Tuesday, September 18, 2007

THREE STEPS TO INVESTMENT SUCCESS: BUYING THE RIGHT ART, ANTIQUES, AND COLLECTIBLES

THREE STEPS TO INVESTMENT SUCCESS: BUYING THE RIGHT ART, ANTIQUES, AND COLLECTIBLES
Scott Zema
Ark Limited Publishing

You can purchase THREE STEPS TO INVESTMENT SUCCESS: BUYING THE RIGHT ART, ANTIQUES, AND COLLECTIBLES by clicking here.

INTRODUCTION

‘Collectors buy art for many reasons: some buy purely for investment, others for love. Sometimes a collector tries to find a balance between their love of the art form and the possibility of their piece increasing in value. A good eye coupled with good business sense can be a powerful combination when buying any art’.
--Andrew Van Emden and Dr. George Pantela, authors of ‘Collecting Animation Art’

What I am going to relate is what you need to know about art, antiques, and collectibles if you want to make smart financial choices in what you buy. If you follow my advice, you will make an investment profit on your art, antiques, and collectibles. You can make art, antiques, and collectibles not just a source of enjoyment but an enjoyable source of value. And what can be more pleasant in this life?

I am a long time professional art, antiques, and collectibles appraiser, certified and highly experienced in the sale of art, antiques, and collectibles as well as their appraisal. I felt I had to write this book because I got tired of holding in my disbelief with the poor financial choices people make in their art, antiques, and collectibles purchases. I got tired of muttering under my breath to myself as if I were arguing with a collective buying public that I see to be definitely off cue in acquiring with an interest in value and quality as well as matching the color of the drapes, filling a hole in the corner of the room, or buying to satisfy a whim.
In this book I relate my own experiences as an appraiser and investor in a field not traditionally accepted as a place to invest money. I also tackle the enormous social and intellectual obstacles standing in the way of the interested public viewing their appreciable personal properties from a serious financial perspective.

Further, because quality in art, antiques, and collectibles is more or less tied to price, your attention to the markets and how they work has a reciprocal effect in helping you to enhance your overall expertise and enjoyment of the experience of collecting sophisticated artifacts. This is activity that requires effort and knowledge, but I do it, and so can you. You just have to lay the proper groundwork for the activity, and that’s what I will tell you all about.
Reading this book will enable buyers to accommodate their particular areas of interest within the wide universe of art, antiques, and collectibles with a viable financial acquisitions strategy pertaining to those interests. Despite its focus on weaning the beginner from using a scattershot acquisitions policy to purchasing more carefully and systematically from a financial standpoint, this book will also appeal to more seasoned collectors by tailoring their collecting more closely to value and appreciation.

How to Use This Book

This book is divided sequentially into three steps designed to get you from less-than-zero in your ability to effectively invest in art, antiques, and collectibles to where I might be tempted to ask you a question, because you have surpassed me in your knowledge of a particular area of the art, antiques, and collectibles investment field. The book is full of amusing and interesting anecdotes largely relating my experiences in the marketplace which I use to illustrate the principles I present.

These steps are as follows:

STEP I: CLEARING YOUR MIND ABOUT ART, ANTIQUES, AND COLLECTIBLES

This part describes what you need to unlearn before you can start to think effectively about appreciable personal properties as investments. It deals with misinformation, misconceptions, attitudes, and poor buying habits rampant among the public at large—things which impede effective investment strategies. By describing and discounting these obstacles to rational thinking and action which are almost Biblical in their pervasiveness and in their hold on the popular imagination, I will cause many of you to see yourselves as ignorant in your knowledge of the appreciable personal properties markets and compel you to discard old ideas and attitudes. After wiping your mental ‘slate’ clean, I can then provide you with the information that you will need to develop effective buying habits in the steps that follow.

STEP II: PREPARE TO START BUYING WITH A FRESH APPROACH (Don’t start buying yet!)

This part of the book describes what you need to learn before you can start buying as an effective investor. It describes the evolving market in investment-quality appreciable personal properties, and it outlines their similarities and differences with other types of investments. It defines quality art, antiques, and collectibles and describes what means are available to educate yourself about your interests in these objects.

Here I also give you an outline of the general structure of the personal property markets to familiarize yourself with how all personal properties are bought and sold, including art and antiques. I do this so that you will start to develop an internal ‘map’ of the valuable properties marketplaces and have a general idea about what you are buying and selling and where you are buying and selling it.

STEP III: GO FOR IT: BECOMING A COLLECTOR AND AN INVESTOR

Here I unleash you on my friends, the unsuspecting art, antiques, and collectibles professionals, newly armed with useful knowledge and ready to cut a swath in the market. In this section I also provide basic principles and ideas associated with knowledgeable buying and selling and how they are used by the value minded collector. I revisit the markets I described previously only now with specific reference to your being a knowledgeable buyer and seller. I also talk about strategies for buying, selling, or bartering, and I talk about effectively maintaining your collection.

STEP I: CLEARING YOUR MIND ABOUT ART, ANTIQUES, AND COLLECTIBLES

CHAPTER 1: THE ABYSMAL STATE OF ART, ANTIQUES, AND COLLECTIBLES INVESTMENT

The Strange Hypocrisy of the Marketplace

It’s been a popular tradition that when collecting someone shouldn’t associate value with the personal choices involved in that activity. I believe that many people are so intimidated by the double standards and muddled thinking traditional in dealing with these two topics in tandem, that is, personal choice in collecting and the financial value associated with that collecting, that they avoid its rational consideration.

So, as they follow me around while I’m evaluating their collections, clients often protest that their collecting choices are governed strictly by what they like and that they are not motivated by financial considerations. To say the least, this makes for very strange conversations, because while my customers are protesting the thought of assigning value to priceless family heirlooms they have one ear cocked as I tell them what their properties are worth in the present market and their characteristics as effective investments---which is why they hired me in the first place!

But someone doesn’t have to broadcast, after all, what they pay for anything, and that includes stocks or bonds as well as valuable personal possessions. Talking about investments is one thing. Intelligent consideration of investments is another! This kind of low regard for mixing appreciable personal properties and investment has existed has more to do with poor conceptualization, incomplete market data, and lack of knowledge than from any satisfactory analysis that would definitively discount these properties as investment vehicles. The art of investing intelligently in appreciable personal properties is still in its formative stages, and even in this general circumstance it is possible to draw useful comparisons between appreciable personal properties as investments and other types of investments for the benefit of readers.
Later on in the book I speculate why this state of affairs exists, what solutions are available to bridge the gap between casually buying items of interest and true investing, and why I think the present is a good time, as opposed to any previous time, for presenting a book that does this. I do not believe that art, antiques, or collectibles are sacred cows huffily defying explanation and that there can be a sensible consideration of these topics such that collectors can benefit financially from their buying activities.

Thinking About Appreciable Personal Properties and Buying Them: Oil and Water

It’s possible to over-personalize and under-analyze the choices someone makes in buying or selling valuable properties—(or any investment property for that matter!) That this is regarding valuable properties has to do with a lack of interest or focus on the factors contributing to value in art, antiques, and collectibles, both by the buyers of these properties but also by people in the industry (Not only that, but it has become fashionable on the antique valuation shows for appraisers to encourage owners of valuable properties to actually use these properties despite their high value and thereby risk damage to these properties, which is the unfortunate outcome of an incorrect industry bias which is dead set against regarding any such properties in a serious investment or financial light!) There is also a pervasive anti-intellectual tenor in America which contributes to negative attitudes pertaining to analysis of art, aesthetics, and other pertinent concepts which are important in effective purchasing.

And when it comes to the capabilities of buyers, I make no distinctions between blue collar working folks and businessmen, doctors, investors, or software industrialists. All seem to carry the same baggage of little hard knowledge about appreciable personal properties and a lot of misconceptions which are reflective of widespread slogans or platitudes. If anything, bigger mistakes are made on bigger budgets, because the frugal blue collar guy collecting on a budget may seek to inform himself before buying because he doesn’t have the luxury of making expensive mistakes. Maybe.

Let’s review then some of these platitudes by reciting a sampling of these misconceptions and examining them from my standpoint as an appraiser with good experience of the marketplace. This is a necessary and effective approach for getting you turned around and in the right frame of mind to begin thinking about where you spend your money.

Misconceptions That Pass For Knowledge about Appreciable Personal Properties

Sometimes in our society you just can’t tell people what to do with their money. ‘I know what I like, I own it, and that’s all that matters, people sometimes say. Especially with art or collectibles or other valuable properties, people’s eyes are quick to glaze over when the discussion gets too involved and they quickly lose patience with or don’t bother to take on board important fundamental concepts before they indulge their tastes. So our discussion brings us to the first widely held and insidious investment misconception, which is:

Misconception #1: I may not know anything about art (or antiques, or collectibles), but I know what I like.

What this says is that there is no difference between what someone likes and what may truly be worth collecting, a concept reinforced by general cultural thinking that tends to look down on choices governed by too much mental effort mixed with the pleasurable disposition of one’s money. With respect to art, it is the emotional reward that comes with the assertion of a buyer’s own tastes that may trump any consideration of intrinsic value. Mix these dispositions with a lack of clear knowledge about the factors making up real merit and quality in collecting, and you end up with a lot of people spending their hard-earned resources on property that ultimately has no value.

This one idea, that I may not know anything about art, but I know what I like, is the biggest barrier to effective investment. And it works its way into the whole issue of buying valuable properties in the most unexpected ways and into the collections of even the most apparently avid collectors. And, again, it’s an idea reinforced and publicly supported by many in the art, antiques, and collectibles business.

Again, one aspect of this is that collecting first and foremost involves emotional choices, and it is in dealing with emotions unleavened by sufficient knowledge that people get themselves into trouble in the art investment game (and, incidentally, in other investment games). I have to admit that it is often more difficult to separate emotions from rational investment choices in art than in many other investment areas. Art is art, and not, for example, pork bellies or widgets or other products making up the boring produce of ordinary life.

Appreciable personal properties are not widgets and that is good. Widgets are manufactured articles for the accountant to tally. Valuable personal properties are more intimate and are something that makes life interesting beyond the dull necessities and preoccupations of ordinary life, as they properly should. This means that the dry machinations involved in balancing your accounts or stock market investments can get horribly muddled when applied to investing in valuable personal property.

This book is not a dry discourse that tries to objectify the emotionalism of the appreciable personal properties market, because emotionalism is inherent in such properties. But you still can think beyond the emotional choices you make in buying art, antiques, or collectibles, just like you can rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time. It just takes a bit of practice! It is just as easy with education and thought to buy something of value you love as it is to buy something which you love that has no value. If you don’t have a framework for objectively analyzing your choices, you just feel what you feel, and that will create poor investment choices.
I mentioned earlier the bigger mistakes which people often make on bigger budgets. Again, the basic problem is that buyers with generous budgets allow their tastes to completely dominate their investment choices without regard to rational investment considerations. What’s more, such buyers may tend to discount any advice or expertise brought to bear by a professional in the art, antiques, or collectibles field because of problems which academia and the industry traditionally have had in effectively articulating what quality and investment worthiness really mean.

*********

One of my clients was a very successful lawyer in the Eastern Washington State town of Richland, where he was known as a local art, antiques, and collectibles buyer of note (he is now deceased). He had called me in previously to appraise artwork for a number of clients for different purposes, and finally I got the bright idea to ask him if he had ever had his property appraised for insurance. He said that he never had, and that I had better schedule a trip to Richland to undertake this process.

So I drove in the dead of winter across the Cascade Mountains, arriving about noon in the Tri-Cities, and went in search of my client. I entered the exclusive area indicated in my directions and found my way winding up, and up, and up the hillside, the houses getting increasingly fancier and fancier—until, finally, I arrived at the ‘Charles Foster Kane’ mansion on the tip-top of the whole shebang. The estate lay somewhere in front of me, I had no doubt, but I couldn’t see it as it was hidden behind a cottonwood forest. What I first saw was the spiky and formidable black wrought iron gate with my client’s intertwined initials on each door. The only effects missing were the darkness of night and the lightning from the Citizen Kane movie!
I pressed the call button and heard the familiar response of ‘Mr. Kane’ (actually, Mr. Mitchell Soulani), himself. The huge gates creaked open and I drove up the large paved drive towards the great stuccoed house with the Mexican tile roof. I got out and approached the gorgeous carved set of seventeenth century French double doors and rang the doorbell.

Mr. Sulani expansively greeted me and we went into the living room to chat and eventually get down to business. But before we entered the living room, I noticed the bronze torcheres in the form of nubile art nouveau women each fully five feet high and flanking the doorway to the living room with its ten million dollar view off the entry. I was struck by the crude workmanship (obvious in the sausage shaped toes, where I look first) and the new appearance of each statue. At first the significance of what I was looking at didn’t really register; sometimes it takes me awhile to assess my surroundings in a household appraisal situation, but once things finally click…

Anyway, after a little pleasant chit-chat and admiring the chilly yet still stunning view of the Columbia River, we proceeded to tour his collection, starting with the displays of the elaborate scrimshaw carvings in glass cases in the living room, complemented by a selection of Lalique glass radiator caps. The furniture we were sitting in was in Javanese nineteenth century style, there were East Indian paintings on fabric framed and hanging on the wall, and academic style paintings of lions and other impressive looking animals on canvas in heavy gilded frames lurked in half-light on the walls.

“I want you to appraise these items”, said Mitchell, and he continued: “Everything here I got at a discount from dealers who were going out of business and needed to sell quickly, so I got it all for a real steal. I’m sure these items are worth much more than what I paid for them.”, and he gave me a look that suggested I was to admire him as a Real Sharp Player and a Fellow in the Know when it came to dealing in art, antiques, and collectibles. After hearing about his buying strategy, and seeing what he bought in combination with his explanation of how he bought it, I began to see clearly the lay of the land and began to formulate a general, working picture of the property I was being asked to appraise.

(As an appraiser, when I enter a client’s home I always ask for a quick tour of the premises to gain an impression of the scope of work required, following which I sit down with the client to write up the contract. After the contract is negotiated, I go back through the house and record in detail those properties requiring valuation).

But to get back to the story: As yet, I said nothing. Instead I coughed very softly into my fist and bowed my head slightly as he then led me further into the house and into the dining room, where there were items of a conspicuously Chinese character on display in what was overall a Chinese/Japanese decorative theme.

Featured on one wall was a folding screen.

“I’m particularly proud of my Chinese screen, a real antique and something for which I had to pay plenty although I managed to talk the dealer down considerably.” he said.

“How much did you pay?” I asked.

“I ended up paying $20,000”, he sniffed, “…discounted from $35,000.”

He then led me up a grand staircase to the bedroom, which on entering I noticed was decorated in an 1870’s Eastlake style with various pieces of walnut furniture reupholstered in faux tiger skin fabric. On we went, each room having its own decorative motif. As we proceeded with our tour, the conversation was punctuated with my client’s exclamations: “Got it for a steal.” Or “didn’t know what they had.” Or “had him in a bad position” or similar exclamations as we moved through the mansion.

He showed me an enclosed Chinese bed that he solemnly assured me was a 12th century opium bed, although it looked like an ordinary 19th century Ch’ing Dynasty Chinese bed to me…
Finally, he stopped and said he had something really special to show me and he winked at me and motioned to follow him into the inner sanctum, the billiards room, with its dramatic down lighting. He then pushed a button, and as I watched the mechanical doors on the wall behind the pool table silently parted to reveal…

“Yes, it’s a genuine Frederic Remington,” he said, as I viewed the appalling fake. “I paid twenty thousand for it. I figure it’s worth at least $100,000!”

At last I’d had enough.

“Mitchell,” I said, “for a Remington of that size (approx. 3’x 5’) you would have to pay millions of dollars if it were real. I’m sorry to tell you I have my doubts that this painting is by Remington. It doesn’t look like any Remington I’ve ever seen.”

His jaw dropped, and he challenged me, “Well, are you sure about your Remingtons?”
“Pretty sure”, I said, although in my mind even the most cursory examination by an ordinary observer of any real Remington paintings should have revealed the vast differences between those and the thing in front of me, even with the big ‘Frederic Remington’ signature at the bottom and with a rousing composition of a cowboy lassoing a calf in a draw.

“…Let’s go back” I started, diplomatically, “and talk about what we need to appraise for you for insurance.”

And we started to retrace our steps back through the house. At each stop, I informed him of the true nature of the properties we had reviewed. The 12th century bed? Nineteenth century. The Chinese screen? A mid twentieth century decorative screen worth about $2,000 at the most. The bronze torcheres? Crude modern copies of turn-of-the-century French bronzes. The scrimshaw collection? All molded plastic fakes. The Lalique crystal radiator caps? Modern reproductions from the original molds. The animal paintings? Modern European decorator copies. The Javanese furniture? Absolutely modern. And on, and on, and on…

Not everything was fake, new, or comparatively ordinary. The Eastlake furniture was worth a little bit and he had a few paintings by local artists which required appraisal for insurance coverage. But everything else was not what my client thought it was. So I ended up appraising the few things in his grand estate which I felt were worthwhile and sent him the report.

The upshot? Well, a week or so later Mitchell sheepishly called me to ask me if he and his wife could hire me to show them where the ‘real’ bargains were.

“Mitchell”, I sighed, “there aren’t any.”

What happens is that because strong and clear collecting criteria based upon knowledge of what constitutes lasting value are lacking both in the buyer and as points of reference in the marketplace, the overriding factor in such collections eventually becomes the cheap price, and shopping expeditions become bargain hunts. The purchaser is not buying true bargains, which may be considered a cheap price paid for a quality product, but is buying merely cheap merchandise without redeeming quality.

Don’t look for bargains unless you know what bargains truly are. Further, you must be prepared to look very hard. Bargains are hard enough to find for informed professionals in the industry, and so you can imagine how much more difficult it is for someone who lacks basic information about such products to actually stumble on something of value at a price less than the going industry price.

Misconception #2: I’m going to make a bundle with an undiscovered masterpiece, because I hear about people hitting the jackpot by just looking through their attic!

Yes, fairy tales can come true. People can win the lottery, and a Michigan couple can discover that they are living with a Van Gogh in their living room (this actually happened). But the chances of even an informed person, much less an uninformed person, of making a major find are so small that it’s a circumstance no one should count on. I can think of people who spent decades going to garage sales and pinned their hopes on making the big money-making find and never found anything. Not only are these people who don’t have enough information to realize that they are chasing pipe-dreams, but they are also people who really don’t ultimately understand what it is they are looking for!

Misconception #3: I Couldn’t Possibly Care About the value of what I Own because what I have are Family Heirlooms which are PRICELESS

…they say as they are talking to the money guy, the appraiser, and on national television for all to see on the appraisal shows. How silly. People feel guilty about evaluating what they own, which is not necessarily silly, as people don’t necessarily like to affix dollar signs to their possessions. But when they are telling this to the appraiser, they do look a little silly. This an idea closely allied to, and implicit in, the slogan I may not know anything about art but I know what I like. It turns this slogan into a defensive protest.
This I think has at least a partial genesis in the fact that such properties are considered so personal that to assign a dollar value seems inappropriate. An admirable sentiment, but hardly meaningful if by consulting with an appraiser you are trying to satisfy your curiosity about what you own is worth.

Misconception #4: Good Art is a Matter of Individual Taste

Here’s a slogan which is profound in its implications, which can be dangerous, and which can and has thrown better and more knowledgeable people than me into fitful intellectual discourses and has sent very intelligent art buyers back squarely into the impulsive realm of emotional art purchasing without financial purpose or structure. But I believe I can offer ways around this profoundly flawed investment idea that provide you, the investor, with solid footing in your quest for investment quality art, antiques, and collectibles.

Collecting art is a matter for individual taste. Collectors have to pay attention to their own tastes in buying art, or what’s the point of enjoying life? One person’s fine china can be another person’s old teapot. But to say that good art is a matter of individual taste is completely wrong, both from an investor’s point of view and from an intellectual standpoint. It’s one thing to say that a work of art appeals to one person and not another. It’s another thing to say that quality art is a matter of individual perception! It can even be argued that a person cannot be a true collector unless they take stock of things outside of their own likes and dislikes in buying valuable properties, that unless they pay attention to general ideas of quality that they are only accumulators of stuff and not true collectors.

There must be an absorbing emotional or intellectual response to a work of art as a basis for collection and investment on a personal level. But in assessing a work of art beyond a collector’s strictly personal tastes, a collector should decide what it is it is that an artist is expressing generally to his audience and the responses to that expression. There must be good communication established between artist and viewer through the medium of a work of art, a communication dependent mainly on the effectiveness with which an artist presents what it is they are trying to express. This idea implying a commonality or a meeting of the minds is central to the concept of quality art. So in other words, the idea of quality is not really a matter of individual taste but a matter of informed opinion and consensus across broad areas of the art world, and you ignore this at your peril as an enterprising art investor. Also, an interest in broader ideas of quality and value have an effect in enhancing your own appreciation of objects and sharpening your tastes.

I will deal with what quality means in a future chapter. Suffice here to say that, based on my knowledge of the personal properties market, I find myself increasingly in the position of identifying items of quality and value as I buy them without knowing anything about the particulars of what attract me other than my understanding of general factors determining quality in the market beyond my own personal biases or tastes, as well as other factors which I will tell you about. I can predict that what I buy at a cheap price either I can sell at a much higher price to the right buyer if I happen to find it under priced—and be right, or that I can buy something with the idea of investing in it for the long term and see an appreciation in that investment.

I could not do anything like this if all art, for instance, were strictly a matter of individual opinion because there would be no structure to the art market and no prediction of future value would therefore be possible. Nor could I be an effective appraiser, as an appraiser offers his clients values based on the consistency afforded by pricing information relating to any group of objects having identifiable characteristics in common with the item I am appraising. If I couldn’t effectively do this, then appraising would fit into the same category as tea-leaf or palm-reading, and I believe it is an activity with more value than that.

‘AHA!’ Some of you will say, ‘You are responding to questions of taste which collectively are categorized as fashion!’ And my answer is—yes, as an appraiser I must take into account the value of property influenced by issues of fashion and, for example, give a high price to objects which I believe have no long term value as investment-quality property. As an investor I must as well recognize fashion and trends, general fluctuations in the economy, and other factors which I will discuss shortly. And not everything appreciates consistently, but then neither do any other investments!

If you ignore concepts making up collectively the idea of quality in art, antiques and other collectibles you will find yourself in the position of people I hear about who sank all of their money into fashionable Beanie Babies and received high appraisals of their properties at the height of the collecting boom some years ago. Those high appraisals have not held up for the long term because Beanie Babies do respond to a market concerned with fad or fashion and not to a market interested in determining intrinsic quality. There is a difference. And what is that difference? Well, once again, I am putting off that consideration for another chapter. Just keep in mind that because you don’t know the underlying rules of the personal properties values game doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and if you don’t understand them you won’t succeed as an investor. You will be subject to the ebb and flow of more transitory investment considerations and will have no understanding of the characteristics that underlie a truly significant portfolio.

Misconception # 5: Art, antiques, and collectibles are only worth what someone will pay you for them.

This is one more misconception in the family of Gee-I-don’t/know/like/understand-art-and-antiques-and-so-its-all-a-matter-of-personal-taste-or-anyone’s-guess clichés. What this cliché is implying is exactly that, what I’ve just strung together--but folks, so what if something is only worth what someone will pay you for it? Houses, chickens, biscuits, skyscrapers, and rubber bands, among just a few million other things-- are all worth only what someone will pay you for them. Artworks, antiques, and collectibles are commodities just like everything else.

Misconception #6: This is a really popular artist. Everybody is collecting his work; therefore it must be a good investment.

Just because everybody is buying Riddley Jewels artwork from retail galleries featuring her offset sentimental landscape prints (not original art, an investment danger sign) doesn’t mean that it’s a good investment. It’s popular, pricey, and, especially, it is well marketed, but it probably has no long term investment value if the market history of such multiple products are any guide. Don’t automatically assume marketing hype equates with quality from an investment perspective. Multiples editions of art are generally not as effective in competing with one of a kind art products for the long haul, and are a particularly difficult area of investment for the novice collector, if investment value is an ultimate objective.

I do want to emphasize that I am not advising people to buy or not to buy any particular artwork in the market; I am only telling people to use care when it comes to purchases which do not show investment history or potential, or if they have no real knowledge of art--if they are at all interested in such issues.

Misconception #7: I know what I paid for it, therefore, I know what it’s worth.

Five seconds thought should dispose of this idea. There is nothing that remains the same price after you buy it. I recently obtained a copy of Warman’s Antiques and their Current Prices from 1966—an antique in itself!—and the prices assigned to items then which are much more valuable now make me wonder what I was doing with my time in Junior High School. For example, a bronze and favrille glass Tiffany lamp is listed for $250.00. This same lamp would sell now for $20,000. A Staffordshire 18th century Tobey jug is listed for $200; similar ones now sell for $5,000-$8,000; a stoneware American crock with a glaze drawing of a bird on it lists for $30; try finding one for less than $300. A 5 foot high carved wooden Indian from the nineteenth century on a wheeled stand lists for $475; I wouldn’t be surprised to find one similar selling for $50,000 or more. Not all items have increased in value over forty years beyond the expected rate of inflation, but I think I’ve made my point.

*********

Recently I was contacted by a representative of a company that manages financial affairs for the wealthy. When she called me, I was all ears! What she had to say was surprising. She said that no appraiser had ever bothered to contact them and that the brochure I sent was the first indication she had that there was an organized art, antiques, and collectibles appraisal industry! She said she didn’t know what list I had consulted to send them my brochure, but they certainly had a use for me.

“To appraise their art, antiques, and collectibles and let people know what they owned?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “They know what they own. My clients need advice on display and framing, could you do that?”

“Sure”, I answered, but pressing the point I asked: “How do they know what they own?”
“Oh, they just do.”

Because people tend to buy into the feeling that the very rich walk on water, they are tempted to take on faith that through osmosis, superior supernatural perception and god-like intelligence the rich just know what they own! But because I was feeling frisky, I pressed the point: “But how do they know what they own?’

“Well, they know what they paid for items.”

“Well, what about now as opposed to what they paid for items in the past. Values do change on art like everything else. Do you mean they have their valuables appraised periodically to keep up on prices?”

… (pregnant silence). Then: “No, they keep up on prices.”

“How do they do this?”

“They have collection curators that assist them with this.”

“Oh... (embarrassed silence)….they all do?”

“Well, no, I am just thinking about one client in particular whose name you would instantly recognize. We have found generally that our clients have between $75,000 and $225,000 worth of antiques” (not Bill G., I thought). After a few more pleasantries and promises of business, the conversation concluded.

What was it I failed to learn from this conversation? I have many wealthy clients who realize the need for periodic appraisals for insurance coverage. But short of having their property actually appraised, how did my caller’s clients know what they own?

The answer is: they don’t. Even this financial handler for the wealthy was ignorant about any connection between value and collectibles, and, particularly, investment value, a determination that requires periodic monitoring of purchases like any other investments, like houses, like stocks, like gold…. like the $5,000 snuff box my client was using for an ashtray and which she damaged because she was ignorant of any value beyond its general appeal to her tastes.
It could be that financial handler’s clients are not interested in the values of their collections. But, most probably, they are. And, again, if you think they don’t care, believe me, they do, and are grateful when I have a chance to evaluate what they own.

Misconception #7: The artist is dead. Therefore his works have to be worth more.

No they don’t, because his death can be a blessing in disguise for art aficionados as his art was basically no good and he quickly will be forgotten. Also, many artists make money while they are up and walking around. An artist’s value and reputation depend on more than the state of his health. Now it’s true that the death of a great artist will put upwards pressure on the prices of his or her remaining works because while demand has remained stable or increased, there is no longer anyone to produce more art and therefore to match supply to that demand. But this doesn’t often happen.

Misconception #8: It’s old, so it must be valuable.

I have boring, round, gray and brown garden rocks that are older than Methuselah. But they can’t compete value-wise with the more recently produced Matisse paintings. So in fact, as I explain later, age is not really a factor in valuation of anything!

Misconception #9: It has a certificate of authenticity, so it must really be authentic!

Legions are forged. It’s actually easier to forge the certificate than the art itself.

Misconception #10: This is by an artist whom the critics are calling a new fresh talent, an up-and-comer, and certainly a great investment for the future! (Or something similar, part of gallery promotions).

It is possible for someone with a great discerning eye to spot the future. There are people who have an uncanny talent for spotting the best from the first. And artists who present a drastically different vision from what has gone before may present great investment opportunities when their works first appears in the market; artists like Warhol, or Picasso, or Monet, for instance.
Still, take with a grain of salt the hype about an otherwise unknown artist from any source as a basis for serious investment. Neither you nor the gallery can predict the future—the artist may become an investment success but, then again, they may not for a variety of reasons. Among the reasons an artist’s works may not pan out as an investment include: the artist may quit producing quality artwork or--worse yet--he may die, the gallery may quit promoting the artist’s work, the artist’s work may suffer a downturn in quality, or he may turn out to be a minor talent as his career progresses.

Similar kinds of reasoning should apply to the appellation ‘future collectible’ (or ‘future antique’, if you like), which is a vaguer idea but which describes items which are only one-off sales successes, exist in too large a quantity to be significantly appreciable, or may not have the requisite quality required to be of sustained interest in the secondary (or investment) market, among a variety of other reasons which we will explore in more depth later in the book. The bottom line is that you just have to wait and see whether certain favorable conditions are met--you have to give a new artist’s work or a new collectible time to weather the exposure to critical and market interest and you have to keep tabs on the secondary market—all before you decide to invest in something which you also find attractive as a work of art or collectible.

Misconception #11: I have only a few things that are valuable, most of what I have is not worth anything.

…Oh, and how do you know that? The larger issue here is that people often think that they are sure about what is valuable in their home based on mythology, misconceptions, Family Feelings About Things, and their own mistaken conclusions based on faulty knowledge and reasoning absent an appraisal of their property. And, again, the industry is partly to blame! Keep an open mind and understand the value of education in determining quality.

Misconception #12: It’s a big gallery, so what they sell must be valuable.

There’s a big, impressive new gallery or auction in town featuring what appear to be fabulous antiques. But everything is new merchandise produced in China—that’s right, everything is completely fake—and the ‘gallery’ is really a glorified imports outlet, a front for flogging Chinese export decorative fake artwork or antiques.

But whether they are fly-by-night traveling auctioneers in the local motel ballroom, there one weekend and gone the next, or whether they are big shiny new galleries suddenly popping up out of nowhere in your neighborhood, all they have to do is take your money, give you your item, and forget about you if they choose to do so (Of course, I am only referring to dishonest establishments, not to honest and legitimate businesses). Later they might send you periodically inflated ‘appraisals’ indicating regular increases in value of your investment—not appraisals at all, actually, but retail price increases of dubious authenticity—just to keep you happy and ready to be suckered once more into buying on another occasion. Others vastly overcharge for items which can be obtained for more modest prices at less visible or glamorous locations, leaving little room for rational investment.

Never let yourself be overawed by splashy presentation or a big fancy gallery. Watch out for auctions not rooted in the area, keep a wary eye on big new galleries suddenly appearing which are completely different than other gallery operations typical for the locale. Never be tempted to buy in bulk or do all of your shopping in one location. And again, be very wary of fakes!

*********

Picture a new antebellum style mansion with a big paved driveway. In the center, a fountain plays softly over a concrete cupid holding a cornucopia. I am greeted at the door by the youngish casual-and-Capri lady of the house, and I gingerly enter, half nervous and half elated, because of the responsibility I evidently was granted after my clients made an involved search for the right person to evaluate their collection.

We start our walk around the house and it starts to dawn on me that I am not seeing antiques, only decorative artwork.

Now, from my client’s perspective, they had a house full of Art Deco ivory statues by Dimitri Chiparis plus a few other odds and ends; from my perspective I was looking at modern Chinese fakes all purchased, apparently, from the same source. But how to break it to her?

“Where did you get these Art Deco statues?”

“Oh, we bought them from a big gallery in Miami about five years ago.”

“Are these what you want me to appraise?’

“Yes, our insurer requires appraisal on fine art items for separate scheduling.”

“But I think many of these are reproductions, and reproductions are decorative art or depreciable property carried under your general household policy.”

“Well, we thought some might be, but then we were told by the man in the gallery we bought them from that some were reproductions and some were real; he sort of picked and chose a mix for us.”

“I’m pretty sure they are all reproductions--fakes actually--because they have the forged signatures of an Art Deco master sculptor who has been dead a long time.”

And I proceeded to point out the bad workmanship, including the poor casting and detailing of metal portions of the sculpture, the rough and ready cobbled appearance of the marble bases, the vaguely Chinese appearance of the faces, the primitive labeling—moving from one ivory statue to the other (oh the poor elephants who gave their lives for this stuff!). She even showed me the less than stellar work of a previous appraiser, who was taken in by one of the more impressive pieces and who gave it a price far, far lower than what it would actually be worth were it real, but still way too high by an order of ten for a reproduction/fake.

Bottom line? These people had about $10,000 worth of insurable art (not the statues, the odds and ends) in their whole million dollar mansion. I didn’t appraise the statues. I sincerely hope that these people had other investments going for them other than their art collection!

Misconception #13: Buying art when you are vacation is a good time to buy!

Be careful buying while on vacation in Las Vegas, or Hawaii, on cruise ships, or in any of the vacation destinations, if you want the best investment value. I specifically exclude the better galleries in New York, Paris, London, Rome, Los Angeles, and other major population centers (which are also popular vacation destinations) because they are the heart of the world art, antiques, and collectibles trade and careful and informed buying in these locations can put you at an advantage relative to investors purchasing at the geographic margins. This is because of the better quality and quantity of choices in these locations, but don’t expect to make a killing. You are making prudent investments for the long haul.

However, be leery of buying in locations which are primarily known as vacation destinations or where tourism is the major industry, or buying when you are in a vacation frame of mind. When you are on vacation, you might be tipsy or otherwise feeling liberally disposed, and you like being ushered into a cool, velvet, down lit studio, where, wearing your flowered shirt and sandals and feeling casually well-heeled, you are suddenly presented with—Ta Da!--the overpriced and very possibly fake Salvador Dali print for which you will pay just oodles as a souvenir of your once in a lifetime vacation!

This is absolutely the worst time to buy, for the sharks have been lying in wait. Of course, I’m not referring to the honest and reasonably priced galleries in those locations, only to the dishonest ones and the ones who charge inflated prices for art that is available at a much cheaper price in a less glamorous setting, or wouldn’t even be sold at all. (By the way, any and all galleries and business venues referenced in this book have both good and bad players, and it must be understood that it is the bad players which you want to avoid).

*********

I was contacted by a couple who said that they had purchased a Marc Chagall print while on vacation in Hawaii. They said they were calling me because they had heard that there were Chagall fakes and wanted to verify that what they purchased was real. I sucked in my breath, anticipating the worst, and told them to bring it in.

They brought me the print and it looked pretty good. It was signed in pencil in what appeared to be Chagall’s hand, and I took in out of the frame to look more closely at it. Now this inspection was less than satisfactory, as I noticed that under the matt there was a distinct yellowing of the paper consistent with what is referred to as mat burn. Mat burn occurs when a print or other framed paper comes into contact with a pulp paper mat which has released sulfuric acid onto the print and thereby stained, or in some cases physically destroyed, the artwork with which it has come into contact. The acid is produced because the mat has been saturated by liquid water, or, more typically, has been in a humid environment (Hawaii?) and has created the conditions which have allow the acid to be produced. Acid free matting should have been used to frame the print so that this would not have occurred, a touch that recommends a quality gallery over other galleries. Ominously, the client reported that the seller had asserted it was in perfect condition, which it was not.

I said I had to research the print to further determine authenticity. They took it with them (after I had taken appropriate notes and photos) and left. After a few minutes research I found the auction records from the auctioneers for the exact print in question, certainly relieved that it was real. I found out that it had sold at auction to an unknown seller two years before for $5,000.00. The picture of the item when it was sold indicated no discoloration of the margins.
I called the client and asked her: “Judy, what did you pay for this print?”

“We paid $27,000.00 for it.”

I told her what I had learned.

“Do you think we were cheated?” asked she.

I told her, very reasonably, that an item is worth what somebody pays for it, but that I certainly would have rather bid at the auction by phone or on line when it had originally sold and saved myself some money.

The last I heard from the clients was that they were trying to get their money back because of the print’s condition, which the gallery apparently asserted was still perfect.

Misconception #14: I had a professor at the museum look at I and he told me what it was worth and that’s ALL I need to know.

It’s hard to know where to begin on this one. First of all, professors are not typically found at museums. Most are found at universities, unless they are associated with a university museum. More to the point, professors and curators have high sounding titles which do not mean that they are experts in the markets for artwork, antiques, or collectibles.

Now it is true that academics are the thinkers that create the concepts which influence the determination of quality for many valuables in the market, but that doesn’t mean that they are regular participants in the market. And unless they are actually in the market as dealers or appraisers, they know just a little more than the man in the moon. Keep separate the worlds of academia and the appreciable personal properties commercial marketplace. They are related but are not the same!

Misconception #15: It’s too difficult to learn about all this art and antiques stuff—again, I know what I like and understand.

Is it too difficult to learn about stocks and companies? Is it too difficult to learn about football teams and the NFL? Is it too difficult to learn what constitutes good nutrition? Come on, folks, laziness and or lack of interest in a subject can take many forms. What’s certain is that if you are not learning where any of your money goes, whether into expensive art purchases, rookie baseball cards, or Supra-Cola stocks—you will pay the price. Misconception # 15 is only a variation on Misconception #1.

Misconception #16: Hey, I’m an impulse buyer. When I see art I like I grab it!

I sometimes get the feeling that people often associate artistic creation with impulse, with joie-de-vivre, and that they therefore should buy art in the spirit of the artist creating the masterpiece. It doesn’t help that artists such as Salvador Dali in his public posturing contributed to such perceptions of artistic creativity and the creative life.

But the best artists work hard and carefully at their craft (and that includes Dali at his finest). You owe more to them and to your pocketbook to assess their work carefully and consider purchases prudently if you are at all concerned with an investment perspective.

Misconception #17: Because this artwork is old, or shows Civil War soldiers, (or has a signature, or is in good condition, or is large, or came from the Hoity-Toity estate, or has any one quality which I am focusing on to the exclusion of all other qualities)-- it must be valuable!

Never be tempted to focus on only one quality of anything as a basis for assigning value to it. There is no one magic characteristic which automatically means an item will be valuable. Look at different factors in deciding the worth of an object, factors which I will tell you about in the discussions to follow.

Misconception #18: This piano has a long family history, and my grandmother provided extensive notes as to where and when it was purchased. I also have lots of family letters describing family gatherings around the piano. This must make my piano more valuable.

Unfortunately, valuation television programs sometimes show appraisers expressing an interest in the family photos and notes accompanying the antiques featured by the television cameras. They cite the value of tracking family history and encourage the beaming owner to make notes to describe when and where the item was bought, who used it, and so on.

But many people are tempted to believe that this translates into value for otherwise ordinary or unremarkable family heirlooms. The whole issue of establishing provenance for a valuable property must take into account: 1) The quality and nature of the property itself, 2) the extreme importance of the personality who had a connection with a family heirloom or 3) a very important event associated directly with that heirloom to be of importance to the value of that property. Ordinary family history is only of importance to the family and has no role in enhancing the general value of otherwise ordinary items.

Misconception #19: All art, antiques, and collectibles appreciate in value.

Because art, antiques, and collectibles are really just ‘stuff’ in disguise, like rubber biscuits or skyscrapers, they respond to the same market forces as any other commodities. This means that they can either appreciate--or depreciate!

Anyway, there is a lot we need to discuss. So let’s begin!


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Monday, September 17, 2007

PARTIALLY HUMAN

Partially Human
Dwayne G. Anderson
Infinity Publishing
May 2007

You can purchase Partially Human by clicking here.
Read an excerpt of PARTIALLY HUMAN:

When Joshua opened his eyes, he was standing in a hall that appeared to be in a moving train. The sky outside was bright blue with several white clouds.
“Where am I?” he asked himself.
He opened a nearby door and went in.
Inside this room, he saw a man seated next to an open window. Dressed in a stunning black suit, he sat at a table, writing on some paper, pausing occasionally to look out the window at the scenery. Also on the table, was a black stovepipe hat.

“If I can just come up with a good ending,” he said as he scratched his bearded chin.
Joshua approached the man and stood before the table.

The man looked up from his papers at Joshua. “Oh hello young man,” he said. “What can the president do for you?”

“Hey, I know you!” said Joshua. “You’re Abraham Lincoln! I read about you in school!”

“So you’ve heard of me,” said Abraham. “I’m writing my Gettysburg address speech. Soon, this train will arrive at Gettysburg where I’ll speak in front of a crowd of people waiting for my appearance. Civil war is tearing the fabric of this country apart. You see, the north opposes slavery, while the south supports it. I’m in favor of the northern country’s opinion.”

“So you oppose slavery yourself,” said Joshua.

“All men and women are created equally. We all live in this great nation under one God, and therefore, we are all equal living beings.”

Joshua listened well to Abraham Lincoln’s words.

“If that’s what you believe, why is there still much prejudice in the world, especially against people like me?”

“Who are you anyway?”

“Joshua Plofhard, a boy who is partially human.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Joshua took off the headband. “Let me guess. It’s about this gem in my forehead?”

“How did it get there?”

“I was born this way. Ever since people found out about it, many have been treating me unfairly. On my nineteenth birthday, the alien within me will be extracted by the rest of the species who created it. Once that is done, I will be able to return home. I’m glad I shall not perish from the Earth.”

“Joshua, you shouldn’t let people treat you unfairly simply because of the way you are. Don’t let anybody stop you from being yourself! Stick to it! You were created this way for a reason. After all, that’s what makes you unique!”
“Thanks for the advice Mr. Lincoln. I feel much better now.”

“You’re welcome,” said Abraham. “Now run along Joshua I have work to do. The train will soon arrive at Gettysburg, and I must deliver this speech. First, I must come up with a dynamic finish.”

“I will,” said Joshua as he began to walk back towards the door.

Then Abraham had a thought about something Joshua said.

“Shall not perish from the Earth? That’s the ending I’m looking for!”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

COMING BACK A VIRGIN

Title of Book: COMING BACK A VIRGIN
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Date of Release: August 2007
Website: http://www.cjmaxx.com/

You can purchase COMING BACK A VIRGIN by clicking here!

COMING BACK A VIRGIN EXCERPT:

“Good. I think we can get started now.”

He smiled broadly and turned to Lorraine. His hand went directly to her breast. He moved his lips toward her mouth but was surprised when she nimbly slipped away from him. “Hey, you said we could start.”

She smiled sweetly. “Yes, I did. That means you can start writing. We’ll start this segment when you pick her up for the date. It’ll end when you’re sitting here on the sofa. Let me set it up for you. You pick her up at her place, bring her some flowers, take her out to a fancy restaurant, feed her, get a couple glasses of wine in her, and most importantly, impress her. She agrees to come here to see if this is going anywhere. Got that?”

Walter looked as though he’d lost his best friend. “No, that’s not how I saw this unfolding. We were going to do something, then write about it.”

“Didn’t anybody ever tell you that writing’s hard work, Walter?”

He reluctantly got up and walked over to the computer. “Yeah, but they didn’t mean this.”

Lorraine came up behind him and started to massage his shoulders. She spoke just above a whisper. “Before you left for the date you had the lights dimmed, the wine chilling and the glasses ready. During dinner you’ve found out what type of romantic music she likes and prayed you have it. Now, once you’re in here, you have her sit on the sofa, you put on the music and get the glasses and wine. You sit down, pour the wine and propose a toast, ‘to our future’ or whatever seems appropriate. The first scene stops there.”

Walter stared straight ahead, his fingers sitting on the keyboard.

“Do you want me to leave you alone so you can get started?” o:p>

“I can’t do this. It’s not me. It’s too hard.”

Lorraine moved back to sit on the sofa. “You know, maybe Papa H. just wanted to get Samantha up there and had to bring me up too since I’m the main character. Maybe that’s why he picked you. I hadn’t thought about that before. Maybe that’s it. Who knows what those two are doing behind closed doors. You know, Papa was the master. Imagine the scenes he’s created for the two of them. I’ll bet it isn’t any slam-bam stuff.”

He was angry. “NO! You said he didn’t read the whole book. Samantha doesn’t show up until later. He didn’t know about her. My writing did impress him.”

Lorraine stood and removed the rubber band from her ponytail. Her auburn hair cascaded down around her shoulders, outlining the seductive smile on her face. Slowly she began unbuttoning her blouse, the black mesh bra becoming more visible with each button. She released the last one and removed her blouse, letting it drop on the floor.

Walter stood there, his mouth agape, his eyes devouring this creature he conceived, wanting physically what he owned literally.

Lorraine thrust out her chest, her breasts barely contained by the bra. Her nipples were swollen, pressing against the mesh, visible to his hungry eyes. She placed her hands on her hips, accentuating the low cut of her black slacks. Moving her hands behind her, she slowly unzipped them.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

ONLY MOMENTS

Title of Book: "Only Moments"
Publisher: Publish America
Date of Release: June 2007
Website: http://www.onlymomentsbook.com/

You can purchase ONLY MOMENTS by clicking here!

ONLY MOMENTS EXCERPT:

Chapter 22

We are always in two worlds at once, and neither of them is the world of reality. One is the world we think we are in, the other is the world we would like to be in.
—Henry V. Miller

People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.
—Joseph F. Newton

It was the day before the concert. Angela was now forty-five minutes late for our last full rehearsal. The sky was brilliant, cast in a deep blue pastel. There was a change in the air. Cool Canadian waves of high pressure were undulating through the Eastern seaboard. I fretted over our poor level of performance and wondered how to bring it to where it should have been these
last few months. Where I knew it had been for years, before she moved out.

The rhythms were not crisp; the dynamics were mercilessly flat. So much was pent-up inside, we could still barely look at each other. I could not fathom how we would get through the biggest show of our careers. The doorbell rang.

Angela had kept her key and usually just let herself in. I walked to the door surprised to see her on the small security monitor.

“Hi! I’m sorry I’m late, I got caught up in some things and I forgot my
key.”

“Better late than never, come on in.”

She set up, tuned her instrument, and started her warm-up exercises. I decided that this was the appropriate time to converse in regards to my concerns for tomorrow night’s performance. I had waited far too long as it
was.

“Angela, I think we need to talk.”

“About what, Chris?”

I knew the routine. The gamesmanship. First, I would have to get through the hardened shell of denial. Everything had been kept civil, as long as we stayed on the margins. Stability was a fleeting mirage.

“About where we’re going.”

“You mean Carnegie Hall?” She began playing her scales louder and would not make eye contact.

“Indirectly.” I was about to back off and leave it be. I could see that she was becoming agitated already and I feared that we would lose the only fragile tie we had. She stopped playing.

“What do you mean?” she said challenging condescendingly. “What are you talking about?”

I couldn’t help myself. Something took over and burst forth. I knew this was it, the head-to-head confrontation that I had been expecting. I took a deep breath and let it blurt out.

“I guess what I mean is, is this our last performance together? Where can we go from here?” She didn’t seem to expect this and looked taken aback.

“I don’t know if I want to talk about that now, Chris.”

“Look Angela, if we don’t, we may not make it there tomorrow night. I certainly don’t want to perform at the level we’ve been rehearsing at.”

She was stunned. I was questioning her ability for the first time in her career. She looked at me straight in the eye with a serious face. Her bow raised and pointed at me.

“You’re right. It’s been put off for too long.”

It was her time for a deep breath. I wanted her to talk and was relieved. I needed to hear what she felt and what she wanted.

“Chris, I really thought time would help work things out for me, but it hasn’t. I guess I should really move on and let you live your life without me complicating things any further. If that means not performing tomorrow night, then so be it.”

“Angela, I love you. The hell with Carnegie Hall! I want to talk about what it is that’s bothering you. I just don’t understand why you are acting this way.”

“You certainly don’t act like you love me!”

“What do mean, what are you saying?” I demanded.

“I’ve been out of the house for three months now. You have made no attempt to get me back, to fight for me. You only call when we need to rehearse, or if we need to coordinate our schedules. You don’t react to anything. I was attracted to you for so long because of your hopes and dreams. I was drawn to your sense of purpose, to your passion. I don’t know what happened, I really don’t. The life I was leading years ago now seems to have worn hollow…empty.”

I listened intensely to every word. I was angry, my temper fully stoked, my pulse quickened.

“I don’t react to anything? My insides are ripped to shreds! Damn you to hell! Don’t you dare tell me that I don’t react—that I don’t care! As far as being a dreamer, yes I am, but I have come a long way from merely dreaming.

Maybe, just maybe, you are begrudging me that I have. Maybe you’ve given up on yourself!”

“I don’t think so,” she huffed. I pushed on.

“You were the one who needed to move out for more personal space to sort things through. Is this a high stakes head game? Does all this rationalization make you feel better about yourself? Does acting like a coward and transferring the guilt and blame to me make you feel better?”

“No, it doesn’t, Goddamn it! I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

I cannot understand how someone can tell me how much they love me, and yet do nothing! You’re the fucking coward and you don’t make any sense!”

She was screaming as loud as I have ever heard her. She was over the edge.

A shouting match had taken the place of communication. She was not going to let her guard down and tell me her deepest thoughts. She then lunged at me with hands-fisted, swinging madly in the air.

“Goddamn you! Goddamn you, Chris!”

I was able to grab her left arm mid-air. The right however landed to the side of my throat and harmlessly glanced to the back of my neck. The blow would have hit me squarely in the face had I not quick reflexes. I snatched her right forearm and stood in disbelief and amazement at the physical violence to which she had been driven. I released her arms, pulled back, got hold of
myself and then sat on the love seat opposite the piano. She stood with fierce eyes, in another world. There was silence for some time. I wasn’t angry over her attempting to strike me. I was saddened and pitied her. I decided to move on with the subject, lest it all be over now. I would deal with the attack afterwards when she could understand what she had done. Now was not the time to stir an overwrought madwoman even further. I looked up from the sofa. Her head was down.

“I am not like you, Angela. I am not outwardly assertive,” I said calmly to help dissipate the overcharged emotions. “I do things quietly, but forcefully. I am not a showman like you. We could have never survived together this long if I was.”

She looked at me and put her violin back in the case. If she was going to leave, then I would now strike directly at the heart. Let the blood spill.

Apparently there was nothing left to lose.

“What is this really about? Why are you creating these diversions to avoid the real issues? For that matter, what the hell are the real issues? What do you feel for me, Angela? Anything? Anything at all?”

She sat down on the Victorian side chair and stared blankly at the wall.

There was no answer forthcoming.

“Damn you, Angela, talk to me! I want to know what you are thinking! I want to understand what I’ve done! Just tell me you don’t love me anymore and I’ll go away. I want to be able to understand.” I got up and walked over to her, face to face.

“Tell me you don’t love me, tell me right now!”

We looked at each other with no expression. She couldn’t say anything, her upper lip quivered slightly. I turned away and sat back down. I spoke slowly and seriously without looking at her.

“I don’t know what else to say to you, or how to deal with you, but the one thing I do know is that I love you. That I know for sure.”

I felt the heartache of time eternal bearing down harder than ever. The reality of the end hit hard with sharp and sustained grief. There was no more to say, little else to hammer into minute pieces for introspection. Adrenaline surged. I closed my eyes and squeezed my arms together, not wanting to see her walk out the door, forever. Let the images of the better days last, there was no need for the finality to be replayed endlessly.

“Chris, I can’t run anymore!” she suddenly cried out.

I opened my eyes stunned. I had no idea what she meant.

“I just can’t run from it!”

I could only sit and stare, wondering what was to come. Eye contact was the first thing that did. She stood in front of me, but at a distance. I absorbed her sad look, but made no move and remained expressionless. There were no smiles exchanged, the bridge could have collapsed at any time.

“Run from what?” I asked almost obligatorily.

“I don’t want to be close to anyone.”

Again, she stopped, afraid to continue revealing her true thoughts and fearing it was too late for their revelation.

“Angela,” I quietly began, “please go on. You’ve obviously got things to say and I’m beside myself waiting to hear them.” I looked directly at her. “I love you, Angela.”

“That’s the problem, that’s it,” she sobbed. “I don’t want to love you, but I do so very, very much. I’ve tried to sever the feelings; I’ve tried to make the situation much worse than it is, to have an excuse for you to give up on me. I’ve come up with every lame scenario I could to rationalize our separation. I tried so hard to convince myself I was right; that it was right, but I just can’t seem to shut the door on you. I wanted to believe that my feelings stemmed from our insecurities, from co-dependence. I was reaching for any excuse outside of myself.”

She was crying now, but I did not go over to console her. I knew that I still needed to get to the truth no matter how bad it hurt either one of us. At least we were getting to real emotions, real feelings. I wanted to know all of it no matter what the consequences.

“Why, Angela? Please tell me why?”

She lunged forward and dropped to her knees on the carpet, her hands in her face. She opened them to expose a teary face that was full of child-like fright and panic. She reached for her purse for tissues to wipe the tears away. I was profoundly affected by the sight of sheer terror she had revealed and didn’t move a muscle. She composed herself and kept her head tilted down as
she sat on the back of her legs.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my life and who I am. I’ve been going to therapy and there are many things in the past that affect me greatly now.”

I was happy to see that she had finally sought professional help. Whenever I brought it up, her rebuff had always been swift. As much as I tried through the years, there was always a lover versus lover game, and neither of us would completely let the other in on every thought, emotion, or skeleton lurking.

“My brother was gone before I even got to know him.” She continued on regaining her composure. “I never cried for him. I didn’t understand the impact of his death at that time. It was never something I wanted to give any thought. He was killed in such a far away place I couldn’t even visualize, and my life just went on as usual. The notice in the paper was the only thing I saw that made it official, made it real. I never even went to the service for him. My
mother and father felt that at nine years old, I was too young and didn’t want me to go through such an ordeal. I wanted to be involved some way; to share my pain outwardly, but there was no one with whom to share it. I was afraid to talk to them about it. My parent’s sadness occasionally broke through their act of indifference that was manifested for my sake. They thought they were doing the right thing by keeping me from the harshness and built walls of
isolation. My father suffocated me with restrictions and rules out of fear and love, as a teenager I resented it. I wanted to be able to do things on my own, and they were so protective of me. They were afraid that they would lose me as well. They couldn’t understand how they were affecting me; they were just dealing with the loss of their son in their own way. I was shielded from their emotions, they never cried about it in front of me; they hid it the way they hid
many of their emotions. I got used to ignoring it and never thought about it. They were not cold people; they just reacted in the only way they knew. They were trying to protect me. I just figured that this was how people were supposed to be. I had never expressed my true emotions and really felt the strong bond of love until we met. I thought it was all that I needed to make up for everything I didn’t have inside.”

“I don’t understand what this has to do with leaving the house, and not wanting me to love you.”
“Don’t you see? My brother and father are dead and I still cannot come to terms with any of it. I can’t accept it…and I can’t bear to love you…then, to lose you as well…”

“There’s got to be more to this. Why are you so afraid? Why have you hurt me and yourself so much?”

She looked away, drew a deep breath, and tilted her head toward the ceiling.

“I’m sorry for the agony I’ve put you through. I’m so sorry and embarrassed for losing all control and hitting you, Chris. There is absolutely no excuse for that. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I wouldn’t expect you to forgive me for that.

Tears welled.

“God, I wish we didn’t mean so much to each other, Chris.”

“What are you talking about? Why would you wish we didn’t love each other now?”

“Chris, I feel like my own life is meaningless. Each morning I wake, I wish I were dead. I’ve gone through the motions, and for all the work and sacrifices, for all the time invested. I feel old. I feel drained dry. For all we’ve done, I have no sense of accomplishment. I need to know what to do to be happy, it just has not come to me. I want to run away from it all to a place where no one knows who I am, or where I’ve come from.”

She bore into a heavy groan of agony and I went to her and held her in my arms. She was shaking and I was crying as I rubbed her back and whispered “It’s okay, it’s going to be all right. I understand why you lost control and hit me. You’re very depressed and bitter, you are going to get through this – there is hope, Angela. You have to surrender and accept what you cannot change. You must stop beating yourself up for things that you have no control over. You are the love of my life. I’ll be here for you, don’t shut me out.”

“I’m sorry,” she blurted out, “I just can’t handle it. You don’t deserve this and I don’t deserve you. My insane neuroticism has driven me close to madness. I keep churning so intensely inside, I can’t deal with all of the hurt I have caused you and all of the selfish things I’ve done. I don’t know why you still want me; I’m not worthy of your love and understanding. I have used and
abused you; I regret all of it. Chris, I never wanted to hurt you so badly. I’m not a good person. I don’t know how I can make it up to you and my soul aches deeply for what I’ve allowed to happen.”

“You have to believe in the power of your soul, Angela. You have to believe in yourself the way I believe in you. You are a good person you have just done some things that are not so good for me. When I think of you not being here, it only makes me want you all the more. The thought of a time without you forces me to understand how precious the time is that I am with
you.”

“If you knew of all the things I’ve done to make myself feel better, you wouldn’t want me. I don’t want my compulsiveness to hurt you any longer.”

“You mean drinking?”

“It’s more than that,” she mumbled as she moved away.

“There’s nothing you can tell me that is going to make me feel any worse than I do right now. I have been walking in shattered pieces as a zombie day by day, not feeling anything but numbness and deep hurt.”

She looked up at me as if she were about to deliver a deadly message.

“It’s an addictive disorder, that’s what my therapist tells me. I get stoned and drunk or abuse myself with whatever pills are available. I have slept with more men than I want to remember in the last few months. All of this has made me feel even worse.” She was waiting for a reaction. I said nothing. I had assumed she was going to be with other men but I was not expecting this.........

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Monday, August 27, 2007

THE ART OF THE BUSINESS LUNCH

Title of Book: “The Art of the Business Lunch ~ Building Relationships Between 12 and 2”
Genre: Non-Fiction, Business, Business Relationships/Sales
Author: Robin Jay
Website: http://www.robinjay.com/
Publisher: Career Press
Date of Release: Feb. 2006
ISBN: 1564148513

You can purchase The Art of the Business Lunch here!

The Art of the Business Lunch Excerpt:

Deciding where to take a client for your business lunch is more important than you might think, especially when you consider how much is communicated by your choice. If you’ve ever dined at a restaurant with patio seating near a fountain or a parking lot, then you can i ma gine what it must be like to try to discuss business at a rock concert! The noise from a fountain will have you shouting your business and any hope of bonding or inti ma cy will be lost.

The restaurant you choose reflects not only your character and personality, but also shows your client how much regard you have for them. If it is the first time you are taking a particular client to lunch, play it safe. Choose a restaurant that offers consistent quality, is moderately priced, and fairly quiet. My first choice would be a restaurant like The Palm or The Capital Grille. If you’ve never been to one of these, (there are several in ma jor cities across the United States ), let me describe it for you…you ma y know of something similar in your city. These restaurants are a business mecca, where waiters wear clean, white jackets. There is a lot of wood – on the walls, the floor, the booths and the chairs. There are crisp, white tablecloths at lunchtime, which identifies it as a high-end restaurant. The service is top-notch. Waiters are aware of guests conducting business and don’t intrude to ask how everything is if it is apparent that things at the table are fine. They accept reservations, so you know you will have a table waiting for you and your client. They also accept credit cards. These are first-class restaurants. The Palm even offers an affordable prix-fixe, or fixed-price luncheon menu. There are no surprises, which is exactly what you want for a first-time business lunch.

I recently took a client to a southwestern-style restaurant and the difference in service between this restaurant and one that I would choose for business was staggering. I had suggested taking her to The Palm, since we had a lot of business to discuss, but she insisted on going to this other restaurant because she needed to stay closer to her office at The Riviera. It helped that I had known Cammie for a couple of years, but she had just changed jobs and become my client, so this was our first business lunch together. I had a media kit at the table and was getting her up to date on her account. Our waiter was very nice and friendly, but was oblivious to the fact that we were trying to conduct a business lunch. H e interrupted us to inform us of their “exciting happy hour with half-priced appetizers.” H e stopped by frequently to ask how everything was going. Later in the meal, he interrupted again and handed us some 3” x 5” cards to fill out so that we could join the restaurant’s birthday club! We kept looking at each other through each of his “presentations,” and laughed when he finally left us alone. Thank goodness I am friends with Cammie! If this had been a new client that I didn’t know, it could have been incredibly awkward.
You should always give careful consideration to how expensive the restaurant is that you choose. If your client is on a budget at home and the lunch check for two of you is $80.00, you might put them ill at ease. On the other hand, if your client is well-off, and they spend a great part of their budget with you and you take them to an $8.99 buffet, the chances are good that they will be offended or, worse yet, perceive you as cheap. You want to find not just the right price, but also the best combination of great service, food quality and ambiance, especially for a first-time meeting.

*****

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WAITING FOR THE BIG ONE

Title of Book: Waiting for the Big One
Author: PG Forte
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Date of Release: May 21, 2007

Chapter One

It was one of those perfect mornings, the kind that only ever seems to happen on a Sunday. You know the ones I mean, don’t you? Just before noon, all lazy and warm.

The city of Los Angeles was steeped in sunshine, snuggled about as deep into the weekend as it could get. It seemed like everyone was laid back and happy, except for me and the dozens of other drivers who were trying to move west along Hollywood Blvd, headed toward Fairfax, going nowhere fast.

They’ll tell you Pisces is a patient sign, but you can’t really label the fish. We’re complex people. We combine the best and worst of all the other signs. And the truth is, I hate to wait.
So, there I was, stuck at yet another red light, when it hit me. It wasn’t just me who was waiting and it wasn’t just now. All of Los Angeles was in the same boat, all of us, all the time, waiting for the big one.

For most of us, that means our big break, our shot at seeing our name in a star on the Walk of Fame. It’s the role that’ll lift us out of obscurity. It’s the hit that’ll soar to the top of the charts. We’re all hopeful romantics--like Kathleen Turner, in Romancing the Stone. We’re always certain it’ll happen with the next deal we make, the next audition we go out on, the next person we meet.

Take me, for instance. Any day now, with just a little bit of luck, I could go from being plain old Gabby Browne, aspiring actress and dog walker, to Academy Award Winner, Gabriella Giacomo.
And if fame doesn’t get us, no doubt the earthquake will. That’s the other thing everybody’s waiting for, the big eight point, nine point, ten point shaker that scientists say is bound to occur. The one that’ll rock this town to its knees. Even hopeful romantics have to admit it seems inevitable. How could any place with this much surface glamour not be doomed?

But this morning, I was waiting for something a little more personal. I was waiting for The Big O: the elusive, G-spot, ultra orgasm, the kind I’d heard about, read about, yearned for, but had not yet experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’d never had an orgasm or anything. But, to date, they’d all been the standard issue, plain vanilla kind. Nice, but nothing I couldn’t give myself any day of the week if I wanted. What I was hoping for was something more life-altering, soul-searing, rock-my-world passion. I knew it was out there, waiting for me. All I needed was the right guy to help me find it.

I knew he was out there, too. He was my Twin Flame, my Split Apart, my Tantric Soul mate; the man who would love me madly, passionately, loudly. All night long. They say good things come to those who wait, and I was certainly counting on that being true, but he was taking a long time to get here, and I was growing impatient.

Finally, the light turned green and I made it to where I was trying to get--The Body Electric--for my first workout of the week, and definitely my favorite.

Power Yoga with Derek Novello was never an easy class, but with Derek calling the shots, getting whipped into shape was almost a pleasure. I hurried up the walkway toward the two-story Hollywood Deco building, smiling in anticipation, enjoying the trickle of the fountain in the courtyard, the tinkle of the wind chimes in the topiary, the sweet scent of sandalwood.

“You’re late,” a voice growled the minute I set foot inside the deserted anteroom.

I froze for an instant, heart pounding in my chest, as I recognized Derek’s dark-chocolate voice. Then I turned, making one of those slow, graceful pivots I’d been practicing.

Derek has the kind of chiseled features the camera loves. Even now, with his thick, black brows drawn into a frown that had them almost meeting over the bridge of his classically perfect nose, his face was sensual, expressive, intense.

He was looking yummier than ever today, with his two-hundred-push-ups-every-morning-before-breakfast arms folded across a tight black tank, putting all those lovely muscles on an in-your-face display. The black workout pants he wore, on the other hand, were disappointingly loose, at least in front. But experience had taught me that when he turned around...ooh, baby.

They’d likely mold to his glutes in a way that would make my own pants grow damp.

Was I in a rush for him to turn around? Uh-uh. ‘Cause he’s also got the fiercest brown eyes, the most delicious looking lips and, oh, I thought with a tinge of sadness, if only we weren’t friends.

“Traffic,” I explained, trying to rein in my runaway lust, trying to resist the urge to run my fingers through the dark waves of his short hair. I’d always made it a policy never to mix sex and friendship. It was something Derek knew full well, though he continued to tempt me. “You wouldn’t believe all the cars on the road today.”

“So? There’s always traffic, that’s no excuse. Besides, you only live twelve blocks away. You jog, you hike, you exercise--give me a break, Gabe. Are you really going to tell me you couldn’t walk that far? You could get here on time if you wanted to.”

I sighed, feeling even more regretful. The truth is he looks even sexier when he gets worked up, and since he’s a Scorpio, that happens a lot. “Don’t be silly, Derek. This is LA--no one walks here.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “Go get dressed.”

Sexy or not, I hate it when anyone’s annoyed with me. It’s a Pisces thing. We want everyone to be happy. Luckily, I knew just how to make Derek’s day.

“I’m sorry, Sensei,” I murmured in my breathiest, most contrite sounding voice. I dropped my chin, laced my fingers together, and peeked up at him adoringly, like the blondest damned geisha you’ve ever seen. “Won’t you please forgive me? I promise it’ll never happen again.”

A muscle twitched at the corner of Derek’s mouth, showing me how hard he was trying not to smile. “It better not. You know the rules. Don’t expect me to make exceptions for you just because we’re friends.”

Well, that was ridiculous. Scorpios always make exceptions for their friends. That’s still the best way to tell when they’ve written you off. But as I bit my lip and took a step closer, I knew that wasn’t the case with us--yet. There was a hot, hungry look in Derek’s eyes, though he was still pretending to be indifferent to my act. ‘Course that all went to hell in an eye-popping, jaw-dropping hurry when I flashed him the twins.

“Damn,” he muttered, blinking appreciatively as I tugged my top back into place. I gave him a wink, then turned on my heel, and marched off toward the lockers.

“You still have a few minutes before class starts, Der,” I called over my shoulder. “You might want to use the time to rearrange that package of yours. It’s bulging.”


Buy your copy of WAITING FOR THE BIG ONE by PG Forte by clicking here!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

JUDGMENT FIRE

Title: Judgment Fire
Author: Marilyn Meredith
Publisher: Mundania Press
Date of Release: August 2007

Buy your copy of JUDGMENT FIRE by Marilyn Meredith by clicking here!

Chapter 1

The massive rock barrier of the southern Sierra and its jagged snow-covered pinnacles never failed to inspire Tempe. Normally, the pine, aspen and cedar forest bordering the winding highway calmed and reassured her--until this afternoon.

A face popped into her mind. Someone she hadn't seen or thought of for quite awhile, which added to the apprehension she couldn't shake. Deputy Tempe Crabtree attributed her uneasiness to the fact that her assigned beat, the tiny community of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, would soon be swollen with Memorial Day weekend tourists. Fishermen, swimmers, and water skiers would swarm the banks of Lake Dennison, and visitors in all sorts of vehicles would soon clog the two-lane road to the high country and its many camping sites. Her work load would increase a hundred-fold.

She made a quick pass through Bear Creek and continued upward into the mountains. Her vehicle, a white Blazer with SHERIFF printed in large black letters above the gold county seal on both doors, made her highly visible.

The route followed the river's course and she caught glimpses of it from time to time. Most of the homes and ranches were hidden from view by the thick tangle of wild berry bushes, manzanita, and shadowed woodlands.

Maneuvering the Blazer around a sharp curve, she drew in a quick breath and braked. Fire engulfed the front end of a green mini-van, outlining a person in the front seat. The vehicle was stopped at the side of the road, flames licking at the bordering brush.

Tempe radioed her position and requested assistance before leaping from her vehicle and dashing to the driver's side of the van. She yanked on the handle, but the door wouldn't budge. The cab was filled with smoke. "Get out!"

The driver, a Native American woman in her fifties, faced straight ahead, long fingers gripping the steering wheel. It was Doretha Nightwalker, her silver hair brushed tightly back into a bun. Though Doretha's eyes were open, she didn't seem aware of what was happening.

The windshield and dashboard were melting. Doretha would die if Tempe didn't get her out immediately.

Darting around the van, Tempe leaped the burning brush and reached for the passenger door. After a short struggle, the door opened. "Doretha! You've got to get out now."

The woman didn't react. Tempe scrambled into the front seat. Smoke burned her eyes and the intense heat made breathing difficult.

Tempe yanked the woman’s arm, but Doretha continued to clutch the steering wheel. Flames sneaked through the cracks of the firewall. One by one, Tempe pried Doretha's fingers loose. Grabbing her around the waist, she yanked the slender woman across the seat and pulled her out of the burning vehicle.

One of the van's tires exploded as Tempe dragged Doretha to her Blazer. Opening the passenger door, she hoisted the woman onto the floor of the Blazer. Doretha stared vacantly.

"Doretha, are you hurt?" Tempe spoke loudly, trying to get through to the woman. Another van tire burst. A siren whined in the distance.

Grasping her wrist, Tempe felt Doretha's pulse. Rapid and strong. No cuts or bruises were on her face. Examining her quickly, Tempe found no obvious broken bones. Of course internal injuries were possible.

The siren grew louder. "We'll have help soon, Doretha."

Doretha still didn't respond.

Tempe grabbed her microphone and contacted the dispatcher. "We've got a single vehicle, fully involved. One victim. We need an ambulance."

Long, slender fingers grabbed Tempe's arm. "No, no

ambulance. I'm not hurt." Doretha's voice was deep and raspy.

"You should be checked out by a doctor," Tempe said.

"There's no need."

Tempe shrugged, and picked up the mike. "Cancel the ambulance."

Facing Doretha, Tempe asked, "What happened? Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine. My mind was off somewhere. To tell you the truth, I was thinking about you. All of sudden the car was on fire...I pulled off the road. I don't remember anything after that."

Amazing. "That's strange because you're face popped into my mind just before I turned the corner and discovered your van on fire."

Doretha nodded. "Yes, I thought it was something like that."

Before Tempe could ask what she meant, the fire engine rounded the bend and came to a halt. Captain Roundtree and two volunteers in black-and-yellow turnout gear and helmets leaped out, carrying fire extinguishers and hoses. "I don't think they'll be able to save much," Tempe said.

"No, I realize that. A small sacrifice."

"You do have insurance, don’t you?"

"Oh, yes. My van will be replaced. But I'm relieved to know that this didn't happen because I was out of harmony. That's when most misfortunes occur."

Doretha, a shaman, viewed the world in a unique manner. Tempe first met her while investigating the disappearance and murder of a small child. Doretha was one of several Native Americans who had recently helped Tempe learn more about her own Yanduchi heritage.

Her curiosity piqued, Tempe asked, "Why do you suppose I had you on my mind just before I came upon you? Something psychic?"

Doretha chuckled. "That's one way of putting it I suppose. However, I think there's a simpler explanation. Our paths were intended to cross."

Why? Did Doretha have a specific reason why they were supposed to see each other? Did the shaman have a problem she needed Tempe's help with? Or was it Tempe who needed Doretha?

Before she could ask any questions, Pete Roundtree walked toward her, pulling off his helmet. His round face, black hair and chestnut skin revealed the Yanduchi ancestry he shared with Doretha and Tempe. Tempe had encouraged Pete to go to school to become a fireman. He, in turn, had assisted Tempe's son Blair to become a volunteer fireman. Blair had been accepted by the state university in San Luis Obispo where he planned to major in fire science. As the son of a highway patrolman killed in the line of duty, Blair received some assistance from the state. Ever since her first husband's death, sixteen year's earlier, Tempe had been saving for Blair's education. If more was needed, Hutch, whom she'd married a short time ago, promised to help.

"This van belongs to you, Miss Nightwalker?" Pete asked. Apparently not as upset or sad as Tempe suspected she would be under the circumstances, Doretha smiled. "Yes, Captain Roundtree, and I've only had it two weeks. That's what I get for trading in my perfectly good old car."

"Fire's out, but I'm afraid your van isn’t worth much now. Any idea what started the fire?" Pete scratched behind one of his large ears.

"I'm afraid not."

He turned his attention toward Tempe. "Have you called a tow truck?"

"No, but I'll do that now unless you have other plans, Doretha."

"That sounds sensible to me though I'm not sure how I'll get home."

"Don't worry, I'll take you," Tempe said.

* * *

After instructing the truck driver as to where the burned-out hulk should be taken, Tempe headed back toward Bear Creek with Doretha in the passenger seat. She hoped the Yanduchi woman would talk more about what she'd hinted at earlier.

Before she could bring up the subject, Tempe’s radio crackled with a domestic disturbance call. Jotting the address on her clipboard, she said, "I’m sorry, Doretha, I won't be able to take you home after all. I'll drop you in town so you can call someone from there."

"I wouldn't mind going with you," Doretha said. "Perhaps I could be of some help."

"I'm sure you could, but I can't do that. Domestic calls can be dangerous."

Doretha didn't argue.

Tempe spotted Hutch's old blue-and-white truck waiting at the intersection of the road leading to Bear Creek Chapel where he served as the pastor. "Look," Tempe pointed out, "There's my husband. I'll signal him. He can take you home."

Frowning, Doretha said, "Oh, I don't know. We didn't hit it very well when we were together last. He might not be eager to do me a favor."

Tempe blinked her lights to get Hutch's attention. "Don't worry, he'll be glad to do it." She parked the Blazer. Hutch was already out of the truck and on his way to meet her, the late afternoon breeze ruffling his thick auburn hair. He wore one of his favorite plaid flannel shirts, faded blue jeans, and cowboy boots.

Doretha climbed out of the passenger side, while Tempe hurried toward her husband.

Greeting her with a quick kiss, he asked, "Hey, Tempe, what's going on? His gray eyes twinkled with curiosity.

"Remember Doretha Nightwalker?"

Hutch glanced past Tempe at the woman who had almost reached them. "Of course, but what is she doing..."

"She'll have to explain. She can do that while you're taking her home. Got to dash, I'm on a call." Tempe whirled around and jogged back to the Blazer.

She heard Hutch saying, "How are you, Miss Nightwalker?"

Doretha's answer was lost to Tempe, as she sped away.

The address the dispatcher gave Tempe was on the other side of Bear Creek. Tempe recognized it. She'd been there twice before on a family disturbance call.

Passing through the town, she had to slow down because of the Friday night traffic. The only market was busy. Residents and visitors filled the front lot. Bear Creek Inn had a full house too. All the parking spaces in front of The Saloon and The Café across the street were filled. Though she'd turned on her light bar, she didn't run the siren. A young mother holding a toddler by the hand and a sack of groceries in the other, flashed her a smile while scurrying across the road.

Once she reached the outskirts of town, Tempe sped up. Little traffic was in front of her, all of it was heading the other way--toward Bear Creek: commuters returning home, visitors to the Inn and other tourist attractions higher in the mountains. Folks were already anticipating the coming holiday.

Making a right-hand turn on Aspen Road, Tempe began thinking about the couple she would soon encounter. The husband, Tom Cannata, was a respected leader of the Bear Creek community and a building contractor with plenty of work. Jackie, his wife, belonged to all the women's clubs. Her son from a previous marriage was the same age as Blair.

The first time Tempe dealt with the Cannatas’ problems was about four year's ago, not long after their marriage. They were partying with several other couples on a houseboat in the middle of the lake. Lucky for Jackie, Tempe had been cruising the lake's parking lot after being attracted by angry shouts and screams coming from the boat. The colored lights decorating the roof reflected gaily in the black water.

She’d driven down to the shore line. No sooner had she parked, when a woman toppled from the houseboat into the lake. The people on the boat hollered and yelled, but no one went in after her--and she didn't come up.

Tempe yanked off her shoes, unfastened her belt and tossed it along with her holster and gun into the front seat of the Blazer and dashed into the water. Swimming hard until she reached the boat, she dived where she'd seen the woman disappear.

The first time down, Tempe found nothing. She came up gasping for air. She had a vague remembrance of a blur of white faces and people shouting at her. Diving again, Tempe pulled hard with her arms, going deeper. It was so dark and murky, she couldn't see anything. She swung around, and her fingers touched what felt like a foot. She yanked, felt a leg and a torso. Circling the body with one arm, she swam upward with her other hand, pulling and kicking herself through the water. When she broke the surface, a cheer went up above her.

Gasping for air, she stared at the victim. Even with her tanned face turned ashen, her bleached hair darkened and plastered to her head, Tempe recognized Jackie Cannata.

Arms reached over the side of the boat. Tempe lifted Jackie upward and someone hauled her aboard. Big hands grabbed Tempe under the arms, lifting her into the boat. Voices were raised all around her.

"Wow. That was brave of you, Deputy."

"My, God, Jackie isn't breathing."

"Someone, do something!'

"Get us into shore."

Jackie lay at Tempe's feet, water pooling around the shapely body clad in a brightly colored bikini. Ignoring everyone, Tempe knelt beside the woman. Her fingers pressed against Jackie's neck, she felt a weak, thready pulse. Pushing her head back and pinching her nose, Tempe blew into Jackie's mouth. She did it again.

Jackie gasped, her body arching. Water spewed out of her mouth and Tempe leaned out of the way. Coughing, and gagging, Jackie vomited. From the smell, much of it was alcohol.

Once it was obvious Jackie would be all right despite her surprise midnight swim, the bruise on her cheek and a cut and swollen lip, Tempe stood. "Now, will someone please tell me what this is all about?"

All eyes turned toward Tom Cannata. He flashed a huge smile at Tempe, "I'm afraid I got carried away, Deputy. You know how it is. We were horsing around and it got out of hand."

Tempe glanced at Jackie. "How about you, Mrs. Cannata. Do you want to tell me what happened to you? How’d you get that split lip?"

Jackie's fingers flew to her lip. She looked surprised. "I guess I must have hit something when I fell out of the boat."

"Fell or were you were pushed?" Tempe suggested.

Without looking at her husband, Jackie said, "Oh, my. It was nothing like that. Just as my husband told you, we were just playing around."

"Anyone else want to tell me what happened?"

Tempe was acquainted with most of the party. If there were such a thing as a social set in Bear Creek, all were present. No one made eye contact with Tempe. Some turned away.

"Too bad. Let's get this boat to shore. Mrs. Cannata should be examined by a doctor."

After that, Tempe had been called to the Cannata home three more times when neighbors reported the sounds of fighting. Jackie explained away her bruises as something she'd done to herself due to clumsiness. Tom, always charming and in control, was the perfect host. Jackie's son, Ronnie Keplinger, had been present during Tempe's questioning on one occasion. Though he said nothing, he'd stood in the hallway, with an unreadable expression, his arms crossed.

The Cannata home was at the end of the Aspen Road, a new, two-story, fashioned after an old-time farm house and set off by a rustic, split-rail fence. The sun had disappeared behind the boulder-studded hills though the sky was still bright. Tempe pulled into the driveway behind Tom's silver BMW. As she climbed from the Blazer, she heard a male voice shouting and a woman screaming. Maybe this time there would be enough evidence of violence to arrest Tom whether Jackie wanted to press charges or not.

As she ran up the circular path, the front door banged open and Ronnie burst out onto the porch. Tall and gangly, his head was shaved. An Army issue camouflage shirt gaped open over an olive green T-shirt. Baggy camouflage pants were tucked into combat boots. Ronnie must have been in new phase. Last time Tempe had seen him, his hair was dyed purple, pink and green and combed into spikes.

"They're at it again," he snarled, stomping past her.

Tempe pushed through the door he'd left open and stepped into the foyer. The yelling and screaming came from upstairs though it was obvious the fight had been going on downstairs as well. A ceramic lamp lay shattered on the cream colored carpet of the living room. An antique chair had been overturned.

Grabbing the oak bannister, Tempe took the stairs two at a time. When she reached the landing, she heard the sound of a hand hitting flesh and Jackie cry out in pain.

Tempe swung open the door that she knew led to master bedroom. "Hey! What's going on here?"
*****