It's Leap Year Day . . . will there really be a spring?

Since this is the day for women to propose to men, I asked my husband if he'd marry me all over again. I'm pleased to report that he gave the right answer!

Since many of you in the blogosphere are familiar with Patricia W., here's a photo my husband took of the two of us when we were in Florida over the Christmas holiday:

I'm so glad it shows her dimples. Ain't she cute? Patricia, I wish I were in Florida again, after what over 60% of Chicagoans surveyed said has been the worst winter in memory.

Friday Funny

Please join me in remembering a great icon - the veteran Pillbury spokesman. The Pillsbury doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 43. Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, The California Raisins, Betty Crocker, The Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The gravesite was piled high with flours. Long-time friend Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy, describing Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very "smart" cookie, wasting much of his dough on halfbaked schemes. Despite being being a little flaky at times, he even still, as a crusty old man, was considered a roll model for millons. Toward the end it was thought he would rise again, but alas, he was no tart. Doughboy is surved by his wife, Play Dough; two chidren, John Dough and Jane Dough; plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart. The funeral was held at 3:50 for about twenty minutes.
Have a great weekend! Be sure to check back tomorrow to meet Grace Corrigan from Once Upon A Project.

My Mind is Going Through Them Changes

Drummer Buddy Miles died yesterday of congestive heart failure in Austin, Texas. His age was given as 60. He played with numerous rock legends, including Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie, but was well known for the songs Them Changes and Down by the River (I've never been able to figure out what the hell those lyrics meant). He also voiced the lead singer of the California Raisins.

He was born George Allen Miles, Jr., but nicknamed "Buddy" by his aunt for his drum-playing ability after legendary drummer Buddy Rich.

Rest in peace, Buddy! I'm going to pull out your CD now.

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

I'm using a popular phrase from the old Seinfeld show (which I never watched, but since I didn't live under a rock I did hear the phrase) in reference to the above photo. I find it unsettling that the word "Muslim" is being bandied about as something unpleasant, along the lines of "child molester," "serial Killer," or "convicted felon."

Islam is one of the largest religions in the world. Some people are fanatics, yes, and believe in causing death and destruction, yes, but I still feel it's wrong to demonize all its followers, the bulk of whom are just going about their daily lives just like anybody else. I happen to believe that a Muslim has no more chance of being elected President of the United States than a Mormon does (and yes, Mitt Romney, it is the American way). But if all the world's Muslims were to turn against humanity . . . well, I'll use a phrase from the Hitchcock classic The Birds: "We wouldn't stand a chance." I'm surprised that Muslims have not raised an uproar over this.
I know I'm being hypothetical here, but if a group of Methodists got together and planned a terrorist attack on America, you can bet that their religion wouldn't be used to incite fear or referred to as something distasteful in such a matter-of-fact manner.
Things that make you go, "Hmmmmmm"

I'm on the subscriber list of Black Books Promo (am still not sure how I got there, but I'm not complaining) and received an e-mail from them about a suspense book by a white author, Lisa Jackson. I'm rather pleased that this author recognizes that African-Americans buy a lot of books and is reaching out to the buying public in a colorblind manner. I wish her success . . . or, since it says right on her book cover that she is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, additional success.

I also noticed that her book cover does not show characters, but a rather murky depiction of what looks like a casket underwater, and this made me wonder about marketing. Most books penned by black authors show black faces (or, keeping with the recent trend, black arms, legs, ankles and feet.) I did a little research and noticed some recently or soon-to-be-released books and find that they have no identifiable racial identity on their covers. Do the bookstores have a list of author names that should go in the so-called African-American section? Or do they go strictly by what they see on the covers? Or do they peek at the author photo to make this determination?


Odds and Ends

I was going to name this column "The Week in Review," but since it's Monday that doesn't seem right.

This was the first weekend without snow since the last one in November (but I was out of town for two weekends over the Christmas holiday, so can't speak of what went on then). It felt good to get out of the house without having to rush back when the snow started sticking. And it was warm enough to melt the ice that had one of our cars captive for nearly three weeks. But guess what's coming tonight? I'm not complaining; at least it held off until Monday.

This year's HBO programming for Black History Month was a biography of the Brown Bomber, heavyweight champ Joe Louis. Every time I think about what happened to him I get mad. The man was an American icon whose patriotic spirit outweighed his wish for financial success. He willingly gave up four of his best fighting years in order to serve in the Army, yet the IRS hounded him relentlessly for years, even taking the trust funds he'd set up for his children. It was time for a comprehensive biography on the champ while there are still people around who remember him. I much preferred listening to his friends talk about him, or his son recalling things his mother had told him about his dad, or even people who'd actually seen him fight, to the musings of Dick Gregory and Bill Cosby, both of whom talked about Louis' 1935 match with Max Baer, as well as its affect on the black community, like they'd witnessed it personally. Dick Gregory was 3 years old in 1935, and Bill Cosby wasn't born until 2 years later. That's like getting Will Smith to describe the mood of the country at the time of the Kennedy assassination.

I watched the Oscars last night. That little girl who sang with the choir at the Academy Awards (she's 11) has a great future in front of her. On the other end of the spectrum, the white-haired, cranberry-clad, 83-year-old Ruby Dee is still a stunningly beautiful woman in her 80s. She might not have gotten an award, but she's a winner.

The Puffy version of Raisin in the Sun airs tonight (Monday). If you watch, maybe you can shed some light on where Beneatha slept before the death of her father. I've never been able to figure that one out, and it's always bothered me.

Note that I didn't mention my writing progress. That's because it was too little to bother with, but I'm not slacking. I'm working very hard on other writing-related issues. Honest.

And the Winner Is . . . .

Sorry this is so late. This is the first weekend since the last one in November where we didn't have snow, and we took full advantage of it!

Okay. First, the quotes:

"You can't handle the truth!" said by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men (1992)

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" said by Peter Finch in Network (1976) (he won an Oscar, but had a fatal heart attack before the ceremony. His award was accepted by his widow).

"I'll have what she's having," said about Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally (1989)

"Why don't you come up sometime and see me," said by Mae West to a young (not yet 30) Cary Grant. The movie was She Done Him Wrong (1933)

"I see dead people," said to Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense (1999)

The toughie:

"You can be dark and have money, you can be light and have no money, but you can't be dark, have no money, and expect to get Harry Patel," said in Mississippi Masala (1990), which starred Denzel Washington in one of his most romantic roles.

Now, for the scores: We seem to have lost Patricia (41 OGGS) and Donna (who was leading with 72 OGGS).

Gwyneth earned a respectable 30 OGGS
Patricia earned 41 OGGS and was leading at one time
Donna earned 72 OGGS and was leading going into the final round
Shelia aced every question and now has 85 OGGS, finishing second
Reon also aced every question and now has 96 OGGS, finishing first

Reon gets an ARC of Once Upon A Project. Shelia gets a $10 gift certificate to the bookseller of her choice (between Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon). I'll need both ladies to contact me by e-mail with where to send their prizes (and in Shelia's case, what she wants).

Once again, I thank everyone for participating. I think we had fun. And it turns out that there's going to be an Oscar show after all! It starts in 15 minutes.

Pass the popcorn.
Update on Drew Peterson Case

It has been determined that his third wife's drowning was not accidental, but was a homicide (I'm a little curious to know just how the Medical Examiner determined this . . . was there a lot of flesh left with bruises or other marks that would suggest she'd been held down.

Drew Peterson continues to insist he had nothing to do with either the death of his third wife, Kathleen, or of the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy.
Has anyone questioned this guy? He looks an awful lot like the suspect:
5 Question for . . . agent Anita Diggs

Today we are being joined by agent Anita Diggs, whose experience in the world of publishing has included working as a book editor for Random House, Time Warner Trade Publishing and Thunder's Mouth Press. She has lectured across the country on the topics of novel writing, book proposal development and how to get a literary agent. The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, C-Span, and The New York Daily News have interviewed her. Columbia Journalism Review placed Ms. Diggs on their “The Shapers” list for the year 2000. The Shapers is a list of prominent New Yorkers who shape the national media agenda. As an author, she has penned the novels A Mighty Love, A Meeting in the Ladies Room and The Other Side of the Game.

Anita recently opened a literary agency, Diggs McQuillar, Inc. Her blog, The Book Agent, offers many helpful insights for writers. In addition, Anita offers manuscript evaluations, using her experience and expertise in developmental editing. If you’re wondering why your work is continually being rejected, you might want to contact Anita (her contact info appears below).

Anita will now answer 5 of my questions:

Bettye: First things first: What type of manuscripts are you looking for, and how do potential clients go about contacting you for consideration?

Anita Diggs: Diggs McQuillar specializes in hardcover, trade & mass market adult fiction and nonfiction books.

FICTION: General fiction, romance, mystery, thriller, suspense, literary fiction, commercial women's fiction, ethnic fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror.

NON-FICTION: Narrative nonfiction, autobiography, biography, self help, cookbooks, diet books, advice/relationships business/investing/finance, health, lifestyle, humor, sports, celebrity books, politics, memoir, parenting, multicultural issues, history, science, psychology, pop culture, true crime, current affairs, parenting, religion/spirituality.

NO screenplays, teleplays, children's, young adult, gay/lesbian, westerns, short stories, plays, anthologies, poetry, illustrated or photography books. No electronic queries or submissions. No unsolicited mss.

Contact info:
Diggs McQuillar, Inc.
112 West 117th Street
New York, NY 10026

Query first with SASE. For fiction: Send bio, synopsis and first 25 pages. For nonfiction: Send completed proposal with two chapters. Only typed, double spaced material may be submitted. Response within six weeks. 15% commission on US sales and 25% commission on foreign sales.

Bettye: I would strongly suggest that anyone thinking of submitting to you read your blog first. There’s a treasure trove of information on it, including Anita's pet peeves . . . and you'll only get one chance to make a first impression.

Anita, can you share any predictions or hunches about the future trends of publishing?
Inquiring authors/aspiring writers want to know.

Anita Diggs: As the major houses become even more selective, I see many writers deciding to go the self-publishing route.

Bettye: Probably better to do it yourself than to go with a publisher with a questionable reputation.

You've also written some well-received novels. Which aspect of publishing do you like better, writing or agenting?

Anita Diggs: Well, I've only been an agent for a very short time, but I will say that writing is the hardest job in book publishing and I don't know if I will ever do it again.

Bettye: I've never been an agent, but I do agree that writing is hard.

I always like to slip in a personal question. A big part of your work, as an editor as well as an agent, includes reading. Do you ever curl up with a good book just for the joy of it?

Anita Diggs: I've always been a bookworm, even as a child. Yes, I do read just for the joy of it. At least two books a month. I’ve just finished Greek Fire by Nicholas Gage and Dorothy Dandridge by Donald Bogle.

Bettye: Ah yes, I’ve read Donald Bogle’s biography of Dorothy Dandridge. A revealing portrait.

It’s already time for my last question. As an agent, do you represent only projects you truly like, or do you also consider projects you don't particularly care for (well-written ones, of course; I’m not talking junk) because they meet current market trends and have high sale potential?

Anita Diggs: I won’t represent projects that I don’t like. A literary agent is a salesperson, and when an agent is on the phone making a sales pitch about a sales pitch about a project that he or she doesn’t like, the buyer can always tell. Then the buyer (even if he or she buys the book) loses respect for the agent and the agency.

Bettye: Is there anything else you'd like to say to the people reading this?

Anita Diggs: Don't send your project to an agent or publishing house until it is in tip top shape. What is the point? You'll simply receive a form rejection letter that says something like “this is not what we're looking for right now.” It makes more sense to invest some money in paying a developmental editor (never hire someone who has not worked at a major publishing house) for a professional evaluation.

Bettye: Thanks, Anita! So unrepresented writers or those looking to make a change, polish your manuscripts and head on over to Anita's blog and peruse all her posts. Say hello, and be sure to tell her Bettye sent you!

Thanks, Anita!
Movie Trivia Answers to Question #18 and a New Final Question

Sorry to be so late. It's been a busy day.

Here we go with the correct answers:
"Stellllll-aaaaaa!" said by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire 1951)

"The calla lillies are in bloom again" said by Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door (1937)
"They call me Mister Tibbs!" said by Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night (1967)
"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good" said by Michael Douglas in Wall Street (1987)
"No wire hangers . . . EVER!" said by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981)
"You were probably frightened by a callus at an early age" said by Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce (1945)
"You better not let her hear you say that" (that she's been "penetrated" - by advertising) said by Kirk Doublas in A Letter to Three Wives (1948)

Y'all continue to amaze me. Reon ran the gamut, acing every single question. Donna only missed one (the name of the movie the last quote came from). Incidentally, Donna, I loved it when you said that "calla lilles" sounded like Katharine Hepburn. It's a line she actually said, unlike the "Judy, Judy, Judy," attributed to Cary Grant. I was surprised at how many of you aced the two toughies.

The scores:

Donna has 72 OGGS

Reon has 71 OGGS

Shelia has 60 OGGS

Patricia is still at 41 OGGS

Gwyneth has 20 OGGS

Okay. Are you ready for Final Movie Trivia? Note that I use the term 'actor' as a generic pronoun; the 'actor' can be a female.

"You can't handle the truth!" 1 point for the actor, 2 points for the film

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" 5 points for the actor, 1 point for the film

"I'll have what she's having." 3 points for the actor who played the "she" referred to, 1 point for the film

"Why don't you come up sometime and see me?" 1 point for the actor, 5 points for the actor she said it to (an unknown back in 1933 who was a star by the end of the decade)

"I see dead people." 1 point for the film, 1 point for the actor on the receiving end of this confession (not the speaker)

Now for the toughie (just one):

Scene: A panicked woman talking about the town's most eligible bachelor (she wants him for her daughter), who shows interest in another girl, being reassured by her friend:
"You can be dark and have money, you can be light and have no money . . . but you can't be dark, have no money, and expect to get Harry Patel."

Hint: This art house film starred a very popular black actor but also dealt with a non-black culture.

2 points for the film, 2 points for the name of the actor who played the male lead.

The Thursday answers have been due in by Tuesday for the life of this contest, but this time I must ask you to get your answers in by Sunday at around noon Central Time. I should have the winners' names announced by 6PM Central Time. Good luck, and I thank you all for participating. I hope you had fun!
Memo to Cindy McCain, Pat Buchanan, Bill O'Reilly, and anyone else outraged by Michelle Obama's comments about pride in America
These images will probably make your hearts swell with pride in your country (particularly Mrs. McCain, who so emphatically stated she has always been proud of America), which legally sanctioned the discrimination against citizens of color for generations.

And, if you think a whole lot has changed, allow me to show a symbol that has been in the news fairly recently:

America may try, but the fact will always remain that she is a country built on racism. Anyone expressing pride in America is probably not going to be a person of color. I'm sure you also believe that had the Nazis been rounding up all the Episcopalians or Lutherans or Presbyterians in Europe and systematically exterminating them, we still would have waited until we were attacked to get into it. Or that if it had been Germany who'd attacked us in 1941, all Americans of German descent would have been pulled from their homes and placed in concentration camps. Keep dreaming.

This is a flimsy platform upon which to try to discredit someone. Get over it, and talk about something with some meaning.
Speaking of being penetrated . . . .

(that title refers to something I said in my last post). Someone who read the ARC of Once Upon A Project (and loved it, I might add!) told me that she kept hearing the voice of comedienne Wanda Sykes as she read dialogue from the character of Grace, because Wanda is so down to earth, like Grace. (you'll meet Grace here on my blog on March 1st.) I thought that was interesting, but I'll share a secret with you: As I wrote the book I kept visualizing three of my four main characters as actresses:

For Grace, the twice-divorced former teen mother who completed her education and became a highly successful P.R. Director who is still looking for lasting love, I pictured Lynn Whitfield.

For Elyse, the happily married suburbanite whose dreams of a happy life of the empty nester (you'll meet her April 1st) are thwarted by her husband's listlessness, I pictured Alfre Woodard (maybe with a little padding, since Elyse is supposed to be chubby, at least in the beginning of the book.)

For Susan, the biracial woman whose breast cancer surgery sent her marriage on the rocks and drove her into the waiting arms of an old flame, I pictured Lonette McKee.

I never did get a clear picture of an existing person for Pat, whose new romance is threatened by her emotional attachment to her old love. Maybe Debbi Morgan, or, as my mother calls her, "the pretty one with the dimples."

Funny. Debbi Morgan is my mother's favorite contemporary actress, with Lynn Whitfield a close second (Mom still calls her "Josephine" after her part as Josephine Baker). My late former mother-in-law was crazy about Alfre Woodard. I wonder if they're both subliminally influencing my thoughts?

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #17 and New Question #18

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me . . . aren't you?" was Dustin Hoffman's line in his breakthrough role in The Graduate. The song Mrs. Robinson was recorded by Simon and Garfunkel. As Donna said, Coo coo cachoo.

Donna, Reon, and Shelia were correct in naming both the film and the pop duo and all earn a total of 6 points. (They all also knew that Dustin Hoffman was the actor speaking).

New scores:

Donna has 46 OGGS
Patricia has 41 OGGS
Reon has 40 OGGS
Shelia has 39 OGGS
Mel and Gwyneth are unchanged

It's still anybody's game, y'all! As Butterfly McQueen said in one of her movie roles: "This is just like my wedding night . . . so exciting!"

Since there are only two days to go, I'm going to go buck wild with an array of quotes from different movies. Some of these are easy, others not so.

Here we go:

1 point for the actor speaking, uh, yelling; 3 points for the name of the movie.

"The calla lillies are in bloom again." 1 point for who said it; 5 points if you can name the movie.

"They call me Mister Tibbs!" 1 point for the actor speaking; 3 points for the name of the movie.

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." 1 point for the name of the movie; 1 point for the actor speaking.

"No wire hangers . . . EVER!" 1 point for the name of the movie; 2 points for the actor speaking (not the actor being portrayed.)

Here's some real tough ones that require me to set a scene:

Scene: The business office of a restaurant chain.

Playboy: "l wish l could get interested in work." Manager: "You were probably frightened by a callus at an early age." 3 points for the name of the movie; 2 points for the name of the wisecracking female who made the response. (Hint: She is well known to moviegoers as a faculty member of Rydell High in the movie version of a stage musical.)

Scene: A dinner party where a radio station owner is explaining the subtle nuances of advertisements on people, the host's maid in particular: Radio Station Owner: "Sadie doesn't know it, but she's been penetrated." Host: "You better not let her hear you say that." 5 points for the name of the movie; 2 points for the actor who played the host (Hint: He's still alive today, age 90, and has an equally accomplished son.)

That last one is especially a favorite of mine, as I continue to ply you all with messages about my upcoming book!

Answers tomorrow after Noon Central Time.

Oh, please

Tomorrow's news will be full of remarks about Barack Obama's "bad manners" for cutting in on Hillary Clinton's rah-rah speech (in which she neither acknowledged her loss nor congratulated Obama) and knocking her off the air of all the cable news networks. Of course, the Obama camp is saying they had no idea that she was still speaking (yeah, right).

Personally, I'm glad he did it. She pulled the same sheer stunt on Potomac Tuesday. Of course a candidate wants to look good, but I'm starting to think this woman has a real problem with admitting she was wrong (as in her vote for the Iraq War) or that someone else got more votes than she did. This tells me that she is likely to do anything she can to win. I predict things are going to get very nasty and double-dealing before it's over, so you'd better watch your back, Obama.

As for Obama, I think he went on far too long with his speech, although he did sound more presidential than he has on previous occasions. He's putting me to sleep.

Or maybe I'm just getting bored with the whole thing.

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #16 and New Question #17

Lots of ground to cover, so let's get started:

Busted Love: Moonstruck (1987)
"In time, you'll see this was the best thing." (said by Danny Aiello)
"In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress!" (said by Cher)

Drunk Love: The Best Man (1999)
Man and woman who hate each other wake up in bed together. They look at each other, scream, and jump out of bed.
"I ain't never drinkin' no more!" (said by Terrence Howard)

Nobly Sacrified Love: Casablanca (1942)
"Here's looking at you, kid." (said by Humphrey Bogart)

Nauseating Love: Love Story (1970)
"Love means never having to say you're sorry." (said by both Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal)

No Future Love: Now, Voyager (1942)
"Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars." (said by Bette Davis)

Fed-Up Love: Gone With The Wind (1939)

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." (said by Clark Gable)

Y'all did remarkably well with this one. Has everybody really seen Now, Voyager? (I thought that would stump everybody except Reon, who like me is an old movie buff, but I think most of y'all got that one.) I'll tell you this - every time I see it, I want to take Bette Davis' wardrobe. For a film made 66 years ago, her clothes are remarkably contemporary.
The latest scores:
Patricia has 41 OGGS
Donna has 40 OGGS
Reon has 34 OGGS
Shelia has 33 OGGS
Mel has 20 OGGS
Gwyneth (who's busy working on her next book) has 11 OGGS
That was fun, but ooh! Trying to figure those scores! I think the last question will be another multiple set-up to shake things up a bit and to leave the winners up in the air. As you can see, the tide has shifted a little bit.
This is the last week of new questions. Note that Thursday's answer must be posted by Sunday (Academy Award day) at noon so I can announce the top two winners and their prizes before the ceremony.
Today's quote: "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me . . . aren't you?"
Name the movie for 1 point. In addition, name the pop duo who recorded the hit song from this film for 5 bonus points.

Goal Striving

I'm not going to post my writing progress this week - there was so little, there's little point to it. But I don't feel bad . . . I also completed a synopsis for a proposed novel and worked on some promo for the upcoming Once Upon A Project. There's more to writing than just, well, writing. When inspriation strikes, you have to drop everything and tend to it. My stepkids were past babyhood when I met them, but I guess it's not too much different from having a screaming baby on hand. It's a matter of keeping calm and knowing that it'll all get done in a timely manner. I've been excessively late only once with a manuscript (actually two of them) two years ago, when we relocated from Florida to Illinois, a job which was largely handled by me. Other than that, I'm pretty reliable.

Instead I'm going to talk about my diet. It's going reasonably well, although I'm being plagued by hunger pains as I type this, and I can't stop thinking about that broiled grouper with lemon dill crust that's on today's lunch menu (see picture). I've been making careul eating choices, with Oatmeal Crisp and skim milk for breakfast, a snack of about 2 oz. of fresh fruit, lots of salads and small helpings of things I love, like desserts and fried potatoes. I can feel the results: My pants aren't pinching my waist like they usually do. If there's any shortfall, it's in the area of exercise. The snow, ice, and slush that are still on the ground make walking difficult, even dangerous. I've done a few sidebends to whittle at my waist and not nearly enough ab tightening exercises.
I work for a pharumaceutical company, and they are extremely health-conscious. Our cafeteria includes lots of fresh fruit and oatmeal, a salad bar and a heart-healthy entree choice, even sugar-free desserts every day as an alternative to the hamburgers and pizza. Many of the women are training to participate in the 60-mile breast cancer walk have gotten into fabulous shape. So it's fairly easy to get into the right frame of mind.
Here's to another day of staying away from the doughnuts.

More Madness
This time on the campus of Northern Illinois University. This comes barely two weeks after the murders at a Lane Bryant store in the South Suburbs of Chicago. I don't understand why anyone would want to turn living, breathing, laughing people into corpses. People should be able to shop or attend class without being murdered.
I just want to know: When will it stop?????

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #15 and new Question #16
Happy Valentine's Day (yes, I know I said that already, but you might not have read that post yet.)
The quote, "I'm an advertising man. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives, and several bartenders dependent upon me, and I don't want to disappoint them all by getting slightly killed," was said in the movie North By Northwest (1959) by the suave Cary Grant. I've always felt it ironic that a chap from the lower classes of Surrey could rise to become the epitome of class and sophistication, even retaining the Cockney accent. He was like a male Eliza Doolittle, only real.
The answers were slow to come in, and I thought I might have stumped y'all. Uh-uh, y'all were just busy, I guess. Donna informed me that she guessed the answer from the clues (and here I was thinking that "Mount Rushmore" would be the dead giveaway clue). Shelia was the first to respond, and Mel knew the movie but just guessed the speaker. Mel also found another quote from the witty script that I'll share with you:
Roger Thornhill is wearing sunglasses indoors.
Ticket Seller (Ned Glass): Something wrong with your eyes?
Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant): Yes, they're sensitive to questions.
Thanks, Mel!
A little trivia about the movie before we get to the scores and the next question: Jimmy Stewart, a fellow who knew a good part when he saw one, desperately wanted to play Roger Thornhill. At one point he had the part, but before filming began the movie he'd just made with Hitchcock, Vertigo, opened at the box office and flopped. Hitchcock decided Stewart was too old for the part in North By Northwest, so he replaced him with Cary Grant . . . who was four years older than Stewart. (Incidentally, Grant was also 10 months older than Jessie Royce Landis, who played his mother, for crying out loud). Either she wasn't sensitive, or she really needed the job.
But Jimmy Stewart had a happy ending. One, he lived long enough to see Vertigo recognized as Hitchcock's masterpiece. Two, being released from North by Northwest freed him up to accept another part, in an Otto Preminger-directed, Duke Ellington-scored courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder, which was one of the best films of 1959 (Oscar-nominated) and which still holds up today. Stewart got an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, although he lost to "Moses" (Charlton Heston in the title role in Ben-Hur).
Okay, the scores:
Reon has 27 OGGS
Patricia has 22 OGGS
Donna has 21 OGGS
Mel has 20 OGGS
Shelia has 11 OGGS
For today's question, I'm going to do something a little different. It's Valentine's Day, so I present 6 quotes from love stories:
Busted Love
Man telling his fiancée he can't marry her: "In time, you'll see this was the best thing."
Fiancée: "In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress!"
5 points for the movie name. (1980s)
Drunk Love
Man and woman who hate each other wake up in bed together. They look at each other, scream, and jump out of bed.
Man: "I ain't never drinkin' no more!" (Hint: This came over closing credits, after the official last scene of the film) 4 points for the movie name. (1990s)
Nobly Sacrificed Love
"Here's looking at you, kid." 1 point for the movie name. (1940s)
Nauseating Love
"Love means never having to say you're sorry." 1 point for the movie name. (1970s)
No-Future Love
"Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars." 5 points for the movie name. (1940s)
Fed-Up Love
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." 1 point for the movie name. (1930s)
A chance to rack up some points here, folks. I scored these according to difficulty. If you want to name the actor speaking, I'll give you 1 point for each correct answer (the answer to Nauseating Love can be either of two actors). Answers on Tuesday, when we'll begin the final three questions. Top two winners and their prizes will be announced next Friday.
The Chips Have Fallen

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

This is my favorite holiday, and this one is especially rosy, despite depression-invoking snow, snow, and more snow.

No, my husband didn't give me diamonds (I got those at Christmas) or even flowers. He didn't even know it's Valentine's Day (Not exactly a romantic, but it's to be expected from a man whose marriage proposal came by way of suggesting I buy a white dress.)

I'm happy because the last chip has fallen into place.

Let me explain. The stories that eventually become my novels come to me in bits and pieces. I'll start with a germ of an idea that's often related to me personally (like the idea I had when I was 49 about writing a book about women turning 50). But then I have to come up with something more exciting than my own life to make it into a story people will shell out hard-earned dollars for. That's the hardest part, creating the drama to hold readers' attention for the entire length of a book.

Beginnings are easy. It's the fleshing-out process that kicks my butt. I have a whole bunch of ideas in my file just waiting to be expanded upon. I've been concentrating on three of them. One I completed and deliberately put aside so I can see if it still looks good to me after a few weeks. One is still a challenge. The other is the one that came to me the night before last.

Inspiration is a wonderful thing; it can strike at any place or time. I showed up for work at 10:30AM yesterday, choosing to stay home and type everything out (did I mention the missing link came to me in the middle of the night?) before I forgot it. Last night I polished it up. It's not exactly gleaming, but it will be before I'm done.

When all the pieces of a plot fall into place, it ranks right up there with seeing my book in printed form for the first time and with getting paid.

Even if it's considered against market trends and no one wants to buy it, I've still accomplished something. One thing about a good story: It has no expiration date.

On to the next challenge!

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #14 and New Question #15

The quote was, "Once I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I don't know." It was said by Groucho Marx (as Reon said in her response, it's all about the eyebrows.)

In addition to Reon, Patricia and Donna also had the right answer. (Donna even offered a film name, Animal Crackers.) I started to rule Mel's answer of "Julius Henry" out, but when I went to get a picture of Groucho, the bio said he was born Julius Henry Marx in 1890, so I'm giving it to her. Good research, Mel! You should check out those old Marx Brothers comedies; they still hold up after 70 years. My personal Groucho favorite: When he's dancing with a woman who says, "Hold me closer! Closer! Closer!" and he says, "If I held you any closer, I'd be in back of you."

The scores:

Reon had 22 OGGS and earned 5 more: 27
Patricia had 17 OGGS and earned 5 more: 22
Donna had 12 OGGS and earned 5 more: 17
Mel had 12 OGGS and earned 5 more: 17
Shelia and Gwyneth are at 8 OGGS

Only one more week to go, so I want to make things really interesting. Today's quote is:

"I'm an advertising man. ... I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives, and several bartenders dependent upon me, and I don't want to disappoint them all by getting slightly killed."

First clue: Hitchcock.
Second clue: This movie also contains the flirtatious gem of a line: "How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?" said by the same actor.
Last Clue: Cornfield.

Name the movie and earn 1 point. Name the actor who said it and earn 2 bonus points.

Be back tomorrow, noonish (Central Time).

So Long, Chief Brody
Roy Scheider died a few days ago. Every time I watch the movie Jaws (and I saw it just last weekend on my favorite cable network, TCM), I'm impressed with his portrayal of the agonized police chief of the fictional Amity Island, who tried so hard to do the right thing and was overruled by the townspeople.
Of course, it helped a lot that he didn't look like the Paul Newman of the 1970s or the present-day, middle-aged Richard Gere. This was the Everyman in his forties who wore glasses, an ordinary looking fellow who managed to snag an attractive wife (I liked Lorraine Gary, who played Mrs. Brody, as well) about his own age, not 20 years younger, who even after two kids still looked good in a bathing suit. It really is a finely nuanced performance, as is that of the guy who played the nervous, badly dressed mayor.
Scheider played other parts in his varied career, most notably a character modeled after Bob Fosse in All That Jazz, a role of a cigarette smoking, sex-crazed stage show producer that allowed him to showcase his versatility, but for me Jaws is a better film because he was in it.
Rest in peace, Roy!

Movie Trivia Answer to Question 13 and New Question 14

The quote was, "We must rid ourselves of these linguistic shackles." The movie was Uptown Saturday Night (1973), and the actor who delivered it was the late, great Roscoe Lee Browne (with an "e"). Those black Shakesperean actors really have a way of speaking, whether it's Roscoe, Avery Brooks, or the dude who played the butler on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

I've published the responses at the end of the column where the question was asked. Reon, Patricia, Mel, and Gwyneth all earned a total of 4 points for betting both parts of the answer correct. And Reon, I know what you mean . . . I was in loooooove with Calvin Lockhart myself. When he passed last year I had to remind myself that it had been over 30 years since he appeared in this movie and the follow-up (but not a sequel), Let's Do It Again. He managed to look handsome, even dressed in those faggoty-looking outfits he wore in a few of the scenes.

Now, for the updated scores, including those from the last Trivia:

Reon had 16 OGGS, earned 2 points for Trivia 12 and 4 points for this one: 22 OGGS

Patricia had 13 OGGS and earned 4 points for this one: 17 OGGS

Donna is still at 12

Mel had 6 OGGS, earned 2 points for Trivia 12 and 4 points for this one: 12 OGGS

Shelia is still at 8

Gwyneth had 2 OGGS, earned 2 points for Trivia 12 and 4 points for this one: 8 OGGS

Well done, ladies! Now for today's quote:

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I don't know."

For this one you don't have to name the movie. But if you can name the funnyman who said it, you will earn 5 points.

See you around noon Central Time tomorrow with the answer!

Moving On Up

My latest progress report:

I know it might look pathetic, but I'm rather pleased because I'm doing some other things as well. I've got a story in my head that just won't summarize. It's got a great guns beginning, and I can carry the tension, but I'm having difficulty with the aftermath of the black moment. Maybe the method I read about at Plotmonkeys will help me get un-stuck.

Hi-ho, hi-ho. It's back to work I go.
This Week in the Blogosphere

In honor of Valentine's Day, Shelia Goss is asking people to name their favorite romantic movies. Check it out here, and add your own. Maybe you'll mention one that will make people say, "That's right, I forgot about that one!"

Over at Plot Monkeys, author Alison Kent does a guest blog in which she talks about setting up plot boards. I've never done this - I'm a fiendish note-taker - but it might not be a bad idea to have all my notes in one place. I'm going to give it a try!
Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, Do Not Insert "Had"

Only one of my novels has featured bona fide flashbacks. Most of them, however, have featured scenes set in the past that are recalled by one of the characters. The difference seems to be that flashbacks are allowed to unfold naturally, as if the reader were watching from a catbird seat, while scenes from the past tend to be liberally sprinkled with words like "had," "they'd," "he'd," "she'd."

I personally don't like this pattern and feel it's one of the rules of grammar that should be broken. Surely readers know the action they are reading about is in the past after they've read a few sentences with these words. I don't feel I have to constantly remind them, and I find excessive use of "had" and its variants distracting.

The copyeditors who have worked on my manuscripts never fail to insert "had" in these scenes . . . easily 30 or 40 times, which I think is just plain ridiculous. I inevitably end up writing a special note requesting that these insertions not be made. I'm tempted to include instructions with my next manuscript.

A past scene should be able to unfold in the reader's imagination the same way a flashback does. In my opinion, the use of "had" in practically every sentence only serves to make the action seem more distant, makes writing more passive and is more like telling rather than showing, none of which are desired effects in fiction writing.

But that's just my opinion. What's yours?

Movie Trivia Answer to Question 12 and New Question 13

First things first. Be sure to check out my essay today on the APOOO website. (I hope these links show up on your computer; on mine they're a little faint, but the word "APOOO" is linked.)

As for the trivia question, I told y'all that was an easy one!

Reon, Mel, and Gwyneth all correctly stated that "You want my arm to fall off?" was said by Billy Dee Williams in Lady Sings the Blues (1972). Unfortunately, I left my sheet with the latest scores at home (we had a substantial snowfall yesterday north and west of Chicago), so I'll do an update on Tuesday. It's safe to say that Reon is still leading.

Okay, we'll close the week with a more challenging quote. Y'all have until Tuesday at noon-ish (Central Time) to think about this one.

Here's the quote:

"We must rid ourselves of these linguistic shackles."

This is a tough one, so I'll give you a hint. This all-star "buddy picture" was made in the 1970s and was a hit. The cast (some of whom have since passed away) reads like a Who's Who in black entertainment of that era. The line was beautifully delivered by a Shakesperean-trained actor who passed away last year. He said it to his wife, who was known in the film as "Leggy Peggy."

Because this one is rather difficult, I'll give 2 points if you can correctly name the movie, and another 2 bonus points if you can name the dignified actor who said the line.

Good luck!

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #11 and New Question #12

The question "Why do all you college boys wear those faggoty-looking white shoes?" was said in the classic film adaptation of the stage play A Raisin in the Sun (1961). It came from the mouth of Sidney Poitier and was asked of Louis Gossett, Jr., who was wearing the white shoes. Sidney Poitier, already a star by the time he reprised his stage role, won an Oscar for Best Actor just a few years later for Lilies of the Field (1963). Lou Gossett was just beginning his career, but won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar 21 years later for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982).

I've loved this story ever since my late brother Peter played Travis in a Yonkers High School production in 1967, but something about it doesn't make sense to me. The family patriarch, Walter Lee Younger, Sr., has passed away before the action begins, but his widow, Lena, says that they lived in this apartment from the time they married. My confusion comes in here: The apartment has two bedrooms. Junior and his wife Ruth have one bedroom, and presumably Walter Sr. and Lena shared the other. Beneatha is shown sharing the bedroom with her widowed mother . . . but where did Beneatha sleep before her father died? The couch is already taken, by young Travis.

I think this was an oversight, but it's an important one, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed something unexplained.

To quote Beneatha's response upon learning of Ruth's pregnancy, "Where's it going to sleep, on the roof?"
All right. Enough of my ranting . . . but the perfectionist in me hates it when major plot points are just glossed over.
Okay, now for the scores. This was a big one, folks, 1 point and a total of 6 bonus points. Both Reon and Donna got all portions right.
Reon has 16 OGGS
Patricia has 13 OGGS
Donna has 12 OGGS
Shelia has 8 OGGS
Mel has 6 OGGS
Janie, Gwyneth, and Patsy are trailing. But Gwyneth received of bouquet of Emma Award nominations, so I know she's not feeling it! Congratulations, Gwyneth! To think I can say I knew you when you posted on my blog . . . .
On to today's question. The quote first:

"You want my arm to fall off?"

This is an easy one, folks. Name the movie it came from for 1 point. Name the actor who said it for an additional 1 bonus point. Note, bonus points are only given if the first part of the question is answered correctly.
See you tomrrow!

Emma Award 2007 Nominees Announced

Named after the co-founder of the Romance Slam Jam Conference, the Emma Awards is the premier awards event for readers and authors of Black romance. Congratulations to the 2007 Emma Award finalists:

Favorite Anthology
Big Spankable Asses by Angie Daniels, Kimberly Kaye Terry, and Lisa G. Riley
Creepin’ by L. A. Banks, Donna Hill, Monica Jackson, and J. M. Jeffries
Cuffed By Candlelight by Beverly Jenkins, Gwyneth Bolton, Katherine D. Jones
Love For All Seasons by A. C. Arthur, Barbara Keaton, Sapphire Blue, and Maureen Smith

Favorite Hero
Blade Navarone from Only You by Francis Ray
Flex from Sweet Sensation by Gwyneth Bolton
Merrick Grayslake from Stranger In My Bed by Rochelle Alers
Reese Anthony from Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins

Favorite Heroine
Camille Davis from A Cinderella Affair by A.C. Arthur
Justine Crandall from In Another Man’s Bed by Francis Ray
Sierra Grayson from Only You by Francis Ray
Skye Barclay from Slow Burn by Brenda Jackson
Teresa July from Wild Sweet Love by Beverly Jenkins

Favorite Inspirational
Guilty of Love by Pat Simmons
Redemption by Jacquelin Thomas
The Ex Files by Victoria Christopher Murray
The Pastor’s Woman by Jacquelin Thomas

Favorite Novel
A Cinderella Affair by A.C. Arthur
Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins
Only You by Francis Ray
Wild Sweet Love by Beverly Jenkins
Working Man by Melanie Schuster

Favorite Novella
Handcuffs Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry by Gwyneth Bolton
Payback’s A Bitch by L. A. Banks
Prisoner by Beverly Jenkins

Favorite Sequel
A Cinderella Affair by A.C. Arthur
A Lovers Mask by AlTonya Washington
Ian’s Ultimate Gamble by Brenda Jackson
Only You by Francis Ray
Stranger In My Arms by Rochelle Alers
Favorite Steamy
Ridin’ the Rails by Kimberly Kaye Terry
Risky Pleasures by Brenda Jackson
Taming The Wolf by Maureen Smith
Whisper Something Sweet by Deatri King-Bey

Favorite Suspense
Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins
Ebony Angel by Deatri King-Bey
Serial Affair by Natalie Dunbar
Whisper My Name by Maureen Smith
Whispers In The Dark by Denise Jeffries

Cover of the Year
Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins
Just Can’t Get Enough by Cheris Hodges
No Commitment Required by Seressia Glass
Ridin’ the Rails by Kimberly Kaye Terry
Whisper Something Sweet by Deatri King-Bey

Debut Author of the Year
Carmein Canton Not His Type
Farrah Rochon Deliver Me
LaConnie Taylor Jones When I’m With You
Pamela Yaye Other People’s Business
Savannah J. Frierson Being Plumville

Author of the Year
A.C. Arthur
Beverly Jenkins
Brenda Jackson
Dyanne Davis
Francis Ray

Allow me to add my congratulations to all the finalists. And in case you're wondering why I have a photo of the cover art of Beverly Jenkins' Deadly Sexy, it's because I think it's one striking book cover!

This Week/Month in the Blogosphere

Angela Benson has an interesting topic on her blog this week about authors and negative reviews. is publishing a collection of thought-provoking essays by black authors this month, in honor of Black History Month. Mine will appear tomorrow, February 7th. (Note: This really isn't a blog - there are no responses - but do check it out.)

The writing team of Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant fill us in on the "glamorous" world of the book tour on their blog.

Movie Trivia Answer to Question #10 and New Question #11

This one's going to be interesting.

"May the Force be with you" was said in the movie Star Wars (1977). But here's the rub: My source (and I can't tell you what that is or you'd know where to go for the answers) attributes this quote to the character of Han Solo. After reading Donna's impassioned response, something told me she knew what she was talking about. Other sources agree (and so does my husband, it was Obi Kenobi or whatever his name was). So, in the interest of fairness, the bonus point will go to people who gave either answer.

So, for the updated scores:

Patricia earned 1 + 1 bonus point and now has 13 (and she thought she was wrong!)
Reon earned 1 + 1 bonus point and now has 9
Shelia earned 1 point and now has 8
Mel earned 1 + 1 bonus point and now has 6
Donna earned 1 + 1 bonus point and now has 5
Gwyneth earned 1 point and now has 2 (don't give up, Gwyneth, it's all in fun)
Patsy earned 1 point and now has 2 (Patsy posted her answer under a different post, but it still counts)
Janie has 2 points

And on to today's question: In honor of Black History Month, all of this week's questions were voiced by black actors in movies with predominantly black casts.

First, for the quote:

"How come all you college boys wear those faggoty-looking white shoes?"

Naming the movie will get you one point. In addition, naming the actor who said it will get you a bonus point. Naming the actor to whom the line was directed - who was just starting his career at the time and who roughly 20 years later won an Oscar himself - will get you five bonus points. Not too shabby, eh?

I've got to get my primary vote in so it'll be counted, plus we're expecting a significant snowfall. Catch you tomorrow!
Better, But Still No Cigar

I got enough done to move up a whole percentage point! Not particularly impressive, but better than nothing. I thought I'd shame myself into writing more by posting my dismal progress, but it takes a whole lot to embarrass me, I guess.

I'll keep plugging away.

BTW, the Movie Trivia Answer and New Question will be posted late tomorrow. I have to go into Chicago in the morning and will be back well after noon.

What A Character, Part 2 of 4

It's time to introduce you to another of the main characters from my upcoming novel Once Upon A Project, which goes on sale April 29th and can be pre-ordered here. Be sure to drop in on March 1st for the next character, and if you missed the first character sketch on January 1st, by all means check it out!

Read it and salivate . . . I hope.

Character Name: Susan Bennett Dillahunt
Setting: Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, March 2007

"I guess you're on grandmother duty, too."

I turn my head in the direction of the voice. The woman speaking has silver hair and appears to be in her early 60s. I decide against telling her that I'm not picking up my grandkids from school, but my kids. Quentin is 10 and Alyssa is 7. I had them when I was 39 and 42, respectively. But pointing that out will only embarrass the woman, so I merely smile.

I do feel a little like Mrs. Mondello from Leave It To Beaver, the mother of Beaver's friend Larry, who had a much-older married daughter, and who looked so old and dumpy next to the tall, youthful June Cleaver. I stand 5 feet 10, so nobody can consider me dumpy. But old is another matter. Maybe I should color my hair. I don't think my face looks particularly old, considering I'll be 50 in four months. My skin isn't as taut as it used to be, but it certainly doesn't sag. And as for wrinkles, everybody knows that "black don't crack." I can thank my mom for that.

My mother is black. My father is white, but Mom always told me that although I'm of mixed race, the world will always look upon me as black. She said the same thing to my younger sister, Sherry, but Sherry adopted a don't-ask/don't-tell policy, married a white guy from a rich family who became successful in his own right, and never looked back. Her neighbors in that town she lives in know she's biracial - our mother visits her fairly often, and so did our stepfather, who was black, before he passed away.

There's nothing new about interracial couples, but my parents must have caused quite a stir when they got married back in 1956. My mother jokes that when they went to see about getting an apartment in the still-being built Theodore Dreiser Projects, the people told my father that he was applying to the wrong place. When he introduced my mother, the rental agent's mouth dropped to the floor. My parents have been divorced for years - Mom remarried, Pop didn't - and they still crack up at the memory. My father says it's a good thing they weren't standing on a hill, or else the rental agent's lip would have rolled down the street like a coin.

My folks get along pretty well these days, but I'll never forget the remember all the arguments that went on when Sherry and me were kids. Pop was a drinker. The gossip around the projects said his wealthy family cut him off for marrying Mom, which is silly. My grandparents were middle class people, probably lower middle class. Sure, they were shocked when Pop married Mom, but they were good to Sherry and me until they died. Mom says things would have been different if we'd been a few shades darker. I really don't know.

Pop's drinking made it difficult for him to hold a job. He was an x-ray technician, and Mom a nurse, but in those days nurses really didn't make much money. If he'd worked steadily, we probably could have left the projects, but when Mom had enough and threw Pop out, our fate was sealed. I always dreamed of having a family of my own, and to give my children a nice, quiet home life. There'd be no pulling the covers over their heads to try to drown out those loud voices (and in case the George Jefferson in you is wondering, no, Pop never called Mom a nigger. He said she was a nagger.)

There was a time when I thought that life of serenity would be spent with Douglas Valentine, whose family lived a few buildings away within the projects until they moved out when we were in sixth grade. Douglas was the tallest kid in the school, and he hit six-six before he was through. He and I started going together in eleventh grade and stayed a couple right through graduation, and even after . . . sort of. He got a scholarship to Duke University in North Carolina, but I stayed right here in Illinois for college; it's all I could afford. Douglas became a basketball star at Duke, and I knew he was fooling around with other girls, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. But when he went pro after graduation the situation with his cheating really got out of hand, and we broke up.

I'd known Douglas' brother, Charles, as long as I'd known Douglas. Charles is only about year older than us. I'm not even sure how it happened, but one day Charles and I had a nice chat after bumping into each other on the street, and the next we were on a date. I soon realized, and I think he did, too, that this was something special. I never thought it would happen, but we fell in love. Charles Valentine was the man I wanted to spend my life with. We just had to tell Douglas.

We tried to keep our affair under wraps, but that started to get old, so we ventured out here and there. We were picking up some take-out on Cottage Grove Avenue when Douglas came out of a bar, saw us together, and jumped on Charles. The gossip got to him before Charles could tell him. Charles is four inches shorter than his younger brother, but Douglas had been drinking, and Charles scored what's known in boxing as a knockout.

Douglas already had problems with liquor and drugs, but it was worsening. That's what ruined his life - he eventually held up a candy store at gunpoint and went to jail - but their mother, Ann, blamed me. Charles defended me, and so did Mr. Valentine, but I couldn't cope with knowing that I'd caused a rift between Charles and his people, so I broke it off and went to live with my mother, who'd moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin with her second husband. My sister Sherry got married and started having kids, and I thought I was going to be an old maid. Then, years later, I met Bruce Dillahunt, and all my dreams came true.

Handsome husband, cute kids, a boy and a girl, in that order. Bruce's success as the owner of a credit card processing service meant we lived extremely well, with family vacations, nice cars, a beautiful home on the banks of Lake Michigan.

We got married when I was 36. For 13 years we had a great life together. Then came the mammogram that changed everything, last fall. I had the tumor removed, and the outer corner of my breast has a little cone-shaped protrusion. I opted against having it fixed, wanting no more cutting and no oxygen to be able to get inside. But suddenly my husband, who liked sex at least four nights a week, started making excuses. He was tired. He's slowing down. He didn't want to wake me. Bullshit. I think he's having an affair. And here I am, nearly fifty years old, with an accounting degree but not having worked since before my son was born more than 10 years ago, which pretty much renders me useless.

I hold my arms out as my kids run toward me. They have no idea of the tension between Bruce and me; we're unfailingly polite to each other in front of them. My accusations of him having an affair, and his denials, are all done in harsh whispers and behind closed doors. Quentin and Alyssa have the kind of life I always wanted for any kids of mine. There won't be any holding their fingers in their ears or burying of tear-stained faces in the cushiony surface of their pillows.

But I'm terribly unhappy. I feel like something in me died with that tumor they took out of my breast.

I'm going to the reunion luncheon Pat Maxwell organized down in Chicago. I'll bring my kids - it's a cinch Bruce won't want to come. I haven't seen my old friends Pat, Elyse, and Grace in too long, anyway.

And as I drive back to the home that was once so happy but now makes me feel trapped, I keep wondering . . . will Charles be there?
Be sure to tune in on March 1st and meet the next of the four main characters in this exciting book!