Wednesday, June 30, 2021

June Words of Wisdom

I used to believe that the human race as a whole was basically a few steps above wolves. That given the slightest change in circumstances, we would all, sooner or later, tear each other to shreds. That we were, at root, self-interested, cowardly, envious and potentially dangerous in groups. I have since come to believe - after many meals with many different people in many, many different places - that though there is no shortage of people who would do us harm, we are essentially good. --Anthony Bourdain

I believe in me. I'm a little screwed up but I'm beautiful. --Steve McQueen

All cruelty springs from weakness. --Seneca

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw. --Nelson Mandela

Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the high road to pride, esteem, and personal satisfaction. --Margaret Thatcher

When you apologize to the woke mob you're still going to get canceled anyway. Just look at Piers Morgan vs. Chris Harrison. You might as well just say fuck you and keep your dignity. --Adam Carolla

You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear. --Sammy Davis, Jr. 

The legitimate state does not itself initiate force against innocents. That would be despotism. --Richard Salsman, Ph. D

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. --Marilyn Monroe

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. --Wayne Dyer

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. --Edgar Allen Poe

I would always rather be happy than dignified. --Charlotte Bronte

The movie industry is full of people who think that they are God. --Sir Anthony Hopkins

The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. --Peter Diamandis

Our world is not divided by race, color, gender, or religion. Our world is divided into wise people and fools. And fools divide themselves by race, color, gender, or religion. --Nelson Mandela

You cannot silence, mute or censor the spirit. It does not ask anyone or anything for permission to exist. --Gina Carano

When you start doing what you truly want to do, you start living a different kind of life. --Unknown

A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has it under voluntary control. --Jordan Peterson

When a government becomes powerful it is destructive, extravagant and violent; it is an usurer which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honorable men of their substance, for votes with which to perpetuate itself. 
--Marcus Tullius Cicero

In order to write well about food you need to eat well, and you cannot eat well if you're analyzing the food. It's not fun for the people you're eating with and I don't see how it can be fun for you. I spent 30 years in the restaurant business and I do not want to be thinking if the bus boy's doing his job. I don't want to hear the bell in the kitchen. I don't want to be thinking about what's in the dressing. I want to be lost in the meal. I want to be a romantic fool. --Anthony Bourdain

We're churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work. --Mike Rowe

I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. --Jane Austen

If your definition of 'unity' means forcing me to surrender to your ideals, then you need a dictionary because that isn't what unity means. --Alex Clark

Be creative every day of your life. --Steven Soderbergh

One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them. --Thomas Sowell

Love everyone. But never sell your sword. --Paulo Coelho

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. --Marcus Aurelius

Beauty is essential. I starve always for the graciousness of it. --Jan Karon

Nike is a brand that is of China and for China. --John Donahoe, President & CEO of Nike, Inc.

We've been conditioned to think that only politicians can solve our problems. But at some point, maybe we will wake up and recognize that it was politicians who created our problems. --Dr. Ben Carson

I call intolerant...any man who imagines that one cannot be a good man without believing everything he believes, and mercilessly damns all those who do not think as he does. --Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monday, June 28, 2021

You can now order "Avenging Angelenos", the book

You can now order trade paperback copies of Avenging Angelenos and its gorgeous cover art at Amazon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Recent reading: "The Beatles: A Hard Day's Write"

The subtitle for this book is "The Stories Behind Every Song" and that it is. However, not even the most famous Beatles song warrants stories of any real depth here.

Having said that, it's not necessarily the fault of the author. John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who together wrote the bulk of the Beatles' library, are shockingly blase and/or at times even flippant about both the legendary songs they wrote and the sheer volume of those legendary songs. They were avid students of other songwriters and musicians who impressed them and so they set out to learn from those people how it was done, and/or to take inspiration from songs they admired. Throughout the Beatles recording career the songs they wrote were often surprisingly done in an almost textbook manner. Albums were being recorded and songs were needed to fill those albums. It was their job and they did it. It's stunning how nonchalant they could be about their genius and what they contributed to music.

It was fun reading about some of the real people who inspired Beatles songs. Julian Lennon's ties to 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and 'Hey Jude' are well known, but there were also real people who inspired Bungalow Bill, Lovely Rita the Meter Maid, Mr. Kite, and the girl who came in through the bathroom window. What was really surprising was finding out that the girl in 'She's Leaving Home' was inspired by a real young woman whose missing story in the newspapers inspired the song. She left in an attempt to escape her loveless, oppressive family (she wanted to be an actress, but her mother insisted she become a dentist) and was soon found and taken home. There's also a great thread throughout about how Lennon's deep-seated insecurity was quietly revealed through lyrics.

I would have liked to have heard more about George Harrison's frustration about not being able to break in as a Beatles songwriter, especially in later years. In 1969 he recorded three demos at Abbey Road Studios: 'Old Brown Shoe', 'Something', and 'All Things Must Pass'. It's telling that 'Old Brown Shoe' was the first released (as the B-side of 'The Ballad of John and Yoko'), while 'Something' made it on to the Abbey Road album and became an instant classic. 'All Things Must Pass' wouldn't see the light of day until Harrison made it the title song on his legendary solo album. Interesting factoid: 'Apple Scruffs', which also appeared on that album, was written about the diehard Beatles fans who hung out outside the Apple Studios hoping to see their idols. In fact, it was Apple Scruffs who broke into McCartney's home via the left-ajar bathroom window while he was out.

'Help' was written with Paul at John's Weybridge home, Kenwood, in April 1965. The lyric was a candid insight into John's dissatisfaction with himself. He was eating and drinking too much, had put on weight and felt trapped by fame. The song, he would later admit, really was a cry for help, despite being written to order for the film. " I needed the help," he said. "The song was about me."

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy Father's Day

Today marks yet another fatherless Father's Day. I keep wondering how long I'll mark these milestones, and I just keep doing it.

For this year, I decided on something a little different. Yesterday, the Secretariat Facebook account put up a picture of Bold Ruler, the Big Red Machine's sire (equestrian-speak for daddy). And damn, just like his over-achieving boy, he was a looker.


As for the rest of you dads, have a wonderful day!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Charmed, I'm sure!

The other day this popped up on my Facebook feed: Celebrating Every Publication by Kate Fellowes

What Kate has done over the years is fill bracelets with charms relating to her stories and essays each time she's been published. She's currently on her third bracelet.

I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I looked at my whopping four published short stories and started thinking about charms. Here's what I came up with. 

1 - "Crime Drama/Do Not Cross", which appeared in LAst Resort, is a Hollywood-based story about a failed actress turned private eye, and who is obsessed with a CSI franchise-type show that is about to end its run. So I figured a Hollywood sign charm would be awesome.

I had a surprisingly tough time finding Hollywood-related charms. In addition, a lot of them are intended to have chains looped through them, while I'm looking for charms with clasps. So far this is the closest thing I've found and I'm not really sold on it. I love the comedy and tragedy masks, but not for this story.

I did find this clapper board, but not happening at that price. Even the charms at Brighton (where I was really hoping to find what I needed to make this happen) aren't anywhere near that, and that is not an inexpensive place to shop.

2 - "Like Deja vu All Over Again", which appeared in Crossing Borders, was based on a nightmare I had years ago about being carjacked. So obviously a car charm is needed here.

Again, I was surprised by the apparent lack of car-related charms. The car in the story is an old Toyota Corolla, so it can't be a fancy car. I might need to brainstorm this one a bit more.

3 - In "The Legend of Bahama Bobby", which was just published in The Fish That Got Away, Bobby is a painter, so something painterly, obviously.

I found the perfect charm here. Is this cute or what?

4 - Lastly we have "Christine Thirteen", which is just now being published in Avenging Angelenos (I'm still swooning over that cover). I don't want to give too much away, but the obvious choice is a disposable coffee cup with a lid.

I was surprised how few of these I could find. You'd think they'd be all over the place. I needed a cup with a lid as opposed to a cup and saucer, and eventually found this.

So far I haven't bought any of these because I don't want the collection to be spotty, but if I can find charms to go with all four stories, it's pretty certain I'll be adding to my jewelry collection. Plus, it would be a heck of a conversation piece, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

We have a winner!

Crossing Borders, the 2020 anthology from the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime that includes my short story "Like Deja vu All Over Again" was just named Best Anthology by the San Diego Book Awards Association.

This marks another first for me - being part of something award-winning! Such great news!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Star is Foaled

There is a star-making search underway for a fat, unruly, stubby-legged pony to star in an upcoming live-action film based on the books of cartoonist Norman Thelwell. From the linked article:

First created in the 1950s Thelwell's cartoon ponies are easily recognizable. Incorrigibly naughty with large stomachs and short legs, the ponies constantly challenge their riders, who love them dearly despite their faults.

The main characters were based on Thelwell's daughter and her pony. 

I can tell you from experience that the hardest part of the search will be finding a pony that meets their criteria for appearance. The unruly, incorrigibly naughty part will be easy, as anyone who has spent time around ponies can vouch for. They are little attitude machines. 

Images are from the official Thelwell site, and yes, I look forward to seeing Merrylegs: The Movie whenever it gets to a theater near me. Because horse-crazy girl never really grow up, and first pony dreams are dreams that never die.

Monday, June 14, 2021

All about Sophie

My beloved Sophie is fifteen years old and will be sixteen in September. So she's old. There's no avoiding that fact.

Other than multiple dental surgeries over the years her health has always been good. No issues except the toofies. Until recently.

Last November Sophie went in for her annual exam and her blood test came back less than ideal. I was told that based on the results they expected her to develop chronic kidney disease within the next year or so. 

Chronic kidney disease in cats isn't something that is treated so that it can be conquered. It's basically an old age disease and not a disease in the sense that it's something to be recovered from. The vet at my old place gave me some cat food designed for cats suffering from kidney issues, but of course Sophie wouldn't touch it. Other than that there was nothing to do except do another blood test in six months and see how much her situation had progressed.

Six months arrived last month and having moved in the interim I took Sophie back to her old vet here at the beach. I expected her results to be negligible compared to her last blood test since she seemed fine. I was sorely disappointed. 

There's a certain reading that I don't really understand, but I understand the numbers assigned to it. And that number went from 29 late last year to 38 in May. It jumped that much in six months. And 36 is the high end of normal. As our wonderful vet kindly explained, Sophie has "drifted" over the line to abnormal. So even though he couched it gently, the truth is that she's officially ill.

She isn't acting any differently. I know that cats are skilled at hiding discomfort, so by the time they actually show pain they've probably been suffering for a while, but at least at this point she seems to still be enjoying life as usual. On the surface nothing has changed. She still acts like she's starving all the time, sleeps for hours on my pillow if I'm in the bedroom and in front of the fireplace if I'm not. She still has her favorite chair for when she isn't napping on my pillow or by the fireplace. She still loves to chase the red dot. 

I also know that between her age and diagnosis, Sophie is officially in the homestretch of her time on this earth. The good news is that there's a new brand of cat food designed for kidney issues that she's sort of deigning to eat when I mix it with her regular food, so we've got that going for us. What I don't have any idea of is how much time she has left. But I'm going to enjoy her company for as long as that time might last. 

It's crazy that it's been almost fifteen years since our paths crossed at the Burbank Animal Shelter. It certainly doesn't seem that long. Time has a way of escaping me, I'm terrible at managing it. 

Little missy...😿

Friday, June 11, 2021

Not real, but it's freaking hilarious, so here you go

1982 you say? Eh, close enough.

Disclaimer: I've never actually eaten at Golden Corral. And as hilarious as this is, in all fairness here is their actual statement on safety precautions. 

H/T to Chef Andrew Gruel on IG.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Coming soon - Avenging Angelenos!!!

Okay, this is the one I've been waiting for. After the less than pleasant experience with my previous story, editing "Christine Thirteen" for Avenging Angelenos could not have been easier. All of one sentence had to be rewritten for clarity, and my editor was hugely complimentary about the story.  And how beautiful is this cover?

It will be available in a couple of weeks. I'll post a link when I get it.

Update 6/12/21: E-book available on Amazon here. Hard copies in 2-3 weeks.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Stranger than fiction, indeed

Don't even get me started on Gavin Newsom. There's so many reasons Californians want him gone, so many reasons he's been terrible for the state. Maybe some other time.

However, one of the more bizarre pandemic-related things he's done is going the lottery route for people who've gotten the vaccine. Hosted by him, of course.

With that in mind, this just popped up on my social media:

Okay, I totally get what the guy who posted it is going for, but just the oddness of it all is what's been on my mind lately. So I replied with this:

Unfortunately Serling is no longer with us and hasn't been for a long, long time. But I think it says a lot about his genius that decades later he's still our go-to guy for the bizarre, especially in terms of powerful political figures (or "the state" as Rod was fond of slyly referring to them). Tell me this doesn't look like a scene out of a Serling script.

We are truly living in bizarro world, but I'm still betting on the good guys to win. I just wish that day would hurry up and get here. I'm getting kind of tired of feeling like I'm living in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

We have cover art and a release date!

This is the cover of The Fish That Got Away, the anthology that includes my short story "The Legend of Bahama Bobby". This is the one that was supposed to come out in March but got delayed, and will now be available June 21. So far it's not listed on Amazon and the authors are waiting for instructions on how to order it from the publisher, so unfortunately no link for now.

I've avoided discussing this one because it wasn't the usual fun, easy-peasy editing experience that I've had with my other stories. First of all, I totally misread the editing schedule, which gave us an entire month, then seemed to indicate a second re-editing month. Turns out that there was only the first month. So that was a massive fuck-up on my part as I didn't finish editing by the deadline and I got reamed for it.

The other issue is that this is the first experience I've had where I had to delete a major aspect of the story because the editor didn't like it. I didn't realize that her comments about it weren't open for discussion, so I tried to explain why I had it in there and why I thought it was important to the story. The main aspect of the story was people keeping secrets, both their own and others. It turned out that by going to bat for this part of the story I just pissed her off some more after the deadline fiasco. I really got the idea that she just didn't like the story at all.

At the time it was only my third time getting accepted for publication. I had a great deal of confidence that the story as it had been submitted (and accepted) was strong, partly based on the fact that it was the co-winner in one short-story contest (Moondance International Film Festival) and also picked up an Honorable Mention in a genre short-story contest (Writers' Digest Annual Writing Contest). But at this point in my writing career I wasn't really in a position to dig in my heels to defend the story as written.

In addition, the genre is in some ways a very small community. You see a lot of the same names popping up not only in print, but also at conventions and in classes and newsletters, and I certainly didn't want to gain a reputation for being difficult. So I made the changes and apologized profusely, and tried to put it down as a learning experience, which wasn't easy as I'm pretty hyper-sensitive and it's hard for me to blow off a negative experience like that. But at some point you have to move on.

Luckily, about two weeks later, I had another story accepted and my experience with that editor could not have been easier or more pleasant, so that eased some of the sting. She was extremely complimentary about the story, the voice, and especially the ending, and had me re-write all of one sentence for clarity. It couldn't have been easier. That anthology, Avenging Angelenos, was the one that was supposed to be published in April, but it's also been delayed. Hopefully we'll get some news on that one soon.

Updated 6/8/21: You can order the book from Amazon here.