats. (Um, and there's a full bar, too.)
Pictures promised tomorrow! That is, if we make it to the train at all. The de la Cruz's are picking me up from work at 4 o'clock, and they've been having "issues" with transportation. Let's just say the latest debacle included a scorching desert, and a blown water pump and radiator. That Senor will do ANYTHING to cop three extra gambling days, won't he?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday Potpourri

Spent the 4th of July like most die-hard American patriots: in front of the TV watching Project Runway's Season 3 marathon on Bravo.

I really need to get a life.

Thought you might enjoy seeing how an ex-pat celebrates our independence in...Peru...Chile...wherever the hell my step-bro is these days.

Yep, he's quite the patriotic guy, isn't he?



In writing news, I've had another of those epiphanies I'm so fond of, this one courtesy of the contest I'm currently judging. One of the entries is SO well-written, with TONS of voice, truly humorous situations...and yet...something is missing.

As I wrote notes on the manuscript, it came to me: the book is a series of (funny!) events which don't do anything but sit there. They don't escalate to anything...they don't subtly reveal anything about the underlying theme...they don't interconnect. They don't build.

Aha!

Same problem with my WIP. ENOUGH with the scenes where someone's trying to off the heroine. Time to move on with a twist. Now if I can only figure out which one. Gonna try the plotting board again. Meanwhile, yep...I started another short story for TR. Aiming for another two-fer for October.

Next week, I fly off to Dallas for RWA's National Conference. Man...it looks like one party after another, sometimes overlapping. Enough to require a color-coded spreadsheet, I kid you not. That Brooke is quite the slave driver! To give you a preview, the parties include: Chick Lit chapter party, publicist party, Death by Chocolate party, publisher party, welcome party, awards party.....uh-oh...Looks like a serious need for shopping this weekend.

I'll be blogging from Dallas, so be sure to stay tuned!



Monday, July 02, 2007

Be Wary Of Parents Cleaning Their Garages

...lest you end up with one of these.



Yes, folks. Somehow, I volunteered to take this torture machine off Bruck and Annie's hands. The dreadmill wasn't enough. So, this evening, I hopped on, figuring I'd knock off a good chunk of calories.

Uh, maybe not.

See, it appears to have only the "heart-attack-inducing" mode. I lasted...er...two minutes. (Hey, it's a start.) Is it my fault the only place with room for the damn thing is the hottest spot in the house?

At least, I can almost see the TV.

Another Way To Win at Gambling

On Saturday, old (and I mean OLD) gal-pal Randi and I zipped down to Morongo (near Palm Springs) for a 24-hour bout of slots, craps, and 3-card poker. (By the way, yep. You read that right. Two Randies--one with an I, one with a Y. Randy times two. Randy squared. And in high school, we hung out with two Andies to add to the confusion.)

Anyway, so we checked in around 2, dumped our stuff in the room (Kudos, Morongo! Nice decor!), fed our starving bodies, then headed to the casino. First, being the seasoned gamblers that we are, we stopped to get "players cards," then we wandered over to the slots. I showed Randi the new "Deal or No Deal" machines and we lost a couple bucks.

Decided it was time for a cocktail and some video poker, so we made our way to the bar. Randi offered to spring for the first round, so I concentrated on my poker game.

Then she uttered a sound of dismay.

"My wallet," she said, pawing through her voluminous purse. "I don't have my wallet."

Of course, I didn't believe her. "It's there. Keep looking." I went back to my game.

"No, it's not here."

This was starting to look serious. I disengaged from my poker machine, we got our drinks, and retraced our steps to Deal or No Deal.

No deal.

"You must have left it at the place we got our cards," I said, hopefully.

Again, no deal. They told us to check with security.

Her question, laced with pleaful panic, met with twinkling eyes and grins. "You had about two dollars in it, right?"

Ha Ha.

Bottom line. Some angel turned Randi's wallet in with all money, I.D., and credit cards intact.

So, like I said. There are more ways to win at gambling than actually playing a game.