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31 posts from January 2009

January 31, 2009

8 is Enough, 14 is Insane

8 is Enough, 14 is Insane

By Sarah

We need to talk about this octuplet craziness.

Sure, I've been holed up in my office revising the Penny Pinchers Club so long that - I kid you not - my FINGER TIPS BLED! But even I with no perspective can deduce that the California mother who gave birth Octupletslast week to eight fetuses, uhm children, is not mentally stable. Why? Because she has six other kids, one as young as age two. Worse, according to the Los Angeles Times, the age of this mother is thirty three. Also, she's been through foreclosure and bankruptcy.


Look, I gave birth to Anna when I was twenty eight and that was considered fairly young in our social set. Sam was born when I was thirty two and I thought he was a lot to handle, especially since I was working and Charlie was fresh out of law school. We were so poor back then that the weekly grocery shop was a military exercise - how could we seek out food and capture it with minimal casualty to our bank account.

So I have an idea about being thirty three and a mother and let me tell you that being thirty three and having fourteen kids does not mathematically add up. It's wrong. There. I said it. Being thirty three and living with your parents (is there a husband? I don't think so) and having fourteen kids is wrong.

Children are not collectible Barbies, especially when we're dealing with children with severe special needs as this latest set will surely have. But as much as I think the mother is either nuts or victimized, it's the doctors I blame in the end. They had the choice to look at this young woman and her bizarre request - supposedly she wanted "just one more" - and could have easily advised her to achieve this goal the natural way.It wasn't as though she'd had a problem conceiving in the past. One can't help but wonder if her doctors viewed this as a challenge. Or, dare I say it, as a way to pad their bank accounts.

The resources required just to birth these babies is mind boggling. Seven teams of specialists were on hand to address the needs of seven premature infants. Only, an extra one popped out and, having categorized the children alphabetically, the "G" team had to do double duty on the fly. Those infants will be in the hospital seven more weeks. Let's do the math: eight times forty nine days must be close to a million dollars. And that's before we address the matter of hospital resources being sucked away to stand guard over these offspring.

The father of the mother, i.e., the grandfather, has taken a porky 'tude. To the reporters gathered outside his house, he declared that once the mother and children were freed from the hospital, he would take them to another house, a larger house at an undisclosed location where the press would never be able to find them.

I'm sorry, but I'm confused. Is there something he's hiding? I can understand privacy, but this is getting weird. This is getting creepy. When I hear of an unmarried woman being forced to produce multiple offspring and move to an undisclosed location, my mind turns to cult. Or aliens.

Now, perhaps I'm off base. If so, let me know. But before anyone tramples on me for being "anti-life," I would like to point out that I am extremely pro life. I don't believe in the death penalty and I firmly believe in bringing onto this planet children for whom you can wholeheartedly love and care. Two was hard enough for me. I cannot even begin to fathom fourteen. And I had a husband

So, set me straight if I'm wrong. If not, stay tuned. My hunch is there's another layer to this story that has yet to be revealed.

Glad to be back!


January 30, 2009

Sex in the News

Sex in the News

By Me, Margie, filling in for Sweeney who has some kind of flu

Normally, I have some advance warning before I write a blog, but this time I did not - so I have to write what I know, y'know?

Blog 3D Porn Big news out of Hong Kong, where they are developing 3-D Porn movies.  You have to wear those virtual reality glasses to watch them.  Which could be very cool, except for a few issues:

1.  Some things?  You just don't want to get that close.  I mean, unless you are so overcome with whatever is being done to you that you could stare directly into the face of death and not give a shit.  Otherwise, there are parts of the human body that just aren't made for upclose HD.

2. The Creeper factor.  Like, you're sitting in a crowded airport - or worse yet - next to someone on a plane, and they pull out the fuckspecs.  Because, really?  The people who spend the money to buy those things are not going to be the kind of hotties that you'd enjoy watching get up and over, and I think you know what I mean.

3.  Have you ever been to a 3-D movie?  People are always jumping around and waving at things they think are there, but are not.  You don't have to be freaking Fellini to imagine the kind of hand motions that will accompany 3D Porn.  No. Thank. You.  Take that shit home and keep it to yourself.

4.  For marketing reasons, the press release should have come from Bangkok.

Blog NYT Mag Next up: Women and Sex.  A paper no less esteemed than the New York Times did a cover story on what women want when it comes to sex.  Yippee!  I thought maybe someone was actually paying attention and asking the right questions. Turns out, all you had to do was look at the photos to see that it was targeted to men, and not in a good way, either. 

Were there simple diagrams?  Some kind of road map with directions?  Because believe it or not, some guys still think women only have three erogenous zones, and when it comes to the third one, they think it's more like a football field, where you just keep running all over the place and hope to get in the end zone, rather than a finely-tuned instrument which requires skill and practice to create the best music.  
I mean, that whole alphabet thing was just supposed to be a warm-up - you are supposed to be paying attention to which letters elicit a positive response, not playing wheel of fortune hoping you don't have to buy a vowel.  Geez.

News flash, people - not all women are comfortable asking for what they want.  I mean, not all women are even comfortable being on top, where they at least have a shot at getting somewhere before Mr. Stud goes his own way and then falls asleep.  Some men are great and sensitive lovers.  But they're mostly mine, so the rest of you are out of luck.  Kidding.  I'm sure lots of you have wonderful partners.

Here's a real bombshell in the news:  Abstinence Programs Do Not Work.  

Holy shit!  I can't believe it!  Do you mean to tell me that teenagers with raging hormones are not going to stop banging anything on legs just because they wear a chastity ring?  Duh.  Anyone who believes this crap shouldn't even be teaching Pre-K kids how to put the socks on before the shoes, let alone teenagers. The only way you're going to get teenage boys to stop is to put that ring somewhere else and hope the pain overrides the testosterone.  Which is totally barbaric, so don't go getting any ideas, freaks.

From the Fact or Bullshit files - Rumors that Gov. Blagojevich was going to sell chunks of his hair for custom merkins in order to raise money for his legal defense fund?  Not true.  It's these kind of stories that can fall through the cracks, but luckily you have Me, Margie on top of this story.  On the other hand, the rumor that Viagra sales are drooping?  Totally true.

Blog PETA ad Finally, PETA's Super Bowl AD was rejected by the network because it was too sexual. Huh?  The ad states that vegetarians have better sex.  Then it shows some very fine specimens of the female of the species in various states of undress, with vegetables.  I know what you're thinking.  I mean, not even I, Margie, would try for something with a zucchini or banana on prime time TV.  But no - these are non-phallic veggies like lettuce and asparagus, which wouldn't do anyone a damn bit of good. And they're not even, you know, strategically placed.  But no - we'd rather watch cheerleaders with boobs falling out all over the place and - oops - thongs when those little skirts flip up.  Maybe those network people are still in shock from the Janet Jackson thing since it's the only time they've seen an actual nipple since they were infants. People are weird.

So, what's new with all of you this week?

January 29, 2009

Your First Fight

Your First Fight

by Nancy                       Go to fullsize image               

The first fight my husband and I had was over who should unpack and put away our wedding gifts while an "important" football game was on TV.  Being a non-confrontational kind of bride, my tactic was to seethe in silence. He was clueless and watched the whole game, plus two more.

For me, who grew up observing my dad who might have listened to football on the radio, say, while he painted the house or watched a boxing match on the occasional Saturday night after everybody else went to bed, this kind of mega-television-watching behavior was a dismaying eye-opener.

It was not until the weekend my new husband watched 17 football games (I know you're thinking this feat is impossible, but the marathon started on Thursday afternoon with a local junior high game and ended on Monday Night Football, so I'll grant you it was a long weekend, but he's a champ, isn't he?) that I decided I was no longer non-confrontational. We had a showdown which resulted in a limit on weekend football-watching that has lasted for most of our marriage, although he'll fall off the wagon if I'm not vigilant. (Judging, that is, by what is heaped around the garbage cans when I go away for a weekend.)

Last week, Yahoo ran an article about your first argument, which they claim is the most crucial discussion in any relationship. It may seem like a petty squabble when you're in the midst of it, but chances are you're fighting about a small issue that's representative of a much larger one.

Come to think of it, my husband staring at a television instead of paying attention to our wedding gifts (perhaps a too-obvious metaphor for our marriage, do you think?) has been a core issue of our marriage--at least to my way of thinking.  Since he's sitting here right now, I could ask him what he considers a core issue of our marriage, but he's watching bull-riding, which I will admit is a guilty pleasure of mine, too, so the hell with it.  (For entertainment value on a cold January night, there's nothing like a post-ride interview with a drawling cowboy who's wearing a surgical collar around his neck.) Am I fickle? Self-absorbed? Unconcerned about what he thinks is a core issue for us? 


Deal with it.

He has.

(Funny how after the kids leave and are safely settled, a marriage becomes a lot less stressful.  If you can hang in long enough, folks, it turns out okay as long as you've learned to lower your standards a bit.)

                           Go to fullsize image

In addition to making sure you're arguing about something worth arguing about, the Yahoo experts advocate sticking to a few rules like figuring out if you're yelling about something current, not some baggage you've been carrying around since your sixth birthday when your cousin April Marie blew out your candles and "helped" you open your presents not that I care anymore really, and that you're arguing about a "big picture" subject, not just about who should be wiping down the top of the stove after the dishes are done, although that's another biggie around here.

Yeah, okay, the article has good advice, but here's what I still haven't learned after 30-some years of marriage: Once you have won the argument and mutually made the decisions, how do you actually make the person wipe down the stove once he's agreed he should? Because if you have to remind him all the time, you're a nag. And he's making you into a nag by not doing what he said he'd do. But I can't figure out how to fix that. Nor can he figure out how to make me write all my check amounts into the checkbook even though I periodically promise that I will. 

I think we may have to unpack our wedding gifts to figure out the nagging thing.

So tell me. What was the first argument in your most important personal relationship? And were you smart enough to figure out what it was really about? Or were you too caught up in the moment to think straight? And have you fixed the issue, or are you still fussing about it 30 years later?

January 28, 2009

Grandma's Little Habit

Color marijana 

Grandma’s Little Habit

By Elaine Viets

I had a storybook grandmother. She was short woman with a warm lap and a plump figure. No facelifts for this Grandma. Her gray hair was tightly permed and her shoes were sensible.

Grandma made her own grape jelly and baked pies for the church fundraiser. She also used pot, though she stubbornly denied it.

Let me take you back to 1968. I lived in Florissant, Missouri, which was the whitest place on the planet this side of the Arctic. I was a poster child for Miss Straight and Proper USA. I did volunteer work, had a part-time job, got good grades and went to church.

I was revoltingly good. The revolt would come later.

Grandma spent part of her childhood in Tennessee. She liked to tell me about the old-timey remedies.

Some were good. Tying a piece of moldy bread over a cut leg was a primitive form of penicillin.

Some were harmless. A knife under a sickbed did not "cut" the fever, but it didn’t hurt anyone, either.

Grandma scrubbed herself with harsh Fels Naptha soap after a walk in the woods to prevent poison ivy. This was probably smart as well as sanitary.

But one of those home remedies could have gotten her busted.

Every spring, Grandma had her herbal tea. It was a ritual. Grandma said it thinned her blood for the long, hot St. Louis summer.

I think it was about 1968 when I realized Grandma’s herb was THE herb. Hemp tea. The infamous five-pointed marijuana leaf. Made from plants that brought the DEA to your door.

Volkswagens were plastered with anti-war bumper stickers urging us to "Burn Pot, Not People." And Grandma was boiling it.

There I was, Miss Straight and Proper, and I’d discovered Grandma was using drugs. I was in a cold sweat. I don’t know if I expected Grandma to trade in her housedress for a headband and beads, but I was determined to get her off the drugs.

I broke the news gently. I’d seen "Reefer Madness" in school and I knew what drugs did to people.

"Grandma, your tea is illegal," I told her. "It’s marijuana."

I was sure the cops were about to break in her kitchen door. Grandma would have to barricade herself behind the Magic Chef stove and hold them off with her cast-iron frying pan.

Grandma was outraged. "It’s not marijuana. It’s hemp. I’ve been drinking it for years. It grows wild by the railroad tracks."

"But hemp tea is pot, Grandma. You know, marijuana. The stuff hippies smoke. Reefer."

"That’s ridiculous," Grandma said. "I smoke Marlboros."

Grandma lived in the southern edge of St. Louis County then. The woods near her house were filled with wild marijuana left over from World War I, when the federal government encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. The hemp was used for rope. The farmers got the fabulous sum of five cents a pound in the good old days. Fifty years later, the feds had changed their view of hemp. It was still a money-making crop, but it was no longer on the right side of the law.

Grandma refused to adjust her attitude. Her blood had to be thinned and the feds could go to H-E-double fiddlesticks. I had visions of my grandmother being led off in handcuffs after her ritual blood thinning. Newspaper headlines would blare "Granny Busted in Drug Raid! Granddaughter Tried to Warn Her."

Grandma calmly continued making her tea with the fearless bravado of the innocent. I wouldn’t drink the stuff, but I was curious.

"Does that tea . . . like . . . ever make you high?" I asked her.

"Of course not," Grandma said. "How could it? I didn’t know it was pot."

NOTE: Today is Harley Jane Kozak’s birthday. I wish her good times, good friends and good books for the coming year.

January 27, 2009

Crap That Bothers Me: Feet at the Movies

Feet at the Movies
By Lisa Daily

There's a disgusting new trend coming to a theater near you. 

People are taking off their shoes in the movie theater, and kicking up their smelly, disgusting feet.

I noticed this for the first time about a year ago.  A man seated a few chairs down from me removed his tasseled loafers just as the house lights were beginning to go down.  He jauntily crossed one foot over his knee, his long yellow toenails pointed in my direction. 

I could not eat my popcorn.  I could barely watch the movie.

Who does that?, I'd thought to myself. 

Had he just had foot surgery and couldn't bear the staggering weight of flip-flops?   Was he a werewolf?  Was he wearing brand new shoes that had rubbed a blister on his toe, and he couldn't stand to keep the ol' Florsheims on for one more wretched second?

I chalked it up to exceedingly bad manners and felt certain that the odds of seeing another movie with the King of Toenails was slim to none. 

This was the first time I'd encountered bare feet at the movies, but it would not be the last.

A few months later it happened again, this time, a group of four or five young women removed their shoes and rested their feet atop the seat backs in from of them.  Had I been seated behind them, or next to them, I would have been mildly grossed out.

As luck would have it, however, I was seated in the row below them.  And the first set of five naked consecutive pairs feet rested just 3 or 4 inches from my left ear.  Or rather, my left nostril.

I decided to switch seats and move down a few rows.  I have a pretty strong sense of smell, and I just couldn't overcome the heady mixture of synthetic butter and sweat socks.  As I settled in to my new location, I noticed another couple of girls a few rows down in a similar position; fuschia polished toes perched comfortably on the seats in front of them.

Since that night, I've encountered shoeless theatergoers for pretty much every movie I've seen. 

Call me crazy, but feet and food just don't mix.  And movie theaters are a hallowed place where we inhale 7 servings of Milk Duds in the dark before the feature even starts.

Seriously.   Can we not enjoy the movies with our shoes on?  What's next?  Unbuttoning our pants after we gorge ourselves on too much popcorn?


January 26, 2009

Fantasy Job

Fantasy Job

by Michele

If you scratch your average working author, underneath you'll find somebody who spends as much time thinking about what makes a book grab readers as she does about plot, character or, god forbid, grammar.  There's a simple reason for this:

    Yes, some of us would write just the same even if we never got paid.  But some of us wouldn't.  And more than a few of us dream of the bestseller lists, not only for the glory but for the Benjamins. It's our version of fantasizing about winning the lottery.  When I go to a bookstore, I love to browse and read snippets of jacket copy and learn things.  But there are always those few minutes when I first walk in where I'm just going, hmmm, who has the best co-op these days?  What's selling?

It says good things about America that the answer to these questions at my local bookstore right now is: Barack Obama, Barack Obama and Barack Obama.  Books he wrote.  (Have you read them?  Share your opinions below!)  Books about him, books about his ideas.  Anything about him, the more personal the better.  Can you imagine the advance on a book called "Barack's Guide to Kicking the Habit?"


It's not just Obama who's selling, but anyone connected to him.  Books about his wife are big.  Given the popularity of the Sasha and Malia dolls, books about his children are sure to follow and be huge hits.  I personally would be happy to read any book about his mother-in-law (or to watch a sit-com about her life in the White House -- isn't that tailor-made?)  Books by his ex-girlfriends?  A certain goldmine!  Agents, are you out there beating the bushes for these women? In Dreams from My Father, he talks about a woman he was in love with, about a weekend spent at her parents' place by a lake.  (And she was white!)  Where is this woman and why hasn't she gotten a huge advance?  Can you imagine the movie deal?  The interviews on the morning shows?

The point is, there's serious money these days in memoirs by the fabulously politically famous.  President Obama's book royalties last year alone were $4.2 million.  Sarah Palin is reportedly looking for eleven mill.  Hillary got an $8 million advance for hers. Condi is out making the rounds of publishers as we speak, and even Laura Bush  -- the wife of the most hated president in history -- got $1.6 million, in troubled times no less.  Of course, some of these books may be a bit salacious and lacking in depth. (Speaking of, can you imagine how much Eliot Spitzer would get if he stopped faking remorse and penned a sexually explicit memoir?  The Guv's Guide to Hookers?)  But some are plain educational and positive and worth buying and reading and touting.

All of this led me to the perfect daydream -- maybe not to everyone but to me.  Honestly, jealous as I sometimes feel of more famous authors' royalty checks, I never fantasize about being them.  It wouldn't be any different from being me. (Though it would pay better. Which means my husband probably does fantasize about me being Stephenie Meyer.)  But boy, do I daydream about having some huge job in the new administration.  It's my absolute fantasy.  I would love the job to death.  Work 80 or 100 hours a week for four or eight years.  Solve the Arab-Israeli conflict or global warming.  Get on the front page of the Times and photographed for Vogue (in black & white -- a "serious" profile) wearing Oscar de la Renta.  And the icing on the cake -- the multi-million dollar advance on the memoir at the end of my tenure.  Sigh!

I ask myself -- assuming any of these Obama-ites' memoirs would pull in seven figures -- which one would I be?  Which one would you?  Pick somebody and tell us why.



OR -- let's not forget, the biggest advance of all:

January 25, 2009

Short Subject

                               Short Messenger_big Subject

By Jan Burke

TLC is proud to present guest blogger and Edgar Award winning novelist, Jan Burke.

I’m writing this on Christmas Day, 2008. Santa did not give me what I asked for, but I’ve been naughty, so fair is fair. And I never expected to find what I wanted under a tree or in a stocking.

So here I am, on the eve of the release of The Messenger, my first supernatural thriller, and I’ve got a big problem. In the immortal words of Steve Martin, I’ve got to get small.

No, I’m not talking about losing weight before the tour. I mean, I’ve got to get The Messenger small.

Every author hears this advice: learn how to pitch the premise of your story in a sentence.

I think this all started with Hollywood, where a limited attention span is apparently an invaluable asset. Friends of mine used to make a joking game of the Hollywood pitch – "It’s Gone With the Wind meets Dawn of the Dead and Brigadoon." (Don’t bother writing the screenplay I just inspired. It has been done — although I doubt that pitch is how 2000 Maniacs got backing.)

If you’re too logorrheic to manage the one sentence pitch, you’ve got to get it down to the elevator ride: be able to tell someone about your book in the time it would take to ride an elevator – about thirty seconds.

Frightening. But now, word is the elevator and the sentence are so over. In the world of Web 2.0 we come to Twitpitches – no, not some athletic event in which one throws idiots as far and fast as possible, but pitches that fit into a "tweet" on Twitter.com – a tweet is limited to 140 characters.

I like and use Twitter, but … I’m a novelist. Novelists like words. We aren’t confined, as screenwriters are, to limits that have to do with how long someone can pay attention to a story while sitting in a popcorn-scented dark room with his feet on a sticky floor and a kid kicking the back of his chair. We get to explore characters, ideas, settings, backstory — all that good stuff — 100,000 words and more at a time.

Yes, the process of distilling my novels down to pitch is one I find difficult. Few promotional tasks create greater anxiety. Say too much — especially about a mystery novel — and a potential reader may wonder why they should bother to read a book you’ve spoiled for them. Say too little, and you run the risk of making them wonder why you bothered to write it.

One wants the essence, and also to intrigue. A taller order than 140 characters may be able to fill.

So I started by narrowing it down to a few paragraphs. You can see those on my blog. [http://janburke.com/blog.html]

Here’s the elevator version, although my husband said it must be the freight elevator:

Tyler Hawthorne, dying on the battlefield after Waterloo, accepts a bargain from mysterious Adrian de Varre, and becomes a Messenger — never aging and nearly immortal, he will live a nomadic and solitary life, his only companion Shade, the cemetery dog who guards him. In return, given the power to hear the final thoughts of the dying, Tyler must convey their messages to their loved ones.

In present-day Los Angeles, he finds himself drawn to Amanda Clarke, who has secrets of her own. But will Adrian’s return put an end to any hope they have of being together?

I kept working on it. As it turns out, I’m not as bad at this as I thought I’d be. In fact, I beat the 140 character Tweet limit.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the 80 character edition:

Tyler Hawthorne. Shade. Amanda. Awesome.

Adrian creepy.

Read The Messenger.

By the time you read that brief message, I’ll be lying in an exhausted heap somewhere. My tour for The Messenger will be over, and I’ll be home, hoping the people who first ordered it liked it enough to talk someone else into reading it. If you’re one of those folks, my thanks.

January 24, 2009

Have You Ever Dreamed of Being a Cop?

Have You Ever Dreamed of Being a Cop?

By Robin Burcell

BLog ElaineFaceofaKiller Veteran cop Robin Burcell is a good woman to have on your side, so we’re glad she’s blogging for TLC today. Robin’s new book, FACE OF A KILLER, about an FBI forensic artist, is getting rave reviews. She’s offering you a chance for a free copy. Read on.

I was perusing my spam folder, looking for that occasional legit e-mail that sometimes ends up there, when I saw one with the subject line asking me: "Have you ever dreamed of being a cop?"

Are they serious?

Not only have I dreamed of being a cop, those dreams usually suck. Why? Because I am often drawing my gun, only to discover I am pointing my Index Finger at the suspect, and wondering in the back of my mind if I pull the trigger, will bullets actually come out my fingertip? And word of note for anyone trying this at home. If your trigger finger becomes your gun, does that make your middle finger the trigger finger by default?

I hate those dreams. And I hate the ones where I'm late for work, and I am racing to my locker, only to discover that A) I can't find it. B) I can't remember the combination, or C) I open it and discover I am missing key pieces to my uniform. Like my pants.

I'm sure if some psychiatrist were to sit down with me and analyze said "dreams," I'd be told that I have some serious issues. As if I need to pay 180 bucks an hour (or whatever the going rate is) to have that confirmed. Duh. Considering I spent nearly two decades racing to my locker about three minutes before my shift started (and made it to briefing on time about 99%), there is no doubt that there are some deep-rooted issues here. Just ask my husband and kids.

Now that I am no longer a patrol officer for that particular department, I can safely mention the time when I forgot my uniform at the cleaners, had only a pair of uniform pants in my locker, and in desperation not to be late to briefing (leading to a fate worse than death, an ass chewing by one's supervisor in front of the other officers right there at the briefing tables on being late and having no uniform), I flung open every unsecured locker, hoping there was one in it with a shirt I might be able to wear. I found a shirt hanging in a locker, a shirt that happened to have motorcycle patches on the arms—which would make it a tad obvious, there being no female motor officers—even worse was the large rip down the spine of the shirt, starting at the collar, a rip about 18 inches long. No problemo. Threw the overly large, ripped shirt on, tucked in the excess length, and slipped into a police jacket to cover the rip in the back, as well as the motor officer patches on the arms—and tried not to imagine what a male officer's ripped shirt was doing in a female officer's locker.

Rampant imagination aside, I should mention the time I forgot the KEYS to my lock, and had to have a supervisor cut it off so I could get dressed. Actually made it on time, too. Not one to tempt fate and a shoddy memory, I bought a combo lock that very day, and left the combination written on tape on the back so I wouldn't forget…

Of course, I have other wonderful memories that seem to crop up in my dreams. Like the handcuffs that keep spinning around the suspect's wrists and won't stay locked. Don't ask me where that one comes from. I fear it really does have deep psychological issues.

But I digress. I'd like to say that the whole pointing-the-finger-at-a-suspect-and-hoping-it-goes-BANG! thing was just a dream, but that would be a slight falsehood. Nothing like showing up on a hot call, and realizing you have no gun!

If you're wondering, I'm not the only officer who has done this. Something to keep in mind the next time you need assistance. It always helps when someone is breaking into your house and you call 9-1-1 if you say, "When you dispatch the cops, if they are coming from the jail, can you have them Bring a Gun?" This is not being rude. It's being prudent. It might help to understand how this happens. You see, we had to lock our guns in these cute little gun lockers just outside the jail, because not all prisoners have good manners, and sometimes they take what doesn't belong to them, which necessitated the No Guns in the Jail rule. Normally that locking-up-the-gun isn't a bad thing, especially with said ill-mannered prisoners around—until you get dispatched to that Hot Call and you go racing out to your car, hop in, fly all the way across town, get out, draw your gun and find you are holding nothing but air because it is still sitting in that stupid little gun locker back at the jail! Being a resourceful cop, I solved this problem by locking my car keys up with my gun. Never got farther than the parking lot after that. But by then it was too late. The psychological damage had already been done, and my dreams forever scarred.

So, what has scarred your dreams? Not finding your classes while wandering the halls at high school, naked? Forgetting your briefcase filled with all your important documents for that Big Meeting? Or worse yet, opening that briefcase and finding something totally unexpected, perhaps even inappropriate, inside? Fess up, leave a comment, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of FACE OF A KILLER.

Want a chance for a copy of FACE OF A KILLER? Email Robin Burcell through her Website at


January 23, 2009

Best. Week. Ever.

Best. Week. Ever.

Blog oath of office by Kathy Sweeney

When I look back on my life, this week will be right up there with the best of times.  Even if you are not a Steeler fan (and my sincere condolences to you), the week started in Washington, D.C. at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.  In the shadows of the monuments - many built by slaves - artists and citizens from all over gathered to celebrate our new President.

Blog We ARe One Finale If you missed the "We Are One" Inaugural concert, you can see it this weekend or online at hbo.com. From the invocation by an openly gay bishop to an all-star choir helping to close the show, it was fantastic.  I had already started crying watching the Obama-Biden train trip (guaranteed to start the emotional waterfall: Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful").

By Sunday afternoon, I was carrying a box of Kleenex around.  I am a child of television and as an adult, that is how I mark many milestones.  I remember the afternoon at my cousin's house when we all watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon.  I remember the day in the lobby of my law school when we all watched in stunned silence as The Challenger took off.  I remember jumping in the car to bring my kids home from school after seeing the tragedy begin on September 11th.

Blog polamalu We don't even go to football games any more - we have better views, better company and more accessible rest rooms at home when we watch it - with HD, we also get better shots of the replays than you get on the Jumbotron at Heinz Field.

We gathered with our closest friends to watch Obama during the primaries - as well as his eventual nomination and acceptance speech. The night of the election, with everyone watching different channels on different TVs, I got the news that Obama would be our next President from two men I really admire:  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  It was the best place for me to hear the announcement.

And this weekend, when we all made history, we were all back in front of the TV, crying and laughing and cheering as we watched the Inaugural events unfold.  I suspect that some people are sick of hearing about it. Sorry about that -- but I want to hang on to this sense of hope and gratitude and energy as long as possible.

So, before this week is over, please share with all of us a moment or two that will stay with you.  Here are just a few of mine:

[For Steeler fans: Troy Polamalu's magnificent run, which rivaled anything you've seen in the Bolshoi Ballet, let alone Cirque du Soleil.  To say nothing of the fact that the man is smoking hot.]

Pete Seeger, shouting the words to "This Land is Your Land" so everyone could sing along.

Shots of big moving vans unloading boxes in front of the White House. ("There are good books in those boxes!" we shouted with glee.)

Ted Kennedy, glowing with pride and happiness as he walked out onto the Inauguration platform.

Joe Biden, who was having the time of his life, giving everyone the 'How YOU doin'?!' greetings.

Sasha Obama giving her Dad the thumbs-up.

President Obama, determined from moment one to honor the constitution by getting the oath right, Justice Roberts' nerves notwithstanding.

Blog At Last Beyonce serenading the First Couple with "At Last" - trying not to cry, and then giving up in a post-song interview, where she summed it up for many of us: "He makes me want to be smarter...this is probably the most important day of my life."

I could go on and on - and if you know me, you will undoubtedly be hearing this stuff for months, but for now, I'd love to hear your golden moments.

January 22, 2009

Mr. Smithee

Mr. Smithee

by Nancy

Alan Smithee is a name you may have seen at the end of movie credits. He's very famous--known for directing and writing movies, TV shows and even the occasional music video like Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

He directed such gems as LET'S GET HARRY, a movie that starred Robert Duvall and Gary Busey as mercenaries on a jungle mission in Columbia to rescue buddy Mark Harmon who's been captured by drug runners.  (I wish I could have hung around the doughnut table on that one, don't you? Or any doughnut table with Gary Busey and a cocaine plot.) GHOST FEVER starred Sherman Helmsley as a bumbling detective. You missed that one, too, didn't you? What about CITY IN FEAR, a serial killer story set in LA that starred David Janssen and a very young Mickey Rourke?  Or THE BIRDS II? Some episodes of MRS COLUMBO?    

He's really famous.  Or, to put it more correctly--his name is famous. Alan Smithee isn't a real person.  But his name is given by the Directors Guild of American to movie directors who'd rather not put their real names on their finished products--usually because other people have meddled with the work and ruined their "vision" or whatever.

Sometimes I wish I had the option of putting the name "Alan Smithee" on some of my work.  (My husband, the college football official, just strolled through my office and says he wishes Alan Smithee had made a couple of football calls for him.)

Last week I was dusting bookshelves. (This excellent writing procrastination technique ranks just a few bulletpoints below blogging.) While dusting, I came upon a romance novel I wrote back in the wild and woolly 80s. In those days, romance characters never heard of condoms or practised safe or oral sex. They went around acting Too Stupid to Live, and their dialogue was--in my case, at least--often pointless banter meant to be foreplay.  (Trust me, you'd have kicked this hero out of bed in Chapter One.) Other authors just wrote pages of sex, which never really worked for me.  I think the best romances are basically about waiting. (Hunger, yearning and obsession still being the 3 keys to romance novels in my firm opinion.)

Anyway, I skimmed this particular romance novel I'd written back in the day and I DIDN'T RECOGNIZE A SINGLE WORD. I had no recollection of writing this stinker.  None.  Maybe it was a case of blanking out a horrible memory the way crime victims try to forget the details of hideous torture, but I could use a professional opinion on that theory.

I wish I could tell you that I am proud of all the work I've ever done, but oh, man, that's not true.  That book sucked--and not in a good, romance novel-y kind of way.  I can only guess publishers were desperate for product back then, because no editor in her right mind would publish such drivel now.  (OKay, in a feeble bit of self defense, I do remember one editor asking me to take the plot out of a romance novel once.  "Just the sex, please," was her reasoning.  "That's all the readers really want anyway." I hope this book was the result of her editing, because I would feel a lot better about myself if I could share the blame.)

Fortunately, Amazon and eBay and Craigslist weren't in business back then, so it would be really hard for even the most determined among you to find that book now.  Not impossible, though, which is why I'm not giving you the title, NFW. I really wish I could slap "Alan Smithee" on the cover and forget about it.

In life, there are a few other things I'd like to give to Alan Smithee, too. Like that speech I made back in the early 90s to a group of romance writers who wanted to write suspense novels. I said some idiotic things at that meeting--various bits of "writing advice" that I'd like to take back. It's not that the suspense genre has changed, either. I've just come to realize that I was utterly wrong and shouldn't have been given a forum to share my dunderheadedness. Of course, if you attend any writing seminars, you know there's a lot of that going on. (My most vivid convention memory is the panel I shared with one woman who--I swear I'm not making this up--claimed she learned to write by re-typing a Sidney Sheldon novel.)

A few times I've said things to my sweet husband, too, that I'd like to pretend burbled out of the mouth of Alan Smithee. At least my husband might have had the satisfaction of punching Alan's lights out.

I guess what I'm wishing for is a "do over" button.

Care to share, dear readers? Anything you'd like to un-do? Disown? Forget about? Anything you'd like to hand to Alan Smithee?

Of course, those movie directors who choose to stand--er, hide behind Alan? I kinda think they're missing out.  Sure, we'd like to disown our failings. Our humiliating mistakes. But perhaps they're the things that define our moral fibre in the long run.  Make us humble. Make us self-aware. Make us work a little harder then next time out of the gate.

Alan? I'll take back my bad romance after all.  But I'm not giving out the title.  I have my limits.