Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As Gawd is Mah Witness...

...Ah'll Nevah Hoahd Agin!

I thought I had stuff. And yes, I have serious plans to sort through it all and make it a manageable mess. But this past weekend I traveled to the mountains of NC along with my sister, bro-in-law and nephew, to pack and move my parents.

You see, in early October my father once again came down with pneumonia, only this time it was Really Serious. (Perhaps with extra added stroke. I've never gotten anyone to say yea or nay about that.) He wound up in a horrible rehab facility for about a month (where he unfortunately had direct access to a phone, which he used to call the cops and others whenever he had too much time to imagine my mother being lost or in similar trouble). He finally came home—we breathed a sigh of relief—and a few days later my mother tripped on the rug, breaking her tailbone and ultimately winding up in a very nice rehab place where we could rarely get hold of her or vice versa.

This has taught us about the tremendous value of disability insurance, home health care, and places like Home Helpers, reputable companies that can send people out to do laundry, get groceries, clean, provide chauffeur services, etc etc. But that wouldn't be enough.

My parents were in their second retirement community. They'd chosen this one because my dad had been concerned that my mother had Alzheimer's (we don't think he's been tested, but it's pretty obvious he has serious mental issues of his own), and the new place not only had independent living, but an assisted living complex to be used when needed. Unfortunately, that place has a long waiting line and my parents needed assisted living NOW.

It didn't help that they're a minimum of 5 hours from us. (I think my sister is 8 hours away.) Though my dad is now (sometimes) saying that we've forced this decision on them, he was the one who convinced my mom that they needed to move out near my sister, an area they lived in for a few years in the 90s. That way they'd get to see her and her family, including M&D's great-grandkids.

We gave their retirement community immediate notice (90 days required! So they'll lose a bucket of bucks on the deal) and decided on the weekend before Thanksgiving to move 'em out. Since both M&D have zero energy, we told them they could sit and point at what went in which box. Dad didn't even have the wherewithal to do that, and we didn't spring Mom from her clinic until everything had been boxed up.

We lucked out visiting the rehab place one night. Dad was confused about his meds. Did he need oxygen? He didn't have any at the house. What about Mom? Sunday night at about 8:30 we were leaving when a dignified gentleman walked past us. My sister and I looked at each other. Could that be Dr. Abs, Mom & Dad's doctor? At this time of night? On a weekend? We turned around and chased him down. Sure enough it was him, come to check on Mom. He sat down with us and clarified a bunch of stuff, including arranging a final blood-oxygen check for my father. Whew! On Monday we were able to run around town and get the final medical crap we needed to bring along.

Dad didn't want to come inside to confer with him. Instead he pouted outside in the SUV and complained that it was too cold (he had the key and could turn on the heater) and that we'd taken too much time with Dr. Abs. The day we took Mom home he sat in the hallway and bellowed, "Come on! Come on!" as Mom's roomie for 3 weeks said a sweet goodbye to her. My sister elbowed Dad in the back and eventually he shut up for a while. He had to hit the restroom on the way out and as soon as the door closed, Mom turned to my sister and said of the coming ride to Tennessee, "It's going to be a long trip."

Dad has never been the most pleasant of people, but nowadays... Let's just say that while I was ferrying him around last Friday, I stopped the car twice and told him to get out. Each threat calmed him down for a few minutes. My nephew did the same thing (just once though). It didn't help that Dad kept giving us incorrect driving directions—and then got furious when we finally stopped listening to him and went by the directions we were pretty sure of.

But GOOD LORD!!!! The CRAP they had! If only the cleaning supplies: 10,000 cans of Comet cleanser, acres of laundry detergent... Books they hadn't looked at in 50 years, paperwork from the Sixties on up, furniture enough to fill a house twice the size, and all of Dad's clothing. (He's a real clothes horse.)

The transition place they'll be moving to is one room, I think. From there they'll be able to look around to see what will suit them and will likely wind up at a one-bedroom place with living room, bathroom, and maybe a kitchenette.

My bro-in-law rented a really good-sized rental truck, figuring that there'd be enough for about 2/3 of it. Need I say: every square inch was filled, plus a very large pickup and SUV. We left a few pieces of furniture and a small room's worth of cleaning supplies behind.

That smell that permeated the house was the rotten food in the fridge. At first when we were looking at all the food in the pantry, freezers, fridge, cabinets, garage, etc., we called a charity place who said they could pick it up Monday if we gave them another call. My sister suggested that my nephew might like to take some of the canned goods back home. I counseled: Check the expiration dates. (I've been burned before at M&D's.) Sure enough , the first cabinet he ran into was filled with items that had expired circa 2005.

My dad thinks expiration dates are marketing gimmicks that don't mean anything.

So the food went into the trash or stayed where it is. M&D still had a month and a half left on their lease, which includes maid service. We're letting them clean the joint up.

But after all the strained backs, aching knees and shoulders, blistered feet & etc, the lesson I took away with me was:

Having others pack your stuff can be intensely personal and embarrassing. Having someone else pack decades worth of ABSOLUTE CRAP that you've hoarded for whatever reason: because you thought you'd collect something, or because you just didn't get around to tossing it into the dump, is infinitely worse.

Therefore, as soon as the carpenter and painters clear out from the front third of MY house, which is being remodeled (eta on Phase 1: Dec 2!!!!), this reformed hoarder is going to go into Advanced Decluttering Mode. No, I'm not going to attempt a four-day marathon or hire people to help me. I figure three or four months should do a great job of clearing out the detritus, leaving a space that can be organized and clean in order to function better as studio, office, etc.

Of course none of YOU out there reading this have any kind of mess in your place. No collections getting out of hand, no places that you fear to tread because something might fall on you. Or do you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Art of the Carolinas 2011

Many of you know that one of the highlights of my year is to attend Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh. I've learned to get a hotel room so as to avoid driving on I-40 after dark (and usually at rush hour), and to have an excuse to get room service for breakfast.

I stumbled onto AotC in its very first year when I was driving aimlessly through Durham because I was bored one weekend. Now, I NEVER drive aimlessly. This was a first for me. The radio station I was listening to was doing a remote from this event called "Art of the Carolinas," and it was being held in Research Triangle Park. Gee, that was just a few minutes away. I drove over and was astounded by the event having a workshop in which famed watercolorist Tom Lynch was teaching. (As I hadn't signed up, I couldn't get in, and so just attended the trade show.)

The next year I was prepared, and signed up for a Lynch workshop. AotC holds four days worth of 3-hour and 6-hour workshops, along with having a trade floor full of the latest and greatest art supplies, ably demonstrated by renowned arteests.

One year I think I took three solid days of workshops, 8 AM - 8 PM. I swore I'd never do that again. I value my sanity!

Having gone through a gamut of subject matter over the years, this year I decided to hit two versions of flower painting technique. I started with James Sulkowski's "Dynamic Action and Design in Floral Painting." Here was a realistic approach to the subject, with a concentration in really playing up a focal target in the picture and toning everything else down. That's my painting at the top of this blog.

I finished it in 4 1/2 hours. My brain halted after telling me, "It's done." Artistic neurons refused to fire. But class was 6 hours long. I bowed to the inevitable and snuck out. (A neat trick considering I'd lugged about a hundred pounds of supplies into class in three different bags, plus easel.) The neurons were in cahoots with my feet and back, I think. If I could have sat down for a while I might have been able to drum up some artistic energy. But certain folks (dark look their way!) confiscated the few remaining "extra" chairs for their art supplies. The nearest place to set one's butt was in the hotel lobby. Buh bye!

Out in the COLD parking lot, Dan "the Art Man" Nelson was painting one of his huge, gorgeous landscapes. I asked him why he didn't do Facebook videos (real time, start to finish) any more, and he said he was doing stuff on YouTube and I should stop by there. Here's a good start. Or try this one.

First thing the next day I took a Bob Burridge course: "Abstract Florals from Loose, Colorful Spatter." Now, you may know Bob (above) (someday I've got to read the instruction manual for my newest camera, as it began to go crazy about now) from his great newsletter, the Artsy-Fartsy News. I haven't decided whether Bob is more artist or showman, but he certainly knows how to run a lively class! He eschews the realistic look with its use of tiny, exacting brushes. He said that seeing Manet's later florals made him cry in public and change his art completely. Must remember to look those florals up! Bob says that an artist must demonstrate that they have "fire in the belly" and aren't just copying nature mechanically.

At any rate, this is one of the paintings I did in his class, utilizing the spattering/general mooshing-about of paint, followed by opaque negative painting:

Bob says that a painting is never finished. Oh, is that why I never know when it's done? He says the trick is to stop at an interesting point. This point is usually at the 90% mark. He also claims that he's going to make his huge art award (CT WC society? Somewhere up there) into a rodeo belt buckle so he can show it off to all the artists he meets and give himself more credibility. Uh huh.

Let's see. Next was Joe DiGiulio, whose classes I've also taken before (like Bob). (Joe's wife, Sharon, runs AotC. I often spotted her over the weekend. Her eyes were spinning and she looked like she was about to collapse, but things seemed to be going quite smoothly.) This time I was coming through to learn how to make series of abstracts, since everyone says you're supposed to paint in series in order to get galleries to notice you. Joe says that abstracts are made up of line, shape, color, and texture. But when you do them in a series they get a fifth quality: context.

He began his demo by pausing his brush above the canvases and saying, "I have no idea what I'm doing here." A woman in the audience quipped, "Then why are we paying you money for this?" Ah, we were off! We had terrifying fun.

And as usual when I get into an abstract class with no idea of how to begin, I turn to Wonder Woman. Here's the Wondie triptych I did:

Last but not least I got to SIT DOWN for 3 hours (my feet and back were KILLING ME!!!!!!) to attend a workshop on printing giclées. "Giclée" is a fancy French term for "ink jet print." Now, the ink is supposed to be as permanent as possible (they make great stuff these days at reasonable prices), and the paper should be archival. This particular workshop was sponsored by one paper company who had the testing results to back up their claim that they were best in the world. (Canson brand "Infinity" paper, which comes in all kinds of different types, including a watercolor paper that, after being fixed after printing, you can paint on). Noted painter Dick Ensing ran this class, and if I could suggest something, it'd be that he have a projector so everyone could see what the HECK he was doing with his Photoshop print commands. He could also stand to speak up a bit. And frankly, it didn't look to me like his monitor was color-corrected, but it might have been the angle I was looking at it.

He did color corrections a LOT differently than I do. Then again, he sells a SLEW of prints every month, so who am I to question?

One lady in the class persisted in calling giclées "zhiglays," and a gentleman said something along the lines of "zheegloiz." It's "zhee-klayz." And "Arches" paper is "arsh," as long as we're correcting everyone's French accent. We all kept saying, "arrrrrsh" and getting a big kick because it was late and we were getting silly.

Anyway, that Epson printer moves close to the top of my "must buy" list. Just as soon as the Brad Pitt/packing supply/comic book/frame storage guest room gets cleaned out, I'll have a nice space for it.

So if you're an artist and want to learn more from quality teachers (there were gawd-awful ones at AotC as well, but over the years I've learned who is who), check around to see if you don't have an event like AotC in your area. If not, come to NC next year two weeks before Thanksgiving and join the crowd! Give me a buzz and we'll go next door to Bahama Breeze for dinner one night (drool!) and compare notes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tina Donahue: Double the Pleasure…


Sweep all that trash around you into the nearest closet, close the door (if you can) and double-check your mirror; today we have a guest! Please welcome award-winning author Tina Donahue. Now—turn up the heat!
—Carol Strick


Not certain whether you’re in the mood for a steamy contemporary or a smoking hot paranormal? Well, I have the solution for you.

Much to my surprise, two of my erotic romances—contracted with different publishers—are both coming out this month! This is a first for me, and I’m celebrating by offering a contest. More on that later.

These two releases couldn’t be more different. One is an erotic contemporary ménage – my first ménage, in fact. Wow, was it fun to write. My other release is an erotic paranormal, which is the second in my Outlawed Realm Series (yet another first, me writing a series). Both have lusty sex scenes and Alpha heroes to die for. The kind of guys I’d like to have in my bed. Here’s the cover art, blurb and buy link (with excerpt) for each. ☺

SiNN—contemporary erotic romance (ménage) from Ellora’s cave—releasing October 14

She’s every man’s carnal fantasy…and the target of one’s revenge

At a Phoenix gentleman’s club, Lea dances as SiNN, her body bared and vulnerable to her male partner, her features hidden behind a feathered mask. To the men watching, she’s a sensual enigma, submissive and seductive with no face, name or history. Not even Lea knows her real origins.

A man from the past does and wants her dead.

Not on the watch of U.S. Marshals Jake Gabriel and Toby Quinn. Commanding and decisive, Jake not only wants Lea’s safety but to have her naked and yielding beneath him. To Toby, she’s all he should resist but cannot.

Protected by them at a secluded estate, Lea’s drawn to their potent masculinity and the raw male lust in their eyes. Inviting desire and an emotional connection, she submits to both at once, surrendering to their most shameless hunger along with her own wanton needs.

All while a killer edges closer…

Buy link (with excerpt)

UNENDING DESIRE—erotic paranormal romance from Samhain—coming October 18

His hunger for one woman will make him a traitor to his world…

Outlawed Realm, Book 1

From a portal in his lab on E2, one of the five dimensions of Earth, quantum physicist Nikoli Zorr gazes on everything forbidden to him. Passion. Desire. The exquisite pleasure of running his hands over the lush curves of a young woman he should have stopped watching weeks ago.

His duty is to close the portals that keep the monsters out of E2—and never interfere with the inevitable fate of those on the other side. Yet he can’t bring himself to abandon the woman who has captured his soul.

Psychologist Regina Page is trying to keep her mind on her client, and off the mysterious, unbearable sexual cravings that consume her when she’s alone in her bedroom. The next moment she’s attacked by vampires, then swept into another realm by a stranger whose touch awakens that same raw desire. Whose eyes are already filled with farewell.

Yet beneath their undeniable carnal lust, something else stirs. The beginnings of illicit love. The unexpected need to protect him. Even if it means risking body, blood and soul to defeat the merciless horde…for a future that was never meant to be.

Product Warnings

Contains a repressed scientist who likes to look, and the woman who delights in unleashing his inner caveman. And sex hot enough to burn a hole in all three dimensions…and maybe create a whole new one.

Buy Link (with excerpt)

Tina Donahue is an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing and Kensington. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work; she has reached finals and/or placed in numerous RWA–sponsored contests. Three of her erotic novels were named finalists in the 2011 EPIC competition. Sensual Stranger, her erotic romance, was chosen Book of the Year 2010 (erotic category) at the French review site, Blue Moon reviews. The Golden Nib Award at Miz Love Loves Books was created specifically for her erotic romance Lush Velvet Nights; and Deep, Dark, Delicious (erotic romance) recently received an Award of Merit in the RWA Holt Medallion competition (2011). She was the editor of an award–winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.

Email: tina@tinadonahue.com
Website/blog: www.tinadonahue.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tinadonahue
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000458023097

*** CONTEST ***

To celebrate the upcoming release of SiNN and Unending Desire, I’m offering a contest. One lucky commenter on this blog will have her choice of one of my following ebooks**:

1. Adored—RWA award-winning; EPIC 2011 Finalist; 4 Stars RT
2. Deep, Dark, Delicious—EPIC 2011 Finalist; Holt Medallion Award of Merit
3. Lush Velvet Nights—EPIC 2011 Finalist; Golden Nib Award
4. In His Arms—SIX 5 Star Reviews; 4 Stars RT
5. Sensual Stranger—2010 Book of the Year (erotic); 4 Stars RT
6. The Yearning—Top Ten Bestseller
7. Take Me Away—#1 Pick, Miz Love Loves Books

** Winner chosen at random. Winner chosen October 15.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sand in my shoes (and ears) (and camera)

Cross Wilmington, NC off my list of possible retirement spots. The place is pretty great, but the shore ain't got no rocks.

Imho, a fabulous shoreline includes rocks and maybe some cliffs outlining a bay. Wilmington? One tour guide said that the only rocks in the city have come from ships' ballasts that were dumped in the Cape Fear River and retrieved via lots of mule labor.

I told myself I was going out to Wrightsville Beach for a few days just to relax. I managed that but I also managed to take about 275 photos, hoping to get the basis for a number of paintings. The forecast looked semi-okay, with sun the first day, partially cloudy (10% chance of rain) the second, and storms starting somewhere around late morning of the third day, when I'd be heading back home. I found myself gathering the hood of my raincoat closer as I marched through that drippy "10%" most of day #2. As I was packing the car to go home, I had to hang on to it in fear of being blown away by what wasn't quite a tropical depression passing through.

I was looking for quaint fishing boats lolling about, moored picturesquely against an ancient dock. Didn't see any of those, though I saw a lot of modern white yachts hiked up above the waterline in various marinas.

Still, I got lots of textural stuff that looks great on film (and hopefully, canvas). I want to do a series of abstracted sea foam patterns. That should look good on America's living room walls! I also got some lovely wave shots, as the surf crashed HARD even before the storm appeared. My hotel, the Blockade Runner, was located about a mile from the famous Johnny Mercer Pier. The morning news said that usually the surf breaks at the end of the pier. Yesterday it was breaking halfway up and by this morning's high tide, it was breaking almost at the land end!

This is for Mart, whose Facebook shots are always at a Batman-esque angle. Must be something about the gravity over there in Scotland...

Halfway down to the pier I determined that that "krkk, krsh" sound I could faintly hear above the roaring surf and wind was my camera lens extending. Sand must have gotten into it. The next day, shooting pictures in the rain, the sound went away. Whew!

The day before I left for vacation, our writers' group had had an all-day workshop, followed by a booksigning (I sold 3 books!!!). As I chowed down afterward on a little more Mexican than I usually order at dinner, I excused myself by saying it was okay; I'd walk ten miles the next day. I didn't know I wasn't lying!!!

Well, it seemed like 10 miles. As soon as I hit the hotel I was on the beach walking and taking pictures. I walked down to the pier (which was actually one mile. One mile times deep, soft sand equals... what?) By the time I got back to the hotel I ditched plans to walk to the Oceanic. That's the Oceanic in the picture below. (Taken from my hotel.) Look where the clouds seem to be pointing, that distant gray building on a pier you probably can't see. That's the Oceanic. It's a block from where highway 74 (or was it 76?) comes to an abrupt halt behind some houses. Deeeeelicious food! Lovely wait-staff. I had grilled salmon. The atmosphere there is fabulous, and the wrap-around windows were crusted with sea-salt but still held a beautiful view.

The days were warm, and the first one was sunny. Lots of folks on the beach. I'm happy to report that I saw dozens of fathers playing with their kids. No deadbeat dads here! One helped his son with a colorful kite. They finally got it to stay up a while, but the winds were fierce and it kept crashing.

A group of three guys in swimsuits trotted out. One threw himself face-down in the sand, and the other two took off for the surf. They were back within 5 minutes. I spotted two wannabe surfers. One actually got up on his board for a moment, but both came in quickly. There was a young woman who was lying face-down on her blanket in the sun, fully clothed. Not sure what kind of tan she was expecting.

There was no way I could come to the beach and NOT put at least a toe in the water, so that's what I did. I waded out, toe-deep, and took some great texture shots of the surf. How surprising that just the final, tiny edges of the waves as they wore themselves out, had enough force in them to make me struggle for my balance as they swept back out! If it was that bad with just the sea-foam, imagine what the actual breakers must be like!

After a night of trying to sleep on the Blockade Runner's miserable excuse for a bed, I took off for downtown and a horse-drawn tour. Our guide said that Wilmington has more pre-Civil War buildings than any other town in the US because the Yankees took Fort Fisher (over at Kure Beach, below Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches), so Wilmington didn't put up a fight.

That's Fred and Henry pulling us. Or maybe Henry and Fred. The company uses all Amish rescue horses, horses whose natural gait is too slow for farmers to use. If not for this gig, the guys would have gone to the glue factory.

Wilmington has gorgeous buildings and homes, right next to buildings you wouldn't be caught dead near at high noon. Awful juxtapositioning! I was afraid to park my car. But boy, some of those million-and-a-half-dollar homes are fabulous. Spanish moss hangs from the trees, and many flower varieties that had given up for the year in my yard were still blooming their colorful little hearts out there.

Went on a river tour and saw (among other things) the USS North Carolina, which is now a huge WWII museum. Back in 1971 when the people of NC bought it and brought it up river, they had to choose a full moon and high tide to get it into the channel. Along the way, it hit a floating restaurant, the Ark. According to our tour guide, the Ark was awarded a purple heart. Good story! I googled and discovered that the owner had a purple heart painted on the side of the repaired restaurant.

Anyway, they wanted to turn the boat around so its prow faced the city, but the ship got stuck and they said, "Oh well." Eight years later an elevator bridge was built nearby that, at its tallest, isn't tall enough to let it back through to the ocean. That boat ain't goin' anywhere now.

I had a nice lunch at downtown's Dock Street Oyster Bar, a cute place our horsey tour guide had recommended. Speaking of our guide, he was off to Charlotte the next day to die. In the past few years since Wilmington has become #3 in the US for movie work, he's become a part-time actor. This time the movie's shooting in Charlotte, and he gets to be some creepy guy who gets his throat cut. Cool.

For dinner, I went to the Fish House Grill near Wrightsville Beach. Excellent shrimp (I haven't had fried shrimp in YEARS!) and slaw. (Meh dessert.) (Excellent service!)

Another awful night (it didn't help that the blasting A/C/heater didn't do much besides make a racket), and I woke up to wind that was even more fierce than it had been the previous days. It was alternating rain and sprinkles. I had planned to have room service for breakfast, but faced with a choice of $20+ for an omelet delivered to my room or a free bfast if I went down to the restaurant, I chose the miserly route and was rewarded to find that their equipment had gone kablooey and that the chef was preparing omelets to order on a bunsen burner.

Omelets are my most favorite-est breakfast! Yum!

Went out, took some more pictures of the TEARING surf, came inside to read that SEP novel a bit more, then packed and left. It was so much easier getting out of Wilmington than finding my way in. Just follow MLK Blvd until it becomes the beginning of I-40. A mile down the road is that hilarious (but quite official) sign: "Barstow, CA—2554 miles."

So long, Wilmington! It was a great starting point for my exploration of the NC coast! Now, if someone could direct me toward some beaches that have a rocky quality to their landscape, I can start to get serious about checking out retirement possibilities.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gimme that New-Time Romance!

Last weekend I read a historical romance that one of my favorite authors had declared was one of her all-time favorites. She did give the caveat that it was an old-timey romance.

I was familiar with the author's work. Years ago when I was still a (very) graphic designer, another designer twisted my arm to get me to read HER favorite author, and I did read, I think it was three, books by same. By the time I got to the third book (a historical), I knew when Our Heroine had struggled for half a book to rescue the dear beloved Hero, who coughed as she drew his nearly-drowned self into her beautiful arms, that he'd be dead by the end of the chapter.

I was wrong. It took him a page and a half to expire.

In another book (it may have been by the same author or not; I'm trying to be vague, thank you), Our Historical Heroine is strongly urged by Government Powers to go to the Middle East and join a harem. By then Our Heroine has had about twenty kids and six husbands. (She's between hubbies at this point iIrc.) The government shill informs her that she could easily pass (naked) for a virgin of 17.

I think that was the book I threw against the wall.

Anyway, I read this historical romance book. Copyright 1988 or so, though it seemed from a decade earlier. I dunno; I didn't read any romances back then except for Wicked Loving Lies and that other one. Oh yeah, Sweet Savage Love. (Thanks, Google.) Both were full of positive-outcome rapes and bodice-ripping, and the genre hasn't yet fully recovered to the public's mind.

(Here at Adam & Eve we aren't allowed to sell anything portraying positive-outcome rapes because it is a SICK SICK SICK concept!)

Also, the heroines of that era seemed to me to be quite stupid. I don't like books with stupid protagonists.

Anyway, here was a book written a decade beyond that era, yet still we had a stupid heroine. Her only goals were... Uh... I'm thinking... She claims her only goal is to be loved, but all men adore her and she came from a close-knit, loving family, so what was her prob? Cheez.

There's no real GMC (goals, motivation, conflict) here. The heroine flits from man to man and squirts out an occasional kid at times that are convenient to her.

The prose was so purple I could paint with it. However, this also allowed me to progress at a quick pace through the rather thick tome, as I could see the purple starting and then skip down paragraphs or even pages until the narration settled down to plot again.

Reading speed was also helped in that the book was repetitive. Let me give you an example—not a quote, but an impression. We'll call Our Heroine "Bella" and Our Hero of the Moment "Steve":

Bella and Steve raced on their magnificent horses across the meadows in the lush spring sunlight. The scent of lilacs and larkspur was thick, along with the other native plants, which were [skip a few paragraphs]. They stood and watched [listing of local fauna, skip a page], who bowed as if to Bella's beauty and then trotted into the forest.

Bella's amber eyes sparkled, the flecks of pure gold in them drawing Steve's lusty attentions. He couldn't bear to be apart from her. Her ruby velvet gown, stitched with pure silk embroidery floss to give a floral motif, and with underskirt of lavender [skip a few pages] and her shoes showed off her pretty feet.

"Bella, I must have you!" Steve uttered. "Your amber eyes with their flecks of pure gold inflame me!"

Bella blushed prettily. She knew the gold flecks in her beautiful amber eyes were the second thing men noticed about her, after her magnificent breasts.

"I hate you!" she flung at Steve.

"What? Where did that come from?"

"I have no reason to hate you. In the entire book, I will suddenly accuse you of being hateful for no reason, though I fall in love with loathsome men along the way. You're a very nice man and in addition, you are gorgeous and incredibly rich. But oh, I hate you, I hate you!"

"Ah, my dearest treasure, but I will love you and your amber eyes with their flecks of pure gold, forever!"

And so on.

I'm not going to say whether this particular author is still writing or not, or whether she's still a best-selling author. All I can say is:

I love modern romance. Well, for the most part. The good stuff. (This historical stuff I was talking about was The Good Stuff in the Seventies and Eighties.)

Modern romance contains solid plots. People in them have solid goals. These goals will almost always involve the characters having to rip themselves apart in order to find solutions, which involve finding their true selves. The characters are usually interesting people with dreams beyond finding enough security in order to raise kids and not die in poverty. They are interested in the world they live in and the people around them.

The women are strong. They are smart. They have layers of character that cement them into their world and make them readily recognizable in some fashion with their readers. They have aspirations. They are able to produce emotions beyond those needed in the bedroom. They do not meekly obey men without question.

The women have adventures, and quite often, they discover they have FUN in those adventures which earlier would have been so frightening to them. The women grow. They mature and shape their world through conscious intervention and determination.

Their men (or women, if they're so inclined) eventually prove to be worthy of them by themselves growing in character.

And of course, there's the Happily Ever After, or the possibility of same—a requirement. Positive personal growth gains the reward of love and security, basic human needs.

It's a great time to read books, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Caring for long-distance, aging parents

My parents are in their eighties. That came as a shock to me, but the other day the police confirmed it: 80s.

I'd called the cops—the cops at the other end of the state, that is—because the head guy (HG) at the retirement community my parents live in called to say (among other things) that my mother had been missing for 2 days. No, I don't know why he hadn't called the cops before this. But when I did, they noted that they'd answered a call about my father at the community a few days before, and that his description said he was 84. Which makes my mom 81.

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. I first got a call one day as I was sitting down to dinner. Lately I've been getting "please give to our charity" calls at that time, so I let it ring. When done, I checked the message. For the first two minutes of it, HG was explaining who he was and that I was listed as Mom & Dad's contact person.

Two full minutes of this. While I'm thinking, "OMG, they're dead! Someone's dead!"

It wasn't until the two minute mark that he actually got around to saying that everyone was fine, for the most part. Dad was in the hospital with double-pneumonia, and as usual (this has happened a lot lately), the Parentals didn't call to inform. But Dad had been waiting for Mom to show up for visiting hours, and HG reiterated that Mom hadn't been seen in 2 days. He said that the last anyone had seen of her was her driving home from the hospital after Dad had been admitted a few days before.

I've known of two occasions in which Mom got hopelessly lost trying to get home from visiting Dad in the hospital. On both occasions she found a kind soul who let her follow them to her community. Which is about 5 minutes from the hospital.

I tracked down a phone # for Dad and he assured me he was feeling much better. (The same thing he'd told me the week before. Apparently he'd lied then.) A friend was supposed to provide transportation for Mom, but no one had shown yet. Dad told me that they were very, very late from when they'd told him they'd visit. The home phone had been busy for hours. (Mom forgets to put the phone back on the hook.)

My mom has Alzheimer's—she's been treated for it for years and is doing fine, though very forgetful of recent happenings—and so does my Dad, though he refuses to admit it. (We assume that he has to appear to be strong.) Dad is not getting treatment; his condition has gotten increasingly worse over a shockingly short time. He'll tell you a different story about the same incident within two minutes of each other. He's always searching for words that are just out of reach, frustrating him mightily. Mom just tells you what she thinks you want to hear, unless she tells you something that she's been ruminating on and embellishing to the point where it turns into complete non-reality.

In other words, you can't trust either one with telling you what's actually going on.

I got hold of the sheriff and they said they'd send someone over. Then I called Dad again, and guess who had showed up? Turns out that Mom hadn't taken long at all to get there; Dad was just impatient. And she'd eaten dinner in their community's dining hall just a couple hours before, so lots of people had seen her. I called off the sheriff and thanked him profusely.

So here we are today: Dad is in a rehab facility, learning to swallow correctly so he won't swallow liquids into his lungs again. He's doing great down there, and we hope to get him out two Fridays from now, before he can go insane. It appears that in that nursing home, there are only two others who have reasonable mental faculties. The noise level is loud, there's nothing for Dad to do when he's not in physical therapy, and the food is horrendous.

Mom will walk down to see him. His facility is two doors beyond their eating hall. But yesterday she got mixed up and landed at the assisted living center (which has a long wait list) instead, and apparently they couldn't point to the parking lot and next building and direct her from there. Thus, Mom took a little longer than usual to amble down for her visit.

So my sister gets an email from HG talking about how my dad keeps calling the cops when Mom doesn't arrive. Dad says he did not call the cops; he called HG to see if he knew where Mom was. Two weeks ago when we asked if the community could find someone to drive Mom down to visit Dad (one way; the community has a bus that can ferry her back) an hour before dinner, HG told us they were not set up to provide such extensive service. Now he says that we must add additional home service help (we already have help coming in 3x week) to keep track of Mom in case she gets dangerously lost. He says the community will hire them (from a company he keeps pushing at us; we think he gets kickbacks) and charge the services to M&D. I wonder where he gets the idea he can legally do that?

Mom does not have keys to the car. She may take her time and get a little confused, but eventually she finds her way. The problem with Dad is that he's not allowing her that time and panics. The problem with HG is that he's calling the cops and blowing things out of proportion.

Anyway, we kids (sis and bro-i-l) gathered there two weekends ago to scope out the sitch and talk with various resources. HG had assured us he'd be there. Of course he wasn't. He left some 13-year-old (well, she looked that young) in the office instead, who didn't know anything but how to hand out business cards.

We have insurance-paid nurses coming once a week to put pills in the proper boxes and make sure Mom is physically healthy. I call every day that no one else shows up to have Mom take her pills while I'm on the phone. We have Home Helpers (a chain; I've used 'em before) coming in twice a week as an additional check to make sure Mom is taking her pills (they can't give them to her, but they can stand there and watch while she swallows), get groceries, pick up prescriptions, do a little laundry, and take Mom down to visit Dad.

FYI: such help is in the neighborhood of $18/hour (some chains add more for weekend work, or if you ask for less than 3 hours). Make sure the company you choose checks out its employees well.

While we were there my sister (the CPA who's in charge of M&D's finances) ransacked their files to make sure we had the latest Important Papers. I'd called their lawyers and had been told that they'd redone everything in 2009. The papers my sister and I had were dated 1988.

Turns out the 1988 stuff (boy! that sounds ancient!) was the latest versions, but they were retyped or something and we now have spiffy, crisp copies.

We were looking for
• Wills
• Direct Power of Attorney (I've heard that some states also require a Direct Power of Medical Atty)
• Living Wills

So if you have elderly parents (or just parents), be sure you have copies of these. If you have kids, make sure they have copies of your documents.

We're still looking for
• Pre-paid funeral contracts

We're told these are often transferrable. No, not to other people (though I don't know about that), but to other cities as the people involve move.

According to my parents' contract with their community, they have to give 90 days (yes! I said 90!) notice to move. If we did that, that would mean moving them out at the end of December. In the mountains of NC. In a winter that's predicted to be a wet one.

So my sister broached the idea to my dad of moving at Thanksgiving and he sounded favorable. She's looking for assisted living places near her, where M&D can be near their grandkids and great-grandkids. She and I decided that the best choice was to move 'em out at Thanksgiving so as to avoid the chance of bad weather AND in case any last-minute glitches come up, we've still got time to maneuver.

When I called Dad up last night and mentioned Thanksgiving, I thought he was having a fit. But really, what should it matter that much? They don't have that many friends there, though they do have a doctor they love. Decades ago when I helped move them from Fayetteville, I discovered that, the Friday before movers were to appear on Monday, they hadn't done any packing. My b-i-l told me about moving them from TN, a little over a decade ago: again, no packing beforehand. So it's not like we're forcing M&D to pack at lightspeed.

Plans are that we pack everything, ship it to the far side of TN, and have yard sales in the spring to downsize their belongings. It sounds reasonable to me, but we don't want M&D to feel like we're kicking them out, working against their wishes, etc.

Having long-distance, aging parentals is not fun! My advice to others is to have your legal documents in order and not only have a Plan A in mind, but Plans B and C. If your loved ones are experiencing reduced mental faculties, get them to tell you what they'd prefer while they are still able to think straight.

And as for you yourself, make sure you have long-term care insurance! I've got to check what I've got; I think I need to expand it a bit. Ca-ching!!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Strickly a Book Review

Call Me Irresistible: A Novel
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
William Morrow Paperbacks
5 spangles out of five
Contemporary romance

Hah! Finally read a book that has been recently released!

Okay, so I didn't read it, not exactly. I listened to it. I had a loooong solo car trip to make and I tend to try to fall asleep at the wheel, so listening to novels is the best way to go. (An interesting lecture is also good, but one never knows how drone-worthy the lecturer will be.)

Shannon Cochran narrates this, and believe me, she puts oomph into her performance, differentiating the characters expertly and providing a satisfying Texan drawl or British accent when needed.

The worst thing about this book is that I'll have to buy a print version as well. Maybe I should make the excuse that I'll mark this up. You know, writers (especially RWA writers) are forever slashing color highlights through books, marking passive voice, conflict points, descriptive passages vs. dialogue, etc. Yeah, I'll do that. I need to buy a print copy.

But I'll mainly be buying it just so I can reread the introduction of Ted Beaudine as he arrives in the church for his wedding rehearsal. Ted (we remember him from Fancy Pants, right? Last we saw him he was something like eight or eleven years old) is a perfect man. No, really. He's gorgeous, he's at the top of his form, he's wealthy, he's genius-level brilliant, charming, and he's mayor of Wynette, Texas. He's also about to marry Lucy Jorik (from First Lady), who is Meg Koranda's (Glitter Baby) bff.

I wish I could give you the exact wording, but as he enters the church, the sun backlights him with a halo. Trumpets blare a fanfare (they're practicing; it's just a coincidence). Birds sing, the stained glass lights his path like it's tossing rose petals in front of him, etc etc. Perfect. So gloriously, OTT perfect that I was howling in the car. SEP treats him like this several more times in the book. "Don't you think it's weird?" Meg asks people, but they all regard her blankly.

Meg, of course, is anything but perfect. She (like most SEP heroines) is gorgeous (she doesn't realize it) and the daughter of wealth. SEP's pattern is to take a (usually) wealthy young lady who needs to be taught A Hard Lesson and rip out every support system she possesses. Then when you think things can't get worse, they get worse. And then they get worse from there.

If we didn't know that SEP's heroines can all dig deep within themselves and claw their ways out of their dire predicaments, we might close the book. But the fun—and let us be honest, the inspiration—of SEP's narrative is watching these heroines work hard. Bit by bit they learn tough lessons about themselves. They have to find and use their native courage against tremendous difficulties. They prove themselves to a world that has turned against them. And slowly they begin to discover their unique gifts, the ways only they can contribute to the world.

Kinda like Wonder Woman, right? Well, phooey on you. I think it is.

Almost any SEP novel you read will suddenly throw passages of heavenly poetry your way. This book is no exception, and I wonder what I missed by listening to it instead of digesting it word by printed word. These will be the kinds of things I'll highlight. It's this poetry that is one of the aspects of SEP that sets her so far apart from the ordinary crowd of romance writers.

Also, SEP is one of those writers who can really peel back character like an onion until you get to the Deep Truth which must be revealed so the character can not just grow, but blossom. I've been noticing that sometimes SEP throws in a couple too many layers—on rare occasion you say, "Get on with it!"—but this doesn't happen often and even those extra layers are worth exploring. (Though editing them out wouldn't really harm the book.) They're rare. Rare. (Just wanted to repeat that.)

And oh yeah, the sex scenes are ooey-gooey without being anatomical treatises. SEP is one of the few who can pull that off. Believe me, you haven't really read a hot sex scene until you read how the Perfect Man delivers Perfect Sex. (Which oddly makes it not so perfect, as Meg discovers.)

This is a second-generation book in that it deals with a bunch of kids resulting from some of SEP's earlier romance novels. More than a few of the heroes and heroines of those books show their faces as well. Wynona, TX is getting a little crowded. And there's at least 2 titles that I missed reading that would explain who some of these folks are. (I've read the rest. I think.) (And no, you don't need to have read any of these books to fully enjoy this one.)

Do read the Jenny Crusie/SEP "interview" on this book's Amazon page. Hie-larious!

All in all, a terrific read! Now all I have to do is actually read it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who's your U.N.C.L.E.?

Before Star Trek, practically days after the Beatles hit America... There was The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I was mad for the show! I don't really recall what the first episode I ever watched was, but I recall the impact the show had on me. My very first fanfic involved the Beatles and UNCLE.

What's this UNCLE, you ask? Philistine! UNCLE was (of course) the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, an international spy organization that utilized cool spy equipment and went on exciting spy adventures, laced with humor and pure sex in the form of Illya Kuryakin, Agent #2 of Section 2.

Oh yeah, Napoleon Solo was there as well. He was #1 of Section 2, even if he always wore a badge that said "II". (According to Wiki, this was Roman Numerals for Section 2, used in the first season and for some reason retained by Robert Vaughn for further seasons even though other agents didn't go by that system.)

James Bond had barely made an impression on the US when UNCLE first appeared. All I knew was that here were two agents of an international organization—and one of them was Russian!!! in a time of Cold War—who could pull to the side of a New York street, step down into DelFloria's Tailor Shop, and, after DelFloria pressed his shirt press twice, could enter a secret entrance into UNCLE HQ via the back of a dressing room.

The coat hook they had to pull down to release the secret door is now on display at the CIA Museum in Washington, DC. Really. Look it up.

The show lasted for 3 1/2 seasons. Fist season was b&w, supposedly to pay tribute to b&w spy movies. Second season is considered the best. By season 3 the show had instructions to be more Batman-like, since Batmania was then sweeping the nation. Season 4 saw things put back aright, although with less humor than the first seasons.

The show didn't have a huge budget. You see the same locations used over and over again: first as riverfront in Germany; this time as a Norwegian fishing village, then as part of a New England town. The economics made them inventive, just as Star Trek's staff had to be a year or so later. Speaking of ST:TOS, you'll see a lot of guest crossover between the shows. I watched an entire episode before discovering on the final credits that James Doohan had been one of the primary crew on the ship that had been the setting. Many of the stars making the rounds during the early/mid-Sixties showed up, as did big names, once UNCLE was the #1-rated show and everyone wanted to be on it.

My fanfic concerned a fact few people knew: that Minot Air Force Base (where our family was then stationed) had an underground network run by UNCLE but called (of course) MABLE, for Minot Air Base Law Enforcement. Now, who was their primary secret agent? I'm not saying!

UNCLE's Illya Kuryakin was the very definition of ultimate cool. He had a Beatle-ish haircut and British accent. He was slim, athletic, intellectual, and listened to jazz while wearing shades. He seldom smiled. And he was Russian, such an exotic nationality! He wasn't like Khrushchev at all, never pounded his shoe on anything. He worked for Good.

Give NBC a year or so and they'd have a similar alien, exotic guy with bangs and no smile called Mr. Spock.

It was a great time to go through puberty.

Illya has matured to now be Ducky on NCIS. It's amazing how sexy a man in his seventies can be! I look at Ducky and see Illya. One time one of the NCIS personnel asked the head guy what Ducky had looked like in his youth. "Like Illya Kuryakin," was the reply.

One can now buy UNCLE as a complete set. It took a long while to come out, as there were legal problems as to who actually owned the episodes. It costs about $99 from Time-Life and comes in a secret agent attache case with some pretty nice extra features. No pen phone though, darn it.

If you want to further your UNCLE research, find some of the novels put out as part of the extensive marketing the show did. (It was one of the first, if not THE first, to emphasize marketing. I know I had the UNCLE board game and had seen the various guns, ID cards, dolls and such. Alas, my allowance wouldn't stretch that far.) The novels written by David McDaniel are by far the best of the bunch, and two of those are volumes I've kept through the years and reread: Vol. 4, The Dagger Affair (when I went to San Francisco a few years ago I was THRILLED!!!! to see Lombard Street, where our Men from UNCLE had dragged an evil agent down the hill to get him to spill information), and Vol 6, The Vampire Affair.

McDaniel really got UNCLE, the characters, the off-beat style, and best of all, the humor. It was also McDaniel who informed us that "Thrush," the evil organization who sat opposite UNCLE in worldly affairs, was actually an acronym: Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

Occasionally I've wondered what, besides Illya, has kept UNCLE so dear to my heart all these years. It's only when I look at my other non-Beatle obsessions that I begin to see the connection: UNCLE, Star Trek, Wonder Woman.

They're all about working for a positive future. They're about the world working as one. We had a Russian working smoothly with Americans on UNCLE, as well as glimpses of UNCLE agents around the world, all part of one glorious and law-abiding society set to make sure that the human race lived to see its future. Star Trek showed us that future, and the people there worked to better themselves and others. We had a multi-ethnic, international/interplanetary crew who were all friends. With Wonder Woman, she works around the world empowering people (and herself), working for a better tomorrow for everyone.

So it's really no surprise why I should be such a fan.

One of the lovely sidebars of the collected set contains a short about UNCLE fandom. A professor goes on camera and recalls the time she sent her students home with an assignment: "Say to your mother: 'Illya Kuryakin.'" She reported that one of her students came back to tell of his mother letting out a scream of delight just at the name.

The other day I heard that UNCLE is going to be getting a remake by Steven Soderbergh, done as a Sixties period piece. I have to wonder just how much of the UNCLE magic can be recaptured, and how today's jaded audiences who seem merely to want explosion after shiny explosion, will take it.

Were you a fan? Did you prefer Illya or Napoleon? (Or April or Mark?) Or was there some other TV show that caught your imagination and has been able to hold it for years? Open Channel D and comment!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strickly Sandbars — Yum!

In senior year of college, one of my roommates decided to make us a traditional Southern treat: a Mississippi Mud Cake. With great pride, she handed us all hefty slices.

Eight years later, my eyes uncrossed. My hair is still tightly curled from the experience, though.

Mississippi Mud is certainly to be tried once. The cake itself was delicious, but to add a full, large jar of marshmallow creme on top of it, and then cover that up with a half-inch-thick layer of chocolate icing (or ganache)—that's just irresponsible. Why, that creates diabetics of anyone standing within 50 feet of the cake.

After I'd been on my own for a while I recalled that cake. At the time I was a vegetarian; the cake fell within my dietary guidelines, as did most things with a lot of sugar. But I wondered: how to make it healthy? Of course step number 1 would be to eliminate the marshmallow crap and icing. There was more than enough chocolate in the cake to satisfy chocolate cravings.

Checking my shelves I spotted a large container of oatmeal. That was healthy. Why, that was mega-healthy! And if I substituted honey for a bit of the sugar, that would make it even healthier, wouldn't it?

Okay, eventually my version with the honey has been lost, but I give you the COMPLETELY HEALTHY VERSION of the Mississippi Mud Cake, which I call (of course):


Oven set to 350° F, Number One! Engage!

1 cup low-cholesterol-type butter-esque spread OR 2 sticks butter
4 eggs (think healthy! Use 1 cup of that liquid egg stuff!)
1 tsp vanilla

Cream/mix all this together and then add
3/4 c. flour
2 c. oats (I have no idea if quick-cooking ones make any difference)
2 Tbsp. cocoa
2 c. sugar (you could use raw sugar if you wanted to make this EVEN HEALTHIER!!!)

Mix it well and then dump in
7 oz or 1 1/2 c. coconut
6 oz or 1 1/2 c. (funny; I don't think my 6 oz. came to that much, but 6 oz was definitely enough!) chopped pecans

I have a note that says you can add more coconut and nuts, but really, this is quite enough.

Pour everything into a healthily-sprayed 13x9 pan for 30-35 min. When cool, cut into bars.

If you want to really shock your system, turn this into a Mississippi Mud Cake. Substitute 1 1/2 c. flour for the flour and oats, and while the cake is still warm from the oven, spread a large jar of marshmallow creme over it. Let cool before frosting with: 1 box powdered sugar, 1 stick butter, 1/2 c. canned milk (evaporated, I think, but don't quote me on that), 1/3 c. cocoa, 1 tsp. vanilla. Have 911 on standby.

Contrast the two recipes. See how the sandbars are healthy?

What kind of healthy treats do you enjoy? Have you ever redone a recipe to make it healthier?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anyone have an aspirin?

Today we have a guest-blogger, Lina O'Kelly, from my THREE WORLDS series. She's been wanting to say something that she couldn't (much) in the books. About her: Lina is a telepath and psychic from North Carolina (she was named after the state), and took the first major vacation of her life—pretty much using up her savings—to a South Pacific island only to find herself having to be rescued by Valiant. You all know Valiant, aka Londo Rand: Earth's mightiest (and sexiest) superhero. Now the two seem to be an item, but she says she has problems with that? What do you say to that, Lina?

Problems?! Pardon me if I snort like Sandra Bullock. I got problems on top of problems. And frustration. Yeah, you might make "frustration" number one on my list.

It was all my fault. Well, some of it. I thought those terrorists who had chased us across the island were gone. Lon said they were packing up to go, and he's got that paravision, even if he'd been stripped of the rest of his powers for a couple days. But he was wrong about them and they came back, and now he's lying on a cot, just barely hanging on to life after what they did to him.

Actually, he was fully dead there for a few terrifying minutes.

Okay, he's alive again. But he's pretty much unconscious and we're stuck in this big old laboratory, quarantined on another world. That's right: another world. How was I to know my new teleportation power could stretch that far? I guess time and distance really are human constructs, like so many of those New Agers say. Just as easy to teleport to the other side of the room as it is to port to the other side of the galaxy.

If that's where we are. No one's shown me a map yet.

There are people here who are friends with Londo, and they have powers different from his. One's a scientist and he's looking after Lon, but I'm not really sure just how much of a doctor-doctor he is. Lon's hanging in there, but is that because of his help, or because Lon is Valiant and regaining his invulnerability?

Whichever it is, I wish Lon would get better quick. I've managed to help a little—no, a lot!—with my psychic healing. It's tough to see him lying there all helpless and kinda little boyish. He's so cute. Not frightening at all. You've seen him on the news; he can look really scowly, you know? If I were a crook I'd be scared of him.

But we, well, got to know each other back on that island, if you know what I mean, and (can I tell you this?) we kind of fell in love. And let me tell you, it's terrible to see the man you love struck down and dead. It was like my own soul was sucked out of my body along with him. But it's frustrating to see him just lying there and not be able to hug him or even hold his hand.

'Cause, you see, whenever I touch him his invulnerability goes all to heck. Blooey. Lon's best friend, Jae, says that that could mean big trouble when Londo gets on his feet again. Me, I don't see us ever tangling with criminals together. I'll let Londo be Londo and I'll be glad to wait on the sidelines. What kind of trouble would come looking for me? Jae can be a worrywart.

Add to that: the doctor, Jae and Londo's boss thinks that I'm mind-controlling Valiant. He's trying to construct some big legal case against me, throw me in jail and toss away the key. I don't know any lawyers on this world! Do I look like I have money? Heck, I can't even speak the language! Yet. I'll study that first thing. I don't want to be an embarrassment to Londo.

In the meantime all I have to do is to look at Lon and wish that he was better so, ah, we could continue to get to know each other—very well. That much I can blame on Lon. I was never particularly lascivious. But ever since I met him my hormones have been running amuck. I want to be with him all the time. I want to know everything about him. I want to make him laugh... and other things. It all fills me full of ideas that I've never thought of before.

And that's an entirely new kind of world for me.

Hey—He's stirring. He might need my help. Gotta go.

Thanks, Lina. You can read how she handles all this in Star-Crossed, volume 2 of the Three Worlds series. You can even check out an extensive free excerpt.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On the sorry state of today's superhero comics...

Over the years I've read articles about how heroic fantasy interests people who want to see justice done. Heroic fantasy = good wins over evil, right?

It used to be that way in the superhero comics (mostly DC) that I read. Those comics were almost never marketed at me, a girl. These days they're marketed for an even more different market, or perhaps I should qualify that by saying it's a "perceived" market.

Superhero comics tried to get more "realistic" back in the, oh, late Sixties and Seventies. That was perfectly okay with me. But in the late Eighties they took a decidedly dark turn (gee, thanks, Frank Miller) and then they began to get sadistic, especially at DC. The year 2004 was punctuated with Identity Crisis, which (let's go to Wiki) "according to Publisher's Weekly, 'This seven-issue miniseries... was both wildly popular and reviled.'"

Why? Because of pervasive shock-value violence. A beloved character was shown not only to have been raped in the not-so-distant past, but now, pregnant, is brutally murdered. The shock was the important thing; the logic of the plot and how the characters worked within it, was not. Heroes were shown to be more than the good-guy vigilantes they'd always been; now they judged and carried out dreadful punishment that, years on, would come back to bite (and maim) them.

This series was followed by event after event, each darker and more violent than the one before. Writer Mark Waid promised the fans that all this was leading to a "light at the end of the tunnel." That light never showed.

It struck me as if DC wanted to grab onto the gory themes and popularity of EC Comics of the Fifties. We all know how that ended, don't we?

So now because of severely declining sales (due mostly imho to the propensity for the comics companies not to seek out new readers, but rather to cater to their existing, aging, and shrinking audience), DC is about to reboot/relauch its entire line come the end of September. I first heard the term "Nottaboot" from my friend, Chris Companik. I like it; don't you?

Of course the message boards are lit up with guesses about what this Nottaboot will entail and how long it will last. Me, I'm highly skeptical of it. I don't see my favorites, Power Girl and Donna Troy, listed as appearing anywhere. Dan Didio, DC's co-publisher, has stated in so many words that he doesn't see the difference between Donna and her big sis. Well, Dan's the one who has allowed Wonder Woman to slog around in the bog her comic has been for years now (with a few shining moments in there, no thanks to him). If he doesn't even realize Wondie's potential, how can we expect him to figure out Donna's appeal?


Since my crystal ball has been sent out for repairs this month, I came up with a list of things I DON'T want to see in the Nottaboot. Do you agree? Disagree? Have additions? You tell me.

• I want heroes again. Real heroes who have ethics and who see a majority of successful and happy endings to their story arcs. I want good ultimately to conquer evil and be stronger than it.

• I want heroes who have a range of powers. Thus, anyone who has super-strength doesn't automatically have the strength of Superman (who should be DC's unquestionably strongest hero). There should be mid-ranges, even low ranges and higher ranges of power.

• I want basic continuity of major points (at least) so I can ground myself in the heroes' world without having to step out of their stories in confusion.

• I want scientists who have specialties. I'm tired of scientists (be they hero, villain, or supporting cast) who know every damned branch of science, and are experts at it all.

• I want to see feminine traits celebrated. Yes, even in males, as men aren't supposed to be complete machoheads, even in superhero fantasy.

• I want less sexism. Much less (if not an absence of) shock violence. I want to see a comic book world of people who reflect the ratios and types of people we find in our real world.

• I want kid types to act like kid types. (And look like them, too.)

• I want comics that will make me think. I want comics that will have me celebrating the glory of humanity. I want comics that will inspire me and keep me enthralled.

• I want art done professionally. I want editors to do their job.

• And I want a Wonder Woman whom I can point to and say, "Yep, definitely Wonder Woman! No doubt about that!"

Is that too much to ask? Would today's young and diverse potential audience go for something like that?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

3 New Abstracts!

Aren't abstracts fun! And, unlike how some other people create them, it takes me some time to paint one. First I figure out a color scheme, then a rough composition, then it's texture, texture, texturing. Add some simplification, then texture some more and... voila!

I was in a red mood for these past 3 weeks as I worked on these. I wanted some kind of series feel, so I kept to the same palette. I've been watching so many HGTV shows where the hosts repeat their mantra: "Keep your room neutral!" And then along the neutral walls and behind that neutral couch, they place wildly colorful paintings. This is how I envision these paintings.

"Genesis 24181." Why "Genesis?" Because I was seeing the birth of stars. This is 24"x18", acrylic, with a wrap-around 3/4" edge so you don't have to frame it if you don't want to. All materials are archival, and shipping is free. $540.00


Here's "Genesis 24182." Okay, so I'm not good with painting names. It also is 24x18", acrylic, 3/4" wrap, and all archival. $540, includes shipping.


And here's their sister, "Genesis 18241." It is 18x24", acrylic, 3/4" wrap, and all-archival. $540 with shipping included.

I hope there are homes out there who need a little frantic color and whimsy! Enjoy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

TV's Sexiest (non-dramatic) Men!

I don't watch a lot of series TV, certainly not network shows. But I do sit for hours in front of the more reality kind of shows, as long as they aren't the Big Brother or Are You Smarter Than types.

I love learning. But if there's a sexy man giving a demo, so much the better! Some of the sexiest guys on TV are trying to teach me something. Or sell me something. Other than the number-one slot, my list is in no particular order:

1. Mike Rowe. Pardon me while I fan myself. Mike, of Dirty Jobs and Ford commercials fame, is not only heavenly to look at, but he has a terrific sense of humor, can talk to anyone and make them feel respected and liked, sings opera gloriously, is curious, and will take on any task he has to do, even if he's not keen to do it. This man is the very definition of testosterone focused in a positive direction!

2. Isaiah Mustafa of the Old Spice commercials. I have no idea what else he might do, but he's sheer, unadulterated eye candy, with a voice like melting chocolate.

3. Ben Bailey of Cash Cab (NYC) fame. I've seen his act on Comedy Central as well. He's funny. Who can resist a funny guy who's not only intelligent, but doesn't resort to a stream of shock-value profanity? Classy.

4. Mike Holmes of various HGTV shows. A bit more mature, but this is a man who can handle any construction problem. He knows when to ask for help and whom to call. He seems to care about people. Face it: a man who knows how to get his (ahem) job done better than the others who came before him? Priceless!

5. Dean Winters, Allstate's "Mr. Mayhem." No, I've not followed his dramatic series career but I pay attention to his commercials! Everyone loves a classic Bad Boy. Woof!

6. Jon Stewart, the Most Trusted Man in America and one of our too-few media voices of reason. Sure, he's a little short, but he's handsome, savvy, witty, conversant, brave, and daring. He not only knows how to hire a great writing staff, but is proficient in Star Wars and major superheroes. Now if only he could cut down on the profanity...

7. Ahmed Hassan of Yard Crashers. A gorgeous, friendly man who can get things done! You may be entirely too young, but oh, Ahmed, come to my house!!!

So what about you? Whose program or commercials do you watch even if you don't care what they're presenting?

Getting life in focus

Yep, it's time to take a deep breath, center, get down, and get serious about things.

Starting with this post I'm going to keep track of some of my goals through the blog. Y'see, by next year I want to have achieved some pretty great stuff. Get the house clean and organized. Get the yard in shape. Pay off most of my bills so I can breathe and save. Get my home businesses actually selling product in decent quantities. Get some head hair (not face! not face!!!!) back. And lose weight. Lots of it.

I didn't do too well on the bills department in the past three days. I've been charging things out the wazoo. Every now and then, after I think I'm doing so well, I'll hit a phase where I GOTTA buy things. But I really did have to get this stuff: hair done, makeup done, professional picture taken. Okay, maybe the Christmas tree was a luxury, but I said I'd buy one last year and didn't. When the both early and late sales were going, I couldn't find a tree that really interested me. Yesterday QVC had a very nice tree at a very nice price.

So all that means is that I've got to step up sales somehow. Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be in a gallery, and I'll have my Etsy shop really up and running. (Do people really sell things on Etsy?)

I'm not stepping out in the yard much this week, as we seem to be at highest temp levels for the year. I'll mow and water, but probably not much more than that.

Since Obi died I've cleaned out all the kitty stuff, and that has encouraged me to start to make headway through the rest. My goal for this week is to get the kitchen, dining room and living room cleared and maybe even cleaned as well.

I'm working on a number of paintings that will (cross fingers HARD!!!) be hanging somewhere public by the end of the week.

I'm working on my WW book but also starting a final edit of Applesauce and Moonbeams, with hopes of publishing that by the end of August or beginning of September. (September! Already???)

As for weight, I'm going to start with where I am now to track myself. Where I am now is 35 pounds lighter than where I was 3 years ago, my all-time highest weight. But I'm hitting the "zero out" button and putting me at zero now. Updates will show how far I've come from here, and not there.

So look for notations on the bottom of blog posts. If you just see a "-10" that'll mean ten pounds lost since today.

I'll be putting in extra exercise time this week in an attempt to jumpstart the system.

At 40 pounds down, I'll mosey over to Raleigh to check out what Dr. Bosley can do for my hair. I wonder if he needs new paintings for his offices?

Here goes. Geronimo!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Steppin' Out!

My vacation officially begins Monday. Fridays at work are short days. So I decided to make the most of my Friday afternoon and start the vacay off right.

It needed to, because my supervisor had dropped by to ask when it was (which he knew already) and if I'd be staying close in case he needed to call me. I reminded him that there was zero on my schedule for the next week. He keeps doing this, balking whenever I ask for vacation. I have ten weeks saved up. I have definite weeks when there is little or nothing to do. Why the fuss, then, of me taking vacation? I've asked around, and apparently he doesn't do this with others.

Anyway. I got out a credit card and started it smokin'. That's right, I signed up for my Art of the Carolinas classes. They'll be in November, but many classes, especially those on the weekend, sell out quickly. Surprisingly, I didn't sign up for the classes that had originally caught my eye. I got to thinking about things and by golly, chose a few alternates instead. I'll be learning two completely different approaches to still lifes—one in realistic oils and the other in crazy semi-abstract acrylics, going in for more abstract instruction from a very good instructor, and learning a bit of technical/marketing stuff concerning giclées.

And of course I'll need a hotel room for all that, even if it is just down the road in Raleigh. You wouldn't believe how exhausted you can get after frantically painting from 9 AM to 8 PM!

That done, I printed out a movie schedule for Harry Potter. For some reason I printed the times for all local theatres instead of just the one I was targeting. (Good thing!) Next it was off to the comic store to pick up a couple week's worth of comics. Still haven't read the special Wonder Woman issue, but according to just about everyone, it's a real stinker. Only saw 1 good comment about it. Oh boy. :^(

Plenty of time to head to Southpoint, the mammoth mall that I still think of as being new. I had a 3:40 appointment at Penneys for a portrait, so I moseyed around a bit, looking for some place to get makeup done. (I'd had my hair dyed two nights before. Don't want all that gray immortalized. The hair dresser went a little crazy with the red, which was only supposed to be on the very tips.) Because I was really early and didn't think there'd be time to eat before the movie, I got a snack and then visited the Bare Escentuals salon. (Penneys had a hair salon but no makeup.) There I agreed to buy a beginner's kit plus a couple other things. CA-CHING!!!! I told them about my 3:40 appointment; they said no problem.

I arrived late. Still, the photographer was buzzing around in her studio, so I thought it was okay. Even so, she complained about me being late. I asked why she hadn't answered my 2 emailed questions and she said she'd only gotten one. She didn't say why she hadn't answered that one. Anyway, I discovered that Penneys does not grant copyright to the sitter. I can use the shots anywhere but on my books—or to get a print done from Walmart, of course. Well, okay. Whatever. I'll be getting new shots done next year when I'm beautiful, right?

So I sat for the portrait. "Turn to your left, turntoyourrightturnleanforwardturnagainturnturnturnturnturndone!" Damn, what an impersonal sitting! I felt like a cog on an assembly line. No, there was no appointment before mine, nor one after. And it all happened so quickly I wasn't able to make the kind of expressions I had planned. You know, expressions that said, "Hi. I'm just like you. You'd probably like my books. Why don't you buy some right now?"

The photog wasn't pleased AT ALL that I'd brought a coupon with me. I chose the 3 poses that didn't make me puke outright (just wait until next year!) and ordered those. I hurried out, determined to make it to the next Harry P showing so I wouldn't have to wait over an hour. But I stopped to talk to a woman from that floor & carpeting place with the catchy jingle. By then I figured I'd missed the beginning of the movie. Then because it was so warm inside the mall I got a piña colada smoothie—yum! While sucking it down in the car I recalled that I had printouts of movie times for other theatres.

Hm. There were 2 on the way home. One had a new show starting in 20 minutes. If I could find my way back to I-40 quick enough... I did! I drove at a reasonable rate, too. Then we got a highway sign: "Traffic stopped 1/2 mile ahead. Prepare to slow down." Uh oh! But luckily the 15/501 exit was in sight. I took it to get to the Wynnsong 15. Of course the lady 3 people in front of me in the ticket line wanted to ask a million questions of the woman behind the glass. Everyone in line grumbled, but finally she moved on.

By the time I gave the ticket guy inside his stub, it was 4:59 for a 5:00 show. Whew! Took a right at the proper sign, went inside and...

Where was everyone? There were only 7 people there. Was I in the right theatre? Oh no, maybe this was Sarah Palin's Undefeated. Was it playing in this place?

I sat through a dozen commercials (some very old), and then another dozen previews. All the previews concerned white males having an adventure. Some of the males were boys and some were men, but they were all white. One preview seemed to have an auxiliary non-sexual-role girl in it, so I'll keep my eye out for that. (Hugo.)

Then, I'm happy to say, Harry Potter began. Wow! This is what they made the movies for! I was amazed by the tight yet poetical dialogue, and thought everyone gave a top-notch performance. The sets, costumes, makeup and effects were tremendous. The music was a little, well, John Williams-y in a saccharine way in tiny spots (he didn't do the original music for this film, but they were picking up on his theme), but it only detracted from things twice and only for moments each.

I'd brought a pile of Kleenex in because it was such a hot day and I was desperately trying to sweat my makeup off. HP7b turned out to be a three-Kleenex movie. At one point I was afraid I'd sob out loud—all too embarrassing!—but the lady behind me managed to do that first, which kept me in line. She was also the one who softly voiced for all of us, "Don't go," during the King's Cross white-out scene. (No spoilers here!)

Speaking of spoilers, someone on FB had mentioned they didn't understand the mirror shard from the last movie, and when Daniel Radcliffe appeared on The Daily Show last week, someone asked him why the mirror shard wasn't explained, when it was in the book.

All that made me look up just the mirror shard on Wiki and read about what I'd forgotten: Dumbledore's not-so-wise youth and his family problems. Thus I was able to keep up with things when this movie zipped through all that. Still, glad to see it included.

So HP7b gets a hearty recommendation from me! I can't imagine anyone not familiar with the series trying to see it, though. There was a kid in front of me, clearly a HP fan, who left to go to the bathroom and came back. "What happened, Mom?" he asked.

"The girl did something," she replied, after Hermione had dealt with the one horcrux.

Poor Mom, stuck in such a textured movie and not knowing where she was!

But it was a lovely, lovely movie and a completely fabulous ending to the series and so much more interesting than the Lord of the Rings movies. With them it was just fight fight fight, fight some more, fight fight. Insert bits with Frodo and Samwise here and there to keep everyone awake.

With HP there was drama and endings and sweetness and struggle and decisions and "Not my daughter, you bitch!" Bloody marvelous!

Which reminds me: time for a singalong!!!!!!

Afterward I said what the heck and got two slices of pepperoni pizza to go, with no salad in sight.

A great way to begin a vacation. Hope most of my days off are as productive!