Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back To Reality

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

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

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

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

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

Do I sound cranky?

I am.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blogging From The Caribbean

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

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

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

Sunday, October 21, 2007

From Ft. Lauderdale...

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2007


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

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

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

I'm in heaven.

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

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

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

And it's bliss.

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

They're gone.

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

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


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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Random Thought On My Way To Work

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hot Babes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Don't Try Building This At Home, Folks

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

The Infamous Bankruptcy Update

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

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

For what?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Stuff to Pack

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

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

Packed a lot lighter, I guess.

Friday, October 12, 2007

One Week From Tomorrow! ! !

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


(Ya had to be there.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Number Nine...Number Nine...

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

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

Monday, October 08, 2007

Never Too Late

This morning, I decided to change careers.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 06, 2007

News Flash! I Finished Reading A Book!

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

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

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

Well, I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Mixed Bag Of Google

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

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

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

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

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

A month went by.

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

I wrote back, suggesting we get together some time.

I never heard from her again.

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

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

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

Until this week.

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

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

I was stunned.

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

How. Could. This. Be.

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

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

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

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

Was she happy?

Did we really want to find out?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Blog Topic Anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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