Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chasing the Wind - The Next Generation

By the time I had completed Chasing the Wind, I not only knew it was the beginning of a series,  I knew the basic plot points of each of the subsequent books. I also knew that the later books would involve the future generations of the Mackenzie and Stewart families--particularly Daniel Mackenzie and  Rusty Stewart.

I write everything down as it comes to me and file it away in case senility sets in and I can't even remember my own name. In the following scene, Daniel, now twenty-five, is struggling to establish his own identity and deal with the supernatural gifts inherited from his father. As a result of his psychological rebellion, he's become a bit of a scoundrel....

* * * * * * * * * *

The storm had knocked out the power.

From the moment Serena entered the house, she had the uneasy feeling she was not alone. She moved cautiously in the darkness, looking for a weapon--something, anything, with which she could defend herself. After a few frantic moments, she remembered the broadsword. It was hanging on the wall in the foyer.

She'd inherited it from her late father. It had been handed down through generations of his family. Now, it might well save her life. She gripped it tightly. Whoever was in the house was very close now. Watching her. Approaching her from behind....

Serena acted quickly. She spun around, stomping down hard on the intruder's foot as she brought the sword upward, pushing him back against the wall.

"Put that thing down before you hurt somebody!" he yelped.

Serena immediately recognized the voice. She looked up in the darkness, realizing she had the blade pressed to his throat. "Daniel Mackenzie--what the hell are you doing here?" she demanded, lowering the sword.

"I could ask you the same question," he responded, taking a deep breath.

"I live here, remember?"

"You were supposed to be in Hong Kong," he said. "I thought I'd get the rest of my things and be gone before you came home."

"I couldn't be so fortunate."

The lights came on abruptly. Serena wished they hadn't. Face-to-face with him, he was damn near impossible to resist: well over six feet tall, with thick hair that was either chestnut or golden, depending upon the lighting, blue eyes that often held a wicked gleam, and a seductive grin. He's hot and he knows it, she thought miserably.

(Chris Hemsworth looks exactly as I pictured Daniel, except he dresses a whole lot better!)

He bent to pick up his hat, which had fallen when she pinned him to the wall. He'd had the battered fedora for as long as she'd known him. And those scuffed boots, she thought, glancing downward in an attempt to avoid his eyes. All his family's money and he dresses like a bum. It had never mattered to Serena. Daniel without clothes was spectacular. So what if he never made the cover of GQ?

"Come on, Serena," he said in a teasing tone. "You still love me. Admit it."

"Any woman who loves you has to have a masochistic streak," she shot back at him. "Get your things and go."

"You're not even going to offer me a drink?" he asked.  A lock of his hair fell across his forehead. Serena stifled an urge to push it back, as she'd done out of habit when they were together.

He didn't wait for her response. He stepped past her and went into the kitchen, taking a bottle of beer from the refrigerator. "I see you still keep it around," he observed as he opened it. 


"Serena, my dear, you don't drink beer," he reminded her. "You kept this here for me, didn't you?"    

"No," she said with a shrug. "Just never bothered to get rid of it."

He lifted the bottle to his mouth and took a long drink. "I've missed you, you know."

"Haven't found a replacement yet?" she asked.

He tried, but didn't quite manage, to feign innocence. "I could never replace you."

"Daniel, you're so full of shit your eyes should be brown," she told him. "Now, would you please just collect your things and leave?"

"You'd send me out into this storm?" he asked, playing the pity card.

"Storms have never bothered you before."

"Maybe I'm just making excuses."

She laughed at that. "Maybe?"

"Maybe I just want to be with you."

"Maybe you just want to get laid."

He laughed. "You say that as if it's a bad thing."

"Look, I don't intend to be a casualty of war," she told him. "You need to exorcise your demons, Daniel."

"Demons aren't allowed anywhere me," he said, his tone suddenly somber.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Among Writers)

Fellow writer/blogger Eve (The Desert Rocks) recently wrote about an unpleasant expeince she'd had at a writers conference. Though I've always enjoyed the conferences myself, I can't say I'm surprised by Eve's experience. Writers have always seemed to me to fall into two groups: those who are unfailingly supportive of each other, and those who are all about themselves. Eve's experience was clearly with the latter.

Some authors, no matter how much success they achieve, are always insecure. They're afraid someone new will come along who will eclipse them--make more money than they do, have better numbers than they do, be more popular than they are--so they snipe at each other. They tear each other down. And they're judgmental. We all make mistakes. They use those mistakes against each other like weapons. Makes me think of that Bible passage about casting stones....

These are the users, the writers who want others to support them, to read their books and their blogs and recommend them to everyone--but give nothing in return. "Buy my  book, give m
e good reviews, tell your friends about me, help me promote my stuff. Just don't expect anything from me in return. I don't have time to read your books, let alone comment on them. And if I take advantage of you, just smile and keep putting out the good word--after all, it's an honor to serve me. Can't you see that?"

The smart writer realizes that success for one is good for all of us. When any author develops a healthy following, people are buying and reading books. Which means they're going to be buying and reading more books. Other writers' books. For those who still want to be traditionally published, remember this: another author's monster success means the publisher has money to invest in new writers. Maybe you.

I've known a few from the Dark Side--one in particular comes to mind. She was smart, funny, fun to be around--but she'd sell her own mother into the white slave trade for a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. She didn't mind using others, including those who were supposedly her friends. A group of writers in Kansas City gave her a most unflattering ego-inspired nickname. Her career took a downward turn--two publishers dropped her. She didn't get the support she would have gotten from the writers community that would have been there, had she not been so self-centered.  

I've been fortunate in that I had a great group of friends during my time in traditional publishing, and I have the best, most supportive writer friends anyone could want now. William, Beth, Donna, Karla, Mike, Mark, Christina, Eve, Shelly, April, Robb, Nicole, Cathy, Kyle (if I've forgotten anyone, I apologize)'s wishing the best for all of you. I will cheer each of your successes as I would cheer for my own!

Now, guys, if you want to have fun at a writers' conference, we should all go together.... 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Memo to NOAA....

It's tornado season here in the Midwest. Last night, an EF4 tornado took out our airport. On New Year's Eve, tornadoes hit several communities in our area, including Fenton and Sunset Hills, both nearby. St. Louis radio personality Steph Duran made this comment on her Facebook page: 

Tornadoes on New Year's Eve...HUGE tornado that takes out the airport and half of North County on Good Friday...what's coming on Memorial Day week-end? Locusts?

I wonder. The weather's gone insane, that's for sure. 

Some years ago, when I was in college (yes, we did have radio back then), someone called it to the station and asked the on-air personality why hurricanes are named but tornadoes are not. His answer: "We in St. Louis do have names for tornadoes, but none of them can be repeated on the air."

I've often wondered why hurricanes are given such wussy names as Bob, Henry, Betty, etc. Since hurricanes are powerful storms with an almost supernatural appearance, why not give them appropriate names--from the world's mythological characters? There's a lot to choose from: Greek, Roman, Persian, Norse, etc.  And since local newscasters are spending more and more time on the air these days--they'll break into regular programming for just about any reason--it would be good to give them something interesting to talk about!

Consider: Hurricane Poseidon...Hurricane Zeus...Hurricane Odin...Hurricane Ares...Hurricane Thor...of course! Thor. The Norse God of Thunder. What better name for a devastating storm?  It sure beats some guy at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sitting in a room, laughing gleefully as he names hurricanes after his in-laws!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Undiscovered Country....

Sunday night, Collin and I watched Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. We've seen it many times before, but I admit we'd never watched many of the Special Edition DVD's bonus features until now.

Watching cast and crew as they discussed the inspiration for and evolution of the story, I found it very similar to how I develop my novels. Everyone connected with Star Trek VI knew this would be the last film featuring the cast of the original series. They weren't getting any younger, and joked that their last theatrical outing should be called The Search for Geritol.

As they were trying to come up with a plot, world events handed them one: Chernobyl. From the Soviet nuclear disaster came the inspiration for the explosion on the Klingon mining moon, Praxis. Like Mikhail Gorbachev, the Klingons initially rejected offers of outside help. Finally, however, realizing they could not survive without it, an olive branch of sorts was extended to the Federation. Of course, James T. Kirk was the only one who could be sent to escort Chancellor Gorkon to the peace summit...for the same reason that, as Spock put it, "Only Nixon could go to China." 

Though Gorkon was initially inspired by Gorbachev, there was also a bit of Abraham Lincoln in the Klingon chancellor: his beard.

Many authors start with a character. Others start with a plot. I wish I could say I have a formula. I don't. With Chasing the Wind, inspired by the news stories on cloning and stem cell research, my protagonist didn't even show his face until the third draft. It started out as a completely different story--that wasn't working. I was about to give up on it when the Connor character came to me in a dream. It was like finding the missing piece of a very large puzzle, and once he was in place, everything came together--after another six drafts!

An Army of Angels has been a long labor as well, in spite of the fact that this is a sequel to Chasing the Wind. In fact, I'd originally interwoven Alex's story with Connor's, until I realized the finished novel would be longer than War and Peace!

Final Hours, on the other hand, was inspired by events that have not yet happened: the two near-misses the Earth will have with the Apophis asteroid in 2029 and 2036. The characters and their story came fast. I wrote the novel in six weeks.

When I wrote my third novel, A Time for Legends (soon to be re-released in e-book format as The Unicorn's Daughter), it was originally supposed to reach its climax in Amsterdam. The US air strike in Libya (which took place as I was writing the book), however, seemed much more timely and exciting.

Timing is everything for writers!

Check out the books' respective blogs:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday (An Army of Angels)

This week, I'm taking my six sentences from my upcoming novel An Army of Angels....

He was about to be executed.

It means the fiasco I created with the children born in the last decade was not a factor in your cloning."

Robyn nodded again, still stunned by the resemblance even though she’d known this man existed.

He begrudgingly admitted they were his best and most original work, but they gave him no pleasure, no sense of satisfaction.

Instead of the traditional bride and groom topper, the couple at the top of this cake were Beauty and the Beast.

Okay, so this one's a twofer, but it was necessary....

And if I get old while you’re still young?” he asked.
            She grinned. “Then people will look at us and say, ‘Look at that old geezer with that hot babe. He’s either filthy rich or an amazing lover.' And I'll wink and say, 'He ain't got a dime.'’” 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest Blogger: William Kendall

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing my guest blogger, a man who really needs no introduction: my partner in crime, William Kendall....

Attack of the Cranky Giant Goose
Near the Trans Canada Highway in northern Ontario, north of Sault Ste. Marie, is the small town of Wawa. It's an Ojibway word meaning wild goose. It's primarily known for the presence of a large statue of a Canada Goose along the highway, a statue that's become well known and photographed in the years since it was put in place (we Canadians have a habit of erecting oversized statues and sculptures, like giant nickels and giant Ukranian eggs). 


The idea at the time was simple: get the tourists to stop at something they'd want to photograph, and that way, they'd come into the town itself. These days Wawa actually puts up the road signs promoting itself more then seven hundred kilometres east on the Trans Canada. That's dedication. 

The Canada Goose, like those human members of all things Canada who can't tolerate winter, bolts for warmer climates in October. The warmer the better. Now they're coming back, honking their agitation as you walk by. Ingrates. We name you after the country, and you can't even put up with a little snow?Cowards.

This statue is actually an updated version of the statue (the first, like the bird it represents, had problems standing up to a Canadian winter). It stands at 28 feet in height, 22 feet in length, with a wingspan of 20 feet and a weight of 2 tonnes. So, like I said... it's big. 

Now imagine a real Canada goose that big. Imagine the noise. Imagine the droppings.
You could make a horror movie about it. Roger Corman would have made an ideal director. This kind of B-movie schlock would have been right up his alley. Attack of the Cranky Giant Goose. Imagine it, a gigantic Canada Goose laying waste to vast stretches of New York City, its screeching honks breaking windows, eating people in its way...
Only one man would be capable of stopping it.
No, not Chuck Norris.

It would have to be the most dangerous man who ever went to Washington.
Dick Cheney. 

Think about it. Casting the lawyer-shooting former Vice President in a major Hollywood monster movie would be gold. There'd be no need to train him in using firearms. He'd bring his own weapons into the field (and complain when the special effects guys would ask him to fire blanks).
"What do you mean, I can't really shoot the bird? Listen, you snot-nosed punk, I've had people kneecapped and killed and buried in cement, so don't tell me what I can't do!"
Hollywood could even turn it into a franchise.
The Giant Cranky Goose Versus Godzilla.
The Giant Cranky Goose Versus King Kong.

The Giant Cranky Goose Versus Fluffy, Destroyer of Worlds.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Standoff at the Not OK Neighborhood

Recently, local news outlets covered the story of two young girls who were forced to stop selling Girl Scout Cookies in front of their home. Such activities were prohibited by a local ordinance, and a neighbor had complained.

Unreasonable on the part of the neighbor? Most of us think so.

On the other hand, a couple of months ago, my favorite radio morning show hosts got into a discussion of one of the host's neighborhood kids. A neighbor had prohibited the kids in the neighborhood from crossing his property. The man was labeled "unreasonable." The kids had to play somewhere, they said, and they weren't doing any harm.

That's not the point. It's his property. He has the right to say no.

In this instance, I have to take the side of the neighbor. People who don't have children have as many rights legally as those who do. This man is in no way obligated to allow the kids on his property if he doesn't want them there. If one of the kids were injured on the property, you can bet the parents wold be yelling "Sue!" My parents decided against an in-ground pool when I was a kid because our next-door neighbor had made it clear she would sue if one of her kids got hurt in our pool--yet she was angry when Mom and Dad refused to allow them in our above-ground pool. Duh!

I have one child. One adult child. A child who, even when very young, was never a nuisance to our neighbors. I live in an apartment complex, one that's both kid and pet-friendly. It's a nice place. It would be perfect if it were divided into sections: families, party animals, and geezers. The Families section is self-explanatory. Party Animals--if a tenant has a stereo, they would be here. Let 'em drown each other out. The Geezer section would be for retirees and the rest of us who crave peace and quiet.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. I have one neighbor--there's always at least one!--who loves their music so much, they insist upon sharing it with the entire neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong--I do love music. I just don't love theirs. I don't love being forced to listen to it when I'm trying to work, sleep or watch TV. Finally, I have come to understand my mother's battle cry throughout my teen years: "Turn that damn thing down!"

So that's why she bought me those headphones.... 

Getting back to the kids. We have enough kids in this section to be a problem. No, let me restate that. The kids are not the problem. They're really not bad kids, just unsupervised. Their parents are the problem (God help them if they grow up to be like their mothers). The lack of a decent play area is a problem. With no playground, they end up bringing their soccer ball to the courtyard outside my apartment. It's a small courtyard, so when the ball is being kicked around, broken windows are a real possibility.

I know only one of my neighbors by name, so, to be able to identify the kids to management and police in the event of a broken window, I took a photo of them kicking the ball around the courtyard (I'm sure no one would admit to having broken a window). The kids told their mothers. That's how I met our resident harpies. They were on my doorstep, making complete asses of themselves over a photograph.

One of them started spouting law to me in an attempt to convince me that the kids could play on my doorstep if they wanted. At least I think that's what it was. Her Bosnian accent was so heavy, it was hard to tell. The others were Mexican. It sounded like an agument at the United Nations.

I could have pointed out to her that standard leases include a clause that states no resident is permitted to disturb the rights, comforts or conveniences of other tenants. That clause was explained to me by an attorney when I was preparing a lawsuit against a previous landlord who had become a nuisance to me and to the bank trustee who handled my finances. 

Since these women needed things clarified for them, it meant that no, their kids could NOT play on my patio. They could NOT keep hitting my door with their soccer ball. 

Recently, property management posted the above sign in the courtyard. I almost threw a party when I saw it! The celebration, however, was short-lived. The kids are still kicking the soccer ball all over the courtyard. Apparently, their mothers can't read....

April 7: A postscript to the Girl Scout Cookie debate. The Freedom Center of Missouri plans to file a lawsuit today, challenging the city's constitutional authority to prohibit the cookie stand. For the full story, click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Best Revenge

It has been revealed in a new book that Prince William's bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, was bullied as a teen. I wonder what those British Edition Mean Girls are thinking now?

Tower of London, anyone? Off with their skanky heads!

You can bet those girls are wishing they hadn't messed with Kate. I wonder where they are now? One thing they're not doing...watching their mailboxes for one of those elegant wedding invitations. (Don't hold your breath there, girls!)

I also had the opportunity to get the last laugh on bullies, though not quite on such a grand scale. Like Kate--Catherine to all of us now--I was bullied. Hard to believe, isn't it? These days, I take crap from no one. But it's the truth. I was a mousy kid who was a target for most of my school years. The transformation that began in therapy after high school reached its zenith with the publication of my first three novels.

Success really is the best revenge, after all.

A friend was surprised that I wanted to attend one of our high school reunions. "You really want to see those people again?" she asked, incredulous.

I certainly did. How else was I going to throw my bestselling author status in their faces?

I had already had the pleasure of running into one of my old adversaries. She was working at Walmart. She was almost gushing. She had seen me on TV. She'd read all of my books. I was now her favorite author. "Maybe we could get together for lunch sometime," she suggested, as if we were old friends.

Until that point, I hadn't said anything, content to let her make a complete fool of herself--but when she had the audacity to think I'd want to have lunch with her, I couldn't remain silent. I looked at her and, without any show of emotion, asked, "I'm sorry--have we met?"

What goes around comes around, after all.

My pastor said in one of his sermons that we are expected to forgive. We don't have to forget. That's a relief, because forgetting is not always possible. Sometimes the wounds are too deep. Scars remain. 

Every year, kids, mostly teens, either take their own lives or go on shooting rampages in their schools because bullying has made their lives unbearable. For too many years, the position of school administrators and faculty has been "it's just the way kids are." 

Too often, the parents of bullies are or were bullies themselves who have no intention of putting a stop to their child's unacceptable behavior.

It's time to take action. It's time to put an end to bullying.