Have You Fallen For Someone Too Good To Be True?

One of the great things about being single is that you can publicly reflect on the dating life without worrying about the consequences when you get home. In fact, I am home and I’m not worried at all.

Last week my friend S C Cunningham and I were talking about our fictional characters and how they related to our desires in dating and relationships. I took the bait and today I’m going to talk about some of my characters and how they may have found their way into my books.

My characters often come to me in a flash and then develop into more complex people as I work with them over time. I’m not sure where any particular character comes from and if you want to psychoanalyze me at the end of this blog, feel free. Also feel free to chime in with the characters from fiction (or movies) that you’ve fallen for even though you know it is too good to be true.

Jo Caulfield from Sin & Vengeance is the place to start for me. Jo is a tall blonde that turns every head. She’s a complex women who marries an older guy in a marriage of appearances designed to improve her husband’s status in the community. Jo is paid well and is allowed to pursue her love of music as long as she remains celibate.

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Jo Caulfield

I fell in love with the image I worked from to create Jo. She resembles someone I adored when I was young and I think her complexity and sophistication – maybe even a touch of craziness was really appealing to me. Of all the female characters I have created, Jo remains my favorite. If she appeared in the flesh, I’d propose in three months.

Charlotte Finch from The End of Marking Time  is even more complex than Jo. She’s a redhead (I’ve never dated a redhead) and she’s devious and manipulative. It’s clear that Charlotte is doing her job, but she seems to be enjoying the machinations she puts Michael through. For those of you who think I have something against redheads, that’s certainly not true. One strange thing about my dating life is that all my serious relationships have come when women have approached me. I’m not sure if this is the way it always happens and I’m just more willing to admit it than other guys, or if I should be more proactive.

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Charlotte Finch

Anyway, writing the book I was attracted to Charlotte’s character and I even remember flirting with myself during an online chat where I played CJ West and Charlotte at the same time. (I’m not sure which of us was more turned on, but it was fun.)

Deirdre Deudon and Leah Donovan (Sin & Vengeance and Addicted to Love) are both on the prowl. Deirdre because her husband doesn’t pay any attention to her and Leah because of the peculiarities of living in Highland Falls. It’s obvious where these women came from and just as clear that I want to find a woman with a similar attitude and desire for passion.

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Deirdre Deudon

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Leah Donovan

But it was a surprise to me while writing this blog that Leah’s desire for constant sex and Deirdre’s willingness to get naughty didn’t create as strong an attraction for me as the more complex characters of Jo and Charlotte. This could indicate one of two things. Either I’m able to look beyond offers of constant and fantastic sex and see a woman for who she is OR I like being tortured by sophisticated and manipulative women. I’m not sure, so feel free to tell me in a comment.

I need to mention one other fictional woman. I’ve read hundreds of books, but only one female character stands out to me as potential dating material. Ruby Goodman from It Happens In Threes.  Ruby is fiercely independent and has a penchant for skinny dipping. In one scene Ruby stands nude on the edge of the pool talking to two men. It wasn’t so much the eroticism of the scene that grabbed me, but her confidence and independence not to walk over and cover herself with a towel that captured my imagination.

If I had to choose a date with a fictional character it would come down to Jo Caulfield or Ruby Goldman.

What about you?

Which fictional character have you fallen for?

Which fictional character would you set me up on a blind date with?

(authors, if you’d like to continue the discussion on your blog, let me know and I’ll link your post here.)

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MANday Week 5 An Insidious Form of Torture

You start on your belly, watching the clock, then push up until your back is straight and your body is braced stiff as a board – or a plank. Only your toes, elbows and forearms touch the floor.

In ten seconds a tremor ripples through your body.

When you breathe your core bounces.

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The second hand moves painfully slowly. At thirty seconds you wonder how long you can continue. When I first started I could only hold a plank thirty seconds. Now I know I can do better. I flex my abs. Tighten my quads. Keep myself straight.

At one minute pain grows in my lower back and I straighten up. The second hand starts down and I get a twinge of optimism. I’m not thinking about quitting yet. That’s a very good sign.

At about 1:30 the pain starts in my upper abs, near my chest. It radiates lower and down around my sides. This is where the real workout begins for me. My triceps start to fatigue as the second hand starts it upward turn.

At 2:00 I realize it’s much better when I haven’t run yet that day. Normally I’m dying to quit at two minutes, but today I let the second hand spin fifteen seconds more.

I collapse. 2:15 is a new record. Like running, watching the clock is key to my planking. Today I probably could have gone longer. If my record was 2:15 I could have made 2:20 or maybe longer. But there is always tomorrow.

You may wonder why anyone would do this. I don’t like doing planks, but they are a great exercise packed into a short time. Perfect for a busy guy who always has an office floor ready to transform into a workout room. Another great thing about planks is that they take almost no space. Anywhere you can lie down, you can plank.

I hope you are planking along with me and sharing in the torture – I mean fun.

If you are looking for support, check-in with me each week and visit plankaday on facebook and twitter!

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For those of you new to running like I am, the weather is getting warmer. It really helps to run early in the day before the sun heats things up and to drink lots of water. That’s next on my agenda. Time to break out the shorts and hit the road.

Stay hydrated. Keep moving. Live well.


How Many Times Have You Missed Your Chance To Be A Hero?

This week I’m celebrating the release of my short story Thugbook and last Friday the most ironic thing happened.

Before I get too far, let me tell you that Thugbook is a story about a social network that captures photographs of crimes in progress. Citizens upload pictures and the website locates them on a map, precisely where they were taken.

The cops, good citizens, and a few people willing to do anything for justice use the photos to know who the bad guys are. Some people take that information a bit too far.

It a fun, and a little bit serious, take on how we can use technology to turn our urban neighborhoods back into communities where pressure from neighbors keeps kids in line.

So Friday I was in a bar standing beside the pool table with my brother when a guy and his daughter, who was about twelve, came over. The glass covering the mechanism that holds the balls has been gone a long time. The girl reached in proudly and released the balls without paying.

Her father said to me, “They get smart fast, don’t they?”

Where was my camera?

This little girl could have been the first criminal for my Thugbook Pinboard. (Yes, I created a board on Pinterest where you can pin photos of thugs. Just like the book. )

 

Or should I have photographed the father?

How often have you seen that? A kid taking something that doesn’t belong to them or breaking something and the parent just going along. When did this become okay?

I remember another story a woman told me. She said her son was feeling down. They were in a restaurant so she told the waitress that it was his birthday so they’d bring him free cake. The kid was shocked. Me too.

These may seem like small things, but the lesson is a big one. We are teaching kids, some of them at least, that it is okay to take things we want even if they belong to someone else.

I had to wonder if some parents really have blinders on. And then I read about a teenager in New Bedford who was shot and killed by police. I feel sad for his mother, but listening to her I was absolutely stunned.

She cried and exalted her boy as a good kid who loved everyone. I characterized a family in Thugbook exactly the same way. I felt it was over the top until I saw this woman on television. She could have stepped right off the page.

The newspaper reported that her son was removed from school for throwing desks and assaulting teachers. That he was on the edge and didn’t belong in school with the general population. They put him into the public middle school because they didn’t have anywhere to put him and he ultimately found trouble and was shot and killed by a police officer.

There are two big questions here. First, how could the mother be so blind to her son’s problems? Second, how could the community not step in and help this kid learn how to deal with others?

It’s tragic that this boy died at 15 years old. He’ll never get a job and feel good about what he created with his own hands. He’ll never have the joy of seeing children and grandchildren grow.

Today I’m thinking this kid needed a nosy old lady next door. You know those women who are always in your business and aren’t afraid to tell you what’s on their mind? They expect you to behave a certain way and if you don’t they let you know.

Maybe we need more of those ladies and some large men very much like them.

Many people look down on enforcing the law for minor things, but it could be those minor things are what lead some of us to real trouble. Stepping in and stopping these kids early just might save them.

What do you think?

How many times have you missed your chance to turn a child around?


MANday Week 4 – Clock Watching

Remember the Sweat Hogs on Welcome Back Kotter? They were always watching the clock. Never paying attention. They were slackers. Losers.

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What if I told you watching the clock is a good thing?

In my MANday preparation this week, clock watching has been a tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good.

I’m breaking new ground on the road. Last Friday I ran 4 miles in 44 minutes. I was ecstatic about that until Monday when I ran it in 43:35. This morning I set a new personal best at 41:35. I shaved off an entire two minutes! I felt great going out this morning and I knew I’d do well, but I didn’t expect to do that well.

Watching the clock and pushing myself is really helping. I noticed two things this week. Most of the time I run with short strides and pace myself so my heart doesn’t explode. Last Friday as I ran the last mile, I opened up my strides and really pushed to beat my time. I ran most of that mile with long flowing strides, much faster than normal.

Today I noticed something else. When I started my breathing was really labored. I was “huffing and puffing” as my cousin described it. She said she could hear me coming. Sometimes I could taste blood. Don’t you hate that?

Well, today, I was breathing easy except when I pushed up a long climb. I was taxing myself and really struggling. I think that was the time I was really increasing my endurance. That push really counted and I pressed so hard because I was watching the clock.

 

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The bad.

If running is helping me shed fat to find my abs, planks, bicycles and the like are helping me define them so there is something to see once the fat is gone.

I fit right in with the Sweat Hogs (how appropriate) when it comes to ab work. I hate doing abs! I need to spend more time doing planks and bicycles. I’m doing planks every day, I just really need to do more of them. The @plankpolice have busted me twice for not posting. I really need to pay more attention to abs. That’s my goal next week.

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3 This week!
OMG no!

 

The ugly.

I did a favor for a friend this week and she gave me a chocolate bar. Not a dinky little chocolate bar. A massive Hershey’s Special Dark. That was the road to ruin. I ate three this week! Enough already. Next week no chocolate. If you see me going to Lloyd’s to get some, help me out and block the door!

Two final notes on clock watching…

My running times are improving by a significant margin and that tells me I have more improvement to come. I’m targeting between 36 and 40 minutes for my 4 miles. That’s somewhere between a 9 and 10 minute mile. I’m not sure how respectable that is to real athletes, but it is a vast improvement from where I started.

I have some news to share. I have set a date for MANday photos. Assuming Jill comes through with 5,000 comments (you can take mercy and help her), my good friend Sue has agreed to take some photos of me when I visit her family in Maine. Some of you May know Sue and her mother-in-law Nancy from my Facebook page.

Sue won the TEOMT photo contest with This amazing entry:

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That’s all for me this week. What have you done on the road and on the mat?


Poker Reinforces A Life Lesson

Last night I made a lousy play at free poker. If you’re not a fan of cards, you’re free to skip down to “What would you do?” and read the lesson at the end. If you’d like to learn a bit about poker follow along.

I sat down feeling loose and lucky. We were playing a free No Limit Hold ‘em poker tournament, so the consequences of losing are limited to the embarrassment of standing up and going home early. With nothing invested, the game tends to be loose and fun, so if you are a serious poker player, you need to take that into account.

I dealt and looked down at Ace, King. A premium hand.

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The player under the gun (first after the blinds) raised three times the big blind. This is a standard raise from a decent, but not tight player. He said, “I have to raise.” This is a tell. Anytime a player justifies his betting or raising, he wants you to call because he has a good hand.

Play folded to me. I raised, quadrupling the initial raise. I said to the two players on my left that I was raising only to get them to fold. I was signaling them to fold, intentionally giving them a tell because I wanted them out. The reason is that I figured my opponent for Ace, Queen. With Ace, King I had a massive advantage heads-up.

The loose players to my left both called in spite of my warning not to.

The flop came Ace, Queen, Six. Two spades.

The initial raiser bet six hundred. This was another big signal. He told me that even though I raised him pre-flop, he was betting anyway.

I raised him again. Part of my reasoning in raising was to push out someone holding two spades or a straight draw.

The two loose players folded.

The initial raiser moved all-in.

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I had a decision. I had a pair of Aces with a King kicker. Half my chips were in the pot on the first hand of the night. I put my opponent on Ace, Queen pre-flop. If I was right, he had two pair giving me just three outs. (I needed one of the three remaining Kings). That’s a 12% chance of winning. My only hope was that he was on Ace, Ten or Ace Jack.

What would you do?

I’m not going to tell you what his hand was in case you want to figure it out yourself. Go back, reread, and make your guess now. The answer will come in a paragraph or two.

I lost the hand, but when I got home I was really happy about it. I wasn’t happy about losing, but how I lost. I laughed it off, shook my opponent’s hand and left the bar with a smile after talking with a few friends.

This is a big departure for me. I was a good sport before, but I would beat myself up for bad decisions and make myself miserable every time I made a poor play. In the last year or so, I’ve learned that winning or losing in poker doesn’t change my value in the world. I can look at my mistakes, evaluate my actions, and move on. It’s like I’m finally a grown-up!

This may seem silly, but you’d be amazed how many poker players get ripping mad when things don’t go their way. They turn red, yell, slam the table and throw things. None of this helps of course. Emotion only clouds decision making. The best advice I can give you is not to gamble what you can’t afford to lose and to focus on having fun and playing your best. Poker has a lot to offer. Most of your decisions come with limited information just like in business and life. IMHO there is not a better laboratory for understanding human behavior. Enjoy poker for what it is: entertainment.

If you are still wondering what my opponent held, he had pocket queens. He flopped a set (3 of a kind with two hidden), and knocked me out of the game on the very first hand.

Let’s back and evaluate my play. Raising pre-flop to get the two blinds to fold was a good idea with a premium hand. Raising his bet on the flop was questionable. I felt I was behind but ignored my instincts. To be fair, folding Aces with a King kicker would have been a world-class play. The big mistake was calling after he moved all-in. I knew I was beaten and I called hoping to get lucky.

I hope you enjoyed learning vicariously from my mistake. Maybe next week I’ll have a good play to tell you about. Here’s hoping!

 

 

 

 


Do You Put Milk In Your Eggs?

This morning I made scrambled eggs to add protein to my MANday diet. While I cooked, I watched the heat transform the yellow liquid into something that seemed more substantial even if it wasn’t. I remembered my Aunt Ann and how she taught me to cook eggs by moving them fast over high heat.

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Notice there is no bacon in this picture!

Then I remembered something else. Milk bubbling along the edges of the pan. Remember that? For those of you who haven’t added milk to eggs, it was something we did up here in the Northeastern US to stretch the budget when milk was a lot less expensive than eggs.

That got me thinking about the ways our life has evolved. We used to do a lot of things ourselves to save money, but we don’t do that much for ourselves anymore. We have become so specialized, our talents so valuable, that we hire professionals to perform all sorts of services.

Two weeks ago I read Seth Godin’s book, Permission Marketing. This book has been around a while, but one of the things that really stuck with me is that there are more and more demands on our time. And that time and not things are becoming our most precious commodity.

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So much better from scratch!

When I was a kid, I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch. I still make them the same way. The difference being I do it faster now and a lot less frequently. But my kids make them from that roll of Toll House dough. I think mine are much better but they don’t seem to mind the tiny deflated cookies.

I’m the same with pizza. I make my own dough from scratch while most people buy a package of dough in the grocery store. Some of them call Dominos or Papa Gino’s, which might be the fastest way of all. They deliver almost anywhere! Sadly, I think Papa Gino’s pizza might be better than mine, but I enjoy making it.

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I do admit Papa Gino’s
Kicks my butt in pizza making.

So this morning while I ate my eggs I was thinking that I’m a dinosaur. I like doing things the old fashioned way. The best illustration happened a few years ago. I was clearing some land near my home. Instead of cutting the trees with my chainsaw and then pulling the stumps with a machine, I used hand tools to dig out the roots first and then I used the tree’s own weight to pop out the stumps. It was great exercise and it made me feel clever.

Note: Taking out stumps this way is highly dangerous. Please don’t try it yourself.

Today I had a glimmer of hope for bringing myself into the modern age. My primary goal in this blog is sharing thoughts that will help you enjoy life’s journey. If I can do that, I’m doing my part in this crazy, highly-specialized world we live in. I also did something yesterday to follow Mr. Godin’s advice and save you time.

I published this blog to the Kindle Store. Hopefully, the convenience of having this blog on your Kindle whenever it is published will save you time AND you’ll get my thoughts on enjoying life’s journey more regularly.

Maybe I’m a new kind of technologically savvy dinosaur.

What about you? What do you do the old fashioned way?


What Does Your $8.40 Do For You?

I walked into the grocery store yesterday behind a woman who turned to the head of the register line and snuck through. That was a clue to what she was buying, but I didn’t notice until I grabbed my mega chocolate bar and got in line behind her.

I know, I’m not supposed to be eating those right now, but I was weak.

The cashier said “Eight forty,” and that snapped me awake.

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Eight dollars and forty cents for cigarettes that would last a day.

The government is taxing the crap out of those things to try and force people to quit.

We all know smoking is horrible for you. You can’t smoke in a bar, or most any other place people gather. Why? Because it makes people sick. Not just any sick. Lung cancer. Painful, agonizing death, sick.

Still, people smoke.

Before I got too high and mighty, I looked down in my hand.

 

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Every time I drive to the store for one of these, or to Country Whip to get an ice cream sundae, I have a conversation with myself. It goes something like this:

“You know you shouldn’t do this.”

“It’s just one (insert highly-caloric indulgence here). I ran yesterday.”

“That photo is coming up in 40 days.”

“I’ll run tomorrow.”

“You’re just making it harder on yourself.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Like so many of our decisions in life, we talk about the rational aspects. The facts. The cost. The consequences. But what really matters in life when you get down to it is emotion. There is a reason I eat chocolate. It tastes good, but more than that it makes me feel good.

I’ve got a major neural pathway from my sweet taste buds to the big pleasure center in my brain.

I’m spoiling myself. Telling my body I love it even though I’m adding fat calories by the handful.

It would be better if I dug deeper to the reason I was going out for chocolate, but that’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes my indulgence is a celebration, but more often something is bothering me and junk food is an escape. A signal to myself that it’s ok. I’m worthy.

At some level I believe these bad habits are really useful. In my case they help stave off worry about the future, book sales, or whatever peril I imagine my kids facing. When I’m done fattening myself up, I can go back to my day and cruise along.

I really admire those people who can turn a healthy habit into a reward. To substitute a long walk for chocolate or cigarettes. That relieves stress AND makes them healthier.

Kudos to them.

Years ago I worked for a company and one of the owners was really fond of saying, “Habit can be your strongest ally or your fiercest foe.” I’ve found this to be so true!

But can we really extinguish every bad habit?

Is there some good that comes out of being bad?