Friday, July 26, 2013

First Review: AN ARMY OF ANGELS


One word kept jumping out at me, a word with enormous implications for me. That one word changed everything. If it was true, I was little more than Frankenstein’s monster.”







An Army Of Angels carries on with plot threads from the earlier book Chasing The Wind in this new short story by the author Norma Beishir. The first book, a novel drawing on themes of love, science fiction, religion, and dark forces, brought together two characters in a life changing journey. This short story picks up with hints and links to that earlier book, while introducing new characters in their own right. It’s meant to be the first aspect of a larger work from the author, and while the storyline has a logical conclusion, there’s room for much more to come.

We first meet Alex Stewart as he deals with the aftermath of the death of his father, Joseph Sadowski, an arrogant and vindictive scientist who he’s been estranged from. He wants nothing to do with his father’s legacy, and yet while going through personal effects makes a discovery that shakes his world to its foundations: he is
not a regular person, but a clone of another man.

Alex goes into a tailspin of self destruction, unable to paint, burning his way through inherited money, ending up working odd jobs, living the life of a nomad for years on end. He drifts from place to place, trying to find out the truth about himself and the man he was cloned from, believing himself to be an abomination. Finally he meets Robyn Cantwell, a compassionate young woman who spends her time helping the homeless when she’s not working at animal shelters. There’s a connection between them, and Alex finds himself trying to deal with his growing feelings at the same time as he tries to keep himself at a distance.


It helps to have read Chasing The Wind first, obviously. This picks up plot threads from that book and hints at more to come. The story focuses on the relationship between these two people, very different characters. Strong characterization is its bedrock. Alex is a sympathetic character from the outset. The clear estrangement he feels about his father is understandable from the glimpses we get about Joseph in flashbacks and journal entries. His father is a monster, and Alex’s reaction to the truth about his existence fits perfectly with that. He withdraws from the world, lives a ghost of a life, and his hesitation about being involved with Robyn is a logical turn of events. Alex is a tortured soul, but not because of a situation of his own making. It makes him compelling.

Robyn herself is automatically sympathetic to the reader. There’s a compassionate and empathetic quality to her personality, and a lighter touch. From the way she lives her life, the reader sees her as a genuinely decent person. And her brothers (a handful in and of themselves) provide some much needed comic relief.

The story has a natural pace to it, and a skilful touch in the writing. It’s somewhat condensed, but that’s merely for a short story format that comes to an end at the right spot. It deals with a tortured soul who has run away from the world, and the woman who coaxes him out of his shell. And it hints at a darker story yet to come. It leaves the reader wanting more, and I look forward to seeing where the author goes with the story of Alex and Robyn.


--review by William Kendall, Speak of the Devil
















Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Pro Wrestling Superstar

5:00am: Is it morning already? Craptastic! Trying to get out of bed...but I have aches in muscles and joints I didn't even know I had. Being a wrestler means living with pain on a daily basis.The matches are scripted, but the beatdowns are real. Why can't we have fake beatings?



6:00am: Shower. It might have been a pleasant experience, had I not discovered that I was not alone. I hate spiders, and the one in my shower had a legspan the size of a pie plate. I kid you not. I think I saw it in one of those B-movies from the fifties.

6:10am: I can only hope the Syfy Channel wasn't planning a sequel to that big spider movie. That sucker's dead now. Yep, I killed it! I hate spiders! No, I am not afraid of them...well, maybe a little bit....

6:30am: Shaving. It's a big job.Takes a while. Got to be totally hairless in the ring. Yep...I shave everything.

7:30am: Breakfast--I can eat all I want because I burn it off in the ring. Today, I want steak and eggs. And a dozen donuts. Do Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme deliver?

9:00am: At the gym. Got to work out a couple of hours every day. When I'm on the road, I have to find  the gym in the area. Working out with the rest of the guys can be an experience. Mad Dog Mueller is here today--he's the biggest, meanest, ugliest beast in the business, and that's sayin' a lot. The rest of us stay in shape lifting weights. Mad Dog lifts Volkswagens.



11:00am: Before lunch, I find a tanning salon. Got to keep my golden sun-god looks. Oh, shut up! Is it really that funny? At least I look better than that Tanning Mom. She's not tanned, she's extra-crispy! Ewwww! Note to self: cross fried chicken off the diet....

1:00pm: At the arena. We do have to rehearse, after all. Do you really think half the guys on the roster could beat me in a real fight? The current champion couldn't win a match if he were the only one in the ring. And his manager...don't get me started on that a**hole. He's redefined the word "snarky." Snarky is a word, right? This guy's the poster boy for Planned Parenthood. If his parents has used protection, the wrestling world would be a much better place....



5:00pm: Early dinner at an IHOP near the arena. The poor waitress who took care of Mad Dog is perplexed. He just left, and she can't figure out why there are no bones on his plate. Mad Dog doesn't chew, he just swallows. He has no idea chicken and steak have bones....

7:00pm: Showtime! At least I don't have to take on Mad Dog this time. Last year, he put me out of commission for six months. Last night in Boston, he had a handicap match with three smaller guys. (For the record, there are planets that are smaller than Mad Dog Mueller.) Watching that match was like watching the end of Jurassic Park, where the raptors ganged up on the T-Rex.

8:30pm: I have to lose to a new guy from the development program. Yeah, right--I'm gonna get beat up by some kid in his first match. Who writes this crap, anyway? I could break him in half without breaking a sweat. And he's in drag! What genius came up with that gimmick? Oh, that's right...our new head writer came to us from a soap opera. I hope Mad Dog and I don't end up finding out we're long lost brothers....

9:00pm: Our general manager's having his regularly scheduled stroke. The guy lives in a constant state of panic. If he ever has a stroke for real, most of us probably won't notice until the EMTs arrive....

9:30pm: Mad Dog makes an ass of himself in the locker room just before heading out to the ring. I decide not to tell him what he's forgetting. He makes his way out there and jumps into the ring, grinning ear-to-ear--until he throws off his robe and discovers he forgot his trunks! He stands there, butt-naked for all the world to see. Literally. The TV censors must be going nuts trying to deal with it. Parents in the audience are covering their kids' eyes. I wonder how long it's gonna take for Mad Dog to realize he's got his junk out there on display?

10:30pm: Time to call it a night It's going to be impossible to sleep tonight. Social media's gonna be on fire with posts about Mad Dog's, uh, sin of omission. I wonder how many people have tweeted that photo from their cellphones already?

*****

Be sure you check out William Kendall's unusually serious post on music at Speak of the Devil, Scarlett and James' post on the Royal Baby (yes, Scarlett and James are William's and my alter egos!) at Basking in the Afterglow, and the offerings at Authors for Oklahoma--make a donation, win free books! It's for a good cause!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yes, Sir, That's My Baby!

I realize that some of my regular readers here don't do Facebook, so I thought today I'd introduce you to some of the hilarious memes my son Collin does for my Facebook page. Enjoy!

In honor of the birth of the Royal Baby....



A nod or two to the Queen of Memes, the one and only Grumpy Cat....








A little humor aimed at the box office train wreck that is The Lone Ranger....



A particularly snarky wrestling manager....



And my new Facebook status feature, The Daily Minion....






Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Soap Opera Actress


I got this idea from my partner in crime, William Kendall, whose blogging plate was too full to take on any more "A Day in the Life" posts...so now I'll be doing these on occasion, too. Meanwhile, he's posted a brilliant review of my latest publication, a short story (novella?)--An Army of Angels--at Speak of the Devil!


5:00am: Alarm wakes me. Is it morning already? I'm hungry. I would love to have a huge omelet and a large glass of orange juice. In my dreams. Have to watch my weight. I'll be having a protein shake...and fantasizing about real food. I'd kill for a donut!

6:00am: Took a shower alone. Only at home can I do it alone. On TV, I've always got some guy or other in there with me. And I'm always wearing a flesh-colored, uh, garment, which makes being wet pretty unpleasant. Ick!



8:00am: Arrived at studio. I'm wearing oversized sunglasses and a baseball cap—so unglamorous—because I don't have my hair and makeup done. Can't have anyone seeing me without makeup. I have an image to uphold, after all. Not that a baseball cap and sunglasses are at all sexy....

8:30am: Getting hair and makeup done. It's a four-person job. It's not easy to look like the soap world's biggest tramp, you know. Especially since I'm a bit past my use-by date. I have to look twenty-five when I'm actually forty-five....

10:30am: Script read-through time. Who writes this stuff, anyway? How am I supposed to read these lines with a straight face? I heard our head writer is leaving. He's going to work for the WWE. Why am I not surprised?

12:00pm: Lunch. The caterers put out a great spread, as always. The men are devouring it. We women are nibbling on carrot and celery sticks under the watchful eye of the wardrobe supervisor, who reminds us that there's no money in the reduced budget for alterations to accommodate backside spread. This stuff tastes like rabbit food.



2:00pm: Met the actor who's replacing the kid playing my son. He looks to be about twenty-two. The other kid was twelve. What gives? Oh, wait a minute. My son was away at school in Switzerland. Soap kids who get shipped off to Swiss boarding schools tend to grow up really, really fast. It's called Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome....

3:30pm: Taping love scene with the actor playing my new husband. Which husband is this, anyway? Let's see...my character has been married five or six times, had affairs with her sisters' husband and both of her daughters' boyfriends. She even had a baby with one of them—can't remember which one, though. Not bad for a gal in the throes of menopause!

4:00pm: The taping is wrapping up for the day—early, since we all have to attend the Daytime Emmys show tonight. The love scene went well—though I would rather have been in the sack with the young man playing my son! What a hottie!

6:00pm: Dressing for the awards show. The dress is amazing. I'm so glad I don't have to pay for it...though I really would like to keep it.... Unfortunately, on what I'm paid, I can't afford it. I'd have to find a good street corner on Sunset Boulevard....

7:00pm: They're serving dinner! I don't care what the wardrobe supervisor says, I'm going to eat tonight! I'm semi-naked in most of my scenes anyway. What won't fit? Yum! Everything looks so good! They're serving Sacrificial Lamb....

9:30pm: The Best Actress award is about to be announced. The TV cameras are panning the auditorium. Oh, great—they got a close-up of me with my mouth full. I probably look like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter at my big moment. I just know I'm going to win this year. I've been nominated fourteen times. This is going to be my year, yes it is...WHAT??? They gave it to Callie Michaels? Are they kidding? Her character has only spent most of the past year in a coma after falling from a helicopter and.... Hah! The cameras only got me with a full mouth. Callie is up on stage straight from a trip to the ladies' room—with TP stuck to her stiletto!

11:30pm: Life is good. I may not have been named Best Actress, but I brought home a prize. I'm spending the night with that twenty-two-year-old hottie who plays my son....




Friday, July 19, 2013

AN ARMY OF ANGELS Has Been Launched!

It's official...the e-book (or maybe I should say e-short story) is now available for $.99 at Amazon and Smashwords, and will soon be distributed via Smashwords to other outlets, like iTunes and Barnes & Noble. Today and tomorrow only, it's free at Smashwords with the promo code DH75L.




Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's Been a Long Time Coming....

I wasn't sure this day would ever come.

I haven't published an original work since Final Hours in 2009. I've published ebook editions of past books, but nothing new. My brain has been on sabbatical--which is to say it hasn't been working. I don't know if it's epilepsy-related or maybe age-related, but I have the attention span of a flea. I fall asleep on my computer--literally. I forget words that once came easily (according to a story that ran on the Today show earlier this week, that can be a sign of early-onset Alzheimers, a possibility that's scary as hell). I'd be lost without my collaborators, Collin and William.



Anyway...when I was finishing Chasing the Wind in 2008, I found it necessary to cut a great deal of material from a manuscript that was far too long. One thing that I cut, with much regret, was a subplot involving Connor's clone, Alex. Alex Stewart was a character I was especially proud of having created. I wanted to show not only the ethical ramifications of human cloning, but what life might be like for a human being who discovered he was a carbon copy (outdated as that expression is!) of someone else.

I intended to write Alex's story as the sequel to Chasing the Wind. I had enough of a storyline for a novel--the problem was that I'd never been quite able to finish it. It's been on the back burner since 2010. Recently, however, a blog post by author Dean Wesley Smith gave me an idea. I'd written enough to publish a short story--the love story of Alex Stewart and Robyn Cantwell, a woman he meets in a homeless shelter.

The digital edition--with a beautiful cover designed by Collin--will be available at Amazon and Smashwords by this weekend, and through other outlets shortly thereafter. Links for purchase will be available at Beishir Books.

Be sure you check out William's post on Vlad the Impaler--I mean Vladimir Putin--at Speak of the Devil. And please stop by the Authors for Oklahoma blog, pick a book bundle and make a donation for a very worthy cause!

*Also posted at WordPress.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Two Frequent Flyers of the Apocalypse Are on the Move!

It's happened again.

Recently, I wrote about my friend and her husband, frequent world travelers who seem to be followed (or in some cases preceded) by disaster wherever they go. As I write this, they're in Canada for the Calgary Stampede. As you know--unless you've just arrived from another planet--Calgary was hit by a major flood recently. But this time, the Frequent Flyers of the Apocalypse faced a disaster of another kind.



I found the following email in every one of my seven email accounts a couple of days ago, supposedly from her (the message is included verbatim, typos included):

Good Morning,
   I Hope you get this on time, I made a trip to Manila(Philippines) and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and personal effects therein. The embassy has just issued me a temporary passport but I have to pay for a ticket and settle my hotel bills with the Manager.
   I have made contact with my bank but it would take me 3-5 working days to access funds in my account, the bad news is my flight will be leaving very soon but i am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the bills, I need your help/LOAN financially and I promise to make the refund once i get back home, you are my last resort and hope, Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it's the only way you can get to me.
  Please reply back and let me know if you will be able to loan me the cash so that i can give you the necessary details you will need to get the cash to me via western union money transfer, i promise to pay you back as soon as i get home.



Some of you may have received similar emails that appear to be from people you know in recent months. Most of you have probably heard about it on the news--a scam to get the recipients to send money to help a friend or family member in distress. Some good-hearted people will respond and send money.



In my friend's case, almost everyone who received the message recognized it for what it is. One, alarmed that she might actually be in trouble, momentarily contemplated sending money.

The mess doesn't end there, however. My friend is currently unable to read her email. She was locked out of her account and had to call her internet provider to get her password reset just to get back in. Unfortunately, when she and her husband left for Calgary, she was still unable to view the contents of her account. Whoever hacked into her account did major damage.

I'll be holding my breath until they're back home safely....
 
PS Don't miss William Kendall's latest post at Speak of the Devil

Also, stop by the Authors for Oklahoma blog--and please, make a donation. We're offering a wide variety of books in our prize bundles, and it's for a very good cause!


(Also posted at WordPress.)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Movie Review: DESPICABLE ME 2

My name is Norma and I'm a Minion junkie.

Ask anyone who knows me well, and they'll confirm it: I never really grew up. I collect stuffed animals--and I love animated films. I admit that I've always preferred traditional animation, but then a bunch of noisy, yellow, overall-clad, goggle-wearing critters known as the Minions arrived on the movie scene, and it was love at first sight.



In Despicable Me, they were the bickering followers of supervillain Gru (voiced by the always funny Steve Carell), who adopted three little girls as part of one of his evil plots. In Despicable Me 2, Gru, now a devoted dad, has reformed and is attempting to start a legitimate business. He's turned his lab into a high-tech kitchen for making jellies and jams. Too bad nobody, including the Minions, likes the stuff they're making. His longtime sidekick, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), grows restless--as restless as a hard-of-hearing geezer mad scientist can possibly be--and decides to leave Gru's lab and go back to evildoing with another supervillain. Gru reluctantly says goodbye to his soon-to-be-former accomplice and the Minions give Nefario a twenty-one fart gun salute (yep,I said fart gun--it wasn't a typo).



When the Minions start to disappear, Gru doesn't notice--at first. He's busy deflecting the matchmaking attempts of an annoying neighbor and his own daughters. The youngest, Agnes, struggles with her role in a Mothers Day pageant at her school, feeling the lack of a mother of her own. Gru is also concerned that eldest daughter Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), now a teenager, has discovered boys.



Enter Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, who provided the voice of snarky orphanage director Miss Hattie in the original film), an agent for the Anti-Villains League, who kidnaps Gru and Minions Stuart and Dave and takes them to AVL headquarters, where AVL Director Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) tries to recruit Gru to help find a supervillain who possesses a dangerous formula that turns anyone injected with it into an unstoppable purple killing machine. He and Lucy end up partners, but at first they can't get along, and every attempt they make to find the supervillain ends badly...starting with a restaurant break-in, during which they run afoul of a chicken (sorry, I couldn't resist).



When little Agnes declares that Gru loves Lucy, Gru not only denies it, he insists he doesn't even like Lucy. Typical male...denying his feelings right up to the moment he says "I do!"

The AVL thinks they've found their man when wigmaker Floyd (Ken Jeong) is arrested. Gru is dismissed in spite of his insistence that restaurateur Eduardo (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) is the real culprit...and with Nefario's help is turning the Minions into monsters. By the time his suspicions are proven correct, Lucy is on a flight to Australia and her next assignment.

Will Lucy return? Does Nefario's conscience get the better of him? Do Gru and Lucy have a future together? Will Margo, Edith and Agnes finally get a mom? And what of the Minions? Will they be yellow and cute again in time for next year's Minion Movie?



See Despicable Me 2. The end credits scenes alone are worth the price of admission. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to McDonald's and get more Happy Meals....


(Also posted at Rotten Tomatoes and WordPress.) 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wanna Play a Game?

I have a challenge for you today. Choose a category--Movies, TV, Books, Music, or even a completely different category of your own choosing, if you can think of one--and give one title for each letter of the alphabet. I chose Movies....



A - Avengers, The
B - Bruce Almighty
C - Captain America: The First Avenger
D - Despicable Me
E - E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
F - Finding Nemo
G - Green Lantern
H - Hurt Locker, The
I - Iron Man
J - Jack the Giant Slayer
K - King's Speech, The
L - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
M - Man of Steel
N - Notebook, The
O - Ocean's Twelve
P - Predator
Q - Queen, The
R - Raiders of the Lost Ark
S - Star Wars
T - Thor
U - Ultraviolet
V - V for Vendetta
W - Wolverine, The
X - X-Men
Y - Yes Man
Z - Zero Dark Thirty



Monday, July 1, 2013

My (Book) Babies...All in One Place!

After much nagging, I got Collin to create collages of all of my novels. The first group are the ebooks I self-pubbed. The Unicorn's Daughter was originally published by Berkley as A Time for Legends. I restored the title I gave it because I got tired of people asking me the meaning of the title the publisher chose (I'd have to respond with, "I have no idea."). They retitled Alexander's Empire with Dance of the Gods (original title now restored). I did keep Angels at Midnight because I was never too fond of its working title (Alliance). Cover designs by my talented son, Collin!



Group Two: the Berkley books. Fellow authors and I decided the first four looked like DeBeers ads! As for Luck of the Draw, well, I'd already left the publishing house by then, so I got the generic cover. (I actually saw that cover on another author's "dump"--bookstore display). Oh, well.



Group Three: my "Toni Collins" Silhouette romantic comedies. These books were a blast to write and the editorial staff great to work with. I hadn't planned to write them, I only did the first, Ms. Maxwell and Son, on a dare--but I found they were unexpected fun! I'm doing something very similar now with Superhero in Training and Sucker-Punched.



And I have something new in the works, something I've never done before and never thought I'd do: short stories. My good friend and fellow author Shelly Arkon just released a wonderful short story, The Partners' Progeny, as an ebook (cover also by Collin). I found I have some stories of my own to tell...stories from my existing characters' pasts. Coming up: how Lynne (Chasing the Wind) and ex-husband Darcy met and fell in and out of love...Darcy's subsequent romance with FBI agent Caitlin Hammond in the wake of 9/11...Alex's (An Army of Angels, soon to be published) first love, destroyed by his selfish, manipulative "father"...and more.

(Also posted at Beishir Books.)