Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Quiet Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. No commercialism… well…except for the Black Friday sales that now start on Thursday. Whatever. I've never had any desire to sacrifice my precious sleeping hours to go out and risk my life shopping.

Thanksgiving is all about food. And comfort food at that. It's that wonderful day of the year that you get to pig out and make no excuses. In fact, it's expected of you to overindulge in mashed potatoes and stuffing, pecan pie. Never been much of a pumpkin pie fan, but good for all of you who are.

Thanksgiving is also about being together with family. I consider myself very fortunate that everyone in my family gets along. Or at least they appear to get along. I know that no cops will be called to settle a domestic dispute over the proper stuffing recipe. The only raised voices will be those inspired by an excess of wine. All in good fun. No offense meant.

This year, our family is getting together on Saturday. Same turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, wild rice. It's just that we'll be giving thanks on Saturday and not Thursday. It's cool. No big deal.

But here's the thing: it's still Thanksgiving day Thursday. It's still the holiday. The Macy's parade, the dog show, the football. All Thursday. So why am I looking forward to it with such relish? I'm going to spend the day with my beautiful puggle girl, Ridley. We're going to watch the Bears (not the highlight, but still), maybe the dog show. Gonna build a fire in the fireplace, pig out on some yummy food.

It's going to be a deliciously quiet day. And I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My child is a puggle

I'm just going to say it. I know I risk the wrath of parents everywhere and even as I write this I'm looking skyward for potential lightning strikes.

I would rather have a dog than a baby.

There. OK. Let me have it.

The holidays are approaching and I'll be getting together with family. That means traveling. I bring my dog with me wherever I go. I hate having to board her. She is my child. She should be with me. Plus she was born on Christmas Eve. I'm not going to have her locked up in a little kennel on her birthday!

Now some of my family members don't appreciate having a joyous little bundle of love and affection running around their homes. I get that. I guess. But the mere fact that I have to ask galls me. And that they say "no, don't bring her" really gets my ire up.

I know what you're thinking- that it's not an unreasonable request-asking me to leave my little girl at home.

But here's the thing: I've never wanted to have children. I told my mother that when I was a young girl and she was appropriately aghast. I've never made a secret of my unnatural tendencies. It's not that I have anything against children. I just don't have that ability to instantly dissolve into a cooing mess at the mere sight of a baby.

I have 5 nephews and 2 nieces and I love them all.

It's just that...well...Let's just say that I don't particularly like the screaming, crying, drooling, puking. I don't like the smell of poopy diapers, the look of snot running out of noses. And I really don't like that every time I'd get together with all of them, I'd leave with 1or 2 viruses.

By virtue of their cute holiness, babies are automatically accepted everywhere. To suggest that perhaps they shouldn't be in church or at the movies or on an airplane, is to take your life into your own hands. I subscribe to the European practice of leaving the baby at home and taking the dog to the restaurant with you for dinner. Dogs are certainly cleaner than babies.

I'm just saying: No one ever asked me if it was OK to bring their baby around and I never said a word.

Is it too much to ask that I bring my precious little girl with me?

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Cat's Meow

We're well into our twenty first century. Gone are the days when women couldn't own property, couldn't vote, couldn't go out unescorted.

Today, women have jobs. They still don't make as much money as men, but they do have jobs. As Virginia Slims would say: "You've come a long way, baby".

Now, I don't see myself as a card carrying feminist. But I do believe that the rights of men and women should be the same, the salaries of men and women should be the same. That men and women should both have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Having said that, I've been known to make some indiscriminate stereotypical comments about men. It's probably a futile attempt on my part to level the playing field after millennia of men ruling the world. It's all in good fun.

I do have one pet peeve, though.

You've all heard it. Or done it yourself. A women will get into a heated discussion with another person and inevitably some bystander will make the sound: "Meow." Then of course, there's "The claws are coming out now". And the classic: "Cat fight".

It drives me crazy. It instantly dismisses everything a woman is saying by reducing it to petulant whining. No one ever makes any cat comments when a man is arguing a point.

Please, please, please, please, please. Isn't it time we eliminated this grating idiom from our language?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Six Feet Under

I admit it. I love visiting cemeteries. I'm not sure when it started. Maybe when I was younger and my friends and I would venture into the cemetery on Bateman Road after dark. Ghoulish and grim, but fun and a good place to hang out when no one's parents were out of town.

I've done my share of traveling in my day. Every time I planned to go somewhere new, I'd pick up a Fodor's or Frommer's and research all the sights I needed to see. Inevitably I would seek out the most compelling facet of a new place: where its famous people are buried. I mean, I love a spectacular cathedral or museum as much as the next guy. But there's something almost poetic about a great cemetery.

There's N'awlins and its legendary cemeteries. Of course, having read the guide book, I found that it was dangerous to venture into them. Especially after dark. Still, after a lovely Sunday afternoon brunch at the Commander's Palace, I ventured into Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Didn't have a single problem. And it was lovely.

I went to Philly and stopped by the Christ Church Burial Ground. Benjamin Franklin was buried there, and his gravestone is covered with pennies tossed by those looking for good luck. A charming ritual.

In Boston, the Granary Burial Ground is smack dab in the center of town. Such American dignitaries as  Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere himself are buried there. A small area of incredible history amongst the hubbub of the business world of today.

There is the most famous and well visited cemetery in the world, the Pere LaChaise in Paris. Built on a hillside in the 20th arrondissement, it is beautiful and haunting. Tons of famous folks are buried there: Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Chopin, Bizet, Edith Piaf, Proust, Marcel Marceau, Sarah Bernhardt. I spent a morning there checking out the gravestones of all these legendary people. And I spent the better part of an hour seeking out the tombstone of Jim Morrison. Tourists. I know.

Still in France, I visited the American Cemetery in Normandy, overlooking Omaha Beach. Nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried there. We drove there through the French countryside, rustic and rundown. I really didn't know what to expect. To say that I was more than pleasantly surprised is an understatement. The cemetery is pristine, well-tended, respectful. It was the most moving cemetery experience of my life. Holy.

Yes, I've visited some famous cemeteries. But all cemeteries are interesting. There are huge ostentatious marble headstones, and simple stones with just a name, date of birth and date of death. Some inscriptions are funny, some ironic, some sad. A huge collection of family members, a mother's date of death the same as her child's date of birth. A multitude of stories that will remain mysteries to me.

Life and death. All etched on a tombstone.

Fascinating.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Voice Prediction

The teams are not even complete, but I'm going to make my prediction for who will win The Voice right now:

Pharrell Williams.

I'm sorry. I guess I should have said the "winning coach" on The Voice. Only 2 episodes of the blind auditions and Pharrell already has a formidable team. But it really doesn't matter. I get the feeling that Pharrell Williams knows how to create a star.

Just listening to the comments he makes to the contestants: thoughtful, relevant, true. He doesn't make crazy promises. He just offers valuable insight and advice, and he has the experience to make it happen.

I know. I know. All you die hard music fans out there are saying "Duh!" Of course he's going to win.

I'm way late jumping on the Pharrell Williams bandwagon. I have to say though, it's refreshing to hear his interaction with the contestants instead of the coaches interacting with each other.

Go Team Pharrell!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Arrested Development

I know. It's been out for awhile, but I just signed up for Netflix a couple months ago. I've binge watched Breaking Bad and House of Cards- both awesome.

Then I remembered that new episodes of Arrested Development were made only for Netflix. I was a HUGE Arrested Development fan, right from the very beginning. I've loved Jason Bateman ever since Silver Spoons. And who knew that Jessica Walter, the psycho from Play Misty for Me, was such a brilliant comedic actress?

I loved the show, so hilarious. I couldn't believe it was cancelled. Cut to a few years later and Netflix announces that they will make new episodes of Arrested Development. Would it hold up? Could it be even close to what it was?

In my opinion, the answer is yes. After watching just a few episodes, I'd say it hasn't lost a beat. Plus there are awesome guest stars in nearly every episode.

Better news? I've heard there are going to be even more episodes filmed just for Netflix.

Just what I needed- something to keep me from writing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Okay…I'm just going to say it.

Is it time for Kirk Ferentz to go?

Yes, I sat down yesterday afternoon for my annual viewing of the Iowa- Iowa State football game. I attended both schools so I can be happy whoever wins. Still, I have to admit to jumping on the Hawkeye bandwagon.

It was a delightful midwestern fall day and I was ready to watch a good game. So you can imagine my dismay when I was treated to yet another poorly coached game. I'm not talking about the kicker cooling time out at the end of the game.

Seems to me over the past 2-3 years, the Hawks have had some poor leadership. I know, Kirk Ferentz seems like a good guy-  Hayden Fry protege. He loves Iowa City, wants to stay. Well, who doesn't?

I, like all Hawkeye fans, am loyal to my guys. I've rooted for Ferentz and the Hawks all these years. Yes, there's been some good years, some great years. But also some mediocre years and bad years.

This year, the Iowa Hawkeyes were thought to be contenders for the Big 10 championship, and they can barely beat UNI and Ball State. They lose a game to the Cyclones that they should have won.

I don't know. It pains me to say it. But maybe, just maybe Ferentz should go.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Starbucks Pay it Forward: How is this still a thing?

Today I started my morning by going to Starbucks to pick up a latte. I pulled into the drive thru, a few cars ahead of me, a few behind me blocking traffic.

I ordered my drink and was given the total. The line seemed to be moving extra slowly, but I tried to be patient, even though my dog was going nuts in anticipation of a puppacino.

When I finally reached the window, I was told that the gentleman ahead of me had paid for my order.

Seriously? Again?

How is this still a thing? Maybe it's just finally seeped into the Midwest from the coasts. I get it, it's probably kind of fun for the baristas to see how long of a run they can get.

But let's be honest. The only person who's being generous and charitable is the one who starts the whole thing going. The guy ahead of me pays for mine, I pay for the person behind me, and so on…

All the rest of us are paying and Starbucks is getting all their money.

I think I'm a reasonably generous person, but why is it that whenever I get trapped in one of these "pay it forward" lines, I buy a measly latte and the person behind me is picking up breakfast for the whole office?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Watch the US Open

I am, of course, speaking of the US Open Tennis Grand Slam event taking place in New York City even as I write this.
These are my top ten reasons to watch:

#10. Getting to watch footage of classic US Open matches during rain delays.

 #9. Finding out what crazy thing Ernests Gulbis does or says next.

 #8. Appreciating the fashion sense of the Williams sisters.

 #7. Hoping that an American man will make it into the second week.

 #6. Finding out if Novak Djokovic will make it through the tournament before his baby is born.

 #5. Searching for celebrities in the crowd.

 #4. The clever and funny commentary of the McEnroe brothers.

 #3. Don't want to miss the irritating screeching noises of Sharapova and Azarenka

 #2. Watching Roger Federer maybe win his 17th slam, with the help of his new Air Jordans.

 And the number on reason to watch the US Open:

 Mourning the absence of the great Rafael Nadal!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bygones

Well, I've had a couple of rejections for my latest manuscript, Bygones. A couple with some criticisms. The latest editor liked it, but had a couple other books in the works with a similar theme.

What can you do? I'm still waiting on a few others. Maybe I'll get lucky.

In the meantime, you can check out my first novel, At Second Sight. It's available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for Kindle and Nook.

It's a tale of mystery, love, obsession, suspense. Give it a read!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

I was as shocked as everyone else to hear the sad news about Robin Williams.

Like most people, my introduction to him was "Mork and Mindy". I watched every episode and it was funny. Good entertainment. Robin Williams was funny for sure.

But I've always liked his more dramatic work. It started with "The World According to Garp". A great movie based on an even greater book.

Then there was "Dead Poet's Society" and "Good Will Hunting". Awesome movies, both of them. Great performance by Robin Williams in both films.

It may not be the most popular or critically acclaimed of Williams' films, but I have to say my personal favorite is "The Birdcage". I know. It was originally a French musical, remade into an American stage musical, made into a movie. I loved all the performances in the film, but I thought that Robin Williams was the best. Funny, touching, dramatic. He was perfect.

What's your favorite Robin Williams performance?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Breaking Bad

I tried.

I really tried.

When it originally aired, friends told me it was a great show. But I could never remember when it was on. Or what station it was on. There was always some other, probably inane but popular, show that was on. Something that was easier to watch and didn't take much thought or involvement.

Who wants to watch a show about a dying chemistry teacher who decides to cook and sell meth so that he can provide for his family? Can anyone say "dark" or "depressing"? I didn't get it. How could such a television program be good?

Then came the critical acclaim. Emmys for the stars. Bryan Cranston. Love Bryan Cranston. Ever since he was Tim Whatley, Jerry Seinfeld's dentist. Still, I didn't watch. And I'd already missed the first couple of seasons. It was too late. Even if I wanted to watch a show about a meth cooking chemistry teacher. And I didn't.

Everyone was talking about it. The talk shows, the entertainment magazines. How would it end? I'd hear cryptic things like "Heisenberg" and "bitch" and "better call Saul". What did it mean? I didn't care.  I wasn't going to watch it. The final episode was going to air.

So we come to today. Netflix is going to air the final episodes of The Killing, a personal favorite of mine. It was on AMC, which as it turns out is the same station that aired Breaking Bad. Three days ago I signed up for the free month of Netflix with every intention of watching only the last six episodes of The Killing and then canceling my membership.

Since then, I've been binging on Breaking Bad and I haven't seen a single episode of The Killing. I'm into the third season now and I've been assured by those in the know that it's just starting to get good in the third season. I can't imagine it. I'm hooked.

So now I am something I never thought I'd be. A Breaking Bad fan. The show is awesome. I'll get to The Killing for sure, but apparently it's going to take some time.

And can anyone say "House of Cards, Bitch"?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

Is it just me or is anyone else out there obsessed with the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?"
I mean, don't ask me why I care about a celebrity's ancestors. Other than the fact that some of them have some sad sacks in their family tree. It allows all the rest of us commoners to revel in a bit of schadenfreude. It's kind of fun to think that some famous star might have a Nazi sympathizer or a Revolutionary War traitor in their background.

Anyway, after watching the show a couple years ago, I was inspired to join Ancestry.com and do a little family tree building of my own. I knew just a little bit about my immediate ancestors. My father's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Denmark, so all of my ancestors on his side were Danes- "Great Danes"- as my dad would call them. I love that I have a long Danish ancestry, but I've always been more interested in American history.
Hence, my mother's side of the family. With research on ancestry.com and a bit of independent confirmation, I found some interesting information about the Smith side of my family. Turns out, that some of my direct descendants were the unfortunate victims of a Shawnee Native American attack- the Muddy Creek Massacre in West Virginia. Apparently my friendly and accommodating family members shared dinner with the Shawnee, and then the tribe paid them back for their kindness by scalping my 7th great grandfather and taking the rest of his family hostage for a year.
Now, the ancestry hints took me on a long journey through history back to English and French royalty- ultimately even to William the Conqueror! Needless to say, I have a bit of skepticism about this trail. Still, it was lots of fun.

Anybody out there have any interesting ancestry stories to share?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bygones

Hey everybody!

I've been working with Dawn Dowdle on my latest manuscript for Bygones. It tells the story of Alexandra Hadley, a young woman who returns to her hometown after her father's death. Her life unravels when long buried secrets are revealed.

Dawn has done an amazing job, submitted it to some publishers last week. To date, we've received four requests to see the entire manuscript!

Thanks Dawn!

In the meantime, check out my first novel, At Second Sight. It's available for Kindle and Nook.

Jennifer Riordan was born to wealthy parents and a life of privilege in the sheltered haven of Chicago’s North Shore. A student of art, she wants for nothing but the proverbial home in the suburbs with a husband to love and care for her and a houseful of children. Always a good girl, Jennifer was inclined to see the same in others. Her twin sister, Melissa, was Jennifer’s exact opposite—a sexy rebel, confident and fearless.

With a burgeoning career at the Art Institute and a handsome fianc√©, Jennifer’s life seems to be moving directly on course. But her safe, idyllic existence is shattered when Melissa is brutally murdered. The police are unable to find the killer and Jennifer struggles to move on. Unfortunately, it is only the first in a line of tragic events that cause her to question her judgment and fear for her own safety. Jennifer finds herself thrust into the media glare and, as a result, becomes the unwitting object of obsession for the same man who murdered her twin sister. Along the way, Jennifer discovers that some of the people she trusted and thought she knew well have betrayed her.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cooking

It's Sunday night and I'm watching The Next Food Network Star with the family. When I'm not working, I've been known to do a little writing. But also I like to cook.

It's always nice to get some good ideas from the Food Network, but I'm not one to be super creative when it comes to food. I've tried some things and they're nearly always edible but I do better when I follow a recipe.

Case in point: I made a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake courtesy of Martha Stewart and it was quite a success according to the family.

Anyway. Now we're watching The Leftovers. It's not about food. I have no idea what it's about but it has my attention.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bygones

Hey!
Just finished up a final edit (fingers crossed) on my manuscript: Bygones. It tells the story of Alexandra Hadley, a young woman who returns to her hometown after her father's death. She thought she had the perfect life until long buried secrets are revealed.

I've been working with Dawn Dowdle at Blue Ridge Literary Agency and hopefully soon we'll be submitting it to publishers.

In the meantime, feel free to check out At Second Sight- for sale on Kindle and Nook.

I'll keep you posted on any progress with Bygones.

Happy reading!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Yahoo and Tennis

This is generally a good sports time of year for me. I'm a huge tennis fan and the French Open is over- Vamos Rafa Nadal!!!- and we are now in the midst of Wimbledon.

Having said that, all year long when I open my Yahoo page, I search for tennis related articles. Yahoo now realizes that I am interested in all things tennis. So much so, that I now find tons of tennis articles front and center every time I look at Yahoo. Most of the time, I'm okay with that.

However, now as the French and Wimbledon matches are aired early in the morning and/or when I'm at work, my DVR quickly fills with grand slam action. I have to wait until evening to watch.

Try as I might to stay away from TV and radio during the day, I find it nearly impossible to stay off the Internet. I won't even be thinking about it and my home page comes up and the first article states glaringly: "Djokovic moves on" or "Federer out" or "Nadal is French Champion". It makes me want to scream. Ruins my day every time.

How can I make Yahoo think that I really hate tennis during the Slams?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

On writing and soccer

It's Sunday afternoon and I should be writing. I have a full time job and on Sunday afternoons I should be writing.
Usually I would pay some bills instead. Do some laundry. Even clean the house.
But today, I have soccer. No: "futbol". The last time I watched a soccer game was when the American women won the Worlds Cup final against China and there was the now infamous Brandy Chastain sports bra episode.
I am not a soccer fan. I don't get it. You can kick the ball and bounce it off your head, but no hands? And tell me, why the time clock? The ball goes out of bounds and the clock runs. The ball is kicked into the stands out of play and the clock runs. A goal is scored and a celebration goes on forever and the clock runs?
I don't get it. Yet, here I am on a late Sunday afternoon watching the USA team play Portugal.
All so I don't have to write.
So:

U-S-A    U-S-A   U-S-A   U-S-A  U-S-A   U-S-A

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hi everyone!
Not long ago, I published my first book, At Second Sight.

Jennifer Riordan was born to wealthy parents and a life of privilege in the sheltered haven of Chicago’s North Shore. A student of art, she wants for nothing but the proverbial home in the suburbs with a husband to love and care for her and a houseful of children. Always a good girl, Jennifer was inclined to see the same in others. Her twin sister, Melissa, was Jennifer’s exact opposite—a sexy rebel, confident and fearless.

With a burgeoning career at the Art Institute and a handsome fianc√©, Jennifer’s life seems to be moving directly on course. But her safe, idyllic existence is shattered when Melissa is brutally murdered. The police are unable to find the killer and Jennifer struggles to move on. Unfortunately, it is only the first in a line of tragic events that cause her to question her judgment and fear for her own safety. Jennifer finds herself thrust into the media glare and, as a result, becomes the unwitting object of obsession for the same man who murdered her twin sister. Along the way, Jennifer discovers that some of the people she trusted and thought she knew well have betrayed her.

You can check it out for your kindle: http://www.amazon.com/At-Second-Sight-Lisa-Nielsen-ebook/dp/B00EN0ZFI0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401759611&sr=1-1&keywords=lisa+nielsen

Or for your nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/at-second-sight-lisa-nielsen/1118638475?ean=2940148157632

If you buy it and like it, leave me a review!!