Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Something old, something new...

You might know that I'm in the process of taking all the paintings that are in my house and storing them off-site. You know, so I have some room to move here. It was getting pretty crowded.

I have about half moved now. The reason it's taking so long is that I'm choosing some to be redone. In addition to me trying to get some new paintings done, PLUS work on novels, PLUS work on yard, PLUS clean/organize the house… Well, it's taking some time. But here's what I've just finished. These two paintings will be hung in the Saratoga Grill in downtown Hillsborough, NC tomorrow.

The original, a style I was trying out because it was something I could do fairly quickly. Fail!
The Old County Courthouse, acrylic, 2009
I decided to try something with this, and unpacked the new batch of alkyd oils (fast-drying!) that I'd bought last November. Here's the result:
The Old Courthouse, 9 AM. Acrylic/oil, 24x18"
I think that's much better!

And here's an entirely new painting. I had thought to do it only in acrylic, but added oils. Didn't do an all-over glaze like I did the one above, but I still think this turned out nicely.
King's Street in Its Glory, acrylic/oil, 18x24"
As I was taking the archival pictures and putting the data into Bento, I noticed that this is the 100th painting I've added to the spreadsheet!

They say that it takes 100 paintings to produce a real style. It's actually been over 100 paintings for me (not all are in my formal records), but I do think I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the process. This year not only will I be getting out more to do plein air painting with my fancy-schmancy new portable easel, but I'll also be just painting more often, and likely in smaller formats. They say ("they" being everyone in the current "Painting a Day" movement) that your style and skills can really take off by doing that.


Whoops, actually no contest this time (despite the landmark #100 up there), but on Feb. 2nd the big Valentine co-op contest for a $200 Amazon gift card should be starting. They're supposed to send me a link to it, but until then I'll just provide a link to my Facebook Pro Page, where the announcement will appear once I receive it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Where in the world...?

Last February I attended one of those "free" vacation weekends, where you are required to spend "just two hours" (more like four or six) listening to a sales pitch for a vacation company. I walked away with a Festiva contract under my arm. But I was told I couldn't use the system until January 1, 2015.

(Looks at calendar.)

Hey! I can use it now! I've paid up my maintenance fees and everything, and I have double points this year because it's my first year of use.

Where should I go?

I'm planning on traveling to Portland, OR via Amtrak this year. Maybe. Just to look around for retirement purposes, you know, and to actually be forced to relax for the two days (interrupted with a day's walkabout) of the rail trip. For some reason, all but one of the vacation companies I've checked into have zero places on the West Coast in their network. The one had a place in San Francisco that took about six years' worth of points to earn one night at.

So I'm talking about elsewhere.

In 2016 I want to go Great Britain via Trafalgar, which has a hand-shake deal with Festiva. (Plus I have a coupon from QVC for Trafalgar.) In 2017 I'm thinking either Greece or the Bahamas (Paradise Island!), and 2018 vice versa.

But what about 2015?

Here's the in-plan destinations. Not sure how big this map will go in this blog, so use the link as needed.

I bought the plan at Atlantic Beach, which seems a really nice place and I'd love to take my paint box down there and spend a week checking out the picturesque neighborhood and tasty restaurants. Plus the resort has three pools, a tennis court (want to come along?), beachfront, etc. etc.

When I was a kid, my parents bought some Florida swampland and we drove from North Dakota (you understand the swampland now) down there to check it out. (They got their money back.) On the way, Mom insisted we stop off at Juliet Gordon Low's birthplace in Savannah, since we kids were Girl Scouts and she was a troop leader. I recall bits of that mansion, but nothing else. I've been told that both Savannah and Charleston are great places to visit.

Then there's the option of Orlando. At some point I want to see Harry Potter Land; heck, I've never been to any part of Universal.

Where would you go? And why?


Currently on my Facebook Pro Page I have a contest running until Friday evening. Name that store! Winner gets their choice of one of my ebooks.
ALSO: Stay tuned for a chance to win a $200 Amazon Gift Card! Details will arrive on that same page on or about Feb. 2.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Three Worlds Saga continues!

On Trial for Her Life... And Her Heart!

The exciting THREE WORLDS superhero romance saga continues!

Lina O'Kelly, psychic and interstellar transporter, is finally reunited with her love, Londo (Valiant) Rand, the galaxy's most powerful parahero. He was forced to leave her on their wedding day, but their reunion is bittersweet. He brings news of a hero's death, and then cannot stop a formal inquiry into the charge of mind control that the Mega-Legion commander has leveled against Lina. She stands to lose her very mind if the judgment goes against her.

Dark secrets revealed

No matter which way the trial goes, they both carry secrets that could tear apart their new relationship. Jae (Neutrino) Rallene, the last of his mysterious kind, holds the key that could seal Lina and Londo's happiness... or keep them separated forever.

Cover illustration by Colleen Doran.
Heat level: Moderate.


Lina got up to leave. “Here, let me show you,” Londo said, quickly swinging his chair around as she went out the back. He put his arm around her and she eased it away from herself. The door to the cubicle closed behind them. The balcony outside was empty.

“Do I have to break through this again?” he asked sharply.

She looked past his cheek, not at him. “Lon, we need to talk. All these interruptions aren’t helping at all. I am trying to put things on hold until we can find some privacy. Please don’t push things until then.”

“Push things?” He pulled her chin up, but her gaze would not come around to his face. 
“Baby, do you remember a few days ago? A little wedding ceremony? And a couple days before that? ‘I’ll love you forever’? Where are they now?”

“Is this private enough to talk?” At last her eyes met his, but hers were blazing green. “Do you want to have our discussion here? In the open? How many cameras are on us?”

“There are no cameras,” Lon said, and somewhere below them a cubicle door opened. They stood still as Boroh stepped out, moved down the hall and through another door. “So we’ll make it—”

His ring buzzed. “Londo, I see neither of you are in your cubicle. Have you both lost your way?” It was Wiley.

“We’re just trying to have a private conversation. Give us a few minutes.”

“Don’t upset her. I don’t want anything to interfere with these readings. Electrolytes must be perfect.”

Londo frowned and his frown became deeper when he saw Lina striding off in the direction of Wiley’s cubicle. She had to look at the door labels. He trotted to catch up. “Damn it, Lina! I’m trying to get all this straightened out, and you’re running away.”

“Let’s just drop the whole thing until later and be professional about it now, okay? Neutral.”

“Neutral?” Londo took her roughly into his arms. “Is this neutral? Is what we’ve been doing, what we’ve been feeling toward each other, neutral?” He pressed his lips on hers, holding her head so she couldn’t get away.

She didn’t kiss back. Instead, she pummeled his shoulders with her fists.

Lina finally freed herself from his mouth but he still gripped her in his arms. “Do I have to slap you again?” she demanded. “Have you go back there with a big red mark on your face? How will you explain that?”

“I don’t need to explain anything.”

“I think you need to explain a helluva lot!”

“I think that you already knew. You’re the big telepath around here. How is it that you don’t know everything?”

Her mouth worked before she could speak. “And you’re the big parahero with the big reputation. How is it that you can’t tell the truth when it really matters? How is it that you like to hurt others just so you… so you can keep them under your control?”

“Says the woman who can read minds.”

“Is that going to be your excuse from now on? Not telling me anything and then saying that I should have known? Am I supposed to scan you every time you tell me something important? Or are you going to lie to me about the little things as well?”

“Some people would be intrigued by this, Lina. I thought you would be. I’m disappointed in you.”

“Disappointed?” The word hit Lina like a knife, echoing her father’s words: Clumsy, stupid girl! You should be ashamed of yourself! She turned her head from him. Break away; run. “I don’t want to talk about it now,” she told him, blinking hard.

“Hide from it, like you do everything else?” He shook her.

“And you just… assume that you can drop these thunderbolts and I won’t say anything about it, that I won’t question it because you’re team leader. The great and powerful Valiant. No one questions Valiant on anything! Lon, how could you lie to me like that? Have me make a vow when you hadn’t told me the truth?”

“This has nothing to do—”

“This has everything to do with that! Can’t you see? This is the very foundation of what we are, and you’re, and you’re—” She choked. “My god, what have we done?”

Jump into the galactic adventure here!

Sign up for my newsletter (top right of this page) to get a SECRET CODE for a FREE copy (your choice of e-format) of Touch of Danger, vol. 1 of the Three Worlds Saga.
AND come over to my Facebook Pro Page because within the next few days I'll be posting about a CONTEST in which you could win an Amazon gift card!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The most amazing character in superhero-dom!

At one time Superman may have been able to juggle planets on his pinkie. Given enough lead time, Batman claims he can conquer anyone. (He's done so well with Joker so far, right?) Spider-Man can wrap the entire city of New York in webbing if he wants. But who outdoes their feats? And does it on a regular basis?

Alfred Thaddeus Crane Beagle Pennyworth.

Alfred first contacted Bruce Wayne (Batman—But don't tell anyone that!) in Batman #16, waaay back in 1942. After the first Batman movie serial came out, the comics character slimmed down and began sporting lip hair to match his movie counterpart.
William Austin, 1943

Eric Wilton, 1949

Due to different continuities, Alfred has been Bruce's valet since Bruce's childhood, or is the son of Bruce's father's valet, or came to the family later, a veteran of the British intelligence services. Or perhaps he was an actor. He raised Bruce, unless Bruce's Uncle Philip was in the picture, in which case he didn't.

All that aside, he is NOW (in almost every continuity's "now") Bruce Wayne's butler. He's also Batman's butler, as well as that of any Robin who happens to be living at Wayne Manor or another of Bruce's homes.

Think about it: Batman must keep absolute security around his home and caped career. With such operating, he has never been shown (that I recall) to have hired ANY other servants or assistants.

It's ALL left up to Alfred to accomplish.


He's responsible for Bruce: acting as a valet, a chauffeur (sometimes for both identities). Cooking for him, making sure he has clean clothing, attending his many wounds. Keeping him as emotionally stable as is possible for an obsessed vigilante to be.

He's responsible for raising the various Robins, since Bruce rarely has time for fatherly duties. This would involve cooking, washing, checking homework, parent-teacher conferences, heart-to-heart conversations, hugs, ferrying the Robin to soccer practice, etc. He provides the basic familial interaction that Brucie can't.

He does things the otherwise-occupied Bruce can't take time for: responding to social invitations, arranging parties (Brucie is a bon-vivant), addressing Christmas cards, etc. He performs the mundane duties a Batman needs: attending to the maintenance of the Batmobile and other Bat-conveyances, making sure all weaponry is kept in good working order, seeing to the Batcave's computers. He also aids Batman in his investigations. Sometimes he even takes on an undercover role.

For the lack of a housekeeper, he must: clean the estate, do laundry, wash the dishes, take out the garbage, shop for the household, organize personal business, run errands, prepare meals. For the lack of a house cleaner, he must do deep cleaning, keep all appliances in the home (including elevators) running and clean, wash windows, and in general make sure the manor and Batcave are scrubbed spotless from attic to deepest sub-basements.

The Manor (and any other residences. I'm always reminded of that crazy skyscraper Bruce once lived out of. Just who designed and built all those secret elevators and superhero-y places? Did Bats have them killed afterward to ensure their silence?) (Where were we?) The Manor sits on a large plot of land. Alfred must act as gardener, which means he has to make a landscaping plan, maintain the various plantings as well as the machinery to work the landscape. He must water plantings and harvest any fruit trees, garden plants, etc. If indeed Brucie should hire a crew for some project, Alfred must supervise them to make sure they don't stumble across any bat-paraphernalia.

As just a butler, Alfred answers the phone, greets visitors, oversees the household budget, packs for travel, plans events in the home, cares for and inventories the mansion's art, china and silver, sees to the manor's security, manages the family's personal schedule.

In addition, Alfred must take time for his personal needs as a human being, for an insane Alfred would be, well…

According to the International Guild of Professional Butlers, the average butler earns between $50,000 and $120,000 annually. How much would Alfred Pennyworth make? The guild also says that butlers usually receive two to three weeks vacation a year.

But how does Batman function without Alfred, during those vacations or for any other reason?

He doesn't.

I've come to a conclusion: Alfred Pennyworth has a super power that allows him to function 24/7 with no sleep and no rest periods. Either that, or he's actually a native of Cargg, the world that produced the Legion's Triplicate Girl. Alfred Pennyworth can actually split into three people to get the job done.

But is three enough? I don't think so. Just the other day I saw some click bait that said that a huge rap star had 200 people on staff at his manor.

Perhaps Alfred is actually the son of some god in charge of super-efficiency. Certainly, he's the hardest-working character in comics!

Hey, look! My latest book is out!

It's Stalemate, Vol. 3 of the Three Worlds superhero romance saga, and various sites are still in the process of loading it so I'm not going to shout about it until next week. Until then, the Goodreads Contest is still open. I'm giving away 3 FREE COPIES of the book to the lucky winners! And of course, if you sign up for my newsletter (see top right column of this page), you'll receive a SECRET CODE that will get you a FREE e-book version (your choice of format) for Vol. 1 of the Three Worlds Saga, Touch of Danger! Let me just add a few more exclamation points here!!! Now I'll go get busy on volume 4.