Sunday, April 13, 2008

I'm Validated!

How cool is this?

I'm on Amazon, which means my upcoming mystery novel, MAMA DOES TIME, finally feels real. Funny thing, I didn't even know it was there, until the guy who's helping me design my website added an "Order Now'' link to my Coming Soon page. I clicked, and there it was.

Who knew?

Since Amazon sells the world, and my book's now available on Amazon (or, at least it's available to pre-order and then ship when it's published in October), I'm validated. I'm a participant in the world of commerce. An odd feeling, since the only thing I've EVER sold are raffle tickets and Girl Scout cookies.

It's kind of the same feeling I had all those many, many (many!) years ago, the first time I saw my byline in a newspaper over a story I reported and wrote. My words, right there in black and white (and read all over, as the grade-school riddle went).

Then, I was a tiny cog in the daily paper. Now, I'm the coming attraction. A commodity.

Step right up, folks! Check out my new website:

Get your mystery novel here!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Break!

The calendar says it’s spring, and most of the nation is a'tingle.
As a native of snow-free Florida, I don't see the big whoop. I
never got the crucial concepts:
Spring Fever. Spring Thaw. Spring Cleaning.
I am, however, intimately familiar with one seasonal tradition:
Spring Break.
And let's just say I'm grateful the cameras from "Girls
Gone Wild'' weren't around in the distant decade of my misspent youth.
Combine a tiny bikini with a quart of Harvey Wallbangers, and almost
anyone might be prodded into entering a Hot Bod contest.
Well, anyone who was born in Fort Lauderdale, that is. My
hometown set the original standard for all the sun, sin, and
booze-soaked Spring Breaks that came after. Partaking was a family
tradition. My older sister was an extra in the 1960 movie, "Where the
Boys Are.'' That picture conferred Lauderdale's Spring Break Crown.
And we kept it, too, for more than a quarter century. At least until
civic leaders, as if awakening from a long hangover, finally shut down
the party. Last call for Fort Liquordale. Next stop Cancun.
Now, Fort Lauderdale's college-kid glory days, like my own, are
long gone. It's been 20 years since the campaign to kill Spring Break
finally succeeded. And longer still since I retired my string bikini.
I took a stroll along the beachfront the other day. A single cop
leaned on his motorcycle at Las Olas and A-1-A. Once, there were
legions in riot gear, trying to contain a crowd of 350,000 beer- and
hormone-addled spring-breakers. So many were arrested, kids started
wearing t-shirts: "Come on Vacation, Leave on Probation.''
Now, families picnic where the world's largest inflatable beer
bottle once swayed. The crowd is positively sedate at the Elbo Room,
where spring-breakers used to take a running start outside to slide on
their bellies across a beer-flooded floor. A banner on the bar's
balcony promotes the Humane Society's "Walk for the Animals.''
In the old days, spring-breakers didn't walk for the animals. They
WERE the animals!
Finally I arrive at the biggest symbol of change: The ultra-posh St.
Regis hotel. It opened last year where the Candy Store once stood. In
case you missed 1983's cinematic masterpiece, "Spring Break,'' the
Store's poolside bar was Fort Lauderdale's Bikini Contest Central.
"Good evening, ma'am,'' the doorman nods politely.
I look at him and realize he wasn't even born when the Candy Store –
and I – had our heyday. There's no way he could know that almost
thirty springs ago, that was me by the pool in a purple string bikini.
And, on that long-lost Spring Break, nobody was calling me ma'am.

Rushing (Away ) from Adrenaline

I have a position on adrenaline. I’m against it.

My husband Kerry, on the other hand, is a thrill junkie. He constantly pushes me to LEAP into adventure while I would rather look and look and look some more before finally deciding: “Nah. I don’t really want to leap.’’

This push and pull has played out for the 20 years of our marriage, often on vacation. All I want is a hammock. All he wants is for us to hurtle somewhere fast until the adrenaline is pumping so hard I’m sure I’m two heartbeats from death.

Now, I’m taking a stand for thrill-o-phobes everywhere. As the travel season approaches, I’m here to say you don’t have to “Just Try It.’’ Instead, heed my advice on the top 3 things the adrenaline adverse should never ever try:

** Zip-lining. “Imagine,’’ Kerry said, “flying on a cable through the tree-tops of an old-growth forest.’’ Now imagine me dangling from that same cable awaiting rescue, trussed up like a duck in the window of a Chinese butcher. It turned out the zipline folks didn’t really mean it when they told me I could quit if I didn’t like it before completing all the runs.

A staffer tried first – and failed – to get me back to the starting point by wrapping his legs around my body and inching us hand-over-hand along the cable like early Sylvester Stallone. Finally, they had to call for a truck and a tow rope to haul me backwards, against gravity, to where I could safely disconnect and descend.

** Whitewater rafting. In Florida, our rivers meander slowly, gently. Plop my bottom in an inner tube and I’ll happily float all day. But sharp rocks, churning water, violent rapids that send a six-man raft spinning? What was I thinking?

Normally, I repress adrenaline-related memories, but there’s photographic evidence of this one. A huge boulder looms. Water roils. My husband’s up front in the airborne raft, wide smile. I’m crouched in back next to the guide, mouth gaping in horror like that guy from “The Scream.’’

** Snow-skiing. As Kerry raced over Black Diamond trails, I ventured onto the Bunny Slope … and was immediately mowed down by one of my beginner-class mates, an 8-year-old with no fear. I sprained an ankle, and had to be carted off the hill. Which proved my point: A middle-aged woman has no business trying to learn to ski, especially if her sole snow experience was growing up eating Sno-Kones in Florida.

So there you have it, fellow quiet types. Travel adventures I’ve tried -- and hated. Check back next year for possible additions. Kerry’s dropping hints about hiking a glacier.