A journey....through space....

Welcome...from launch sites to love, heat shields to hearts....join me as 20+ year rocket scientist transitions to the world of romance novel writing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The opening....

Well, it's only fitting that I share a little bit of the opening with my readers.  Some of you have seen this already.

Sunday, November 1, 1:57am

As the servers were removing our dinner plates, Tina, my best friend, stood up and tapped my shoulder. “Let’s go, dude!” She called everyone “dude”.

“Where are we going?” I stood up and looked around.

“You gotta fix your hair and makeup before your close-up. C’mon!” She steered me towards the nearest ladies room, picking up our purses.

I’m Jackie Walker, 44 years old, just your average single black female in the big city. This is my brand new diary. Beware; not everything you read actually happened. There’s a reason for that.

It was Friday night, October 30, at the Atlas computer industry banquet/awards ceremony held at my favorite hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I was fresh from the salon and the nearest makeup counter, wearing a simple yet elegant full length black gown with spaghetti straps, work-mindful cleavage (remember, this was a professional function) and a sexy side slit, not so high that my bosses would question me hitting the streets after the awards were over. High heeled black sandals, of course. Let’s not forget the white gold jewelry. I can accessorize with the best of them.

Everyone was there from Alexandria Computing, my company of the last 13 years. I was the first recipient of the Atlas Innovation award, to be presented after dessert and coffee.

I’ve programmed all sorts of computers for about 20 years. Now the profession is getting fancy titles: Systems Analyst, Coder, Software Engineer, but the simplest way to describe my job is that I write programs and spend months debugging other people’s code. I love it. The only thing better than a program running perfectly the first time is tracking down a bug that no one else can find. I considered myself lucky.

Tina, my 20-year partner in crime, partying and occasional trips about the country as well as my biggest cheerleader, hopped up onto the counter in the lounge area to fix my face. I towered over her 5’2” frame in my three-inch heels. Tina was the tallest person in her Puerto Rican family, too. I stood in front of her facing the banks of makeup lights.

She peered at my face. “You went to MAC, didn’t you?”

“Yep, I did. Right after my hairstylist fit me into a last-minute appointment. I love her. If I ever become famous, a shampoo bowl shall be named in her honor in my custom-built mansion.”

She giggled and pulled the compact out of my purse. “They did an excellent job. You don’t look like a drag queen. I know how they can be sometimes. Okay, stand still.” She eyed me. “You don’t need much, here, let me get you. You’re only a little bit shiny.”

“I can’t believe we’ve been at Alexandria for 13 years,” I remarked as Tina patted my face like a pro.

“Yeah, it’s been fun, huh? Better than NASA.”

“The work was pretty cool, but too much bureaucracy there. We spend more time documenting code than writing it.” Right after finishing my masters, I’d worked on two amazing flight missions to the outer planets. Data is still being analyzed by scientists worldwide, even from the mission that is no longer in flight.

Tina agreed. “I like the freedom we have at Alexandria. I’m glad you came along with me when Roger told us about it.” Roger is her husband of 15 years. Tall, blond, ex-Marine, a total contrast to her dark skinned petite frame. Both of them are funny as hell.

Earlier that evening, Bruce Cofield, the chairman of the Atlas awards, introduced the celebrity guests and gave a short speech. He praised all the companies present for their continued support of the industry. Blah blah blah. A canned speech year after year.

Roger, who had provided us several bottles of high quality Napa’s finest, stage-whispered “I swear, he says the same thing every year. I almost have it memorized. I’m taping it next year. I’ll send out copies so we can say it along with him.”

Tina hit him in the ribs. I giggled. The woman sitting in front of us turned around, glaring. She didn’t find them as funny as I did. She was in for a long night.

Tina finished patting on powder. Shine all gone! “Okay, lipstick.”

“Tina, I can do this.” I pulled out the tube of lipstick. I think the color was called “Pinot Noir”. It looked good, though, a dark reddish plum.

“Relax, lemme get you. First impression, up close--you wanna knock him out so you can hook up!” She applied it carefully.

“Him” was my favorite celebrity, presenting my award, according to the programs on our chairs when we entered the ballroom. I know I sound like a silly teen, but here was my chance to meet him and take a photo with him. This was something to look forward to, even with all the rumors about his sexuality. Perhaps I was being na├»ve, but I saw no basis for the rumors, yet they persisted. Just because you don’t see him with women doesn’t mean he’s with men.

Besides being a very good looking man, he’s always seemed so knowledgeable. He participates in many discussion panels, mostly political. A rock. Intelligent and listening. What can I say? I like nerds, and he was one of the most famous.

His autobiography fascinated me. It explained his estrangement from his father, who currently lived in France. He finally opened up about the death of his sister in 1995, throwing himself into his work to forget his losses. I felt for him. I couldn’t imagine losing my brother. Hard enough not having my mother around anymore.

I bought his book when it first came out, watched interviews whenever available, but then chickened out when it came time to attend one of his lectures in town--I felt like a creepy stalker. I regretted not going to it.

“Don’t turn me into a hooker up there, Tina.” I warned.

She took the tube of lipstick from me. “You won’t, trust me. Hmmm. Lips look sexy. You got any gloss?”

“I left it upstairs.” Alexandria had gotten us all rooms in the hotel for the night. We’d also been given us the afternoon off. Plenty of time to drive down from the San Gabriel Valley, northeast of downtown LA to get ready at the hotel.

“Did you see how he looked at you when you first came in?”

“I saw it. He stopped talking and just stared at me, as if he knew me. But why would he know me? I’m just another programmer.”

“He’s been watching you all night. Every time I turn around, he’s watching you. He wants you. You’re so hot, chica…I still don’t get why John left you.”

John isn’t his name. I’m just calling him that in my diary. My ex-boyfriend, of 4 months ago.

“Oh, I didn’t tell you. He’s engaged now.”

“What?” She stopped primping me.

“Yep, it’s all over his Facebook. Engaged to a woman named Amy. This girl my brother dated years ago, before he married Olivia. Between baby daddy number two and number three.” Really, John? After a friendly, fun 6-month relationship, with rarely a disagreement, you dump me and then get engaged four months later?

“Damn, dude. Donald dated her? How many kids she got?”



“Whoa is right. Plus, Donald says boxes of rocks are smarter than she is.”

What was even worse was the reason why we broke up. I still had a hard time admitting it. He told me that he didn’t like being the second fiddle. “I’m not used to being considered the dumb one.” His words, not mine. He’s a brilliant physicist, doctorate degree. Honors from multiple universities, excelling in his research, with numerous papers to his name. There’s even a theory named after him! How did that make him second fiddle to me?

If he’d been an uber-nerd, I might have understood. But you wouldn’t have a clue about his job if yu just saw him. He’s quite attractive, and he actually has a personality. I know many people feel that those who are extremely intelligent are married to their work, and can’t function in society let alone look people in the eye, but he was fun to be with, easy to talk to. He’s as big a 80s music fan as I am, plays soccer and can function with people outside of a lab or away from a computer. WAS fun to be with. Sigh.

Yet he didn’t like the fact that his friends and family said I was good for him because I was so intelligent. I honestly don’t get it. My friends have tried many times to explain to me the phenomenon of the male ego, but with all he has going for him, why would he feel so threatened by me? I only have a master’s degree. Dude teaches OTHER PHDs!!! Did I mention the theory named after him? That was right up there with Einstein.

“Yep, she’s got five kids. Soon to be six kids.” I scowled. “She’s pregnant again.” This is the guy who wanted to wait until marriage before having sex. Not that he did wait with me; it was just his mindset. I wanted to throw up.

“Damn, dude. Just forget John.”

“Working on it. He’s been unfriended on Facebook.” After I got the news on Monday, I fumed. Then I got mad that I was mad. Now I was done being mad. I decided that moping around was not the answer. John didn’t matter any longer. He certainly didn’t deserve any more emotions from me. I needed to go on with life. Be more positive. I had too much going for myself.

I have to be honest; until I saw his Facebook on Monday night, I thought he was just mad I wasn’t always available, and we’d eventually work it out. Usually when one of my relationships ended, it was a mutual thing, with the two of us coming to the same conclusion. I’ve only initiated a breakup one time; it wasn’t fun. Neither is being on the receiving end.

“Good. You’ve got bigger stars in your future.” Tina kept eyeing me. “Well, okay. Your hair is perfect, as usual. Hmmm.” She kept peering into my face. “Something is missing… Hmmmmm.”

I was getting nervous. “Tina, I look hot, let’s go. If they call my name and I’m not out there, I’ll look stupid and Steve will lynch me.”

“We’ve got time. They haven’t served the coffee yet. Anyways, forget about John. You’ve met other guys since him, right?”

Heh. Funny you mention that. “When I went to the mall this week to buy this dress, I met a lawyer looking for a Halloween costume for his daughter, who was about 10 years old. He gave me his number.”

“See, told you!” She high-fived me.

“Wait, this is the cute part. As they walked away, I heard the daughter say ‘She’s pretty, Daddy. Take her someplace nice, Daddy, like Red Lobster. Let her get extra biscuits, too. “

Tina cracked up. “Aw, that’s so sweet! Oh, I know!” Back to the matter at hand, Tina dug into her bag and pulled out a large compact. “Check this out, bronzing powder. You’ll be all sparkly. “

“Okay,” I said, eyeing her dubiously. “Don’t get it in my dress.”

“I won’t…hold your arms out.” She opened the compact, dipped the brush in and lightly dabbed my face, chest, arms. My skin a medium dark tone, now glowing outside. Wine and excitement were making me glow inside.

“Speaking of your brother, how come they aren’t here? You told your father about the award, right?” Tina asked as she worked.

“I forgot to tell him about it when we talked last weekend. Besides, I think he's doing something with his golf kids.  'Ghost Golfing' or something like that.”  After all, Halloween was tomorrow night.

“You still talk to him on Sundays?” She was still busy with the makeup brush, highlighting my cheekbones, occasionally stepping back to admire her work like a master painter.

“Yep, pretty much.” My father lived in San Diego, a 9/11 widower who was now retired and passionate about golf.

“Okay, all done, check you out.” Tina hopped off the counter and we walked over to the set of angled full-length mirrors by the exit of the ladies room.

I looked great. Why did I never buy a dress like this before? In the mirror posed a socialite ready to stroll down a red carpet, smiling for the cameras. My job is fairly casual, but I never pass up an event to dress up. If I want to scare my coworkers, I’ll show up in a dress; my boss always assumes I’m interviewing when I do that. Otherwise my usual wardrobe consists of jeans, or in a pantsuit or slacks if I’m meeting with a client. My stylist pulled part of my hair up and secured it with a braid wrapped around a pony tail. She’d straightened the rest of my hair to match the ponytail and gave both a slight flip for fun. Pure elegance.

No one’s been able to guess my age accurately since age 18; nowadays, they typically guess anywhere from 25 to 35. It amuses me. I’m 5’7”, a curvy size 12. Weight…well, I don’t need to write this here—isn’t my dress size enough? I typically don’t do my nails, but I make sure they’re buffed with cuticles trimmed. Tonight, both fingers and toes were sporting a French manicure..

“Woo hoo, sexy mama! Let’s go, chica,” said Tina, pulling me outside. “Your man awaits! If you don’t hook up tonight, every man in that room is gay!”

Tina took a quick photo of me by the entrance before we walked in and sat back down to applause from my tablemates. The ballroom was decorated with gold balloons, and a jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) played in the corner. 10 chandeliers illuminated the room, as well as flickering sconces on the walls. The floral arrangements on each table were done by Tina in white and yellow roses, with gold metallic streamers.

The servers were in the middle of the coffee service. Tina didn’t let me get any, because she didn’t want the act of drinking to mess up my lips. I begged for a straw, and got one, to sip my water. The awards presentation started soon after.

The chairman stood up to begin the awards portion of the evening, and introduced his first presenter. HE stood up. HE walked over to the dais as if he was going to take over the world. HE was smiling and looked happy to be there. HE took the microphone and looked directly at me.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Atlas Awards. We are here to honor….. who has made significant leaps in the development of …. Her expertise and leadership have resulted in a software program that… an African American woman, a native of California, she….”

HE was talking about me! I was star-struck. I didn’t hear half of what he was saying. This reminded me of a friend who asked James Earl Jones to say his name when he met the famed actor. JEJ obliged. My friend said it was completely awesome.

HE continued to look straight at me as he spoke. I know the speech was prepared for HIM, probably by our CEO. I’d have to thank him later.

“….Jackie Walker!” I was being nudged by Tina. HE’D stopped talking. It was time for me to rise and approach him to receive the award.

The trip to the podium took a month or two. Everything was slow motion. I saw people applauding, but I couldn’t hear the applause; it was a muffled roar. The trio was playing, as well, but I couldn’t hear that, either. All I saw was HIM smiling at me. Everything else faded into the background a little. I was slowly floating, not walking, to the stage. The whole time I was thinking, “If I trip, I’d better pass out at the same time. ” (I’d spent an hour in my apartment walking in those sexy Jimmy Choos hoping to prevent that embarrassment). When I reached the podium, I held out my hand. HE moved to the front of the podium and took it.

And we stood there for about a million years.

I’d seen him many times on TV, but now with him face to face, it was just so much more. A brilliant smile shining down on me. His eyes were smiling at me, too. A fallen star on stage, glowing in front of me. His hand felt warm, strong, comforting. I know I was smiling, too. But I couldn’t hear a thing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Love....exciting and new...." Or not. Not yet...

I spent the weekend with friends and had a great time.....so this post is a little late...

Bur first, a confession: I don't hate Valentine's Day. I'm not bitter. I just want to celebrate, too. Kinda hard when you're single.  So I'm jealous of those who can celebrate with that special someone.

I suppose I could secretly send out flowers to every guy I liked. Or beer. Or pizza. Something. For you see, this isn't about me getting stuff. I just miss the giving and planning.

The first time I was able to celebrate Valentine's Day with a significant other was in 1988. We'd just started dating, and were still getting used to each other. Boyfriend #1 bought me a nice single rose, and a bottle of perfume. I believe I still have that bottle; it's shaped like a pair of lips.

I've had some fun ones in the past. Me trying to make a gourmet dinner with Cornish game hens for the very first time, and I ended up with a really weird stomach ache. We were supposed to stay at the Disneyland Hotel that night, but didn't drive down until the next day.

That same Valentine's Day, I'd bought a set of black satin sheets. I warn you all: never wrestle on satin sheets. Not even play-wrestle. I went flying off the bed. I wasn't hurt. I was laughing too hard.

Another year, and I believe it was the last with boyfriend #1, was when I hid rhyming notes all over the house, clues that led to the next note and clue. The last note led him to the freezer, where I'd stashed an ice cream cake. We went out for sushi that night.

My last celebrated Valentine's Day with a significant other was in 1996. A two-hour drive out to the Inland Empire to receive a box of long-stemmed roses and an Applebee's dinner. I think he got
And so, I deleted my Valentine's dinner idea emails quickly. I ignored the looming heart-shaped balloons stationed at the front doors of supermarkets. And I continue to hope things will be different next year.
But I did buy myself a tennis bracelet. I love me some me. :)

Readers, how was your day/weekend?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All she wanted was a loving man....

Dating a celebrity: glamour, fame, a jetset life, wealth, dreams come true?

Or is that just the surface?

Join Jackie, a 40-something single black female software developer and dance instructor/performer, as she meets her dream celebrity, known in her diary only as "Drew Smith", at a computer industry awards dinner. Not only did sparks fly, but he's always wanted to meet Jackie?

What? Really?


"This November" is her diary, describing her life during November 2009. Jackie and "Drew" learn their first night together that they share a common past, and it's the beginning of an interesting month. Drew, good-looking as well as knowledgeable, a world-famous celebrity, has always been reclusive, to the point that the paparazzi are on a mission to out him as a closeted homosexual. His relationships have always been private.

Will the paparazzi find out about her? What about Drew's stalkers? Can Jackie lead a normal life while hiding someone who is known world-wide? And what about her diary? What if someone finds it? What if Drew finds out she's writing it? Could this ruin their relationship?

This is my novel. The idea began as a conversation several years ago, when someone suggested that I find a way to meet a certain celebrity, since he was less likely to reject me for being intelligent (that has continued to be a rather huge block in my quest for a first date sharing a McDonald's happy meal). The argument ensued over this particular celebrity being gay or not.

The idea fascinated me for more than a few years, I'd play out various scenarios in my head. How we'd meet, our first date, what we'd do together. I thought of blogging the story as if it were really happening, but that was just a dream that didn't happen.

Then a friend tweeted about NaNoWriMo -- writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Since it required that one start a brand new unwritten story, here was one ready to write. Bingo. Thanks, Lisa. I started writing on November 1st at 1:57am. Away I went!

And I did it! By January, I had over 97,000 words written. I hadn't scribbled anything as much as a paper since 1985, except for a few blogs posts. Now I'm editing. Not as much fun as writing, but equally as important. I printed out the manuscript and I'm still marking it up. I don't think I'll be hitting the computer again to do rewrites until March.

I left the editing alone for about a week, not touching the manuscript at all. That gave me enough distance to look at things more objectively when I picked it up again two nights ago. I'm slashing and cutting more now than when I first started editing a month ago. This is good.

That's my status as of today. It's been hard to do it in the evenings after work, but I'm getting better at it. I'll have more time this weekend.

I'll keep you posted, and will throw out an excerpt or two. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On Twitter: #writechat, with your host @WritingSpirit

One of the things I'd like to do with this blog is highlight some of my favorite blogs and Twitter followees.

Every Sunday from 12-3PM PST, Julie Isaac, aka @WritingSpirit, hosts #writechat on Twitter. It's a friendly running chat of all things pertaining to general writing. Julie usually asks a discussion question, but participants are not restricted to these topics.

The rest of the week, the #writechat community is not dead; plenty of other writers contribute to the cause. I'm thankful to everyone who joins in. I have found a number of links and bloggers that have been quite helpful.

Check out Julie's blog here! She is a writing coach and author.

And thank you, Julie. :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hello, it's great to see you once again!


Some of you have known me forever, some just from twitter/FB/aol/whathave you.... now, here's the scoop:

Who: Denise L. Canyon. Quite the snappy psuedonym, eh? I'm trying to start a trend:

First name: Your middle name
Middle initial: First initial of your favorite food (mine is lobster)
Last name: The street you grew up on.

Notice that the middle name/street combo also works as a stripper name. The middle initial adds some class. Try it yourself.

I chose a pseudonym because I'm not comfortable putting my name on the web. And there we go!

I've been an engineer for NASA for over 20 years, working in spacecraft development, test, launch, cruise and encounter operations, and extended mission operations. I also have a ton of hobbies: performing color guard, drums and dance; gourmet dining and wine-tasting; trivia, urban legends and linguistics; attending live sporting and music events.

What: My very first novel is in the works, and my ultimate goal is to have it published. It's currently called THIS NOVEMBER and I'm in the editing phase. It's a romance novel, hence the name of the blog. More about the novel in another post.

Why: A few reasons--
-- It's time for a grown-up blog, not the mess I've been posting anonymously on a social networking site that is currently on life support. Well, it's not all mess.
-- To get the word out about the novel.
-- To learn the craft of writing, and use whatever resources are available online. The last time I wrote anything was a paper about the jazz song "Birdland".

I won't just be blogging about the writing. You'll get a bit of the "rocket" part of my life as well.

I twitter as DeniseCanyon and I also have a fan page on Facebook. I'd be honored if you followed me.

I'm looking forward to the journey...and would be pleased to have you along for the ride.