So what's the problem? I'll tell you . . . .

This book isn't just being written like another romance or women's fiction. It has a certain tone to it, a tone that has to be maintained from start to finish. So I'm finding myself lingering on certain passages that lack that oomph. It's kind of hard to explain; you might have to read the book when it comes out before you see what I mean. But I do believe that's at least part of the reason for my slow progress. Another part is that my dictation time is non-existent now that I'm riding in to work with my husband, so I'm working less. But I'd rather spend $50 to gas up one car than $100 to gas up two, especially since our respective offices are just 5 minutes apart.

Here's the count:

It's also not helping that I find myself thinking of other things when I should be writing. I'm afraid I'm burned out. Not on writing, which I love, but on work in general (and writing is work). It's been a mainstay in my life, to the point where every day - even on weekends - I jump out of bed at 5AM and tell myself to get right to work. Yes, I know I just got back from vacation, but that was five days. This busy period of moving, getting settled in and trying to meet this deadline has lasted for over three months, and I'm sick of it.

Speaking of my mind wanderings, it just occurs to me that today is the centennial of my uncle's birth. Beverly Alan Griffin, the oldest of three children (my father was the youngest) was born on July 30, 1908. (Note that in those days certain names, like Beverly and Vivian, were usually given to boys. My sister's maiden name was Beverly A. Griffin, and at my uncle's funeral in 1992 I remember her holding up the program, 'Homegoing service for Beverly A. Griffin,' pointing to the name and saying it gave her cold shivers.)

So Happy Birthday to you, Uncle Bev!
Is This Any Way to Write a Book?

Okay, so I fell short of expectations - I'd hoped to crack the 60K mark - but day-um! All work and no play, you know. It was a weekend . . . .

I watched some TV, too. One of my all-time favorite classics, The Bad and the Beautiful, aired on TCM Saturday night (I love it when Lana Turner asks, "Won't you marry me, Jonathan?" and Kirk Douglas calmly replies, "Not even a little bit." I can only dream of writing such great dialogue.) I did some unpacking and organizing, too, although not as much as I hoped. My husband, on the other hand, was whizzing through boxes like Secretariat in a horse race. But then again, he doesn't have to worry about laundry and dusting and vacuuming and changing linens, either. Plus I've instructed him not to throw anything out unless I see it first. No wonder I only did two boxes. And if you read my post from yesterday you'll know I also read a book.

Four days left, counting the rest of today. I'll check back in on Wednesday.

Guest Blogger: Deirdre Savoy

Okay, I'm putting the emphasis on relaxation, which has been too scarce in my life lately. I'm reading a fun book and am going to take a long soak in the Jacuzzi with my book and plenty of bubbles . . . and I'm not getting out until I've read the last page. This is the second book I've read in a week and only the third I've read all year. Of course, I should be writing, but do I feel guilty? Hell, no!

Here's Deirdre Savoy with what will likely be the last of the guest blogs I've been running. I want to thank everyone who helped me out during this busy time, and also those who had good intentions that didn't quite pan out. Writers are seriously busy folks!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Dee's latest release, an anthology called Soldier Boys that is in stores now. (I don't know about you, but every time I hear that title I start humming the old Shirelles tune that was a favorite of my sister . . . who was about 12 at the time. Anybody else remember it?)

Take it away, Dee!

Writer Know Thyself

by Deirdre Savoy

I am teaching a writing course in which one of the participants admitted that she had given up trying to weed a certain element from her work. My response: yay! Fighting with your writing is a sure way to make yourself miserable. Each writer has to determine not only what they want to write, but also where their natural talent will take them. There is a famous quote from Jean Cocteau that goes: "Listen carefully to the first criticism of your work. Note just what it is about your work the critics don't like–then cultivate it. That's the part of your work that's individual and worth keeping."

This is one of my favorite quotes because it speaks to the writer's need to hone their own talent, believe in it and be able to withstand the influences of what editors want, agents think, what's hot now or the latest trend. That's not to say that editors/agents/trends/what's hot or whatever shouldn't inform your work, but you've got to have the confidence in what you write to hold fast when others try to sway you away from where you want to go or what you feel is the strength of your writing. Otherwise it is too easy to find yourself blowing in the wind of whatever fad is flying at the moment.

I remember when street fiction first came into vogue and there were many folks who asked me why didn't I try writing that. I couldn't write a street lit novel if someone held a gun to my head and said produce or die. I don't know anything about the life from the viewpoint of a participant nor do I have any desire to explore it. It's not where either my interest or talent lies.

The same is true of erotic stories. Not my forte, even if I can whip up a good love scene on a moment's notice. At least not in book length form. What I do like to write are suspenseful, character-driven love stories. Some people say I'm good at it.

So what do you feel is special in your writing that you try to cultivate? Do you avoid trends or follow them? If could change your writing in one way, what would that be?

Thanks again, Bettye, for the opportunity. Hope you are enjoying summer.

All the best!


Thanks for an excellent column, Dee. I don't know what's special about my writing, but I do believe it's reasonably good and that I'm continually learning ways to make it better (that would be what I'd change . . . make it better!) As for what I won't write, there's a long list that includes: No YA (which is booming right now, but it's just not for me). No erotica. No street lit. Nothing that I feel is silly. No fantasy. No publishers other than the major houses. What I will write: What I want to. Period. If that means I have no publisher, so be it. It won't be the end of my world. I'll still write . . . that's not just what I am, it's what I do. And I'll leave all my manuscripts to the kids. You never know what will come back in vogue in 2050.

What about the rest of y'all?

Busy Little Bees, Making Honey Day and Night

That's one of my favorite quotes from the classic All About Eve, said by the one and only Bette Davis.

I've got one week to go before it can be said I'm officially late, and with RWA going on in San Francisco next week, maybe no one will notice. Here's my count:

That's about 5,000 up from Monday, and I've cracked the 40,000 words to go mark. Saying I need 39,000 more words is not as terrifying as saying 40,000; don't ask me why.

I still have to post Dee Savoy's guest blog. I'll do it between now and Monday. Hey, I'm busy writing!

A good weekend to all!

He's Getting Better

A lot of A-list Hollywood actors are looking, well, decidedly middle-aged and ordinary to me these days. Tom Hanks' boyish charms have long since disappeared. Even the well-preserved Harrison Ford looks more like his 66 years than he used to. Robert DeNiro looks like the guy on the next barstool at Happy Hour. And when I look at pretty boys like Pierce Brosnan or Denzel Washington, I'm reminded of what my stepdaughter said when she watched Uptown Saturday Night with me years ago: "Bill Cosby wasn't bad looking when he was younger." In other words, they look like middle-aged guys who were probably quite handsome . . . back in the day.

But Kevin Costner, who in an interesting twist never struck me as being particularly good-looking when he rose to prominence 20 years ago, is looking really sexy as he promotes his new comedy, Swing Vote. Actually, with the facial hair he reminds me of Tom Selleck (who when last seen looked pretty good to me).

I suspect I'm not alone in being older myself and salivating over a 35 to 40-ish group of actors: Jude Law, Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut. But is there an actor over 50 who still rings your bell?
Anatomy of a Deadline

Nobody cares about this but me, of course, but I'm inching closer . . . and still more than a week to go before the official deadline!

Back from Vacation

We had a great time in San Diego. We stayed at a historic hotel (built in 1886) in the Gaslamp District (the room on the left with the balcony, the second floor from the top, was where we stayed) which was home to Wyatt Earp and his wife whenever they were in San Diego.
We were part of a reunion of the high school in Bangkok, Thailand, which my husband attended for two years while his Army father was stationed there. From that first dinner at a Thai restaurant (naturally), we bonded with the other attendees, many of whom my husband did not previously know (they'd graduated before or shortly after he got there). Rarely have I been fortunate to meet such a friendly group of people. And there were attendees who walked into the room and called out my husband's name, thrilled to see him (and he them) after 36 years. Everybody is now in their 50s, and what a kick I got out of seeing how they looked in their class pictures. There's nothing like walking into a hotel ballroom and seeing a bunch of laid-back middle-aged baby boomers dressed in California casual, boogie-ing down to songs like Jumpin' Jack Flash.

The majority of the group have settled in California - a few right there in San Diego - but one person came in from Australia, another from Portugal, and a few from the East Coast. Our group also included a set of identical twins who occasionally dressed alike just to throw the rest of us off track . . . successfully.

This was my first trip to California, and San Diego is truly a beautiful city, very tourist-friendly. Most of our activities involved the reunion, but they involved places I wanted to see, like Old Town and the Coronado Peninsula. We toured the elegant Hotel Del Coronado, and I got my feet and legs wet in the Pacific Ocean. One night our group took an evening dinner cruise in the bay with dancing and even a fireworks show. We were introduced to dim sum and have become devotees. I'll be looking to see where the closest such restaurant specialty is to us here in Kenosha (probably some distance away, since our town is also known as Ke-Nowhere). The majority of our group was Asian, specifically Chinese, so it was kind of neat to eat with so many people who could actually speak to the wait staff in their language!

We wrapped up the trip after the reunion ended by taking to the road in our rented convertible for a scenic 59-mile drive around the area, much of it along the coastline. Just a wonderful trip all around. We're going to try to make the big blowout reunion in 2010, to be held in Bangkok.
Something I was struck by was how tall those California palm trees grow. They make Florida palms look like runts! And how the temperature dips when the sun goes down, something you don't feel in Florida.

While on vacation I usually have a few hours in the morning and maybe an hour or two in the afternoon to work on my manuscript, but since I forgot my power cord, I wrote for a few hours on the plane and that was it. The rest of my spare time I read, and I made an excellent choice. If you haven't read Suite Embrace by Anita Bunkley, I highly recommend it. It was a good read, got me all wrapped up in the story, and it had two elements particularly pleasing to me: One, it was a perfectly realistic story with no fantasy elements that so often strike me as silly, and two, it didn't involve a family (y'all know I can't get into family series, probably because they all seem the same to me). Actually, it is a series, but I have no idea who will take center stage in the next book, only that it will not be siblings of the hero and heroine of this story (one is an only child and the only sibling of the other is already married). I think Ms. Bunkley plans to develop romances between guests or employees at the Colorado ski resort where the story takes place. Whatever she does, I do plan on going along for the read.

I have less than 10 days to go for my deadline date for my 2009 book. This is bad news, as you can see by my progress meter:
But as you can see by the cartoon, I'm not panicked. Nor am I living in a fool's paradise. All I need is a weekend or two to devote to this and I'll get it done.
Tune in tomorrow (or maybe the day after), when we will have wise words from author Deirdre Savoy.

Guest Blogger: Marcia King-Gamble

I am pleased to report that a reasonable return to normalcy is right around the corner. Right now I'm preparing for six glorious days in San Diego, in which I'll get my first look at the Blue Pacific. My laptop is going with me, since I do have an August 1st deadline. When we return we will have a marathon unpacking session, but vacation before work. California here I come!

In the meantime, here is esteemed author Marcia King-Gamble with some valuable tips on finding time to write:


I’ve heard a million excuses about what’s preventing you from sitting down and writing that novel that’s been percolating in your head. The ranges of excuses run from - “I have no time,” to “I have a full time job,” to “My kids are keeping me busy.” Bull!

What’s holding you back is you. Published authors have lives, kids, full time jobs (sometimes more than 2.) They have significant others who expect dinner on the table. They have interests outside of writing. They take vacations, volunteer, and mentor other writers.

One well known author has a full time high pressure management job. She wakes up every morning at 3.00 a.m. to work on her novel. Another New York Times Bestseller raises five kids, travels to give presentations, and still manages to release three to four books a year.

Another author has a special needs child that requires her undivided attention. There are authors that are surgeons, practicing attorneys and executives. They hold positions where a forty hour work week is unheard of; sixty hours being more the norm. There are those with controlling husbands requiring 100 percent of their time. Some are sight and hearing impaired, and others are confined to wheelchairs. Yet they find time to write and creatively manage their time.

When I first started writing I had a very demanding job which took me out of the country as much as twice a week. My boss expected a hundred percent commitment, and my husband at the time expected the sun to rise and shine on him. My stress level was high and I made time for the gym. Additionally, I was freelance reading for a well known publisher. I didn’t have kids, but I had pets, friends and hobbies.

How did I do it? I carved out time each day. You can do so as well. I wrote every day regardless of what was going on. The world could be going to hell around me but I was going to write. At times it meant getting up in the wee hours of the morning. At times it meant lugging a laptop everywhere I went. I wrote at airports between flights. I wrote in long hand and oftentimes on a paper bag. I stayed up late at night.

I brought lunch to the office and found a quiet nook. In urban cities I took public transportation because it gave me time to write. I developed the discipline to write every day, and now I can write under the most adverse conditions. I can tune out noises and hold a conversation with you while typing that manuscript. By establishing a regular routine I’ve learned to write faster.

If you set yourself a goal of say one page a day. You’ll have a novel by the end of the year. Carve out a half an hour in your day and disappear where no one can find you. Turn off that cell phone and don’t answer e mails. Give yourself the chance to live your dream. Maybe next year I’ll see you at an upcoming conference signing that book right next to me.

Good luck!


Great advice, Marcia! Be sure to check out Marcia's novels, including her upcoming (August 1st) Kimani Romance, Meet Phoenix. And visit Marcia's web site as well!

I'm outta here. I'll be back to the blog on Tuesday. A good week to all!

Cut out cutting it off

This most recent controversy involving Jesse Jackson once more proves that men of the cloth are just like anybody else. It can't be denied that he has racked up some impressive accomplishments during his 40+ years in civil rights, but like many powerful people, there is also evidence suggesting he has abused his power.
I wasn't particularly surprised to learn that he had fathered an out-of-wedlock child. He and his wife married quite young, with a baby on the way, and marriages based on do-the-right-thing, whether with the involvement of the proverbial shotgun or merely parental pressure, are usually not a blueprint for fidelity. That matter was entirely between husband and wife.
I've always respected people who lived under segretation, something I was not required to do, and even more so those who did something about it, which required great courage. However, Jesse did slide on my respect meter with that incident regarding the franchise (I can't even remember which company it was), where he threatened to stage a boycott against the company because no blacks owned franchises. Just like that, one of his sons became a franchise owner. Maybe I'm wrong, but it smacked of a deal being made under the table.

That aside, as well as putting aside the unfortunate choice of phrasing when he spoke of wanting to "cut his [Barack Obama's] nuts off," I do believe that Barack's speech could - no, make that *should* - have acknowledged that he wasn't speaking to all black men when he urged them to take care of their children. To someone who doesn't know better (and several million people probably fall into this category), it sounds as if there isn't a single black man in the country (other than Obama himself, of course) who is a true father to his children. If I were a black father with a strong involvement in the lives of my children, I would have been insulted that there was no mention of them.
I'm all for you, Obama, but publicly chiding black men like they're all but from the same cloth strikes me as pandering to a part of the population whose votes you need. I can just picture that particular portion of the American population nodding in agreement when they hear you talk about living up to one's parental responsibilities. Remember that there are quite a few who are doing the right thing by their offspring.
It seems to me that there's some (non-literal) castration being done on both sides.

Speaking of abusing power, has anyone heard about Charles Rangel's holding leases on four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem's most prestigious complex, the Lenox Towers? He actually uses one for office space, a clear violation for an apartment house.

Go lay down, Sally

I saw a commercial this morning that I hoped had been retired. Sally Field is a great actress, winning two Best Actress Oscars, but even she couldn't convince me that "setting time aside" daily or weekly to take an osteoporosis medication is such an inconvenience. I mean, how long does it take to swallow a pill? (The medication she is hawking, Boniva, is taken once a month.)

Also, note how her brown hair is streaked with gray in these commercials. Sally is aging beautifully - those cheekbones I remember from her Gidget days have served her well. I guess the manufacturers didn't want her to look too young. You can bet you won't see any gray in her role as mother of several grown children on Brothers & Sisters . . . .

Then again, maybe I'm just cranky. I'm on my traditional week-before-vacation starvation diet, trying to fill up on Honey Bunches of Oats, fruit, and smoothies in an effort to lose a few pounds. I've been doing this since Monday and don't think I've lost so much as an ounce!

Guest Blogger: Ann Christopher

Bettye has but one weekend left before going on vacation to get caught up on her manuscript (and this past holiday weekend didn't count, since she was entertaining a houseguest), and much of that will be trying to see what clothes she can still fit her expanding hips into. Would anyone like to take a bet what Bettye will be doing during that three-hour plane ride?

While Bettye agonizes over that fabulous Capri set she has eaten her way out of, here's guest blogger Ann Christopher with some more thoughts on writing.

Y'all know Ann. She took the romance world by storm a year or two ago with not one but two acclaimed romances, Risk and Just About Sex. Her latest, Sweeter Than Revenge, came out in January of this year. If you haven't read an Ann Christopher novel, order one. All those reviews can't be wrong.

Take it away, Ann!


More Writing Craft Books

by Ann Christopher

Reon Laudat, who is, in fact, as beautiful in person as she is in her pictures, wrote a guest blog on the writing books that have most helped her. I don’t have all the books she mentioned, but I have a lot of them because I, too, am a writing craft book junkie.

Like Reon, I can vouch for the incredible helpfulness of almost any Writer’s Digest Elements of Fiction Writing book you might happen upon. Other favorites of mine? Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, Bickham’s Scene & Structure and The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines, by Cowden, LaFever and Viders.

And the granddaddy of them all? The one book I think no writer should start writing without? The one book that changed my writing life?

Drum roll, please …

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Man, I love that book. Why, you ask?

Well, for one thing, King tells it like it is. Writing is hard, but you can do it, he says. Have courage. You need to either commit to it or not. You make time for it or you don’t. If you’re committed and make time for it, according to King, you need to write every day. Let me repeat that: EVERY DAY. He allows one weekend day off, but that’s it.

That’s what King says, anyway. Do I write every day? During the week, usually, yes. On the weekends, ah … well, no.

Pardon me while I hang my head in shame for a minute.

Where was I? Oh, yes … Why else do I love this book? King tells us, in intimate detail, about his torturous path to publication. He shares the pain. I have a little secret to tell you: he wasn’t born Stephen King, Number One New York Times Bestseller. Who knew?

He worked really, REALLY hard. He endured a lot of rejection. He had setbacks along the way. But … he did it.

And so can we, he says.

So if you’re thinking you want to write something, you’re ready to commit, and you need a little encouragement—someone to point you in the right direction and break that elephant down into bite-sized pieces for you to eat—I highly encourage you to pick up King’s book. Read it. Absorb it. Take it to heart.

And then write. And keep writing. Stephen King says you can do it.


Thanks, Ann! I love that last sentence. Who are we to argue with Stephen King?

News You Can Use
Here's a link in which you can just enter your zip code, and it tells you which gas stations have the cheapest prices (and the highest) on gas in your zip code area. It's updated every evening.

It's My Birthday

Facts about July 2nd:

It is the 183rd day of the year and is smack dab in the center, with 182 days before and 182 days following (except for leap years).

Famous people born on this date:
Thurgood Marshall, Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Medgar Evers, Field Secretary, NAACP
Brock Peters, actor
Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of the Congo
Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's hamburger chain
Paul Williams, original member of Temptations
John Whitehead, songwriter and performer (McFadden & Whitehead)
Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines and shoe fanatic

A weird coincidence: Medgar Evers was murdered in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi, as he returned on the night of June 12, 1963. Californian Ron Goldman was murdered in the driveway of his friend's home (Nicole Brown Simpson) on the night of June 12, 1994. Not only did were these two men killed the same day, but they were also born the same day . . . this day.

Now, a few words about this day as it relates to the Fourth of July:

America's independence was actually declared by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. The night of the second the Pennsylvania Evening Post published the statement: "This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States."

John Adams, in a letter home to his beloved wife Abigail the day after independence was declared (i.e. July 3), predicted that from then on "the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival." A scholar coming across this document in the nineteenth century quietly "corrected" the document, Adams predicting the festival would take place not on the second but the fourth.

So what happened on the Glorious Fourth? The document justifying the act of Congress - you know it as Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence - was adopted on the fourth, as is indicated on the document itself, which is, one supposes, the cause for all the confusion. As one scholar has observed, what has happened is that the document announcing the event has overshadowed the event itself.

So think of me when you see those fireworks Friday night. It should have been on the Second. Today is supposed to be the holiday. July 4th is an imposter! But here I am, at work . . . .

Have a Happy Fourth, and a wonderful, safe holiday weekend!! I'll be back Monday with a guest blog by Ann Christopher.