Saturday, April 30, 2005

14 Bridesmaids, 600 Guests

Need I say more about this recipe for disaster? Too bad. I’m gonna.

In case you haven’t watched TV, read a newspaper, or had the radio on in the last five days (and if so, what the hell have YOU been doing), the topic du jour is Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride.

Let me provide a timeline of my own personal experience:

10:00p.m.--I go to bed and catch a little of the Abrams Report on MSNBC where they incite oohs and ahs with the dispute between the husband and the police over whether the second polygraph exam should be videotaped. Hmm, I think. Another Scott Peterson in the making? (Which is just what I'm supposed to think.)

2:00a.m.—I happen to wake up and reach for the remote. Breaking News. Jennifer is alive and in Albuquerque, New Mexico! Now, I’m all for a little jubilation in the middle of the night, so I watch the coverage for about an hour. She was abducted, we’re told, and possibly sexually molested by a man and woman in a blue van. CNN gets the family on the phone and I hear interviews with the stepbrother, the co-worker, and a bridesmaid. Every couple of minutes I hear a round of joyful cheers in the background.

4:00a.m.—I wake up again and wonder if the news stations could possibly have stretched this story another two hours, so I switch the TV back on. Uh-oh. More breaking news. Turns out Jennifer has admitted to being a runaway bride with cold feet. The news anchors (a male and female) debate the significance of her admission. The female seems a little pissed while the male stresses that at one point early on the police conceded they hadn’t ruled out the runaway bride scenario. They report that the family’s mood has gone from jubilation to solemn and I, the first version was a cause for celebration. That’s the version where Jennifer had no responsibility for their agony and pain—sure, she was violently abducted, maybe even sexually abused, but, hey—she’s okay and it wasn’t her fault. Yay. But, it’s another story. Now, the family knows she willfully put them through hell. Yes, she’s alive, and they’re grateful, but...well, Lucy, I think you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.

8:00a.m.—What could the latest twist be? I turn on CNN and see a criminal profiler (A CRIMINAL PROFILER!) being interviewed, and she is one pissed off dame. Jennifer is a narcissist who planned the whole thing for attention, she proclaims. (I’m thinking, attention? Eight bridal showers and a 600-guest wedding isn’t enough? But, I see her point. Maybe amidst all the hoopla, the wedding itself was getting all the attention, leaving poor Jen feeling like a bystander at her own big event. Who knows?) At any rate, the criminal profiler reminds us that the next time a woman like Jen goes missing, municipalities and communities will be a little less reluctant to commit their resources. Sorta like after Susan Smith drowned her children.

Next, I see the couple’s pastor interviewed. He’s been counseling them for three months and hasn’t seen a hint of trouble. His closing words: A day ago, Jennifer’s family and friends prayed this was just a case of a runaway bride...and they’re prayers were answered.

Still...This story will be debated for days to come.

Did the media blow it out of proportion?
Was Jennifer truly clueless (as she claims) about how big the story got?
And, if so, so what? She’s 33-years old, for God’s sake, not 20. How could she put her friends and family through that kind of hell?
Did she have some sort of psychotic break?

See, to me, it all comes back to the 14 bridesmaids. When you pick fourteen women to share one of the most important moments of your life, something is wrong. Very wrong.

Friday, April 29, 2005

My Name In Print

Well, it wasn't nearly as exciting as I would have thought, but I got my latest RWR (Romance Writer's Report) and saw my name in print for the first time. Yep, there it was in the Contest Winners Section: Launching a Star - 3rd Place - Randy Jean Bruskrud. Woo Hoo. Big Deal. Will I get a bigger kick out of seeing it in the "First Sales" section (if and when it ever happens)? You betcha!

(Ooh! Two posts in one day...can you tell I have too much time on my hands for a change?)

I'm a Techno-Wiz!!

Believe me, people. This wasn't easy. But I finally figured out how to alter the HTML code in the blog template to include links to other people. Wheeee! Ain't the Internet grand?

If you scroll down a bit and look to the left, first you'll see "Friends." So far, the sites I've linked to in this category are people whose blogs I begat. Fair warning to John, Brooke and Marty: if you slack off for more than a week, you run the risk of disappearing. (I know, how tragic would that be? And, if threats aren't an inspiration, I don't know what is.)

Under "Favorites" I've linked two sites. Conversations About Famous People is written by a woman I "know" from the Chick-lit Writers' she doesn't get sued is a huge mystery to me. By clinking on her link you'll keep current on everything you never wanted to know about the disgusting icons of pop culture.

The other site, Gaping Void, is owned by a guy who draws cartoons on the backs of business cards. I know. Doesn't sound too interesting, does it? But check him out...and be sure to find his page on creativity. It's remarkable.

These were just the ones that flew off the top of my head when I realized I'd learned to do magic with my template.

More later.

P.S. I was too lazy to figure out the code that makes the links open to a separate window, so be sure to hit your back button to return to mine!

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Yep, I pounded out “THE END” to Stealing Amy last night. After 391 blood, sweat, and tear-soaked pages, I finally “finished.”

Now, before anyone gets too excited, let me clue you in: there’s still a L-O-N-G way to go. I tied off knots at the end which have no strings leading to them…I paid off on hints that don’t exist in the beginning (and vice versa)…I left highlighted passages that say “insert Spanish here”…I threw in mundane words that need powerful replacements…and that’s before I even figure out whether the story is entertaining, engrossing, or even half-way readable. Can you say, “ACK?”

Nonetheless, I’m pleased as hell to have made it through the rough draft of my second marketable book. What do I mean by that?

Now, tell me. Would you count the 200-page (single-space typed!) rip-off of Nancy Drew I wrote when I was nine? How about the incredibly naïve and immature effort just after graduate school when I suddenly had too much time on my hands?

True, I did get a request from Silhouette ten years ago on my third manuscript (which was promptly rejected) but I hardly count that either because…well, it’s not like I’m Amazon and the publisher will wanna add it to the cart.

Then there’s the manuscript that lured me back into this whole writing mess. My NaNoWriMo project of 2002. For those of you not familiar, NaNo is an on-line writing challenge wherein you write your little heart out (with the internal editor clicked to OFF) for an entire month. I wrote a 200-page book that month then realized it was too short, so I spent the next six months writing 200 pages to tack on at the beginning. Technically, Sierra’s Last Song is a completed book, but I never went back to “marry” the first 200 with the second 200, so it would need a lot of work. Still…sometimes when an editor is interested in buying your book, she asks what else you’ve got on the menu. If pressed, I could probably whip Sierra into shape to round out the meal. (Hmm…did I just contradict the previous paragraph?)

But, hey…I’m jumping the gun anyway.

So, what’s next for Stealing Amy? Strangely enough, it gets shelved for a couple weeks. That’s right. Time to put some space between me and my offspring so I can approach the editing process with a fresh eye. (This is where you cross your fingers and pray that it’s not just a total piece of crap.)

That doesn’t mean I won’t start working on the “biz” end of things. Already, last night I polished off the query letter. Armed with what I learned from pitching Fit For Love, I’m well aware of the eons it takes to hear back from editors and agents, so I’m comfortable with getting the ball rolling even though the manuscript isn’t in tip-top shape. The good news is, I wrote a version of the query letter before I started the book. (Lesson learned from Fit For Love: if, when you finish writing the manuscript, crafting the query letter feels like walking over hot coals, something is wrong with the book.) So, like I say, the query letter was a breeze.

More importantly, I can start writing something new!! (Applause, applause.) Much as you grow to love your characters and their stories, there comes a time when you wanna vomit just seeing their names. This time, I’m trying a new genre (women’s fiction) and already have 150 pages written (another NaNo project).

Not bad for a person who’s a real slacker when it comes to finishing things. Er, case in point—remember that closet project two weeks ago which resulted in mounds of laundry all over the bedroom? Well, I’ve got them whittled down to about three loads now…and, today I had to shove the mess back in the closet to hide it from the housecleaner. It’ll probably still be there when I finish the next manuscript.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Dreaded Love Scene

Some writers would rather slam squid guts Fear Factor-style than craft a synopsis.

Not me. It’s the love scenes that send icicles through my veins.

First, let’s make one thing crystal clear. Just because I write romance novels doesn’t mean I write smut. Notice I titled this post “the dreaded love scene” not “the dreaded sex scene.” True, a growing number of romance novels contain explicit sex (in the beginning, we diplomatically called these “romantica,” then we moved on to “erotica,” but to me, most of it’s just “porn for women”). Hopefully, traditional romance is still more about love than sex.

Because after all, for women, sex is more about love…right? And my future would-be readers are women…right? And, just because the trend in romance publishing is toward sex, sex, sex, doesn’t mean I can’t buck the trend…right?

Oh sure, there’s a place for titillation (sorry about the pun) and as a writer you wanna create a whole lot of sexual tension, but do you really have to spell out its culmination with lots of c**ks and c**ts? I think not. Somewhere I read that a great love scene (sex scene, call it what you want) demands that the characters change emotionally by the end of it. I like this idea. That way, you know the scene’s not gratuitous. (As a side benefit, when you're published, you don't have to hide in the bathroom when Aunt Martha comes over--plus your parents don't change their last names and move to another state.)

With that in mind, last night I attacked the final love scene in Stealing Amy, my current WIP. Several agonizing hours later, I’d learned a lot about writing, about my characters, and a new way to approach these tough scenes. I concentrated less on the physicality and more on the emotions that swept them into the love scene in the first place. And, damned if the result wasn’t a huge improvement over previous tries. All without having to worry about body parts ending up in impossible positions and characters looking like sex contortionists.

What’s really hard is writing one of these scenes from the male POV. Here’s the dilemma: do you write it from the standpoint of your perception of what men do, think and feel while making love? Or, do you write what women wish men did, thought and felt? I plead the fifth. You’ll have to read one of my books sometime…

Hey, don’t worry. Y’all will be the first to hear when I get “the call.” Which, by the way, probably won’t be any time soon. Got a rejection back on an unsolicited partial I submitted to an agent about four months ago. Right now, the only thing left out there is a partial of Fit For Love with an agent who actually requested it, but I’m not holding my breath. (Hey, it was my first “real” manuscript. Hardly anyone sells their first!) Hell, I don’t even have high hopes for Stealing Amy…it’ll probably end up alongside FIT under the bed collecting dust bunnies.

Oh, well. As long as I keep improving…I’ll stick with it.

Besides, since my love life (or lack thereof) would reduce you to tears, you’ll understand if I jump at the chance to live vicariously through my characters...even if the scenes are dreadful, er, dreaded.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's That Time Of Year...

I don’t know what came over me yesterday, but I finally dragged myself back to the gym. You know how it is. You say you’re gonna go for weeks and weeks, but you don’t. You use any excuse in the book to justify not going. It’s too cold. It’s too dark. I’m too tired. I’m too hungry. Suzanne Sommers is on Larry King tonight. Yada, yada, yada. I get to the point where I even annoy myself.

Still…there I am, driving down the freeway, approaching the fork of “to go or not to go”, presenting arguments like I’m the late Johnny Cochran, when suddenly it hits me. Ever since I turned 50, I’ve grown tired of people’s excuses for not getting on with their lives and here I am, committing the same transgression over something so piddly as making myself work out.

I’m ashamed to be so silly. And I focus instead on the pride I know I’ll feel after class. I concentrate on remembering that it’s Tanya’s class—her classes aren’t drudgery—they’re fun! There’s no excuse not to go!

So, I pass my offramp.

Once on the floor, I pick a spot at the outer edge of the back row. And, of course, right off the bat, Tanya maneuvers us so that we’re turned and I’m now at the head of the class, right along side her. Swell. No pressure. I haven’t been in months and I’m practically leading the class. Let’s not even get into the fact that most of the women trail me by eons in age. Not only do I have to follow the moves, I have to fake enthusiastic energy. No huffing and puffing allowed.

And…I get throught it! I do! I do all the complicated stuff! Even the “advanced level” options!

I drive home knowing I am a star. At least, in my own mind. And, at least until the next day when the argument will start anew. Let's just hope Johnny Cochran's on the case again, not Marcia Clark.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Road Trip!

Saturday morning, 7 a.m. The phone rings and the "Conejo Valley Shuttle" (aka Marty and Ann) reports it will arrive at my door in an hour for departure to Harrah’s Rincon near San Diego. Woo Hoo! Goin’ on a road trip in the new Denali!

I pry my eyes open and drag myself out of bed. Shower, dress, throw stuff into an overnighter…and wait. And wait some more. In fact, I wait so long, I accidentally write a pivotal scene in my current manuscript, so I forgive them for being late.

Eventually, the "Shuttle" arrives at 9:30 and we set off. Twenty minutes later, Ann says, “Honey, can we stop for something to eat?” Grrr. I love my friend dearly, but sometimes her hunger is inconvenient. We pull off the freeway (in downtown Hollywood, no less) and circle the streets until we find a McDonald’s.

Back on the road around eleven, the 101 is now a parking lot. (Note to non-Angelinos: if you wanna get across the City on a Saturday, do it by nine or you’re screwed.) Anyway, sitting in the back seat, I pay little attention to our route. 101, 76, 15—a series of numbers fly by, but I can’t tell you in what order. Suffice to say, about one o’clock (after a stop for lunch) we reach what I call “The P Area.” As in Pechanga, Pala, and Pauma, which are names of Indian casinos. (Don’t ask about their affinity for “P”—I can’t explain it….maybe: Pay till you’re a Pauper??)

I don’t even know which P we stopped at….Pala, I think. Luck with 3-5-7 poker on a previous trip leads us to try it again. Bad decision.

Moving on, we reach Harrah’s around three-thirty and check in. Inexplicably, my reservation has been cancelled. Oops. Marty had made the reservation through the casino boss so it’s not guaranteed with a credit card. No problem. They have rooms available. Whew! Plus, I concoct a story about a Citibank problem (which is true, but not the cause of the cancellation).

We head for the casino and I manage to add to the loss column I started at Pala (Pauma?). I reach the point where I can’t believe I’ve ever thought gambling is fun. It’s the most stupid, hideous torture known to humankind and I’m an idiot for indulging in it. Finally, tired of the self-abuse, I go hide in my room. The longer I stay, the more I feel like a winner. I even miss the arrival of Ann’s son and daughter-in-law (girlfriend?) and dinner.

Eventually, I decide I can’t put off going downstairs. After all, gambling is what we’re here for, right? (Actually, we’re supposedly here for Ann’s son to copy the design of the hotel closets—boy, those are gonna be some expensive closets!)

I find Ann and we decide to try our luck at craps. Now, Indian craps look a little different. By law (which probably means the powers-that-be-in-Vegas), they’re not allowed to use dice in the traditional way. Ah, but never fear. Where there’s a will there’s a way, right? Each casino has its own method, but I like Harrah’s best: they lay out two rows each (one red, one green) of six cards. After you roll a pair of dice (one red, one green) they turn over a card in each row in the position that corresponds to the number on the dice. Pretty crafty, huh? Anyway, Ann and I recoup some of our losses at the crap table thanks to a young Persian woman’s successful run.

By the time I go to bed, I’m feeling a little less sad and a tad more optimistic about tomorrow. See, here’s the thing about gambling with other people; you’re never on the same schedule. So, I know, without a doubt, there’ll be more gambling tomorrow—I’m just happy to have enough money left to do it with.

In the morning, while waiting for the others to check out, I kill time at the bar with a screwdriver and video poker. Yippee! Harrah’s ends up paying me $110 for my drink (in other words, I hit four aces).

We stop at Pechanga on the way home and play some weird game we’ve never seen before called Sikbo…? Sickbo? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was just a sick game. Anyway, picture Chinese craps. Only you’re sitting at a computer monitor and the dice are dramatically revealed by an animated woman on a video screen. (Interesting note: although the game supposedly appeals to Asians, this video woman is as Anglo as they come. Contrast this with the fact that most human blackjack dealers are Asian—go figure.) Bottom line, Sicko, er, Sickbo, turns out to be another way to lose money quickly. Disenchanted when we don’t win millions of $, we head for the bar where Ann and I are famous for making ten bucks last an hour. Unfortunately, we meet a man who shows us how to REALLY play, which means we lose forty instead. Oh, well. Price of entertainment, I always say.

We stop for lunch, following which, each of us declares our new diets have officially begun….that is, until we detour past the Cantina twenty minutes from home and drink a pitcher of margaritas and eat a plate of Nachos. Okay, NOW…NOW, our diets have begun. Really.

So, goes another gambling trip. Here are additional random observations:

How come it's Native Americans, but Indian gaming? I'm so confused on the PC of it all.

The Indian casino in Santa Ynez (yes, near Neverland!) doesn’t allow liquor. (Hey, maybe they’re afraid all those kids running around Michael’s place will sneak in for Jesus Juice and get corrupted. Oops. Too late.) The official explanation? The gambling age is 18!! Supposedly, mixing minors and alcohol is bad, but letting them piss away their meager earnings is fine.

I’m a little foggy on the rules, here. It’s okay to gamble, because you’re on Indian land. But the restaurants don’t allow smoking because of California state law. Must make for some complicated maps.

Indian casinos are owned by Indians, er, Native Americans. So what’s up with Trumps’ in Palm Springs? Oh, I get it. Donald must be ¼ Cherokee or something. Ha. As if. I'm pretty sure no self-respecting Native American would be caught dead with a comb-over.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Honor vs. Strategy

Today’s topic is Survivor. Uh-oh. Did I hear a collective sigh out there? Quit your bitching…despite what most people think, this reality show is a real thought-provoker. Okay, well maybe it doesn’t take much to kick-start my feeble brain. (Huh? What was that I heard you say?)

Anyway, let me recap for those who don’t watch the show. On the surface: Strangers from all walks of life strive to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other to become the Sole Survivor and win a million bucks. Below the surface: this is a show about honor, dignity, strategy, values, convictions, loyalty, and yes--manipulation and greed.

Sure, to some extent, the producers probably influence the way this scenario plays out, but still, I find it a fascinating sociological phenomenon. It’s good vs. evil…except on Survivor, the guy in the white hat doesn’t always win. Hmmm…sorta like real life?

On last night’s episode, Stephanie, who embodies the quintessential qualities of a true survivor (athletic, smart, courageous and a passion for winning) looked like her days were numbered. She had a commitment from several allies who were supposed to keep her safe, but (and here’s where humans get interesting) they ditched that commitment because they feared her strength. One guy said that whether a person DESERVED to be in the game didn’t matter; he’d vote out anyone who could beat him. His cohort (another man) WANTED to support Stephanie because she DESERVED to stay, but he followed the crowd so as not to alienate his own supporters. Sad to see people go against their principles to win a million dollars…but then, that’s the society we live in.

So, what happened to Stephanie you ask? (See, you’re getting hooked). Here’s where the game took an interesting turn. At the immunity challenge, the host announced that the first person to give up would be abandoned for a night on a separate island. Well, about five minutes into it, Janu (a woman who’s been BEGGING to get voted off because she’s so miserable) threw in the towel. But, a funny thing happened during her night of exile. Solitary, forced to rely on herself, and away from a group she didn’t feel a part of anyway, Janu found happiness. Janu found glee. She made fire! She danced in the moonlight!

Flash forward to “tribal council” where the majority was set to oust Stephanie. As always, before voting, the host initiated a discussion. Based on some of the comments, Stephanie saw the writing on the wall and realized she’d been burned. She made a heartfelt statement about how much she wanted to be there. In turn, Janu admitted to how much she wanted to leave. That, in fact, she’d gotten everything she’d needed to get out of the game from that one night alone on the island. How cool is that? Janu had already won something worth way more than a million dollars, which liberated her to go home. Here’s where I think the producers manipulated the outcome. The host wangled it so that all of a sudden, there was Janu, offering to quit in Stephanie’s place. Stephanie, to her credit, insisted Janu leave only for herself, not on Stephanie’s behalf. Janu then restated the offer to “lay down her torch.”

And just like that. ONE PERSON had the power to thwart the will of the majority, and Stephanie survived to see another day.

But now that she knows her previous alliance was poised to send her home, what new strategy will she pursue?

Until next week…stay tuned.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Breaking The Rules

I love blogging because I get to stomp on writing rules. Sometimes I break them just because I can. See? Right there! Did you miss it? If this were being reviewed by a critique group, I’d be told to strike the word “just” because it’s a throwaway word. Not necessary. Ooh! Did you catch those others I just broke? Passive writing…using the verb “to be.” The revised version: A critique group would tell me to strike the word “just” because of its uselessness. Ahh…I can relax now.

See how hard it is to be a writer? Never mind that what sounds natural to the ear (or looks natural to the reading eye) might go against “the rules.” (Just for the record, please note that “that” is another throwaway word but I left it in anyway. Twice! What the hell! Let’s live dangerously!)

For those of you who aren’t romance writers, let me clue you in on some of the bigger controversies.

One vs. two—this refers to the number of spaces to insert after the period in a sentence. I kid you not. Last week this topic involved over 30 posts on a writing message board. (For my money, anyone who said “forget about formatting and write the damn story” won the argument.)

While we’re on formatting I might as well run through some others: underline instead of italics, *** or ### to denote scene breaks, em dashes (--) instead of hyphens,--hey there’s a million of ‘em.

Point of View—affectionately known as POV. Those who fail to stick to POV rules are known as “head hoppers.” In other words, you’re writing from inside the head of one character then you pull a switcheroo and jump into another character’s head without making a smooth transition for the reader. Whenever this topic arises, you can be sure someone will invoke the mystical name of NORA. (Never the full name, as in Nora Roberts, just Nora). As in: “NORA does it all the time, but you do it under penalty of death.”

Wordcount—sounds simple, but trust me, this one’s worth another 50 posts on the old message board. Courier 12 vs. Times New Roman 12…or 14? Microsoft Word’s wordcount vs. 10 words per line, 25 lines per page for 250 words per page? And, while we’re at it, manuscript page wordcount vs. printed book wordcount? Ack. Let’s not get started on margins.

But, I digress. This was supposed to be about actual writing “rules.” Um…let’s see. Certain occupations are taboo, especially for the hero: no athletes, no movie or rock stars. Certain time periods are verboten. The whole WWII era comes to mind.

Gotta open with a hook. Preferably dialogue mid-conversation. Something promising like: “But, Daddy--I got into stripping to pay the bills.”

White space. Rumor has it that before they even read a word, prospective editors rifle through the pages of your manuscript looking for white space. Lots of white space = good. Very little = very bad. White space means you have a lot of dialogue and less of the pesky stuff like narration, description and internalization.

Prologues (insert groan here). If you simply must have one, please, please, please, keep it to a maximum of three pages, less if possible.

Backstory (particularly in chapter one). Ah, the bane of many a newbie’s existence and a personal pet peeve. Please don’t inundate me with details about the character’s history before the action starts. And, God forbid, don’t ever STOP the action to fill me in.

Flashbacks. A device used when the writer’s skill isn’t up to figuring out a better way of telling what happened in the past. (Okay, ducking here. As I said before, there are exceptions.)

Show, don’t tell. Let’s do that, shall we? Here ya go:
Bad: Jamie felt depressed. (This is telling)
Better: Jamie sighed and stared into space.
Best: Jamie devoured an entire chocolate cake in one sitting.

Let’s not even get started on what’s “in” and what’s “out” when it comes to writing love scenes. Suffice to say that although I was never a fan of pebbled nipples or thrusting shafts, I’m not thrilled with what’s replaced them either.

And, finally (oh the list goes on, but I’m exhausting myself)…the king of all writing rules: CUT OUT THE ADVERBS. Seriously. (Oops) The “rule” is: if you’ve got more than two –ly words on a page, you should be strung up by your toes and forced to watch reruns of The Gong Show.

Okay, all you would-be writers. Go break some rules!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wasted Lives

If you dropped by for a yuk today, better move on. I’m in the mood to tell a sad story.

I’ll call her Lisa but her friends will know who I’m talking about. In high school, Lisa was the kind of girl we envied. Looks, brains, charm—she had it all.

In our sophomore year, Lisa and I vied for Homecoming Princess, and she didn’t show up for the pep rally where they announced the winner. The other nominee and I stood there, in front of the entire student body, fake smiles pasted on, applauding for the absent Lisa. Even then, I think I knew her failure to appear was out of fear rather than arrogance.

In our junior year, Lisa got pregnant and, as her best friend, she told only me. Those days, the best friend’s responsibility was to get the pregnant friend down to the L.A. Free Clinic. I don’t know if Planned Parenthood existed then, but if it did, we sure hadn’t heard about it. So, on a Saturday, I conjured up an excuse to borrow my stepmom’s car, and we set off for Hollywood to line up behind the runaways getting VD tests…only to find out pregnancy wasn't on the Saturday menu.

Eventually, her mother (a nurse who’d been raised in a French Canadian convent) discovered the pregnancy and informed Lisa that abortion was out of the question. She concocted a cover story (something to do with the pituitary gland and the need for darkness) and made us swear to uphold the party line to our friends. All summer long that year, I visited Lisa during the day, and at night we ventured out like vampires to drive-in movies where she hid in the car while I made the snack runs.

On the day Lisa gave birth, I arrived at the hospital ready to share in the blessed event. It frankly hadn’t occurred to my naïve sixteen-year-old mind that giving your baby away was no time to celebrate. At any rate, normal life resumed. Or, it did for me. I know now, life would never really be normal for Lisa again.

We went our separate ways in college but visited often. After a year, she got accepted as a straight-A transfer student to Berkeley but opted instead to follow a loser she’d gotten tangled up with to Lake Tahoe where she became a chambermaid. Yeah. The straight-A student stripped beds and changed pillowcases for a living. But, wait. It got worse.

Loser #1 went out of her life, only to be followed quickly by Loser #2. This guy moved into the house she rented from her parents and promptly set up a cocaine distribution center. Lisa did so much of the drug herself that her mother (remember the nurse?) instantly recognized the source of her daughter’s constant nosebleeds and had the house raided while Lisa was away. Exit Loser #2 and, to her credit, Lisa kicked cocaine cold turkey.

Thus began the good years. Lisa met a respectable guy, fell in love, and had a fairy-tale wedding aboard a boat on Lake Tahoe. I was honored to be her bridesmaid. On occasion, I visited her beautiful home high up in the mountains and thought, at last, Lisa is happy.

Naturally, nothing is ever as it appears from the outside. Still, I was surprised when, years later, I got the call that Lisa had checked into the Betty Ford Clinic for alcohol addiction. I drove down to see her one day and she seemed stiff, uncomfortable--not overly glad to see me—which was understandable given the foreign surroundings.

Around the time of our twentieth high school reunion, she returned to drinking, left her husband, and asked if she could live with me while she got back on her feet. I consented. Now, I got an up-close-and-personal glimpse into an alcoholic’s life. By her own admission, she arose from bed to down her first shot as soon as the garage door shut when I left for work in the morning. Although she kept a liquor bottle hidden in a cupboard, I easily tracked her progress: three days to consume a half-gallon of Vodka. At night, we’d talk about her depression—about her inability to appreciate the simple beauty of a sunset—about the time she’d stopped herself from putting a gun to her head.

Three months into her stay, I came home from work to the most pain-filled wailing I’d ever heard. She’d already phoned her sister to come help me get her into rehab, which we did that very night. I visited her weekly and a month or so later, I came home one day to find her stuff gone; she’d moved in with a woman she met at the clinic.

For the next several years, Lisa held a job, eventually got her own place, and stayed off alcohol. She even located her long-lost daughter and began a relationship with her. But then, the downward spiral began anew. Whether it started with the car accident she was involved in, the voluntary hysterectomy, the carpal tunnel surgery…who knows? Somewhere along the line, she filed for disability and never went back to work. This time, it was pills. Vicodin. And another trip to rehab. Then it was a return to alcohol until a bout with pancreatitis nearly killed her and prompted yet another stay in rehab. Frankly, between the stays for pills and the stays for alcohol, I’ve lost track of the number of times she’s been hospitalized.

Two years ago, another friend and I began stopping by every couple of months to pay her bills when she said she could no longer open her mail. Then, last July, she had to move. We helped pack boxes and went through twenty years of expensive but outdated fashions. Even after decades of an unhealthy lifestyle, Lisa still looked good. She just didn’t have anyone or anything to look good for.

This Saturday will be Lisa’s fifty-second birthday. She no longer ventures out during the day, except to see the pain management doc and her shrink. She grocery shops at midnight. Months go by and mail remains unopened, yet she keeps meticulous notes on the myriad of medications taken daily. Her linen closet looks like a pharmacy. She takes pills for pain, depression, anxiety, menopause, stomach problems, and allergies. She takes pills to ward off the side effects of other pills.

Her sister called this morning, saying she’d heard I was taking Lisa out to dinner for her birthday. “She’s really a mess,” the sister told me. “I spoke to her psychiatrist this week and it’s time for rehab again. See what you can do to talk her into it.”

I’m cursed with an excellent memory. When I look at Lisa I can still see the vibrant young girl she once was--the one with a twinkle in her eye and unlimited opportunities for the future.

It breaks my heart to realize the future has come and gone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Like They Say, Writing Is Easy...

...just open a vein...

Well, that’s what it felt like last night as I struggled to write the last scene in my current WIP. I mean, it’s crunch time—time to tie up loose ends, bring things full circle, answer all the unanswered questions…why am I having so much trouble?? When I wrote Fit For Love, the end seemed to write itself.

I’m hoping the answer is that Stealing Amy is a better book. That the characters have more depth, that the conflicts are weightier, and that the resolutions are more emotionally satisfying. Thus more difficult to write.

But, who knows? Maybe I just suck at endings.

And maybe, I just suck, period.

Okay, sigh. Not to beat myself up here, but this whole writing thing is not as easy as it looks. For some, it takes forever to find a groove—a process that works. When I wrote Fit For Love, I edited as I went and submitted chapter by chapter to a critique group. The advantage was that I knew the book backwards and forwards, I got instant feedback on whether a plotline or character was working, and, in the end, there wasn’t much editing to do.

This time—I submitted only the first two chapters. Not sure why, exactly. Probably because as I went, I kept discovering new stuff about the characters and plot that I knew I’d have to go back and insert in previous chapters, but I was too excited about writing the story to wanna spend time editing. And, trust me. I WILL NOT PUT SOMETHING UP FOR CRITIQUE UNLESS IT’S AS PERFECT AS I THINK I CAN MAKE IT.

So, here I am with a totally unedited 400-page manuscript. The good news? I’m not sick to death from already reading it a million times. (That happened with Fit For Love—if I have to read the first three chapters one more time, I’ll throw up.) And, I’m happy to know Stealing Amy will be ready to pitch at National in July.

Now, if only I could finish that scene….hmm…anybody got a razor blade?

Monday, April 18, 2005


Today I’m in the mood to ramble.

First, I’m feeling creepy on account of a nightmare that woke me around two this morning. I dreamt that miniature yellow dirigibles were zipping around L.A.’s skies dispensing a lethal spray of doom that I could smell and feel as it invaded my lungs. Charming, huh? Then I watched as American jets tried unsuccessfully to shoot down the bad guys. (Hmm…must have something to do with a defense project we’re bidding…oh, shh…not supposed to talk about that.)

Second, my desk—no, make that my whole office—is a disaster area. Come to think of it, my entire life is a disaster area. Sure, I can see the bottom of my closet now (note Saturday’s post) but guess what? Remember all that laundry I created? Most of it is still sitting in heaps all over the bedroom. I suck.

But if you really wanna be disgusted, check out my garage. Ever since the remodeling project of three years ago…well, I just don’t know what to do with the leftover tile, carpeting, and paint. Plus, my contractor-guy stuffed my recycling bin with cement bags which, I’m pretty sure, are not biodegradable. Meanwhile, since I can’t bring myself to put cardboard boxes in the regular trash, I’ve accumulated this veritable garden of packaging. I need a dumpster and I need it now. On second thought, isn’t garage cleaning a man’s job? Maybe I need a man. And, while he’s at it, could he pull some weeds on the back patio?

Yes, I’m feeling a bit out of control. I read once that organization is all about having the proper container. Like if you’re always misplacing your car keys, keep a basket on the kitchen counter (ha—I’ve got that beat—I leave them in the car). Note to self: Buy new dresser and clothes hamper.

Ever hear of an optical migraine? As I type this, I’m looking through blurred vision—sort of like a small paisley heat wave that starts off as a tiny spec and over the next twenty minutes will expand to fill my complete field of vision. Then it’ll reverse the process and go away.

Shoot. I haven’t even gotten to what was gonna be my favorite topic today—the start of another diet/exercise commitment. But, if I continue trying to see during the next twenty minutes, I’ll end up with a whopping headache. So instead, I’m off to close my eyes for awhile.

Damn. Nightmares to migraines. An auspicious start to the day, for sure.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Separation Anxiety

Apparently, I would rather do pretty much anything rather than finish my current novel, Stealing Amy. Now, those of you who’ve never been a couple hours away from typing THE END to a 400-page book may not relate (Brooke and John—you guys don’t count) but the rest of you, trust me on this. I’d rather (eek) clean out my closet. Don’t believe me? Come look.

Yes, I got up this morning and decided spending the day writing was too self-indulgent; I needed to do something more constructive. (Plus, I couldn’t find both slippers in my closet, so it was really an act of final desperation.)

Oh my God, the humanity.

The end result: 3 bags for the Goodwill, two days worth of laundry, and an aching back. And, I’m still only sorta finished. (Hmm. Do we see pattern here of not being able to complete tasks?)

Men, do you suffer the same kind of separation anxiety when you clean out your closets?

Here’s a list of what got tossed in order of the degree of pain it took to toss it:

Hand-me-down clothes I never wore anyway

Things people bought me that I never liked and never wore

Things I bought that seemed like a good idea at the time but probably only wore once

Things I probably shouldn’t have worn even when I was young and they fit

Memory inducers (e.g. the shoes I bought in Buenos Aires)

Any item purchased in the company of a boyfriend

Things I paid way too much money for and only wore once (formal wear is exempt and stays in the closet)

Things that didn’t make the cut last time but that I still haven’t lost enough weight to wear again

Things that didn’t make the cut last time, that I was indeed able to wear again, but can’t now

Clothes that are still cute and still fit but are worn out

Things that still fit, are still cute, but out-of-style and not likely to come back in

Any pair of size six pants

Actually, this experience has been inspirational. Think I’ll go yank that minidress from 1980 back out of the bag.

Friday, April 15, 2005

April 15th

A day to talk about paying taxes? Hell, no. More like a day to discuss procrastination.

I confess. I’m a huge believer in the old axiom: never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. You say that’s not quite the way it goes? Shrug. I can never remember axioms. Probably something to do with words that have x’s in them.

Anyway, I’m the queen of procrastination. An expert on shuttling tasks into the future. In truth, I think we can go back to that counting thing (see earlier post) to locate the problem. I just don’t know how to say to myself: Now is the perfect time to sit down and do your taxes. Now is the precise moment at which the experience will exact the least amount of pain. See what I’m saying? That moment doesn’t exist. Doing your taxes is NEVER fun.

So, instead I leave it until the very last minute. Deferred non-gratification, I guess. And every year I SWEAR it’s the last time I’ll do them myself. Even with the aid of Turbo Tax which so kindly transfers all of last year’s information so I don’t have to type it in again. (Beware: it also very kindly inserted the exact same rental income/expense figures from last year which was SO wrong.)

Here are the things I’m most fond of procastinating on:

Doctor’s exams
Dental checkups
Car registration renewal (or any other bill, for that matter)
Watering houseplants
Going to the gym (tomorrow is ALWAYS a better day)
Taking out the trash
Sending birthday cards
Buying Christmas presents
Grocery shopping

Hmm…you name it, I can figure out a reason to delay doing it…that is, unless it’s something fun. My scores for the Daphne Contest are due later in the month and I’m almost finished—might even send them in AHEAD of time. Um, on second thought, why would I do that?

Hey, I’m not an idiot. My taxes are done and there are (as of this writing) still eleven hours left. Well, okay. I lied. I haven’t printed them yet, and they’re not in the mail, but I’ve got four more hours at the office for that. Hell, I could even meter the envelopes and come in tomorrow and mail them.

Sometimes living on the edge is a thrill.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Going Lesbo

Okay, I admit it. I’ve got a crush on Stephanie from Survivor. No, no, no....I’m kidding of course.

But she is my new idol. Hmm...wonder if she can sing too?

Check it out: she’s got great eyebrows (I know, I know—I think I learned on a Seinfeld episode that guys could care less about eyebrows, but you women can relate, right?), she’s got a great natural tan, and she can climb a tree to get coconuts. Just think. If I had all those attributes, my dance card would be overloaded.

To top it all off, she’s got a brain AND scruples.

Obviously, they’ll be voting her out soon. Hardly anyone ever wins Survivor with those two attributes (Ethan was the exception and what a boring season THAT one was).

So far, her only visible weakness is a yen for pizza. After standing on that damn post for three hours, to go after the pizza after all she’s endured was a blinding moment of—dare I say it?—stupidity.

But then a heroine’s always gotta have a flaw, right? If she needs more, I could probably lend her some of mine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Idle Observations On the Factory--1982 vs. 2005

Then: Personal phone calls allowed at break and during lunch
Now: Cell phones and headsets

Then: Shop foreman’s choice of music piped in over loudspeaker
Now: Personal CD players and Ipods

Then: Work hours 8 to 4:30 with ½ hour for lunch
Now: Time off to take kids to the doctor, attend soccer practices, etc.

Then: Coffee club with $1.50/week dues
Now: Free coffee

Then: Names like Williams and Brown
Now: Names like Kim, Khanh and Khamsing

Then: A turkey at Christmastime
Now: Cash

Then: Trash cans and garbage trucks
Now: Hazmat and AQMD (Air Quality Management District)

Postscript: Not four hours after I posted the above, "the City" came by to investigate a report that we were "washing our forklift." Uh, excuse me? Didn't know that was a municipal crime. (And besides, we weren't guilty--anybody who takes a look at said forklift would know it's NEVER been washed--we were simply ADDING WATER to the radiator.) Anyway, suffice to say one thing led to another...and I had to step in before the police were called.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

You Be The Judge

Folks, I’m not making this up. You can verify what I’m about to tell you by going to the website. Either this guy is brilliant, or he’s one sick puppy. Maybe both. As I say, you be the judge.

Toby is the name of a bunny supposedly rescued and nursed back to health by the owner of the website. By clicking on the photo gallery, you can view adorable pictures of Toby at play in the park and various other locations.

Alas, there’s bad news on Toby’s horizon: on June 30th, his owner plans to slaughter and eat little Toby…unless the public ponies up $50,000 in donations. That’s right. Toby’s being ransomed. According to the homepage, over $24,000 has already been raised either through straight donations or via the purchase of promotional items. (Click on the Toby Store and you can buy anything from T-shirts to coffee mugs to Toby’s Roadkill Bar-b-que Café (“you kill it, you grill it”).

It wasn’t until I got to the recipe page that I started laughing out loud. Take Moroccan Hare Tagini, for example. Along the ingredients: Toby. The first instruction: “After quartering, brown Toby at medium-high heat. Remove Toby from the pan and brown the chopped onion (one medium).”

I mean, this is funny stuff…isn’t it??

What’s next? A guy in Korea with a site called

Monday, April 11, 2005

Psssst--Don't Tell Anyone

In a moment, I’ll disclose something about myself that I’ve never told a soul. Not because it’s shameful or icky or anything—just not important enough to warrant one-on-one human conversation. But that’s the beauty of blogging! NOTHING is too trivial!

So, drum roll please…

The truth is, I have a wee bit of what’s called OCD. Obssessive Compulsive Disorder.

No, I don’t wash my hands a billion times a day, and I don’t have a home full of garbage.

What I do is count. I don’t count things. I just count. One, two, three, four, five…always to either a hundred or a thousand depending on the situation. Now, before you think I’m weird, hear me out.

My counting falls into two categories: time killer and decision maker. For example, I’m sitting at a red light and it’s taking forever to turn green. I say: “Bet it turns green before I can count to a hundred. One, two, three….”

I’m waiting to be called at the doctor’s office. “One, two three…”

I’m waiting for the movie to start. “One, two, three…”

But, most of my counting falls in the decision-making category.

How long to suds my hair when shampooing? “One, two three…”

How long to run the blow dryer? “One, two three…”

Try this: You’re lying in bed on a Saturday morning and nothing urgent awaits you. How do you decide the perfect moment to get up? Count to a hundred and if getting up still doesn’t look appealing, no problem. Just start over and do it again. Do it until you’re so bored with counting, getting up looks preferable.

I don’t wear a watch, so when necessary, I rely on the thousand count instead of the hundred. For example, I’m in a bar waiting for someone who’s late. “If so-and-so doesn’t get here in the next minute, I’m leaving. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…” and so on to a thousand.

My little game is not without rules: if I count too fast and realize I’ve skipped over numbers, I must start over. And, I can never quit before reaching the end because it would be bad luck.

Don’t get me started on superstitions.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Second Time Around

With all the death and funeral coverage in the past few weeks--Terri Schiavo, Pope John Paul, and Johnny Cochran (who I mention only because rumor has it his ceremonial farewell took longer than the papal one)--I can’t stress enough how pleasant it was to wake up to a royal wedding this morning.

Mind you, I didn’t make a point of tuning in on Chuck and Cam—it’s just that ever since 911, I check with CNN first thing in the morning to make sure the world is still available and worth getting up for.

So, there they were—smiling, shaking hands with the common folk, even boarding a touristy motor coach—I mean how much more plebian can you get?

Camilla looked lovely in her two outfits (one for the civil ceremony; one for the religious). First, she wore a winter white suit a la Nancy Reagan and a gorgeous hat. Then she changed into an elegant but bland gown with a bird’s nest atop her head. I must admit I found the second hat extremely distracting because I focused more on what in the world could have possessed her to wear it, but when I figured it out, I was able to move on. (Take a look at her husband’s comb-over and you’ll see what I mean; Camilla had her very own to match her husband’s—how’s that for loyalty?)

There was a particularly squirmy moment during the blessing of the marriage. Both were asked (paraphrasing here) if they were resolved to remain faithful to their spouse, forsaking all others.

Answer: It is my resolve to be faithful with the help of God.

Okay, in other words: It’s my intention, but don’t hold me to it, and if I fail let’s blame God, shall we?

In spite of what the commentators said, Princes Harry and Wills actually seemed to enjoy the day and might even be mature enough to want their father’s happiness. It’s said they get along well with Camilla’s children, so let’s hope the royal family’s dysfunction has reached an all-time ebb.

And all that pre-ceremony hoopla about the Queen not attending the wedding? How come the media forgot to tell us she’d be at the blessing of the union? Huh?

I must say, I don’t quite “get” the whole royalty thing in this day and age. All that bowing and scraping to people who do little more than lend their name to charity still mystifies me. But something in me clings to tradition too, and in a world where there ain’t much of that left, I guess a Windsor family wedding will have to suffice.

So, my wish for the happy couple is that the Queen keep her meddling to a minimum, and the British tabs keep mum (no pun intended) with their salacious stories.

That is, at least until Chuck and Cam announce their choice for the surrogate mother of their love child. Now, that I wanna read about.

Friday, April 08, 2005

And, Now--Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming....

Whew! I couldn't access Blogger from anywhere yesterday. This morning, I cleaned out my cookies (as in wiped out my temporary internet files) and voila! Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Anyway, here's yesterday's post (how did y'all survive without me?):

Some days, I’m just too busy to blog. Well, to blog WELL anyway…and on a half-way decent topic. I’d LOVE to blog about an idea I had for a new book this morning, but I’m not crazy--one of you might steal it. Ha. No, really. I’m pretty excited about it. At first I thought it would be a chick-lit, but then I saw more potential for a romantic suspense. Oh, and I’ve got a great title which shall ALSO remain secret. Hm. Usually I suck at titles so maybe that's a good sign.

Anyway, for lack of anything better to discuss, I offer the following:

Michael Jackson: Guilty-as-sin-pedophile? Or, just your average 10-year-old boy?

Pope John Paul: Single-handedly responsible for the fall of Communism? Or, just another over-hyped media sensation?

Michael Moore: Courageous crusader? Or, pompous ass?

Angelina Jolie: Gorgeous babe? Or, plain old scary?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Astute politician? Or, flash-in-the-pan Jesse Ventura-wannabe?

Jane Fonda: Genuinely repentant in her old age? Or, once a traitor, always a traitor?

Go on. Talk amongst yourselves.

Please stand by...

Randy is having problems with Blogger. She is both hopeless and clueless, so this could be more than a temporary problem. Check back soon for new developments....her blogging friend, Brooke

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Hope, Optimism and Britney Spears

I used to be a pretty carefree human being, never sweating the small stuff, always able to see the silver lining in a threatening cloud.

Then I hit 50.

Now, I worry about everything.

I thought of blogging on what keeps me awake at night, but what if anxiety is contagious? I sure don’t wanna be responsible for starting a panic epidemic (see-- something else to worry about). So, what’s the opposite of fear? How about hope?

I decided to focus on things I’m hopeful about. And I got to thinking about the difference between hope and optimism. To me, optimism implies a measure of expectation, whereas hope is, well…just hope. You can have hope without optimism, but not the reverse. Then I looked them both up in the dictionary and had to toss the whole idea. Turns out both imply an anticipated result. My theory sucked.

Plan B for today: Britney Spears and husband-of-the-month Kevin Federline announced their foray into reality show programming. Okay, putting aside for a moment last year’s goal to stay out of the limelight, does anybody but me think ol’ Brit needs a mentor before her flame is forever snuffed?

So, here ya go, Brit. As a public service, I’ve made a list of candidates you oughta take a meeting with:

1. Madonna—if anyone can turn your mediocre talent into a career with staying power, it’s the Material Girl

2. Jodie Foster—from child actress to mega-award winning star, Jodie could coach you on how to avoid the whole “man mess”

3. Debbie Gibson—hey, at least she’s working

4. Ozzie Osborne—Ozzie claims “The Osbornes” was the worst decision he every made; maybe you should listen

5. Dano Plato—oh, right. Not available. Sorry.

6. Farrah Fawcett—now, there’s a real role model for ya, Brit. Still going strong after all these years…oh, you say her son is doing a year-long rehab stint for heroin addiction? Hm. Let’s move on.

7. Tracy Lord—from porn to legitimacy; do you think she could be doing your career in reverse?

8. Courtney Love—if there’s anyone who’s got more firsthand knowledge on how to f**k up a life, I wanna know who it is. Oh, wait. We’re looking for experts on how not to do that.

You see? Lots of choices, and I could go on and on, but…gee--turns out I’ve got better things to do…

Hopefully, Britney will figure it out on her own, but I’m not optimistic. (See the way I brought the topic full circle?)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I Quit

No, faithful readers (meager group that you are), fear not--it isn't blogging I’m giving up. Nor my day job (I’m afraid there’s some kinda life sentence involved there).

I’m talking about my role as social coordinator for my gal pals.

Now, by nature, I'm a follower, not a leader. But somewhere along the line, I learned that if you want to get something done, best do it yourself. So, for the past fifteen years, I did all the work when it came to girls' nights out and weekend getaways.

Well, no more.

And, it’s not because it’s such a thankless task (which it is, trust me). No, it’s not because of the hassles involved (here, for your reading pleasure, are a few examples from years past):

1. Can we change the date? Something’s come up. (Answer: No. Now that I’ve spent four months’ getting everyone to agree on a date, it’s firm.)

2. I don’t wanna share a room with (fill in the blank here). (Answer: Who you room with is up to you.)

3. I only wanna room with you. (Answer: I’m taken.)

4. I don’t wanna drive with (fill in the blank here). (Answer: Fine. Drive alone.)

5. Can we change the place? Make it closer? (Answer: No. it took a gazillion emails to decide, and I'm not changing it now. Besides there IS no geographically central place to meet unless you wanna spend a weekend in Bakersfield.)

6. Can we go somewhere else next year? (Answer: Yes. You be in charge of the date, time and place.)

Get my drift?

But this is not why I’m opting out.

I got to thinking…I’m the glue that keeps this group together…and, forgive me if I’m wrong, but in chick flicks, doesn’t the glue always die tragically young? Maybe it’s the feeble writer in me, but I’m picturing a scene where, in my absence, the rest of the girls rally around, each doing their part to put together a “memorial weekend.” Then, over champagne and nachos, they toast me with fond tributes and well-deserved remembrances.

Let it be someone else who bites the dust.

I quit.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pavilions is Robbing Me Blind

…and they’re stealing from you, too. Just like Ralph’s, Von’s and the rest of those grocery stores that require a special card.

Yesterday, my tab was $60, and I’d left my card at home. “You would have saved $7,” the clerk told me solemnly. Well, isn’t that a polite way of saying, “thanks for letting us pocket your seven bucks”? How do they get away with charging me one price and the next guy another? “Bring the receipt back with your card, and we’ll be happy to give you the refund,” he informs me. Yeah, right. Like I’m not gonna lose the receipt in the meantime.

Oh, I “get” it. In exchange for providing the nitty gritty on my shopping habits, they reward me with lower prices. Tit for tat. Quid pro quo. And, I even appreciate that by keeping track of how many boxes of Peanut Butter Flavored Ice Cream Cones I buy, the likelihood of keeping them in stock goes up.

But, geez. Do they have to personalize it? Isn’t collecting aggregate data enough? Do they have to know who is buying?

Somewhere out in cyberland, I picture myself on a database with a decade of purchases nicely sorted into food, beverage, and embarrassing feminine hygiene products. When did we decide it was okay for Big Brother to compile this info? Is it worth the privilege of buying five Lean Cuisines for $10?

Come on, people. Have you no shame? You’d sell your souls that cheaply?

From now on, I’m sticking to Gelson’s--screw the exorbitant prices. At least they don’t keep a record of how often I buy Preparation H.*

*Mind you, that example was for literary purposes only.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Damn That Donald Maass!

I’ve been writing with the intent to publish for nearly three years. (In writerspeak this means that although I’ve been writing forever, only the stuff I’ve completed in the last three years is worth the cost of a postage stamp for the query letter).

Anyway, so I’m heading down the backstretch of my second novel, and it’s taken so long that I think was still producing eggs when I started it. Mostly this is due to the fact I’m a panster, not a plotter. Whatever. The other night, I sketched out how to get from page 350 to 400 (at which point, I’ll be typing THE END!!!!) and started feeling pretty cocky about it.

Then Donald Maass reared his ugly head (actually, it's an attractive head—I took his workshop last year).

Raise the stakes, he hissed.

Make it worse, he commanded.

Okay. Plan B. I raised the stakes and I made it worse.

Still, he kept popping up in my brain to repeat his mantra.

Sigh. Back to the drawing board. I raised the stakes again, and I made things even worse. At this point, my poor hero and heroine are miserable failures (which, of course, is a good thing). guessed it. The Donald (as my friend Brooke and I fondly refer to him) is an adherent to the rule of three, so (grumble, grumble) I went through the process again.

So, now I’m feeling extremely happy with the way the plot unfolds. It’s not hackneyed or clichéd, it’s not’s—dare I say it?—Donald Maas-worthy.

Only one problem. A minor detail, really.

This is supposed to be a romance and, um, I forgot to make the heroine fall in love with the hero.

The way I discovered this was by doing a search of the word ‘love’ in the 350 pages I’ve written. Yep, sure enough, there it is: Nick having an epiphany on how he feels about Amy. Unfortunately, Amy is epiphany-less.

Which got me to thinking. Out of the bazillion craft books I’ve read, I don’t remember much about how to handle the actual falling-in-love-part of a romance. Oh, the process is addressed, sure. I’ve read articles on the “stages of falling in love,” how the love has to be tested, and so on. But, what about that exact moment the character realizes someone has rocked her world? I hate when the heroine suddenly slaps her head and says aloud: “Why, could it be? I’ve fallen in love with Herman!” And, I’m much more in favor of the reader recognizing the state of affairs before the character. But, still...there has to be a moment, doesn’t there?

I decided not to worry about my own character’s inability to figure it out because, in truth, that’s who she is--a cynic who doesn’t believe in love. So waiting until the last page for her epiphany may work out nicely.

And, if not—well, thank God for editing.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Wrong Decision

Growing up, I was a die-hard Dodger fan. True, the object of my obsession may have had something to do with all those hot guys, but I honestly loved the game. Back in those days, not a lot of games were televised, so I’d listen to Vin Scully call the play-by-play then type it up complete with box score summaries every inning.

When I got older and was able to drive, Dodger Stadium was my second home. (My record was 33 games in one season.) The summer after I graduated from high school, my best friend and I even managed to meet a player right off the field. He invited us to join him after the game (which is a whole other story and one I’ll save for another blog.)

The point I’m trying to make is that I truly loved baseball and for awhile wanted to make a career of it (side note: I eventually worked for Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasters which owned the California Angels, so in a way, that dream was fulfilled...but I digress.)

Years and years later, I got set up on a blind date with a former Dodger. We went out for awhile and imagine my delight when he invited me to accompany him to the “Old Timer’s Game!” Visions of meeting Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Willie Davis...all my old favorites danced through my head.

There was only one problem.

I had a scheduling conflict.

Back up twenty years. I was entering high school and my parents had decided I was too good for public schools so they forced me to go to a private school in the Valley. Our deal was this: I’d go for one year, then I’d get to choose whether to rejoin the friends I’d had all my life. The real bitch of it was, this damn private school had a coed elementary program that went through ninth grade (Campbell Hall) and a girls-only high school (Argyll) from 10 through 12, so I while I stayed back with all the youngsters, my friends started high school. Anyway, I fulfilled my end of the bargain and when it came time to choose, I left the private school in the dust. The trouble was, I’d made some really good friends in that year but they didn’t exactly live down the block, so I never saw any of them again.

Okay, now flash forward again. For twenty years, I’d been dreaming of showing up at my private school’s reunion—of rekindling old friendships.

And the damn thing has to be on the same day as the Old Timers’ Game.

I gave it a lot of thought and opted for the reunion.

Now, I’m not a pill popper, but the thought of walking into that reunion scared me shitless so I scored a Valium for the event. I mean, what if no one remembered me? (Even though I’d been Homecoming Queen, Snow Princess, and a cheerleader—okay, so I’m bragging, but trust me, that was the last time anything like that ever happened, so let me have my day in the sun, okay?)

I arrive at the campus, park my car, and see a little table set up where I get my nametag. The students manning the welcome desk direct me down a path at the bottom of which (so they tell me) everyone is milling around.

With my heart in my throat (the damned half a Valium was worthless) I make my way down to a throng of women. Since there were only five guys in my class, this doesn’t alarm me.

What does alarm me is that I don’t recognize a soul.

And they don’t recognize me.

Everyone is polite...they’re wracking their brains, trying to place my face. I’m wracking mine, trying to place theirs.

This is a nightmare come true.

I shoulda taken a whole bottle of Valium.

Wait. One girl’s name is familiar. Suzie Rockett. Hadn’t she married the teacher who’d driven me around the football field at the Homecoming Game?

And, I remember this, because she was a senior at the time. These women are not from my graduating class.

I mumble a torrent of incoherent words and manage to escape (picturing them all shaking their heads in confusion behind me). Back at the welcome desk (which I have to pass on the way to my car) the students ask if I want my money back but I’m too embarrassed to spend another minute on the campus.

So, here’s where I had made my fatal mistake: I graduated from Campbell Hall in 1968. Since many of the people (especially the guys!) went on to different schools from there, I’d naturally assumed a reunion would be celebrated in 1988. Not so. Later, when the Internet came into being and I accessed their website, I learned that we’re all supposed to celebrate in the year of our high school graduation. Dumb me.

So, did I go in 1991? Not on your life. I still haven’t seen any of those people again.

And I never got invited to another Old Timers’ Game.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Trouble With Blogging...

1. The moment I give someone my blog address, I can never blog about them again. Trust me, this really puts the kibosh on my yen to gossip about men, women, sex—you name it. (Plus, now that I’m two months into this, when I give out the address, I have this moment of terror that maybe I said something about them in an earlier post. This kind of possibility can give you nightmares.)

2. When I'm writing fiction, I revise about a million times before allowing a strange pair of eyes to see it, but I don’t really wanna spend an inordinate amount of time on my blog each day…you know, doing things like editing and stuff…so sometimes I slap my head at how poorly I wrote something in haste. (Case in point: I used the word "time" twice in that sentence; normally I'd go back and change one of 'em.)

3. As a corollary, I made a firm commitment to refrain from using normal writing time for blogging so I only do this at work, and get this: work actually interferes with my thought process! Now, that just sucks, doesn’t it?

3. I forget people actually read the tripe I’m posting and sometimes I reveal stuff about myself that was better kept secret.

4. Three words: pressure, pressure, pressure. Strangely enough, I’ve become aware that a few people read my blog on a regular basis…do you know how hard it is to come up with blog-worthy subjects every 24 hours? (Yeah, I know…sometimes I really miss the target…um, like today for example?)

5. I’ve lost my focus. My blog was supposed to be about my journey as an aspiring romance author. But, a) not enough happens on a day-to-day basis on the writing front—I mean, how exciting is it to hear I wrote another 2 pages? and b) I’m just not sure I want agents and editors (to whom I’ve sent queries or partials) to know that much about my writing life. (Unless I bury the info in a post like this one: shhhhh…don’t tell anyone…I sent out a requested partial to Kristen Nelson last week and entered two contests.)

6. I always think of stuff to add or change after I’ve posted…and yet, why go back if people have already read it? No one’s gonna be looking for updates. (Sidebar: heard an interview with Michael Shiavo’s brother yesterday which significantly altered my opinion on the whole mess…do I bother to go back and change my post? Add an update? Maybe later.)

6a. See? I just published this and already, I've thought of something to add: new readers see the posts in reverse order...which has to be utterly confusing.

7. I read other people’s blogs and think, what the hell am I doing this for? Only people who “know” me could be interested in anything I have to say. (Click here for a truly entertaining blog: )

Having said the above, I guess I’ll keep blogging away. If nothing else, at the end of the year, I’ll have a tidy little compendium (is that the proper word?) of “where my head was at” in 2005.

Hey, the older you get, the more important it is to keep those kind of records.