Friday, March 30, 2012

Lottery Fever-Have You Caught It?

My husband occasionally plays the lottery, but I normally stick to scratch off tickets. My current record for most money won on a scratch off is $16. Oooh. Big money. Still, when my co-workers were talking about the Mega Millions reaching a record 467 million dollars (now $540 million,) I couldn’t resist agreeing to go in on a group purchase. But that’s as far as our group got. We talked about it. 

Then a co-worker and myself got off early yesterday. We met at an Asian buffet restaurant near the Wal-Mart in my hometown. Lisa had picked up at least 100 dollars’ worth of tickets so we could choose our own numbers. We had $115 to spend, and we'd set up rules. Every full time employee in our department had contributed $5. No more. No less. If we win, no matter how large or small of an amount, we’ll divide the money evenly.

I doubt any of us expect to win.

But Lisa and I had fun trying to figure out the best way to pick our numbers. We had a list of the 25 most recent winning numbers. We tried to see a pattern. There wasn’t one. The laws of probability are random. If you flip a coin 100 times and get tails 80 times, it’s still a 50/50 chance of getting tails the 101st time you flip that coin. So, we just started picking numbers at random. And, we both realized we kept picking certain numbers more often than others. After filling in bubbles on 100 tickets, it started to feel as if we were taking the SAT's. And we didn't have an eraser. I messed up three of them, so we only had 97 tickets. We let the computer  pick the rest of the 115 tickets. 

Will any of it make a difference? Is there a chance we'll win? Slim to none, I'm sure. But if we do, will we all quit our jobs at the same time? And what happens to a business or company when all the employees in one department win the lottery and quit at once?

What became of previous lottery winners?

A 26 year old unemployed garbage truck driver from Britain lost his 2002 lottery millions after giving away lavish gifts to friends and family. He also spent his cash on wild parties, prostitutes and cocaine. He’s now trying to get his old job back. Good luck with that. It might be kind of hard to get a job driving with cocaine and DWI convictions.

A 1993 lottery winner from St. Louis donated much of her winnings to building a non-denominational church and a reading room at a local university. She also donated millions to the Democratic National Committee before losing the rest of her money to gambling and bad business investments. I guess her first mistake was trusting politicians with her money. Lol!

A 1988 lottery winner had terrible luck. His 6th ex-wife sued for one third his money and won. His brother hired a contract killer to take him out. He was arrested on assault charges when he fired a shotgun at a neighbor who was forcibly trying to collect on a prior “bad” debt. After paying off all the bad debt he’d incurred before and after winning the lottery, he auctioned off his remaining lottery payments. But then he blew that money too, spending it on mansions, yachts, trips, and luxury campers. He died broke and disabled in 2006.

A 2007 lottery winner from New York was a Vietnam veteran suffering from lung cancer. His request to receive the entire million in one lump sum was denied. His initial $50,000 payment fell short of the $125,000 in medical bills he’d racked up before dying shortly after winning.

Not all winners have such sad stories to tell. A family who won in 2005 spent their money on an executive mansion, though nothing like those you’d find in the Hollywood Hills. They bought cars, took, trips, and donated much of it to charity. They also hired an investment advisor who invests much of their money for them. The wife still works part-time and the husband still helps with the lawn-care business he gave his brother. They are still millionaires and the family is still together. And according to the father, they still clip coupons.

And a 52 year old truck driver from Georgia still has his millions. He bought a house for himself and his daughter, paid off his debts, and has made no other radical changes in his life. He has taken some time off from work. Yep, and I bet he’s given up truck driving for good.

So, what will my co-workers and I do if we win the money?

I can’t answer for the others, but I’d definitely pay off my bills. That alone will take a good chunk of change. And for tax purposes (and because I’d feel like a skunk if I didn’t) I’d donate to worthy charities. I’d help my parents, siblings, and daughters financially, but I’d limit my charity. If I went broke, none of us would benefit.

And I’d want my husband to quit his job so he could finally relax. I’d probably quit my day job too. But that’s only so I could write full time. Whether I win the lottery or not, that’s my dream. To be financially secure enough to write as a full time career.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Do I Need an Agent?

I’ve had 3 agents over the last 14 or 15 years. I sold to TWRP without one.

Agent # 1: Agent X requested a full of  Slightly Tarnished when it was still being called American Beauty. She then offered a contract for 15% of sales. No up front money. Sounded good. She then requested that I mail 10 hard copies of the full manuscript for her to shop around. Whew, was that expensive, even in 1998. I never heard from her again. I wrote and emailed. No response. I called. No answer. No return calls. I gave up after a year and moved on.

Agent # 2: The second agent also loved American Beauty aka Slightly Tarnished. She said it was a wonderful story but needed extensive editing and oh, she just happened to own an editing agency. This was in the days prior to my joining RWA or my local chapter and I didn’t know what a critique partner was. My former sister-in-law was the only person who’d ever read my writing. This agent had a website and everything. And her assistant had a British accent when he called. She had to be legit, right? So, I paid the $2500 in 2000 for this extensive editing. Basically, she corrected punctuation and spelling and suggested I not kill off the younger brother. So, I made the changes. And she offered my representation. Then, she sent me a contract for her marketing package. Marketing packages which HAD to be purchased to secure representation, ranged in price from $500-$5,000 with $5,000 guaranteeing publication. Although, there was no guarantee who’d publish it. Oh, but since she owned a vanity press, I had a good idea. I turned her down and when she called to harass me and tell me I’d never get published without her help, I told her where she could go and how she could get there. Not my finest moment to be sure.

Agent # 3: By now, I was a member of RWA and my local chapter. I knew what to look for in an agent. I knew the rules. And I checked her out on preditors and editors. She was legit with an impressive sales record. I even met her at local sister chapter of RWA. She repped Wholesale Husband and shopped it around. I even got some wonderful rejection letters in a very timely fashion form the big 7 publishers with recommendations for improving the story. Of all the books published by TWRP, I think this one needed the least amount of edits because I’d already cleaned it up a hundred times over because of my agent. When she couldn’t sell my book to the big 7, she kept asked me to rewrite Wholesale Husband and my western manuscript and make them inspirationals. She said inspirational romances were HOT, HOT, HOT and she'd have no trouble selling to a publisher.

I tried. I honestly did. But once she read them, she said they weren’t as good. No duh! I don't write inspirational romance. Then, the agent asked me to write an Amish romance because they were the next HOT thing in publishing. That’s when I realized we weren’t a good fit. She was a good agent, but she wasn't a good agent for me.

I wanted to write stories I loved. She wanted me to write to the market and what she preferred to sell. We parted company on good terms but I learned a valuable lesson from all this.

1- Research, research, research. Check out what genres the agent represents. Check out his/her authors. Check out the website.

2- Check the agent out on Preditors and Editors to make sure they are legit and have no complaints/lawsuits against them.

3- Make sure the editor will be a good fit for what you already write. Don’t try to write what he/she represents.

4- Make sure you have plenty of patience and can stomach rejection. lol! Finding an agent is a daunting, exhaustive task.

5- Make sure you actually need one!

Thank God, TWRP doesn’t require an agent. In fact, neither do a couple of the BIG 7 publishers. So, I’d suggest trying to publish on your own before getting an agent. From what I understand, finding an agent is easier if you have a track record. Although, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t made an effort to find one since getting published. Until I have a more impressive sales record, I’d like to keep that % 15 to myself.

So, does a writer need an agent? An agent can submit to multiple publishers and shop your manuscript around a lot more efficiently than a new or even seasoned writer. Publishers respond more quickly to agented work. Publishers will often give an agent a reason for rejecting a manuscript with suggestions on how the author can improve his/her chances of publication. The same publisher might send a form rejection letter to an author submitting without an agent and might do so in a less than timely fashion.

One of the BIG 7 publishers has had one of my manuscripts under consideration since August of 2009. I’m sure if I’d had an agent, I would have received a definitive answer, one way or the other by now. So, having an agent can improve response times and those responses. But, is it worth the time and aggravation of finding an agent that’s right for you?

Whatever a writer decides, there are a few things he/she will need for his search. Time. Patience. And maybe a nice bottle of Merlot.

Happy hunting!
Lilly Gayle

Friday, March 16, 2012

Welcome Guest Mimi Barbour who is part of a free e-book give away party 3/14-3/18. Link to party is at the bottom of the page.

My Cheeky Angel
(1st book in the Angels with Attitudes series)
Mimi Barbour

     Annie is na├»ve and love-starved, she’ll soon to be celebrating her big 3-0. Something needs to be done! Celi, her ‘down-to-earth’ guardian angel appears to help kick-start Annie’s big change—her looks, her job, her whole life. By taking a managerial position with a sophisticated shoe manufacturer, Annie becomes embroiled with her new associates and hooked on the power of big business. Unfortunately, her exhaustion from overwork forces her to ignore old friends, and her lapse places someone she cares about in terrible danger.

    Tyler, a Social Worker and a woman-hater previously hurt in two relationships, only wants Annie in his life as a good buddy. Oh yeah! And to help with his mixed-up street kids. Perversely, once her life alters, he misses her like hell.  In one sweet night of loving everything changes. But, due to an overabundance of nightcaps, she doesn’t remember the night he can’t forget.


Every time he closed his eyes, a strange image of Annie in trouble took on such realistic tendencies it seemed surreal. Sick of his own company, Tyler decided a walk would do him a world of good, clear his head, and help to get his mind off his tomboy gone rogue.
Once the idea appeared, it became a fixation. No choice, no dragging his feet, he had to get out of his apartment. Either he needed hallucination treatments or a curt, gravelly female had taken up residence in his brain and urged him to hurry and get his butt moving.
The elevator, not ever on his floor, awaited him with the door open and no one else inside. He shivered. Strange and stranger! The ride down lasted only seconds. When it slowly opened, a nightmare unfolded. One look at his Annie clinging to her evenings escort and his rage superseded common sense. Without thought, he ripped her from the scumbags groping fingers and shoved the conceited-looking, puffed-up character against the wall. All Tylers six feet two inches of anger intimidated. He watched the coward evaluate, then shrink back.
Within seconds the smooth prick spoke. Anna had a bit too much to drink. I was seeing her safely home.
Not a problem. Ill take her up, he growled. By this time, Tyler had a supportive arm around the wobbly woman. He looked down at her. Say bye-bye to your date...Anna. His spitting out her newly chosen name would have set worry bells ringing, if shed been in her normal state of mind. Blitzed out of her head, she just jiggled her fingers and said, Bye-bye, date.
With everything happening so fast, Tyler knew Annie hadnt had a chance to fully appreciate the change in her situation. One minute she was leaning drunkenly against the slimy character whose hands were all over her body, while her unfocused eyes gazed at him adoringly. The next minute, Tyler had taken over.
As the elevator doors closed, leaving Sergio shrugging off his disappointment, a fuming Tyler lifted Annie into his arms.
At ease, Annie wrapped her arms around him, snuggled her face into his neck, and then sighed. His familiar expensive cologne, one of her gifts that he regularly used, seemed to soothe her. I love how you smell.
His anger fled the moment he became aware that she sniffed at him like a small kitten. His legs almost buckled when he felt the tip of her tongue lick him, and then press a tiny kiss over the wet spot.
The groan started deep, frustration forcing it out, chasing away his righteous snit. At her door, he lowered her to her unsteady feet, but she refused to unwind her arms from around his neck. They clung, her body glued to his.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Standing the Broom

No, it's not the white man's equivalent to Jumping the Broom. Not even close. Jumping the Broom is a uniquely African/African-American wedding tradition. It's also a funny, heartwarming romantic comedy from writer, producer/director, Tyler Perry. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

Standing the broom doesn't have anything to do with weddings or cool wedding traditions. It's an urban legend I hadn't even heard of until my writer friend, Lori Keizer mentioned it on Facebook. But once I saw her post, I had to find out more about this supposed scientific "phenomenon."

Oddly enough, the information I found on the internet was written to debunk the urban legend. But from what I understand, a couple of weeks before and after the spring and fall equinox, March 20 and September 22, the planets and gravitational pull of the earth align in such a way that a broom can stand on its on when balanced facing south.

It sounded like a hoax to me and most experts agree.

According to Joe Ross, a professor at Texas A&M university, it's just a balancing act. He claims anyone with patience and a broom can stand a broom on its bristles any time of the year. The broom he used is a straight broom, so I don't know how he could tell if it was facing south or not, but he did stand the broom straight up. According to Ross, it had nothing to do with the equinox.

It doesn't have anything to do with gremlins, elves, or some funky phenomenon caused by a planetary alignment. It's just a well-balanced broom.

Yeah, that's kind of what I thought. Not that I sit around thinking much about brooms. I don't even like to think about them when it's time to sweep. I prefer my Swiffer. Or the vacuum. But Facebook and the internet have been abuzz with stories of standing brooms. And yet, in all my internet research, I found nothing to support the claims. All of the websites, blog posts, and such, declared the standing broom myth as nonsense. "If a broom stands alone today, it will stand alone tomorrow, next week, and next year."

That's what I thought too. But those who believe say it's true, especially this year because of the recent alignment of Venus, Mercury, and  Jupiter. Skeptics say it's hogwash:  "the bristles on a broom can be spread apart in such a way that all straight brooms will stand. Astronomers say neither planetary alignments or equinoxes have any physical impact on earthly objects."

  The broom I used wasn't straight. It's angled, not just the bristles, but the handle. And the only way I could get it to stand on its own was to point the handle south. Hey, my dog was impressed. She's all but bowing down to the magic broom. lol!

Does this mean I believe the equinox is responsible? IDK. Maybe it's like author Stuart Chase says: "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." 

I'm not saying I believe, but it was a fun experiment, and you can bet I'll be trying this trick again--after the equinox. Think the broom will stand up then?

Only time will tell... 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Running With The Angels

My big sister is gone. She had been so close to death so many times, only to pull through and defeat it. So, when the call came Tuesday, February 28 that she'd simply stopped breathing and was no longer with us, it came as quite a shock. But she's in a better place and no longer suffering from the limitations of her failing body.

Cindy was born in 1957 and seemed perfectly normal until she reached puberty. She began stumbling and had some difficulty with hand-eye coordination. Then my parents noticed a curvature of her spine. She was diagnosed with scoliosis. A visit to the neurosurgeon at Duke revealed a more devastating diagnosis. Cindy also had Fredericks Ataxia. There is no cure and Cindy was told she'd never walk again after the surgery to straighten her spine. 

Cindy on right. I'm on the left.
Cindy had the surgery at age 13 and she proved the doctors wrong. She did walk again. She walked unaided at first, then by holding on to walls and rails. She graduated from  high school and completed one and half years of college before the disease progressed to the point where she needed assistance getting around. By age 22, she was confined to a wheelchair, although for a few more years, she was still able to stand and transfer in and out of the chair with assistance. 

She lived at home and struggled for a normal life. Then about seven years ago, the disease's progression accelerated. She could no longer bathe herself or hold a spoon and fork. So, she moved into a group home where she continued her fight. But in the last two years, she seemed to tire. The light faded from her eyes as her mind began to fail along with her body.

She'd lost total control her body. She could barely lift her chin and her speech deteriorated until she could no longer communicate with words. The loss of motor control made it impossible to communicate with her hands or via a computer. And finally,she started showing signs of dementia. 

She gave up the fight this week and God called her home.
Now, Cindy no longer needs her wheelchair. She's running with the Angels and talking God's ear off. She was my big sister and I will miss her dearly.

My aunt wrote this beautiful tribute to her.

November 3, 1957 – February 28, 2012

Though this is a time of sadness, it is also a time of joy.  Cindy has transcended to a place where she can once again walk and talk and do all the things she had been unable to do for so very long.  I was seven years old when Cindy was born, and I thought she was my very own real doll baby.  I remember her laying on my Mama and Daddy’s bed asleep and I knew I wasn’t suppose to bother her, but I’d go and pull her toes to wake her up and run to proudly announce “she’s awake now so I can play with her”.  I was so proud of her!!!  I watched her in her role as oldest child.  She made sure the younger ones knew who was boss!!!

One thing is certain and that is that through all her years, she remained determined and yes, quite often stubborn.  As a small child, she would hold her breath until she turned blue.  One motto for her would have to be “Never Give Up”, and she didn’t.  She wore a body cast for about a year following surgery for scoliosis, only to find out after the cast was removed that she had Freidrich’s Ataxia.  While still in high school, she faced tremendous obstacles as her body began to fail her, but she never gave up.  The high school year book was dedicated to her in her senior year and she inspired more people than she ever knew.  Through it all, she continued with her stubborn and determined attitude.

I can remember when she was still walking and several of us were in a store.  Her gait had gotten unsteady and people would look at her as if they thought she were intoxicated.  She just kept on going.  She continued on to college for a while.  She fought to continue walking on her own; she fought to continue talking and trying to communicate.  Her family always supported Cindy’s independence, and in so doing, they made her resolve to never give up even stronger.

For years, she did beautiful needlepoint projects.  She collected dolls and Christmas Village pieces.  She continued to eat a regular diet, even though it became difficult, but we all know food was always on her favorite things list! 

She absolutely adored her nieces and nephews and then her younger cousins when they came into her life.  They were the highlight of her Christmas, Easter, and other times of family togetherness.  In later years, her eyes literally sparkled when she would see them.  She was happy just watching them play.  Sometimes, when I would watch Cindy as she watched the kids, I would wonder if she ever held any resentment for what they could do that she no longer could.  Well, to see her joy as she watched them and to hear her laughter when they would do something funny let me know she held no resentment, but a heart full of love for each one of them.

When you think of Cindy, please don’t think of what might have been.  For whatever reason, she was just the way she was meant to be.  And in so being, she was an inspiration to a lot of people.  And she was a blessing to the children she loved so much.  From being around her, they learned at an early age that we are not all blessed with perfect health.  They learned how to push a wheelchair and how to help someone else.  They learned that people with disabilities are just that…they are people and they deserve respect.

Even death can be viewed in a positive manner.  As a quote from Henry Scott Holland, professor at Oxford University goes:

“Death is nothing at all.  I have only slipped away into the next room.  I am I, and you are you.  Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.  Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always used.  Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.  Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.  Let it be spoken without the ghost of a shadow on it.  Life means all that it ever meant…There is absolutely unbroken continuity.

What is death but a negligible accident?  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you-for an interval-somewhere near just around the corner.

All is well.

Cindy, we all love you, and we will miss you.  But you will always be in our minds and hearts.  We know we now have a stubborn and determined angel watching over us.