Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Last Refuge

We're a few days away from Election Day. The nastiness that is the hallmark of politicial campaigning reaches a new height daily. I tune them out as much as possible, but the negativity oozes through my shields. Pretty much, I no longer truly believe in any candidate. It pretty much boils down to which one I think is lying least about his or her intentions.

Dr. Samuel Johnson once said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels." Substitute politics for patriotism and that pretty much sums it up.

Could you imagine going for a job interview and promoting yourself by completely tearing down and attacking other job candidates?

Locally, we have elections for City Council, County Commissioner, Mosquito Control and School Board. On that level, the elections have been pretty civil and we voters haven't had to dodge mud being slung by one candidate at another. Thank goodness. We'd be hip deep and unable to slog our way round in our daily activities.

The hottest issue in town right now is an ongoing battle over the local animal shelter. Whole lot of fighting, villification of opponents, manipulation of information and attempted power plays. Where this struggle is concerned, it seems like a lot of people have abandoned the strategy of reaching for your goals in positive ways. Instead of gaining support by pointing out the good that you or you or you can do, it appears that more choose to influence public opinion by making everyone else appear bad.

Another version of playing politics. Another refuge for scoundrels.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hoochie Coo

Earlier tonight, the news aired a story of two women in South Florida who are stealing from liquor stores. The M.O. is interesting. Each picks an otherwise empty aisle, grabs a bottle of her chosen alcoholic beverage and shoves it up under her dress, between her thighs.

These weren't pints or fifths, but full bottles. I guess if you're going to dare intimacy with a bottle, not to mention arrest, size does matter.

They haven't been caught in reality, but while their method is sort of clever, they aren't smart enough to avoid the security cameras. The scope, the grab, the shove, and the stroll out of the store are all caught on tape. The women are not skinny minnies. It takes some flesh in the thighs to walk without dropping the bottle. If the authorities nab them, I wonder if they'll dust the glass for prints.

I thought I'd seen inventive bottle sneaks when I hung out with a bouncer friend at a rock club. He had amazing intuition and could always pick out the guy who'd concealed a flask inside a cowboy boot, for example.

These women, however, take the cake -- or the Baccardi. They definitely put the hooch in hoochie mama.

The only thing I have to compare is that around 30 years ago, I once snuck my 35 mm camera into a concert by sticking it in my jeans. (I took off the lens first, of course, and put it in the bottom of my purse. Security never looked past the wallet and hairbrush. The most difficult part was getting the camera out while I was seated. Thanks to a friend who threw her jacket over my lap, I managed without injury.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Draculas -Escalating Terror in a Fantastic Read

I don’t read a lot of horror novels. Admittedly, I’m a little on the wuss side, but I couldn’t resist Draculas by F. Paul Wilson, Jack Kilborn, Blake Crouch and Jeff Strand. The idea of four authors collaborating on a single book intrigued me. That I was already a fan of Wilson and Kilborn sealed the deal.

From page one, the story grabbed me. A terminally-ill millionaire purchases a Romanian skull rumored to be that of Dracula. In sight of his hospice nurse and research assistant, he plunges the skull’s elongated fangs into his neck and convulses. They rush him to the hospital where he dies.

Like the clock striking midnight on December 31st kicks off a new year of revelry, the millionaire’s arrival in the E.R. triggers a night of escalating terror where nobody is safe and even the innocent transform into monsters.

Unforgettable characters are the heart of Draculas: A nurse takes her mission of caring to the bravest level; a not-so-bright lumberjack demonstrates that loyalty and love are powerful weapons; a gun-nut's heroism puts you on his side regardless of your stand on the NRA; a tender pastor and his wife see their daughter born while numerous others die.

I won’t give spoilers, but trust me that the evil characters are as compelling as the heroes. I was as engaged in their scenes while praying that they’d be defeated.

You’ll never look at a clown the same way again.

Even with multiple authors, the writing is seamless and the action moves so fast that you’re nearly breathless. All four of the contributors are master craftsmen. The storytelling is superb with tension that escalates through to the climax.

How good are these writers? In the midst of relentless gore, they made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears. This avid reader, who rarely picks up horror, now hopes they’ll collaborate on additional books. While I wait, I’ll enjoy the bonus stories and extra, cool, features included with the download.

Draculas goes on sale at Amazon tomorrow and will be available in electronic version only. The book is a bargain at $2.99. Click here to purchase.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


For so many years, much of my life focused on getting a career as a romance novelist. Honing my craft, learning the industry, really concentrating on doing everything right as a professional author. Always the efforts were fueled by the dream.

Now, after the experience I described in a previous post, I've hauled out the jumper cables and am working to restart and charge up the career by first revitalizing my two dead-in-the-water books and then launching new material.

It's a whole different feeling. The dream has changed. The wide-eyed, heart-grabbing optimism has morphed into a sharp-edged practicality and a business plan. I've checked off the first item on that plan and decided on a cover artist. By the end of the day, I'll have gathered the necessary information and sent it to him. I'm also going through my website to see what needs to be tweaked so that it will be ready for the new covers when they're available. I need the website in shape before the books launch.

While covers are designed and the site is tweaked, I'll go the books to make a few corrections we missed the last time out.

Do you see the step by step precision in the plan? I'm in Phase One -- Preparing to Launch. Phase Two is getting the books formatted for electronic readers. Phase Three involves setting the marketing. Phase Four is the actual launch.

I'm definitely accessing two sides to my personality type - the imaginative creator with lots of ideas and the clear-cut planner who sets out a method to accomplish those ideas. The planner was never as developed when I was younger. I'm glad it's more evident now. I need those skills to be successful in my day job and the practice I've had in recent years will serve me well in the restart.

Now to work.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For Lack of a Letter

For rasons unbknownst to m , a lttr mystriously stoppd working on my computr kyboard. Do you hav any ida how inconvnint it is to typ without an ?

Thank goodness I have a netbook as a backup. I'm even happier that none of my passwords contain an e or I'd be royally screwed. I've known for some time that my laptop was beginning to fail. The symptoms were there, like more frequent appearances by the blue screen of death. I accepted that I should start researching a replacement, but I procrastinated and hoped to delay the expense for at least a little while.

This morning when I turned on the computer it let out a sustained, high pitched tone. The password window was filled with dots, like someone had hit a key and held it. I hit "Enter" knowing that doing so would give me the "Incorrect Password" message and, hopefully, clear the window so I could enter the right password.

I logged onto my AOL account and began to write an email. That's when I discovered that the "e" didn't work. I assumed that something -- a piece of dog hair, a stray crumb -- might have wedged its way beneath the key. I blew in some air, fiddle a little, blew in some more air, and even picked up the computer and shook it a little, hoping to dislodge the unknown whatever.

No luck. No e. I rebooted, but that didn't work either.

It bears repeating -- Thank goodness for the backup netbook. At least I could accomplish some work tonight and not force people to read e-less e-mails. I'm also grateful for smart friends. I called one to ask if she's happy with her make of laptop and told her the problem. (I love my little netbook, but it isn't a long term solution.)

During the conversation she suggested I pick up an inexpensive keyboard that connects with a USB cord to use with the laptop for the time being.

You don't need an e to spell Lightbulb! What an easy, effective solution. This will help me stall the bigger purchase, at least until I figure out what lap top I really want. No need to rush into a stress-induced panic purchase.

A few hours ago, I was bemoaning my lack of a letter. Now I'm calm about this situation, realizing that you don't need an e to find a smart solution.

I do, however, need an e to say, "Thanks, Jennif!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Doing What You Can; Understanding What You Can't

All my life I dreamed of writing a book. For someone who has always believed in the power of my dreams, my overall effort was, frankly, half-assed. I started, all gung-ho, and always let the story ideas fall by the wayside. I've lost count of the number of books I started.

Was it laziness? Lack of commitment? Maybe a little of both, but more than that, I suffered a horrible lack of confidence.

About sixteen years ago, I finally got serious. It's impossible to publish an unwritten book, after all, and I knew that if I was ever going to see this dream come true, I'd better get my ass in gear. I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW) and focused on learning the craft of writing book-length fiction. I wrote and wrote and wrote, revised, polished and revised some more. I entered contests and thrilled to any positive comments. I learned to not let criticism or rejections crush my spirit and never gave up.

It took several years, including some when I was derailed by certain life events but not by self-confidence hits. Then, finally, I sold the second manuscript I'd completed to a new, small, independent publisher. Soon after, they bought the next book. The high of realizing my dream was better than sex, champagne and rock and roll all at once. No matter what, I'd written books and they'd been published!

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough in the long run. The books didn't sell well. Even though I know intellectually that very small print runs and light distribution contributed to crappy sales, I internalized the process and let it knock the confidence right out of me. Then the publisher put my books Out of Print, and the desolation increased. You know how Hester wore an "A" on her chest to proclaim her sin of Adultery? I felt like I walked through the days with an "L" for Loser.

That wasn't even the worst part. The biggest casualty of the experience was that I let it annihilate my creative spirit and drive.

Editors and agents at conferences always say, "Write the best book that you can" as if that's the be all and end all. Well, I'd done that and it ended badly. So, where did that leave me, the writer?

In a really sad, depressed, disheartened place. The thing about spending time in a hellish spot, is that any sane person doesn't like that existence. It sucks when something that used to bring great joy hurts you again and again, but that's how it goes until you find a way to stop the pain.

I had a choice. Completely give up and find a way to no longer care, or fight back. I've chosen to battle the feelings of failure and do whatever it takes to revitalize myself, and my writing career.

Recently, I asked for full reversion of the rights to my two published books. Happily, the publisher agreed. Now, I have the ability to breathe new life into these stories. I can try to sell them to another publisher, or I can publish them myself via Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and other platforms. Having only recently gotten them back under my control, I'm not eager to give them up again anytime soon.

I'm embarking on a new venture. I have a plan to accomplish my goals. It's even committed to an Excel spreadsheet. I might be a creative soul, but I know how to execute a methodical plan. I can do this.

I already am.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Crossing The Tea in Discrimination!

I don't like to get too serious on this blog, but I've had enough. I'm tired of being the object of discrimination and the target of tremendous disregard.

I'm a tea drinker, okay? Get used to it, to us, and please stop treating us like we're second class citizens.

Case in point, just this morning, I pulled into a local gas 'n go place. The store has everything from motor oil to fried chicken; ice cream to beer. They have flavored coffees, even cappucino. I'm sure you'll agree that, given the vast selection, it was a safe bet that I could run in and make a nice, bracing cup of hot black tea for the road.

I lost that bet. The store had three different flavors of coffee; three artificial sweeteners, a choice of white granulated sugar or raw sugar and pitchers of skim milk, whole milk, and half and half. All that, and the only open tea boxes boasted the non-caffeine flavors of lemon and green teas. I asked the young women behind the counter. Their only solution was that I buy a box of tea off of the shelves. I suppose I should at least give them some points for having any tea available. I've gone into similar stores elsewhere where not a single bag of tea leaves existed. So sad.

Have you ever been to a conference, banquet or wedding and seen the wait staff roam the floor with carafes of coffee, ready to refill everybody's cup. Raise your hand if you've had to raise your hand and ask them to bring you another cup of tea. Raise the other hand if they only bring hot water and don't offer you a second tea bag.

Does this happen in the U.K. or Ireland, where tea drinking is so celebrated that cups are poured with a sense of ceremony?

One of my best ever tea experiences took place at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. during their famous high tea. The waitress warmed my cup before placing it in front of me. Then, she not only asked me my preferences, cream with one sweetener, she also prepared the tea for me. Pekoe perfection, let me tell you. I savored that first cup as much as I did the ultra-yummy scones.

Why, oh why, can't I, a lifelong drinker of tea, always be treated with the same attention and service as my coffee-drinking compadres? Folks at that gas station convenience store, wouldn't you rather have made a sale, than lose the business? Wait staff, if your emphasis is on good service, doesn't it benefit your effort if you remember to check in with the tea drinkers at your tables? It can't be that hard to keep a carafe of hot water and a box of tea bags nearby.

I call for an end to poor or non-existent service for tea drinkers. Appreciate us. Appreciate our business. Do not make us suffer the lack of our chosen beverage.

No more brew-haha, okay?