Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Excerpt from The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters

It was almost seven when I made my way back to the parking garage holding my keys splayed between the fingers of my right hand in case I needed a weapon. My bag of research weighed heavy on my left shoulder. Just as I climbed into my Jeep, the cell phone rang. It wasn't a number I recognized. I hit the door lock and opened the phone.
“Alice? You know who this is.”
It was Sunglasses.
“I’m gonna give you directions to my house.” 
“Why?”  Why voluntarily go to a thug’s house?
“Cause I owe you.”
“You don’t.” My heart went thump.
“You helped me big time. Now I’m gonna help you. You need money for a lawyer.”
“It’s too late. I’m due in court the day after tomorrow.”
“A new lawyer can ask for a delay so he can get up to speed. Be at my house in an hour and I’ll set you up.” Sunglasses gave me the address and directions. Alice Harte, thugette.
Let me count the ways this could go bad – Sunglasses wants to eliminate me as a witness before he murders Leslie, the police are watching Sunglasses and I’ll get caught up in his arrest, I could be an accessory to Leslie’s murder, or maybe it wasn’t Sunglasses on the phone at all… maybe it was Leslie, disguising his voice. I pinched my right thigh to distract me; my leg was trembling so hard it bounced off the gas pedal. Chills ran through me like a bad flu.
Think positive. Deep breath. I followed his directions as best I could. The house was waterfront in one of those old Miami neighborhoods that are more like mazes where you follow the openings until you find yourself at a dead end. The old brick streets meandered, never straight, forking around two hundred year old banyan trees and round crumbling walls, each overgrown driveway hiding what was at its end.
He had instructed me to look for a post with a sea turtle on it, fake I hoped. There it was, a stone figure of the Mock Turtle looking just like he did in Alice in Wonderland. He was posted at the entrance to a drive heavy with tropical trees forming an eerie canopy. If I was setting me up, it would be in a place just like this. 
At the next split in the road, I parked the Jeep and walked back to the turtle sign post. I was not about to drive right up to whatever lay just out of my sight. Everything’s going to be okay. Deep breath. You need the money for a lawyer.
I walked quietly up the drive, stopping every few steps to listen. I didn’t hear axes being sharpened. No gun fire. It was all good.
The sound of feet walking on gravel. A car door opened and slammed. An engine started. I threw myself on the ground just off the driveway. I looked up in time to see Leslie’s Lamborghini. The car came within inches of my head as it sped away.
Decision time. Run like hell or march into it.
Sunglasses’ fortress was an old Spanish-style estate made of stone and iron. The grounds were lit with an orange glow like a smoggy day in L.A. I pressed the bell and waited. No response. This big house should have some kind of butler or maid or machine-gun-toting giant. I pounded on the rustic wooden door. No answer. 
Drawn to sounds of opera music from a glass-enclosed wing to the right of the house, I made my way to French doors. I stood on my toes ready for flight and pressed my nose to the glass, careful not to leave any fingerprints or pick up any germs from the door handle. The room was a study in gilt and gaudy. It looked like it had been furnished by Godfather-To-Go by way of the British Museum.
 I knocked on the glass. No response. The door swung open and I stepped in to the last few notes of Madame Butterfly. “Mr. Hare?” 
Sunglasses sat with his back to me in a high-topped leather chair. He wore a red shirt and what looked like black slacks. “Mr. Hare?”
  I got that shaky feeling you get when something isn’t right. It wasn’t like my arms were growing or my legs were shrinking. It was more like the taste of metal in my mouth.
Stepping to his left side, I touched the gangster’s shoulder. It was sticky. I looked at my hand. Blood. And germs. God knows what this man has. And then reality kicked in and for one horrifying moment his head lulled on his neck, rolled onto his right arm, and hit the floor with a crunch-splat. My mind spun. I was pretty sure he was dead; and Leslie did it. Sunglasses must have told him he had the tape recording of his confession of Jug Hare’s murder. That meant Leslie was wise to Maris and probably me.
Eeewww… blood on my hand. I looked around for wipes. There was a small door across the room and to the right. A bathroom?  But to get there I had to walk around dropping more of my DNA all over the floor. I focused on the little door and ignored the head on the floor behind the desk. If I touched the knob I’d leave finger prints. I could open it with my mouth… ick. What was I thinking?
I could grab the knob through my sweater, but I’d have to throw it away. My black turtle neck was one of my favorites. I worked my hand under the fabric and created a mitten. The knob stuck. I pulled more of my sweater into the twist and it released. It was a bathroom. I elbowed the light switch and grabbed a handful of tissues from a red and gold box on the counter. Using the paper I turned on the faucet.
Sunglasses’ blood was on my hands, both lit and fig. It flowed in pink and crimson streams into the sink and down the drain. I kept the water running and threw the tissue in the toilet; I grabbed a second paper to flush the handle. My stomach was about to contribute to the drain – I talked myself out of it. 
I glanced over my shoulder at the crime scene, trying to ignore the fact that there was a large bloody head on the floor next to the desk. What had I touched? The French door handles? Sunglasses shoulder? I was not about to re-touch the body. If my finger prints were there, they would stay there. I clicked off the light switch. The sound of a car door slamming sent me to the floor. I peeked around the bathroom door jamb.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Secret Santa

We had just begun dating. G and I were enjoying our first Christmas together.  Why is everything so much more vivid when a relationship is new? It was Florida and the sun was shining but it might as well have been a Norman Rockwell setting complete with snow and jingle bells.
I was Christmas shopping for my daughter. As a single mom with no child support, I was on a tight budget. G tagged along as I walked the department store aisles. With his GPS system on full alert, we found ourselves in the leather goods/luggage/expensive games section. Backgammon was G’s second greatest passion.  He gently caressed a $300 leather cased backgammon set.  I was happy he was happy holding it, because it was NOT going to happen. He looked at me with big brown puppy dog eyes. I admired a lesser game set. $125 and nothing to sneeze at. I patted it, committing it to memory.
The following week we placed all the gifts under the tree. The $125 backgammon set was wrapped, bowed, and tagged for G.  I didn’t think he would be disappointed. He knew I struggled to keep my daughter in the style to which she had come to expect.  I had weighed the possibility of the $300 set but couldn’t justify it. It was only a game. It was a new relationship. I would have had to charge it. No. I ruled it out as I stood at the counter two days after he had fondly fondled it.
My daughter opened her Santa gifts, shrieking with delight. I opened the noodle necklace she had made for me. I praised the balsa wood picture frame decorated with sea shells. I thanked G  for the silky nightwear, and tucked it discreetly back into the box.
And then G opened the backgammon box. I had wrapped it with care, double knotting the bows and gluing stars and snowmen on the corners.  I wish at that point in time someone had taken a picture of my face. I would have loved to have seen what I looked like.  G opened the package. There sat the $300 backgammon set. I thought for a moment that I had had a stroke. Did I space out at the register and buy the more expensive set?  G thanked me with a big hug and kiss. I couldn’t read him. Did he switch the games or had I lost my mind?
Two months later he confessed to being his own Secret Santa. It was a sign of things to come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Nice New Review on Book'd Out

Please take a peek at the lovely review of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters. It was just posted on Book'd Out. We're holding a Secret Santa contest - sign up now and win a copy of Alice's Secret Diary for yourself plus 3 copies for friends.

Tomorrow - Dec.18th  - you'll be able to read my article on how fairy tales affect our real lives.
What is your favorite fairy tale?  Think about it and then read Book'd Out tomorrow.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Author Bumping - Cleveland Amory

Let’s see… at this point I’ve shared my Stephen King, James Michener, and Robert B. Parker Author Bumpings.  One of the quirkiest bumpings I ever had has to be that of Cleveland Amory and …
I’ll first explain who Cleveland was – for those too young to remember him. He was a social commentator on the Today Show, the youngest ever editor at the Saturday Evening Post, chief critic for TV Guide, wrote a weekly column for the Saturday Review and credited himself with originating the word “curmudgeon.”  He was senior contributing editor of Parade Magazine, and he wrote three books about his cat, Polar Bear including The Cat Who Came for Christmas.
In 1967, he founded The Fund for Animals, an organization dedicated to the protection and care of wildlife.  The Fund established Black Beauty Ranch, a 1,620 –acre refuge which is home to many abused and abandoned animals from chimpanzees to burros to elephants.  When he passed away at the age of 81, he was buried next to his beloved Polar Bear, at Black Beauty Ranch in Texas.
His most famous works are The Proper Bostonians, The Last Resorts, Who Killed Society? Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife.  He had been the president of the Harvard Crimson and  was a product of Boston high society. He hung with the Kennedys, Katherine Hepburn, and the like. His tales of misadventure kept me in stitches.
Our initial bumping occurred in an elevator during a writer’s conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cleveland began chatting me up, and the next thing I knew I had invited him to a home-cooked meal at my house on the bay just north of St. Pete. I shared a lovely house with my young daughter. She did not know what to make of this big bear of a man (Cleveland was 6’ 4” and portly.) He strutted back and forth as I prepared beef stroganoff.  He was reading the writers’ guidelines I had just received from a nameless publisher. I had briefly entertained the thought of writing romances.
“What?” he boomed. “The heroine must be a virgin? The hero cannot be older than 35?” My daughter cringed as he continued his funny tirade. “Who forces a writer to write this drivel?” He asked. Cleveland had the most unruly hair. It has been described as having been combed by an egg beater. That’s an under-description.  As he stomped about, he looked like a demented lion. The evening was a laugh-fest.
We soon adopted Cleveland as our honorary grandfather. A few nights later, I found myself responding to an urgent call from his room at a local hotel. “I need a ride to the TV station in Tampa, right now! They want my opinion on this baboon heart transplant scandal!”  I wondered – once again – at the surreal turns my life could take as I sat off-camera and watched Cleveland pontificate at the immortality of sacrificing a baboon for the sake of an experiment. Thanks to those early pioneers, so many lives have been saved, but at the time, I bit my lip and returned him - all blustery - to his hotel.
Cleveland invited my daughter and me to Manhattan for a visit. I booked us into the Parklane Hotel on Central Park South… near his apartment.  Our newly adopted grandfather greeted us at the door of his place, cautioning that Polar Bear didn’t like strangers and was a one-man cat. My daughter scooted down on the floor and Polar Bear – a beautiful pure white cat - climbed into her lap and didn’t leave the entire morning.  Polar Bear’s daddy had constructed the most interesting cage that enclosed his balcony and allowed “Bear” to sit out over Central Park South and safely watch the crowds below.
Later that day, we went to watch Cleveland play chess against ten different opponents, simultaneously. I love playing chess, but could never imagine playing against more than one person at a time. It boggled my mind. That evening Cleveland wanted to take us to a special restaurant… one of his favorites.  He would pick us up at our hotel.
Picture this… he drove an old Checker cab as his personal car. It was one of those huge old taxis. He sat high in the driver’s seat looking like the cab was built around him.  His wild hair screwed up even more than usual from brushing the roof of the cab.  It was late by the time we had dinner, and everyone he ever knew stopped by our table for introductions and quips. The main streets in Manhattan were pretty quiet. I sat in the middle, next to Cleveland and my daughter leaned against me.  We were on Madison Avenue when I noticed a woman in short shorts leaning into a Cadillac talking to the driver.  
I whispered to our host, “Is that a –”
 “A hooker,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“I’ve never seen one before,” I whispered.
Just then the lady of the night got into the Cadillac.
“Let’s follow them!” Cleveland said.
“Yikes… no!”
But it was too late. The big bear of a man was tailing the Cadillac in a very obvious way.
“Please don’t” I whispered. “My daughter… this could be dangerous.”
The Cadillac made an illegal u-turn. Cleveland swung the big old cab in the same “u”.
“This isn’t funny,” I mumbled.
The Caddy slipped down a dead end alley. We were hot on his tail. I put my arm around my daughter and pleaded with our host to stop being silly. Just then the Caddy kicked into reverse and came at us as if to smash into us.
“Oh, Oh!” Cleveland said as he slammed the cab into reverse. He backed out of the alley at lightning speed, spun around and headed back to the Parklane.  As the doorman came to our assistance, Cleveland said to me… “If you ever tell anyone Cleveland Amory was following a hooker for fun… ”
I never answered. I never promised. So now you have the story of Cleveland Amory and the great hooker chase.

More Author Bumpings to follow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Adventures of a Love Investigator - On Daily Cheap Reads Dec.6th

The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman will be featured on Daily Cheap Reads http://dailycheapreads.com/ at 2:00 pm - Monday Dec. 6th.

Daily Cheap Reads is an excellent source of great cheap reads at the Kindle Store. Books are $5 or less.
Cheap Reads posts seven times a day!

The Adventures of a Love Investigator - is the recounting of my odyssey into the hearts and minds of 527 men from all walks of life - ages 18 to 80. It's a good thing I have an excellent sense of humor!
And it's only 99 cents.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Author Bumping - James A. Michener

Everybody is somebody’s “Cookie”

I continue my strange tales of bumping into well known authors. As you might recall...I've bounced off Robert B. Parker's belly and spent time with Stephen King. I seem to find myself in the right place at the right time.

It was 1992 and I was involved in bringing an innovative program to a college in southwest Florida. The Academy of Senior Professionals offered an opportunity for retired folks to come together with outstanding senior citizens, and to interact in a learning environment with other retirees and also college students.  One of our early resident scholars was James A. Michener. His reputation as a writer was legend, but at the time I knew little about him personally.

Michener was a novelist, who perhaps more than any other single author, made foreign environments accessible to Americans through his fiction. He wrote sweeping sagas, covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and blending historical facts into the stories. He was known for the meticulous research behind his work. As a child, whenever I heard his name spoken, I thought of the lyrics from that old song… “Far away places with strange sounding names.”

His major books include Tales of the South Pacific (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948), Hawaii, The Drifters, Centennial, Chesapeake, Caribbean, Caravans, Alaska, Texas, and Poland. Michener's  first book, Tales of the South Pacific was published when he was forty. The story was taken from his notes and impressions during World War II, when, as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, he was assigned to the South Pacific Ocean as a naval historian. The book became the basis for the Broadway and film musical South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

His novels sold an estimated 75 million copies worldwide. Hawaii (published in 1959) was based on his extensive research. Nearly all of his subsequent novels were based on detailed historical, cultural, and even geological research. Centennial, was made into a popular twelve-part television miniseries of the same name and aired on NBC from October 1978 through February 1979. The story documented several generations of families in the West.

One of the college project directors approached me. “I know you’re working on a novel about Florida. James Michener’s holding a small workshop for a select group. I can get you in… if you’d like,” she said. When I caught my breath, I thanked her and offered to do her laundry for the next five years.

Michener and I soon became friends. My epic Florida based novel had a long way to go, but he liked the premise. The one big piece of advice I took away from his classes was “never stop the story to do research.” Get the story told, then go back and do your homework. Story is all important. If you let yourself get off track chasing down facts, you may not return to the point of your tale.

I soon discovered we shared a common love for Poland. Michener was once hired by a television company to travel to a foreign country to shoot a documentary. He was offered to go anywhere in the world and decided to make his first trip to Poland. He made several trips back to Poland and conducted an extensive study of that country’s history and culture. He began writing the book, Poland in 1979 and it was published in 1983. He had a genuine love for the country. Poland received very favorable reviews and was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

The book, written in an episodic format, tells the story of three families and the many generations of each family throughout the history of the country. The three families (Buk, Bukowski, and Lubonski) are fictional as are the other characters in the book. The plot, however, takes place throughout the history of Poland and contains many historic people. The events are largely real events in which the fictional characters interact. The saga spans over seven hundred years. The scope of the story boggles the mind.

The year before we met, I had backpacked through Poland looking for my roots. My grandparents came from Poland. I chose to travel alone staying at monasteries and sleeping in the back of churches. Michener was intrigued, as my experiences were out a bit out of the ordinary and didn’t parallel his.

This great and gentle man was pleased to be able to share his feelings about the country and people. We discussed Solidarity and the folks I met as I journeyed alone through the land of my ancestors.  Michener eagerly picked my memories, comparing his experiences with mine.  There is a wonderful line he wrote for one of his characters in Poland: “A Pole is a man born with a sword in his right hand, a brick in his left. When the battle is over, he starts to rebuild.” I found that to be so true of the people I encountered, from the elderly monks who were once soldiers fighting Nazis to the college professors who were quietly re-establishing their country as the communist regime crumbled around them.

Like Michener's other works, he included an acknowledgments section at the beginning of the book; however due to the political turmoil in Poland at the time, he decided not to include the names of the people he traveled with for fear of persecutions against them. He wrote: "Normally, as I have done in my other novels, I would list their names, their impressive occupations, their achievements in research and scholarship, but I cannot ascertain whether in the present climate this would hurt or help them."  He was a kind and considerate man.

One day he invited me to his condominium for tea. He asked if I would bring my pictures from my backpacking adventure. As we sat in his study with maps of Poland spread over his cluttered desk, he gently lifted each of my photos and studied the faces in the snapshots.

His wife slipped quietly into the room. She was a lovely Japanese-American lady by the name of Mari Yoriko Sabusawa. Michener’s novel Sayonara is quasi-autobiographical. Sayonara was made into a film of the same name in 1957 starring Marlon Brando. Set during the early 1950s, Sayonara tells the story of a soldier stationed in Japan, who falls in love with a Japanese woman. The novel follows their cross-cultural romance and illuminates the racism of the post-WWII time period. I admit to being a bit star-struck at that point… I was in the presence of the “lovers” from Sayonara.

Mrs. James Michener bent down and kissed the top of his head. “Do you need anything, Cookie?” she asked him.

It was a surreal moment. This was James Michener, Pulitzer Prize winner… and he was “Cookie.” 
I came to realize - Everybody is somebody’s “Cookie.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Moose Walked into a Bar

Pantyhose and Other Nonsense is my topic for today on A Moose Walked into a Bar
Stop by and get your chuckle for the day. Another one of my true stories.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Author Bumping - Stephen King

For those of you who haven’t been following my Author Bumping antics please check out my earlier posts.  Bumping into authors is one of my many peculiar talents.
In October, I began with my tale of bumping into the belly of Robert B. Parker as I made a mad dash to escape a cockney ladies’ loo lurker in London.  I followed up with Bumping into Zombie Authors – The Walking Dead premiere.  In that post I shared a creepy childhood story told to me by writer, director, producer – Frank Darabont. 
Mick Garris was next.  He’s  best known for his adaptations of Stephen King’s stories. Mick and I were chatting when the phone rang. It was Steven Spielberg congratulating Mick on the success of The Stand – which had premiered the night before.  Through some sort of quirk in the atmosphere or some blessed black hole, I find myself in the most wonderful company of writers through no planning and complete accidents. I’m fascinated by my gift of Author Bumping which always occurs in strange ways, and I believe under a full moon.
In the beginning: I was at my first writers’ conference. Excited to finally be pursuing my dream of writing, I had signed up without paying close attention to the names on the speakers/attendees list. I’m a leap and then look person.  The energy of a group of writers, particularly horror writers, can be like downing a six-pack of Red Bull on an empty stomach. My head was spinning with long submerged plots and characters. The encouragement I received from established writers made my knees weak and my fingers ache to be typing. I learned quickly that the energy cast off from gathered writers can be like the heat from the sun. It burns.
Needing a break from the heady vibes that cut like dragon flies from writer to writer, I sought quiet in the “Movie Room.”  One room had been designated as a time-out zone. The movie that played continuously was Blade Runner.
I fumbled in the darkness and took a seat in the small auditorium. It was about ten minutes into the film. A tall someone sat next to me. He apologized and settled in. As Harrison Ford wandered the screen with a perpetually puzzled puss, the chap next to me struck up a conversation. The words weren’t important.  It was the idea that someone would talk during a film. Movies are religious experiences to me. I  enter them and disappear.
 The tall stranger didn’t say much, but he did break the Harrison Ford moment. I’m not a shusher,  I’m a glarer. But in the dark it was hard to throw a “quiet, please” look and have it recognized. He spoke with an accent. Boston? No. Maine. The lights went on and it was Stephen King. He was sweet and chatty and exhausted. He’d stepped into the darkness to collect himself, just as I had.
Later we shared beers in the bar. He was wearing a black t-shirt with fake seagull poop dripping down both shoulders. Childlike, he was  tickled at the t-shirt joke. He suggested I sign up for the London Workshop which was set for that summer.  From there it was a short distance to my sliding into Bob Parker’s belly. My career in Author Bumping had begun.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Kindle Author Interview

Good Morning!
I woke up to discover my interview by David Wisehart was posted on Kindle Author. Please pop over and take a peek!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Right Leg of a Man

A serious scientific study
Long before I hit the road in my valiant effort to explore the minds of men, I noticed a peculiar male tick. Most of my closest friends were men, so I spent more time with guys than gals. Two minutes after a man would settle into his seat, his right leg would take on a life of its own. It would start bouncing and jiggling. Whether he was right-handed or left-handed didn’t seem to matter. His starboard limb would become possessed.
I noticed this phenomena in theaters, classrooms, churches, and waiting rooms. I filed it away in the back of my brain for future study. 
The opportunity to investigate this affliction came as I traveled the country interviewing men about women for my book, The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman
I designed charts that ranked the men according to the usual demographics: age, marital status, sibling rank, religion, occupation. I’d draw a tiny little foot next to the leg-jigglers. Turned out the majority of men suffer from this condition.  Not all, but most. The only profession that seems totally immune is physicians. Now I was onto something. Why don’t doctors leg-jiggle?
More clues:
Men do not leg-jiggle on airplanes perhaps, because they’ve given up control to the pilot. If it were stress and unconcious - that would be the perfect time to let that Right Leg have it's way. But logic must lay just below the surface. Men know that no amount of leg-jiggling will alter the outcome of the flight. Besides... the other guys on plane would see his leg hopping.

Men do not do this if they are coming on to you. Subconsciously they are on their best behavior.

The larger the gathering, the more leg-jiggling a man will perform. By the end of the evening he is exhausted and does not understand why.

If a man is seated at a big table where he thinks he won’t be spotted, his leg-jiggling will double in speed. Most men are completely clueless that their right leg is giving them away. Just peek under a board room table at your next business meeting. I did.
My research revealed:
Our brains are cross-wired: The right half of our brain controls the left side of our body while the left side tells the right side what to do. The left side of our body conveys information to our more emotional right side. (If you have something loving to say… whisper it into a man’s left ear.) The effect is reversed in left-handed people. I think.  Best to try both ears and see which works better.
Subjects in research studies who tapped their fingers on their right hands for one minute became less willing to engage in risky behavior like drinking and driving.  A foot works just as well as a finger, they are interchangeable.  Movement on the right side activates the risk-adverse left hemisphere. So… perhaps… men who are tapping and jiggling their right leg are subconsciously fighting off the urge to do something risky. Like correct what you’re saying, or ask to leave the room?
There is neat sub-text to my study. See if it works in your situation.  Humans have a “left-side cradling bias.”  We hold infants so that their heads nestle in our left elbows.  This allows our emotional right brain to respond to the babies’ facial expression, thus creating better communication and bonding. Now, transfer that scenario to the bedroom. Does your man prefer you on his left or right side? Is he bonding with you or secretly jiggling his right leg?
Left Leggers…I love ‘ya, but you’re on your own.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Chronicles of Marr-nia Contest - Karen Cantwell strikes again

Karen Cantwell is up to mischief again.  Her newest Barbara Marr book is being released tomorrow.
To celebrate, Karen has launched a fun contest... more like a challenge.
Here's the link for further info. The action takes place on her blog... Fiction for Dessert.
Don't be shy... jump in there!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bumping into Zombie Authors - The Walking Dead Premiere

The nicest people can have a gift for creating the best of zombies.  Frank Darabont and I were having a chat… more like one of my early interviews, where I sat and listened to incredible tales from the crypt or crib.  I wondered where Frank drew on all his creativity - that dark side that didn’t show in our gentle conversation.  And then it revealed itself: our mutual journey through Catholic Schools.
My odyssey took place in New Jersey, but Frank’s was the full-blown European version. Complete with an old castle- like building and nuns with a strange sense of reward.  I imagined a place Dracula would feel comfortable.
As Frank described it, the nuns allowed the good students to visit the castle’s cellar on select days. There in a darkened room was a mummified infant in a glass case.  It was the child of the original owner of the castle. The baby had been placed in this state by the family many years earlier. The nuns had inherited the baby along with the castle.  Frank said that the well-behaved students were allowed to deposit their coin – the equivalent of a quarter – in a slot on the side of the glass enclosed casket. The coin would trigger a light on the baby – for just an instant. The student was rewarded with a temporary fright. These strange but true things are perhaps what sets the ground work for a great writer, whether it’s horror or just plain human nature. When I think about it, there’s nothing plain about human nature. We are complicated and scary.
Frank shared  a lot of thoughts with me that day, but the mummified baby really topped the list of stories I won’t forget.
My Author Bumping talent has placed me in the most surreal of situations. I was pleased  to be interviewing Mick Garris the day after the first episode of The Stand aired on TV. Mick directed Stephen King’s epic novel in a mini-series format.  Steven Spielberg called to congratulate Mick on a job well done. There I was sitting with one of the nicest guys on earth, sweet to a fault. He was being praised for doing a great job of conveying the remains of the human race as it struggles to right itself. And the praise was coming from his mentor.  How did I get so lucky to be in this place and time? Maybe my Author Bumping is a gift I’m supposed to share with my readers?  Perhaps it’s to let you know that the scariest stories come from the nicest writers?
I wish Frank Darabont all the best with his apocalyptic series… The Walking Dead which premieres Halloween night on AMC. He’s been nominated three times for the Academy Award including the classic film… The Shawshank Redemption. This should be one of the best and most believable zombie fests ever. I’m getting goose bumps in anticipation. Or to quote that famous line from Dawn of the Dead…
“We’re coming to get you  Barbara.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Spot On Review

By Diane Nelson "Diane Nelson <Author>" (New Tripoli, PA USA) - See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman (Kindle Edition)
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman by Barbara Silkstone

I came away from reading these 'adventures' vaguely disquieted. 527 men and only one of whom would I consider as not`damaged goods'. Though the lyrics might vary, the tune was distressingly similar, all boiling down to a set of keywords: fear of commitment, fear of failure, self-absorbed, juvenile, sophomoric, downright mean and petty. That is a litany of failure in relationships that boggles the mind. How the author managed to stay the course through 527 of these interviews attests to her strength of character ... and a wonderful sense of humor that got her through these uncomfortable glimpses at the inner workings of the male mind. She combines her interviews - and the stark realities from these unfiltered truths - with her own experiences, observations of the relationship condition, and a glimpse of the quest to find the one who might have gotten away. I came away filled with admiration for this woman who, against the odds, avoided swallowing the bitter pill, though one wonders what the long-term effects on her psyche might be from such a soul-stripping walk on the relationship path. Well, done, Barbara.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

News Flash... We have a winner!

Karen Cantwell, author of the best selling Take the Monkeys and Run!
has just announced the winner of the contest held on her blog -
Fiction for Dessert.
                                                    The winner is Jaxbee!

Jaxbee will receive the dubious honor of becoming a character in my upcoming novel:
                                            Wendy & the Lost Boys.

Jaxbee will receive a free eBook copy of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters and a virtual trip to South Florida.

                            Congratulations to Jaxbee!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Author Bumping. It's a talent I come by naturally. I have literally fallen into a full body bump with some pretty big name writers. These unplanned slams usually occur with hilarious results.

Robert B. Parker was a lovely man. He was considered the Dean of American Crime Fiction. He created the wise-cracking, street smart Boston private eye, Spenser. The New York Times said of the Spenser novels, "We are witness to one of the great series in the history of the American Detective Story."

My first meeting with Robert B. Parker was not the auspicious event I would have preferred. I slammed into him as if he were home base. All one hundred and twenty pounds of me hitting his chubby frame with an "umph!"  But let me back up and get a running start into this story.

I was attending a writers' workshop in London. A small group of dedicated hopefuls were there to hone their craft with instructors, Bob Parker, Stephen King, and PD James. The event was quarterbacked by Gary Goshgarian, an amazing writer and professor of English Literature at Northeastern University. Gary writes powerful crime thrillers under the pen name of Gary Braver.

The workshop took place at the London Polytechnic University campus located on Marleybone Road across from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and near White Chapel, home of Jack the Ripper. It was summer and the concrete inner city buildings were deserted. Red graffiti decorated the outer walls. The buildings have since been renovated but at the time the setting was eerie.

I took a seat in the old lecture theater, laying my knapsack and duffel bag on the floor at my feet. I was pleased I had traveled light and finally got the hang of looking like a writer. I had dropped the sissy pink dresses and kitten heels after the last writer's conference. I was determined to look like a serious author. Tough and ready to rock 'n roll.

Someone spoke from the stage - can't remember who - telling us where and how to find our dorm assignments. We would receive further instructions shortly.  I settled back and admired the carved wood paneling and Phantom of the Opera ambiance.

A professor-like woman turned to me. "Hi, my name is Shirley. I really have to find a ladies room. Would you mind my bags for me?"

"Sure." But even as I spoke, I knew... I needed a loo trip, too. Now was as good a time as any. The lady on Shirley's far side agreed to stand sentry over our bags. My new buddy and I set out in search of a potty. The halls outside the theater were silent. Slippery marble floors, stone walls, and dim lights - but no restrooms. "Maybe they're on the second floor."

We walked up a level. Nothing. And the lights grew dimmer. Shirley and I agreed to take this up one more floor. I was mentally kicking myself for not using the loo at the airport. With the school abandoned for the summer, someone had taken to making a career out of polishing the marble floors. They shown like glass and were as slippery as ice.

No potty. No loo. "One more floor?" I asked. Shirley nodded, her eyes like two giant robin's eggs behind her thick glasses. It was awfully quiet. We made our way to the fourth floor clinging to the banister to steady ourselves. A good tinkle was now at the top of my list of most desirable things to do in London.

On the fourth floor we finally found a ladies' loos. We entered in the harsh light. The room felt like the men's room scene in The Shining. Jack Nicholson meets the long dead manager of the Overlook Hotel. The guy who slaughtered his family with an ax. Okay... my nerves were a bit prickly.

Shirley grabbed one stall door. I hit another. I'd clicked the door shut and was in bladder emptying ecstasy when the door shook.  "Open up or I'll break the door down!" said a male voice with a cockney accent.

Knowing it would do no good to scream, I said,  "Absolutely not!" (I'm notoriously polite.)

"If you don't open this bloody door, I'm going to put it under the door!"

I knew what he meant by "it." Ick!  I said the first thing that popped into my mind. "You do and I'll step on it!"  Eww...

"Barbara!  What's going on?"

"Dumb question, Shirley."

Then there was silence. Not a word. Not a footstep. Only the sound of Shirley whimpering from her position two stalls down. More silence. He was either waiting outside the door with a Jack the Ripper knife or he had run away.

I made an executive decision.  "Shirley.. at the count of three - let's make a run for it. One-"

"Barbara, I can't. I can't get my girdle up. I'm too scared!"

Girdle? Who wears a girdle?  I was trapped in a farce with a woman in a girdle, and a guy who might be very large in certain bodily parts.  "Shirley... ditch your girdle. We're running for it!  Two, Three!"

We broke out of the stalls like two race horses out for the Triple Crown. We hit the marble floor with Flintstone-Feet flying. Funny thing about running on slippery surfaces... you can build up some real speed.

At the second level, Shirley went reeling. "Turn into the skid!" I yelled at her as I grabbed the railing. She squealed and then righted herself. By the time we hit the ground we were moving at a hundred miles an hour.

A group of people stood at the entrance to the theater. Robert B. Parker was among them. At that point I lost all control and went into a slide. I bumped into his portly belly. Slam! Thud!

The security guard came running. Bob and the others looked very concerned. Shirley blubbered. I recounted what had happened. "What did the bloke look like?" asked the guard.

"I didn't get a look at him, but he had a cockney accent. Also, he must have a penis as big as a horse!" The words were out before the Catholic girl in me could censor them. I'll never forget the look on Bob's face. He burst into a hearty laugh.

"He was going to put it under the door!" I said by way of explanation.

That made Bob laugh even harder.

"I told him if he did, I would step on it!" I tried to sound rational, but it was too late. The laughter echoed off the stone and marble.

Bob Parker wasn't my first Author Bumping, but he was one of the more memorable ones.


Author Bumping will be continued as the mood strikes me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

DRACULAS would give Quentin Tarantino the vapors!

By Blake Crouch, Joe Konrath, F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand

Spawned by an ancient virus, their talons click on the linoleum of the Blessed Crucifixion Hospital as they work their bloody way from the maternity ward to pediatrics. Layer on layer of terror accompanied by that creepy clicking sound. I couldn't put the book down long enough to get a second bowl of buttered popcorn. This is the real deal. How vampires should behave. No suave George Hamilton vamps, no gentle Edward Cullen, these creatures know how to get under your skin and stay there. Carnage and heroism from multiple points of view take place in the most vulnerable spot on earth - a hospital.

Congrats to Blake, Joe, Paul, and Jeff. DRACULAS  is an engrossing, satisfying, wet-horror read. I loved it. Now if I could just bring myself to turn out the lights.

P.S. I've always enjoyed the brotherhood of horror writers. They are some of the nicest people on earth - generous with advice and encouragement. Maybe they're so kind because they exorcise all their demons on the printed page. This team of authors should be gentle as kittens... now.

Where to find DRACULAS on Amazon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Timothy Leary, Dennis Hopper and Me

What are you afraid of? What scares you silly? Rats? Snakes? Politicians?
Me? I was always terrified of Dennis Hopper. He was so good at playing psychotic villains. I still remember a scene where Hopper mashed over some dude with his motorcycle. Dennis Hopper permanently freaked me out when I was a kid.  And now I begin my tale.

It was day one of my interviewing adventure which would become my book -  The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman My best friend, Sal had scribbled a list of eight men to start my interviewing caper. It was up to me to make them want to be interviewed. From this starter-set I chose one name - Dr. Timothy Leary. I've always been the type that jumps into the deep end first. It's the best way to learn.

Leary was a professor who lectured in psychology at Harvard and explored psychedelic experiences and experiments; he espoused free-love and was the spirit of the 60's. He was arrested and jailed by G. Gordon Liddy, escaped prison, was re-arrested and ultimately released. He then went on tour with Liddy as two ex cons with a story to tell. He campaigned for governor of California against Ronald Reagan. Leary hung out with and incredible array of people from the Beatles to Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver. The Beatles even included his name in their songs.

I arrived at Leary's house, located up the road from the Beverly Hills hotel. Tim was in his final years of life - death danced naked before him, and yet he was full of piss and vinegar. THIS was my very first interview.

Leary complimented me on my courage for taking on this daunting task. "The dehumanizing by males of women and children is the key issue." He lit a cigarette with shaky hands. "It's the number one cause of suffering, illness and genocide. It is the pervasive, taken for granted, ever-present brutalization of women and children by men."  His mind darted like a mouse picking up crumbs of memory, nibbling on them and then moving on. I dared not interrupt for fear of his anger, it turned on a whisker.

Someone took our photo as we sat together. I wished I had known his when he was younger. He was hot looking and a pistol. Now his memories are strings that I must untangle. Anger loops to pleasant memories, to passion and back to anger, and then to tears.

He tells me, "In the 1920's when I was born, it was a completely different age. I was an only child and my mother was totally my friend and supporter. And I caused her much pain. She wanted me to be a dentist and live next door. Instead, I ended up escaping from prison."  Leary weeps. "It caused her a great deal of pain because when she would meet with the women who were her friends they would talk about their children. She could never mention my name. And that hurt her a lot. We're talking about women who were in their 70's at the time I was in prison. You didn't talk about things like that back then. And it seems so tragic now that all those older women were fascinated by me and my life and my mother couldn't mention it. It robbed her of a high hope of her life. Now it breaks my heart."

Timothy Leary talks on. Hours later I'm ready to leave... emotionally exhausted.

"Please come back," he begs. I promise to return.

It is now my third visit to Leary's home. I carry bags of fresh fruit and juices for his health. "Put those things in the refrigerator and then get over here," he barks.

Leary's refrig is covered with photos held in place by magnets. They're all pictures of people he cared for, most of the photos are of twentieth century folk heroes. I am captivated. The pictures, set so informally, bring legends to life. And then I do a triple take. Yikes! There is that recent photo of me sitting with Leary. The magnet that holds it in place also holds a picture of Leary and Dennis Hopper. My knees buckle. What are the odds?  Dennis Hopper might be nearby. I spent the rest of the visit looking at the front door, fearful Hopper would come in at any moment.

Leary died the following year and his ashes were sent into space aboard a Pegasus rocket. Dennis Hopper passed away recently. As I read a wonderful, detailed story on Hopper in Vanity Fair... I realized I had nothing to fear. He was a good and talented man. I should be happy to have shared a refrigerator magnet with him. Thanks Dennis.
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman

Friday, October 15, 2010

AT&T and The Dead Parrot School of Customer Service

For those few folks who are not familiar with the "Dead Parrot" I strongly recommend visiting uTube and viewing this classic comedy routine from Monty Python. It involves the mind boggling run-around John Cleese receives when he tries to return a dead parrot to the pet store that sold it to him. The pet store owner insists the parrot is not dead but merely resting, despite the fact that the parrot is nailed to its perch and is hard as a rock. No matter how much Cleese insists on getting his money back, the clerk evades the fact that the parrot is obviously dead and even suggests swapping the parrot for a slug.

A few weeks ago, as I sat in my car in an almost empty Target parking lot - late at night - trying to get someone at AT&T to help me, I reasoned that AT&T practices the Dead Parrot School of Customer Service. I had endured 18 months of a two year contract for AT&T mobile phone service during which I had spent a minimum of ten hours of every week on hold with AT&T techs. This night I had been on hold for almost two hours, my cell phone battery was going low, my bladder was full and my nerves were fried. I was scheduled to have outpatient surgery the next day and the only phone service I had was my AT&T cell phone. I was desperate for someone to get me a connection while I was laid up. In order to get a connection I had to drive outside a 5 mile perimeter from my home to pick up a signal. AT&T couldn't get me a connection from my home because I had no NET WORK service. If I couldn't call them from my home, then they couldn't verify that I had no NET WORK service. Circular thinking. My parrot wasn't dead. It was just resting.

As I sat in my car debating whether to give up once again or hang on a little longer, the AT&T tech told me he was having trouble reaching a supervisor as their lines kept failing. When the super did get on the phone, he insisted I go to an AT&T store that night (10:00 pm.) and get a loaner phone to see if the problem was my equipment. When I explained I had already run that drill a few times and that no loaner phones worked in my apartment and that it was now after store hours, the supervisor snapped at me. "I'm marking your file Uncooperative!" In other words I wouldn't accept a slug in place of a parrot.

Weeks before this incident, I played the game with yet another AT&T supervisor. She instructed me to  "Go home and we will try and call you at 5:30 tonight. If we can't reach you, we will let you out of your contract as we will admit we can't provide you with service." Dutifully, I sat at home at the appointed hour knowing they couldn't get through. Three days later, I received a message from that supervisor saying, "We couldn't reach you so we can't determine if you have a problem. We therefore assume your problem is resolved."

Why did I not cancel the AT&T service when I first discovered that the phone was useless? First, I was foolish enough to think they were actually trying to solve the problem. They had me believing the problem existed in my particular phone or my particular apartment. This is the basis for the Dead Parrot psychology. The consumer is always wrong and the parrot is always resting.

I ended my contract with AT&T and went with Verizon. I shed tears of joy at that first clear phone call.
Today on the news it was mentioned that the iPad folks are moving from AT&T to Verizon  due to service problems. :)

Do Real Men Read Chick Lit?

As I travel around the USA listening to men download about women, I find a number of guys who admit (off the record) to enjoying chick lit,. These men, who confess in whispers that they enjoy it, say their preference is for the lean, mean prose of Janet Evanovich / Stephanie Plum.  Perhaps Evanovich is the pied-piper of chick lit for Real Men?

Hank is 41 and not hard on the eyes. Our conversation moves to books. "I've never read chick lit... well hardly ever. It's too wordy. Elaborate, superfluous description that adds nothing to the story. Excessive and redundant adjectives and (he shudders) adverbs that slow down or dumb down the story to the point I might doze off  while reading, even if I'm simultaneously riding my Harley on the freeways. But when I do read chick lit, I really enjoy the terse action in a Stephanie Plum novel. I like to laugh when I read."

Les is a real estate investor who travels a lot. He acquired a Kindle last year and is devouring eBooks. He's in his mid-50's and easy going. "Plausibility. A relative term that requires to me as a reader, that the characters and actions be plausible within the confines of the story. In chick lit, the heroine can be a timid librarian who has taken six self-defense lessons, goes out with her cat to solve a murder, and kicks  a hitman's butt before dragging him off to jail. Wrong. The heroine should overcome through intelligence, quick thinking, and cunning or by using weapons because damn few women (even those with a black belt) can take down a man (even a couch potato.) And you shouldn't take a cat anywhere without a cat carrier unless you've prearranged a transfusion."

Humor... the great equalizer is the reason men read chick lit. Humor can be used in any type of novel, it's almost a necessary ingredient.