Saturday, July 30, 2011

First ad for Same Time Tomorrow

Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

It's been a long time since I read the comic books, but having already seen--and thoroughly enjoyed--the Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man and Thor movie adaptations, I was looking forward to Captain America: The First Avenger. I was not disappointed.

I wondered how the chronology of Captain America would be handled, however. Since Cap was set during World War II and the other Avengers have all been set in the present, how would the filmmakers bring Cap to the present?
They did so quite effectively--but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Back to the beginning...and a scrawny, asthmatic Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) being rejected by the US Army. To add insult to injury--or maybe that should be the other way around in this case--after suffering another rejection, our hero gets the crap beat out of him by some bullies after leaving the recruiting office. Before too much damage can be done, the beatdown is interrupted by Steve's good friend James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, who has achieved Steve's dream. Right off, the strong bond between the two is established.
Through a chance meeting--or is it chance at all?--Steve meets Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who offers him his one chance to become a soldier. Steve is suspicious of the German scientist at first, but comes to understand and respect Erskine, who is head of the Army's super soldier experiment. Erskine has chosen Steve for that experiment. When Steve asks why, Erskine explains why he left his homeland and tells Steve of his one other attempt--and failure. He has chosen Steve for certain character traits that will enable him to use his newly-gained power for good.
Also participating in the experiment is a young Howard Stark (yep, Tony's dad--and Tony is definitely his father's son) and Peggy Carter, a woman ahead of her time: smart, tough, beautiful, and willing to break the rules when it becomes necessary.

Sorry--I just couldn't resist!

As the experiment is completed and Steve discovers the extraordinary physical changes he's undergone, a mole who has gained access to the lab starts shooting. One of his bullets hits Erskine. Steve sets out to catch the killer and discovers just how powerful he's become.
Erskine's death brings the super soldier experiment to a halt and leaves Steve little more than a symbol used to sell war bonds--until the notorious Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) takes a large number of American troops prisoner, including Bucky Barnes. Steve's search for Bucky leads him to a dramatic rescue of some four hundred men and his first confrontation with Red Skull, who has been using the Cosmic Cube, one of the treasures of Odin, to create superior weapons.
Long story short--or am I already too late for that? The next confrontation between Cap and Red Skull leads to Cap preparing to sacrifice his own life to save millions of others.
Unless you've been living on another planet for the past year or so, you already know that Cap will appear in The Avengers in 2012. How does he do it? How will he travel from the 1940s to the twenty-first century to join the other Avengers? How does he end up in Times Square with Nick Fury? And what of Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube? See Captain America: The First Avenger and find out!  

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Rude, Very Rude, Awakening!

I'm getting old. How can that be?
Like my parents, I've aged slowly. Very slowly. When I was ten, I won a piggy bank at the rodeo because a guy couldn't guess my age. In my thirties and forties, I was carded when I ordered drinks. Even last year, I was mistaken for Collin's wife/girlfriend/sister--and Collin, at 32, doesn't look his age, either. 
I will turn 58 next week.
But there's a downside to this blessing: when time does catch up, it catches up with a vengeance. I am now about fifty percent gray. When I didn't need to color my hair, I did. Now that I need it, I've gotten lazy.

Wrinkles? least I didn't think so, until this morning. I was plucking my eyebrows and, having a bit of a problem with some of the finer hairs, resorted to my lighted tweezers, the ones with the special magnifier. Nothing says old like special tweezers with a light and a magnifier. What's next? Lifecall?

Still having a problem with those faint hairs, I put the hand mirror on the counter, leaned forward, and...was terrified by what I saw. That couldn't possibly be me! God, where did this face come from?

You're getting old, honey. Deal with it.
Is this your idea of funny?
Now that you mention it, yes.

I thought of the photo I'd taken of myself with my cellphone earlier this year, when something caused my left eyelid to swell. It was an awful photo. I looked pale and...wrinkled. I showed it to my doctor. She looked surprised. "This picture doesn't even look like you," she said.
"Oh, thank you!" She had made my day!
Until this morning....  

PS Talk about timing! Check out Old Symptoms, New Risks on WebMD....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crapfest 2011

It all started with Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Surely you've seen it or at least heard of it. Reputed to be the worst movie ever made, no Crapfest would be complete without director Ed Wood's ultimate-in-cheesy film.
Yep, I've seen it. I had to. I had to see for myself if it was really as bad as it's rumored to be. It is. It's the ultimate in crap, what all other crap aspires to be. Ishtar, Waterworld, Pluto Nash...none of them measure up to the epitome of crap, Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Collin and I came up with an idea: an annual Crapfest, for which we'd rent all the worst films of the year and watch them back-to-back. (Buy them? No way!) Oh, I've bought a few stinkers over the years. I don't pay much attention to the critics, since their tastes and mine seldom mesh--but they do occasionally issue a bomb alert I find myself wishing I hadn't ignored.
Eye of the Beholder. Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd. I'm a big McGregor fan, but this film's such a turkey, it should have been released at Thanksgiving. And I saw it in the theater first, so I have no excuse for such poor judgment. I remember thinking (as I was watching it), How could such a good actor make such a crappy film?

We all make mistakes.
Oh, sure, sometimes it's just a matter of taste. I don't like the Twilight films, but then, I just don't like the genre. I used to love vampire movies, until the undead population overtook us and the living became a minority. The last vampire movie I actually liked was Wes Craven's Dracula 2000.

I confess: I wouldn't object to being bitten by Gerard Butler.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It Could Have Been Worse...A Lot Worse!

I have a broken nose.

Not this bad. Like I said, it could have been worse.

I wish I could say I got it in a fight. It would sound so much better than admitting to a moment of klutziness. I did, in fact, try out the fight story at church. Funny thing is that everyone I told it to believed it. Maybe because I'm combative by nature. Maybe because I've been in more than a few fights. I still have an inner ear problem, a badge of sorts for fighting.
But no, I did not break my nose taking out a guy three times my size for having no manners. That would have been so cool. No, I broke the sucker trying to outrun a yellow light on Kirkwood Road last Thursday. Just as Collin and I reached the other side, I tripped, plunging into a thick concrete slab covering the storm sewer.

If only the one I collided with had looked so cute...but then, it still would have hurt!

I've fallen before, and it's always happened so fast there was no time to think, no time to react. Not even the time my horse slipped on a wet pavement and we both went down--hard. This time, the fall actually felt more like slow motion....
This is it. Game over.
Raise your arm.
Oh, good idea. A broken arm's better than a fractured skull.
I raised my arm, blocking the impact. In the next instant, I felt my body slam into the concrete. I heard my own voice, as if it were coming from somewhere else, calling to Collin. He was trying to help me up.
I couldn't stand up.
I was stunned, I think, by the severity of the blow. Collin finally got me up on my feet.  A car stopped. A woman called out to us. "Do you need help?" I thanked the woman for stopping. That was when I realized that the heavy metal bracelet I was wearing was bent on my wrist. I didn't think I'd ever get it off.
Collin helped me get up to Arby's so I could sit for a while. I was still dazed. And my face was bloodied. When I fell, my eyeglasses were pushed up into my face. That, I think, is how my nose was broken. It's not a serious break. It still looks normal and won't be malformed when it heals. It just hurts like hell and wearing glasses is no picnic. I'm bruised all over. Big, ugly, purple bruises. When I'm tempted to whine about the pain, I remind myself that it could have a whole lot worse.
I think I'll just say I got it in a fight....  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: BOX OF ROCKS by Karla Telega

WARNING: Do not read this book while eating. To do so may cause you to choke to death on your own laughter.

I'll start by paying new author Karla Telega the highest form of compliment I can give: in many ways, her writing reminds me of that of bestselling author Janet Evanovich. Another reviewer has compared Maggie and Cher to Thelma and Louise, and I can see that...but to me, they're more like Stephanie Plum and Lula for the AARP crowd
I've been a fan of Ms. Telega's blog for some time now. If you haven't yet had the privilege, check it out--you're in for a real treat. Telega has her liver-spotted finger on the weak pulse of over-50 women everywhere.

But getting back to BOX OF ROCKS--Karla Telega has created characters that are outrageously funny but at the same time people readers can relate to--even Bear (admit it--who hasn't had a Wile E. Coyote moment in their lives?).
As author and co-founder of upstart publisher Adoro Books, Karla Telega has published a book that's been handled with pure professionalism, start to finish--from Karla's exceptional writing to the fine editing skills of Martin Rus and Rosanne Dingli to the brilliant cover art of El Kartun, which would stand out anywhere. I am so pleased to see that this is just the beginning of a series!  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Uneasy Truce

We're outnumbered with no hope, no way out.
More gadgets move into our home every day. Once my resistance to cellphones was sufficiently worn down, other gadgets came: computers...DVD game consoles (several of them)...Game Boys and Sony PSPs...MP3 players...DVD recorders...satellite TV with a DVR...the wireless router...Collin's Entourage Edge...and the latest addition to the family, a Roku player.

Yup. We're outnumbered. I wonder when the takeover will begin? Or has it already begun?

We recently switched to a new bank for our safe deposit box. The new one is strictly high-tech. To get in, we have to put in our PIN number, then place our hand on the metal pad so we can be identified by our handprint. If we pass the ID test, we're then allowed into a room that looks like something out of Mission: Impossible. Surprisingly, a plain old key is then used to open the safe deposit box, which is about twice the size of our old one.
I would not want to get trapped in there by a computer malfunction.
The good news on the human vs. technology front is that Scudder and I have finally called a truce. (I name my gadgets; the Android is appropriately named for the middle-finger-flipping robots in Red Dwarf.) It hasn't been easy, but we've finally reached the point at which Scudder tolerates me.

"My phone hates me," I told Collin one night.
"It doesn't hate you," Collin said. It just doesn't respect me. It laughs at me, and not only behind my back.
I've had to summon up every ounce of bravado I can. Don't let it know I'm scared to death of it. It can sense fear. It knows I'm intimidated by it. Let it know who's boss....
Wait a minute. That won't work. It already knows who's boss. That's the problem.
Collin and I went into Best Buy's phone store at the mall recenty. When I mentioned having three phones, the surprised salesman asked why.
Well, let's see...the Dash no longer functions as a phone, but in a wi-fi hot spot, still does e-mail...the Intercept is great for an e-reader, audiobooks, and working on manuscripts, and gets radio stations from all over the world, but totally sucks as a phone...and the Loft, while limited in data abilities is a great little phone.
Doesn't everyone carry three phones?  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Introducing...Same Time Tomorrow!

We have the cover--now to finish the book!

It all started with Barry Manilow and an online message board.....

This is the first collaborative effort of myself and William, writing as Scarlett Martin and James Morgan.  Genre? I'd call it an erotic love story, erotic romance....

We started out to write straight erotica, but our characters had other ideas.  Same Time Tomorrow got its start, in fact, as a round robin exercise in our previous group at the Writers Digest website. There were six of us. Each of us wrote a scene. In the end, our fellow writers' scenes went pretty far afield of what William and I had done, so we decided we would write a novel about a couple who never actually met, but got together online at the same time every night for cybersex.

Once we got into writing the novel, however, the characters took over and completely changed the story's direction. Yes, they met online. Yes, they started out meeting there every night. But Gabriel and Chloe were definitely NOT the casual sex types. This tale of online lust became something entirely different....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Betty Ford and Breast Cancer Awareness

The passing of former First Lady Betty Ford this week has brought forth countless tributes. Like many Americans, I admired Mrs. Ford. I didn't agree with her on everything, but I respected her candidness on topics that at that time were not openly discussed.

I just saw a segment on TV about her battle with breast cancer. I've known several breast cancer survivors. Sadly, I've lost friends to cancer. I don't know anyone whose life has not been affected by cancer, at least indirectly.

And I've had my own close call.

It was the summer of 1984, the Labor Day weekend. Collin was five years old. I was thirty-one, unemployed for three months. My agent was reading the manuscript that would become Dance of the Gods.  I had never had a mammogram or done a self-exam. There was no history of breast cancer in my family that I knew of, so I wasn't concerned.

I went to bed that Saturday night, feeling optimistic that I was on the verge of finally realizing a lifelong dream. I turned over, my arm falling across my breast, and...what the heck was that? I was suddenly wide awake. It was huge, and very close to the surface. How had I missed it before?

I couldn't even make an appointment with my doctor until Tuesday morning. That was one long weekend. I called as soon as I possibly could on Tuesday and was told to come in immediately. 

The doctor examined me. He tried to do a needle biopsy but got nothing. The next stop: the hospital. I had a mammogram. The results were uncertain. I was told I'd have to have surgery. The next day, I was admitted to Incarnate Word hospital.

 (I'm almost certain this thing was invented by the Marquis de Sade)

The surgeon came in to talk to me. He explained that while it was "probably not" cancer, we had to be prepared. He would remove the tumor and send it to the lab while I was still on the table. If it was benign, I'd be taken to recovery and released from the hospital that evening. If it was malignant, a mastectomy would be necessary. This was a large tumor. If cancerous, the lymph nodes would almost certainly be involved. 

He was going to leave the consent form with me. "You can think about it and sign in the morning," he suggested.

"There's nothing to think about," I said. "If there's cancer in there, I want it out." 

He was surprised. "Most women are reluctant to lose a breast, even if keeping it means risking their lives."

"It woudn't be the first time I've said goodbye to a boob." (I don't think he realized what kind of boob I was talking about.)

Vanity is a huge waste of energy, girls.

So early the next morning, I was carted off to surgery. When I woke in the recovery room, the  first thing I became aware of was the enormous bandage on my chest. I concluded it had been cancer and I was now lopsided. And I thought getting clothes to fit before was difficult.

My surgeon came in, surprised to find me awake. "I thought you'd be out for at least another hour or two. I told your mother to go home."

"I got hungry. Did you get all of it?"

He laughed. "The tumor was benign."

"Then what's with this?" I asked, referring to the bandage.


"I need food."

He rolled his eyes. "When you get back to your room."

I was released from the hospital that evening. In spite of my frequent calls to the nurses' station, the IV was still in my arm when Mom and Collin arrived. Collin took one look and started to cry. I explained that I was so thirsty, the nurses decided to save time by running a hose into my arm. He seemed okay with that, though I think he wondered why they didn't just stick it in my mouth.

In the years since, there have been other lumps, all cysts. I've reached the point at which finding one no longer scares me. My doctor warns that kind of complacency can be dangerous. He told me of a patient who, after a dozen false alarms, almost refused a biopsy for number thirteen.

That one turned out to be cancer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I'm moving...sort of!

I'm now part of a great new blogging group along with several talented writers, so catch my blogs on writing there as well:

Writers of Mass Distraction

And...I've incorporated all four of my book blogs here into one over at Wordpress:

Beishir Books

Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The World vs. Casey Anthony

Well, maybe not the whole world. Just most of it.

Shortly after the verdict was read, lightning struck a makeshift memorial for Caylee. Does this mean someone in a very high place is unhappy with the verdict? Many think that's exactly what it means.

This young woman has been called the most hated person in the world--now that Osama bin Laden is dead. She's been kept isolated from other prisoners during her three years of incarceration--and with good reason. Even in prison, child killers don't fare well. What's that you say? She was found not guilty? Might I point out that one of the jurors who acquitted her said, and I quote, "Not guilty doesn't mean innocent."

No, it doesn't. And while I'm expressing my personal opinions here, in this case it's an opinion shared by most people interviewed on TV and radio and just about everyone I know personally. As St. Louis radio personality Cornbread put it, one does not have to be Columbo to connect the dots in this case. 

Consider: party girl Casey didn't report Caylee missing for a month. In that month, she was caught on video and in photographs, smiling, laughing, shopping, partying. She got a tattoo: "Life is Beautiful" (in Italian). I would have been going nuts if my child were missing. Collin's thirty-two and I still occasionally threaten to put a tracking device on him!

But Casey's child was missing and her life was beautiful? She looked guilty as hell, carefree and unconcerned...while her baby's small body was rotting somewhere, not even permitted a decent burial by her selfish mother. I wonder what Caylee was thinking in her final moments on this earth? I wonder if Casey ever thinks about it?

Somehow, I doubt it.

My initial response to her arrest was: no surprise. She couldn't have been more obvious if she had that tattooed on her forehead. They'd put her away. She qualified for the death penalty, which most of us believed would be the outcome. Some felt life in prison without parole would be the better option. Let her live with what she did for the rest of her unnatural life. But would a woman without conscience really be living with it? The only suffering this girl would likely do would be in thinking about all the fun she'd be missing. Today's Dr. Nancy Snyderman calls her a sociopath. That may be the kindest description that will ever be made of her.

Enter legal ringmaster Jose Baez--and yes, he was a ringmaster. This trial was less a legal procedure than a three-ring circus, with Mr. Baez throwing out one ridiculous idea after another like a circus juggler: Casey was sexually abused by her father and was afraid of him (yet she, an adult, was still living in his home)...Caylee accidentally drowned in the family's pool and her father arranged a cover-up (the man's a former policeman and he didn't immediately call 911?)...Cindy Anthony, not Casey, was doing all of those internet searches on chloroform because she was looking for chlorophyll (except she wasn't even at home when the searches were conducted). Maybe they should have stuck with the faux nanny story. Oh, wait a minute...the police had already proven that was a lie. Can't use that one, have to come up with something new.

Again, this is just my personal opinion, but I believe the defense's whole case was created with the full cooperation of the Anthony family. I suspect her father knew he was going to be accused of incest and her mother was prepared in advance to claim she was the one doing the internet searches. Dad would be outraged, Mom would be apologetic. They were prepared to do whatever was necessary to get Casey acquitted.      

Reasonable doubt...cast suspicion on all of them and no one gets convicted. As I've been telling Collin for years, our judicial system is a bad joke. Civil suits are won by whoever has the deepest pockets. Criminal cases are won with a few creative lies.

Now, Casey will be free to do whatever she wishes...and she will likely profit from it.  Book deals, movie deals...ethics and morals mean nothing where the opportunity to make big money exists. It's all about the bottom line for publishers and moviemakers.

Speaking of that all-important bottom line, was financial gain the objective for the juror who has already hired a publicist and agreed to do interviews...for a price? Think about this: if Casey had been convicted, there would have been interest in the jurors, sure. But if they let her off, there would be--and was--a media frenzy.

I, for one, will not buy any books or see any movies from which Casey, the Anthony family, their legal team or any member of that jury will profit...and I ask all of you to boycott them as well. In fact, I suggest that a law be proposed that would prohibit jurors from profiting from trials on which they serve.

Now, there's some confusion as to when Casey Anthony will actually be released. This morning on Today, OJ Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark suggested this might be deliberate in order to protect Casey Anthony from an outraged community.

I wonder why they feel she needs to be protected? She was found not guilty, after all.... 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

It's a cliche, sure. But it's a truth of this business: a good--or bad--cover is the first impression a book makes on a potential reader.  While nothing can save a poorly-written book,  a good cover can help a good book find its audience.

Back in December, CBS Sunday Morning ran a segment on the evolution of book covers and their importance. Editors were interviewed, giving their opinions. Cover artists explained the hows and whys of cover design. 

I've been open about my feelings with regard to the covers of my own books. On the plus side, they were certainly eye-catching: bold colors and lettering. On the negative? With the exception of Angels at Midnight, they didn't tell the potential buyer much about the novel. But this was the eighties--greed is good and all that. The glitz and glamour wouldn't play well today, which is why we're changing the covers (and in some cases, the titles) for the e-book editions.  Here are the covers for A Time for Legends, which will be e-published under its original title, The Unicorn's Daughter--about a photojournalist searching for her spy father in Libya at the time of the US air strike in 1986:

I've never read any of the books in the Twilight series. I'm just not into teen angst, with or without vampires and werewolves. But the covers certainly did catch my eye in Borders. They made me pick up the books and check them out:

When Collin designed the cover for Chasing the Wind, I wanted a representation of the two opposing forces of the story: faith and science. He used a parchment background and Papyrus font to represent the ancient text discovered on the archaeological dig. Science? The DNA strand that runs down the center of the cover.

Mike Saxton's 7 Scorpions: Rebellion is an example of cover art that's eye-catching and speaks volumes about the story:

One of Collin's best designs is for William Kendall's upcoming Heaven & Hell--simple but elegant, it would stand out anywhere:

A favorite of mine is the cover Collin designed for his own upcoming novel, ELE (Extinction Level Event): 

And he's done five covers for Beth Muscat. Here are two of them:

It's been suggested that with the growing popularity of e-books, cover designs would lose their importance. I disagree. I see cover art  as being as important as ever, certainly as a tool for promoting one's books online, whether it's on the books' product pages, blogs, author websites, or elsewhere on the Internet. They remain useful on press releases and ARCs (advance reading copies). And of course, for the paperback editions for those die-hards who still want a printed book....

SPECIAL THANK YOU to Erin Lausten for her very generous blog today. My ego has now swelled to ten times its normal size and is making like Godzilla trampling Tokoyo!