Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Necessity Is A Mutha

So I get home Monday night, pick up my phone and hear dead silence. I mean, not a hum, not a crackle. More like the ABSENCE of sound.

Grrr.

I do the thing. You know. The one where you unplug the cordless to make sure it's not the guilty party. I check the other phone.

Grrrrrr.

Half-heartedly, I disconnect the computer line.

Grrrrrrrrrr.


I dial 4-1-1 on my cell. Oops. That ain't gonna work, huh?

I call Ann to get Verizon's repair number. Proceed to spend the next ten minutes conversing with an inanimate object whose instructions begin with, "get a screwdriver." A screwdriver?? Okay, I have one. Somewhere. I go outside to locate a box marked "NID."

I don't have one.

Well, I MAY have one, but if I do, it's so old, it's pre-NID days. Hell, it's pre-Verizon days. All the boxes have GTE on 'em.

Oh, and by the way? That bolt thingy's gonna require something more sophisticated than a screwdriver. I'm thinking maybe a socket-wrench, and you can bet I don't own one of THOSE.

I give up, figuring even if I can pry the damn thing off, it's not like I'm gonna be able to make some MacGyver type repair. No, all I'm doing is adding information--like, the trouble isn't at the NID box that's not an NID box.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I capitulate and punch the numbers for scheduling an appointment. Inanimate-object-lady informs me that a repair person can be out on Wednesday (we're talking TWO days later) between eight and six. Oh, now that's handy, isn't it? I only have to give up an entire day of work?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

All I can say is: THANK GOD IT'S NOT THE CABLE.

So, last night I had a dinner engagement which means I didn't have to suffer too much in the internet withdrawal department because I got home at 8 o'clock (in time to see Paula unravel--what the hell was that?).

But this morning...man...I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I mean, here I was, at HOME on a work day. This has only happened ONCE in twenty-six years (blame jet lag and an extremely busy time partying, er, touring Atlanta back in 1989). Somehow the average Wednesday feels different from a Saturday, y'know?

My God, I got constructive! I put a load of laundry in the washing machine. I cleaned out some boxes (circa 2002) from my "office." I (gasp) finished writing my synopsis AND added a few pages to a short story.

Grrrrrrrryipppeeeee!

Of course, by ten o'clock, I already had a call from work--"you forgot quarterly taxes were due today. Come now!" So, I leave a post-it on the door. "If you need me, I can be home in ten minutes."

At three-fifteen, a human repair guy calls me at the office. All fixed, he reports. No need to access my house.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Well, okay. Not grrr exactly, because I'm actually thrilled. But man...if I'd have waited ALL DAY...

Hm....think of how much I could've gotten done!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Closing (not to mention random) Thoughts




Ah, poolside at the Villa Premiere. Always good for chance encounters with strangers. Take Charly, for instance--a Canadian woman who qualified on-line for the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas. How cool is that? Too bad she Never. Shut. Up.

Then there was Eileen--a woman with whom I chatted one day who at 43 years old (and never married!) met her now-husband (also never married!) in Aruba. (Yes, there's hope for me, too!) In the course of conversation, I happened to mention I write for True Romance and Eileen asked if I were published in novel-length. To my negative response, she boasted: "I published a photo book this year."

Okay. Hm. I ain't no rookie, but I'm also polite so I expressed suitable enthusiasm and interest. The next day, I heard her husband telling a new acquaintance about the book his wife published on Blurb. Uh...Blurb??? Isn't that like Picaboo where you upload photos and text and pay to have it printed?? Yeah. Published indeed. (Told ya I wasn't a rookie.)

Oh, and how could I forget Butt-Boy? Women at the pool offered me large sums of cash to get a picture of this guy! Sadly, I was chicken. All I can say is you really had to be there. String bikinis on MEN are...well...interesting, to say the least. Especially when their bodies are HAIRLESS and WHITE. And when they top it off with stylish hats and cool sunglasses (when they're not lying face down with their derriere prominently displayed for all to, er, enjoy.) Yep, it was quite the sight.

By the way, yes those are FOUR-POSTER BEDS out on the beach. One of these days I hope to visit Puerto Vallarta with someone other than a female friend to share one with.

Which, except for one last harrowing vacation story, brings us to the close of another wonderful journey. So, here's the deal: Ann and I dutifully arrived at the aeropuerto in plenty of time for our flight, only to be informed of its delay by 2 hours. Although frustrated, we settled in at a delightful bar complete with wireless internet access and lazed through most of the delay--checking the arrival/departure board periodically, just to make sure we were doing the math properly (times were posted military style). Finally, we wrapped things up, paid our bill, and sauntered through security, congratulating ourselves on our organizational skills.

Then disaster struck.

We checked the board again and across from our flight one word blinked off and on: Serrado.

Closed? Closed?? CLOSED?!?!?!?

How could this have happened? We weren't supposed to board for another thirty minutes! Is it Mexico's practice to simply MOVE departures without notice?

Here we were, MILES from the gate--in fact, we didn't have a clue WHERE the gate WAS--and this sign says CLOSED. To us, this meant doors are closed, the plane's pushing back...and WE'RE NOT ON IT.

We began to run. Well, let's be honest, we began to trot...down two of those moving pedestrian walkway thingies...toward an intersection where we pretty much tossed a coin and hung a left, both clutching our chests to forestall...heart attacks, I guess.

Ann's wailing: "I wanna go home today!"

My mind is running toward options: Mexicana, American....we'll go through Phoenix...we'll go through Seattle...ANYTHING. I didn't care that our luggage wouldn't be traveling with us.

Then we got to the gate.

Ha ha...false alarm! The "closed sign" meant "closed to check-in" (which, frankly, didn't make much sense either, but whatever.) We made it, and I still haven't quite caught my breath!

Monday, April 28, 2008

As I Was Saying...

..."take us somewhere interesting, Manuel."

So this is where we ended up. He called it Boca but there are lots of Bocas in Latin America...in fact, just about every time a ribbon of water trickles down from the mountains into the sea, you get yourself a boca 'cuz it means 'mouth.' So although several boca de somethings dot the coast of Mexico, I'm pretty sure this one was Boca de Tomatlan. From the photos, the day looks gloomy but that's not the way I remember it. Maybe I did something wonky to the camera? Good possibility.

Anyway, this sleepy little cove had such a cool vibe. I could have stayed for hours, sipping on cervezas...watching the boats buzz in and out. No giant hotels nearby. No warren of hillside condos. Just tourists going to Yelapa or Las Animas by boat because, hey--that's the only way to get there since the road turns inland here. (Note to future self: this is a far better idea than those overcrowded tour boats departing from the marina that take hours to get anywhere.)

Alas, it came time to vacate this peaceful scene. On the way back through town, I convinced my traveling partners to stop at my favorite bar in the whole world--El Nido--but a CLOSED sign blocked the entrance...which I'm still pondering since said sign also blocked the entrance to the restaurant and hotel the bar sits on top of. How could the hotel be closed?

Oh, well. Probably for the best--even though we missed a killer sunset. Reluctantly, we allowed Manuel to head "for home" and in return for a fabulous (not to mention SAFE) day, we provided a MAJOR tip and bonus.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Off To The Jungle!

On Saturday, we'd had enough sun the previous day (as evidenced by how my back had turned an interesting shade of irridescent indigo), so it was time for an adventure. With the devil riding on my shoulder whispering "you said you'd stick to the beaten path," we...er...left the beaten path.

Sidenote: In case you haven't heard, there's all this crap going on in the border towns of Mexico, particularly Tijuana and the neighboring town of Rosarito. The Feds (that would be the MEXICAN Feds) recently cracked down on the drug cartel populating those towns and man, let me tell ya, the drug guys are PISSED. I mean, literally, heads are rolling...into bars...into shops. It's not pretty. Although for the most part, these criminals aren't targeting American tourists...well, sometimes we get in the way. Of cool stuff like shoot-outs in the plaza at mid-day. Yeah, real nice.

As a result, people like me who frequent upper Baja, are staying away in droves. Sad, really. I hear the bars and restaurants are wastelands. And in the meantime, there's this pervasive misunderstanding that the entire country of Mexico has morphed into some sort of wild west apocolypse.

Hence, the pleas from my father the day before my scheduled departure. He begged. He cajoled. He played the guilt trip card.

Oy. I held my ground. "It'd be like if you were Canadian and were afraid of going to Lake Arrowhead because they've had some trouble in Miami. We'll be 2000 miles away!"

For some reason, this logic fell on deaf ears. I persevered and went anyway but along with my luggage, I toted a dose of paranoia because after all, aren't fathers always alarmingly RIGHT?

Which brings me back to Saturday. The hell with it, I decided. We're perfectly safe here in paradise. We could have done a public tour, but what's the fun in that? Instead we grabbed a cab, agreeing to pay $25 for a ride out to Chico's Paradise.

I hadn't been south of town in years, so it was nice to catch up on the changes...which were pretty much nil. Same hotels (different names and owners), same stretches of uninhabited beaches, same narrow two-lane road with slow trucks that simply must be passed on blind curves. I think Ann really enjoyed this part. Ha.

About an hour later, we pulled up to our destination. Since I could recall giving stranded tourists a lift back to town in the past, after quiet deliberation we arranged to pay Manuel (our cab driver) to stay and wait for an extra $15. (Oh, picture his dilemma: sit under a shady palapa listening to the melodious waterfall? Or spend the next couple hours driving back and forth across Puerto Vallarta, inhaling exhaust fumes? Right. No-brainer.)

We'd arrived early, so the place was quiet and peaceful. Seated at a table high above the river, we drank our first margarita and marveled at the young kid diving off the rocks for tips. (My memory card filled up so Ann has the good pictures and video.) By our second margarita, Ann was convinced she should try the natural water slide and I was considering the zip line, but cooler heads prevailed. (First, that devil was still firmly entrenched on my shoulder, and second, I didn't fancy having to explain injuries to Ann's husband. Still...every time someone sailed across the gorge, a screech of delight splitting the serenity, I LONGED to give it a try!)

The hours passed quickly and I started feeling bad about keeping Manuel so long but a quick check with him eased my mind. He didn't care. Who would?

Finally, we gathered up our stuff and clambered into the back of the cab, but I wasn't ready for the day to be over. "Take us somewhere interesting," I told Manuel.

More later when Blogger quits acting up...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Restaurant With A View


I learned a long time ago that for truly magical moments, get thee to restaurants perched on hillsides...on tops of buildings...hovering over cliffs...

So on our second night in Puerto Vallarta, we cabbed it up and down narrow streets into a residential neighborhood, finally winding up at El Palomar de los Gonzales. The view from this place is so breathtaking, we had to stop for a moment in the bar first to have a drink and take in the sights. (Yes, any excuse to add a margarita to the mix.) One of these days, I should (stay sober long enough to) ask about the history of El Palomar, for I suspect it originated as a family home (hence, the pool.)

Anyway, once we'd sated our appetite for view ingesting, we allowed the maitre d' to seat us. I'm not sure, but when he heard this was my second visit, he seemed much more amenable to giving us the table we'd picked out from above. In fact, you can see it (the unoccupied one, third from the left) in the photo. There, we ordered...let's see...what did we order?? Oh, yes. First a salad with house dressing. Omigod, the house dressing!!!! We were told it contained vinegar, lemon, and pepper. That's all??? Does this mean I TOO could whip up such splendor? All I could think of was how it would taste as a dippin' for French Fries (which, sadly, I did not order). For a main course, we ordered steak and lobster. Mmmmm. Excellent. And even more excellent with a musical duo playing haunting music as a backdrop.

To top things off, we ordered special Mexican coffees--the kind where they make a huge a production of it at your table complete with pyrotechnics. Yum.

Here now, for your viewing pleasure:



video

And, this too:


video
(Okay, so it came out pretty dark--anyway, that's the Mexican coffee drink-making process. Trust me.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Heart Puerto Vallarta


Sigh. Is there anything more beautiful than a Mexican sunset from your dinner table next to the window at an open-air restaurant overlooking the ocean?

Methinks not!

But first, after checking in on Thursday, we made a stop the pool, acquainting ourselves with people from Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota. Oh, and with Omar, our bartender. Everything at the Villa Premiere was just as I remembered: the friendliest staff, the most attentive service, and guests about our age. Yep, not a screaming child within 300 yards because this hotel has an age minimum. (Bonus!)

For dinner that night, we walked into town over well-remembered cobblestone streets past bars with gyrating music and vendors hawking everything from woven bracelets to cheesy paper mache parrots. I felt right at home.

Establishing a tradition, we dined at a restaurant that had been our first choice three years ago: Las Palomas. While watching the sun set on the horizon, I regaled a group of obnoxious San Francisco yuppies about "the green flash." They obviously thought I was nuts, so it would've been real cool if in fact it had happened on this night, but nooooo. Not lucky enough for that. I've seen it, though. It exists. I hope they remember to google it per my instructions.

Anyway, we had an excellent dinner consisting of...um...I think it was fish. Yeah, that'd be a good bet. Let's just say mucho de margaritas were also involved. In fact, after dinner, without further ado, we grabbed a cab back to the hotel (foregoing the earlier tradition of walking), and headed for the hotel bar to report in on the night's activities. (See, the Villa Premiere is all-inclusive optional, so some guests never stray from the premises (foolish people!), and we found in the past that they enjoy hearing of our extra-curricular activities, and this trip was no exception.) So we had a nightcap, chatted with new friends and made some even newer ones. (See fish tank photo)

Yeah, we called an early night--the better to attack the pool in the morning.

More tomorrow....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Back In Town

Yesterday I couldn't wait to get home.

Today I'm beyond sad to click on this website and not see myself in the webcam picture.

Isn't that always the way?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hola!

Quick note from paradise, er, Puerto Vallarta. Nothing but sunshine and smiles at the Villa Premiere. How about a hotel that greets you with champagne, a 5-minute massage, and your pillow menu? (Yes, a menu for pillows!) And one for which aromatherapy scent you'd like for your room. (We picked mint.)

Ah, bliss.

Yep. This week I get to be the girl in my logo (see image above).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Puerto Vallarta--The "Worry-Free" Zone

Yep, that's what I've dubbed the upcoming destination. And maaaaaaaaaaaan, I'm lookin' forward to it.

Blog posts to follow via the Senora's laptop.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hospital Humor

Last week, after spending five hours with his tax guy, my brother collapsed when his heart ran away. Paramedics were called, a hospital stay ensued.

This morning the docs implanted a defibrillator-type pacemaker in his chest.

At his bedside tonight, I sat flipping through the brochure, looking for specs on the device. "Does it come with a warranty?" I quipped.

"Yeah," he said. "It's guaranteed for a lifetime."

Ha. Ha. My bother--he's such a card.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More on Pitching--Amended

Agent Kristin Nelson blogged here today about her experience on the other side of the table at a conference last weekend. (Note: NOT the same one I attended.) She only requested pages from four appointments, mostly because either a) the manuscript was unfinished, or b) the manuscript didn't fit any of the genres her agency represents.

This whole notion of matching genres to agencies/editors continues to intrigue me. I mean, it's not as though I chose my editor appointment by throwing a dart at a list of names. Still, I got it wrong. Or, did I? Maybe I pitch SO POORLY that I misrepresented my own manuscript. Very possible.

Which is why I'm not pitching anymore. Not at National, not at regional conferences. Not anywhere. Never. Sayonara, pitching.

At first blush, the decision may appear cowardish. Trust me, one of the reasons I ever pitched in the first place was to challenge myself--to meet a fear head-on and successfully conquer it. I measured success in being able to get through the appointment without passing out. Literally. That's how hard it is for me to pitch in person. So, the first couple times I pitched (all resulting in manuscript requests), pride in having "gotten through it" spurred me on to pitch more.

Then last Saturday happened.

On reflection, I realize the worst part of an unsuccessful pitch appointment is that despite your best efforts to rationalize, you tend to take it personally.

I mean, when you submit pages that get rejected, it's the writing.
When you submit a query that gets rejected, it's the idea.

When your two-minute pitch gets rejected, it's you. The human you.

Okay, I'm exaggerating.

Maybe.

Who knows?

Bottom line is what it feels like.

But that's not why I've decided to end my pitching career. If dings to my precious ego were the only potential casualties of pitching, I'd buck up and continue. On the other hand, isn't the smart move to downplay one's weaknesses while paying to one's strengths??

If so, then I should avoid pitching at all costs, right?

Right.

Amended to add: To her credit, the editor to whom I pitched took great pains to explain why she wasn't requesting my material--that she was no longer acquiring work in the genre she perceived it to be (rightly or wrongly--I'm still not sure). Seeing things from her side of the world, rejecting my pitch was probably more difficult than tossing off a request she knew she'd reject later on.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Clean-Up On Aisle Seven

Yes, that sound you heard on Saturday at 2:21p.m. was the sonic boom created by my heart as I realized during my editor pitch that she was NOT requesting my manuscript.

As documented here on previous occasions, for me, pitching is right up there with the one where I discover I've forgotten to wear clothes to my Algebra final.

But as everyone knows, you wake UP from nightmares, right?

Not this time.

I'm sure my head wobbled on my shoulders. I'm sure I got that panicked look in my eyes. No doubt my voice wavered.

And there were eight minutes left to get through without ending the appointment prematurely and looking like a TOTAL idiot.

In my defense, I didn't wither and die--I fought. Not well, mind you, but at least I tried to re-frame my pitch in a way that might change her mind.

Um, no.

Then I punted.

"What ARE you looking for?" I asked.

"Romantic mysteries."

Aha! My latest manuscript falls into that category. Mind racing to form a coherent pitch, I said, "I have one of those."

"But we have all the authors we need in that area, and we're not looking for more."

Oh. Didn't even get the premise out.

Managed to blah, blah, blah for a few minutes more, then DID end the appointment prematurely. I believe my succinct phrase was: "I guess we really have nothing more to talk about, do we?"

Arghghghghghghgh. NEVER. DOING. THIS. AGAIN.

Even signed something to that effect and gave it to Brooke for safe keeping.

Later, I learned I wasn't alone in failing to a get a manuscript request from this editor.

Not a HUGE consolation, but something.

Sniff.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cross Pollinating


Minutes before leaving my office to catch a plane to Phoenix yesterday, I got the casino alert call...as in, Marty phoned to inform me of gambling opportunities in the desert. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I told him. You don't understand writing conferences. Free time is spent stalking agents and editors at the bar.


So, I arrived last night and did just that--only, my friends and I were apparently the sole early conference arrivals. Soon, Elizabeth drove off for a late date (go figure!), and Jax and Beverley had other things to do.


Well, shoot. It was only nine o'clock. Too early for bed! What are two lonely girls in Phoenix to do?


Right. Off to the casino.


Did the fact that the taxi fare was $30 one way daunt us? Hell, no.


So, we got there and the slots were NOT being kind. No bonuses, no nothing. I just kept feeding in the twenties. I hate this casino, I thought to myself...when, all of a sudden, I look...what the hell is this? Without so much as a ding or a bell, some sort of jackpot appeared. I looked at the credits in my account and couldn't figure out where to put the decimal point. (This is how bright I am--I was playing a penny machine and couldn't figure out how much I'd just won.) I studied it some more. Certainly it was at least a hundred dollars, but that didn't make sense, cuz if you move the decimal over....


Well, I had to cash out to confirm...


So here's my theory: I was using CHUMASH twenties...and isn't cross pollinating all about making things grow??

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Addictions

So you've all heard on the news about the latest epidemic sweeping the nation. Yeah, the one about people addicted to texting, email--the electronic stuff that's more like an umbilical cord to our lives.

Well, let me raise my hand.

Hi, I'm Randy, and I'm an internetaholic.

I HATE to be without access to breaking news, my email--you name it. Which is why I'm already going through withdrawal because I'm getting on a plane in a couple of hours without...gulp...my laptop. Oh, I have it right here--all packed. Trouble is, I don't have the charger. Not that I forgot it, mind you. Just couldn't put my hands on it this morning. Decided it must be in the office. Now I've decided it must be in the last suitcase I used (gee, maybe it DOES pay to unpack completely).

Debating now. I have time. I could run home and get it. The only thing making me hesitate is that I detest the route to the airport from my home.

Decisions, decisions. Which do I hate more? An inconvenient drive...or being electronically incommunicado??

Stay tuned...

If you don't see a blog over the weekend, you'll know what the answer was.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dating

Psyche!

Not that kind of dating. I'm talkin' about slipping pop culture references into your manuscript that yank a reader out of the story because they've become anachronistic. Say, for instance, you're writing a contemporary romance and your character's carrying around a Pet Rock. Duh. Pet Rocks went out before stereo cassettes, right? (Not that I'd read a book in which the heroine EVER owned a Pet Rock, much less carried one around, but you get the idea.)

Yet...the perfect pop culture reference can pull readers in, too. Like if your quintessential chick lit book is set in downtown Manhattan, well then your characters had better hang out at the hip bars, right?

But hip Manhattan bars go in and out of style faster than Britney Spears changes her hair color (that is, when she has ANY hair).

So, speaking of the Britster, she's been on my mind lately because in Fit For Love, I describe a secondary character as a Britney Spears lookalike. Okay first, you have to remember I completed this manuscript--well, let's just say a WHILE ago. At the time, Britney was HOT. Hell, she was still HOT when I submitted a partial of the manuscript to a NY publisher 18 months ago.
Now, not so much, huh? (Although, to her credit, she might be on the rebound.)

Anyway, the point is...if and when that partial gets considered for real, I wonder what reaction the Britney Spears reference will get?

Who'da thunk she'd let me down?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy Release Day, Terry! !


One of my oldest critique partners (um, not that she's old or anything, we've just been in the same group a long, long, time) is celebrating the release of her book, Heart of the Wolf, today. Yay! Go, Terry!

I wanted to quote the Publisher's Weekly review here, but wasn't sure about the legal crap, so take my word for it: they LOVED Heart of the Wolf, and a rave review from PW is highly coveted!

Okay, so I know most of my readers may not be into the wolf thing. Usually, I'm not either. But if you're gonna try one, this is the one to try. Terry did her research; her characters stay true to the wolf mentality which makes the story a whole lot more interesting.

To find out more about Terry Spear, Heart of the Wolf, and Terry's other books, click here!