Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Nope. Not winning lotto numbers. Only the freeways it took to get to last weekend's reunion get together in San Diego with my kindergarten/junior high/college chums.

The good news? TONS of blogable material!

The bad news? We're all so OLD, none of us can remember any of it!

Oh, well. Here are pictures:

This one's the view from Nancy and Kathy's CORNER room at the Manchester Hyatt. (Yeah, corner room--what a score, huh?) And considering the hotel was teeming (no pun intended) with Oklahoma State folks on tap for the Holiday Bowl, we were surprised to get upgraded. Well, at least half of us.)

Here I think I can safely interpret some confusion over a gift...? Nancy appears slightly afraid. Either that, or they're both trying to hide their hands so as not to give away their true ages for the photo. Ha ha.

View from the ninth floor. Now, does this look like cold weather to you? Right. It wasn't. All those sweaters, jackets, boots and gloves? Totally unnecessary. Sigh. That's California for ya.

We had LATE lunch at this cute place in Seaport Village before heading off to yet another venue, this time for alcoholic libations cuz, y'know, we hadn't had enough the prior evening.

And last but not least, for your viewing pleasure, an obscure shot of the guy I drooled over during cocktail hour. Don't worry. I didn't make it too obvious--I cropped Kath out of the picture.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

As I traipse off to the annual Christmas luncheon to partake in traditional fare like tacos and enchiladas (not to mention margaritas), I urge you to consider one thing:'Tis the season to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND...so get out there and do your patriotic duty.

Oh, and have a happy holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Progress Report

I'm sure a few of you are wondering how I'm doing on the smoking thing. Mostly, I'm amused by the vast spectrum of reactions from my friends and relatives.

To some, even one cigarette means I've totally failed.
To others, 12 cigarettes in a week's time is nothing short of miraculous.

Let's just say there's a special place in my heart for 'the others.'

The positive:

I went two entire days (yes, 48 hours) before my first cheat. You may think that sucks, but hear me out: The last time I went even 24 hours without a cigarette was 1982.

So I'm getting better at it.

After the first cheat, I didn't have a cigarette on the following day. Yes, I had to stay home on a Friday night, avoid the computer, and go to bed early to achieve that milestone, but I figure if that's what it takes...

I would have done better on Saturday if I hadn't discovered two leftover cigarettes in a pack I'd thought empty. Turns out I'm not gonna be one of those people who can leave cigarettes lying around just to prove I'm above temptation. Still...I only smoked one of them right then and there.

I haven't smoked a cigarette at work in over a week.

I haven't smoked a cigarette while getting ready for work in over a week.

I haven't smoked a cigarette while driving to or from work in over a week.

By the way, did I mention I'm taking the drug "Chantix?" (Yeah, that's the one airline pilots are prohibited from using because suicidal thoughts are a possible side effect, although the whole process of trying to quit smoking is so stressful, I'm wondering how you can tell the difference.) Anyway, it's supposed to block the receptors in your brain from experiencing the God-given pleasure that nicotine brings. Now, logic makes me note that you have to SMOKE for this to work, don't you? Guess that's why they say it's okay to cheat during the first month. Plus, I'd swear that sometimes I THINK about smoking and those little nicotine receptors perk up (I picture them as puppies pawing at the air for treats) but because of the Chantix, nothing happens. They're left bereft--like at the airport when you see people waiting at the gate for a dearly-loved relative who doesn't show up.

So sad, it makes you wanna weep. (Yeah, for the airport people, too.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is It January Yet??

Geez...it was one festive event after another this past weekend. I'm exhausted, and I think I've already done the 7-lb. holiday upload.

I only took pics at one event, and here they are (well, some of them...the good ones--i.e., none of the photos taken of ME--ugh, wince, gag.) We begin with the traditional "first photo with the Mariachis," so that's 10-month old Evan with mom Tanya (Blogreader Joe's niece). Evan looks fascinated, doesn't he?

Old hands Travis (l) and Trevor (r) are future-Mariachis-in-training.
Aw...cousins...give little Evan a couple more years, and this trio will no doubt instill terror in the heart of Mom/Aunt Renee.

Finally, for your listening pleasure, something from violinist Miguel.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just A Regular Thursday--Not

It was early, it was freezing, and I hadn't had a cigarette in over 24 hours.

These are my excuses for what you're about to read.

I was running late, and as I tore out of the bedroom, I spied a bottle of water and tossed it into my purse. Okay, now flash forward to a vision of me driving along Highway 23, enjoying the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Instead of having a cigarette, I decided to pop open the water.

Only, I couldn't get the cap off. Even when I pressed in the two little indented thingies.

Struggle, struggle...ah! Finally.

I went to take a swig...

One of those weird, split second thoughts flashed through my mind--how did I manage to get nail polish remover around the rim of the bottle?--before I filled my mouth with this:

Instead of this:
Not good, folks. Trust me. But what could I do? I was driving! Couldn't just spit it out all over myself. Couldn't swallow it. To tell you the truth, the next few minutes are a little hazy. I think I found a breath mint to add to the lacquer-like taste. Then I grabbed some old receipts out of the glove box and performed a swabbing maneuver.

Ugh. Yuck.

Fortunately, I then (miracle of miracles) happened to notice a REAL water bottle in the passenger seat--hm, no safety cap, shoulda been a clue--and downed it in three seconds (no doubt spreading poison throughout my system).

Anyway, it's been a couple hours, and I haven't gone into anaphylactic (sp?) shock or anything, so I think we're cool.

But, remember: Indented side thingies on water bottle are probably a BAD SIGN.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where There's A Will There's A Won't

I remember the day I discovered that some of the jobs I thought of as belonging to men were, in fact, things I could do. (Actually, I owe this epiphany to former roommate and lifelong friend, Kathleen. She was a whiz around the house.) As I recall, picture hanging was the task in question. I thought you needed men for measuring and hammering and such. Turned out, no. You didn't.

I was so proud.

But as the years went on, I learned there were limits to my handiness. BIG limits. Like not knowing anything about wiring and electricity. Like not being physically strong enough. Add to those limits an innate laziness, and well...you get a picture of how much stuff there is around my house that needs doing.

Sometimes, though, corners can be cut. If you're creative enough, you can sidestep actual skill and come up with alternatives.

Sometimes, though, the best efforts fail.

So, ya might have heard about the arctic blast currently hitting southern California. B-r-r-r-r. Time to crank up the old heater, right? 'Scuze me. That would be the NEW heater that accompanied the new air conditioner I purchased over the summer.

Only, guess what?

No heat.

Lots of nice, cool air streaming from the vents, but no heat.

Oh, I could have called 'the man,' but that would be too easy, doncha think? Instead, on Sunday, I hauled out a space heater and lugged it into my 'office.' Then, I consulted my 'go-to' guys at work. The consensus is that my gas valve is turned off. "Follow the gas line to the little valve and give it a twist," my brother says. "But if the heat doesn't go on, be sure to turn it back off."

See, it's that kinda talk that scares me away from giving that little valve a twist.

Nonetheless, tonight when I got home, I dutifully opened the door to the closet in which the furnace resides. I didn't see any little valve. I DID see, however, lots of warning signs and cautions.

These made me feel a touch queasy.

I concluded that the little valve thing might be inside the the front panel, but knowing I didn't have the courage to give it a twist, I didn't bother popping said panel off. Besides, my sister-in-law loaned me a SECOND space heater--one guaranteed to 'heat up the whole room', so truly, this whole electric heater deal wasn't sounding so important.

Satisfied, I decided to get some exercise, so I turned on the TV and hopped on the treadmill. I'd only gotten through one replay of the Bush shoe ducking debacle, when



I also came to an abrupt halt.

Hm. No TV. No treadmill...sure enough, also no computer and no space heater in the office.

Blown circuit breaker.

I trudged outside, held my cigarette lighter up to the electrical panel and threw all the switches. Eureka. (Okay, I lied. The truth is, I had to do this twice because the first time I BELIEVED the labeling and only flipped the one marked 'lights and outlets'. On the second trip, I flipped them all. Voila. TV is back on and--obviously--so is the computer.)

Hey, at least I knew the location of the box and what to do with it. So what if it's 48 degrees inside? That's what sweats are for, right? And planning vacations to Puerto Vallarta?

P.S. to Blogreader Mindy--if you're still at a loss as to a Christmas gift, you may wanna consider buying me a flashlight. Preferably one with batteries that work.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Ha. Funny how I always think in gambling terms, huh? This time, I'm referring to the number TWENTY-ONE...as in, I received CONTRACT NUMBER TWENTY-ONE from True Romance Magazine yesterday. Woo hoo! So far, I'm in the first three issues of 2009. Think I can go 12 for 12 next year?

It's more work than you'd suspect. And getting harder to come up with ideas. Usually I start with what brings the hero and heroine together. A singles bowling league...shared custody of a dog...a party (wow, thinking back, parties have figured prominently in several sales). Then I look for a conflict between them. Opposites sides of the track...competition for a goal. Whatever. Sometimes I start with nothing but a scene heavy on dialogue and hope for the best. Usually, about halfway through, I start looking for a twist--a surprise--that will carry the story through to the end. Oh, yeah...and I start figuring out what makes the two characters fall in love. This is, after all, a romance. Anyway, it's that halfway point where I stall--where my fingers start typing so slowly, I fear I'll never reach the end. One of these days, I swear I'm gonna find a way to know the story from A to Z before I even start, so I can whip that sucker out so fast, my head'll spin.

Yeah, and pigs will fly, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fun and Frivolity for the Holidays

Not sure WHAT'S got into the writer world this past week.

First, there's Karen Tabke's First Line Contest which I blogged about here. And yes, I entered my first line. Would you like to know what it was? Here goes:

Looking back, my mid-life crisis began on a Tuesday in March, right there on aisle twelve of the local supermarket between the laxatives and the condoms.

I had to go look it up on the blog because I think I already revised it for:

Second, there's agent Nathan Bransford's crazy (possibly suicidal) 1st paragraph contest. Crazy because, last time I checked, there were over 1000 submissions. Happy reading, Mr. Bransford!

For that one, I submitted:

Looking back, my mid-life crisis began on a Tuesday in March at the local grocery store, right there on aisle twelve between the laxatives and the condoms. That’s the day I stood before an assortment of tampons, wondering whether my diminished egg production warranted the forty-eight count economy size. See, I worried about leftovers—about a future when the half-empty box still sat under the sink, mocking me every time I reached for a hair dryer.

Ha. And when I got home last night, I rewrote THAT version, which may make it into:

Third, Firebrand Literary Agency's Query Holiday. For this spot of Christmas madness, agents at Firebrand have opened the submission process to ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTERS for the period of one month, commencing December 16. So if you write a crappy query letter, this one's for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How Fun Was Palm Springs Last Weekend?

Short Answer: A blast!!

Although, I have to say, it's not my favorite drive. I swear, the older I get, the more I detest L.A. traffic. Maybe it's all the big rigs...maybe it's that everyone's in such a friggin' hurry...or, maybe I'm best suited to a rocking chair these days. I dunno.

But the truth is, if Palm Springs were closer, I'd be there more often. First, the weather. Perfect. Balmy. In November! Second, the architecture. The design aesthetic I regarded as kitschy and hokey in the 50's now fills me with fond nostalgia.

So, we checked into the Hilton (so conveniently located!) and were given a lovely poolside room with shuttered sliders to a patio complete with table, chairs and chaise. As much as we loved our little room, we had more on our agenda than lazing about--namely, casino visiting!

Yes, just steps across the street (so conveniently located!), we found ourselves at the Spa Casino, where we spent a couple hours MAKING MONEY until we met up with Randi's friend, Jim. Then, it was off to more lofty pursuits--dinner on the patio of a Mexican restaurant, followed by the annual Palm Springs Christmas parade (which is, ostensibly, what drew us there for the weekend--oh, no it wasn't the casino, don't think that it was). With coffee-to-go from the restaurant (enhanced by a bottle of Bailey's in my purse), we cheered on the home crowd of marching bands, decorated fire trucks, and mini-celebrities. Talk about getting in the Christmas spirit!

Later, we re-visited the gambling spirit...


I took some slot winnings to a 3-card poker table and spent...oh...maybe four hours there? You kinda lose track when you have such a fun table--not to mention a handsome guy (YOUR AGE) sitting next to you. (Okay, warning about Palm Springs: make sure your gaydar's in calibration before visiting or else you'll wonder all night whether that guy your flirting with is even on your team. P.S. I never DID find out.)

Anyway, I teetered back to the hotel around 2 a.m. to find it empty. (No big surprise--getting Randi out of a casino is harder than getting Blogreader Joe INTO one.) Suffice to say, she showed up around 5.

In the morning, we walked to our favorite deli (did I mention the Hilton is conveniently located??) for breakfast, did a bit more gambling, than beat the pending storm back to L.A.

Here now, for your viewing pleasure, is some video I took of the parade. I know. It sucks. You really had to be there.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

'Tis the Season...for Writer's Cramp

Time to do Christmas cards.

Is there a more annoying or boring task known to womanhood? Each year, I try to streamline the process--y'know...print out labels...write a generic letter I can "tailor" to each recipient. Unfortunately, this year I've managed to complicate things to the nth degree because...yes, I'm sending a slew of lucky friends and relatives a copy of the Christmas Anthology in which my story appears. Cool though, huh? Christmas card AND a present! But I have to keep track of who gets the bonus and who doesn't. And I have to pray that the nonrecipients don't read my blog and wonder why they didn't rate. Oh, and I have to make sure I don't send a copy to someone I've already given one to.

Meanwhile, do they make Christmas-themed bookmarks? How expensive are they? (It's already costing a whopping $2.98 just to send the damn book. Bah, humbug.)

Plus, I can't just stick the thing in the mail without some sort of explanation; hence, the obligatory Christmas letter...which I have yet to write. (Do I have to put it on Christmas-y paper?) Conveniently, when it comes to recapping the year, I have my trusty blog for reference. But I just perused it, and guess what? I didn't do much of note over the past 12 months (hey, there's a surprise). A couple weekend getaways here and there. Several sales to True Romance. I don't think anyone cares to hear about my epic switch from Earthlink to Time Warner, though. Nor the rejections for my latest manuscript.

Maybe I'll make up something fabulous (I AM a writer, after all). A three-book deal, perhaps. Or a movie option.

If you get such a letter from me, pretend it's all true, 'kay?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Just Call Me MacGyver

Doncha hate it when you've gotten off the freeway, you're halfway home from work, and something's RATTLING around in your engine? Yep, me too.

Oh, and doncha hate it when you've left your cell phone at home on the charger THE ONE TIME you really need it? Yep, me too.

So......I pull into a grocery store parking lot, making sure to choose a well-lit spot. My first instinct is to head for a public phone, but I'm wondering if maybe they've gone the way of the 39 cent stamp, so I re-think, and go back to the car.

Could be some strange foreign object's taken up residence in the engine. Could be it just needs a well-placed nudge to dislodge it.

I start up the engine, pop the hood, and peer inside.

Part of the fan belt is flapping round and round. Well, that can't be good, I think to myself.

I shut the engine back off, peer under the hood again, and lift up the strip of rubber for proper examination. It's about 1/8" wide and two feet long, and I try tearing it off.

The strip lengthens by about a foot.

At this point, I sense a male presence passing by, and I probably shoot some helpless female pheramones in his direction, because he stops and asks if there's a problem. I explain and ask his opinion of my plan to buy scissors to cut off the strip. He apologizes for not knowing anything about cars, but says he has a tool we can use. (Sidenote: how sweet is that? The guy offers assistance with something he knows nothing about? Is this is pick-up, then?) Anyway, he even has a tiny flashlight and performs the surgery on my behalf.

He then wishes me luck and we part. (So, no. I guess not a pick-up.)

I crawl home with one eye on the temperature gauge and one on the road.

Tomorrow, when I coax the poor thing to the office, at least I'll have my cell phone to call AAA should disaster strike.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Did I Miss A Memo?

I've been under the impression that ratings for awards show are at basement levels. Mostly because there's too many of them. I mean, come on. Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, People's Choice, AMA, CMA, SAG, Director's Guild, Independent Spirit awards...just to name a few off the top of my head.

So now there's a show just to announce nominations? That's right. Last night the Grammy Awards devoted an entire hour of TV time to read off the finalists in categories from best pop duo to best newcomer. Sure, they threw in live performances by people like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. Even dusted off the Foo Fighters.

But, man. Talk about anticlimax. It was like: "And the nominees are" (insert five acts I've never heard of here) "and tune in on February 15th" (or some such date) "to see who wins." Huh? Delayed gratification to the nth degree.

But speaking of acts I've never heard of...who the hell is L'il Wayne? Eight nominations? Seriously?

I need to get out more.

Or quit listening to talk radio.

Maybe lose about forty years off my age.

Probably all of the above.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Look who I'm babysitting at the moment! It's niece Mindy's sweet little dog, Kipper. No, he's not a Bichon like Kody, but a relative of some sort--Havanese. And yes, I've already called him Kody several times--just like the doddering old fool that I am.

As I write this, Kipper's sitting on my lap, weeping a little 'cuz his grandma and grandpa went to lunch. Sadly, I'm a poor substitute for REAL relatives.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Opening Lines

No, I'm not talkin' pick-up lines, although I DID catch the finale of some reality show called "The Pick-up Artist." Man, is there NOTHING I won't watch on TV? Has anyone seen that Chain of Love show? How about Sharon Osborne's charm school for the Rock of Love skanks? I'm tellin' ya, if these shows are broadcast throughout the world, it's no wonder we're hated far and wide.

Anyway, the title of this blog post refers to author Karen Tabke's annual "First Line" contest. Best to go to the site to get instructions, rules and regs if you wanna enter, but in a nutshell, you post your opening line next week. One sentence. One (hopefully) HOOK-Y sentence, that makes the cut to the next round. If so, the following week, you add a second sentence. And so on and so forth. Strikes me that if you wrote an entire novel with that much concentration on each sentence...well, can you imagine?? (Yeah, you'd probably slit your wrists.)

But it's a fun contest to watch...and I'm thinking of entering with my WIP. The prize? Five lucky finalists get to send their first 20 pages to Amy Pierpont, a Senior Editor with Grand Central Publishing.

As Jeff Probst would say on Survivor, "Worth playing for?"

Uh, yeah. DUH.