Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All's Fair in Love, War...and Publishing!

There's been a lot of bitching and moaning online about authors only giving reviews to their friends. Unprofessional? You might be surprised!

We as authors have far less time to read than we would like. Of every dozen books I'd like to read, I will actually get to read two or three--if I'm lucky. Whenever possible, I buy novels via Audible so I can enjoy a good book while doing other things--taking a walk, shopping, making dinner, doing laundry, having lunch...but be careful what you're listening to while eating. I've had more than one choking incident when listening to one of Janet Evanovich's books while having lunch, I've laughed so hard. And then there are the funny looks I get when doing it in a restaurant....

But I'm getting off topic here. The practice of endorsing books by friends--or as special favors--is quite common, even in conventional publishing. Especially in conventional publishing. Where did you think those blurbs on the front cover, back cover and inside front of the book came from?

Take a look at the cover of my novel Solitaire and you'll see endorsements from two bestselling authors, Sandra Brown and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. That's no coincidence. I've known both of them for many years. Sandra and I had the same agent. On the cover of Dance of the Gods, there's an endorsement by another bestselling author, Judith Gould. I don't know them personally (Judith Gould is actually two men, Nick Bienes and Rhea Gallaher), but at that time, we had the same agent, Maria Carvainis, who asked them to read and endorse the book. 

I had wanted, more than anything, an endorsement from Sidney Sheldon, so Maria approached his editor--who explained that he didn't have the time to read every book he had been asked to endorse, so he only endorsed books by personal friends. This is a common practice, not meant to offend anyone. It's just necessary.

We may not all have the demands on our time that Sidney Sheldon, Stephen King, Dan Brown or Janet Evanovich have had, but in order to write our own novels, we do find it necessary to restrict the number of books we review or endorse. I've done many endorsements myself, mostly for friends. For example, I reviewed Wall Street Wives by Ande-Ellen Winkler as a favor to my publisher, and Midnight in Marrakesh by Meryl Sawyer as a favor to my former editor, Damaris Rowland. I didn't know Meryl until then, but got to know her well afterward--it's because of Meryl that I later became "Mom" to my potbellied pig, Iggy--named for the potbellied pig in Meryl's novel!

So...I confess. I do review and endorse mostly books by friends. Am I more likely to review an author who's reviewed at least one of my books? Yes! Would I love to be able to do more? I would. I would love to write glowing reviews for every one of Janet Evanovich's books...but then, I don't think not having reviews from me is hurting her sales in any way. 

Come to think of it, I might be the one who would benefit from that! If you'll excuse me....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Deck the Halls (Part Three)

Pastor John says God wants us to be a blessing to others. There's a lot of that going around this Christmas, with layaway accounts being paid in full by mysterious strangers and other random acts of kindness we haven't seen much in decades past. I've asked myself if I have ever been a blessing to anyone. The answer is...I'm not so sure. I've always been more a holy terror than a heavenly gift. But I am still a work in progress, so as long as there's breath in me, there's hope.

Hope...that's what Christmas is really all about, isn't it? My hope for each of you, my friends, is that the spirit of Christmas finds its way into your heart an burrows deep so that it flourishes. One person really can change the world. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of one who did. Today, I leave you with the last repost for this year of my visits with the Ghosts of Christmases Past....


12/25/09: Merry Christmas, everybody! 

OK, it's not politically correct. I'm not politically correct. Stats say 80% of the U.S. is Christian. That means I'm in the majority, and last time I checked, majority rules. Even if it didn't, I'm a Christian and proud of it. 

I have a lot to apologize for, but that's not on the list. 

Last Christmas, for example. In Iraq, Santa was making the rounds wearing a bullet-proof vest and packin' heat. Who'd ever have thought Santa would have to travel with weapons? 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus--and he's armed and dangerous.Don't let him catch you being naughty. There's a stiff penalty for being naughty. 

In New Zealand in 2007, a bunch of drunken Santas invaded a cineplex. Drunken Santas? Wow...it's so hard to get good help these days. 

Normally, I try to be done with everything long before the Big Day because I detest crowds and insanity (except my own, of course), but yesterday, I not only ventured out into the last-minute chaos, I was oblivious to it. I had my trusty MP3 player with me, so all was well. 

Music really does soothe the savage beast. I'm living proof of that. 

First stop: the bank, to make a deposit before their early close at noon. We've been with the same bank for something like seventeen years, through numerous mergers and name changes. I've been there longer than most of the personnel. At the teller window (I don't think they call 'em teller cages anymore, though at times they probably should), Pat was smiling. She had good reason to smile: a holiday falling on a weekday. They get, if you'll pardon the expression, screwed on Sunday holidays. Not even a half day off. But this Christmas, it's going to be a day and a half. 

Big smiles all around. 

"I'm going to get my turkey," I mentioned. 

She didn't miss a beat. "I thought he was at work," she deadpanned, referring to Collin, not the edible turkey awaiting me at Dierbergs' deli. 

I laughed like a looney tune. Couldn't help it. That was a good line. Wish I'd thought of it. 

We had a pre-fab (OK, pre-cooked) turkey. My son, the aspiring chef, had no intention of preparing the Christmas dinner. (Did I mention this before? Or maybe I only mentioned it repeatedly to HIM.) He worked all week at the restaurant and had no interest in cooking on his one and only day off. So with our pre-cooked bird, instant sides and my aversion to cooking anything other than in a microwave, dinner was ready in a record 30 minutes. 

Hey, I have better things to do on Christmas Day than cook.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deck the Halls (Part Two)

It's now three days before Christmas and I still have not sent out Christmas cards. Okay, I have no excuse--I do ecards. Don't make fun of me--contrary to popular opinion, they are NOT free. They are cute (I love the animated cards) and no trees are killed to make them. So there! I have a bit more grocery shopping to do and revisions to finish, so here, hopefully for your enjoyment, is another Blog of Christmas Past....


And a parrot in a pear tree.... 

Ooops! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah...Mom had a roll of TP under the tree and Dad was trying to explain a box of poop to Homeland Security. Well, not exactly.But he was a repeat offender. As a matter of fact, he chose one victim twice simply because she swore he'd never fool her again. 

The target was Cathy, a friend of mine from high school. After Poopapalooza 1, she tried and tried to find a way to exact her revenge--but a whoopee cushion in his truck just didn't quite equal Dad's prank. When she told him she'd never fall for it again, well, that was like throwing down the gauntlet. He looked for a way to trick her into opening the box for a second time, and she unwittingly gave him the solution when she commented on a local souvenir--an outhouse ashtray. (Yep, we're about as redneck as you can get without being Jeff Foxworthy's blood relative.) 

I was seven months pregnant with Collin at the time and had been visiting Cathy, her then-husband, Ralph, and their son Damien (no connection to the character in "The Omen"). Dad sent the ashtray to Cathy with a message I was to relate: he knew she liked it and was sending it as a peace offering. She was touched--until she opened the little outhouse and saw the tiny turd, standing straight up in the tiny potty. 

                           (Not exactly like the one he gave Cathy, but close enough.)

"I'm gonna kill that old man!" Cathy shrieked. (She didn't know it couldn't be done without a silver bullet.) 

I've got a lot of Christmases to cover, so please bear with me. Twelve days may not be enough.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deck the Halls (Part One)

I had a few ideas for Christmas blogs that never quite developed, since I've been preoccupied with getting the revised edition on Chasing the Wind up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other retail sites by Christmas. So I decided to repost my Blogs of Christmas Past for the next few days....


I love Christmas. I love the big dinners and the music and the presents and the family all together for that one special day. Most of all I love the real reason for Christmas. I love knowing that 2000 years ago, God came to earth to live among us, to know us and to save us. I love thinking about what that first Christmas must have been like, and being able to see it so clearly in my own mind. 

I don't love so much of what Christmas has become: angry people on the roads and in the malls, pushing and shoving, jostling for position in the lines for the most popular gift items. I don't love crowds and high-pressured sales pitches and lazy bums who prefer to steal someone else's money and/or gifts instead of working for their own. 

I was at the mall one Christmas. It was funny, actually--as I went from one store to another, a young man attempted to charm his way to a sale: arms outstretched, big smile, big tube of very expensive lotion in hand in a bid to convince me I could not live without that lotion. Little did he know. I changed lanes, moving to the other side of the aisle, and that big smile instantly vanished. I can only imagine what I was called in that disappointing moment! 

Then there was the turkey who attempted to help himself to my cash. I felt his hand the minute it hit the zipper on my messenger bag. I came down hard on the trespassing hand. "If you want to keep that, buddy, you'd better take it back NOW." 

These days, I shop online....

I think he had an accident, if you know what I mean. 

I don't love that there are some who want to celebrate Christmas even though they don't believe in God, in Jesus. And I'm not referring to religions other than Christianity. Our Jewish friends celebrate Hannukah. Our Muslim neighbors have their holy days. I don't know much about other religions, but I'm sure they have theirs as well. No...my gripe is with atheists, the real party poopers. They don't believe in God, don't believe that he came to live in our world as the infant Jesus, but they want the holiday anyway. They want to say the more politically correct "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so they can have all of the fun without belonging to the club. 

I wonder how they explain to their kids what they're celebrating? "Oh, we're celebrating Daddy being sober for a whole year!" 

I say to them, don't celebrate a holiday if you don't believe in it. Too bad, Mr. and Ms. Grinch. No presents for you. 

My former brother is a Jehovah's Witness. They don't celebrate holidays or birthdays. My father always said Jeff became a Witness not because he really believed in their doctrine, but because he was just plain cheap and didn't want to have to buy any gifts. Jeff bristled every year when we put up our Christmas tree. He thought we should give up our tree because he didn't believe in it. He claimed we were worshipping the tree, of all things! Dad couldn't resist--when he'd see Jeff's truck pull up in front of the house, he told us to get down on our knees and bow to the tree when Dipstick came through the door. 

Mom complained that was a little hard on the knees. 

Christmas was always a big deal for Mom and Dad, and it's at this time of the year that I miss them most. (Dad's been gone 16 years now, and Mom 9.) They were always like a couple of kids in their unabashed enthusiasm. They'd spend weeks preparing, shoping for gifts and trying to hide them from us. We were never allowed to put the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it was always the same: we'd get some form of takeout so Mom wouldn't have to cook--she'd begin preparing our Christmas dinner that night and couldn't deal with TWO meals at once. We'd watch a rerun of A Christmas Carol on TV--always the 1938 black-and-white version. 

Once the tree was up and completely decorated, the gifts would start to appear from their hiding places. They would be placed under the tree and Dad would do a count to make sure everyone had an equal number of packages. There was never one gift per person, always at least 7 or 8, usually 10. 

I remember one year Mom was a package short. Dad quickly remedied the problem with cash. He didn't want her to know it was cash, of course, so he wrapped it around a roll of toilet paper. Mom knew it probably wasn't just TP--Dad was notorious for gag gifts. He could be very creative in his gift-giving. His Christmas tradition was a little weird: instead of a lump of coal, the unfortunate target of his ire would get a beautifully-wrapped box of poop. 

I kid you not. POOP. Usually of the canine variety. I remember one Christmas when I was in college, he actually mailed the poop to a friend who was living in Tennessee at the time. I held my breath until it was received, wondering what would happen if postal inspectors happened to open the darned thing! 

I miss those good old days. 

Collin and I are making new traditions, new memories. Collin has never been good at keeping a secret--it's like lying. He didn't get that gene, for which I am grateful. 

Trouble is, I will know every gift he's giving me BEFORE Christmas. The Christmas before Dad died, he wanted a self-propelling lawn mower. He had a bad heart (only in the physical sense) and was having trouble using his old mower. To haul it in Mom's Escort, we'd have to put the back seat down, so we left Collin, then 11 years old, with Dad while we went to get it. All of our plans to sneak the thing into the back yard to hide it were, as it turned out, unnecessary--Dad came to the front door when we arrived, grinning from ear to ear. I knew immediately that my darling son had ratted me out. 

I miss those days.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Graveyard of the Psyche

If you've ever seen the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, you may be familiar with the episode titled Terrorform. If you're not familiar with it, you can watch it by using the link. It's pretty weird.

Red Dwarf - Series V - Episode 3: Terrorform - Kryten and Rimmer crash land on a "psi-moon", an artificial planetoid which terraforms itself to match the inner psyche and subconscious of anyone who lands on it. Kryten is cut in half in the crash, and Rimmer finds himself alone and taken prisoner by manifestations of his own inner demons. Lister, Cat and Holly arrive to rescue them, but find themselves trapped in an environment shaped by Rimmer's bizarre, self-loathing mind. 

In one scene,  Lister, Cat and Kryten find themselves in a graveyard that represents the lost aspects of Rimmer's personality. Charm is a particularly tiny grave. That says a lot about Rimmer's lack of same. Hope is an open grave. The others must find him and free him of his self-loathing before that grave is filled and the hideous monster that represents Rimmer's self-hatred destroys them all.

I wonder...what would each of our psyche's graveyards look like?

Mine would have a large tombstone for Pride: "Lived a Long and Bothersome Life. Lost 2008."

There would also be grave markers for Selfishness...Deceptiveness...Secrets...Irresponsibility. I was hoping to have laid Stubbornness and Temper to rest by now, but they seem to be thriving.

What have you laid to rest? What would you like to see in your own psyche's graveyard?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Missing the Point?

Yesterday at church, it was announced that, because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, there would be no church services that day. Huh? No services on Christmas? Isn't that kinda like having a birthday celebration without the guest of honor?

Seriously, I do get it. One does not have to be in church to worship God or to celebrate Jesus' birth. One can worship in their own home, in the beauty of nature, in a car in rush hour traffic, or anywhere else. God is everywhere. And as long as our Christmas celebrations commemorate what the holiday is really all about, we're good.

My grandmother used to go to church every Sunday. Grandpa, on the other hand, read his Bible down by his still. Guess who knew it chapter and verse?

And here's a bit of advice: forget about Santa. God knows when you're sleeping, when you're awake, when you've been bad or good.... If you've been good, breathe a sigh of relief. If you've been bad, well, I hear those life reviews on the other side can be painful. You get to see every screw-up you've ever made. And when you're asked when you want to be for eternity, you'd better have the right answer!

Bear in mind that He doesn't care how much money you've made, how successful you've been, what property you own or other such unimportant crap. He cares that we have loved well. He cares how we've treated others  (being an animal lover, I like to think this includes all creatures). He cares that we've accepted his gift of salvation and put Him first in our lives.

Not too long ago, I told my pastor I believed God created me to be a warrior. Much to my surprise, he didn't disagree with me. I didn't get that look that says so much without a word. He said he thought I'd been made a warrior to enable me to survive all I'd experienced. I'll take it one step further and suggest that he made me who I am and gave me the experiences I had for two reasons: one, I had pride issues. Of all the Seven Deadly Sins, that's the one that always gave me the most trouble. I had to hit bottom to free myself of it, and I had to be a fighter to make the climb out of that pit. Sometimes, God lets us struggle, just as any parent allows their children to struggle to enable them to grow. I'd been a spoiled child who was given everything I wanted. I was a spoiled author who was given too much too fast. 

So I had to start all over again.

In the journey back from rock bottom,  I did evolve. I came back stronger, but also more compassionate. I have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of people or animals who are unable to defend themselves. Hey, I don't mind kicking butt when the object of the butt-kicking really has it coming, but there's no sport in kicking puppies!

I'm the one who will go to the animal shelter and, while everyone else is  snapping up the really cute puppies and kittens, I'll seek out the most pathetic creature in the place--the one that's old and scruffy, days away from execution, huddled in the back of the cage, looking as if he/she has lost all hope. Collin once said I'd look at the most butt-ugly critter on the planet and say, "Oh, isn't he cute...."

Guilty as charged.

I leave you today with a final thought from the words of St. Catherine of Siena: "Be who God meant you to be and you'll set the world on fire."

I invite you to check out William's and my discussion on collaborations at Writers of Mass Distraction and the new look Collin and I created for Sam's Story, along with William's review of A Time for Legends (The Unicorn's Daughter) at  Speak of the Devil and  Beishir Books!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sexy, Like Beauty, is in the Eye of the Beholder

People magazine just published the annual Sexiest Man Alive list for 2011. I'll admit that I agree with some of their choices, but there were some glaring omissions on their list. So...with a little help from my friends Beth and Christina, here is our idea of sexy men:

Chris Hemsworth: he may not be a god, but he played one in Thor. And he's got one heavenly body!

Beth likes Chris' kid brother Liam Hemsworth. So does Miley Cyrus. The Hemsworth family has to have the best genes in Australia!

Christina picked Sam Worthington. Gotta admit, he's pretty easy on the eyes....

Christina and Beth both had the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, on their list. I, however, have a preference for the previous 007, Pierce Brosnan....

He's one of those men who improves with age, as does my longtime favorite, Ewan McGregor.

And speaking of men who improve with age, no list of sexy men would be complete without George Clooney! (Could this man ever take a bad photograph?)

Looking for a hero? How about Captain America himself, Chris Evans?

Or maybe you prefer the animal magnetism of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman....

Or another of Beth's picks, the new Captain James T. Kirk, Chris Pine (oh, those lucky green women)!

And last but far from least, Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford!

Have we missed anyone? Tell me who you think is the Sexiest Man Alive...Still Alive...or even No Longer Alive!

November 26th: I omitted a couple of really hot guys here. I should be flogged! But here, to make amends, are Iron Man/Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. (this photo gives a woman all kinds of naughty ideas)...

...and the sexiest dude in any swamp, Kermit the Frog!

Okay, I had a few reservations about including Kermit. You all know how jealous Miss Piggy is, and she's got a mean right hook!

And if you all would like to see a collection of the hottest chicks around, head on over to William's blog, Speak of the Devil, immediately!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rules of Engagement

Time for a rant. I'm out to become the female Lewis Black!

Collin and I had lunch at Noodles and Company today. They have the best pasta and salads...but today, they had something I could have lived without.

The server brought out our food, and Collin went up to the soda machine for a refill. I wondered why it was taking him so long. The restaurant wasn't busy. Taking a closer look at the couple ahead of him, I realized they were standing in front of the machine...kissing! I was about to shout out, "Get a room, you idiots!" when they broke the liplock and went to their booth. I'm surprised the didn't sit in the same side of the booth so they could continue necking.

Don't get me wrong...I'm very much in favor of romance, If I weren't, I wouldn't be writing love stories. But there's appropriate and then there's inappropriate. Holding up a line in a restaurant for a bout of face-sucking is definitely inappropriate. A kiss isn't just a kiss when you're interrupting the other diners' lunch for it.

Behavior that embarrasses others is inappropriate. William and I knew a woman who was so blatant in her amorous pursuits, we broke all ties with her. She crossed too many lines. I was so embarrassed by her behavior that my parting words to her included "Drag a mattress to the curb. I'm sure somebody will come and climb aboard sooner or later."

I've found there's an odd double standard here. Face it, ladies, most of you are guilty of this one. We women are appalled by men in whom we have no interest getting too pushy in their flirtations, yet most  think men like any and all female advances. It's not true. I know many men who find the relentless flirtations uncomfortable. My father was one of them. Even when he knew it was "just in fun," he considered it to be in extremely poor taste. He refused to respond to such unwanted attention. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

Girls, we stress that no means no when the guys get too aggressive. That goes for them, too. If they're ignoring us, they're just not into us. One-sided flirtations make both men and women look pathetic.

And as for those over-the-top PDAs (public displays of affection)--get a room! If I'm not doing it myself, I sure don't want to want someone else having all the fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: Pretty Witches All in a Row by Lisa Olsen

For anyone who has doubts about the quality of self-published books, I have a suggestion for you that can be summed up in two words: Lisa Olsen.

Lisa is one of the finest new authors to come along in recent years. I'll be doing reviews for her other books in the weeks to come, but let's start with Pretty Witches All in a Row. In this spectacular novel, she blends the police procedural novel with elements of the supernatural that makes me think of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series.

Someone is killing the members of a coven. Enter Detective Nick Gibson, a practical, down-to-earth cop/single father of a teenage daughter, a man who's having a hard time buying into the idea of witches and covens and prophetic dreams. Will he fall under the spell of the beautiful Annaliese, a self-professed witch who's a member of the targeted coven? Has she really had premonitions of the murders in her dreams, or could there be another reason for her knowledge of the murders? Is Nick a fool to trust her?

Ms. Olsen is a skilled writer whose expert pacing keeps the story moving. She weaves the elements of fantasy into her real-world setting with confidence and populates her fictional world with well-developed, believable characters. This is a book you'll have a hard time putting down. And even though the ending is quite satisfying, you'll undoubtedly be begging for more!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If my father were still alive, he would be 98 years old today. Wow. Makes me feel really old.

Until he retired and had to get a copy of his birth certificate, he thought his birthday was November 11th. Back then, proving one's identity for a driver's license and Social Security card was not so complicated. The officials took you at your word. That was before the word "terrorist" was coined.

Dad didn't know his birthday because his mother was deceased--a suicide, probably the result of postpartum depression--and his father was drunk the night he was born, at home as was the norm in 1913. There was also some disagreement among his relatives as to whether his legal name was Jacob Clarence or Clarence Jacob.That was also cleared up by his birth certificate.

He was almost 40 when I was born, a father for the first time. He was a good father and a good man, though not perfect on either count. He didn't have a good role model for either, unfortunately, so he did pretty good winging it. 

I was a Daddy's Girl from the minute I could walk. I followed him around the house and yard. If he went out, I was always in the truck with him. He gave me anything I wanted. When I was six, I wanted a pony. He built a barn and got me a pony. Two ponies, actually. He and Mom went Christmas shopping one year. I was, I believe, five at the time. Mom told me about the woman who checked them out at Sears. "Your little girls are going to love all these dolls," the woman said.

"We only have one," Mom told her.

The woman couldn't believe it. "All of this is for ONE child?" she asked.

That, I should note, was the year they discovered their little girl was a tomboy like her mother and didn't even like dolls. No more dolls. The next year, they bought me toy trucks and horse figurines, and Dad built me another barn--small scale this time, with a fenced paddock and a light inside, all on a large sheet of plywood that sat on a table in my room.

My father was a moody sort. There were times he would withdraw. I grew up with it, so it was just a fact of life: Dad needed to be left alone sometimes. As I grew older, I came to realize his dark moods were connected to the death of his mother. He never knew her, and he felt that loss acutely. All he had of her was her suicide note, in which she asked her mother to care for her children, and a spotty old photograph. He carried the note in his wallet until the day he died. I told Mom she should place it in his shirt pocket when he was buried. He would have wanted it that way.

As for the photograph, Mom surprised him one Christmas. He'd always guessed all of his gifts before he opened them, but that year, Mom had something in mind she knew he would never figure out, She took that old photograph to a portrait artist and had a painting made for him. When he opened it that morning, it was only the second time in my life I'd ever seen him cry (the first being when Mom nearly died in an accident).

Dad was great with small children--but when I grew up, and started to think for myself, I was a constant source of frustration for him. Mom always said we butted heads because we were so much alike. The one way in which we were not alike was when it came to money. Dad had left home at fourteen, the day he discovered the truth about his mother, and lived as a runaway until finally turning to his maternal grandmother, with whom he lived until her death. Dad could sit on a dime and squeeze out nine cents. I was more like Mom, who couldn't couldn't balance a checkbook to save her life.

Collin, fortunately, is more like Dad when it comes to money.

My relationship with Dad was good at the time of his passing, but still, there was so much I wished I could say to him. Unfinished business, if you will. Losing him and Mom left me with the painful reality that we can't put things off. Life can end in the blink of an eye. Tell those you love how you feel now, because none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

And a special thanks to my partner and dear friend William for this link to Dad's all-time favorite song:

The Tennessee Waltz

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is Our Number Up?

When I was in my late teens, I became deeply involved with the occult--astrology, numerology, I-Ching, Tarot, you name it. I did astrological charts--not just a "what's your sign" sort of thing, but a detailed placement of all of the planets at the time of an individual's birth. Supposedly, knowing these things could predict one's character, personality, and future prospects. Numerology is, according to believers, also capable of making such predictions.

I put all of that behind me a long, long time ago...though I do still get a kick out of reading the silly predictions online. Most of them make no sense whatsoever. Do we really need the stars to tell us when to go to the grocery store? The best time to go is when there's no food in the house!

 I don't remember much of it anymore, but the topic of numerology has been in the news all day. This is because tomorrow, November 11, 2011--11/11/11--at 11:11:11 (am or pm, take your pick), we will achieve a perfect, same-numbered palindrome (reading the same backward or forward) which can only occur once every 100 years.

Yep, that means that, for most of us, it will only happen once in our lifetime.

Some think this will herald the end of the world; others think it's a perfect day for a wedding--after all, it will be hard for one's husband to forget his anniversary.

The last time this palindrome occurred, on November 11, 1911, an almost supernatural event took place: temperatures dropped sixty degrees in one day. Known as the Great Blue Norther, it triggered both blizzards and tornadoes.
While the armistice ending World War I was actually signed at 5am Paris time, the War was officially declared over at 11am on November 11, 1918 for the symbolism. We humans, it seems, have a natural need to see patterns in everything.

This includes discovering one's personal numbers. The Life Path Number, for example, is the number that defines you at birth and decides the traits you'll carry with you throughout life. Life Path numbers are found by reducing your birthdate to a single digit. If you were born on, say, January 1, 1978, you would add 1+1+1+9+7+8 to get 27. 2+7=9. Your Life Path number would be 9.

Collin, for example, is a 5. The keyword for 5 is freedom. 5s are versatile, adventurous, compassionate and advanced in their thinking. Abraham Lincoln was a 5.

I'm a 4, as is my good friend and writing partner William. 4s have cerebral excellence and are practical, down-to-earth, with an ability to take orders and carry them out....

That sure sounds like William, but I think think I got the wrong number....

4s also have the kind of willpower that can be seen as sheer stubbornness. Their directness can come off as unremitting, and their tenacity borders on obsession--oh, that's me! I don't need a recount after all!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bring Back the Stagecoach!

I've blogged about our local mass transit before, but it's such a mess, there's much to write about.
I started using public transportation back in my college days. In fact, it was during my first week at St. Louis University that I rode a bus for the first time. Back then, mass transit was reliable (for the most part). We knew where the stops were and when the buses would arrive. We didn't wonder from one day to the next if we'd have transportation or not.

Today, things are much less certain. Not too long ago, financial problems led Metro to terminate several bus routes. The federal government rode to the rescue, providing funds to restore several routes and, for a short time, improve service. They bought new buses--with better wheelchair access, which is a good thing. When Mom was wheelchair bound, we had trouble taking her anywhere because more often than not, the buses' wheelchair lifts didn't work. We were once stranded at the mall for three hours, waiting for a mechanic to come and repair the lift.
What's not so good about the new buses is that, if the driver does not either pull up close to the curb or lower the bus, boarding can be difficult. Two years ago, Collin and I boarded one of the newbies for the first time. The driver could see that I was having a problem but did not lower the bus. I fell. I ended up bruised from thigh to ankle--and even now, I still have problems with that leg. Did the driver do anything to help? No. Last weekend, I boarded another one at the mall. Once again, the driver failed to lower the bus or pull to the curb. And if Collin had not been there, I would have fallen again. (About half of Metro's operators are in serious need of some attitude adjustment. I could do a month of blogs on these horror stories.)

Another thing I don't understand about the new buses: if Metro's objective is to increase ridership, why did they buy buses that accomodate fewer passengers? Duh!
Which brings me to their latest blunder: reduction of bus stops, presumably to save fuel. Now, I know zero about how that sort of thing works, but I do know that by reducing the number of stops, the loss of passengers is inevitable. Not everyone who normally uses public transportation will be able--or even willing--to walk several blocks to a stop. Will they lose more in fares than the gain in fuel costs? It's going to be difficult to get around for a while. Where do we board? And when we reach our destination, will we be able to get off the bus? There's no way of knowing.

Collin and I discovered the bus stop nearest our place was no longer a bus stop on Saturday. No warning, nothing. I haven't checked it out yet, but Collin says the closest stop to our place is at least six blocks to the south. To the north, it's about a half-mile walk to the mall. Not too bad in good weather--but winter's coming.
I complained--via e-mail, Twitter and message boards on the local TV station websites. Yesterday, I was informed that our stop would be restored. In two weeks.
Two weeks?
I'm not sure why it will take two weeks to put up a bus stop sign that was just removed. Did they destroy them already? Well, I just bought a thirty-day pass I won't be able to use for...fourteen days?

Mr. Nations, I'd like a refund. Or at the very least, a fourteen-day pass to take effect on November 28th. E-mail me and I'll give you my mailing address.