Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pure Brilliance

In case you haven't seen a version of this and were wondering just how the *F* we got into this mess...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Here!

See that book cover to the right? Yep, I'm finally holding a copy in my hot little hands! My short story, "Disappearing Act"--the true account of my efforts as a child to keep tabs on my dad on Christmas Eve so he wouldn't miss "Santa's" visit--appears on page 137.

Okay, if you're a friend or relative...or if I met you in an elevator one time...don't rush out to buy it because I probably already have a copy for you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dear Faceless Stranger...

I hope the money meant something to you. Like, you were able to run out and buy your little girl the doll she's been wanting that you couldn't afford cuz you lost your job. Or that it'll help you with the down payment on that apartment you need to rent cuz you're being foreclosed on.

Y'know. Something like that.


Here's the deal. No one stole any money from me. (Not unless you count the stupid slot machine manufacturer whose FLAWED design cost me $350.)



Sad, huh?

I was building up a bankroll, cutting into my losses of Friday night. Got it up to precisely Three Hundred Fifty Dollars and Two Cents. (Note the two cents--it's the CRUX of the problem).

I inserted the bet slip into a slot machine at the same time my friend Randi inserted hers into the one next to it.

Beep Beep Beep

Now, remember. I'm not exactly a rookie, here. The sound seemed to be emanating from Randi's machine, so I said: "I think it's trying to give you change."

The beeping stopped. We proceeded to spin. Within a minute, I decided to move on, and I hit the "cash out" button.

Took my slip.

Chose another machine maybe twenty steps away and inserted my slip. The credits registered only two cents. Fine, I think. My slip's jammed again (for the third time that day, as a matter of fact.) Calmly, called a slot attendant and filled her in.

She uses her key to open the front and informs me I didn't put a $350 slip in. Still calm (knowing there must be ways to prove it), I insist that I did.

"No, no," she says. "You never took the $350 from the previous machine."

Crap. I suddenly get it. It was MY machine doing the beeping. It was trying to tell me to take the TWO CENT slip.

Which meant....uh-huh. My $350 was still in the previous machine.

Only, of course, by wasn't.

Security reported that the person who used the machine after me (probably sitting right next to Randi!!!) caught my unexpected windfall and cashed the entire ticket at another machine about ten minutes later.

What could I do? Obviously, there was no way the casino was gonna refund my money. And, yes, it's MY RESPONSIBILITY TO VERIFY THAT THE AMOUNT ON THE BET SLIP DISPENSED IS CORRECT. I get that. (Hell, I'd lost my glasses--wouldn't have been able to see the amount anyway.)

Still. Nine times out of ten, machines that feel this overriding urge to refund the money outside of nickel increments, automatically shoot out a bet slip. Some just add it to your bank, because after all, it's PAPER. Not like they're actually dispensing pennies, nickels and dimes....!!

Later, I met a guy at the bar who said the same thing happened to him once. According to him (I'm not sure I believed this), he got security to review the videotape and they tracked down the culprit in the casino. Gave him the option to pay the money back or never step foot in the casino again.

Sigh. Lesson learned.

The good news is, I got it all back the next day with some excellent bonus plays.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Heart Excel

Let's call the latest writing project MM for short, shall we?

I'm in MM's plotting stage, so the other night I spread my Excel wings and took the whole process a step further. Fun!

Here's what I did:

In my new-found allegiance and dedication to (ahem) structure, I created four columns (get it? Four Acts? Four columns?) which can also be interpreted as three columns for you three-act aficionados. Supposedly, a rough breakdown works out to 25% for Act I (inciting incident), 50% for act II (complications, crises, etc.), and 25% for resolution. Obviously, those are only guidelines, not hard and fast rules. For a 400 page book, you don't wanna just be gettin' around to the inciting incident on page 100.

So I tweaked a bit. And did a lot of math. Figured out roughly how many chapters, scenes, and pages go into each of the columns. Then, I inserted skinny columns before each "act" corresponding to chapter numbers. (Let's pause to visualize how cool this is....okay, moving on.)

Now to start filling in boxes, which it may not surprise you to know, is the hard part. Then I remembered the trick I used to employ when I didn't know where the f I was going with something. Write to the hook! So, I started filling in chapter hooks.

Okay, I didn't get real far with that because I'm still feeling my way through the storyline. helped.

Meanwhile, I reminded myself how tricky this book is gonna be...and why I need all this plotting structure. See, I'm gonna create what I'm calling a "mirror story" consisting of flashbacks. Eek, no! Did she use the dreaded F-word? Not FLASHBACKS, for God's sakes! Hold your horses, we're not talking flashbacks in the sense of a tool to get backstory in. Nope. But if I told you anymore, I'd have to kill ya. Suffice to say, this is two stories for the price of one.

And they...CONNECT.

Or at least, they'd better. browsed around Excel for previously undiscovered miracles which might be called upon for help. Voila! Hyperlinks! So UBER-cool!

I'm able to link from a scene in chapter one to its mirror scene on another sheet!

{Pause for applause--yes, I'm a genius.}

D'you suppose that somewhere, hidden in Excel's bountiful list of tools, I might also find something to actually write the story?

That'd be BONUS.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Must Blog! Must Blog!

At times, topics for this site elude me. Not today, thanks to Earthlink, and I just had to share.

Picture, if you will, my Earthlink homepage. Across the top, taking up the entire upper portion of the screen, is the usual dashboard BS and shopping links. About three quarters of the way down and centered, it says this:
  • Inside Earthlink - Deposits at risk? Federal bank insurance fund dwindling
followed by this:
  • Toilet-paper researchers create 3-ply tissue
Now, I ask you, does Earthlink have its priorities straight, or what?

Hm. In a way I see their point. When you think about what's going on in our economy, this nation's population could probably use some industrial-strength TP.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Alive At Fifty-Five

'Nuff said, doncha think?

P.S. To those of you who thought that was ME wheeling around the doggie (yes, I'm speaking to YOU, Hal!), think again--it's gambling partner Ann (better known as the Senora). I'm poochless, remember? (Besides, how could I push MYSELF around in a stroller?? Huh????)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Turning 55

Technically speaking, that’s where I’m at today. Turning 55. Tomorrow, I won’t be able to write that because I will have already turned.

I googled “turning 55” to see what wonderful things I can expect.

The first hit offered all kinds of uplifting BS like “knowledge is power.” Huh? That’s all? What about that Senior Citizen’s discount at Denny’s? They haven’t upped the minimum, have they?

The second hit came from a guy looking for adult-oriented living communities. Um, I don’t think I’m quite there. Yet.

The next hit was titled “Turning 55 and Invisible.” Are you getting’ the picture that my approaching age is not a GOOD thing?

How ‘bout the blogger who reported having had his first heart attack after “turning 55.” Yeah, that’s the kinda news I wanna hear.

Next I spied David Letterman’s Top Ten List. Finally, I thought. Surely, good for a chuckle. Wrong. It consists of number ten (“There is nothing good about turning 55”) followed by blanks after 9 through 1. If you don’t believe me, click here.

So pathetic.

At least when I turn 64, I'll have that annoying song to look forward to.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Move Over, Cubby! ! !

Next week is my 55th birthday, and your mommy's gonna have to wheel me around, too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Some Notes On Hindsight

Yes, hindsight affords 20-20 vision, or close to it. But in terms of historical events, even seven years doesn't begin to bring into focus the magnitude of how September 11, 2001 changed the world.

And so I love that on each anniversary, MSNBC winds back the tape and replays in real time, The Today Show as it aired that fateful day. So somone like me--hardly a scholar--can watch and observe once again--this time with full knowledge of what was to come--and appreciate the way the anchors narrated the story for us all.

As always, I'm struck at once by the initial naivete. A small plane has hit one of the World Trade Center Buildings. An accident. Surely an accident. Yet, one can plainly see that the skies above Manhattan that day are crystal clear and cloudless. Whether it's hindsight or design, in watching the tape, I now sense an underlying caution in Matt and Katy's voices. Even as they question eyewitnesses, it's almost like they're pleading for the callers to report the plane as having been a small, private aircraft. Like their own belief systems will not allow them to accept the alternative.

The second plane hits, and the tape offers a reporter suggesting possible problems with air traffic control. I've always wondered if she now cringes at having been caught uttering what was obviously an outlandish proposition.

Again, the crystal clear skies.

Matt and Katy now refer to an "attack on the Twin Towers" and Andrea Mitchell first mentions the name Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the towers continue to burn. In hindsight, it's hard to believe I never dreamed they'd go down. How could they not? But at the time I remember thinking that the NYFD had one helluva fire to put out. Well, two. But it didn't occur to me that those fires could only be extinguished in one inevitable way.

If you watch the tape, the collapse of the first tower is almost a non-event. Tom Brokaw is discussing something entirely separate (maybe the Pentagon attack? I've forgotten), and it's Matt Lauer who's paying attention. He asks for the tape to be "re-racked" and you get a sense that he's trying (albeit calmly, without undue alarm) to make Tom and Katie realize that something awful has just happened. At first he says only that a chunk of the building appears to have fallen away. And yet, as you watch the replay, how can you not conclude that the entire building has imploded? Is it hindsight at work again?

Talk turns to reports of hijackings. I think it's Brokaw who hypothesizes that perhaps the pilots have been made to fly into the buildings. In a phone conversation with Blogreader Joe that morning, I recall suggesting the terrorists themselves could have done the piloting. Little did I know.


Of the three anchors, it's Matt Lauer who keeps returning us to the reality of the human toll. He's the one who keeps reminding us of how many people worked in the buildings, of how many responders were likely caught in the collapse as well.

Alas, like that morning seven years ago, I switch off the TV and drive to work--for me, a day just like any other day.

Trinity Church, near Ground Zero, taken January 2002

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ah, Youth

This, in case you can't tell, is the photo album I put together for each of my old (and I do mean OLD) girlfriends. It's approximately 30 pages and leather-bound. Pretty cool, huh?

Here's the deal. First, you download the software from Picaboo for free. It then provides various layouts, corner choices, page colors, cover options, etc. The hardest part is choosing the photographs and getting them assembled onto the computer. For this project, I used a lot of older photos I had to scan. Somewhere in the process, I decided to convert everything to black and white which was simple for the scanned ones, but took an extra step with stuff I already had in digital (I used Picasa for the conversion). Anyway, in the end, after getting everything the way you want, you click on "buy book" and voila! It ships to you within a week.

Okay, now here's the sad part, so beware: spending hours hovering over old pictures is like a trip back in time to your youth. When you re-surface, look in the mirror and see NO RESEMBLANCE to that person in the photos, you MAY wanna abandon the entire project.

You MUST persevere, though.

Otherwise, you might as well toss out all those musty photographs you've been meaning to organize some day, and that would kinda be a crime, wouldn't it??

Click HERE to view the entire album.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Case Of Wine And Thou


Didja notice the title of this post?? A CASE of wine. That, according to our hostess, Kathleen, is what the four of us went through between 3p.m. on Saturday and 3:30a.m. Sunday morning.

Okay, give us a wee break. Turns out (after much blog archive searching for evidence), we haven't seen much of each other in the past two years.

Still...12 bottles of wine?? Is that even POSSIBLE?? (Wait a minute. Hold on. Kath's nephew showed up for a couple of hours--surely, he's responsible for a bottle or two...? Maybe he managed to shove a couple in his back pockets before leaving...?)

Anyway, a great time was had by all, yada yada. I gave them each a photo album I made, which you may view on-line by clicking here.

Sad, sad, proof that some of us (and by that I mean, ME) have definitely seen better days. And if you think I'm gonna post any of the photos taken this weekend, think again!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Writing Stuff

Contrary to recent posts, Randy DOES continue to write romance. Currently, I'm hacking away at a manuscript for which the full has been requested by an agent.

So, that's something, right?

Meanwhile, partials of various manuscripts remain in slush piles all across Manhattan. My favorite is the partial that's been "with an editor" for nearly two years. (Yep, no typo there. TWO YEARS.) Another one--this an actual REQUEST--is going on ten months. Suffice to say, there are others that I suspect are lost forever with no response, despite the SASE provided. Ditto for a couple of short stories submitted twice (not to True Romance, by the way).

In the department of new writing, well...I'm trying an approach which I think can best be summed up as "letting the story come to me" instead of forcing it. When I first began this journey of questionable wisdom, it seemed prudent to have a second manuscript ready in the event the first one garnered significant interest. So I feverishly went about completing Stealing Amy (and then sold down the river to an epub). Then I wrote Leftovers. These days, I'm not in the same kind of hurry. As a result, after completing Lights! Camera! Love! back in February (March?), I didn't rush to start something new. Did a lot of research, though. Sketched out some characters and snippets of ideas. Conjured up a few possible plot lines. Tossed them out to my critique partners who came back with all kinds of help.

Still, the story didn't take shape--it didn't fit the nebulous vision in my brain.

So I waited.

Yesterday, I admitted to myself that I've been avoiding the structure the book absolutely MUST have if I'm to succeed at what I set out to achieve. Truthfully, I'm not sure I have the chops to pull it off, but I have to try.

The cool thing is that I get a little tingle in my writing fingers when I think about rising to the challenge.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Book Buzz Blog

Today's post comes courtesy of writing friend Carol Burnside who tagged me with the following:

I am going to list three categories of books: 5 MUST Read Books, 5 Books on Your Nightstand, and 5 Look For These Soon. Anyone I tag should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. Then they should tag at least 5 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as it goes around the blogosphere. Since this is Book Buzz…please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009.

At first I didn't read the rules carefully enough. I thought I had to come up with five in each category...SCARY since, truth be told, I don't read NEARLY enough. However, now that I've re-read Carol's post, I'm fairly confident I can add one to each. Hm. I'm guessing I subtract the number one entry and add mine to the end, so that's what I'll do.

5 MUST Read Books:
1. Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
2. A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson
3. Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
4. What Mattered Most by Linda Winfree
5. Story by Robert McKee

5 Books on the Nightstand:

1. Nick's New Heart by Susan May
2. Crazy in Love by Lani Diane Rich
3. Pleasure by Eric Jerome Dickey
4. From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison
5. The Survivor's Club by Lisa Gardner

5 Look For These Soon:

1. Evernight by Claudia Gray
2. Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
3. The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward
4. Truth and Consequences by Linda Winfree
5. Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella

Okay, now I'm supposed to tag 5 bloggers...except I barely know one. How can that be???

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Random Vegas Pictures

The above is a cool window in the shower, convenient for view-gazing while sudsing up.

I'm thinkin' this palm tree was transplanted from New Orleans via some kinda FEMA relocation program.

Night life along the strip as we crawl through typical Saturday night traffic.