Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Encore: "Is That the Garden Hose, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?"

Since I'm dealing with a nasty cold and trying to deal with it before we go to see Avengers: Age of Ultron (my next post will be a review!), today's post will be one I originally posted for Valentine's Day--an excerpt from An Army of Angels sequel to Chasing the Wind. Yeah, I know I'm taking the easy way out, but my brain's in a fog....

Robyn was worried about Alex.

He was so stressed over the exhibit, his anxiety was overtaking him. He barely ate, didn’t sleep, couldn’t make love. No matter how she tried to reassure him, he was a wreck.

“You’re worrying for nothing,” she told him. “You’re going to be a hit. A big hit.”

“You’re biased,” he said grimly.

“Yes, I am. But I know talent when I see it, and you’re the best,” she insisted.

She woke during the night to find him pacing in the darkness. She decided then she would have to resort to drastic measures to release him from his anxiety....


The next day, she found him in the studio, standing before a blank canvas, unable to paint. “Could you come outside for a minute, sweetheart?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I need to work.”

“You do, but you’re not. Get your butt out here or I’m coming in after you,” she warned.

Reluctantly, he put down his brush and went outside, only remotely curious as to what his unpredictable wife might be up to. “Whatever this is all about--”

He didn’t get to finish. A water balloon smacked him in the face, He reeled for a moment. “Heads up, sexy!” she shouted, another balloon in hand.

He was angry at first. “Stop it, Robyn!”

“Incoming!” she yelled as she scored another direct hit.

“What are you doing?” he asked, still bewildered, as the second balloon hit. “Stop it!”

Then he saw the child’s wading pool, filled with water balloons. She grabbed another and took aim. “Come on, defend yourself!” she laughed.


“Chicken!” She started doing her chicken dance, stepping high as she moved in a circle, arms moving up and down like wings.

He couldn’t help smiling. “Do you have any idea how ridiculous you look?” he wanted to know.

“You’re the one who’s all wet--chicken!”

He realized then that she had gone to a great deal of trouble, making a complete fool of herself, with only one objective in mind: to make him smile.

He grabbed a balloon and threw it, hitting her shoulder. Water splashed across her T-shirt. She only laughed. “Is that all you’ve got?” she challenged.

He snatched up another balloon and aimed. When the cold water spilled over her torso, she danced around, enjoying it. He hit her with another. Her clothes clung to her body, her hair a mass of wet curls.

For the first time in weeks, he wanted to paint. He wanted to paint her as she looked at that moment, wild, uninhibited, a free spirit who looked as though she’d just emerged from the ocean.

He wanted to make love to his wife.

His thoughts were interrupted by the smack of another balloon that spilt open against his thigh. He looked up at her. “You need to be hosed down!”

Robyn’s eyes widened as he reached for the garden hose. “You wouldn’t!” she gasped.

He only laughed as he turned it on, spraying her with ice cold water. “Surrender?” he asked.


“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He turned up the force of the spray. She screamed and tried in vain to dodge it. He advanced on her menacingly.

“Alex, don’t you dare--”

He grabbed her wrist and held onto her, spraying her at close range. She squirmed wildly, unable to break his grip. “Give up yet?” he wanted to know.

“No way!”

“Okay.” He took aim again.

“Okay, okay, I give up!”

“Say it!”

“You win!”

“Say it!”

“You’re the master!”

“That’s more like it.” He dropped the hose abruptly and lifted her up. She wrapped her arms and legs around him and gave him a wicked grin.

“Now what?” he asked.

“Is that the garden hose, honey, or are you really happy to see me?”

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's True...We Really Can't Go Home Again....

Collin and I went back to the old neighborhood last week--where we lived when Mom and Dad were still with us. It's been a while--at least a year, I think. We had some business to take care of, and we wanted to have lunch at Fazoli's.


There was a time I was determined to stay there, in that area. It was home, the last place that really felt like home. It was familiar to me, and I needed that. I think Collin needed it, too. I wanted to stop time, in a way, to be surrounded by all the sights and sounds I knew so well. It was the next best thing to keeping Mom and Dad with us.

But being there again made me see that nothing ever stays the same. People we knew and cared about are gone. Some we couldn't stand are gone, too. Some of the restaurants we used to love are gone--some of them have even been torn down. The movie theater is gone. It--and the shopping center across the street--have been demolished. All that remains is a huge pile of rubble.

Kenrick 8 Cinema


Ted Drewes--best frozen custard on the planet!

Target--the one we knew--is gone. In its place is a new, bigger, more upscale Target. They definitely can't call themselves a discount chain anymore. Walgreens has moved. Hollywood Video has gone the way of the dinosaur. The bookstore's gone, in its place a Noodles & Company. The IHOP is gone--that was a shocker. It had been there for as long as I can remember. Home Town Buffet is gone, as is the restaurant that occupied that location afterward. Our family doctor has retired and the rest of his joint practice moved to a new location.

Top: Buder Library
Bottom: Noodles & Company

The library is still there, as are Schnucks and McDonalds. The bank where my parents had their account is now a credit union. But so much has changed, I realized that no matter how much I wanted to hold onto the past, we really can't go back. We can only move forward. The people we love and lose, the places that were once a big part of our lives but no longer exist, still live in our memories. We have to accept that. We can only move forward.

Top: our home from 1995-2003 (we
lived on the second floor, right side of building)
Bottom: Hampton Village Shopping Center

One last thing: in recent months, there has been a great deal of racial division in the St. Louis area. There have been non-violent protests. There have been riots--looting, burning buildings, rage. A white man was assaulted on public transportation by three African-American men while other passengers looked on. I wasn't too crazy about having to take a bus for any distance for that reason--but something happened on our way home that might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it meant a great deal to me. To get home, we had to change buses. I don't get around very well these days. I use a cane. Getting on and off buses can be tricky, so Collin boards first so I can grasp his arm to pull myself up. He goes ahead and gets off first so he can help me if the step down is a long one. That day, he was already off the bus, waiting, when I finally got to my feet. We'd been seated for a long time and I was in a lot of pain. I couldn't balance myself and almost fell.

The only person who came to my rescue was a very kind African-American gentleman who helped me stay upright and guided me to the exit, where Collin was waiting. This man could have just let me fall, as everyone else on board seemed willing to do--but he didn't. He saw a fellow human being in distress and came to help.

I pray that one day, we'll all see each other as people, just human beings, not colors or any other label. Random acts of kindness are a good start....

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Hate Captchas, Yes I Do!

Show of hands. How many of you hate captchas?

I hate them...with a passion. In the past couple of weeks, I've had to check a box stating I'm not a robot about fifteen times (I wonder if a robot could fool them?). Earlier today, I checked the stupid box and still had to enter a number shown to me in a very small, very fuzzy photograph (and I have poor eyesight, even with glasses). I've had to look at a series of photos and check the ones featuring tigers, butterflies, and items like guitars--just to add a blog link on my Facebook page. I had to do a captcha to change one of my passwords. I was tempted to make my new password IHateCaptchas, but that would have been too obvious.

I confess, I've stopped following a lot of blogs I enjoyed because of captchas. I've dropped a number of interesting websites for the same reason. They're just too much of a time suck. Don't believe it? Keep track of how much time you spend waste in a day entering and re-entering captchas. What a pain in the backside!

Before my blood pressure reaches a critical level, I'm opting to poke fun at them....

Still not laughing...oh, well!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spotlight on Creativity: William Kendall

Those of you who know us well know that William and I have been partners in crime for over five years now. We met in the summer of 2009 on an IMDb message board for the movie Angels & Demons. A few months later, we started communicating via email. From IMDb, we moved on to the now-defunct Writers Digest online community, where a round robin experiment I initiated proved to be a train wreck--but became the basis for our as yet unfinished collaborative novel, Same Time Tomorrow.

William is also working solo on a novel, Heaven & Hell. Anyone who's read any part of this work in progress knows how talented he is. He's also a popular blogger (Speak of the Devil) and photoblogger (Ottawa Daily Photo). The latter is a showcase for his photography, while the former is home to his popular "A Day in the Life of a Cat/Dog" and of course, the legendary Mountie, Inspector Lars Ulrich.

Today we’ll focus on his blogs.

William, as you know, Lars is my favorite of your creations. How did you ever come up with the idea of a cranky, entertainment reporter-hating Mountie?

Lars Ulrich first came to life (let’s call him Lars 1.0) at IMDb as a response to a clueless twit using multiple fake names to try to drum up support for him being cast as Captain America (google Douchebag Quadbike to learn why half the internet was laughing at Ben Ryan Metzger a few years back). I wrote a fake news article, long since gone, and needed a European lawman with a vaguely Germanic name. The name came to me pretty quickly- but when I wrote that first piece, I had no idea who Lars Ulrich was in the real world. So people in reply asked what the Metallica drummer would think of his name being borrowed. When I moved him into his current status in my blogs, as a Mountie, the name stayed, and that angle of constantly being mistaken for the drummer from Metallica came with him. I think Lars is cranky for two reasons: it’s in his nature (if Tommy Lee Jones was thirty years younger, he’d be perfect for the role), and he gets mistaken for this half deaf guy who looks nothing like him over and over and over again. Lars pretty much writes himself at times.

Any chance Lars will ever get his own book--a novel, or maybe a compilation of your blog posts in which he's featured?

I would have to dial down the cartoonish aspects of the character to write him into a novel. I mean, a Mountie who goes out and picks fights with thousands of Rush Limbaugh supporters, makes Godzilla cry, and deals with even more cartoonish supervillains on a regular basis is a bit cartoonish. That said, I love writing him. The cranky attitude, the totally fearless, resourceful, kick ass and take names Mountie who’s not that polite- contradicting the national stereotype- Lars is a pleasure to bring out from time to time. I do have an idea to incorporate him into a future book with my Stryker and Devon characters- with the preceding caution by one of his men not to ask if he’s related to the drummer from that metal band. I imagine a compilation of blog posts would be problematic from a copyright point of view. I mean, I’m sure Sesame Street wouldn’t appreciate having one of their minor Muppets exposed as a ruthless supervillain. That said though, I could see him in a standalone novel. With a love interest who shares the same name as a famous singer and finds it particularly annoying when she’s asked if she’s that singer by dimwitted reporters. Celine Dion, Sarah McLachlan, Anne Murray, or Joan Mitchell, just to keep it all Canadian.

What about your cat and dog posts? Where did that idea come from?

When I started blogging, some early posts were just me finding my feet, figuring out where to take this whole thing, so it took time to find focus. I did the odd cat and dog post or two, but there wasn’t a cohesiveness to it until I realized writing from their point of view could be fun. It took off from there. It was awhile before I gave the dog a name, Loki, which seemed ideal. The cat has a name given by her staff and a title she regards as her own, but I’ve never really designated her with a name she would call her own. It doesn’t help that it’s been quite awhile since I’ve written the cat’s name and title into a blog! They’re both fun to write. The dog’s a goofball, and the cat has attitude and sass. There’s no shortage of cat and dog pics around on the internet to draw from, and when one needs to, it’s easy to make one.

You've taken more than a few shots at certain elected officials in Canada. Have there been any repercussions to your outspokenness?

Not yet, but every once in awhile, I wonder. I’ve tweeted stuff about politicians, using their names in hashtags, and it has ended up getting picked up by others I wouldn’t have known that way. I have tweeted in a running argument with a real prick of a politician here, a libertarian member of provincial parliament who seems to think that if a constituent doesn’t agree with him, he can just completely ignore and block them on social media. It’s a childish response- you represent all of your constituents, not just the ones who agree with you, and I called him out on it. Anyway, I assume it’s possible that my tweets, and by extension some of my posts, given that they get retweeted along, have fallen under the eyes of people who would find them annoying. 

To which I can only say: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (or Dark Lord as I like to call you with contempt): you’re a disgrace to this country, and it’ll take decades to repair the damage you’ve done, you hyper-partisan control freak tyrant. Middle finger right at you, you prat. And to the Ford family, and this is assuming there actually is a cancer diagnosis (given the family’s history of lying about everything, I’m dubious) in that repugnant crack smoking dolt who used to be the mayor of Toronto: Rob, I’m rooting for the tumour.

Another favorite target of yours is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now that the regular hockey season is over and once again, the Leafs have failed to make it into the playoffs, will you be doing an encore of your hilarious blog post from last year, in which angry Leafs fans stole the Stanley Cup?

Plenty of time left in the playoffs for that sort of thing. I’ve done variations on A Day In The Life with Leafs fans, and Chicago Cubs fans, which reminds me, I should do a Cubs fan post again. I could quite easily play around with that concept of my resident Leaf fan nitwits stealing the Cup next month, for instance. The Leafs, to me, are a joke, and those fans who refuse to see them for the joke that they are happen to be beyond stupid. It’s been my experience that it is next to impossible to reason with stupid people (thanks very much, Ford Nation), so why not make fun of them instead? Writing their perspective can be fun- the sheer desperation and obliviousness to reality, followed by the endless excuses they make, are common traits for your average not so bright Leafs or Cubs fan.

You also do some excellent movie reviews. Ever thought of doing them on a professional level?

On occasion, yes. I post reviews from time to time. Sometimes they’re new films out in theatres. Other times they’re classics. And in other cases, it’s a film I might like (or not like, such as might be the case with Battleship or The Lone Ranger). Often some of these films might be obscure or forgotten, but I might feel it’s worthwhile to write up a review. I love movies, and I love talking about them, so featuring them from time to time made sense.

You've done some impressive work on your photoblog. How long have you been into photography?

I’ve been photographing for years. There are few pics of me out there because I was always the one with the camera. Nature is what drew me first, and still does. Landscapes, buildings, that sort of thing appeal to me more than people watching. Obviously I started out with film- and I got dragged into digital, but I find I vastly prefer using digital (you can say you told me so).

If you could photograph anything, anywhere in the world, what would it be and why?

Oh boy, that would be a long list! I’ll narrow it down to three places. First, the British isles (which brings in a lot of places, incidentally). There is so much history, culture, and natural beauty all over Britain and Ireland, and I would be happy to wander there for a few months, hike, photograph, take it all in. Second, one place I have not been to: the Grand Canyon, for its indescribable beauty. And third, my being Canadian, I would also have to choose a place that I haven’t been to- the Nahanni region in the Far North. Every photo I have ever seen of the place entrances me.

I hope if there's anyone reading this post who hasn't already checked out William's blogs, do so now. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Excerpt from Sam's Story: Saying Goodbye is Hard to Do

I don't remember when it started, only that my legs and feet hurt--occasionally at first, then more frequently, then all the time. I could barely walk. Then, it was my wing. I was losing my feathers.

Then the tumor appeared. It wasn't a big deal at first--at least I didn't think so. Just a little bump, an ugly little bump. But it grew, and it grew fast.

"What is this thing?" I wondered aloud.

"It's cancer," Sam One said with a gravity in his voice that I found unsettling.

I swallowed hard. "Am I going to die?" I asked.


I couldn't take it all in. "How soon?" I wanted to know.

He hesitated.

"Come on--I need to know!" I pressured him.

"A few months," he said finally.

"A few months? It's not fair!" I cried.

" got twenty-one years," he reminded me. "That's far more than most of us get."

I realized how that must have sounded to him. "Sorry."

"I would have liked more than nine years," he confided. "I don't know why I had to leave. Yes, I was jealous of Collin at first...but that would have passed. He's a pretty terrific big bro."

"Yeah, he is," I agreed.

"You have family on the other side, too," Sam One reminded me. "Some you haven't met yet, like Scamp and Red."

"Red?" I asked.

"She's a chicken."

"A chicken chicken?"

He looked at me. "There's another kind?"


He shook his head. "This one was a little red hen who was a companion of Mom's when she was a little girl," he said. "You'll like her."

I was quiet for a little while. "Are you okay?" Sam One asked.

"I'm dying," I said. "What do you think?"


"So...we all go to Heaven?" I asked.

"Of course," Sam One answered. "We didn't screw up the way humans did. We didn't eat that apple--we didn't even nibble on the core when Eve threw it down."

"We?" I asked. "You were there?"

He gave me a light whack with his wing. "You know what I mean--we as in birds!"

"Ah...that we," I said, nodding.

"We didn't even nibble on the discarded core," he said. "Some of us abide by the rules!"

"Unlike humans?"

"They're supposed to be the smart ones, but really...when the Great Flood came, the humans didn't take Noah seriously. The rest of us were all in line with our boarding passes."

Friday, April 17, 2015

Photoblog Friday: He Didn't Believe Me, But....

Collin and I get downright silly with each other sometimes. It runs in the family. Even in their later years, my parents acted like a couple of kids most of the time. 

Collin usually comes in from work ravenously hungry (he works in a restaurant but comes home starving--go figure!). One day, he came in looking for something to eat while waiting for dinner. I told him there was a banana in the kitchen with his name on it....

Yeah, I know it's lame. I just couldn't resist!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Last night, Collin and I attended an advance screening of The Age of Adaline. Looks like our movie jinx is still very much in effect, though not quite as bad as the tornado that so rudely interrupted Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the freak lightning storm that stranded us after Guardians of the Galaxy...but still a pain in the backside. We had dinner at TGI Fridays. I ordered the Endless Apps. Appetizers--light meal, right? Wrong. First came the loaded potato skins. I took one look at that huge plate and decided maybe I should have gone with a salad. A small salad. The apps were delicious...but getting to try everything isn't going to happen if you can't get through the first round!

I damaged the shoulder strap on my new bag and the band on my favorite watch. Not off to a good start. The movie, I decided, had better be good.

It was.

The Age of Adaline opens in present day San Francisco, with a young woman (Blake Lively) buying fake ID and reprimanding the maker for using his talents in an endeavor that could land him in prison. She then return to her job as a librarian, where a co-worker delivers some old newsreels to her. She watches them alone, and it's here that her backstory is told.

Adaline Bowman was born in San Francisco in 1908 and led a fairly normal life until she was in her twenties. She met and married an engineer working on the construction of the Golden Gate bridge, had a daughter, and became a widow when her husband is killed in an accident on the job. Everything changes for her one night in 1929 as she's driving alone. For the first time in recorded history, it begins to snow in Sonoma County. Adaline loses control of her car on the slick road and crashes. The car ends up underwater, and the narrator explains the process of hypothermia and impending death Adaline experiences. Then, something else extraordinary occurs: the car in which she's trapped is struck by lightning, jumpstarting her heart, saving her life...and somehow halting the normal aging process.

As the years pass, Adaline finds it increasingly difficult to explain her appearance. In one scene, she's stopped by a police officer who can't believe she's 45. When she's approached by two men who identify themselves as federal agents and she narrowly manages to escape, she realizes she has to assume a new identity every few years to avoid suspicion. This forces her to hide her true relationship with her daughter--who now looks older than her mother.

For Adaline, the decades that follow are lonely. She can't have lasting relationships, can't let herself fall in love--until she meets a dashing young philanthropist, Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) who won't take no for an answer at a New Year's Eve party. Adaline soon finds herself falling in love. Her daughter, now an elderly woman (Ellen Burstyn) about to move into a retirement home, urges her to allow herself happiness. Adaline recalls the last time she let down her defenses and how painful it was to have to end it. She knows this can't end well, but can't bring herself to end things with Ellis.

Adaline seems to have finally found that happiness with Ellis, until someone from her past  (Harrison Ford, excellent in a surprisingly minor role) recognizes her. Will the truth destroy her? I recommend you see The Age of Adaline and find out. It's a great date movie. It will make you rethink whether or not you'd really want to live forever. As for all of you looking for the magic formula to stop the aging process, well, don't try this at home, okay?

The Age of Adaline stars Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn and Amanda Crew; directed by , written by Salvador Paskowitz, Allison Burnett, J. Mills Goodloe.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Great Minion Invasion of 2015!

Hi. My name is Norma and I am a Minion junkie. There--I've said it.

It's an addiction, but there's no cure for it. There are no 12-step programs, no Minion rehab facilities. There's no such thing as Minions Anonymous. There's no escaping it. I thought about trying to contact Dr. Phil, but if you've ever watched his show, you can just imagine what his reaction would be.

But it would seem I'm not alone in my hopeless addiction to those cute little yellow, banana-loving, mischief-making, gibberish-speaking guys who stole my heart. I know it's contagious, because Collin has it, too. I know it's widespread because my last Minion-related blog post drew 4887 pageviews--which is huge for this blog!

They've taken over our home. There are Minions everywhere...on our couch....

On our walls (we also have the movie poster)....

In our bathroom (we also have them in our beds--yes, they make Minion bedding in adult sizes)....

And we each have at least half a dozen Minion T-Shirts. I have Minion PJs. 

I told Collin one morning we'll wake to find we've become Minions ourselves. We'll eat mostly bananas, speak Minionese, wear thick goggles and bicker a lot. The transformation will then be complete--but at least we'll be cute!

Hmmm...being a Minion could be fun....

Friday, April 10, 2015

Photoblog Friday: Hong Kong

I haven't done one of these in quite a while--I'm still sorting through stacks of photos from the pre-digital era that need to be scanned--but two gorgeous photos of Hillarys Boat Harbour, taken by my friend and photoblogger Grace at Perth Daily Photo made me think of some pics from my research files. Hong Kong was originally going to be the setting for a novel I proposed back in 1992 (it was shot down by my agent because the female protagonist was going to be a seismologist, a profession Maria vetoed because it wasn't "glamorous").

I did eventually use Hong Kong as a setting in a couple of chapters in Chasing the Wind....

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where Are They Now? Following in the Footsteps of a Legend....

Of all of my past novels, the one I most often hear questions about is by far The Unicorn's Daughter (originally published by Berkley in 1990 as A Time for Legends). What happened to Jaime Lynde, Nicholas Kendall and James Lynde after the air strike in Libya back in 1986? I've been asked to write about them again...and that's the plan. If all goes according to plan, there's a series in their future.

James Lynde returned to the Middle East, to his life as a spy. He maintained contact with his daughter, but when duty called, he answered without hesitation. As much as Jaime loved her father, this left her more than a little resentful.

James Lynde died of natural causes in 1999.

She and Nicholas did marry, but her career as a photojournalist was an issue from the start. Nicholas didn't appreciate the frequent separations, and it took a toll on the marriage--as did Jaime's reluctance to have children. James Lynde's former boss, Harry Warner, tried to recruit Jaime, but she rejected him--until the events of 9/11 made her reconsider.

This was the final blow to her marriage. Nicholas filed for divorce and left the US as the new Ambassador to France.

Jaime still loved her husband and continued to hope for a reconciliation....


In the sequel, The Ides of March, Jaime will team up with a longtime colleague from her days as a photojournalist--Phillip Darcy from Chasing the Wind--to expose a plot to kill the President of the United States by an assassin within his own staff.