One of those days…

I had such plans for this evening. First I was going to do a vigorous hour of Tae-bo (the classic advanced tape for those of you who are familiar with Billy Blank and his Tae-bo-ing ways), followed by a light and healthful dinner. And then, invigorated, I would come up with some upbeat and witty post to do with writing and then work on my book. The TV would be ignored; I’d find appropriate music instead. Y’know, something upbeat and wit inspiring.

So far I’ve had a light and healthful dinner (chicken apple sausage and tomato sauteed in a little olive oil and herbs and one vegan chocolate chip cookie for dessert), but the rest of it went out the window after what had to be the worst ride on the Muni I’ve had in my three plus years as a San Franciscan. I’d already had a crappy day at work. No real reason, nothing major. Just a lot of little irritations coupled with low energy that made for an exceptionally cranky Dana. I tried the gratitude game (when you actively list what you’re grateful for, which, in my case, includes having a decent job that pays well, with co-workers who I don’t normally want to kill), but couldn’t get past ‘I’m grateful I haven’t killed anyone today.’

Fine. The work day is over and I know Dave will have moved the living room furniture to accommodate Tae-bo, the cat boxes will be cleaned and all I have to do is get home to unwind by punching the crap out of the air and kicking a few imaginary enemies while Billy calls out his enthusiastic encouragement. Even better, the copies of Murder for Hire have arrived from my publisher in time for next week’s library panel, so I’ve packed them into a handy dandy little ‘bag lady’ shopping cart for the Muni ride home. It seems like it should be so easy… just a 45 minute train ride between me and my evening.


When I got to the train platform, it was unusually crowded for 4:00. Not a good sign. When the L train showed, it was a single instead of a double train. Another very bad sign. By the time I manuevered my heavy shopping cart through the crowd and into the train, the seats were all taken, except for one next to the window. This seat was a: blocked by a skanky fellow who reeked of booze and looked like an eccentric college professor down on his luck and b: not one I could take anyway because of my cart.  I’d seen the guy before; he lived in our neighborhood. One of those not quite homeless, but not quite sane people who seem to populate the Muni. He saw me trying to keep my cart from rolling into fellow passengers while I held onto a seat with my other hand to avoid tumbling headlong into the aisle, but the thought of moving didn’t occur to him. Or rather, it did, but he didn’t care. My cart rolled into his foot and nudged it; he gave it and me a nasty look and took another swig from an unlabeled plastic bottle. Normally I’d have apologized, but as it was I had to restrain myself from rolling the cart into him on purpose. I was having serious Muni rage issues.

Now I don’t like getting this angry. I have a definite streak of temper that has been known to go into berserker rage with the right (or wrong) provocation. Getting jostled by the increasing crowds at each stop didn’t help the irrational anger. Neither did the stink of bologna wafting over from a man next to me. The muscles in my legs, back and arms were trembling with the effort of keeping the cart from going on a rampage and myself in one spot. My head started aching and all the irritations of the day coalesced into a hard little knot in the center of my chest. I wanted to kill.

The train finally cleared out enough for me to sit for the last five minutes of my ride. Skanky Professor Booze Man got out two exits before me and gave my cart a hard, deliberate kick when he stood up, driving it into my shin. I have never had to stomp down on a urge to maim someone as hard as I did today, folks. The red is still slowly eking out of my vision and this is after a foot rub, dinner and four cats purring on or around my lap.

By the time I dragged myself and my book laden cart up the slight hill to the house, I was wiped out. Tae-bo? Hah. My legs weren’t having it. Dave greeted me and all I could do was whimper, ‘I had a bad day. I don’t feel good!’ and start bawling like a five year old. The foot rub followed shortly after that; the man has finely honed survival instincts along with a generous nature.

Now I’m sprawled out on the couch, sipping a glass of Chilean carmenere, enjoying another cheesy movie (Night of Dark Shadows starring a VERY young Kate Jackson).

I’ve given myself permission to take the night off of everything but the blog challenge. I’m hoping my mood, attitude and temper improve for tomorrow…although if I see the Nutty Professor on the Muni, I’m not making any promises.

Dark Shadows

Okay, I’m gonna carbon date myself here…  I am watching HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS on Chill and remembering how addicted I was to Dan Curtis’s supernatural gothic soap opera, DARK SHADOWS.  It used to scare me – one episode gave me such nightmares my mom wouldn’t let me watch it for a week (thus making me a miss an integral plot and character shift; when Cassandra comes back as Angelique – thanks a lot, Mom!).

In the course of its run, DARK SHADOWS jumped the shark over and over again, but the basic premise is the stuff that most modern day paranormal romances are made of: sexy vampire finds reincarnation of his lost love and vampiric hijinks ensue. There were witches (Lara Parker, who no doubt gave many a young boy ideas), werewolves (and didn’t Quentin have the beefiest sideburns you’ve ever seen?), troubled children (de rigour for a gothic), innocent governesses (did I mention reincarnation of lost love?) lovelorn doctors (“show me your neck, Julia!), scientists with questionable motives (Professor Stokes, played by the same actor who was Count Sacknussem in JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH)., time travel, parallel universes and a dream curse.

And of course, there was Barnabas Collins, centerpiece of the show.  Played by Jonathan Frid sporting a black double cape and silver wolf-headed cane, Barnabas Collins was an icon in those days.  I didn’t find him sexy (I was 4 years old when the show started so perhaps this is no great shock), but the whole concept of undying love certainly made an impact.  And, as mentioned above, the show scared me.  I liked being scared, so this was not a huge problem (unless I kept Mom up with my nightmares).

I watched an episode a few years back and was amazed at the glacial pace.  Sample dialogue between two characters:

“Is that the key?”

“The key?”

“Yes.  The key.  The key to the room.”

“The key to the room?”

“Yes, the key to the room.”

” The key to the room that hasn’t been open in a hundred years?”


And so on.  The scene ends after a close-up on someone’s feet walking on tiled floor, ominous music building with each step until the feet stop and the music gives a resounding ‘Da DAH DAAAAHHHHH…’

Ah well.  What scares a four year old cannot be held up to the critique of a grownup.  And even with the silliness, stilted dialogue and on-screen boo boos caused by single takes per scene), DARK SHADOWS  definitely helped shape my imagination into the rather scary place it is today.

Taking a Brief Break

One of my fellow August Blog Challengers (ABC) wrote a post about the need for taking a break, no matter how hectic the writing schedule might be or how scary the deadlines looming over us. I wish I could remember offhand which of these talented writers wrote that post, but I can’t. And as is the way of things, skimming back through their blogs is NOT turning up the post in question. Trust me, it was a good post. And if the author of it reads this post, I trust they’ll give me a cyber whack upside the head and leave a comment so I can do an after the fact link. A POST post, as it where.

But on with the point here.

I took my usual morning walk on the beach (is there ever a point where one can collect too many shells and pieces of beach glass? Is there a socially acceptable limit, as there is with, say, cats? Can I be a crazy shell lady?) and have spent the rest of the day so far expanding the world of my short story, Champagne, with a brief diversion to write my weekly post for Fatal Foodies. Then back to Champagne (and wishing I had a glass of it). I hit a wall about 20 minutes ago and took a meal break (whatever you call lunch and dinner when they’re combined). I turned the TV on to see if some wonderfully crapituous (it’s my word and I like it!) Sci Fi original movie was on, but it was FINAL DESTINATION II, which is only bad enough to be annoying rather than gleefully horrendous. It’s gotta be at least an 8 on the Crap-o-meter to make it in our Bad Move Night lineup. Disappointed, I did a brief channel surf to see if anything else was on. ROAD HOUSE was on AMC, Patrick Swayze and his mullet were kicking the shit out of testosterone overdosed men with inferior mullets.

This is the second time I’ve walked in on ROAD HOUSE mid-movie and considering that both times it took only five minutes to fill me with an overwhelming desire to gather a group of friends and several bottles of tequila, I decided to save it for later and did another brief channel scan. This time I found the last 10 minutes of SUMMER STOCK, an MGM musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. I was just in time to see Judy sing ‘Get Happy’ (as in ‘Forget your troubles, come on, get happy…we’re gonna chase all your cares away…forget your troubles, come on, get happy…we’re heading for the judgment day’). Both song and movie were part of my upbringing; Mom raised us on musicals (I found the Hammer horror films all on my own), watched the movies and played the records. She used to waltz me around the pool when I was too young to swim, and sing the songs.

Not all musicals were created equal, of course – if they didn’t have Gene Kelly they weren’t quite as good. I grew up with a very definite opinion on what the ideal male legs looked like and they were Gene Kelly’s. If you’ve ever seen THE PIRATE and watched the Pirate Ballet number where he’s wearing what might be the sexiest pirate costume ever created, you will understand why my opinion remains unchanged to this day.

What does this have to do with taking a break? Easy. Because some of my best childhood memories are based around watching these movies with Mom and Lisa after our dad moved out, hearing a snippet of one of the songs or, better yet, seeing even a few minutes of movies like SUMMER STOCK, AMERICAN IN PARIS and THE BANDWAGON (the latter doesn’t have Gene Kelly, but it has the Manhunt Ballet, which was a huge influence on Murder for Hire) is an instant mood booster. Admittedly I sometimes watch a few minutes of DAWN OF THE DEAD (my first date movie) when I need a break, but I’ve yet to see a zombie with legs as good as Gene Kelly’s.

P.S.  Go here to check out my latest post on Fatal Foodies! 

When Life Imitates Art…or Vice Versa

I received an email out of the blue yesterday titled quite simply ‘Thank you.’  The return email address didn’t appear to be from a Nigerian asking me to transfer vast sums of money into my bank account or an  advert for Viagra, Nude Live Girl photos, or ‘great replica watches,’ so I opened it instead of consigning it to Spam or the trash bucket.  I am so glad I did because the ensuing correspondence made my day.

“Dear Dana.  Thank you for making me famous in your new novel.”



I scanned down and read his email signature, which included his last name.  I am withholding the last name here for the time being, but if you’ve read Murder for Hire and remember the character of Grant, Connie’s boyfriend, you’ll know what it is.  Or you can refer to the book quickly and do your own Google search.

I can’t tell you precisely what else was said in the correspondence for fear of giving away some relatively important plot and character points if you haven’t read the book, but the gist of it is that my character’s inadvertent namesake is a college professor and one of his ex-students read my book, noted the character name and contacted Grant, telling him about my book and that my character reminded her of him (her professor). I did a Google search and found out that this real life Grant rates very high on his students’ ‘hot’ scale.  Five out of five, in fact.  My Grant would be pleased.

I am sending Prof.  Grant a copy of MFH so he can see for himself whether or not her comparison is flattering.  His sense of humor appears to be up for it, at least if his emails are any indication.  We shall see.

My only regret is his ex-student contacted him anonymously because I really would love to talk to her about both her reaction to this specific character and to find out what, exactly, about her ex-professor is reminiscent of him.  The character in my book is based on several ex-boyfriends and an annoying actor I worked with.  Enquiring minds really want to know here!  And I’d also just to love to know who all is reading my book out there.  I’m still a geek about the whole ‘people reading my book’ thing, y’know.

Starting Late Today

We went to a book signing last night for our friend Kat Richardson, author of the urban fantasy Greywalker series. The signing was at Borders in Union Square, always a bit of a zoo on a Friday night. Before even reaching Union Square, however, I started the evening off by inadvertently sitting in a puddle of water on the Muni; one of the panels in the ceiling was leaking steadily, something I only noticed after soaking my skirt, the bottom of my jacket and yes, even my underwear. Not much I could do beyond being grateful it was just water (one never knows on the Muni) and hoping everything would dry off quickly. They didn’t, but by the time we ran the gauntlet of tourists and panhandlers from Market Street to Powell, at least they’d stopped dripping.  My clothes, that is.  I can’t speak for either tourists or panhandlers.

Kat’s signing was on the fourth floor of the Borders. They’d set up a table on a little stage, displayed her new book (Underground, third in the series) prominently on and around the area, and there was a respectable sized audience there for the event. We were a little late (and a little wet), but hadn’t missed the reading portion of the evening. Kat did what is one of the better author readings I’ve seen: her characterizations were distinct and she took her time. Too many authors rush through their readings, anxious to get to the end of it. To misquote Dr. McCoy, the majority of writers seem to subscribe to the ‘I’m a writer, not an actor, dammit!’ school of thought and they do NOT enjoy reading their own work to an audience.

After the signing, we went out for wine and snacks with Kat and her San Francisco ‘handler,’, author Frank Lauria, who, according to his bio on Amazon, ‘has published seventeen novels, including five bestsellers and the novelizations of Dark City, End of Days, Mask of Zorro, Alaska, and Girlfight.’ He was a hoot, a self-described food snob and excellent company. It’s something when you get four writers in a room together and they’re all as interested in what the others are doing as talking about their own projects. It wasn’t all ‘me, me, me!’ It was more ‘you, me, what about you?’

I had no complaints about the evening, especially after my clothes dried off. It was a late night, however, and we didn’t get to bed until well after midnight, which meant a late start on the morning routine of beach walk et al. I’m also feeling uninspired and dull, but that doesn’t let me off the August blog challenge or working on Champagne (current book project).

I’ve read the first two books in Kat’s series, Greywalker and Poltergeist, loved them, and recommend them to anyone who enjoys urban fantasies and is tired of Laurel Hamilton’s increasingly unbalanced ratio of sex versus plot/action in her Anita Blake books. I’ll do a proper book review of all three after I’ve read Underground. I hear it has zombies in it, so you KNOW I’m anxious to get to it. I’ll be checking out Frank Lauria’s books as well. And if you don’t know about my zombie fixation, it’s detailed on my website here.

And now it’s time to turn off WEBS (a made for TV movie featuring Richard Greico trapped in an alternate universe where spiders rule Chicago), and get to work on Champagne. Mutated spider people and literary erotica do not mix well together. Although…no…never mind. I’m not gonna go there. At least not today.

Will Write for WIne

Every Thursday Dave and I go to the Wine Styles in West Portal for a wine tasting.  We’ve been going ever since the store opened a year or so ago because the owners, James and Gail a: are really nice, b: have great senses of humor (they’ve seen COLD COMFORT FARM and have ‘seen something nasty in the woodshed’) and c: there is good wine to be tasted.  What’s not to like? 

Last night Mark, our favorite wine rep, was doing the pouring.  He had two sparkling wines and four reds (two syrahs and two pinot noirs).  The reds were all from wine maker Jim Walker, who was also there along with Mike (didn’t get his last name), He Who Grows the Grapes.  Mark asked me how the book sales were going and this sparked a conversation with JIm and Mike about my writing and more specifically, my murder mystery Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon.  Long story short, I ended up trading a signed copy of my book for a signed bottle of Orentano pinot noir (well out of our budget) and while I don’t think either side ended up with a bad bargain, I’m feeling mighty chuffed that someone would want to give me a lovely bottle of wine for something I wrote.  I guess it’s the same as being willing to shell out money for either the book or the wine, but they were so jazzed over the book and asked so many questions about it, it just made me feel awfully special!  It was a great boost for my ego and my incentive to keep writing.  It had the additional benefit of leaving the budget open to purchasing another of the reds, a yummy Fieldsa syrah, which was an amazing wine for a very inexpensive price. 

It also underlines points made by other August Blog Challenge participants on how it’s possible to market one’s book just about anywhere.  Heck, I didn’t even have to bring it up.  I think it helped that I had an equally genuine interest in the wine (and not just from a tasting standpoint – wine is one of my passions) and I don’t have much of an ego when it comes to my writing.  I’m not shy about it, but I’m always surprised and pleased when someone wants to take about it and takes the time to ask me questions or visit my website.  And it also gave me a great idea for my third MFH mystery…  All good things! 

Happy Friday, all! 

Timeless writing

I am now typing with one and a half hands.  I’m trying not to use the injured finger, which is my forefinger on the right hand and it’s probably the finger I use the most for typing.  Hence counting it as half my hand.  But it hurts when I type with it.  The whole hand still aches, but the healing process is definitely underway and I think I’m out of the dangers of permanent damage or hospitalization if I use it a bit.  If I’m wrong, I’ll blog about it later!  But I really want to keep up with the rest of my August Blog Challenge buddies and this week I’ve felt a bit like Randy in CHRISTMAS STORY, running after the gang in his snowsuit, whining ‘Awwww, come on, guys!  Wait up!  Wait for me!’ and then falling to the ground, only to thrash in the snow like a turtle on his back.  Now I’ve been flipped back over, have stumbled to my feet and am toddling after you all again. 

Over the last few days I’ve caught bits and pieces of movies.  CHILL has been running a Jaws-A-Thon, including all four of the Jaws movies.  I’ve watched the original Jaws (the movie that kept an entire generation of kids out of the ocean) many times, but it never fails to strike me just what a good movie it is, in all areas: acting, directing and writing.  I caught the first hour the other day and during the scene where Brody is filling out the first coroner’s report and the camera does a close-up on the paper as he types the words ‘shark attack,’ I chuckled at the old fashioned type writer he was using.  That’s right, this movie was made before PCs or cell phones.  And you know what?  I don’t miss them at all when watching this movie. It doesn’t feel dated at all, not even with the total ’70s hairstyles and clothing and that, for me, is a sign of really good writing. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Jaws 4: The Revenge, in which Brody’s widow takes on a vengeful shark that tracks anyone with Brody blood running through their veins from Amity to the Bahamas.  If you haven’t seen it…well, I’m not sure if I should recommend it or not.  If you like bad movies, bad acting, bad writing and bad FX, by all means check it out!  Even Lorraine Gary, who was quite good in the original Jaws as Mrs. Brody, is absolutely dreadful.  Her acting is forced and frenetic, and her co-star Michael Caine is just picking up a paycheck.  This movie is not timeless…unless timelessly awful counts.  

Seriously, though, good writing, be it a movie or a book, transcends the time in which it was written.  You won’t notice the hair styles or bell bottom slacks, the lack of cell phones or other modern devices which we now take for granted because you’ll be too caught up in the story and characters to care.  I use Jaws as my example.  What are some of your favorite movies or books that stand this test of time?

Er….I also saw 10 minutes of Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze.  My brain is still melting… 

Evil Kitty…

This is Tsavo, named for the killer lions of Tsavo (watch GHOST IN THE DARKNESS).  He was bottle-fed by yours truly when his mother abandoned him when he was less than a week old.  He is a spoiled rotten, mercurial tempered lion of a cat…and I sat on him by accident Sunday afternoon.  His response was a quick snap and scratch that left a bleeding line down my arm and what looked like a little nick in the forefinger of my right hand.  He was pissed off at me for an hour and I was heartbroken that I’d accidentally hurt my baby.

Well, he got his revenge.  Monday morning my finger was swollen, a nasty little blister above the formerly innocuous bite mark.  Four hours later there was a line of red running up from the finger on the back of my hand towards my wrist. Having been hospitalized for an infected cat bite before, I hightailed it an urgent care doctor and was told in VERY serious tones I was not to use my hand for two-three days.  Nothing.  Nada.  If I did, I was risking permanent tendon or nerve damage.


So for the last two days, I’ve been cradling my injured hand in a sling above my heart, taking Cipro, and relying on the kindness of Dave to feed me, take care of the cats, and do all the housecleaning.  I went to work today (took yesterday off) and pecked emails out with my left hand.  Yesterday I watched half of PRIDE ND PREJUDICE (the mini-series with Colin Firth) and tried not to think of all the writing I had on my plate.  My rapper name would have been Grumpy D.

I probably shouldn’t be typing now, but this is my ONLY typing with my right hand in the last two days and once posted, I’m gonna stop.  I’ll cheat and put up a cute picture for today’s blog challenge post.  Probably a montage of my darling Tsavo…  How can I be mad at a cat who loves books?