Romance Slam Jam 2008 is open for business

To all you readers out there, the annual Romance Slam Jam will be held in Chicago next spring. Here's the link to the web site. They are accepting early registrations, which are discounted (the longer you delay, the more you'll pay!) so check it out!

I'm planning on attending, but I don't have good luck with planning events far in advance. The last event I scheduled I had to drop out of when my husband decided to accept the position he'd been offered and we relocated (the same weekend as the event, as it turned out.) So as of right now, I'm a go . . . but spring is a long way off. Personally, I'd love to make another relocation. On one hand, I've enjoyed my time here, but on the other, I don't want to spend the rest of my life here, either.

But if I haven't left Chicago, I do hope to see you there.


"I wasn't driving. The black kid was driving."

So said this inebriated bitch to the police when they pulled her over after she commandeered a large SUV and took it on a high-speed chase. The passengers, three young men who looked like a rainbow tribe (one black, one white, one Hispanic-appearing). You see which one she chose to assign blame to.

When the liquor goes down, the racism comes up.
I am so sick and tired of our men being painted as the vilest creatures on earth. Attitudes like this put our husbands, sons, and fathers in jeopardy with every traffic stop.

I hope they lock her ass up.

Shameless Self-Promotion

The Dow is down amid concerns about the state of the housing market. Prices are falling. New homes are sitting unsold. Lenders are afraid of consumers who won't pay back their mortgage loans, so they've tightened their qualification requirements. This seems like a good time for me to point out the relevance of my latest novel, If These Walls Could Talk, to these times (all right, it's a plug.) It's all about New Yorkers buying homes in the suburbs . . . a situation handled better by some buyers than others.
I wish you good reading!
The Only Thing We Have to Fear . . . .

An online newspaper recently published an article on the fear of flying. As an accompaniment, they did a blog asking people to state their greatest fear.

Now, I'm not going to ask anyone to answer that – it's a rather personal question – but I thought some of the response were interesting, and you might find that your thoughts aren't all that different from anyone else's.

Many of the usual phobias were mentioned – fear of flying, of bridges and tunnels (I'm in this group and was long before 9/11, but I can't say it's my biggest fear), elevators (or other enclosed/tight spaces) or getting stuck on/in the same, fear of seeing the doctor (interestingly, although numerous people spoke about being afraid of tooth pain, no one mentioned fear of seeing the dentist), fear of swimming, fear of heights, fear of injections, fear of insects, fear of public speaking, fear of snakes, OB/GYN exams, pregnancy and childbirth. There were a few surprises: I was surprised at the number of people who cited driving . . . and clowns. (Clowns? There are adults who are actually afraid of Bozo?)

Health and aging concerns appeared frequently. People cited outliving their money/poverty, becoming disabled, losing their homes, losing their teeth, developing cancer or Alzheimer's, losing their independence, losing their eyesight, losing mobility, losing their spouses.

Some people went for humor, as the man who declared his biggest fear was "Hillary Clinton" (but then again, maybe he wasn't kidding.) "My mother-in-law coming to live with us," said a woman. One man said he didn't fear flying so much as the thought of a "400-pound behemoth" sitting next to him on a lenghty international flight. Someone else, perhaps a resident of California, named their biggest fear as "driving in the same state as Lindsay Lohan." The man who said he feared OB/GYN exams (yes, the man.) "Reading this blog and seeing the one fear I haven't thought of yet," someone else pointed out.

I saw a great deal of poignant concerns. "That something will happen to my only child," a woman wrote. A man wrote of fearing drunk drivers and the safety of his surviving daughter after one killed his other daughter. One woman said her fear of giving birth is so strong she never had children. Many people spoke of their fear of being incapacitated, poor, and alone in their senior years, relegated to nursing homes and being forgotten. Several women feared they would become proverbial "old maids" and never get to experience marriage and children. One person said they feared working in high-rise buildings, understandable after 9/11.

Financial concerns ranked high. People feared losing their jobs and everything they worked for as a result, not saving enough for retirement, that catastrophic illness will bankrupt them, or that their chosen field of work will become irrelevant, leaving them with no way to make a living.

Others have clearly been influenced by horror movies, like the people who fear being buried alive or falling and becoming impaled on something on the way down. To the person who has nightmares about dirty public toilets, I can only say that they've probably seen the Saw movies (seen the saw . . . get it?) For the person who said "Dolls coming to life and terrorizing me," I say, "No more Chucky movies for you!"

Religion came up in a few responses. One brave soul said, 'I fear nothing because Jesus has changed my life." Brave, yes, but I question his honesty. Another said, "I don't necessarily believe in God, but I fear Him." A little contradictory, if you ask me.

Finally, there's the woman who said, "I felt fine until I started reading this list. Now I'm jumping all over the place."

That's a good place to end.
There's an interesting discussion going on over at Romancing The Blog ( about epilogues, which got me thinking so much i decided to blog about it myself.

I said in my comments that the problem with epilogues in romances is that so many of them are the same: weddings and babies, because that is usually the next step for the happily ever after.

One woman commented that, being unable to have children herself, nothing bothered her so much as the "miracle baby." While I was doing intense reading in the early days of Arabesque, I noticed that the books all had similar endings and that no one seemed to be able to make it fresh. For my first book, At Long Last Love (1998), I contributed to the un-excitement by writing the same ending myself (with a wedding, not with a baby, since my heroine wasn't interested in motherhood.) I quickly decided I was going to have to do something a little different; I was boring myself.

My second book, A Love of Her Own (1999) featured an infertile heroine, and I received letters from readers saying that they wished I'd made it so that she somehow managed to get pregnant (it wasn't anatomically impossible since she still had all the parts; just highly unlikely.) I stood (and still stand) my ground on that one: That would have been the wrong ending for the character. I've always injected as much realism as possible into my novels, and the fact is that everybody doesn't get to have children (the ending did involve children, but not children the heroine gave birth to.) The point I wanted to make was that there is still happiness out there to be obtained, even if you feel you got a bum deal by whoever handed out the ovaries.

In my third book, Love Affair, I didn't even have the hero and heroine get married. Lord, did I take flack for that! What readers didn't know at the time was that I planned to feature the wedding of this pair in my follow-up novel, Prelude to a Kiss (2001), because that was a romantic comedy and there was plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong at the ceremony and reception (and because the heroes and heroines of both books were friends.)

Out of all my books, the ones I feel had the most poignant (and therefore effective) epilogues were A Love of Her Own, From This Day Forward (2002), which was the most mainstream of all my romances; and this year's A Love For All Seasons.

One book that used a variation of the traditional epilogue where it was played for laughs and felt fresh was Adrianne Byrd's She's My Baby, published last year by Kimani Press.

So, what's your opinion on epilogues in romance? What do you like? What don't you like? Are they even necessary?

I'd love to hear what you think.
Highway Robbery

I got a kick out of seeing all those people lining up for numbers to purchase the latest installment in the Harry Potter series this past Saturday. I can't even imagine how it must feel to sell so many books (and I think it's safe to say I won't ever find out.) This series of novels has become a real phenomenon, bigger than anything I can remember in the literary world. The publisher knew they had a hit on their hands well before the book hit the stores.

I was shocked to learn that the cover price of the book was a staggering $34.99. Now, I know it's a thick book, but $34.99??? That's practically larcenous. No wonder this book broke all sales records.

I'm not a reader of any of these novels and can't speak for how much earlier books cost. But the publisher knew from the jump that they were going to make millions off of this book. Did they really have to charge so much? What's wrong with $27.50, or even $29.99?

This practice reminds me of record companies who would have their most popular singers and/or groups record two new songs - excellent material - and cut an album, filling in the remainder with old hits. The new songs would not be available on singles; you had to buy the album if you wanted them. Never mind if you already owned 3/4 of the songs from previous issues. It was easy money for the record company. I steadfastly refused to buy any of these, and no one loved Before I Let Go by Frankie Beverly and Maze more than me.

I'm not finding any fault with J.K. Rowling. I know enough to know that authors have little say in these matters, like when a paperback author suddenly catches on and they start issuing books in hardcover, much to the dismay of their loyal readers who can't afford to pay $24 for a book (some publishers who tried this got an unpleasant surprise - a drop in profits, and they subsequently returned the writers to paperback.) From what I understand, Ms. Rowling was on public assistance at one point. I'd like to think she sympathizes with the working class.

With $8 million in sales, I guess the publisher of Harry Potter doesn't have to worry about their profit margin. I think I read that this either might be or is the final book in the series. But if there is a next one, I'll go on record and predict that it'll retail for $39.99.
Sistahs Are Doin' It

There's a slew of entertainment awards, but I only pay attention to the top three: The Oscars for movies, the Emmys for television, and the Golden Globes for the best of both.

Emmy awards nominations were announced last week. Unfortunately, I recognized no male names on the list for performances in front of the camera. I did, however, see three female names:

Chandra Wilson for supporting actress in Grey's Anatomy
Vanessa Williams for supporting actress in Ugly Betty (love that name)

Queen Latifah for lead actress in Life Support, the only leading performance by an African-American that received a nomination.

It's got to be rough being an actress, and, as usual when you're black it's probably ten times as difficult. I don't believe there is exactly a multitude of roles available for black women, so this creates a situation where the same women are undoubtedly scrambling for the same parts. The ironic thing about these three nominations is that none of these women are your typical young, beautiful, shapely female people tend to associate with acting.

When Chandra Wilson won an award (maybe it was an Emmy, maybe a Golden Globe; I can't remember) she alluded to her diminutive stature (around 5' or shorter) and the fact that she is not model thin. Yet she managed to land a role on a hit show. Her heartfelt speech was inspiring.

Queen Latifah is what's often referred to as "a big girl." Because Hollywood usually feels that everyone is thin, most of Latifah's parts provide able support for other leads (also known as character parts). I found it refreshing to see her get to shine in a lead role.

Vanessa Williams is in her 40s. Hell, even Meryl Streep started being scarce when she hit this age, so what's a black actress to do? When's the last time Angela Bassett made a movie? It's been, what, two years since that flick about the spelling bee? (One notable exception to the 40 jinx: Alfre Woodard. In her 50s, she is one of the hardest-working women in show business, popping up everywhere).

You go, sistahs! And take heart if your name isn't called at the ceremony. It may sound trite, but in a TV world where only five performances in a year can be singled out as the best, sometimes it really is great just to be nominated.
NBA Star Gives Up Multimillion-Dollar Contract to Care for Sick Daughter

Okay, so that's not the whole story. Derek Fisher of the Utah Jazz requested to be released from his multimillion-dollar contract in order to relocate to a city with the medical facilities to care for his 1-year-old daughter, Tatum, who has eye cancer. He was promptly snapped up by the L.A. Lakers for $14 million. The network news shows conveniently left out this important fact in order to make the story more captivating, a habit of theirs that annoys the hell out of me.

But it's heartwarming just the same, isn't it?

Best wishes to little Tatum Fisher, as she makes her way toward the all-important age (for her disease) of 44 months.
Friday Afternoon Chuckle

It's Friday, and my spirits are down a little because my husband is experiencing firsthand the mess air travel has become this summer (after being gone all week, he's stuck at Reagan Airport because the airline overbooked and is waiting for a standby flight).

Someone sent this to me recently. People are sending me stuff all the time, but this one really gave me a belly laugh the first time I saw it, and I still think it's pretty damn funny. I'm not sure what that says about me (at worst, that I have a truly twisted sense of humor).

Chuckles to you. And cross your fingers that my other half gets home in time to take me out to dinner like he promised . . . .

Love in a Mental Hospital

Jim and Edna were both patients in a mental hospital. One day while they were walking past the hospital swimming pool, Jim suddenly jumped into the deep end. He sank to the bottom of the pool and stayed there. Edna promptly jumped in to save him. She swam to the bottom and pulled Jim out.

When the Head Nurse Director became aware of Edna's heroic act, she immediately ordered her to be discharged from the hospital, as she now considered her to be mentally stable. When she went to tell Edna the news she said, "Edna, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you're being discharged; since you were able to rationally respond to a crisis by jumping in and saving the life of another patient, I have concluded that your act displays sound mindedness. The bad news is, Jim, the patient you saved, hung himself in the bathroom with his bathrobe belt right after you saved him. I am so sorry, but he's dead."

Edna replied, "He didn't hang himself, I put him there to dry. How soon can I go home?"
The End . . . ?

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Blogging in Black ( about readers' pet peeves. More than one person complained about storylines that leave the reader hanging because the author intends to do a sequel.

Anyone familiar with my blog knows that I'm not a big fan of continuing stories, either as a reader or as a writer. I personally like the satisfaction of knowing that the story is over when I read the last page. But there is no denying that these are very big with readers, just as our grandmothers and great-grandmothers listened to soap operas on the radio sixty and seventy years ago. The reason sequels have become so popular in recent years is that readers clamor for more about the characters. It has almost become expected.

I am working on a sequel to my mainstream debut, The People Next Door, simply because of overwhelming reader requests. People have also asked for a sequel to last year's Nothing But Trouble. I consider it a compliment that I have not received requests for a continuation of If These Walls Could Talk. I tried very hard to make it a complete story, making it easy for readers to imagine what happens to some characters while having to guess about what happens to others.

Just because I was convinced to write a sequel due to popular demand doesn't mean I'll just slap a story together. It won't be written until I feel I have a good story that will entertain readers.

I do believe that series can be done well, without ticking off readers, if the writer ties up the loose ends and begins the sequel with a new set of problems or moves secondary characters into the spotlight with a brief glimpse of the previous main characters (which is done very frequently in romance with great success.) If a writer does choose to end with unanswered questions, is it really fair to ask their readers to wait six or eight months, or even more, to find out what happens?

What's your feeling on sequels? Do you like them? Do you feel the characters should experience personal growth, or do you enjoy reading about the same behavior through three or four books? Would you stick with a continuing story indefinitely, or do you feel it should end after two or three books? Five? Ten?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
It's a Small, Small World

We had an e-mail today from some people we met on vacation, saying hello and asking us to check out their on-line travel diary. We met at Morgan Freeman's blues club, Ground Zero, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and learned that we were both going to Memphis to hear some more blues. My husband and I left first (the Friday show was dynamite, but the band who played on Saturday was reminiscent of a Vegas lounge act - and a mediocre one at that, switching to R&B after exactly two blues songs. But I digress.) As a joke, as we said goodbye I told them we'd see them in Memphis. Anyway - well, I'll let them tell you. This is the entry in their travel blog:

"Left the concert, then went to Beale Street for a quick drink and bumped into a couple we’d met at Clarksdale in the Ground Zero club (Hi Betty [sic] and Bernard if you’re reading this!) – such a small world. Had a drink with them as it was Betty’s [sic] birthday and then found another blues club."

Yep. My little joke actually came to pass a few nights later. There we were, my husband and me, walking down Beale Street (he smoothly, me somewhat jerkily from that rum drink with the blue stuff I'd been drinking (it was my birthday, after all). Who do we see having a drink al fresco at a pub but Paul and Lyn from Sussex, England, along with the friends they told us they were meeting in the city. What a kick! Fun folks; Paul's joke about how he asked a man from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (who were performing in Memphis that weekend) if his wife was present and 50 women stood up had me rolling. He sounded innocent as a schoolboy with that charming British accent. Running into them was a happy coincidence. We're pleased they remembered us after their rather lengthy vacation trip to the States (which also included a cruise up the Mississippi from St. Louis to St. Paul and, in a heck of a coincidence, Chicago - we went into the city last weekend, and I laughingly told Bernard to be sure to be on the lookout for them.)

There's nothing like travel.
Singer Angela Bofill Suffers Another Stroke

The column I wrote on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of artists who sing/write/paint full time and do not have health insurance that mentioned singer Angela Bofill, who suffered a major stroke a year-and-a-half ago, in January 2006, received quite a few hits, presumably from her many fans. A fundraising concert was staged in March of this year (Ms. Bofill did not carry health insurance, a frightening scenario in the face of such a prolonged convalescence), at which Ms. Bofill appeared. I was pleased to see her looking rather well, speaking with somewhat of an impediment but with clarity as she pleaded with the crowd to keep their blood pressure under control with diet, regular checkups, and medication.

I thought I would do an update, so I went to her web site. I was shocked and saddened to read that Ms. Bofill suffered "another massive stroke" (I'm quoting the web site) just last week, on July 10th. Very little information is available regarding her condition, other than that it is critical.

Her web site address is . I'm sure prayers are being sent her way. Incidentally, most of Ms. Bofill's LP recordings have been issued on CD, if you'd like to support her.
All God's Chillun

I was watching Cold Case on CBS last night. This is one of my favorite shows, but since they moved it last season to compete directly with Desperate Housewives, the gals on Wisteria Lane won out, so I'm trying to catch the repeats. (Next season my little dilemma will get even worse, when the original Law & Order is brought back in January opposite both of these other favorites. Even though I'm sick of seeing so-called professional women showing all their cleavage (like Detective Ed Green's new female partner), I still enjoy enjoy the original of the franchise.

Anyway, on Sunday's Cold Case, I noticed an interesting subplot involving an affair between a fortyish, chubby white detective and a black woman who has a teenage son. The episode featured a poignant conversation between the detective and the woman's son. I'd obviously missed a few episodes and had no idea how long this has been going on. (Anyone who watches this show regularly knows that race plays a fairly prominent role; I've seen numerous episodes involving interracial romance in the past cases present-day detectives solve, occurring long before it was semi-accepted (and, of course, someone ended up dead), usually involving white men and black women. The little scenes the writers put in about the detective's private lives every now and again usually bore me (although I think it's a nice twist that the black detective enjoys country music), and the white woman's private life seems a little frightening.

Anyway, I tried to find out some more info about this little romance. I didn't find out, but I did come across this essay about interracial romance. I found it to be hysterically funny, and definitely not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. It's from a web site called and addresses the acceptability factor among the various races and genders, in reverse order:

Enjoy, but don't say I didn't warn you that it's a tad raunchy.

10. Asian woman/white man

The John Lennon is by far the easiest IR to pull off. Lots of white guys have a fetish for the petite and mystical Asian puss, and lots of Asian women have a thing for absolutely immersing themselves in Western culture and leaving behind any trace of a heritage that can't be seen in their facial features. In fact, it is becoming increasingly infrequent in major metropolitan areas to see a young Asian woman walking down the street with a young Asian man. Our society doesn't seem to mind this combo very much, if at all.

Proponents: Asian Woman and their status-seeking parents. Opponents: Single Asian Men with a sense of pride. Asian women who haven't found their white guy yet.

Acceptance Probability: 90.3%

9. Latina/White Man

Right on the heels of The Lennon is The Penelope Cruz. The hot and spicy Latina has long been the favorite "exotic" beauty for the white man. The Latina has all the facial features of the white woman and what they lack in co-dependency, they more than make up for with their bigger and firmer breasts and asses. So, the appeal for white guys is clear. As for the women, it's the standard reason...standards.

Proponents: Latinas and their status-seeking parents. Opponents: Single Latin Men with a sense of pride. Territorial white women. Angry Elderly Latinos who know Southern California is Mexico.

Acceptance Probability: 85.2%

8. White Woman/Latino

The Ricky Ricardo is surprisingly well-received by the American people. White women love the Latin lover and the Latin lover loves anything that's breathing. This relationship allows white women who are not attracted to the blandness of white men to have a relationship with men of another race, while still giving birth to children that will look like Freddie Prinze Jr.
Proponents: White women, White parents who are just happy it wasn't a black guy. Opponents: Poor White Men.

Acceptance Probability: 82.4%

7. Black Woman/Latino

Does anyone ever really bat an eye when they see The Carlos Santana? It makes perfect sense that the two most stereotypically oversexed types of human beings would hook-up. Black women get to have their kids with the good hair, while Latinos get to be in a relationship with a fiery women who might give them a lot of backtalk, but will stop way short of stabbing them.
Proponents: Black Women who like “good hair.” Latinos who like big booties. Opponents: White women who lust after Latinos. Black Men who just wanna hit it one good time.

Acceptance Probability: 81.8%

6. Latina/Black Man

The compromise with Sistas can be a tough trick to pull off if handle poorly. Recently, a rising young black actor Derek Luke made the mistake of marrying a fair-skinned Latina with too many Caucasian features. Sistas ain’t having it. You gotta be smart, like Will Smith, who has often selected olive-skinned Latin beauties like Salma Hayek and Eva Mendes and has barely heard a peep from the Sistas. Sistas generally don’t accept Latinas who are lighter than Vanessa Williams or Mariah Carey. Meanwhile the hottest Latina on the planet right now, Eva Longoria, is getting poked by a brotha. This hookup is known as The Kobe.

Proponents: Latinas, Black men. Opponents: Elderly Latins, Black women.

Acceptance Probability: 74.8%

5. Black Man/Asian Woman

The Dumb Nigga In The Military or The Wesley is an extremely unique case, as it garners no significant hate from any faction other than the Asian community. It seems that many Asians believe marrying a black man is the ultimate show of disrespect by an Asian female for herself and her race.
Proponents: Asian women who actually enjoy sex, Black men, young Asian male siblings seeking street cred, Black women who are just happy the bitch ain't white. Opponents: The vast majority of Asians, White guys with an Asian fetish.

Acceptance Probability: 72.7%

4. Asian Man/Black Women

I know what you’re thinking, but The Romeo Must Die or The Jet Li is not so far-fetched. Plenty of Sistas and Asian guys share a mutual attraction that often goes unspoken. Just because we don’t see it a lot that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You can expect big things from this combination in the coming years, as many Sistas who absolutely refuse to date white boys make the compromise to try something else.
Proponents: Status-seeking Asian parents, Asian male siblings seeking street cred, Black women who want their kids to have good hair. Opponents: Black women who looooove sex, Black men who just wanna hit it.

Acceptance Probability: 72.2%

3. Asian Man/White Woman

Now The Bruce Lee is very tough to get a read on, because many Asian moms seem to want their sons to marry within the race, while they don’t so much mind when the daughter brings home a white guy. Strange. Also, this couple seems to get a lot of heat from insecure white guys who don’t understand why a white woman would date men who are supposedly less hung than they are.
Proponents: Asian men who want to be recognized as sexual beings, White women who love hairless lean guys. Opponents: White guys with little dicks.

Acceptance Probability: 70.1%

2. Black Woman/White Man

This one is gaining steam. Twenty years ago, no one could have predicted The Whoopie would be seen so much on the streets. Hell, they’re even making movies about it (Something New). Halle Berry, black men’s beauty icon for the better part of a decade, is now dating a white guy. Tennis queens Venus and Serena Williams exclusively juggle green balls on the court and white balls in the bed. Obviously, this combination annoys black men and white women the most. Black men are used to being perceived as the only kinda man that can really handle a black woman’s attitude. Little did they realize financial security and/or social status are the keys to keeping Sistas quiet. And white women can’t believe a white man would find a beauty so unlike their won to love (dumb ass bitches).

Proponents: Black parents who love their daughters and want them to be happy, white male siblings who want street cred. Opponents: Black people who only see images of Massa raping every black female slave on the plantation. White parents who love their sons, but love their social status even more. White women are value being perceived as the standard of female beauty.

Acceptance probability: 58.2% 1. White Woman/Black Man

This is the granddaddy of them all, The Quincy Jones. It’s as American as racism itself, receiving hate from all sides. It’s built on the kind of lustful curiosity that can only be described as…”fucking hot.” Very rarely is this combination about love. Even when it is based on love, the Mandingo-colored images of yesterday tend to cloud everyone’s view. History dictates that you have no choice but to be skeptical of this combo. It cuts right to the bone of race in America…kinda like OJ did.
Proponents: White Women who loooove sex. Black men who want to hump away history. Opponents: Pretty much everybody.

Acceptance Probability: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (Nah, bout 47.1%)
It's Hell to Live With a Writer . . . or Is It?

TV-One has been airing a re-broadcast of Roots: The Next Generations all week. (They also showed the original Roots miniseries a few months ago, marking its 30th anniversary.) This afternoon, I set the TV to the continuing story of the Haley family while I was working around the house. I was particularly touched by the episode that depicted the ill-fated first marriage of Alex Haley. His wife put up with a quite a bit before finally admitting defeat and leaving him.

Of course, both parties were painted as sympathetic. Alex Haley was shown as losing a mother he dearly loved when he was a young boy, to what I'm guessing was uterine cancer. He had difficulty adapting to his father’s remarriage, a situation not helped by his father’s annoying references to his stepmother as “your mother,” plus the father’s domineering personality. His first wife, Nan, was portrayed as a bright and enthusiastic young wife genuinely in love with her husband, who felt like she and their children were being pushed to the background while Alex pursued a writing career until, one Christmas when he typed through the night and into the next day at the Coast Guard offices, completely missing the holiday, when she took the children and left him. (That’s the TV version . . . I’m sure the real end of the marriage wasn’t nearly as dramatic.) But the biggest message was in this episode was by far that it is hell to live with a writer.

I don't think I'd agree with that. I have vivid memories of my first date with my husband. I was newly separated, 33 years old and had no idea what I was going to do with my life . . . other than I wanted to write. Anyway, I was working on a project (the computer went to me in the divorce) while I waited for him to come and pick me up.

That project eventually was rejected. So was the one after that. I began to feel like I’d never realize my dream of being a published novelist. My husband was with me the entire time; we became practically inseperable after that first date and married after my divorce came through. He would kiss away my tears and assure me that my day would come, then he’d go get my favorite Thai mixed rice and spring rolls from take-out, and I’d be laughing before the night was out. Now, he hasn’t read a word of my writing, ever (remarkably, neither has my mother, my other favorite person), but he was right. I guess he figured I’d have to be completely hapless if I didn’t make any progress after trying so hard.

Yes, writing is a solitary profession. I get most of my work done early in the morning, before my husband gets up, because I do enjoy the quiet . . . to a certain degree. I tried the writing full time thing last year, and it was too much quiet and too much solitude. I don’t believe that writers are meant to be alone, and I certainly don’t believe that writers neglect their spouses and children. I don’t even believe that the divorce rate among writers is as great as that in other professions (like the Navy or the police force.)

I guess it all comes down to balance. And I know my husband would agree.
It's Friday the 13th


triskaidekaphobia \tris-ky-dek-uh-FOH-bee-uh\, noun: A morbid fear of the number 13 or the date Friday the 13th.

May today bring good fortune to you all!
A Little Bit of Dallas Wherever You Are

For anybody who's stuck at home but wants to be at the RWA Conference in Dallas, the Romance Divas (God, I hate that word) are having an online conference with writing workshops and even the latest news from the conference. Check them out at
The Art of the Celebrity Break-up

I heard on the news last night that Sean Combs’ spokesperson confirmed that Puffy (as I still call him; I can't be bothered with all those name changes) and his longtime girlfriend, Kim Porter, have broken up.

No, I’m not commenting on what is considered news these days. I’ve just noticed that celebrities often break up differently than the rest of us poor slobs. There’s a procedure that many of them follow. Rule #1 is, Tell the world how happy and so-in-love you are. Then comes Rule #2, which is, After the breakup, then it’s time to confess how horrible he/she really was (usually, ‘he.’) Anyone who reads Essence magazine might remember the cover story they did on Sean and Kim just a few months ago. They’d been through their hard times (during one of their breakups, Sean had a well-publicized affair with Jennifer Lopez), but were back and better than ever, etc.

Roseanne Barr did it. Vanessa Williams did it. And, most nauseatingly, Kathie Lee Gifford did it (okay, she and Frank are still married today, but he was far from the devoted husband she painted him as. Besides, that affair was some time ago, and who’s a now-80-year-old man going to cheat with?)

Then again, maybe this isn’t limited to celebrities. I remember someone on an Internet message board for people in my profession who was always talking about her “DH.” She did it to distraction. Then she suddenly disappeared. Several months later she sent me a private e-mail (we lived in the same city) saying that she was getting divorced. I didn’t find out until some time later that “DH”was an acronym for “dear husband,” so I didn't understand the irony right away. In hindsight, it all came together. It obviously offered her comfort to see all those mentions of her loving spouse in print . . . even if she knew they weren't true. Maybe that's the case for these other divorced women as well. Everyone has different coping mechanisms.

But I can't help suspecting that the happiest couples, whether prominent or anonymous, are the ones who don’t constantly harp on how strong their marriages/relationships are, how wonderful their spouses are, how happy they are . . . .
Are You Writing Challenged?

Author Alison Kent is running a 70 Days of Sweat writing challenge between now (it officially started July 8th, but you have until July 13th to sign up, because she is allowing five extra days between July 11th and 15th for those attending RWA in Dallas) and September 20th. The goal is to write between 4 and 6 pages per day, 7 days a week, to produce the first draft of a full-length novel by the last day. It's great for those of us who might need a little push. I enjoy participating in NaNoWriMo, but that's just one month out of 12. My goal is to learn to produce faster. I already have the discipline, but I need some speed. I've got too many stories I want to write.

Here's the link:

Good luck!
Here's To the Wives (and the stethoscopes)

First there was Desparate Housewives. Then it was The Starter Wife. Now there's Army Wives. These last two appeared in the last two months.

My husband asked me what's up with all these shows about married women and their troubles. (Shows how observant I am; I didn't even notice). I told him that these things come in trends; because the first show was a hit, here come shows with similar themes.

The publishing world workds the same way. Desparate Housewives has practically become part of the American lexicon, and books often mimic pop culture. If I was a fast writer I'd do something about that. Too bad I can't. By the time I could get something proposed, the wives trend will probably have gone the way of stirrup pants.

All you TV watchers have probably also recognized a trend toward quirky medical shows (Grey's Anatomy, House, and that new one set in a heart transplant unit).

Anyone want to predict what will be next?
What Next?

One of the greatest feelings around (right behind sex and eating) is completing a manuscript. Knowing that I actually completed a book never fails to bring out a sense of wonder for me. The manuscript for Once Upon a Project is the longest I've ever written, 117,600 words.

As of now I'm without any commitments, a situation that will likely last for at least a month or two while my editor looks at my next idea. This is probably the first break I've had in four years, when completing a mainstream novel and submitting a synopsis for a follow-up always meant starting on the romance that's due in six months. But I'm not sitting around on my butt watching soap operas (which I dislike) or even old movies (which I do) while I pat myself on the back for a job that at least I think is well done (the important thing here is what my editor thinks). Okay, so I have been tinkering around a bit in my closet, a task that I can't really attack in earnest until my husband's next week-long business trip, because it'll take more than a mere afternoon to go through all that junk, much less streamline it, and I don't want to hear him complaining about the mess.

So what am I doing? Writing. Just like always.

For some ungodly reason, since I moved to the Midwest I've found myself waking up earlier and earlier. During the warmer months, my eyes usually open as it gets light outside, which in these parts is about 5AM. Because I know I won't fall back to sleep, I just get up. And turn on the computer.

Right now I'm just creating as I go, with no synopsis other than a basic one-sentence summary. I'm alternating between three projects in my idea file, which works well for me. If I get stuck on one, the plot fairy starts twitching on the others.

It took a long time for me to get the discipline to constantly write, and I don't think I could lose it, even if I wanted to.

Which I don't.
I’m baaaaaaack!

During our travels over the last eight days, one of the sights my husband and I saw was the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. This is on the site of the infamous Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was killed nearly forty years ago, as well as the building from across the street where he was shot by James Earl Ray. The motel has been remodeled and the room where Dr. King spent his last hours re-created. The plate of half-eaten food (plastic, no doubt,) did give me that creepy feeling I always get whenever the radio plays one of Natalie Cole’s duets with her deceased father . . . but I digress.

It is important to note that the museum is not dedicated solely to the memory of Dr. King. Its detailed exhibits begin with the arrival of the first African slaves in America in 1619 and touches on a multitude of significant events in the 388 years since. Although I already knew most of what I saw, I nonetheless found it very moving to walk through a replica of the bus where Rosa Parks refused to get up (I actually remember when buses actually looked like that) in 1955, and to view a recreation of the burned bus used for the Freedom Rides in 1961.

A good portion of the museum’s visitors were white, and they appeared awestruck as they took in the experiences of persons of African descent in the U.S. I could practically see the light bulb going off in their heads. I wish everyone could see it; it would make for a better understanding of what we as a people have gone through.

Especially bookstore chains who insist on separating novels written by black authors from other fiction. This, more than anything, shows just how horribly wrong this practice is.