Friday, September 30, 2016

What's in a Name? Sometimes, Everything Depends Upon It!

"Compromise when you can.When you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move, plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say 'No. You move.'"
--from Captain America: Civil War


In the past few days, a problem arose that I believe has been resolved--but it reminded me of another problem my agent and I faced years ago with one of my former publishers.

Early in my career, I realized the publisher's marketing chimps were trying to turn me into a Sidney Sheldon clone. I was a big Sheldon fan, so on one level, I was flattered. But as a writer trying to establish my own professional identity, I knew being a clone of anybody was not a good idea. I dug in my heels and resisted. There were a lot of arguments. I objected to the Sheldon knock-off titles: The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels (I got Angels at Midnight)...Windmills of the Gods (they chose Dance of the Gods)...The Sands of Time (A Time for Legends). They decided to re-title Solitaire--Players of the Game (as in Sheldon's Master of the Game).

I'd had enough. I did a lot of shouting, while Maria went about searching for the means to stop them. She found it in my contracts. Back then, I was quite prolific. As it happened, I had delivered manuscripts months ahead of schedule--and once those manuscripts were accepted, the clock was ticking. They had, according to my contracts, a limited amount of time to publish the books. I was a second position lead title author with the promotional budget that goes with that position, so they would only publish one book a year.

That left the publisher with three options: publish the books within a few months of each other, an expensive option; lose the books and the sizeable advances paid for them, also an expensive option; or give us what we wanted and get an extension to publish. Maria made it clear to them that if they didn't back down on the title, I wouldn't sign the extension.

As you can see, the title wasn't changed.

When I delivered the manuscript for book #5, I gave it a title that sent a clear, if sarcastic message: A Cold Day in Hell. They pointed out that it wouldn't play well in the Bible Belt, so I submitted the actual title I'd chosen for it: Luck of the Draw.

I sent them a message, and they sent me one--a really crappy cover. Oh, well. At least it didn't have jewelry on it!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Welcome to the Great Decluttering Movement of 2016!

Before I start, I want to say a big "thank you" to my fellow blogger Ivy at The Happy Whisk for leading the Great Decluttering Movement of 2016. Way to go, Ivy!

I've been a big fan of the simple life for a while now--but I still have way too much crap. So does Collin--but he still hasn't be able to bring himself to give up all the boxes in his closet to make room for his clothes! 

George Carlin said it best in his stand-up routine on "Stuff":

I've been saying threatening for a while now that I was going to just haul everything in our storeroom down to the dumpsters because if it's just been sitting back there in boxes for the past ten years, what possible use could we have for it? I don't even remember what's in some of those boxes, except for our Christmas tree and some personal belongings of Mom's and Dad's.

If it weren't for those annoying scavengers knows as Identity Thieves, it would be so easy. Just dump everything. But no. To prevent our identities from being stolen (and to the idiots who might try, the joke's on you!), we have to sort everything, shredding anything that has anything resembling personal information on it--name, address, age, etc. We've trashed two paper shredders so far. As for important documents, we scan everything and store it all in clouds and copy it to an external hard drive kept in our safe deposit box.

Why, oh why, did our credit union stop having regular shredding events, bringing in a huge truck that shredded stuff while we watched? It was so much easier then! We just hauled it down there in bags and boxes and watched everything get turned into confetti.

I've donated clothes I no longer wear, books (I converted my entire library to digital or audiobooks) and  household items (as I have confessed repeatedly, I am a terrible cook and don't even know what to do with most of that stuff). Collin just finished converting our extensive DVD collection to digital, everything stored on three external hard drives, and is about to haul the DVDs down to the mall to be exchanged for credit for more stuff. Probably video games. Or comic books to be digitized.

Yes, I know that makes no sense.

I'm also an advocate of recycling--though living in an apartment makes that difficult, if not impossible. The county won't give us individual recycling bins. They have to be ordered by management for the entire complex. I can see why they don't. Most of the tenants won't even take trash to the dumpsters, let alone bother with recycling. 

I've come to the conclusion that humans are pack rats by nature. We have too much that we just can't quite part with because we might need it sometime in the future. We're like squirrels storing nuts for the coming winter. Except the squirrels eventually eat those nuts.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In the Autumn of My Life....

That was the title of a song I loved as a teenager back in 1968. The lyrics have much more meaning for me now that they did then.

When we're young, most of us look to the future with excitement, anticipation--but as we grow older, most of us find ourselves looking back. We remember our childhoods, people and pets who are no longer with us...places that hold fond memories...happy times. 

Lately, I've been thinking about things I once did that I can no longer do--no, not running a decathlon. I couldn't do that at my peak. No, the things I'm thinking about are mostly very personal things, like spending Sunday afternoons at the Long John Silver's in my old neighborhood, eating lunch with all of my notes and manuscript pages on the table by the window, working as I ate. I think about listening to Casey Kasem on the radio, getting a bit teary-eyed at some of the stories behind his famous long distance dedications. I think about the restaurants I loved that have closed. The mall that was once a favorite haunt is now being torn down.

As we get older, many of us look back, only to see the images in our rearview mirror fading away. Sometimes, we wish we could turn back the clock. We wish things could be the way they used to be...but nothing ever stays the same. We aren't the same. Not much we can do about that.

But as much as I miss the loved ones who are no longer with us, as much as I miss the places that no longer exist and the things I can no longer do, lessons have been learned. Important ones. The people and places I've lost have made me see what really matters. In the autumn of my life, I've found a contentment I never knew before. Loss has taught me what really matters.

None of us is promised tomorrow. Sometimes, we don't see that until we lose what's most precious to us. I have a deep appreciation for the life I have now. I no longer feel a need for achievement, for seeing the world. Being home, watching a movie with Collin, or going out for lunch...these are the things that make me happy.

My only regret is that it took me so long to realize it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

It's Time to Move On...Forward...Ahead? Or Is It?

Have any of you ever seen the movie Bruce Almighty

In it, a frustrated Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey), a TV reporter dealing with career setbacks--as he sees them--and being passed over for an anchor desk position in favor of a pompous co-worker (Steve Carrel), takes a swipe at God for "smiting" him. In one scene, he asks for a sign from God and gets this:

I read somewhere, a long time ago, that God communicates with us in the manner in which we're most likely to notice--whether it's nature, another person, a song, a story--once, years ago, I was talking to a man I didn't really know while waiting at a bus stop. He told me a story, ending with, "How would you feel if you had traveled that far and turned back just as everything was about to turn around?" That conversation led me to take a chance I'd been resisting for some time--and indeed, everything did turn around.

Recently, I've been thinking about taking another risk--a big one, I think. In one week, I got two very similar messages from two completely different sources:

Am I nuts to act on this? Maybe. But if I don't, I'll never know if it was meant to be.

For years, I've wanted to be a screenwriter. At first, I resisted because it's an even harder career to break into than novel writing. And even if you sell a script, odds are by the time the film gets made--if it gets made--you won't recognize your own work. But I've mellowed in my old age, and the market for screenplays, like novels, has many more options available than writers had twenty years ago.

And I don't read much anymore, but I watch a lot of movies. When I write, I write as if it's a movie. When I was initially pitching Chasing the Wind to agents and publishers, I was told, "This isn't a novel, it's a movie."

So maybe I am a screenwriter. It's worth a try. And if it doesn't pan out, I can always go back to novels, right?


Friday, September 9, 2016

The Rise and Fall of An Empire?

Another ebook promo is going on until September 13th--my first novel, Alexander's Empire (originally published in 1988 as Dance of the Gods) is just $.99!

 From Amazon:

Alexander Kiriakis is a modern conqueror, accustomed to wealth and power.

When the nightmares plaguing him from childhood grow more disturbing, he begins to fear his life may be a lie. Ever the ruthless businessman, Alexander is determined to protect his carefully crafted empire - no matter the cost.

Meredith Courtney is an ambitious on-air reporter - and the only woman Alexander has ever really loved. Bent on carving out a reputation away from the spotlight of her family, she doggedly pursues an interview with the notoriously reclusive Alexander. Although Meredith would prefer to keep him at arm’s length, what she doesn’t know is that she holds the key to the truth about Alexander’s past - one his enemies are determined to uncover.

A psychological romance story of tragedy and deep-kept family secrets, Alexander's Empire is a compelling romantic thriller from Norma Beishir, former Berkley Books & Silhouette bestselling author of sixteen novels. 

An excerpt of Alexander's Empire is available at my author blog....


Friday, September 2, 2016

Don't Ask, "What Else Can Possibly Go Wrong?"

As of August 31st, I've published my first new book many years? I've lost track. That's how long it's been. Even I can't remember!


Special delivery! 
Jack Spangler was a night owl and, snowstorm or no snowstorm, he didn't appreciate being interrupted in the middle of his work to take his pregnant-and-alone neighbor Katie Maxwell to the hospital. But off he went, since the alternative was to deliver her baby right in his living room. 

Things only got worse from there. Somehow he found himself mistaken for the nonexistent Mr. Maxwell and whisked into the delivery room to help young Jeremy into the world. He even found himself caring about the baby - not to mention Katie herself. 

Living next door to a crying newborn was enough to make Jack crazy, but craziest of all, it looked as if making marriage - and instant fatherhood - a priority was the only way to stay sane.


Actually, it's not really new. Creativia has now reissued my 1988 Silhouette Romance, Ms. Maxwell and Son, in ebook format, with an updated paperback to follow soon. It has a new cover, which I love. I wrote this novel on a bet. Seriously. The covers--the new one and the original--have an odd backstory. Both covers feature a couple holding a baby, but neither quite fit the descriptions I gave of the characters. The female protagonist, Katie, is a redhead. The male protagonist, Jack, is a rather scruffy-looking fellow inspired by Michael Douglas' character in Romancing the Stone.


When the book was originally published over twenty-five years ago, Silhouette's art department sent me a form to complete, giving them all sorts of details about the character and the story. I was asked to describe the baby. Smartass that I am, I wrote, "a Cabbage Patch Kid." My editor was quick to request (demand?) a correction. "Don't tell them that," she warned. "That's what they'll give you!"


Yeah, I guess I can see how that might not have turned out very well....

PS There's an excerpt of Ms. Maxwell and Son at my WordPress blog. The book could use some reviews, so if anybody's interested, give me a holler and I'll send along the digital file. Good reviews--four or five stars--are preferred, but I've been in the crazy business too long to expect them all to be good, so guys, it's open season on the author!