Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Stocking Stuffers...Kindle Stuffers (Sort Of)!

Just in time for Christmas, three of my ebooks are on sale for just $.99. If you're getting or giving a Kindle, I hope you'll add these to your ebook collection!



Around the globe, extraordinarily gifted children are abducted. In the Sinai, archaeologist Lynne Raven searches for proof of the Exodus and finds a papyrus proclaiming the emergence of a prophet sent to defeat the darkness that threatens to consume the world.

Meanwhile in London, a powerful cartel manipulates politicians and controls a think tank with an unthinkable agenda.

One thing connects them all: the truth about Connor Mackenzie.



 

Jamie Randall thinks he has it all, until a close brush with death brings him face-to-face with reality. An asteroid is threatening to wipe out life on Earth, and Jamie realizes that something's been missing from his life.

As he heads toward safety with his wife, Jamie decides to own his mistakes and pursue the one thing he’s dreamed of for the last fifteen years... a decision that can come with a hefty price.

A book that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love with its characters, Final Hours is a powerful love story from Norma Beishir, bestselling author of sixteen novels.





Ashley Gordon has it all - beauty, talent, a devoted husband, and a child she adores — until a cruel twist of fate takes it all away. Finding herself locked in a bitter battle for custody, Ashley will stop at nothing to keep her son.

After the death of their controlling father, Collin Deverell turns his back on the family business and signs everything over to his twin brother, Justin. But Collin’s dreams are put on hold when he learns of Justin’s devious plans to sell the family legacy.

When Ashley’s and Collin’s worlds intertwine, they vow to take back what is rightfully theirs — even if it means breaking the law. 


Monday, December 5, 2016

Did You Ever Have One of Those Days....

I'm late posting today. I wasn't sure I'd be posting at all.




I had a doctor appointment on Friday afternoon. It was supposed to be just a routine visit to make sure my blood pressure medication is doing its job. My blood pressure is fine, but I've had a horrible cough for the past few months. My doctor decided it warranted a chest x-ray, so off I went to the radiologist. By the time Collin and I got home, there was a message waiting for me from my doctor with my test results:

Narrative


Exam: PA and lateral views of the chest.

History: Cough

Findings/Impression: No prior exams are available for comparison. There
are opacities in the right medial lung base which may represent
atelectasis or airspace disease. There is no evidence of pleural
effusion or pneumothorax. The cardiac silhouette is normal. The
mediastinal contours are also normal.


It sounds a lot worse than it actually is. But I ended up with a new prescription and instructions to get a humidifier and use it day and night. As my doctor explained, healthy lungs are like wet sponges--soft and moist. Mine is more like a dry sponge--stiff and yucky. (Is yucky a word?) And the cough has been disrupting my sleep for a while now--to the point that I would fall asleep during the day--while sitting upright. Collin and I went to see a movie for the Cans Film Festival on Saturday--I fell asleep in the theater! As least, according to Collin, I didn't snore.



We ordered two humidifiers from Amazon, due to arrive tomorrow. And I have to go back to the doctor in four weeks. Not exactly how I planned to spend the day before New Year's Eve. Collin also has a doctor appointment that day, so I have an excuse to change mine!

Hopefully, I'll get my Christmas letter done this week!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Sucker-Punched: "I'm Dreaming of a Black-and-Blue Christmas...."


The arena in Chicago was all decked out for Christmas. There were two large, elaborately-decorated trees flanking the entrance ramp. Past that was a mountain of gift-wrapped empty boxes (hey, it was just for show!), a couple of them large enough to hold a car—and by “car,” I mean Volkswagen. Or a Smart Car. Nothing any of us could get out of without the Jaws of Life.


I was headlining that night. I was finally going to have a shot at going to the top of the contenders’ list. No word from the guys on Mount Olympus as to who as going to win, but I figured it was going to be my turn. There were several new guys on the roster—like the tag team in the ring, known as the A-Holes (for the record, that was a bit of classic Truth in Advertising). We had two new girls who were meaner than any of the guys. And a guy named Dick who really was one.
 

“It’s like watching that scene at the end of Jurassic Park,” I told J.J. as we watched the A-Holes take on Mad Dog.



He looked at me. “Jurassic Park?” He didn’t get it. Idiot.



“Yeah, you know—the one where the two raptors take on the T-Rex. A fight to the death with nobody to cheer for,” I said. One of the A-Holes went over the top rope and hit the floor outside the ring.



“I cheered for the T-Rex,” J.J. remembered.



“You would.” I did, too. I guess being wrestlers, we’re just bloodthirsty by nature.



J.J. looked around. “Where’s Mike?”



I hadn’t thought about it until my brother mentioned it, but I hadn’t seen our other brother since before the current match started. “Maybe he’s off getting another CT scan on his brain.”



J.J. laughed at that. “Think they’ll find anything in there?”



I grinned. “Only if they draw something in.”



“I thought he’d be out here, interfering in Mad Dog’s match,” J.J. said. “He’s still out for revenge.”



“He should have known better than to take on the Rabid Rottweiler,” I said. Last week, Mad Dog had given Mike the beatdown of his life and tossed him into a garbage truck parked at the ring, Mike got taken out with the trash, and it still bugged him. “Sometimes, I think that boy doesn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.”



J.J. grinned. “Just sometimes?” he asked.



“Okay, most of the time.”



“Only most of the time?”



“Okay…all the time,” I conceded.



J.J. elbowed me then. “Here it comes.”



I turned my attention to the ring. Mad Dog had an A-Hole in each of his meaty hands, raised high in the air. I thought he was going to body slam them, but instead, he brought them together—hard—like they were cymbals and he was playing in the high school band. Ouch!



I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of Mad Dog in high school. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, he was probably in high school at least seven or eight years, allowed to graduate only when a desperate faculty finally realized they couldn’t teach him anything. Or when he was too big for the desks, whichever came first.



The sound of the bell signaled that the match was over. Mad Dog’s hand was raised in triumph as the A-Holes were removed from the ring by paramedics. He climbed through the ropes and jumped down to the floor—I think that must have been a 4.0 on the Righter scale—and headed up the ramp, scowling at the spectators who chanted loudly, “You suck! You suck!”



What happened next took J.J. and me by surprise. It sure wasn’t in the script. As Mad Dog reached the top of the ramp, Mike busted through one of the gift-wrapped boxes and attacked. Mad Dog grabbed him and slammed him down hard, but Mike got back up again, charging him. Mad Dog grabbed him by the throat and raised him high in the air.



“Think we should get involved?” J.J. asked.



I grinned. “I think we have to.”



We ran at Mad Dog full tilt, knocking him off balance. He let go of Mike as he hit the floor. Mike slid across the ramp, slamming into Dumbo Derek, who was headed out to the ring for his match. Derek gave Mike a hard kick. Mike grabbed his ankle and tried to pull him down. When he didn’t fall, Mike bit him—hard. He howled in pain and tried to shake Mike off his ankle. Mike still wouldn’t let go. Derek kicked him again. This time, Mike let go—and slammed into Mad Dog again. Mad Dog pushed J.J. aside and reached for Mike—but I intercepted his punch and shoved him backward. He crashed into the pile of gift-wrapped boxes, completely destroying the display.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Chia-Pets???

The Christmas shopping season has officially begun. I saw a TV ad for Chia-Pets yesterday. Yes, they're still around. Which makes me wonder: does anybody really give these things as Christmas gifts?


Would you give this to someone as a gift?
I think we need to forget about the election,
not have a constant reminder around!
This is a teddy bear? I
thought it was a pig!

Every year, I promise myself I will not venture out from Thanksgiving until after New Year's, except for groceries, restaurants, and one very special December event. This year, I made an exception. I thought I'd finished my Christmas shopping--then I remembered one thing I wanted to get for Collin at Walmart. He wanted to get lunch at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, which is near Walmart, so....

I was surprised. Walmart wasn't busy at all. But then, it was Cyber Monday. I'm guessing all of the shoppers were online that day. How's that for timing?

Now I'm finished with Christmas shopping. And look what we got at Raising Cane's! Isn't he cute?


For anyone who doesn't already know, Raising Cane's is named for the founder's dog. Animal welfare is the company's favorite cause, and they're selling these White Elephant Puppies to raise money for local animal support organizations. I'm told that our favorite Cane's raises money for no kill shelters. Maybe I'll go buy a few more to give to friends. If you enjoy tender, juicy chicken and love animals, Raising Cane's is the place to eat!

The shopping is done, but there's still a lot to do to get ready for Christmas. This year, I'm doing a Christmas letter. I've never done one before but always wanted to. I'm one of those people who stopped sending out Christmas cards a long time ago. When I was a kid, we got dozens of cards, but as postage prices elevated, there were fewer and fewer cards each year. The consensus was that it was a waste to buy and mail cards that would just be thrown away after the holidays. For the past six years, I had an account with American Greetings, from which I sent ecards. No postage stamps needed and better for the environment. (I wonder how many cards end up in landfills every year?) I closed the account a few weeks ago, when a mandatory password change left me locked out of my account. After a week of frustration and getting nowhere with customer support at AG, I closed the account.

Good time to do that Christmas letter, right? It'll be fun. I hope.

We're putting up the tree on Sunday--on our dining room table. Yep, on the dining room table. We have a small tree--we got it twenty-two years ago when our previous tree was left behind during a move. An idiot cousin who's a Jehovah's Witness deliberately left our tree in the basement at the old place (Witnesses don't celebrate Christmas), as if that was going to make us stop putting up a tree every year. By the time we realized our tree was gone, we were only able to get this little tree at Target, a last-minute purchase. 

There's a story behind Noelle, our little tree, behind why we never replaced her with a bigger tree, but I'll save that for a post closer to Christmas.

If you're wondering why we're putting the tree on the dining room table, we live in a small apartment. Our TV takes up a lot of space, including the spot where we used to put the tree (we're seriously considering moving to a larger place in the spring and buying an even bigger TV). We don't use the dining room table for anything else. I can't sit in the hard chairs for any length of time, and Collin likes the table we use in the living room. He likes to watch TV while eating. The best thing about a tree like ours is that it's not time consuming. Putting it up and decorating it takes a half-hour tops.

It's not like Christmas was when I was a kid, but we're happy with our new traditions. Are you ready for Christmas?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall...The Gilmore Girls Are Back!

I was a big fan of the original Gilmore Girls series--admittedly, I had to catch the first 5-6 episodes in reruns after an author friend told me about it. She said Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) reminded her of Collin and me. Obviously, she didn't mean the mother-daughter relationship, so I had to assume there was something else in the characters' personalities and/or relationship that made her think of us.
 
  
Maybe it was their habit of naming inanimate objects. We give everything a name and a distinct personality.  Maybe it was because, as Luke (Scott Patterson) put it in one episode, the child had a slightly tighter grip on reality than did her mother. (Yep, that's us.)

Anyway, I've been looking forward to this reunion of oddballs. The series ended on an off note, leaving fans wondering if Lorelai and Luke would finally find their happily ever after...if Rory would find success as a journalist...if Stars Hollow would always be the quirky little town Rory's father once described as "one big outpatient mental institution."
 
 
The new four-part series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life does not disappoint. Everyone is back, except for Lorelai's father, Richard Gilmore (the late Edward Hermann), whose passing is a major part of the plot. Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Lorelai aren't dealing with their loss, and it's damaging the already complicated mother/daughter relationship. When Lorelai begins to open up about her feelings toward her father and the things she never got to say and do at the end, I could relate. They reflect so many thoughts and feelings I had when my dad died. 

When Rory decides to write a book about herself and her mother, she pays a visit to her father, Christopher (David Sutcliffe), who asks her not to make him too much of a villain in the book. Rory asks him if he was okay with her mother raising her alone. Christopher offers a few reasons for his absence, but none that seem to clearly explain why he didn't stick around, beyond the "we were both so young" defense. It didn't work because they were simply two people--characters--who didn't belong together. 
 
Besides, Lorelai belongs with Luke. Really. She's a little flaky (okay, a lot flaky) and doesn't take too many things too seriously; he's stubborn, rarely smiles, but he gets her as no one else does, except maybe Rory. Opposites attract and all that.

 
Rory's most significant boyfriends are all present in the new series: Logan (Matt Czuchry), now engaged and living in London; Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), who seems to still want a future with her; and her first love, Dean (Jared Padalecki), now married with two kids and another one on the way. And then there's Rory's one-night stand with a Wookie....

One of the most surprising things about the reunion series is that golden girl Rory, Yale graduate with a promising future ahead of her at 22, is struggling as a journalist at 32. A book deal has gone south and interviews aren't ending well for her. Every writer can relate to that particular struggle, right?
 
Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has said she always knew the series would end with four words. Since she wasn't on board for the series' last season, those four words  had to wait until now. The four words, dialogue between mother and daughter after a fantasy wedding in the town square, were unexpected but shouldn't have been, given the show's premise. They not only made for the perfect ending, but left the door open for another series....

Postscript to my fellow bloggers: I haven't been online, except for doing email and occasional forays into Facebook on my phone, since last Wednesday. It looks like I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bring On That Surrogate Turkey!

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking about past Thanksgivings--when Mom and Dad were still with us. I miss those those holidays. I miss them. I even miss the mess, the cleanup afterward, the leftovers that were sometimes left over for days afterward.
 
  
Dad was always up first. He got up at the same time every morning for as long as I can remember, whether he was working or not. He always had the same thing for breakfast: bacon, eggs and coffee. My parents were creatures of habit.

Mom would be up and about shortly after, getting the turkey in the oven and preparing the oyster stuffing. It was the only thing she made from scratch. I remember everything she put into it, just not how much of each ingredient. I couldn't make it if I tried, but I loved it. 

Mom was a better cook than I am, but she wasn't one to make anything from scratch if there was an easier alternative. Canned vegetables and gravy, mashed potato flakes, frozen pies, no problem. I buy mine ready to eat or at least microwavable. Sometimes, Collin and I even eat out or buy a prepared meal from a restaurant or grocery store.

I'd get up in time to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Collin was the only one who slept in. We always had dinner early on holidays, making two meals from the large volume of food. After round two, we'd all fall asleep in front of the TV.

The next day, we'd have turkey sandwiches. The following day, it was turkey salad. By the third day, we were sick of turkey.
 
We only varied from that tradition once. Dad decided Mom needed a rest. It was just the four of us, and we agreed we would have Kentucky Fried Chicken for Thanksgiving dinner. That was in 1984. I had just signed with my literary agent. She was attending a writers conference--in Texas, I think--and arranged her return flight to New York so she could make an overnight stopover in St. Louis for our first face-to-face meeting. After a mix-up at the airport (it took Mom and me almost an hour to connect with her), we had a wonderful time. 
 
We didn't get any cookies with ours....
 

But for a long time after that, Maria gave me a good-natured ribbing about our "surrogate Thanksgiving turkey!"

These days, it's just Collin and me. We either eat out or I prepare a large turkey breast in our Crock-Pot and do the sides (from cans, boxes, whatever is easy) in the microwave. It's fast, easy, and safer than eating anything I could make from scratch. We get a cake or pie from a bakery. And we watch the classic WKRP in Cincinnati episode, "Turkeys Away."


Monday, November 21, 2016

Talking the Talk Doesn't Matter if You're Not Walking the Walk

Last week, I took part in a conversation on Facebook about--what else?--the election. There were several commenters blaming Christians for Donald Trump and his merry band of bigots somehow managing to win. I pointed out that not all Christians voted for Trump and don't share the extremist beliefs of many of those who did support him. Several Christians responded by agreeing with me. One comment had a strong impact on me. The woman  said she believed us, but pointed out that we need to keep saying it, keep telling anyone who will listen, just as Muslims have had to keep trying to convince the world that not all of them are radical extremists like ISIS or other terrorist organizations.


Her challenge stuck with me. When I saw the photo above, also on Facebook, I decided it is imperative that those of us who don't share the beliefs of those who are supporting racism, bigotry, fear, hate and persecution speak out. 

I don't claim to have all of the answers. As I've said before, I have more questions than answers. Doesn't the Bible say man (which I take to mean all of mankind) is created in His image? Wouldn't that mean we're all equal, that one race is not better than any other? If one wishes to nitpick, wasn't Israel supposed to be God's chosen people? 

Didn't Jesus tell us to love our enemies? Did He not respond to those who criticized Him for spending His time with sinners, tax collectors and other "undesirables" that the healthy don't need a doctor; the sick do? Did He not preach that we are indeed our brothers' keepers, telling the rich man to sell his belongings and give it all to the poor? Didn't He say it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God? Or do I have that all wrong?

As a Christian, I'm most certainly a work in progress. I still lose my temper, though not as easily as I used to. When God handed out patience, I must have slept in. I've distanced myself from people who might disrupt our hard-won peace and quiet (I guess that's selfish of me). Love thy neighbor is a tough one when you have next door neighbors like mine. I'm trying to change, but it's not easy. Good thing God doesn't expect us to be perfect. 


As a voter, I often find myself conflicted, which explains why I can't vote along straight party lines. I'm really not liberal, but liberal causes like the environment and social programs that take care of the less fortunate are important to me. Healthcare for everyone and Social Security are important to me. As for gay marriage, that's none of my business. Not my lifestyle choice, but I'm not going to persecute anyone who is gay. I may not go march in Gay Pride parades, but if I were a caterer or a baker, I wouldn't refuse to bake a cake or do the catering at their weddings. I don't think we have to agree with anyone on everything to be friends with them--if we did have to, we'd all be pretty lonely. I confess, I'm not comfortable with sharing a public restroom with a man who's decided he's really a woman. I'm pro-life--but being pro-life shouldn't end with being opposed to abortion. What good does it do to bring children into the world, only to let them starve or be abused or abandoned? How can we turn away families, children from war-torn countries who have nowhere to go? I understand the fear of letting terrorists get in--no screening process is foolproof. But I'm reminded of a conversation I had some years ago with a man from one area church who helped the homeless. I asked if he ever worried he was giving money to con artists.

His answer: "I'd rather be helping five people who didn't really need it than miss one who did."