Friday, 28 June 2013

World War Z

What did I get out of going to see World War Z? Well...
1) I can now officially say I've gone to the movie theatre to see a zombie apocalypse movie, so that's crossed off the list of pop culture things to do.
2) The certain knowledge that I would never survive a zombie apocalypse. Let's face it, I'm no Brad Pitt.
3) A chance to hold my wonderful hubby's hand for two hours. Crushingly.
4) renewed certainty that I am emphatically a rom-com kind of girl. Well leaving aside both the Marvel Universe and Middle Earth, that is, and even more so if both parties involved in the rom-com are men.
5) About zillion ore reasons to keep looking over my shoulder and to turn on lights before I go into any room.
6) and finally, proof that the allure of Brad Pitt is still a mystery to me. I will take a stern and aged Will Smith over unnaturally young-looking family guy Brad any day of the week.

will Smith from After Earth
 looking like a stressed  out
and aging soldier
Brad Pitt from World War Z
Convincing family man?
Not that I think Brad is a bad actor. I think he's a pretty decent actor. I just don't get all the hoopla is all.

All in all, The best part of the evening for me was spending it with hubs and having fun hanging out. I didn't hate the movie. I didn't love the movie. Given the choice of another zombie apocalypse or Iron Man? Or maybe Fili and Kili? I'll take a Tony Stark marathon, thanks, topped off by a helping of dwarves and hobbits before I venture into another zombie-fest.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

From the Desk of Ranty McRants-A-Lot

In my job, forms, lots and lots of them, fly across my desk all day long. Forms people have to fill out and send me so I can update their files with the information, forms I have to fill out to keep track of how many forms I've updated, forms my boss has to fill out to keep track of how many forms I've filled out that keep track of my progress updating's endless.

I'm an expert in form filling out. Excelle spreadsheets are my friend. Triplicate is not only fun but necessary. And lists. Don't get me started on lists! knew it was coming. That wasn't even the rant, it was just the job description.

The forms people have to fill out so I can update their files aren't all that complicated. Some people do it themselves and send them in, and that's cool. They get them mostly right. Well, sort of right. I can decipher what they meant in most cases. Usually....

It's the people who hire professionals to fill out their forms for them that make me daffy. They hire the professional, and the professional usually gets the form right and sends the form back to the customer for them to put the final touches on. And these are things the pro can't do for them. So they send the form and a detailed letter explaining to the customer what needs to be done.

Usually something uber complicated like, oh, I don't know....SIGN THE DAMN THING!!!!!!!
because people, if you don't sign it, I can't update your file. Really. All I can do is send it back to you with a letter politely asking you to sign it and return it to me, k-thanks.

Or, they need to attach receipts to show they paid the bills they said they paid, and the pro's letter details exactly which receipts I need to see. Staple them to your form and put the form in the envelope we've provided for that purpose and mail it to me. You don't even have to address the envelope, or even put a stamp on it. We've taken care of all that. All you have to do is staple, lick, pat and drop it in a mailbox.
Because people, if you don't send me the receipts, I can't update your file. All I can do is send the form back to you with a letter politely asking you to attach the receipts and return it to me, K-THANKS!

Or, the pros letter might tell them "Attached are two copies of your form, one for your records and one for you to mail in and have your file updated." So people, send me the form that says "Mail this Form" inside the big, black--outlined box at the top, and file the form that says "Keep this copy for your records" across the front of it in a brightly-coloured file folder in your desk drawer. AT HOME. Because I don't need both. All you're doing by sending me both is dulling the blades on my shredder. Then, in six months, when you realize you need a piece of information from that form, and you check your folder and find you don't have it, you'll mail me to ask me to send you a copy.

And in a month after that, when I haven't gotten around to it, you'll mail me another nasty note telling me I'm slow and, and don't I know how very important  and potentially life-altering it is that you have this information IMMEDIATLY!!!!

Then I will mail you a letter saying:

Dear Dumbass Sir,

Please find enclosed the form you requested. Your lack of planning is not my emergency, jerkface. We apologize for the delay in responding to your request. Please keep this copy of the  goddamn  form for your records. Idiot.

Your personal secretary,

Because I'm polite like that.
Well, and because sending the letter I'd really like to send will probably get me fired. ooh...hey.....I just had an idea.....

So, what about you? Do you like your day job? Or, like me, do you think your evil day job is, well, evil?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Christmas in June

   Christmas you might say. How is that possible that it's in June and does that mean I have to buy more gifts? No, it's not Christmas for you, and not Christmas for me either, but it feels that way. Let me explain. I have two sons and one daughter. My oldest son’s birthday is June 20, my second son’s birthday is June 18. Great planning, I know, but what can I say, my anniversary is in September, enough said. But beside my two sons having birthdays two days apart, my youngest daughter is graduating on June 27.

Add in Fathers Day and June is a very expensive month. Hence the Christmas in June.
I joked with my hubby when our second son was born that we should just change his birthday to July 18. He’d never know the difference, I joked. Sure, until he got his birth certificate or any piece of ID when he grew up  So much for that. Serves us right for enjoying our anniversary right.
So my oldest son will be 25…where did the time go. I still remember his birth like it was yesterday. He was such a good baby, rarely ever cried, was content to lay on the floor and watch TV or video games my hubby played on the computer. How were we to know that by watching his father play video games would he grow up to be a computer programmer and game creator, as well as repair computers. He’s very intelligent and can pull apart a laptop in fifteen minutes flat.  So what does he give me for a birthday list. Yep, computer stuff. But hey, I’m not made of money so most of that is a no go. Not much else he wants so now we have to figure out what else to get him. Sighhh.
My middle son will be 21. He wasn't such a good baby, to start off with. He was colicky until he was nearly six months old. Then he was the perfect baby. Woke at 7 every morning, was asleep by 7:30 every night. He was a fast learner and walked by the time he was 8 months. His favorite thing to do was beat on his big brother. Funniest memory we have is when he was 9 months old he took the TV remote and whacked his brother over the head with it. Hard to yell at a 9 month old when hubby and I were laughing ourselves silly…inside. Outside we consoled out oldest, who was crying hysterically because his head hurt. Go figure that he grew up with a wicked sense of humor. LOL His list isn’t as expensive as his brother. What does he want? Gift cards and money to help him save for a trip he is planning in August. He’s always been the frugal type.
Then there is my daughter. Graduating from high school in a week and a half and it blows my mind away. How the hell did she become 18? Where did the time go? What happened to the little girl who liked to play with Barbies and brush her mommy and daddy's hair? The funniest moment in her life… okay, one of many, was when she was three she stole a stick of my brightest red lipstick and decided our orange tabby cat needed lipstick…on his balls. Yep, his balls. We’re still not sure why she chose his balls over his lips. Imagine two grownups, trying to wash the lipstick off of a cat ball? My hubby held the cat in the sink while I gently scrubbed his balls. He was pissed to say the least and despite my efforts, he walked around with pink balls for well over a month. But in my daughter's words, “Kitty is pretty now” and I doubt he agreed. The amount we have spent so far on her grad is well over a thousand dollars. Her dress and shoes alone were over five hundred then add in the hair, and shoes and tickets for the grad. Oy…And now in a week and a half she will be walking across the stage to receive her diploma. Sigh…
And then there was Fathers Day. Despite my hubby insisting on no one buying him gifts, he provided a long list of what he might like. Tossing the list aside, my kids decided to buy him chain mail. My hubby is a nerd as well as a lover of fantasy. He plays D & D as well as many live action shooter games. He has a collection of miniature mythical creatures and dragons. Last year he bought a collector's set of talking Tron action figures. From the movie Tron for those that are baffled by what I said. He’s a big baby. And the way his eyes lit up when he saw the chain mail was hilarious. Check out the picture and you can see how happy he is. He wore it all day. LOL

So that is why I said it was Christmas in June.  And that is why I am broke. But hey, it only comes once a year. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Oh, Behave!

by Valerie Mann

What a fabulous world we get to play in! Speaking as a romance author, editor and whatever else I find to do in the romance world, I have more fun than I probably have the right to. In fact, I keep wondering why it took me so long to get here!

But (you knew there’d be a but after all that yippee ki-yay, right?), it never fails to amaze me how many people who play in my wonderful world are actually just adult versions of the kids I played with on the playground. From the peacemakers to the bullies. Human nature never changes.

Have you ever played the Six Degrees game? You know, where you figure out how many degrees removed you are from somebody else. Like, I’m only one degree removed from Daniel Craig because I met a woman who worked on a movie set with him. *sigh* I despise that one degree so much J

Which brings me to my real point: the world is a big place, but the romance world is oh-so-small. If you work or play in this playground, you are never more than one degree removed from everyone else. Okay, so it might not be as thrilling as, say, one degree away from Daniel Craig (you know you’re jealous), but it’s still important to remember that you have to behave and play nice—with everybody on the playground. No matter who they are, whether they’re already “famous” or a name you don’t recognize, you know somebody who knows that person, or they know somebody who knows you.  

Obviously, I’m working through some recent BS with arrogant and bitchy people who need a lesson in romance playground etiquette. But I need to follow my own advice and keep my mouth shut (while retaining a long memory!). Instead, I'll blog about it and maybe have some self-induced therapy at the same time. 

Here is my list of proper romance playground etiquette:

* Say nice things in public, rant to your friends in private.
* Make sure the friends you rant to are really your friends.
* Don't bitch about your publishers and/or editors in public. They'll definitely find out about it. And they talk to other publishers and editors. All the time. Trust me on this.
*Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. are NOT your friends. They are tools to promote your business. Don't trust them for anything more than that.
* Don't be a bully. Everyone started at the bottom. Including me and you.
What would YOU add to this list? 
How have you handled playground BS? 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Wrong Couple

Welcome guest, Alexa Bourne!

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but only in the last few years have I had the biggest annoying issue. I have a tendency to start writing a story, get through 1/3 or ½ of it with a giant struggle and then guess what? I realize I’ve got the wrong couple.

The first time it happened was over a decade ago. I literally wrote over 150 pages, which was like pulling fingernails out with a pair of pliers. I couldn’t get behind the relationship I was supposed to be creating and the characters, although great, strong people on their own, had no chemistry. After much whining and complaining to any writer friend who’d listen, I chose to change the hero. Once I changed what I’d already written to fit the new couple, sparks flew and I had a blast bringing them to their Happily-Ever-After.

You’d think I’d learn a lesson with that, right? Uh….no.
The next few years I didn’t have any trouble so I thought I’d beat that writing monster, but then came my next full-length suspense. Oh yeah, for that one I wrote the ENTIRE ROUGH DRAFT with the wrong brother for the hero. Then last year with one of my novellas it happened again. Same crappy situation, different folks. After my critique partner kept shooting down my versions, I broke down and worked out a whole new hero. So maybe I’d learned my lesson THIS time?

Nope. Last month it happened again.

I’d already promised my editor I’d have the third book in the series to her by June 4th. I had lots of notes on the couple I’d planned to use. In the previous 2 books (1 out this month, the other awaiting a release date), I was careful to build up to their book and the beautiful discovery of their relationship.

But it wasn’t working. For 2 months I tried to write that story and only wrote 8 pages. I was in danger of missing my deadline. I couldn’t write and when I had the time I didn’t want to write. When I started analyzing why the story wasn’t working, that same old niggling feeling returned. Yes the characters cared for each other, but maybe theirs was not a romantic love no matter how much I wanted it to be. Out loud I finally said, “It’s not their story.” I agreed to give myself one day to explore the other relationship I’d kept balking at. And you know what? I wrote 13 pages that first day. But it still didn’t feel completely right. I thought this new couple was the right one though and I insisted they end up together. My characters again stopped talking. Finally, I brainstormed with them (Yes, I talk with fictional characters. Don’t judge me.) and when I truly listened, I finished the rough draft in a week, took another week to revise and I submitted it on time.
In the end, all my books have worked out with awesome reviews. Once I ID the correct couple, their relationship explodes across the pages. But how do I avoid wasting precious time writing and start with the right couple to begin with?

Maybe I should listen to my characters more closely. As soon as I recognize one of the signs that something is wrong, I should suck it up, stop writing what I think is right and let their words flow. I should trust that they will guide me to their happily-ever-afters. Yeah, I think next time I’ll listen to the voices in my head. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Jeans, Knit Pants, Cracks, and Underwear

I've bitched about jeans before. Don't get me wrong. I love a nice fitting pair of jeans. The challenge is finding those jeans. Not just for me, but for my 8 1/2 year old daughter Lily, too. For me, it's finding jeans that will fit my hips, fit my waist, not loosen to show my lovely decade old underwear (because the new underwear lasts maybe 5 months before falling apart, whereas my old underwear is indestructible), and are comfortable. For her, it's just about finding a pair that fits period.

I know, I know, I'm asking too much.

All Lily wears are knit pants. Why? She's always been in between the skinny and the regular size jeans. Actually, she's just too big for the skinny jeans. The regular jeans? For them to fit her, I have to pull the elastic cord all the way to the last slit on both sides to keep them from falling off of her. When she complains of them being uncomfortable. What can I say? I'd be uncomfortable with 2" of jean fabric bunched around my waist, too.

Normally, that's not my issue. LOL My issues are the ones listed above. But they seem to have grown worse recently.

You see, a few months ago, one of my neighbors lost some weight and asked me if I wanted her jeans if they fit me. Never one to turn down a boon like that, I said, "Sure, I'll try them."

Lo and behold, they did fit. Everyone complimented me on how skinny I looked in them, how my butt looked nice, etc. I was liking this. Except the jeans rode really low. So low that if I sat or bent down, I either flashed my underwear or my crack. That might be okay for a teeny bopper, but I'm not keen on flashing my ass to the world.

One other thing bothered me about the jeans: the size of the front pockets. Some time in the last couple of years, manufacturers have decreased the size of pockets to the size of uselessness, especially if you have a cell phone. Oh, and if you have normal-sized hands and want to put them in your pocket, forget it. Perhaps if I were Kristin Wiig's SNL character Dooneese Maharelle with hands the size of dolls, this would work fine for me. But I'm not, and it doesn't. My iPhone doesn't fit in my pockets. It sticks halfway out of them. If I sit, I risk the chance of it falling out. And if I want to put my hands in them, I have to curl my hands into balls, or everything of my hand from my knuckles up is out of the pockets. It just sucks.

Kristin Wiig as Dooneese Maharelle

Why can't they just leave jeans well enough alone? These low-rise show my muffin-top unless I wear longer shirts (but they don't cut the shirts longer. It's ever so lovely.) and show my underwear and my crack when I bend over. I can't fit more than my keys or some dollar bills in my pockets. The pockets on the butt have buttons, which might look cute, but render those pockets useless. (When I tried to unbutton one, it took me ten minutes. They just weren't meant to be unbuttoned.) So they look good on me, but I'm really not sure that's enough. It mustn't be as I have resorted to wearing knit pants just like Lily.

I don't know why, but that strikes me as really funny. My knit pants don't have pockets, so I can't carry my iPhone in them. They are low-rise, too, but they don't create a muffin top, and, if I bend down, I'm not flashing anything. All of this is fine as long as I'm not going anywhere. It's enough that I work from home and get a little stir crazy for adult interaction besides Facebook. I don't want to have to carry a purse, wear a jacket, or carry the keys/ID/iPhone in my hands.

Whine... whine... whine... I really do sound like a child. LOL

Personally, I don't think low-rise jeans had anything to do with fashion and everything to do with saving money on that extra material. Probably the same thing is going on with the pockets. That 2" or so of extra material cuts down on fabric costs. It doesn't seem like much, but multiply it by thousands of pairs of jeans...

Maybe I'm just cranky. Maybe I just need more sleep. Or maybe I'm getting an early start on my second childhood, temper tantrums and all. (grin)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Yes, There is a Difference…the Black Pants Phenomenon


By Kim Carmichael

The only time a writer's home is truly neat is when they have writer's block.  At those times we decide that organizing a cabinet or painting something is of vital urgency.  When our characters call to us, we could care less about anything else as long as everyone is alive and not bleeding out.

During my last writer's block I decided that it would not only be an awesome idea to clean out my side of the closet, but to arrange the clothes not only by type but by color.  This was the precise moment I set myself up for failure. In the back of my mind I knew the minute my scene gelled in my head, I wouldn't even care if the clothes were clean let alone arranged.

Around the time I surmised changing all the hangers to those thin velvet hangers would be the best idea in the world, I noticed that I could not find one of my favorite pairs of black pants.  I also made a fatal mistake…I asked my husband if he knew where the said pants might be.

After frowning and shaking his head as he joined me, he decided his form of help would be counting the black pants I currently own, holding up each pair, and asking why they weren't the favorites.

As a wife of twenty years my first instinct was to tell him that I knew the difference, and he would never get it.  Instead, I answered the question.

The pants in question were the perfect shade of black—an awesome jet black that never fades.  The material is not too thick yet structured enough to have a shape.  They have a front pocket for my phone, but it is not too bulky and the pants lay flat.  Also, the pants have belt loops so I can wear my favorite belt without the belt moving around.  Most importantly I like the way the pants hug my bottom; they make me look like I have one!

After my fifteen-minute dissertation on the wonder of these particular pair of black pants, my husband moved the hamper aside, found the said pants, and backed out of the closet careful not to make any sudden moves.

With my closet in disarray, but my pants present and accounted for, the heroine in my current novel decided she would talk to me…about clothes—hey it was a start.  I also backed out of the closet.  The cleaning could wait for another day.

For the record, I am now privy to the knowledge that I own 57 pairs of black pants, 1 pair of red, one pair of white and six grey.  There is a huge difference between all the pairs.

Kim Carmichael began writing eight years ago when her love of happy endings inspired her to create her own. 

A Southern California native, Kim's contemporary romance combines Hollywood magic with pop culture to create quirky characters set against some of most unique and colorful settings in the world.

With a weakness for designer purses, bad boys and techno geeks, Kim married her own computer whiz after he proved he could keep her all her gadgets running and finally admitted handbags were an investment.

Kim is a member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as some small specialty chapters.  A multi-published author, Kim's books can be found on Amazon as well as Barnes & Nobel, and she is a finalist in the Assent Publications Great romance Contest for her indelibly marked series.  From alcohol to makeup to infrared cameras and even scientific lasers studying the atmosphere, Kim has worked in some aspect of sales and marketing for over twenty years.

When not writing, she can usually be found slathered in sunscreen trolling Los Angeles and helping top doctors build their practices.