Monday, February 25, 2013

The Power Broker by Robert Caro

I love Robert Caro. His LBJ stuff must be among the best biographies (it's a series) ever written. Okay, I worship Caro.

So I just started the (only) 1162 page biography of Robert Moses, the former mayor who shaped NYC. And that page count is pre-notes or index. I read fast but this should keep me busy for a while. And I'm also reading the Joseph Kennedy biography which is comparable in length. So I'm learning a lot about powerful men. I must admit that I'm learning to say to those I know "whatever you want". Life is so much easier that way and I know I'm not getting my way if I fight (but there are other tactics).

I like to write and those who write get bored if we don't keep our minds busy. Power? Wasn't studying that my 2012 resolution. I get a D on that goals so I'm picking it up for 2013. If at first you don't succeed...

Power? What I learned reading the first pages? It's brains, ability, drive, confidence and that something extra. Let me read and I'll get back to you on that last one.

Read Caro. Love him.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Right Versus Left

I keep writing that I have great friends and I really do. Well, sometimes they come together in the most amazing ways.
Recently I had dinner with the two in the picture. The honorable Richard J. Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, and Julie Butcher, a senior union official at SEIU, one of the nation's largest unions. The two have made the media with their battles (to the death) regarding the local pension challenges here in Los Angeles. I took the picture early in the evening to cut the daggers (that lay aside for the rest of the dinner so my ploy worked).

We had a really amazing dinner, despite the recent political sparring and what I, a civilian, would term ill will.

Because right and left very often aren't that far apart and putting people together in a room brings out the willingness to talk, engage and reach consensus. Few people are radicals but many disagree on which road is the best chosen.

As I watched these two disagree, but both focused on the good of the city from the perspective as they saw it, I felt heartened. Not at Washington DC which to me it a mess. But rather that those with widely divergent opinions and even in the midst of a public disagreement could break bread and find a way to work together.

No one opinion is any less important, it might just have less support or appeal. But listening and reaching across the table does earn dividends.

I learned so much watching these two. Mostly I learned that to believe passionately in your cause gives life meaning beyond the mundane and basics of existence. What a fun and rewarding dinner. Thank you Dick and Julie.


Megan Lisa Jones

Friday, February 22, 2013

Decisions: facts, logic, gut or emotion?

Yesterday and today I needed my friends. God bless them and I love them (I have the greatest friends). But now I'm alone again, as we all must be sometimes. They provided guidance but now I need to take the resulting steps. A lot of what was discussed we can't know so had to rely on logic and our gut. To help me make a decision and decide on a course of action.

Such factors are never as important as cold hard realities... but so often in life they're all we have. And action or disaster looms so we need to act in a void of information. And then is the reality that facts can change.

But more important than anything else is the ultimate reality that we all decide to do things despite the facts, the logic or even practicality. Some decisions must be driven by emotion or our gut...because we can't live with taking any different course of action. I just made one of those. Despite certain facts. And while my friends helped me see things straight, I alone made the decision (though they support me). Sure I know the "facts" but sometimes in life it's the stuff we sense not what we think we know that most matters.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lily by Stella McCartney - favorite thing of today

I'm supposed to be working. But I keep sniffing my wrists. They smell amazing!
As must be obvious to all including my cats, I've been makeup obsessed. It's fun and colorful. Distracting. As a side benefit I'm getting lots of samples...these related companies are the best marketers ever! They take care of their customers.
Sephora gave the the Lily by Stella McCartney. I'm not a huge Stella fan...I can usually take or leave her stuff. I love this perfume. Oh no, does that mean I need to buy a bottle!

Helping someone else shine

We're all told to market, promote, network and speak up. Tweet and do Facebook, Google Plus and on and on. I'm all for promotion...having gone through Merrill Lynch's sales training right out of college I truly believe that adage of "don't ask, don't get." But Merrill also told us that the more we talked the more likely we talked ourself out of a sale. There is huge wisdom in learning to shut up. Or ask at the appropriate time. Or accepting a no.

Or realizing that you aren't always the interesting one in the room. Ever notice how the most fascinating people talk little about themselves (let alone broadcast). Sometimes I almost scream at the self promotion on social networks! Stop! Talking! About! You! Always!

What does this have to do with helping someone else shine? None of us succeeds alone. Ever. Unless you're a chess master (and even then, someone taught you chess, played practice games and brings water during the game). When you build up others very often you give them the desire to help you succeed. And you get to watch someone else bask in accomplishment which sometimes feels pretty darn good (the more you like the person the better you'll feel).

But helping others means getting past me. The desire to get all the credit and the glory. The jealousy that can attach when someone gets an outcome we want for ourselves. The praise and admiration directed elsewhere. It's worth it.

Never give away credit for your own work. But if you're going to work with others, as we all must, maybe sometimes just enjoy watching them excel. All of my best bosses and mentors did. You?

Note: when I bore of the lips I'm considering moving on to cowboys.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mac Archie's Girls Betty Collection

Yes, I’m still makeup obsessed, and specifically this collection obsessed. I just love what Mac did with this grouping of lipsticks, eye shadows, lip glosses, powders (with cute little hearts!) and blushes.

As I explained in earlier postings, the collection is based on the Archie comic books people my age grew up loving. The items are divided into the “bad girl” Veronica with strong purples and reds, and the “good girl” with Betty’s softer browns, pinks and peaches.

I’m going to focus on Betty for this post. Wandering my local drug store I had a hard time finding skin care focused on young skin unless it was oily and acne prone. My skin has never been either, even during the thick of adolescence. Mostly, the lines picked a problem…too much oil or aging. A skin care nut with a daughter who is getting to the age she needs to be more careful and begin caring for her skin, I had to pick and choose for her and cross brands. My stuff is too heavy for her skin; and she has no acne (so far, knock on wood).

What does this skin care discussion have to do with Betty? Likewise, lines don’t focus on products for the young unless it’s cheap dime store glittery lip glosses or eye shadows with kittens or pop stars on the packaging. Yuck.

Mac’s Betty line has colors that are absolutely perfect for the softness of the young. There isn’t a harsh color in the grouping and the colors are mostly universally flattering (a lipstick or gloss might be too light for those with darker coloring, but otherwise are gorgeous for most). The products are utterly lovely and soft. I’d love to see my young daughter in them all, and they’re muted enough to be age appropriate. Young girls don’t need strong makeup…they are so naturally fresh and lovely.

I hate to send anyone to eBay to scrounge up what of a line they can find. Unfortunately, the collection sold out in about a week. But even if you aren’t an eBay shopper do some image searches online and look at my picture above so you can get a grasp of what I mean about colors. Unfortunately, most of us will need to do what I did with skin care at the drug store to duplicate the look: mix and match. Why don’t lines do sub-lines that create such a soft and delicate look suitable for their younger clientelle?

The Mac site is at …but the line is sold out, with maybe a lone spare product left. And Betty is an icon as well...the classic sweet American blonde teenager...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Me Before You" book review

“Me Before You” is a lovely book written by Jojo Moyes. I initially resisted reading the book, about the relationship between a young woman afraid to soar and a former master of the universe turned paraplegic. Let me count the reasons why. I’m a former investment banker who doesn’t like soppy silly romances that are politically correct and sensitive. I’m a busy mom with a stack of books to read that reaches my ceiling. I don’t like to confront the challenges of life unless I need to, including disability and fear.

I was wrong.

The book dropped into my life literally the day I decided to read more new books and less old. How is that for a cliché? My first thought on reading the description was using that same word: escaping clichés would be impossible.

I was wrong.

To sum, Louisa desperately needs a job. The book is British in tone, which I find cute since my dad is British and I read all of his mom’s books (like James Herriot) when I visited each summer. And this book takes you to a very defined but narrow world (but one familiar to me as above). Will meanwhile was injured when hit by a motorcycle. And this factor is key as I first thought he was being reckless and riding a motorcycle when hit… which would create a different story. Louisa is hired to care for him then finds out he is trying to die.

Again, this narrative could easily fall into cliché. But Moyes navigates it. There are a few obvious leading realities and unbelievabilities, but she gets past them. Throw in a loser boyfriend, struggling parents and an annoying sister who does all better and our heroine definitely has her challenges cut out for her.

Will’s parents struggle, as does his sister, with his disability. This part of the book perhaps most struck me as a mother. We try so hard, don’t we? But sometimes we can’t save a family member and in trying we get in our own way. How to separate the pain of today from the promises of yesterday?

And that’s where Louisa comes in. She’s hopeful and cheerful; she tries but lacks confidence and ambition. Frustrated in his own restrictions, Will pushes her to do better in the world he’s lost. Where his family can’t reach him, an outsider does.

This book is an empathetic look at how to handle someone facing restrictions and struggling with the will to live. I didn’t know much about quadriplegics nor, honestly, did I want to; that they’re subject to seizures and bedsores, that some can feel sensations and others can’t, that they can’t moderate temperature organically and how many want to die. Moyes did the research.

I am not the audience for the book but I love it and tore through it in a few days. We all eventually deal with those we love having physical and mental restrictions brought about by age, health, bad luck or circumstance. This book is a starting point for dealing. But it’s also so much more. This book is beautifully written. I told my own mom (recovering from two strokes) about it and she commented that it had to be amazing to reach me as I’m more of an action and denial person than one to read such a potentially depressing book. Moyes pulled off a coup with this one and deserves the praise and audience.

I’d especially recommend this book for parents or others suffering through a loved one debilitated. Do we recognize those in that position as still the same person or do we treat them as disabled (or old, sick, less)? How many of us can meet the challenge of dealing with a child (or parent) debilitated instead of fighting first with our own demons?

This book made me a better person. And it’s beautiful in its language and imagery.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Staying open

Well, I've got a diverse bit of experiences to pull into this post.

Let's start with staying open and not closing to experience because we've been hurt before. One of my favorite books is titled "The Untethered Soul" (link: It's gotten me through some tough spots when I wanted to freeze and withdraw only to realize later that I was responding to fear and my past not the future. Accepting what is and people for who they are will propel you forward faster than will looking back.

I finished Arthur Levine and Diane Dean's book, "Generation on a Tightrope" this morning. Kids too scared to be intimate thus being sexual without it. Link:"

And I'm reading another book...which is why this whole post started. I'll do a real review in a few days after I finish it. Jojo Moyes has written a wonderful book about a slightly lost young woman who takes the job of caring for a paraplegic former master of the universe. For those who know me the idea of this book is so...not me. Cliche city, soppy, silly, ridiculous...and on..not my thing. I am loving the book (stay open! stay open!). I stumbled into it and am so glad. Moyes falls into the occasional cliche and her heroine is a bit too smart for her situation but she still makes the implausible story jump off the page and I can't wait to read more.

Stay open! Link to book:

Please note...the links don't always work in this blog with its messed up formatted (God bless wordpress which does work...) so you will need to cut and paste the url links to the books. My randomly as far as I can tell works. Anyone with a solution please let me know!

Friday, February 15, 2013 lipstick...?

Red matters.

Red is the color of power and communism. Of blood, strawberries and danger, sacrifice, passion, fire, beauty, anger and socialism. Red makes a statement. It gets noticed.

From Wikipedia:

The word red comes from the Old English rēd. The word can be further traced to the Proto-Germanic rauthaz and the Proto-Indo European root reudh-. In Sanskrit, the word rudhira means red or blood. In the Akkadian language of Ancient Mesopotamia and in the modern Inuit language of Eskimos, the word for red is the same word as "like blood".
The words for 'colored' in Latin (coloratus) and Spanish (colorado) both also mean 'red.' whereas in Portuguese the word for red is vermelho, which comes from Latin "vermiculus", meaning "little worm".

Red roses signify love.

I've been writing about icons, and comics, and red lips these past weeks. About what sticks in our mind. Recently, the work I've been doing has been more creative. I straddle the finance and business side of the world then get creative with novels and creating a new company. Both efforts draw on completely different resources, both internal and external and I need to literally force a shift. Reading fiction versus non-fiction, playing with makeup and colors or perusing Barrons and Marketwatch. Focus, daydreams, then back to focus. Combined the latter two create results.

This week I started collecting red lipstick, buying up old versions on eBay and new ones on Sephora, et al (so if you want to give me a gift...I'm just suggesting...). I think that my new hobby says a lot about which direction my efforts are heading. You?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Escape makes next round in Amazon's novel competition

Escape, Captive's sequel made the first round of cuts today in the Amazon/CreateSpace/Publisher's Weekly new novel competition. I'm mostly relieved. I love this competition and Captive made it almost to the end in it's day. The first round/cut is from about 10,000 entries down to 400! So numbers wise the accomplishment is pretty amazing. But, the contest rules state that what is considered in making that cut is the up to 300 word pitch that you write! Do they look at the book itself? The rules aren't totally clear on that but seemingly they don't.

I'm crazy for contests...sometimes I feel like I'll enter about anything. Last year I was thrilled to win a college get away survival package. I did feel guilty for grabbing away some Top Ramen and a can sized fudge that powered up through a computer from a starving student. But my kids dug through the goody bag and so enjoyed it I got over those feelings.

The chances of winning one of these competitions are slim. To my knowledge this particular competition has never been won by a thriller...which Escape clearly is. But in denying these realities I do fall back on the cliches that: "if you don't enter you know you won't win", and "the first step is getting in the game" and worse "there is a first time for everything". Someone wins....

To those doubters who think I'm crazy I will point out that anyone who writes a novel is crazy at one level. Yet a lot of us keep doing it. Finishing a big project always feels great, even if the mind-numbing edits grow old. And we all know that some of the craziest people are the ones who actually did great things.

Will I win? Who knows. But as of this moment I'm still in the game.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Red lips and back to icons

I'm having fun with red lipstick right now....even started collecting it. I like the iconic value of it. Red is...? Power? Sexy? In your face? Shocking? Classic? Romantic? Cheap? Eternal?

This is February and Valentine's Day is upon it. How will you celebrate? A romantic dinner? Flowers, gifts, candy, romance? Is that tradition? Or is romance a classic? Will red or pink be part of your celebration?

I keep saying that someday I will write a love story but crafting a good one is just so hard. How do we describe that what we most love about someone is how they fumble or fall asleep during movies? Or even the way that they kiss or tear off our clothes? God, that's just so personal. Icons make us vulnerable but also protect us from that feeling in that they are so universal. If we describe Marilyn we address an idea but our beloved exposes our heart and vulnerabilities. There is a lot in that closet I don't want you or anyone else to know.

What a month this is! Red lips and hearts, Valentine's Day and all of the changes a new year brings. Today I'm writing short because I have so much else to do. But I did stop to put on red lipstick, even if just for the computer at this moment.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I've been fascinated this month with the classics. Comics...Mac's new Archie's girl line with it's white packaging littered with hearts and the Veronica/Betty bad girl and good girl looks (masterful). Stan Lee of Spiderman and Fantastic Four fame (as in creator and of more) starting Kid's Universe. These images resonate. And Mac's earlier collection was based on Marilyn Monroe, hence the picture.

I looked up iconic and it was a bust. Having to do with an icon. So I looked up icon. It basically means a symbol or a person that represents something idea...a deity...a God...or art... Lovely.

Marilyn is an icon (not was). She represented the dual side of women, the innocent and the sexual. She was Betty and Veronica in one. The Archie's comics represented the innocence and youth of American culture. We had no overhanging past just endless hope and possibilities. Peter Parker was the nerd, with personal problems, who still managed to pull himself together and save the world from evil forces.

How does a writer create that icon? Obviously the elements are start with a character who is a symbol of something greater then himself/herself. See the definition of "icon" above. Then add in a distinctive defining feature that sets your character apart. Every actress wears red lipstick at some point but none wear it like Marilyn. Put them in turmoil and have them save someone of something, if only emotionally. The formula is complex yet if mastered transcends.

Elsewhere, I've declared this month that of the Comic and Story book. The magic; think Walt Disney. Step one in any classic story is beginning with an icon.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saturday writing and Mac Archie's Girls Collection

Don't Google "tortured author". Trust me. Hence we're viewing a red sunset.

Writing on Saturdays, Sundays and late in the evening (or pre-dawn) is so hard. When taking writing classes at UCLA extension one of my classmates arose at 4:00 am daily to write before her family woke up. But writing is a passion. Practically, it makes no sense as few people read most writing. Write we do. And like all passions the sacrifices do wear on us, out social life and out sanity. But we do it anyway.

I'm just so glad that there are things, activities and people about which I feel passionately. I can go to bed tired each night but also happy. Some of what I'm doing right now is grueling but it's also fun.

Speaking of which, and not to belabor the point, but I love Mac's Archie's Girls makeup collection. My reward for finishing this post it to go back on their site (also on Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's site) so I guess I'm done. Link: ...the link button on this blog never, ever, work! So please cut and paste in url line...sorry. Anyway, the colors are just so flattering! Lovely.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cloud Atlas - book not movie review

I must admit to favoring books over movies. Perhaps that's why I write. Still, much as I love imaginative reads I had a hard time with Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (buy at: ). So I had to ask myself why.

Mitchell weaves in four narratives ...alternating and giving each character their say...twice. Each one faces a conflict and they all live in differing time periods, past present or future. The first character is a sailor and used vernacular, which I always hate in a book. But the narrative is solid. The later stories work better for me, though the second character is offensive.

Mitchell touches on large themes. He hits man's ability to both evolve and destroy himself through need. Oppression. Unfairness, bias, corruption, brutality and unfairness. The book does get upsetting and uncomfortable. For me as a reader I sometimes found disengaging those emotions was difficult.

Well written, any reader who can get over those discomforts will be rewarded. Even the vision of the future was upsetting, with some people (clones) slaves while those in power (not clones) were too often corrupt, closed minded and limited. I guess for me this isn't the best book...I'm more of an optimist so Mitchell's view of the world is disturbing. And it generalizes in an insulting way.

I picked up the book after reading an interview with Mitchell in which he commented that of all his books this one seemed the least likely to be a movie..but that was the one Hollywood chose. And I think that choice is the most important thing about the book. Hollywood clearly wants to sell a world view and this book has the desired one.

Any I'm not disparaging Mitchell at all. The book is beautifully and clearly written. He masters creating vastly different world. Mitchell spins a web. Yet it does seem hard to translate to other mediums...but it was... This book is actually an important one...and perhaps that's the other reason it became a film. But it's uncomfortable so not all readers will connect with it. I'm very glad I spent time in Cloud Atlas and did like the book, much as I didn't always agree with the author. But he accomplished his objective.