Rhinestones, rodeos, gambling & cowboy manners

Imagine my joy when I realized today was the National Rodeo finals. The national rodeo thing has been going on for the last two week. (I didn’t know such a thing existed, but hey, it’s Vegas, why not?). The casino boss told me to leave the interview early, or get stuck with the masses at the airport.

“They’ve been here the last two weeks,” he said, proceeding to tell me of a gambling man from Texas, who in the 80’s, came to Vegas every weekend. At first, he took coach. When Urban Cowboy came out (John Travolta), his western wear business exploded. He then had 6 western wear stores, the largest outlet in the country. Soon he flew in on his private jet, betting 1-500K a day.

Like all gamblers, he was superstitious, gambling at certain times of the day, with certain dealers, getting FRBR (free room, beverages and rides–rides being limos) to and from the airport or all over town.

As I moved through the eight-row deep cattle line of passengers, many waiting to be touched and prodded at security, I couldn’t help but notice the silver belt buckles the size of Texas pancakes, all things rhinestone (including a nose-ring I saw on a contemporary cowgirl), and a sea of hats. It pushed me back to the story I’d been told earlier that day.

“What happened to him?” I asked my casino boss subject when he stopped. He pulled one corner of his lip up, his face, tan from golf, rippling up to the crease of his eye.

“He lost everything,” he said. The western wear trend didn’t last forever. It went out about the time Travolta started gaining weight. The man’s gambling habit remained. Soon, he hocked the stores, then the plane. “Then the house, and his second home,” the boss related. “His wife left him and took the kids,” he finished.

I mosyed closer to the TSA agent, looking for a rod with an electric device, a bad odor catching my nose. I looked around, wondering if a spectator had gotten a little too close to the bulls. The dinging of the slots rang in the background as I thought about the man from Texas.

“Why didn’t he stop?” I asked.

“Saaaaraaahh,” he drawls, extending my name, the Italian accent still thick, 50 years after leaving New York. “Let me tell you. There are three types of gamblers. The man who wants to own the hotel and the Rolls Royce. He’s a loser, but he stops when the money is gone. Then there is the man who has a fight with his wife or girlfriend. He’s also a loser, but stops when the wallet is empty. The last person who gambles is the man who wants to keep playing, no matter if he wins or lose. This is the person who loses it all.”

I, being the sheltered San Franciscan-gone quasi-Maple Valley cowgirl, asks why he can’t win it back.

He clucks, shaking his head at my naivete.

Cowboy Etiquette“Saaaraaahh,” giving me a look like an errant child, about to be given a stern look, the one he’d give his daughter when the curfew is forgotten. “It’s the law of averages. Everyone can win at any given time. Anyone can will a million. But if you stay, you will lose it back.”

I’m dubious.

“Always?” I ask.

“House odds are in our favor,” he shrugs, opening his palms, spreading them wide. It was Joe Pesci in Casino, except at three forty-five in the afternoon, it was real. “If you get up and leave, you keep it. But if you stay, it’s ours.”

“Did you ever hear from him again?”

The man, wearing a chestnut colored cashmere jacket, nearly the color of his tan, shook his head. “He sure was polite though. Good manners to the very end.”

I thought about his last statement as I walked past the woman and the man standing at the legalized gambling area within the terminal. He wore an overpowering off-white, butt-length long-sleeve leather jacket with tassles draping from wrist to shoulder then down to wrist. She boasted a never-before site: a humongous, rhinestone butterfly across her derriere, so loud and glittery, that when I reached to get my ringing cell phone from the pocket of my purse, I accidentally removed the lipstick and some jewelry that scattered across the floor. (it was quite a butterfly. Mariah would have been proud).

Mortified (and running late) I hurried to pick up the items that had gone in all different directions. Two men and one women stopped to help me–the men, both wearing cowboy hats, gave me a “here you go ma’am’  and a simple ‘ma’am,” while the woman winked.

This act of wonderment was complimented by an unheard of event. I’m sitting in the window seat of the exit row, squished into a twelve inch space due to a person requiring a seatbelt extender, who, bless his heart, was trying to keep within the legal bounds of his armwrests, when a potential altercation arises across the aisle. A man is sitting in the wrong seat–the window in the exit row. Now, exit rows have more leg room than any other row in coach, and are coveted by frequent travelers. I’ve seen fights break out over the exit row, and heard words to make a truck driver blush.

Up walks a tall man in a cowboy hat, and identifies to the man sitting in his seat in the row that the seat is his (very politely, I might add. Sort-of questioning, like, I might have the wrong seat, versus, you are in my seat, get out). A woman (cowboy-man’s wife, I presume) yawns out….”It’s ok honey (referring to the man, not her husband), it’s no problem for us. We can switch with you.”

The tall cowboy nods his head, shrugs his shoulders and moves on. (I’m mesmerized at this point, and can’t help watching the rest of this play out). He sits down, scrunches his legs, all the while, keeping his cowboy hat on.

At that point, the only thing that came to mind was writing a book called Cowboy Manners (no such book exists with that title btw). Wouldn’t that type of civility be great?

I re-situated myself against the window, trying not to be irritable at my lack of room. Then I think, ‘I need to channel some cowboy mannrs, and all will be well in my personal universe.’

I’ve been channeling now for the time it’s taking me to blog. It’s worked. No gambling, but cowboy manners for me all the way.

Thanks to the people

This is a shout out to my people. My people are those that dug deep and contributed nearly forty bags of clothing for the family that lost everything in the house fire two days before Thanksgiving. The turnout for the children was stupendous, with clothing for all 5 boys and the girl in great condition. Miraculously, the clothing for the man fit (he’s an 11-12 shoe, large and 43-44 waist pant), the women’s tops all fit, and it was nothing short of amazing. Also contributed was a small tv with a built in VHS, a few blankets and toiletries. Although the family has a long long way to go, I’m giving all the readers massive amounts of love for going above and beyond.

The gift of compassion also yielded a few other benefits. Parents reported to me the call for help provided their own family an opportunity to think of others, which in turn, led the children to consider their own gifts. One parent reflected to me that the “attitude of gratitude,” was especially touching when her six year old daughter brought forth pair after pair of size nine shoes for the 4 year old.

Several days later, I heard from Stephanie, the friend who had organized the donations. She said the little girl had lined up all nine pairs of shoes on the floor of Stephanie’s in-home hair salon. As her father looked on, the little girl said, “look daddy, now I can have brown shoes, just like you.” The father, himself the recipient of the donated pair of brown shoes, teared up and nodded his head.

Thank you readers. You amaze me.

Party Poopers

Tis the season to be jolly,
Sparkles on trees, banisters wrapped in holly
Wherefore then, must I deal with guests who stoop
To leave presents of love in my toilet. Yes. It’s poop.

Now, before you turn away from this ditty
Be assured, our guests have left me in a tizzy
For nary a word to my ear did come
That the toilet didn’t flush, until my husband said, “uh-hum.”

“Why” I asked, did the guest not inquire
As to where the plunger resided, with a situation so dire?
Behind the nook, in the corner of the room
No, not the closet dum-dum, in the bathroom

“It would have been better,” I said, all forlorn
Blaming the present on another guest, who had such bad form
For what was I, the hostess to do
But stop all activity, and take care of the brown doo-doo?

These important words, for all to read
For humans we are, and must go when in need
But if your present is too generous, and it won’t go down
Use the plunger provided, or the next person in will give you a frown.

If one you cannot find, inform the the host of the present
But do it quietly, on the sly, so you don’t create resentment.
So next time you decided to be a party pooper, my tips doth I impart
Look around for a plunger, if you have a heart.

Did I win yet?

That was what my good friend asked me this morning when I announced her name was chosen by the agency on the recent contest to name my latest book/movie franchise. She squealed so loud my ear was ringing, right up to the point she learned how many contestants had actually participated.

11 people.

“Today?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “In the world.”

Silence.

“That’s depressing,” she finally said, as though she were going to take it personally. Her visions of grandeur included going against thousands of other people, her name rising to the top like the oil in an Italian salad dressing. But no. She was one of jipped bakers dozen.

“More people than that were in the checkout line at the grocery store today,” she told me, rubbing salt in the wound.

“That’s less than half my Sunday school class,” I responded.  It’s the number of children a local Mormon family had home for the holidays (I didn’t tell her that. She’s Catholic and would get all uppity about number of children).

Then she started laughing.

“If bragging rights and $600 bucks worth of stuff (diamond earrings and a $100 gift cert to Target), only incentivized 11 people, it’s really sad.”

Thank you, dear friend. That made me feel so much better. Like the time a former fiance’s brother rejoiced when the engagement was called off, to spare his brother from marrying Pat (me, just case you didn’t read the blog).

“Don’t take it personally,” she encouraged. Oh, not I. It was only the book I’d given nurtured, evolved and given birth to via a really gnarly 2 year labor and rabid c-section birth. I was the one that needed a warm blanket and a binky.

“Think of it this way,” my friend continued, changing tactics. “It’s fewer disappointed contestants.”

That made me feel SO much better. Kind of like standing on the street corner, handing out pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and the panhandlers actually say no.

In fact, this happened one year with Rog and I. We had decided to go “feed the homeless,” so we bought 10 complete meals, including utensils and drinks, put the brown bags in the car and went in search of…. As we walked the streets, all was well, up until we hit person number 4. That person looked at that brown bag and kept his hand in his pocket.

“Can I just have the money instead?” he asked with a straight face. Rog became Vesuvius about to burst until I hustled him away. I made light of it by telling him the guy had never heard the phrase ‘beggars cant’ be choosers.”

In this case, I, beggar, can’t be upset about lack of response. Of the 50 or so readers to the blog daily, it’s twenty percent. Of course, that’s cheating. Nearly 3,000 people have read the thing, and my calculator doesn’t have that many zeros on the screen.

Ever one to look on the upside of things, those that offered up names gave good ones. A few people had multiple names on the short list. Even a 9-year old kid (and apparently, a dude from India and a pregnant mom of a 3 year old. Diversity is cool, especially when unintended).

Jumping to my heart-pounding, I can’t wait to know the results polls that just went up, my producer said he really only thinks 2 are “movie franchise title worthy.” I’ll not say which ones. He also likes the previous name, Catacombs.

And this is a little insight in to the rub between publishers and movie folks. They are at odds over a lot more things than who gets to make the halloween costumes and who gets to come to the People’s Choice Awards. It gets to names that are better for one but terrible for the other, and ultimately, who makes the decision.

Normal folk (myself before this ludicracy occurred), thought that the author/creator makes all the decisions. Not so. In fact, knowing the original producer who “discovered” The Firm, by Grisham, and also housed him in his apartment when Grisham was turned down by everyone else in Hollywood, the author has very little say. This goes for both title as well as the cover art. It’s not until an author has four or five hits that the author has more than a nominal role in the entire process.

Eight years ago, when I opened the email from McGraw-Hill regarding the cover art, I wasn’t asked. I was informed. I still remember the phrasing…

“This is the cover we will be producing,” it began. I responded more for my sense of closure and input, not because they cared or listened. I basically said “I like it.”

They never responded.

I suspect it will be this way for the book. Frankly, I like more than a dozen of the names posted, and really like 5 or 6. Any would do. It’s the reason I’m neither an editor or producer. I can’t make those types of decisions. As my producer said, “the best writer’s know when to get out of the way.”

So, aside I step, getting out of my onespace so others, more informed and expert, can lead and guide the project. Throughout, I’ll tell myself I have input and my opinion matters.

Back to my friend, she said “Isn’t that like giving birth and not being able to name the baby?”

I thought about it for a minute before responding.

“I still love it,” I agreed “no matter what it’s named.”

The wealthy panhandler

Today me and my significant other had a marital altercation about whether or not to give money to the guy on the street corner. His point: the guy was wearing $300 dollars of sea-worthy rain gear, hood, body and pants. My point: Oprah says give and don’t judge. (well, I had others, but this was short and pithy).

“It may be his only outfit,” I contended, feeling like I was fifteen again, on the stage in from of the debate team, the principle looking on.

“If it was, he should sleep in it,” Rog responded, uncharitably.

It’s not that Rog is uncharitable. One of our first dates was him accompanying me to give blankets to the homeless in San Francisco. It was pre- Mayor Willy Brown’s iron fisted rule, when the homeless lined the Embarcadero, the beautiful stretch of waterfront popular with tourists. When Brown came to power, the homeless were shunted from the nice benches and grass on the Embarcadero to the cold, (though dryer) underbelly of the bridge. Huddled in dark clumps, the men had entire lives contained within stolen shopping carts. Rog was compassionate and kind as he helped make a few men’s nights warmer.

“That was the man I dated,” I said, more than a trifle sad. Rog replied his that giving-related cynicism has gotten the better of him.

“But there were two guys competing for handouts, one on each corner,” he retorted, reminding me of the time he gave a twenty to a guy who he later saw at a liquor store. The one-sided debate about a person’s ability to work, dig ditches, was short lived.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “We can’t take on their issues. It’s too much.”

And it is. I’ll never know how a person arrives on the street. I only know I was almost there once, myself picking up quarters after I’d lost everything. Rog was blessed never to have experienced that–and yet, it has a downside. He’d have more compassion than anger and perhaps, a little less resentment.

It’s not just Rog who feels this way I’ll admit, I have my bouts with skepticism regarding motiviation. Added to the potential giving populous is the sad fact that panhandling has become a trade, the occupation of last resort (or first choice, depending on the publication you’re reading).

To prove his point, Rog dug up a few articles on the economics behind panhandling (he would. He’s a finance and economics guy). Turns out, in Coos Bay, Oregon is tops for panhandling. I know it well, as it’s a destination I’d visit with my family outside Portland. Panhandlers make upwards of 300/day, or $40K a year, tax free. More shiny, hollow-point tip bullets were placed in Rog’s 9MM when he then shared several websites offering tips to panhandlers.

I didn’t know this category of worker had computers to get on line. How little did I know?

Actually, I didn’t believe Rog, and had to go to the site myself, when he wasn’t looking. Yes, indeed readers. My bubble was burst. Many sites include Tips for successful Panhandling. And you know what? The tips are pretty darn good (though some fall in the duh category, like don’t panhandle in a business suit). Apparently, warmer weather is much more condusive to profitability. States like Arizona enjoy near year-round sunshine, and attract panhandlers like snakes to a nice warm rock. Apparently, the hourly is $81 bucks, right up there with doctors.

In all comes down to a simple philosophy. Taken care of ones own, and taking care of people, don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Rain or sunshine, nice outfit or rags, giving seems to tell as much (or more) about the giver than the receiver. It’s a personal choice, as it was today. Rog drove off, and I wasn’t about to hurl myself out the window or throw change to the wind.

Still, this is the same man who put together seven bags of items for one family who recently lost everything in a home fire, and another 3 bags for a friend down on his luck. In fact, it was he who quoted Ebenezer Scrooge, who declared he would “honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year”…living in the Past, Present and Future. He does give, in his own way.

Oprah says you “never stop giving….” because it’s about “changing someone’s life.” I like that, and I agree.

Update on naming contest!

The book formerly known
as Catacombs

Exclamation points are overused, the same way my dad, or any texter over the age of 70 uses ALL CAPS. I can always tell the age of the texter or email by the robust, unabashedly poor etiquette. I’ve always associated CAPS with virtual SCREAMING, which is annoying in a fingernails-on-glass type of way. So why, you then inquire, am I using a petpeevish tool in the blog title?

Because I a) want you take note and b) I’m actually pretty excited and c) this means something super-cool if you have entered the book naming contest. (Super-cool, btw, really should be limited to users under the age of twelve. I’m giving myself a pass this one time, since the book is YA. Promise it won’t become a regular phrase, which could get ANNOYING).

The backstory….
I never win contests. I never win at gambling. When in college, sneaking off to Vegas was as deviant as I got. The bouncers never bounced me, blessed as I was with height and an ability to put on makeup that made me look older (the same height and makeup tricks that now make me resemble Cher). Nonetheless, i got in, I won (usually at blackjack) I left, typically a few hundred or a grand better for the Friday night adventure.

This winning streak ended when I turned twenty-one. I have no rational reason for the change. I was legal, therefore, I suddenly started getting carded upon entering the casinos. Perhaps this killed my gambling mojo. After a few times, the thrill started to wear off. A dozen times of losing eliminated my desire to ever drop another dime on a risky proposition.

Turning twenty-one also ensured I never, ever, EVER won at gambling again. It’s now been 2 decades, and Rog won’t even let me enter a casino within twenty feet of him. My bad gambling karma causes him to lose, and he NEVER loses. In fact, Rog has been on a winning streak for 12 years. When he gets stir crazy in the hotel room, I shunt him out, tell him to put aside 20% of his winnings for my slush fund. He comes back, two hours later, his pockets lined with dough, and drops 20% on the table. Works out for both of us. He wins, and when I get my portion of the marital tax, I put it someplace safe, certainly don’t gamble on the lottery.

Which brings me back to contests. Contests are such a long shot that it might as well be winning Lotto. One of my contest pet peeves is that one enters, and then no update is given for the duration of said contest. It’s simply…enter…here are the finalists, then POOF, the winner.

Since the Name the Book contest is, in fact, mine (with the assistance of the marketing firm, and other Powers That Be (PTB)), I get to create my own side-rules, or rather, break regular contest rules that bug me.

Side-Rule #1–let’s tell everyone how it’s going so far (and not wait until the bitter end).

  • Number of individuals who have signed up (registered)….8 (yes, from 14+ countries reading this blog, 8 whole readers)…..Now, doesn’t that alone get everyone excited? Isn’t that stat alone, deserving of an exclamation point?…yes! The odds of 1 in 8 is fantastic.
  • Average number of entries per individual….3.4…..Once again, this is cool. Some contestants have offered many, some only 1. This further increases the odds of winning.
  • Number of entries that are rising to the top…..All but 2 individuals registered have names the marketing firm (and myself) have pre-selected in advance of the deadline, which is November 30th. If neither of the 2 contestants offer more names, that means the odds have increased to 1 in 6. Unheard of!!! (3 exclamation points).
Side Rule #2–let’s give some feedback mid-way (so more creative juices can get flowing, as well as give contestants and indication of where they stand?)
  • Voyageur
  • Chronoclash
  • Caged (2 offered this one up, so we went with the first person to suggest it)
  • Forgotten
  • Timequest
  • Complicated
  • Channelbound
  • Seeker
  • Convenant
  • Lone Man
  • Chambers

Side Rule #3–I can add a new twist to the contest (because I’m the author and designer of the contest)…that will make the entire process more interesting and objective. And lets be honest. I’m terrible at choosing names for my own books. I’m going to get YOU, the reader, involved.

The change: the top 20 finalists (if that many exist) will be selected and posted. This blog can include a certain amount of items in a poll. However it works out, we’ll post the finalists and let the readers choose their favorites. I suppose we are going somewhat on the honor system, and trust we have a gazillion hits for a single name (or else I’d have to get serious and dig in to the IP address. Don’t make me do that. It would suck the fun out of the contest).

Once the readers vote (starting Dec 5th), then the top 5 names will go to the PTB and myself, and we’ll select the winner. This will be announced on the 7th, and the goods will go out.

All this deserves and exclamation point. If you are one of the folks to submit a name thus far, get excited! I know I am.

Happy Thanksgiving…..!

A Family in Need

As bad as life is, it can always get worse.

Yesterday morning, the phrase took on new meaning, when a good friend’s neighbor lost everything.

The husband (I’ll call him John, since he’d like to remain anonymous) was working in the garage, preparing materials for his new business. He’d recently been let go by his father, his own small business suffering. The man entered the home to have lunch with his children, ranging ages 9 to 18 months, forgetting about the small space heater he’d used to warm the area. He went to check on the children, upstairs to the play room, over the garage.

Ten minutes later, a neighbor came home, saw smoke pouring out of the garage, which was directly under the play area. She saw the cars were home and began pounding on the front door of the home. Alerted, the father rushed downstairs, saw flames engulfing the garage, and frantically worked to stop the fire from spreading. When the neighbor heard the father screaming, she rushed in and up the stairs, helping bring down the six children.

The outside of the home shows little damage, as the husband and fireman were able to contain the actual fire. The damage is within. Smoke and soot blackened every item, to the top floor windows, where the soot is so thick no light shines through. The family pictures books are destroyed, the pages matted together from the heat and ash, the foul stench permeated the carpet, clothes in the closet, the underwear in the drawers.

The family has the clothes on their backs. The rest, as the insurance adjuster said last night, is beyond salvage. The windows were boarded up, and it will take weeks or several months for the insurance company to make good on the policy. In the meantime, the local family is going on vacation, lending this couple their home for 7 days. After that, they are in a rental.

Still, they are without basic necessities, including a change of underwear.

“You are good at getting things,” said her best friend, Stephanie Tuck, my friend and hairdresser for the last seven years. “Can you do something?”

Yes, I can. Professionally, I strategized with Stef on making calls to local businesses. Sadly, when a home catches fire during the holiday’s, the local media covers it with the aplomb of a new election, garnering a number for donations. Not so this time. It could be that since bethe fire itself was on the inside, not outside, it made for a less dramatic visual. Or the escape of the children lacked a heart-stopping movie ending. Whatever the reason, the family isn’t receiving an outpouring of help, and I believe it’s for a lack of knowledge.

That’s where this blog comes in. This marks the first time I’ve ever posted a note, sent and email, or done any sort of mass email blast requesting assistance for a family in need. I can’t think of a more worthwhile cause than helping out a family who has lost all. (wow, can I actually make a difference?)

Personally, Rog and I dropped what we were doing (me making food for tomorrow and he, taking care of tires for the car so we don’t run off the road in this snowstorm). In the last hour, I’ve found clothes for the mom and dad, and one of the girls. I’m giving the family my son’s bike (from when he was 9, and barely used). It’s a start, but barely enough.

I can’t imagine the time, energy and cost of replacing every single household item, from towels to a peeler for potatoes. This is what they need: (remember, they only have what they wore out of the house)

Dad-he’s 5’11, @220, size large to extra large. Don’t know shoe size.
Mom-she’s 5’6″ish, size 8, or medium
Children

  • 9 year old boy
  • 7 year old twin boys
  • 4 year old girl
  • 18 month old twin boys 

Since the family has requested anonymity for now (who wouldn’t?), I’m sending all my items to:

Stephanie Tuck, and her husband Brodie, who live nearby. Her information is:
21761 SE 299th Way, Kent WA 98042
Her cell phone number is
Her email is stephanietuck80@yahoo.com
Stephanie’s phone number is 206-571-4560.

Now, I must say that the illustrious She (who shall never be named) asked:

“Why can’t you just set up a donation hotline or something, like for a cause so one can click a button.”

An astute question. I’d expect nothing less from She.

“Because,” I replied, “they don’t want to be identified.”

This launched She off on a Roger-esque tangent about how idiotic that was, how the couple should “get over it and ask for help,” knowing that this very couple has often been the ones to assist others in time of need.

“Look,” I responded, “not everyone is OK with the world knowing their business.” I can relate. It’s taken me 20 years to cop to my personal foibles, and only do so now because I think exposing my bouts of extreme lameness will help others feel better in some way. After all the years of judging and being judged, it’s nice to simply–help.

Honestly, She didn’t like that response. But She also knows from whence my opinions come, and she couldn’t argue with me any further on the matter.

To be on the up and up, I can tell you this. I know Stephanie and her entire family. I know their parents, who for years lived down the street. I see them all weekly. I trust Stephanie to watch my daughters, and I watch hers. No amount money can buy that kind of love or trust.

I know it’s pre-holiday, you are making stuffing and pecan pie, and preparing to watch that football game. Take a minute and look around for something you can live without, but that this family can’t.

Name my new book contest

Diamond Mystique Platinum-Over-Silver Diamond Accent Oval Hoop Earrings
It’s time. I’m soliciting help naming my next book. If Janet Evanovich can do it, so can I. In her case, it’s bragging rights. In mine, it’s cold, hard cash, just in time for holiday shopping. The book is already in the process for a movie, and the publishing/launch will occur in the New Year, so I’ve put this off as long as possible.

I’m so excited about this, the novice that I am, I’m downright giddy to see what other, more creative minds, will come up with. Not to mention the rewards of creativity includes money and jewelry.

The Contest: Name my next book

Prize: A pair of genuine diamond hoop earrings ($500 value), $100 gift certificate from Target and a signed copy of the book when it’s released



The details:

  1. submit as many names as you like by November 30th
  2. requirement: one word names only. This is best for the film (I guess you’d have bragging rights there as well). 2 names considered only if exceptional. No limit on the number of submissions.
  3. winner chosen by Dec 5th and notified by email (see registration below)
  4. give certificate and prize sent by Dec 7th
  5. no age restriction

The book details: time travel, action-adventure, a cross between Indiana Jones and Twilight (no vampires, lots of martial arts). It is written in a first-person, male, 17 year old point of view. This name will be the series name. It is a five-book, five-movie series. Each book may have a sub-title, such as … Name… and the Forbidden City etc. Or it may not, depending on the title chosen.

To sign enter and submit:

  1. register through email (emails are for my author use only, not sold, given away or distributed)
  2. once registered, contestants will receive an email address for submissions (or you can get it from my www.sarahgerdes.com site. However, submissions received without registration will be deleted).
  3. winners will be announced on this blog, as well on my author website
  4. notification will occur via email
First paragraph of the book…
Before time began, he was there. A soul. A mist. A presence that formed a physical body. It was the beginning of evil, if that word could describe such wickedness.            
My name is Cage Fleener. I’m one of the last of our kind that remains to fight him. The others have been killed. Over time. In different centuries. We won the last time he came to battle.
How do I know? I was there. The only problem is I don’t remember any of it.

***

My androgynous, respected alter self: Pat

Pat.jpg
Androgynous Pat. My alter ego

I’d like to write on working out, since it is Workout Wednesday, but I can’t. A forty-eight hour depression has sucked out my mojo, and it’s impossible to inspire others without being inspired. When you read the following, you’ll know why.
Nothing say’s your ugly like being called a man, especially if you’re a woman.
This has happened twice in my life. The first time, when I was a young, impressionable eighteen year old and the other time, two days ago. It’s taken twenty-three years to get over the first incident, my insecurity an inoperable cyst in my psyche. I’m forty eight hours from the recent defemanizing event. I’m still scarred. In fact, I’ve regressed to my youth, feeling like Pat all over again.
The first Pat incident occurred when I’d just accepted the hand of my first love. I was young (18), stubborn, and all that goes with it. The marriage was thwarted thanks to my parent’s, who both got on the phone, and literally gave me the strongest talking-to I have ever received in my life until then, or up to now. Instead of seeing my face red with joy, my crestfallen beaux, dejectedgly got on the phone with his parents, delivering the bad news. Amidst his personal defeat, I heard whooping of a male voice in the background.
“Wuhuu! He’s not marrying Pat! He’s free to marry a giirrrlllllll!”
My soon-to-be ex-boyfriend tried to tell me I didn’t literally look like a man. Rather, I was “strong and aggressive,” manly traits to be sure, he continued (albiet in 20yr old man talk), as opposed to girly-girl. It was supposed to make me feel better. Instead, it gave me a complex. As it was, I wore knee-length short skirts that were also getting me sent to the standards office (for quasi-violation of the dress code, quasi, because I was sure to get on the line of a disciplinary action, but never actually crossing the line that would have sent me to probation). 
It took another gnarly, thirty days, but that line was my farewell salute to his family, and the beginning of a grapefruit size ball of insecurity I’ve carried around for two decades. A stream of boyfriends complimenting me wasn’t enough to mend my fractured, one-way mirror of self-esteem. Poor guys. I’m sure each thought he was going to be Mr Handyman, fixer-upper.
Despite how my one-self felt, I didn’t give up trying to come across all things female. I’d wear dresses (to church, on a date), heels (see previous) and a lot of pantsuits, shirt/jacket combo’s at work. These weren’t the usual, boring lawyer suits either. I’m talking Celine sets from Paris or Chanel or Armani numbers with slits. It might be a suit, by gosh, but it was going to have style. Makeup, hair and perfume all in line with the objective or meeting of the day.
Fast forward to my recent trip to LA, where I met with studio folks for three days. All men. I spent as much time on my wardrobe choice as I did on my writing, just as Janel. A few local boutiques benefited as I made several trips, each time going back when the weather prediction changed. In the end, I went, I ‘took meetings’ and I left. My recollection was that of productive, significant progress on three projects, all much more important than my state of femininity.
Turns out, they thought that to.
Last week, Rog had a mtg with the same group of guys. Rog is a software guy, and I introduced him to the studio for work on Internet applications. Cool stuff, but I’d be in deep water with a ball around my foot if I tell more. He calls me on his way to the airport, recounting all the laughs he had during the meeting, along with the jokes, comments and looks.
“And?” I asked, wondering if anything more than swapping jokes actually got accomplished.
“Closed the deal,” he said, matter-of-factly, as though it were a sidebar to a feature profile.
“That’s it?” I ask. 
“I’m almost at the airport,” he says. “I’ll give the details when I see you.”
Four hours later, what he told me were the details of the jokes. I cringed at the off-color ones, not needing to hear more. At forty-two, I’m pleased when I don’t know the double-entrendre meanings of lovely, innocent words. My mind doesn’t require additional corruption.
He can’t even get through some of his statements before he starts laughing again. Beyond the words, I found myself thinking about the differences in interaction. While mine was pleasant and productive, his sounded really fun and crazy, as well as productive.
I tell Rog my observation.
He shrugs. “Of course,” as though I know what it means.
“What?” I’m more than irate now. I’d made small talk, went to dinner, smiled. “But when I talk to them, they stare at me like I’m as boring as a piece of cardboard.”
Rog looks at me and knows I’m serious, on the verge of being mad. Since marital happiness resides of the lack of madness (all puns intended), he hems and haws, then levels with me.
“I don’t know how to say this, so I’m going to be straight with you,” as if he’s been dishonest for twelve years. “You’re a guy,” he says. Then, as if I lack for clarity on the description, he says, “you know, a ballbuster.”
There was a time I took this is a compliment all around. No guy was going to take advantage of me, type attitude. When 5:01 pm hit though (ok, more like 9:30 pm), my manliness turned off and I became all woman, or so I deluded myself.
Seeing the horrified look on my face, Rog begins to explain, or in my view, backpeddle.
“It’s not that you look like a man, it’s that when you open your mouth, you become a man.” Rog was digging a hole for himself. He proceeded to define my dilema, the one wherein a woman deals with man, man realizes woman has brain, woman ceases to become a physical object and becomes….a “potential adversary.”
Another executive (male) I work with (he’s a client and now friend) told me last night it’s like this. 
“If a woman weighs less than three hundred pounds and is smart, the guys tell themselves she’s either a b—h or a guy. It’s the only way he can put up defensive mechanism to properly negotiate.”
In other words, instead of being insulted about being called a man, I should embrace it. These man-to-man conversations I’m having mean that I’m on equal footing (according to this guy) and that I’m considered intelligent. “If you were another piece of meat, they’d be really nice.”
His words soothed, but I remained unconvinced. Until yesterday.
I talk with the producer, one of the men I met with, and who I’ve known for 2+ years. We’re friendly. I consider us friends. He’s been to my house a few times, I’ve been to dinner with him and his wife, and his house etc. I’m his friend on Facebook (which used to mean something). He asks me what Rog thought of the meeting, and I say he had a great time. 
“Sounds like you all hit it off,” I say, leading him down the path of my intellectual desires.
Laughter breaks out. The guy can’t even conjure an image of Rog without laughing. I’m slightly miffed and hurt. I tell him it’s not quite the experience I had, and that Rog says I need “femininity training,” thinking this will elicit a “no! he’s totally wrong! statement.
Instead, he breaks in to gut-wrenching, full body laughter. I pull the phone away from my ear.
“What? You thought you were a girly-girl?” He’s threw the five prong Chinese star of pain in my notion of my girliness. Apparently, the shoes, the outfits, the make-up, didn’t convey the right level of femininity. As in, none.
I relate the sorry incident to Rog. “Look at it this way,” he says, putting his arm around me, whispering in my ear. “It’s better to be respected.” Better than what? I wonder. Being a girl? It was 18 all over again. 
Hence, I entered my two-day, windowless cave of self-analysis. I emerge, knowing that through a lot of therapy, I’ll one day be able to embrace my respected, androgynous, cardboard Pat-like self. The money spent on the shrink better spent that wasting it on a useless skirt.
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