You Heart It Here: Happy Days in Milwaukee!

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to participate in Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon. I was even luckier to have her three sisters sitting at my table for the afternoon. I met Lori, Chris and Sally last year at the same event and had a great time chatting them up one night at the bar, so I was thrilled to discover they had seats at my table this year.

One of the best parts of the whole trip was not having to wait to spend time with them until Saturday because the ladies kidnapped me (happily!) on Friday and gave me a spectacular tour of their great city. Those ladies made me feel so very welcome! And extremely lucky! How many other authors got a welcome basket from their readers along with a tour of the city? I’d venture to guess that I was the only one. And, yes, that choked me up a little, I’ll admit. Below is the Art Museum, which sits right near the lake. It was a beautiful day! Well… beautiful for Milwaukee! You’d never guess that it’s 41 degrees outside! I was very proud of my thin blooded self for braving the cold without a coat!

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Below is the Bronz Fronz and the world famous Leon’s with Sally’s daughter Jess! (Don’t tell… but we had dessert for lunch!)

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And we’re all dolled up for the luncheon on Saturday!

FullSizeRender(2)Here are the other ladies at my table… Donna and Teresa and Kathy and Bernice!IMG_0291IMG_0288

 

Here I am with the fabulous Damon Suede and Linda Howard!

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Here’s a shot of my table… IMG_0251

and my Friday kidnapping with my Milwaukee basket!IMG_0240

How about you? Ever had a very unexpected experience that you know will stay with you for a long time to come?

You Heard It Here: Hollywood Movers and Shakers!

Okay… the title might be a little misleading in that I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about actually moving and shaking.

This month’s Hollywood story goes hand in hand with the Just Romantic Suspense blog post that’s up today. You can find that blog HERE. (Did I mention there’s a giveaway there… because there is!)

Before I continue, I just want to ask everyone to send good thoughts and prayers to the people in Nepal. They experienced the worst of the worst. So many lives lost by a killer than can’t be stopped. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the devastation.

Without further delay, here’s what happened on set:

This was probably the second biggest earthquake I’d been in at the time. I was working on Roseanne (yes, another Roseanne story…) when it hit. Keep in mind that I had learned early on to move to a doorway because the frame is stronger and can protect you from falling walls. On that particular day I happened to be standing behind a long row of tables, probably two or three six-footers with the audience bleachers directly behind me. There were about a dozen of us on stage at the time when the rumble started. The thing about earthquakes is most of the time you feel them first…although sometimes you hear them first. It depends on the intensity and the things around you that shake.

As you know, television shows need to be lit, which means we have giant lights overhead. The fact that these lights are securely attached to the overhead grid really doesn’t mean much when they’re slamming together during an earthquake. I mean we’d like to think they won’t drop, but the noise is so loud that you just don’t trust them to stay up there.

I know we were told to exit to the outer walls of the stage during an earthquake. But when the noise is so loud and the shaking is bad enough, your first thought is, “Where is the closest, safest place?”

So, you know where I’m standing… behind those tables. We know where I’m supposed to go if an earthquake happens. But when you’re panicking, sometimes you don’t do what you’re supposed to do.

There I am, minding my own business on stage 2, when the rumble starts. Usually, most people stand still for a second waiting to see how bad it will get before they run and duck for cover and that day was no different.

But it only took seconds before everything started shaking big time. I knew I had to run, but I was a little trapped between the table and the bleachers. I think I actually dove over the table, but I don’t really remember how I got to the other side. The first thing I did was to run into the set and stand under the archway between the kitchen and the den sets. Again, it only took seconds to realize that I was under those massive lights that were shaking and banging and slamming like crazy and that the set was not a house and not going to protect me from anything. Then I was off and running again, this time for the back exit. I think by the time I actually reached the door the earthquake had stopped. I remember going outside and seeing most of the cast and crew not only of our show, but others from neighboring sets. Of course, everyone has to share their experience and it takes some time for the adrenaline to power down so you can go back to life as usual. It took some time before we went back to work. The Powers That Be wanted to make sure there was no damage and we were safe to return. (We were and we did.)

Everyone laughed at me running into the set. Including me. It was simply my first instinct taking over. Get under a door frame! (If you ever watch a rerun of Roseanne and see that archway between the kitchen and den, you can just imagine me under there with wide eyes that go even wider when I realize I shouldn’t be there!) That earthquake ended up measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale. That’s considered moderate. But the intensity of a quake also depends on how deep it is. The deeper it is, the less damage that may occur (again, depending on size and which direction the earth is shaking.) This most recent earthquake in Nepal wasn’t very deep which probably contributed to the destruction.

The pic below is similar to the idea I had in mind when writing A Little Danger.

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By the way, If you read the blog at Just Romantic Suspense, you should know that the earthquake stories shared there are actual real life accounts. (I may have borrowed them from friends and family members.)

How about you? Do you have an earthquake story to share?

You Heard It Here: Happiness Is… A Roller Coaster

Okay, I might be lying a little because I don’t mean roller coaster as in the thing you get strapped into and then are whizzed around on a small track at ungodly speeds… I’m talking about how sometimes life gets so hectic and you have so many things on your plate that you have to take small bites to get it all down. Know what I mean?

I’m not complaining… I’m just trying to digest all of the things happening at once. For instance…

Yesterday was the Los Angeles Festival of Books where I was able to have a book signing under the Romance Writers of America booth. I had so much fun meeting and talking to new people! And of course it was awesome to see some pals as well.

Next on my list is today and the first day back at the day job. The Thundermans is back for season 3 and I’m so excited to see the cast and crew after 4 months off. I can’t believe 4 months went by so fast! Life just cruises by in the blink of an eye. It’s crazy. (Here’s a shot from last year, but I know these kids have grown in 4 months. I’m a little scared the younger ones will be taller than me. Happens on every show, dang it!)

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And next… This upcoming weekend, April 25, is Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon in Milwaukee! I cannot wait for the event! It is SO AWESOME! (One of my all time favorite events.) So many readers and such fabulous authors and of course… rock star Barbara Vey! This year’s keynote speaker is the amazing Tess Gerritsen! I am really looking forward to it!

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I’m right in the middle of a crazy week so I’m taking one thing at a time. Bite size pieces if you know what I mean.

What about you? How do handle life’s roller coasters? Those times when you have so much going on that you wonder how you’re going to make it all happen. Any pointers are appreciated!

You Heard It Here: A New Release

I’m so happy to be rolling out the first novella in the Adrenaline Highs series. This book – since it’s a mini suspense – is appropriately titled A Little Danger. When I first had the idea for a novella and thought about who might be featured, I also started batting around title ideas. I actually have a pattern with my titles and this book kind of messed with the flow, but once I came up with the title I didn’t care as much. It’s a quick romp with two of my most level headed characters and I’m so glad they managed to find the time to talk and get to know each other. I might even be breaking some rules with this book, but I’ll let the reader decide.

Here’s the beautiful cover and the blurb.

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Some killers never die.

Elena Fraser is on her way to the airport to catch a flight to New York for the premiere of her daughter’s movie. Before limo driver Bill “Fido” Fidelo can make it to the freeway, a 7.1 earthquake collapses the overpass above and traps them. With nothing but time between frightening temblors, Elena and Bill learn more about each other, including the fact they’ve lusted after each other for years.

Understanding they might not survive, Elena and Bill look to one another for solace and companionship. Bill tries to convince Elena that their seven-year age difference means nothing to him, and Elena soon realizes that life is too short to put off living.

The passion they discover is enough to torch the limo they’re trapped in, but can rescuers save them in time, or will a final aftershock bury them before they have a chance to build a life together?

Since this story revolves around a major earthquake, I thought I’d share a story of the first major quake my husband and I went through in 1987. It’s known as the Whittier Narrows earthquake. I was in the shower (it was 7:00 in the morning), when everything started shaking. Showers in general will break the noise of an earthquake, but only to an extent. Watching the shower spray move back and forth like someone was waving it around was very surreal. It only took a few seconds for me to hop out of that sucker and look for clothes!

Let me tell you, there isn’t much louder than a major earthquake (although I’m sure any natural disaster will equal it). Seriously, it sounds like a freight train coming through the walls. Then of course you have everything that’s not nailed down flying all over the place.

Since I knew the safest place in our apartment was our bathroom area since it had so many reinforced doorways around it, I stood in one of those archways and called to my husband, holding out my hand for him to grab as he tried to make his way toward me from the bed. I had already grabbed the closest thing to put over myself and it happened to be his robe. Well, he grabbed the closest thing to him when he reached me and it turned out to be MY robe. Did I mention my husband is about a foot taller than me? When the quake was over we looked at each other and traded robes. It was pretty funny. We did a lot of holding onto each other that day. Generally we were pretty lucky. Although a lot of things fell out of cabinets and off shelves, we didn’t lose much. Our balcony got a giant crack across the middle and we never felt comfortable using it after that day, so we lost that space voluntarily. (We heard one of the apartments had their balcony fall completely so that was all the incentive we needed.)

One of our friends a few blocks away had her whole apartment crack in the middle and fall into itself. She ended up on our sofa for a night or two as she secured a new place.

I remember Pasadena was a mess. The clean-up was pretty massive as it usually is from something like this.

I’ll always say this about an earthquake. They make you thankful to be alive.

Does anyone have an earthquake story to share? I’d love to read about it!

Before I forget… here are links for A Little Danger just in case you’re interested.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | ARe

You Heard It Here: Hollywood Pain Part 2

This month’s Hollywood story is one of my bigger, more dramatic ones. I don’t have that many stories that really spark anger from people, but this is usually one of them. In general, people don’t believe what I went through, but I was young and – yes, stupid – so I remember it differently than it comes off.

As is the case when I’m telling a less than positive story, I’ll refrain from using the actors real names. Some of you may guess and that’s fine, but I’m not comfortable – yet – spilling it here. Maybe I’ll save it for a non-fiction bio. LOL.

Okay, enough of the build-up.

Early in my career working as a stand-in on a big show, I was rehearsing a scene with the main cast. I was seated next to the co-star of the show (let’s call him Patrick) on the sofa in the living room set, while the star of the show (let’s call her SpongeBob) paced behind us. In the scene, SpongBob’s supposed to be upset at her daughter. (In case you haven’t figured it out, I was playing the daughter for this rehearsal.)

SpongeBob is supposed to smack her daughter across the top of her head. Nothing hard or painful. Just what I refer to as a schkaba. It’s not supposed to hurt, it’s just a wake up call that you did something dumb. Well, I don’t know what SpongeBob was thinking, but apparently she thought it would be funny to haul off and flat hand the side of my head. I don’t know if she was aiming for anything in particular, but her aim was precisely over my ear and her hand was cupped in just the perfect way that when she hit me, I heard this big popping sound in my head followed by a ringing. Naturally, she laughed because she got a kick out of herself. I’m sitting there with my mouth open wide and my head ringing, thinking, What the hell was that? But the scene continued. Patrick starts saying his lines and it dawned on me that I couldn’t hear him from my right ear. The ear nearest him that was just smacked.

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My inner dialogue went something like this: “Oh shit! I can’t hear anything out of my right ear! But I can’t stop because the show must go on. I have to keep rehearsing. What if I get in trouble for stopping? What if I get fired from this great job?” As all that is running through my head, I’m barely paying attention to the scene. It comes time for me to say my character’s lines and I start to speak, but the words come out low and odd because I can’t hear them! Have you ever tried to talk when you can’t hear? Let me tell you… freaked me out. At that point, I was so mad, I threw caution to the wind.

“Oh my God! I can’t hear. I can’t believe you?” I yelled to SpongeBob. “You effing popped my ear drum! I can’t hear anything!” (Yes, I let fly an F-bomb.)

Her response was to laugh some more.

I was not amused. Then I took it a step farther and said, “I’m going to sue your ass!”

Her reply: “Get in line.”

Well, that pretty much doused my hopes for a settlement. Everyone laughed off my ringing ear and we went back to work. I never did sue her and after a few weeks my ear healed and I could hear again. It was not the only time SpongeBob physically abused me, but I’m saving the other story for a different time. And let me tell you… it’s a doozie.

So that’s this month’s Hollywood story. And not, it’s not an April Fools’ joke. It really did happen.

Did anyone ever hit you so hard, you heard bells ring? Let me know!

You Heard It Here: Happiness Is… A Cover Reveal

One of the best parts of this month was being able to share the cover for A Little Danger. I have to say that March has really kicked my ass in a big way. As I type this, I’m feeling almost as wiped out as I have ever been. I’m still very grateful for a lot of things this month. First, I’m happy that my sister’s back surgery was a success. Even though she’s experienced a few set backs, I’m thrilled with her physical recovery so far.

The icing on the successful-surgery cake was the cover reveal! The log line of this book might be my favorite one in the series:

Some killers never die.

I think the other thing that tickles me about this story is the title. Since this is the only novella in the Adrenaline Highs, it seemed apropos to call it “little.” Hence, you have A Little Danger. I know… I’m a goober.

Here’s the cover again just because I love to look at it. Haha.

ALittleDanger_highres

This is the blurb in case you missed it at the Not Your Usual Suspects Blog.

Elena Fraser is on her way to the airport to catch a flight to New York for the premiere of her daughter’s movie. Before limo driver Bill “Fido” Fidelo can make it to the freeway, a 7.1 earthquake collapses the overpass above and traps them. With nothing but time between frightening temblors, Elena and Bill learn more about each other, including the fact they’ve lusted after each other for years.

Understanding they might not survive, Elena and Bill look to one another for solace and companionship. Bill tries to convince Elena that their seven-year age difference means nothing to him, and Elena soon realizes that life is too short to put off living.

The passion they discover is enough to torch the limo they’re trapped in, but can rescuers save them in time, or will a final aftershock bury them before they have a chance to build a life together?

So that’s my happiness this month. A sister who is recovering from major back surgery and the cover reveal for A Little Danger! What’s your happiness?

 

You Heard It Here: Life

Life is one big gigantic roller coaster. We all go through good times and tough times. Lately, I’ve been spending time with my big sis. She underwent major back surgery a few days ago. Two surgeries that spanned two different days with a rest day in between. She handled the first surgery really well, with flying colors actually. I know she was in pain, but she got through it and seemed in good spirits as she awaited the bigger–more mondo–surgery. (I’m actually waiting in the surgical waiting room as I type this. She’s halfway through a six hour procedure.)

Though I know she needs this surgery, I know this is going to be a really tough thing to bounce back from. The doctor is breaking her back in multiple places and lining it up correctly with the help of screws and metal and all things the go buzz at the airport. (She has scoliosis and her back had curved to the point of crazy proportions.)

scoliosis-1 (BTW – This isn’t my sis, but I think her back was actually more curved than this.)

Round 2 surgery took almost 8 hours last Friday and it was very grueling. Sis now has 2 rods in her back. The good news is she’s a little taller. Haha. (I have to kid, because that’s just what I do!) She’s had multiple ups and downs since then with fevers and other issues, but I’m keeping good thoughts her recovery will continue in the right direction.

I know the next 6 months are going to be really hard on her and her family and I’m hoping/praying that everyone stays patient and takes each day at a time. I know how hard this is going to be not only for her, but everyone helping her.

(If anyone has any suggestions on how I handle going back to work in April, taking care of my sis and writing a book, I’d really appreciate it. Haha. Yeah… I’m serious, though.)

How about you? Have you been in the position to take care of a sibling or other family member? Or, maybe you know someone with scoliosis…? Let me know!

Thanks!

And thank you for all the good thoughts and prayers! They are all welcome and appreciated!

You Heard It Here: Hollywood Pain Part 1

You’ll understand the nature of the title of this post after you read part 2 next month. But until then, I’ll just go into part 1!

Some of you may be aware that people sacrifice for art. My sacrifice wasn’t anything major, it just hurt a little. Since my small cameo appearance on The Thundermans aired 4 days ago I thought I’d give you a little behind the scenes scoop building up to the actual shooting of the scene. Now, if you didn’t see it when it aired originally, you can probably find it in reruns. The show title is “Epic Failerina.”

I appear after the midway point when Phoebe is performing in Swan Lake. BTW – Kira Kosarin is an amazingly talented young lady. A triple threat if there ever was one… but I digress.

So before when we began rehearsal for the week, our producers were talking about who to get for the role of the “Purse Lady.” It was really just an extra roll, but it required special business and direction so that crossed a few union lines. Since I’m still a union member, I told them I’d be happy to rehearse the role to see if it worked and if it was as funny as they hoped. On our first producer’s run-thru on Tuesday afternoon, I hit poor Jack (with a purse) so hard that the producers asked me to do the part for real. (I thought I’d just been doing it strictly for rehearsal purposes.) I was so paranoid about hurting Jack (the actor playing Max), that I pulled my punch a little on the next day’s (Wednesday’s) run-thru and it wasn’t as funny. Lesson learned. Pain is funny.

JackGriffo JacknMe(Here are a couple of shots of Jack on set (and me working with him between scenes).

So my note for Thursday was “Don’t hold back!” The purse they gave me had a metal label on the front and I asked the props department to remove it because I didn’t want to hurt the poor guy. (At least not any more than I had to!) All week long I’d been using a much smaller bag which was easier to use, but for the shooting, I got a bigger bag to hit him with. As I think back on it now, the smaller purse was probably funnier and more “Ruth Buzzi-esque.” Still, I had a great time and it will be fun to watch it play in re-runs.

By the time the week ended, my arm was crazy sore from hitting him all week in rehearsals and take after take after take when we actually shot it. All week long I kept asking Jack if he was okay and all week long he laughed at me because nothing fazed him. That young man is as sturdy as they come. (And also a triple threat, I might add!)

So that was my week. It was tons of fun even though it involved pain. <G>

Now you’ve heard this month’s story of how I delivered pain, but next month you’ll get the other side of the coin when I’m the one that receives the pain. Hope you stop in.

Today’s question… Did you ever deliver pain, whether it was on purpose or accidental? How’d it make you feel?

You Heard It Here: Happiness Is… A New Book

I’ll admit that I was struggling to find my happiness this month. It started off a little rocky – because of the death of a friend – and will end a little rocky with the unveiling of my father’s headstone. I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since he died. But I’m happy knowing he’s at peace and he’s with my mom somewhere. She always wanted to travel and never really got the chance, so I have a sneaking suspicion that’s she’s dragging him all over the world to see everything she missed. Hey, who knows. Could be true.

But on to Happiness Is because I think it’s important to find happiness even in the sad times.

This month’s happiness is starting a new book. I’ve just finished the last Adrenaline Highs novel and it was kind of a bitter sweet moment. So before I got too sad about it, I dove into my next High Stakes novel. I’m still batting around possible titles, so I can’t share that with you, but I can tell you that you’re going to get Brendan St. John’s story. (That’s Blake’s twin in case you’re keeping track.) I don’t know if any of you remember that Blake works for one of my all time favorite characters… Seger Hughes. (I figure since I did a little series cross-over with Blake in Imminent Danger then I could cross Seger over into this High Stakes novel.) Seger plays an important part of this book and you can bet that where there’s Seger, there’s his wife Ashley. (Who knows… we might even see Roamer!)

IMG_0797 (BTW – this is my model for Roamer. He’s so sweet. Love this dog.)

So, that’s my happiness. What’s yours this month?

You Heard It Here: In Memory Of

This past week I experienced a first. It should’ve/could’ve been a scene from a movie or television show, but it was real life.

I got a call from the police department while I was in a movie. After checking my voice mail, I initially thought it was a scam, since I’ve been scammed before. But I soon found out, it wasn’t.

I returned the call and spoke with the officer. He was very cryptic, which made me even more leery. He mentioned a woman’s name. A woman I didn’t know. Yet he had my name and phone number so it was a true puzzle. Then he mentioned two names that I know very well. My dogs’ names. Then I had a connection and began piecing together the puzzle.

After a couple more phone calls, my husband and I went to the police department and waited for the officer we both spoke with over the phone. He took us to a small sitting area where we sat on a sofa while he and his partner sat across from us. I had my eyes peeled for the woman who brought us here. The woman who had my name and number and clearly needed me to help her. I mean, why else would the police call me? Something was wrong. We weren’t that close although she’d been house and dog sitting for us since she gave us the dogs. I was surprised that she didn’t have anyone else…surprised that she called me.

I had asked the officer if she’d been arrested as we talked on the phone and he said, “No,” so I felt a measure of relief. Still I wondered why she would be there and what would be needed of us.

He kept asking questions about her. Questions that didn’t really relate to right now/this minute, but I figured he was trying to make sense of the information he had and trying to build a full picture of the woman in question. After a few minutes, the officer sat forward and very calmly, very softly informed my husband and me that she had passed away. I couldn’t even tell you his exact words. I just remember I had my usual reaction when I’m told that someone has died. I said, “What? No way.” We were told my name and number was the only contact discovered near her. (Realistically, I know people die. I’ve lost my parents and I’ve lost friends. But I’ve discovered that surprise deaths aren’t something I deal with as well as the ‘someone’s sick and you have time to say goodbye’ deaths. I especially have a problem with it when it happens to someone young.)

I realized after the fact that she had something for the dogs and that was probably the only reason my name and number were so obvious.

Still, as many times as I’ve seen such a scene played out on television and on the big screen, I never dreamed that I’d be getting news like that myself. There is so much we owe Jess. Without her we wouldn’t have Zach and Liz who are very much a part of our family for the past three and a half years. I have no way to explain to the dogs that they’ll never see her again. They would go crazy when she showed up at the house. They’d maul her with unconditional love, crazy tongues and wagging tails. She pretty much saved their lives when their owner died and they knew it. They lived four months alone at their house with only Jess stopping in daily to take care of them before the house sold. She and a neighbor made a video and posted it to FaceBook hoping to find the dogs a family and they succeeded. They found us. (Actually, they found a lot of people, but we were thrilled when the dogs actually chose us among the candidates.)

So, though I didn’t know that many personal details about Jess, we connected because of our love for dogs. Anyone who continues to work for months making sure animals she doesn’t own are taken care of, who spends money on food and care, knowing that she won’t see it again, is someone I feel I can trust. I’ll admit she was a little quirky, but no one’s perfect.

Evidence indicates that she’d been living out of her car. I had no idea. I know she was a sweet sole who loved animals as unconditionally as they loved her. She was still young, too young to have died alone.

Please have a moment of silence for this young woman who gave way more than she received.

Rest in peace, Jess.