Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Confessions of a service human (extreme cat butler)

Gypsy, the tortoiseshell tabby who showed up at our door about five years ago, has proven to be a wonderful cat. Highly entertaining with a ton of personality, she is a sweet, loyal companion who never scratches or bites. She often acts as my editor, as she likes to sit on my lap as I write.

The vet thinks she's about ten years old, and she came to us already fixed, so someone either abandoned her or she ran away. We take her in at night since our home backs up to the woods, and there are all sorts of dangerous creatures out there.

Awhile back she started doing something odd when we let her out in the morning. Instead of heading straight for the door, she would hug the wall and walk the perimeter of the room. I thought it was just another of her cat quirks, until I vacuumed one day behind a few doors. The next time I let her out she walked face first into a door. Wham.

The vet gave me the bad news. Gypsy is slowly going blind.

I should have noticed she had stopped bringing the heads of creatures home as trophies. And she had started being "a little off" with her jumps, sometimes missing her intended target. But she was seeming to get around okay for the most part, so I was still letting her out by herself, until we found her walking in the middle of the street. That was the end of her unsupervised outings.

So what do you do with an outside cat who can't see very well? Welcome to the world of a service human. I'm her seeing-eye guy.

Surgery is out of the question, and I won't put an old, frail cat through that ordeal anyway. (I'm sure she would love an Elizabethan collar.)

So we started a new routine.  Since she wants to be outside at some point during the day, I bring my laptop and keep an eye on her while she relaxes on the deck. But I can't stay out there all day, so I figured we'd try a cat harness, which would keep her from wandering off while enjoying the outdoors. I might even impress the neighbors walking my cat on a leash.

You can probably guess where this is going.

We figured putting the harness on her (brand name: "Kitty Holster") would be a two-person, oven mitts & peroxide task. But Gypsy didn't fight us, calmly letting us adjust the velcro. Harness in place, we put her down. And then she did what you've seen other cats do on Internet videos.

The flop.

Put a cat in a harness and she'll most likely lay on her side, play dead and refuse to move while giving you the death stare. Stand her up, encourage her to walk around and she'll do her best impression of Frankenstein.

"Seriously? Stripes? Have you not noticed what I'm already wearing?"

We're going to slowly get her used to the harness. "You wanna go outside, you've gotta get dressed." We're being very careful not to move furniture, or if we do move it, put it back in exactly the same place. Cats who can't see well can apparently get around if they mark a path with their scent. Though sometimes I have to put her in front of her food when giving her cat treats.

This is all not a big deal for someone who has served as a cat butler for decades. Besides, if the tables were turned, she'd do it for me.

And even though I have no idea how much vision she has left, Gypsy still looks right into your heart with those beautiful green eyes of hers. Eyes are still windows of the soul, even if they can't see.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beneath the shirtless hunk on the book cover lurks the soul of a "dad bod"

So, major newsflash of late. According to many recent articles, women are apparently very attracted to guys who have what is known as a "dad bod" instead of the chiseled guy with the washboard abs. That they find men who are soft in the middle more desirable than those who live in the gym. Who knew? So before I go for my morning 5 mile run (to the grocery store, gas station & post office) I guess I need to re-write my latest hero...

Excerpt from the erotic novel "Cold Shower"

He stood up from the dinner table after eating an entire pizza.  I was thinking about ravishing him when the button on his jeans gave way, nearly putting my eye out as it shot across the room. I moved forward and ripped off his shirt, his belly soft as butter, then led him to the bedroom by his love handles...

Yeah, like that's gonna get by a romance editor.

And Magic Mike 3 starring Seth Rogen should gross millions.

Look, as a romance writer I'm selling a fantasy, constructing a smoking hot hero who's a modern day white knight that respects a woman as his equal. Would I create a schlub with a beer gut who has become one with a recliner? Of course not. This aint Fifty Shades of Weigh.

Can you picture romance novels with "dad bods" on the covers? I can only imagine having a video chat with our cover artist:

Artist: "How did you picture the cover of your book?"
Me: "Well, I need a seriously hot redhead for the heroine. I mean, she's gotta be stripper hot."
Artist: "We have plenty of stock photos. And for the hero?"
Me: "Well, since the dad bod thing is in vogue, I was wondering if I could be on the cover. Let me take off my shirt--"
Artist: "My eyes! My eyes!"

But of course women aren't as superficial as men. In real life they're not lusting for the actual dad bod, but what's inside the dad bod. How else can you explain an average guy like me getting married to a woman who is seriously out of my league? While readers may judge an actual book by its cover, in real life you cannot. What good are washboard abs if the guy they belong to is a narcissistic jerk? It's the heart of gold that counts. Both in real life and fiction.

And in real life, your soulmate grows more attractive as the years go by. Despite the wrinkles, the gray hair, the body that's shot and wants to eat dinner at four and be in bed at eight. The initial spark you felt when you met lit a flame that will never go out.

The book cover may feature a man with a body to die for, but it's his soul that really sells the story and wins the heroine's heart.

So the hero in a romance novel really has a dad bod inside. It happens to be covered in a fictional fantasy wrapper. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jillian is back!

This Thursday, April 16th, is release day for my first ever sequel, as book two in the Jillian Spectre series hits bookstores. The paperback will follow on July 2nd. You can pre-order now and the ebook will magically appear on your reading device at midnight on Thursday.

I'm thrilled with the cover, done by a very talented artist in the UK named Becky Glibbery. And gotta love the throwback Veronica Lake hairstyle on the cover gal.

Hope you'll check it out... if parents are looking for a clean (no sex) young adult book without teens shooting each other with arrows, pass the word.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Story Bundle: The World's Coolest Shopping Cart for Book Lovers

Imagine you're in a bookstore and I walk up to you with a shopping cart filled with ten books in a genre you really like. You look at the covers and blurbs and find them interesting. They're the kind of books you'd buy. Then I tell you that you can pay whatever you think they're worth, and, oh, by the way, you can register to win a Kindle or a $100 gift card. You'd probably ask, "What's the catch?"

There isn't one. Welcome to Story Bundle.

This is a company that creates bundles of books with similar themes and offers them at a price you determine. And right now, one of my books is in that shopping cart.

The young adult bundle is called "Crossing Worlds" and every book features a young protagonist dealing with amazing challenges in magical worlds. In my case, "Destiny's Hourglass" is the story of a teenage boy who can change the future with his mind. Yeah, I know the current trend is to write kick-ass girls, but I thought the guys deserved equal time. And, ya know, that Harry Potter kid seemed to develop a decent following.

How did I arrive in said shopping cart? Well, a few years ago some author friends told me about Story Bundle, so I sent them a bunch of books of different genres to check out. A few weeks ago they contacted me about joining a very talented group in an upcoming bundle. So here I am.


The bundle is available for a little more than three weeks and the timing is perfect, since the last day (April 16th) coincides with the release of the second book in my Jillian Spectre series. (See aforementioned kick-ass girls.)

Anyway, hope you'll check out StoryBundle.com. They always have multiple bundles for sale of different genres. As for that pricing thing, you can pay a little and get five books or pay a bit more and get five bonus books.

But wait, there's more! Remember, I mentioned a prize, so don't forget to register for your choice of a $100 gift card or a Kindle.

So, is this the coolest shopping cart, or what?


Friday, March 13, 2015

We're lucky enough to be writers thanks to these people

Sometimes, I really hate my other job in television news.

This week I was working as a producer covering one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching stories I've ever done; the military helicopter crash in Florida which took the lives of eleven brave men.

From the moment I arrived it seemed like everything was working against those involved in the search and rescue operation. The fog was incredibly thick and not burning off. Clues were few and far between. And the longer we waited, the more we realized the hope of finding anyone alive was slowly disappearing.

During our day long wait I struck up a conversation with a young Air Force Sergeant, who had not been exposed to such massive media coverage. He made a comment that what media people do is amazing. But he had it very wrong, so I told him, "Hey, we tell stories for a living. You'd take a bullet for this country."

Then it hit me as I looked around at the anguished faces of the members of the military. I can only write whatever I want thanks to the freedom they provide. Think about it... these brave men and women would die so I can tell stories and write books for a living.

So if you're a writer, next time you see someone in uniform, thank that person for their service... and for giving you the right to do what you do. Meantime, say a prayer for the families of those eleven who died giving you that right.

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Leonard Nimoy story: or, how I managed to miss interviews with both Kirk and Spock in the space of five minutes

I've been going to Star Trek conventions since they started back in the seventies. It has always been my favorite show of all time, and back then, conventions were a haven for fellow desperate and dateless geeks, a real life Big Bang Theory.

Then when I became a TV reporter, I had an excuse to meet and interview my childhood heroes anytime there was a convention in town. George Takei was my first, followed by Nichelle Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney, James Doohan, Walter Koenig... but I had never covered a convention with the big three: Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

So when the entire cast was re-united for the show's 30th anniversary in 1996, I made sure to apply for press credentials early. My photographer Russ was as big a fanboy as I was, and we were determined to score the big interviews... a "get" for lifetime trekkers.

A little investigative work told us which door Shatner and Nimoy would be using when they arrived, so we staked it out. Russ discovered that Leonard Nimoy would be sitting down for only one interview as soon as he got there, and it's an exclusive for a network. He manages to strike a deal with the photog shooting the interview to let us in as well... but the promoters would only allow one person in the room. Obviously, since this was TV and we needed video, Russ had to be the one to go. So I remained staking out the door waiting for Shatner while he took off to get the Nimoy interview.

Naturally, as luck would have it, five minutes after Russ left, here comes Captain Kirk. Oh, not just Shatner, but just about every other star of the Trek universe. It was like being on the red carpet without a camera.

By the time Russ returned all the stars had passed by, but he got a good ten minute interview with Leonard Nimoy, who Russ said was as kind and gracious as could be. After that we got to be fans, sitting in the audience as our childhood TV heroes regaled a packed house with terrific stories. You could tell the stars of the show really enjoyed being there and interacting with the fans. And that's a great memory for me, even if I didn't get my interview with Spock.

As Doctor McCoy said at the end of Wrath of Khan, "He's not really dead as long as we remember him." 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Join me at the Romance Festival, Sunday February 8


Nope, we’re not talkin’ about the movie with Kevin Hart. This is about your fictional heroes, the ones you create who will live happily ever after with your heroines. As you’re writing these imaginary guys, have you ever wondered what’s going on inside the heads of real men? (Long pause for your sarcastic comments like “Not much!” or “Beer!”)
As a guy who writes romance, I’m always amazed at the reactions I get from female authors when they discover I do so by writing my heroine in the first person. They basically ask, “How does a guy get inside the head of a woman?” as if you gals have some impenetrable force field. This is generally followed by a look of fear which says, “Oh (expletive), a man has cracked the code and figured us out! Change the combination!” Trust me, it would be easier for the average guy to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
But step back a minute. All writers create characters of both sexes. Female romance authors do whip up Mister Right from scratch all the time. Yet no one ever questions how a woman author can write from a man’s point of view. Why it surprises people that I do the opposite still amazes me.
Okay, you didn’t read this far unless you wanted a peek into the male romance playbook, which is what we’re going to discuss during this week’s festival on Sunday. I’ll answer any questions about why men act the way they do, how guys think about women, dating strategy, the dating type versus the marrying type, fear of picking up the phone, and anything else you can think of that will help you take up residence inside the head of your hero.
For example, I might discuss the different kinds of lies men tell on first dates, since they’ll pretty much agree with a woman on anything to let her think they have stuff in common. There’s the casual bending of the truth: “I’ve heard great things about Downton Abbey, I’ll be sure to watch it.” Or the say-anything-to-get-a-second-date bold faced lie: “I’d love to go with you to the Celine Dion concert.”
We might talk about things that strike fear into men, like women who talk about having children during a first date. That screeching sound you heard is one of the man leaving skid marks.
So what wheels are turning in our heads? How sentimental are we? Do we really like your cat? Are we actually listening to you or just giving you the bobblehead? Would we like it if you took the initiative in the romance department? What do we look for in a soul mate?
So drop by and let’s chat. Hopefully it will help you get inside our heads. (But you probably won’t stay long, since, let’s face it, we’re all basically sloppy.)