Saturday, May 31, 2014

I couldn't do my homework because my toothpaste exploded

Do you ever smack your head and think, "gee I wish I'd had that excuse when I was in school?"  Well, I had a serious case of that today.

Lightning struck my building yesterday afternoon, messing up my clocks, frying my cable box, and exploding my toothpaste.  It also left three big gouges on the bank of the small lake by my apartment.  When I first saw those, I thought we were about to have a humongous sinkhole...humongous is so a word...look it up in any dictionary written in Texas.  In such a tome you'll find other great words like tuit.  You know like "I've got to get down tuit."  And then there's the ever popular aaahhhyyyysss, as in "hey, coach, I'aunt some aaahhhyyysss..."  If you can't understand that one, write me and I'll translate for you.  It is deeply Texan, of a form rarely spoken these days, deep East Texas speak.

I digress - don't I always?  Anyhoo, there was a loud pop yesterday afternoon while I was editing my latest manuscript. So I powered down the pc and the modem and shut off everything. 

See, I'm not used to the lightning like they have here in Florida.  I grew up smack dab in Tornado Alley.  I got used to having to "duck and cover" in school, equally effective for tornadoes or the occasional hydrogen bomb scare...It gave me a long held belief that I will kowtow to no one, not even a hydrogen bomb...I mean what's the use in that case?  If you're close enough you'll melt anyway, might as well face it on your feet, instead of with your bum sticking up in the air. Oh please don't melt me, Mr.Bomb!!!

I've been in several tornadoes in my lifetime, recognize the "freight train" sound they make.  Fortunately, I've never had my home take a direct hit, but I've seen devastating damage first hand, including from a couple of EF-5 tornadoes.  Did you know that one has multiple vortexes swirling around the center?  The Cheyenne Indians used to say if you saw the "dead man walking" you would soon die.  An EF-5 tornado seen from a distance looks just like a huge man walking, moving his arms and legs.  If you're close enough to see that, kiss yourself goodbye, unless you've got a really fast car and a keen sense of direction in your panic.

We had lightning strikes in Texas, too, usually took out our television comment there...but the worst one I ever experienced was in Miami when I was four years old.

We were visiting my mother's parents.  She was on one side of the den at an ironing board pressing one of Dad's shirts.  I was on the other side of the room watching television. (yeah, right, a little mini-couch potato or tater tot.) There was an enormous bang which made my ears ring.  A bright, bright bolt shot through the screen door, cut through the room between my mom and me and killed the (you guessed it!) television, taking the iron out as well.  Needless to say that memory has remained intact all these years later.  NO, not because the TV died, but because of the violence of the sound and the bolt which blew up the TV and smoked the iron.

More people are killed by lightning in Florida than anywhere else in the world.  And yet every time there's a storm nearby you can see people on the beach and the golf course with the "I am invincible - that won't happen to me" mindset. Sigh...

But back to the toothpaste - today I had to replace the cable box and it still doesn't work.  They're not sending out a technician to check the line until Tuesday...I mean, I am going to miss Game of Thrones tomorrow night and Longmire's 3rd season premiere on Monday night.  Thank goodness for a big DVD collection and a working TV this time.

Okay, okay back to the toothpaste - the piece of resistance was when I went into my dressing room last night and found my black marble counter top covered in green goo puddled around what had been a full tube of toothpaste.  Of course now it resembles one shared by adolescent siblings who have a running battle about who can squeeze it the hardest.  I never knew the energy in a lightning bolt could do that, but it must have.  The toothpaste tube was fine when I saw it earlier in the day closed tightly and upright.  It was still upright last night with it's innards messing up my marble...The things you learn!

Though this has been written out of frustration for two difficult days dealing with my aging father, the incidents are all true, even if the mode of writing has the tongue firmly planted in the cheek.

Remember this, in lightning storms, especially in Florida, turn off all electrical equipment, and protect your toothpaste...your countertops, no matter their composition, will be forever grateful.

Until next time, take care.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Big Easy Blog Tour


This is my week to appear on the Big Easy Blog Tour.  This is a tour of blogs from participating authors.  We talk about our writing process in the hope of helping other aspiring writers with our method or experience.

The one who talked me into participating is Skye Taylor known for her most recent novel Falling For Zoe, previously reviewed on my blog. Her first novel Whatever It Takes was one of the first books to be reviewed on this blog.

Here's the cover for my upcoming novel.  Yep, he's a real guy...I think he's got a career ahead of him.

Okay now for the questions I must answer.

1. What am I working on?

I just finished the final edits, blurb, and acknowledgements for my first novel Touch The Sky.  It is due to be released in July.  Now, I am working on the sequel, Swept Away, which is the story of the heroine's baby sister in Touch The Sky.  It's a lighter story than its predecessor, though some danger does lurk.  Hopefully, this one will be more fun, but just as engrossing.  I am actually writing Swept Away now.  There is another novel, a romantic suspense, entitled Forbidden (Kapu), which takes place in Hawaii during the annexation of the islands by the US.  I took a workshop last year in which we were required to plot an entire novel and develop the characters.  Forbidden (Kapu) was the one I worked during the class. More on that in question 4.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have a background in theater, my avocation for many years since I was a child.  As an actor trained in the Stanislavsky method, or a Method actor, I learned to become the characters I portrayed.  It is a process where the actor builds a complete back story for the character based on the script.  The actor knows everything about that character - how he thinks - how he feels - how he moves - and most importantly, what in his past made him that way.  I was taught to use a series of sensory exercises to bring the character to life onstage.

That's how I approach the characters in my fiction.  I give them the back story, which usually doesn't appear in the novel, except in glimpses.  But by knowing so much about my characters I can portray them realistically so that the reader will relate to them and their situation. In describing their surroundings, wardrobe, interactions with other people, etc, I have the character respond with his sensory the heroine in Touch The Sky being uncomfortable in the crush of people at her first ball after her return to society - the heat of the overcrowded room, the press of people, their facial expressions, their overwhelming scents, her fear of their initial reaction to her, all combine to make the character come alive.

I'll probably go on overload when I finally write Forbidden (Kapu).  I love the Hawaiian Islands and have traveled to them several times.  I'm already planning descriptions of the incredible smell of the plumeria flowers, the rich red earth, the damp heat of the rain forests, and the sounds of the pounding surf.  It's a sensual feast which will play well with a couple in the throes of forbidden love.

3. Why do I write what I do?

For many years I worked in the field as a social worker.  I worked in protective services.  It was like working in a war zone, seeing wounded children and elderly adults, neglected people starving to death, or dying due to denial of medical care.  I was on call and many times was called out at night or on the weekends for an emergency.  I began my serious fiction writing during that time as a release from all the horrors I witnessed.  It was necessary to exorcise those experiences in a positive way. 

I wrote stories of heroes and heroines who had been through trauma.  No matter how many obstacles got in the way, they worked through the trauma to have their happy ending.  I still write those stories.  In a way I suppose my message to the readers is "It will be okay.  You can survive this.  No matter what happens, you can heal."  I guess I'm still a social worker in some ways. That sounds like such a downer.  I use gentle humor to heal in many situations in life and in my writing. There, that's better.

4. How does my writing process work?

I write in a combination as a plotter and a pantser.  It just depends on what feels right to me at the time.  For example, as mentioned above, I have Forbidden (Kapu) completely plotted and the characters developed as a result of the workshop I took.  But that isn't the way I wrote Touch The Sky.  Swept Away is growing on its own as well.  Oh, I know what will happen, but it isn't written in an orderly outline.  It's in my head.

I tend to visualize scenes, movement, costumes, etc.  That's another ghost of my theatrical experience.  As an adult I directed far more than I acted.  A director visualizes taking all the different characters, the script, the setting, the costumes, the lighting, the music, the props, and melding them into a cohesive performance.  I know what the scene described in the TTS prologue looks like, what it feels like physically.  When I know these things it makes a scene more powerful when written, helps the reader to visualize it so they are drawn into the action.

If I get stuck, bogged down in a manuscript, I will stop and make an outline basically to know what happens next.  But honestly, I think my best writing is done when I'm "in the zone" and the words come pouring out.  I can always go back and clean up anything later.

Magickal Mayhem, my infamous paranormal with a trio of drag queens as the heroine's best friends, is bogged down and waiting for me to get back to it. When I do, I will outline the stuffing out of that one. 

I hope this has been helpful for you. It was fun for me to participate and to examine the way I write.

Following me next week are:

Cheryl Norman  writes romance fiction and cookbooks. Her latest romance novel is a time travel, RUNNING OUT OF TIME. She is currently at work on a category romance series for Turquoise Morning Press. The first, RETURN TO DRAKE SPRINGS, will be available in October, 2014. Visit her site at

Gloria Marlow  - Romantic suspense author Gloria Davidson Marlow's heart is firmly planted in northeast Florida, where she grew up in a family of commercial fishermen. She works as a legal assistant for a local law firm, but remains a homemaker at heart who loves cooking, Florida wine, and making pickles and jellies. She and her husband, also a commercial fisherman, have three young grandsons with whom Gloria cannot spend nearly enough time.

Thank you for your attention.  Take care.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hackers and Phishers, Alive - Alive-O

It happens to us all eventually.  We get noticed by a hacker or someone phishing.  They make our life unpleasant for a while and then go on to their next target. When I worked for the government, we were on a LAN and had elaborate procedures to protect us.  Still, every once in a while some employee who hadn't bothered to read the most recent security directive clicked on a link and the whole network went down for a bit while the techs worked to repair the damage.

Yesterday morning, I turned on my handheld device and discovered failure messages for emails sent to my entire contact list.  The system refused to send them because they were of questionable origin.  In other words, it recognized they did not originate with me.

Of course my first thought was "oh no, my manuscripts!!!" But then I remembered I have elaborate back-up systems to make sure I have multiple copies of my writing in several places.  I also have protection on all my accounts, identity info, etc.  So I relaxed a bit.

I did send my friends an email warning them of bogus emails they might receive from someone pretending to be me.

After my initial rage, I calmed down and started wondering about the person who did this.  Being a movie fan, I envisioned the typical introverted malcontent, a Jabba the Hutt clone living in his mother's basement surrounded by more electronic equipment than Command Central at NASA.  I pictured him living on a steady diet of Pop-Tarts and Pizza while he guzzled Mountain Dew and Red Bull, paying the price for all the caffeine, with shaking hands and tapping feet.  Oh well, at least he would get some exercise.

He would be pale, with bad skin from improper nutrition and never going out in the daylight.

He would be inept socially, unable to maintain a conversation that did not veer off into techno-speak.

Women? Not a chance - he wouldn't leave his safe haven to meet anyone. And even if he did, he wouldn't be able to maintain a relationship.

Seriously, though, the person who surreptitiously peeps into other people's business is today's version of a voyeur, a peeping-tom, if you will.  He or she gets off on ferreting out secrets and using them.  The hacker gets off on the power rush of knowing what others don't want anyone else to know. He may or may not reveal it to anyone else.  The mere fact he has the power to find it, sustains him, feeds his abused ego. Depending on his personality, he may or may not publish what he finds.

Take the Wiki-Leaks case for example.  I am the first person to stand up and say the government frequently avoids the truth in their reports, their statistics, their forecasts.  Doesn't matter who is in the White House or the State House.  Info is always subject to the spin in favor of the ruling party or faction. They always want to maintain their funding level or get a higher allocation or make the data fit their agenda.  I have no problem with that kind of info being revealed.  I worked for the government for 35 years and always felt this way.  Funding comes out of my tax dollars, too.

But I think some things which could endanger innocent lives if revealed should not be.  I also think we have a right to privacy in our own lives.  The hackers and phishers try to take that away from us.

Of course we bear responsibility for what we post online - remember Anthony Wiener?  What kind of idiot would put those photos out there for the world to see and expect no backlash?

In closing this rambling diatribe, I say the hackers and phishers may seem like Jabba the Hutt, but we the people need to be like Jedi Master Yoda...

No one, in any aspect of our lives, can hurt us, unless we let them. 

So take precautions, prepare for any contingency, and you will survive the occasional electronic voyeur.

And to those sad folks living in their mama's basement, I say to you in the words of William Shatner, portraying himself on SNL during a skit in which he spoke to the fans at a ST Con...


Until next time...

Saturday, May 3, 2014


It's STILL raining in Florida for the third straight day.  Yesterday morning, adrift with nothing to do, I decided to watch a PPV movie.  I chose Prisoners.

The film is dark and cold, frequently shot on location in conditions of icy rain, snow mix, and just plain heavy snow.  It is a tense drama filled with suspense and frankly ugly emotions and situations.

Somehow, it grabbed my attention and kept it for all two and a half hours.  Even when the little voice inside me said "stop this and come back to it later" I didn't move.  The remote stayed where it was untouched and unused.

Prisoners is the story of a family and their friends who live down the street.  On Thanksgiving Day, they go down to their friends' home for dinner.  Each family has a teen-ager (one boy and one girl) and younger daughters of the same age.  After dinner as the day progresses, the teen-agers watch tv.  The adults talk, laugh, and drink wine.  The two younger girls come to their parents and ask if they can run back to the other house for something.  The parents say yes, but only if the teen-aged brother goes with them.  Then the adults go back to their wine and laughter.

As it grows dark, it starts to snow.  Hugh Jackman, as the main character, becomes worried about his daughter and decides to go home to check on her.  The house is empty.  The girls are gone.  Whether they made it there or not is unknown.  They never asked their teen-aged siblings to go with them.  They just left and vanished in the short walk down the block.

The story unfolds with the search for the missing girls as it stretches into weeks without word of their location or condition. Bit by bit the families begin to fall apart, prisoners of the situation of which they have no control.

Jackman's character becomes filled with rage and acts accordingly.  His friend, whose daughter is also missing, is played by Terrence Howard.  While he goes along with some of the events, he protests the need for revenge.

Maria Bello and Viola Davis play the mothers, the first completely falls apart and relies on pills and liquor to get through the days. Viola Davis plays a pillar of strength for the two families.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the detective assigned to the case.  He, too, becomes a prisoner of the situation, frustrated at his inability to find the girls, and then at some extremely unfortunate events in the investigation.

The story woven is convoluted with many false steps and clues.  There is a resolution that is partially satisfactory, but even that has its twist.

Shot on dark days (literally) or at night, the film has a mysterious feel to it, as if the viewer cannot get his/her bearing.  The music is heavy, minor key, underscoring the ambiance of the film perfectly.

The cast is an excellent ensemble who give wonderful performances.

It isn't my favorite Hugh Jackman role, but it does show his increasing versatility as an actor.  This is a character you've never seen before...Well some of the rage has come out in his role as Wolverine, but this rage is visceral and hard to take at times.

Terrence Howard plays a perfect foil to Jackman, tempering the rage with wisdom and common sense.

Maria Bello is terrific as Jackman's wife, who spends much of the film in an enervated stupor because she can't face the truth of the situation. 

Viola Davis is always spellbinding on film.  This one is no exception.  She gives a measured mature performance.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a magnificent performance as the troubled, hamstrung detective.

And last, but certainly not least, look for one of my favorite actors these days, Melissa Leo in a pivotal role, handled with just the right mixture of emotions.

As you can probably tell, this is not a light-hearted movie.  It is a darkly serious drama, the likes of which one of the nordic playwrights like Strindberg or Ibsen might have crafted.

The ending leaves the viewer to make his/her own decision as to what ultimately happens.

Not light popcorn fare, it is an atmospheric drama with chills, surprises, and lots of stunning moments.

There are some images I wish I had not seen.  But I was mesmerized by the film, even the appalling ugliness.  It is just too powerful.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.  I can honestly say not since Silence of the Lambs has a film affected me like this one.

Until next time...