Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

I almost titled this post Happy Memorial Day. This is one of those holidays that shouldn't be prefaced with "Happy." We all say it...Happy Memorial Day. It's out of habit more than anything. Happy New Year, Happy Easter, Happy Fourth of July. But when you really think about it, there's nothing happy about what we're observing today. It's a solemn day, a day for remembrance and reflection, for gratitude toward those who gave their lives for us and our freedoms.

Several members of my family served in the military over the years. My grandfather was in the Army in World War I. So were his brothers. One of them didn't see much action. He spent most of his time in the guardhouse--but he did some impressive artwork while he was there.

My father served in the Army during World War II. He was a sharpshooter. He was given an honorable discharge after being injured--an injury the Army doctors told him would eventually put him in a wheelchair. It never happened.

Three uncles, Tony, Harry and Charlie, were in the Navy during that same war. They were all there the day the flag was raised on Iwo Jima--but didn't know the others were there. They were on three different ships. Uncle Harry, ever the wisecracker, had this to say about Japanese kamakazi pilots: "They're nuts. They're flying their planes at the ships, grinning the whole time. They thought dying was an honor!"

One cousin died before I was born--in the Korean War. I believe he was the only family member to die at war.

Four cousins served during the Vietnam War: Jim, Ron and Bob were all in the Air Force. Tommy was in the Marines.  Jim said they had a sign posted in their barracks: IF CAPTURED ASK TO BE TAKEN TO STALAG 13. Sorry, guys, but Hogan's Heroes was set in Germany--during World War II!

As far as I know, we haven't had anyone in the Middle East--though Jim did spend some time in Iran not long before the US Embassy was taken hostage.

To close, a  few photos from my last visit to Washington DC....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shameless Plugs Sunday

As promised in yesterday's Shameless Plugs blog, I'm back to give a shout-out to more terrific bloggers and urge you to check them out, if you haven't already.

Talli Roland is one of the most talented authors I know--and one of the most entertaining bloggers. Whether she's writing about life as a novelist (be sure you give The Hating Game a read!) or her life in London, this Canadian transplant knows how to hold a reader's interest!

Maria Mackenzie's Reading, Writing, Romance leaves one important element off the title: food! Maria offers some great recipes on Fridays. I've always been considered hopeless as a cook, but Maria got me cooking--with a crock pot!

JoDee Luna's blog is beautiful and full of inspiration. Now matter how badly your day might be going, a visit to this blog will make you feel better instantly.

The Open Vein is E.J. Wesley's blog--information for writers. And all of it is reliable. E.J. knows his stuff, so if you're a writer, no matter what your level in terms of publication, this is a blog you should follow.

The Blog Entourage is presided over by the one and only Christina Lucas. She's got something for everybody on her blog...including some sinfully delicious treats that can make you abandon your diet forever.

Lisa & Lisa Write a Book is the always-humorous domain of two writers, both, coincidentally, named Lisa. It's not always easy to tell the players without a scorecard, but you'll enjoy their blogs so much, you won't really care!

From the Heart: Poems is home blog to April Morone, a gifted poet. She hasn't posted in a while due to health issues, but if your give her blog a look, I think you'll find her poetry unforgettable. 

T.C. McKee is an aspiring writer with a preference for YA paranormal tales. I have to confess that it's not my up of tea, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying her musings. I think you will, too.

Lucy Adams is a humorist whose blog will keep you laughing. Honest. She knows funny, and she knows how to use it.

If I've missed anyone, rest assured they'll be included in next week's Shameless Plugs. In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy these incredibly talented bloggers!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shameless Plug Saturday

This week, instead of Six Sentence Sunday, I'm going to try something a bit different. You see, I have a lot of very talented friends who have the most entertaining blogs in all of blogdom. I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce them by posting links to some of their finest posts this week:

There's William Kendall, who's my partner in crime. It's difficult to choose just one of his blogs, because they're all so good--so I'll direct you to his most recent, No, They Can't Keep Their Zippers Up. When William is good, he's very good. But when he's poking fun at politicians, he's great.

Saturdays with Sir Poops-a-Lot--I've told Shelly Arkon she should give her two dogs their own blog. They have a lot to say and a most enjoyable way of saying it. I wonder, do we really want to know what our critter companions really think of us?

Donna Yates is one of the most generous, considerate, and selfless people I've ever met. When she gives you an accolade, it means something. This week, she named several recipients for her own Luminous Luminary Laurel Award. I'm proud to say Collin and I were among those she selected for this honor. You can see all of the winners at Believe in Yourself.

The incomparable Beth Muscat normally goes out of her way to gross out her readers with her People of Walmart image blogs, but her most recent provides a massive overdose of cuteness. Check it out at All Kidding Aside!

Sci-fi author Mike Saxton reviews Beth's novel The Bracelet in his blog on his 7 Scorpions website. Mike gives good reviews. Check it out--and buy Beth's novel and Mike's. Both are great reads!

Fellow romance writer Mark R. Hunter gives us an update on his upcoming novel Storm Chaser as well as his other projects in the works at Slightly Off The Mark. This is a book I'm really looking forward to reading!

If you want humor, you can't go wrong with Karla Telega at Telega Tales. She's got her finger on the wrinkled, age-spotted pulse of all of us over fifty--and helps us laugh at ourselves even when we feel like crying. In her latest, she puts Home Improvement's Tim Taylor to shame. 

Eve Gaal of The Desert Rocks wrote of The Magic of No. One of my favorite words. I'm very good at saying no. Maybe too good. But I wouldn't say no to Eve and her great blog. Check it out and you'll see why!

And then there's Two Little Square Black Dogs, the domain of the artist known as angryparsnip (yes, I know her real name--I'm just not sure she'd want me to reveal it). Her blog is a cornucopia of wonderful things. Today, she's wishing a happy birthday to her daughter-in-law in Japan.

If you love animals, don't miss Lynn Benoit's Pets and Other Critters. She's got something for just about every animal lover and she knows her stuff when she gives advice. Check it out!

And of course, there's Basking in the Afterglow, the domain of William's and my alter egos, James Morgan and Scarlett Martin, the always amorous authors of erotic fiction. Check us out--if you don't have the kids or in-laws around and looking over your shoulder....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now I Don't Feel So Stupid....

A big "thank you" to Jerry Mizell for these hilarious photos of humanity at its most ridiculous....

Does he know it's raining?

I wonder if this dimwit knows where her purse is?

I wonder what distracted this shopper? At least she remembered her keys....

Talk about an extra wide load!

A flatbed truck...for one box?

I don't want to know....

Does he see what's coming up behind him?

Redneck Tour de France?

This can't end well....

I think he was supposed to back into the water....

I think this guy must be an endangered species--too dumb to live!

I don't think this makes it an Apple computer....

White-Out? On a computer monitor???

Review: Heaven & Hell, a novel by William Kendall

A few months ago, I interviewed my good friend and fellow author William Kendall on this blog. Now, I’m honored to be the first to review his wonderful first novel Heaven & Hell. The following review was originally posted at Goodreads….

From Goodreads:

I have to confess here...I've read it prior to publication. I've been impressed by William's writing from the start. His narrative and dialogue are strong, his pacing impressive, and his characterization as good as any author currently occupying the New York Times bestseller list. William is a very visual writer--when he describes a setting, a character, or an emotion, the reader will be able to imagine it all quite clearly.

Heaven & Hell is a thriller, to be sure...but it's also a tale of damaged people, people who come together out of deep emotional suffering, of profound personal loss. His villains aren't one-dimensional baddies, but individuals who have made some serious wrong turns out of pain. I'm so tempted to go into detail about some of these things, but I know he'd have to kill me if I did. And even though I know what the Very Bad Thing is that he alludes to in some of his blogs, I've been sworn to secrecy. Nuts!

Be forewarned--there are scenes involving acts of terrorism that are difficult to read; that's how realistic they are! I've been brought to tears more than once. William says he found himself often apologizing to some of his characters--and with good reason.

His protagonist, Tom Stryker, is no James Bond. But that's a good thing. Bond, to me, has always been just a bit too perfect. Stryker--he does not like to be called Tom--is human. He's flawed. And unlike Bond, he does not jump into the sack with every female he encounters. Personally, I would like to see him get a little action. He's quite a man. Seems to me women should be lined up to provide him with a bit of TLC!

I cannot recommend this novel or its author strongly enough. As soon as Heaven & Hell is available, buy it. You won't be disappointed! 

(And for those of you who don't already know and love our William, you can get to know him and his writing at his always-entertaining blog, Speak of the Devil!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What the (Bleep) Was He Thinking?

A recap of the past couple of weeks: actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife of twenty-five years, television journalist Maria Shriver, announced they were separating. Shortly thereafter, a cause for the split was revealed: Arnold had fathered a child with a member of his household staff. At that point, the identity of the woman was not revealed. That surfaced a few days later. Since that revelation, many stories about her have been circulated...and Mildred Baena has retained an attorney to deal with unflattering things that have been said and written about her.

Unflattering? were dancing the horizontal tango with another woman's husband, honey. You got knocked up in a time when that sort of thing is preventable (except on soap operas).  Did you expect accolades? I'm betting you've been called a lot of unflattering things by a lot of people you don't even know about. Get used to it. Adulterers don't get a lot of praise. Be thankful they don't get stoned in this country.

Some of the unflattering things that have been said or written: that she was the aggressor, that she pursued him (to be fair, from what I've read about ol' Arnold, he probably wasn't all that hard to get). It's been reported that when Mrs. Schwarzenegger wasn't home, Ms. Mistress liked to help herself to Maria's clothes and jewelry. (I find this one hard to believe because I doubt the Other Woman could squeeze herself into the Wife's clothing.) 

Rumor has it the Other Woman saw herself as "gorgeous" and wanted all the luxuries she felt were her due. Gorgeous? Okay...not only was her judgment impaired, but her eyesight is also  in question. I'm not saying she should be doing ads for Alpo--there's a chasm of difference between "not beautiful" and "butt ugly"--but she's far from gorgeous.

So if it wasn't about physical appearance, what was it that Arnold saw in her? Only he knows the answer to that question. The rest of us can only guess. Was it feeding his ego? He has an attractive, intelligent, accomplished wife--one who has her own career, her own interests. Along comes a woman who probably worshipped at his altar, made him the center of her attention. That's an aphrodisiac. Feed his ego, and he'll follow you into the sack.

It's been said that the Mistress was threatening to go public because she wanted more than she's been getting from Arnold. She wants what the Wife has. She wants all she feels is her due as the mother of his child. Note to Mistress: Wife has four children with him. Don't act like you've borne the heir to a throne.

Note to Arnold: did you really think you could keep it a secret forever? Come on--the Other Woman almost always starts making demands. If they're not met, she will make sure your Wife finds out what a swine you are...and it will cost you big, one way or another.

Note to Maria: take his balls home in a doggie bag. And feed them to your dog. If you don't have  a dog, buy one. Make Arnold pay for it.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Army of Angels: A Rocky Road

This novel has bedeviled me almost as much as Chasing the Wind did. I foolishly assumed that the second book in the series would be far easier to write than the first. Logical assumption, right? It might have been, had there not been other factors to consider. My first fourteen novels were conventionally published. I only had to write them...and do some interviews and booksignings. And even those were arranged for me. Chasing the Wind was a struggle because it went through a long evolution from the idea I originally conceived to the book Collin and I finally self-published in 2008. When I first showed it to people I knew in New York, they loved the idea, but usually said, "This is a movie, not a novel."

I showed it to a producer I met through a mutual friend, who agreed. I registered it with the WGA and attempted to write a screenplay--but I soon discovered there was so much I wanted to do with the characters and the story that simply would not work in a screenplay. I put the screenplay aside and went back to writing the novel.

By the time Collin and I finally made the decision to self-publish, I had forgotten about one very important thing: the advertising, marketing, publicity and promotion would now rest solely with us--or, to be more precise, with me. I was fortunate in that I wasn't exactly a novice at promoting my work. I'd learned a great deal about all of these things from the best in the business. What I didn't know was how to do them in the brave new world of the internet. So here I was, trying to write one novel while promoting another. I was no longer enjoying the luxury of having the whole day to write. Any author who self-publishes wears many hats and has to learn to juggle them. 

I always wrote my novels like a quiltmaker makes a quilt. By that I mean I never wrote a book from page one to the ending. I wrote whatever scenes I wanted to write when I wanted to write them, then stitched it all together, so to speak. I've found I can no longer do that. For one thing, my memory isn't what it used to be.  I'm not twenty-five anymore, and I take seven different medications every day. So, with all I have to do, something had to give. 

I sat down and put together a scene-by-scene outline, a roadmap to keep me on track. Every morning, I make a list of everything I have to do that day, including things necessary to promote my books. So far, it seems to be working....

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Angels Looked Down (dedicated to Norma, Collin and Sam)

This poem was written by our very good friend Donna, our own guardian angel....

The Angels looked down and smiled,
aware of what was soon to be.
They knew a special time had come.
They watched and listened patiently.

One day two mortals went shopping
to a pet store where they stopped.
They came to buy a certain pet,
but precise clues the Angels dropped.

“It isn’t a pet you’ve wanted,
you’ve come for your friend of old.”
The Angels whispered words so softly,
“Look for the one who stands so bold.”

Upon this earth we never know
what priceless treasures we’ll amass.
The purest treasures we do find
are loving friendships that do last.

And so it was, this very day,
two friends from Home re-united.
For many years spent together,
their joined spirits were delighted.

Sam Bird lived to age twenty-one.
There is a good reason, you see.
He met who he was meant to meet,
and they loved each other dearly.

Alas, one day God called him Home.
He asked God to let him stay,
but his mission now completed,
God’s words he chose to obey.

Norma and Collin were saddened.
They knew to Home he had flown.
They would see him again one day,
but for now they were left alone.

Yet, with the pure grace of Angels,
Sam visits them once in a while.
He shows them he’s still with them
and he does it with his style.

Earth is but a meeting place
Where eternal friends can roam.
They meet and bond in perfect love,
until one is called back Home.

The Angels know we’re eternal.
They know we’ve come to earth to learn,
but friendships made from our love
are the strongest lessons learned.

In peace, Sam lives eternally,
but his love he sends each day.
He watches Norma and Collin,
and his love to them conveys.

God’s plan again was followed.
Eternal friends did meet.
They bonded through their love,
This mission now complete.

You Can Get WHAT in a Vending Machine????

I've never done an image blog before, but my blog buddies Beth and William have had fun with them, so when Collin gave me a bounty of pics of vending machines from around the world, I just couldn't resist....

In China, you can get crabs....

And in Japan, lobsters....

Buy a car from a vending machine? I guess it's possible....

Medicinal marijuana? Only in California....

And after you get finished with the weed and need munchies, there's pizza....




Video games (if your eyes can still focus after the weed and the booze)....

...and then there's porn...

..and yes, sex toys....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

I've rarely written more than a very brief review on anything up until now. Reviews aren't exactly a talent of mine--usually, I have more to say about something I don't like than I do if I like let me preface this review by saying I hate 3D and would give the person who invented it a beatdown if I could. Whatever happened to the days of going to a theater and enjoying a movie for the acting, writing, directing, cinematography or any other aspect of good filmmaking? I wanted to see Thor in IMAX. Had I known I'd have to wear that idiotic contraption over my own glasses to even see it, I would have opted for the less expensive "normal" screening elsewhere in the cineplex. 3D is a distraction I can live without.

That annoyance aside, I did go into the theater expecting to love this film, and it far exceeded my expectations. The beginning's a bit awkward--starting with Thor's arrival on Earth, then abruptly backtracking to how he got there and replaying the opening scene, but from there on, the pacing is excellent.

A prince in his own realm, heir to the throne of Asgard, Thor is a young man in desperate need of some anger management counseling. This prince's temper is measured on the Richter scale. When his coronation is interrupted by the intrusion of  beings from another realm, Thor seeks revenge--and re-ignites an ancient war. This leads his angry and disappointed father, Odin, to banish him to Midgard--Earth--to teach him a lesson in humility. Thor must live as a mortal man until he can prove himself worthy. Then, and only then, will his magic hammer, Mjolnir, be returned to him, along with his power and his immortality.

Mjolnir has also been sent to Earth--trapped in a Sword in the Stone-type scenario in the New Mexico desert. (Look for Thor's creator, Stan Lee, in his obligatory cameo as one of a crowd of rednecks trying to withdraw the mystical hammer from the stone. Good thing Stan can afford to buy a new truck!)

The fish-out-of-water aspect of the story is humorous without being over the top. In Thor's first twenty-four hours on Earth, he's hit by a car twice (three times if you count the replay of the opening scene), had a hypodermic full of tranquilizers shot into his butt, gone drinking with Jane Foster's mentor, Erik Selvig (and had to carry him home when he passed out), and takes on a platoon of S.H.I.E.L.D. guards surrounding Mjolnir.  

It was those moments of humor I enjoyed most--and that price-of-admission scene of a shirtless Thor (when the film comes out on DVD, that scene's going to get a lot of replay action). Chris Hemsworth portrays Thor with the regal bearing of a prince, the ferocity of a warrior, and the good humor of a regular guy.  The budding romance between Thor and Jane (Natalie Portman), however, didn't get enough screen time to convince the audience it was true love. Note to screenwriters: SHOW, DON'T TELL! The audience needs to believe Thor has made enough of an emotional bond with Jane and others here on Earth to overcome centuries of arrogance  on his part.

As Thor comes to terms with his exile, trouble is brewing in Asgard. Odin has fallen into a coma and Thor's younger brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), is taking over the kingdom. Thor's loyal friends, the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, defy royal decree and head for Earth to find him and bring him home. In a confrontation with a gigantic destroyer from their realm, the five of them join forces to defeat the enemy. And when Thor makes the decision to sacrifice himself, caring more for Jane and the others than for himself, his powers and his immortality are restored.

The dialogue is sharp and witty. In one scene, future Avenger Hawkeye observes Thor's battles with S.H.I.E.L.D. security and asks Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) if he should take him out "or are you going to send out more guys for him to beat up?"

When Thor's Asgardian buddies walk down the town's main street in search of their friend, a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative reports to Coulson, "We have Xena, Robin Hood...."

And then there's the scene in which Thor goes to a pet shop to get a horse. When he's told they only sell dogs, cats and birds, he says, "Give me one big enough to ride."

There are also not-so-subtle nods to other Marvel superheroes. When the Asgardian destroyer arrives on Earth, Agent Coulson is asked, "Is that one of Stark's?" To which Coulson responds, "That man never tells me anything." In another scene, a reference is made to a scientist working on the effects of gamma radiation (that would be Dr. Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk).

I won't give away the ending, difficult as it is to resist, but it's both spectacular and bittersweet. If you want a movie that's fast-paced, exciting, fun and even romantic, look no further. This is it! 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Mother's Day Edition

It's Sunday again...time for Six Sentences! In honor of Mother's Day, my six sentences will come from six novels rather than one, and all will involve my protagonists and their mothers....

Jaime Lynde and Fran Lynde (The Unicorn's Daughter/A Time for Legends):  Good God, she thought as the realization hit her, I'm jealous of my own daughter!

Connor Mackenzie and Anne Stewart (Chasing the Wind):  "Then one day an angel, the Archangel Gabriel, came and told me I would be blessed with a special baby who would grow up to be God's messenger."

Jamie Randall and Caroline Randall (Final Hours):  "If the two of you had met before you married Elizabeth, I'd embrace her as the woman my son loves."

Robyn Cantwell Stewart and Lily Cantwell (An Army of Angels):  "He already does," her mother assured her. "I’ve seen the way he looks at you. That man adores you."

Alexander Kirakis and Elizabeth Ryan (Dance of the Gods/Alexander's Empire): Alexander studied Elizabeth for a moment, then shook his head emphatically. "We shall see, Doctor."

Lynne Raven Mackenzie and Daniel Mackenzie (untitled novel in progress): "Daniel, you're just like your father when I first met him, and that scares the hell out of me."

Okay, so I cheated in a couple of places and used more than one sentence--but had I not, the entries would not have made sense.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers reading this!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Phone Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Android

I could have sworn my Android and I had finally made peace.

Things were going so well.  The Droid had received a much-needed system update and has been functioning beautifully. No more battles, no headaches. I even had Collin add a Dragon voice recognition program so I could use my phone for dictation. 

Then the Droid decided to exhibit its superiority...again.

I'd turn it off at night, but it would come back on. Frustrated, I started taking the battery out for a minute every night after turning the phone off. That seemed to be working. Until last night.

I'd turned it off, popped the battery out for a minute, then returned it to its case and put it in my crossbody bag. I was about to go to bed when I head a muffled sound coming from inside my bag. It was the panicked Minions ringtone I had assigned to weather alerts on the Droid.

The phone had turned itself back on. Once again.

I took it out of its case and popped the battery out again. This time, I left it out for a few minutes. It seemed to work. So far. I'm not holding my breath. My phones are like children in a way. My HTC Dash and my Kyocera Loft are easygoing, pleasant, and cooperative (for the most part). My Android is a brat willing to do anything just to be difficult.

Is this how Skynet plans to begin its attack on humanity? Will they start with our phones?