Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Crossing Random: Chapter 2: Caffeine Lovers

Chapter 2
Caffeine Lovers
Random events often come like the raisins in a cereal box – in groups, streaks and clusters. And although fortune is fair in potentialities, it’s not fair in outcomes.” ~ Leonard Mlodinnow

             Douglas Basco stood out in front of the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company in the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz. He had his Walkman headset snugly around his head with REM’s “Stand” playing into his ears. He was a plump, 22-year-old with a small potbelly hanging over his ragged Levi’s, Hang-Ten, black T-shirt, and ratty, old checkered Vans. Dougie, as most people called him, was a total stoner. He never held a job a day in his life. He liked to play Nintendo with his stoner friends, sell just enough weed to pay the bills, and mostly did nothing but skateboard down Pacific Avenue.
He loved irritating the stupid tourists who frequented the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk. He made it the highlight of his day to rile up some average “douche bag” from Iowa who showed up in khaki shorts, plaid, button-up shirts, and any kind of dumb straw hat. He particularly loved terrorizing little kids at the beach by pulling them under water. A good crying and yowling later and few “Mommies,” screamed in protest – and his job was done. Dougie was a good, old-fashioned loser, and he didn’t care. Living his days with a joint tucked between his lips, riding his long board up and down hills, worked just fine for him.
In the days long before a Starbuck’s had popped up along every corner in every city, Dougie got his brew from the Roasting Company. His favorite daily habit was to ride his skateboard down the mall and park it in front of the company. It had a dark-colored front with a maroon-colored, short, round awning hanging over the entrance.
Today though Dougie was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk, smoking a “doobie”, which no one in Santa Cruz cared about whether it was illegal or not. He was pissed. His long-time enemy Bobby Lewes stood at the counter and talked to a fine babe named Andrea. Dougie had a major crush on the tall brunette with long, cascading hair down her back. She didn’t shave her armpits. She wore no makeup, glided around in flowing, flowering, gauzy dresses, and wore Birkenstocks. Dougie wanted to fuck her so bad he could taste her smell in his mouth.
He glowered through the glass window at his pudgy nemesis that bantered with the girl, leaned on the counter, and every so often took a nonchalant swig of coffee. The only thing Bobby had over Dougie was his pretentious oil paintings he displayed at the 7th Street Gallery. Dougie would certainly never admit this aloud, but he had to say ole Bobby was a pretty darned talented son of a bitch. He knew Andrea studied art at UC Santa Cruz, and Dougie assumed these bourgeois bullshitting sessions turned her on.
Dougie took one last inhale on his joint, let out the smoke, licked the tips of his fingers, and put it out. He knew smoking in the actual coffee cafe would likely piss off the manager. She didn’t tolerate that sort of nonsense. Dougie looked up and was just about to step in when Bobby trotted out.
“Dude, you’re wastin’ your time, man,” said Bobby with a smirk. “She ain’t going to fuck that pinprick dick of yours.”
“Fuck you man,” spit back Dougie. “You’re an arty fag anyway.”
“Yeah, and you’re a homophobic asshole!”
“What you doing here?” asked Dougie. “She ain’t going to date your fat ass either.”
Bobby snickered, “Really? You certain about that?”
“Yeah, fat fuck!” postured Dougie with his fists pulled back and chest puffed up.
Bobby gave him a gloating look. Just then the air seemed to go silent. All that could be heard was a motorbike way off in the distance. Dougie stopped and looked around. This weird sensation came over him, and he felt this odd vibration throughout his body. Then out of nowhere a car alarm went off, and then another and another. The sidewalk beneath their ratty tennis shoes morphed into this kind of living thing. It shifted and moved with a rapid shaking. Bobby and Dougie looked around – wide-eyed and scared. The two posturing guys were now frightened and at the mercy of some unknown force that seemed to push, jolt, and shake them.
Off to the right, a building that had been shaken like a rag doll began to shoot off pieces of itself into the street. Then right behind them, they heard this enormous, thundering, cracking sound. Dougie grabbed Bobby’s upper arm and pulled him forward out into the center of the street. Just as they got across the way, the front of the Roasting Company’s glass shattered followed by the roar of the building just collapsing down into a heaping mess of smoke and debris.
As the shaking slowly subsided, Bobby and Dougie stood side-by-side staring at what remained of the Roasting Company. People screamed, alarms sounded, and chaos erupted all around them. People began rushing forward and pulling out bricks and cement slabs and wood.
Dougie and Bobby met eyes and all at once cried, “Andrea!”
They rushed toward what had been the front entrance, but it was piled high with rubble and debris. The two enemies quickly became forced friends as they made a bid to rescue their heart’s desire. They both stopped and stared. The entrance was impenetrable. A huge, unmovable slab of concrete covered it.
The enemies stood back with their eyes wide and mouths open. Dougie, the slovenly, tourist harasser, suddenly burst into tears and cried like one of the children he had pulled under water.

Crossing Random: Chapter 1: Hot and Dry

Crossing Random

Michelle L. Gamble

There is no greater love than that of your children. To Cole and Cambria – you are the true loves of my life.

Trajectories aren't linear. Life's just a roller coaster. If you're getting a chance to do cool stuff, and it's varied stuff, just enjoy it. I guess I'm a believer in the randomness of life rather than it being a linear trajectory or an arc, a consistent smooth arc, towards anything.” ~ Riz Ahmed

Chapter 1
Hot and Dry
I believe life is an intelligent thing: that things aren’t random.” ~ Steve Jobs

Hot and dry – that was how the weather felt on that day on October 17, 1989. Becky Chiron, a corporate marketing executive, worked from home four days a week and went into the corporate headquarters in San Francisco one day a week. She prized her telecommuting position, which back in those days was rare. She had a full workstation setup in her home office and enjoyed the luxury of wearing a robe all day as she worked on marketing campaigns. She had grown to hate commuting to work even the one day her supervisor insisted on seeing her face-to-face. She had learned to accept the minor inconvenience as long as she got her four days in.
Today, she had been stuck in meetings until nearly 5:00 pm even though most of their clients were based on the East Coast and she had started her day at 6:00 a.m. She felt the achy fatigue and soreness in her back after having been stuck for three hours on a conference call with their prized client, a Post-It knock-off based out of Malaysia. The contact, Zao Tsing had blathered on and on about their new line of pink and day-glow green stickers in his broken English. Half the time, Becky strained to hear him and understand him. She found herself sitting at her modern black desk with the view of the Bay Bridge folding papers into origami animals. She was particularly talented at folding cranes. She became good at origami in college after she saw Edward James Olmos’s character Gaff folding them in the original Blade Runner.  A boring day in accounting class often amounted to a zoo full of origami characters. Sometimes she even put them in greeting and thank you cards for others to enjoy. It was her “signature touch”, one might say.
She wasn’t a materialistic woman and rather than buy the typical BMW or Mercedes, she had chosen a black Honda Accord that got great gas mileage for a sedan. She was driving east on highway 80 toward Berkeley. She was a stunning brunette with piercing almost yellow eyes with brown flecks in them. One might think she had the eyes of a cat. She was medium height at 5’5” with a rare perfectly proportioned, hourglass figure. Her voluptuous breasts she kept slyly hidden under her many suits so the men in her office might keep their eyes on hers versus her chest; however, sometimes their eyes wandered in that curious gaze anyway.
She glanced in the rearview mirror at her dried-out, chapped lips. She pulled at her black Dooney and Bourks bucket purse and slipped her hand in the front pocket. She wanted her chap stick. She couldn’t find it, and turned on the air conditioner even though most days in San Francisco were cool and/or cold. This was one of those Indian Summers though – the kind where one might forget it was fall. She had even gone out to Bodega Bay the weekend before in a pair of shorts and a light, flowing blouse with tiny denim flowers embroidered into it. It was a dry heat, the kind the Central Valley was famous for not the Bay Area. She prickly and annoyed – her lips hurt.
Traffic was fortunately quite moderate as she began her crossing of the famous Bay Bridge, the very same one she could see from her office window. She was hot. She turned up the air conditioner and pulled her suit jacket off, tossing it on the passenger seat with her purse. Then she leaned forward and slid her CD of the Fine Young Cannibals’ song “She Drives Me Crazy” into the player.
She drove in her usual distracted manner already quite familiar with the route. Her mind wandered to a new apartment she had been looking at in Marine County near the headlands. She wanted a prized Pacific Ocean view, and she had found this quaint house built in the 1960s with a second-story apartment facing the ocean. She signed. The rent was $2,000 a month for a one bedroom, one bath. She envisioned placing her beautiful mahogany desk in the northern-facing corner where she could leisurely gaze at the water – that is, when the fog had lifted.
She was roughly halfway down the bridge when she looked around. She frowned and turned off her music. The air was thick with an eerie, almost spooky quiet. It was like a muffled sound and everything seems to energetically shift. Things from that second on moved in slow motion. She heard a second loud cracking, high-pitched almost deafening squeal and her car seemed to lurch forward in its own accord. The silence hit and then – BANG, CRACK and chaos. Everything moved slowly and methodically, as the car just ahead of her seemingly disappeared on the horizon. She felt a surge of adrenaline and without thought she slammed on the brakes. It was at that very moment she felt an uplift sensation, surge and shake. She panicked uncertain of what was going on.
She looked frantically around. People’s cars all stopped and some seemed to be tossed about as if the metal machines were mere playthings for the Gods. She saw a mother jump out of her mauve minivan with two small, blonde children in tow. She moved back and forth, screaming, “Help!” The little children cried and sobbed and screamed, “Mommy!” Another older, bald man in a black suite seemed confused as he wandered aimlessly, as if he knew not where he was going or what he was doing. Then a mere moment later and a second cracking, jolting crash and debris blew up into the air almost like ash from a fire.
Becky sat in her car. The shaking seemed to go on forever. People were now running around and rushing the western direction to get off the bridge. The shaking stopped. Becky looked forward and then backward and forward, as her eyes settled on the blank horizon in front of her. She slowly, carefully opened her car door. With great fear, she walked very slowly forward and gazed at the shock of her life. Her front tires were mere inches away from a huge gap in the Bay Bridge, the pier 39 panel had dropped. A wind gusted up through the opening and blew her backwards so her hair flew up and over her head and knocked her down. And there she sat with her designer Gucci shoes; one fallen off near the edge. There she sat, still, quiet, still she heard not another sound.


Monday, December 3, 2018

HBO Original Series: My Brilliant Friend - Review

Rating: ****

The only reason I removed a star from my rating is because the third episode wasn't that exciting. Otherwise, this show continues to hit a home run. What stands out is author and screenwriter Elena Ferrante's alter ego (sometimes referred to in the show as Elena and LenĂº) is like this intense, intelligent observer of life around her in the neighborhood in which she grew up and of the people and relationships. The silent way in which Elena watches everyone almost expressionless at times is intriguing. Her adoration and love of her best friend Lila reflects her deep intelligence and understanding of others. At one point when Lila is sick, Elena reflects that she feels a part of her is missing. I was deeply moved by that admission.

The show (so far) breaks down the girl's friendship and how each inspires a competitive desire to be better than the other; but this competition brings out the best in them. They aren't competing for men, but for educational excellence. Elena respects Lila's writing skills and amazing talents. Yet she comes across as feeling inferior somehow. The irony is that Elena is the smarter of the two girls, and because her father supports her education (her mother doesn't) and feels pride in his daughter going off to middle school and then high school, Elena's education progresses. On the other hand, Lila is not as fortunate to have family support so she must educate herself through the library and books.

The show breaks down culture, family rivalries, caste systems, and jealousies. It delves into the neighborhood and love and family. The show is on episode 5 and not finished, so I can't make an overall comment on it yet, but so far I love it. It has made me consider my own memoir.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Public Affairs: Excerpt ... Drunk Texting is never good...

“I am rolling out of bed now.”
“Good because you have to be at the Habitat for Humanity in two hours. You also told me you wanted to pick up Charlie too.”
Hearing his name, Ella grumbled, “Oh no. I drunk texted him.”
“You texted me a picture with your sister saying you missed me after I had left early,” explained Nancy. “Then you asked if I could give you a raise, which I think you meant to tell me you were going to give me a raise. So spill it girlfriend before I have to raise the troops here aka kids.”
Ella filled her in. “If he didn’t think I liked him before, well…”
Buy print version here: http://3lpublishing.flyingcart.com/?p=detail&pid=92&cat_id=0

Ebooks available on Amazon Kindle and Nook.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Why Authors Need Book Reviews

Book reviews are important, and they help attract new readers. You will want book reviews for three reasons:
No. #1 - Spread the word about your book and get your name known as an author. The most important part of getting reviewed beyond even sales is to establish your name as an author. The more recognizable your name bodes well for future sales of more books. You have to think of overall momentum. Your first book may not be a best seller, but the more people who at least read it or see your name may have an important reaction for your second book: "Hey! Don't I know this name already? Didn't she/he write..." Of course, the desired second response is  curiosity to see what the current book is about and the third result, he/she buys it. Name recognition is like star power. Just having a recognizable name on your book is more likely to provoke future sales of other books.
No. #2 - Earn credibility - this one is important, especially for independent authors who don't have the prestige of major publishing houses behind their works. The first problem (especially with so many self-published eBooks coming out) is independent publishing often fights against credibility issues. Self-publishers in particular must fight that battle. Those readers who truly don't understand the business environment of traditional publishing will question independently published books. Are they any good? Book reviews, and especially lots of 5 star reviews will give your book credibility as being well written and worth the purchase. It's also beneficial to be able to place nice reviewer quotes on the second edition of your book.
No. #3 - Sales - now many of you might protest and say, "Shouldn't sales be no. #1?" Sales are naturally the point of everything we do to promote books. However, book reviews do more than produce sales. Look at book reviews as an overall investment in your future as an author. Sales are a priority without question, but reviews may or may not produce sales. Lack of sales doesn't render professional reviews useless (as noted by no. #1 and #2 above). So, as you approach the promotion of your book, make sure you spend time promoting to book reviewers as much as general media to gain overall exposure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Winning Habits

This comes out of Our Daily Fred (sign up for his fantastic newsletter at fred@ourdailyfred.net):

Today's thoughts are taken from The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George:

Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another: the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us from living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves whether we continue to enjoy doing what we do.

On the flipside some habits are winners! My other author Lance Casazza has the answer to, "What habits are good ones?" Both books are available at: http://3lpublishing.flyingcart.com/

Monday, November 5, 2018

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Rating: ****

Queen's music is the music of my generation. The songs reminded me of the days of sitting in the high school gym stomping to "We will rock you" during the pep rallies. I knew vaguely about some of the band's highlights, and so when the film starts and wraps on the iconic Live Aide concert, I wasn't surprised.

I took my daughter to see the movie a bit wary about home much sex she might be exposed to (she's a teenager), and I was pleased to see the movie makers treated it tastefully even though they could have been more specific. The kissing and party scenes were well done.

The movie focuses on Mercury's personal life and sexual demons showing his great flamboyance and dramatic flair while depicting his vulnerabilities and pain. His tearful announcement to the "love of his life" that he's bisexual broke my heart. You could see he loved her very much and was throughout his life devoted to her, but also it was easy to understand her desire for a family and the kind of romantic love she deserved.

Mercury's sensitivity is well acted by Joe Mazzello.  The pain about his talents, family and his father, and those people who use him for gain. The inner demons and conflicts showed all over Mazello's face. As a fellow artist, I understood those emotions quite well.

My favorite scene is of the "family" (the band) feuds. They were indeed a normal family in that way. Fighting and then forgiveness and great love for each other. I adore the scene where Mercury comes in late (again) and they fight yet get distracted by the riff that eventually goes in "Another one bites the dust". When it came straight down to it, the music and artistry cemented their "family" in such a great, productive way -- and we the audience got to enjoy the best of it.

Then we have the incredible music! I'm glad they didn't try to have another singer mimic Mercury, but instead gave us the original tracks. It was also perfect the way the movie ended on the full concert part of Live Aide -- it was mesmerizing and a wonderful bookend to the story. I was blown away, and I'm glad I saw it at an IMAX theater.

Don't miss this movie at the theater!