Friday, November 30, 2012

Cover Launch: Rings of Trust by Kittie Howard

I normally only post one blog a day--on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays--but today I have something very special to share! My blogging friend Kittie Howard is revealing the very stunning cover for her upcoming novel, Rings of Trust! Isn't it gorgeous? For more about Rings of Trust and its author, check out her blog....




This Little Piggy Didn't Want to Go to Market (Part 2)

Last time, I wrote about my potbellied pig, Iggy...but Iggy wasn't the only pig I've known and loved.

I spent my early childhood on a farm. We had horses, cows, chickens, and yes, pigs. Hogs, actually. Large hogs. Humongous hogs. Hogzillas...okay, not quite Hogzillas. But to a child, they were so big they could have been dinosaurs.



I remember the day one of them started chasing my pet chicken. I was screaming at it, using words my parents didn't realize their seven-year-old daughter knew until that moment. (Dad rescued my chicken, for anyone who's wondering.) 

I didn't know it at the time, but when the pigs on the farm abruptly disappeared, they didn't go off to new homes. They went to the slaughterhouse. I couldn't have dealt with that. My mom, who was midwife to most of the new births on the farm, could barely deal with it. She had to drive the young pigs there herself once. She told me as the pigs were herded into the pen, one of them ran back and looked up at her as if expecting her to save him.

She told Dad she would never make the delivery again.

Dad, in a perfect example of his warped sense of humor, named the four brood sows after Mom's four sisters: Bert, Bessie, Vi and Norma (yes, the hogs and I were both named after her). Oddly enough, the sows had the personalities of their namesakes. And now that I think about it, there was a physical resemblance as well....


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Little Piggy Didn't Want to Go to Market (Part 1)

Looks like it's Critter Blog Week! Over at Speak of the Devil, William is wrapping up his latest series with A Night in the Life of a Cat! It's hilarious, so don't miss it!


 Recently, during an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' show, Miley Cyrus talked about her pets and told Ellen she'd love to have a pig. Not surprisingly, Miley received a pig for her birthday. (Technically, she didn't get the pig...it was sponsored in her name by PETA.)

I can certainly understand why she would want a pig, though. As I've mentioned here in previous posts, I had a potbellied pig, Iggy, whom I loved dearly. Actually, it was love at first sight for both of us. Back in 1990, my former editor, Damaris Rowland, asked me to read and endorse Meryl Sawyer's novel, Midnight in Marrakesh. In the novel, one of the protagonists had a potbellied pig--named Iggy. I contacted Meryl for more info on the tiny pigs. 

Some months later, Mom and I were at the mall. As we approached the pet shop, I noticed a crowd gathered at the window. I managed to push my way through...and saw a frightened little piglet, cowering in one corner of the window display.



I went inside, followed by Mom--who had a look of dread on her face. "How much for the pig?" I asked.

The woman at the counter gave me a price, then took the piglet from the window. "Would you like to hold her?" she asked.

"No!" Mom said. "If she holds it, they'll bond--and it'll be going home with us!"

The woman grinned...and handed me the pig. Mom started looking for our joint checkbook. (Mom was as much of an animal lover as I am, but she wasn't crazy about the idea of a pig in the house.)

We'd been on our way to lunch when I spotted the little ham, so Mom asked if we could pick her up afterward. "Sure," the salesperson said. She reached for Iggy--who screamed as if the butcher were after her and crawled up around my neck.

Mom shook her head. "Told you."

We got a lot of strange looks as we left the mall later. I had her wrapped in a baby blanket. Mom wasn't too crazy about the idea of me calling her Grandma. "I am not that pig's grandmother!"

"But she looks just like you!" I insisted.

One sourpuss gave me a particularly dirty look as Iggy poked her head out of the blanket to look around. I just smiled sweetly.

Better a pig than a jackass, after all....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Interval Training for Writers?

Before I start, I'd like to direct you to my partner in crime William Kendall's blog. If you want to know the answer to that a-few-years-old question, "Who let the dogs out?" William has the answer!

I'd planned to write about something completely different today...but as I was attempting to catch up on reading the blogs I follow, I came across a post on Talli Roland's blog that caught my attention (something not easily accomplished these days).



Talli, about to publish yet another wonderful novel, blogged about a post on literary agent Rachelle Gardner's blog. Interval training for writers? It was intriguing enough for me to check it out.

As anyone who's been following this blog with any regularity knows, my inability to actually finish a book in the past four years has been a source of major frustration for me. It's bothered me that the things that once came easily are now a constant struggle. It goes with aging for most of us--or so I've been telling myself. I'm easily distracted. I have the attention span of a gnat. I'm desperate at this point. I'll try anything.

In the past year, the only "new" releases I've had are actually reissues of my old Berkley books in ebook format. I have several works in progress, but nothing completed. Anything longer than a blog post is a challenge equal to climbing Mount Everest!

It took me ten years to complete Chasing the Wind. I've been working on the sequel, An Army of Angels, since 2008. I've considered switching genres. Romantic comedy is easier to write and usually of a shorter length. I've gone back to writing first drafts in longhand. I've even done a bit of research on circadian rhythms.



And I've wondered if I should just give up. Retire.

But this just might work. Even my wandering brain could probably manage two or three 90-minute sessions daily. I might even turn out something good....

Friday, November 23, 2012

On Being Thankful....


Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US--a time, presumably, to reflect on what we have, what we're thankful for. After a huge meal, thought and reflection are often all I'm capable of.





I'm thankful for cheesecake. I'm thankful for technology, for devices that are smarter than I am and tell me what to do and when to do it. I'm thankful for my Kindle and ebooks because I like being able to take my library wherever I go...and I always hated having to dust bookshelves. I'm thankful for big box stores that carry jumbo jars of Nutella. I'm really thankful for the big screen TV we've decided to adopt...and I'm really, really, REALLY thankful to not be part of the crowd waiting in front of one local retailer for their Black Friday special. 1200 men are waiting for 600 envelopes, one of which will get one lucky shopper a free rifle. I wouldn't want to end up in the middle of that fight.....


(These guys really were among those waiting for the doors to open....)


But seriously....

I'm thankful that there is a higher power who created us...and that for whatever reason, He's always been watching over me. Whenever anyone tells me, "You need to be looked after," I know they mean it literally!

I'm thankful that among the blessings God gave me is my son, Collin. He's patient, kind, gentle...everything I'm not. And he's done an impressive job of raising me. Who would have thought being given the wrong baby at the hospital could be a blessing? (Just kidding, T-Bird!)

I'm thankful for my partner in crime, William Kendall, aka James Morgan. Collaborations aren't always easy, but I've been lucky to have found someone I'm so in sync with, personally and creatively. Like Collin, he's far more kind, patient and giving than I am....

I'm thankful for good friends. I have the best in Carolyn, Kathie, and Pearl. "Fair weather friends" are plentiful--but those who are there for you in your darkest moments are a gift from God.

Some of those friends are also fellow writers, and they're the ones who get the ups and downs of this insane business. Mike, Shelly, Eve, April, Lena, Nicole, Cathy, Kyle, Karla, Linton, EJ, Lucy, Lorelei, Glynis and other members of the Writers of Mass Distraction, this is my shout-out to all of you!

I'm thankful for my other online friends, too. Mets, Gayle and the Square Ones top this list. We may never have met, but sometimes I feel like I know you better than a lot of people I have met!

I'm thankful for my church family. Pastor John, Carole--this one applies especially to the two of you! South Side really is a place to call home....

I'm also thankful for those loved ones who are no longer with me except in my heart: Mom, Dad, Sam, Iggy, Schatzi, Sandy, Scamp, Trouble, Bugsy, Babs and all the rest of my extended family...I love you and I miss you, always....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Are They Thinking???

In the past couple of weeks, there's been a bit of an uproar over Amazon's decision to ban authors' reviews of other authors' books. I recently commented on an article on Forbes' website that was critical of the ban.



I can see both sides of this issue. As an author who's reviewed several other authors' books (and had my own books reviewed by other authors), I believe we're more than qualified to evaluate a book's merits. Don't we beta-read for each other? Don't we support each other by offering support and advice for our peers' works in progress? Who's better qualified to make a recommendation--as long as the review is an honest one?

Sadly, however, the reviews posted at Amazon are not always honest. And I'm not only talking about authors reviewing authors. There are also the usual five-star reviews posted by family and friends for amateurish, poorly-written novels--I've mentioned such a review in a previous post. The review was almost illiterate. Reading it, I had to wonder if that reviewer was even capable of reading a book.

Then there's the "sock puppet" reviews by people setting up fake accounts for the sole purpose of giving themselves rave reviews and/or attacking other authors (yes, "Doc," I'm talking about you; I've known all along who you are). 

The Forbes article cites attacks on authors that began at the Goodreads site. This is one reason I no longer spend any time at Goodreads. Patience is not one of my strengths. I saw too much whining and backstabbing in my years in conventional publishing...and not only among authors (but that's another story for another time).

I don't buy reviews, nor would I accept payment for reviewing anyone else's. I don't even ask anyone to review my books. If they do, great; if not, I'm okay with that, too. I know one author who was deeply bothered by another author's refusal to review her book. Realistically, even among friends, not everyone is going to love our books. My circle of friends in conventional publishing, like my self-published friends, was a diverse group. Different genres, different tastes. We'd buy each others' books--but some of them were given as gifts. 

I came to self-publishing so I could write what I want to write and not have to live up to someone else's expectations. I stopped caring about advances or promotional budgets or bestseller lists. I guess with age and life experience, my priorities are finally in the right place...or getting there anyway.

So why do I feel like I'm in high school again?

As self-published authors, we still have a long way to go. The good news is also the bad news: anyone can publish a book. And the petty, childish behavior of some self-pubbed authors does nothing to improve our image. If we're to ever be taken seriously, we're going to have to present a professional attitude. We're going to have to put out only our best work. 

We're going to have to grow up.

Monday, November 19, 2012

So That's Why This Isn't Working?

I'm a creature of habit. 

I recently came across an article at Media Bistro that claimed writers do better when writing first drafts in longhand. I used to write everything in longhand. First draft or fourth, I wrote it in longhand. Even though I bought a computer when I sold my first novel, I never could get creative sitting at a desk. I was used to writing wherever I happened to be. I'd usually write parked in front of the TV. 



Years ago, when Collin was working on Sundays, back before I went to church, I'd take my yellow legal pad and my notes to the Long John Silvers two blocks from our place and, parked in a booth by the windows, I'd  write while eating lunch. I'd go early, before the majority of the lunch crowd arrived. It was quiet, the food was good and the view wasn't too bad--but not so great that it would distract me. I loved it.

Then I convinced myself I could compose on a computer...on my phone...and finally, on my Kindle. And I did compose...a scene here, there, an occasional chapter...I just never finished anything.

I haven't finished a book in four years. Everything after Final Hours in 2009 was a reissue of one of my previously-published novels.

Thursday, I decided to put the article's theory to the test. I went back to the storeroom and unearthed some yellow legal pads and black Flair pens. Then I settled down on the couch and started to work on one of my current works in progress. It proved to be an eye-opening experience.

Now I know why I haven't finished a book in four years....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

In Case You Missed It...

PK Hrezo discussed her frustration with captchas...a frustration I share. Anybody up for a boycott of blogs with captchas? (Love her post title: Craptcha Captcha!)



Lena Winfrey Seder talks about the everyday life of a writer at Pearldrops on the Page. It's not all champagne and caviar...unless you're in that 1% at the top of the bestseller lists....

William Kendall reviews the latest James Bond film, Skyfall and shows us how to deal with idiots at Speak of the Devil....

Perth Daily Photo always has beautiful photography, but I'm partial to a pair of beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets...

and speaking of beautiful photography, St. Louis Daily Photo is a definite don't miss... 

If you love animals, be sure to check out Lynn  Benoit's Pets and Other Critters.... 

Carla White's Foodie Friday feature always makes me hungry--as do the recipes Maria McKenzie shares (she introduced me to the joys of cooking with a Crock Pot!)...Maria's doing a blog tour for her new novel Escape, so check that out as well....

One of my favorite bloggers, Russo at Challenging the Gnome, blogs about not giving up on your dreams....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Recently, one of my friends posting on this blog commented that she especially enjoyed my reviews of "movies with hunky men in them." As it happens, I've seen a couple of those lately! So...here's the review I posted at Amazon of Snow White and the Huntsman, starring that hunk among hunks, Chris Hemsworth, as the Huntsman....



Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two out of Three Gave a Good Performance!, November 12, 2012
This review is from: Snow White and the Huntsman (Extended Edition) (DVD)
I didn't see this movie in the theaters. I didn't buy the DVD. I rented it. With Kristen Stewart in one of the lead roles, I was skeptical as to how good it could possibly be. I guess a pretty face is enough for a few moviegoers, but most of us expect more.

So many reviewers have already gone into the details of the story here, I won't add to that. Instead, I'll stick to what I think works and doesn't work about the film overall.

What works: Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. Both are outstanding actors portraying complex, interesting characters--but their talents are wasted here. Stewart is an albatross around their necks--as one reviewer here noted, Hemsworth seemed to be pleading in his scenes with her for something, anything for him to work with. Both he and Theron have to carry her in every scene they share.

Stewart has one facial expression, even in her "death" scene. She always looks constipated. Acting must be a painful process for her. I can only hope if there's a sequel, it will be focused on the Huntsman, as has been rumored. I could also see a film delving into Ravenna's past--the glimpses of her childhood in the film were intriguing....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Confessions of a Pack Rat

Hi. My name is Norma and I'm a recovering pack rat. 

I started thinking about this yesterday. A friend drove me to an appointment with my neurologist, and I chided her a bit about the large pile of books, magazines and other paperwork in the back seat of her Prius. She is not a pack rat--just very, very busy. She's always running from one meeting to another, from one friend or another in need of her help, and rarely finds the time to organize everything. 

I come from a long line of pack rats. Mom was a pack rat. Dad used to threaten to replace all of our tables with large standing funnels so she couldn't pile stuff on them. She'd go to yard sales and bring home a lot of crap she'd never actually use. The next time she left the house, he'd carry it all out to the dumpster, and the cycle would begin again.



My maternal grandparents were also pack rats. I won't go into detail here. Let's just say Indiana Jones wouldn't have gone looking for anything in their house. 

Collin is a fourth-generation pack rat. He never gets rid of anything, no matter how much I beg. I refer to his bedroom as The Landfill. Our dog, a rather large German shepherd, wouldn't go in there. Our pig, however, didn't mind it at all. Enough said.

He's trying. He did buy the shredder....

As for me...I've always had a tendency to let mail pile up. I'd fill shopping bags with mail, magazines, and assorted crap that I knew should really be given away or thrown away. I'd have five or six bags full before I finally forced myself to sort them. One month, none of our bills got paid because I lost them. Our birth certificates were also lost. (I suspect they ended up in the recycling, but it's never been proven.)  
 
Now, documents will occasionally pile up, waiting for me to scan them into the computer. There will be stuff piled up in the storeroom when I'm weeding out, finding things to donate to the annual church sale. Old clothes might pile up until I get around to cutting them up for cleaning cloths. But I'm making progress...really, I am!


I wonder when A&E will decide to do a series on pack rats? 
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spammers R Us

A few months ago, I discovered a spammer using the name "Desi Jumiati" had taken my registered domain name as a blog address and was setting up camp at Blogger, padding that blog and fifty-four others with posts stolen from other bloggers. After weeks of several of us making complaints to Google, the blogs specifically mentioned in those complaints were removed.

But now there's a new spammer on the block.

Yesterday, William emailed me with an unpleasant discovery. Another spammer was using two of my book titles for his (her?) blogs. These were blogs I had originated but later deleted, realizing it was impossible (not to mention stupid) to try to maintain a blog for each book.
Upon investigation, I found that one of the spam blogs, http://finalhours2009.blogspot.com, had already been deleted. I immediately reclaimed the URL, along with some of my other titles. Only http://chasingthewind2008.blogspot.ca, remains in spammer hands.

Do I plan to start posting on all of these blogs? No. This was action I took solely to make sure I don't end up being blamed for people following these blogs getting hit with a spam surge. I've marked all of them as "No Readers."

Translate: NO SPAMMERS ALLOWED.



With my website almost ready to debut (don't expect a lot of bells and whistles, I'm a firm believer in the KISS--Keep It Simple, Stupid--formula), I'm also resetting my Beishir Books blog to Private, along with Sam's Story. I'm actually going to be down to one blog, posted in two locations: here and Wordpress.

I suggested to William that someone should sell spammer insurance. He said it would probably end up being sold by a spammer.... 

Postscript: PLEASE show your support for those victims of Superstorm Sandy still without power: http://www.change.org/petitions/investigate-and-hold-lipa-long-island-power-authority-accountable

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's the Happiest Time of the Year (Getting There, Anyway)

I decided to start my Christmas shopping early. I hate shopping...the crowds, the long lines, the screaming, temper-tantrum-throwing brats, the rudeness of some salespeople and shoppers, the insanity of the holiday. But this year, I think I've discovered gifts that are sure to please everyone.








And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to draft my letter to the big guy up north....

Dear Santa:

I haven't been good this year...but come on, did you really expect me to change this late in the game? Do you think you could overlook it just this once? I've already accumulated enough coal to start my own energy co-op. (Hey, President Obama got re-elected...maybe I'll qualify for one of those government bailouts!)  

I'm really not asking for much--just this:



Think about it, okay? It would keep me off the streets...most of the time. And I won't be putting out cookies and milk like the kids do. Bring me the TV and you'll find rum balls...and peppermint schnapps. Christmas can't get merrier than that! Just watch out for the cop who lives down the street.

By the way, who was the blonde chick in the Victoria's Secret getup? She sure didn't look like Mrs. Claus. What's that you say? Blackmail is such an ugly word....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

When Bosses Go Too Far and the Voodoo Doll Ain't Working....

When my close friend William's nephew passed away a few months ago, the restaurant where he worked as a server closed for his funeral. When they reopened afterward, everyone ate free. It was a thoughtful gesture made by an employer who obviously valued their employee. Knowing this, this is a restaurant where I would dine regularly if I lived in that area. If the owners think so highly of their employees, they must also think highly of their customers.

By contrast, my son also works in a restaurant. His employers do not care about their employees. He works hard. He rarely calls in sick and he's almost never late. He insists upon getting up at four in the morning to take three buses that get him there an hour and a half early rather than clock in ten minutes late as he would have to by taking a later bus from home. 

If it were me, I would take the later bus. I wouldn't give them any better than they give. It's bad enough that servers don't even get minimum wage because employers are allowed to include the servers' tips as part of their wages. (Whatever happened to tips being a customer's way of rewarding good service, anyway?)


 
My son's employer requires servers to find their own replacement if they want or need a day off, no matter what the reason. He actually went to work sick one day because he couldn't find a replacement. He got to the restaurant and started vomiting...and was sent home.

If they ended up shorthanded, it was their own fault.

A few days ago, we discovered that my son's blood pressure is dangerously high--185/111, which falls into the category of hypertensive crisis. I urged him to take a day off and see the doctor immediately. He isn't sure his boss will allow him a day off. Won't allow it? 

What happens if he has a stroke? If he's unable to make calls to find a replacement, what then? I guess he'd be fired, right?

I've envisioned the scenario in such an event: him on a stretcher, being taken to a waiting ambulance. He's clutching his cellphone. "Wait," he pleads with the EMTs. "I can't go yet!"

"You're having a stroke, sir," they tell him.

"I'm supposed to be at work today."

"You're having a  stroke, sir. You have to go to the hospital now."

"If I don't find someone to fill in for me, I'll get fired!"

"Sir--" 

"Just one more call." He enters a number. No answer. He tries another. Voicemail. Another. The person he's called can't do it. He has a soccer game that day.

He's losing control of his hand. His speech is slurred. "We have to go now," the EMTs tell him. He finally surrenders, trying to mentally calculate what his weekly unemployment checks will be....




Monday, November 5, 2012

The Changing Face of Bloodsuckers (and No, This is NOT about the IRS)

It's about vampires. Yep, vampires. 

I used to love vampire movies. I loved horror movies in general. The old Universal Studios films were my favorites--Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, I loved them all. 



I even loved the cheesy B horror movies. When I was a kid, our pre-cable equivalent of the Syfy Channel was Saturday night's Chiller Theater. They ran stuff like Attack of the Crab Monsters, which I've been trying unsuccessfully to get through Netflix. There were movies about giant snails, nuclear apocalypse, alien invasions, you name it.

When I was five years old, Mom and Dad, against their better judgment, took me to see 1958's Horror of Dracula, the first vampire movie filmed in color. They also took the neighbor's kids along, after being assured the kids had no problem with "scary movies." All was well...until Chistopher Lee appeared in closeup with blood dripping from his fangs.



The kid next to me fainted, and for the next five years, I slept with a crucifix stashed under my pillow.

I liked being scared, to an extent. I don't like being grossed out. I'm not a fan of zombies. I've never seen any of the Saw films or The Hills Have Eyes. If it weren't for Stephen King, I'd have to get my thrills and chills from horror repeats.

The opposite of being grossed out is just as bad. Yep, I'm talking about Twilight. Vampires are supposed to strike terror into the hearts of us who aren't dead and don't want to be. We're supposed to run from them, not fall in love with them, for crying out loud!

Edward Cullen has done more to undermine the public image of vampires than any bloodsucker in recent history. I guess he would sell a lot of caskets if he were to pose in one, but.... 

I imagine a scenario in which vampires past--Nosferatu, Dracula, Lestat, and other "real" vampires are staging a strike at the midnight premiere of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two, demanding fair depiction of vampires in books and movies....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Knock-Knock! Who's There? You Don't Want to Know!

A few months ago, there was a story on the late news about a man who opened his front door to one of his neighbors--and ended up the victim of a home invasion. Moral of the story: just because you recognize the face in the security peephole, it does not mean you're safe.



I don't let anyone I don't know past my front door. I don't let a lot of people I do know past my front door. That may sound paranoid, but we live in an increasingly dangerous world. And as anyone who's visited this blog before knows, I'm not exactly fond of my neighbors...not the ones I've met, anyway. In the almost seven years we've lived here, I've had some pretty weird critters come knocking...angry mothers who were going to call the police on me for taking photos of their kids playing ball in the courtyard (evidence, in the event they broke my windows--and perfectly legal)...kids trying to sell bracelets they didn't even have (I wonder if anyone actually bought any of that invisible jewelry?)...A monthly contingent of Jehovah's Witnesses who never get past the warm greeting that precedes the door slamming...and the occasional Avon lady who rarely speaks clear English (I'm surprised they still go door to door). But the guy who came calling on Wednesday afternoon took the Weird Dude Award.

Collin and I had just come home. I was putting groceries away when I heard the knock at the door. I looked through the blinds first, as I always do.  The young man standing at the door was at least 6'3", slim but not skinny, Caucasian, with short, dark hair in what's sometimes called a "Caesar cut," and a lean, angular face. He was smiling--but then, Ted Bundy probably smiled at his victims when he was moving in for the kill, so a smile doesn't necessarily equate innocence. He started talking so fast, I thought he must be an auctioneer. I only understood half of what he was saying, and what I could understand, I didn't like. Who comes to your door and asks you, with all the subtlety of a bulldozer, if you're a pedophile?

He was going on about--I think--wanting to be a broadcaster and needing to work on his public speaking. I wanted to tell him he'd better shoot for another career. His people skills sucked more than mine. He said something about a trip to Germany and asked if I'd ever been there.

"No." I wanted to say, Sure. When I was working in the white slave trade.

"What do you do for a living?" he asked. At least I think that was what he was asking me. Do would-be sportscasters speak a language other than English?

"I'm a writer." Actually, I'm a madam. Didn't you see my ads on Craigslist, the slum of the internet?

"Retired?"

Why, do I look that old? As long as I've been standing here listening to you ramble on, I think I might have aged ten years, actually. He was a nosy one, that's for sure.


I should have just said, "None of your business, buddy," and slammed the door in his face. Actually, I should have slammed the door in his face after the stupid pedophile comment, but he high-fived me when I said the only thing I wanted from kids was for them to stay as far away from me as humanly possible. Nice touch. I was curious as to what his real game was and decided to stay with it until I got bored.

Then he pulled out a handful of what appeared to be crumpled order forms and a list of magazines. "Could I use your table or something to fill this out?" he asked.

Nope. I don't know you. You stay out here. Comprende?

That was when I told him I get my magazines electronically and had things to tend to inside. I would rather clean the toilet than listen to any more of this. Did he think he'd sold me on anything? Who gives personal information to somebody who just shows up out of the blue at their door one day? In this age of identity theft? Nobody with half a brain.

It made me think of a news story from a few years back...a pedophile looking to conceal his legal status stole the identity of another man. Turned out the identity he stole was that of a fellow wanted for murder. In that instant, he must have known how Wile E. Coyote felt when the Acme anvil was about the land on top of him.

"You'll have to come back later," I told the guy at my door. Later...as in never.

"But this has to be done on first impression," he insisted.

Sorry, buddy...my first impression of you wouldn't get you anywhere.