Do You Know What Today (okay, tomorrow) Is?

So asks the musical question by Tony! Toni! Toné! The answer: It's our anniversary. Yes, tomorrow is my anniversary, 16 years. We are a little older and a lot heavier. Last year in Chicago it fell on a Friday and we had a foot of snow. I got the day off. Hubby was extremely busy and went in around 2PM, when the roads had been cleared and the electricity was back on at his office.

This year they are again expecting a storm, snow, sleet, real messy stuff. So we'll likely do the same thing we did last year . . . chill out patiently, knowing that in three weeks we'll be leaving for vacation in Florida!

I wonder - as I consider that I might have to cook dinner in rather than go out to eat if it's really slippery - what are the odds of crummy weather on the same date two consecutive years?
This weekend I will be cleaning up some projects in preparation for submission. This is the real grungy part of writing, and I'm giving myself two weeks to get it done. I already know from last year (because If These Walls Could Talk was a May release) that I will likely be dragging galleys along on my vacation (it's a May thing; those galleys are due back in New York right after the first of the year, so, future published writers, avoid May publication dates if you're hosting the holiday dinner, giving a New Year's party or have small children). I see no film classics scheduled, so I'll probably work in some shredding as well. Maybe even get a jump on my tax return and clean up the receipt file. Then again, maybe I'll just read a book.
Wishing a productive weekend to all!
The Atheist and the Bear (a Modern Fable)

An atheist was walking through the woods, exclaiming aloud at the beauty of nature.
"What majestic trees!"
"What powerful rivers!"
"What beautiful animals!"

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look . . . and saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge toward him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him.

He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the atheist cried out, "Oh, my God!"
Time stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a booming voice came out of the sky. "You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?"

The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly as! k you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the bear a Christian?"

"Very well," said the voice.
The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head and spoke:

"Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen."
Tell me, am I the only one . . . .

Who thinks that heroes and heroines in romance novels who vow to never love again because their heart has been broken need to be, if not retired permanently, at least seriously cut back on?

I read maybe one or two romances a year, and the moment I see this in the text I groan . . . and usually put the book down. (This was Saturday, and I haven't picked it up yet.) Any hints on why this situation is so grossly overused?

Just curious.
Same old lovable me, with a few changes

After I wrote 'til I was empty-headed this weekend (don't know what's gotten into me); I changed the look of my blog. It's something I've wanted to do since my pal Gwyneth Bolton spruced up her blog recently. (Yeah, monkey-see, monkey-do.) It took forever to find a design that a) I liked, and b) that a technically un-savvy person like myself could figure out how to drop into Blogger. I also expanded my links to other blogs, something else I've been meaning to do.

I finally got around to getting the ball in motion to transfer my domain name from my old site to my new one that my husband designed for me. Check me out if you get a minute; I'm at . I've still got some work to do on it, but at least it's up. Now I've got to set up my e-mail, which I've lost in the transition.
Sunday Company

Yeah, I'm guesting again, this time over at Blogging in Black, so stop on by!

The Week in Review

I hope you all had a good holiday. Ours couldn't have been nicer. We did manage to get to our destination; the predicted snowfall only turned out to be a light dusting. Dinner was great, and my sweet potato pies and marble pound cake went over well. A very happy day overall, even if I did end up leaving the Mrs. Smith's apple pie (my attempts to bake a pie of this type have been unsuccessful) in the freezer (something I realized while driving through Tippecanoe County in Indiana).

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrated 60 years of marriage this week. It was revealed that they are both great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, which seems unnaturally close for married folks. First cousins share a set of grandparents, so I'm thinking that sharing a set of great-grandparents makes them just second cousins. Forget all that talk about it being all relative in West Virginia; it's all relative among the crowned heads of Europe. They're lucky their kids didn't turn out to be idiots.

The Stacy Peterson missing person case is without resolution. People are coming out of the woodwork like termites. Drew Peterson's first and second wives have shared their views of their ex-husband (the first wife said he has a temper but never threatened her, the second one said he threatened her.) So has a motorist who had a fender bender with Stacy before she went missing, who claims that in the aftermath she confided in him all about her troubled marriage and fear of her husband (the lead item on the 6 o'clock news here last week). And Drew's mother has also spoken out in defense of her son. His former boss on the police department says he was a bad cop. As for Drew himself, he has an attorney now and isn't saying much of anything. That was one painful Today show interview, as the attorney refused to let him answer question after question. Made me wonder what was the point of going on at all.

I predict that Stacy's eleventh grade classmates (after all, Stacy started messing with Drew when she was 17) will probably be the next ones in the spotlight.

Barack Obama is reported to be leading in the Iowa polls, but I have to wonder how many Iowans are really planning to vote for a black man to be President.

It's wonderful to have four glorious days off. This is the first year that I'm not going shopping. I usually give gift cards, but have braved those 5AM crowds to get something I wanted, like the 19-inch LCD monitor for $129. This year I'm perfectly content with what I've got. I'm going to do some housecleaning, some reading, and of course some writing. Saturday morning will find me and my laptop up at 5AM, watching Mutiny on the Bounty on Turner Classic Movies. Not that overblown version with Brando from 1962, but the 1935 original with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. I believe it was Clark Gable's best performance ever. Hard to believe there was just a scant 18 months in the ages of Gable and the short, portly Laughton, who personified cruelty with his depiction of Captain Bligh. But my favorite character was the ship's wooden-legged physician, who, when inebriated (which was most of the time) gave differing accounts of how he lost his leg, all of them colorful.

May the holiday glow continue to surround you and yours!

What A Character, Part III

Here's the third and final installment of the guest blogs from If These Walls Could Talk. Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday, all! It looks like we might miss having turkey with extended family because of some snow and rain expected to come this way. But there's sure to be leftovers, right? And don't they say that everything tastes better the next day?

Character: Veronica Lee from New York, New York
Novel: If These Walls Could Talk, in stores now
Setting: Washington Heights, October 2001

I find myself moving slowly as I push the shopping cart along Amsterdam Avenue. I have it upright because I’m also balancing a plastic basket full of clean clothes on top of the heavy black plastic bag full of clothes that’s inside it already. Fortunately, my shopping cart has two small wheels on each side in the front, so it will roll without me having to tilt it on back wheels only.

I’m Veronica Lee, and I’m tired. Walking a block-and-a-half with laundry for a family of four is no picnic. I do it every single weekend. My husband, Norman, helps me get the clothes from home to the Laundromat. It’s a real pain in the ass getting all that down the stairs from our third-floor walk-up. It's become a weekly ritual for us. He walks me to the Laundromat and then runs back home, where our two girls, Lorinda and Simone, are just waking up. Sometimes when I’m finished I’ll call him, and he and the girls will come and walk me home. But today it’s raining, and Norman was coughing this morning. I told him to go home and get back in bed. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get somebody in the building to help me carry the clothes upstairs. If not, I’ll just do it myself and make two trips, as women in these walk-up apartments have been doing for the last hundred years.

As I continue my slow walk, keeping my umbrella poised over my basket rather than myself, I can’t help thinking about those houses Norman and I looked at last year up in Northern Westchester County, in a Hudson River town called Peekskill. We saw one in particular that was really nice, with good-sized bedrooms and a great yard for the girls, and even for Norman and I to hold barbecues in. The price wasn’t bad, either. We made an offer for less, hoping the seller would come down a little bit. The moment our offer was in I started having second thoughts. What would we do all the way up in Peekskill? We didn’t know a soul who lived there. All our families and friends live here, in the city.

I kept my fears to myself, not saying anything to Norman until the sellers rejected our offer in favor of one that was higher. Norman was disappointed when we didn’t get the house. He said he definitely wants us to get out of the city. He’s been real gung-ho about it ever since last year, when he was mugged at gunpoint right here on Amsterdam Avenue, in broad daylight. I could have become a widow that day, and my daughters fatherless. Yeah, I’d like to get out of here myself.

I know no place on earth is completely safe, but New York has become a lot less so since September 11th. Norman and I both work as nurses up at the Presbyterian Medical Center here in Washington Heights, well away from the Towers, but that lockdown they put on the city’s bridges and tunnels after the attacks caused a whole lot of grief. You have to remember, Manhattan is an island. There’s no way to get off it without taking a bridge or a tunnel. A whole bunch of folks couldn’t get home ... or get to work.

Sure, I’d love to live in the suburbs someplace, where it’s all green and leafy, and where kids can ride bicycles on the sidewalks. Here I can’t even send Lorinda and Simone outside to play because there is no place to play. No wonder so many kids are getting fat, just sitting at home with TVs and computers. In the city it’ll soon be an epidemic.

One more thing about having a house. We'd be able to buy a washing machine and a dryer, and I wouldn't have to schlep in the rain, the snow, and the humidity to wash our family's clothes and linens. That's a beautiful thought, but Norman and I have a better chance of winning the big Lotto jackpot than we do of being able to buy a house in the general vicinity. New York may be the world’s most exciting city, but damned if it ain’t one of the most expensive. Everyplace that’s not too far, like Jersey or Southern Westchester or Long Island, is priced way beyond our means. I mean, four hundred thousand dollars for a house older than we are, and with one lousy bathroom. And the neighborhoods aren’t all that fabulous, either. The one in Peekskill sure wasn't. Of course, we're probably priced out of even there by now.

But on TV or in the movies, I'm always seeing black people living in neighborhoods that look like they’re no more than three years old, with two cars in every driveway, sometimes three, if they have kids old enough to drive. Whenever we see that, somebody always says with a loud suck of their teeth, “Black people don’t live like that.” From what I’ve seen in those black lifestyle magazines that I read at the bookstore, I don’t think that’s true. I’ve seen everyday people, not movie stars or people like that, featured living in gorgeous houses. Sometimes they’re even single women with homes of their own. But none of them live in New York. When I see that it makes me think if leaving New York really is the answer. Because my kids deserve better than what they’ve got.

And, I think as I park my shopping cart in a corner of the vestibule and begin the long trek upstairs with the basket, so do Norman and I.

I hope you enjoyed that peek at the three main characters of If These Walls Could Talk. I'll be back sometime over the weekend, wherever I am.

What a Character, Part II

Here's the encore of my second of three character blogs for If These Walls Could Talk. Enjoy!

Character: Camille Curry from the Bronx, New York
Novel: If These Walls Could Talk, published May 29, 2007
Setting: The Bronx, NY, October 2001

My name is Camille Curry. I’m a lifetime New Yorker, first in upper Manhattan, then I moved to the Bronx when I got married. My husband’s name is Reuben, and we’re the parents of two great kids: Mitchell and Shayla. My family means everything to me. I wish my mother could have lived long enough to see my husband and kids, but she passed away when I was nineteen, a couple of years before I even met Reuben. My father remarried, but I’m not really close to my stepmother. Nothing against her, you understand. It’s just that I miss my mother so much, and I feel cheated that she died without meeting her son-in-law or seeing her grandchildren.
My own in-laws are all right, but they’ve been getting on my nerves lately. Reuben has two sisters and a brother, plus his mother is still alive. I used to be real close to his youngest sister, Arnelle. We aren’t that tight anymore. She’s always asked to borrow money every now and again, and I never minded, if I had it – after all, I’ve got a family of my own – because I know it’s hard out there for single parents, but then she started taking advantage. She stopped volunteering to pay me back. I hate having to ask for money, but I can’t afford to donate fifty dollars here and eighty dollars there. Then, when she did pay me, she’d make snide comments like, “At least you’ve got a husband to help you out, Camille.” Like I owe her something because her baby’s daddy ran off. She should have chosen somebody more responsible to get knocked up by. Anyway, I’m walking around now with hair that needs a touch-up so bad that even my wide-tooth comb is screaming, and here comes Arnelle asking me for fifty dollars so her cable doesn’t get shut off. I told her I’m sorry, but I can’t help her. Not only do I need to get to the hairdresser, but Mitchell and Shayla are due for their dental checkups. Shayla is a picky eater, but her teeth are in pretty good condition. Mitchell, on the other hand, has a real sweet tooth, and I’m always after him to brush. He’s usually good for a couple of fillings at each checkup. Arnelle whined about how Cablevision was going to cut off her service. I told her that not having HBO didn’t mean the end of the world.

Arnelle might be the only one who asks to borrow money, but the rest of my in-laws have been annoyed with Reuben and me because their aunt recently died and left Reuben fifteen thousand dollars, but didn’t leave anything to them. I mean, are they expecting us to offer to share? I don't see why. Reuben always looked out for Aunt Mary since her only son moved out to Long Island. His siblings didn't do jack. Aunt Mary was a lot older than my mother-in-law, who was actually a change-of-life baby. Somebody had to look out for her. You just don’t leave a woman in her eighties to fend for herself, especially in the Bronx.

I admit I’m excited about the money. I never imagined in a million years that someone would die and leave us fifteen thousand dollars. That whole thought has become a stale cliché, something out of an old melodrama. And Aunt Mary never said a word to us about her plans, she’d just hug us and say we were such good children. I always thought it was terrible how Harvey, her son, left her high and dry, and I wonder if this was her way of sticking it to him. Her policy was only worth thirty-five-thousand dollars, so Reuben and I got nearly half of it. But Harvey clearly expected the whole enchilada. Who knew Aunt Mary could be so sly?

Reuben and I are still numb about it. We haven’t really talked much about what we’re going to do with it. Well, he does want to take the kids on a nice week-long vacation to Disney World and the other Florida fun parks. I don’t have a problem with that. They’ve never been there, and at six and nine they’re the right ages to go. Reuben and I will enjoy it just as much. We already decided that we want to stay in one of those furnished apartment hotels they have down there, where we’ll have our own bedroom, instead of a typical hotel room with all four of us crammed into it, me bunking with Shayla and Mitchell with Reuben. But that will only take a small portion of our windfall, maybe two grand tops. That still leaves a whole lot left. I know what I'd like to do with the money.

All my life I’ve lived in apartments. I’ve always dreamed of having a house in the country with a yard the kids can play in, on a nice suburban street where they can ride bicycles on the sidewalk. Mitchell wanted a bike really bad last Christmas. It really hurt Reuben and I to tell him he couldn’t have one. Not because we can’t afford it, but because there’s no place to ride it. We live on a commercial street near Yankee Stadium, right over a sheet metal shop. It’s noisy as hell down there, including on a lot of Saturday mornings when I’d like to sleep past 8AM. Half a block down is a junkyard, complete with mean dogs who bark at all hours. Walk in the other direction and you’ll see the Lexington Avenue El rumbling past, but you’ll probably hear it before you see it.

I can't even send the kids outside to play. There's no playground anywhere around. Our apartment is pretty nice, but small, only two bedrooms. Mitchell and Shayla are sharing a room. I always dreamed about a boyish room for my son, all plaid bedspread and curtains and a nice walnut desk; and an all-frills room for my daughter, all pink and white or maybe yellow, with a canopied bed. Instead they’ve got an androgynous space done in primary colors, with Shayla’s stuffed animals propped up in front of her pillows.
Reuben and I make fairly decent money – he’s the Grocery Manager at a local supermarket, and I’m a secretary in Marketing downtown – but the prices of houses here in New York are outrageous. And now there's talk of a recession in the wake of those horrible attacks on the World Trade Center last month. We can’t even afford to buy a co-op apartment, which in most cases are just rental buildings that have been converted. In other words, the bathroom is still in the hall and the kitchen is windowless. What I wouldn’t give to have a bathroom of my own. Well, to share with Reuben, of course.

Thanks to the money we inherited, there's a chance my dream will come true. First chance I get I’m going to talk to Reuben about it.

Read more about Camille Curry in my novel, If These Walls Could Talk, in stores now from Dafina Books. And check back tomorrow for Part III of What A Character, the last of the character blogs from If These Walls Could Talk.

Do It Again

While I'm getting ready to bake my pies and pound cake for Thanksgiving (and no doubt most of you are busy as well), I figured I'd do what network television does during holidays . . . run repeats. There's no law that says I can't repeat a blog column.

On the first of March, April, and May, respectively, I ran character blogs for the three main characters of my mainstream, If These Walls Could Talk, which was released May 29th. Following that well-worn advertaising technique of mind saturation, I'm running them again through Wednesday. If you haven't read the book, you should find them entertaining. Even if you have read the book, this is first-person text that was never intended for inclusion in the book. The purpose is to give readers a feel for each characters' mood and personality at the time immediately prior to the start of the novel.

And to saturate your brains, of course, with my novels. (The characters from my upcoming Once Upon A Project will be introducing themselves to you via guest blogs after January 1st.)

Character: Dawn Young from Brooklyn, NY
Book: If These Walls Could Talk, published May 29, 2007
Setting: October 2001, Brooklyn, NY

My name is Dawn Young. I live in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn with my husband, Milo, and our son, Zach. Our twelfth-floor apartment has great views of the Manhattan skyline . . . or maybe I should say had. Sadly, the skyline isn’t what it used to be since the terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center last month, on what had been a glorious late summer morning. Now all that’s left of the Twin Towers is a mountain of rubble . . . and a cloud of dust as a heartbreaking reminder all can see for miles around. The dust will eventually fade. The memory of that day won't.

Hundreds of people are down there working at the site, clearing away the rubble and pulling out bodies. You mark my words. Lung ailments in New York are going to shoot up in a year or two. It can’t be healthy, breathing in all that dust and toxins. And the odor of decomposing bodies isn’t exactly good for a person’s respiratory system, either.

I was worried about after-effects of the attacks on Zach, who’s just nine. The truth is, he’s handling it better than me. Of course, Manhattan is kind of distant for him. His world is pretty much confined to Brooklyn. Milo and I, on the other hand, go there to work five days a week. I’m a nervous wreck. I can barely breathe on the subway. I find myself eying my fellow riders carefully, my suspicions rising when I see someone who looks Middle Eastern. I know it’s not right — I’m not behaving any better than the white folks who’ve been keeping my people down for hundreds of years — but I can’t help it. Who knows when some maniac might try to do underground what some other maniacs did so far above ground? And all the innocent people they'll take with them.

Those people in the Towers that day did nothing wrong. They were just going about their business, trying to make a living, like Milo and me. I just can’t imagine the fear of those people trapped on floors above the impact zone. One minute, to be laughing and joking about what was on TV last night, and the next faced with a horrible choice between burning to death or drowning in smoke. A lot of those poor folks ended up jumping out of windows 85 stories or more above street level. And every one of them was something special to somebody: Somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s mother or father, somebody’s sibling, somebody’s dear friend. That awful morning left gaping holes in the lives of a lot of people. It easily could have been Milo or me, leaving our Zach with one less parent and changing his life forever. Both of us work in high rise buildings in midtown. I’m on the seventeenth floor, and he’s on the twenty-eighth. I know, I know. That’s too low for an airplane to slam into. Like that's really gonna make me feel safe. Before September 11th it never bothered me, but now I feel that it’s too damn high. If I never have to ride another elevator in my life, I’d be happy.

Fat chance of that happening. I can’t even get to my apartment without riding an elevator, unless, of course, the times when
both elevators are out of service. Which lately has been happening a lot more often than I’m comfortable with.

When I was a kid growing up in East New York, the elevators terrified me. I’d be okay if I was with somebody, but I’d never ride by myself. If the last person got out before I did, I’d get off with them and take the stairs the rest of the way. That probably explains why I was so skinny as a kid.

These days, I’m what you call statuesque. Milo loves the way I’m built. He likes all the meat on my nice round booty and my big boobs. To be honest, I rather like my body myself. I’m not fat, just big. I do have a defined waistline. But I know I’m carrying more weight than I ought to be, even with my height. I’m tall, five-nine. When I wear heels I’m often taller than Milo, who’s barely five-eleven. I’m bigger than he is, too. Milo has always been on the thin side, and in the years since we got married he’s put on a few pounds around his middle, but that’s all.

I keep telling myself that by the time I turn forty I’ll be in shape. Not toothpick thin like all those women you see on TV. I want to be gloriously full-figured, but I want to be under two hundred pounds. It means dropping about forty pounds. I should be able to do it. I’ve still got a couple of years.

At this point in my life I’m too heavy to be huffing and puffing my way up twelve flights of stairs when the elevators are out at home. The building I live in has eighteen floors, technically seventeen when you consider that there’s no 13. Lots of buildings in New York go from floor 12 to 14 because people are superstitious. Still, with a building that tall I don’t see why they couldn’t have put in a third elevator. Even when one elevator is out, it takes forever to get down to the lobby.

I really wish Milo and I could afford a house. Not some silly co-op, not even a condo. Most of those are just glorified apartments. So what, they put in vanities and movie-star lights in the bathroom, parquet floors, and oak kitchen cabinets. It’s still an apartment. The residents still have to pack up their laundry and bring it downstairs.

My dream is to one day have a real house, two stories, with a front yard and a back yard with trees. A formal dining room with a big, beautiful table and a cabinet to display all my china instead of a nook tucked between the living room and the kitchen. Lots of windows dressed with beautiful treatments. A kitchen big enough to put a table for casual meals. A
laundry room, where I can have my own washer and dryer. And Zach could have the dog he wants.

To me, that’s the ultimate in convenience, having your own washer and dryer. Lots of people in the building have them now — dishwashers too — but they’re not supposed to. They’ll be in big trouble if the management finds out they’re there.

It’s nice to have dreams, but the reality is that I’ve got a much better shot at success of losing those forty pounds than I do of ever owning a home. This is New York, traditionally one of the most expensive real estate markets there is. Neither Milo nor I know anyone who has a house. Everyone on both sides of our families, plus all our friends are tenants, paying rent every month. Rent that goes up every year, I might add.

Don’t get me wrong. We live pretty good, better than a whole lot of people. We take a nice vacation every summer. Our car is always a new model. And we’re some of the best-dressed folks you’ve ever seen. I just get a little jealous when I hear people at work, who commute from the Island or Jersey, or even from Queens, talking about re-paving their driveways or having their houses pressure washed or painted. Sure, some of them make more money than I do, but some of them don’t.
Makes me wonder what Milo and I are doing wrong.

Read more about Dawn Young in my novel, If These Walls Could Talk, now available in bookstores everywhere (and if they're sold out, they can order it!!!).
Be My Guest

My guest blog over at Romancing the Blog is up today (Sunday), so check me out over at !

Chewing the Fat on Friday

My third post of the day. My, I've got a lot to say!

When I realized that I'm over two-thirds into my WIP, I realized that I'd better start thinking about the ending. With three separate subplots to wrap up, that last 30K can get eaten up very quickly.

I'm happy to say that The Idea Fairy hit two days ago, in pieces. One story's end came to me while I was driving to work. The other came to me while I was working after lunch. The last subplot came that night, as I was pouring out the first two onto the computer. This was thrilling for me; it means I can start polishing my synopsis and get it to my agent. I don't have to finish the manuscript; all I was waiting for was the ending to come to me. Completing a book that's two-thirds written will not be a problem, when the time comes (I'm optimistic; can you tell?)

Which reminds me, it's time for an updated count. Drum roll, please . . . .


Roughly 6,200 words since last week's count. I can live with that.

What comes next, you ask? Polish the synopsis (trim the fat, give it personality, sharpen its wit), send it to my agent, then work on another project. This next WIP isn't new; I was working on it simultaneously with the WIP referenced above before I concentrated on the one hardest to write.

I'll be rising early this weekend, as usual, but there doesn't appear to be a whole lot on TCM this weekend. I'll probably tune into Flower Drum Song on Sunday morning. I liked this movie even as a child because, like, A Raisin in the Sun, its cast was almost completely non-white (in this case Asian). It also has Juanita Hall, a favorite of Rodgers & Hammerstein (she had a prominent part in their South Pacific as well) and one of the relatively few black people without Asian blood who could believably pass for Chinese. (Ms. Hall worked with teens in Tarrytown, New York, in the 1920s (including my father), giving them pointers on voice.) I love the scene when she is on the phone ordering thousand-day-old eggs from the grocer and admonishes, "And make sure they're fresh!"

But the best movie will not air until Tuesday, November 20th, when TCM presents The Bad and the Beautiful at 8PM ET. (I mentioned a quote from it in my previous post.) Pay attention to the music; it's one of the most memorable movie scores ever written.

So much for chewing the fat on writing and entertainment. Now on to trimming the fat, the overeating season has officially begun. My job's cafeteria offered a Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, the last day for many people until after the holiday. A fabulous meal, with my choice of three sides to go with my turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, and dinner roll. I enjoyed it immensely and ate every bite, but oh, those calories.

To combat the extra intake, I've initiated what I call the 12-step program. No, I'm not an alcoholic. I'm taking the stairs at work. I'm on the third floor, and between each floor there are two flights of 12 steps apiece. I go up those 48 steps when I get in in the morning and down when I leave at night. I also make at least three trips up and down during the day, which I will slowly increase. I've gotten to the point where I can climb up without getting short of breath, much less having to stop to gasp for air (which I did in the beginning).

I should see some results in a month or so . . . provided my knees hold out.
Have a great weekend!

All Men (and Women) are Prosecuted Equally

Maybe they should amend the Constitution. Because, from where I sit, black males have a better chance of serving time than anybody. Did anyone mention jail time when Marion Jones recently confessed to using steroids? What about all the other athletes?
But, be they Georgia or Louisiana teenagers or O.J. Simpson (I'm just waiting for him to get the max), the legal system seems to be out to get black males.
Not Even A Little Bit

So replied a character played by Kirk Douglas to a character played by Lana Turner in the 1952 movie about a ruthless producer, The Bad and the Beautiful, when she asked, "Will you marry me?"

Which brings me to my point. What is the big deal about whether illegal immigrants should have driver's licenses? Yo, people, they're not supposed to be here in the first place, remember? Yet both Hillary Clinton (two weeks ago in Philadelphia) and Barack Obama (last night in Las Vegas) hemmed and hawed when asked this question. So what's the problem? (Illegal immigrants don't vote, either, folks.) If there's a concern about alienating the Latino vote (hardly every person here illegally is Latino, but they probably make up the bulk of this group because of our proximity to Mexico), propose working out a plan to deal with the issue.

Coming up with the right answer to this question seems like a slam dunk to me. Damn, even Chris Dodd recognized that.

It's Ready For Pre-Order, Y'all!

Once Upon A Project now has an Amazon page:

There's no graphic yet, but it's listed with a release date of April 29, 2008. Get your orders in today!!! (God, just writing that makes me feel like a barker for a carnival sideshow . . . .)
Seriously, though, it costs nothing to pre-order (you are not charged until the book ships); in fact, you will receive a 5% pre-order discount. And if the price is lowered between now and the on-sale date, when it ships, you will automatically be charged the lower price on top of your 5% pre-order discount!!!
Stay tuned. The main characters will take turns "guest" blogging right here after the first of the year, with first-person observations to acquaint you with them in the months prior to the book's publication.
Embracing Your Inner Ho

Adrianne Byrd has an interesting post on her blog, , about the limitations often put on romance writers about their heroines. God knows I hate those old stereotyped romance heroines. Check it out!
A Bad Week in the Literary World

The writer Norman Mailer passed away last weekend. Last night came news of the death of Ira Levin.

Mr. Levin never became a household name, and his output was scarce at best - seven novels, the first of which was published 54 years ago, but chances are that anyone reading this blog will recognize his work. His first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, was published in 1953 when Levin was just 24 years old. Three years later it was filmed, giving Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner their best early roles. A tepid remake was released in 1991.

Among Ira Levin's other works: The cult classic Rosemary's Baby, which was also made into a film; The Stepford Wives, filmed twice and, like Rosemary's Baby, spawned one or more TV movie sequels; The Boys From Brazil, and Deathtrap, which began as a Broadway play.

It's not many authors who can say that most of their books were made into movies (two of them twice). Considering the financial successes of his books, it's no wonder that Levin didn't write more.

He once remarked that because he authored Rosemary's Baby he felt responsible for the string of 1970s Hollywood movies about the Devil (the most prominent of which were The Exorcist and The Omen. He added, no doubt with a twinkle in his eye, "Of course, I didn't send any of the royalties back."
Bah, humbug

This is the second day we've been without hot water. The management is installing a brand new water heater. Add that to a three-hour training class this afternoon - away from my computer - and the sum is me in a lousy mood.

Things could be a lot worse. For one, it could have been the water heater in our house in Florida that gave out, which would mean we'd have to pay for a new one. #2, if we hadn't brought meat while we were down in Indiana on Saturday, I never would have noticed that our freezer chest wasn't cold (the water heater blew out several fuses when it went out initially sometime early Saturday morning.) I don't mind chucking a half-eaten container of Black Walnut ice cream that had gotten soft, but if all our meat spoiled I'd really be hoppin' mad. I just flipped the fuse that controls the freezer, got the power going again and went to bed. #3, I was able to turn on the water heater periodically, like if I wanted to mop the kitchen floor or take a shower, through Sunday afternoon, when it blew out 15 seconds after I turned it on with a scary POUF!

I'll be taking a shower and washing my hair tonight. Can't wait!
What's up , Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart's book policy, that is. There are two Wal-Marts in my general vicinity, a regular store in the next town, approximately seven miles away from me; and a Super Wal-Mart right across the "circle" - the main circular road I come to first when I leave my home. The next town is overwhelmingly white, although in its defense it is smack dab in the major shopping area, right across from a large outlet mall. This store has stocked the Kimani Romances almost from the beginning, plus all the other Harlequin-Silhouette lines and the Arabesques. (This is more than I can say about the Borders across the street, which has stopped getting Arabesque and gets Kimani titles sporadically.) I'm happy to say that both my titles released earlier this year were carried there until they sold out.

The Super Wal-Mart closest to me is located in a city where Latinos rule . . . 47% of the population. The department signs are in English, with the Spanish translation appearing directly below (Cosmetics/Cosmeticos.) There is, nonetheless, a large number of black shoppers spending money at this store. This store's book section is sadly lacking, initially with older titles from St. Martins and Avon. This is nice for St. Martins and Avon authors - any writer will tell you it's a wonderful thing to have your backlist featured - but a lost opportunity for authors with newer books, even the authors whose older work was being sold. I asked the rep from Levy about the limited selection, he told me, "Books aren't going to move in this store." (He was a young white man, and I suspect he has his own views about what blacks and Latinos spend their money on . . . drugs, anyone?) I told him they would if they brought in some newer titles to mix with the older ones, and that they are probably losing customers to the nearby Kmart, who stocks both Arabesque and Kimani Romance (but no trade paperbacks). He didn't seem convinced.

This store's selection remains uneven at best. Sometimes they go for months with no Blaze titles. I have yet to see an Arabesque on their shelves. And although they stocked the Love Everlasting series by Harlequin from Day One, Kimani Romance, which launched several months earlier than the soon-to-be discontinued Everlasting, was nowhere to be found.

Things have picked up a bit, although the book selection continues to be uneven. A few Kimani Romances have drifted in, after a shopper posted a note publicly asking for them (all right, it was me.) The Kimani Romances, many of these from earlier in the line as well (they started by carrying just one title, to my amazement), certainly seem to be vanishing at a quick clip, and they are promptly replaced by additional, more recent titles. The last time I was there, they probably had six different Kimani Romances. Those older titles they started with are being replaced with more of the same as they sell . . . although they still haven't brought in newer work by Francis Ray and Brenda Jackson. (I also don't see my own If These Walls Could Talk it's probably time for another anonymous note.) But they are carrying the TRU line of books for adolescents and young teens, and also a good number of romances by Urban Books, even if the Blaze line has disappeared again. The books are clearly moving (I'm in the store enough to know that!). I guess that Levy rep has had to re-think his position.

Still, this whole thing strikes me as weird. Wal-Mart clearly did their study of demographics before building this store. Maybe the people at Levy should do the same. They'd sell a whole lot more books. Kmart is the only store in this city that sells both the Arabesque and Kimani lines every month, and Wal-Mart is the only place in the neighborhing town.

Where do you buy your books, romance or otherwise? Do you find everything you need at one store, or do you have to go to more than one place?

The Week in Review

First of all, I lied in my post yesterday when I said I was going to take it easy last night. I went home and did more writing after dinner, got a couple of more pages done.

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at what happened this week:

The disappearance of Stacy Peterson, initially a local story that has now gone national, has eerie parallels to the Laci Peterson murder a few years back. The women's names are only different by one syllable. One was proven to have been murdered by her husband, the other's husband is suspected. The case of Stacy is especially creepy because she is the 30-years-younger fourth wife of a police officer whose third wife was found dead in her bathtub after her divorce from Drew Peterson - a death initially ruled as an accidental drowning, but which may well be re-opened before this is over. I hope they find Stacy soon, but, as a member of her family said, "No one really thinks she's going to show up anywhere alive."

Ann Curry of the Today show made it to Antarctica and the South Pole, and as she broadcasted from the extreme end of the earth she demonstrated speech that was clearer and more coherent than the frequent stumbling she does while reading the news. (Sometimes she trips over her tongue so often that I think I could come in off the street and do a better job of reading the news that she does.) Live, on-the-spot reporting seems to be her strength.

Most of this week was spent buried in a five-pound manuscript, going over copyedits in what was my last chance to make revisions to Once Upon A Project. This is the longest book I've written to date, and I decided that if I'm going to take on four main characters with lives of their own, I'd better make a more detailed character background sheet. (Usually I just include the names, physical appearances of, ages, birthdays, and vehicle type of each household, a practice that served me well when writing If These Walls Could Talk but was not sufficient here. Some of the inconsistencies in my manuscript included the anniversary month of one couple, the timing of a secondary character's divorce, and the type of vehicle driven by another secondary character. I feel almost guilty for putting the copyeditor through so much. (Incidentally, I learned that who I initially thought was a man is actually a she when she e-mailed to thank me for the praise I gave her through my editor. The editor referred to her with the universal pronoun 'he,' and as I read the points she made I kept thinking to myself, "This guy certainly has a woman's instincts." She did the finest, most extensive editing job I've seen in nine years of novel writing.

This weekend will find me working on the laptop with the TV tuned to Turner Classics for the airing of Mr. Skeffington, a classic from 1944 with Bette Davis as a vain, spoiled woman who goes from a young, sought-after woman in the years before World War I to . . . well, I don't want to give the plot away, so suffice to say it's a good film. It airs tomorrow (Saturday) morning on TCM at 7:30AM Eastern, 6:30 Central (I usually get up before dawn on weekends.) Mr. Skeffington is preceded at 6AM Eastern, 5AM Central by Four Daughters from 1938, a sweet but sad story that introduced John Garfield to cinema and was re-made in 1954 as Young at Heart with a different ending and actors too old for the parts they were playing. Yes, I'll be up for that one, too, but Mr. Skeffington is by far the superior picture. After all, it's got Bette Davis. find that I tend to get quite a bit of writing done while watching these old stories and love it when they run good ones on Saturday mornings, even if I've seen them before.

It's been a good week for me. I had some good news on two consecutive days related to my writing. I don't mean to be mysterious, but the fact is that one item wouldn't be of interest to anyone other than me, and as for the other, it would be silly to say anything about it at this point.

I wish all you a good weekend, and I envy those of you who get Monday off in observance of Veteran's Day.

It's Done!!!


Once Upon A Project is on its way to my editor. The copyedits are all complete. I was even able to do it and not take any time off from work. Needless to say, I'm delighted. The more I see this manuscript, the better I think it is . . . especially now that all the continuity problems and inconsistencies have been addressed, corrected or clarified. The copyeditor I had is worth her (I learned it's a she after all) weight in gold.

In addition, I checked the progress of my WIP. It didn't seem like I'd gotten a whole lot done on it, but to my pleasant surprise, it's inching up:


On that happy note, I'm going to chill the rest of the day. I'll be back tomorrow. Those cute progress meter cartoons came from , by the way.

Drowning in a Sea of Copyedits . . . .

I mentioned last week that I've got copyedits to do. I glanced at the cover letter to check the due date.

Well, yesterday I checked the due date against the calendar. That due date isn't as far off as I thought it was. Plus, I'm too stingy to send a heavy manuscript like this overnight (sometimes they only want the pages that have been changed, other times they want the whole thing, depending on the circumstances). Of course, if I'd checked the calendar from the jump, I would have realized that I was erroneously giving myself an extra three days and I probably could have been done by now, since it was a weekend. But that's spilled, sticky orange juice.

So I'm going to be quiet here the next few days as I take care of this pressing business. Try not to miss me too much.

"Do you have any idea how foolish you look in that getup?"

Or so Baby Girl (my granddaughter is now 13 months old) seems to be saying to her cousin. But Baby Girl doesn't look too pleased about her own bunny suit, does she?

The Week in Review

Yesterday was the first day of NaNoWriMo. I'm not even participating this year, but I had a heck of a writing day regardless. Could it be that I'm psychologically associating November with mad periods of writing? I don't know, but I'm going to make the most of it. Hopefully the magic will stay with me for a bit.

This is my favorite weekend of the year . . . we get back that hour we gave up last spring. Don't forget to turn those clocks back one hour tomorrow night before you go to bed.

I hope those of you in the drought areas of the Southeast pick up some rain from Hurricane Noel (but not so much where there's flooding).

A few observations about this week: I saw an interview of the young man who escaped that awful beach house fire in North Carolina by jumping from a third-story window. I found him oddly unemotional as he talked about his friends (since grammar school) who died in the fire, as well as his girlfriend, just 24 hours after the tragedy. My evil twin (the suspicious one) thought there might be an announcement coming later in the week (I won't say what I thought it would be, but you can figure it out). Fortunately, my twin was wrong (and she's ashamed of herself.) Maybe the kid was just in shock.
Ugly Betty is a silly show.
Geico has the best ad agency in the business. Their ads, whether with the gekko, the cavemen, or people questioning where Fred Flintstone's and Jed Clampett's money came from, are wonderfully innovative and out of the box (although I'm glad they retired the cavemen). I'd like my writing to be like that.

The weirdest thing I saw this week was a cute white kid dressed in his Halloween costume at the big party my job sponsored for employee's kids (they usually make all the lists of the Best Places to Work). This 3-year-old was Mac Daddy. Black pants, black shirt, black jacket with a big leopard print collar, black fedora, and gold chains. I still don't know what to make of that. As a co-worker said to me, "What were those parents thinking?"

There's a couple of movie classics being aired Saturday morning on TCM (that's Turner Classic Movies to you non-old-movie lovers), starting at 10AM (9AM for those of us in the Central Time Zone). Narrow Margin is a fine example of tight writing. The story is over in less than an hour and fifteen minutes. It was re-made in the 1990s, but the original is usually the best, and this is no different. Check it out for both a fine story and a blueprint of how to tell a story with no fat. Narrow Margin stars tough guy Charles McGraw, who met a messy end years later as an elderly man falling through a glass shower door.

Immediately following Narrow Margin is Detour, one of the finest examples of film noir. Its budget was just as low as the other film, and that leading lady is one of the ugliest I've seen on film, but its a great story, fast-moving and engrossing. Its star, Tom Neal, eventually became better known for his off-screen exploits, such as punching out another actor in a dispute over a woman and serving 10 years in prison for murdering his wife (he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter) before an early death from heart failure.
I love a good movie; it spurs me to write. I plan to alternate writing with exercise; I stuffed plain M&Ms and other candies into my mouth last week like chocolate was about to be outlawed. Who says the holiday eating season begins at Thanksgiving???

However you spend it, have a wonderful weekend!