Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11--Thirteen Years Later

Who doesn't remember where they were on that Tuesday morning in 2001? Collin and I talked about it this morning before he left for work. He was working at Grone's Cafeteria in Webster Groves. He'd just left for work. I was getting ready to go to the library, watching the Today show, when Katie Couric and Matt Lauer stopped what they were doing on the air to bring a news bulletin: a plane had hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center.

It took me back to a night in November 1985. I was in New York for my first meeting with my editor and publisher at Berkley. They'd just bought my first novel that spring. My agent, her assistant and I had dinner at Windows on the World. I was disappointed because I'd wanted to go there for the view, but that night, the fig was so thick, it looked like a pea-green screen had enclosed the building. "We hold our breath when this happens," our waiter commented. "We've had a few near-misses with small aircraft."

Being a writer, the ideas were already churning around in my head...including a scenario that had appeared on the short-lived X-Files spinoff, The Lone Gunmen.

I remember where I was when I heard the news that the Pentagon had been hit...when a group of brave passengers about United Airlines flight 93 had overtaken their hijackers and prevented even more loss of life by bringing their plane down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.... I remember watching the towers fall on a small battery-powered TV in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Thirteen years later, Osama bin Laden is dead...but the war on terrorism continues. What will it take to bring these monsters down? How many lives will be lost? My dad used to say a war would never be fought on US soil. I wonder what he would have said that morning?

Here are some images I found on Facebook, last night and this morning....

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If the World Should Stop Revolving....

That's a line from a song, If by Bread. Odd name for a group, but then, a lot of groups in the 60s and 70s had odd names. The rest of the line is "spinning slowly down to die." Scary thought, isn't it--the world dying?

I've always loved disaster movies--I think it started with When Worlds Collide (1951), about a team of scientists who discovered a new earthlike planet, revolving around a star on a collision course with Earth--and their plan to save mankind from extinction. Though the special effects are cheesy by today's standards, the image of our planet being destroyed is downright creepy.

The end-of-world theme has been a popular one in films: 2012, Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, just to name a few. The History Channel's series, The Universe, has featured possible world-ending scenarios in some of their episodes.

A few years ago, my son Collin decided to make it the subject of his first novel, ELE (Extinction Level Event). He'd planned to publish it in 2012. He hadn't counted on the Murphy's Law of first novels: they almost always take longer than expected. So while it's not yet published, he hasn't given up on it. (I told him if he doesn't finish it, I will!) 

Last Saturday, I found a National Geographic documentary on Netflix titled Evacuate Earth. (It's also currently available on You Tube.) It's a mix of scientific fact and fictional what-if, involving a supernova that took place 60,000 years ago and the resulting neutron star, headed for our solar system. Humanity has 75 years to come up with a way to save itself. 

My first thought was: "75 years? I wouldn't be around in 75 years. Collin wouldn't be around in 75 years. Or maybe he would. People are living longer these days. And he might have children...grandchildren...."

The documentary covers how humanity might react to the prospect of the world ending...possible ways to save mankind from extinction...who would be chosen to be saved, since obviously evacuating the entire population wouldn't be possible...where the survivors might go and how they might get there...and how they might respond psychologically to losing friends, family and the only world they've ever known.

Cutting NASA's budget was a big mistake. Huge....

Friday, August 29, 2014

Black Market Renter Referral Bonuses for Sale!

Our apartment community has an incentive program. Refer new tenants and once they move in, the tenant making the referral gets $200 off their next month's rent. It's a good program. Or it would be, if the tenants were being honest. I like to think most of them are, but I have yet to meet any of those honest souls.

When we moved in, we were referred by a friend and co-worker of Collin's who pitched the place by saying, "If they'll rent to me, they'll rent to anybody." Seriously, it's a great place. When it comes to "location, location, location," they got it right. A number of troublesome neighbors aside, it's almost perfect.

The day we were approved, we gave the property manager the name of the tenant who referred us so she'd get her bonus. It never occurred to us to even try to sell the referral to her or anyone else. We just did it because it was due her. It was the right thing to do.

A co-worker moved in a short time later. He offered to sell his referral form to Collin for $100--and asked Collin to help him move in. Collin said, "I'll do it for $100." The guy refused. He wanted free help. He didn't get it...and Collin didn't get the referral. But at least he was open about it, unlike those that followed.

Not long after that, Collin recommended it to another co-worker. But he wasn't the only one who had, and he lost out on the bonus. 

A couple of years ago, he made another recommendation to another co-worker. She told him she'd be sure and give him the referral form as soon as she got it, which would have been the day she moved in. Days passed. She kept putting him off. Finally, she did a complete about-face. She got angry. She told him she didn't even know he lived here. She even unfriended him on Facebook. Collin was blindsided...but cynic that I am, I knew where she was coming from. He hadn't offered her any money. Because he hadn't, she wasn't going to let him get anything, either. 

Apparently, not many of Collin's co-workers understand that a renter referral bonus is a reward to the tenant who brought in new business--the new tenant isn't supposed to share in it.

I told him he should stop referring his co-workers, but in the past month, we went through the bullshit once again. This time, the co-worker was someone he considered trustworthy. She was planning to move in on the 26th. Right up to the last minute, she assured him he was going to get her referral. I tried not to be negative, but I had my doubts. Wasn't it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result? I guess I'm not nuts, after all!

Sure enough, I got a text from him when he got off work yesterday. He was angry (and Collin is extremely slow to anger, unlike his hotheaded mother). I asked him why, but I already knew the answer.

He said he wasn't getting the referral. Again. She was apologetic, of course, but it was out of her hands. She told him another co-worker who also lived here had convinced the property manager to not run a credit check on her, so the manager gave the other co-worker the bonus. (Yes, I know it makes no sense.) This woman, who had lost her job at the previous restaurant where she and Collin had both worked because a co-worker had lied about her, was herself lying about someone else. Had her story been believable and told to someone who didn't know the manager and the procedure for getting approved, she could have caused the manager a lot of trouble.

In short, she not only lied to Collin, she insulted him by expecting him to believe that lameass story. Had he not been so angry, I would have laughed. Nobody was going to believe that garbage. I knew what had happened. The other tenant/co-worker had bought the referral.

I wonder if the property owners know how many bonuses they've paid to tenants who didn't really earn them....


For those of you who are following the latest installments of my memoir and Sam's Story, I'll have new posts up late today or sometime tomorrow. We just installed a new modem last night, so I'm at least a day behind on everything! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Mixed Bag

I had something else planned for today, but things happen, you know?

Last week, so many of my fellow bloggers were posting tributes to Robin Williams in the wake of his untimely death...I wanted to do a tribute as well, but it seemed to me that everyone else had already said everything I wanted to say. But today, I came across this story on Facebook, and thought I would share it with those of you who don't do Facebook....

A Little Known Robin Williams Story:

“Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close e
nough that his office sent over his rider.

For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do).

This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.

When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.

I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back.

I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions.

He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.”


(This was originally posted at

And on a lighter note, I found this, also on Facebook, and thought of my friend Gayle at Two Square Black Dogs, a fellow Godzilla fan:

And a reminder that I have new excerpts posted from my memoir and from Sam's Story....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

There's a Picture of My Brain on the Milk Carton

I saw my neurologist last week. I have a new doctor, since my former brain tamer packed up and went off to Joplin. I might have gotten off with a renewed prescription for my medication, had a not asked, "Can you tell me why my sense of smell is so messed up?"

She stopped in her tracks. Game changer. More questions. More history to be taken. Yes, I smell smoke when nothing is burning. I love watermelon, but I have to smear scented cream all over my nose so I can eat it and not be deterred by the horrible smell. I opened a can of chili that smelled like mold. Canned salmon smells musty. Ick!

She ordered an MRI and an EEG...not just your plain old garden-variety EEG, but a sleep-deprived EEG. According to the instructions, this means I'm not supposed to sleep the night before. 

Yeah, right.

Sleep-deprivation is a big seizure trigger, so I guess this means they want me to come in full seizure mode. Oh, fun. At least I don't have tonic-clonic seizures (convulsions). I have temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which has its own set of fun activities--like hallucinations. (Not all hallucinations are of the visual kind--they can also be distortions of smell, sound and feel. Mine stink--in more ways than one.)

I have to stay awake all night the night before so I'll sleep during the test. I'm going to lie on a hard table with electrodes attached to my scalp and go to sleep. Oh, fun.

Did I mention that there's a No Caffeine restriction for that night before? I don't like coffee, so that's no problem. I can skip tea for a night. But no chocolate? That's cruel and unusual punishment!

One patient suggested baking that night to stay awake. That would do the trick for me. Setting the kitchen on fire would keep everyone in the building awake all night!

My friend Carolyn suggested sitting up. That won't work. That's how I nap. Upright, leaning back against the couch. It's much more comfortable than it sounds.

According to the instructions, this is what I can expect:

  • You relax in a comfortable position with your eyes closed during the test. At various times, the technician may ask you to open and close your eyes, perform a few simple calculations, read a paragraph, look at a picture, breathe deeply (hyperventilate) for a few minutes, or look at a flashing light.

And I'm supposed to sleep? Isn't this all a bit contradictory?

Also in the instructions: Be sure to eat a good meal before the EEG. I can get on board with that. Can we stop at IHOP en route? 

  • Video is frequently recorded during the EEG. Your body motions are captured by a video camera while the EEG simultaneously records your brain waves. This combined recording may help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition.
 Does this mean it will be posted on YouTube?

And after all of this, I get to have an MRI. An OPEN MRI. No way would they get me to stick around for the other kind....

PS Hope you'll check out my works-in progress blogs, too: my memoir and Sam's Story over at Wordpress....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crossing Over (No, NOT the TV Psychic!)

I just read a blog post by my friend, fellow blogger and author Mark Hunter. Mark has a new book coming out in October, The Notorious Ian Grant. Mark has an interesting idea: a series of short stories involving the people Ian encounters en route to the book's opening--fanfiction from TV shows and movies. 

Years ago, when I was writing romantic comedies for Silhouette, I and some fellow authors did crossovers. Our characters interacted with each other. For example, in Bad Attitude, Harlequin author Tiffany White had a character, an actor, pursued by tabloid reporters from the International Intruder, a tabloid owned by one of my characters from Something Old. (The International Intruder is currently a Facebook page written by myself, my son Collin, and my partner in crime, William Kendall.)

William and I have talked about the possibility of crossing over characters from my Unicorn's Daughter series and his not-yet-published Heaven & Hell characters. It has definite possibilities....

PS Hope you'll check out the latest excerpts from my memoir and from Sam's Story, too! And Mark's book is out now, much to his surprise!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Making a Course Correction (Again)

For the past several months, I've been working on two projects outside the realm of my writing experience. One is my memoir, focusing on the darkest period in my life--a riches to rags account of my journey from bestselling author to homelessness and back. The other is a memoir of sorts of my parakeet, Sam, and his observations on life and living with humans. Though I plan to publish both as books, I've decided to test the waters first. Reader reviews on Amazon can be brutal, and I must confess that I don't have the requisite writers' thick skin with regard to these two projects that I've developed with my novels.

What to do? After giving it some thought, I've decided to launch both as blogs, posting a couple of chapters per week. If reader response is positive, then they'll also be published as books via Amazon.

As for my novels, I've found that The Unicorn's Daughter is far and away my best seller, selling more than twice as many books as all of my other novels combined. Even a recent free ebook promotion that included four of my novels yielded similar results worldwide.

For some time now, I've been looking for an idea that would provide me with the opportunity to write the type of books Janet Evanovich writes: novels full of action and humor, with protagonists who can carry a series...and I think I've finally found them.

I've already developed plots for two novels focusing on Jaime from The Unicorn's Daughter and Darcy from Chasing the Wind--both divorced photojournalists, one a spy as well--using stories taken from today's headlines. 

This should be fun....


Here are the links to the new  blogs. They're at Wordpress, and comments are welcome!

My Memoir 

Sam's Story