My Crazy Life – Beginning July 26, 2011 – Lucy paints the Cathedral


            Tuesday, I hosted bookclub at my house. I would love to tell you all about it, but then, I’d have to kill you. What happens at book club stays at book club. Them’s the rules!

My best friend, Jessica, has been making a To Do list for the year. One of those to do’s was a painting class. Me, being me (Lucy) means I have been along for the ride on some of these adventures (remember New York City.)

Our Masterpieces

So, when she mentioned painting, I said, “Sure, why not?” We walked into the store, grabbed our canvases, found an easel, and looked around thinking what the heck are we doing here! Did we really think that by the end of the night, we were doing to walk out of there with a painting of the St. Louis Cathedral (that we had painted?)

The class turned out to be quite interesting. The pictures were base sketched and we painted, shaded, and outlined to our heart’s content.

My Canvas

If I stand at the far side of the room and squint, I think I did a pretty good job. However, it does resemble the Cathedral in the aftermath of a hurricane and in need of repair, but it will work.

I was born a Lucy, so “Lucy” moments are nothing new for me. But, Jessica decided to have one for herself after painting class.

Jessica’s Canvas

I found it very entertaining and warned her “payback’s a bitch”. She has enjoyed her share of my “Lucy” adventures and laughed right along side of me. It was now my turn.

As we rounded the corner of the shopping complex and headed to what looked like an exit, it was my turn to yell, “This is not an exit.” As we rolled to an abrupt stop (seatbelt check) before a gigantic mud puddle, Jessica’s defense was, “It could be an exit. It at least connects with a shell road where as you were heading over a curb!” A curb was just a technicality, that’s all I’m saying. Life is always an adventure (no matter which one of us is driving.)

Up and Coming Artists?

I know everyone is wondering what The Princess and the Pea have been doing. I have re-named them. Ryka is always so lady-like, but that Calypso (Princess) is always getting into trouble, the Pea. Well, Hubby bought a utility trailer this past week. Not a big deal, well, it really is, but that’s not the point. I walked outside the other night and rang the bell to announce their dinnertime (stop laughing, they are well trained!) and I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye. The Princess and the Pea were sitting on the trailer like two queens. Funny how children and puppies play the same.

Hope you enjoyed the visit.

 

Donna “Lucy”


Hoda – How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee

By Hoda Kotb with Jane Lorenzini

Hoda

About the Book:

From Booklist

            To millions of loyal viewers, she’s “Hoda Woman,” Kathie Lee Gifford’s slightly more restrained sidekick on the fourth hour of the Today show. Still others know her as a correspondent for Dateline, for which she has traveled from Baghdad to Burma and covered everything from hot zones to hurricanes. Now Kotb tells her own story, beginning with her Egyptian immigrant parents’ embrace of the American dream right to her nightmare year battling breast cancer and dealing with divorce. Throughout, Kotb’s voice is as infectiously enthusiastic as her trademark smile, each episode imbued with stalwart courage and sincere charm. From her fondness for the music of James Taylor to her fierce loyalty to New Orleans, Kotb’s memoir of life on the road, on the air, and in the trenches is not only an absorbing inside look at the high-speed world of high-stakes journalism, it is also one charismatic woman’s story of how a can-do attitude and caring family have provided the foundation and support for an exhilarating life. –Carol Haggas

About the Author:

            Hoda Kotb was named cohost of the fourth hour of Today in August 2007. She has also been a Dateline NBC correspondent since April 1998. In her twelve years at NBC, Kotb has covered a wide variety of domestic and international stories and has received numerous awards, including the 2008 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award and the prestigious Peabody in 2006 for her Dateline NBC report “The Education of Ms. Groves.” The four-time Emmy nominee also won the 2004 Headliner Award, the 2003 Gracie Award, and the 2002 Edward R. Murrow Award. She resides in New York City.

Jane Lorenzini is a freelance writer. She reported and anchored television news for fifteen years, thankfully crossing paths with her now dear friend Hoda at WINK-TV in Forth Myers, Florida. The two have laughed (and cried) their through the past twenty years. Jane also designs and manufactures her own line of custom stationery and paper goods called plain jane. She lives, writes, and draws in Tennessee.

Quotes:

            “Hoda, you’re not ready for Richmond.”… “Hoda, wait a minute. Ii have a buddy who’s hiring in Roanoke, Virginia. He’s leaving on a trip tomorrow, but if you catch him tonight, I’ll bet he’ll see you.” I said, “Tell him I’m coming.”

“Hoda, you are just not ready for Roanoke.”…”Hoda, wait a minute. I have a buddy who’s hiring in Memphis. He’s going to be at the conference I’m going to, nut I’ll bet if you catch him tomorrow morning, he’ll hire you.” So I said, “Tell him I’m coming.”

“Hoda, you just not ready for Memphis. But, best of luck to you.”…”Hoda, before you go, I have a buddy who I think will hire you.”

(Begin quote) “….I asked Steve, in this unthinkable situation, what he said to God. He just looked at me-for a long time. I thought maybe he didn’t want to answer the question. Finally, he said, “What do I say to God? I say, ‘Thank you.’”

“Thank you?” I asked.

“Yes. Thank you for not taking both of them,” he said.” (end of quote)

“It’s an honor to work at Dateline. I’m grateful. And one of these days, I’ll get Dennis Murphy in the perfect head lock, and he’ll cough up all his secret writing tricks.”

“Compartments, files, systems-not for me. here’s how I like my purse (and I swear I showed someone the contents the other day, and this is what came out): loose dollar bills, jam-packed wallet, a winter hat, a hardback novel, a thank-you card with a dog on it, Advil, one glove, a travel zip bag with 3-ounce bottles, mints, my checkbook, cough suppressant pills, a bottle of perfume, deodorant, contact lenses, a comb, an apple, and a Christmas ornament. Yeah. That’s my world.”

(Begin quote) “What’s going on?” I asked. My coworker proceeded to tell me that my apartment had been ransacked! I was shocked-until they began listing their evidence.

“Your purse was on the ground with its contents strewn about.”

Yeah…

“Your door was unlocked.”

Yeah…

“There was stuff everywhere.”

Okay… (end of quote)

“I had flashbacks of a trick played on me at WINK-TV in Fort Myers. The five o’clock anchors secretly sent a photographer into my apartment for their weeklong Disorganized!” series. They surprised me live on the air with the “home movie” of my domestic chaos. Are you sensing a theme here?”

Just one more quote (or I’d be quoting the entire book!)

“Believe me-we’re prepared for times when a guest or viewers may not embrace the humor of KLG. In the control room, producers have access to a “CYA” button that, when pressed, crawls the following across the bottom of the screen: “We would like to apologize for what she just said, what she is currently saying, and for what she is about to say.”

My Review:

            I have had many opportunities to be in the same room, at the same function, and to speak with Hoda Kotb throughout the last seventeen years or so. She has been the guest at many club functions and the guest speaker at others.

I can still remember my first encounter with Hoda. I met up with her to escort her to an event that I was chairing where she had agreed to be the guest speaker. She was so bubbly and friendly, and was never quiet! If she wasn’t talking, she was humming. She immediately captivated me. She has the ability to draw an audience in and hold them captive, no one wants to miss a word of what she is saying.

So, when she mentioned her book on the Today Show, I knew there was no way I was not going to read it. When I picked up the book to read it, before I even opened the cover, I was hoping that it would be like having a conversation with her. I was not disappointed. Her humor comes through ten-fold. It was like catching up with an old friend. So, Hoda, if you ever come across my review, I am a friend of Laura’s (in South Louisiana because I’m sure you will not remember me!)

I hope you enjoyed the quotes (I wanted to quote the entire book) and it makes you want to pick up the book and read it. If you enjoy watching Hoda on the Today Show, you will enjoy reading this book.

The book is available here:

Amazon

Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom by Elsie Love

Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom

About the Book:

            Elaine Jackerson is in quite a predicament.

Her husband, Bob “The Bulldog”, is sleeping with his secretary, her daughter Lexi is experimenting in the backseat with random boys, and copper top eight year old Charlie wants nothing to do with her.

Enter the Herschel Grammar School PTA. They are women and they are not messing around.

Elaine reluctantly joins the PTA when she slips into the gymnasium for coffee on the first day of school. As soon the ink is dry on the sign up sheet, Elaine is thrust into a world that she never knew existed. A world where the PTA gets things done with blackmail, bribes, threats and quite possibly guns. A world that hummed right under her nose, taking over the town one woman at a time.

 About the Author:

             Elsie Love lives in the western suburbs, a mere stone’s throw from the great city of Chicago. She resides in her garden cottage with her husband, children, and numerous animals that require constant care.

            Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom is her third novel. Her fourth book, Sixty Pounds of Sh*t & Counting, is a work in progress and should be ready by next spring.  In her spare time, Elsie lunches with the ladies, vacuums, and dreams of running away to paradise to live as a woman of luxury and extravagant means.
(Come on…nobody’s that perfect. For the real scoop on Elsie, check out her blog)

You can find Elsie Love here:

www.elsielove.com
www.ebloan.com
http://elsielovesfiction.blogspot.com

Quotes:

“…”Lanie Jackerson, when you signed on to become one of us, you joined more than a ladies’ social club. You raised your hand before God and country and joined the PTA mafia. We are women, we are powerful, and we are not f…ing around.” “

“He stepped closer. Heat radiated off his skin enveloping her without actual contact…Reaching for the flower, he gently traced the lace petals. “I like it when the bloom fades. I think flowers are at their peak of perfection when they are just past their prime.” “

“His voice, husky and low, was filled with desire. “Later.” “

“She had two last coherent thought as he pressed his lips into the curve of her neck,…”

“She could see the headlines now, Middle-Aged Couple Beds Hot Young Criminals. Children Kidnapped as a Result.”

My Review:

            “I want to tell you all a story ‘bout a Harper Valley widowed wife. Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Jr. High…”

The Herschel Grammar School PTA is one hell of a PTA. You don’t choose them, they choose you. They’ll corner you and lock you in the gym until you sign up. Then, they initiate you into their little mob world where no one is safe. This is not a ladies’ social club. Got a kid flunking off of the football team? Gather ‘round ladies, we guarantee we have something on the coach, and it ain’t pretty!

Got a husband that’s been screwing around? We’ll fix him, and good. We’ll even send you out of town on a paid vacation to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, we’ll kidnap your kids to keep you straight. We will even set you up with a stud muffin to help you enjoy yourself while we take care of the deed. You don’t have to worry about a thing.

This is what the Herschel Grammar School PTA is all about. Rope ‘em, tie ‘em up, full-fledge mafia women. They take their positions in suburbia seriously. This book is hysterical. You don’t know if you want to hide from the PTA or join up. I picked the quotes above because saying too much more will just give it away. You will laugh uncontrollably. But, make sure you are in a secluded place because I guarantee you will be spitting Root beer out through your nose.

On a scale of 1-5, I’m giving it five Root beers!

Author Interview:

Please tell us a little about yourself.

First and foremost, I have a mad passion for Dean’s peppermint ice cream. I’m also a wife, mother of five humans and a few German Shepherds. I used to work with children who have been diagnosed with autism. Recently, I took leave to write full time. I’m hoping it will be the event that tips the scales in my favor (to actually make my living as a writer) but I’m not holding my breath.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved to read and write. I dabbled in writing a bit over the years. I wasn’t serious until 2009 when I wrote my first book, Killer on the Key. When I reached the end of that project, I knew I was (and always have been on some level) a writer.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Trying to become rich and famous by any means necessary.

How many books do you have out? The names?

I have three books out. My first two, Killer on the Key and Opals and Rubies are written under E.B. Loan and currently published by Wings Press. Both fall into the thriller/suspense categories (with Opals actually hosting a bit of horror in there). They will be re-released next spring under a different house. My third, Confessions is my first foray into humorous writing—hence the Elsie Love moniker. Readers don’t like it when their authors make dramatic genre shifts. My fourth, Sixty pounds of Sh!t & Counting should be finished by the fall. I’m currently seeking agent representation for that work. We’ll see…and last, but certainly not least, I recently sold a short story titled, Looking Glass Lilly, to Istoria Books. It will be released as part of their popular lunch reads series, shortly.

How did you come up with the idea for the book? (Personally, I can’t wait to hear this answer.)

I had been referring to my local PTA as “The PTA Mafia” for years. It just seemed that so very often it was the same group, of the same oh-so perfect- (& tightly knit) ladies every year. If you weren’t one of them…watch out! I saw one lady drive a veteran teacher to tears. Another raked a mom over the coals on the playground for not lying on residency form to keep the class sizes smaller.

*The National PTA BTW does not sanction such behavior and disavows all knowledge of such ghastly behavior*

Can you describe your book in one or two sentences?

It is about a middle-aged woman who finds out that the life she thought she had was a farce. In the end, she walks away with a much more glorious existence, but she goes through hell (and some hot bods) to get there.

Do you get caught up in the writing and the story and find yourself laughing out loud?

Nope. Most of the time I’m convinced my writing is inane drivel that no other human with half a brain would read. When I read the published version, then I see a smidge of talent—and that makes me happy.

What is coming up next?

Sixty Pounds of Sh!t & Counting. All I’m going to say about that book is: if you liked Confessions, You will love this. It is laugh out loud funny, I’m sure of it! Also, Looking Glass Lilly, which is a thinker. I’m telling you, for .99 cents @ Amazon.com, you can’t go wrong.

Who is your favorite author?

I love Erma Bombeck. I believe her to be the pioneer of women poking humor at the idiocy that exists with parenting/marriage/life. Before she came along women weren’t allowed to laugh at themselves or their lives. We all had to drink the Donna Reed Kool-Aid. Face it ladies, if you can’t laugh at the dried boogers shellacked on your walls, you’re going to end up in the loony bin.

Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review.  No compensation – monetary or in kind – has been obtained for this post.  Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.

 Give Away:

Well, I have great news for everyone! The gracious author of this book has agreed to give away a copy of her e-book to one lucky winner!

 This is open INTERNATIONALLY, so everyone can have a chance! 

All you have to do is follow this blog publicly and give your comments down below! Please include a valid email address so I can contact you. The giveaway will close on July 22, 2011 and the winners will receive an email on July 23, 2011.

 Tweets about this give away are greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance for Tweeting!

 If you found this review helpful, please click the icon below and check yes on my review. Thanks. 

 This book is available at the following locations:

Amazon.com

http://smashwords.com/books/view/63221?ref=EBLoan

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-confessionsofaptamafiamom-557203-148.html

My Crazy Life – July 13, 2011: Face book may be the only therapy some of us need

            I had a doctor’s appointment at the hospital the other day. When I was in the ladies’ room, I washed my hands and then stood in front of the paper towel dispenser. It was one that registers your hand movement in front of it and is supposed to give you paper in return. I waved, and I waved, and I waved. Finally, I asked it please. It worked! The woman that stepped up next to me laughed. I didn’t stick around to see if she had to say please. Do you think there are people watching from somewhere?

            Then later, while I was on Facebook someone commented on this very thing and started a comment free for all. I enjoyed the banter so much that I wanted to share it. I left out the names for their privacy. The following only proves that Facebook may be the only therapy some of us need.

This is the comment that started it all:

I never feel like a bigger jackass than I do when I’m trying to find the automatic sensor button on a faucet or paper towel dispenser, waving my hands all around like I’m attempting to heal it.

And these were the responses!

I love when I walk up to an automatic door and it doesn’t open and I feel like if I wave my body around wildly it will open.

They NEVER work for me. I go around with wet hands. I guess that is why you have a shirt.

It’s like you are trying to talk it in to working. “Hello, Hello! Would you please dry my hands NOW!”

It’s worse when you have to also trigger it for a height challenged 3 year old.

Ah but true healing only comes when you lay hands on it grasshopper. Smack it hard it will give up a bit of soap or towel then!!

Do you do the “faucet shuffle”? Start at one end and end up at the other, trying to find a faucet that will turn on for you?

My son screams like he is being murdered when the hand dryers comes on, so I will never come out of a bathroom with dry eyes or hands!

i get freaked out on the super sensitive ones that will go off if there is a breeze, like the air conditioner kicking on and it kicks out paper towels like no tomorrow. and i get mad at the ones that will give ME 2 inches of paper, but a child 13 FEET of paper towel. what the hell is THAT ABOUT??!!?!?!?! and nothing is more irritating than the ones that have that little dial wheel on them, that looks like an auto sensor thing…..but really has that little dial wheel that is spring loaded, wet, cruddy, and you are going to have to crank out your paper towels, re-wash your hands now that you have God only knows what kind of hand nasty on you from who knows who schmeared all over you…..while the paper towels are tucked under your armpit, and then, you get a big wetspot on your boob when you grab your paper towels with wet hands. looks like you’re lactating.

I just returned from Las Vegas where no two towel dispensers worked the same way. I found myself waving at what I thought was a sensor button on what turned out to be a manual towel dispenser. I was annoyed everytime I left a bathroom.

How about those Dyson hand dryers in airport bathrooms? Full-on crazy, as if you’re drying your hands with a vaccuum!

The other day I left the sink on and couldn’t figure out where the running water sound was coming from………..

sometimes I wave around for about ten minutes, then realize that it’s one of the old fashioned hand crank ones, or just plain out of paper

nothing in vegas has consistency, and as a vegas resident, i apologize for our asshattery. those super blowers make me mad…..they just exxagerate the fat assedness that i am, showing the way that my body slides around on my bones as it blows me to Kansas. it’s an embarassment and whoever created that shite should consider themselves a monumental failure to mankind. there are blowdryers, and then there is just BLOW ME!

lmfao! or going up to one thats Not a sensor one and trying to figure out how to make it work!

I feel like a bigger jackass than that when I wave my hands all around, every which way upside and down, and it turns out the sink or towel is NOT automatic.

I have worked at an airport for the past 23 years. Try waking up in the middle of the night, going to pee and trying to get your home faucet to work by auto sensor! That’s signals a need for a vacation

Or you even walk up to the faucet and it blasts water and soaks you

dont u hate when u do that and then finally realize there is a button? DUH

I am surprised no one has mentioned the other bit of buffoonery taking place in public restrooms. Auto-flush sensors that activate whilst you are still conducting business. GO!

In college, my friends and I referred to the automatic hand dryer as a Dry Hands on Pants. I still do.

The auto-flush practically undid the potty training efforts when my daughter was learning. I had to hold my hand over the sensor while helping her on the toilet with the other. To make matters worse, the suction on those things look like it can suck down a horse, so I had to help her wipe and pull her pants up with one hand so this little 2yo isn’t terrified of the toilet. Just my luck a times, the sensor doesn’t even work. Throw us in a tiny cubicle and follow it with some sink and towel adventures and that would be a bad day.

Picture.. I’m at the movies, in bathroom, trying to get the stupid dryer to work. A little girl walks by and says “You have to put your hands all the way under the dryer” Once again I fail at technology !

Oh GOOD! I’m not the only one that flails around in front of faucets and towel dispensers in public restrooms

I must have special powers because I once got the auto papertowel thingie to shoot out the towels by waving my boobs in front of it. But don’t be too impressed because I have also almost cried looking for a toilet handle where there wasn’t one, and almost started a new life in the bathroom stall so nobody else would see what came out of me.

oh, don’t get me started on the unwanted enema/slash/butt hickie from the negative pressure that those auto flushes can create. those things can give you hemmorrhoids just from the vacuum pressure. it makes me wonder if you can end up with a true disease from a toilet when those things will suck skin off even the leathery-est ass in town.

and yes, i can get specific, graphic even. i try to be a good girl though….i’m afraid of evil big facebook brother kicking me off here, although i’ve said things on here that have made old school firefighters and marines cringe……so i wonder….just who ARE these big facebook brothers that monitor our mouths/hands.

While in the hospital, I got a room with an automatic towel dispenser. It shot out paper towels every time I brushed my teeth or put eyes drops in. It was right beside the mirror and the sink! I ended up cursing at it and a nurse heard me and told me to say a few nasty words to it for her too.

you will never feel like more of an idiot than you will when you try to remove a pen cap that doesn’t come off……rather it’s just made to twist to open the pen, and twist to close, and you pull the cap til you break it, and you go through 4 OF THEM!!!!!!! shooting the spring within it in your eye twice before you realize that it’s a twist activated pen. i am just that retarded.

I stood in front of one the other day and asked please! It gave me paper!

“It’s especially bad when the paper towel dispenser isn’t actually automatic and you just assumed it was and you have to figure out how to do the stupid thing the old fashioned way and by that time your hands are dry and you don’t need the paper towel any longer.”

I wish I could figure out how to share this on my page!

right click, drag to copy my text…….right click the highlighted part, click copy, and then take it to your page and right click on your enter box and click on paste.

just keep waving your hands over the computer and say ‘copy’.

Right? You’re like ” I am not electronically challenged! I can work this stuff! It must be defective!” Wtf..

The Chicago airport has 2 types of sensor activated toilet seat covers. You wave at the button and the fresh plastic wrap slides around the seat. Am I a total Oregon redneck hick for thinking “Wowie! I like this!”?

Yes, cuz in Oregon, you’d have to figure out how to recycle it!

I’ve left public bathrooms where nothing has recognized me: not the automatic toilet or the automatic faucet. Sometimes I think technology is trying to tell me that I don’t have a soul.

i have yet to do the automatic toilet seat cover. i want to try those

you guys are gonna make my low self esteem rise to something almost normal here with liking my comments. i should have gotten facebook a long time ago instead of therapy. and i should have more friends like laurie if this is all it takes. i’d write too if i knew how to…..i’m afraid of rejection though. well, let me rephrase that. it’s not the rejection that i’m afraid of. it’s the mate i’ll end up with in jail after i take my hostilities out on the various people who deny me my propers when i submit my materials and they tell me i suck moldy carpet through someone ELSE’S nose. i wish i could say i’m a lover, not a fighter, but, well….i just happen to be one of those who gets butt hurt, and then makes sure that everyone has a hurt butt. if i have to suffer, we all have to suffer.

it was so much easier during my drunk and clumsy days. i have stories that can rival l’s. though my purse was never run over.

Facebook is great therapy! Blogging is the second best. You can just write whatever you want.

I saw the plastic seat thing in New York – dumb Southerner thought what great hospitality! I assumed it automatically changed with the flush! Duh! I sat where someone else put their butt! I read the sign AFTER. I almost wanted to go again just to have a clean seat.

And, the beat goes on…

How do you follow that? I have no clue. However, as always, there is a dog story. Hubby was gone for the day and I decided the dogs could take over the garage for a while. They laze around and sleep as though they’ve been working in the fields all day long doing hard labor. I checked on them periodically and they were sacked out, looking about as innocent as a newborn babe in a cradle. Then, I heard this awful tearing noise. My first reaction (and usually the one I should stick with) was Calypso is doing something she ought not to be doing.

I flipped on the garage light (it was overcast and getting darker by the moment) and looked for her. Ryka was being her usual perfect self, but Calypso was nowhere in sight. How do you lose a dog in a one-room garage? Listening to where the sound was still coming from, I spotted her between the rocker back slats, gnawing on Hubby’s piano bench. I was mortified (more scared for my hide than hers.) That sweet, precious, ever-loving mutt (pure breed) had chewed a chunk of the corner off the bench. There is NO way to hide the damage. Thinking quickly (trying to save my life and hers) I turned the bench around, loaded it up with stuff, and threw them out of the garage (the good suffer for the bad.) If I had let Ryka stay inside and put Calypso outside, she would get into even more trouble. Ryka is a good babysitter most of the time.

This afternoon I opened up the front door and spotted Christmas decorations in the front yard. I have no clue where she found them. Nothing is safe from that rat. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I am calling Pet Smart to get the name of a training school. She and I have a date with discipline in the very near future.

As if Calypso doesn’t find enough things in the barn to drag around the yard, the neighbors are up to their old tricks. The garbage is back against the fence. I used to think these people were semi-intelligent, but now I’ve changed my mind. They put the garbage against the fence. Hubby stations the rolling wall to protect the dogs from pulling rotten food through the fence. The sanitation workers pick up the garbage and neighbors move the can back to their house. Then, they position it at a different place along the fence line. Instead of buying a second garbage can, the garbage is once again thrown against the fence. Hubby moves the wall into position. This situation repeats itself each garbage day.

If it’s payback for being best friends with his brother’s ex-wife, it’s not working. It’s a lose/lose game. They put the trash against the fence; my dog pulls it through, chews it up, gets sick, I throw the trash back over the fence, and tend to a sick puppy. The rolling wall is back in force. I could care less that their yard looks like a pig yard, I have to protect my puppy, who at this point in her early months, does not know not to eat spoiled food. Welcome to life in Crazyville, USA.

Bella by Steve Piacente

Bella

About the Book:

            A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband’s death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either.

About the Author (from the author):

Steve Piacente

             It began for me in 1954. Eisenhower was president, no one beat the Yankees, and Elvis was still an unknown. TV was three channels and two colors, black and white. Growing up, I didn’t particularly like school. I liked baseball, egg rolls and comic books, and it was Superman that got me interested in reading and writing. Raised in New York and educated in Washington, I kept moving south after college, eventually learning all they left out at journalism school at the foot of street-smart newspaper editors in Florida and South Carolina. In 1985, one of those editors found me presentable enough to send back to D.C., this time as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune.

            The job ended four years later, and I found myself in steep competition for a similar slot with the Charleston, S.C. paper. I remember pumping the Charleston editor’s hand and pleading, “Please don’t let me become a press secretary.” The man was merciful, enabling nine more years of Washington reporting, and front row exposure to the real South, as Charleston is far deeper into Dixie than Tampa, geography be damned. As time wore on, my NY sensibilities blended with Southern convention to produce stories on intriguing topics such as public celebration of the Confederate flag, and segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond. It was a great time until Charleston ran out of cash and shuttered its one-man D.C. bureau.

Out in the cold, I – by this time a father of three ravenous, athletic, college-bound children – found warmth in a little known Federal agency. I began as a speechwriter and today head the web, new media, and graphics teams. Though Bella is my first real fiction, some thin-skinned politicians would say the stories I wrote about them were just as fabricated. In fact, no fiction bubbled up until I earned my license to write in the Johns Hopkins Master of Arts program in 2000. During this time, I also reentered the classroom at American University, my alma mater, and began teaching journalism classes. My insistence on clean, tight writing did no lasting harm to the three afore-mentioned children, now taxpaying adults in the fields of public relations, graphic design, and engineering. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the kids snuck secret help from their mom, Felicia Piacente, a special education administrator in the Montgomery County (Md.) Public School System.

Book Quotes:

“She was, as Frost said, an awakener, not a teacher. Now I am awake, alert even. I am not especially thrilled that my blissful sleep was disturbed. I was, to be sure, hibernating through life…Some creamy smooth women come armed like bear traps, treacherous, but not appearing so, lest you’re tempted to study one nose to tooth and get yourself snapped in two. Such blessed females are immune to the routine plagues…Women mutter Bitch; men murmur Baby…You know the kind of girl I’m talking about, and yes, of course there is a male version, and he’s just as predatory. My awakener, however, was a woman, and so it is her story, and mine, that I will tell.”

“Thirty-five Americans were killed by friendly fire in the Persian Gulf War, damned better than the 8,000 accidentally killed by fellow soldiers in Vietnam, and the 21,000 in World War II. Those were the official Pentagon estimates; the real numbers were probably higher.”

“There’s no such thing as a tidy newsroom. Narrow, half-filled spiral notebooks, old newspapers, personal knick-knacks and plastic coffee containers are everywhere. There’s also no decorum; when editors need something, they need it now and everyone know it, because the yelling as deadlines approach is nearly constant. Reporters, too, are not shy about speaking up to copy kids or the people they’re interviewing by phone. Think of a library and picture the opposite. When librarians have nightmares, they probably dream of newsrooms.”

“…used violence to achieve peace, a lesson he’d learned from his government.”

“Canton Spivey had circled three items in red marker. The first said journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. The second, that journalists should remain free of associations and activites that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. The third circled item said journalists should abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

“Are you in violation, Danny?” I stared at the code I knew by heart…..

“Yes,” I said. “terrific story though, huh?”

“Yep, sure was.””

My Review:

            This book has it all. There is intrigue, cover-up, scandal, lust, and sex, and in the end, there is justice; but we must remember that justice is not always in the eye of the beholder.

I find it utterly fascinating (and sexy) that a man would write romance. It is like having a front row seat to their thoughts. No, this was not what the book was about, but I had to mention it because I am completely captivated with the idea and I am curious as all get out. I want to read more romance written by men. I am enthralled by the way their minds work. Now, with that being said, I need to write the rest of my review.

This book was like a day in the life of a reporter and the extremes he goes to get the one “big” story. Our government buries its bones and the reporters are like bloodhounds on its trail. As fast as cover-ups are constructed, the hounds are there sniffing around, digging up buried bones faster than the government can dig a hole.

I like a book that reminds me of what is important, and brings me back to the present when I’ve become too complacent with what is going on in the world.

Bella is a soldier’s wife, a soldier who lost his life to “friendly fire.” And, to compound the tragedy, the Army lied about it. She is a young wife and mother, whose determination and cunningness helps to uncover the truth about her husband’s death. Bella hones in and seduces the reporter she has handpicked to break the story about her husband’s death. She is not above using sex, tears, playfulness, or her feminine wiles to get what she wants. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the reporter is consumed by her intoxicating presence. Danny falls in love with Isabel, only to find out that Isabel has shut down emotionally, vowing never to be hurt again. And, as his marriage crumbles, he is fired from the job he loves.

Together, the two of them will uncover the secrets surrounding her young husband’s death, while giving you insight in to the workings of our government and newspaper life.

The book leaves you questioning the true number of our men and women who have lost their lives serving our country under similar circumstances, only to have the government call it “friendly fire.” Steve Piacente does an outstanding job of weaving the intricacies of love, life, newspaper, and government into a story that is so believable, you forget you are reading fiction. It is also evident that a lot of research went into the writing of this book so that an authentic story could be told. This is an outstanding book and one worth reading.

Author Interview:

Please tell the readers a little about yourself.

I was raised in New York, educated in Washington, and kept moving south after college, eventually learning all they left out at journalism school from street-smart newspaper editors in Florida and South Carolina. In 1985, one of those editors found me presentable enough to send back to D.C., this time as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. The job ended four years later, and I wound up as D.C. reporter for the Charleston, S.C. paper. It was great until Charleston ran out of cash and shuttered its one-man D.C. bureau. Out in the cold, I – by this time a father of three ravenous, athletic, college-bound children – found warmth in a little known Federal agency called the U.S. General Services Administration. I began as a speechwriter and today head the agency’s web, new media, and graphics teams. I also teach journalism classes at American University, where I earned my BA in communications. (I also hold a Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University.) My wife is a special education administrator in the Montgomery County (MD) Public School System, and we have three adult children in the fields of public relations, art therapy, and engineering.

Where did the idea for Bella come from?

Over a long reporting career, I covered several tragic events, including the murder of Adam Walsh in Hollywood, FL. I have always been interested in how people respond to profound grief I have seen some survivors withdraw to the point of near-invisibility, and others channel their sorrow into furious action that in some cases impacted public policy. In the Walsh case, parents John and Reve turned their grief into action by lobbying the state legislature in Tallahassee to pass tougher child protection laws. I’m also interested in how people act when faced with tough ethical choices – essentially what people do when no one is watching. The action in Bella is driven largely by ethical decisions key characters make on the battlefield and in the bedroom.

What would you say was the most challenging part of writing Bella? 

Bella herself was the hardest character to create because she is so complex. She is striking on the outside, dreadful on the inside, at least sometimes. She is loving yet cold, mysterious and yet predictable. The tragedy that befalls her causes profound grief and reshapes her personality. That’s tough to pull off in a novel because readers are quick to draw conclusions about characters. In the end, I view her as complex but flawed, with many admirable traits.

Do you think your story will touch others or anger them?

All writers want to provoke a reaction. I think some will be touched and some will be angered. Mostly, I hope readers will find an entertaining escape from their daily lives in Bella, but also think about the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either. These are lessons that reporter Patragno learns in painful fashion.

If you were in Dan’s place, would you have revealed the truth? 

That’s close to a trick question, because I don’t think I ever would have gotten myself in Dan’s position. Dan violates cardinal rules on the job and at home; there are consequences for such actions, and he knows his day of reckoning is coming. All that said, I think I would have – just as he did – found a way to reveal the truth.

Did you ever think about alternate endings between Dan & Isabella?

I’ll start by saying I did not know how the story would end when I began writing the book. I like to interview my characters. As I was writing Bella, I frequently interrupted myself to put together several written questions for the main characters. Then I tried to answer each question in the character’s voice. This often took me in unexpected and hopefully interesting directions. I think the story could have ended differently, but I don’t think Dan and Bella could have ever wound up living happily ever after. We know what happens with Dan, but Bella still must work through her grief and try to resume a normal life. She still has a long way to go.

Will Dan be back in another novel?

Dan is back in a prequel to Bella that is called Bootlicker. In one of his first assignments, rookie reporter Dan stumbles on a dark, decades-old secret. Two boys, he learns, were planning to sneak a few beers in the woods. They knew to be careful; 1959 was no year for underage black kids to be caught drinking in rural South Carolina. Before the first sip, they came to a clearing. A black man was on his knees, surrounded by white men in robes. One shed his mask – the local judge. One of the boys bolted. The other, Ike Washington, froze. Reporter Patragno learns that Judge Mac McCauley weighed things in that fateful moment and offered young Ike a choice; join the man about to die, or begin hustling the black support McCauley needed to advance in state politics. In trade, Ike would enjoy a life of power and comfort. Decades later, with Dan on the story, McCauley is a U.S. senator and Ike is poised to become the first black congressmen from South Carolina since Reconstruction. Instead, he winds up in the same forest where the hanging took places years earlier, a long rope in hand. The night is noisy, but all he hears is the name his rivals have bestowed upon him: Bootlicker.

Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review.

 No compensation – monetary or in kind – has been obtained for this post.

Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.

 This book is available at Amazon

 Find the Book Information:

Bella on the Web: www.getbella.com
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/bellaFB
Twitter: http://twitter.com/wordsprof
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/getbella
Read the Reviews on Amazon: http://amzn.to/catchingon

 

My Crazy Life – beginning July 4, 2011 – Lucy gets a facial!

            I thought my Kindle broke, or maybe it was having a Lucy moment. I guess if I learned to operate it properly, I might not panic every time something happens. The screen went blank. The battery was charged but nothing was happening. I have over 160 books on my Kindle. This was a serious matter, and I was seriously considering freaking out. I think those helpful people over at Amazon know my phone number by heart. We solved the problem and I am back to reading.

            Did I mention that Hubby bought me my very own cordless screwdriver/drill? I love gadgets and tools. Not just any tools, I like power tools, put the pedal to the metal power tools (meaning power!) When I mentioned this fact on my Face book page, people were commenting about what my Hubby was thinking when he bought this for me (my thought was that he wasn’t thinking.) I do not understand. Do my friends really think I should not be trusted with such a tool? Ummmmm. Maybe I should mention at this point that I am pretty good with a nail gun and I have used one of those saws that have a skinny blade that you use to cut out things. I love when you press the button, it does things – really fast! I cut out all of the holes for the light switches and electrical plugs in our house. I have also used a table saw, belt sander, a router; however, I am still trying to figure out how to plug the nail gun into the compressor. It never seems to cooperate for me.

I could start a repair business. I’ll name it “Lucy’s Repair Service”. Some poor, unsuspecting fool might actually want to hire me, however, it would give me good writing material. My best friend, Jessica, is buying a house. She might need some help!

We all have those annoying phone calls from telemarketers, and, we would all like to tell them where to stick the merchandize they are hocking, but we don’t. It’s their job and we all have to make a living.

Well, Calypso took a call on Sunday and she obviously did not have that problem. She not only told the telemarketer to keep their defective bone, she got so mad, she chewed the phone (which I now realize I left at AT&T and didn’t get a picture of.) It was a mess.

Hubby lectured me and I passed the lecture on to Calypso. Luckily, for her, I was able to get a phone for $10. My contract is due for renewal and I was not buying a phone for full price! On principle alone, I was not purchasing a full-priced phone – not when my contract ends in October and I can buy what I want for a discounted price. You would think, with all the money I send their way each month – they would have made an exception. (I guess the $10 phone was their exception.)

After going six rounds with the clerk she told me about the $10 phone. It is actually a phone that AT&T sells for Pay-as-you-go, but you can put your SIM card in it and wha-la (how do you spell that anyway?) you have a phone. And, this phone is brand new. Of course, it doesn’t do much except for ring, but for two months, I THINK I can manage.

I think I am going to permanently erase “my life is boring – what will I write about this week” – from my memory bank. That phrase is like the phrase, “Give me Patience”. Be careful what you wish for, because every time I think that – something happens. You would think I would have learned this by now.

I had a “first” experience this week. I had my very first facial and pedicure. (I know, I am 53 years old and I have never done either!) It was an interesting day.

I absolutely loved the pedicure. I wanted to bring the girl home with me. Now, the pedicure, I want to do again – the facial – let’s say the jury’s still out on that one.

Don’t get me wrong – for someone who loves being cocooned in warm, heavy blankets and having their face wrapped like a mummy – hey, this is for you – it was not for me. I do not like being cocooned. I hated it so much as a baby, I was born in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I didn’t like it then; I do not like it now.

It was heavenly lying there letting someone scrub my face and massage my shoulders; and the creams smelled fantastic. I did freak out a little when her fingers passed between my mouth and nose. I breathe through my nose and I felt like my oxygen would be cut off at any moment.

I might have been a little more comfortable had she talked and let me know when she was going to touch me (my eyes were covered) and if the product was going to be hot or cold. I do not like people in my space, and I do not like being touched, so imagine “Princess Lucy playing Blind Man’s Bluff”!

I cannot stand heat (I’ll be in Hell soon enough – do not need a preview – thank you) so I didn’t like the heat lamp (I think that what it was –eyes covered.) Then, after all the niceties were completed, she tucked me in tight (in heavy, warm blankets) and said that she would be back in ten minutes. I believe her parting words were, “I’m going to leave you for a while so you can go to your happy place.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? MY HAPPY PLACE!?

Barreling down the railroad tracks hanging on to the roof of the express train – might be my happy place. Flying through the air with the greatest of ease – might be my happy place. Waving a red cape at a horny bull – might be my happy place. BUT, being left alone in a dark room wrapped up like a mummy in a tomb – NOT my happy place!

My HAPPY PLACE is on a swing on the front porch with my Kindle – preferably with a fan blowing cool air on me while I sip a tall glass of Sweet Southern Ice Tea – NOT  cocooned in hot, heavy blankets with my face wrapped up with only my nose peeking through like Mount Everest! A facial is NOT my thing.

Now, the pedicure, as I said was great. Once the temperature of the water was cooled slightly (what is it with HOT?) I enjoyed the foot whirlpool. I must be one up-tight chick because I was sitting there enjoying the foot massage and the girl kept telling me to relax. Geez – I’m thinking that if I get any more relaxed, I am going to slide to the floor. I guess relaxation is a state of mind, and I haven’t visited that state yet.

That massaging chair – turn that sucker off, because it was irritating the daylights out of me – not massaging me. I felt as though I were riding down a dirt road in an old jalopy. I am thinking that next time Jessica suggest we go for facials and pedicures, I might just do the pedicure and perhaps a manicure. That should be safe enough.

There is a new feature on Face book where you can move your mouse over someone’s picture and “like” or friend them and I couldn’t for the life of me get it to work. I was finally helped by a nice person who wrote an article about this feature (and I was lucky enough to come across it) and was open to answering stupid questions. We finally figured out that I had to unlike my blog’s Face book page and that way, the feature worked. I was finally learning to like myself, only to find out I had to unlike myself. What a confusing day that was. I have realized that there are some ding-dongs on the internet, but there are also some very kind, helpful people.

I was having a Lucy moment the other day. I went into the bedroom to get a file that I needed to work with in my office. I made the bed, then put something to heat in microwave, and headed back to office. I forgot the file. I then went back to bedroom to get file, and folded clothes. The microwave dinged, and I reset the timer. Then, I remembered file. I headed back to the bedroom for the file, and raised the window shades. I headed back to my office. On my way to my office, I stopped to put a pot to heat on stove. I then went to my office, sat down at my desk, and remembered the file. (Do you see a pattern here?) I headed back to the bedroom, looked around (wondering why I was there AGAIN), and remembered the file. I then went back to my office, and could not remember why I needed file.

I mowed the yard this morning. After that chore was finished, I gave both Ryka and Calypso a bath. It has been pouring down rain for the last two hours and they have been playing in the rain. My guess is they don’t smell as good as they did after I bathed them.

Hope you enjoyed the visit this week. Ya’ll come back now!