Breathing Easier

My four mainstream novels have been edited by three different people. The first two were edited by my longtime editor, Karen Thomas. After she left Kensington, they eventually hired another editor, and while she tried to work her way through all those manuscripts that had piled up, management assigned my third manuscript to a freelancer. Monica Harris was a dream to work with, and I hope to work with her again one day, but I knew it was just temporary.

I have now been assigned a new, and hopefully permanent, editor. Getting a new editor is like getting a new manager at work. You don't have any idea of work habits (although I have yet to see an editor who is on schedule) or preferences. Most important of all, you don't know how they'll feel about your work, since they're not the one who bought it.

Imagine, then, my anxiety level as I waited for my newest editor to read my manuscript for Once Upon A Project. We'd spoken about the plotline, and I've seen cover art, and she displayed bubbly enthusiasm throughout. But what if she didn't like the actual product? I still have another book to go on my contract.

When she e-mailed to say she was reading it, the lip-chewing started. Then, another e-mail. It was a very clean manuscript, and she only had a few minor suggestions. When I called to clarify something she asked for, we spoke about the project some more. Not only did she feel that my 117,000-word monstrosity wasn't too long, but she complimented me on how easily identifiable each of the four main characters was. She recognized who was narrating the they appeared, largely because of my use of internal character thoughts to give them distinct voices.

Needless to say, I'm still grinning. I always felt this manuscript was special. What a relief to know that my editor thinks so, too . . . and just in time for vacation.

Yes, it's vacation time again. I'll be spending the next four days in Colorado. If anybody out there is in downtown Denver, stop by the Barnes & Noble on 16th Street Friday, September 28th, around lunchtime. I'll be stopping in to sign store stock of three of my titles, and I'd love to meet you.

I'll work on my revisions on the plane. And I'm breathing a lot easier. Let's hope that the Mile-High altitude I'm flying into (with surrounding suburbs as high as 7,500 feet) doesn't leave me gasping.

Have a great weekend, and look for my interview with Gwyneth Bolton on her blog ( on Monday, October 1st.
Note to Bill O'Reilly

Thank you for proving that the only thing you know about black people is all those negative images in the media. More telling, many other people, people we are likely to have contact with in everyday life, have the same beliefs . . . like the other one you expressed, that all black people follow the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton like little children running after their parents.

I'll bet you also believe that Africa is one huge country rather than a diverse continent.

There really is nothing we can do to disprove these narrow beliefs. Fortunately, we do not crave your approval of us; nor do we need it. I always suspected you were woefully uninformed, but the clueless are not necessarily newsworthy, they're just unfortunate.

Now, do us all a favor and take your amazement and go dine at Lutece.

Moving right along . . . .
Friend, Found

There is nothing more valuable than a friend, especially when friendships endure over the years.

I have many old friends. There's Becky and Dorothy, who are part of my earliest memories. There's Kim, who I met when we were seven years old, 43 years ago. There's Naomi, with whom I grew very close in adolescence.

Then there are friends who came into my life later. Friends like Helen from New York and Kim (a different Kim than the one mentioned above) from Florida, both of whom I met at different jobs and with whom I immediately clicked, despite us belonging to different age groups (Helen is a generation older than me, Kim about a dozen years younger).

And there's Glenda. When I was new to Florida, I took a temp administrative job, and one of the guys I worked for was married to Glenda (at that time, anyhow). She came in occasionally to meet him for lunch, and we started chatting and soon discovered that we were both from the Northeast (I retain my Noo Yawk twang to this day). Glenda was self-employed, and eventually she called and offered me a job, which I took.

I worked for Glenda for a few years. She was a big believer in flex time, and allowed me to take time off to attend classes to learn medical terminology so I could work as a transcriptionist. We worked together well as employer and employee, but became much better friends after I left her employ. Born just one day apart the same year (she's a day older - ha!), we see many things the same way.

I knew Glenda had relocated to a drab Midwestern city for purposes of work, a few years ago. When I called her cell phone on her birthday the following year, I reached a weary-sounding but pleasant young man who answered informed me that this was no longer Glenda's number. I had the distinct impression that he'd been receiving birthday calls all day for her, poor man. I kept hoping we could somehow connect, and I dedicated my latest book, If These Walls Could Talk, to her ("To Glenda, Wherever You Are"). In Memphis this past July, my husband and I drank a toast to her on her her 50th birthday.

She has tried to reach me, also, but it was after we had left Florida, and we left no forwarding number. Glenda was never an Internet person, but has recently become one, rather belatedly in life. It was looking me up on the Internet that led her to calling our home last night.

I am just delighted to have her back in my life. Elated.

There's nothing like a good friend.

If you and your old friends don't talk as much anymore . . . different cities/states, busy with children and families vs. being single, having young children vs. being an empty nester, etc., give them a call and let them know you've been thinking about them. They'll be delighted to hear from you and have probably thought of you often as well.

Now, if I can only find Maureen . . . .

It took as long to release this movie as it does to say the damn name
I recently read about a new Brad Pitt movie, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It occurred to me that I'd heard about this movie before. Two years ago, when I still lived in Florida, I showed my husband a still picture of Brad Pitt in costume as Jesse James, circa 1880, looking quite dandy in his black suit with the long jacket of the day. Being fans of anything historic, we both said we wanted to see the movie. We soon were caught up in the activities of relocating and I forgot all about it. Until my memory bank got shaken up.
I had no idea it took so long to get a movie released. Two years? Sure, technical movies like Jaws or Titanic can be held up during both filming and in postproduction editing, but don't they just go to the hills of Bulgaria or some other remote location to shoot westerns nowadays? Is the movie pieced together? Did someone pivotal to the production suddenly pass away?
When I finally do see it, I just hope it's worth the wait.
Friday Funny, AKA The Obedient Wife

There was a man who had worked all of his life, had saved all of his money, and was a real miser when it came to his money. Just before he died, he said to his wife, "When I die, I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me. I want to take my money to the after life with me." And, so he got his wife to promise him with all of her heart that when he died, she would put all of the money in the casket with him.

Well, he died. He was stretched out in the casket, his wife was sitting there in black, and her friend was sitting next to her. When they finished the ceremony, just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, the wife said, "Wait just a minute!" She had a box with her, she came over with the box and put it in the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket down, and they rolled it away. So her friend said, "Girl, I know you weren't fool enough to put all that money in there with your husband."

The loyal wife replied, "Listen, I'm a God fearing woman, I can't go back on my word. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him."

"You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with him?!"

"I sure did," said the wife. "I got it all together, put it into my account and wrote him a check. If he can cash it, he can spend it."

Have a great weekend!
Yeah, Right

Black high school students in the small, predominantly white town of Jena, Louisiana, fought a group of white students, including one who had a gun. While the school administration recommended the white students be expelled, the school board chose instead to suspend them for three days. The black students were expelled. The original charge was attempted murder (later reduced). One student was convicted and even with reduced charges, faces prison time of up to 22 years.

The white students? They're back in school, going on with their lives like nothing ever happened.

On the eve of the arrival of civil rights protesters, the District Attorney of LaSalle Parish declared today that this case "has nothing to do with race."

To be continued.
They Must Think We've Been Sniffing Our Sharpies To Fall For This Excuse

From the New York Daily News:

"Top republican presidential candidates yesterday blamed scheduling problems - not a lack of regard for black voters - for their decision to blow off a television debate this month.

Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney have all declined to participate in a Sept. 27 debate at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Maryland. Latecomer Fred Thompson still hasn't said yes or no to the debate, which will highlight second-tier GOP hopefuls.

The snubs say the candidates don't care about making a broad appeal to minority voters, charged debate moderator Tavis Smiley, who was slated to go on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to make his case. "No one should be elected President of this country in 2008 if they think that along the way they can ignore people of color," Smiley was quoted as saying this week.

Giuliani had a rocky relationship with the African-American community while mayor. But spokeswoman Maria Comella said the issue was scheduling. "Our campaign has had to make tough decisions, based on the accelerated schedule and fund-raising demands, about the number [of debates] we can realistically participate in," she said.

The Romney and McCain campaigns also blamed scheduling. Team Romney forwarded a list of black Florida supporters to illustrate minority backing, and McCain spokesman Brian Rogers pointed out that McCain was "the only [Republican] candidate to RSVP to the Univision debate down in Miami, which got axed."

Democratic candidates participated in a debate on the Spanish-language TV network last Sunday and a Smiley-moderated debate on PBS over the summer.

Lorin Crenshaw of Republicans for Black Empowerment, a 1,000-member group that promotes "conservative solutions to the black community's concerns," called the candidates' decisions "insulting - and it's not helpful to our cause."

Crenshaw, who currently favors Thompson, said having top candidates ignore the event just adds to a sense that it's a waste of time trying to attract minorities to the GOP."

I thought it was silly to hold these debates so early in the game, but with caucases and primaries moved up to January, in many cases, I guess things do need to heat up. I've always suspect that a whole lot of black parents will be crying over the bodies of their murdered sons if Guiliani gets in (someone aptly described his management style as "ruthless.") I can't say it surprises me that Romney declined - does he really think he'll get any black votes? McCain, although I think his chances of becoming President are about the same as a palmetto bug living to be 30, kind of surprised me by skipping the event. Smiley has said that empty podiums will be set up with the names of the absent candidates, as well as those who did agree to participate. I personally think that will make one hell of a statement.

The debate is next Thursday and will be broadcast on PBS.
"Next question, please"

I remember reading a book many years ago in which a news reporter was suffering through an interview with a vapid beauty pageant winner who was sprouting the usual spiel about world peace, and the reporter thought to himself that he wished that just once one of these beauty queens would say something like, "I just want to fuck."

Because there was a total lack of anything else on television late yesterday afternoon, I put on the Red Carpet interviews of celebrities arriving for the Emmy Awards. Interviews, my ass. Ninety-eight percent of the time, the questions focused on one topic: "What are you wearing?" "What's the name of your dress?" Curiously, the words design or designer were never mentioned; they must be taboo. I don't see why; this is obviously actors plugging the people who made their dresses (and their shoes and purses as well), which I suspect they get for free in exchange for plugging them on the air. (I could be wrong about this, but a few years back when I saw an actress being interviewed who, when the interviewer thanked her for speaking with her, quickly said, "You forgot to ask me who did my dress," and then shouted out the name of the design house as they cut to a commercial, I began to sense a little mutual back-scratching going on.)

The interviews on the E! channel were notorious for asking this question and this question only. No mention of any nominations the attendees may have received, or the shows or TV movies they've done, just the name of the - excuse me for saying this - designer. One actress whom I saw on both E! and the pre-show on the network that carried the show made it a point to plug the designer of her handbag on both shows. Now, I like to see men and women all dressed up, but I don't need to know the names of the designers. Maybe I could appreciate this better if I was going to run to an exclusive boutique on the Magnificant Mile and put in an order for that dress by Randolph Duke, or those shoes, or that handbag. But since I'm not, it reminds me of politicians making back-door deals, without the smoke-filled rooms.

Something I did enjoy was seeing the actors' spouses or dates interview with them. In the past wives have been seen more than husbands, for reasons I'm unsure of, but last night I saw non-celebrity spouses everywhere, which I thought was a nice touch. It must get a little old to stand in the background while your spouse talks to this one and that one on the air. I've always wondered if there's a specified area for the non-celebrity escorts to stand together while they wait, or if they just stand on the edge of the red carpet.

Everyone was polite and more than willing to name their designers - even the escorts - but like that character interviewing the beauty queen, I do wish that just once somebody would refuse to answer and suggest instead, "Why don't you ask me about the performance I'm nominated for?" What a shock that would be.

Maybe next year.

I Don't Know About You . . .

But I'm sick of these two.

Movie Alert
For you early morning risers, check out The Bad and the Beautiful, airing tomorrow (Saturday, 9/15/2007) on Turner Classic Movies at 6AM, 5AM Central (Yes, I'm in the Central Time zone, and yes, I will be watching. I love this movie!)
Kirk Douglas, probably the only cast member alive today, plays a Hollywood heel. lana Turner and others play those in his orbit. It's a great movie with a wonderful cast (although what was the Academy thinking by giving Gloria Grahame an Oscar for her silly performance?) Marvelous theme music, one of the most stirring melodies I've ever heard. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. Well done, except for one unlikely scene where a beautiful sunny morning turns into a violent thunderstorm, just to suit Lana Turner's mood. Oh, well, nothing's perfect.
Friday Funny (Subtitle, "She really wanted that job")

The FBI had an opening for an assassin. After all the background checks, interviews and testing were done, there were three finalists, two men and a woman.

For the final test, the FBI agents took one of the men to a large metal door and handed him a gun. "We must know that you will follow your instructions no matter what the circumstances. Inside the room you will find your wife sitting in a chair. Kill Her!!"

The man said, "You can't be serious. I could never shoot my wife."

The agent said, "Then you're not the right man for this job. Take your wife and go home."

The second man was given the same instructions. He took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about 5 minutes. The man came out with tears in his eyes. "I tried, but I can't kill my wife."

The agent said, "You don't have what it takes. Take your wife and g o home."

Finally, it was the woman's turn. She was given the same instruction, to kill her husband. She took the gun and went into the room. Shots were heard, one after another. Then they heard screaming, crashing, and banging on the walls.

After a few minutes, all was quiet. The door opened slowly and there stood the woman, wiping the sweat from her brow. "The gun is loaded with blanks" she said. "I had to beat him to death with the chair."

Have a great weekend!

Time is Running Out

. . . to enter my contest for A Love For All Seasons. The publisher managed to leave my announcement out of the final copy, which severely altered the number of entries (none of which have been correct, incidentally.) The prize is a $25 Amazon gift certificate (just the amount you have to spend to get free shipping!)

All you have to do is figure out the link between all the chapter titles. One answer is absolutely dead-on correct, another is acceptable. Absolutely dead-on correct trumps acceptable, naturally. If there's more than one entry, we'll pull a name out of a hat (literally). My husband always does the draw, so Don't Blame Me.

If no one wins, I'll treat myself to $25 worth of books from Amazon!

The contest runs until September 30th. See my website for further details. Good luck!
The Joy of Reading

This is a stressful time for me. I brought my computer in for added memory to increase productivity, which unbeknownst to me would start a nightmare that would last two weeks before being resolved. As a result of this I am faced with possibly losing my Outlook Express address book with its years of contacts for my writing, since I keep getting an error message when I try to import (although I haven't given up on this yet). I'm also suffering from what can best be described as clean-up fatigue – having to write letters to so-called professionals who have made messes of my personal business, like the woman at the Motor Vehicle who confused my registration and title information with my husband's, making me the registered owner of two vehicles with identical mileage, while my poor husband has no car to his name. Plus, it's already starting to get cold here in Chicagoland (just last week people were splashing around in the pool; this morning it was 44 degrees).

Yesterday an order of books arrived from Amazon (the Borders store here in Northern Illinois is one of the chain's smaller stores, and they don't stock a whole lot of contemporary African-American titles). I picked one up and started to read, and then a strange thing happened.

I found myself enjoying the book. Not having to overlook bad writer habits like overuse of character names or creative dialogue tags. Just enjoying a well-written story.

I have to ask myself how many times I find myself mentally altering narrative or dialogue and even the spelling of a story as I read it, which takes most of the enjoyment out of reading. The answer is too many damn times. I think that is why I slowed my reading for enjoyment down to a crawl. Since I've been up here and not near a good book store I've had to make most of my purchases on line, which means there's no looking inside a book to judge its quality before plunking down my hard-earned dollars to purchase it. (Maybe I shouldn't be complaining about books as an author myself, but my complaints are as a consumer; I don't like spending my money on any product I'm dissatisfied with, whether it be a book or a meal at a restaurant.)

At any rate, it is a priceless feeling to just lose myself inside a good story that awakens all five of my senses, turns me into an invisible witness to all the action and doesn't jolt me with sub-par writing.

The name of the book? I'm not telling. Sure, I have no problem with sharing the names of books I like, and while I'm confident that the quality of the writing will not fade, but what if the plot takes a turn for the ridiculous before I'm done? But stay tuned. I have a feeling that this book will be among my Best Reads of the Year, which I'll announce in late December.

In the meantime, it's good to know that I can pick up this book and immerse myself in such a well-crafted story in the midst of all the crappy stuff life has to offer.
Oopsy Daisy

I realized yesterday that I misquoted someone, and because I hate doing that (or having it done to me), I want to set the record straight. The "She doesn't write, she types" comment I attributed in a recent column to Truman Capote was actually said by Gore Vidal. The subject remains author Jacqueline Susann. Truman Capote's summation of Ms. Susann - on national TV - was that she looked like "a truck driver in drag" and then he apologized . . . to truck drivers.

I should have known that two zingers was a lot, even for someone with Truman's sparkling wit.

I stand corrected.
A Sad Commemoration

Most surviving persons of my parents' generation remember what they were doing when they received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In my earliest years as a student the anniversary, then twenty-some years in the past, was mentioned every year. In the years since the milestones are generally marked by quick mentions on the nightly news. Many people who were alive then have passed on. The American response was to declare war on Japan, and it was over in August 1945, three years and nine months later.

Today is the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, four airplanes were deliberately crashed, three of them into heavily populated buildings. Millions of people saw the events unfold live on TV. I will never forget seeing the damage done to the Pentagon. This is the first year that the anniversary has fallen on a Tuesday, the same day of the week as the attacks. Each year has been marked by lengthy commemorative ceremonies in New York, including the names of all those who perished in the World Trade Center, the scene with the most casualties. Some have suggested that it is time to scale back, especially now that the man who helped calm the city is now running for President. Having him speak at the ceremony would be, many - including myself -
say, inappropriate, turning a still-fresh and painful memory into political opportunity for his major claim to fame.

Moments of silence and/or tolling of church bells have been suggested, along with a brief ceremony of remembrance. This has been supported by residents of the city who lost no one in the attacks, who say they are suffering from 9/11 fatigue; as well as by some of the family members of the deceased, who wish to turn their grief into something less public. Others say they want the somber and lengthy ceremonies to continue indefinitely.

The healing has begun. The morning news shows carried on as usual. There were no interruptions in the broadcast to televise the reading of the somber names of the dead. This is a natural progression as this day becomes part of history. I wish I could say that the American response to the 9/11 attacks was the same as that to Pearl Harbor, that after a difficult fight with many casualties our country eventually kicked the ass of our enemy, but the war we declared afterward still goes on nearly six years later, with no end in sight, and a death toll that rivals the number of lives lost that terrible day.

One thing is certain: Eventually the public commemoration will be scaled back. This is a natural progression, and, many psychologists say, a healthy one. The Challenger explosion is usually mentioned in passing on its anniversary. The observance of the national tragedy that I have only the dimmest memories of, the assasination of President Kennedy, is also mentioned in passing, has diminished, with more coverage likely to come on the fiftieth anniversary in 2013. The decrease in attention was fine with President Kennedy's family, who prefers to mark the anniversary of his birth with the Profile in Courage award.

For unknown reasons, the tragedy that held the record for the most lives lost in the history of New York City prior to 9/11 cannot even be named by most people. This was not the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (146 young women died), but the 1904 fire that broke out on the steamship General Slocum as it cruised up the East River, full of German immigrants, mostly women and children, on a church outing. Out of 1,300 people who boarded the boat, 1,021 of them were killed. By the 1920s the anniversary of that day had been largely forgotten, was marked only by a small ceremony in a Lutheran cemetery, having been overshadowed by the attention given to the sinking of the Titanic (expect a big tribute to those victims on the 100th anniversary in 2012) . And forget about the home-grown terrorism that occurred in Oklahoma City in 1995. I've always felt that those people were short-changed, because the people behind that attack were freckle-faced white boys. No sense of national outrage there. No huge payouts to the families of those who died, some of whom lost their homes after suffering financial hardships. And the story itself usually placed second on the evening news to the O.J. Simpson case, like two people dead is more newsworthy or outrageous than 168. Finally, we've all seen how much work remains to be done in New Orleans two years after Katrina. If that flood damage had occurred someplace like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it would have been restored, bigger and better, long ago. Only in America.

As the evening news and documentaries recall the horrible events of that Tuesday morning six years ago, I will say a prayer for the souls of those who died and for the ongoing struggles of those who suffered permanent injuries, and for those whose lives forever changed that day, for whatever reason. I will hope for an end to this seemingly endless war.

And I will also give thanks for the proof that life does go on: My granddaughter, who was born one year ago today.
A Word to the Wise

If you ever have to bring your computer in for servicing, insist that the technician power up the machine in your presence to get the basic information off of it: operating system, amount of RAM, etc.

I had a technician who opened up the machine and started fiddling around with the insides, pulling out wires, etc., looking for the memory (I brought it in for an upgrade of the memory). When he put it back together and attempted to turn it on . . . guess what? It wouldn't come on. He killed the damn thing.

Of course, the staff tried to tell me that it was merely a coincidence, that the computer chose to die on the way to the store, or it must have suffered some kind of a surge, and all that bullshit. When they realized I wasn't buying those lame excuses, the negotiations began.

After nearly two weeks of volleying back and forth, we finally reached a settlement with the store. It was a pain in the neck, and I'm drained by it, but I'm glad it's over, and we're happy with the results.

So . . . the moral here is . . . don't let anyone operate on your computer without first checking the vital signs! That's what they do in the operating room before they reach for the scalpel, and if it's good enough for people it's good enough for your PC.

He's not President, nor does he play one on TV . . .

Does anybody out there really give a shit if TV networks run old shows, films, or TV appearances of an actor-turned-politician? Would seeing Fred Grandy playing Gopher on Love Boat or Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator really make the difference in the way someone votes?

There's a storm brewing over the Equal Time law and Republican candidate Fred Thompson, brought on by some of the other candidates as well as other folks. NBC has pulled the Law & Order episodes in which Thompson appears as D.A. Arthur Branch from the airwaves without so much as a whimper (since the show hasn't been on in weeks and will return in January with that role re-cast, I don't exactly see a big sacrifice here). They usually pass on the previous seasons to TNT for re-broadcasting when the new TV season begins, which is right around the corner.

Therein lies the rub. Apparently, the law doesn't cover cable networks, and TNT is saying no way will they pull their episodes with Thompson.

Hell, the election is still over a year away, and TNT didn't exactly pay Monopoly money for the broadcast rights to Law & Order. I can't say I blame them for refusing to go along. L&O is a big ratings getter for them (personally, I'd rather watch reruns of this and a few other shows than a lot of the other first-run crap that's on the air). They didn't know when they shelled out for the license (including, I believe, the rights to the season that just ended) that Ol' Fred would return to politics and make a run for the highest office there is and they would be asked to temporarily (for 14 months, yet!) shelve three or four years' worth of their most recent shows.

Are we as a people so easily influenced that we'll flock around our TV sets to get a glimpse (it's a relatively small part) of a presidential candidate playing a dramatic role and think it's the real thing? Did anyone out there believe that Ronald Reagan really had his legs amputated by a demented small-town doctor (King's Row), or that he was a hood who slapped women (the remake of The Killers)? How about that movie when he played a college football player and died, for crying out loud (Knute Rockne, All-American)?

It's a role, folks. If the other candidates are seeking equal time, maybe they should book themselves on Jay Leno.

Shaq might have fallen down, but he's not about to lose his crown
Shaquille O'Neal has filed for divorce, claiming that his wife Shaunie has been hiding assets.

When I saw this, my first reaction was, "So what? Anything she bought was probably paid for with his money."

That's when it hit me. (I've been a little sluggish all week.)
Maybe he's wrong in his suspicions for her motives. In a perfect world, she'd have reasons other than the first thing a person would think for using marital funds to purchase property in her name only. But if the suspected is the reason, I hope he's able to stop her from trying to stop him.
So Many Ideas, So Little Time

My idea file has grown steadily over the years at a rather slow pace, an idea here, an idea there, but hardly everywhere. Sometimes I blend a few ideas together and turn two into one. At two books a year, it'll take a dozen years for me to fully develop 24 ideas into books.

Lately, though, it seems as if an idea occurs to me every couple of days. It's out of control, like hamsters reproducing. I feel like I'm going to go nuts trying to balance the four ideas that won't shut up, and to make matters worse, I can't so much as go to the store without coming back with yet another book idea.

This is, as you can imagine, both a blessing and a curse.

Recently I was pondering the idea of writing being a gift from God. I decided it wasn't; the work involved is too hard. Surely if it were a gift the words would flow from me as easily as those beautiful notes that come out of the mouths of those gifted with vocal talent. I struggle with every book, and if I weren't so hard-headed I would have given up before I ever saw the light of publication. (I hate to blame God for my being stubborn; that's not right.) But in the midst of wishing I can stop my mind from running wild whenever I see people, places, and things, it occurs to me what my true gift is.

I've been gifted with imagination. That's what comes to me with no effort whatsoever, as natural as breathing.

That's one of the greatest gifts God can give. Without it I couldn't write a word, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Now, to go and try to tackle all those ideas . . . .
Isn't It Romantic?

While I endure the waiting game to hear about my proposal for my next mainstream (which, when you submit in July, means a wait of all summer and into the early fall) and the comfortable feeling of having my publishing obligations satisfied, I've been working on a mainstream romance, which for all you folks who don't follow the industry means a romance without the sometimes constricting rules laid down by publishers of dedicated romance lines. Anyone who is familiar with my mainstream novels knows they have little to no romance in them, except for the one I just finished, which will be out next spring.

As many of you know, I won't be writing for Arabesque anymore. The word given to me from the brass (which still hasn't been officially announced, but at this point I feel the five months I've waited for them to say something is long enough) is that they are turning Arabesque into a showcase for the top authors in black romance, with a mix of reprints and new titles (with the advent of Kimani Press, Arabesque was reduced from four books per month to two). While this is a wonderful opportunity for the shining stars of the genre to get their older titles (many of which are continuing/connecting series) returned to print for thousands of readers who discovered them later in the game and wish to read their entire body of work from the beginning, it leaves li'l old me -- more accurately described as "reliable" than as the creme de la creme -- without a home.

You might be saying, "What about Kimani?" That won't work, either. I don't think I can produce a romance manuscript every five to seven months and still write an annual mainstream for my other publisher, which is the frequency they're looking for. Yes, these category romances are shorter than Arabesque, but they're still full-length books, and 70,000 words isn't all that short. Nor am I fond of the continuing series (I know I'm a real oddball there, but I'm just not) that they want their writers to concentrate on; and the idea of writing a modern-day fairy tale and/or stories featuring alpha males, both of which are also on their desired list, isn't appealing to me either. The authors writing for Kimani Romance all have one thing in common -- they enjoy their work and are writing the stories they want to tell. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that writing something you don't want to be writing is agony for most of us.

I write because I enjoy writing . . . not because I expect to get rich from it, not because I want to be a household name. The days of torturous writing (like writing a book report for school on a book I had to struggle to complete and absolutely hated) are behind me forever.

So I'm just writing. In all honesty, I did ponder making my WIP a trilogy and taking a shot at category, then decided that wouldn't work. There are plot issues to consider; one of the romances is based almost exclusively on voice contact until late in the story (try filling an entire book with that). Then there were age issues to consider; one couple is older, which might make it a hard sell by itself in a package with the other two much-younger couples. Better to combine all three in one big book.

I'm writing this romance with no restrictions, and I must say it feels wonderful to throw out all those don'ts and just write what I want to write. The story is constantly evolving, and I can shape and develop the conflict as I feel fit without worries that it might be too gritty or too risque for the publisher's guidelines.

I'm only a third of the way through, so two questions remain. 1) Will I be able to finish it? Yes, I think so. This is still an experiment for me, but so far it's successful. But I do have to consider that my steadfast progress on this manuscript, which I've been quite happy with, will surely decrease when I return to my contracted work, which naturally takes first precedence over mere wannamake sales. 2) Will I be able to sell it? Again, yes, I think so. I'm not entirely objective, but I happen to think it's pretty good. It will have to finished first, since I know where I'm going with it, but the precise manner in which it will unfold changes all the time. I'll need to know all the answers before I sit down to summarize it.

That old standby, time, will really tell the tale. Wish me luck!

I'm Pissed

I'm a reasonably easygoing person, but I swear, if one more cashier says to me, "Credit?" when I'm swiping my debit card I think I'm going to go off.

I bought some liquor the other week at a discount mart where products cost less when they are paid for with cash. The cashier automatically charged me the higher price, then had the nerve to complain about having to re-ring when he saw the cash in my hand. I told him if he asked instead of presuming, he'd save himself -- and me, too -- some time.

Black cashiers, I notice, will either ask the correct, "Debit or credit?" or merely wait and see what their register screen tells them. It's just the non-black ones who tend to presume I'm paying with credit (even if I'm buying $6 worth of groceries or $4 worth of stamps at the post office). This makes me wonder, do they make this same assumption for everybody? (I'm also suspicious of cashiers who ask to see my ID and am just waiting to catch someone asking me for this but not the white person behind me so I can file a seven-digit discrimination suit.)

My gut tells me this question is reserved for just some people, and that I've Been Profiled.