26.9.14

A Day Late & a Million $$ Short: Episode 1 #Survivor #Shelfie

Let this post also serve as my Shelfie for Tara Tyler & Co.
It's hard to see, but writer freinds' books are next to my head.
Bobbing head dolls & classics on top shelf
Book I'm reading by Erik Reichenbach, former Survivor
I'm doing it! For the longest time I've been wanting to start a Survivor blog, and...well, I'm not doing that, but I'm starting up a Friday feature here in which I spew my take on the week's episode. As you see, I'm calling it "A Day Late & a Million $$ Short" because #1: I'll be posting a day later than most Survivor pontificators, and #2: I obviously can't win the cool mil until Probst finally breaks down and casts me.

If you're a regular visitor to my blog and you don't watch Survivor, please don't feel bad about bailing on the DLM$S posts (look at that---it's already an acronym!). I'm going to write these posts as if readers have watched the episode, so if you're not in that crowd, they won't have much meaning to you. I know that the right thing for me to do would be to start a separate blog for this sillynes; alas, I'm far too lazy to do that.

Alrighty then, who's still with me? Let's get into Suvivor 29, Blood versus Water: San Juan Del Sur.

My one-sentence assessment: Despite Jeff Probst constantly asking the Survivors about their feelings, this was pretty good for an opening episode.

The thing I shouted at my TV: There are no feelings on Survivor! 

My favorite thing: What really struck me about this cast was their genuine comaraderie. Even Jeremy, who walked around making alliances with everyone, seemed sincere in his interactions. I think he's going to have a tough time acutally cutting anyone loose. Usually there are at least a couple of people who paint themselves as vindictive schemers from the get-go. But this group seems to want to feel each other out before getting too strategical. I like that. Don't get me wrong---I enjoy a good villain, but I don't like it when people are schemy just for the sake of being schemy.

Not cool: I didn't like how the women of the Coyopa tribe stereotyped Josh and Dale as the gay guy and the old (and therefore weak) guy, respectively. Yes, Josh is gay but that doesn't make it right for Nadiya to refer to him as "one of the girls". And yes, Dale is two decades older than most of his tribemates, but he's only 55 and competed just as well as if not better than most others in the challenge.

Also uncool was the way the massive John Rocker remained empty-handed as he walked leisurely beside a struggling, sweating, three-times-smaller Wes while he lugged a huge and awkward bundle of palm fronds/branches. That's the other thing I shouted at my TV: "Help him!"

The voting: Can anyone explain to me Josh's thinking when he voted for Baylor? What was the point of voting for the person who appeared to be your closest ally in the game? Why not just vote for Nadiya? By not voting for either Dale or Nadiya, he betrayed both the guys and the girls so it seems to me it only hurts his position in the game. Also, I think it was foolish of Val to feign as if she had the hidden immunity idol. The only thing that accomplished was letting her tribemates see that she's sneaky. But I like how the vote ended up. Nadiya has a great personality and was fun to watch (despite her clueless offensiveness), but I was glad to see the tribe act on getting rid of the known threat right away. Most of the time they just talk about making a move like that but wait until too late to actually do it.

Nicki has spoken. Now it's you turn---what did you think of the episode and what was Josh thinking?

22.9.14

Underrated Treasures: The Big Picture

Today is the newest of Alex J. Cavannaugh's famous & fun blogfests: Underrated Treasures, in which we tell you about movies, books, TV shows and/or songs that don't get the attention we think they deserve. I'm sure no one will be surprised that my underrated treasure dates back to the 1980s.

The Big Picture (1989) fell victim to the Hollywood politics it pokes fun at and was only in theaters in limited release before going to video. According to IMDb, it had a box office take of a measly $117,000. The movie is about a promising film school graduate (Kevin Bacon) who is seduced by Hollywood's ways and doesn't see the big picture until everything falls apart. It's got a good message for creative types who hope to make it big one day, but mostly I like it for it's sarcastic, quirky humor. Martin Short, anyone? It's been a long time since I've actually watched the movie, yet I think about it often and still make The Big Picture references---which nobody gets because it seems hardly anyone else has seen the movie. Have you?

A fun scene from The Big Picture:





15.9.14

The Big C Blogfest #Cancer #Laughter


Today is the Big C Blogfest created by Michael Di Gesu and Melissa Bradley, who is currently laughing in the face of cancer as she gets treatments and kicks the nasty disease's bum. The funny and uplifting stories told today will be put together in an eBook to help Melissa offset her medical costs and also to benefit Gilda's Club Chicago, an organization that helps women fight endometrial, cervical, and ovarian cancer.

"Snow Treatment"

My family was struck by the big C earlier this year when my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The man never smoked a day in his life and felt great and healthy, so when the doctor saw something strange in Dad's routine bloodwork and scheduled him for an X-ray of his lungs, we thought nothing of it. When they saw that his lung was surrounded by fluid and wanted to do a CT scan, it was like a small slap in the face. When the results came back and the bottom of the X-ray showed several "nodes" on his omentum, it was like getting smashed square in the gut with an anvil. The day we received this news is when my story takes place...

We didn't know-know yet that this was advanced cancer, but we knew, you know? As had been planned weeks earlier, my kids had stayed overnight at Grammie's and Poppie's (my parents are the kind of amazing people whose teenaged grandchildren still ask to have sleepovers at their house) and I drove through the suburban Chicago tundra to pick them up. We'd also planned on Mum coloring my hair that day. When she answered the door with tears and the horrible news, we cried and I told her to, of course, not even think about doing my hair. But she said it would be good to do something instead of standing around crying all day, so we ventured forth. 

There I was in the zebra-striped beautician's cape, my hair slathered in deep, rich dye, looking like the Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez had its way with it. My strands were getting darker by the moment. Mum announced that it was time to rinse and lifted the lever thing in the sink, and...no water. No water! Guys were up the street working on a busted pipe, and there was no water. And did I mention my hair was getting darker with each millisecond that passed?

"Snow!" I shouted, pointing toward the door. The glorious snow that I'd been cursing on my drive there turned out to be a savior. My kids and dad grabbed pots and buckets and filled them with the fluffy stuff. Then my mom and I melted it on the stove---and then we melted more and more and more because have you ever seen how snow shrinks when it turns to water? FYI, it's also riddled with tiny sticks and stuff. And when it's on the burner for too long, it gets really, really hot---scalding, some might say. 

All of this was poured over my head in small batches that felt like they would never end. As I was bent over the sink, trying to ignore the cramp in my neck and the slight sizzling sensation on my scalp, I asked my dad, "Hey, could ya spare some of that liquid around your lung?"

And...he laughed. We all did. We didn't let this thing become "that which we do not irreverently joke about" and therefore, we haven't given it power over us. I wholeheartedly believe that God turned off the water that day as a practical joke to push us over the edge into ridiculous, and that crazy weird day has helped set the tone for how this family has faced our new reality---we're doing it together and with plenty of humor. Which isn't to say that each one of us hasn't been brought to our knees at times, but we always get up, smile, and take what's next.

My advice for those of you with the big C in your lives is to not be shy about asking for prayers. They work, and en mass, hoo boy, they can be downright miraculous. The answers we get aren't always the ones we hoped for...but sometimes they are. Months ago I came on my knees to my blog and elsewhere asking for prayers that my dad would be among the less than 15% of people with one of two mutations that would allow him to be treated with a highly successful pill. More time passed than expected to get the answers, but guess what---he has one of the mutations. I can't even type that without welling up with grateful tears. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone who spared a prayer for him. Someone is clearly listening.

Visit Michael's blog to find the list of other hoppers. To help Melissa focus on getting better rather than her mounting medical expenses, please donate to the Melissa Bradley Medical Fund.




10.9.14

The Settler (all is not as it seems)

I was invited to Settler, OR by M. Pax to celebrate the launch of her Rifters Series. I've learned much about the beautiful and unusual town of Settler since my initial visit and will learn even more now that I've downloaded The Rifters for FREE onto my Kindle, but on my first visit, I was a little,,,eh...let's say, naive. Here's what happened...


The helicopter spins a whirl of dust all around me as it takes off. Grinding the granules between my teeth and spitting out what I can, I take a look around at where the whirlybird has brought me. It's pretty here---gorgeous mountain peaks all around, lots of serene nature. Lot's and lots and lots of nature, as a matter of fact. But no bachelor in sight. Oh, excuse me, no "settler" in sight.

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by M. Pax---great name for a Hollywood producer, right? She asked if I'd be interested in coming to Settler. I'd naturally presumed it was a twist on The Bachelor. You know, because the guy's ready to "settle" down, but as I look around, I wonder...do you think it might be a cross between The Bachelor and Survivor?

I see a rocky road just ahead and follow it. Along the way, I pass a place called Settler RV Park with rows of dented and dusty trailer homes. Huh, that's probably where the crew stays. I must be getting closer. I don't spy any cameras around at the moment, so I go ahead and slip off my chunky wedge sandals. Someone could'a warned me there'd be a long hike to the mansion.

I morph my scowl into a shiny, though somewhat gritty, smile. You never know when the Chris-Harrison-wannabe host or The Settler himself will appear from behind one of these pine trees---and I want that first-impression rose. Though in this case, it might be a first-impression thistle. This guy better be worth it.

Aha! I see a building just ahead marked Settler Outfitters. That must be where I get to pick out fabulous outfits to wear on all the amazing dates I'll be going on. And yes! That sign points to Gold Lake Lodge. I like the sound of that. Throw in a diamond, and me & Mr. Settler will be all set.

The sun slips beneath the mountain peaks just as I arrive at a row of small buildings. Strange lights ripple across the darkened sky before fading so completely that I wonder if I actually saw them. Pretty creepy. No! Not creepy. Romantic is what it is. The rushed tinkling of bells makes me jump, and a guy sticks his head out the doorway of a studio for some show called The Chemist. "What are ya doin' out there all alone? Do you want to be phantom bait?" he asks.

Phantom bait? Oh, I get it---he's not a fan of reality dating shows and thinks I'm making a huge mistake. Well, he can just go back to his Bill Nyesque programming and not worry his pretty little head about me. Phantom. Pssht.


      


How gorgeous are those covers? 

Book 1, The Rifters, is FREE on AmazonB&NiTunes & More.  

Book 2,The Initiate, is available for pre-order for only 99 cents at

A junction erupts between the worlds. 

The Gold Rush trickles to a fool’s quest and a string of stagecoach heists. In 1888, Earl Blacke decides to make a new start and become a better man. He escapes into the mountains, heading north. In the wilds of Oregon, a rift inside an ancient volcano opens and sends him into the future, into the present day. It also shaves forty years off his age, forty years to live over again and atone for what he’s done. 

Starting over is hard to do. In current day New York, Daelin Long’s dream job at a publishing house goes the way of the dinosaurs her sister chases. With no money and nowhere else to go, Daelin accepts the librarian position in her sister’s dinky town in the middle of Oregon. Nestled inside ancient volcanic peaks, the town of Settler holds onto many secrets. Residents roam the streets with weirdly fashioned devices, and odd lights pulse in the night skies. People whisper of a phantom outlaw and start dying, murdered and missing their heads. On top of it all, Daelin’s sister is missing, and Daelin doesn’t know who to trust. 

Earl knows more than he’s saying. He shares a notorious history with the phantom, one he’ll see remains buried. Keeping Daelin’s sister’s secrets is his only chance at redemption, and the only way to keep this world safe.


3.9.14

Coming Out #IWSG

Welcome to the September 2014 edition---which also marks the THREE YEAR anniversary---of Insecure Writers Support Group, brainchild of the one and clonely Alex J. Cavannaugh (thank you, Ninja Master!).

We've lamented more than once during our monthly meetings about the scariness of releasing our literary babies into the world and the fear of what reactions we might get. I won't have to face those fears full-on for a few more months with my upcoming novel, but as it makes its way through the publication process, the time has come to give my family a few more details beyond my "oh, it's just a silly office romance" copout. Today I thought it would be fun to share their reactions with you.

The first two sentences of the book's summary should clue you in to why sharing the deets with my family was a somewhat stomach-churning prospect for this mild-mannered suburban mama: Lyssa Bates doesn’t need a man. Not when the world is fully-stocked with double A batteries and a wide array of options in Amazon’s health and sexual wellness category.

And here I give you, the family reaction upon learning Vibrizzio's premise:

18 year old daughter: "What's wrong with you?"
(My response: "Oh, grow up." )

16 year old son: "Hehe. That's pretty funny."

Husband: Offered to help me review my research.

Mother: "When are you going to write a nice mystery novel?"

Father: He was in the room with me and mom when the subject came up but pretended to neither hear nor understand. He's the wisest of the bunch, methinks.