Monday, December 29, 2008

A History Junkie

I admit a certain fascination...obsession with history. It fascinates me because I see so many parallels with our era. Very little changes in human nature. I've been merrily immersed in 1880's English history for over six years now. The result is a series primarily set in that time period. Recently another era/place caught my fancy: Chicago in the late 1890's and early 1900's. Just as raw and earthy as London in the same period, Chicago had a certain energy to it. Still does.

This interest in Chicago will hopefully give birth to a couple of books. One will be set at Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (a future Time Rovers book).
Others have tread this way before me and done well by the subject. I also intend to pen a story set in 1902 Chicago, something paranormal me thinks.

So it is like hitting the lottery when I found a
CD on Ebay that held thirty-three vintage books about Chicago ranging from the 1876 to 1922. GOLDMINE! Wow. The books have as many as 800 pages in some of them and often include advertisements of the era. Did I mention this a GOLDMINE for a historical author? It saves buying countless old tomes and finding bookshelf for them. Perfect.

It is only a matter of time before I'll be penning a non-fiction account of some person or event. I've been lured that way by the best:
Erik Larson (Devil in the White City) and Karen Abbott (Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle For America's Soul). As I see it, all this research experience is leading that way and I might as well not fight the undertow. When I finally figure out what the subject might be, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, this CD is a pleasant way to start the New Year -- old books to read and mysteries to discover. Wow, do I have a great life or what?

Friday, December 26, 2008

To Gray or Not to Gray

Aging gracefully is for the birds. I consider aging a full contact sport requiring a lot of fortitude and an equal amount of attitude. I don't fear it, I'm just not going to let it roll over me.

However, I did decide after my latest birthday to give in just a little in the matter of my hair color. My natural color was brown. I was nearly blonde as a kid, then it got darker and more medium brown. Then darker brown just about the time I started turning gray (age 40). In 2000 I went red. I was tired of brown and red sounded exciting. They got the slogan wrong: it's redheads who have more fun. Redheads can be sassy and no one is surprised. We're not considered dumb, but intelligent and "brassy". So I hung with the "reds" for over eight years, but every time I colored my hair there was more salt and pepper to be covered. Some folks are blessed with that cool silvery gray (like my hubby). You've seen them. I especially admire ladies with that thick silver hair. Mine's not thick, but it is silvery, so this last time to the hair stylist I gave him the word: we're growing out the gray (or grey if you're British). He was surprised, but agreed there were certain things we could do to mitigate the suckiness of the grow out period of approximately one year or so.

So he put in some honey gold auburn highlights to take the color out of the part of the hair that has been dyed and gave me a wonderful cut. And now we grow. It looks kinda funky with the now muted lighter sections of hair and the gray/black growout, but so far it doesn't look like I've spaced off a trip to the salon. It will eventually. My dear stylist said it wasn't usual for a woman to ask to go gray. Most are very keen to cover up the passage of time. But that's my mantra: be unique.

In about a year the gray/black combo will be completely revealed and I'll have to change makeup yet again to accommodate. I have no doubt it'll look great. So I leave the red haircoloring I'm not using to those out there who do (you know who you are!) Red on, ladies!

P.S. This whole thing must be working as the cashier at Fuddruckers gave hubby and I the Senior Discount the other day and neither of us asked. Where I'm tickled to save the two bucks, somehow it's sorta painful to know it was offered in the first place. Had to be because of hubby. Yeah, that's it.

Yet another Postscript: Today is hubby's birthday. We spent it plowing around the mall, picking up some amazing bargains and then a wonderful dinner at P.F. Chang's. Then some video time with our Netflix addiction augmented by his very own Naked Newt wine. He pronounced the day a success. My job is done.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The verdict is in: my latest book, MADMAN'S DANCE, made the grade. The previous two books each earned a 4-1/2 Star Top Pick from Romantic Times BOOKreviews and the third has not shirked its duty. I was so hoping I'd see all three receive this top honor and it has come to fruition.

If not for my editor, Adrienne deNoyelles, who works these books over like bread dough I wouldn't have received this score. Ditto with my beta readers -- Ally Reineke and Nanette Littlestone. They both gave me very valuable input as to what worked and what didn't. Luckily I pay attention.

It's grand way to cap off a year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let No Man Put Asunder

When I was growing up there were two ladies who lived behind us. I remember my mom talking to them while we weeded the flower garden. Both were nurses. Years later my parents told me they were lesbians. I had no clue as a kid. I just knew they were nice ladies. It was my first exposure to a relationship that wasn't "traditional" and it was a positive one.

Earlier this year I wrote about a couple of gents I met on the van heading to San Francisco airport. They'd come to California (from NY) to get married. I celebrated their joy because it was clear they were very much in love. Why shouldn't someone else enjoy the same kind of happiness I've found? Well, it seems there are those who would take that happiness away.

In November Proposition 8 passed in California defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. We have the same idiocy here in Georgia. But now the Prop 8 supporters are going one better: they want to nullify all the legal marriages conducted earlier this year before Prop 8 passed. Yup, they want to render those unions null and void.

Now that spooks me. Who has the right to tell me or any one of my fellow citizens that we are no longer legally wed? Those two gents I met jumped through all the hoops, flew all the way to CA to acknowledge before G*d and their fellow humans that they were willing to spend their lives together. And now the Prop 8 folks want to throw that commitment into the trash? It's tantamount to saying, "Yeah, you're third class citizens right behind the immigrants and the Muslims. Life with it. Or better yet, go straight."

WTH? Legally this is on shaky ground. Reversing marriages that were legal at the time sets an ugly precedent. Imagine someone announcing to you that that you're no longer married because someone decided it wasn't kosher after the fact?

In a few decades we'll look back at this mess and be embarrassed. This is much like those laws in the 1950's that wouldn't have allowed our president-elect's parents to be married because they were of different races. Gay and lesbians are our neighbors, our fellow citizens. They work, they pay taxes, they want the same things we want: love and respect. If their co-habitation is a sin, that's for G*d to sort out, not the rest of us.

I have long advocated that marriage should have absolutely nothing to do with the state. Marriage should be a religious entity. The states should provide a civil union ceremony. If the couple wish to take the commitment to the next step, then they marry in their church, synagogue or other religious institution. This "protect the sanctity of marriage" crap is just that. Homosexuals don't threaten my marriage. If anything, when I see their willingness to stay together through all life throws at them, it only reaffirms my own union.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why Receipts are Like a Time Machine

What, you say? What do receipts have in common with traveling through the 4th dimension? They remind you of times past. Having done some work on my downstairs office (got a new desk!) and finished the arrangement of my various computers, I'm tapping in the business receipts for this last year while keeping an eye on the stock market. I'm usually a lot better at keeping the receipts up to date, but not this go around. That being said, I'm determined that I'll have the business finances ready for the husband to input into the taxes BEFORE the end of the year. Yeah, I'm dreamin' but at least I'll not be doing them on April 12th or so.

But back to the premise: receipts are like a time machine. I pick up one from the Palamino in Calgary. No, this isn't a strip club, but an awesome restaurant that had some of the most incredible ribs I've ever eaten. Jean Marie Ward and I savored their offerings the night I arrived. Just reading the receipt brings back that moment. Ditto with my three trips to Denver's Corner Bakery for their Berry Almond Swiss Oatmeal. I remember sitting in the back of the restaurant, enjoying my breakfast (any breakfast that costs $6.79 is a blessing) and trying to hack into their website using my iPhone. Finally figured it out. All the while folks from World Fantasy came and went as I enjoyed my moments of solitude.

Receipts from The Rialto Cafe resurrect my conversations with Tony Ruggiero & his lady, Mary. Great couple to hang with. Smart, witty and fun. The receipt helps me remember those times.

Then there's the bill from The Mosser in San Francisco. After my roomie departed, I moved across the street from the Marriott ($225/noc) to The Mosser ($109). It's a boutique hotel built after the great earthquake. Very nifty and clean place. I knew there wasn't a toilet in the room, which was fine by me. I did have a sink and a bed and that's about it. Whenever I travel to Europe I always ask if there is a desk in the room so I can do my writing thing. I failed to do so with this hotel. No desk. A tiny nightstand. The room, tops, was about 10 x 12. I was in the middle of heavy duty, gotta get this stuff done sort of editing and no desk. I talked to the nice people downstairs -- no desks in any of the rooms and they didn't have a library. I was free, however, to use the lobby if I wanted. I passed on that.

I improvised (see above). Necessity is a mother so I pulled out the ironing board, set it up and did my thing.To the left is the door. The seat in front of the ironing board is a stool with a pillow on it. It is butted up against the edge of the bed. Yeah, this room was small. But it worked. On Day #2 I decamped to nearby sandwich shop that had wi-fi and great food. Spent most of the day there eating, editing and using their facilities as needed. Authors write no matter the situation. It's just what he have to do.

So you as seen, receipts help me reconstruct those moments from earlier this year and savor them once again. Who says doing the finances is boring? For me, it's a vacation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Hot Button

Okay, fair warning. This is a hot button with me. A big one. For many years I took birth control pills for two reasons -- not wanting offspring (because I knew I wasn't going to be the kind of mother any kid would want) and for a medical condition (adenomyosis) which is second cousin to endrometrosis. Never once did I ever worry that my pharmacist or my physician would deny me adequate care. Why do I mention this? Recently Mr. Bush has instituted a last minute change that allows pharmacists, doctors, etal. to refuse to supply medications and treatments if they are contrary to the provider's religious beliefs. This will allow a pharmacist to refuse to honor your prescription for contraceptives, emergency or otherwise, and for doctors and nurses to refuse to assist with medical procedures that they deem unacceptable. Now this problem has been growing for years, but now our departing president has made it nationwide.

I was a nurse for about ten years. I would never have thought of telling a patient I would not treat them because of my religious beliefs. It would be the same as informing an African-American or a Native American that I wouldn't treat them because they weren't white. I've taken care of patients who were physically combative, drunk or high on lord knows what. I've been explosed to countless diseases, including those that could have easily killed me. Part of the job. I knew that going in.

So when did it become "me first, then the patient?" You may be against contraception, abortion, etc. I have no objections about that. Still, your beliefs should not become my problem if I'm trying to have a prescription filled while trying to obtain emergency contraception after rape or to prevent another pregnancy. To be blunt, it's none of your damned business.

If this change had occured a few years back, I might have been the one facing a pharmacist who refused to serve me or, worse yet, confiscate my prescription. He or she would be making the decision that I should get pregnant or continue to suffer from my medical condition. WTH? This has gone overboard.
I respect your beliefs right up to the point when they infringe on my medical care. If you don't honestly feel you can offer full service to your customers or your patients, get the hell out of the business. (I did mention this was a hot button, right?)

Mr. Obama will overturn this, but that can take months before the changes come into effect. In the meantime people will be playing G*d with other folks' lives. Making decisions as to their care that they are not qualified to make. Since I no longer have the equipment needed for this sort of medication I will not see the day when someone refuses me care. It's probably best. It would have gotten way ugly. Years ago,
when I first became a nurse, I would have laughed at anyone who told me this would come to pass. How wrong I was.

Thanks. I needed that.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Of Viruses

Viruses. Ya gotta love 'em. At least the ones that infect humans. Human viruses are incredibly adaptable critters and I find that fascinating. I'm the kind of person who aced Microbiology in college, okay? My fascination is waning what with my SECOND cold in one month. I was making progress toward full recovery when I got hit again. Now I'm a tidy person. I wash my hands, do all the things one needs to do to miss being infected. Old nursing habits die hard, you see. But I got nailed. Sigh. On the plus side, the hubby is finally getting better after four weeks of coughing at all hours. I am progressing on Cold #2. This all will pass.

And now for the other kind of virus: the computer kind. My main Dell laptop felt sorry for us sick humans and so it decided to download its own virus just to keep us company. Lovely. I run virus software. It quarantined the critter. After it did the damage. Groan. At this moment my husband is on the phone to Norton and their wizards are removing the virus and getting the machine back to functioning (hopefully!). Then they're going to install their virus software on my computer to replace the other competitor's brand.

Which leads to a new form of Jana defense against these assaults. I have long chuckled at the antics of some of my fellow writers who have two computers: one for surfing and email and the other for writing and personal business. Computer A is connected to the Internet (natch). Computer B is not. Ever. I thought that overly paranoid. Nevertheless, if the virus I had downloaded had been the one that turned my computer to a pile of liquid goo, I'd have been devastated at the loss of my research materials (think hundreds of links to cool sites, photos, you name it.) Luckily it was one of the "let's hijack your computer and send your to websites you didn't intend to visit" sort while using the computer for their evil purposes. A plague on your houses! Every one. Get a real job, will you?>

In future my new Dell Mini 9 will handle the email, the surfing. Its bigger Dell cousin will be for writing, finances, etc. and shall be free of contact with the outside world. A recluse. I can transfer files back and forth via the network, after a proper scan. Should a virus attack the Mini, it's not going to take out a big body of my work. And I promise to do more backups. I'm nuts about backing up my writing, but lax about backing up the other important stuff. Nevermore! (quoth the raven).

So that is my New Year's Resolution. Along with the fact that one of these days I'm going to write one of these malware fools into a book and kill them in a most gruesome fashion. Then resurrect them and do it all over again!

The final post about the Chicago trip is forthcoming once I can get back on the main computer. So those of you waiting for closure will have it.

UPDATE: The nice fellow at Norton found the bits o'virus and removed them. It took about an hour and a half, but he was also working with other folks. Yes, he was most likely in India, but we didn't care. He knew exactly where to go to remove this stuff. It had tucked one of its files away in the Drivers file. Amazing. We'd already followed the directions from our previous virus software and tried to track down the bad thing ourselves. No go, even though my husband is an Uber Geek. The upshot is that the bigger Dell is now live and living a hermit-life existence free of I'net contamination.

For those of you who are amateur geeks, I'll share something we did over the weekend lest it be of interest. So that I can flip back and forth between the two machines, we installed something called a KVM switch. What this critter does is allow you to use your keyboard, mouse and monitor for both computers. With a quick tap of a keyboard (two taps actually) you can toggle back and forth between them. Cool. It cost $39.95 (Iogear - item # GCS632U) and I got it at Fry's. So I am now officially set up to work off the Mini for "Accessing the Real World" and the bigger Dell for my work computer. I plink back and forth as I need.

In some ways I owe the *#@$&@#$ who hacked my computer a thanks. He/she/it won't get one.