Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God Makes Lemonade!

My good friend Eve Gaal is a contributor on this book. She sent me a copy, along with one of her beautiful creations from The Desert Rocks. Pretty cool, huh? (The photo does not do it justice. Trust me.)

On the bottom of this lovely rock is an inscription: I'll be your Rock of Gibraltar--just whine away and I'll listen. We all need someone to whine to from time to time, and a rock won't tell you you're silly. It won't scoff at your wounded feelings or mock you. It's solid, dependable...the perfect symbol of trust and confidence.

I have read some of the stories in the book--starting with Eve's, of course--and they're inspiring, uplifting, and at times, tear-jerkers. I will be doing a full review as soon as I've finished it...but I want to plug it now, to urge all of you to buy a copy.  The profits from God Makes Lemonade go, via the Lemonaid Foundation, to help single mothers provide better lives for their children.

To buy a copy and learn more about the Lemonaid Foundation, click here.

Thanks, Evie...for the rock, the book, and most of all for being the dear friend you are!

Monday, September 26, 2011

10-4, Good Buddy!

Hey there, White Knight, got your ears on?

When I posted my CB radio blog last week, I knew I'd do another one. I've got a lot of happy memories of the days when CBs were at the height of their popularity. Almost everyone I knew had one back then, and they came in handy. Mostly, though, they were just plain fun. Some of the handles were hilarious--one of my cousins was known as Left Nut--and the lingo even funnier. For those who are uninitiated, see for yourself at the CB Gazette!

Atthat time, we lived off a narrow, winding road in Jefferson County.Sometimes, during the winter, we'd be snowed in for days. One particularly bad winter, one of our neighbors had gone to work. A winter storm moved in later in the morning, and by the time she got off work, road conditions were hazardous. She and her husband not only had CBs intheir vehicles, they had a base unit in their home--so Shirley was able to communicate with Larry throughout her difficult drive home.
With less than two miles to go, Shirley got stuck. There was a steep hill on our road that was ice-covered that day. Drivers who had tried and failed to make it to the top were either parked off to the side or stubbornly spinning their wheels but going nowhere.

Aftera few failed attempts, Shirley gave up. Slumped over her steering wheel, she began to cry into her microphone. "I can't do it,Larry," she told her hubby.
TheCB came to life. "Sure you can, honey," a trucker told her. "We'll help you."
A handful of truckers, experienced in navigating icy roads, stayed on the air with her and helped her get up that hill.

Since posting my last CB blog, Collin has been inspired. He's decided he wants a base unit. We live near the interstate, lots of truckers around...this could be fun! If you happen to have a CB and come across Dandy Lion on channel 19, hope you'll say hello! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lifestyles of the Feathered and Furred

For anyone who doesn't believe animals' lives are very similar to that of humans, take a look at the photographic evidence. This poor guy couldn't get his mate to stop nagging....

"You're starting to sound like your mother!"
"You never liked my mother!"
"Your mother is a harpie!"

"Are you on Facebook? Send me a friend request!"

"You wanna see road rage? I'll show you road rage!"

"Do ya feel lucky, punk? Do ya?"

"When you've got to go, you've got to go...."

"Get in line and wait your turn!"

"Say, wait...say PEANUTS!"

"Let's see what the Surgeon General has to say about this...."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beware the False Prophets

A few days ago,  I read posts written by a woman who talked about praying to God in the same breath as  she discussed writing about deviant sexual practices and sadism in a novel I'm sure she thought Christians would be clamoring to read.

How many of you are familiar with the Biblical story of the Pharisees, of Jesus' criticism of them? He quoted the prophecy of Isaiah: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. 

I'm a Christian. I've been saved. I've been baptized. I fact, I have no excuse to not believe. I've seen and experienced too much to not know that God was and is looking out for me. Surprised? and everybody else. I don't go around proclaiming my "status." I'm not sure I'd be the best spokesperson for divine PR. I'm no heavenly ambassador. Holy terror, maybe. Probably.

I'm always suspicious of anyone who's always telling anyone who will listen that they're Christians--but we don't see it in their behavior. If you have to tell others you belong to God, you're doing something wrong. They should be able to see it. Shouldn't they?

Not only do I not have all the answers, I'm pretty sure I don't even know all of the questions.

I once had a rubber stamp made for my first editor, Damaris Rowland: SHOW, DON'T TELL. Writers, myself included, have all been guilty of that one at one time or another. I'm also guilty of it as a Christian. I don't always walk the walk, so how could I have the right to talk the talk?

I'm a Christian, but I'm a work in progress. Slow progress. If I were being graded on it, I would not have a 4.0 grade average. Not even a 3.0, actually. I've had as much trouble with pride as I did with high school algebra. I never did master algebra, but who actually uses algebra in real life? Pride, on the other hand, can be a huge problem in the real world. 

I stink at cheek-turning. And I'm often judgmental. It took me years to find the right church because, as the old joke goes, I didn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. I'd proclaim the congregations hypocrites and be on my way. I'd justify my position by telling myself that at least I wasn't out there claiming to be doing God's will as they too often were. I finally realized that even though some church members in every church might puff themselves up and wear the designation “Christian” like a lapel pin, we were all taking the same journey.

As for me--I was and am still a screw-up. Thank God we don't get into Heaven based on performance! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Breaker, Breaker, We Have a 10-33 in Progress....

How many of you remember the CB (citizens band) radio?
I bought my dad a CB radio for Christmas one year. I thought he'd have fun with it...but as it turned out, Mom had most of the fun.

We all chose "handles," our on-air names. They were all cat names. Dad was Big Cat, Mom was Fat Cat, and since my astrological sign is Leo, I was Dandy Lion. Dad and I already knew a lot of CB lingo. Teaching Mom proved to be extremely entertaining.

Dad was having a problem mounting it in the car, so he told Mom to call her brother, my Uncle Tom, to see how he'd dealt with the problem. I told her to tell him she was a 10-33.
Thatperplexed him a bit. "Lolly, a 10-33 is a wreck," Tom toldher.
Forsome reason, Mom didn't think that was funny.
I told her if she ever encountered difficulties on the air when she was alone, she should explain that she was a "green apple"(rookie) and someone would give her answers. One day, she was driving to my grandfather's house. She started chatting with a guy online and said she was heading south on I-44. (I-44 runs east-west.)
"You must be lost," he told her. "I-44 don't run south!"
"Sorry," she said. "I'm a green apple."
A short time later, as she reached her exit, the radio came to life again: "Hey Green Apple! Where are you?"

When she finally did get the hang of it, she put it to good use--in locating garage sales. It turned out several garage sale addicts were on the air every Wednesday morning, swapping stories and bargaining info. The guru of the CB garage sale crowd was a woman who called herself Garage Sale Gertie and always knew where all the best sales were.
This made Mom an extremely happy Fat Cat. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?

I hadn't planned to write a 9/11 blog. So many bloggers I follow were writing them, and I had already commented on theirs as to where I'd been on that day. But after listening to Alan Jackson's beautiful ballad, Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)? I thought about where I'd been that day, how I'd felt, and here I am.

As bad as my memory has been of late, my memories of that day are quite clear. Collin was working at a cafeteria--he'd finally been moved to the day shift. He'd just left for work. I was getting dressed to go to the library. The Today show was on TV. It was interrupted for a news bulletin. I was in the bedroom, but I could hear Katie Couric saying, "A plane has hit the north tower of the World Trade Center." 

I came out of the bedroom. Looking at the screen, the black smoke billowing from the tower, made me think of a night fifteen years earlier. I was in New York for the first time, celebrating the sale of my first novel with my agent, Maria Carvainis, and her assistant, Elizabeth Spencer, at Windows on the World. We'd gone there because the WTC played a large role in Alexander's Empire (which would later be retitled Dance of the Gods). That night, the fog was so thick that on the 104th floor it looked as if thick pea-green shades had been pulled down. I was disappointed. I'd been waiting to see the view of the city from there.

"We all worry when it's this foggy," our waiter confessed. "We've had more than one close call with planes." Not surprising, since there were three major airports in the area (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark). 

I said, only half-joking, that it must be a tempting target for terrorists.

Flash forward to that sunny Tuesday morning in September 2001. With the media focused on the north tower, the second passenger plane slammed into the south tower, putting an end to any notion that the first could possibly have been an accident. We were under attack.

Don't ask me why, but I didn't feel the panic most people seemed to feel. Maybe because in St. Louis, I was so far inland that I didn't believe such an attack could ever happen in my hometown.  I recalled what my dad had always said: "No war will ever be fought on US soil." He firmly believed that after being caught with our defenses down at Pearl Harbor, our military would never let it happen again.

I did feel a need to talk to Collin, to let him know what was happening. In 2001, we didn't have cellphones yet. I couldn't call him until he got to work, so I decided to go on to the library and call him from there. I took both my Walkman radio and my pocket TV with me so I could keep up with the news. By the time I got there and was able to call Collin, the Pentagon had also been hit and the fourth plane, at that point unconfirmed as being under terrorist control, had crashed in Pennsylvania. 

After I left the library, I stopped at the grocery store. I remember all the talk in the checkout lines. I remember watching the towers fall on that pocket TV as I was checking out, the checkout clerk watching with me.Even though I was seeing it, I couldn't believe it had really happened. Again, my thoughts were in the past, recalling that night at dinner--timing our ascent in the elevator to see how long it took to get to the 104th floor...Elizabeth dragging me off to the restroom so I could see it just in case I wanted to set a scene there...Maria carrying off a menu because I'd mentioned wanting one for research....

I still have that menu.

In the days that followed, the news teams were on the air 24/7. The nation was in shock.Everyone was cautious, even suspicious of their Arab-American neighbors. In Hollywood, movies with violent themes were put on hold and comedies were prevalent. Collin and I were the oddballs who watched movies like Independence Day, Armageddon, Deep Impact, etc. back-to-back. I don't know what a psychiatrist would make of that, but I felt a need to see good triumph over evil, mankind beat impossible odds.

Today, ten years later, the war on terrorism may not be over, but with the death of Osama bin Laden, the snake's head has been cut off. Finally. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

What Will They Think of Next?

Lookslike those greedy Nigerian princes have found a new approach.

Icannot believe there are actually people who fall for these scams.Personally, I find it insulting that they think we're really thatdumb/naive/greedy to take such lame bait. Consider: someone in such asupposedly high position would be fluent enough to write this incorrect English (grammar, spelling, etc.). If she weren't. It wouldbe written for her by someone in her organization who is fluent.

Andshe doesn't even have a government email address. It's a Gmailaccount, for crying out loud!


My nameis Mrs Farida Mzamber Waziri the Economic and Financial CrimesCommission(EFCC) Executive Officer and Nigeria's Anti-CorruptionChief. I understand you are expecting your fund sum to be wired toyour bank account for some years now but your expectation has notbeen met.

I amcontacting you to let you know the truth because i know how far youmust have gone in trying to get your funds which has caused you topay huge sums of money into wrong hands most especially to internetfraudsters from my country(Nigeria) who frequently impersonate theidentity of real Government and Bank Officials to help makethemselves and their scam appear legitimate in a view to defraudunsuspecting fund beneficiaries off their hard earned money. 

I willbe ready to help in delivering your fund sum to you with your honestand sincere co-operation. For a quicker response to your letter icould be reached immediately via the email contained

MrsFarida Waziri, 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Losing Everything to Find Myself

My parents never wanted to be rich. There was no lusting after mansions or expensive cars. They just wanted to be "comfortable." My father didn't even want to take vacations, so every summer, I left school for my "staycation," as a vacation without travel is now called.

I hated spending every summer at home. I wanted to travel, to see the world. I wanted to be a writer, to be successful enough to make a living at it. And I did all of those things. I was one of the ten percent of authors who didn't need a day job. I had the large advances, the lead title status, the advertising, the promotions, the publicity. I was on top of the world.

Then I slipped and fell off.

Actually, it was more complicated than that. My dad died shortly before the publication of my fifth novel, and I suffered an emotional meltdown. Dad was proud of my success, but it also made him feel that he was no longer needed. Until I sold the first novel, he was the one who managed the household, paid the bills, and helped take care of Collin while I was working. I believed if I had not been so successful, he might still be alive. Guilt is a powerful thing. It can poison, it can cripple, it can destroy.

Looking back, I should have accepted his offer to manage my finances. I knew he was very good at it, and I knew I was not. Like my mom, I couldn't balance a checkbook to save my life. Even at the height of my earning power, I still managed to end up $29,000. overdrawn at the bank. Had Dad been alive and running the show financially, I would not have fallen for a crooked real estate deal that still haunts me to this day.

I sabotaged myself on some subconscious level. I could no longer enjoy the dream I'd realized. My success, I believed, had killed Dad. It was the beginning of a writer's block that lasted seven years and cost me everything I'd worked for. I was angry, erratic, and frustrated. I was hurting and took it out on everyone around me.

We lost our home, most of our possessions, and nearly our pets as well. We got Sam and Mom's dog Schatzi back, but my potbellied pig, Iggy, was killed (see my Sam's Story blog). We rented a small apartment from a man who turned out to be a truly remarkable human being and landlord. We might have gotten ourselves turned around then, but the damage had already been done. Mom, a diabetic, had a series of strokes. I had medical issues of my own. I was levied by the IRS. By the time Mom passed away, our landlord had sold the apartment building after having a quadrupole bypass, and we were losing another home.

We were homeless.

Oh, we never spent a night out on the streets or ended up in a shelter, but it was close a couple of times. We lived in a total of six motels in the next couple of years. Collin worked at IHOP, but didn't make enough to pay for our room and food, so I was constantly seeking out assistance just to keep a roof over our heads. I couldn't get a job. No one would hire me. Once they knew I was a published author, they'd label me a bad risk. I wouldn't stick around. Once I was published again, I'd be gone, they assumed. I couldn't focus well enough to write. I blamed myself—for Dad's death, for Mom's, and for Iggy's. I blamed myself for our circumstances, and Collin blamed me, though he never said it to my face.

For six months we lived with a woman we'd never met before the day she opened her home to us. We lived with Pastor John and Carole for three months. And then we met two incredible women who had never met each other before teaming up to help us get back on our feet. They paid the rent and all necessary deposits to move us into our current home. We've been here just over five years now. Today, we consider Carolyn and Kathie family as well as friends.

The decision to self-publish Chasing the Wind was not an easy one to make, but I knew it was the right one for a number of reasons. Poised to re-enter the world of conventional publishing, I saw all of the old negative issues resurfacing. When you're rich, you have a lot of people wanting some of it for themselves and using any means they can to get it. I didn't need—or want—that kind of crap in my life. And I saw myself reverting to the old ways. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a very good reason—and it's the one I've always had the most difficulty with. I knew some people would say I'd opted for self-publishing because I couldn't sell the book. (Not true, by the way, but believe whatever you wish.) But I didn't want to repeat past mistakes. I didn't want to have to be concerned with my public image. I didn't want to get phone calls reprimanding me because I'd gained a few pounds. And I didn't want someone else deciding what I could and couldn't write. I wanted creative and personal freedom, and I'd finally found it. I write and market my books online, in the privacy of my own home. I choose my titles and my covers, which Collin designs. It was a real kick when we decided to re-release my backlist with new covers and their original titles and everyone thought The Unicorn's Daughter with Collin's cover art was more interesting than A Time for Legends with the glitzy cover art.

I finally understand what my parents found so appealing about a simple life. I don't need to own things. I don't need to impress anyone. I have no more regrets. And I'm not looking back.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Battle of the Bytes

My fellow Writers of Mass Distractionand I belong to writers' communities all over the internet. We evenstarted some of them. For the most part, the writers conductthemselves as professionals.

For the most part.

There are the blowhards who think theyhave the answer, no matter what the question; the newbies who can'thandle criticism no matter how they insist they want to know thetruth about their manuscripts--they really just want to be told howwonderful they are; and the "Eddie Haskells," the suck-upswho have appointed themselves the sites' watchdogs, demandingcredentials from other writers when they have no business demandinganything from anyone. There are the clingers, who see any kind wordas an invitation to be your BFF...or something even more intimate, and there are the shit disturbers, who just want to argue to get attention.

The presence of such characters meansthe groups can turn into real soap operas sometimes. There was awoman on one site, married with children and grandchildren who wasswept off her feet by a man who really poured on the charm. Shealmost left her husband for him. When he didn't live up to herexpectations, she went home to her husband...though I heard she laterleft him for yet another man. I suppose that comes from a need tolive the life of her fictional heroine, I don't know. I would thinkthat kind of drama in real life would be be exhausting. I'd rather write the dramas and have a peaceful reality. 

Then there are the fights--really nasty fights.

A few days ago, a friend had a run-inwith a very angry woman in a group I don't often visit. I received anemail from William, letting me know about it. Times have definitely changed. There was a time whenhearing the words, "There's a big fight going on!" prompted me to runoutside to see which neighbors were duking it out.

These days, most of the fights are online.

"In this corner, we have the currentchampion from south of the border, El Gringo, known for his wit andability to piss off anyone, anywhere, anytime. And in the othercorner, the Amazon Queen, spoiling for a fight with any poor bastardwho crosses her path...."

I confess, I don't know what startedthat particular fight. I do recall that she called him a dick. I findthat surprising. The blowhard and the ass-kisser were both present,so what could he have done that would elevate him to dickstatus in the presence of such perfect examples of dickdom?