Auld Lang Syne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas . . . and to all a good night

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

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

Fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaaaa!

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

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

Like death and taxes . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be My Guest (yes, again)

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

Be My Guest

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

RAWSISTAZ 2008 Online Conference

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

See you there!

Getting off to a slow start

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's a lot going on right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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