Friday, July 31, 2009
A few weeks ago I was riding into downtown Macon with my good friend, Charlie Deaton. We’d been working together all morning at his office, and decided to head down there and go to Jeneane’s Cafe for lunch.
While on our way to Jeneane‘s, we passed by the newly built Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and then, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
I couldn't help but notice as we rode by these buildings just how beautiful they are. They're both state-of-the-art structures, and are aesthetically quite pleasing. They have everything grade “A” facilities should have - landscaped grounds, multiple sculptures, and wonderful ornamental fixtures.
One other thing they happened to have was this old bum who was walking right past them as we rode by....
This wasn't just any old bum. This was a haint ugly old bum. His gut was large enough that it almost seemed to need a wheelbarrow to support it. His face appeared to have been unshaven for days, his cheeks were gray instead of pink, and his overall countenance rivaled that of a very angered badger. He was, as Ed Jr. puts it, "triple-haint ugly."
And there he was walking right in front of these two incredibly perfect buildings...
Immediately a thought hit me - why were we taxpayers allowing this? Why would we spend millions of dollars on these beautiful buildings just to allow one Charlie Pound look-alike to ruin their beauty? It makes absolutely no sense at all. Is this what we’re spending our tax money for, to provide this ghastly contrast between pure beauty and absolute haintness?
There’s an easier way. Charlie and I thought it up as we were digging into a couple of slices of lemon meringue pie. It’s profound, yet simple, which should mean it'll have some chance for wide spread appeal and acceptance. Just consider the following idea...
We all know that when people go to renew their driver's licenses that they have to stand in front of one of those little mounted cameras in order to get their pictures taken. It would seem to us that it’d be an easy thing to hook up a computer to this camera that has an image of a decent looking person scanned into it. This person could be a level "six" on a haint-to-beauty scale of one to ten. When the camera is activated, it could scan the face of the person being photographed, and, give them an objective numeric rating based upon the afore-mentioned scale.
A six could be the passing score - this would allow the person to walk out into public just as they are. Less than a six? Why, a government issued mask (maybe like those the pro wrestlers wear) could be issued to the offendee. We could insure that the mask itself would lend itself to the beautification of the area the guilty party spends lots of time in. For example, green tinted masks could be issued for country residents (to blend in with the scenery), and concrete or asphalt colored masks could be utilized by city dwellers.
This concept would not only improve city and county beautification, but could also cause a whole series of cottage industry spin-offs. Imagine apartment communities for those with scores from one to three (no lights needed there), or guard services for those with scores of eight or greater. Human scarecrows could suddenly come into vogue. Bottom line, it doesn't take a genius to see that this thing could be an incredible boon for business. And if business does well, the tax dollars collected go up, and more government sponsored services could be rendered to all citizens. I modestly have to say that this is an incredible idea, it could even go worldwide, and ya'll can thank Charlie and I for it if you happen run into either one of us one day.
Wonder why City Hall isn't returning any of my phone calls these days?
"ChristmaSin'", my new Christmas novel, comes out in Nov. of '09!
Author of the Year, 2008
Bear with me on this post and read to the end because it’s not what you first expect.
When my boys hit their teen years I wanted to help them establish proper perspective with the true nature of life. I explained that our journey from birth to dead was a series of hills and valleys. It’s easy when you’re at the top of a mountain to gaze out and feel positive about things. The trick is to remember when you’re down in a valley it’s just part of the journey and shortly you’ll climb up again and see the sunshine. Hopefully each of us has more mountain tops then valleys in our path but if we keep perspective about those days up on the peaks then the pits wouldn’t seem so bad. I know they listened because I’ve heard them reflect such thoughts in conversations with friends and other family members.
I find lately that, for some reason, I’ve lost that perspective. There are more dark days then light, which is odd seeing I’ve arrived in that stage referred to as the golden years. Being analytical by nature, I’ve tried to assess the cause, and I’ve come up with many possibilities:
1. Could be the nature of retired life. I don’t have the accomplishments and challenges when I struggled with complex problems in my job to support the military. I’ve talked to other retired men and many sense that lose of challenge they used to have in their work.
2. Could be the change in hormones. As men advance in years our testosterone levels decrease. Besides the obvious change in drives and strength, I’ve always felt clarity of purpose and zest for my existences being a man.
3. Maybe it’s all the aches and pains I seem to have now. I remember when I was a teenager hearing my dad moan and groan each morning as he got out of bed to go to work. Now I sound just like him. Takes two Ibuprofen to kick in before I can move without pain. And I get sore so quickly now. Ten years ago I could perform hard physical labor for 10 hours and just fell fatigue. Now it’s like someone ripping a rake through the muscles in my body. I just finished rebuilding the deck on my house by myself and had to stop every 2 hours for a rest. Man I’m getting old.
4. Or it could just be the state of affairs in America today. The country I struggled for and worked to help evolve and progress has changed so drastically, I don’t recognize it anymore. I’m sure our forefathers are shaking their heads in disbelieve for where we’re headed. No, I’m not worried about myself. I don’t have that long to watch things decline. But the nation, and the life of my children and granddaughter, will not offer the reward and happiness I experienced in my journey. The boobs in DC are doing everything to drag us over the waterfall socially, economically and in terms of the security of our populace. And the media just covers it up. Problem is I’ve always been one to attack problems, solve them, do everything in my power to protect and help my family and friends, but not this time. The mistakes of the past few years are beyond anything the real people in the country can fix. Our leaders are lost or just care about politics and not the true course of our nation. So many in this country are suffering because of the selfish blind ambitions of Washington, so many more will suffer in five years, and yet no one wants to see what’s coming over the horizon. I race to the tip of the mountain and there is no sunlight. Everything in the distance is bleak for the nation that once stood so proud, for the people that mean so much to me, and I can do nothing but watch. I am powerless to stop the insane path we’re on.
Perhaps the state of our existence is the true wound that plaques my thoughts, causes nightmares, washes away the smile and humor that once accompanied my spirits everywhere I went, no matter how windy and dark the storm outside. Or maybe I should just fake it, like so many. Maybe that is the new perspective I seek, a return to the matrix and ensuing fantasy world where things make sense and we imagine control over our destiny. That’s it. I’ll just have them plug me back into the machine. Yes, yes, that is much easier, much less painful. It’s not real, but who cares. The truth is so ugly, why deal with it. Ah, I feel better now. Forgive my excursion into the reality outside the matrix. Thanks for listening. I don’t know what got into me. Must have been something I ate last night. Oh, one more thing. If a bald black guy wearing dark glasses and a leather jacket offers you two pills, be sure to take the red one so you can stay in here with me where all is well.
OMG, what just happened in the post above? Has the big guy gone off the deep end? No, relax, I’m not going postal. I just shared the process I use to evolve the flaws and reality in the main characters in my stories. I’ve been fortunate in many of my 5 star reviews to be cited for the realism and relationship readers develop with my characters. The way I do it is to select an internal conflict or defect for the main characters that relates somehow to the premise or theme of the story.
For example in TAINTED HERO the premise was sometimes good people do bad things. The struggle for Eric (the hero) was his ability to deconflict between good and bad from a social and a personal level. In FORGOTTEN CHILDREN the premise was Greed is blind to human suffering. The defect in the hero Mark, an investigative reporter, was his willingness to ignore the slippery slope. When Mark discovers a crime, he doesn’t share with the authorities because he sees them as a bureaucracy that will only encumber solving the case. The ends justify his means because he will solve the crime sooner, at least that’s the self induced motive he uses to justify his actions. In the end he comes to grip with the repercussions of the villain’s willingness to do what Mark did under the guise of the greater good of mankind, and the fact that his flawed judgment may have cost lives. I know, seems complicated to create a story to accomplish linkage between the story premise and the characters personality, and it is, but I enjoy doing it.
In the illustration above with my discussion of “perspective” I was actually evolving the conflict within the hero for a new story I’m currently working on with my coauthor budette, Candace Morehouse, called WHISPERS OF INNOCENCES. Over the past few years the hero, Drake Elliot, has lost perspective on his life, who he is as a man, his relationship with his family; and that detachment from the true relevance of what’s important has cost him dearly. Now, how do I create that struggle and realism with Drake and all my other characters? I use myself as a guinea pig. With most of us, to varying degrees at some point in our existence, we have been confused or struggled with specters and demons of all kinds. Well so have I, a lot of them. So, I select the conflict (in this case perspective) and evolve what it would be like for me on a personal level, and I do it completely, like it is real. I take my struggles with that condition from memory and expound on it, then I mold and convert it to my character. If I haven’t experienced that particular conflict I become absorbed in how I would react and struggle to such conditions.
Like I said, it is involved, but I thing it helps to derive realistic characters, and there’s a little of me in each hero or heroine. If you want to see how things work out for Drake and the heroine in WHISPERS OF INNOCENCES, come back in about a year and a half, that’s how long the writing/publishing process takes for the story to be released.
Till next time.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
An eclipse yields a powerful force, an energy harnessed by those with magic in their souls. When the moon slips between the Earth and the Sun, a mighty wizard evokes the elements of nature. With ancient, Celtic incantations, he sends a mighty Viking jarl soaring through time to bring home his destiny.
Erik Lotharsson is sent decades into the future to find the mate his people have chosen. He has no idea the journey he travels will be one of heart and soul. Nor can he imagine the trials he must face in taming a modern woman to his point of view.
Keelin Haverland has experienced dreams of a Viking lover for several years and fixates her attention on an acquaintance with a striking resemblance to her dream lover. She soon discovers her dreams are of another, of a man who claims to be from the past. The magic of an eclipse transports her to another time where modern conveniences no longer exist, and love is but a heartbeat away.
Settling both hands upon her shoulders, he studied her delicate features. Her eyes regarded him with a naïve innocence that belied her vast experience. Had he not seen the holocaust, he would have never suspected the depth of passion within her supple body.
“You still fear me?”
Keelin shook her head in a negative manner.
“You do not lie well, Keelin. You shake beneath my fingers.”
“You have turned my world upside-down. Why wouldn’t I fear you?”
He stepped closer and her skin paled, yet he could not stop himself from wanting her. Some unnamed emotion vibrated between them, feeding her anxiety. He should just let her go, but then…
“Please remove your hands. Whatever you have in mind, I’m not game. Not now. I won’t be your bed-slave. I’ve seen how it is for some of your women here, and I won’t become like them.”
“You assume much.” He dropped his hands. “I have not yet asked it of you.”
“You didn’t have to.” She twisted her hands. “Malmury indicated I would eventually have to serve you in this regard.”
“Ah. And now you dread this arrangement.” He studied the tic on the side of her neck.
“Can you blame me?” Her voice held a trace of vulnerability. Guilt for his part in her mistreatment gnawed at his insides. The feeling unsettled his stomach. Emotional stress over petty matters was not something he dealt well with.
“Cease your worries. The green hair is like a splash of cold water on my lusty thoughts.” When first he met Keelin, he’d been repulsed by her green tresses and her sarcastic manner. The journey through time forced a different response. Even now, the memory of her naked form pressed so close to his had the power to heat his blood. The image
thickened in his mind, but he tamped down the desire to crush her to him.
“Well, you’re wrong on one account. When the dye wears off, my hair will be blonde, similar in coloring to your own. So, what now, chief?”
He smiled. Her unusual way with words amused him and lightened his mood. “I know not. With Fintan no longer here to teach you our language, you will not be allowed to come here. Until you have accepted your new home, I trust you not with such freedom.”
“Ooh, mustn’t let the dog off its leash. And where would I go? I have no friends, no money, and no resources. Your people fear me like the plague. You might as well just put me in a cage.”
She sounded so despondent Erik felt a certain amount of empathy. She had a point. He recalled his own journey through time and the lack of freedom he’d suffered with Sank.
“What do you mean about my people fearing you?”
She stared at her toes. “I caused a bit of a stir.”
“I saved a young boy from a dragon attack. Now the people think I brought the dragon to the keep in the first place.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Dísa’s words haunted him. Keelin is yours by my prophecy. She was meant to be your wife, not your thrall. You show little respect for my powers by making her a slave. Mark my words. What you do here will divide the people.
Prospecting: Initiating contact with potential customers and qualifying them as prospects who can and will buy within a reasonable period of time.
An uneasy buzz crisscrossed the room, speculation on everyone’s lips. The reason for this Monday morning meeting, no one knew. It couldn’t be good news, the resale numbers having been soft for the last couple of months. Although Cara hadn’t felt the slowdown, other agents had.
“Susie in human resources said they might get rid of the assistant brokers.” Wendy Lee, Cara’s assistant broker, chattered nervously beside her. “I don’t know what I’ll do if that happens. My parents are counting on my income to help with the rent and…”
“We’ve talked about this before.” Cara cut off her unproductive fretting. As long as the girl continued to perform, she would continue to receive her check, even if it came out of Cara’s own pocket. Although that would be more challenging as her project progressed.
“I know you gave me your word, but if all the other assistant brokers...”
If all the other assistant brokers were let go, only Cara’s exceptional position as the top agent would save Wendy’s job. “When was the last time I broke a promise, either to you or to anyone else?”
“Never.” The reply was immediate. No thought required.
And that was the way it should be. Despite the myth of sleazy snake oil salesmen, a saleswoman’s word was her most valuable commodity. Cara never gave hers lightly.
“Then stop worrying, Wendy.”
Cara worried enough for the both of them.
If Wendy lost her job, if Cara was ever unable to cover her salary, the Lee’s wouldn’t make rent. If they didn’t make rent, the landlord would evict them.
They would be homeless. Wendy’s father would blame himself. It would eat away at him, at his self-confidence. He’d never be the same, never laugh or smile and then...
No. Renting was too risky. If Wendy’s family owned their home, it would be different. They’d have equity to refinance if anything happened.
Cara was determined to make that ownership a reality for the family. She rubbed her neck, shoulders aching from self-inflicted pressure. Tonight, the first lot closed. Once that
took place successfully, all the moneymen would be fully committed and Cara could relax.
“Listen up, people.” The vice president hushed the crowd from his place at the front of the room. “Before you go back out there to sell, sell, sell, we have an exciting announcement to make.”
With the word exciting, a hundred plus agents and assistant brokers, Cara included, let out their collective breath. Exciting never meant layoffs or downsizing.
“As you are all aware,” the executive continued, seeming oblivious to the panic he caused, “We’ll be participating in the first ever handyman or handywoman auction benefiting Shelter for Mankind.”
Wendy gave her a relieved smile.
“To ensure that we get the very best participants, we’ve decided to hold a contest. We are allowing each agent to volunteer one participant. The agent whose handyman or woman has the highest winning bid will forgo paying any and all desk fees for the month.”
Cara’s ears perked up. No fees? The realty had been pushing them even more than usual recently, needing the commission money. Now.
“Cara?” Wendy asked, sounding hopeful.
“Your usual percent would apply, but on the total sale,” she answered and watched the young girl’s smile spread. Other assistant brokers only received the standard starting salary. Cara paid that as a base, but topped it off with a mini-commission, aligning Wendy’s goals with her own.
“Do you have anyone in mind?”
Any one. One. They only had one shot at this.
“What about the Mayor? He’d do it if you asked him.”
Her broker-in-training was in awe after the introduction to the politician last week. “Would you pay big money to meet the Mayor?” The politician was striving to be
the People’s Mayor, accessible to all, with his weekly public lunches.
Wendy’s face dropped. “No.”
Who would pay? The highest bids, Cara tapped her chin in thought, would come from either very wealthy individuals or corporations with large cash flows, like the media. They paid for interviews.
Wendy snapped her fingers, her face lighting up. “Blake Rexdall owes you for selling his house so quickly.”
The actor. Society matrons would plunk down cash for some of that Hollywood glamour, the paparazzi would also pony up for an exclusive. However...
“He has a two year shoot in Africa.”
Cara liked the media angle. Recently Venture Magazine offered $250,000 for a one-hour interview with, yes, as if she could forget, the reclusive local billionaire, Richard Thompson. He turned them down, of course, like all the rest, but if he was approached again...
“That’s it.” There was a flutter in her belly. From the competition. It couldn't be from anything else. Could it?
Right, Wendy, although good as far as assistant brokers went, was not a mind reader. “What do you know about Richard Thompson?”
The girl’s sweet brown eyes almost popped out of her head. “You know him?”
Cara shrugged her shoulders. They had never met, not officially. Okay, not at all, with the man harder to find than a penthouse overlooking the park, but after two years of talking regularly with Shirley, his assistant, she felt she knew him.
Well enough to know that while it would be a tough sell, it wouldn’t be impossible. If Cara framed the proposition attractively, he could solve one of her problems and one of
his at the same time. Shirley knew all of Richard’s business, and wasn’t afraid to share it with those she trusted. Shirley trusted Cara.
“Wow, Richard Thompson, I mean, wow. I’m on it, Cara.” Wendy shook with excitement. “By noon today, you’ll know everything there is to know, from his mother’s birthday to what he ate for breakfast.”
Cara knew all that already.
September 15th, an only son, he bought his mom yellow roses every year. As for breakfast? Today was Monday. That meant a white glazed doughnut with a cup of coffee, black.
There could be something she missed, something that could seal the deal. Wendy would find that something.
Wendy didn’t have the social connections, yet. She didn’t have anything more than her real estate license and a high school education. But she had a go-getter attitude, and she wasn’t lazy about doing the research.
Research, any good saleswoman knew, eased the way in even the harshest of sales climates.
~ * ~
Richard was battling his own harsh climate. “Sorry I’m late.” He shrugged out of his beat-up brown leather jacket as he walked. He hated being late, it threw his whole day off. “Had to drop the car at the shop.”
“Broke down again?” Shirley followed him into his office, her hands full of pink slips of paper. Messages. People wanting a piece of him.
Where were they when he was struggling?
“Yeah.” Richard plopped down on the black captain’s chair. “It broke down again.”
“My Bimmer’s working. Hasn’t broken down yet,” she said a tad bit too cheerfully. His assistant had purchased the BMW before the buyout check cleared.
Richard grunted as he flipped his laptop open and hooked it up to the network. “Why don’t you spend the repair money on a new car?” Another helpful piece of advice.
“I like my Jetta.” He scanned through his in-box. Most of the names he didn’t recognize, and those emails remained unopened.
“You never liked it before.” Shirley placed his filled coffee mug down on the desk, using a piece of paper as a coaster. “You cursed that car up and down.”
She was right. He had. However, that was before everything else in his life changed.
“Posture, Richard.” He straightened, biting back a profanity. “Something else is wrong.” Shirley continued, studying him. “Isn’t it Monday? Where’s your doughnut?”
About time, she noticed. “Didn’t have time to pick it up.” Lack of breakfast wasn’t helping his bad mood. He couldn’t think with his stomach rumbling.
“Now if you had a car that worked...” Shirley leaned back in the guest chair, sipping her own coffee, unsympathetic to his hunger pains.
If he had a car that worked, if he had an employee that worked.
Didn’t she have a job to do? Wasn’t part of that job keeping her boss, him, happy? “Most assistants would run out and get their employer a doughnut,” Richard grumbled.
“Most assistants aren’t millionaires.” She sipped her coffee, watching him with a slight smile.
True. Richard patted his shirt pocket. Then, he couldn’t recall Shirley ever running out and getting him anything, even before the millions.
Why had he hired her again? Where was it? Shirley handed him the memory stick he searched for. Oh yeah, that was why. He’d be lost without her.
“Any messages?” Richard changed the topic of conversation to one he could control.
“The usual. Requests for financing, advice for young entrepreneurs.” Shirley flipped through the papers. What advice did he have? None. He got lucky, that’s all. “Oh, Cara Jones called.” She smiled fondly at her own handwriting.
Cara Jones. Over the past couple of years, Richard heard enough about that woman to fill a database. If he wasn’t sure Shirley was straight, he’d think she was halfway in love with the realtor.
“Her folks affected by the hurricane?” Richard brought up her bookmarked website, her toothy smile and curly blonde hair filling the screen. He liked looking at her picture
as they talked, despite Shirley's claim that she was prettier in person. Unlikely. Cara Jones had a face a man could spend a lifetime staring at.
“Nothing major. One palm tree pulled up by the roots, and they now have an extra barbeque in their backyard.” Richard smiled despite his grumpy mood. “No one has
claimed it yet. Cara’s dad hopes the next hurricane brings baby back ribs to grill on it.”
Baby back ribs, huh? Cara’s Dad would appreciate that new online meat supplier Richard had discovered. The best cuts, aged to perfection. His empty stomach growled at the thought.
He scribbled a note to himself on a Post-It, only to frown at the defective pen. He studied it a bit closer. Invisible ink? Did it say invisible ink on the side? Where was his assistant sourcing their office supplies? The CIA?
“Pen not working?”
Richard frowned at Shirley’s cheerfulness.
“Try this one.” A pen appeared out of nowhere, the plastic shell warm. “Writes like a BMW.”
Richard ignored the comment. “You’re not selling the house?” This was one of his standard Cara questions. Shirley first met the real estate agent when she considered upgrading her accommodations.
“We didn’t talk about it, but no, I’m not. I love myhome.”
“I love the Jetta.” He didn’t, not really.
“Hmmm…Anyway, she called for you, not me.”
“For me?” Now that was a surprise. Why would she call? Only one reason, it must be business. A house she wanted him to buy. “What’s with people trying to sell me real estate lately?”
There had been an ugly incident last week in his favorite Chinese restaurant. Some pushy slickster trying to hard sell him a penthouse while he ate egg foo young. One more restaurant he couldn’t go back to.
“Maybe they don’t like the dump you’re renting?” Shirley held a low opinion of his place, even before the money. “Oh, on that subject, she gave me the name of her favorite Chinese restaurant. Thought you’d like to give it a try, instead.”
Great, they talked about that embarrassing incident. Cara must think him a spaz and…
“I’m not buying a house from her.” He was firm. No matter how good looking the woman was, how charming she supposedly was, or how the second hand stories about her
made him laugh.
“Good. ‘Cause she doesn’t want to sell you one.” Shirley shook her head. “The realty is participating in a fundraiser, a handyman auction benefiting Shelter for Mankind.”
Lord. Another person with her hand outstretched. Always about the dollars. Richard glanced at the woman’s white, white teeth, disappointed. “You like Cara, don’t you?”
“I do. When I talk, she listens.”
“I listen.” Most of the time, when he wasn’t thinking about missing doughnuts or work or how to get grease stains out of his favorite shirt. That damn car. He thought he could fix it himself and...
“You do, but she...” She fiddled with her glasses. “She really listens, to more than the words. When we met, Cara knew right away I didn’t want to move.”
“That’s her job.” Though that impressed him. A good house in a good neighborhood, an older woman falling into a pile of cash, it could have been two easy commissions, both
buying and selling. The supper sabotaging agent would have pounced on the opportunity. “Send her a check.” If it made his assistant happy, he could overlook this morning’s lack of doughnuts.
“She doesn’t want a check.”
Where was this conversation going? “What does she want, then?”
“Well.” Again with the glasses. “They are one handyman short.”
“And?” How was that his problem? Try the yellow pages.
“She would like you to be that handyman.”
“What?” Richard rose out of his seat. “Is she serious?” Him, a handyman? He wrote computer programs, for Pete’s sake. “Where’d she get the impression that I’m a handyman? I’m not handy.”
“That’s what I told her.”
He frowned, insulted at Shirley’s ready agreement. He wasn’t completely inept. Richard plucked at the grease stain on his white linen shirt.
“Cara said it didn’t matter. You can bring a contractor as long as you show up.”
He sat back down, considering the situation. “She wants to auction me off as an unhandy handyman?” Part of him was horrified, another part flattered. If it wasn’t his handyman skills then why him? Richard glanced at his reflection in the laptop monitor and smoothed his brown hair down. Or tried to. It quickly returned to its natural state of sticking straight out. As persistent as a pop up ad.
He wasn’t bad looking, if a woman could overlook the hair.
“An unhandy handyman,” he repeated.
“Seems that way.” Shirley’s lips twitched suspiciously.
“Insane.” His protest was weaker.
“She must be.”
Richard glared at his assistant. Shirley’s expression was too innocent.
“Why me?” He was starting to like the idea. Richard Thompson, handyman; wearing a hard hat, one of those tool belts, driving a white cube van, and fixing leaking pipes for hot women. Maybe, he glanced at Cara’s photo, for a certain hard working real estate agent.
“Why you? Why not you?” There was a long, suffering sigh. “You’re a billionaire, Richard, remember?”
He had almost forgotten. A billionaire. His fantasy world collapsed with that word. It always came back to that. While before, he had worn dozens of labels—businessman,
boss, friend, son, even lover—now there was only one, billionaire. A big smile full of white teeth mocked him for thinking otherwise.
“Tell her no.”
“I already did.”
~ * ~
“So what do you think?” At that moment, Cara was anything but distraught about Shirley’s answer, sitting in her comfortable Volvo sedan with Wendy in the passenger seat.
The girl studied the offer they, moments ago, received. “The dollars are in the ballpark.”
They were, Cara smiled, pleased that her assistant broker was good with the numbers. “Will they go higher?”
“It’s the first offer.” She chewed her bottom lip. “But I’ve noticed that Ken normally likes to go in with his best offer. He’s not strong on negotiating.”
She was good at reading people, too. Partially Cara’s training, partially instinct. “What about the closing date?”
“Thirty days is reasonable.”
It was, for a normal homeowner. “Mrs. Beadice has been in her home for thirty-three years.” This was where experience came in. “She’ll need more time.”
Slight shoulders slumped. “How much time?”
“That’s what you’ll find out.” The elderly lady was on board about being Wendy’s first close, flattered actually. Cara would be with her, every step of the way.
“Yeah, you. I’m riding shotgun on this one. It’s your sale. You’re ready.” Cara was counting on it. The build would take more of her time. Wendy would need to fill in.
“You really think so?” The girl’s brown eyes glowed with pride.
“I know so.” It wasn’t much of a risk. Cara had checks and double checks in place as she had with tonight, if Peterson, her financier, fell through…
“I won’t let you down, Cara,” Wendy assured her. “I’ll make it my first priority once we get back to the office.”
First priority? “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Wendy’s face went blank.
“The Thompson information?” Cara gave her memory a nudge.
“You still need that?”
Only if they wanted to win. “Of course, I do. Why wouldn’t I?”
“His assistant said no.” Wendy wouldn’t meet her eyes.
“Ahhhh…” The girl was green, and she considered the no a failure, for Cara, her hero. Oh, the injustice of it all. Cara almost chuckled. “The first no is only the beginning of a negotiation. Like a ‘Hi, how are ya?’”
Yes, Shirley said no. That was an expectation. It was common knowledge Richard Thompson didn’t make public appearances. His assistant would have that as an auto response. Shirley promised she’d run it by her boss, but she didn’t expect the answer to change.
Though she hoped, she was wrong and that was a great sign.
If Shirley, his trusted friend, thought Richard too secluded, Cara figured that it was merely a matter of time before he rejoined the rest of the world. What better venue than the Handyman Charity Auction?
None better. It was perfect.
Cara could hold his hand, figuratively, of course, she didn’t truly know the guy, but she could show him the ins and outs of working the press, ensuring that it was a happy, comfortable experience for everyone.
Richard would learn media management from a pro, the charity would benefit big time, and she and Wendy would get a few extra dollars for their troubles. Win-win, her favorite scenario.
Maybe Richard would treat her to some of that dry wit she was always hearing about. Maybe, when Richard finally decided to move out of that rat hole he called an apartment, he’d give her a call. Who knew?
“You think Richard Thompson is a possibility?” Wendy asked after mulling it over a bit.
“Very much, yes, and that reminds me, we have to swing by the condo to pick up a pie.” Cara kept a stash homemade, but frozen pie in her freezer. “For the Gumble open house.”
“Get rid of the lingering pet smell.” Wendy scrunched up her nose. “No time to air the place out properly.”
“Apples and cinnamon will do the trick.” Additionally, the apple pie, once baked, could prove useful elsewhere. “I wonder if Mr. Thompson likes pie,” Cara mused as she pulled
out of the driveway. It was a rhetorical question. She knew the answer, Richard’s citywide search for the perfect apple pie a Shirley story staple.
A dimple appeared in her cheek as Wendy grinned. “My research says he does.”
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Jim: Hi Melissa Blue, and welcome to the Champagne blog site and author interview forum. The rest of the Champagne authors and friends are about to get to know you. Let’s start with your name. I’ve known people with surnames of Green, White, Black and Brown, but never a Blue. Are you a True Blue?
Melissa: Hello, Jim, thanks to you and the Champagne blog for inviting me here today. And, yes, I am a true Blue, or at least my husband is. In any case, Melissa Blue is my real/legal name. Time and again people have told me that it sounds like the perfect pen or stage name so when I received a publication offer I chose not to create another name.
Jim: With you on the Champagne author list, I’m tempted to assume you write Romance, even though Champagne has spread its coverage to other genres. So what do you write? Tell us about your upcoming Champagne title.
Melissa: Yup, romance is the name of my writing game. I’ve been a hopeless romantic for as long as I can remember, and got hooked on romance novels when I was eighteen and in college. My debut novel Without Regret, My Love was released June 2009, and has received some truly stellar reviews. It is a Time Travel/Historical Romance set in the American Civil War south. The heroine is a present day ER nurse thrown back in time who finds herself in the unique situation of working in a Confederate hospital. The idea came about while I was putting together a project about Civil War medicine for my BSN program. The rest is history.
Jim: Everyone was something else before becoming a writer and author. What’s your day job and what drove you to become an author? Who influenced you?
Melissa: My family is primarily in the healthcare field. I was raised around it, love science as much as reading/writing so I went into nursing. (I hold an associate and bachelors of Science in the field.). One fun little tidbit is that I was a registered nurse at the age of twenty so I actually was licensed to administer narcotics before I could buy alcohol! To this day I will answer call lights or introduce myself as the nurse for the night and no one believes I'm old enough. It's funnier still when someone asks to see the charge nurse, and it's me. It is safe to say I've been a nurse my entire adult life, although I don't feel a day over seventeen. I have worked dayshifts and nightshifts in a variety of settings. My favorite areas of nursing are in my current job in which I am privileged to work with a variety of patients from pediatrics to orthopedics to general surgery, oncology, and the list could go on and on. I receive inspiration from all around me.
Jim: Most writers are avid readers. If that applies to you, what do you read when time and opportunity permit?
Melissa: My interest in writing books, primarily romance, stems from my love of reading. I hated reading until I turned seven and my grandma bought me the Meet Felicity American Girls book. I loved it. Even rewrote my own ending to the story. In high school and college I was told over and over again that I should study literature and pursue writing because of showing a knack for it, but I was always afraid of its not being a practical career choice. My favorite authors include Julia Quinn, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Phyllis Campbell, Bobbi Smith, Clive Cussler, and so many others. When I’m not writing I am reading. Used to go through a book a day, now it’s more like one or two a week.
Jim: Where in our beautiful world do you live; where would you like to, if not where you are now?
Melissa: I grew up in Michigan, but my husband is an avid outdoorsman so we found our way to beautiful Montana. We absolutely love it here. The scenery is incredible, the history fascinating, and the people truly more friendly than other places I’ve lived. I tell you what… American’s don’t know the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day until they’ve done St. Paddy’s in Butte, Montana. What a party!
Jim: I sure can understand why you like Montana; I have some good hunting memories from there myself. Is there any place else in the world you’d like to travel, or live?
Melissa: If I didn’t live in the West I would want to live in the South. Not only is it beautiful but a place so rich in our nation’s history. I am one of those very nerdy people who study history just for fun. My hubby and I are yet to take a honeymoon (after so many years I am beginning to doubt we ever will) and when/if we finally go I’d like to visit the castles in Scotland. Both of us have heavy Scots/Irish background.
Jim: As a writer, what sort of support do you have from family? Tell us about your family—husband, children, dogs and cats. Any unusual species?
Melissa: I married my high school sweetheart. My husband is extremely supportive, although after eight years together he knows I’m entirely too stubborn to talk out of anything I set my mind to. We have one child and one on the way. We have a rat terrier (funniest dog I've ever seen) a cat who thinks he is a dog, a cat who is just a sweetie, and a cat that is absolutely awful but I've had her for over half my life so we love her for her faults and bad habits.
Jim: Okay, confession time! Now tell us something about Melissa Blue that we really don’t need to know. Just how much a creative screwball writer are you? We all are, in our own ways, just a matter of degree.
Melissa: Yeah, I’m definitely a screwball. Okay, let’s see, confessions… Just how risqué can we get here, Jim?
Jim: Your confession, so it’s your call, but the more risqué, the better.
Melissa: Hmmm… let’s see. My first kiss was at age fourteen, always fun to know about a romance author. My first love was Harrison Ford at age seven after watching Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark –Yes, my husband knows that. My first “I love you” was to my husband at age sixteen. That other first – yes, you all know which first I’m talking about – we can skip…
Now let’s see… What else can I tell you…I am a total chicken when it comes to truth or dare, the dark, or scary movies. Just the same, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.
Well, this one is not risqué, but my Grandpa George has called me by the nickname “Tin Lizzy” (I would assume after the band) for as long as I can remember.
Jim: Well, young lady, I have a revelation for you. “Tin Lizzy” was the affectionate name laid on early automobiles. Since it came from your grandfather, I’d bet that’s his source, rather than “Thin Lizzy,” the Irish rock band.
Melissa: No kidding! My blonde genes are shining through again, LOL. I would have sworn the band was called Tin Lizzy as opposed to Thin Lizzy. Obviously I’m not a huge fan of their music. Although I am a HUGE fan of Irish heroes in romance novels **Wink*Wink** and Irish actor Collin Farrell, his accent is to die for.
Jim: All right, what else can you tell us?
Melissa: I absolutely believe in ghosts. It stems from growing up in a very old house with a resident specter and some very bizarre experiences I've had in healthcare. Ghosts is a subject I could write a book about.
I love food (with the exception of Sloppy Joes and squash) and will try just about everything in the way of food, once. If you ever want to get on my good side, think CHOCOLATE!
I hate math. Love history.
Have a tendency to be extremely hard on myself.
More than once I’ve been told I am a “guy.” Apparently I’m not spiteful enough and far too sarcastic to be lumped in with other females.
I am one of those girls who looks extremely sweet and innocent until you get to know me just a little better…
Jim: Thank you so much, Melissa, for stopping by to share your stories, both from life and in print, with our readers. Before we close down, how can our readers get in touch with you?
Melissa: www.myspace.com/melissablueromanceauthor Feel free to leave messages there and look for excerpts, blurbs, and reviews for my upcoming and latest releases. I am also on Facebook; feel free to friend “Melissa Mayer-Blue.”
Thanks so much for having me! It has been a blast.
~ * ~
Interview contributed by Jim Woods, author of Champagne Books Assassination Safari, Parting Shot and Gunshot Echoes.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I don’t know how my brain got locked onto that topic this week, but it did. Think about it - there are a ton of things out there in the world, things that we deal with each day of our lives, things that we just accept as being the way things are, that are totally useless. And I’m not talking about obvious stuff like mosquitoes, in-laws, or our appendixes, either. What I’m talking about is stuff like:
1. Candy bars with nutritional information on the label -
Let’s face it, we all know candy bars are loaded with sugar, carbohydrates, and other stuff that’s not good for us. We also know that if we really want a candy bar we’re gonna eat one, no matter what sorts of terrors it may contain within. I’ve noticed that when I eat a candy bar I never read the nutritional information on the candy bar wrapper, in fact, I get rid of the wrapper as quickly as possible. Why would I want to read it? To see that I’m eating lots of sugar, carbs and other bad stuff? I’m well aware that I’m doing that. It’s totally useless information, in fact, they should make it a law that they can‘t put nutritional stuff on there so that we candy bar lovers can eat them in peace.
2. The flag on your mailbox -
Since the mailman comes each day and opens your mailbox door to put the mail inside, why do they need that flag on the outside of the box? So that the postal carrier will know mail is inside ready to be mailed? If the mail carrier can’t see that when they open the door, we have something much worse to worry about than mailbox flags. A totally useless item.
3. Naming highways or roads after living politicians -
I went on a quick trip to a small central Georgia community recently, and I swear that every two or three miles along the way there was a sign saying, “So-and-so (an old middle Georgia legislator who’ll have to croak to give up the job) Highway.” It made me think - why would we want to name highways after living politicians? It‘s either because someone is brown nosing the politician for a favor, or, because the politician‘s ego is in hyperdrive. Either way, it‘s a useless practice.
4. Putting chocolates on pillows in motels -
Don’t you think the last thing any of us needs before we turn in at night is a big dose of sugar and caffeine? I never understood how this came to be an accepted practice at nice motels. On top of that, if you have kids with you, a battle breaks out each night over who gets the chocolate(s). Ever tried to split one of those bed chocolates among two or more kids? You‘d have an easier time removing your own tonsils with your fingers.
5. The tags they sew into the collar of men’s shirts -
This is one of my biggest quirks - I hate the tags in men‘s shirts. They itch or scratch the back of your neck most of the time, and, even if they don’t, you still know they’re back there. Debbie gets mad at me because I’ll absolutely not wear a shirt unless the tags are cut out of it. Why can’t they just drop a card inside the shirt’s package that tells you how to wash and take care of it? I’ll bet some militant feminist man-hater came up with these tags, probably the same one that invented neck ties. A totally useless item.
Now you see what I mean? And I could’ve added another ten items to this list without even batting an eye. Things that we buy because they’re proper, or accepted customs, or because we fear people will laugh at us or whatever. Well, from here on out I’m gonna live life more to my own terms, and do what I wanna do. Know what my first project is gonna be? I want to see if I can buy an ICEE machine and put it in my home. I love ICEEs, and since most of ‘em are sold at Kmart I figure I’m gonna have to find an alternative ICEE source before it‘s too late. You think I’m crazy? They said the same thing about Edison, you know...
"ChristmaSin'", my new Christmas novel, comes out in Nov. of '09!
Author of the Year, 2008
Like most readers, I want to be taken away from my everyday world when I dive between the pages. The words and images must grab me and not let go. Few authors can do that for me anymore with the thousands of books I’ve read. That’s one of two reasons I don’t read as much fiction as I did twenty years ago (the other is a lack of time given I’ve become consumed by my own demanding muse). So what is it that envelops my mind and encourages me to escape from my life until I reach the last word of a story? Three things:
1. The Voice – The cadence and rhythm of the words must sing in resonance with my inner self so that I am comforted by reading vs. seeing.
2. Realism – Whether its SF, thriller, romantic suspense, doesn’t matter; the descriptions, the characters, the scenes must appear realistic and complete enough I can form vivid flowing visions in my head.
3. Struggle – The characters most be flawed, if not they’re unreal and incapable of creating empathy with their plight
All three are important to me as a reader, and I would assume the same could be said of many readers. Now, voice is very important, but I don’t find that to be the most difficult in creating my stories. That just seems to come natural, maybe because the voice that goes on paper is actually the voice running in head (I know, I’m a weird dude). However, as a writer item 2 and 3 above require the author to walk two tight ropes, and accordingly are the most difficult to achieve without going to far.
The first tightrope requires balance between too much or too little realism. If we go to far in realism or in the character’s struggles the reader can be insulted, revolted, or overwhelmed with the imaginary. Go to little and the reader becomes uninterested, bored, or remains outside the story. The second tightrope deals with balancing the story with our own belief system or morality, which may not be in tune with the latest fad or the PC police. Need an example? I’ll give you two:
1. My first novel, TAINTED HERO, was about an officer in the special forces conflicted between the modern dilemma imposed by social norms of right and wrong. The story was very real, given the hero and heroine were based on actual people I know, and the struggle was close to what often runs through my spirit. The novel did quite well in that it received six 5 star reviews and the realism of the story and characters was cited very positively by all reviewers, except one. She was horrified. Her contention was that it reflected too positively on our military especially given that they were fighting a war and killing people in Iraq (I kid you not). Now, in creating this story, I recognized the tightrope dealing with the parts of the story going against some of the more extreme progressive elements of our society that do not respect the military the way I do. You see, for 25 years of my career I worked side by side with men and women that gave everything of themselves, including their lives, for the country they love. I knew that reflecting the truth, the way they really are, their lives, their sacrifice might anger some but one has to be true to their own belief structure or how can you look in the mirror. In all my stories I do walk the PC tightrope, but sometimes I fall into the pit of telling it like it is, and I do hear about it, but I can live with that.
2. In my novel FORGOTTEN CHILDREN, one powerful scene near the end of the story focused on two characters dealing with their imperfect nature. The female had stayed with a player male even thought she knew his nature was not to commit, and the male exhibited a roaming personality (no, this one was not derived from me, I’ve been hook to the same woman all my life). Now, both these characters are real. I have a sweetheart of a female friend that “Sandra” was modeled after, and ‘Jim’ was a real life womanizer that I once knew. Just before this scene, Jim was offered a bitter taste of what his behavior was doing in terms of the women he used by none other than his friend (wonder who that was). The reader learns there is a reason for his callus behavior and Jim has an epiphany about his live, what he’s become, and what he’s done to so many caring hearts. The scene is powerful because his eyes are opened and he realizes Sandra is what he wants and, well you’ll have to read the story. Point is, a couple reviews that loved the book (gave me 5 stars) didn’t care for that scene. Their reasoning was they didn’t like a woman allowing herself to be used like that. Truth is, I struggled with that very issue when I wrote the book, but her flaws and his blindness are real life and made the final surprise outcome extremely moving. I did walk the tightrope, but said the hell with it and left that one in the story.
What is the point if you selectively leap off the tightrope? Like I said, those elements are difficult to a writer in trying to achieve an acceptable balance for the reader. But sometimes you have to take a risk for your own sanity, say the hell with it, and jump one way or the other, and accept you may hear about it later. After all, you can’t please everyone (g).