Monday, July 31, 2006

What Are The Odds?

It’s about 8 a.m. Sunday morning. My friend Brooke and I are waiting, bleary-eyed, for a taxi out in front of the Marriott. The valet asks if we mind sharing.

We shrug. Who cares?

I spy a slender young woman standing alone. When the cab arrives, she graciously offers to sit shotgun.

On the way to the airport, we chat. We get around to discussing my sale to Triskelion. She mentions she’s been hearing a lot about them. As we talk, it dawns on me that I know who this woman is. She’s the editor who requested a partial of Stealing Amy the same day Triskelion asked for the full! She’s the one I was too chicken to approach in person when she spoke at a regional conference.

“Don’t I recognize you from Desert Dreams in Scottsdale?” I ask. “Aren’t you an editor with _____?”

Yep, she’s the one. So, I tease her. I TEASE her with how she missed out! (Oh, the audacity!!)

We chat some more and arrive at the Delta terminal; I’m going on to American. While Brooke and I scramble for our contribution to the fare, the editor hands the guy some money, then turns to us: “It’s taken care of,” she says with a smile.

Okay, sure I'd heard the rumors that editors are human and not really scary at all. But generous, too??

Lesson #1: Keep Your Card Supply Replenished!!!

Those of you who’ve been following the bouncing ball here since last Fall may remember my first manuscript, Fit For Love, was requested in full by a publisher in September. Back then I read somewhere that their response time was upwards of a year, so I pretty much put it on the back burner.

Now, though, we’re getting close to the end of that year, so I went to their spotlight to see whazzup.

When the speaker finished, two of my friends threatened bodily harm unless I marched up to the podium to introduce myself and inquire about the best way to check on status.

So….I dragged myself up there and waited in line with trembling hands and sweaty palms. Finally, my turn came.

I managed to get my name out without stumbling too badly. She nodded knowingly (probably answers this question ten times a day), asked for my card, told me to write the manuscript title on it, and promised an assistant would get back to me this week with the status.

Beaming now, I went back to dig around in my bag for a card. That cute little card with the sassy chick sitting on a beach in a pink bikini with a cocktail and…well, y’know…all my contact information.

Um. Guess I’d already given a few out. Guess the rest were back in the room. Frantically, I checked every last orifice and pocket, but to no avail. Even my dumb friends weren’t carrying one.

So, I did the next best thing: I gave her my day job card. (Ugh, how BORING…not to mention embarrassing.)

However…when she read the title on the back, she said it rang a bell!! And I quote: “I think that’s one we’re talking about right now.”

Okay, I know. I know. Hooooold on, Randy. Doesn’t mean a thing. Or, does it?

Anyway, the point is: ALWAYS check your card supply before conversing with an editor!!

Smoking With Nora

First, cool blog post title, huh? All you romance writers out there know, of course, that I'm referring to the one, the only, Nora Roberts. This year alone, she's releasing SEVEN original titles. She's the Energizer Bunny of writing.

Anyway, I was out in front of the hotel smoking with Nora and some gals from the midwest who were HUGE fans. I mean, they were practically the point where they even asked for an autograph. I had to hand it to Nora; she managed to juggle her bag and the cigarette while stooping down on high heels to scrawl something nice in their notebooks.

Then they got to talking about jewelry. I heard one of the ladies say to Nora: "Don't you just feel like a million bucks when you put on great jewelry?"

And I'm thinking: Nora doesn't need jewelry to feel like a million bucks. Nora IS a million bucks...and more!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Home Sweet Home

And many stories to tell...but not tonight. Tonight is for catching up on the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the cell phone 'cuz (sob) as y'all will recall, I lost my beloved digital camera.

Downtown Atlanta from my room...pretty awesome view, huh? The electrical storm on Saturday night looked pretty good, too.

Fishies, can't you tell? Taken at Atlanta's famous aquarium. Unfortunately, the cell phone battery gave out before I could take pix of things that were actually the Beluga Whales. Omigod...could have watched them for HOURS.

Okay. You may be wondering why I took a picture of a toilet (or, to be precise, a urinal). See...when you gather 2200 women in a hotel, there ain't never enough ladies' rooms, so they convert the men's rooms for us. But God forbid our feminine sensibilities should be offended by having to actually VIEW this icky sight, so the hotel installed a row of plants and a nicely draped table. Yep, that Marriott really knows how to go the extra mile.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Closing Thoughts

Well, not really. Hopefully, I'll compose scintillating conclusions and reflections from this conference that will better reflect anything that's rolling around my brain at this moment because, frankly, there's a whole bunch of stuff banging around that location.

Mostly I'm really bummed because there's still 1500 or so authors/agents/editors still mingling downstairs that have a better timed departure flight than I. Oh, well. Curse y'all. I'll get you back in 2008 when this thing is held in San Francisco.

Anyway...the clock is ticking and every second I spend here is one more precious second I could spend sleeping, so more later.........

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sensory Overload

Oh. My. God.

So many many memories, and it's only Friday night!

I wish I could take the time (I wish I had the energy!) to do it all justice, but alas...I'm in my room, trying to get a good night's sleep so I can hit some good workshops tomorrow. Suffice to say, I've hiked all over downtown Atlanta (in 4" heels no less), met so many wonderful people (from parking lot attendants to multipubbed authors), and have ingested my share of alcoholic beverages and high calorie food.

Oh well!

For now, let me recount my favorite memory so far (and I'm combining a few into one): women who've noticed my "first sale" ribbon and ACTUALLY ASKED FOR MY CARD, WRITTEN DOWN THE NAME OF MY BOOK ON THE BACK, AND PROMISED TO LOOK FOR IT WHEN IT COMES OUT.

Okay, so that just felt waaaaay cool and is, obviously, a whole new experience.

So many other stories to share...the Bantam Dell/Ballantine party at the Ritz Carlton...cocktails on top of the Westin as we circled the city...did I mention walking all over downtown in 4" heels?

Next stop when I get home: hip replacement surgery.

Okay. Really. Off to get some sleep!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Breaking News

Do you really expect scintillating prose and Anderson Cooper-style reporting from here?? I mean, just because we're in the heart of CNN (which I toured today BTW)...the thing is, it's 1:02 and I need to be somewhere at 8 a.m.--who said this was vacation?--and I'm stretching it just to put words together. But, I thought it important to report that the Chick Lit chapter party was waaaaay cool, and my opinion has NOTHING to do with the fact that I WON DIANA PETERFREUND'S raffle gift...oh, no...(pant, pant)...even though she FORGOT to bring it along..I think I trust her, shouldn't I?? (wink wink).

So, go out and buy SECRET SOCIETY GIRL to compensate for the shipping, okay?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Alive And Well In Atlanta

The problem with blogging from National is that, um, there’s precious little time to do it and ...well, let’s be honest, after a few adult beverages with writing buddies you haven’t seen in awhile, the subjects, the verbs, the adjectives...they all start to run together, if ya know what I mean.

So bear (bare?) with’s after midnight Atlanta time and I just finished my last Black Russian (the drink, not the guy) and I really need to make up for the sleepless night I had last night.

Which, in part, stems from my fear of setting the alarm wrong. And guess what. I set the alarm wrong. PM...AM...turns out the distinction is important. As in, DO NOT set the alarm for 4 P.M. when you want 4 A.M. Whatever. I made it out of the house on time (5 in the morning). Thank God I sleep with one eye on the clock (and, in this case, I mean literally since I have one of those clocks that beam the time up to the ceiling with eerie red digits). Anyway, after one other small glitch where the first ATM I stopped at refused to give me money, I made it to the airport without too much trouble.

I flew out of Burbank (the no muss, no fuss L.A. airport) and used my frequent flyer miles on American to go first class. Not that I’m a snob, mind you, but if ya got ‘em, might as well use ‘em. God knows, no one in their right mind should ever PAY for first class, especially domestic. I mean, I didn’t even get the warm cashews this trip! Sacre bleu! I LIVE for the warm cashews! (Okay, I admit it. I wasn’t going to eat them anyway since they’re not Jenny-approved.) Oh, and please note, I turned down the omelet and/or pancakes for fruit only—now, is that dedication, or WHAT?

Arrived in Atlanta and met up with Brooke (San Diego) and Elizabeth (Phoenix). Grabbed a cab, got to the hotel, and started getting that RWA “vibe” as we checked in. After 4 years of going to these things, you start to recognize old faces, even if you’ve never spoken to them.

Things are just getting under way here, so we left the premises and walked a couple blocks to a Mexican restaurant. Let’s just say they do Mexican a little differently in Atlanta and leave it at that. Then, just outside the restaurant, we stopped to browse a public map but got accosted by a very articulate, fast-talking “homeless” person who practically followed us all the way back to the hotel. Wazzup with that Atlanta, huh? Hell, I thought I was back in Los Angeles, for God’s sake.

So, although it’s only 8:47 my time, I’m on fumes for brains so this is it for tonight’s report. Funny, ‘cuz I took NOTES in a regular NOTEBOOK on things to blog about which seemed so FASCINATING when I wrote them down, but that I now see would take too much time (and additional brain cells) to we’ll leave them for a thoughtful end o’ the conference recap later.

Now...I’m off to sneak a cigarette in the bathtub of my nonsmoking room. Sorry.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Amy News!

I have an editor!!

Now I can drop cool stuff into conversations like:

Well, according to my editor…


I was talking to my editor the other day….


My editor’s gonna kill me if I don’t…

Oh. Geesh. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Okay, enough playin’ around in the blogosphere. I’ve got SERIOUS packing to do for Atlanta!

Friday, July 21, 2006


Remember the story about flying into a storm in my dad’s airplane? How he tried going left…going right…over…under…?

At the moment, that’s how I feel about Leftovers (my work-in-progress). I’m stuck, stuck, STUCK.

So hey−instead of working on it, I’ll blog about it.

See, I was on SUCH a roll. Words were flying off my fingertips…pages were adding up fast. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! I was heading down the backstretch…when….


I came to a thundering halt.

It’s that whole FALLING IN LOVE thing again.

(Expletive deleted)

If that damned (expletive included) hero and heroine could just remain friends, finishing the book would be so much easier. (Hm. Don’t read anything between the lines there.)

Anyway, it’s not that I haven’t figured out (and built in) the underlying impetus that causes them to realize they can’t live without each other (or at least keep from tearing their clothes off)…but I’m having a hard time transitioning it.

Then I happened to check my spreadsheet and noticed a curious little note at the bottom. Something about the heroine’s backstory I’d totally forgotten. Hm….this could work!

But first, I had to read through the beginning to see how it fit in. Unlike my previous two books (which I over-edited to death as I wrote) I haven’t gone back to re-visit this one much. So…I started reading.

And, guess what?

I liked it so much, I read through to the end. That’s gotta be a good sign, right?

Sadly, good or not, I still haven’t been able to get them into bed. Maybe if I had some recent practical experience to base it on…

And now, because inquiring minds wanna know, here's a status report on my life:
Garage Door: Currently opens and closes electrically, but remote has gone dead. Yeah, yeah. I know it needs a battery, but what kind? How small? How do you get it apart?

Air Conditioning: Dead. Done. Finito. Need to replace entire unit. At this point, leaving kids unattended in my house would probably earn me a long stay in the slammer.

More roadblocks.

(On a positive note, I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I also haven’t cheated ONCE in FOUR days. Not once! AND, I finally made it back to the gym. Woo Hoo!)

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled program….

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All Aboard

This time next week I’ll be in hot and sweaty Atlanta instead of hot and sweaty Los Angeles. (By the way, this is not intended as an open invitation to the Southern California thug population to pillage and plunder chez moi--not that I figure the riff raff has time to frequent the blogosphere in between muggings, robberies, and road rage, but just in case...)

Anyway, yep it’s that time of year again. The Romance Writers of America conference where 2,000 (mostly female) authors at all career levels gather for five days of workshops, social events, agent/editor appointments, and…oh, yes…a little sightseeing.

To say I need a spreadsheet to keep track of my schedule this year tells you something, huh?

Wednesday looks to be the busiest: CNN tour in the morning, ACME lunch at noon, Rebels drinks at three, literacy signing at 6:30 and the RWA Chick Lit chapter party at nine. Whew. I’m tired already. And somewhere on that day, my cousin (who lives in Marietta) is jumping on the bandwagon.

Thursday is mainly workshop day with an RWA lunch or Triskelion lunch at noon. Then during the annual political fiasco (better known as the general membership meeting) I’m ducking out to tour the aquarium—hey, it’s the largest in the world, I wouldn’t miss it for anything! Thursday night is free but with two options on the table: a Marta ride into Buckhead for dinner or a walk up the street to the Westin where they have what looks like a fabulous revolving restaurant with breathtaking views (you can see to Alabama!).

Friday is more workshops, panels, and spotlights (that’s where you learn that nobody’s buying the genre you’re writing anymore). The evening is reserved for the kinda parties you get invited to if you’re published by one of the NYC houses—which I’m not, but *evil grin* I have my ways of crashing. (Shhh…you didn’t read it here, but I’m picturing myself at a gala event being held at the Ritz Carlton!)

Saturday is more of the same and another RWA lunch…then primping for the awards ceremony. Let’s just say that based on last year’s debacle, this one oughta be interesting!

Finally, on Sunday, I have a flight at 10 in the morning which means…ugh…checking out at the crack of dawn.

Yikes, is it over already?? That went FAST!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's J-Day!

Okay, enough obsessing about the diet. Except I have to say that I forced myself onto the scale this morning and it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Yippee! Less to lose! And, one more thing: my stepmom is one of the nicest people in the world, so don’t get the wrong impression from the quotes I used yesterday. She means well. Don’t all moms?

Anyway…back to what’s new with the writing career. Um, not much. Still no release date for Stealing Amy—I know, I know. You’re all out there poised with your fingers on the “buy” button, but you’ll just have to wait.

Which is a good thing, as it turns out, because I have A LOT to learn about promotion. I mean, who KNEW that writing and selling a book was just the beginning??

For all you nonwriters out there (and, hmmm…maybe some of you aspiring ones)…let me outline a bit of the drill.

First, there are the reader/author loops. There are, conservatively speaking, about a billion of them. The idea here is to join up, start participating on the message boards, get your name out there, and post excerpts that’ll leave ‘em drooling for more. The problem is, just joining ONE of these loops means multiplying your incoming email by a factor of 1000. No lie. At this point, I have all my loops on “digest” which means messages get condensed into one email containing about 25 at a time. Still…over the weekend, one loop I’m on generated approximately 60 emails so if you multiply 60 x 25…eeek. And that’s just ONE loop.

Okay, next you have “chats.” These are usually in connection with the loops and you spend several hours “available” for people to drop in and ask questions, discuss your book, your writing career, etc. I’ve never done one of these but I’m getting the impression the idea is to pray real hard that anyone shows up.

Now, let’s talk contests. MAJOR promotional tool. Turns out readers like to GET stuff for free (no surprise—I do, too!) and apparently, in return, they feel compelled to buy your book…? At least, I guess that’s the way it works. No guarantee, I assume.

Then there’s your Web site (two words, I’m told, and capitalized). I’m in the process of having one designed right now and can’t wait to see what the guy comes up with. Here you wanna make sure you come up with a “brand” for yourself—something that tells readers “who” you are, what sets you apart—basically, what kinda read they can expect when they buy your book. Personally, I also think it’s imperative to keep people coming back, so I’m gonna be incorporating a blog on mine. Yikes. More stuff to write.

Finally (well, not finally, I guess—this is just an overview) but you can buy well-timed, well-placed ads.

Is anybody getting the impression that for a newbie author, the outgo exceeds the income??

Ah so, Grasshopper. Now you’re getting’ it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Help! I've Fallen And I Can't--

Oh, wait. Wrong commercial. Doesn’t apply here. What I’m saying is, the parcel from Jenny is due to arrive tomorrow and, for my money, it can’t arrive too soon because…

My willpower is at an all time low.

Take last Friday…

I meet up with Marty and Ann at the new Fudrucker’s…I stand in the on-deck circle, amidst a whole lotta hustle and bustle, trying to zero in on something lite but satisfying. After all, it’s five-thirty, just after quittin’ time, and I’m in happy hour mode—not the full-on dinner frenzy. But suddenly it’s my turn to order and even though I keep waving people ahead of me, the pressure is on. Ann suggests I order nachos (definitely my go-to) and although it doesn’t fall into the lite category, she says she’ll split it with me, so I figure what the hell.

The nachos arrive and we’re talking MONDO. Naturally, I fall all over it, shoveling chips in my mouth like the food police are gonna whisk it away unless I gobble it all down quickly. (Ann, I notice, is daintily eating one, then two—at this rate, I’ll consume 80 percent of it before she gets to bite three).

Then the unthinkable happens.

Marty and Ann go to collect their hamburger orders and…there’s been some mistake. There’s an EXTRA one, complete with fries. They bring it back to me, claiming the restaurant didn’t even charge them for it. I accuse them of conspiracy, but…well, the bottom line is: I don’t have to eat it, do I? I mean, they didn’t pay for it. They can send it back.

But they offer it to me.

And listen, folks. You put food in front of me, I’m gonna eat it. Even when I’ve just devoured fourteen pounds of Chicken Nachos.

So I did.

And I detested myself for the next twenty-four hours. ‘Cuz, really. A small plate of nachos would have been bad enough…but what I ate was practically immoral. And then to top it off with a ginormous hamburger buttressed by a humongous homemade bun…not to mention two potatoes worth of fries…let’s just say, this little episode wiped out the meager section of my closet still available for social functions.

Which meant I was pretty limited the next morning when I went to dress for my nephew’s fiancee’s bridal shower.

Oh, but I felt better after talking to my stepmom.

Her: “Congratulations, I heard the great news!”

Me: “Um, what news is that?”

Her: “That you signed up for Jenny Craig! Your dad told me, and I think it’s wonderful. You know, it’s so important to be beautiful. Not just in the face, but in the body.”

Help me. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What My Parents Didn't Tell Me

Sometimes I wonder if there was a huge mistake made when I was a little girl. I picture the conversation thusly:

First Grade Teacher: I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your daughter’s IQ is barely above that of an idiot. In fact, she’s practically a moron.

My Parents: What she doesn’t know, won’t hurt her. Let’s pretend she’s really smart.

And then I grow up, fooling everyone along the way when, in fact, I’m really, really, dumb and every so often, the truth peeks out.

So, I buy a fan last night because the “repaired” air conditioner has crapped out again (along with the garage door opener which, after a week, I finally figured out was a circuit breaker problem after the latest blackout). Anyway, this time the a/c is gone for good and on my first pass I wasn’t able to read the model number to order a replacement (besides, it’ll cost beaucoup bucks which are already pledged elsewhere this month). Meanwhile, if Al Gore wants proof of global warming, he should visit my town ‘cuz it’s like Iraq here.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The fan.

I find it in the “summer promotions” aisle and there’s only one. Not surprising this far into the season, so I half-heartedly check a couple other aisles, but no. For $19.99 I buy the last one and feel lucky to get it.

I arrive home, all excited to try out my new fan. I already picture carrying it from room to room as I move from activity to activity. First next to the treadmill, then to the computer room, maybe downstairs later for TV and dinner.

But as I make a mental note of the most conveniently located electrical outlet, a vague thought pricks my subconscious. Why don’t I remember seeing a power cord?

Because there is no power cord, idiot.

Okay. Calm down. If it needs some sort of extension cord, I’ve got one. Probably. Somewhere.

I sit on the bed to inspect my new appliance. It’s like a travel makeup mirror—the kind that unfolds to form an L, complete with its own horseshoe-shaped base. Aha, I think. That thick base—maybe the power cord’s stored inside. How ingenious!

Or not.

I slide open a pair of tab thingies and reveal…


Belatedly (well, in my defense, not belatedly because up until this point I thought the sucker plugged into the wall) I try the power switch.

Right. Nothing. No blessed whir, no whoosh. Nothing.

With a sinking feeling, I figure maybe the batteries aren’t making a connection somewhere…? So I proceed to remove one leg’s worth.


Because now I can’t get ‘em back in.

So I’m cursing, I’m sweating, I’m breaking nails right and left. Just as I finally get this close to cramming them back in…the other five pop out.

At this point, I’m pretty confident the thing will never work (hey, maybe this is why it wasn’t boxed and the only one they had—ya think??) but I’m determined. Twenty minutes later, I get all eight batteries nestled back in their cradles.

Switch the power on.

Yep, definitely a moron.

Okay, I know when I'm whipped. So I don’t even bother taking the newly-purchased WD-40 out to fix the recalcitrant garage door. No, I decide to leave that to the experts...y'know...the ones whose parents didn’t lie about their IQs.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

From The TBB Pile...

As in…the "to be blogged" pile. Not that I really have one. Well, not a real one where I keep a list of topics just waiting for my erudite thoughts and crackling wit. Still…some stuff hangs around in my mind, and today I'm doing clearance.

Let’s start with the motto of this post: Don’t EVER throw anything away. Why? Because, sooner or later, the government might pay you for it.

Case in point:

In my day job, I’m signed up to receive, via email, automatic notifications of government solicitations for equipment it wishes to purchase. One of the sites I’m registered with is the Navy Electronic Commerce Online system.

Now, I’m fully aware that not all of you have any reason to be signed up with them; hence my public service today.

Yes, I’m here to make sure you know that the Naval Medical Center has issued Solicitation N0025906T0118 dated July 5, 2006 for an item with the Federal Supply Classification Number 6640.

In other words, they’re looking for a guinea pig cage. Hell, we've all got one or two of those gathering dust in our garage, right?

Now, the closing date is July 21 and the solicitation is 22 pages long, so I thought I’d better give you ample notice to get your bid ready.

Clicking here will take you to the on-line bid form and associated documents containing all the pertinent clauses regarding your accounting practices, your child labor practices, your promise not to sell to terrorists, etc.

But since I know your time is valuable, I’m pasting the description below.

PLASTIC CAGE for Guinea Pig
Cage configuration: 2W X 4H, Cage Dimensions: 25"W X 25"D X 9.5"H, Overall dimensions: 58"H X 61"W X 31"D.
P/N: GPP408P
1" square tubular stainless steel open rack, high temperature plastic cages feature smooth dimpled surface with 3/8" diameter perforations and larger square openings where guinea pig waste tends to build up, all stainless steel cage front is removable and holds feeder unit, optional water bottle and integrated card holder. Standard equipment includes stainless steel rack, 8 high temperature plastic (Noryl ENG265) perforated cages with matching excreta pans, electro-polished stainless steel cage front assembly with stainless steel feed hopper and provisions for water bottle and holder. Include Edstrom stainless steel automatic watering system with reduced flow valves and drip troughs. Standard castors are 5" stainless steel housings with Kriptonic wheels-two with brakes, all zerks.
FOB: Destination
MILSTRIP: N0025961284961

Like I said, you’ll need to complete 22 pages of forms to accompany your bid, so best get cracking.

Good luck and happy selling!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

News Flash--Randy Calls Jenny

As in Craig, not Crusie.

Yep Called the 800 number on the Web site, and guess what? Kirstie answered! Oh, wait—guess it was a recording, but it made me smile as she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and said to be sure and try to the chocolate cake.

Yes, folks. I decided to get off my fat a$$ and stop the menopausal spiral into hell before it’s too late. Before I need to lose 30 pounds instead of 15. Before my granny arms become lethal weapons at sporting events.

Before I give up all hope of ever indulging in another romantic relationship.

Sound shallow?

So be it. I’m shallow.

Hi, my name is Randy. I’m shallow.

Deal with it.

Stay tuned for progress reports. The battle of the bulge starts Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oops...She Did It Again

Okay, first of all, it’s been done before and, may I add, in a more tasteful way, by Demi Moore. Second, I took her at her word when she said she wanted less attention, more anonymity. Silly me! (Because when you splash a naked picture of yourself on the front of a widely circulated magazine, you’re really sending a different message, aren’t you??)

Demi’s photo was art. Brittney looks like she got caught sitting on the john.

And found it amusing.

Click here to see WTF I'm talking about. (And by the way, why is a naked pregnant lady on the cover of a fashion magazine? Are they implying NAKED is IN for trendy moms-to-be?)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Randy's Book Corner

I don’t claim to be very high brow when it comes to the arts--whether you’re talking movies, books, paintings, whatever.

So, going here to check the list of 30 books we should all have under our belts before we die was sorta scary. Um, I’ve read ONE out of the thirty. (Hm…d’you suppose I’ll live longer?) Oh, hell. I just copied and pasted the list below—surely that’s okay since I provided the link to the site as well.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible (by God!)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

So, like I say. I’ve read ONE of these friggin’ books and it’s not even one you’d guess. That’s right. I’ve read The Lovely Bones. Oh, wait. And I might have skimmed Lord of the Flies in high school. Other than that, nada. Unless, of course, you count whether I’ve seen the movie versions. No, geez. I haven’t even seen those. Have I been in a cave or something?

Anyway, in a related posting, here in Miss Snark’s comment section, blog readers named three of their top book selections from those published in the last ten years. Um, I’ve hardly even HEARD of most of ‘em.

God, I’m even less high-brow than I thought.

In my defense, I grew up in a white bread world where Medical Center was considered dramatic television and John Wayne a highly underrated actor. On top of that, my addiction to Nancy Drew mysteries (and then later, romance) limited my reading choices way up into adulthood. Oh, sure. I struggled through the humanities core course in college (a folly embarked on when I switched majors to English for about an hour) which forced me to read a lot of classics. But y’know. Back in the ‘70’s at UC Irvine, the notion of classics was loosely defined. Hell, I read stuff like Phil Slater’s The Pursuit of Loneliness for a HISTORY class.

So I got to thinking about the books that left a mark on me, for whatever reason, and decided to share. Dumb or not. Here they are (without checking my bookshelf, cuz I really wanna pull these out of my head). Oh, and I’m sorta going in chronological order:

1. Nancy Drew mysteries. The first one I ever read: The Secret in the Hidden Staircase. That’s where I fell in love with reading. Also loved Cherry Ames for a more mature heroine and Trixie Belden for pure adventurous fun.

2. The Beany Malone Series. Another childhood favorite. I wept when her mother died.

3. Little Women. Still remember the line that went something like: And as Beth drew her last breath where she’d drawn her first…

4. Anything by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney—my romance period.

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith.

6. Valley of the Dolls—Jacqueline Susann. Okay, come on, people. Admit you read it. Actually, I read her first book first. Every Night Josephine was an autobiographical account of life with Jackie and her poodle. I still remember laughing till I cried as she described trying to feed her dog a pink pill. But, wow. Valley of the Dolls. An introduction to sex in novels—I couldn’t BELIEVE people did that stuff in real life. (Hey, I was only about 14.)

7. O Jerusalem—Collins and LaPierre. First time I realized what good storytelling meant because it was actually nonfiction disguised as a novel. Or at least that’s the way I remember it.

8. Fear of Flying—Erica Jong. Er, I was kinda prude-y until I read about her escapades. Then I wanted to BE her.

9. Trinity—Leon Uris. Read it in a weekend.

10. The Accidental Tourist—Anne Tyler. Loved the book, hated the movie. Fell in love with the author (am currently reading one of her latest).

11. Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand. By far my favorite book of all time.

12. The Best and the Brightest—David Halberstam. Nonfiction, but this is my list, my rules. (Oh, and please note, this was a college “text”)

13. War and Remembrance—William Manchester (?) The characters from this one stayed with me for a long time.

Well, like I say. Those came off the top of my head, so I guess it’s a guarantee they’re memorable, at least to me.

Ever since I started writing genre, I can’t stand to read it, so my recent reading material includes stuff like:

The Secret Life Of Bees—Sue Monk Kidd
Memoirs of a Geisha--??
The Lovely Bones—Alice Sebold
Running With Sissors—Augusten Burroughs
The Bean Trees—Barbara Kingslover

I tried Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” I truly did. But soon it was either: put it down, sink into despair, or kill myself. I chose the first option.

So that’s our book discussion for the week. What are your favorites?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Bonanza of Memories

My mother must have been short on gift ideas the Christmas she gave my dad her inheritance money to purchase the airplane in this photo. After all, she was deathly afraid of them and dead set against his having one. Guess that’s true love, huh?

I was only eight or nine at the time. My first memory of the little red-white-and-blue Beechcraft Bonanza is the Sunday we went to “visit” it at the tiny airport in Rancho Conejo where Daddy "boarded" it. Only three hangars and no tower. I mean, we’re talking primitive here. (Side note: watch It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and you’ll see both the airstrip and my dad’s plane in the background.) Anyway, we’d just come from church and I was wearing brand new black patent leather shoes. A fresh coat of asphalt made me wary of getting yucky tar on them, so when Daddy rolled the plane out into the sunlight, I kept my eyes glued to the ground.

Guess what?

It turns out the wings of a Bonanza are low enough for a nine-year-old to walk right into. Cue gushing blood, my mom pressing a handkerchief to the wound, and our hasty departure from the airport. Didn’t get any stitches though, and I still have the scar on my head, about an inch above the hairline, to prove it.

Scrawled on the back of this photo is the year 1963 so within months, my mom was gone, leaving Daddy a widower. My brother Barry (also pictured and about fifteen at the time) was busy with a teenage social life, so my father and I spent a lot of time together−often in the plane. I remember writing entries in my diary like, “Daddy flew me to Ventura for a Coke today.” (Pretentious, I know, but true.) Another time, we actually flew to my dad’s office. Oh, it was a roundabout way to get there and took a lot longer than the 30-minute drive by car but it made another great diary entry (especially the part where I threw up).

Some of the most memorable trips, I wasn’t present for (thank God). Like the time he was on a hunting trip with his buddies and they had to put down in a farmer’s field when the wings began to ice up. The next morning, worried about excess weight and an ominous power line, my dad took off alone and met his friends later at a proper airport. Or, how about the time he tried to take a short cut over the Sierras and instructed his buddies to keep writing their names? When their signatures grew illegible, he had to turn back—the guys couldn’t handle the lack of oxygen at that altitude, although my dad could (well, at least, that's what he claimed).

My favorite trip in the Bonanza (and now that I think of it, probably my last) took place the summer I turned fifteen. Along with my stepbrother Mike and stepmom Annie, Daddy and I embarked one morning on a cross country trip to Minnesota. You can’t fly over Las Vegas without hitting the casinos, so that was our first stop. In the morning, we set off again, our next destination: Rocky Springs, Wyoming. After Rocky Springs, we hit turbulence so bad that Mike, sitting in the front next to my dad, spent the entire flight with a jacket over his head. I had my own go-to solution when the air got bumpy: I turned the “do not open during flight” lettering on the window into an anagram, making as many words of it as I could. Guess even then, you could see the signs I wanted to be a writer.

We finally landed at some Podunk airport next to some Podunk town—in South Dakota, I think. Mike and I literally tumbled our way off the plane and onto the grass, swearing we were never leaving.

My dad pointed to a swarm of approaching thunderheads and said if we didn’t get out of there in the next fifteen minutes, he’d have to hold us to our word.

We took a second look around the sorry excuse for a city, and clambered back in. Fortunately, after that, things smoothed out, the scenery morphed from dry, rocky desert to a patchwork of green fields and farms−the rest of the flight into Detroit Lakes, Minnesota was beautiful.

On the way back, however, bad weather dogged us again. I think we’d taken off from Lincoln, Nebraska on our way to Vegas, when we flew right into a raging storm. Streaks of lightning flashed on either side of us. My dad tried everything to circumvent the storm—first flying around it to the right and when that didn’t work, changing back to the left. Over, under−everywhere we went: storm, storm, storm. Strangely, I don't remember being scared at all--I guess because when the guy flying the plane has spent several years as a P-38 pilot in WWII, you figure you're in safe hands.

Eventually, we must have found a path, because at last, Vegas lay up ahead.

As we glided toward the runway, a song kept playing through my head, and suddenly I realized what it was: the theme from the movie, “The High and the Mighty.” You know the one—starring John Wayne as the pilot of a disabled plane flying from Honolulu to Los Angeles? I had to laugh at my subconscious, but I sobered when my dad pointed to a ridge of mountains and said, “We didn’t have enough gas to get over those.”

To this day, I don’t know whether or not he was kidding.

Years later, for some unknown reason, I developed a horrible fear of flying (no, not the Erica Jong kind, although come to think of it…but, I digress). Don’t know what triggered it, or where it came from…except that maybe I never trusted any pilot who wasn’t also my Daddy.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Topics I considered blogging about today but didn’t dredge up enough content (not to mention energy) for:

1. Critique groups: the pros and cons
2. Rediscovering the groove: how hard it is to get back in the swing of writing
3. Gambling: who knew penny slots could be fun?
4. The Korean missile tests: Happy 4th of July!
5. Chick Lit: when the genre you’re currently writing in has reportedly received last rights
6. Creativity: Which parts are inborn, which are possible to learn?
7. Establishing a web presence: the search for a pithy catch phrase
8. Author self-promotion on writer/reader loops: worth wading through 1000+ emails a day?
9. Time for a new me (again): a plan to resurrect my previous (note I didn’t use the word OLD) body
10. The new and improved personal to-do list

See what you missed?

On second thought, y’all could probably write the entries yourselves.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Living On A Dark Continent

Okay, that does it. I’m convinced. Somehow, my neighborhood−which includes (within a 5-mile radius) Will Smith, Heather Locklear, and others−is nevertheless a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. That’s the only explanation for ANOTHER POWER OUTTAGE.

I mean, seriously folks. If we all had the time (and inclination) to go back through this blog, how often do I lose the juice? Once a month? Twice a month? (Let’s not even count how often the cable dies.) And, may I point out, when it goes, it FRIGGIN’ GOES??

Tonight, it went out around six. Uncharacteristically (VERY) I was in the middle of a lot of STUFF. The A/C was on, both the washer and dryer, the computer, and two televisions. At first I thought…oops. May have blown a circuit breaker. (Do I need to point out that the fact I even know I HAVE such a thing is astounding?) So, I walked out the door to check and saw another neighbor doing the same thing. Okay. Bingo. Power’s out for real.

Like I said, not much chance of it coming back on in a blink (as in a power surge which, most of you are probably more accustomed to) so I made a few overdue phone calls (friends, family) then said, CRAP. Might as well go out for the evening.

Flash forward−after meeting a very nice man at a bar−arrive home around 11:30 thinking SURELY the power will be back on by now.

Uh, no.

Made myself half a sandwich in the dark (HADN’T HAD DINNER) and tucked myself into bed with the radio…tuned to that AM crap which consists (at this time of night) red state people recounting their alien abduction stories. Turned that off pretty quickly.

Tossed. Turned.

Just about to get to sleep when….WHOOOOAAAAA. Lights on! Television blaring! Yep, the power’s back on. Which would be really, really, welcome….except, now I have to get up and finish doing the laundry.

Oh…and download my email in which somebody’s dropped an 8 mb message…and I’m on dial-up.

Ya think Will and Heather have these problems?

P.S. At least I had that whole garage door/front door problem ironed out, huh?