Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hour Chapter Three

Here is chapter three of Happy Hour. Enjoy!

Three and a half years ago...

CHAPTER THREE

Danielle

These things were always so phony. The smiles, the chit-chat, the bullshit. Women in their designer outfits discussing the latest craze in cosmetic surgery and gossiping about which desperate housewife had taken the leap and gone under the miracle worker’s knife. Good God, could it be any more dull than that? Get a life, right? But Danielle Bastillia caved every time someone called and asked her if she would participate in whatever charity event their organization represented. Al thought it was wonderful, explaining how necessary it was to keep good community relations. Sure, that was a part of it. However, for Danielle, it always came down to the charity itself. She was a sucker for kids, animals, anything and anyone stricken. Maybe it was the Catholic upbringing and the inevitable guilt that came with it, but come on? How could she turn down the Leukemia Fund for Children’s Hospital, or the rescue center for greyhounds? Everyone knew that if you invited Danielle Bastillia to your charity event, she would show up to donate her wines and her time.

Today’s event was yet another Danielle could add to her list. She braved a smile at Marilyn Dixon, the co-chair for Homeless, Teenage mothers. Ah, Marilyn, all cheeky and blonde. Indeed she’d seen the inside of Dr. Get-rich-off-of-women’s insecurities office. Her face was taut to the point where Danielle found herself wanting to touch it to see if it felt like Saran Wrap.

“Danielle, you look absolutely stunning. Vintage Diane, right? It’s amazing on you. Love the purse, too. Prada, right? Saw it at Bloomie’s in the Big Apple and should have grabbed it, but the hubby was rushing me. He had some meeting or something. I don’t know. Anyway, you’re seated at my table, and…oh, you…” she snapped and pointed at one of the servers. “What’s your name?”

“John,” the young man replied.

“Right. John, can you please move the chairs over there that are blocking that doorway and put them in a back room or something? It’s not tidy looking.”
The server nodded and scurried off.

One thing, well, two things that Marilyn was actually good at: charm and delegating. She had those down to a tee. Even with her apparent A.D.D.
Marilyn haphazardly flung her hands in the air, cocked her head to the side, and smiled back at Danielle. “Thank you so much for your time today. Your wines are lovely. Everyone is singing praises.”

Anyone who used the word lovely or expressions like ‘singing praises,’ was someone Danielle could never trust. Especially anyone who looked like Marilyn Dixon—hair dyed a golden blonde that was only natural on three-year-old children, eyes a shocking ocean blue that were surely colored contacts, and skin that was…well, that was the clincher. No way the woman could be trusted.

Danielle stared at Marilyn with a mix of envy and loathing. “You’re welcome. It was Al’s and my pleasure to supply the wines.” She smiled again feeling the crinkling of the crow’s feet that had recently shown up on her face. She hoped she didn’t look as exhausted as she felt. Two days earlier, Danielle had conducted a food drive through the organic growers association. She’d packed and loaded food onto vans with a handful of other folks, then had driven one of the vans into San Francisco to the food bank. Her mind and emotions handled it fine, but her body in full PMS mode hadn’t fared so well, and now she found herself wiped out and wanting chamomile tea and her bed.

Marilyn cocked her head to the other side. “By the way, how is Al?”

“He’s good. Busy as always. We’re both working constantly. And you know how it is with kids. It’s go, go, go.” What time was it? When could she get out of here, kick off the high heels, and slip out of the Diane Von Furstenberg dress? Not that she wasn’t in love with the dress. Diane had a knack for making a dress that showed off a woman’s best assets, yet camouflaged less than attractive areas—like that belly bulge that inevitably followed childbirth and hung on into middle age. Middle age! It couldn’t have been called a wiser age, the mature age, the grown-up age? But middle age, was a term that meant she gained five extra pounds annually since turning forty a few years ago. Middle age was not nearly as fun as everyone claimed.
For Danielle, the wraparound navy blue dress made the most of her breasts—totally natural and not yet sagging. With good boobs you could usually get away with an extra pound or two, and good boobs fit great in a Furstenberg dress. All the same, Danielle preferred her jeans and T-shirts. For these events, though, she did what she had to, even having her long dark red hair styled and putting on some makeup. No matter what she felt about the charitable brouhahas around town, she did have an image to maintain. Al reminded her of that regularly. They were important people in the community. God forbid anyone think that the owners of Bastillia’s Wines had any issues. Yes, God forbid she taint their image.

Marilyn nodded emphatically as if she completely understood Danielle’s life. What a joke, because although Marilyn stood as the president of the woman’s club chairing the event, the fact was that Marilyn Dixon never picked up her own children from school—and it was doubtful that she ever really did anything with her kids unless nannies were along for the ride. Her staff consisted of a personal trainer, private chef, nannies galore, and a housekeeper. If the woman ever lifted a finger, Danielle guessed it would be to get a glass of wine for herself. At least, those were the rumors in Napa’s gossip logged vineyard land.

“And the girls? They’re good?” Marilyn asked as if she was really interested.

Danielle applauded inwardly. The moment she’d been hoping for. Danielle wanted to palm her hands together and wave them high over her head and do the victory dance. Instead she smiled warmly. There were times to be grateful for that gossip vine… Thanks to the local grapevine, Danielle had learned that Marilyn’s daughter had been rejected by Yale. “The girls are great. Shannon earned a full scholarship to Yale. We received her acceptance letter over the weekend. And, of course, Cassie will be starting at Trinity Prep.”

Marilyn was rendered speechless. “Why, that’s wonderful,” she finally said, and rose from her seat. “I guess I better get things started.” She walked up to the stage at the front of the room and tossed back the golden waves.

Marilyn smiled brightly at the crowd and Danielle studied her. Yes, it was petty not to like the woman for being fake—sort of—but, dammit, get real. Please, would someone get real around here! She was acting as badly as Marilyn, posing at the luncheon in her designer dress, with her newly colored hair, boasting about her kids for her own ego while carrying a fake Prada purse. Yes, fake. What was the point in spending two grand on a purse when you could get a perfectly decent knockoff for thirty bucks? Maybe she was the true fake here. Danielle, at least, knew better than to believe this shit was what made up the real world.

Her mouth went dry. No time for a panic attack or a reality check. She’d stopped popping Xanax a few months ago and had gone on a health kick, even joining the local gym, secretly hoping that Al would notice her again. She’d shed ten pounds and felt better than she had in years, but Al still didn’t seem to pay much attention to her, except when there was a problem with the payroll, or the accounts, or an employee. Their life together after twenty years had boiled down to a business relationship, not a marriage, and she missed that connection that they used to enjoy. She missed the jokes they shared about the craziness that went on in the world around them.
That was where she should start being honest—with her own husband.

Marilyn turned to Danielle and asked her to stand. “I’d like to thank the lovely Danielle Bastillia and her husband, Al, for donating the wine for today, since, as you know, the alcohol is generally the major expense for one of our events.” Low laughter rippled throughout the banquet room.

Danielle tried not to cringe through the smile. She glanced around at the room filled with women from all over Sonoma County—some she recognized and waved to. Two women at another table whispered to each other while one stared right at her. Kind of disconcerting. Was one of Danielle’s best assets hanging out of the Furstenberg? The woman in a slinky white dress looked vaguely familiar. She was a redhead like Danielle, but at least fifteen years younger. The woman continued looking at her. Danielle offered a slight smile, but this pretty young thing kept the ice glare on and Danielle had to look away.

Why the hell had she flushed the Xanax down the toilet?

Not able to help herself, she looked back again at the redhead who whispered something in her friend’s ear, and they both laughed. Bizarre. What was that about? She checked the twins. Nope, they were in their place with only the acceptable amount of cleavage showing. At forty-two-years-old, being paranoid over women’s cattiness was plain stupid. They probably weren’t even talking about her.
Perspiration bubbled at the base of her neck. She really did have to get out of this place. Danielle waited patiently, trying not to look at the woman and her friend again.

Right after the President of the Teenage Homeless Mothers’ Charity gave her talk and the servers started pouring coffee, Danielle excused herself. She told Marilyn that she needed to pick up one of the girls for a dentist appointment. More bullshit, but it didn’t matter because she’d lose it quickly if she had to continue sitting there.
For the sake of her image, Danielle did her best to masquerade her run for the door as a fashionable quick strut. She handed the valet her ticket and a few minutes later he was pulling her gray -750 BMW around to the front. When the young man got out of the car to let her in, he handed her a large manila envelope. “Mrs. Bastillia, right?” He cocked a dark brow and eyed her with what Danielle thought to be a rather suspicious glare. Jesus, she was truly losing it. Come on! As though everyone was actually staring at her as she smoothed down the Furstenberg over the Spanx flattened tummy; she decided she’d never wear the damn dress again.

“Yes.” Hot asphalt beat through her Stuart Weitzman’s and she could feel a blister forming in the back of her heel. How karmically appropriate—blisters from the real Weitzman’s and compliments for the fake Prada. Note to self; time for good knock off shoes.

“A gentleman in the parking lot said that you needed this.”

“What? What gentleman?” She scanned the area and didn’t spot anyone that she knew. All she saw was luxury car after sports model after luxury car, their gleaming paint jobs reflecting spotlights of the sun’s rays.

“I don’t know. He gave it to me and said that it was important and that you needed it.”

She sighed, handed him five bucks, and got behind the wheel. Could the day get any stranger? Other cars were pulling in behind her so she had to drive instead of looking inside the mystery envelope.

A glance in her rearview mirror reflected the young redhead and her friend standing under the awning in front of the hotel. Danielle shook her head, knowing that tonight she was going to the cellar to pull out a bottle of the good stuff, even though Al insisted it was only for special occasions. This was a special occasion—she was losing her sanity.

Maybe the panic had something to do with Shannon’s impending departure for college, thousands of miles from home. Could this be the beginning of that empty nest syndrome she’d heard so much about?

At a stoplight, Danielle finally had a chance to open the envelope. She took a handful of papers out and read the first few words.
Her heart raced.

She reread the words, blinking her eyes in disbelief. Her hands shook. Cramps seized her stomach so tightly that she almost vomited as she audibly gasped. It was like getting sucker punched.

Who would do this?

The person in the car behind her laid on the horn. Danielle jerked, glancing in her rearview mirror, and yanked the wheel.
This could not be happening. This was a joke, a cruel joke. But as Danielle read over the papers again, she realized this was no joke.
Her husband wanted a divorce.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Preventative Health--Now that's a Concept

Happy Friday! I do plan to post a couple more chapters of Happy Hour over the weekend. However, today I wanted to start something new--Fitness Fridays! As a writer, I sit on my butt a lot and I could probably fill my gut with lots of junk throughout the day and never get my exercise in. Fortunately for me, I have my own personal trainer, stretch therapist, and nutritionist living in my house--my husband John. Now, John doesn't train me (he's a great trainer and a sweet man, but I can be a bit obstinate when someone is telling me how to work out). I have my own regime. What he does do is fill me with all sorts of information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So, it got me thinking that a lot of people could benefit from his words of advice. Much of it is common sense and stuff we all know, but he'll be posting on things we may not be aware of on Fitness Fridays. I hope you'll be joining us for Fridays.

Without further ado, welcome my husband John.

Don’t you think America’s current approach to health is kind of like a dog chasing its tail? Think about it. Most people in this country are so busy and overwhelmed that preventing illness doesn’t become a priority until illness actually begins to occur. It just doesn’t make sense to not take the time to shop and plan healthy meals, take nutritional supplements and exercise in order to stay healthy. By following this simplified approach, we could prevent numerous types of illness and disease. It just doesn’t make sense to wait until we get sick and have to go to see the doctor and then to the pharmacy for antibiotics and then we miss several days of work etc. This is more like a Disease Management System than a Health System! We could save ourselves the time, misery of being ill and the expense associated with doctors’ visits and medications by just consistently doing the small things that help us develop our immune systems and stay disease free. It’s the small things that you do everyday that add up.

So much of today’s illnesses and disease stem from a poor diet. Take for example teenagers who consume nearly a full cup of sugar per day. This consumption is at least 4 times the recommended daily amount. With that in mind, consider that a single serving of processed sugar can shut down a child’s immune system for as much as six hours. Heart disease has long been the number one killer in America…(now closely followed by diabetes) and it can be prevented by a change in one’s diet. For years, the medical community has blamed heart disease on a diet high in saturated fat. The major factor in heart disease is damage to the walls of our arteries by free radicals. Typically, the free radicals are a product of oxidized vegetable oils found in fried foods, cookies and other processed foods. Once the damage is done, it is often permanent and now the arteries calcify and the cholesterol that normally runs freely in our blood stream begins to gather at these damaged sites and starts to clog one’s arteries.

The need for proper vitamin supplementation has never been more serious than now considering that with our busy lifestyles, it is almost impossible to get all of the nutrients we need to stay healthy from our diet. Considering we need about 5-8 servings of fruits and veggies per day, we’d have to spend numerous hours daily just shopping and preparing our meals to meet these important recommendations. Additionally, our foods are basically depleted of nutrients due to the poor soils that they are grown in. This is where vitamin supplementation is so crucial. All one needs to start with is a Full Spectrum liquid vitamin supplement to get over 100 necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, omega 3,6 ,9 and essential amino acids. It is an inexpensive and easy regiment to follow. Just by doing this alone, one can develop and increase one’s immune system and have a much better chance of preventing colds and viruses as well as serious disease.

The benefits of exercise on health are numerous. It is safe to say that at least 30 minutes of exercise a day can help prevent major ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure just to name a few. In addition to preventing disease, exercise helps to reduce stress and anxiety as well. So it goes without saying, that we need to find a fun way to get exercise at least 4-5 times a week.
I realize this is all stuff you’ve heard before. It’s no secret that eating healthy and exercising will help you live longer and live disease free, but I think reminders of this are very important, especially considering that we are now in our flu season.

So, when you go to open that bag of potato chips, or pop that cookie in your mouth or drink one of those thousand calorie mochas, or turn the TV on after dinner ask, yourself if it’s really worth it. Take note of those you love and who love you and maybe consider a healthier choice—baked sweet potato slices, trail mix (and yes—you can add a handful of dark chocolate in there), tea instead of mocha—a thirty minute walk after dinner (the TV will always be there). These things don’t taste the same, I know that. But that isn’t to say they aren’t as tasty and satisfying. And even if you disagree about the taste, you can’t argue that they are healthier choices, and you can’t argue that healthy choices do lead to a healthier life.

Enjoy your weekend, and stay healthy!

John

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Happy Hour" Chapter Two

Here is Chapter Two from Happy Hour. Get your copy this week. It's the last week to also get a copy of one of my mysteries (signed) and a chance to win books for your book club! Click the link on the right and order now.

Cheers,
Michele

Three and a half years ago...

CHAPTER TWO

Alyssa

Alyssa Johnson walked out of the funky flat where she taught art classes, a sly smile on her face and a little weak in the knees. This was a great day.
She flagged down a cab and left Soho, heading uptown for the big dinner. Alyssa looked at her left hand spreading out her fingers. The four carat emerald cut diamond with a band filled with three rows of smaller diamonds sparkled in the sun. The sparkle from the sunrays bounced off the wet pavement and into the late afternoon air, or maybe it was the diamond itself against her dark skin that made everything glow and shimmer. Alyssa couldn’t believe it. She was really doing it. Getting married! And to the most delicious man in the world. Terrell Henley.

There was one problem though, a secret she’d shoved so far back into the closet that she prayed the skeleton had turned to dust. She closed her eyes and sunk back into the musty smelling cab, the beauty of the day tarnishing. The memories always invaded her right at those moments when she felt the happiest. It was like a dark angel followed her knowing the exact moments when she might need a reminder of what had happened. This dark angel was sure to keep her from ever having total contentment for the rest of her life. That night rushed back to her in a vividness she couldn’t deny. The skeleton had not turned to dust.

She opened her eyes, forcing the images away, but knowing what resulted from that night could somehow, someday, show up in her life. Ironically, almost as if she was being given a message, the sun disappeared behind the clouds again and drops of rain splattered against the windshield. The rhythmic swoosh and glide of the windshield wipers across the glass combined with the driver’s choice in country music helped bring her back to the here and now.

But the memory screamed at her, swirling with a rush of adrenaline. It wasn’t a matter of if her secret would be revealed. But a matter of when. How would she explain herself to the man she planned to exchange vows with in less than three months?

Terrell would understand. He embodied kindness and compassion. He had political aspirations and was planning to run for congress in the next few years. From there, Alyssa knew his plans were even bigger. His dreams and goals only made it that much more pertinent that she tell him her secret.

Tomorrow. Over lunch she would tell Terrell. He deserved to know, but how would he react? She knew he would wonder why she hadn’t told him sooner. Not tonight, though. Tonight was all about the two of them and their engagement. His law partners were throwing a party for them at their favorite restaurant, Jazzman, and when Terrell heard his best friend from childhood, James, and his wife, Olivia, were coming, Alyssa thought she’d never seen him so excited. Terrell planned to ask James to be his best man.

James had spoken with Alyssa on the phone to tell him that he and Olivia would be flying in from New Orleans to join them at the party. She’d never met James, but had heard story after story about him and the bond he and Terrell shared growing up. They hadn’t seen each other in a few years because James and his wife had an ever expanding family, now with five children. Plus they’d moved from the Big Apple to the Big Easy several years ago, where James owned some nightclubs. This was going to be some wedding—old friends, new friends, family. They would have it all.

The cab pulled up in front of the restaurant. Alyssa paid the driver and got out. Terrell wanted to send a car for her, but she wasn’t sure about the timing and insisted on getting a cab. She knew she might be late and, sweet man that he was, he didn’t mind at all. He understood what her art meant to her. And today of all days, the art studio owner had scheduled an appointment with Raul Perez, the owner of The Perez Gallery, wanting to show him some of Alyssa’s oils. He’d been impressed. Now he wanted to host a show at his gallery! She couldn’t wait to tell Terrell. He’d be so happy and proud of her. Everything was perfect. Almost. It would be though. Everything would be fine once she told Terrell her shameful secret.

She opened the door to the restaurant and pushed back the hood on her mink lined coat, leaving the rain behind. The door shut and the outside world was replaced with a vacuum of loud chatter and jazz over the speakers. The smell of food cooking and the blur of people at the full bar made her smile. Terrell had chosen this place because this was where they’d met. Lots of dark woods, glass and mirrors, and dim lights made the place elegant and warm. It was them. So very them from the day they met.

She clearly remembered that day sitting at the bar when Terrell came up next to her. “Anyone sitting here?”

“No.” She didn’t look up from the white wine she’d been nursing.

“Rough day?” he asked.

She nodded. Her grandmother in Italy had passed away. It was expected but, all the same, Alyssa had hoped she’d see her one last time.

“Want to tell me about it?” he asked.

She didn’t answer.

Usually a man asking her about her day offended her. Men in general often offended her and she’d done her best over the years to stay away from them. She forced herself to date off and on and occasionally met a decent guy. But fear always took over and she wouldn’t allow herself to get close to a man.

“I had a rotten day too. Lost a case.” His voice was strong but sincere. “Looks like you could use a refill. Can I buy you a glass of wine?”

She started to glance up, with the word no at the ready, until she saw who she was about to say no to. She stopped glancing and was now looking. Her heart raced. In that second when her eyes met his, she was speechless for a few moments until she finally replied, “That would be nice.”

Terrell introduced himself and pretty much from that moment on the two became inseparable except when at work. He’d done something for her that no other man had been able to. He released demons pent up in her for fifteen years that she didn’t think would ever escape her soul. The demons may have been set free, but the fact of that night and what happened afterwards remained buried. The dark angel didn’t live inside her any longer but it remained watchful.

“Hey baby. There you are.” Terrell made his way toward her through a throng of people and pulled her into him. His lips warm on hers, his body comfortable, his scent familiar; musk and citrus. And those eyes of his were so divine. “How did it go? The meeting with Perez?” He helped her out of her coat.

She grinned.

“I knew it!” He pointed at her. “He’s going to do a show isn’t he?”

“He is.”

“Oh man, oh baby. That is great. Come on in. The usual suspects are here from the office. I’ve been having a nice visit with James and his wife Olivia.”

“Good. They made it then?”

He nodded. “They did. She is as pregnant as can be again and James looks to be matching her pound for pound. This’ll be number six. Six kids! Can you believe that? I told him he better get fixed and then he’ll have to go on the post pregnancy diet with his wife. Back in the day there wasn’t an ounce of fat on that guy. Guess that’s what marriage will do to you.” He winked.

“It better not.” She wrapped an arm around his waist and snuggled in close. “I like you exactly the way you are.”

“That’s a good thing, because that’s what you’re getting.”
They walked into the back room reserved for large parties where many of their friends and Terrell’s colleagues were having their fill of food and drink. Olivia was easy to spot. Pregnancy became the woman, who tried to stand as Alyssa and Terrell walked in.

“Please don’t,” Alyssa said. “You don’t need to get up.”

Olivia glowed like all pregnant women did, but this one had an extra glow. She had the same color skin as Alyssa did—caramel. That’s what Alyssa’s Italian mother called her—her ‘carmella la vida.’ When kids at school teased her and called her an Oreo, her mother said to her. “No, you’re not. You’re much sweeter than an Oreo. You are a caramel. And caramel is the sweetest of all.” She loved her mom for trying to understand and help her. Her father told her to ignore ignorance. That’s what he’d done all of his life.

Olivia’s black hair cascaded down her back and her smile said it all; she looked to be as sweet as the caramel Alyssa’s mama spoke of and a woman who Alyssa liked instantly.

Olivia quickly introduced herself. “My husband will be back in a minute. He’s so darling. I’m feeling cold and usually I run hot. Obvious by my condition, I guess.” She laughed. “He insisted on running out and grabbing a shawl for me. He took Terrell’s car to Bergdorf’s to buy one.”

“Does sound like a good man,” Alyssa said, and slid in next to her.

“You got one, too,” Olivia replied.

Terrell beamed. “I’m the lucky one.” He reached across the table and took Alyssa’s hand.

“Terrell tells me that you’re an amazing artist,” Olivia said.

Before Alyssa could say anything, Terrell jumped in and told her, along with anyone else at the table who’d listen, all about Alyssa’s artwork. “It’s amazing stuff. Brilliant. My baby is brilliant. You’ll all have to come to the show. She does these oil pieces of vineyards and wine related themes.”

“Vineyards?” Olivia asked. “What made you choose that motif?”

“My mother grew up in Tuscany. My grandparents had a small vineyard there. My parents live there now and take care of the property. And my grandfather is pretty frail these days. I haven’t been back for a while. About three years, or so, but Terrell and I are going to visit for the holidays next year.”

Terrell smiled at her.

“That’s wonderful. I’d love to see your work,” Olivia replied.

“I have some pieces in my apartment,” Terrell said.

“Great. Can’t wait to see them,” Olivia remarked.

The waiter arrived with more wine and drinks for the table. As he finished pouring Alyssa’s glass, he moved back and she caught sight of a man out of the corner of her eye. She did a double take. A fog filled the room and Alyssa’s stomach sank. There was laughter, chatter, glasses clinking, people happy, but all she could hear was her blood racing through her ears trying to drown out anything and everything around her. The room seemed to spin and a wave of dizziness wrapped around her. She blinked. Twice. The fog dissipated and clarity set in.

The man headed straight for the table. Terrell smiled. Alyssa’s throat closed. She tried to swallow. He had a Bergdorf Goodman bag. James. He’d called himself Jimmy back then. Twenty pounds heavier, but it was still him. Alyssa’s hands started to sweat. Her vision blurred again. Her mouth totally dry. He faced her and reached his hand out to shake hers. Did he not recognize her? He really didn’t seem to. She looked at his wife, glittery and amazingly beautiful. James handed Olivia the bag. He removed his hand from Alyssa’s. A deep burn ran from her palm all the way up her shoulder and she tried to find words.

“This must be your beautiful fiancée,” James/Jimmy said. “She’s even more beautiful than you said, brother.”

“She is amazing.” Terrell looked at her oddly.

He was wondering what was wrong with her. He knew her too well. He was reading her.

She had to say something.

She forced a smile. “Thank you.” It was all she could say, knowing that the skeleton was out of the closet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Hour

Lori at Lori's REading Corner has been cool enough to post excerpts from the Happy Hour book, and she's running an awesome promo as well (amazon gift cards, anyone????).

Anyway, Happy Hour is on schedule to go on sale late next week, but for now you can still get your pre-order in on the link to the right or off my website at http://www.michelescott.com (if you haven't checked out the new site, please do. There's a yummy recipe up, plus some great contest info for book clubs, etc--and you can see photos of my four legged kid Krissy).

I thought I would give readers here a little "taste" of Happy Hour for the week. Here's a partial of Chapter One.

Hope you enjoy!

Cheers,
Michele

CHAPTER ONE (Three and a half years ago...)

Kat

Kat McClintock was late. This was not good. This would not be good. Damn. Damn. Damn. “Okay, boys, listen.” Neither one of her pre-pubescent sons looked at her. They were far too absorbed in whatever new Game Station, Game Cube, Play Station, Wii, (whatever it was these days) game their father had recently purchased for them. She turned the TV off.

“Hey!” Jeremy yelled. ”What are you doing, Mom? Not cool. Turn it back on.” Jeremy had evidently bypassed pre-pubescence altogether and jumped right into raging adolescence and his day-to-day tone with her ranged from apathetic to surly.

“Mommy, we were about to kill the boss,” Brian, her ten-year-old, said. “The like, the big boss, you know? The guy to win!”

Thank God. He was definitely still not even close to adolescence. He was still sweet. No one going through puberty would dream of calling their mother Mommy. “I’m sorry, boys. I have to go. Your Aunt Tammy was supposed to be here by now. Typical.” She shook her head. “Anyway, Jeremy, I need you to take out two frozen burritos and put them in the microwave. There’re some bananas and I have some broccoli already cut up in there.”

“I hate broccoli,” Brian said.

“You like it with ranch dressing.”

“No, I don’t.”

“How come we can’t go out to eat? Dad always takes us out to eat,” Jeremy said.

Because Dad is an asshole. No, no, she couldn’t say that. Dad screwed me over in our settlement and while he’s out wining and dining, I’m trying to get a job to support us. No, no, not that either. Let go and let God. Wasn’t that what Mom was always saying to her? Breathe! Now there you go. This is all one growing experience that will get you to another side of things. The silver lining, or pot of gold, or whatever the hell it was at the end of the rainbow. Better be a pot of gold. Kat placed her hands on her hips and tried to look official. “I’m having you eat a healthy meal.” That sort of sounded okay. “Good food makes you grow big and strong and have a smart brain.” She winked at them.

“Frozen burritos?” Jeremy replied.

Too smart for his own good. “Jer, no more lip. Eat the burritos. You know you like them. I’ll be back by bedtime and your homework needs to be done. Don’t answer the phone unless you see that it’s coming from me and call me on my cell if you have a problem. Obviously do not go outside or open the door for anyone. Leave Squeak in the house. She’s on my bed right now. She makes a good watchdog.”

“She’s a Chihuahua,” Jeremy said. “Not exactly a watchdog, Mom.” He gave her a half smile and the twinkle in his blue eyes left nothing for the imagination. Her oldest boy defined mischief. The kind she knew later in life would break many a woman’s heart.

She sighed and shook her head. At twelve, Jeremy was getting by on his charm and good looks with his teachers—all blue eyed, olive skinned, and thick dark hair. Brian was, of course, beautiful, too, but he took after her with lighter brown hair. No one knew exactly how to describe his eye color--hazel, brown, green? Kat settled on avocado. It was what her mother called them. Mom never described anything as green, blue, or brown. With Mom it was always lime, cornflower, hazelnut, etceteras.

“But she barks. Can you handle all that? I’m sorry, guys. I’ll take you out for pizza on Friday.”

“We’re going with Dad on Friday and, duh, I can handle it. I’m twelve, not a baby anymore.” Jeremy turned back to the TV. “Can we turn it back on now?”

“No. I don’t like your attitude, buddy. You’re acting like a monkey. Ooh ah ooh.” Kat tucked her arms underneath her, and jumped up and down in her best imitation of a monkey. Jeremy stared at her, but Brian giggled. The monkey imitation used to work so well, and now--a stare and one little giggle. “Alrighty then, I am officially a goober. That much is obvious, right? But as your officially gooberish mom, your attitude Mr. Jeremy—ooh wait.” She held up a finger. “If I am goober mom then you must be my goober sons! Ha. So, I need your goober bad attitude straightened out by the time I get home.”

Jeremy frowned. “Mom, goober is so old school. You’re a nube.” Now both boys broke up in hilarity. “But we still love you.” He grinned.

“Right. Me nube, you nube.” Not only was Jeremy charming, but also downright manipulative when he needed to be, and too damn smart for his own good. “Love you.” She went around the cheapie sofa she’d bought at a hole in the wall furniture store. After only a few months the color changed from light beige to dreary mud. She made a mental note to get one of those shabby chic covers she’d seen at Target once she deposited her first paycheck—which--fingers crossed--would be soon. She kissed each boy on the cheek, with Jeremy responding by wiping it away and grimacing as if he’d been touched by an alien.

At least Brian hugged her back and smiled. “Bye, Mom. Good luck. You’ll get the job. I know it.”

“Bye, babe, and thank you. You can turn the TV back on after your homework is finished. Leave it out on the kitchen table so I can check it when I get home.” Who was she kidding? As soon as those boys heard the car pull out of the driveway of their three-bedroom townhouse in the outskirts of Oakland, she knew that the TV and game would be back on. Guilt dropped in on her again. Guilt that she wouldn’t be home to make sure they ate a healthy meal. Guilt that she wouldn’t be there to help Brian with his math problems that he’d been having difficulty with. Guilt that she wasn’t there when Jeremy wanted to actually talk to her or watch TV with her. Too much God damned guilt went with divorce, and Kat hated it. But what was she supposed to do? Turn a blind eye? Allow the boys to grow up in a home where disrespecting women was accepted? No. She’d take this guilt. Peace. Breathe in peace and relaxation. Were all those tapes her mom had been sending her starting to rub off on her? The ones with titles like “Flowdreaming for Peace,” and “Balance Through Breath?”

She got behind the wheel of her jeep and pulled out of the one-car garage the town home afforded. The place where she and boys now lived was definitely a step down from upper middle class suburbia, but as she pressed the garage door remote, she knew that this place was far more a home than the Victorian they’d lived in, on the edge of Pacific Heights. So what if Perry still lived there with his flavor of the week? Kat sort of believed in karma and where her ex was concerned, she found it almost orgasmic to have faith in this theory because she knew the man would get his just due. Yep. Perry had kept the classic painted lady and she’d downsized to the three-bedroom with mold under the sinks and peeling wallpaper in her room. But, it had given her back her sanity and a sense of self that she’d lost during those eight years of marriage (technically ten by the time the divorce was finalized). Why she hadn’t gotten smart and taken that wake up pill when Perry had told her that he thought that marriage was an antiquated idea, she’d never know. One child out of wedlock had been one thing, but when she’d gotten pregnant with Brian she had insisted that Perry marry her, or else. She should have taken the “or else” part.

Enough of that though, because this was her new life--her new start--and she broke pretty much every speed limit trying to get to it, running a yellow light that was much closer to red than green. Stopping at the next one, she took a good look in the mirror. Yikes. The boys’ soccer practice had run late. The coach who thought he was Pele himself preached this whole team effort philosophy: when you sign your kid up for a sport, there is a commitment factor you have to consider and blah, blah, blah. True—Kat believed in commitment. So much so that she had spent years overlooking her ex’s over-spending habits and the lies that surrounded them, the flirting here and there with other women . . . But when it came right down to bedding one of the women in her book club? That had pretty much made the notion of commitment null and void. The commitment to the boys’ soccer now made her late for her job interview.

With one hand on the wheel and the other in her purse, Kat rummaged around feeling for a lipstick and hopefully, a hair clip. She needed to get a smaller purse. This was like diving into a black hole. So far she had found one bag of chips, a ton of receipts, a tampon, and a handful of candy wrappers. Aha, there was a clippie. Not the most attractive look, but it would have to do. Now for the lipstick. Next to the lipstick she knew what she felt. The cigarette wrapper. She winced. To smoke or not to smoke? Serious question. No. She wouldn’t do it.

She thought about the discussion she’d had with her mother, Venus. Yes, Venus. Kat sighed. It had been Veronica all her life until ten years ago when she hit fifty-five and left Kat’s dad to find herself. She moved to an ashram in Oregon, and changed her name. Anyhow, the conversation she’d had last month when her mother visited ran through her mind. “Kitty, love, you have too many lines around your mouth for a woman your age. You’re only thirty-five.”

“I’m thirty-seven, Mom.” Her mother was totally on her nerves at that point. They’d spent five solid days together and between learning how to make tofu dishes, attending the yoga classes her mother insisted on, and having henna tattoos painted on her feet, Kat thought she would lose it at any moment.

“Age is only a number.” She waved a hand through the air. They were seated at Kat’s kitchen table drinking green tea. “Look at me. No lines. I have no stress. I take the day as it comes and because of that I have found not only perfection in my outward appearance, but also in my inner spirit as well. Namaste.” With her hands in prayer position she bowed to Kat.

Gag.

Mom ran a hand over her face. It was true that she had no lines. But, Kat hadn’t forgotten (and apparently Mom had) that before her mother had gone all Hare Krishna on them and left Dad, she’d had one helluva face lift. Veronica or Venus—whatever—her mother looked like a new age Raquel Welch. That is, if Welch had had the poor fashion sense to don Birkenstocks and a muu muu.

“Kitty Love, I think that you must have too much stress in your life. You look bitter. Or like a smoker might. Have you seen what women who smoke look like? It’s not pretty.”

Last straw. Right then and there Kat determined she was fixing burgers that evening. “Mom, I am a little bitter, but I’ll get through that.” Her mother started to interrupt her. She shook her head and held up a hand. “Oh, no, no, I am not going to discuss my reasons why with you. I’m working through it on my own and in my own time, so you let it go. And I am a smoker.” Her mother’s face paled. “I’ve been a closet smoker since I was fifteen.”

“What?”

Kat took a sip from her tea feeling decidedly good about herself. She smiled and nodded.

“Yes. I smoke three to four cigarettes a day. When the boys leave for school I have a smoke. After lunch I have a smoke, and then after dinner, when I take a walk, I have a smoke. And guess what, Venus? Sometimes I have a smoke before bed if I’m really stressed out. Been doing it for years.”

Shortly after Mom got back home, Kat started receiving self-help CDs in the mail along with yoga DVD’s. She figured she had the entire Rodney Yee and Baron Baptiste library. One day she would do one of those DVD’s. She had felt so bad about that conversation that she’d gone ahead and started listening to the CD’s. The result being that she’d pretty much stopped smoking. Pretty much.

But right now a cigarette would surely take the edge off. Getting the pack out of her purse, Kat glanced down for a second. When she looked back up there was another red light, and thankfully she caught it in time or she would have slammed into the back of a semi. Her purse flew to the floor, its contents going every which way. “Shit!” That had to be a sign, right? Stop smoking or die. Duh, as Jeremy would say. It would either be through lung cancer, according to Mom, or on the highway while in such desperate need of a smoke she was willing to risk having the back end of a double wide shoved up her nose.

She crossed the Oakland Bridge and for the rest of her drive into the city she listened to her mother’s latest gift, Wayne Dyer’s Being in Balance. By the time she made it into San Fran, she understood the third chapter fairly well: Your Addictions Tell You, “You’ll Never Get Enough of What You Want.” Now there was one she’d have to listen to again on the drive home. About the time that the lull of Dr. Dyer’s voice settled her into a calm state, she realized she needed to find parking and she was already five minutes late. Great way to go in for a job interview.

Four blocks away, Kat located a space, parked, and then practically jogged to the restaurant, praying she wouldn’t look a total disaster when she made it there. After taking a deep breath and smoothing down her clothes, she opened the door to Sphinx.

A stylish, brown-eyed, long dark-haired hostess stood at the front. What was she? Twenty-three tops? How did anyone at twenty-three look so put together? She hadn’t even managed it by thirty-seven, conscious of the wrinkling in her light blue cotton blouse and the small stain from one of the boys’ juice boxes that had squirted out in the car earlier when Brian had poked his straw into it. The boys thought it hilarious that the juice had sprayed everywhere. Kat hadn’t noticed the spot until now, face to face with little Miss Shine and Sparkle, when she spotted the small red stain on the left thigh of her khakis. Boys!

Kat closed her hands around the handle on her purse and smiled. “Hi, I’m Kat McClintock. I’m here for an interview with Mr. Reilly.” What she lacked in fashion sense she could at least make up for with maturity.

“One moment. I’ll get him for you.”

Kat took a good long look around. Modern flair painted in warm shades of green made the restaurant look as chic as Kat had read about in the foodie magazines. The floors were done in cherry wood squares, with a lighter wood of some sort cut out in a diamond pattern filling the center. Gold suede-covered booths lined the walls. The tables and chairs arranged in the middle spoke of elegance in dark woods and gold colored linens. Paintings of the Sphinx arranged around the restaurant added mystique to the elegance. She could see herself working here.

The décor was nothing compared to the smells coming from the kitchen. Sphinx was the new hot restaurant in San Francisco. She breathed in the decadent smells of garlic, tomato, basil, onion, a bit of curry—totally intoxicating and intimidating all at once.

Then out walked Christian Reilly, the owner and head chef, and if there was any truth to the idea that you could actually go weak in the knees at the sight of splendor, well, Kat experienced it right then and there. An actual physical reaction made her reach out and grab the hostess stand with one hand.

Christian Reilly wasn’t gorgeous in the Brad Pitt kind of way. In fact, to some women he might not even be considered all that great looking. But to Kat he fit right into her beautiful category: hazel eyes, not too tall for her, as she was a petite five-foot-three. Christian had dark hair,—the kind she could run her fingers through—a barely there scruff of a beard, and wrinkles that deepened when he said her name with a slight Irish accent.

When he repeated her name and smiled, the lines around his eyes deepened. A man who had lived a little. Nice. Butterfly, stomach-swirling nice. For a second, she had to make sure she wasn’t licking her lips.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Toast for Murder Book Trailer Contest

The sixth book in The Wine Lover's Mystery Series is now available for pre-order.

For Nikki Sands' fans, here is a little info: The big day is swiftly approaching for Nikki Sands--Manager of the Malveaux Estates in Napa Valley—and her fiancé Derek Malveaux, who owns the winery. But when they start receiving cryptic messages questioning their belief in fate, things quickly turn fatal… As the wedding grows closer, it seems the entire affair is cursed. A chewing gum fiasco forces Nikki to cut her hair and go platinum blonde. Then Derek's old college buddies, along with an assortment of old flames and frustrating family relations, show up to work Nikki's last nerve. But when Nikki's close pal Simon is shot as he walks her down the aisle, Nikki realizes that she has to find a matrimonial murderer before her wedding becomes someone's funeral.

INCLUDES RECIPES & WINE PAIRINGS!

Praise for the Wine Lover's Mysteries: "The full-bodied characters, sweet romance, crisp plot, and dry wit will have you reaching for a refill.”—Jessica Conant-Park

“All the sparkle, complexity, and romance of a fine Champagne.”—Nancy Fairbanks

With the release of the book, I'm running a fun contest that comes with a great grand prize. Here is what you have to do to enter: e-mail a photo of yourself (color or black and white) along with a paragrpah as to why you think you would make the perfect Nikki Sands. Four semi-finalists' photos and paragraphs will then go up on my website where readers can vote on their favorites. Semi-finalists all receive copies of signed books. The winner recieves a three night stay with a guest at a beautiful B&B in Mendocino, Ca (The Redwoods) overlooking the Pacific Ocean for three nights! The winner also receives gourmet breakfasts and wine and appetizers in the afternoon, a wine and food basket, AND she will star in the "Toast for Murder" book trailer!

E-mail entries to NikkiSandsContest@gmail.com Watch the lastest trailer: Corked by Cabernet and visit my website at http://www.michelescott.com to watch all of the book trailers of the series. Good Luck!

Cheers,
Michele

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Writer Lesson Series # 2

I have to apologize for being out of the loop for the past few days for the three of you who read my blog. LOL. Anyway, it's been one of those weeks that went by in a blur and there was a lot to get done.

This post is for the writers out there who have no clue what they want to write, or how to go about it. it's really for anyone who has ever wanted to write but kind of got stuck in the how to. This is actually my lesson plan from yesterday's 8th grade program and it's how I also work with adults when they are just starting out in the process. If this interests you, please start with last week's post on "Writing Like and 8th Grader and Cooking Like a Chef." I will plan on posting "The Writer Lesson Series," on Friday mornings so if you are following the program, then you have some time to do the exercises and build from them.

If you are a teacher and want to use these lesson plans to teach creative writing skills, please feel free to do so.

I hope you enjoy, and if you have any questions, comments, or if you do write out the what if... exercise and then proceed with this one and want to post in the comment section, please do so. Some of this may be elementary for advanced writers. This lesson is intended for anyone just getting started.

Here we go:

Setting a Scene

Books are built from chapters, and chapters are built from scenes, and those scenes are built from your what if questions. When you begin to write your story you will have a clear overall direction of where you want the story to go because you will have a complete outline to work from.

However, before we dive right into writing our stories/books, it’s important to learn the mechanics of scene setting (how does a scene work and what makes it work?).

When setting scenes, you will have a point of view character, at times you may also have a secondary character who could be a supporting character, an antagonist, or another character somehow involved in your story.

Pont of view character will be your main character (protagonist). For your stories/books, you will be staying with one point of view. This will make it much easier to write.

What are the points of view?

First person (I, We)
Second person (you)
Third person (he, she, they)

The first person can have a limited point of view because they only know what is going on from their perspective.

I don’t recommend using second person at all because it’s a difficult p.o.v. to write in, unless you want to use it for short story format or essays.

Third person point of view can be from a close third, which means staying totally in that he/she p.o.v. Or, third person can give you as a writer a little more freedom to be intrusive, which means although you are writing in third person, you can also have the narrator (you—the writer) on board. This is also called omniscient, or some writers refer to it as a God p.o.v., because it can be all knowing.

Narration in scene setting and the use of external and internal process:

Narration can be done from the first person. For instance, here is an example from a book I’m writing currently that is from first person. Here my main character Vivienne is entering the barn and calling out for her pony. I want you to take note of how she describes the barn/scene:

“Hey, George,” I called out as I walked through the breezeway of our barn. The scent of fresh cut hay, soil and horse mixed together made me smile. I can’t imagine how people live in the city. It just could never smell this good! My voice echoed off the metal siding of the white barn. On the way through the breezeway, Charlie, Bravo, Cookie, and Lola stuck their heads out to see me. Our chestnut colored mare Cookie started tossing her head up and down, up and down. “I know, I know. You want a cookie.” I got a real clear image from her of an apple treat, which is what we call “cookies.” That’s how we came up with her name. Cookie adores cookie.

Do you see how when Vivienne describes the barn, she refers to what it smells like? The sound of her voice echoing off the metal siding? Then there are the visuals themselves of the horses, the white barn, etc.

What if I wanted to do a description from third person in scene setting? This is a short scene from another book I have about an eleven-year-old kid who has a gift called audial telepathy and she knows some government secrets that some very bad people don’t want out in the world. By reading this paragraph, where do you think she is?

Bushes scraped against Hope’s legs, scratching them. The smell of sage tickled her nose. She hated that smell—sweet, sour, strong. The teachers burned it all the time in the meditation room saying it was good to clear out any negativity. Negativity? Who were they kidding? They had to burn a lot of sage for that in that stupid place.

The kid (Hope) is running through a wooded area.

In the first scene with Vivienne, I also had her use dialogue to set the scene. She is talking to the horse Cookie, who in her own way is communicating back to Vivienne.

In the second scene, Hope gives the reader what is called an internal. Internals are important to your story because they allow the reader to know what your character is feeling with “telling” them, but rather showing them. For instance can you tell how this character Hope feels about the school she was at? She doesn’t “tell” the reader until the last line when she says that the place was stupid, but the reader knows how she feels about it in the third sentence on. Read it again: The teachers burned it all the time in the meditation room saying it was good to clear out any negativity. Negativity? Who were they kidding?

An internal thought is what the main character Hope is using in this scene. When she thinks that one word “negativity?” the reader is immediately in her direct internal point of view. A internal is always from your p.o.v. character.

An external thought, event or description comes directly from outside the p.o.v character. It is the narrator or (you, the writer) telling the story, or scene.

The bolded lines are Hope’s internals. Everything else is from the narrator/writer:

Hope thought she had them fooled. “Thought” if she played dumb, they’d let her and her mom go. They had with that other kid—Joey Reynolds. Or at least, she saw them all get into a car one day and leave. One of the doctors and a teacher and Joey and his mom. Everyone knew that Joey didn’t have the gift. It didn’t take much or long to figure that out. Did they drop him and his mom off somewhere with a house and a pool and a neighborhood with normal kids who didn’t see or hear or know things that no one else did?


Dialogue in a scene:

For grammar sakes: When you “tag,” your dialogue, I want you to use said, replied, or asked to begin with. We can get tricky later on.

Look at the book you are currently reading to get paragraph formatting down. The key to remember is this:

Each new line of dialogue, when switching characters is a new paragraph.

Example:
“I don’t like fish,” I said.
“Too bad because that’s what we are having,” Mom replied.

When you tag your dialogue with said, asked or replied you will always have quotes around the dialogue, a comma at the end of the sentence and before the quotation.

Another way to “show” the reader who is speaking is through action.

“I don’t like fish.” I stomped my foot.
“Too bad because that’s what we are having.” My mom slammed the refrigerator door and set the fish down on the counter.

When using action after a sentence of dialogue, you will put a period at the end of the sentence and then quotation marks.

The key here is to remember that if you tag with said, asked or replied, use a comma. If an action is going to be used to show the reader who is speaking, you will use a period, question mark, etc.

Homework:

Two exercises. Write a scene (at least two paragraphs) first from first person p.o.v., and then from third person p.o.v.

In the scene, I would like you to have two characters. I want you to use dialogue, and I also want you to show who is talking in at least one of the sequences through action. They need to be two separate scenes. The idea is to get you comfortable with scene building and also to see if you prefer writing in third person or first person.

I want the scenes to have some kind of emotion in them—joy, anger, fear, sadness, etc. They need to evoke a feeling from the reader. I also want you to use more than one sensory in the scene: smell, sound, touch (feel), visual, taste. I would also like you to try and use an internal at least once, and using externals are a given as you will need to give some description to set the scene.

Here are some examples you can use if you need help getting started.

1. A character loses the big play-off game for his/her team, and the coach speaks to him/her afterward.
2. A character is told he has just won something she/he really wanted to win
3. A character discovers that he/she has some sort of magical power
4. A character believes she/he and his/her friend are inside a haunted house
5. A character loses something important to another person and must tell him/her.
6. A character decides to cheat off another student on a test
7. Two characters are lost in the jungle, woods, at sea, etc…
8. Write one of your own using your what if… exercise from last week.

Good luck and have fun!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Animal Menagerie




The Dog Whisperer would come into my home and be totally appalled. Our house is pretty much run by the dogs. The cat seems to have quite a bit of say, too. Throw in a couple of teenagers and an 8 year old and the adults here are screwed. We accept it. It's why I like wine. Not really. A little bit anyway.

We just seriously love the damn dogs, and the cat (I actually have mixed feelings about the cat. She is the first cat I have ever had that I can say is a complete lunatic). The teenagers are okay and the 8 year old so far is pretty cool (I'm waiting until age 12 as I am already somewhat prepared having lived through it twice before--I am of the belief there should be a planet for people aged 13-19. They get sucked up to that planet while their frontal lobes become fully developed where they then understand how to be human again and treat their mothers and fathers like they, too, are human. Then at 19 they can come back home. Oh, they do that anyway).

Back to the dogs. Java our Rhodesian Ridgeback is a gorgeous animal. Ridgebacks were originally bred to be lion hunters. All I can say is that if Java is a lion hunter then I'm freaking Cindy Crawford. The dog is the laziest animal in the world. He can sleep 23 hours a day--and he typically does so on either our bed, the couch or one of the family room chairs. I know--special. I gave up on trying to kick the 120 pound beast off the furniture long ago. I have succumbed to the idea that my furniture will always have that shabby chic look (nice way of saying--crap). I don't think with the dogs that this will ever change. You hear people say that when their kids grow up and move out that's when they'll spend some cash over at Ethan Allan. Not us, because you see we are total animal freaks. There will always be dogs and cats in this house, and knowing me if I could bring the horses in, I'd do that too (if they could be housebroken). I don't think John would be too pleased though on that one. I could see Monty and Krissy (our horses) coming right in. Monty especially would be happy about this.

Mylee is our pound puppy. One Saturday I said to my oldest kid, "Let's go over to the pound and look at dogs." He was game, so we headed on over and Alex (my adult child now. That reality makes me feel old) fell in love with this three month old puppy that was all ears. If you've read any of the Dead Celebs chapters, Mama Cass is based on Mylee. Mylee is black as night and as smart as a fifth grader (I swear she is). Anyway, when I looked at the all eared puppy, I looked back at Alex and said, "Are you sure?" Mylee wasn't quite the cute, little pupy I had in mind. We have no clue what she is--part lab, sheperd, border collie, maybe coyote (maybe all of it). Alex was sure. So, I called up John and tolds him to bring the other kids over. He said, "You're where?"

"Yeah, at the pound and we found a dog we want."

God bless my husband who is also a total animal lover and who didn't tell me I was nuts for just deciding to go and get a dog one day. John and the two other kids showed up and my husband had the same reaction that I did. "That one?"

Alex insisted.

So, we brought Mylee home and we all agree she is the "perfect" dog. Unlike Java she actually understands that she is a dog. When you tell her to get off the couch, she does. Java just looks at you with this stare that says, "Oh please. You know you don't mean it. Come on sit down with me." He is so damn cute, it's hard to make him listen.

Then there is the cat. Holly is a lunatic (another animal Alex chose at the pound). She adores the male folk in the house but when it comes to me, she has no use for me--unless I am asleep and then she will curl up right next to me. I am the one who feeds her! But she doesn't want to be bothered with me. She also doesn't like any other cats. She fights with the poor cat next door and kicked out another cat we had, who decided this house was a loony bin and she moved across the street where there are no kids or dogs. The only cat she tolerated was my old cat Tigger because he was here first. Now that he's gone and she's "top dog" she tolerates no one and nothing sub-standard. She won't even eat dry food. And the wet food she eats has to be a certain kind. Think I'm joking? I'm not. I tried for 3 days to feed her something cheaper and she turned her nose up and walked away every time.

I love the animal menagerie. I really do, athough it does tend to deprive me of sleep at times. Then if an 8 year old decides in the middle of the night to climb in the bed because she's had a bad dream or some other excuse to be with mom and dad, the bed is a zoo. Last night it was Java on one end, Mylee on the other. The kid crawled over me at some ungodly hour and squeezed in, and then when I tried to move, I realized the cat was curled up at my side. I wasn't budging and neither was the pack. I have learned to accept that I am simply not the leader of this pack. I think it's likely the cat.

As I write this in my bed this morning, my Ridgeback is at my feet, spread out, taking up a good share of the bed. Mylee is on one side of me taking up the rest of the bed, and the strange thing is, I probably wouldn't have it any other way. The cat is in the other room irritated with me that I haven't fed her yet. She's basically howling at me. I'm out of her wet food and gave her what was in the cupboard and she's on food strike again. Looks like I'll be heading to the grocery store in a few.

I'm not even going to explain the way the horses are treated. Let's just say that my mare receives accupuncture and chiropractic treatment on a regular basis, and although I could probably use it myself, she comes first.

Are we just plain crazy animal people? Maybe we are just plain crazy? Anyone else out there have a bed full of animals at night?

I'd love to know.

Cheers,

Michele
http://www.equestrianink.blogspot.com

P.S. Don't forget you have two days left to pre-order Happy Hour (link on the right) and receive one of my mysteries along with it. And also, check out my new website at http://www.michelescott.com/. I'm running some awesome contests over the next couple of months--vacation to Mendocino anyone? Wine and food baskets? Books? Come on--check it out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chapter Three cont...Dead Celebs

Here is the rest of chapter three to Dead Celebs. Now, remember when I posted Chapter One and I mentioned that there would be a character in this story who loves to drop the "f" bomb--yeah well, she gets on a roll here. That "stated," this is not for my younger readers, and I pray that none of my 8th graders read this. Remember--it's a character, not me--and this is how this character would act.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think. I love the feedback.

Cass and I offered to lock up that night and although it felt sneaky, we slept in one of the booths inside the bar and I got ready for my first day of work the next morning in the bathroom at Nick’s. I knew that Nick wouldn’t be opening until ten, so I had time to get ready and get out. The one problem was, what was I going to do with Cass? I decided that I didn’t have a choice and I would have to leave her in the van and crack the windows for her. I’d check on her at lunch.

So, I started my new job working at the Nordstrom on La Cieniga at The MAC counter. I liked it. I really did. However, I was exhausted by the third day. Here I was sleeping with my dog in a booth at Nick’s every night, closing the bar for him, and trying hard to get out of there in the mornings before he came in. Then I checked on Cass on my breaks and took her out for quick walks. I hated leaving her in the van all day. I was still trying to find a place but my hours at MAC and then playing at Nick’s weren’t too conducive for finding an apartment.
At the end of the week, I was at my wit’s end and thankful that only two days away and I would have a day off. I was determined to take the first apartment I could find and now that I had two steady jobs I felt reasonably comfortable that I could make it.
I was finishing up for the day. The store would be closing in thirty minutes, which meant that I would be running from the store to Nick’s.

A young woman approached the counter. “Hi. I need a new look. My sister is the gorgeous one and I’m tired of being called cute Brenda. Can you do something for me? Can you make me hot?”

“Well, we are getting ready to close.” I really did not want to do a makeover. I just wanted to get out of there, take care of Cass and eat something before I set up at Nick’s.
“This is important. I need your help. I want to look fabulous for a major party tonight.”

I eyed my boss who was watching me from the behind the cash register and smiled. “Of course I can make you look hot.” Thirty minutes later, and Brenda looked like a movie star. Even my boss said that she couldn’t have done it better. I gave the pixied haired blonde, blue-eyed girl that smoky eye shadow look to bring out the blue blue in her eyes and a soft pink brushed across the cheeks, with just the right peachy pink gloss to give her that pouty kissable look. What I did not know as I rushed out the doors to go to my second job that evening was that Brenda’s look would change my life and my lifestyle in less than twenty-four hours.

Next day back behind the counter, this guy approaches me (scared me half to death, too, because he was all decked out in black, real sleek like, slicked back hair, dark eyes—very Godfatheresque, but handsome in a slime-ball way). He cleared his throat and asked, “Are you Evie Duncan?”

“Who wants to know?” I replied.

He handed me a card with the name “Simone,” written on it. “Simone?”
Cute and slimy replied, “Yes, and I’m Dwight Jenkins and I represent Simone. You know, Simone.”

I took a step back. “Am I on one of those TV shows where y’all have hidden cameras? And are you talking about the Simone?”

“No hidden cameras I can assure you, and yes we are speaking of pop star Simone.”

My head started spinning because it had to be that Simone heard me playing at Nick’s. Maybe Nick really did know people in high places and maybe the producer guy who was coming to listen to me next week was her producer. Oh wow, would Betty La Rue be so proud and my mom and daddy! How had I missed seeing Simone at Nick’s? When had she come in and heard me? She had to have been in disguise. That’s how those celebs do it when they want to go out, they go all incognito.

“You made up her sister Brenda yesterday,” Jenkins said.

“Brenda was Simone’s sister?”

He nodded. “Simone was so impressed by the way you made Brenda look that she would like to meet you.”

“Okay,” I stuttered. “I have to sing tonight at this place called Nick’s. I’m off tomorrow.”

“I don’t think you understand,” he cut in. “She’d like to meet you now.”

“I have a job here. I can’t just leave. I have bills to pay and my dog to take care of.”

Dwight Jenkins called my boss Tisha over. “Evie will not be needing this job any longer. She’s going with me.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I can’t do that.”

“Simone would like you to be her personal makeup artist. The pay will be a bit more than here in the cosmetics department.” He cocked an eyebrow.

“What? Is this for real?”

Tish came around the counter and put her arm around me. “You have to go Evie. Something like this is a once in lifetime opportunity. Do it, girl.”

I hugged her goodbye and followed Jenkins. He escorted me to a limo where waiting inside was Simone and Brenda.

I was speechless as I sat down across from them. Jenkins climbed in the front with the chauffer. Simone smiled. “Thank you for coming.”

As if I had a choice, right? I studied Simone in total awe. She is a true beauty—long blonde hair, big blue eyes, a body men would love to ravish and women would kill for, and she had a voice that had arenas around the country sold out months in advance of her concerts. She was a cross between a younger Madonna and a Mariah Carey. To be sitting across from her was mind blowing and my stomach did this swirly gonna make me puke thing that I hate, and that always happens to me when I get nervous.

“You are so genius,” Simone said to me. She took Brenda’s face in her hands and squeezed, bunching it up like a fat goldfish trying to breathe. “The hottest guy at this party we were at came up to my sister last night and hooked up with her. Her not me, and I was so working it. Have no clue how he didn’t look my way, except for she did look hot. Usually she looks kind of like a dork. A cute dork, but a dork.” She let go of Brenda’s face.

Brenda rubbed her cheeks. “Thanks sis.”

“She was smoking hot and I asked her who did her face and she told me this chick at Nordy’s. I’m like I so have to meet this chick, and well here we are, and guess what? It is your fucking lucky biggest day of your life.” Simone smiled, shiny white teeth—had to have been to one of those teeth whitening places. Teeth are not naturally that white.

“Really?” I asked. “Thank you for the compliment.” I wasn’t sure what to say. I mean, what do you say to someone with an ego the size of Los Angeles itself, who has graced the cover of Vogue and Bizarre and also won a handful of Grammy’s, and talks like a truck driver? I almost had to pinch myself that I wasn’t dreaming, but then the car made a quick turn and Simone spilled her glass of champagne in my lap.

Without an apology, she said, “Yes, really. You are my new personal makeup chick and check this out…” she rolled down the glass between us and the driver. “Harvey, take us over to Blake’s place. I’m gonna show my new makeup chick here,” she glanced at me, “Hon, what the fuck is your name?”

“Evie.”

“Right. Evie, my new makeup chick is getting new digs.” She rolled the window back up.

“I’m confused,” I said. Brenda poured me a glass of champagne. “It’s not even noon. I can’t drink. I don’t drink usually and not before noon, definitely not.”

“First, confusion around my sister happens a lot,” Brenda said.

Simone punched Brenda lightly in the arm. “Ha, ha, so funny. Little sis thinks she’s soooo funny.”

Brenda nodded. “And two…” She held up two fingers, “if you’re hanging with us, which you will be, because big sis doesn’t go far without her makeup and the one who puts it on her, you are going to have to learn to party like a rock star.”

“Drink up.” Simone clinked my glass. “Cheers. Here’s your new home.”

I looked out the window and my jaw dropped. I sucked back the champagne because I just knew this had to be some really weird reality TV show with hidden cameras everywhere. “What do you mean?”

“It’s like this Edie,” Simone started.

“It’s Evie. My name is Evie.”

She waved a hand in my face. “My pal Blake who is this big producer guy, friend of mine, is in Europe for like a year or something stupid like that, and he needs a house sitter. I volunteered Brenda, but she says that she’s afraid of the house and won’t do it.”

“Duh. Place is creepy.” Brenda poured herself another glass of champagne.

“Shut-up,” Simone said. “So part of you coming on board as my makeup chick, you get to live in luxury baby. This place is way cool. Like hot.”

I had to agree with her. Palm trees and an iron gate, kind of had a 60’s retro, Palm Springs look going on. But what was the catch? I mean, was she serious? I could actually live in this place? “Can I bring my dog?”

“You can bring fifty fucking dogs for all I care. What do you say, Edie? You in, makeup chick, or what?”

Evie, Edie, makeup chick, whatever—I didn’t give a damn what she wanted to call me. I was definitely in.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Write Like an 8th Grader and Cook Like a Chef

It's a little late in the day for my post. Sorry to be behind. Wednesdays can be a little disorganized because it's my day to go and teach a very excellent group of 8th graders a writing program I've created. We will work for the year together and each student will write their own book. I've done this program for two years now with 8th graders and I think I learn as much as they do. I love working with kids because they get really involved with the project and their imaginations are amazing. They let go when they discover that I don't give them very many rules in the creative writing process. I've also been fortunate enough to work with Kindergarten and a fifth grade classes last year, and it looks as if I'll be adding third grade into the scheme of things. It's my goal to get kids writing and to enjoy the process of writing stories. Each age group is unique and fun.

Today was all about where stories come from and how we begin to develop them. The initial answer I gave them is that stories are developed from questions and answers. The writer begins asking questions and then he/she develops answers to those questions. That first question always starts with a what if... After that I had them make up 3 lists. The first list is all about a who. A who can be an animal, a fantasy creature, a human (specific or non-specific). Some they came up with were: chef, teenager, dog, doctor, hobbit, etc. Then we went onto the next list and that list involves a problem. For example we had on the board today: no food, hurricane, fighting, leaving something behind, etc. Then the third list was--where: ranch, hospital, fantasy planet, France.

After developing our lists, we then proceeded with basic what ifs, For example: What if a chef left behind something important in France? Okay--thats basic. After that we developed more specifics by asking more questions--what did he leave behind? Where did he leave it? Where is he from? Can he speak French? Why was he in France? Where did he go? What happened next? etc...

Another one they came up with was (and I loved this) What if a doctor couldn't come up with a diagnosis on his patient? (very basic). It then turned into What if a doctor couldn't come up with a diagnosis on his patient in the hospital, and what if the hospital is haunted? That then turned into: What if the doctor couldn't come up with a diagnosis on the patient in the haunted hospital because the patient is actually dead and is the one doing the haunting! I know--Twilight Zone, right? But brilliant! These are thirteen year olds. I so love it.

It's just a ton of fun to see how these kids create. I remind them that writing (and this is for adult writers, too) is simply going back to being that little kid who played with his toys and used his imagination. Now we can use that playful kid to imagine characters and plots and put them on the page.

I hope I can grow this program and nurture kids' imaginations, instead of allowing the TV, video games, computers, etc to rob them of this God given gift. When we don't use our imagination or we aren't creative in some way or another (art, dance, music, sports, etc), we turn a part of our brain off and that scares me. Instead of being an "entertain me, please, world," I hope we can get back to an, "I can entertain myself," state of mind. I won't get on my soap box here, but kids have been given and given for generations and there is nothing wrong with giving to our children, but when it zaps them from being creative, productive human beings, then that is a problem.

Anyway, if you want, I'd love to read any what ifs... you might come up with using this exercise. It's a lot of fun and can actually be a great game to play with your family around the dinner table.

Speaking of dinner, I am giving you a sneak preview of one of the recipes from "Happy Hour." this recipe actually was one that came from my very dear friend Hillarie who lost her battle to breast cancer a few years ago. I still can't make it quite the way she did, but it is delicious and if you like salmon, you will love this. Don't forget that this is the last week you can pre-order happy Hour and also receive one of my mysteries (there's a golden ticket in some of those Happy Hour books--gourmet wine and food basket, etc). Click on link to the right to order. Now get cooking and creating!

Salmon in Miso:

1 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)4 tablespoons light yellow miso (fermented soybean paste)6 tablespoons sugar4 salmon filets (about 5 or 6 ounces each)1 1/2 cups snow peas

Add the mirin, miso and sugar to a small, nonstick saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for three minutes, whisking as it boils to create a smooth miso marinade.

Reserve 1/3 cup of the miso marinade and set aside. Pour the remaining miso marinade over the salmon filets in a gallon zip-lock bag or a shallow dish. Let salmon marinate in refrigerator for at least an hour (or up to 12 hours).
Grill the salmon filets skin side down about 5 inches from the coals or heat for about 14 minutes or until salmon is cooked throughout. You can lightly brown the top of the salmon filets by broiling briefly in your kitchen oven or by gently flipping the salmon filets over and grilling them, flesh side down, for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile to make a miso sauce for the table, add the 1/3 cup of the reserved miso marinade to a small nonstick saucepan and stir in 3 tablespoons fat-free half-and-half and a teaspoon of flour. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce has reached your desired thickness. Also, add snow peas to a small microwave-safe dish with 1/4 cup water, cover and cook on HIGH until snow peas are just tender (about three minutes).

Serve each serving of broiled salmon over a scoop of steamed white or brown rice (if desired) and top with a drizzle of the miso sauce and fan some snow peas on top for garnish.

Serve with Viognier.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chapter Three from Dead Celebs

I'm posting up part of Chapter Three on Dead Celebs today. This is a work in progress, so if you see any typos, mistakes, etc--I apologize in advance. If this is your first time reading from this WIP, please scroll down so you can get the first two chapters in.

Also, don't forget that if you pre-order a copy of "Happy Hour" this week, you'll also receive one of my mysteries (free), both books signed and randomly inside some of the Happy Hour books are coupons where you can send it in and redeem free books and a wine and food basket. Sounds like Christmas! In fact, you and I both know how quickly the holidays sneak up on us. Well, there is no better gift in my opinion than giving a book to someone on your list. Happy Hour is the book to give to your friends, your mother, your daughter (grown ones). And for the kids on your list, get a copy of Zamora's Ultimate Challenge. Right now, there are two local fifth grade classes reading this book for their literature for their first quarter, and the responses I'm getting from these kids are awesome. They love the book! It's a family book that has a lot of fun adventure in it, along with some great lessons. If you have sons who like video games--or daughters who like to read fantasy, then I promise they will enjoy this book. I had one kid who got caught reading past her bedtime with a reading light under her covers! Both books are easy to order--just click on the buttons to the right of the page and there you go--all done. Don't forget to click on over to http://www.lorisreadingcorner.blogspot where you can read partials from Happy Hour this week, plus she has a ton of other great books over there to check out. I also uploaded book trailers at the bottom of this post for Dead Celebs, Happy Hour and Zamora's Ultimate Challenge, so you can take a "look" at the books.

Did I also mention that you won't be charged any shipping this week either?

Okay, I am done trying to sell you books. I hope you enjoy the excerpt from Dead Celebs. Let me know what you think.

CHAPTER THREE

Two weeks passed and I was playing and singing nightly at Nick’s. I’d also learned how to pour a stiff drink or two, and cook up Nick’s extraordinary tacos. The hours were great—six to eleven every night but Monday (bar was closed. Nick said he needed a day off, but I had a sneaking suspicion there was more to it than that. Not sure at all what that was or why I felt it, but I did). The pay wasn’t great. I made eight bucks an hour plus tips, and the tips were, well, a bit meager. Nick’s didn’t exactly attract the big tippers, but the clientele did know how to have a good time, except a few of the regulars who sat slumped on the stools for hours on end.

One guy who went by Mac, I had to rename Mumbles, and it stuck. Mumbles only gave answers to questions or made conversation (if it could be called that) by mumbling. He was a stout old character with deep lines across his forehead and around his eye. Yes, I did say, eye. He was nearly bald and wore an eye patch. As I said, he’s a character. Don’t know how he got the eye patch, but one day I’m sure I’ll decipher that. I think his accent is Irish—I do believe I’ll get that one figured out, too. It just takes some time to be able to translate mumbling.
One evening I slapped him on the shoulder as I came in, guitar strung on my back, Cass tailing me. “Hey, Mumbles. What’s up? How’s it going?”

I think his answer was something like, “Uh, huh, yeah. Good. Hell. Yep. Okay. Don’t know. You?”

I decided to mumble my response, “Me. Too, uh huh. Good. Okay. Think so anyway.”

That was how my friendship began with Mumbles. I think we communicate quite well actually.

Candy who preferred to be called Candace--even though she revealed to me one night that her name was really Candy and not a nickname at all--was also a regular who sat two seats away from Mumbles. I think Candace was once beautiful. She has deep set green eyes, long white blonde hair and a terrific smile when she smiles, but time, a hard life and booze have taken its toll on her. It’s funny what people will reveal after they have a few drinks. I knew all about Candace’s four husbands, hopes of being an actress, her daughter who hadn’t spoken to her in eight years and her cat named Goldy.

And I had learned a bit about Nick himself. He didn’t so much have a ton of show biz contacts as he’d initially indicated. Turns out that Nick was the star of a 1960’s show called “Next Door Neighbors.” He didn’t talk much about it, but I know he played the precocious child on the show.

“How long has it been since you had an acting gig?” I asked during close one night.

He sighed heavily. “Gosh. Long time. I think 1980. Played a bit piece in a The Rockford Files. That was it. Can’t tell you what went wrong, kid, but it did.”

I had a feeling I might have known what went wrong. I’m one to keep my eyes and ears open and I’d noticed Nick on the phone a few times and I over heard him placing bets. Like Mumbles and Candace, Nick liked his liquor too, and something told me his addictions got the best of him. But I wasn’t one to judge. Nick had given me a job and he encouraged me just like Betty LaRue had.

Problem was, the money factor. I loved singing nightly at Nick’s. I loved to sing. Period. And play the guitar. But fifty bucks a night at best was not going to get me far. Cass and I were still holed up in that motel. It stank. It was loud and I was way over it. However, choices were few and far between. I’d been on the apartment hunt on a daily basis. Not much luck with that. Studio apartments in L.A. ran at least twelve hundred bucks a month and then renters wanted first and last month’s rent. On top of that most didn’t rent to dog owners and if they did, they wanted at least a month’s worth of cash for the deposit. You do the math. Yep. That five grand was looking like chump change.

Late at night, lying on the creaking, uncomfortable motel bed with Cass, I found myself in tears. Cass scooched closer to me and licked my hand practically off. She knew I was sad. When the tears didn’t stop coming, she stood and licked my entire face dry (so to speak). I couldn’t help but start laughing, which only wound Cass up even more as she twirled in a circle, her tail swinging back and forth wildly and smacking me in the face with each twirl. “Easy girl. Easy. Stop. Stop it.” I laughed even harder, and then a knock at the door made me stop. Midnight. I’m in a dumpy motel room and a knock at my door. Thank God I had Cass. However, Cass started barking and the knocking grew louder. Uh oh. “Just a minute,” I yelled. “Cass, stop, stop, shhh.”

“This is the manager. Open up the door. Do you have a dog in there?”

“No. No. It’s the TV.”

“Open this door, or I will call the cops.”

I closed my eyes and cringed. “Cass get down, “I whispered. “Down.” She growled. Not at me, but at the door, and usually my dog minds me, but come on, it was midnight and the voice on the other end did not sound happy. I got her off the bed and locked her in the bathroom. I cracked the door and there stood the manager—ugly, overweight, spectacled and in a wife beater and grey sweats. “Hi.” I put on my best fake smile. “Is there a problem?”

He crossed his arms. “You have a dog here.”

“No. It’s the TV. Animal Planet channel.”

“We don’t get the Animal Planet Channel. And the dog is scratching on the bathroom door. I’m not deaf. Plus the maid saw you with the dog. You need to get out.”

“What?”

“No dogs. No cats. No birds. No lizards. No pets! Get out.”

“Now?”

“Did I stutter?”

“I, I can put her in the van for the night.”

“Nope. Out. Bye bye.” He wiggled his pudgy fingers at me. “You got ten minutes.”

I slammed the door in his face and could hear him say, “I’m charging you for the night as well. I can’t rent the room until it’s fully cleaned and debugged, which I’ll charge you for.”

I swung the door back open. “You can’t do that.”

“Read your contract, honey. I can. No pets. Pets have fleas and I am running a nice place here. I can’t allow someone to stay in this room after a dog has been in it.”

“My dog does not have fleas.” She probably did. I have seen one or two on her, but seriously, this guy was not running the Ritz Carlton by any stretch of the imagination.

“Credit card on file will be charged for fumigation. Good night. You now have eight minutes.”

I slammed the door again, sighed, had no time to cry, and took Cass out of the bathroom. I quickly threw my things into my suitcase and Cass and I left the motel without a clue as to where we would go.

We drove around for thirty minutes with me in a daze and Cass curled up in the back seat. I finally decided the best idea would be to park in a residential area and just get up early in the morning and move. I found a quiet street that was well lit, parked and climbed in back with my dog. Was this how people wound up on the streets? I couldn’t go back home. Not after all the faith Betty had in me, and I didn’t want to prove to my dad that I couldn’t make it on my own. I also didn’t want to wind up on the streets pan handling with Cass, looking sad and desperate. I could ask Nick for more money. I could ask him if I could work the day shift, but I knew that wouldn’t work either. Nick had hired a nice man to bartend during the day. His name was Juan and he had three children to take care of because his wife was very ill. I could not do that and I knew that Nick did not have the money to pay me more. I also knew that I didn’t want to give up the singing. It was all I had besides Cass and she counted on me.

I put a blanket over me and Cass and eventually I slept, only to be woken as the sun came up with someone mowing the lawn. Who mows their lawn at seven in the morning? It didn’t matter. I needed to move anyway before the neighbors wondered about the beat up van with the homeless lady and her dog inside it. Reality hit me then that we were living out of my van. Reality also hit that I needed a shower. I was determined today was the day I got a day job and found a new place for me and Cass.

I washed up and put on some war paint inside a McDonald’s restroom and got me and Cass a couple of egg McMuffins. I put U2 into my tape player. I needed to update and upgrade to an Ipod but the tape player still worked, and I played Beautiful Day, singing all the lyrics as Cass howled out along with me.

Full stomach, sort of clean and an attitude adjustment by none other than Bono himself, and I was ready to take on the day. Little did I know what was in store for me. By eleven o’ clock I received a phone call from Nordstrom. They needed a new MAC girl! For the record, MAC is the best, the best makeup in the world. Everyone who is anyone wears MAC. Madonna wears MAC. I don’t, but that’s because I can’t afford to wear MAC, but thank my lucky stars that my mother took such great pride in teaching me how to make up my face and hers and everyone else’s who lived in Brady. And we didn’t do gaudy. We seriously tore pages out of the fashion magazines and immolated the faces on those pages, and I gotta say that although I don’t wear much of the stuff myself, I’m good at putting it on others. I jumped on it. I was going to get this job. I almost got the van up to sixty on the freeway. It was shaking.

I walked in, tried to be as sophisticated as possible wearing all black because black is the MAC theme and I got hired. I did. That night I celebrated at Nick’s with a glass of cheap Merlot and a hamburger.

Nick toasted me. “You’re on your way, kid. You are, and speaking of, I have a guy who is a producer. One of the best, coming in next week to hear you.”

“Really? Who?”

“Can’t say, but I can tell you he’s the man and I told him you were terrific. He’s excited to meet you.”

“Great,” I said but a little uncomfortable that Nick wouldn’t tell me who the guy was. Why the secret? Why the mystery? But that was Nick. Sort of a mystery himself.

Nick held up his beer and hollered, “Everyone…” (everyone consisted of Mumbles and Candace and three other people I didn’t know), “Cheers to Evie. She got a great new job today and she’s going to be the next music sensation!”

Mumbles stood up then and mumbled something like, “Evie, good deal girl. The best. Good girl.”

“To Evie,” everyone sang out.

Maybe this was the City of Angels of after all.


Monday, October 12, 2009

My Favorite Celeb

I know that I'm a bit "eclectic." I suppose that is a nicer term than weird, but I'm a writer and many of us (I think) are a tad "eclectic." For example, on my bedside table you will find my Mother Mary and Baby Jesus paperweight (my middle child bought me for Mother's Day at the swap meet last year), the little Buddha set in jade (got them at one of those tables on a corner in NYC), there is a little change thing in the shape of a pretty butterfly, and another one of a frog, then on the lower shelf are my kitty Tigger's ashes, and then there is my Gwen Stefani Bratz doll (she does not share Tigger's shelf) Yes--you read that correctly. All of it. Go ahead, go back and re-read and shake your head at me.

Remember the other day if you read the blog that I was going to tell you who my favorite celebrity is? Well, I am certain you have all been waiting with baited breath through the weekend to find out and you can now obviously figure out that if I have a Gwen Stefani Bratz doll on my bed side table that I think she's rad. I know rad is so old school, but I am old school.I want to be Gwen because then I would be maried to Gavin Rossdale and I would look great with red lipstick on (which I so look like hell with red lipstick on) . I could also pull off that platinum blonde hair and I'd have a rockin body and my bank account would reflect a whole lot more than it does now. I don't think Gwen is afraid to answer the phone because the cable company wants their cash. Plus, I would be mega talented. Did I mention Gavin Rossdale? That is not to put down my husband, who I am positive would not mind one bit being married to Gwen Stefani.

When did this love affair of mine start with Gwen? Well, I honestly wasn't like this major fan until about three years ago when a good friend of ours called and said he had tickets for her pre-concert for family and friends (in the 4th row). I was in--free night out, 4th row tickets--yeah. Then Gwen hit the stage and I was like, "Oh my God." That chick (and I mean chick in every positive sense of the word) is awesome. She puts on a show like nobody's business, and to me she embodies WOMAN. She's strong, tough and she's also feminine. All I can say is that when I'm feeling a bit low, I pick up my Gwen doll and get my Gwen on. I even bought her L.A.M.B. perfume, which smells amazing. My daughter and I love to blast "I'm Just a Girl" on our way out to the horses. It's our theme song. I know, I'm teaching my 8 year old great things.

So, there you have it. My favorite celeb. Now I want to know who your favorite celeb is.

Check out Gwen and No Doubt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ygqew4RxIg8&feature=fvw

Cheers,
Michele

P.S. Don't forget to stop over at http://www.lorisreadingcorner.blogspot.com/ where you can win a copy of Happy Hour, plus she's posting up chapters of the book (free chapters so you can try before you buy), and for this week (and this week only) all pre-orders will receive a copy of one of my mysteries AND (Wait--there's more!) some lucky winners will find inside their copy of Happy Hour a coupon detailing how they can receive free books for their book club AND (Wait--there's still more) gourmet goodies. Head on over to Lori's Corner now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy Hour

Okay, okay. I did not plan to post today, but I am taking time out from the housework to make an announcement.

I have a new book now available for pre-order. the official release date is November 5th, but order now because this is a special, limited edition. In the back of the book there are book club discussion questions, an interview with the author (oh that's me) and some cool offerings for book clubs.

The book is currently available for those of you who have a kindle. http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Hour/dp/B002RL9KRO/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1255200745&sr=1-8

Also, readers have an opportunity to win a copy over at Lori's Reading Corner http://www.lorisreadingcorner.blogspot.com. Lori will be posting a chapter a day of the book over at her blog, so readers will be able to read the first several chapters, and I will be posting up some tidbits about the book as well throughout next week, including some of the recipes that are in the book.

Lori has a great blog and was the first reviewer to read the book. Here is her review:

Every woman has that group of friends in her life ~ her "go to girls" The friends that she can turn to who "get it." The ones who are there for you no matter what. The ones who laugh with you and cry with you. The ones that will always be there. These are the women of Napa Valley.

Jamie is the editor-in-chief of Wine Lover's Magazine, a single mother and caretaker to her senile mother-in-law ~ a woman who thinks her daily caregiver is Dean Martin. Jamie is still recovering, financially and emotionally from the death of her husband several years earlier. And when she finds what could be the key to happiness, can she open the door and let it in? Or will her feelings of guilt and betrayal hold her back?

Danielle is a vintner and the divorced mom of two. She's basking in what she knows is going to be a successful launch of her new wines. Wines she created on her own after her divorce. But what she doesn't expect is for her daughter to come home with news that will shock her to her core. Will an old flame help her accept the changes that are coming and find the love she's been missing in her life for so long? Or will a tragedy that no one sees coming change their lives forever?

Kat is a sommelier, co-owner of a magnificent restaurant with her chef husband, and mother of a blended family. But is being deeply in love with your husband enough to get them through the teenage years, step-children and exes? And what happens when old faces return and she's faced with the knowledge that not everything is what you thought it was. What happens when she finds she was mad at the wrong person and finds out the "right one" was in the wrong? Can she forgive and move on? Can love overcome everything and truly bring a family together?

Alyssa is an artist and gallery owner with a secret of her own. One she was hoping would stay buried deep in her closet. But the time has come for her to put someone else first, to face the past and to deal with her demons. What she never expected to find was love and her "home."

No matter what is going on in their own lives, no matter the heartache or joy they're experiencing these four women are always there to love, support and encourage each other.

This book is a clear example of the power of friendship and how it can last through the years. You will laugh with them and you will cry with them. It's the story of true and lasting friendships. It's the type of friendships that every woman should experience and a story we can hopefully all relate to. I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Can’t say that enough. It is an amazing, beautiful book and I can’t wait to share it with my friends!!! A MUST READ!