Auld Lang Syne

Today is the last day of 2008. It was, all things considered, a pretty good year for my husband and me. We got settled in the Midwest, getting out of that tiny apartment and into a roomy house. I got a new job less than 4 miles away, which saved me many headaches when the snow started. Plus, even though I'm not a full time employee, I'm glad to be working. I thank God that my husband had the foresight to get in wtih the government after 9/11. The first thing corporations do in lean times, as we found out seven years ago, is get rid of all their consultants. I do say a prayer every night for those who have lost their jobs. My husband didn't work for nearly two years after the terrorist attacks, and I know how hairy it can be.
It was a year of historical politics, with President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama making history and allowing black parents everywhere to croon over their baby boys, "Maybe he'll grow up to be President," the way white parents have done (and I guess the girl's chances are coming!) It was also a year of the 2008 version of the movie classic The Women, possibly the worst remake ever (unlike the scathing original, this version barely meowed, much less had any bite). It was one of the snowiest Decembers ever in Wisconsin; it even snowed last night. Some cities and towns have already used their entire salt budget for the season.

But the highlight of the year by far was my mother's 90th birthday in October, when four generations of our family (only 2 of my nephews couldn't make it) gave her the surprise of her life by coming to Kenosha:




L-R: 1) My 92-year-old aunt (who traveled from NY) and my 90-year-old mother
2) My brother-in-law, nephews, and my brother (standing in the back)
3) My young teenage grandnieces



L-R: 1) and 2) the group gathering in the basement (where many of them slept)
3) my nephews (the baby and the little guy on the right are the oldest and youngest grandnephews, the only boys of their generation so far).



L-R: 1) My beautiful nieces. 2) The youngest Griffin (who actually does not carry the name) with his grandma. Eight months old at the time, this sweetie was held by everybody at one time or another and didn't cry the whole three days, just looked up at everyone and laughed. I just love a good-natured baby.

As for my personal goals, I made a lot of Me Time this year. I read, did jigsaw puzzles, cooked, baked, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. More than anything, I'm grateful that my extended family members are all okay. Oh, yeah, I also finished a difficult manuscript and am on schedule with my next one, while polishing a proposal to my agent's approval.

I got some reading done, too. If anyone's interested, here's my favorite for the year:


Looking for Peyton Place by Barbara Delinsky had a unique concept: The author wrote a book about the townspeople of the "real" (of course it's fictitious) New Hampshire town Grace Metalious used as inspiration for her famous 1956 novel Peyton Place. It was an exceptionally well-put together book with many layers to the story, and included "conversations" the main character, a writer, had with the late novelist. (This part might leave readers who are not writers a little concerned about the character's mental health, but I understood it perfectly.) I've toyed with the idea of doing a book about small town resident scandalizing the town with a racy book myself and have some good pages written, but haven't done much with it. This idea is older than the White House, but as Ms. Delinsky has her character observe in this book, 50 authors will tell the same story 50 different ways.
I'm ready for 2009, and I've already begun my annual change of ways. I've already begun to watch what I eat (right after my last glass of eggnog for the year). I've also started using natural products for housecleaning, like making my own laundry detergent with washing powder, Borax, and Fels Naptha soap, cleaning my toilet bowls with baking powder and vinegar and cleaning my oven with baking soda, vinegar, and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. I miss my electric self-cleaning oven, but up here the houses are built for gas ovens and clothes dryers. At least I didn't have to open the windows because there were no fumes! I'm tired of buying a cleaner for this and for that; besides, baking powder and vinegar are also cheap.
I also vow to take better care of my health. I'm a year-and-a-half late for a screening colonoscopy and have numerous concerns. I missed my last doctor's appointment because of snow, but have rescheduled.
So here's to a healthier, slimmer me in 2009! I wish you and yours all the best. I also want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blog.
Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas . . . and to all a good night

I'm busy with holiday preparations (I don't put up the tree until a few days before Christmas), preparing for house guests, plans to celebrate my husband's birthday (4 days after Christmas, a big day around here), and with the unexpected complication of a frozen water line in my basement (the plumber found a defect in the seal of the wall, and since our house is still under warranty it's an inconvenience in every way except financial). Put all of those together and you'll find a person who needs to take a break from her blog.

So, a Merry Christmas to all! It will definitely be a White Christmas here in Wisconsin. We're expecting a foot of snow tonight and sub-freezing temperatures for the next week (and we're prepared, having purchased a snowblower last week that we already used yesterday). I'll be back on either the last day or the next-to-the-last day of the year.


Fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaaaa!

Yasmin of APOOO informed me via email that today is my day to be featured on APOOO's 12 Days of Christmas. Read my interview and answer today's discussion question to become eligible to win an autographed book package that includes the mass market edition of Nothing But Trouble. Any winners drawn from now up through Day #12 will include my book.

All together now . . . ♪ Four humming birds, three French hens, two turtle doves . . . and a partridge in a pear tree! ♫


Like death and taxes . . .

. . . there's always something going on in the world of politics to keep people buzzing. There's that oft-repeated image of the outgoing President ducking, which is wearing thin. But I see some more stories that for me are far more interesting.

New York, my home for over 30 years, is all abuzz with reports that Caroline Kennedy (does she not use her married name anymore?) has asked the governor to appoint her to the about-to-be-vacated Senate seat of the future Secretary of State.

Whether it be New York or North Dakota, it seems terribly unfair to people who've admirably served in Congress and hope to advance their careers to be knocked aside by someone with a famous name, no matter now intelligent, informed, committed, well educated, and hardworking. I mean, if it weren't for that name, could Ms. Kennedy even get Governor Paterson to take her call? I'm curious to see what he'll do, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Meanwhile, down in Illinois, a state in which by pure coincidence I also lived for a few years, the lead story has been the governor's attempt to pay his personal bills - he is reportedly half a million dollars in debt - by selling the President-Elect's vacant senate seat to the highest bidder. It's story that would make Al Capone proud. No one knows how this story is going to end, who will get the seat, or, in the face of calls for his resignation, who will decide who gets the seat. Congressman Jesse Jackson's name has been mentioned prominently and he is presently attempting to clear his reputation that he offered money for the appointment.

An interesting postscript to this ongoing story (that's probably the wrong word, since the story isn't over, but it's late and I'm tired) is that Jesse Jackson Jr.'s name was not on the list of candidates that Barack Obama's aide gave to the Governor Blagojevich. This didn't come as a surprise to me; the President-Elect doesn't want someone to just fill the seat for two years, he wants someone who can be elected on their own in 2010, and while Congressman Jackson is popular in Chicago, he isn't downstate and probably will never be. (With Mayor Daley in power since 1989, the congressman's political ambitions seem limited.)

Let's mention the other Senate vacancy, the seat formerly occupied by Joe Biden of Delaware. A top aide has been named to fill the seat for the remainder of the Vice President-Elect's term, a gentleman who, at 69 years old, has made it clear that he will retire at the end of the term and will not try to win the seat on his own in two years. So that transition, at least, is smooth, and the Delaware politicos on both sides are already getting in line to run in two years. The fact that I never lived in Delaware, the state where there's no controversy regarding filling the chair, is, as I said before, purely coincidental.

Now, back to my latest romance proposal, which I absolutely have to work on before I go to bed. It's about (what else?) a charismatic Illinois politician.


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . .

. . . the APOOO 12 days of Christmas author showcase and giveaway. It'll be going on for the next 12 days, so head on over and join the fun!



Be My Guest (yes, again)



Today I'm the featured author at the Santa Baby Virtual Tour over at The Grits-dot-com, so come on over! Answer the Santa Baby trivia question and win an autographed copy of Once Upon A Project! (And if you've read it already, that's one less Christmas gift you'll have to buy!)


Be My Guest

Today I'm blogging over at Blogging In Black, so pop on over and see what's coming out of my mouth this time.


RAWSISTAZ 2008 Online Conference

It starts today with a meet-and-greet that will go on all day, so stop over and say hello. Click on the Join the Conference link once you get to the page.

See you there!


Getting off to a slow start

My self-imposed deadline to start work on my new book was Tuesday, December 2nd. I should be wrapping up my first week of work right about now . . . emphasis on should. I haven't done a thing. I've been busy (hey, Christmas is coming).

I did allow for extra time for distractions and other projects (it's the latter that is the culprit in this particular case), so I'm not worried, but I'm knuckling down starting today. It helps that I've already written 90 pages during a very long downtime of about 6 months last year (this year I had more like 6 weeks).

So, here's a Writertopia measurement of where I sit:





Twenty-eight percent complete? I'll take it!
Hope to talk to you tonight!

Here's that reminder I promised: I'll be a guest on Ella Curry's Black Authors Network (BAN) show on Internet radio tonight at 8PM Eastern, 7PM Central. You can listen online at Blog Talk Radio, keyword Ella Curry or BAN.


Making Honey Day and Night (plus a first peek at A New Kind of Bliss)

There's a lot going on right now.

First of all, if there's snow, it must be December 1st. Today is my anniversary, and just like last year and the year before (ever since we've lived in the Midwest). there is snow on the ground. This snowfall actually wasn't bad - it didn't stick for the first several hours - but even three inches is taxing for people like us who don't have a snowblower. We spent an hour outside brushing off two of the cars (we were able to fit the SUV in the garage) and clearing the driveway the old-fashioned way, and we haven't done the sidewalk yet. Right about now I'm missing Florida.

The expected storm forced me to cancel a book discussion with a book club down in Chicago. It normally takes me an hour to get to the city, and I was afraid I would get stuck coming home. It turns out the snow didn't begin to stick until about 11PM, but since that wasn't predicted, I called in to a speaker phone for the discussion. I'm grateful for their understanding, and I'll mail their promotional gifts later this week.



December 1st also kicks off some wonderful opportunities to chat with authors and to get your read on with prizes. Today kicks off the 2008 Santa Baby Virtual Blog Tour, co-sponsored by The Grits-dot-com and All the Buzz Reviews. I'm delighted to have been asked to participate. Ten authors will be featured, and anyone who posts comments becomes eligible to win autographed books. There are also podcasts as each author reads from their latest novel. Some of your favorites are bound to be on the schedule, so make it a point to drop by every day. The tour is kicking off today with Donna Hill, so use the links I provided and hop on over! Five of the authors will be featured at The Grits and five at All the Buzz, with links provided to get back and forth. I will be featured next Thursday, December 11th (and I'll be sure to remind y'all about it!)

Popular Internet radio host Ella Curry is hosting the Twelve Nights of Christmas, beginning this evening and running into next week. Join Ella on the radio at 8PM Eastern Time at (646) 200-0402. Each participant will receive free books from our publishing partners. Book lovers, these shows are all about YOU! Join us to meet emerging writers and bestselling authors showcasing their books. Anyone who calls into the show and shares their best or worst holiday story or reads a poem wins a free book. Any reader who calls in and tells us about their all time favorite books, wins a free book. I'll on with Ella this Wednesday, December 3rd, to discuss Once Upon A Project (did I mention I'll remind y'all).

Also, there are two literary events going on at APOOO (A Place of Our Own) this month, the first of which is Thank God for a Book. From November 17th - December 12th, APOOO will give away copies of 2008 releases by some of the favorite authors from their Top 20 List. They will feature many of the usual suspects, as well as some new discoveries. APOOO is excited to showcase the authors whose books have been selected. Each day a new book/author will be featured as they count down APOOO's Top 20 authors for 2008. They invite you to stop by to visit and find out what books made their 2008 list.

APOOO's Twelve Days of Christmas runs from December 13th - 24th. Visitors to the Web site will be eligible to win 2008 releases, as well as book accessories. Each day they will give away prizes correlating to the respective number for that day. For example, on the 5th day of Christmas, one lucky winner will win 5 books; on the 12th day of Christmas the winner will receive 12 books or books and accessories, which total 12. One of the books being in the giveaway is the new mass market edition of my own Nothing But Trouble.

And now it's time for the unveiling. I proudly present the cover of my next novel, A New Kind of Bliss. Drumroll. please . . . .




What do you do when the man of your dreams . . . a successful oncologist, handsome, charming, intelligent . . . bores you in bed?

A New Kind of Bliss, a tale about mothers and daughters, duty and desire, coveting and competition, and the quest for sexual satisfaction, coming May 2009 from Dafina Books.

This should probably go without saying, but just to clarify, this is women's fiction, not romance. I hope you find the premise intriguing. A New Kind of Bliss is now available for pre-order at Amazon, so click the link and order your copy today!

Finally, I am about to begin work on my next novel (it isn't due until next summer, but because I don't like rushing and because I usually work on more than one project at a time, I feel that nine months is a sufficient length of time to produce my "babies." This is a sequel to The People Next Door and Nothing But Trouble taking place some years later, pitting Suzanne Betancourt of the former book up against Micheline Mehu Trent of the latter. I've enjoyed the last month-and-a-half of being lazy, but it's time to get back into it.

Now that you're up to date, I'm going to finish my shoveling.


Chewing the fat with . . . author Jeff Rivera




I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend.

I recently chatted with author Jeff Rivera. Jeff is the author of Forever My Lady from Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). Here's some biographical info on Jeff:

Once homeless and living in his car, award-winning novelist Jeff Rivera writes passionate stories of those often forgotten and neglected by society. He believes even in the eyes of a gang member, even beneath the soiled clothes of a bag lady or behind the tears of a lonely kid in the back of the class, there lies a common thread that links us all, the universal human story. He has made it his personal mission to help change the way the world thinks in a positive way through his stories. Mr. Rivera currently lives in Miami, Florida.


Here's the interview:


Bettye: Jeff, Can you give us the plot overview of Forever My Lady?


Jeff Rivera: Sure, Bettye. Forever My Lady is about a kid named Dio who all he wants is to be loved. He's been rejected by everyone even his own mother and finally finds someone who truly loves him, a girl named Jennifer. They promise to stand by each other no matter what but as Dio gets older he finds himself in prison boot camp but promises to turn his life around for Jennifer and that one day they'll be married and have kids. She promises to never leave him but when he gets out he discovers she's getting ready to marry someone else.


Bettye: Wow. Talk about rotten timing. That makes me real curious about what happened in the interim, so I guess I'll have to read the book to find out! Jeff, this novel was originally self-published before being purchased by Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner). Was it re-published in the exact same form (not counting editing), or did you do any out-and-out re-writes on it?


Jeff Rivera: Actually, believe it or not, it was kept exactly the same; they just cleaned it up a little. Well, a lot, 'cause the copyediting in it before was awful. We wanted to keep it raw and real in the first version, but I agreed that the Grand Central version looks a lot better.


Bettye: It's a very eye-catching cover. Your protagonist is rather young at the onset of the story. Who would you say is the target audience in terms of age group?


Jeff Rivera: It's funny, 'cause I know you're not supposed to say everybody, but so many people find themselves in this story no matter what the age. But if I'd have to pick one, hey, why not Young Adults.





Bettye: Why not? Time for the personal question: Your information page says you hate most vegetables. Are there any vegetables you like? Do you ever eat salad?


Jeff Rivera: Well, that's one personal question I don't mind answering! I do eat salads, thank you very much! I like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, tomatoes (if they're in spaghetti sauce), lettuce, cabbage, um ... what else? Cucumbers, well . . . only if they've been turned into pickles and on rare occassion I'll even spring a radish or two, but only rare occasions.


Bettye: Your website says your next novel will be independently released. Does that mean you are returning to self-publishing? If so, why?


Jeff Rivera: I may very well. I think I'll be the type of author who will go back and forth. There's so much freedom in doing in independently, but it's nice to have the support of a major publisher. We'll have to see how it goes . . . .


Bettye: Oh, I'm a big believer in that! Thanks, Jeff, for answering my questions. Readers, if you’d like more information on Jeff, please visit his website or pick up a copy of Forever My Lady at bookstores everywhere, or at Amazon.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Be My Guest





Today I'm blogging about an experience I had while working on my copyedits recently over at Romancing the Blog . Stop by and cast your thoughts!

The First Ten Years


Ten years ago at this time I was eagerly awaiting shelf sightings of my very first published novel, At Long Last Love. It was an Arabesque romance, published in December 1998.


I was thrilled to be a published author at last. Unlike many writers (or even most), I had no dreams of riches or great success . . . even then I knew that there were certain rules for romance writing success that I was either unwilling or unable to follow. I didn't want to write a family series, and I wrote too slow to be able to produce a book every six to eight months. My first agent lost interest in me when I objected to the every-six-month deal she arranged for me . . . without consulting me first, an action that proved she wasn't the right agent for me.

What counted to me was that I was, at long last, in print. I hoped to have an audience who enjoyed my stories, and a nice additional income wouldn't hurt, either. And I hoped to break into mainstream women's fiction, my genre of preference. Finally, I hoped to grow as a writer. I'm happy to say that all four of my goals have been attained (the fourth one is based solely on my own opinion, of course).





I recently turned in the manuscript for my 15th novel, which will be published next May. I've never gone back and read At Long Last Love or any of my older titles . . . at least until now. In about two weeks I'll be dusting off my first mainstream, The People Next Door, as I resume work on a sequel, tentatively titled Trouble Down the Road, for publication in 2010. I must say I'm not looking forward to this. I tend to be extremely critical, and I can see myself wishing I could change this or change that (which will be particularly irksome because The People Next Door is being reissued in mass market in March 2009). Unfortunately, there's no way around it. I wrote this book around 2003 (it was originally published in trade format in 2005) and need to reacquaint myself with the characters. When I started in with the sequel, I peppered my manuscript with notations like [Daughter's Name] because I'd forgotten it. At least I remembered there was a daughter . . . but when I found myself wondering things like, Didn't these people have a dog? I knew I'd have to read the whole book so I wouldn't overlook something important. Readers tend to remember every little detail.


Here's the deal. I've found that I just don't feel like doing a lot of writing these days. I may have spent two hours writing over the past weekend, and maybe five hours total in the Monday to Friday just prior. This might not seem unreasonable, except when you consider that I've been home all week and am still home (I go back to work on Wednesday). And no, I'm not home due to illness.


This is the same thing that happened to me when I first moved to the Midwest 2-1/2 years ago. My husband suggested that I take half a year off because I'd been working so hard (I was the one who closed up the house, painted, packed, supervised movers, etc., with emergency eye surgery toward the end, because he was needed at his new job right away). I said to myself, Wow, look at all the writing I'll get done, but I ended up doing, well, some writing, but not a whole lot.


Considering that I spent many years working from home doing medical transcription, it's not like I lacked the discipline to work from my home office. Part of it may have had something to do with my being in what was then a new and strange place. I do remember feeling terribly isolated all day and being thrilled when I heard my husband's key in the lock when he came home from work. Since we moved again, only 20 miles away but across a state border I'm in another strange place, albeit a much nicer place. So instead of writing, I've done the housewife thing: Laundry, ironing, old movies on Turner Classics, dusting, ironing, vacuuming, and, most of all, unpacking the non-essential boxes still stacked in the garage, which I've been wanting to do from the time we moved (I took no time off from work back then).

There's still a chance that I'll finish the two projects I hoped to complete before turning my attentions to contracted work; it is, after all, still the middle of the month. But there is undeniably a lowered level of enthusiasm for writing in my heart. I don't know why, I just know it's there, and it won't return until my mind is ready for it to do so.


Yakety-Yak

I've been interviewed by Ella Curry of EDC Creations.

Click here to read the interview. Ella is a strong supporter of African-American writers and offers all kinds of services to writers. Check out her fabulous web site here.

A good weekend to all!


Higher and Higher



I know prices have been shooting up in recent months, but I've managed to face it pretty calmly. However, I just sent a copyedited manuscript back to my editor via Fedex, and the cost of this absolutely stunned me. Nearly $26 for a second-day delivery! This makes me wish I'd finished the doggone thing yesterday and could have sent it three-day Express Saver. After all, I had it ready for shipment in less than an hour this morning. But there are few things in life more exhausting than going over a copyedited manuscript, and after working on it from 9AM to 4:30PM yesterday I was exhausted. Since I saved the trickiest copyeditor observations for last, I felt I needed a clear head, so I decided to pack it in for the day. Now that I'm done and it was relatively simple instead of the daunting task it seemed like yesterday, I'm confident I did the right thing.

Most of us have said at one time or another things like, "I remember when that $2 toll was a quarter," or "I remember when gas was 35 cents a gallon." Well, I remember when a full manuscript could be sent second-day Fedex for about ten bucks . . . and it wasn't all that long ago.

I guess I can be grateful that that this is the age of email for manuscript submission (depending on your editor, I suppose), even if copyedits and galleys have to be made on hard copy.

Fedex delivered my covers while I was addressing all those copyeditor comments, and I feel they did a fabulous job on this one. I do plan to put it on my next newsletter before I post it here, which will be in early December, so stay tuned!




Mama Africa is Gone

South African singer Miriam Makeba passed away after a performance in Italy, of an apparent heart attack. (Since she was performing in support of a journalist under death threats for writing a book about organized crime, I have to wonder if she could have been poisoned, but I guess that's neither here nor there.)

Ms. Makeba's talent was recognized early, and she performed before Queen Elizabeth II. Her outspoken criticism of the South African apartheid system resulted in her being barred from re-entering South Africa after an international concert tour in 1959. With true heartlessness, the government did not allow Ms. Makeba entry to attend her mother's funeral the following year. It was not until after the end of apartheid in 1990 - over 30 years later - that she was allowed to return to her homeland.

Two of her husbands were American activist Stokely Carmichael and fellow South African and fellow exiled citizen Hugh Masekela.

Miriam Makeba is best known to American audiences for her 1967 hit song, Pata Pata. I remember running to get that record as a 10-year-old and playing it over and over. Even now I have it on CD. I dare you to listen to this song and keep still. It's impossible.

Rest in peace, Mama Africa.




Buried

I'm busy doing the copyediting thing for A New Kind of Bliss, and although from what I see these look a lot less detailed than the ones for my last book, Once Upon A Project, this is something that takes time to get done. It's my last chance to do re-writes; they frown on these at the galley stage.

Have a wonderful weekend! Here in Wisconsin they're predicting a dusting of snow on grassy areas. Hard to believe, since the early part of othis week it hit 71 degrees, but as we all know, in life situations change very quickly.

I'm proud to say I've been interviewed by the Cozy Corner of Elegance Book Club, who will be reading Once Upon A Project at their January meeting, on their new web site, so check it out here! I must have typed my answers in a real hurry, I said hand when I meant to say head.



Yes, We Did

That's all.


As we prepare for Election Day . . . .

. . . someone passed this on to me, and I thought it had real merit. You might have seen this before, but my, what a difference in perceptions.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis probably knows that color does matter. This is for the ones who don't agree.

-----------

"What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, following the debate, including a three month-old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his college graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama were divorced? What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to publicly display a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected a reality, if the tables were turned, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative characteristics in another when there is a color difference. And, think of this - the candidates' educational backgrounds:

Barack Obama: Columbia University - B. A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations. Harvard - Juris Doctor (J. D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joe Biden: University of Delaware - B. A. in History and B. A. in Political Science. Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J. D.)

John McCain: United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin: Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester; North Idaho College - 2 semesters , general study; University of Idaho - 2 semesters, journalism; Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester; University of Idaho - 3 semesters, B. A. in Journalism.

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land, as well as our standing in the world.

You make the call."

Please vote tomorrow if you haven't already, no matter who you support.




Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I woke up a half hour ago positive that the time had changed, but only my bedside clock said 5:30. The cable boxes and that little clock on the CNN screen all showed 6:30.

Yet when I check the Internet I see a plethora of articles stating that Fall Back date 2008 is November 2nd.

Am I in the twilight zone or something????

I'll have to call the airline to make sure I get my mother to the airport on a timely basis. I don't want her to have to wait an extra hour.



Do You NaNoWriMo?

Despite having a full day yesterday that started before 5AM, I felt an urge to stay up and write last night, not calling it a night until 11PM.

Part of this is probably due to the fact that I barely wrote 50 words during October, and I'm just hungry to get started. Changing jobs, having my mother visiting (she flies home tomorrow morning), and having over 25 houseguests for a long weekend just doesn't leave a lot of spare time. But now that the eerie glow of Halloween has worn off, I realize that today is November 1st. November 1st, as in NaNoWriMo.

I'm not participating in the annual writing marathon this year (I believe their web site is nanowrimo.org). It's too big of a stretch to go from not writing at all to trying to crank out 50K words in 30 days. Besides, my plans do not include actually writing a novel from scratch. I've got to revise one proposal and create a second, ideally before the end of the month, so I can turn my attentions to my next contracted work come December. And I will likely be receiving copyedits for next spring's release in the middle of all this.

I'll report my success (or lack of) 30 days from now.

What about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Why, or why not?

Off to write. And I get an extra hour this weekend to do it!!


The Big Nine-Oh


My mother was born on October 29, 1918, in New York City. Ninety years ago today.



The big day is almost anticlimactic. She's been visiting my husband and me for the last week and will be here through Sunday. But we are all glowing from the celebration my sister and I planned for over a year, which took place last weekend. Most of Mom's grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to Wisconsin from different sections of the US: New York, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Colorado. Upon arriving in town, most of us converged into someone's two-room suite at the Comfort Inn, which was turned into a swelteringly warm hospitality suite as people met and greeted while we waited for everyone else to arrive (most of the guests arrived within just a few hours of each other) so we could make a group appearance at our house, where Mom watched CNN, unaware that her entire family, including her sister, were gathered less than two miles away.
-------
I'm happy to say that the weekend went off beautifully. Thirty-two people from 8 months to 92 years convened to give Mom a birthday she'll never forget. From the time we yelled "Surprise!" in our basement early Friday afternoon to the time people began heading home Sunday, everything was perfect. (If you heard a squeal around 1PM Central Time on Friday, it was my mother seeing her older sister, who'd traveled from New York for the occasion.)
The majority of the family stayed here at the house (one of my nephews pitched a tent in the back yard), and we all pitched in to get food and cook it. Fortunately, it was warm enough to barbecue and for the kids to play outside. It was like a big pajama party, with people sleeping virtually everywhere: In my office, in the upstairs family room, in the living room, the great room, and all over the basement. Great-grandchildren made fast friends with their second cousins, with my good-natured baby grand-nephew being passed around like a joint at a 70s party and the 2-year-old and 3-year-old lovingly cared for by older cousins like treasured baby dolls.
-------
Saturday was a free day for everyone, and whether people went down to Chicago to explore or stayed in the area, everyone made it back in time for the dinner hosted by my siblings and me. After dessert we all shared memories of Mom, read notes from people unable to attend (both of which made several people, including the guest of honor, wipe their eyes), and played a trivia game I dubbed "All About Eva" (Mom's name). I divided the grandchildren into three teams, and I was frankly amazed by how much they knew about my mother's life. It just goes to show that kids pay attention . . . and they ask questions. We got awfully loud, but that's why restaurants have private banquet rooms. Then we came back to the house for a slide show celebrating both my mother's long life and that of the family she and my father created.
In honor of my mother's milestone, I present some of those photos, some of which include my grandmother, father, and siblings. Happy Birthday, Mom!
-------
We'll take her to dinner tonight, making sure we're back before that much-ballyhooed half hour purchased by Barack Obama, of whom Mom is a raucous supporter. Like so many of us, she hopes to see history made next Tuesday . . . another marvel she has gotten to witness in her 90 years.
































Maybe it's just me

Sunday night I made a quick run to the supermarket (we are fortunate to have a Woodman's, the biggest supermarket I've ever seen in my life, just 5 minutes from our house via back roads). I was surprised at how much traffic was on the service road coming from the other direction, especially at 7PM on a Sunday.

Then I saw the flashing lights on the adjacent highway. There'd been an accident.

Okay, so people slow down just to be aware of what's going on. It looked like a particularly bad crash. The people behind the crash scene, heading south on I-94 and less than a half mile from the next exit, had turned off their engines and lights, as if they knew they'd be sitting for a while. But as I drove, I saw five cars pulled over to the shoulder of the service with their flashers on . . . just looking.

I found this disturbing. Have these people nothing better to do but to gawk at someone's misfortune? A Life Flight helicopter was perched on the median, apparently to transport the more seriously injured victims, while two ambulances were parked nearby for other, not life-threatening injuries. Were these people actually hoping for a glimpse of broken and bloody bodies being loaded into the ambulances and helicopter? Do they consider that entertainment?

I never did find out any details about the accident, found out how many cars were involved, etc. I said a silent prayer for the recovery of those who'd been hurt, made my way to the supermarket, made my purchase and went home, keeping my driving foot alert as the car in front of me constantly braked to get another look (the helicopter had taken off). Apparently the crash wasn't considered important enough to be featured on the Milwaukee news.

But it certainly provided a fascinating time for at least 5 carloads of people.

I hope the bastards enjoyed it.


Remembering Levi

I just heard of the death of Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops. He was 72 years old. No cause of death was given, but he had been in declining health for years now, having suffered from both a stroke and an unknown type of cancer. I saw a photo of him in a wheelchair in Jet magazine a few years back.

I always admired the Four Tops. Unlike The Temptations, there seemed to be no squabbling or infighting among group members, and their lineup remained consistent until they began to pass away (only one original member, Duke Fakir, still survives). They were a little older than most of the Motown acts and maybe more mature.

Success came to the group rather late, in 1964 (by which time most of the groups had already been established). A string of hits followed their first, Baby, I Need Your Loving, most of which required Levi to sing at a higher pitch than his natural baritone, to make his vocals sound more heartfelt and desperate (he was, after all, singing about lost love much of the time).

Levi Stubbs stayed with the group for his entire career, taking on a memorable solo job as the voice of Audrey, the man-eating plant, in the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors.


Unfortunately, by the late 1970s, the group was pretty much turning into an oldies act, with few new hits (I read once that Joe Jackson feared his boys would meet the same fate, a factor in the Jackson Five's move to another label).

Here is my all-time favorite tune recorded by the Four Tops. Rest in peace, Levi Stubbs. Enjoy!




TGIF (3rd Friday in October)

It's mid-October, early voting has begun and Barack Obama is leading in the polls. I do hope that Chuck Todd of NBC, who predicted that the way it stood in mid-October would be the way it went, was correct. But one thing I do wish: it hurts my heart to hear people making fun of John McCain's somewhat odd stance and the way he holds his arms. He was tortured, for heaven's sake. He's fortunate to be able to function. I'm not happy with many of the things that have sprung from his campaign, but I do believe that making fun of someone's injuries is hitting below the belt. So please, try to be nice.

On the writing front, my storyboarding is going well. The bones of the story are all there. I'm just trying to work out the details of something I've never included in my books before: a murder. I'm thinking back over every crime-and-punishment movie/TV show I've ever seen to make this realistic and believable. It might take a few more days, but while I try to resolve that outstanding issue I will see if I can complete my synopsis, because after all, the details go into a manuscript, which comes much later.

In case you haven't noticed, I've got a new set of poll questions up in the left hand corner, so please take a minute or two to anonymously answer. Thanks in advance.

And now it's time for you to choose your favorite version of two covers of the same song. I'm really dating myself with this week's selection. The faster version of this tune, by a group called Creative Source, was recorded around 1973, a few years before the disco phenomenon really hit. Although I was too young to go to the legendary New York nightclub The Cheetah, I do remember being out dancing like crazy to this song. I can still see those flashing lights! I didn't know until years later that Bill Withers had recorded this song as well (and he may have written it as well, since he was also a composer).

For me, these two versions sound like different songs, because of the change in beat (think of the very first song I chose for this feature, I Heard it Through the Grapevine). While Creative Source still sounds good to me, now that I'm a middle-aged lady, I must say that I prefer Bill Withers' version better.

I have no idea what happened to Creative Source. Bill Withers, well into his 70s by now, is presumably retired. I always admired his talent, but he never looked like a happy man to me. Of course, some people just have a natural dour look about them. But I hope that whatever he's doing, he's happy and content, the way "Grandma" of Grandma's Hands would want him to be. He brought a lot of joy into people's lives with his musical gifts.

Which do you like the best?




Bill Withers




Creative Source


Have a wonderful weekend, and a good week as well! (I won't be posting much next week; my mom gets in from Florida on Tuesday and the party starts Friday.)




Chewing the Fat with . . . Gwynne Forster

Yes, I'm back with author interviews. I changed the name, since "Five Questions for . . ." was starting to pop up as often as morning toast (although these are still five-question interviews, for the most part, because authors are busy). The alternate title for these columns was right in front of my face. Don't know why I didn't think to use it in the first place.

Gwynne came to my rescue on this very busy week, in which I'm finalizing preparations for my mother's 90th birthday and trying to get some things together for my editor and preparing to change jobs and all that involves: running for labs, pre-employment physical, filling out paperwork and all of that, by providing me with a completed interview. She'd been working on a deadline herself, and I didn't think she'd get to it this quickly. Thank you, Gwynne!

Gwynne Forster was one of the earlier Arabesque authors. I vividly remember her very first novel, Sealed With a Kiss, (at a time when I was an aspiring novelist and was reading every romance that came out) and I was struck by the high quality of her writing, as well as the rather unique and emotional storyline of that particular book. which to me set her books apart from the others (Bette Ford's marvelous bold style was also a standout for me). Anyone who thinks romance novels are silly, badly written fluff should check out Gwynne Forster. You won't catch Gwynne using hackneyed and clich├ęd phrases.

I was too rushed to ask Gwynne for biographical information, but to learn more about her, just visit her website.

Without further ado, heeeeeeere's Gwynne:




Bettye: You just had a new women's fiction release from Dafina Books. Tell us about it.

Gwynne Forster: My latest mainstream fiction release, A Different Kind of Blues, is about a woman who, at age thirty-six, gets a shock that causes her to take a look at her life, and she’s not proud of what she sees. But making amends for her past is more difficult than she expected. The first and hardest step is admitting to her teenage daughter, Krista, that her supposedly dead father is very much alive. Then there’s the neighbor whose husband she had an affair with, the former coworker she got fired, and many more aggrieved acquaintances. Far from setting her free, the truth brings more complications, for the past had best be left to time. Yet, the incidents open up her life in surprising ways, bringing her experiences for which she had longed but didn’t have the courage to embrace, and offering her one last chance to start over for real. Publisher’s Weekly called it an “ode to life…wise and wonderful.”

Bettye: Sounds like a wonderfully unique and intriguing storyline (I know I said that already).

You are one of the handful of writers who writes catetory romance, single title romance, and women's fiction. Which genre is easiest for you to create? Do you have a favorite among them? Do you find you need to change settings/mood when moving between the three? (Okay, so I snuck/sneaked in 3 questions).

Gwynne Forster: Bettye, my preferences are in this order: mainstream women’s fiction, single title romance; category romance. I prefer mainstream fiction because there are no guidelines, and I can write what I see as truer to life. I can create characters and situations compatible with my understanding of socio-psychological phenomena, intra-familial relations, and my observations of human behavior. There’s less fantasy and more reality. In single title romance, which is closer to mainstream than to category, I am able to include subplots and more characters and the kinds of scenarios that can bring a story to life. Category romance is limiting, and I struggle with it. I never write two books at a time, so I don’t move between them. Since I write character driven stories, my problem is not mood, but in roping in the characters when I’m writing category. Subject matter takes care of the difference between mainstream and single title romance.

Bettye: Interesting that you complete one book at a time. I know what you mean about the different genres. I love writing mainstream, where essentially anything goes. I was also fond of single title romance. When Arabesque streamlined I was invited to write for Kimani, but since they haven't liked what I've sent them so far (my stories have too much story, they tell me) I'm thinking now that I'm simply not a category romance writer.

Your bio says you belong to your church choir. Do you have a favorite hymn?

Gwynne Forster: I certainly do. How Great Thou Art.

Bettye: Your bio also says you are a gourmet cook. What's your specialty?

Gwynne Forster: I’m supposed to be a gourmet cook. What’s my specialty? Mouth watering deserts, I guess. But I try to make every course gourmet level. For a real dinner party, I serve seven courses. For a more casual one, I serve five.

Bettye: Wow, seven courses. That makes me think of a wonderful cruise I took on the Celebrity Line . . . except I don't think even they serve that many courses!

What lies ahead for Gwynne Forster? Can you give us a sneak peek at upcoming books?

Gwynne Forster: I have a mainstream and two romance novels due out in 2009. The mainstream, A Change Had To Come, is a Kensington/Dafina book. My three Harlequin romances are Private Lives, Finding Mr. Right and Stranger In My Bed. In addition, Harlequin is reprinting three of my early Arabesque books for release in 2009. They are, Fools Rush In, Swept Away, and Scarlet Woman.

Thanks so much, Bettye, for interviewing me for your blog.

-----

Thanks so much, Gwynne! I didn't notice until I put this column together the similarity in cadence between the title of your new Dafina mainstream, A Different Kind of Blues, and my upcoming Dafina mainstream, A New Kind of Bliss. Coincidence? Or from the mind of the same clever editor? I wonder . . . .

For those of you interested in learning more about Gwynne's novels, in addition to her website link above, click here to be routed to her Amazon page with all her novels listed in descending order of publication date.

Now, I'm off to see if I can find those doggone discussion questions I seem to have misplaced . . . .
















TGIF - Second Friday in October

These are some scary times, but along with the uncertainty there is always hope. The song I have selected for this week reflects that.

This song is closely linked to Sam Cooke, who, I believe, penned it. His recording was released after his murder and became a huge hit. I hadn't previously known that Otis Redding had recorded it as well. Both these men died prematurely, of unnatural causes (Sam Cooke was shot by a motel manager in 1964 under circumstances that remain murky to this day, and the plane upon which Otis Redding was a passenger crashed in a lake here in Wisconsin in 1967. The lone survivor of the crash, a member of the Bar-Kays, clung to a seat cushion in the icy waters until he was rescued.

Both these marvelously talented men, in my opinion, would have become superstars had they lived. There is no question that Sam Cooke liked the ladies - this fact figured prominently in his death - but womanizing ways or not, he had a wonderful vision that, as we all know, turned out to be true. One pundit predicted that the candidates' standing in mid-October will pretty much be how the election goes, which means that Sam's vision could become truer than any of us had ever dared hope.

Which version of A Change is Gonna Come do you like the best?




Sam Cooke





Otis Redding


I wish all of you a weekend both restful and productive. See you Monday.


Feeling good on 10/09/08

My brother Peter, who passed away in 1992, would be turning 56 today. He would be positively tickled by the cadence of this particular date. Love you, bro!

I've been holding my breath ever since I finally submitted my overdue manuscript. If my editor didn't like it, I'd be up the creek (and the fact that I missed two deadlines wasn't helping my cause any). A New Kind of Bliss will be, well, a new kind of story for me, one with a lead character who isn't as genteel and understanding as the others I've written. This girl's got flaws. Well, yesterday I received word from my editor that she loved it. "Winning, flawed, comforting, real," were her words for my lead character.

Of course, that is no guarantee that readers will feel the same way, and that is where the real chance-taking comes in. No writer - no, make that most writers - wants to write the same sweet, understanding characters over and over again. Even if readers don't agree with the thoughts of Emily Yancy, they will feel as though they know her . . . and sympathize with her dilemma, even if they haven't experienced it themselves (few have).

At least I hope they will.

Here's a sneak peek of what is officially not a WIP, but an upcoming novel that will be available for purchase in May (and y'all know I'm gonna let everybody know when it's available for pre-ordering). This is not the opening chapter, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out what's going on, so enjoy!

***

The bloom, as they say, is off the rose.
It certainly didn’t take long. We buried Pop the day before yesterday, and already I’m wondering how I’m going to cope with living in Euliss again. The old town is dirtier and noisier than ever, a fact I’m made aware of every time I leave my mother’s quiet street. Crumpled milk cartons and soft drink cans and bottles missed by the alleged street sweeping machines lined the curbs. A variety of hip-hop CDs, with language too raw to be played on the radio, competed for listeners at top volume on boom boxes positioned in windows like fans. And it’s full of vehicles in desperate need of Midasizing.
I went to the supermarket for Mom the other day. Residents on the black side of town – Euliss might be in New York, but it’s segregated as 1950s Alabama, with blacks and Latinos for the most part kept west of the dividing line – were thrilled when a major chain opened in the neighborhood with the promise that their prices would be the same as they were at their location across town. This was a novelty, as their competitors’ prices at their stores in the black and Latino neighborhoods bordered on larceny, like two dollars for a single green pepper. Not a more exotic red or yellow pepper, but an ordinary green one. I doubt Leona Helmsley would have paid two dollars for a single green pepper . . . unless it was for that dog she left all her money to. I can hear her telling her maid, “Skip the green peppers. Only the little people eat them.”
Anyway, the first thing I saw upon entering the market that was the crown jewel of Euliss’ west side – a windowless dull brown brick structure that reminded me of a prison – was a crudely hand lettered sign that said, ‘Please do not spit on the floor.’ I rolled my eyes. People in Scarsdale don’t have to put up with this shit.
I kept reminding myself why I was here. Mom needed me. Sonny's circumstances in terms of proximity and time off made him the ideal candidate, but that girlfriend he'd had here in town changed everything. I didn't want to contribute to any more problems between he and Nell. They'd been married thirty years, and I'm fond of my sister-in-law. I also know firsthand how difficult it is to survive infidelity. Nell must be a better woman than me, because I couldn't bring myself to do it. If I’d stayed married to Al I would have spent the rest of my life worrying about what he was doing every minute he was out of my sight. Frankly, I feel I deserve better. But staying with Sonny was the choice Nell made, and I respect it.

***


Ever Wonder Where They Find People for Those Focus Groups?

So do I. I still don't know. All is know is that my husband's sister called him yesterday and told him to watch her on CNN as part of a focus group of undecided voters in Columbus, Ohio. I don't know how she got there . . . but there she was! She was the only black female in the group. Unfortunately, only a few people in the group actually got to speak.

We're usually MSNBC watchers, watching CNN only because of my sister-in-law's appearance. But I will say this . . . CNN earned points from me for not speaking to representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties, who, of course, always praise their candidate and trash the other guy, whether their guy got trounced or not. I appreciate that, CNN!

So, does anybody remember seeing my sister-in-law?


Alphabet Soup: LPs to CDs



It seems that no matter how low I'm feeling, there is one thing that can instantly cheer me up, and that is music. I remember turning on the radio after leaving the hospital the night my father died, on the way to my brother's funeral, and other dark and difficult times in my life. Music would help me forget the pain in my post-surgical abdomen, make me feel better during the relocation my husband and I made from Florida to the Midwest, when he needed to get to his new job right away and I had to stay behind for nearly three months to pack up the house, (a monumental job after which I took half a year off).

Even today at work, when word drifts back to me that a "strange man" had been sighted in the break room who turned out to be a fellow who works on the other side of the building, a man appropriately dressed for our casual work environment but who happens to be a brother (if you're black, you're likely familiar with Overreacting White Woman Syndrome). Okay, so I did roll my eyes and mutter that if his pigment had been a dozen shades lighter he would not have seemed out of place to her, but after that I promptly put on my headphones and started listening to Michael Franks, forgetting about how quickly some people are ready to call Security on people they feel in their little narrow minds don't look like they belong. But that's a column for another day.

With the comfort I get from music it is no wonder, then, that I have cartons and cartons of LPs that I couldn't bear to throw out. But recently we made a purchase that puts me a little closer to labeling all those old vinyl records for the monster garage sale we will eventually hold.

I don't keep up with technology that much; I've long since decided it moves too damn fast for me. I don't have a Blackberry or an MP3 player. I don't even have a camera in my cell phone, at least I don't think I do. But when I saw that a local store was selling a CD recorder that works from both albums and cassettes, I told my husband and we sprung into action, buying one the very next day.

It's an old-fashioned-looking contraption that kind of looks like the one pictured. (I'm pretty sure it's not identical, since this one is advertised at $399 and we paid $169 for ours, less than half that sum). I am thrilled to have treasures like Hugh Masekela's Latest, originally recorded in 1967 (he does an absolutely beautiful rendition of the Lennon/McCartney tune Here, There, and Everywhere that still sounds current 41 years later) and Masekela, his famous South African protest album from 1968, on CD at last.

I've already made a deal with myself to keep things from getting out of hand: I can create one converted CD from albums for every three boxes I unpack!

Have you held on to your old LPs? Do you ever play them? Or have you already converted yours to CDs?




TGIF

Here in Wisconsin the leaves are changing color, making driving along the highway a pretty scenic experience. We've had the heat on (quite a contrast from my sister in Jacksonville, who was in her pool swimming laps in 88-degree heat when I called her the other day).

In honor of it being fall, I've chosen a weather-related song for you to pick your favorite. Baby, It's Cold Outside was written for the movie Neptune's Daughter, a vehicle for swimming star Esther Williams, back in 1949. Not surprisingly, it won the Oscar for Best Song that year. It's become a classic and still sounds great!

Ray Charles and Betty Carter recorded a version in 1961 that, in my opinion, still holds up today. Years later, Vanessa Williams got Bobby Caldwell to sing it with her on her Christmas CD, Star Bright. Their version, as you'd expect, is a little more fast-paced and modern. I think both of them are great, but to me this is yet another case of an oldie but goodie winning. Ray all the way!
What do you think?




Ray Charles/Betty Carter




Vanessa Williams/Bobby Caldwell


Have a great weekend, and if you haven't yet registered to vote, please do it before it's too late!









Coming in Just 7 Days


The mass market edition of Nothing But Trouble is coming to a bookstore near you on Tuesday, October 7th. I've been so busy with rejoicing the completion of A New Kind of Bliss that this one kind of snuck up on me. When I got home from work yesterday to find a carton of author's copies on my front porch, I realized I'd better get busy letting folks know.




Here, therefore, are some hastily compiled reviews from the trade paperback edition of this book, which was published in 2006 (only the good ones, of course):



"A compelling read." -- Booklist



"It is a good choice for bookclubs because it invites plenty of discussion. Nothing But Trouble is a good read for the modern woman." -- APOOO



"Bettye Griffin has become one of my favorite authors starting with "The People Next Door" and now, "Nothing But Trouble." -- People Who Love Good Books



"Griffin provides a very thorough look into each character's situation that vividly portrays their emotions and thoughts. The book was very well written." -- RAWSISTAZ



"I truly enjoyed this story. It was almost like reading about people that you are friends with or that you work with. I recommend this book for any avid reader." -- a reader



So if you haven't read Nothing But Trouble, do plan on picking up a copy of the mass market edition, which will fit nicely in your purse!



-----

I'm Bettye Griffin, and I approved this message . . . .







Carrying On











Wow, what a weekend. First, Paul Newman dies, which was sad, if not shocking (one of his close friends recently told the press that the actor only had a few more weeks to live). Then, the debate. I'm glad that Barack didn't slouch out on foreign policy, but I do think he was a bit of a punk. I understand he doesn't want to be perceived as an Angry Black Man, but come on! I wanted to jump into the TV screen myself and punch the smug of McCain's face. Patronizing bastard. Would it really have been so bad if Barack prefaced one of his answers with, "No, John, you don't understand." ?

The news that came as the biggest shock to me this weekend was the passing of Marpessa Dawn. (I know, you're saying, Who?) Just the other week I blogged about the death of Breno Mello, the male lead in the classic French-filmed tale of doomed lovers Black Orpheus. Marpessa was his leading lady. Remarkably, they passed away within 41 days of each other. If you've seen the movie, you'll know the significance of this.

Ms. Dawn, whose good looks remind me of a younger Phylicia Rashad, was of black and Filipino heritage and although she sprouted Portuguese like a native in the movie, she was born in, of all the unglamorous places, Pittsburgh. She spent most of her life in Europe and in fact died at her home in Paris from an apparent heart attack at age 74.

She did slightly more acting that her leading man, mostly in France, and appeared as herself in a production as recently as 2005. She and Breno Mello likely never even saw each other again after completing the French-produced film (he was a native of Brazil and lived there all his life, while she returned to France), but they are immortalized forever on the screen as Orpheus and Eurydice. Black Orpheus was the first movie featuring love between a black man and woman I'd ever seen, and it will always be special to me.

The Week That Was (the debate that wasn't?)


I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating. One of the nicest things about being a writer is the people I get to meet, either in person at an event like the Romance Slam Jam, or simply on the Internet. I can't say I've had overwhelming success with book clubs - a good number of them have ignored my invitations to provide them with review copies - but one whom I've forged a nice relationship with is the Cozy Corner of Elegance Book Club in the Huntsville, Alabama, area. They have just unveiled their web site. Stop on by and say hello to club president Renee Booker and the rest of the ladies! (Be sure to tell 'em Bettye sent you!).


One of the things on my to-do list in this brief period of free time between contract obligations (I've given myself the date of December 2nd - the 1st is my anniversary - to start work on my 2010 book, a sequel to The People Next Door) is to see what I can do with some incomplete story ideas that have been floating around since before the presidential candidates declared their intent to run, in other words, a long, long time. I'm going to try my hand at storyboarding. Maybe that will unleash those missing ingredients.

Speaking of ingredients, it's time to resume Pick Your Favorite, your choice of two versions of the same song. I'm gonna go waaaaay back this week. When I first heard this lovely song by the Main Ingredient, I had no idea it was a cover of a song penned by the late, great talent Curtis Mayfield and recorded by his group, The Impressions, back around 1961.



The Impressions




I love both versions, but the one by the Main Ingredient is just so dreamy and romantic, I'll have to give that one the edge. (Incidentally, even though the accompanying visuals on You Tube show Cuba Gooding, Sr., he was not the lead singer on this song and not even a member of the group at the time it was recorded. Donald McPherson was the original lead singer of The Main Ingredient. Tragically, he became ill with leukemia and died soon afterward, barely 30 and having recorded just three R&B hits with the group. What a lovely voice he had. (If anybody's keeping score, group member Tony Silvestri (the fair-skinned brother), passed away from multiple myeloma in 2006.)




The Main Ingredient (with the late Donald McPherson on lead vocals)

So share with us, which of these two versions do you enjoy the most, and why?


I'll be parked in front of the TV tonight, watching Barack Obama debate . . . (himself? an empty chair? Or will McCain show up at the last minute, like somebody's white damn knight?). And I hope to heaven that people recognize John McCain's grandstanding for what it is.

Have a great weekend!


Free at last

The best part of writing a book is, by far, finishing the damn thing. I have been eating, driving, sleeping, showering, ironing, vacuuming, and everything else, this book for the last two weeks. I sat down at the computer Friday night and barely got up until 9:30 this morning, when I emailed it to my editor and agent. Is it any wonder I feel like a hostage who's just been freed?





My work-in-progress is now a bona fide manuscript. Now that it's done, I'll tell you a little about it.

What would you do if you (presuming you're in the market) met a man who was successful, wealthy, handsome, considerate, a true gentleman, and who was crazy about you? The absolute perfect man . . . in every way but one? And if his one imperfection was, well, the stuff romance novels heroes are always so great at? (I call this my anti-romance; the idea came to me by playing the traditional writer's game of What If . . .?)

The name of the book is (drum roll, please) . . . A New Kind of Bliss. It'll be published by Kensington's Dafina imprint and will be at a bookstore near you in May 2009. More info will be following in the months ahead.

So what will I be up to now that this manuscript is finished? Not a blessed thing. At least for the next couple of days . . . .


And the Emmy goes to . . .

No, I'm not goofing off. I'm working diligently and have been all weekend. (Now I know why I was such a washout at trying to write full time . . . I'd honestly rather be curled up with a good book right about now. Even doing some ironing has its appeal after being planted in front of a laptop or a desktop for eight hours a day.) I took one break, last night, to watch American Gangster on HBO with my husband. If it weren't for the deck I'da been inside the house from the time I got in Friday afternoon. And if it weren't for Bernard cooking breakfast and tonight's and Friday's dinner (I took over last night,) we would have starved. What a prize. I think I'll keep him.

One more day to go!

I do have the TV on while I'm working, watching the Emmys, and I've noticed something that's always bothered me about the Emmys and the Oscars as well. Why do they always give out awards to the male actors before the females? Have they ever heard of the expression, "Ladies first?"

Any ideas?




Yes, I'm Still Alive

. . . and in the home stretch. I'll be back when I'm done, which will be early next week . . . because at this point I have no damn choice.


Happy Friday, everybody!




Please send prayers for the people of Galveston Island and other areas near the East Texas coastline as Hurricane Ike prepares to bear down. It's a frightening graphic being shown in those weather reports; Ike's circumference seems to be as wide as entire the Gulf of Mexico. Here in Wisconsin they are already writing off the fall tourism season, because all that rain is going to get up here eventually. (We're gettng the remnants of Gustav right now.)

If you're in an area of the country that allows for more frivilous activity, you might want to consider going to the movies this weekend. A couple of good ones are opening today: The Family That Preys, Tyler Perry's newest; Righteous Kill, featuring acting giants Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino (I'm betting DeNiro gets top billing, but I can be wrong); and the one I'm most excited about, the long-awaited remake of the 1939 classic The Women, based on the play by Clare Boothe Luce.

The original play itself (no, I wasn't around for the original production in 1936, but I saw a filmed version of a revival on PBS a few years back; I'm old but not that old) was much racier than the film version, and this new version brings the story into the present day. I'm curious to see what they did with it. The cast sounds wonderful - you can always count on Bette Midler to liven things up - and includes a couple of sistahs (Jada Pinkett Smith and the too-seldom-seen-these-days Lynn Whitfield).

I'm also eager to see the cleverly titled The Family That Preys as well. All of the Tyler Perry movies I've seen (and I haven't seen them all) haven't thrilled me, but he's clearly getting better budgets and bigger stars (both Kathy Bates, of this film, and Angela Bassett, who starred in his previous outing, have "Academy Award" attached to their names as winner and nominee, respectively) and is moving away from the all-rich-white-collar-men-are-evil theme. As for the Madea character, the best thing I can say about her (?) is that a little bit goes a long way. Tyler Perry is like Fort Knox on legs, but the black media is urging people to go see his new film this weekend, because in this business it apparently isn't good enough to create movie after movie that all make money, both in ticket sales and in video rentals and sales, both domestically and internationally, without a single bomb in the bunch . . . you've got to be #1 (sounds a lot like the book business, but that's a column for another day). So go see the movie if you can.

Unfortunately, I'm doubting I'll be able to get to the theater this weekend. We're entertaining tomorrow (I thought I'd be done with my manuscript by now, which is why I approved this date). The rest of my weekend will go toward my overdue manuscript. I will say I'm pleased with my progress of the last one-third of the story. My goal is to get it at least a few days earlier than the date I've been given. My editor's been so nice about this; I don't think there's anything fun about rearranging a set production schedule (twice).

I'll conclude this column by addressing Michael Jackson's dirty drawers - complete with skid marks, it's been said - being auctioned off on E-Bay with an opening bid of $1 and also those rumors that Paul McCartney, fresh off a nasty divorce from Heather Mills, is about to marry for a third time. To the ultimate purchaser of Michael's underwear and to Sir Paul (if the rumors are true) I'd like to say this: There's no fool like an rich fool, or an old fool, or a rich old fool.

I'm outta here!