Saturday, August 31, 2013

When it Rains....

I drive a piece of junk, but it's my piece of junk and the hubby had an incident with it. It had been raining quite hard and some roads flooded and unless you had an ark, driving was sketchy. The Darling Man who works midnights found himself suddenly in a lot of standing water with the piece of junk. Of course the aforementioned junk stalled out not wanting to restart no matter how much coaxing, kind words or the promise of better higher priced 'engine cleaning' fuel would flatter it into turning over. He had no choice, it had to be towed.
Now I am the one in the family that worries about money. I know where every penny goes to what bills and what costs what. My father used to say that I am so cheap I would squeeze a nickel just to hear the buffalo squeal. He was hilarious.
Buffalo Nickel for my readers under 50
Buffalo Nickel for my readers under 50
Now I admit I'm the Scrooge at Christmas time since I'm the one who sets the limit on how much we spend. Birthdays for me are also no surprise. I know how much he's going to spend before even he has time to think about it thanks to real time banking apps. Ah the technology for the obsessed! Now it's not that he can't handle money, I just believe I'm better at it. His approach to money is a day to day enterprise with no thought to the future. I on the other hand obsess about the future of our money which makes for sleepless nights and heartburn. I don't recommend it!.
My inner Ebenezer Scrooge
My inner Ebenezer Scrooge
Something in my genetic makeup won't allow me to relax on the subject. Leave it in the hands of God I hear all the time and for the most part I believe that. For the most part. I have another theory, checks and balances with a little karma thrown in. After recently purchasing a few items for myself that I would describe as wants not needs, I got sick with a flare up of an ongoing medical issue that put me out of work for a week and I will not get paid for it. Now the piece of junk is in the repair shop awaiting diagnosis and an estimate it's little rain bath is going to cost us. My self deprecating brain has reared it's nasty head and had told itself this all happened because I wanted a new purse!

 [ krmÉ™ ]
  1. actions determining future state: in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, the quality of somebody's current and future lives as determined by that person's behavior in this and in previous lives
  2. atmosphere: the atmosphere radiated by a place, situation, person, or object
  3. destiny: destiny or fate
Searching yet again for answers to the question of was it the purse purchase? The universe took pity on me and pointed something out. I read something my pea brain recognized as profound. Money is a game, don't argue over it. Learn how to play the game together.

Wow, my limited synapses started to fire up and absorb the simple message! my marriage may be saved yet! OK my marriage was never in danger and I'm a drama queen I know, but the anger I felt at him for dunking the piece of junk in a flooded street like a donut in coffee, thinking in that ever present man brain of his that he could just drive through it, lingered on. Then my own anger at myself, if I had just not gotten the purse which started this ball rolling in the first place!

Was it really the purse? or just the universe messing with me? reminding me that obsessing over something as common as money is a waste of time. Crap is going to happen and happen when we least want it. Let's be honest no one plans ahead of time to have crap happen, that's why it's crap. My misplaced blame on him for causing the local flood of biblical proportions is unreasonable of course and then there's the old saying that popped into my insignificant thought pattern. This to shall pass and a new purse is a woman's right, like new shoes!
Simple lessons for life's woes.

I also need to stop calling the car a piece of junk. I think it's feelings get hurt. Seriously, calling it that sends a message to the universe that I want just that, a piece of junk so from here on out it will be called the Glorious Chariot!

Now you'll have to excuse me while I make an apology breakfast and teach the Darling Man a new game.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I am a serial complainer

My name is Joi and I'm a serial complainer.
Last October to celebrate the release of our first book,The Body Hunters, Von and I decided to go out to dinner. We went to a popular chain restaurant with a couple friends and our editor, Reggie. Now Reggie is blind (blind people have it going on by the way) and she had her guide dog, Brooks, who now is happily retired and lives with Von. I had some errands to run that day, so I showed up a little while after everyone else arrived.
When I get there, Von is talking about cutting a broad and she didn't say broad, I'm just keeping it PG. She's got her purse open and she's pulling out her scalpel, piano wire, and other tools of mayhem. I ask her what's wrong and she says the ignorant heifer of a hostess threw a hissy fit when Reggie walked in with Brooks. The girl screamed at them about how they couldn't come into the restaurant with pets. Von explained that Brooks, who's clearly on a harness for guide dogs is not a pet. Then the girl starts talking about how she hates dogs like they just walked in with a pit bull. Long story short, the girl made this blind, breast cancer survivor feel like she wasn't welcome in the establishment. I told Von to calm down, just let me shoot the corporate headquarters an email and all would be fine.
I sent the company an eloquently worded email that evening explaining the situation. A couple days later I got an email back from corporate and from the restaurant manager who assured me the situation would be taken care of. They even sent $25 worth of gift cards just to make it right. But they weren't fooling me, Reggie had a potential lawsuit, but we weren't interested in going that route. The gift card was fine. A few months down the line Von and her husband Ray go to the restaurant with the gift card and the waitress asks how they got it. Von explains what happened and the waitress said that the offending hostess was fired for that incident. Problem solved.
I have a habit of stopping almost daily at a chain of gas stations, right around the corner from work. Tuesday I went in and over hear one of the cashiers asking her manager if she can leave early. He says no, there's too much to do at the store. Not thinking anything more of it, I say Hi to one of the workers there who knows me as a regular. My mother's a dialysis patient the same as her boyfriend, so we happened to see each other at the Kidney Walk. We catch up and I grab my stuff and go to pay for it. Now the manager is outside grabbing trash, leaving the girl who couldn't get home early to ring up customers. She's taking her sweet time putting money in the safe, while the number of customers waiting in line behind me is multiplying. I've had enough attitudes in my life to know one when I see one. She's pissed because she couldn't leave, she's gotta work the rest of her shift and doesn't care if customers have to wait. As if for verification of the state of her attitude, she starts ringing my stuff up without a word and says nothing to me until she gives me my total.
I go to work and marinate on that situation and get a little irritated. I've worked customer service for years and know that you don't take out your frustrations on your customers. Like I did in the previous situation, I got home and sent an email to corporate. The next day they sent an email back and today I got a call from that store manager. Now he was very apologetic and didn't want to lose me as a customer. I assured him I just wanted him to know about the behavior and like always I went there to gas up before work.
If you never speak up, how do people know they're doing wrong? I'm not saying do it every time, your power to complain should be used sparingly, otherwise you're a nuisance. You don't have to be nasty and go on an expletive loaded tirade. If you have a complaint, it goes a lot smoother with courteous words. Your comments don't even have to be all negative. If you get outstanding service, the road goes both way. Let the person know you like how they did XYZ.
If I spend money somewhere and I don't get the service or the quality I pay for, then I have the right to complain. If I don't tell a manager right then and there, then I'm going to send an email to their HQ to get it rectified. Now being a complainer doesn't mean I just go around woe is me I hate my life, I hate my job. See that's getting into the realm of being a crybaby and nobody likes a crybaby.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Multiculturalism in dogs

Does my Labrador Retriever know that he is? do my Chihuahua's know that they are just that?  At what point do we go from being proud of our culture and ethnicity to ethnocentrism? That we devalue all others and exclude people and other ways of life.
The line is fine and easily crossed. Those of us who are blessed enough to live in melting pot areas of the country like I am, that can find Arabic bakeries and Asian markets along with Polish and Italian meat markets, Soul food restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Indian food and everything in between (My taste buds should never get bored) have an opportunity to enjoy many cultures without ever having to get on a plane. Now you would think that with all these ethnicities I live in a utopia where everyone gets along. Yeah, no! I have heard phrases like 'marry your own culture' and witnessed people who will not talk to you because even though they are living in the land of a really humongous statue that says 'Bring me your huddled masses', huddle only with their own. Birds of a feather.......
My Labrador is yellow and weighs 80 pounds. He is a retired Guide Dog for the Blind. He is smart, playful and loves guessed it....retrieve. He still tries to Guide on occasion forgetting that he is retired and I am not blind. So I wonder what is his culture? Guiding was taught to him so that is not part of his culture, that was his job. Maybe  retrieving, killing and destroying toys is part of his true culture. (hover your mouse over the pictures)
brooks (2)
Brooks the ex-Guide dog toy destroyer
My Chihuahua's were there first and Brooks had to adjust to their way of life, much like the Chi's had to adjust to feline culture when they arrived. The Turkish Angora's (Yes we are a multiracial feline/canine household) showed the then 1lb puppies the ropes and how things were done in their feline Arab American household. They grew up speaking cat and had an overwhelming love of them even though cat was not in their DNA.
Cat culture
Cat culture
Brooks never got a chance to learn the ancient and honorable feline culture from the elder statesmen of the feline tribe since all the cats have passed on, but the Chi's have done their best to educate and depart the time-honored feline knowledge and culture of their feline Arab American brothers and sisters to him. Sleeping anywhere he pleases is one of his favorite adopted cat culture activities he's learned.
Now Chihuahua's it's been rumored are not descendants of wolves but from Fennec foxes from Mexico. An interesting theory because that would mean over the many years Chihuahua's have been human's pocket companions we have been forcing a domestic canine culture and silly clothes on a native desert animal. Sound familiar in human history? Do my Chi's tolerate domesticated wolf culture, sparkly shirts that say grrrl power or tuxedo t-shirts for the boy Chi, or do they pine for the desert life of their ancestral homeland? That would explain the burrowing in blankets and sunning themselves in 90 degree temps while their much larger canine companion enjoys air conditioning. Labs are after all from Newfoundland not as the name might imply Labrador, where colder temps are normal.
bindi cheech
Psst! We're actually foxes!
fennec fox 2
Yo no soy un perro! (I am not a dog!)
My 4 legged household companions can teach us all a lesson in diversity and getting along. Enjoying and learning from each other's differences and recognizing that we all share in one universal culture, human culture. We all want ultimately the same things, family, faith, love, a nice place to live and enough to eat, a bright future for our children and to be able to carry on our legacy through them, plus small dogs to dress up. Be proud of who you are and the heritage you came from, take the positive lessons of your ancestors and the good things of your culture and move them forward, share them with others and enjoy the diversity and history of another. Mix it up a little, I'm a firm believer in once you learn about it, you end up respecting it and your world is a richer place for it.
Then again maybe I'm being Pollyanna. (an excessively or blindly optimistic person.)
Part of Chihuahua culture is staring, giving off subliminal messages till you give up the coveted object. Something they learned from their feline Arab American upbringing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Beef with Disney Princesses

Last night my coworker and coauthor Von started telling me about a Yahoo News story she found about Jennifer Hudson taking a photo dressed as Disney Princess Tiana. I proceeded to rant about my issues with The Princess and the Frog and all the things I found wrong with it. Von laughs and said if you feel that way, blog about it. So here I am.

When I first heard that Disney after so many decades was introducing its first black princess the little girl in me screamed with glee. Finally a princess that looks like me! I wasn't the only one who was ecstatic.  I saw all the news reports about little black girls who were excited, going to the theater dressed up in their costumes and sparkly tutus. Even though it may have seemed like a trivial event, for little black girls it was historic. We were finally being recognized.

I finally sat down to watch the movie and my initial reaction was: What the hell is this? We waited all these years for this garbage?

Now my issue isn't with Tiana. She's a hardworking sister and I love her to death. She works hard to make her dreams come true, which in the real, non-Disneyized world is a great lesson. I think Disney did a good job with how her character was portrayed. My issue isn't with her, it's with the loser they decided to hook her up with.

It felt like they went to the Disney vault of bad qualities and just grabbed a handful. Prince Naveen was broke because he was so trifling and irresponsible that his royal parents disinherited him. He was a womanizer and spent part of the movie chasing after Tiana's BFF and surrounded by groupies. He was lazy and not to mention narcissistic. This is the first black Disney princess and they set her up with this douchebag? As my dear departed Grandmother would say, he ain't worth two dead flies. What are they saying about black women? We're going to eventually end up with a loser like this? What happened to our Prince Charming?

Now of course at the end of the movie everything is set right and Prince Naveen has totally changed his ways, but c'mon. Leopards really don't change their spots. How long after the credits roll before Tiana catches Naveen with Belle or he starts trying to pull on Rapunzel's extensions? How long before Sleeping Beauty shows up for a paternity test and yelling about child support? Nah, I don't think so.

Historically most heroes and princes in Disney lore have been pretty bland with a few rare exceptions. I would rather have had a prince who's just window dressing then the hot mess Tiana was stuck with. She isn't the only minority princess who was stuck with a loser. Look at middle eastern Princess Jasmine who was stuck with Aladdin; a liar, thief, and a con artist who'd escaped from death row.

Now I'm not throwing down the race card and yelling Uno, I think Disney made a good attempt at giving their audience what they wanted. I just ask that when they decide to give us the second black Disney Princess, they put a little more thought into who she marries.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Stop Reading Girly Books!

My co-author Von's brother, a grizzled ex-Detroit detective recently completed The Body Hunters Paradise Denied and gave his critique. Being a sixty something year old male with decades of police experience he had issues with the mystery aspect of the story and an issue with the way the romance between the main characters, Danielle and Aiden played out. He especially took issue with the pet names. Von called me one evening after work and told me what he had to say.

Being used to getting good feedback from our mostly female fanbase I went through the three stages of emotion after a critique. First I wanted to fix the problem. Maybe we did something wrong. Oh my God, I've gotta go back and fix the problem. How many copies are out there? How long will it take me to do another rewrite and submit it to Amazon?

The next stage was me being defensive. He doesn't know what he's talking about! How dare he tell us about our book! We read and reread our book dozens of times and it was perfect!

The last stage was anger. Who does he think he is? What makes him an expert? What's he doing reading girly books in the first place? You want a real police book go read a John Sandford novel and get outta my face!

I went to bed with his critique on my mind and it kept me up for a little while. The next day, I gave his opinion some more thought and picked it apart. Okay, for the next novel we'll pay more attention to the police aspect. Writing a book about two psychics who solve mysteries, we make every effort to follow the law and police protocol; Von was a paralegal in a former life and she's the expert on such matters. If she doesn't know the answer than that's what research is for. Since the book takes place in the real world, we're as close to the law as can be, but in the interest of the story we may bend a few rules, but its all plausible.

Now as far as the romance, I can't help him and he's outta luck. If you don't like Danielle being called 'Nani' and Danielle calling Aiden 'Big Daddy' then you need to be reading something else. Though its a paranormal mystery series, their relationship is the heart and soul of our books and that's what the readers love. Each book's mystery is what brings them together for them to have their relationship drama.

As if for vindication, that very same week, a couple of our readers told us how much they loved our sucker punch ending. The mystery, which kept them guessing until the very end was another reason their eyes were glued to the pages. We have another reader, who is half way through who keeps pestering us with questions and her hypothesis about how things are going to end and of course she's very wrong. To sum it up, our intended audience loves it, and is begging for more. While I appreciate Von's brother who has supported us with both novels, his opinion isn't the end all be all of our publishing career. As long as the people we write the book for enjoy it, I'm just fine with that. In the publishing business you can't cater to everyone. Besides, he shouldn't be reading girly books anyway.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Are Manners and Chivalry Dead?

When I was coming up, my mother instilled in me and my siblings, proper etiquette and manners. Please, Thank You, No Thank You, Excuse Me, Pardon Me and all those other niceties are ingrained in my brain. There are some subjects that shouldn't be talked about in public. I'm by no means bragging but i also have the good manners not to belch, foul language isn't in my vocabulary (even though the characters I write use expletives at times), clean up after myself, and over talk another person. If you see someone carrying something, man, woman, whatever, hold the door open for them. Taking the lessons she taught me, sometimes I'm aghast when I run into people who don't follow the same code of respecting and being courteous to others.

This blog came about because I was at the movies earlier today to see The Butler with my mother and sisters. The lights are dim and the theater is playing commercials until the trailers start. Mom is in the aisle seat and I'm about six seats from her with my sisters in between. A woman comes up the stairs carrying popcorn, nachos, and a large drink and trips up the stairs. She falls and drops her food and drink. Are you okays are going all around and a guy comes down from above us and helps her. The bystanders recommend she replace her food, which she does. The man who I assumed was also a bystander is really her 'man' if that's what you want to call him, takes the drink and heads back to his seat. STOP the record.

Okay, it's bad enough that this poor woman was carrying all this stuff by herself, while the man who's probably snoring in her face every night is sitting on his butt, waiting on her to bring it. But the lady fell, probably hurt her knee and is embarassed and this Neanderthal sends her to get more food while he's relaxing in his reclining stadium style chair. Okay, he may not be the most chivalrous guy, I'll give him that. Go ahead and take chivalry out of the equation. Common decency would be for him to say: Hey honey, have a seat don't worry about it. I'll go replace the food. Needless to say, I was hoping she would take that as a lesson, get in her car and leave his trifling behind at the movies snackless. Unfortunately she did come back with new snacks. All I have to say is God bless her. Hopefully she wakes up one day.

That incident got me thinking about the lack of manners I see in people today, from the young to the old. I've been in stores sometimes and have some old lady just breeze right by me without so much as a pardon me. Or last week at the office I swipe my badge and open the door for some guy to basically try to bum rush me to get through. Hello! I opened the door for me, not you! There's the girl at the office who drinks pop all day and proceeds to belch out loud when the need arises. Okay enough of that! How about my coworker who sits at my desk when I'm off and leaves questionable hair on my desk and coffee rings? Nasty. Or I'm taking my break and overhear an overly loud cell phone conversation involving a boyfriend visiting a strip club, punching his girlfriend in the eye and her shooting him in the chest. Okay TMI. I do not need to know this.

Having grown up with my mother's lessons and going out seeing all this around me causes something of a sensory overload. Bad manners and poor etiquette are everywhere, making me grateful that I do know better. It doesn't matter if etiquette and manners are a thing of the past in today's world, I'm still going to hold myself at a high standard. Maybe me holding the door open for an old lady or saying thank you when the waitress brings my dinner will pass on the lesson.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Those Lovable Bad Boys

What is it about fictional bad boys that they can do no wrong in women's eyes? What is it about the Han Solos and the Eric Northman's in fiction that women can't get enough of them?

I finally got a chance to sit down and talk with one of our readers, Karen, who'd completed The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied a couple weeks ago. Since I'd been on vacation from work I didn't get a chance to get her opinion on what she thought. Without revealing too much about the story line, secrets between the two main characters are exposed. Karen goes on to tell me how the main character, Danielle was totally in the wrong for what she kept hidden from the hero, reformed former player Aiden. It surprised me because I thought she would at least take the woman's side in the argument. The gist I got from my conversation with Karen was that if Danielle couldn't treat Aiden right, then she would. Yeah, we're talking about fictional characters, but this is the type of vibe I got and Karen isn't the only one.

The opinions we've received about our good looking, rogue have ranged from an 'I'd do him!' to him being called 'sexy' and every thing under the moon. He's the right combination of dangerous and loveable, with a little salty language mixed in. Even though the character is nothing but a compilation of ones and zeroes on a computer screen, women love him.

I think the attraction stems from the idea of the bad boy being able to be reformed, something that isn't necessarily true in real life. If you meet a bad boy in real life, most of the time your best bet would be to turn around and run because you're in for nothing but heartbreak. Most people aren't that easy to change, which is why women love their fictional heroes. They can live vicariously through the pages of the book or on the television. The sexy scoundrel is their fantasy come to life.

I'm all about giving the people what they want and the jury has spoken, but as a writer I have my responsibility to keep the story fresh and unpredictable. So I tell Karen and the rest of our superfans to keep reading, we have some plans for Aiden Stone in the next few months.

How Much is Too Much?

Last week while in the midst of writing the third book of The Body Hunters Series we had the discussion of how far we really wanted to delve into our mythology. Though our series is about a pair of detectives with extraordinary abilities which they use to solve mysteries; at its heart our story is about two unique people working together while trying to sort out the difficulties of their relationship. What we had in mind was creative and would have made for an interesting story, but was it so far into paranormal mythology that it would turn off the readers?

As an example we referenced the HBO series True Blood. Though I'm late getting into the series, starting halfway through Season 5, the common complaint I hear about it is that they got too convoluted. People miss the earlier episodes when it was a scandalous supernatural tale about who hooked up with whom. I can say the same about a show I enjoyed during its first season ABC's Revenge. The first season was simple; a young woman with a list of names going after the people who wronged her. The second season of Revenge was too far removed from the simple concepts of season one. I gave up watching halfway through and to date have yet to even watch the second season finale.

Keeping these lessons in mind, we decided to scale back on the storyline we were planning. Though the storyline is still present, it's not an all encompassing plot like we originally planned.

While it would have been a compelling story with deeper supernatural elements, we listen to our readers first and foremost. Though our superfans enjoy the paranormal activity that brings our characters together, the thing they enjoy the most is the human connections and relationships. We don't want to alienate our readers by introducing concepts that are too out there. So using these TV shows as examples of what happens when you don't give your fans what they want, we decided to ramp up the drama and a little boom-chica for good measure.