Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Neurologist Tells Me I'm Too Sharp to be Senile, But....

I'm really behind here. I haven't posted since the Friday before Mother's Day, and I'm behind on reading and commenting on friends' blogs. I'll catch up...eventually. I've been spending more and more time on Facebook, where there are far more interactions with others--especially in the anti-Trump groups. One, TWIT (The Week in Trump) has a Happy Days parody, Crappy Days, that's hilarious.

I confess, I'm still recovering from last Thursday. Collin and I went to the lab in Kirkwood to get blood drawn for tests ordered by our doctors (just routine stuff). As we were crossing the street at Kirkwood and Woodbine, some woman who either doesn't get pedestrian right of way or was going to a fire made the turn at high speed while we were in the crosswalk. Near miss. Then there were problems with both of our lab orders. Collin's was resolved, but mine wasn't. Fortunately, the tech drew my blood anyway and put it in the refrigerator. (The problem was resolved this morning.) Then, we went to Taco Bell for lunch. While there, I somehow ended up using the men's restroom by mistake. I didn't realize it until I was washing my hands and spotted the urinal. I made a quick exit and found Collin laughing.

I couldn't get out of the restaurant fast enough!

As a result of our blood tests, Collin and I have engaged in a casual competition. We got the results of our lab work the other day. For the most part, all is well. My A1C is 5.7 (normal is 5.6 or lower). His cholesterol is up a bit and his doctor referred him to a nutritionist (he must not have told her I can't cook).

Anyway, we started doing little things to improve healthwise. He eats the stuff he likes--but a lot less of it. Most of the time, he has no bread with meals. I gave up soda over a year ago and no longer have bouts of acid reflux. I don't use much salt--pepper is a good replacement for salt in most cases when the dish is bland. 

Yes, I know....

Here's a challenge, Collin. Whoever has the best report after our next doctor visits wins. The prize? Movie tickets, of course! (I was going to add lunch at TGI Fridays or Olive Garden to the prize, but that would defeat the purpose of the challenge, wouldn't it?)

Friday, May 12, 2017

I've Become My Mom. The Transition is Complete!

I miss my mom.

Since Sunday is Mother's Day, I'm going to write about my mother (Dad will get his turn on Father's Day). I've written anecdotal posts about both of them in the past, but today, I'm going to look at the good and bad in my relationship with her.

For the most part, we were close. I could tell her just about anything. She wouldn't judge me. Sometimes, I think she was too easy on me. I wasn't so easy on her. I didn't understand why she put up with so much crap from her sisters and a particular "friend" who was clearly a two-faced backstabber. As it turned out, I was right...but it took Mom a long time to see it.

I was furious when she loaned my favorite lamp to one of the tenants (my parents owned rental property)--who took it with them when they moved. Okay, they were evicted and it was a nasty, late-night scene that involved law enforcement and an angry neighbor who wanted to repo the car said tenant had bought from him but failed to pay for. I never let Mom forget that she had trusted a lowlife with my lamp. Pretty silly, huh?

Nobody was more proud than Mom when I sold my first novel. She wanted to go with me when I made my first trip to New York to meet with the publisher. I said no. I knew I'd be busy, that I couldn't take her with me to meetings--which was what she really wanted. It would have been viewed as unprofessional--but I'm embarrassed to admit that it wasn't the only reason I didn't want her to go along. From the day the book sold, Mom acted as if she were my co-author whenever we were in public, whenever I was asked about it. The publisher sent me roses. Mom wanted to know why she didn't get roses. She was joking, of course, but I overreacted. Why?

Because I'd always been dependent upon my parents in one way or another. That novel was the first thing I felt I'd done entirely on my own. It was mine, and I didn't want to share that accomplishment--with anyone.

But that wasn't true. I did all of the research and writing, yes. I found my agent on my own, yes. But I was a single mother with a toddler who had lived in Jefferson County, where public transportation at the time was almost nonexistent. I worked downtown, twenty miles away--and I couldn't drive. The only solution was to move into St. Louis, closer to the downtown area, so I could take a bus to work. But that would mean having to find a daycare for Collin or hire a babysitter to stay with him at home while I worked. I didn't like either option. I'd seen too many stories on the news about children harmed, killed or abducted by babysitters or daycare workers.

Mom and Dad sold their home and rented a place in south St. Louis for all of us. I could go to work knowing Collin was safe while I was at work. They gave up a home that was paid for and would have given them security in their retirement so I could work and Collin could have safety and security. In truth, I could not have written and sold Alexander's Empire without them. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I wish you and Dad were still here with us.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Only if the Review is Literate....

Monday, May 8, 2017

Family Isn't About Blood, It's About Bonding

Friday, Collin and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Following are our reviews:

Those of us who grew up with both of our parents knew them--the good and the bad things--and in most cases, we can accept all of it. But when you've grown up without a parent, you end up with a fantasy image of that parent--and the reality, if it ever comes, can be disappointing.

This is what Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) discovers in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The movie opens in 1980, with a young couple on Earth. Missouri. In those jumbo letters that were a little jarring in Captain America: Civil War. The couple are Peter's mother, Meredith (Laura Haddock), and his unnamed father. They look like any young couple in love, except for the strange plant the man has implanted into the earth. What is it? You don't want to know. Okay, maybe you do--but you'll have to see the movie. I've learned my lesson when it comes to spoilers. Being from Missouri, I can tell you I’m pretty sure he planted the thing near the Callaway Nuclear Plant. Uh-oh. That can’t be good.

Flash forward thirty-four years, to another planet, where the Guardians, hired by an alien race of golden beings known as the Sovereign, do battle with a gigantic, tentacled creature to retrieve some precious batteries. In exchange for their services, they receive Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who was caught trying to steal those batteries. What are they using those batteries for, anyway? Given how valuable they seem to be, I’m guessing you can’t get them at Radio Shack.

In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, they were forced together by circumstance, learning to function as a team to save the planet Xandar. This time around, they've become a real family--bickering, sometimes offending each other, like most families. Drax (Dave Bautista) gives Peter some advice on romance.  And they have enemies. A lot of them. Enemies who want them dead.

While trying to salvage their crashed ship while being pursued by some of those enemies, the Guardians encounter Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter's long-lost father. He wants to take all of them to his planet. He wants a relationship with his son. Given that he hired Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) to deliver Peter to him decades earlier, one has to wonder what took him so long. Couldn’t he just contact Yondu and ask, “What did you do with my kid?”

Leaving Rocket 9voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) behind to repair the Milano and guard Nebula, Peter, Drax and Gamora make the trip with Ego and his empath companion, Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) smells a rat. Having spent most of her life on the wrong side of the law, she knows a con when she sees one, and she's convinced there's more to Ego than meets the eye. (His name alone should have aroused some suspicion, but then, Ego could mean something completely different on his world than it means here on Earth, right?) Gamora also picks up on something in Mantis: fear.

There's also dissent among the Ravagers, the space pirates who raised Peter Quill after abducting him from Earth the night his mother died. Their leader, Yondu, has been ostracized by other Ravager factions, led by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), having been accused of dealing in child slavery. They turn on him, imprisoning him and killing several members of his crew.

When Yondu escapes with his one loyal crewmember, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Rocket and Groot, the four of them head for Ego's planet in a series of weird space jumps that somehow never happened to the crew of the Enterprise, even at maximum warp.

The special effects are amazing, the action is nearly nonstop, the humor is even sharper than it was in the original, and the actors are perfect in their roles. Loved the Awesome Mix #2 songs! Though the ending left me crying like a baby and a scene involving the mistreatment of Baby Groot was upsetting, kudos to writer/director James Gunn for another winner!

Score: 10/10
--Norma Beishir

Marvel Studios’ latest installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise hit theatres today and more than lived up to the original,  thanks to the cast and crew, led by the amazing writer-director James Gunn and the wonderful performances by Christ Pratt (Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Bradley Cooper (Rocket Raccoon), Vin Diesel (Baby Groot), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), and Karen Gillan (Nebula), plus wonderful performances from new additions Pom Klementieff (Mantis) in such a cute and innocent role as the aide to Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s father Ego, played by Kurt Russell.

From the start of the film with the battle between the Guardians and the big giant monster to protect the batteries on the home planet of the Sovereign to the very end of the movie, there were a lot of laughs--like Rocket referring to the Sovereign High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and the Sovereign species as “conceited douchebags” (don’t show Donald Trump the high priestess because she is genetically perfect and skin of gold--he might dump the first lady for her!); the jailbreak scene with Rocket and Yondu trying to get Baby Groot to help them get Yondu’s experimental fin, but getting everything else—including one character’s eye (Easter egg from the first Guardians film), even pulling in a desk; the blunt joke from Drax on whether or not Ego had a penis (Ego tells him he does, and it is a good one), to Rocket, Groot and the Death Button. A Ravager mutiny by Taserface (Chris Sullivan) whose name was the butt of so many jokes from Rocket’s lines about “Waking up in the morning, seeing his face in the mirror, trying to look macho, and saying I am Taserface.” Even the High Priestess of the Sovereign was laughing at his name. When it comes to Ego, he is not what he seems and—in my opinion—Ego in the film is akin to the comic book perception of God and Creation. One of funniest scenes involves Yondu, Rocket, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and Baby Groot space jumping to get to Ego’s planet and warping their faces because of the number of jumps (more than 700 jumps!); Nebula and the not yet ripe fruit was funny throughout the film. Another great performance given was Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) the Ravager who trained Yondu from his youth, acting and looking badass (Yo!). One of the best scenes is with Mantis, Peter, Drax, and Gamora on Ego’s ship when Mantis reads Peter’s emotions regarding Gamora.

Some of the Easter eggs in the film range from the bounty for Nebula on Xandar; Ego talking about Peter using Power Stone on Xandar against Ronan without dying; the “anomaly” in Peter; Ego revealing himself to be a Celestial—probably one of the last living Celestials; not one but two Stan Lee cameos with the group called the Watchers; one of the places Yondu and the others jumped past could have been in the Nine Realms from Thor—maybe even Asgard; the face on Ego’s planet linking it to the comic book version of Ego the Living Planet. Peter using the power that was genetically inherited is in some ways like the Force from Star Wars. Ego mentioning “seeking out new life” was maybe a reference to Star Trek. Also when Ego gives peter more of his power, his eyes turn into stars and mentions Eternity, another Celestial.

The biggest Easter Egg, for me, comes in the post credit scene where the high priestess of the Sovereign mentions the new birthing chamber with a lower priest as creating a weapon that will be designed to destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ayesha says, “I will call him Adam.” Which means the new birthing chamber is the cocoon containing Adam Warlock. (Rumor has it Adam Warlock will appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3). Also, another Easter egg in the postcredits involves a small group of Ravagers gathered, one of them holding two thumbs up with a mystical lattice around it, which could indicate he’s a practitioner of the mystic arts from Doctor Strange. Could that Ravager have been trained by Agamotto? A recent revelation by Kevin Feige is that Stan Lee is one of the Watchers.

Overall the film exceeded expectations and is even better than the first movie. All the comedy and action meshed together to make a wonderful film, and obviously, the Stan Lee cameos. With a great and talented cast, this movie will have staying power in the theaters and will set the benchmark for the Summer, if not for the year. Looking forward to their appearance in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Untitled Avengers Film (2019). Did I mention Stan Lee?

Score: 10/10

--Collin Beishir

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Jackass, a Flood and a Welcome Gift

No Trump rant today, I promise...but there will be more in the future, so anytime I post something you find offensive, politically or otherwise, I'll understand if you opt to skip those posts. We're all entitled to our opinions, and the expression of them. But the only way to maintain friendships in the face of such strong differences is to not respond to those with whom we disagree. No debates, no statements, nothing. That's why I learned to not get confrontational with friends who did vote for the...well, you know. Most of my friends, fortunately, do the same--though I have had to cut a few Facebook friends loose.

Currently, we're dealing with flooding in our area--some of it pretty close to home. Several roads and interstates have been closed. Fortunately for Collin and me, we both work at home.

A few days ago, I received this wonderful gift box from my blog buddy Gayle at Two Little Square Black Dogs. As Collin and I started preparing a gift box for Gayle, we came up with an idea. Two of the items Gayle sent were a key chain and a postcard from her city, Tuscon. If enough of you are interested, I propose we send postcards and key chains representative of our cities/towns to everyone else who participates.

If you're game, send me your addresses at beishirbooks@yahoo.com. It could be fun....

PS New post at my author blog: https://beishirbooks.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/in-defense-of-the-freebie/ 


Friday, April 7, 2017

Fifty Shades of Cray-Cray

I haven't posted an anti-Trump rant in over a month. This one is way past due. To those of you who still support him, you might want to skip this post. It's not going to be pretty.

Yep, he's cray-cray. And for those who can't figure out
the author's name, "T.M." is for "Two Middle"

Some people think he was sent by God. Some of them are actually pastors, so they have no excuse for making such a claim. They should know better. Yes, Saul of Tarsus did kill Christians before his conversion to the Apostle Paul--but when it happened, he changed so profoundly it was clear to see God's hand at work in his life. Those used by God have been broken, damaged people--that's how everyone knew it was God working through them. Trump, on the other hand, has broken most, if not all seven deadly sins and shows no sign of having changed at all.

Some think he's the antichrist. I must admit, I've entertained this possibility. I did think the antichrist would be smarter, though. He's supposed to be a master manipulator. Okay, Trump seems to have manipulated a lot of people into buying his load of crap, including some I've always considered to be intelligent people. I can't quite figure that out. It's not as if he's an unknown, a white knight riding out of nowhere with claims of being able to save the world, fooling people with his charm and good deeds. And it's not like he's changed--he's still the same old blowhard he's always been, bragging about himself at every opportunity and spending too much time trying to convince himself and the rest of the world that he won the 2016 election by a landslide (he didn't) and that he would have won the popular vote, had it not been for illegal votes cast (he just can't stand to lose, which just might be this country's downfall).

This guy is no savior. He's no champion of the people. He got elected because people were desperate for change. In that respect, both parties failed us. The Democrats gave us the candidate they wanted us to have, who was part of the problem we had with our political system, not a possible solution. They may indeed have been hacked by the Russians, but their hands aren't clean, either. They manipulated things on their end without any help. The Republicans couldn't come up with anybody who could beat Trump in the primaries, which says a lot about the state of their party, too--or had the hacking to win him the election already begun?

Trump may not be a career politician, but he's no outsider, either. He's one of those billionaires who owns the politicians. Like any seasoned politician/snake oil salesman, he told the desperate people what they needed to hear, and used them to rise to power. He's still playing them, while he and his family and cronies use our treasury as their personal ATM. He spends all of his time tweeting nonsense or playing golf, much like Nero was supposed to have fiddled while Rome burned. Nero lived lavishly and behaved inappropriately. He executed his opponents. A Trump role model?

During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested throwing Hillary Clinton in prison if he were elected. The taxpayers are picking up the tab for his frequent trips to play golf in Florida, Secret Service protection for his children when they travel on Trump family business, and most recently, one hundred Secret Service agents protecting the Trump extended family vacationing in Aspen. Yet he says the government can't afford to cover social programs like school lunches and Meals on Wheels. Healthcare for all is too expensive, he says. He thinks the office he holds makes him above the law. Sounds familiar.... 

In the end, the people who gave him their unconditional support will be the biggest losers. I predict they'll turn on him, and may even try to do away with him. To them, I say don't. He's not worth prison, execution. Anyway, it can't be done without a silver bullet.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Decisions, Decisions...Maybe I Should Just Flip a Coin!

I grew up on a farm, and I'd love to live on one again--with more animals than people around, no kids hitting my front door with their soccer ball, no noisy neighbors, little traffic. But apartment living is much more practical at this point in my life for a number of reasons--for one, I can't drive. Intractable epilepsy makes having a driver's license impossible, along with a number of other activities most people take for granted. Two, arthritis--not only can I not drive, most days I find walking requires a monumental effort. You should see me trying to get off my couch! A small place, easy to keep up with on the cleaning front, makes much more sense. So while I yearn for the solitude of farm life and a good place to set up a telescope and do some serious stargazing, I settle for noisy neighbors and the frequent wail of police sirens. I'm a little fed up with people coming in while we're not home, though. Collin and I both work at home, so we're here 95% of the time. Can't they come while we're here? The day we came home to find our shoe rack rearranged and a strange device on the wall behind our TV, we bought a security camera so we could see what's going on in here while we're out. (It's cool. We can watch what's happening at home from Collin's phone.)


As I grow older, it's also more difficult to read. Cataracts and glaucoma are a nasty combination. Fortunately, my current favorite authors, Janet Evanovich and Jim Butcher, are available through Audible. These days, though, I find myself choosing nonfiction more often than not. Go figure. Ten years ago, it was all fiction all the time--or almost all the time, anyway. I usually steer clear of my publisher's Facebook page these days, as most of the authors there are looking for reviews--you know, "I'll review yours if you review mine." With my vision problems, it would take so long to read just one book for review, I don't volunteer, and I don't ask for reviews. Wouldn't be fair to ask if I can't reciprocate.

I have the same ambivalence as a writer. The ideas are there. The motivation isn't. I can write something funny and it comes as easily as breathing. Mysteries and romance, not so much. What once came effortlessly is now a daily struggle. Eventually, I'll finish something.

Eventually. Maybe.

I hate doing promotion and marketing, though. That's one of the few things I miss about traditional publishing--they did all of that for me. I refuse to do it now, even if it means lower sales. No offense to my fellow authors, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who finds the tsunami of Buy My Book posts on social media annoying. There's promotion, and then there's taking it way too far. Authors are fast replacing proud new parents and grandparents armed with baby photos as the people everyone goes out of their way to avoid. (Have any of you ever seen the episode of I Love Lucy in which Lucy and Ricky are at odds with Fred and Ethel over Ricky's nightly showings of his home movies? I don't want people throwing rocks at me.)

I know self-promotion is a necessary evil for authors trying to build their careers, whether they're self, indie or traditionally published (unless, in the latter case, they're lucky enough to be in one of the top spots on a Big Five publisher's list and the recipient of a portion of their publisher's promotional budget). It's not easy. I've known talented authors who would rather give up writing than have to do their own marketing. Some of them actually have.

Whatever happened to word-of-mouth being the best sales tool? I guess I'll find out....

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Best Day Ever...38 Years Ago Today

Today is Collin's thirty-eighth birthday. Boy, am I feeling old!

Funny, I can't always remember what I had for breakfast or what day it is or whether or not I took my meds...but I remember every detail of the birth of my only child. I guess it's a mom thing.

I thought I was prepared for childbirth. I didn't take the classes, but I read every book I could find. I had a lot of friends with children who told me their stories. But when I went into labor, I was clueless.

My due date was Saturday, March 3, 1979.  That Friday, I was feeling great, full of energy. That night, when I went to bed, I didn't feel anything out of the ordinary--but I woke around 1:30 a.m., feeling what I thought was cramps. I went to the bathroom. Back in bed, everything seemed fine again. A while later, the cramps returned. Another trip to the bathroom. I tried to go back to sleep, but the pain returned soon after. I couldn't get comfortable in bed, so I went into the living room and tried to sleep in the recliner. It didn't help. Slowly, reality started to sink it. I got my LED watch and started timing the contractions. Seven minutes apart.

I went to wake Mom, but Dad had already taken care of that, telling her, "I think it's time to go to the hospital."

It was raining when we left, a cold rain. My feet were swollen. I couldn't put my shoes on, so I went barefoot. I must have looked pretty silly in a coat I could no longer button and no shoes. Fortunately, St. Anthony's Medical Center wasn't very far away. It was a fairly new hospital back in 1979, not nearly as big as it is now and had no valet parking at that time. Mom drove up to the emergency entrance, helped a nurse get me into a wheelchair, then went to park the car.

"Left in a hurry?" the nurse asked as she wheeled me to the labor room. "You forgot something."

She was talking about my shoes. "I didn't forget," I told her. "I couldn't get them on."

Mom caught up with us in the labor room. We were told my obstetrician would be called when I was closer to delivering. It seemed to take an eternity, bur was in fact only a couple of hours. I wanted Mom in the delivery room, and she wanted to be there, but we were told that wouldn't be possible because we hadn't taken the classes. They didn't want the new grandmother freaking out during the delivery. 

"You don't have to worry about her," I insisted. "She's delivered a lot of puppies and pigs."

For some inexplicable reason that didn't seem to impress the nurse.

She asked Mom how much I weighed at birth. "Six pounds, one half ounce," Mom told her.

"This baby is going to be quite a bit bigger than that," the nurse predicted.

I was two weeks premature. Of course I was little.

My doctor finally arrived. As he started to examine me, the nurse told him she'd just examined me and I wasn't ready yet. He looked up at her. "She is now," he said. "Get her to delivery."

You hear stories about women in labor behaving like angry wild animals. I can tell you it must be true, because after I took a swing at a nurse in the delivery room, I was knocked out. The next thing I remember was waking in recovery. Mom was on the phone, telling Dad the baby had arrived. She was crying. Was something wrong?

"And he has hair!" Mom wailed into the phone.

Hair? She was crying because my baby had hair? I wanted to choke her! Her crying had scared me. Thankfully, it was at that moment the nurse placed my beautiful baby boy on my chest.

Most first babies are born either before or after the due date. Collin was born on the date at 7:56 in the morning after just over six hours of labor.

Best day ever.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Mystery of the High-Pressured Sales Pitch

The mystery is why the salesman thinks it's always going to work.

Collin and I have been thinking about joining a gym/workout club/health club, whatever they're actually called these days, for a while now. I used to have a lifetime membership at one--until they went out of business. So call me skeptical. Fitness fads come and go. For a time, everybody seemed to be squeezing in exercise during their busy days of multitasking, with no time to drive to a gym, change, work out, shower, and drive home.

Maybe that's why the one I belonged to went out of business. I don't know.

I wish it were still around. When I was a member, it was a good distance from my home. Now, I live within walking distance of that location. There's a new one in the same plaza, but it lacks all the things I loved about the old one: steam room, sauna, whirlpool, pool. Still, Collin and I thought about joining. We both have arthritis and our doctors recommended exercise. We have equipment at home, but you know how that goes. 

At least we're not using them for clothing racks. Not yet, anyway.

The neighborhood club advertised free seven day passes, so we decided it would be a good time to try it out, see if they could help us, if we could stick with it. I made an appointment for us to get signed up last Friday. We were shown around by a pleasant young man who told us about the equipment and the classes offered. Not only do they not offer all of those wonderful things I miss about my old club, they also don't offer the massages advertised for other locations in the chain. If we wanted just the basics, we can do that at home!

After the tour, instead of giving us the seven-day passes, he pulled out a list of membership options. No matter how many times, I tried to steer him back to the passes, he kept pushing for a commitment--which we were not willing to make without trying out the facilities. Finally, frustrated, we left--and I voiced my opinion of the sales tactics on their Facebook page. I got an apologetic response and an offer of the promised passes, but we had already decided it would be  a waste of time.

I confess, this isn't the first time I'd had the same experience at other locations in this particular chain. Fortunately, I have no problem saying no.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What's Better Than Getting Something for Nothing?

Two of my novels are currently free (ebook editions only) at Amazon. If you haven't read them but would like to, now's the time!

Angels at Midnight Complete

From Publishers Weekly
Set primarily in the glamorous art milieus of San Francisco and Manhattan, Beishir's (Dance of the Gods) novel makes exciting stopovers in Monte Carlo, Venezuela, Big Sur and other exotic locales. The pages are rife with sizzling sex, suspense and conflict, expertly paced, as both hero and heroine are motivated to bend the law by a powerful need for revenge. Abby Giannini, who has changed her name to Ashley Gordon, loses custody of her son in a vicious court battle with her deceased husband's parents. Collin Deverell, heir to an oil fortune, trades his share in his late father's company for the rights to his mother's art and jewelry estate. But when his ambitious twin Justin defrauds him of his inheritance, Collin too has a score to settle. Collin and Ashley's joint quest for justice and lusty romance make for compulsive reading.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information Inc.

Amazon review by William Kendall on Aug. 10 2016

Format: Kindle Edition
The author published the book during her days with Berkley, and gives us two very sympathetic protagonists we can immediately connect with in an intricately plotted, well paced novel that explores themes of love, family, loss, revenge, and how far people will go for their own measure of justice. While our protagonists don't actually meet until halfway through the book, that's a good thing, as we get to follow them along parallel lines for more then a decade, getting to know them, sharing their triumphs and their despair.

Collin Deverell is one of two twin sons, heir to a fortune that his father, an oil tycoon, expects him to take part in. While his brother Justin readily involves himself in the family business, Collin has little wish to tie himself down to an executive life, preferring a carefree life of adventure and his love of fencing. With the sudden death of their parents on a business trip, Collin takes the chance to live life on his own terms, turning over shares in the family company and all responsibility to his brother in exchange for the family mansion, the art collection, and his mother's jewelry. He lives abroad for some years, rarely settling down, living his carefree life, seducing whatever woman crosses his path. When he returns home, he finds that the valuable paintings and jewels have all gone missing, sold off by his devious brother. Collin vows to take back what's rightfully his, even if it means breaking the law and going after some very dangerous people to do it.

Ashley Gordon is an artist from the Napa Valley in California who establishes a career for herself in San Francisco. After becoming a success in the art world and on the social circuit, she falls in love with Brandon Hollister. They're happy together, and Brandon wants to marry her, though she's puzzled by his complete estrangement from his parents. When we meet them, it's not hard to understand: Bradley and Claudia Hollister are downright nasty to the core. Ashley and Brandon marry, have a son, Robert and are happy together, until Brandon is killed in a plane crash. In the wake of her grief, Ashley is hit again when her in-laws launch a custody battle for their grandson, using bribery, lies, and their connections to take him away from Ashley. Ashley is, understandably, devastated.

It's into this mix that Ashley and Collin meet. Collin's been busy recovering what was stolen from him by becoming a thief himself, learning the trade from a master who saves his life. What started out for him as a mission to take back what's his becomes something more, as he discovers his father's company has been mismanaged by his brother, and is falling into the hands of a criminal syndicate who are readily dismantling it. The syndicate are made up of the same people who have possession of his property, and what began as thefts to recover property gradually shifts, as Collin realizes he does, in fact, have a responsibility to save the company his father built. And since Bradley Hollister is a member of the syndicate, Collin decides to enlist his former daughter-in-law as a partner to bring down the syndicate, save his family company, and restore Ashley's son to her custody.

It's a wise decision to keep the two from really meeting until mid way through the book. We, the reader, get to see both characters develop fully on their own, so we care about them and what happens to them (Ashley's loss of her husband and her son are particularly painful, which is one of the reasons the book works so well). When Collin and Ashley start working together, we see a growing connection between them, an emotional intimacy that comes across as very real. This is a testament to how human the two characters feel. They have depth, quirks, and flaws. As Ashley learns the tricks of the trade, of sleight of hand and the use of disguise, she and Collin find themselves drawn closer and closer. The bond and growing love between them comes across to the reader as the real thing. We come to root for them to achieve all they're after, and it's because of how well both of them have been written.

In every heist story, to root for the person pulling off the heist, it requires that the target be unsympathetic. Certainly having the target be a criminal syndicate is a very good way of having the reader dislike the target. And the primary targets, Bradley and Claudia Hollister, are more then worthy of our dislike. Both of them, particularly Claudia, are cruel and malicious. It's not hard to understand why their son broke ties with them, and as readers, we want to see them brought down, broken, and defeated.

Justin Deverell is another interesting character in the book. Early on it felt like he'd be the primary antagonist of the book, but as things go on, it's made clear that he's the dupe, the tool for the syndicate to dismantle the family company after they're done using it. I enjoyed the premise Norma used that Collin and Justin aren't the kind of twins we're used to in fiction... they have nothing in common but blood, barely speak for years, and ultimately are so far apart that it's doubtful they'll ever bridge that gap. There's no closer then blood mental connection sort of bond between these two twins, and it's a refreshing change.

There is a wild card sort of character I thought I'd make mention of. Anton DeVries, an insurance investigator, lurks in the background of the story. He first comes into the picture after Collin discovers the theft of his possessions. Through the rest of the book, he suspects Collin, looks for proof, and takes part in a pivotal moment towards the climax. He's an interesting character, something of a bloodhound, or a Javert to Collin's Valjean. DeVries is a good adversary, conflicted by catching a man who he knows to be morally right.

The attention to detail throughout the book is spot on, and perhaps never as much as during the various thefts that take place in the book. From training sequences in which both Collin and Ashley learn how to become thieves to the heists themselves, each act feels intricate, and brings a lot of variety to the table. An escape from a time lock safe and a judicious use of a mirror stand out particularly for me during the theft sequences. And the attention to detail also reflects itself in the early sequences featuring fencing and the artistic process.

Angels At Midnight is a beautifully written book that you'll enjoy reading. The plot and pacing of the novel keeps the reader on the edge. The details drawn out in the book about technique, places, and situations give it a very real world sensibility. And the characters really make the novel. Collin and Ashley are a winning couple that we can't help but sympathize with, to root for, and to cheer.

And who knows? Perhaps Robert has siblings... and all of them have grown up to take after Ashley and Collin's habit of breaking into high security vaults....

Final Hours cover - new
Amazon review by Mark R. Hunter on November 14, 2013

Final Hours fooled me: Despite the title, it isn’t really about the giant asteroid that’s about to wipe out human civilization. On the contrary, if there was ever a story that’s all about the journey, it’s this one.

Jamie Randall has to make a decision in the hours leading up to the apocalypse: Retreat to a secretly built bunker, where he might survive to continue his loveless marriage, or seek out the woman he’s loved for the last fourteen years and die with her? We soon know his decision – the story is about why he made it, and as we wait to know his fate the story flashes back to the events that led him there.

It turns out Jamie is – let’s face it – a jerk, although as we learn more about his history we get to know why. He married his wife to get ahead, to get revenge over those who once had power over him. The events that keep him in the marriage are believable, if tragic.

He’s rescued in every way when Kate appears, quite literally saving his life. The rest of the book is a love story, as Jamie woos Kate but is stymied again and again in his attempts to make her more than “the other woman”.

The truth is, Jamie probably doesn’t deserve either of the women at first, and by the time he starts trying to do the right thing he’s dug himself into a hole deeper than the one the asteroid’s going to make. Kate is practically a saint, while Jamie’s wife is trapped just as much as he is, and I kept rooting for a way for them to all get away happy.

That says something about the story – that we want to know how it all comes out, even though we already know it from the very beginning.

on July 14, 2009

Final Hours is a good book to spend an afternoon curled up with. The story follows a man named Jamie, who has heard that the end of the world is coming, and because his wife is the daughter of a senator, he and his family are secured a spot in a safehouse, where they will be most likely to survive. But Jamie does not want to go. Instead, he realizes that he must face up to his mistakes and do the one thing he's been wanting to do for the last fifteen years: spend his final hours with the woman he loves.

Forced to choose between his own happiness and the happiness of those he cares about, Jamie spends most of the book torn between the woman he loves and the woman he needs. His wife, the mother of his sons, was able to give Jamie everything he thought he wanted out of life, but when a free-spirited photographer named Kate saves his life, he begins to realize that maybe his priorities were wrong all along, and it's time to start living the way he now knows he needs to.

Despite some bad choices all of the characters make, they really are what makes the story golden. Everyone makes bad choices, and these characters are all willing to face up to their mistakes, which makes them all the more admirable. They're doing what they think is right in the current situation, and that's really what sets them apart. The story really makes you think about life and love, and what it really means to be alive. And most importantly, when everything is stripped away, what truly is important enough for us to spend our final hours doing?