Movie Trivia Answer to Question #9 and New Question #10
Subtitle: What a Day I'm Having!!

Sorry I'm so late today. I had to renew my registration this morning, got in at 10, just crashed a good-bye party for a co-worker I know at 1, and I've got a two-hour meeting at 2, after which time I'll probably go home because it's snowing.

A word to the wise: If you ever relocate to another state and have to register more than one car, do them separately. We actually have a third "emergency" car, and I'm grateful I did that one after the other two. That woman put my name on the car my husband bought, and she also copied the mileage from the car I drive onto his title, she mixed up the license plates, and if that weren't bad enough, they had a devil of a time trying to find my husband's Blazer in the system. I think she also copied the VIN number from the car I drive. That explains why I only received one renewal notice. If that weren't bad enough, the woman behind me was waiting to get a handicapped sticker, of all things.

Okay. Lesson over. Let's get down to the real nitty-gritty. That's right, folks, "Show me the money!" was said in the film Jerry Maguire (1996) and was said by both Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Tom Cruise. Four people (not the three I originally said; somehow I missed Mel's correct response) got this one right, including the bonus point (the character names weren't necessary this time around).

Here's the scores:

Patricia 11 OGGS
Shelia 7 OGGS
Reon 7 OGGS
Mel 4 OGGS
Donna 3 OGGS
Janie 2 OGGS
Gwyneth and Patsy 1 OGGS

I leave you with a quote you'll have the whole weekend to ponder, and then some. The answer will be posted on Tuesday.

"May the Force be with you."

First, what movie was it from? For a bonus point, what was the character name of the speaker?

I'll use that same quote for my sign-off, but don't forget to check in tomorrow for another character sketch from Once Upon A Project.

5 Questions for . . . Angie Daniels

Triple talented author Angie Daniels writes contemporary romance, women's fiction, and erotica. Angie and I have not actually met, but it seems like we have, since we've been e-mailing each other for nearly five years. We signed to write mainstream women's fiction for Dafina at about the same time and have chatted about our respective experiences and previewed each other's covers before unveiling them to the general public. We have a mutual admiration society, and I consider her a friend as well as a colleague . .. even though she didn't call me when she visited the Six Flags Great America Park that's 10 minutes from my house (tee-hee.)

Angie's career is going gangbusters. Her June 2007 Kimani release contemporary romance, The Second Time Around, was, in the words of a bigwig at Harlequin, "flying off the shelves" and was held to me as a model for the type of story Kimani Romance is looking for. She was part of the October 2007 anthology, Big Spankable Asses, a trio of interracial erotic stories that has been a reader favorite, and she is also the author of the much talked about mainstream novel, Trouble Loves Company.

Angie has a brand new contemporary romance out. The Playboy's Proposition will officially be released by Kimani Romance tomorrow, February 1st. (You can order it from Amazon by clicking here.

Angie has sold seventeen books to date. She began her road to publication in 2001 when she was offered a four-book contract with Genesis Press. In 2002 she signed with BET/Arabesque, which was later purchased by Harlequin in 2005. Angie joined Kensington Publishing in 2003, for whom she writes both fiction and romance. Angie was born in Chicago, but after spending the last twenty plus years in Missouri, she considers that her home. The author is a member of the Air National Guard and holds a Master’s in Human Resource Management.

Angie was rushing out for military training, but she took time out to take 5 questions. Here we go:

Bettye: Let's start with something really important. What's the story behind the with a flat ass on the cover of Big Spankable Asses?

Angie Daniels: I had nothing to do with the ass on the cover of Big Spankable Asses; that was solely up to the art department at Kensington. Had it been up to me, you'd better believe sista girl would have had a truly banging booty!

Bettye: Angie, you had two full-length novels and a very popular anthology published in 2007 (plus a trade release of an earlier novel). Will The Playboy's Proposition (Kimani Romance), which is hitting stores now, be your only 2008 release? Say it ain't so! Seriously, will your military career slow down your writing? I hope not.

Angie Daniels: Right now I’m getting ready to leave for basic training and technical school, so I won’t be able to write a lick for the next three months, but that just means I have to put my booty in gear as soon as I get back home. I have two other books slotted for 2008. Careful of the Company You Keep (Dafina Books), and The Player’s Proposal (Kimani Romance) in November.

Bettye: Great news! I also want to tell the readers that your defense commitments will, unfortunately, cause you to miss the Slam Jam in Chicago in late April.

Now for the next question. What's the last theatrical movie you saw, and what was your impression of it?

Angie Daniels: The last movie I saw was This Christmas. I thought it was a wonderful “feel good” movie that definitely put me in the spirit of Christmas. It was really nice to see a movie that could have been easily casted with characters of any race. I was smiling so hard when I left the theatre I ran out and bought the soundtrack.

Bettye: Kind of like that family movie, Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will?, all about the crazy way families act.

The all-in-your business question: Are your fingernails right now real or acrylic?

Angie Daniels: Girl, I don’t do the fake nail thang. It makes it too damn hard to type. However, I did have nails on last month, but that’s because I was the matron of honor at my sister's wedding and she wanted my hands to look nice. It took forever to soak them things off!

Bettye: Do you write your manuscripts directly into the keyboard, or do you write them out in longhand first? And how fast do you type?

Angie Daniels: Both. It’s easier to type it once and be done with it. But sometimes my fingers have a mind of their own, so I let them run the show. I keep note pads around, and when I can’t get my thoughts directly onto my laptop, I handwrite them instead. I’ve been doing this from the beginning, and even after a dozen novels it still works best for me. After that, it might be a few days before my thoughts make it into the computer, and then I churn them out at 65 wpm.

Bettye: Believe it or not, it's been five questions. Is there anything you'd like to say to the people reading this interview?

Angie Daniels: I want to thank all of you that have supported my career. There are many days I want to kick my computer down a flight of stairs, but it’s the readers who make this worth all the long hours. I love hearing from you, so please feel free to visit my website and email me.
Thanks, Angie!

What the fuss?

Hillary Clinton is clearly trying to catch the attention of Ted Kennedy (or some other white-haired man). Yet everyone is saying he snubbed her. Hillary herself was on TV this morning saying how she reached out to Obama, she hoped he would reach out to her, etc.

I'm sorry, but I don't see a snub here. Maybe there was more to the video?

Do you see a snub?

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #8 and New Question #9

"Say hello to my little friend" came from Scarface (1983) and was said by Al Pacino, who played a character named Tony Montana.

Shelia gets the regular point plus a bonus point (I didn't specify the full name of the character, and she correctly said his name was Tony). Mel gets a regular point for correctly naming the movie. Shelia now has 7 OGGS and is in second place.

I'm in a hurry, so here's the quote for tomorrow:

"Show me the money!"

Sounds like something a successful author would say to their publisher, doesn't it? (Yeah, in my dreams.) This line was actually said by two characters int he same movie. What was the name of the movie? Two bonus points if you can also name both actors who said the line (full names, please). These bonus points are a great way to catch up, even if you've just started to play.

Tune in tomorrow for the answer. Tune in even if you aren't playing. Tomorrow I'll have another 5 Questions mini-interview, and Friday I'll be posting another character sketch from Once Upon A Project.
I Didn't Get a Whole Lot Done This Week

At least, not on my WIP. But what the hell, my deadline is still a long way off. And I'm working regularly. You just can't tell yet.

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #7 and New Question #8

Oops. I'm late today. Got a lot going on, even at work.

I'm surprised only one person attempted this. The character of Vito Corleone said "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse" in The Godfather (1972).

Patricia got both parts of the question correct and is awarded one point plus two bonus points. She is now leading with 8 OGGS. Shelia has 5, Reon has 4. The rest of you guys are trailing . . . but there's still time. By the way, my husband is also a Godfather fanatic.

And now for today's question. Here's the quote:
"Say 'hello' to my little friend!"
Name the movie for one point. Name the character who said it for a bonus.
I'll be back around noon Central Time tomorrow with the answer and the score roundup.

A Very Brief Post

Shut up, Bill. Just shut up.
In Case You Don't Subscribe . . .

. . . to the Romance Designs newsletter, here's a link to my interview with them:

I'm Starting to Get Excited

It happens just a few months prior to the release of every new book. I received my advance review copies of Once Upon A Project yesterday, which my editor was kind enough to overnight to me (and books are heavy, thus expensive to send in that fashion.) All my previous ARCs were bound with plain covers of blue or beige stock paper, with the title of the book, my name, and a notation that it is an advance review copy. But these ARCs were printed with the actual cover, with a big yellow strip across the front identifying it as an uncorrected proof and that it is not for sale, and the back cover that has some text that won't be on the retail copy, like dimensions and the marketing plan. But even though the photo of this woman gives me a case of deja vu (still trying to figure out if I've seen it before), this way it does look . . . well, more like a book.

Anyway, the ARCs have been packed up and mailed to the book clubs and reviewers who responded to my invitation to read it.

For the most part I've abandoned the idea of book signings in favor of drive-by signings that take significantly smaller chunks of time (unless I'm in my hometown or in a busy downtown location, like the Citicorp Center down in Chicago), but I found myself picking up the phone and calling area bookstores to arrange for appearances. Their enthusiasm about hosting signings heartened me.

I'm running a contest to win an ARC on my website, and responses are pouring in.

No one knows what makes a book catch on. It probably has something to do with the fact that there's a gazillion of them out there. (That certainly did the trick for me when I signed my first contract and let my daydreams take over. One trip to Barnes & Noble brought me back to reality, where I've stayed ever since.) But I do hope that at the very least I'll please readers who follow my work with my latest effort and will gain some new readers as well.

And the undeniable sense of excitement continues . . . .

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #6 and New Question (#7)

Gee, I hope I've got those numbers right. Anyway, the answer to yesterday's quote, a line that mentioned something about not being in Kansas anymore: The movie was The Wizard of Oz (1939). The character to whom it was directed was Toto, the dog.

One person had the Toto part right, but said the movie was Gone With The Wind. Same year, but no match. Unfortunately, you can't get the bonus point unless you name the correct movie as well.

If my memory serves me correctly, both the correct movie and the bonus portion were named by Reon, who scored two more points. Shelia named the movie but not the bonus portion, so she gets one point. I'll post the current scores tomorrow. Right now I'm rushing - you might say I'm off to see the wizard - so on to today's question. You'll have until Tuesday to come up with the answer.

What film did this line come from:

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

Two bonus points for anyone who can also name the character who said this in the film the first time (it was later repeated by another character, but I don't want his name.) That's an opportunity to earn three points, y'all!

I'm off like dirty underwear. Gotta post the answers y'all gave and then get outta here. See ya later.
Karibu Books is Closing

The bookstore chain with at least five locations in the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area is closing all their doors by February 10th.

Simba Sana, the founder and chief executive officer, attributed the closure to internal management problems for the financial plight of the book chain. He said the company owed vendors thousands of dollars and planned to file for bankruptcy.

The stores were popular stops on book tours by African-American authors, and sales remained strong.

This is unfortunate, to say the least. Karibu Books held an important place in the black literary world and seemed to be thriving while other bookstores closed due to lack of business. I've never been to any of their locations - it doesn't jibe geographically with Florida or Illinois, where I've been based in recent years - but I already feel a void.

I wish the managers and owners the best.
Sometimes You've Got to Say, "F*ck It"

TV news anchors and reporters seem to be held to a different standard than the rest of us poor slobs. For years, you never saw anyone wearing glasses, even if they were over 60. Men always had a full head of hair. And no one was even chubby. Then along came Harry Smith, who occasionally took over the anchor desk on the CBS Evening News, with his receding hairline and glasses.

Not a whole lot has changed. The news world is full of middle-aged people reporting without glasses (I often wonder how close those teleprompters are to the anchor desk). Most of them are fairly trim and they usually look very crisp and well-groomed, except for perhaps the perpetually rumpled Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

But sometimes they carry appearances too far. The reporter on the local news this evening is warning people that staying outside for any longer than necessary can cause permanent nerve damage, because wind chills are already dangerously low and are expected to blow to a numbing 30 below zero by morning. Good advice, sure. But the reporter, a 50-ish white male, reported the story for a full five minutes from downtown Chicago, outdoors in a base temperature of 12 above, wind chill of -7, with no hat and his coat unzipped low enough to expose his shirt and tie. Now I ask, does that make any damn sense?

Some years ago, in Jacksonville, Florida, a young black female TV reporter, just a few years out of college, drowned when a boat she was reporting from suddenly capsized. She was unable to swim – her boyfriend told the press that she never wanted to mess up her hair – and had removed her life jacket to film the segment for appearance’s sake. A terrible waste.

This type of situation reminds me of William Henry Harrison. He was elected President in 1840, at 68 the oldest man to be elected (a record he would hold until Ronald Reagan was elected 140 years later). He gave an inauguration speech on a cold, rainy day in Washington without a hat or topcoat because he wanted to give an impression of robust good health rather than old age. He caught a cold, it deepened into pneumonia, and 30 days later he was dead, the shortest administration in history and thus beginning the "Zero Factor" among U.S. Presidents that resulted in death for everyone elected with a year ending in zero (that also ended with Ronald Reagan).

I wish more of these reporters would be more like Al Roker of the Today show. Old Al doesn’t hesitate to bundle up when he’s on the air outdoors. Sometimes you can barely see his face!

It’s one thing to look cute. It’s another thing to risk your health or your life.

By the way, I’m not going to work tomorrow. Too damn cold.

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #5 and New Question (#6)

The character of Margo Channing, a tempermental Broadway star played by Bette Davis, said, "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night," in the 1950 hit movie All About Eve.

Bette Davis claimed for years that she did not base her performance on Tallulah Bankhead, a real-life temperamental Broadway star. Davis attributed her hoarseness in the film – reminiscent of Tallulah's throaty speaking voice – to shouting matches at home with her soon-to-be ex-husband (she eventually married her All About Eve co-star, Gary Merrill). Bankhead didn't buy it. She sarcastically referred to the movie as, "All About Me" and famously said, "After all the nice things I've said about that hag (Davis). When I get hold of her, I'll tear out every hair of her mustache."

Ouch. And you thought Davis and Crawford had a feud.

Anyway, the scores. Reon and Janie received both the regular and bonus points for correctly naming the film, as well as the character. Shelia named the movie and gets the regular point. So that brings us to:

Patricia – 5 OGGS
Shelia – 4 OGGS
Reon, Janie – 2 OGGS
Gwyneth, Patsy – 1 OGGS

(That stands for Oscar/Golden Globe/Screen Actor's Guild, folks).

And now for today's quote:

"I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Name the film this quote came from for 1 point. Earn a bonus point if you can correctly state the character name (hint: It's not a vegetable, mineral, or even a person!) to whom this remark was directed.

Answer to the post, plus all guesses, will be published tomorrow at around noon Central Time. You can try your hand at a correct answer right up to the time I post the answer. Good luck!

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #4 and New Question (#5)

I must have made that answer too easy. All four of the people who played knew that "I'll be back" was said in The Terminator (1984). Although it wasn't part of the question - I wanted to spare y'all from the agony of spelling - it was said by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The questions are going to get more difficult as we go along . . .
Patricia leads, Shelia is in second place, and Gwyneth and Patsy bring up the rear.
Today's quote:
"Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."
Can you name the movie it came from? Extra credit if you can also name the character who said it (not the actress). This is a good opportunity to get caught up if you're lagging.
Answer to post tomorrow around noon Central Time. You can submit your answer right up until the time I post it.
One Voter's Opinion on Last Night's Debate

Clearly, the gloves are off.

I wish the cameras would stop showing Hillary Clinton from behind. She has a pear-shape build, and it's not flattering. Is it really necessary?

It was John Edwards' time to shine, but he was blinking more than a digital clock after a power outage. Did the lights bother him? Did he need some drops?

Barack Obama needs to pay special attention to his tone. A couple of times he sounded reminiscent of a little kid. And it wouldn't hurt for him to be more specific about his ideas, like his opponents. That same old call for change is starting to get old.

And Bill Clinton would do well to take the advice of Ted Kennedy and other Democrats who are urging him to shut up. I almost felt like there were four people in the debate. But you don't see Michelle Obama taking potshots at Hillary, do you?

That said, I think I'd be comfortable with any of these three in the Oval Office. Only one of them can be President, but a President has to have a Cabinet, and personally, I think they all have something to offer. I also liked what I heard from former candidate Bill Richardson, and I hope he'll play a part in the next Democratic administration.
I Have Just One Question

Do any of these politicians show up for services at Abyssinian Baptist in New York and Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta when they're not running for office?
This Week in the Blogosphere

I seem to have lost the ability to change the color and size of my headings, so this entry might look a little funny.

Angela Benson poses a question about why people read blogs but never post. Check it out here.

Melissa Blue has a hilarious column about overused expressions in romance novels. Click here to read it.

Patricia Woodside is having man trouble over at her blog, here.

For a good belly laugh, read The Pay Raise over at Shelia Goss' blog here.
I've Got to Get to Work

I can't exactly say I can't get started, but I'm ever so sloooooooowly getting back into it. Fortunately, I have a decent portion already written:

I'll post progress weekly to see if I can shame myself into getting off my ass.

It was 5 for a high today. Maybe it's the cold?

Movie Trivia #3 answer and Question #4
The answer to yesterday's question was, Double Indemnity (1944). Great catchy dialogue throughout. I still can't believe that Edward G. Robinson was never nominated for an Oscar. He was past his tough-guy portrayals, but gives a wonderful performance here in a supporting role.
Patricia (if I weren't a few years older I'd swear we were separated at birth) gets it correct. She is leading, with 4 OGGS.
You'll have plenty of time to ponder Question #4; I won't post the answer (or anyone else's answer) until Tuesday at noon Central Time.
Here's the quote. You may take it literally from me, along with wishes for a great weekend, as you think about what movie it came from!
"I'll be back."

5 Questions for . . . Shirley Hailstock

Author Shirley Hailstock burst upon the publishing world during the first year of Arabesque's existence, back in 1994. Her first novel, Whispers of Love, was a fresh, imaginative tale of true love mixed with suspense and intrigue that stood out in a pile of stories that already were already starting to read all the same to me. (In that first year, year-and-a-half, while trying to break in, I read every Arabesque that came out.) Shirley's Clara's Promise introduced me to historical romance, set in Montana just before the turn of the century (the 19th into the 20th, that is). It remains one of my all-time favorite romances.

Shirley Hailstock is also a past president of Romance Writer's of America, and the first African-American to serve in that post. I met Shirley at the Romance Slam Jam in Orlando some years back and found her to be engaging and informative.

Three of Shirley's early Arabesque novels have been re-published in a 3-in-1 volume called Magnetic Hearts. Shirley has had novels published by Dafina and Harlequin as well.

Let's get started!

Bettye: You have two new releases coming out early in the year from two different publishers. Details, please! And tell us if there are any other Shirley Hailstock novels coming our way in 2008.

SH: I have three books coming out in 2008, January, June and September. One from Harlequin/Kimani and two from Kensington/Dafina. My February book, which is probably the one you were thinking of, was unfortunately part of the shutdwon of the Harlequin NeXt line. The book will not be published in February. At this point it has no publication date.

In January 2008, the fourth book of the Clayton series released. The title is On My Terms, and it's Dean's story. Dean is a filmmaker from Dallas, Texas. Through investments from his large family of adopted children (who are adults now), he embarks on his major independent project. And nothing goes right. Thus, when the owner of the property he's leased to make the film shows up with her traumatized niece, she orders him out. Getting around her is no easy feat, especially when they discover that both of them have hidden demons to exorcise.

June's book is a Kimani Press book called Right Guy, Wrong Gown. This is the story of a woman moving into a house she inherited from her grandmother. Expecting a gown for a ball, she inadvertedly gets a wedding gown delivered. And she tries it on. Before she can get it off, the hero shows up, angry to find her wearing his invalid sister's gown. And more uneasy that he liked the vision of her wearing it. But he's made one trip to the altar, and once was more than enough.

September will see the final book in the Clayton series. Rosa, the supermodel, will tell her story. From a quaint town in Montana that first appeared in my historical, Clara's Promise, Rosa will learn the history of the town and two of its founders while finding her own happiness, helped along by the matchmaking father of the hero.

Bettye: That's unfortunate about the NeXt title, but I'm sure it will see print before too long.

Out of all your books, only one (Clara’s Promise) has a historical setting. Any plans to do another book set in a bygone era?

SH: I loved writing Clara's Promise and had plans to continue writing more. I outlined several and presented them to my editor, but the line at the time went totally contemporary. I still have those books and one day they will find a home. Also, since we crossed the line into the new millineum, there is a push for historical novels to also cross that line. I have a mainstream historical set in the 1930's that my agent is shopping around.

Bettye: I'm crossing my fingers that your historicals find a home. I wish there'd be more books about the 1930s, a time when my parents were in their heyday.

Do you have any forecasts about future trends of publishing?

SH: I wish I had that crystal ball. I will say, I do ponder the subject frequently. I look at the phoenomenon that created some of the past trends, best sellers, markets and see if I can apply any of those processes to something new and different for the future. But so far, my crystal ball is still too dark to see through.

Bettye: Mine is perpetually cloudy. But I did hear earlier this week that street lit sales are slipping, so that trend may have crested.

And now for the inevitable ticklish personal question. I know you’re a former resident of Washington, DC. Which memorial do you prefer, and why - the Lincoln or the Jefferson?

SH: This is a difficult question because I could be a tour guide for the monuments in Washington. The question can be answered based on different criteria, but I'm sure you're asking about the man in that monument and not the aesthetics of form. There was a time when Jefferson would have sprang quickly to the tongue, but I've read a lot of biographies lately and I have to go to Lincoln. Jefferson wrote a lot of "pretty" words, but they weren't meant for slaves or to give slaves equality. So I believe Lincoln is the better choice.

Bettye: Here's my fifth and final question. Which of your books took the longest and shortest times to complete writing, and why do you suppose that was?

SH: The book that took the shortest amount of time to write was White Diamonds. I had no time. I was crushed under deadlines, being president of my romance writers chapter and doing a sold-out conference. When I looked at the deadline and how many pages I had to write, I only had a month. I knuckled down and did nothing but write. I work full time and each night when I got home, I bought junk food and started writing. I finished a 500-page manuscript in 30 days.

Bettye: Junk food for 30 days? How many pounds did you put on? No, don't answer that. Back to the book that took you the longest time to complete.

SH: The book that took the longest amount of time to write was On My Terms, the one that was just released this month. I don't know why. I knew the storyline. I loved the characters. It was only a matter of writing it down, but it took me forever to get it written. Now that it's done, I like it and don't see why I agonized so over writing it.

Bettye: There's nothing like looking back at a job well done, even though it was hell to complete it.

It’s been five questions already, Shirley, but I’d like to invite you to speak to the people reading this interview and tell them anything you’d like them to know.

SH: I can't think of anything more to add. If you are a reader, then I hope I'm doing a good job of writing the stories you want to read. If you are an aspiring writer, then you need to write as much as you can and as often as you can. Don't give yourself excuses, just do it.

Bettye: Thanks, Shirley!

Shirley's novels are available at bookstores everywhere and at Amazon as well. Click here to order On My Terms. Click here to pre-order Right Guy, Wrong Gown. (Amazon has it listed with the title Wrong Dress, Right Guy, but it's the right book!) And visit Shirley's web site to learn more about her books!

Movie Trivia Answers to #2 and Question #3

Lest anyone think I've given up blogging in favor of trivia, I assure you I'm very busy doing early stage promo for my upcoming novel. I'll also be sending out ARCs, creating postcards, figuring out what promo stuff to do at Slam Jam, etc. Plus there's that next novel to complete, even though the deadline for that is still comfortably in the future. This is an ideal way for me to stay active and still TCB. By the time the Oscars are given out next month I'll be in better shape.
So here we go!

The answer to yesterday's question was Dr. No, the very first James Bond movie released way back in 1962 and shown occasionally on TV. The first movie Bond (and the best, IMO), was Sean Connery, who stayed sexy even after he started getting old and threw away his rug.

From the answers that have now been posted, there are two correct answers, and both got bonus points awarded:

Patricia now has 3 OGGS.

Shelia has 2 OGGS.

And now, for Question #3:

Now, y'all know I love me some old movies, so I've got to include a line or two from these gems. But I'll give you hints, so don't worry!

First, the quote (in this case actually an exchange:)

Witness: "Mr. Keyes, I'm a Medford man. Medford, Oregon. In Medford we take our time making up our minds."

Keyes, insurance investigator: "Well, we're not in Medford now. We're in a hurry."

Sharp dialogue, huh? Now for the hint: This is from a 1940s film noir about insurance fraud, and its title borrows from an insurance term. It starred Barbara Stanwyck in a rather cheesy-looking blond wig opposite an actor who went on to star in a couple of Disney movies, then a long-running TV series about a household of men.

I think I might be making these too easy for y'all.

You can take a stab at the answer right up until the time I post it, around noon CT tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll also have my latest 5 Questions column posted. I won't tell you who's being interviewed; you'll just have to wait and read it.
Movie Trivia #2

Can anyone tell me the name of the first film in which this memorable line was uttered?

"Bond. James Bond."

An extra point if you can name the actor who said it, since numerous fellows played this character.

If you don't know this offhand, it's an easy answer to find!

I figured out how to allow for multiple correct answers: I just won't post any of the answers that come in until I'm ready to announce the correct answer, which will be around noon Central Time the following day. This way nobody can see what other people said. Sound fair?
Close Elections of the Un-manipulated Kind

I'm listening to last night's Democratic debate now (ain't the Internet great). Now that they've discussed the race issue inside out, I hope that they move on.

I personally felt that the "controversy" in the news lately stemming from Hillary's remarks about Martin Luther King's role in the Civil Rights Act (prominent, which is why he and others who wanted this passed were present when Lyndon Johnson picked up the pen to sign it, but the truth was he wasn't a politician, folks, and therefore didn't have the power to make law) was blown out of proportion by the media from a wish to divide the black vote (and clear the path for John Edwards to get the nomination.)

Promoting divisiveness among blacks is nothing new (house slave vs. field slave, anyone?), and as someone who has spent more than half my life living under the rule of Presidents I either disagreed with or outright couldn't stand (I won't count Eisenhower, since he was gone when I was 3-1/2, but five years of Nixon, 2-1/2 years of Ford, eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush, and seven years of Bush II) I can certainly live happily with John Edwards in the White House, but I prefer my elections un-manipulated.
The Awards Season That Wasn't?

In honor of what might possibly be a toned-down movie awards season, let's have some fun!
Can anyone out there tell me A) what actor said this, and B) what movie it was from:

"Who has been puttin' out their Kools on my floor????"

Answer to be posted by noon Central Time tomorrow, if no one comes up with a correct answer before then. More movie trivia right up through the Academy Awards presentation. I'll keep track of all correct answers, and I'll even award a prize or two (so the more correct answers you have, the more likely you'll win something!) What prizes, you ask? I haven't decided yet, other than that only U.S. residents are eligible to win, and that they will be smaller than a breadbox (and likely less valuable, although I can promise it'll be worth more than a loaf of bread).

Check back often; you never know when I'll have a new question up. Let's have some fun, y'all!

What? No Banquet?

The Golden Globe (a rather prestigious award, considering only a paltry 85 people or so have a say in who carries home the statue), winners were announced at a press conference last night. Out of respect for the striking writers, the celebrities declined to appear.

The public was spared inane red carpet interviews that usually consist of one question: "Who designed your dress?" Everyone also knew the names of the winners within an hour.

I'll bet all those women who otherwise would have to fast and work out to get into those gowns celebrated by having a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake . . . .

Some Writers Have All The Luck

While channel surfing this afternoon, I saw a movie on Lifetime with a suspiciously familiar plot: "A woman has a reversal of fortune when a wealthy family mistakes her for their dead son's wife."

I immediately thought, No Man of Her Own, a classic from 1950 starring Barbara Stanwyck that's already been remade once in 1996, as the dreadful Mrs. Winterbourne with Ricki Lake. I tuned in to the movie. The setup for the pregnancy came early on in the form of a rape, with the rapist knifed to death by the heroine and his brother wounded. He would be the one to come back and blackmail her after she hitched a ride with a newlywed couple on their way to the husband's home, where the bride would meet her in-laws for the first time. (Just before the crash that killed the newlyweds, the heroine was conveniently trying on the bride's rings.)

I was surprised that this movie was made in 2001, just five years after the release of Mrs. Winterbourne. When I checked the Internet Movie Database (, I was further surprised to see that this story, called They Called Me Patrice, from a 1948 book of short stories called I Married A Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), has been filmed a total of five times: The aforementioned theatrical releases in 1950 and 1996, the made-for-TV version I saw on Lifetime, a French film in 1982, and a Brazilian TV series in 1962. So if you ever see a movie in which a woman is traveling on a train, bus, or in a car with a newly married couple, tries on the woman's ring and then BANG!!! - the couple is killed in a crash, think Cornell Woolrich.

Cornell Woolrich, an unhappy man who was alcoholic, homosexual and devoted to his demanding mother, was one helluva writer. In addition to the successful short story that spawned four movies and one TV show, his short story It Had to be Murder was filmed (twice!) as Rear Window, he supplied the story for the classic 1949 film noir The Window, and wrote dozens of episodes for anthology TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock, G.E. Theater and Playhouse 90. He died in 1968.

Which makes me wonder . . . he was an only child, had no children, and so few friends that he once dedicated a novel to his typewriter . . . . who's getting the money for all these remakes?

But that's a column for another day.

Building an Inventory, One Word at a Time

Now that the shakeup I experienced with my proposals has been dealt with (too complicated to fully explain; let's just say that a decision at Dafina made me reconsider the proposal I had planned in favor of another one that wasn't even complete, much less Ready for Prime Time), I am turning my attention to the synopses I started last year but didn't finish. Not because I've got the attention span of a 3-year-old, but because I got stuck.

I've started four projects in the last six months. One of them now has a completed synopsis (I wrote it as soon as I knew where the story would go, with the story itself about two-thirds written). Another I just started last month, after being unable to stop thinking about an article I read on-line about a real-life incident in Pennsylvania. Considering the relatively short time I've been working on it, I've made damn good progress.

As for the other two . . . well, they're languishing. I've got great premises for each, but a premise alone will not sell a story. The enthusiasm and excitement apparent in the beginning has to carry through to the very end.

Now, I know enough about myself to know that inspiration strikes when it's good and ready and not a moment before, but this weekend I'll be concentrating on trying to speed it up a bit. An unfinished synopsis is pretty worthless, since it can't be sold unless it's complete. Besides, two of these have been laying around long enough to sprout a family of dust mites. It's time to cross that finish line.

If you're a writer (published or unpublished), how many WIPs, either entire manuscripts or simply synopses, have you started but not finished?

A picture says a thousand words

And in this picture from the 2004 Democratic Convention at which he went from virtual unknown to (rock) star politician, Barack Obama clearly looks uncomfortable.

With the news that John Kerry has endorsed him making headlines, I'd like nothing better than to see the look on his face now!

Kerry's endorsing Obama over John Edwards gives credence to the rumors of bickering between the 2004 Democratic Presidential running team. I don't see a Kerry endorsement as being particularly valuable. The man lost me when he couldn't effectively explain the connection between being poor and uneducated and serving in Iraq (i.e., you don't see the offspring of the wealthy serving; for the most part it's working class).
My first thought was that this probably pissed off the Clintons. Bill Clinton, after all, got up from his sickbed after heart surgery to campaign for Kerry/Edwards ticket. But after thinking about it, I wonder if Kerry is returning the favor . . . by endorsing Obama!

The latest case of Foot-in-Mouth

Tiger Woods graciously accepted Kelly Tilghman's apology for her thoughtless back-alley-lynching remark. Personally, I think he did the right thing. I truly don't think she spoke with any malice, or even with "blind" racism (like the guy who said blacks lacked buoyancy to be good swimmers, who did not realize how racist this belief was). I think she simply had no idea of the substance of her words, that thousands of blacks have lost their lives this way in nearly 400 years.

In my opinion, the problem here is a lack of understanding on the part of many whites about the plight of blacks in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. The sense of entitlement that so many whites have from birth has numbed them to the difficulties of other minorities, and they hold beliefs that simply aren't true. During the O.J. Simpson trial, people were posting on the Internet that black people are the only ones who can get a "free" college education through the United Negro College Fund (I hope I enlightened a few folks by posting that the fund helps keep tuition costs down, but it is by no means free.)

The recent (and ridiculous) comparisons of Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy have people longing for what they remember as the "good old days." Any black person can tell you that the early 1960s was a lousy time.

Then there's Presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressing concerns that his Church of Latter Day Saints (commonly known as Mormonism) religion might cost him the nomination. "That's not the American way," he declared.

Horseshit. Our country was built on a foundation of racism. Why is it that so few whites are willing to admit that? The first people who came here were escaping persecution, but promptly exercised their perceived "superiority" over the Indians and tried to enslave them. All those old TV westerns have at least one episode in which the Americans refer to the Indians as "savages." Africans, of course, were imported by the hundreds to work in households in the North and on plantations in the South and the Caribbean and parts of South America, most notably Brazil. Their descendants remain the most reviled and vilified of all the world's people. Many other ethnic and religious groups (mostly those olive-complexioned or darker, but even the Irish were openly discriminated against) experienced blatant bigotry, but after a generation or two they in turn were looking down on new immigrants. Yes, Mitt, it is the American way.

It sounds to me like some educating is needed enlighten today's Americans to the indignities suffered by generations of people, and that words like "lynch him" are not to be tossed around casually. I just wish I had a solution of how to go about doing it.
I don't think that the inevitable calls for firing this woman from Rev. Sharpton and others is going to do a damn thing about achieving resolution.
I'll take Popular Surnames for Two Hundred, Alex

Some interesting statistics from the Census Bureau:

The most popular surname in the world is Lee, including all its variations, like "Li."

More people in the U.S. carry the surname Smith than any other, a longstanding statistic. And that doesn't include all the variations (no Smithes, Smyths, or Schmidts).

More than 7 million Americans have one of the following surnames: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller or Davis.

Moore and Taylor are out of the top 10, replaced by Garcia and Rodriguez. Martinez is rapidly gaining on the 10th place finisher, Wilson.

About one in five Smiths are black, as are about one in three Johnsons, Browns, and Joneses and nearly half the people named Williams. Smith is my mother's maiden name, Williams is my mother-in-law's maiden name. I've known plenty of white Smiths (I think a lot of them used to be Schmidt, Schmitt, or Schmitz until after the end of World War I), but just a few white Williamses. Johnsons and Joneses go either way, in my experience. But I've noticed that a whole lot of black folks carry colorful surnames like Brown or Browne, White, Green or Greene, or Blue, but I don't recall meeting anyone black named Black (all the Blacks I've encountered are white).

Nearly 90 percent of the Washingtons were black, as were 75 percent of the Jeffersons, 66 percent of the Bookers, 54 percent of the Banks and 53 percent of the Mosleys. I don't recall encountering any Jeffersons or Bankses, and I've known Mosleys of both races, but when I reaed this I realized that virtually every person I've met named Booker and Washington (and even people I don't know personally, like actors Denzel and Kerry) has been black.

Something else I noticed: People named Easter or Christmas tend to be black. On the other hand, anyone might be named Valentine.

Do you have any observations on last names to share?
And you thought writing was hard . . . !

My book comes out in May (technically, April 29th). The manuscript has long since been turned in, the copyeditor's suggestions either accepted or rejected, and the galleys have been proofed and pages sent for correction.

That means it's time to begin promoting.

Last week I published the first of four character sketches here on my blog. I sent e-mail about this to everyone who signed up for my mailing list, as well as everyone who has written me over the nearly 10 years since my first book was published.

It wasn't easy.

I thought I had my lists completely organized, but I don't. I first tried to organize them in terms of geographical area, in case I ever do a signing where they are. Let's face it, someone who lives in St. Louis couldn't care less if I'll be doing a signing in Indianapolis. But I don't necessarily know where everyone who e-mails me lives, so the bulk of my e-mail address library, aside from areas where I have a fairly large following (my hometown in New York; Jacksonville, Florida, where I used to live; Indianapolis, where I've done several signings; and the Chicago metro area, where I now live) is simply alphabetical. Unfortunately, I noticed that some people got listed twice, on my website mail as well as on my e-mail list. I removed those names I recognized and know I'll have to do a list comparison to make sure I'm not annoying people with multiple e-mails.

The good news is that my book now has a ranking on Amazon (indicating at least a few pre-orders). The bad news is that I'm giving myself three weeks to straighten out these lists. The next time I do an e-mail blast I want each addresse to receive just one copy.

Then there's the e-mail addresses that are no longer valid. This is the number one reason why I won't pay anyone to send out e-mail on my behalf. People change e-mail addresses all the time. When I send them out, I know how many come back. When someone else does it I don't know how many messages of the advertised number are really getting through.

When I finally get this done it'll be a snap.

It's the effort required to get it done that has me exhausted.

5 Questions for . . . Kimberla Lawson Roby

New York Times best-selling author Kimberla Lawson Roby has agreed to take five of my questions. This Illinois resident broke into contemporary African-American fiction with the self-publication of her first novel, Behind Closed Doors, back in 1997. Since then she’s written nine more novels, with the tenth, Sin No More, due to hit stores on January 22nd (or before, if you’re lucky).
Each of Ms. Roby’s novels have dealt with very real issues---in BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, social status, gambling addiction, and infidelity; in HERE AND NOW, single motherhood, infertility, and sibling rivalry; in CASTING THE FIRST STONE, corruption within the church; in IT’S A THIN LINE, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and care-giving of a parent; in A TASTE OF REALITY, racial and gender discrimination in the workplace with subplots exploring sexual harassment; in TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING (a sequel to CASTING THE FIRST STONE), THE BEST-KEPT SECRET and LOVE AND LIES, church issues were revisited; and in CHANGING FACES, overweight issues, a female illness, damaging secrets and the importance of a devoted friendship between three women.

Here we go! And please pardon the sometimes irregular spacing; I can't get Blogger to get right.

Bettye: The year 2008 will bring something different from Kimberla Lawson Roby . . . two new releases. Tell us about them. And will this be a regular semi-annual occurrence for your readers to look forward to?

KLR: My January 2008 novel, entitled Sin No More (William Morrow - hardcover), is the fifth in my Reverend Curtis Black series, and it shows what happens when you've sinned repeatedly and now have to deal with all the consequences. It shows that we all must and do reap what we have sown. My second story of the year, One in a Million (William Morrow - hardcover), will be released in June and is about a woman who has received the best news ever and can't wait to tell her husband. However, when her husband arrives home she learns that he also has news, except his news is the worst news ever and will change their lives forever. Readers can also look for the paperback version of Love & Lies (my 2007 hardcover), which is the fourth title in the Reverend Curtis Black series.

In terms of whether I'll continue to write two books per year, you'll definitely see this happen again in 2009 and hopefully in future years as well. I've often had readers ask me if I would ever be willing to write/release two books per year, so this is the reason I chose to do so.

Bettye: The reading public just can’t seem to get enough of Curtis Black. I suspect there are more pastors like Curtis Black out there than we might think. One of the ministers in my hometown used to tool around town in a pink Cadillac, and I still remember the joking remarks made to his parishoners . . . “Did you see that Caddy y’all bought Reverend Smith?”(not his real name, of course). The title of Sin No More suggests you might be wrapping it up, so let’s get the scoop straight from the source – Will there be subsequent books about this character? If not, will you be introducing a new love-to-hate-him/her character?

KLR: I've considered ending the series for a while, so I tried my best to wrap things up in Sin No More to the best of my ability. Not to say that you won't see Curtis again in other stories of mine, but for now, I'd like to focus on a few new characters and storylines.

Bettye: I can understand that. I'm sure there are dozens of stories you want to tell.

Okay, middle question. As a top-selling author, your publisher sends you on book tours. (For information on Kimberla’s tour stops for Sin No More, visit her website.) Do you have a favorite city or bookstore where the readers were particularly enthusiastic?

KLR: There are a number of bookstores and cities that fall under my favorites' category, but I'll always miss Emma Rodgers and her wonderful bookstore, Black Images, in Dallas, TX. I'll miss her and all of her amazing customers. Her store is now closed, and it is certainly a major loss to the bookselling industry.

Bettye: It's time to get personal. Do you cook? If you do, what’s your specialty, or at least your flawless culinary creation?

KLR: I'm definitely not a cooking sort of girl, but thankfully, before my mom passed away, she taught me how to make her awesomely tasteful baked macaroni and cheese as well as this wonderful cheese potato dish, which I make for Thanksgiving. Of course, this means all of the rest of the dishes (a lot of them) are made mostly by my youngest brother, who is this amazing cook and also by my middle brother and husband who can dabble pretty nicely themselves!

Bettye: I love a man who cooks! I keep telling my husband that a man in the kitchen is sexy . . . it rarely works. But he's big on take-out.

And now for the fifth and final question. When your book Changing Faces came out in 2006, you were very open about your dissatisfaction with your weight and your determination to do something about it (although when I met you in Jacksonville, Florida, some years back you didn't strike me as someone who particularly needed to slim down). How’s that going, two years later? As someone whose 5 extra pounds has ballooned into 40 over the years, I need some encouragement.
KLR: I certainly appreciate the compliment, and I think being 5'9" without shoes is what allowed me to conceal how much I really weighed. There was a time, right after my mom passed in 2001, when I weighed 40 pounds more than what I weigh currently and I felt sluggish all the time. I had no energy, and I wasn't happy with the way my clothing fit. Now, today, I stick to the program because what I learned from Weight Watchers is that you can't diet. I learned that what you have to do instead is make a brand-new healthy lifestyle change and follow this new way of living and eating for the rest of your life. I've been a Lifetime Member (meaning I've not exceeded my goal weight for my height) for over two years, and I still feel better at 42 than I did in my early thirties. It has been a truly great experience, and I recommend Weight Watchers to anyone struggling with their weight.
Bettye: Kimberla, those five questions went by very quickly, but I’d like to give you the opportunity to say anything you’d like to the folks reading this.
KLR: I just want to say how grateful I am to have been given this opportunity and that I hope everyone will pick up a copy of Sin No More on January 22nd and One in a Million in June!
Bettye: Thanks, Kimberla, for taking time out before the kickoff of your tour to take 5 questions!
Kimberla's upcoming books will be available in bookstores everywhere and may also be pre-ordered on Amazon.

The New Face of American Politics?

NBC News is projecting that Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucus. Iowa. Iowa-way. Midwest. As in cornfields . . . Des Moines . . . and a very small black population.

I admit I didn't believe that a state with so many white voters would ever pick Obama over the more "traditional" (i.e., white male) candidate, Edwards. I hope this position holds tomorrow morning when I wake up. I remember the projections the night of the 2000 Presidential election.

I also remember what befell the winner of the California primary in 1968 (Robert F. Kennedy).

Lord, keep this man safe.
More! More! More!

One of the earlier contemporary novels of women's fiction that featured black characters was Terry McMillan's Waiting To Exhale. As everyone knows, this book became phenomally successful, becoming a bestseller and being optioned (and actually made) for a film adaptation, which was also quite successful. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 16 years since my nose was buried in that book.

Terry's next book, Getting To Happy, will re-visit the women of Waiting To Exhale in the present day. I don't know when it'll be published, but I'm pretty sure that any manuscript Ms. McMillan turns in will have a short lead time to publication.

Another book I read and was captivated by was Tryin' to Sleep in the Bed You Made by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant, around the mid-1990s. The authors have written a sequel, Gotta Keep On Tryin', that features heroines Pat and Gayle 10 years later, that will hit stores next week.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not much for sequels, but with such a long time between stories, it'll be interesting to see what the 35-ish women of Exhale are up to as 50-year-olds, and what's happening with Pat, Gayle, and Marcus, friends from childhood who witnessed a tragedy as youngsters. I also like the way the titles tie in to the original novels.

I promised readers years ago that I would do a sequel to my 2002 romance From This Day Forward, featuring the much-younger sisters of the heroine, who were mere teenagers at the time and would now be in their early to mid-20s. I haven't forgotten. I just never liked the idea of moving in dog years, if you will . . . having characters age 10 years in 2 because it's convenient. I'm working on a storyline, but it needs more oomph.

I'm feeling a little more confident about a proposal I recently completed for a sequel to The People Next Door, which many readers have also asked me for, with action occurring 5 years after the original left off. I'll keep you posted.

I guess I like my sequels delayed.

What a Character, Part 1 of 4
Once Upon A Project

Presenting the first of four glimpses into the lead characters of my upcoming novel, Once Upon A Project, coming from Dafina Books on April 29, 2008. Subsequent character blogs will post on the 1st of February, March, and April. The purpose of these blogs is to give readers insight into the personalities of these characters. Please do not confuse them with chapter excerpts.

For a chance to win an ARC of Once Upon A Project, subscribe to my newsletter, which will have contest information.


Character Name: Patricia Maxwell
Setting: Chicago, March 2007
I broke into a smile when I recognized the written name of my old friend on the RSVP list. ‘Susan Dillahunt, party of three.’ I was exhausted from putting together this damn reunion, but the prospect of seeing Susan again thrilled me. It’s been way too long. I see Grace all the time, but both Susan and my other friend from childhood, Elyse, left the city. Elyse, whom I saw just the other week when she drove down to have dinner with Grace and me, is up in the north suburbs. Lake Forest is a city where you’re upwardly mobile at the least, or at best, have arrived. Susan lives just over the Wisconsin border, in a town called Pleasant Prairie. There might not be much to that burb in terms of culture and restaurants, but wow, what a lifestyle. Not only is Susan's house huge, but it’s right on the banks of Lake Michigan. They have their own private beach behind their back yard, for heaven's sake. I’ll never forget how Grace’s eyes bugged out when she saw it. I love Grace, but she’s a jealous little thing.
Grace has been divorced . . . twice. Both Elyse and Susan are married. Elyse married a guy who’s half a generation older than she is. She complained about him not wanting to do anything anymore at dinner two weeks ago, but at this point she can say she’s been married to him more than half her life . . . something I can't even imagine. Susan’s husband is about our age, and he’s loaded. Credit card processing is his game. He’s a good-looking SOG – I always say 'son-of-a-gun,' since that other expression isn’t very nice – too. I guess they’ll be bringing at least one of their kids, since Susan reserved three tickets. It made me think that maybe planning this thing would work out after all.
Our families were all among the earliest residents of the Theodore Dreiser Projects when they opened 50 years ago. The folks who live there now seem stuck. I want people like Grace, Elyse, and Susan to show that people from the projects can look forward to things other than a lifetime of poverty. Still, I’d had a fear that I’d bitten off more than I can chew. Lord knows my job as prosecutor in the Cook County State Attorney's office keeps me busy. But the minute I saw the current residents of the projects here on the South Side on the news, running their mouths about how they wanted computer rooms and exercise rooms, I started organizing. It all seemed so ridiculous to me. The projects are housing for low-income people. It’s not supposed to be a damn country club. I lived in the Dreiser Projects for a long time, from a babe in arms until after I graduated law school. It was kind of embarrassing . . . all my friends’ families had moved out years before that. Hell, Elyse’s family left before we turned 10, right after the Blizzard of ’67, but we were there another fifteen years. When I’d been working long enough to save some money and get a place of my own, my parents downsized to a one-bedroom, where they stayed until they were able to get into senior citizen’s housing.
My parents never had much of anything. I’ll never understand how they managed to raise three children on next to nothing. We used to joke that we were the real-life Evans family from the TV show Good Times. I was the only girl and the middle child, just like Thelma. But both my brothers met with tragic fates. My older brother got hooked on drugs and did jail time before OD’ing. My younger brother got caught in gang crossfire coming home from school when he was just 16. After that, my parents put all their hopes on me.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, someone once said. But I do feel I’ve done my parents proud. They looked out for me as well, and they wouldn't be discouraged when it came to my future. They pestered the guidance counselors at school for information on grants and scholarships. My counselor, being a racist asshole, tried to steer me into a service industry, saying I didn’t possess the smarts to go to college, and my parents stood up to him. Now, I'm no Bill Gates, but my grades were well above average. From there I went on Northwestern and got a law degree. I stayed in the prosecutor’s office because I’d rather prosecute real offenders to society, like the gang members and drug pushers that killed my brothers, than defend the rich. My parents brag about their daughter, the attorney, all the time. Their lives are more than satisfactory. Except . . . no grandchildren. I’m the only one among my closest friends who has never been married, and the only one who didn’t have kids. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Or maybe I made the biggest mistake of my life.
Ricky Suarez and I grew up together. His mother’s apartment was down the hall from ours. Chicago might be in the North, but it was segregated, or at least their public housing was. Most of the projects on the South Side were built especially for black residents. The white folks had projects too, up North and to the West. I guess the housing board didn’t know what to do when Miriam Suarez applied for an apartment for herself and her two boys. If she’d been a fair-skinned Latina from, say, Madrid, they probably would have sent her over to live in the white folks’ projects. But she’s olive-complexioned, and her parents were from Mexico, so she got an apartment in Dreiser.
Ricky and I started going together in high school. We were born the same year, but he was a year ahead of me because I was born in December, after the cut-off in place at the time to enter kindergarten. I was his prom date. Our parents thought it was cute, but nothing serious. But when Ricky told me he wanted to marry me when we were 19, everything fell apart. My little brother had just been killed, my older brother was incarcerated for drugs, and my parents had already pinned all their hopes on me. My father said he didn’t want me marrying some “burrito boy,” calling Ricky that because he worked in a Mexican restaurant and planned to open his own place one day. I should marry someone black, he said, and have black children. He and my mother reminded me of how my Uncle Jacob had been lynched in their hometown of Wabbaseka, Arkansas, back in 1954, and how that drove them out of the South and here to Chicago for a life of urban hardscrabble. I didn’t even know Uncle Jacob; he was killed three years before I was born. Besides, they’d always liked Ricky, just like Miriam Suarez always liked me. But my parents wouldn’t budge, and in the end I gave in. I couldn’t bear all the pressure they put on me, the anguished cries that one of their sons was dead and the other one was lost to them. Ricky tried to convince me to override them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I lost him.
He went on to open a successful luncheonette in the industrial part of the city, and later, an upscale restaurant downtown. The twenty-year friendship between Miriam and my parents came to a halt, and Miriam left Dreiser soon after. And this December I’ll be fifty years old and still alone . . . involved in civic duties like planning reunion luncheons for former residents of the Dreiser Projects because I have nothing else with which to fill my life.
I lowered my eyes, and then a name on the list I held jumped out at me like trick-or-treaters on Halloween. ‘Mr. And Mrs. Enrique Suarez, party of two.’ Oh, my God. Ricky was coming. And bringing his wife.
How was I supposed to handle that?
Want to know more? Click here to pre-order Once Upon A Project from Amazon.