Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Last week my computer crashed and two experts couldn’t fix it. After two days of lost programs, my genius hubby found a way to get most of my stuff back, but decided I needed a new operating system. Another two days of no computer access, and now I’m learning a new system. Ugh!

The new system decided I needed an e-mail junk file. I don’t want one, and who gets to decide what‘s junk? They do. How dare they make those decisions for me? Spam filters are a waste of time, my time. I had one once for four weeks and - when I remembered to check the Spam folder - discovered they had removed two important e-mails - one from a Harlequin editor! So I canceled the filter and decided for myself what I kept and what I could delete with a click, and not have to waste time going to a spam file first.

My hubby said there was no way to get rid of the Junk file option in the new operating system, but, genius that he is, he found a way to keep it from deciding what was junk.

Today I discovered that I can’t just print an article I found on Google, because - unless I hit ALT first - who knew? - the option didn’t come up. There are many more things that are different and driving me crazy, but at least my books have been restored, so I guess the damage done by the Trojan virus could have been worse.

But my frustration reminded me of the famous comment by Bill Gates (remember Microsoft, who ruled the world in 1999?). “If General Motors had kept up with technology, like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that get 1000 miles to the gallon.”

To which GM’s president responded, “If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason, your car would crash twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally, executing a maneuver like a left turn would cause your car to shut down and you would have to reinstall the engine.

7. Oil, water, temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single “car default” light.

9. The air bag would say “Are you sure?” before going off.

10. Occasionally, for no reason, the car would lock you out and not let you in unless you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed the radio antenna.

12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again, because none of the new controls would operate the same as on the old car.

13. You would press the Start button to turn off the engine.
(Read the rest at

In spite of all that, I love my computer and the software that lets me correct errors only once and print a novel in two hours instead of four days. I won my first writing contest - in 1983 - because I could enter by the deadline. On the other hand, what other choice do we have these days?

I’d love to read your horror stories about computer glitches.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Recently a question was asked by a fellow member of the RWA Kiss of Death chapter about a scene from a movie whose title she couldn’t remember. The scene was at a funeral where a man enters, goes up to the casket and sticks a pin in the dead man. Three of us immediately e-mailed the right answer. It was from CHARADE starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Since we have a DVD of the movie, it inspired us to watch it again that night.

Then yesterday one of the blogs I follow asked readers about their favorite old films that they’ve watched more than once. Those incidents, combined with the visit of a young relative, results in this blog post.

The young man who visited us last weekend is 26, has been to college and served in Iraq, not a clueless teenager. But he didn’t know who many famous movie stars of the past were, including Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart. He did know the name of Marilyn Monroe and we took him to Palm Springs for lunch so we could visit the twenty-one foot statue of Marilyn recently erected there.

Each evening we showed him an old movie from our collection: SOME LIKE IT HOT, RUTHLESS PEOPLE, and THE BIG COUNTRY (The latter is, in my opinion, the best Western ever made and stars Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston.) He loved all of them.

But it occurred to me that part of our culture is being lost. Many events and lines of dialogue from these old films became part of our shared experience. And one had only to say a few words to make a connection to another person’s memory.

The obvious one is “Frankly, my dear, I don‘t give a damn,” the almost last line from GONE WITH THE WIND. Another is “Rosebud” from CITIZEN KANE. One of the funniest is “Nobody’s perfect” from SOME LIKE IT HOT, when Jack Lemmon tells Joe E. Brown he’s a man. A Bogie fan, I loved his lines from THE MALTESE FALCON, such as “I’m sending you over,” and, “It’s the stuff dreams are made of.” CASABLANCA gave us “Play it again, Sam,” and “We’ll always have Paris.” To say nothing of the fabulous chariot race in BEN HUR.

Of course, it’s possible I’m just old, but I urge everyone who didn’t recognize these scenes, to join Netflix and rent those old movies--and lots of others. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Picture an old-fashioned telephone, the kind you'd see in a 1940's movie about a wealthy family. The telephone has a large, square base, and an ornate receiver in the cradle on top.  It rests on the desk in their fancy house. Now imagine a picture of that same telephone on the front of a tee shirt, except that the receiver is now shaped like a whale. Beneath the telephone are the words, "Call me, Ishmael." Amazing what a different receiver and a comma can do.

The last time I saw a tee shirt I wanted to wear was when I found one that said, "Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt." But I digress.

 This post is about first lines of novels, and Google will show you lists of the best 25 or even 100.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1. The aforementioned "Call me Ishmael" without the comma, which is from MOBY DICK by Herman Melville.

2. "Last night I dreamed of Manderly again,"  which is from my favorite book, REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier.

3. As a romance writer, I also like, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen.

4.  "He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream, and he had gone 84 days without catching a fish." THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway.

5. "It was a dark and stormy night."  PEANUTS fans know that Snoopy sat on top of his doghouse, typing that line into his typewriter. I assume you also know the line has been ridiculed as one of the worst, and that every year San Jose State University runs a Bulwer-Lytton contest in which "wretched writers" submit the first sentence of the worst possible book. Many of these are fabulous, but I'm not going to reprint one because it's hard to choose and can be as many as 60 words long.

I actually entered that contest once but didn't win any award. Maybe my sentence wasn't horrible enough, which is, I guess, a mixed blessing. But I still try to write memorable first sentences to my books, and here's a sample of ones I'm happy with.

1. "I landed the assignment to go to Rome, not because I was the best reporter at L.A. Life..." ROMAN HOLIDAY,  White Rose Publishing.

2. "Dana had fallen into a dream job. and. like a dream, it could disappear in an instant." STRANGER IN PARADISE, originally published by Kensington, now an e-book.

3. "Haley Parsons stared into the beauty salon's oversized mirror. A stranger stared back at her." NORTH BY NORTHEAST winner of the San Diego Book Award in 2002.

4. "I wouldn't ask Gary Pritchard to captain Southern Star if he were the last skipper left alive in the Bahamas."  SOUTHERN  STAR, which was published by Avalon Books in hardcover and available for $5 from me. (For more information, send me an e-mail at this website.)

There are a few more opening lines I'm pleased with, but those books are still in the hands of editors, waiting for acceptance. How about you? Do you enjoy trying to come up with a killer first line? Have you written any first lines in your books that you're especially proud of?


Picture an old-fashioned telephone. the kind that sits on a fancy table in a 1940s movie about wealthy people. It has a large square base, and an ornate receiver sits in a cradle on top. Now picture that image on the front of a tee shirt, but the receiver is shaped like a whale.  Below the telephone are the words, "Call me, Ishmael." Amazing what an unusually shaped receiver and a comma. can do.

I haven't seen a tee shirt I wanted to wear since the one that read, "Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt." But I digress.

This post is about opening lines in fiction. Google will show you lists of the best 25 or even 100, from famous novels. Here are a few:

1. The aforementioned "Call me Ishmael" without the comma., from MOBY DICKman Menville.

2. "Last night I dreamed of Manderly again, from my favorite book, REBECCA BY dAPHNE DU mAURIER.

3. As a romlance writer, I also like, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, imust be in want of a wife." ride and prejudice by Jane Austen.

4. "It was the best f times, it was the worst opf time..."  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


A recent news item about space diving, that is, skydivers going to extreme heights before jumping from an airplane, brought back memories of the two brief years I was married to a skydiver. Neither he nor his buddies jumped from those altitudes, which requires oxygen and special jumpsuits. Instead they concentrated on doing acrobatic stunts while free falling, making mid-air formations or trying to land on a target.

My ex had 600 jumps to his credit and I learned that he got that credit because the pilot of the plane had to sign off. Sort of like: “Yes I took him up in the plane but he jumped out of it.”

I especially remember watching skydivers take part in contests, where they got points for landing closest to the target. Those points turned into prizes at the end of the event. They practiced every weekend, and even weekdays as long as the light held.

The earliest targets were simply white strips of cloth in the form of an “X” but later they used a plastic disc barely four inches across. Some parachutists were so good they not only jumped from over a three thousand feet and landed on the disc, they drove it into the ground.

Some events were actually held at night and the jumpers wore flashlights fastened to their boots. They jumped into a circle of light formed by strategically parked cars with their headlights on. Always trying something new, they also jumped over water into a circle of rowboats. The hero does that in my novel FREE FALL, and is “rescued” by the heroine who thought he was drowning.

The activity called “base jumping,” is when a parachutist doesn’t jump from plane, Obviously, he needs a high place, such as a tall building, bridge or cliff to jump from in order to have time for his ‘chute to open and still enjoy the thrill of a few seconds of free flight. El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California, attracted hundreds of skydivers, but the park made it illegal.

Base jumping is also more dangerous than skydiving, with a fatality rate twice as high. I didn’t know anyone who died while skydiving, but I heard many stories about some who did. The son of a well-known romance writer--whom I met at a writers conference in Los Angeles years ago--died while hang gliding, not skydiving, in spite of having won many trophies for the sport.

But we love alpha males, who sometimes lead dangerous or reckless lives, don’t we? They are our fictional heroes and make our job of writing romance novels such fun.

Do you, or did you, have such a storybook hero in your life? And did you ever write about him?

Barnes & Noble


Although Jennifer Gray’s job requires her to work with Colin Thomas on a sports promotion, that doesn’t mean she has to like it. He’s a pilot, skydiver, and owner of Skyway Aviation, and she’s afraid of heights! But she must work with Colin for six weeks, and even though she feels a spark of jealousy when Colin seems to have a love interest, she remains convinced he’s not the man for her. Then a friend’s accident during a skydiving exhibition causes a serious rift. Colin knows a good thing when he sees it but—even with humor, sensitivity and plain old-fashioned charm—can he help Jennifer overcome her fear of heights, and convince her their relationship is just what she needs?