Monday, August 1, 2016

Rear-ended Twice

I've had an interesting customer service experience after being involved in an accident in a rental car. The driver that rear-ended us at a stop sign, causing cosmetic damage to the vehicle, exchanged his information freely with an apology and we went on with our day. In the end, my insurance company is paying the claim, which cost them around $250 and me a $500 deductible. The only explanation I have been given for this is that the young man will "not answer his phone." I received a threatening email today from the rental car company demanding remittance in 10 days. The email was sent 6 days ago. It's summer. I don't live on the Internet these days. According to the email, legal action will commence against me, the individual driving the car that was rear-ended by an insured driver, in four days. I've been "trumped," put in the shade. The big corporation went after me instead of the guilty party because I answered the phone. I only left one question out of my response email that I wish I had asked: Had I bought your scam tack-on $40 insurance, would your company have given up on getting its money back from the responsible driver in this accident? Because I had full coverage that includes rental cars, I am being pursued for damages caused by an INSURED, let me repeat that, INSURED driver. I am being punished for having good insurance and answering the phone. Yep, I've been rear-ended twice on this deal.
My response to the email: I need in writing, as in mailed to my house in an envelope with signatures and legally binding things like that, an explanation of why I am having to pay this claim. Advantage Car Rental contacted the insurance company (Progressive) of the man who hit the car. That insurance company verified that they, in fact, did have coverage with the driver who hit the car. Now, this is where it gets really shady. Because this guy, who was insured, will not answer his phone, I now have to pay this claim. What is right about that? So, should I not respond to your email, (which, by the way, I had not checked in 6 days and thus am completely baffled why a company would use this as its means of communication in legally binding matters like this) will you give up and go away? That's what every single one of you have done when it came to collecting money from the actual person who was at fault and his insurance company. The only explanation anyone has been able to give me is, "He would not respond. We can't verify he was in the accident." We have pictures and three witnesses, people. He was in the accident. I sent you a picture of his driver's license and the truck that hit us, along with his insurance information. Unless you think three over fifty women stalked this young man and stole his ID and truck to run into the back of the rental car, I think you can assume he was there.
So, Advantage Rental Car threatens its customer with legal action and releases the irresponsible driver of his obligations because he can't be bothered to respond to let you all know that he was definitely at fault when he rear-ended the STOPPED vehicle at the STOP sign. Wow! I can't wait to share my experience with the world. When I receive a letter with a bill, something tangible that I can hold, that includes every step your company took to collect from the driver responsible for this accident, I will pay the $500 I am required by my insurance company to pay as a deductible. My only regret is that I ever rented a car from this company and that I pay for insurance from a company (State Farm) that would pay off on such a bogus claim as this, simply because I answered the phone and the guy that hit me did not.
You have my address. Please send the material right away so I can remit my part before you attempt to tack on more monies for claims of legal expenses and the like. I'm sure this letter will result in absolutely nothing in my favor being accomplished other than I feel so much better about writing that check now. It makes my heart sing that someone will have to carry with them the knowledge that I got "trumped" on this deal, and I have officially used "the shady art of screwing the little guy—trumped" as a verb now. When I see that handsome young man that hit me again, and I will because he was really easy to find and hangs out in the same little place on Flagler Ave. in New Smyrna Beach that I do, I'll tell him he owes you all a thank you for cleaning up his twenty-something irresponsibility. Way to teach him a lesson, huh?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Paying Attention to Defining Moments

I heard the door open as she walked into the lobby, where I had just finished the last performance in the third year of my undergrad theatre program. I was still in theatrical make-up, wrapping up the goodbyes to the cast and crew after a successful run. Thankfully, I had just played a Texas debutante in “Vanities” and didn’t look too weirdly made-up. I noticed her immediately. I swear I felt a jolt, an immediate connection. I heard a voice in my head shout, “Pay attention. This is your defining moment.”
On the left: NYC in 2014
On the right: 1989 in an Atlanta airport photobooth
I remember that moment very clearly. I can see her walking toward me as if it was just yesterday. I fell in love with her almost instantaneously. I had never loved a woman. I had never thought about being with one for the remainder of my days, but in that split second, I knew she was the ideal I had sought in my young twenty-six years. Later that evening, over drinks at a local bar with friends, when she touched me casually and something like an electric shock surged through my body, I was thoroughly convinced something magical was taking place. When people say they don’t believe in love at first sight, I usually just smile. I know it can happen. It happened to me.
I went home that night and had a talk with myself. I knew the journey would be difficult. The culture I was raised in would not accept my love of a woman. I knew custody of my child
would come into play. I knew this would be the hardest decision I ever made in my life, but it was also the easiest. I concluded, after hours of arguing with myself, that not taking this chance would haunt me for the rest of my life. I didn’t know if she felt the same way, but it was worth the risk to find out.
I drove by her house the next day and saw her in the yard. I stopped. With my heart beating out of my chest, I strolled up to her trying not to look desperate. She was watching a Braves game on a small TV she’d brought outside, sipping a Coors, and perfectly content with her life as it was. She had no idea that was about to change. She smiled and told me that her roommate, who was my best friend’s girlfriend at the time, was not at home. To my surprise and with a little until then untapped swagger, I boldly answered, “I’m not looking for her. I came to see you.” That was my first and only pick-up line offered to a woman. It seemed to have worked. She smiled again and offered me a beer. From that moment on, we have been together. It took a couple of weeks of casual dates and a pre-season softball party to secure the deal, but I’m so glad I took the chance that she too felt a connection with me.
February 12, 2016
We celebrated our twenty-eighth Valentine’s Day yesterday. We stayed home. I read research material while she watched sports and Jaws movies. I cooked her favorite meal. She brought me coconut water while I soaked my aching back in the tub. We laughed, we hugged, we sat next to each other not talking, each lost in our own activities, but I’ve never felt more loved. We don’t do extraordinary things on designated days of love because we love like there is no tomorrow every day.
The day I found the one, the one that still makes my heart pitter-patter 10,139 days after that first breathtaking moment, was the luckiest day of a happy life. Today, the day after the world’s official day of love is just another day of living with and loving the person that makes me whole. I am so grateful for her and that I found the great love of my life. I think the world would be a different place if we all had that kind of connection with someone. My life would have been so different if I had not listened to that voice that urged, “Pay attention, this is it, this is your moment.” I thank the stars that I believed in love at first sight back then. I certainly believe it today.
This book was inspired by our story.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Special Agent Nobody

I’m a writer by profession and out of necessity. I read people like other’s read books. I watch them and find the human condition fascinating. I also have fun with living in the minds of my characters, the people that occupy my imagination. I had fun on my recent trip home while allowing people to make assumptions and watching them write their own fiction about me.

I was given an official shirt that identifies me as a special agent for a government entity. I wore the shirt to the airport for its incredible comfort and for the same reason I wear my Duke Law tee shirt. People take notice and create a story for themselves about whom I might be. With a Duke Law shirt on, I have avoided questionable behavior from service workers. No one wants to tangle with a Duke lawyer. I never lie about or infer that I am a lawyer, but the shirt speaks its own language.

Yesterday, I stepped into the crowded queue for security checks at the airport wearing a zip up Duke hoodie, jeans, and tennis shoes. No one really noticed me. The people around me began to chat while I stood there quietly. I became warm and removed my coat. I had completely forgotten about the embroidered badge on my shirt identifying me as a "United States Special Agent.

The line suddenly began to move forward rapidly. The guy in front of me, who had been talking with the couple behind me, says, “Wow, I wonder why our line started moving like that?”

I said, “It’s me. I’m magic,” still not thinking about the shirt.

He looked down and saw the badge. His demeanor changed immediately. Part of my brain said, “You should not have taken off that hoodie.” The other part said, “Oh, this is going to be fun.”

At that point, he says, “So, 'Special Agent'. That's exciting.”

Since the fine print on the shirt identified the government branch the badge belongs to, I answered truthfully, “Oh, I just hang out in my office, really.”

A real agent probably would not have put on that shirt to come to an airport and they rarely reveal their occupation to strangers. I played it perfectly. Just like in a good book, the more mystery the better. Leave them wanting more and filling in the blanks with their own experiences and imagination. The line moved a bit more. We chat, but I never say I’m an agent or anything remotely untrue, but I’m sure the act was sold well.

Just as we made it through the I.D. check, a TSA agent tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Come with me.”

She motioned to the guy and the couple who were talking to me to come also. We were escorted to a short line and rushed through the remainder of the security check. Dude is losing his mind with joy. He’s going on and on about traveling with a special agent and how cool that was. I was cracking up inside but never let on that it was just a very comfortable polo shirt.

I look at this exchange with strangers as a traveler’s gift. I got my own story and I’m sure that guy is telling people today about the special agent that got him through an hour long line in fifteen minutes.

As a side note, when I asked the young woman beside me on the plane to respect my personal space in the nicest way possible, her original look of disdain was replaced with immediate compliance when she saw the embroidered badge on my chest. I think I’ll be using this shirt like my Duke Law tee shirt, sparingly and as an opportunity to be a Molly Kincaid* or a Rainey Bell* for pure selfish entertainment.

(*—Molly Kincaid is a character of mine who is a Duke-educated successful attorney. Rainey Bell is a former FBI profiler in the Rainey Bell Thriller series.)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Rainey Bell Holiday Short Story is now available.

The Rainey Bell Holiday Short Story is now available.

Story description: Fans of the Rainey Bell Thriller series will enjoy this holiday short story featuring Rainey, Katie, and the Bell-Meyers triplets. Far from the usual thriller, this story will have you laughing at preschooler logic and the magic of Santa in a child's eyes.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Run on...

I doubt there is a soul reading this blog that doesn't already know we lost Sandra Moran too damn soon. Her life has been memorialized in the words of family, friends, colleagues, students, and anyone she touched. Sandra had a wide reach and her loss is palpable in the air. The energy was strong with this one. 

Sandra and I didn’t talk much about each other’s books. We had some short exchanges about research, but we really didn’t get into deep conversations about our individual works. We did discuss what we thought made a good book, where we wanted to be as writers in a few years, and the direction we each saw LGBT literature heading in the changing landscape of social acceptance. Much of the time, though, our conversations were of the non-literary nature.

My most memorable private exchange took place over breakfast in New Smyrna Beach in 2014. With the sun just beginning to warm the white sands below us, we gazed out the restaurant window over steaming cups of coffee and gushed about the women we were bonded to without question. We each acknowledged how lucky we were to have found the one great love of our lives. Beyond any other aspect of my friendship with Sandra Moran, her devotion to her wife was the most endearing. That is the source of my deepest sadness. My empathy is informed by the knowledge Sandra so deeply loved Cheryl.

I read through the entire thread of my private Facebook chats with Sandra going back to the very first.

03/23/2013 5:54PM
Sandra Moran: Hi. Thanks for the add. Jeanne talks about you fondly all the time.

I was shocked that it was not that long ago when we began talking.  I came across the following conversation, which was quite typical of our exchanges:

2/18/2014 4:34PM
Me: I found a rock, well, it doesn't look like a rock, that's why I stopped to look at it. It came out of the riverbed that runs through OK City. I swear, there are teeth or a broken antler sticking out of this rock.

Sandra: Picture?

Me: coming 

Sandra: I'm actually on a run right now but when I get back to my computer and able to look at it in closer detail I'll let you know what I think it is. I think it's pretty cool

Me: great. thanks
enjoy the run

02/18/2014 5:58PM
Me: it's a barnacle. I'm an idiot. LOL J

Sandra: It’s funny that you replied at that moment because I was just looking at it.

Me: It looks like really hard mud and a barnacle. There was another similar rock and I broke it open. It looks like coral.

Sandra: I was going to say that it was likely some kind of sea thing that got compressed in the rock before it hardened

Me: Of course, if it had been a priceless artifact, I would have just ruined it.

Sandra: hahahaha That's part of the fun of discovery, though!!!

I will miss these exchanges. It is an amazing tribute to Sandra that she made so many people feel important in her life. She made a difference in our lives. Deb and I decided to remember Sandra as she was that day on the beach, headphones in, wet hair from sweating, as she returned from a long run—running right past us and the hotel where we were all staying.  
After we watched her run until she faded from sight, mixing in with the distant beachcombers, Deb and I looked at each other, shrugged and said, “She’ll figure it out. She'll find her way back.”
We'd like to believe she's just still running, figuring it out.
Until our energy mingles on...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NSB Book Festival set for Oct 3-4

NSB Book Festival set for Oct 3-4
The New Smyrna Beach Book Festival will take place October 3rd and October 4th beachside. The festival features over a dozen authors representing multiple states and multiple Florida Book Award winners. Representing fiction writing a festival goal was to prioritize great books that both the avid and recreational reader might enjoy reading on the beach on vacation.
Featured fiction books include suspense, thrillers, mysteries, inspiration, detective, and fantasy genres.
Author sessions begin at 11:00am on Saturday and 12:00 pm on Sunday taking place at The Coronado Civic Center on Flagler Avenue. Sessions will include author instructions, book sales, book signings and presentations on such topics as inspiration for the book, description of plot and characters, dialog readings as well as questions and answers. In addition to selling the featured books at the session, all of the Festival’s books will be for sale at the Festival Book Store at the Coronado Civic Center both days of the festival.
The Festival also offers a free Writers Workshop Panel Discussion on Saturday at 10:00 am. The panel discussion will focus on a variety of topics from plot and character development to advice to aspiring writers on getting published, and more. 

On Saturday night of the festival, there is a special happy hour social meet-and-greet where you can meet some of the authors in attendance in a casual setting. The social begins at 6pm at Outriggers Tiki Bar and Grille located at 200 Boatyard St., New Smyrna Beach. Festival attendees are encouraged to go and have the chance to mingle with the authors. The festival sessions during the day will feature opportunities to win beverage tickets to the social that night as well as a set of sign copies of the books from each author.
The New Smyrna Beach Book Festival is part of Fall Beach Weeks in New Smyrna Beach 40 days of festivals in nine weeks from September 26th through November 29th. The campaign is designed to showcase New Smyrna Beach during autumn and increase its appeal as an off-season vacation destination. For more festival information and special Beach Weeks/Book Festival accommodations call the New Smyrna Beach Visitors Center at 1-800-541-9621.
Below is the book festival schedule. For a more detailed schedule that includes book descriptions and author mini-biographies go to and click the NSB Book Festival prompt or Text “AUTHOR” to 40691 for a detailed schedule on your smart phone. The 2015 NSB Book Festival is sponsored by the University of Central Florida Daytona Campus, New Smyrna Chevy, 95.7 the HOG, 103.3 the VIBE, 99.5 LOV FM, 93.1 Coast Country, and 1150AM News Talk Daytona. 

New Smyrna Beach Book Festival Schedule Coronado Civic Center
223 Flagler Ave/ Corner of Flagler & PineCoordinator: Sandy Brown 843-222-1862 

Saturday, October 3rd
10:00am 11:00am:
PANEL Writers Workshop Panel

11:15am 12:15pm:
Nicole Mary Kelby The Pink Suit

12:30pm 1:30pm:
Jason Mott - The Wonder of All Things

1:45pm 2:45pm:
Sandra Moran All We Lack

3:00pm 4pm
Patrick Kendrick Acoustic Shadows and The Savants

4:00pm- 5:00 pm
Nancy Cohen Peril By Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day mystery series

Sunday, October 4th
12:00am 1:00pm:
R.E. Bradshaw Relatively Rainey and Tambourines & Elephants 

Cassie Selleck The Pecan Man

Janell Suicide Watch/Spells
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Before you judge...

Before you judge:
How do you know the grandmother with diamonds on her fingers and beautiful expensive clothes, buying food for six grandchildren with a food stamp card, hasn’t suddenly found herself responsible for a family she never dreamed her retirement would have to support? Should she be blamed for taking care of herself or looking healthier than she has a right to at seventy? The clothes she wears are ten years old and bought before her husband got sick, draining all the savings, but she should suffer for the care she's taken so they appear new? She's already sold her home, moved away from all her friends. How do you know she isn’t one dollar from losing everything? You don’t, so shut up!
How do you know that young mother of three didn’t just find out her husband took all the money and ran off, leaving her in mounds of debt with three mouths to feed? Or maybe she's finally starting over after she had to hide from his abusive hands. Or maybe she has a disease that took all they had and will take her too. Or maybe he died, coming home too tired from too many jobs, and now she's alone without hope. You don’t have a clue, so shut up!
How do you know the new car he's loading his food-stamp paid for groceries into wasn’t loaned to him by someone with a non-judgmental heart, who knows he's a soldier and still can't feed his family. Suppose he's that soldier's brother, the one who left his legs in the sand to fight for corporate oil, so you could freely sneer at his young brother trying to help his family out. You don’t know anything, so shut up!
How do you know she isn't a young mother of foster kids nobody wanted, but she and her husband did? She dresses them in nice clothes, teaches them what love is, but you would judge her for having too many and needing help to feed them. How about there are too few of her and too many lost children deprived of loving homes by the attitudes of judgment prevailing today? Just shut up! 
How do you know that young girl with two little babies didn’t believe she was getting out of the hell she grew up in, only to find herself right back where her mother was, clinging to all she has, two babies and a tiny bit of hope, stuck in the cycle of poverty. She was at the top of her class in high school, one of the brightest, but universities are for the dreams of the rich with no responsibilities. You don’t know her pain, so shut up.
How do you know that nine year old didn’t receive the iPad he’s holding from a generous donor, who saw a need and didn’t judge? You don’t, so shut up!
How do you know that king crab leg isn't something promised to a child, the only gift they'll get this birthday, a meal they requested that otherwise would be so out of the realm of possibility, that it can be named as a one treasured wish? You sit in judgment of what others eat? Really? My god, "let them eat cake." No steak for you! You aren't deserving of the meat of the working class!? White privileged asshat males in power, I have something you can eat and deservingly so—your very own bull shit!
How do you know that phone the toddler is playing with isn’t useless, except to dial 911 and the apps are free and it’s all the mother can afford—free entertainment while she pretends not to see the judgmental looks of people from the kingdom of With, who are somehow made to feel better by condemning those from the land of Without. 
How could hundreds of thousands of dollars be donated to bigots who would not serve a pizza to a human being with the money to pay for the meal, who happens to be gay, while others stand in judgment of men and women struggling just to make the dollars and food stamps stretch for one more month, only to start the prayer "make it last" one more month again, and again. Wow, really, you need to mull that one over a bit? You'd save a bigot's business and starve a child on principal? Humans call themselves superior and civilized, when they exhibit such uncivilized behaviors toward one another, and prove their lack of superiority with much evidence to the contrary.
Every system has its scammers. Every system has its heroes. Be a hero, be helpful, mind your own damn business, and offer help instead of judgment to those in need. It isn’t fair to judge all the people using the hand up they are offered. It isn’t fair to judge people period. Feed the hungry. Take care of the poor. Didn’t I read that in a book somewhere?


PS. The author used the system for two years. During that two years, I went to school (paid for with scholarships and work study,) never worked less than two jobs, raised a kid, and made a better life for my family. The help I received has been paid back with interest. The hand up I received helped make dreams come true, but also helped make another contributing member of society able to pay taxes back into the system. To be successful and forget how I got there would be unforgivable. The hateful judgment of others I received will also never be forgotten. 
I hear quite often, that I should not judge all Christians by the actions of a few hate-filled loud mouths. Maybe we shouldn't judge all people in need of help by the actions of a few loathsome scammers. Just a thought.