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.

Another 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. It seemed 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 www.brianlord.org)


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


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Missouri Norma and the Fast Food Restaurants of Doom

A few years ago, a medical study showed that people who live within walking distance of a fast food restaurant have a 40% higher risk of developing heart disease and/or having a stroke.

I'm screwed. Big time.

 
We live within walking distance of 42 of them. Well, that's 42 restaurants. Not all of them are fast food joints. Some are...others are family dining or more upscale establishments. Four are buffets--five if I'm allowed to include Golden Corral, which isn't really within walking distance--but very close. 

Anyone who knows me knows I can't cook. The only thing I do with any level of expertise in the kitchen is set it on fire. I do takeout. I'm great at takeout. And nuking food. Without a microwave and a can opener, I'd starve. 

 
It's a good thing Collin works in a restaurant.

It's a good thing he brings dinner home most nights. Or is it?


(There's one thing I don't understand about the growing fast food options, however. Is there really such a high demand for spicy food? Jack in the Box, for example, recently introduced the Hot Mess burger. I didn't try one, even when a buy-one-get-one-free offer showed up in my text messages. Nor have I tried their newest offering, the Jalapeno Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger. Years of living with acid reflux has taught me to steer clear of such things. McDonald's also has a couple of hot/spicy sandwiches on their menu, like the Buffalo Ranch McChicken and the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder. Last Saturday, Collin brought home some takeout from Taco Bell--including a new item, the quesarito. Had I known it had chipotle sauce in it, I would have avoided it like a vampire faced with a basket full of garlic.)

 
Today is my birthday. Collin signed both of us up for every rewards club for every participating restaurant within a ten-mile radius, so my email box is currently loaded with emails for free birthday meals, most of which will have to be used within the next two weeks. That's not going to be easy.

Angioplasty, anyone?


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

I think I'm jinxed. When we went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in April, the movie was stopped for fifteen minutes because a tornado was reported on the ground in nearby Webster Groves. In early July, we attended a seventeen-minute free preview of Guardians of the Galaxy. We were hit by a storm so dangerous, we couldn't walk home from a bus stop three blocks away. Today, we saw the movie. All week, it's been sunny and warm--as it was when we left home that morning. We left the theater to very different weather conditions...again! 


When Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, I didn't think it was going to be something I'd want to see. A talking raccoon? A humanoid tree? A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? (I couldn't resist the Star Wars comparison, since Disney also owns Lucasfilm and is producing #7 of the Star Wars saga.) I was ready to pass on it...until I saw some early trailers. 

The movie more than lived up to the promise of the trailers...and I can't wait to see it again!

The film starts with young Peter Quill at a hospital on earth (to be a bit more precise, Missouri in 1988). His mother, Meredith, is dying. Cancer has ravaged her body; she's lost her hair. She wants to see her son, to give him a gift. He never opens it. Angry, scared and confused, as she passes away, he runs from her room, from the hospital. Outside, alone in the darkness, he is almost immediately abducted by a group of alien rednecks led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker).

I questioned the timing of the abduction; it seemed contrived at first--but the explanation comes at the end of the movie.

Flash forward twenty-six years to another planet, to ruins in which one might expect to find Indiana Jones. An adult Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is dancing in the ruins, moving to the music on his Walkman, searching. The object of his search: a mystical orb (think of the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark--in fact, later in the movie, Quill makes a comparison to the Ark of the Covenant). He finds it, only to be confronted by the minions (no, not those Minions!) of Ronan (Lee Pace), a Kree radical who's supposedly in league with the mad titan Thanos.

 
Quill escapes, only to find himself the target of an assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Thanos' adopted daughter (who has her own agenda) and two bounty hunters, Rocket (a genetically-engineered cybernetic raccoon with a bad attitude and an itchy trigger finger voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot, a humanoid tree who can only say three words: "I. Am. Groot." (Voiced by Vin Diesel.)

All four are apprehended by the Nova Corps, led by Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly) and sent to the Kyln, a maximum-security prison. There, they, along with Drax (pro wrestler Dave Bautista), discover they must work together to escape--and prevent Ronan from using the orb to destroy the planet. This leads to a wildly funny prison escape led by Rocket, unquestionably the smartest member of the team (under different circumstances, Rocket could have been a major supervillain).

As with every Marvel Studios film since Iron Man, the casting is flawless. Pratt as Peter Quill portrays a boy in a man's body, a big kid who never got over the loss of his mother and the life they had on Earth. Saldana's Gamora is tough but also dealing with a loss: a family murdered by the monster who "adopted" her. Bautista's Drax is a tragic figure consumed by a need for revenge for the deaths of his wife and daughter. Rocket, behind the tough-guy facade, is surprisingly sensitive. "She called me a rodent. He called me vermin. Well, I didn't ask to be made!" (This, my friends, is what happens when man is arrogant enough to think he can improve on the original design. Just saying.) Groot is both a gentle soul and a fierce fighter, willing to sacrifice himself for his friends.

 
James Gunn's writing and direction gives us a Marvel film unlike any of its predecessors. Though the Avengers films give us healthy doses of humor and flawed, broken characters, they're still heroes, still good guys. The Guardians are criminals who find themselves unexpectedly thrust into their hero roles. Though starting the franchise with the group rather than individually, as was done with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, doesn't allow for as much in the way of character development, we get to see enough of each of the Guardians to understand and empathize with each of them. They start the film as orphans, loners by necessity, but by the end are a family of their own making.

One of my favorite scenes involves Quill going back for his Walkman as they're escaping the Kyln. He's willing to risk capture to get the one thing he has left of his life on Earth, and that speaks volumes about him. The other, well...it involves a message Quill sends to Corpsman Dey, identifying himself as "one of the A-holes" and indicating he's "not a total dick."

"Can we believe him?" Nova Prime (Glenn Close) asks.

Dey hesitates. "Well, I don't think anyone's a total dick...."

Guardians of the Galaxy is more of a comedy than Marvel's previous films. The jokes--good and bad--work. Drax and Gamora don't get earth humor and metaphors ("Don't ever call me a thesaurus again!" "Who put the sticks up their butts?") The CGI is so impressive, I forgot there were actors' voices behind Rocket and Groot. It's one of those movies that everyone, even a couch potato like myself, should see for the first time on the biggest screen available.

It's already far exceeded studio expectations--our theater had 22 showings yesterday, adding some of them after ticket demand necessitated it. Fandango reported sellouts in many theaters. And the sequel has already been scheduled. I'm counting the days....

My partner in crime, William Kendall, has also reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy. Check out his review at Speak of the Devil!