Friday, August 31, 2012

More Writing/Social Media Observations


Every once in a while, I like to do a blog on my observations about social media or being a writer in today's highly-populated writing pool. Being a published author is work. If people tell you otherwise, don't believe them. I have four books out there and juggling the promotion of each and attempting to meet new people....WOW! Not that it isn't GOOD work. No one said work is always bad. If we didn't like what we were doing; why do it?

So here are a few things I've noticed (in no particular order):

1) People want to see the real you. 
  • Get involved in conversations on twitter and social media that do not end in "buy my book". (Yes, I'm guilty of sometimes over posting about my books.) But make connections and in turn, you might just sell books.
2) Work with other authors to do review exchanges. 
  • But find those books that match your sensibilities and the two books compliment each other. Then you'll take the time needed to give it the correct due. So chose your authors carefully. Otherwise, your bank account will go down more and more and your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads will sit in the same numbers.
3) Don't spend all your earnings on other books. 
  • A tough one. I can't tell you how many books I've purchased the past year of indie authors as I've met them online and hoped they may repay the favor and read/review my own. A few authors have done just that. But many others have not. (And I do stress the many.) Oh sure, they thanked me for buying their book. They tweeted my review. But they tend to forget I am an author also with a book wanting that review as well.
4) Virtual friends can become real friends. 
  • Yes there are real people on the other side of that computer and sometimes you look forward to checking in with them and their lives even though they are not in the 'real world' of your friends. But they are real people (well, some of them). I've actually had the pleasure of meeting some of my 'virtual friends' and creating a bond outside of the internet.
5) Balance your time.
  • Social media can suck you in! Heck, the internet can suck you in! Checking your rankings on every single site, seeing how much dang KLOUT you have - tweeting and facebooking all the time. Don't forget those real people in your lives. Spouses. Family. Friends. 
6) We are who we are no matter where that may be.
  • This may sound strange, but I have a certain 'role' I take on in life. I'm the peacemaker. A caretaker. I want to see to it that my family and friends are all 'ok' and I spend much time listening to or counseling those I love about their lives. Well, I noticed I sometimes take on that role in 'virtual world' too. I've decided...it's just who I am. I can't help it. When people have a question or problem, I'm there with an ear. (Or a finger to type as if it were an ear.)
7) Stop looking at top selling Indie Authors.
  • You do yourself a disservice to compare yourself to those at the top of the indie heap. Rest assure there are many more authors out there that are thrilled when they see 'one' book sell in a day (even though we'll never see authors admitting to average sales: whatever 'average' may be). Think of how many authors are vying for attention. Don't stress the sales. Just write because you love to do it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Preaching to the Choir

Isn't it easy to talk to someone who agrees with you? You both sit there nodding at each other and the entire time together is spent in perfect harmony.

That's how I feel about the political conventions the US is now in the midst of with the RNC and DNC. They stand in a huge room and speak to the people who have tasted the same Kool-aid they so love and everyone sings kumbaya. Only a crazy amount of money is spent by the two parties. Money to throw these huge events. Money that could be used in so many other ways in this economy that both preach to be full of problems.

Why even have these conventions? You're not getting other people to change their opinion of you or what they think? Especially when divisive phrases are used like "WE do X while THEY do Y". How can you bridge a gap by always shouting "we" "they"? It only creates more animosity and causes people/friends to squabble among their own groups.

I know I'll never see it, but I wish the entire thing could be revamped so that we didn't have to think in terms of political parties. So that the words 'conservative' and 'liberal' were not bad things to say (or feel). But who am I to sit and dream of that type of government? Just one small person with a voice that will never be heard.

How can anyone expect to be heard over the crazies that attend these conventions. And I'm not taking political sides on that one. Some of the people are worse than any football fan that gets to attend the Superbowl. 

We will continue to hear the shouting and raving about their stance on something as they speak it loudly to those that already believe. And some of us will continue to count down the day until the election day has passed and then the country can get back to attempting to run as one unit and not always as two opposing sides.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chemo Can Bring on New Looks: Mom's Journey Continues

This week my mother got to start back into doing what she loves. Working with kindergarten children. First day of class was Monday and she couldn't wait to get back there to those kids. I honestly feel it is what has kept her so positive as she has dealt with the breast cancer. 

I've been blogging here and here about this road she's been on since her diagnosis in May.

She returns this Friday for her second chemo treatment, but exactly two weeks to the day of the 1st...she started to lose her hair. So now I'll let her share it in her own words:


You can just call me bald and beautiful now. My hair started coming out in hunks overnight. So I decided to cut it and shave my head. It was quite an experience to stand in front of a mirror and watch my hair slowly leave my head. I really expected to be emotional when the hair started to go,but I did not shed a tear. It was actually kind of liberating. I found I did not have any lumps or dips on my head. My head catches every breeze and I like that. I'm trying out different types of head coverings. People have donated a variety of caps (I still don't have a pink sparkle one) and scarfs. I have one wig my son bought me (thank you, Greg) and I plan to buy one more for a backup. They say my hair will start to grow back after my last chemo treatment, so I'm going to be bald for quite a  while. Oh well...at least I don't have to worry about fixing my hair every morning.
That's just the type of attitude and humor she has taken during this entire thing. She called me and informed me I now had a bald mother and even said she looks like my brother (who shaved his head the moment he went into the army). I asked if I could add the photo to this blog that my niece took and my mom was all for it. Her real hair on the left and the wig she bought on the right. Go ahead, you can say it as I know you're thinking it. She looks younger in the wig. :-)


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Phantom Returns: On Demand

I finally did it. I paid the $4.95 to watch LOVE NEVER DIES on demand. First let me say, very smart of the producers to air it on demand so that more people could catch this musical sequel to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA that may never grace a stage near you. To tape the production in Australia in this way is a great way to see what became of the Phantom, Christine and the others in Andrew Lloyd Webber's version. The show has been worked on for numerous years and had a "not so well received" version in London, the Broadway transfer was dropped and the re-imagined version in Australia became the one that seemed to get better reviews.

The "look" of the production is pretty amazing. Sometimes reminding me of something Julie Taymor might have come up with if it were placed in her hands. The score: classic Lloyd Webber (even stealing from himself now and again). No one can write a musical motif like he does (and play it to death over and over so that you leave recalling one thing). I was sort of amazed the entire thing starts with the 'big number' that I recognized from Sirius Radio as what I thought would have been the Phantom's 11:00 number.  But once we get past that and into the real 'opening number' at the circus, you feel as if we are back in the late 80s preparing for the first production of Phantom. Only this is Taboo mixed with Barnum. By the third song in, you're still not certain what the show is except that we're setting up the fact that we're in a circus so we're going to sing about what that 'offers' over and over. Then we finally hear about Christine and what she has been up to since the last musical. (But I must admit, I enjoyed Meg in her number and actually felt as if she were the lead at this point in the musical...and wished that she was playing Christine...even though she should be in her late 20s and she looks 40.)

We get a little Titanic mixed with Ragtime feel next with some funny American accents coming from the Aussies and then Christine (played by Anna O'Byrne) enters. Suddenly, we are in another Lloyd Webber musical and it is as if Norma Desmond has returned to the studio for the first time. Once Christine is back and meets up with the Phantom - we get a 15-20 minute rehash of the cat & mouse game from the first musical. Only it is ten years later and personally, I sense nothing new in this scene or any tension. We just get a much cuter Phantom (who also sings better than Christine) and some very dreary plodding of the story. There are some plot points in Act I that I won't disclose, but I just have to say I don't remember a certain thing occurring in the original that plays a pretty important point. And then the entire act ends with Madame Giry turning into Evita.

Act II we get to see that Raoul has turned into Ravinal from Showboat. But then Meg sings again and whenever she is on, the show seems to have more life in it. (Which is so funny as she always annoyed me in the 1/2 dozen times I've seen the original.) I don't want to give a blow by blow here and ruin it for others watching, but the creative team took these characters into places I never thought it would go. The huge decision (to sing or not) does not have enough weight to carry a musical. So sadly, the score outshines the book.  Overall, I think the character of the Phantom (played by Ben Lewis) is very moving (as he is for me in the 1st as well) while Christine is just bland. I always believe the Phantom carrying a torch for her, but never believed she had any love for him. And the final moment of the show actually put a catch in my throat (but it was the 'final moment'). I'm still glad I got to see it and for those that are diehard musical theater buffs, I'd say it is worth a watch.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Author Spotlight Interview: Judy Bryan


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is something so wonderful about the internet. It brought two people together across the pond to read each other’s work. Those that follow me know I write in many genres and author Judy Bryan and I decided to read and honestly review each other’s books. But I couldn’t leave it at that. I wanted her here to talk about Playground Politics and her writing. So welcome Judy to my blog everyone!


Judy: Firstly, can I thank Greg for inviting me to do this interview. I am so enjoying our online friendship - despite our different backgrounds, we have so much in common. Patchwork of Me is one of the best books I've read this year.

Now you have me all flustered, but thank you! Before we get into the book, can you tell us a little about you and your background?

Of course. I've been married to Paul for 28 years and we have 2 children - Chris (20) and Katie (17). Oops, can't leave out our border collie, Bailey. For the past 10 years I've worked for the UK National Health Service, giving physiotherapy to disabled children. I loved the job, but a couple of months ago I made the difficult decision to leave and concentrate on writing full time. It was one of those 'now or never' moments, sort of spurred on by the fact I'll reach the big 5-0 on August 30th!

I know making huge life-changing decisions is hard. I've had a few of those "jump now" moments too. Where do you get your ideas for the different women’s fiction books you have written? (BTW, she has more on the way to Amazon)

I always feel I'm on a mission! In Playground Politics I wanted to highlight how bullying makes people feel; in another of my books I wanted to show how hard it is for mums who have children with Asperger's Syndrome; and in my next one I wanted to talk about healing sibling relationships. I then wrap my story around these themes.

I'm really looking forward to those other books as well! I know some people find a man reading (or writing for that matter) women’s lit may seem odd, but I was really drawn into Playground Politics. I think no matter what schoolyard you are on, these things can happen. Why did you decide to set this particular story around that setting?

It's funny you say that because a male friend has just read my book and related the bullying to his office setting. 

Oh wow! I love that! Very smart reader to make that change in his head.

I wrote the story because when my daughter was 7, a good friend became jealous of my new job, my new car and my happy marriage. She decided to start a campaign against me in the playground, spreading lies and rumours. Once the pain of what she put me through subsided a little (3 years later), I sat down to write about it. Everything that happens to the heroine actually happened to me!

I told you the divorce aspect hit me as I’m witnessing my dear friend go through one with her husband. And you really captured so many levels of it. Yet you are happily married. How did you dig to uncover this story?

Sadly, I witnessed the acrimonious break up of my parents' marriage 30 years ago, but other than that I think we absorb things friends tell us or that we see happening around us.

I love that it doesn't matter if you’re in England, the US, or wherever…these themes are universal. Do you want readers to walk away with a certain message from your book?

Most definitely! When the bullying was happening to me, I thought it was somehow my fault. If only I'd confided in someone and they'd told me it was the other woman who had the issues! I hope it helps anyone going through similar circumstances. 

We also have something else in common as you mentioned your work for the past 10 years. You write children’s books for those disabled children. What are you plans for some of these books?

Oh, I just love writing for these children. They are definitely my harshest critics! When starting a story I get to know what they like to do and the names of their friends, and then I write personalised stories where they are the hero or heroine. These are too personal to publish, but I've written a series of picture books which I'm going to concentrate on once I've published my women's fiction novels. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

I'm right there with you in wishing we had more hours to get everything done. Can you tell us a little about the next adult book you will have coming out?

It takes a look at sibling relationships. Anna's drug-addicted brother makes her life a misery, but when he dies she needs to reconnect with him and heal their relationship. The story follows her journey and will hopefully be published in November 2012.

I really appreciate you taking the time to chat and answer some questions. I really hope all my readers will check out this wonderful book. You won’t be disappointed! 

Greg, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to 'meet' your friends and fellow writers - it's been a real honour. 

You can learn more about Judy at her website, follow her on twitter, and books can be purchased on Amazon or ask for your favorite indie store to stock it!

Monday, August 20, 2012

End of Summer Vacation

As my vacation came to an end over the weekend, I look back and think of how important these moments are where we stop and regroup. Sure, I did some work while I was on Cape Cod. I tweeted, I checked on book sales, I answered emails from my day job...but I also relaxed. And finding those moments in life are very important. Even if it's a 'stay-cation' - people should take a moment and breathe now and again.
Sagamore Bridge

I've been traveling to Cape Cod for years, though I haven't gone back to Provincetown in a while. But a few years ago, I wrote this poem and it still holds true.

A MOMENT TO BREATHE

The drive must include
Music to make the trip
Feel like a vacation has begun.
New York City looms in the background
As smaller towns
Melt one into another.
ABBA blares from the CD player
To make 95 North
Bearable through
Connecticut’s stop and go.
Entering Rhode Island and the body reacts
As if a boulder has been removed
From the small of my back.
The sign says Cape Cod to the right
And a smile falls across my face.
The windows are rolled down
As I start to smell the air
That says "welcome & relax."
The traffic sometimes intensifies
Upon the approach
To the Sagamore bridge,
But once I cross it,
My whole body releases,
My mind feels fresh
And I have found
A moment to breathe.

Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, MA

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Interview With Ken Harrison


People that follow me on twitter or Facebook know my postings can be about many diverse topics. Today, I am chatting with the editor-in-chief behind Seventh Window Publications. I met Ken Harrison first on twitter and then in person last spring at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC. He is part of the group of people known as our 'tribe' on twitter who are there to support and encourage one another. I've read some of his authors and even know some of those with titles coming up from him this fall. I wanted to have him talk about the ever changing world of the LGBT author: what that means from contemporary fiction to erotic material and especially sharing one of the larger readers of gay fiction: women.

So, Ken. Now that "Fifty Shades of Grey" has brought certain topics out into the open - I can finally have you on my blog. Just kidding, of course. Tell us how you started Seventh Window and when?

I started Seventh Window back in 2002, when I wanted to stop writing and shift career goals so I was behind the scenes. Back then I was known for erotica (Daddy’s Boys, Young, Hung & Ready for Action) and needed a change without leaving publishing. I have to say that I prefer the business side of the creative process and working with authors on their stories. 

Happy 10 year anniversary to you! A huge accomplishment to be around this long. What changes in the publishing world have you noticed over the years?

The switch from print to eBook was probably the biggest change in publishing since the introduction of the mass market paperback. It has changed every aspect of publishing that I can think of. Gone are the days of a small press doing a book run of 3,000 copies. Print on demand is now the most common way print editions get into readers’ hands. The nostalgic part of me misses lugging around cases of books, but deep down, I don’t miss it. 

You know I have written a book with gay characters (and I have heard from a few readers they had to jump over certain pages in that book due to sexual content). But what do you think is the biggest misconception people have when it comes to M/M books?

Calling all M/M Romance erotic romance. That goes up my tush. Gay romance (M/M) is just like regular romance: some of it is highly erotic, but not all of it. In fact, a vast majority of what is type-cast as erotic romance is not erotic romance. Erotic romance is a sub-genre of romance, not a genre to itself. 

Do you think overall bookstores and society tends to lump all GLBT books together and hide them in the back of the store? And if so, is that one of the reasons you offer your own virtual store as part of your publishing house?

Back in the late 1980s the GLBT community wanted bookstores to have GLBT sections, so I blame ourselves for the lack of inclusion our writers get when it comes to be being placed in bookstores. I never thought it was a good thing to separate our fiction from the rest of fiction. It gives the idea that it doesn’t belong, which is false. GLBT stories are just as well written as any other fiction. 

With that said, I would love to see gay romance mixed with straight romance; gay mystery mixed with straight mystery. Doing this would give writers more opportunity to be read by someone outside of the GLBT community. The best thing to happen to gay romance (and the fight for equality) was when straight women began reading it. For some of these women, it was their introduction to gay life. They’re able to see our relationships and realize that we do love each other and grow compassionate towards our fight for marriage equality. 

People may scoff at romance, but the one thing that romance has done is paint a picture of how society viewed the rights of women and gay people over the years. There was a time in romance when a gay character would only show up if he was a child molester or a villain; when it was okay for the heroine to get raped by the hero, and so forth. Romance has also tackled such difficult topics as alcoholism, drug abuse and cancer. 

I'm not asking you to play favorites with all the many authors at your press, but if someone were starting to put their foot in the M/M book world - where do you suggest they start?

That’s difficult to answer. It would depend on the person and what s/he enjoys reading. There’s not a single book that will speak to every person out there—thankfully. Books are individual, much like people. I also have to say that Seventh Window doesn’t have a quota of titles to put out every month, so I believe in every author and title I publish. And although there’s not a monthly quota to fulfill, I do have an idea of how many titles I want to publish in any given year. If I meet my goal, that’s great, but it’s not a necessity. 

You started out as a writer yourself. Can you tell us some about that?

My first published story was in the early 1990s in the now defunct magazine Christopher Street. It paid a small amount of money, but gave me the confidence to continue writing.  From there I continued plugging out stories with the hope of making it in one magazine or another, and getting a lot of rejection slips telling me they liked my work, but it didn’t quite make it. 

By the mid ‘90s I got sick of rejections and read a compilation of erotic fiction edited by John Preston called Flesh and the Word, which opened my mind to erotic fiction. I then penned my first erotic story that was immediately picked up by Blueboy. From there I continued to write for Blueboy while branching out into other magazines. In time I was a regular at Mandate, Honcho, Playguy and Torso. My first collection of erotic stories was Daddy’s Boys, published by Lelyland Publications. I continued to write and publish for porn magazines, making sure I was able to keep the rights to everything I published so it could later be collected in a single volume. Because of this practice I was able to put out Young, Hung & Ready for Action (Leyland Publications) and Ten Thick Inches (Seventh Window). Granted, each of these books have stories I wrote specifically for the collections, but the bulk of the stories had been published elsewhere. 

Wow! You just completely educated many of my readers to the world of erotica and porn. (Though I know some of them secretly read 50 Shades & aren't telling anyone.) What is coming up through the rest of 2012 for Seventh Window?

I have titles coming out from Bebe Burnside (A Cup of Late), GL Roberts (Light and Shadow), Ron Radle (Degrees of Passion) along with some new unpublished authors ready to be discovered. 

And what is happening next for Ken? Any rest on the horizon or are you too excited learning new tech toys to make your job easier?

I’m hoping not to get too much rest. At the moment I don’t have a single title for 2013, but 2012 is full and I’m not looking for anything new until I get the backlog of manuscripts published. I have spoken to a few new authors who shopped their novel ideas to me over the phone or in person. As exciting as it is to talk to an author about a title they would like to write, I never know if it will happen until the author sends me a manuscript. And since these are just ideas and novels in progress, the authors do not have a contract with Seventh Window, so I can’t discuss them. 

I’m a big technology person and keep a blog where I discuss tech, publishing and things I like called The Publishing Geek (http://ken-harrison.tumblr.com/). Since that blog is more or less a hobby, it doesn’t have a cohesive posting schedule. But in it I talk about tech articles I’ve read, all things Android, ePub and CSS, Windows and Windows Phone, review apps and publishing software, etc… It’s a place where my other interests come together.

You can always find me at Top 2 Bottom Reviews , where I have a monthly post about writing and publishing (the first Thursday of every month, generally).

You can also find me on Twitter @ken_harrison 
I’m always interested in new story and author. Feel free to follow me.

Thanks to Ken for joining my blog and sharing more from the other side of the publishing world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A French Bromance

Just as I love to read indie books, I also love to watch indie and foreign films. I know Americans sometimes believe they have the corner on telling those inspirational stories ala The Blindside, but there are plenty of other countries out there that can bring that same insight and feeling to the screen.

While on vacation, I took in the wonderful foreign film that has been brought to the US (thanks to the Weinstein Company) called The Intouchables. The fact this French film is based on a true story only makes it that much more enjoyable. Now I'm well aware that when filmmakers get a hold of a true story, they still need to make changes for the screen. And those were done in this film (especially by making it a bromance between a black con man and a white quadriplegic aristocrat when in real life the man wasn't black). I've read some reviews that say the characterization of the black man is too stereotypical, but I approached it from a different perspective. I watched this man living in the projects and thought "what a universal story." This could be in the US, Great Britain, France - you name it. The US does not hold the market on people working multiple jobs and attempting to make something of themselves. I found the economic differences between the two a wonderful way to deliver this story. 

I was so taken by the performances of both men in this film. The word 'adorable' came to my mind as I watched the genuine relationship between them. Omar Sy gave an award worthy performance as the con man who not only learns from his employer, but teaches him so much. The camera loves him and he just beams enthusiasm. And Fran├žois Cluzet is the french Dustin Hoffman who does more acting in his face than I've seen in such a long time. I was very moved by this man's plight to be taken for himself and not have pity from the world. 

I highly recommend this film and do hope it is well remembered come awards time next spring.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

88 Cents or Dollars: Whatever Betty Wants

1988 Greg & the great Ms. Buckley
There are those voices that when you hear them, you know you are in the presence of something utterly amazing. I've been a fan of Betty Buckley since high school. Growing up in her home state of Texas, I couldn't wait until we were traveling to NYC for the 1st time in summer of '84 and we were going to see Cats. Only my mom could not get tickets. Completely sold out and I was crushed. But I did go on to see her in so many shows once I moved to New York in '87. (I waited an hour after Carrie was done for her to come out of the stage door and grab a photo with her.) Well that 19 year old boy got to enjoy the experience all over again and this time as a 43 year old man.

I'm on vacation in Provincetown this week and was so excited when I heard Betty Buckley would be doing a concert in town. What we got was so much more than that. Seth Rudetsky is a master at talking to people as he does on his Sirius Radio show and he started the evening with a 'chat' with the two of them sharing backstage stories. And then she started singing "Everything Is If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Blvd. and my eyes filled with tears. Her voice still transcends. Her performance is magic. And one can see why she is the Broadway legend that she is. 

She shared songs from her soon-to-be released newest CD Ah, Men (where she sings all songs made famous by male characters in musicals). There was also a section devoted to Carrie where we saw snippets of her performance on tape and then she sang "When There's No One" and trust me: no one can sing this song like Ms. Buckley. A song that makes the heart ache for the character of Margaret White (which one would think would be impossible to do).

I had secretly hoped I could take a new photo with her to bookend from the one we took 24 years ago together. (Hell, it was no secret: I actually tweeted it to her before the show.) If you don't follow her on twitter...let me just say she is so approachable. She has retweeted about my children's book on autism. She talks of her life in Texas. She is simply wonderful. So when they said "no cameras can be on as we're taping for sethtv.com" - I thought, "so much for me ever getting close enough for a photo."

2012 in Provincetown
And then they come to her last number and they need a male volunteer from the audience. And no one is volunteering. I'm being pushed by my other half to stand...and even though I've been a performer for much of my life, I hate audience participation. (And haven't been on stage in a show in 4 years: will be again in two months though.) But I did. I seized a moment, went on stage with Ms. Buckley and played the father to her Rose in the iconic scene from Gypsy. My brain started thinking of those people who do this and usually just sit there. So having directed several shows myself, I began to direct myself in my head. (Yes, you heard me right: I was on stage with one of the most amazing women Broadway has given us and I'm telling myself to act for her...give her something in the scene!) I said my line "You ain't getting 88 cents from me, Rose!" I made my exit and I was high as a kite the evening would end in such a way for me.

She sang one closing encore and brought the house to their feet. And as she made her way up the aisle to sign copies of her CD, I was happy to be able to get that one extra chance for that photo I wanted. And yes, it happened. A lovely woman. An amazing night. 
Thank you, my fellow Texan.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Mother's Journey: Part II


It has been a while since I blogged about my mom and how she is dealing with her breast cancer diagnosis. After the surgery in June, they said they removed all of it and we truly thought she would simply have radiation and be done by summer's end. Well everything seemed to move at a snail's pace. By the time they had her visit with the oncologist, additional tests had come back that studies the probability of return and they believed she needed chemo and radiation.

In the same way she has handled everything, she jumped right in to studying all she could about it. Mostly upset that it was going to take her into the new school year when she is a foster grandparent in the kindergarten class and looks forward to that work every year. I will admit it was a shock to us all that she would need chemo. Somehow, it made it all that much more real to us. And it was all right around her birthday. But it's that strength she continues to show that makes all around her 'pony up' and stand in that same positive place. After all, this is her journey. So here is some more in her own words:

How do you spend your 66th birthday? Well going to the hospital and getting a port put in your chest so you can get chemo treatments to make sure your cancer doesn't come back. Next on the agenda is my first chemo treatment on Friday August 10th. I asked for Friday so I could rest up on the weekend. 

I'm looking forward to going back to a kindergarten class when school starts and I'm hoping I keep enough energy to do that. Staying home all the time is just not something I ever want to do. 

Went shopping for a wig with my daughter, they say bring someone who will tell you the truth. Found one that looks pretty close to my own hair. Thanks to my oldest son for buying that for me. They say my hair will fall out 2 to 3 weeks after treatment starts. Am I ready for that ? Well probably not,but then again I don't have a choice. 

I've had a few emotional times,but I hear that's normal. But I'm still not scared. Just trying to be as ready as I can for whats coming next. I really know I am going to be fine no matter what happens. Bring on the hats. I told my granddaughter I wanted one with sparkles.


Our dear friend is walking a 3 day (60 mile) walk for Breast Cancer in Texas near where my mom lives. She is so close to her goal of the money they need to raise to participate. If you have a moment to look or a dollar to give, every bit helps!




Three-Day Breast Cancer Walk



Monday, August 6, 2012

Does That Complete Your Order?

Have you noticed a new trend in eateries popping up everywhere? Gone are the days of walking into a place, seeing a hostess and being directed to a seat to wait for your waiter. The new places instead are following the lead of fast food restaurants, only they want to disguise themselves as something more than fast-food.

Baja Fresh
I noticed it with the newest addition of Mexican food places the past few years. Moes Southwest Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Baja Fresh - you walk in and order, pay, watch them make your food and then find a seat. Some places like Boston Market and SmashBurger may tell you to take seat and then they'll bring you your food (so you still think you are in an actual restaurant.) Then it brings up another issue: tipping. You feel as if you did the work, but someone brought you your food so now do you tip?


This weekend I tried out the new Bobby Flay place. I know he has different places all over and I had heard great things about this new burger joint. Similar to Smashburger (love the fried pickles), you walk in and order and then think "what if I can't find a seat at the counter?" Yes. Counters. Think old-fashioned diner meets club with the vast high ceilings (as the music and noise were so loud, you won't be having a conversation during this meal). The entire 'experience' left me un-nerved and it didn't seem like a relaxing way to eat.
Bobby's Burger Palace

I will give it to Bobby Flay when it comes to sauces. He creates many and they are all there to try. I had a wonderful Napa Valley Burger with goat cheese and watercress and my partner in burger crime had the Philly Burger. We shared fries and both thought the burger itself seemed small. Maybe we are just overeaters who are used to larger burgers, but between that and the "fast casual burger concept" - I'm not sure we'll be back.

I'm all for being inventive and changing up what people expect. And perhaps I'm the only one that that thinks these new places aren't simply another fast food place. (With the prices of the menu, it certainly seems more like a sit-down restaurant). In this economy I get owner's need to be savvy and think of what parts of that dinning experience they can put back on the consumer, but then I think at meal's end - maybe that tip should stay in my pocket.    


SmashBurger


Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Lines Get Drawn in Our Country


I went to bed on 8.1.12 with a heavy heart. A fear and sadness I had not felt in a while. I had spent much time that evening reading blogs and comments about 'freedom of speech' and how people were viewing the appreciation day at Chick-Fil-A.

I realize as a fiction author, I spend much of my time writing characters that have opposing views than mine and getting into their head is a wonderful challenge as a writer. But reading a Facebook posting of a lesbian friend who was disheartened by her own friends actions on that day and then their comments to console/justify/rectify the why and how was very saddening for me. So many are quick to say there was no discrimination going on in this particular instance, but if you are not in the category feeling that discrimination - you simply cannot see it.

I saw a news article with a photo of an African-American man saying that "protests are the new form of persecution against Christians". Truly? New form? Does he not know the history that has gone before him? I was born at the end of the 1960s, but can only imagine this division in our country we feel now was greatly exacerbated than. Only you knew when you passed a black person on the street. You knew when you said something hateful who it was aimed against. In today's world, you don't always know what co-worker, store clerk, Facebook friend you could be offending with remarks you make.

So many US females being very vocal with opinions on what is happening in our country. Thank goodness there were woman 100 years ago willing to stand up for their rights and then another movement in the 60s. Had it not been for those brave pioneers, woman of today would probably not even be given the chance to be heard on any issues happening. 

It is 2012 and a New Jersey Bed & Breakfast owner is lashing out at a lesbian mother stating that AIDS is God's attack on gays. Yes, we heard that in the 80s, but still? I suppose she hasn't seen the news reports of the rising AIDS cases among straight senior citizens. 

For me, yesterday was a day about hate - not freedom of speech. A day of hate without people getting facts. Speaking how they are supporting a business owner without knowing everything. I realize many are against gay marriage, but there is more behind this story and I'll even give Mr. Cathy the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps he doesn't know. When you make a donation to organizations, you really should investigate what that organization stands for. Over $5 million in donations have been made by this group to organizations that advocate discrimination against homosexuals. Not just "we don't believe they should marry". Here is a list of others: criminalize them for being gay, calling them pedophiles, remove their rights to serve in the military, removing sexual orientation from employer handbooks so that they can be fired from jobs, denying gay adoption and the rights of gay parents to see their children...this is just a few. 

Is that what people were standing in line for? To demoralize all the homosexuals in our country? Because if you fall in that group - that is what you saw.

If you arm yourself with facts and still stand in your truth, I'm in full respect of that. Because then you do know what you are standing in line for, and taking photos with your family to place on the internet as if August 1st in front of a chain restaurant is a day to be remembered for all. For the record: it is not a day I wish to remember. Every single person in that line has a right to their own beliefs as does the store owners and all involved. But why does our beliefs supersede the rights of another human being? People can give every reason they want as to why they stood in line. That boycotts are wrong. That store owners have rights. That they wanted to take place in a huge historical movement. But no matter the reason you say, the underlying theme is each person standing there believed their rights are more important than others.  

I know many will be amazed, but I don't agree with every single thing going in the equality movement. I don't think mayors have a right to tell someone they can not run a business in their town. I would hate for a gay, black, Jewish, Muslim, (insert anything you wish here) business to be told they couldn't attempt to achieve the American dream. I don't agree when gays decide to do a 'kiss-in' as if that will solve some sort of problem. 

But this America seems to be changing all the time and it's that division that kept me awake in my bed on August 1st. Sometimes, I think I'm lucky because I live in the Northeast - yet I've always talked of going back to Texas to be close to my family. But the images I saw of the lines of people waiting in 3-digit heat made me ponder that decision. The persistent voices attempting to get people to understand them on Facebook - never knowing the pain those words cause to people they obviously care for (or they would not be 'friends' on that social media site). And I don't simply mean people in the LGBT community. I mean their families. Parents. Siblings. These are all faces you know and supposedly love.

I know it will be a long time before we see equality for all in the USA. People will say that the president of Chick-fil-A has a 'right' to do and say what he does - but they think nothing of the rights of so many Americans that simply do not exist. That a greatly respected woman can pass who inspired a nation as the first American female to go into space, yet her partner of 27 years gets nothing of her benefits once gone. They never even could file federal taxes together. 27 years together is a lifetime in the world we live in of constant divorce in 'sanctified male/female' marriages. (Look at your friends. How many have stayed together for the long haul?)

I know I will lose friends and followers over my postings. I've already seen it happen as people first discovered me because of my autism awareness work I do. And once they see I'm also about diversity and equality for LGBT, they quickly removed themselves from my Facebook author page or twitter feed. But I'm fine with that. It's more important to stand up for what I believe is right. Notice I've not discussed religion. Equality is not about religion, though I am a Christian for those that wonder. 

And as my sister so lovingly said on Facebook on 8.1.12 - my God loves everyone.