Friday, December 31, 2004

Cancel the Inauguration?

As the genuinely Biblical proportions of the tsunami disaster become apparent, I have become more opposed to the idea of spending $40 million on a lame duck inauguration. At this point I don't care which party is in power, such a showy display is in despicable taste when people are starving while standing in a sea of mud and bloated bodies. If you have a strong constitution, go out on the web and find some of the amateur videos of the disaster as it played out. They will haunt your dreams.

Let's "downsize" the festivities and donate the money to tsunami relief fund and send a few dollars toward buying personal armor for our soldiers in honor of those who have fallen in service of our country. That's how a compassionate government should act.

I'm not holding my breath.

Happy New Year folks. Let's hope 2005 is vastly better across the globe.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Oh Come All Ye Cell Phones

I note with some concern that the FCC is considering lifting the cell phone ban on airplanes. Where I always felt the ban was a bit odd (supposedly the phone interfered with navigational equipment) I loved it for another reason -- relative peace and quiet despite the cranky children and chatty seatmates.

I travel a lot by plane. Not as much as some of the million milers, but my butt is in an airplane on a regular basis. Hence I have the opportunity to observe a lot of silly human behavior. A lot of this ends up being fodder for my books (you know who you are!) but most of it falls into two categories -- benign and annoying. Cell phones fall into the latter variety if the phone's owner isn't using all those gray cells they were supposedly born with.

I wouldn't mind having cell phones midflight if I didn't have to listen to my seatmates chatting about (and yes, I've heard all of this at one time or another):
1) A child's bowel habits (or lack thereof)
2) An elderly parents' bowel habits (or the lack thereof)
3) Why the woman's soon-to-be ex-boyfriend (or husband -- it was never clear)was such a dick and how she refused to listen to all his crap. This conversation went on for fifteen minutes so obviously she WAS listening to all his crap (or vice versa.)
4) Copious outpourings of numbers, figures, orders and ultimatums as delivered by various business persons (note I use the generic term here as women are just as bad.) Was the contract faxed in time? What was the response? Is Alfred in Albania and Beatrice in Boston? No, that meeting time isn't good. Does everyone understand that this HAS to happen? (This sort of stuff just makes me flashback to my own time in the corporate maw and conjures up a nasty case of indigestion.)

In short, using cell phones during flight would be grand if people weren't attached to them. I have no desire listening to intimate discussions, business meetings or other nonsense at 30,000 feet when I don't have the option to chuck the offender out the nearest door.

Please, FCC, leave 'em banned in flight. It's bad enough I have to avoid the crazies in their cars with their phones pressed to their ear and their brains in neutral. Hours in the air with these folks could easily cause 'air rage.'

Later folks....

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Invoking the "L" Word or What Would Jesus Think?

Now that the hurley burley of the election is over, I intend to return to the general theme of this blog -- writing. However, I do reserve the right to make comments re: politics, etc. as I see fit. This is one blog I've felt required to write and so I'll get it out of the way.

I am finding the current radicalized of Christianity a very disturbing trend. A prime example is the following, a congratulatory letter penned by Bob Jones III to Pres. Bush (full text of letter can be found here - It pretty much states what Evangelical Conservatives expect in the next four years.

In your re-election, God has graciously granted America though she doesn't deserve it a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you. ...It is easy to rejoice today, because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term. Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years—a brief time only—to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.

...Pull out all the stops and make a difference. If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them. Conservative Americans would love to see one president who doesn't care whether he is liked, but cares infinitely that he does right.


I found particular phrases (those in bold) very disturbing. Liberals supposedly "despise" Christ so it's okay to demonize them? I can imagine a few of my religiously observant so-called Liberal friends being rather offended by that. "Biblical norm" is now the standard for religious freedom, freedom of speech? Who decides what is and isn't Biblical norm? Is blasphemy soon to be punishable by death like it is in other parts of the world? And how do you define blasphemy?

Folks, does this sound familiar? Remove the word "Biblical" and add "Koranic" and you got it. Radical religious groups only see their own righteous agenda and anyone who gets in their way are expendable. Yes, you are right to argue that Bob Jones doesn't represent all of the Christian Right. That would be true. But he's not the only one calling on Mr. Bush to pay the bill for his re-election. That's what makes me nervous.

So I propose a homework assignment -- go get your Bible, dust it off if you haven't read it recently and reread the New Testament. In particular, read the words of Jesus. The man was, to use the modern term, a liberal. He challenged the establishment and preached a humane approach toward his fellow man. He scorned the hidebound Sadducees and tried to teach his fellow Jews about love, turning the other cheek, helping the poor and about justice.

I see nothing in Bob Jones' letter that speaks of justice or caring for the poor. Turning the other cheek is noticeably absent. Since he and his fellows are so causal in evoking Jesus, let me ask this -- what would the prophet of Nazareth think if this bunch?

I leave it to you to do the homework and decide for yourself.

May Peace Reign...


Thursday, November 04, 2004

I'm Weirdly at Peace

Somewhere Osama is smiling and giving a thumbs up at his television set. His best recruiter just got re-elected. Allah has been merciful.

And perhaps that's the point. Perhaps G*d in His/Her wisdom knows that Dubya needs to be in office four more years, for whatever reason. Where that unnerves me to no end given the erosion of freedom in this country (all in the name of national security) I just have to trust the Almighty has a plan. So in that respect, I agree with the evangelical Christians on this one --- Bush is in this office for a reason. I suspect that my theory won't be the same as theirs, however. Often the purpose of one's life is soley to serve as a warning to others. Perhaps it is G*d's intention to have us understand how incredibly bad it can get before we wake up and stop taking democracy for granted.

The bigger questions are -- will democracy as we know (knew) it survive four more years of the Patriot Act, the under-the-radar dealings of the White House and our foreign involvement in Iraq (Iran/Syria -- insert name of Muslim country)? Only time will tell.

I suspect the next four years are going to be, in short, damned ugly. There is every indication we're going to veer closer to a religious theocracy, renouncing our heritage as a nation of the many with tolerance toward all. We all know how well religious theocracies work -- we only need look at the radical Islamic model for proof.

And perhaps that's the Almighty's point -- walk your own religious path, but do not impose it on others against their will. All in all, maybe Dubya is doing us a favor.

I hope that's the case. Any other scenario won't let me sleep at night.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

One Person, One Vote -- Democracy in Action

It's a wonderful feeling -- the opportunity to walk into a voting booth and either fiddle with a handful of paper or play with a touchscreen and cast your vote. Outside there isn't the sound of gunfire, the sound of explosions nor is someone handing you a ballet with a menacing glare that indicates your choice better be the 'official' party line or life could get very nasty.

Democracy only works when its people care enough to vote. Obviously, Americans care enough as record turnout is in progress even as I type. Good. That's the way it should be. Losing one's ability to vote is the first step in the downhill slide toward a totalitarian regime. And if don't think we can go that way, well, you shoulda paid attention during history class.

This election has been damned ugly. No other way to put it. I found myself wishing Clinton was a candidate on more than one occasion. But he's done his bit and now can watch from the sidelines.

What will the next four years hold for America? No clue. I did find Osama's recent video tape annoying. He's still thumbing his nose at us, draining our bank account and rhapsodizing about how the tragic souls in the Twin Towers were probably thinking about failed American policy as they perished. That's bull. They probably had no clue what was happening to them. And if they did, my final moments on earth would not be thinking of OBL (other than wishing him a speedy trip to Hell), but rather my family and all the things I didn't get to achieve.

And that's the worst thing about indiscriminate death -- it robs us of our future. May the next four years help us find a way in this murky and dangerous world, with allies at our side.

Good luck, Mr. President... you're going to need it.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

When the Patriot Act Gets Too Close to Home

As a writer I have a vivid imagination. It helps when you're trying to make a plot work and your characters endure 350+ pages of nasty stuff. But there are some things my mind would prefer not imagine -- the use of the Patriot Act against my fellow writers.

Lest you believe the Patriot Act is solely used to target terrorists, a recent article in the Romance Writers Report (Nov 2004) published by the Romance Writers of America, puts that belief to rest. A multi-published writer who requested the magazine use the name 'Dilyn' was targeted by the FBI, Postal Inspectors (because of her website and email usage) and the Federal Police. Six agents raided her home before dawn, threatened to shoot her dogs and proceeded to confiscate almost everything related to her writing profession -- her computers, her writing contracts, research notes, computer disks, CD's of music she writes by, photocopier, the TV in her office, pictures off her walls, a case of paper... the list goes on. During this three hour horror, she was subjected to verbal abuse by one of the six male agents and not allowed to use the restroom without an escort.

So what did this writer do to earn the Fed's scrutiny? Was she tinkering with a dirty bomb in her basement or planning the overthrow of the government? Nothing that sinister -- she was researching Cambodia, including the history of terrorism in that country (yes, Al Qaeda is there)for an upcoming novel. To that end, she checked out books at her local library and ordered books online. She visited numerous websites to study about terrorism and landmines, which played a part in the plot. Ironically, she decided to remove the terrorism theme from her book to allow for reader's sensitivities post 9/11 even before the raid.

Has she been charged? No. Did she get her stuff back? Only the computers (they were bugged) and her disks, which were ruined. None of the rest of her belongings have been returned.

How does this relate to the Patriot Act and why should you be concerned? The warrant they served on her specifically mentioned certain books BY TITLE. Yes, the government is watching what you read and where you surf contrary to John Ashcroft's assurances.

To her credit, the author refuses to change how she conducts research. She is aware that some websites are 'flagged' and that the government runs certain email tracking programs. She does not feel she is committing a crime and will continue to exercise her right to research in a legal manner.

Yes, Big Brother is watching. For this writer, who frequently researches things like gunpowder, Irish pub bombings and the lot for my books, this is a chilling story. It's so easy to believe that it wouldn't happen to you.

Don't be so sure....


Monday, September 27, 2004

Bumper Stickers

I love bumper stickers. I actually have one. I used to have two but the "Dragons Freed, Virgins Slain" one finally died. So now I have one that sums up my philosophy in seven words: "Not every problem has an American Solution." It's from a quote by JFK (as in John Kennedy, not the other JFK). Should you desire one of your own, check out Two Unemployed Democrats on the web. They've got lots of nifty bumper stickers and tee shirts. The husband wears their "One Nation Under Surveillence" tee shirt. That always gets him funny looks. Or maybe it's because he usually wears it with his Utilikilt. Hard to tell.

I spied a "Proud to be an Infidel" sticker today. Of course, it was accompanied by a Bush-Cheney one, but I still like it. It has a certain barbarian flavor you don't see nowadays.

This leads me to suggest a few more --- and please allow a little tongue-in-cheek on these.

So many regimes to change, so little time.

Deficit? Just send the bill to my grandkids.

Ignorance is Bliss. Ah, what was the question?

Politicians -- first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Okay, so I got a life. Now what?

Be sure to vote early and often! The country you save may be your own.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Are You Sure You Want This Mess, John?

You know, if I was Mr. Kerry I'd be wondering if running for president is such a hot idea. Work with me for a minute here -- think what it would be like to walk into your predecessor's office knowing that things were seriously off the rails, but not knowing all the stuff that's been swept under the rug. Your job is to make it right. Why do I hear the Mission Impossible theme at this moment? The minute Kerry is sworn in, the Right will turn on him like a pit bull. We saw that with Clinton. Rush and buddies will foam at the mouth. So Kerry will have no one in his corner as he tries to fix a broken economy, an ill-equipped Army, a poorly managed Homeland Security Department and a quagmire of a war that sucks billions out of our empty coffers. Top that off, most everyone in the world hates us at this point and isn't going to be too keen to jump on the US bandwagon. Gee, that's my dream job if there ever was one.

On some level I wish Kerry won't win because I suspect four years of trying to put out the forest fires will suck the life out of the man. It's only fair this mess blow up on Bush's watch. On a more practical level, I'm not sure if the US (or the world, for that matter) can stand another four years of the guy from Texas. The Pentagon just reported they don't have enough troops to handle any other situations we might find ourselves in. Gee, now that's a surprise. Iran and Korea are making nukes as Mr. Bush assures us that all is kosher, that the world is safer from terrorists and that Iraq is far better off than they were. I don't know what he's smoking, but he'd better share some with the rest of us.

My deepest concern is for the soldiers, followed by the Iraqi citizens. No, they're not all the bad guys. They're mom, pop and kids just trying to stay alive in an environment where bombs kill indiscriminately. How you would feel if you trudged down to your local grocery store and had to worry someone was going to kill you before you bought your ration of bread for the day? Queue for a job in Iraq (especially as a cop) and you get blown up. I can only imagine the sort of hell those people live in -- damned if you do, damned if you don't. You support the crazies, you get dead. You support the Americans, you get dead. That's not the way to build a country. While we've lost over a thousand of our folks, 16,000 Iraqis have been killed. Unreal.

I sometimes wonder what the Supreme Being thinks of all this. Probably sincerely disappointed in His/Her/Their creation. I know I would be.


Monday, September 20, 2004

No Honor

I never was much of a liberal. Not in the past, at least. The last four years have made me a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But that topic is reserved for another post.

This one is about our sitting president and the flap about his National Guard service. Do I worry about the documents CBS uncovered? Not really. Paranoia would dictate that Karl Rove is at work, but I'm going to ignore that issue at present. Where I'm not that particularly happy with John Kerry, I simply feel he's our best alternative. I fear what the next four years will bring under a Bush presidency.

So what led me to that choice? To sum it up, there are only a few issues upon which I judge Mr. Bush.

Reason #1: He jumped the queue to join the National Guard to avoid going to Nam. Because of his political connections, some other poor schmuck got sent over there and probably came home in a body bag. A honorable man would not have used his daddy's influence to jump the queue. That tells me a lot about Dubya. And even after he got into the Guard, he shirked his duty. You can't tell me some other guardie wouldn't have been crucified for pulling Dubya's stunts.

Despite Kerry's criticism of the war once he returned home, he did his duty. Folks have been snarking about his medal-earning 'scratches.' Bullets don't discriminate. One of those could have easily hit his heart or his head. He put himself in the line of fire for whatever reason and didn't stick someone else with the job. That gets my vote.

Reason #2: Dubya's frightingly eerie 'deer in the headlights' maneuver in the first seven minutes after the planes hit the Twin Towers. He was clueless as to what to do. He should have excused himself from the kiddies and started working through the disaster. Instead, it was Richard Clark who was orchestrating things at the White House, not our commander-in-chief. That told me that Dubya is not a leader.

All the rest is icing on the cake; the missing WMD, the curtailing of civil liberties, the invasion of Iraq.

Vote your conscience, people. We still have a democracy. Let's hope it's intact in four more years.

Later --


Monday, September 06, 2004

Another Day, Another Dragon*Con

Another year, another Dragon*Con under my belt. As usual, it was different. Each year seems to possess its own atmosphere. I'd sum up this year as "I'm having fun, but I'm tired, dude." Most people just looked weary, even on Day One.

We took a room at the Hilton downtown instead of one of the main convention hotels to avoid the crowds. That didn't work as tons of people (and their dogs) headed north into Atlanta to avoid Hurricane Frances. We honestly thought there was a dog convention somewhere in town until we asked someone. A number of the escapees were elderly folks and they seemed a bit bewildered. And that was BEFORE Dragon*Con started. The wait for the elevators proved almost as daunting at the Hilton as it would have at the Hyatt or the Marriott (the main con hotels).

I only ended up with one panel assigned (last year I did five) so I crashed one when other panelists didn't show up. Some snafu with the scheduling it appears. Hope they work that out for next year as I really like doing the panels. Got to meet a whole new batch of writer folks and reconnect with lots of friends from all over everywhere. And Mage (aka Harold, the husband) wore his new Utilikilt.

For those of you not familiar with Utilikilts, they are kilts for the average guy. Not plaid like traditional Scottish kilts, but made of denim or poplin or leather. They even have a version for guys who do construction. So these are seriously built kilts. Mage loves his and when topped off with a jacket, he looks great. "Freeing men of trouser tyranny" is their claim and it did the trick. Some go regimental (no underwear for those of you not familiar with the term) and some wear something beneath. Given the fact that women occasionally will hike your kilt just to look (without asking, I might add) you have to decide where to be modest or not. Given the sheer number of kilt-wearing men this year, I'd say the 'have a peak' trend is declining. A few years ago a guy in a kilt was a novelty. Now it's standard issue.

I also came to love sour apple martinis. I've never tasted one of these and so I actually tried one, contrary to my rule about not consuming a bunch of alcohol at Dragon. You can blame the husband -- he bought me the first one. And then Sunday night I decided to have more of them than I should have. Wheeeee! Monday morning I was up and back at the convention, doing just fine. By Monday afternoon, though, I was starting to fray at the edges and packed it in. Husband (who didn't drink a drop) claims to have a hangover. Go figure.

Next year's Dragon is Sept. 2-5. If you've never been to one -- give it a shot. Where else can you see an entire forest full of hobbits/elves and the most remarkable Gollum this side of Hollywood. And the Gene Simmons clones were pretty awesome as well.

Must find Advil...


Friday, August 27, 2004

Rollin' Toward Dragon*Con

Well, if you've never attended Dragon*Con (aka The Mother of All Conventions) then you've missed something. Think 20-25,000 of your closest buddies all packed into two hotels in downtown Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend. Squads of storm troopers, Klingons, Goths, elves, hobbits, historical figures and various cartoon characters. Always a good show. Not designed for anyone who has a crowd phobia, though.

As usual, I'm doing my writer gig at the con. That involves sitting on panels, trying to sound intelligent and going crazy for about 20 hours per day. Sleep is optional. One of the really cool things is that I get to meet up with all sorts of friends from all over everywhere. Lots of catching up, besides working the con as a guest.

Doing the writer panels is always fun, though you never know who you're going to be paired with until the last moment. Flexibility is the key. Almost all of these folks are far higher on the writer food chain than I am, so I always learn something.

One of my favorite things is doing the booksignings. Unfortunately, this year they seemed to have not scheduled me for any so we're trying to work that out. Mercury is in Retrograde, of course, so I'm not surprised.

Hie thee hence to Dragon, dear bard!

More anon...

Friday, August 13, 2004

Possessed by the Muse

Well, the Muse has moved in full time and taken up residence in my already crowded brain. Muse has decided it is time to finish the current work-in-progress (WIP) which is a paranormal romance. No, it's not a bodice ripper. Sorry, don't write those. In fact, they're hard to find now-a-days. This one is set in contemporary L.A., including Skid Row in downtown L.A. and that's occasioned a lot of research. One of my characters is a homeless fellow with mental issues so I've had to read up on what it's like to trudge the streets of The Nickel as it's called, living out of trash cans. Given there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 44K homeless folks in a 50-block area, this isn't a minor problem. Wow. I had no idea.

I've been spending three hours a day at local coffee houses, wired into my ITunes and banging away on the keyboard. I usually go to Starbucks, but will try a new place today so I don't wear out my welcome at the other shop. I've been doing what NYT Best-Selling author Jennifer Crusie calls "the 'don't look down' draft." I'm dropping prose on computer screen as fast as I can and not thinking about Goals, Motivations, Conflicts, story arcs or any of that other stuff. In other words, just like I used to write until I started reading how to write and somewhat screwed myself up. I'll go back after I get through the first draft and clean up the mess. I believe Hemingway said the first draft is sh*t. He's right. But in the process the characters find their strengths and frailties and you discover plot twists you never considered.

Or not. It just depends. The key point is to write, even if its drivel. And that's what it is right now, including such notations as "find better word here" or "insert physical movement here that indicates heroine is stunned by hero's bright purple tie" or some such nonsense. When I'm writing for content, the words are thick and lush and the action dynamic. Right now I'm just throwing stuff at the page. Then you go back and edit the dickens out of it countless times.

In the end you have a book. That's how it works. Fanny in chair, hands on keyboard or wrapped around writing instrument of choice scribbling on notepad. It just doesn't happen any other way. Some days go really well and you're on an adrenalin high and others are so-so. Given the YoWH (Year of Writing Hell) I went through last year, I'm not complaining. At least the book is happening. Whether it turns out good enough to sell to someone is another matter entirely.

Pardon, must go, the Muse is tugging on my sleeve and whining in my ear. It's lot like a self-absorbed three-year-old on a sugar high. And we all know what those are like.

"90 percent of writing is getting out of your own way." -- Jennifer Crusie


Friday, August 06, 2004

Ignorance & Intolerance -- The Seeds of Destruction

Unfortunately, a friend of mine picked the wrong e-mail petition to forward to me. The gist of the e-mail was that we should boycott the Eid holiday stamp offered by the US Post Office because of the numerous murderous assaults on Americans by Muslims. (Eid is a Muslim holiday.) Apparently, the issuers of this e-mail didn't realize this stamp has been out for some time.

To assume that mainstream Islam has bloody hands just because of the deeds of some of their fundamentalist brethren is like blaming mainstream Christianity for the Crusades. Any time someone suggests boycotting an entire religion based on the deeds of a few, I get upset.

It appears that whoever sent the email didn't do their homework. If you've got an open mind, check out: ( -- a website that tells precisely what the celebration of EID is all about.

To quote the a portion of the site's contents:
"Each 'Eid is a Day of peace.

When a Muslim establishes peace within his heart by obeying the Law of Allah and leading a disciplinary life, he has certainly concluded a most invioble treaty of peace with Allah.

Once a person is at peace with Allah, he is at peace with himself and, consequently, with the rest of the universe.

So when he celebrates the 'Eid in the right manner, he is actually celebrating the conclusion of a Peace Treaty between himself and Allah, and this marks the 'Eid as a Day of Peace.

That is the proper meaning of an Islaamic 'Eid: a Day of Peace and Thanksgiving, a Day of forgiveness and moral victory, A Day of Good Harvest and remarkable Achievements, and a Day of Festive Remembrance. An Islaamic 'Eid is all this and is much more; because it is a Day Of ISLAAM, a Day of Allah."

When you look at the meaning of Eid, it could be suggested we all need to do the same in our lives, each in our own way and within our own particular religious tradition. Offering thanks to G*d, asking for forgiveness, giving alms to the poor and seeking peace are not unholy acts. On the contrary, they are the cornerstones of all of the major religions.

Now lest you think I'm all rosy eyed here, I'm not. I'm keenly aware that a certain number of fanatics would cheerfully cut my throat or blow me to bits because of my religion and my nationality. I think about it every time I fly in the US and overseas. I'm an American and a Jew. I'm a target. That's the reality. On the other hand, I refuse to demonize an entire religion because of a small band of murderous bastards who circumvent the laws of Islam to their own ends. I repudiate them just as I will repudiate those who murder in the name of Christianity or any other religion, Judaism included.

What we need to do is address those who would kill us, not the ones with whom we have no quarrel. Being ignorant is no excuse. Do your homework, understand why other people worship in different ways, why they act differently. It is the only way we're going to stay alive as a species.

If you insist on labeling everyone else the enemy, in the end you will stand alone.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

A Sea of Women

I knew I was in for it when I found the plane loaded with tons of woman; between the Romance Writers' Convention, a jewelry convention and a Mary Kay convention, Dallas was the place for guys who want to watch gals. Lots of us. I suspect there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 3600-5000 of us at the Adam's Mark. The Mary Kay folks were decked out in very colorful jackets (and, of course, their makeup was flawless.) The RWA folks were carrying bunches of books, muttering about GMCs (not a vehicle) and editor/agent spotting.

The hotel had a bit of a problem checking all of us in at once (about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, to be precise). Thank goodness for being a member of the GoldMark Club (Adam's Mark preferred guest program.) That helped. The room was very nice, the restaurant served good food and the company was excellent.

The charity booksigning raised $60k, half of which stays in the Dallas metro area. Lots of the big names were there (Nora Roberts, for one) and so there was a long line near her table. Given the NY Times Bestselling competition, I still managed to sell a few books. Readers were looking for fantasy. And I got to talk to a very cool British grandmother who pens erotica (Madeline Oh.)

Between reconnecting with friends from all over the country, attending panels and awards ceremonies (no, none of my books were up for an award as I didn't have one to submit) I also got to chat with Anna Genoese of Tor/Forge. She's editor of their new paranormal romance line which launches in November of this year. Anna's a neat lady with a wicked sense of humor and nifty tattoos. (Yes, I'm having tattoo envy. I've done about everything else I can to myself, but not a tattoo. I suspect there is one in my future.) Anna and I got to talk shop since I'm fighting through a paranormal manuscript at the present moment.

Getting home proved a bit difficult with the plane suffering a flat tire/a change of equipment and then a change of seating. Finally touched down in Atlanta at about 12:40 a.m. Wow. Made for a long day.

Another RWA Convention under my belt. I get to stay home for the month of August and then it starts to get crazy again. Hopefully, I can have the first draft of the book out by Dragon*Con (Labor Day weekend.) If not, soon after. It just requires nose to computer monitor, fingers on keyboard and not checking emails twenty-nine times a day.

Later folks --

Monday, July 26, 2004

If This is July, This Must be Durham

The weekend in Durham went very well. Trinic*Con is in its fifth year and they've pretty much worked out the majority of the bugs that plague conventions. The hotel was fabulous; friendly staff, good food, excellent layout. That's real unusual and I intend on writing a letter to the management letting them know how pleased I was. They supplied a buffet each night for $12.71 that included choice of entrees, drinks and some really good desserts. They gave you a three-hour window in which to eat which worked great if you had a tight panel schedule. Brilliant thinking on everyone's part.

The high point of the convention was the charity auction which, at last count, raised somewhere around $2200 for Adult Literacy. COOL! Alas, the little yellow rubber duckie with the fangs went for $48 or he would have joined the non-fanged one in our hot tub. The whole thing was a hoot.

I always enjoy the time to catch up with friends; Lee Martindale & hubby George, Stephe Pagel, Laura Underwood to name a few. Had the opportunity to meet Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (the Literary Guests of Honor) and we had many a merry conversation. And, as always, met lots of new folks who were neat to talk to. The 'Sex' panel Sat night took the high road and delivered quality content and viewpoints on one of the most fundamental drives of human society rather than veering toward the salacious. I enjoyed that.

Alas, my time at home is virtually nil as I fly out Wed for Dallas and the Romance Writers' annual convention. This one is more high brow but again, I get to see friends, attend interesting panels and have fun.

Later folks, the hot tub calls...



Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lessons Learned

Had a delightful time in Iowa visiting my mom-in-law on the occasion of her eighty-fifth birthday. This lady is tenacious. She's buried two husbands, one boyfriend and still keeps going. She's sharp as the proverbial tack and just keeps rolling with the punches. I'm hoping that I have that kind of grit when I'm her age. Really neat lady.

Next week I head off to NC for Trinic*Con, home for two days and then on a plane to Dallas for the RWA convention. The Romance Writer's of America annual convention brings in the big name romance authors, which isn't bodice rippers anymore for those of you who haven't picked up one in a few years. Romance now covers a vast sea of options from paranormal to historical to erotic (yup, the really steamy stuff) to inspirational/religious. The genre has really broken out into a ton of sub-genres. I tend to write paranormals and fantasy, but the current WIP (work in progress) doesn't have a lick of sex in it. Go figure. This from someone whose first book was littered with heavy-duty sex scenes and 'strong' language (as the Brits call it). The current book is more a paranormal murder mystery. There is sexual tension between a couple of the characters, but that's as far as it goes. Given I want this to be a series, that attraction will play out over the length of the books. And I can already see that Book II will be a lot darker and scarier.

And of course, if there is to BE a Book II, I'd best get back to the computer. So many verbs, so little time.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Democracy in Action

Well, Senator Kerry has nominated his running mate and now it's really going to get fast and furious. I admit to admiring our British cousins who truncate their elections to only a few weeks, rather than a couple of years. Pity we can't pull that off and then devote the remainder of the time (and money) to public works or building a better BLT.

I've run into a couple of instances recently where the word "Patriot" has been slung around, mostly used to indicate that the other person isn't patriotic because they are questioning something or other our government is doing. Some government types have gone so far as to say that if you question Washington, you're helping the terrorists. Interesting idea. Absolutely detrimental to the ideal of an open society, but interesting nonetheless. Being a student of history, I do believe I read similar comments during the 1940's in such 'free' states as Germany and Russia. Something to think about.

I think the best quote on the subject comes from the venerable Edward R. Murrow:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it. ."

Or to paraphrase another individual -- it is better for the government to fear its people than the people to fear their government.

Do your research on the candidates and vote. Who you vote for is on your conscience but staying home and ignoring the issue doesn't work. Not anymore.

Just like anything else, a democracy needs light, air and nourishment. If allowed to starve, it will turn into your worst nightmare.


Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Rejection 101

Well, it had to happen one of these days and it has. I've officially have been rejected by a gen-u-ine NY publisher. And no, I'm not going to invoke their name for reasons that will become apparent. It was fated to happen this way. Thirteen months ago I sent them my two fantasy novels along with a synopsis of each novel and a cover letter citing the awards I'd won, etc. I'd checked over their website and they were searching for fantasy with a strong heroine. My heroine, Morwyn, is exactly that. So off the books went.

I finally started thinking about them about nine months later. So I called and they couldn't find the books. I saw this as a hint from the Head Office (pointing upward at this moment) that this particular publisher wasn't supposed to have these books. Especially since I sent them via FedEx Ground and had a delivery confirmation. So I said, "Such things happen."

Well, they found finally the books the other day and after perusing the first twenty or so pages of the first book, sent them back with a very polite rejection letter. Am I upset? Hardly. I wrote those novels two and three years ago, respectively, and so they are no longer representative of my writing skills. I am light years ahead of that level now, even though they are good books. And if I had it to do all over, I wouldn't have submitted them to them in the first place. It's amazing how my perception has changed over the past year now that I better understand both my skills and how to weed through what publishers say they want and what they really mean.

The editor was very polite, suggesting I take writing courses and join a critique group (which I've already done). And that I should research other publishers and target my books toward where they might fit better (i.e. I have more in my books than just a heroine's journey). My books are classic fantasy. Not a good fit.

So now I'm official and I'm filing the letter away for someday when I have ten published books on the my shelves and I want to reminisce. It'll happen. It's just a matter of time. All I have to do is ... JUST KEEP WRITING.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

On Interviews & Dinosaurs

I survived the weekend of four hour-long interviews and they went very well. Whew! All of the authors were great to talk to and we discussed such diverse subjects as vampires, the differences/similarities between Diana, Princess of Wales & Princess Grace of Monaco, identity theft and ghost hunting. Yes, I did read all the books. Give me a few more years of this and I'm going be the person you want on your Trivial Pursuit team.

Courtesy of David English (one of Leisure Talk's hosts) I became familiar with Eric Garcia's writing, in particular his (wait for it) dinosaur P.I. series. Yup, a dino P.I. The book is Anonymous Rex and I have it on audio tape. I've been cuing up my IPod every spare moment to listen to the exploits of the poor(modern day)schmuck who is just trying to make a living, find out who killed his partner and keep his dino identity secret. Cool premise and Eric's writing is a kick. I suggest you check him out.

Doing the final edits on the first fifty pages of my book so I can enter it in a contest. I'm having to generate a synopsis, which means I have to guess what is going to happen for the remaining 300+ pages. Sigh. I think I've got it. The contest offers excellent feedback and that's what I need right now.

Starting to have an Anonymous Rex withdrawal, so I'd best go.


Friday, June 18, 2004

Drunken Frog in Blender

That's my latest sentiment, that I feel like a drunken frog in a blender. It's been hectic and July is only going to get worse. Between the radio station, the novel, the conventions, the classes I teach and all the other little irons in the fire, it's been amazingly busy.

The upside is that all of this is positive stuff. No ugly things like family issues or stuff like that. The station is attracting cool hosts, I'm getting to chat with really interesting guests (five of them this weekend!) and listenership is growing. All good stuff.

Meanwhile, back at the computer screen, the novel is screaming for attention. I'm trying to polish the first fifty-odd pages and create a dynamite synopsis by the 26th so I can enter it in a contest and receive some constructive feedback. I realized this one isn't a romance, per se. No hero. That's something new for me. The heroine still is a bit two-dimensional in my mind, but she's getting there. And just as I'd hoped, every time she thinks she'd gotten things figured out, the sand shifts beneath her feet. That's perfect.

Off to Starbucks to wire up for the day and then to lunch with a writer friend to brainstorm scenarios for her novel. Then home to jump back into the blender and push the "PUREE" button.

Later folks....

Monday, June 14, 2004

Con Lag 101

I am a con rat -- in other words, I attend a fair number of conventions. Most are of the science fiction/fantasy variety, some are of the romance writers type and others are in search of Jack the Ripper (yet another story.)

For those of you who travel via airplanes, you can readily appreciate what I experience post convention -- I call it 'con lag'. It has all the symptoms of jetlag. In other words, a brain that does not function, a body that feels seriously out of whack and the intense desire to curl up with a stuffed animal and sleep all day. Given all the energy I expend at a convention, I'm wasted afterwards. Hence I coined the term 'con lag' when I found it mirrored what I felt flying back from, let's say, England or Hong Kong, depending on the intensity of the convention.

After my first few convention experiences back in 1998, I learned how to mitigate 'con lag' as much as possible. Oddly enough, the remedy is roughly the same for the air variety. Lots of fluids, healthy foods, lots of sleep and an aversion to making important decisions. The less alcohol consumed during the convention, the better.

DreamCon's con lag has proved to be survivable, similiar to flying back from the West coast. It's not extremely pleasant, but that's the breaks. It doesn't rate like the serious three-day con lag I get from DragonCon. Dragon is a HUGE convention and I'm working from sunrise to midnight, doing panels, meeting/greeting, staying up and talking with friends I see once a year. After four straight days of that, I crash. And it's UGLY. Really ugly. Just like the jetlag you get when you fly home from Hong Kong. I've done both and they're equal.

So now it's time for yet another quart of water, a bubble in the hot tub and a good night's sleep. Tomorrow the brain will boot up and life will be better.

Til later....

Saturday, June 12, 2004

DreamCon 2004

Greetings from sunny Jacksonville, FL. I'm at DreamCon doing my author schtick and enjoying the convention, the venue and most of all --- the tall ships! The 2nd leg of the Tall Ships Challenge Race is here so that means there are barques, brigantines, schooners and ketches parked just outside our hotel. WOW. The U.S. Coast Guard's Barque Eagle is here, along with the Barque Tenacious from UK, a half scale two-masted pirate brigantine (Meka II) and lots of other fine ships from around the world. We had no idea this was going on until we got here. Tonight they're having a fireworks display (darn, it's right outside our window) so we'll just have to suffer along (grin). Alas, I did miss the Viking boat races this afternoon. That would have been cool.

DreamCon has been good. A typical first year con which means that some things go swimmingly and others not so swimmingly. Book sales have been brisk and I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with the likes of Erin Gray, Chase Masterson, P.N. Elrod, etc. Nice ladies.

Unfortunately, the fun ends tomorrow and it's back home to catch up on the work. However, I've begun to wonder if sailing is in my future!

Until later...

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Caffeine-Addicted Muse

Fabulously busy week with lots happening. The high point was three one-hour interviews yesterday on such diverse subjects as feng shui, how to teach someone to read and an intimate look at a writer's journey over three decades. I was seriously tired by last night. So I ate dinner, soaked in the hot tub, sent off a press release and went to bed. YAWN.

However, the week did afford me the opportunity to get more work done on my current book. Starbucks' coffee and atmosphere is the only way to fly. If I stay home, I see things to do. At Starbucks, I plug in my headphones so I don't have to listen to their music and I write. And write and write. Wired by caffeine (I usually only have one cup in the morning) I can go for three or more hours. The staff doesn't seem to care. They probably think I'm the next J.K. Rowling or something. Probably not. When the book is published (note the accent on the positive there) I'll hand out free books and autograph them for the staff and customers. It would be the least I could do to pay them back for watching me banging away at my keyboard for hours on end.

Now for you writers out there, lest you think what I'm writing during my Starbucks ventures is deathless prose... it isn't. It's seriously rough. I'm just putting it on paper and I'll go back later and make it sing, dance and play Peoria. I can write detailed scenes when the mood strikes, but right now isn't the time. Get it down on the paper, that's the plan.

One other note about Starbucks -- it seems that a number of the ladies who come into the one I frequent are babes... or in more modern parlance -- hotties. These ladies have it together. Makeup is perfect, clothes are perfect, you name it, it's perfect. So that makes me wonder if the guys who sit there on their computers for hours on end are there to work or there for eye candy. Hummm. Perhaps I should have bought stock in Starbucks long ago.

Happy week, people. I'll do updates from scenic Jacksonville, FL from my post at DreamCon.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Memorial Day, 2004

This Memorial Day held deeper significance for me than usual. The dedication of the WWII Memorial reminded me of my dad and how he'd be pleased they'd built such a thing. He wouldn't have gone to see it, but he would have been pleased. He'd always hoped to go back to Europe before he died. Unfortunately, he ran out of time. Left in his passing are some really nifty photos he took while he was near Luxemburg in an Artillery unit, just GI's hanging together in a foreign country near the end of the war.

The other reason is that picture of the military cargo plane full of flag-draped coffins that was on the front page of the papers a few weeks ago. It reminds me that we're losing people daily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every soldier's loss resonates throughout a family for decades. With every one we should be asking, "Is this worth it?" It's a question we have to answer, not our government, for ultimately we should BE the conscience of our elected officials.

And since I mentioned my father, one of the more poignant tales he told me about his war experience was about the Russian POW's. After the war ended, they were being marched back home after surviving the German POW camps. Someone asked one of them, through an interpreter, whether he was happy to be going home. He said no. He (and the others) feared what Stalin would do to them. That made no sense to the Americans. But the Russian's concerns proved valid when Stalin had the former prisoners of war locked up as traitors. The majority of them died in prison camps within their own country.

The lesson, I think, is that democracy is a tenuous thing. It can be as strong as steel but slowly be weakened over time even by the best intentions. Our job is to keep vigilant. To say someone is unpatriotic because he/she questions the motive and actions of our leaders is abhorrent. A democracy has to be open or it isn't a democracy. Often the open dialog creates rifts and brings unpleasant matters to the surface, but that's the way it has to be. A secretive government only works to its own benefit, not to that of its citizens. If allowed to run 'under the radar' for too long, you begin to fear your leaders, just like the Russians. For those who believe such a thing can't happen in America, history proves otherwise.

Everytime I think of those flag-draped coffins, I am reminded the cost of preserving a democracy -- it's damned high and getting higher every day.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Thou Shalt Not Read....

I have to admit to being a bit upset about this one -- I went to buy groceries today and before I made it into the store, I noted the bookstore next door. This is a combination new/used store and I've shopped there before. They've come under new management and though a bit more religious than the previous owners (as noted by their bookmarks) I really didn't care. I like to patronize indy bookstores so in I went on a hunt for Michael Connolly's latest.

It was the sign near the front door that stopped me in my tracks, the gist of which said that the store no longer carried Metaphysical or New Age books due to their devastating effect on readers. However, the store would be very happy to suggest books to help me with my personal relationship with God.

I read the notice... twice... to insure I got it right. And I left the store without making a purchase. As I shopped for my groceries, I fumed. And why, you ask?

Admittedly, an indy bookstore can carry whatever type of books they want. That is their right. What I found so astounding is that is they felt the need to censure what I might like to read, as if I was incapable of deciding if a book's content might "harm" me or not. Which begs the question -- are ideas harmful? Is reading about alternate religions or philosophy somehow dangerous?

I have a lithmus test I always apply to such situations. What would be the reaction if someone posted a sign that said they would no longer offer for sale any books related to Judaism or Christianity, citing their beliefs as detrimental? "However, we'd be pleased to offer books to assist with your personal relationship with (insert name of favored diety here)." I suspect an article or two might appear in the local paper over that one. Might even generate a few protesters in front of the store.

I debated and then discarded the notion of challenging the owners on their policy. If they are so inclined as to post such a notice, they're very unlikely to find my arguments persuasive.

In truth, I feel sorry for these folks. They have limited their spiritual and emotional growth by such a narrow-minded focus. Unfortunately, they're not the only ones in America who feel that other belief systems are somehow dangerous or subversive. All you have to do is look at the state of the world to see how such insular beliefs lead to war and genocide.

I'll be buying the latest Michael Connolly at Barnes & Noble. At least they won't tell me I can't read it.

Monday, May 24, 2004

A Letter from Iraq

I found the most exciting piece of mail in my box today -- a letter from some soldiers who are part of a Transportation Unit stationed in Southern Iraq. They're from the NY area originally.

As part of Operation RT ShoeBox (see URL below) I sent over a couple of packages of goodies about three weeks ago. Since these folks often can't get to a PX for a month or more at a time, personal supplies are pretty scarce. So I sent over a box of snacks (dried peaches/raisins), hand wipes, personal items of the feminine variety and anything else I could think these folks might like or miss. I sent books to another soldier who likes to read fantasy and a third box of goodies to another unit in care of their commanding offier. I figured they'd divy up the goodies and that's exactly what they did!

And lo, a letter! Wow! I urge anyone with any spare time (or a little extra cash) to send a letter/postcard/parcel over to let these fine men and women know they're in our hearts. We all listen to the evening news and know they need our support, no matter your take on the war. You only have to pay postage to NY and then the military takes it from there. Check out the Romantic Times website link below as they are restrictions as to what you can/cannot send.

I figure I'll drop a letter back (which will arrive faster - seems about 9 days or so) and then put together another couple of parcels with more goodies. I can only imagine what it's like to find a box with your name on it during mail call. Just like Christmas or Hanukkah.

At least we learned that lesson from Viet Nam -- don't blame the soldiers. They're only doing their duty.

May Peace Reign... (SOON!)


Operation RT Shoebox (

Another Week? So soon?

Is it morning already? Wow, what a weekend. First it was the all-day event at Georgia Writers and then it yesterday was full of two radio interviews and the scramble to get the new show on board. Sigh... I did manage to write a few lines of drivel last night before I went to bed. Actually, I didn't fall asleep immediately, I read more of Laurell K. Hamilton's Bloody Bones. Probably not the best stuff to read right before you go to bed, but I like the interplay between the various species, as it were: vampires, werewolves and a necromancer. Wow. What is it about vampires that fascinate us so much? That I'll have to ponder on.

My reward for the hectic weekend is a massage today (1-1/2 hours worth!) I can't wait. But until that magical hour, there are press releases to release, files to edit and web pages to update.

At least I can't say I'm bored.

Be well out there!

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Technology & Georgia Writers

Technology seduces me again!

With another deep sigh, I accept that technology keeps marching forward and I'll be left in the dust if I don't keep up. Courtesy of poetic friend, Collin Kelley, ( I have joined the world of blogging.

Spent the day at the Georgia Writer's Spring Festival communing with other authors, poets and the like and learning lots of nifty things. My workshop went over well (no rotten tomatoes, which is always a good sign) and I even sold a few books. YES!

But now it's back to the grind as I have two interviews tomorrow (Galina Golant & Dr. Ravay Snow-Renner -- both children's authors) and need to edit other interviews already 'in the can'. Ah, the joys of Internet radio (

Yawn... is it hot tub time yet?