The Last Word on The Last Day

This has been a bittersweet year. Many of us have lost loved ones. For me it was my last surviving uncle, who passed away last August at the age of 88, suddenly and quickly (the way he always said he wanted to go), after a long and full life. Saying goodbye was hard. But on the other hand, my mother is still with us, recently celebrated her 91st birthday (and she's got an older sister who's still kicking at 93, so watch out for the new Delany sisters).

The rest of my family is well. I thank God for reasonably good health. I transcribe medical reports for a living, and it's shocking how many people my age have been stricken with heart disease, MS, cancer. I will never, ever take health for granted, and this is mentioned in my prayers every night. This is a comfortable time in my life, with my stepchildren grown and a rapidly growing grandchild. My husband and I are blessed to both have jobs in these uncertain economic times, our rental property is occupied after being vacant for a year (a very long year of paying two mortgages), and I have been presented with a wonderful professional opportunity that I plan to do everything in my power to make happen.

I'm at a good point in my writing (note I didn't say writing career, just writing). I turned in Trouble Down The Road, and my editor was very pleased with both the content and the condition of the manuscript. I've put down nearly 50,000 words on paper since November 1st for my next independent project, which I have named The Heat of Heat and which I plan to bring out in the spring. The hook for a story I started outlining two years ago has finally formed in my head. Other new ideas are flowing, and I plan to continue to tell my stories, if not through a mainstream publisher, then through my own Bunderful Books. I've been working the last few days on edits for my first independently published project, Save The Best For Last, correcting a few typos I've noticed, before I make it available for bookstores to order for consumers (I don't expect them to actually stock it, but this does make for improved distribution for readers who don't like to order online). I'm going to continue to make strides to write faster so that I can maybe keep up with some of these ideas I've got, some of which fall into the strike-while-the-iron-is-hot category.

Another feather in my cap is that I've gotten a lot more organized this year, as I hoped to do. I can get my hands on just about everything in the house, now that I've assigned a place for it all!

One of the two areas where I came up short is keeping in touch with my friends. But we're all busy, and with me being home in the mornings (while they're at work) and working into the evenings, after which it's too late to call anyone, especially in the East, it makes it difficult. And we all have things to do on the weekends. But I'm going to try to get hold of some of them before this long weekend is over.

My other shortcoming was my weight, which is pretty much where it was at this time last year.
But this new year...well, maybe I shouldn't make any promises I'm not sure I can keep.

But there's no beating myself up. I've done well this year, and I plan to do even better in 2010.

What about you?

I'll close by wishing everyone all good things in 2010! Be blessed, and stay blessed!

Christmas Carols for the Psychologically Challenged

Okay, it's not politically correct, but it's all in good fun.
1. SCHIZOPHRENIA: Do You Hear What We Hear?

NARCISSIST: Hark the Herald Angels Sing - All About Me.

MANIC: Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants, and...


PARANOID: Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Me.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER: Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells.

SENILE DEMENTIA: Walking in a Winter Wonderland...Miles from My House in My Slippers and Pajamas.

OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE DISORDER: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa I Burned Down the House.

ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER: We Wish You - Hey Look!!! It's Snowing!!!

It's almost Christmas Eve. It's snowing outside, so Christmas will be white up in these parts. Everything's done, I've got a few days off, and I feel greeeeeaaaaaaat!

I'd like to take this time to wish all of you, plus all your families and loved ones, all the blessings of the season. May you continue to be blessed.

More About Me

If you can stand reading another interview about me, my friend Shelia Goss, who is a newspaper columnist as well as a novelist, has a feature on me in the Dallas Examiner.

Guest Blogger:
Rhonda McKnight

Introducing Secrets and Lies
by Rhonda McKnight

About the Book

Faith Morgan is struggling with her faith. Years of neglect leave her doubting that God will ever fix her marriage. When a coworker accuses her husband, Jonah, of the unthinkable, Faith begins to wonder if she really knows him at all, and if it’s truly in God’s will for them to stay married.

Pediatric cardiologist Jonah Morgan is obsessed with one thing: his work. A childhood incident cemented his desire to heal children at any cost, even his family, but now he finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Will he continue to allow the past to haunt him, or find healing and peace in a God he shut out long ago?

About the Author
Rhonda McKnight owns Legacy Editing, a free-lance editing service for fiction writers and Urban Christian Fiction Today ( ), a popular Internet site that highlights African-American Christian fiction. She’s also the vice president of the Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta. Originally from a small coastal town in New Jersey, she’s called Atlanta, Georgia, home for almost twelve years.

Rhonda, tell us how you came up with the idea for this story?

I woke up one morning and these people were talking in my head, or rather arguing. (LOL). I thought this could be interesting, turned on the creativity, and came up with the “issues” in their marriage. I also did a lot of research about heart disease. Jonah is a pediatric cardiologist and that’s central to the story. I knew absolutely nothing about heart disease before I wrote this novel.

Who is your ideal reader?

I think most people will think my ideal reader is women who are married. While I think the book will definitely appeal to married women, I’d love for single woman who are thinking about marriage or waiting on Mr. Right to read the book. There is a valuable lesson for single women in the story. Faith chose to overlook a very important issue prior to her marriage to Jonah. This issue becomes a huge source of pain for her. Ten years later her ideal black man has her pulling her hair out.

Name something about the book that will appeal to readers?

I think readers will find it appealing, because more than half of it is written from Jonah’s point of view. My informal research amongst readers has taught me that women readers love stories that are written from a man’s perspective. Like most men, Jonah is complex. He’s a love to hate kind of guy. People will love him because he’s dedicated his life to physically healing children, but he’s emotionally and spiritually sick himself. What a burden for Faith. Faith’s pain will have some folks shaking their heads at Jonah.

When’s your next book being released?

My second novel, An Inconvenient Friend, comes out August 1, 2010. I have a nasty little character in Secrets and Lies who gets her own story, and what a story it is. She’s up to no good. Can she be redeemed?

How can readers find out more about you?

Readers may contact me at my website at I love for people to sign my guestbook and share their thoughts about the story. I’m also a complete Facebook addict. You’ll definitely find me there more than you should at .


Thanks, Rhonda!

The Week in Review

I personally was glad that Desireé Rogers did not give testimony at this week's investigation into Crashergate. Protecting the President is ultimately the responsibility of the Secret Service, not the White House Social Secretary. I suspect the questions would have strayed far off course into matters like magazine articles that have been written on Ms. Rogers and her wardrobe choices. So what if she gets a little publicity? She's in a high-profile, prominent position in an exciting adminstration (which explains why the only other White House Social Secretary I can name is Leticia Baldridge, who served during the JFK years). So what if Ms. Rogers likes to be well dressed...what woman doesn't?

That said, I must say that she didn't come out of this looking all that great (actually, she looked great personally, but I'm talking professionally here). The accepted role of the Social Secretary is to oversee all White House events, the way any event planner would, and this includes screening at exclusive events like this one. There were spelling errors in the menu, and that couple did manage to get in...and there she was, posing like she was on the red carpet at the Oscars. Did any of her predecessors ever attend White House functions they organized as guests?

Her staff, presuming they were entrusted to fill in, might not have been up to the task either, but clearly they'll have to do a better job next time. And if she decides she's really not the person for the position (her background is in business management, not entertaining, having served as president of the utility company in Chicago), I nominate B. Smith to take over.

Gotta mention the Tiger situation. The press conference scheduled by Gloria Allred (who's built a nice career from women involved in sex scandals) was mysteriously canceled with a terse statement that there'd be no further comments on the matter. Smells like a payoff to me. But there really are more important matters for the media to be an investigation into why the man who shot four police officers dead as they sat and had coffee was given early release (by a prominent former governor who's already run for president once and is considering doing it again). Sometimes the love Americans have for scandal makes me want to puke. Remember how more people were interested in the O.J. Simpson case than in the simultaneous trial of the Oklahoma City bombers?

Moving across the Atlantic, the verdict is in on the Amanda Knox trial. Maybe it's wrong for me to say this, but I never got a feeling of innocence from her. I can only pray that she wasn't wrongly convicted. But I am sick, sick, sick of hearing her described as "not looking like a murderer." Every black person in America can hear between those lines. We will ever hear that said about one of our children?

We should live so long.

Do you have any thoughts on either of these situations? What's your opinion? I'd love to know!

This Weekend

Ella Curry's Black Book Weekends kicks off today. Ella has 50 authors in various genres calling in to read from their books and to be briefly interviewed. I'm on Saturday, November 28th, at 7:30PM Central (8:30PM Eastern). For more information, click on the link above!

Simply Said Reading Accessories is offering Black Friday specials that are good through November 30th. Deb Owsley's wonderful reading accessories make great inexpensive gifts, so do go over and check out the goodies!

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

Attention Milwaukee Area Book Lovers

I'm passing on this news. Best wishes to Linda Jackson, a lovely lady.

Another one bites the dust, doggone it.

Linda Jackson, who owns Cultural Connections Bookstore is closing her shop. She needs to be out of her building by 11/30/09 and is selling everything in the store at reduced rates. Could you please pass the following along to your network so that as another Black business succumbs we can help her as she closes her doors. Since many folks are about the do their holiday shopping, maybe they can consider purchasing books, cards, figurines, and other items before 11/30/09. "A Closing Invitation" "The Final Chapter" Everything Must Go! The Cultural Connections Bookstore @ 3424 W. Villard Ave, Upper Level will be closing it's doors November 28th, 2009. All Books on Sale! Many of the best African-American books by the Best African-American Authors. Stop in Saturday, November 28th between 9am ~4pm Office Furniture, Fixtures, Misc. Items, Magnets, Figurines, Puzzles, Greeting Card, Bible Covers, Throws, Books, Planners, Calendars, and More ***Please spread the word!***

Book Trailer for Save The Best For Last

In case you haven't read the book yet, this should pique your interest. And if you have read it, remember that autographed books make great Christmas gifts. Visit the Books page of my website for details.

My writing will suffer today, but I've wanted to get this done for months now. I hope y'all enjoy it...because I was so busy doing this I forgot to put out the garbage!

Update on NaNoWriMo

I'm up by 14,223 words since starting NaNoWriMo half a month ago. If I can finish with 30,000 words I'll be delighted!

Are you a writer who is NaNoWriMo'ing? How's your progress? Are you happy with it?

RAWSISTAZ reviews Save The Best For Last (4 stars)

Here's what they say:

"Griffin has written an exciting romantic tale with a splash of suspense. As I read Save The Best For Last , I became engrossed in Genevieve's emotions, her thoughts about how this business plan would affect everyone involved if it goes sour or how will she be able to keep her relationship with Dexter strictly business. Sure to please romance readers, Save The Best For Last is a heartwarming story of love and trust."

Have you gotten your copy yet? If you haven't, you'll have to wait a day or two. I've suspended orders temporarily while I wait for my new proof to come in. I made a few corrections last week and want to see how they look before opening it up for orders again. (The ability to change the text is is a bonus that comes with print-on-demand publishing.) If the mailmain brings my proof today, it'll be ready for order later or tomorrow!

Halloween and NaNoWriMo...all in one weekend

It's a rarity, like when the Kentucky Derby (first Saturday in May) and Mother's Day (second Sunday in May) both hit the same weekend.

I'm skipping Halloween this year. Bought two sacks of candy last year and when no trick-or-treaters showed up, ended up eating it all myself. I'm not doing that again. There are kids all over this subdivision, and a lot of folks have decorated their lawns with pumpkins, tombstones, skeletons, netting, and the like. I just don't know where the kids go for the holiday. My job is having what sounds like a very nice party at some club overlooking Lake Michigan, and we can even bring a guest, but I'm working tonight. Just as well. Hubby isn't feeling so hot today. It's practically impossible to drag him out on a Friday night even on a good day...

I'm all ready for NaNoWriMo. I've been working on a second independent project for less than a week and can't believe how fast it's going, 6,000 words already. I know I can't keep up this pace, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. Of course, with NaNoWriMo you're not supposed to begin the project until midnight November 1st, but I don't mind bending the rule a little. If I can get 50,000 words in, I'll be thrilled!

What about you? Any plans for Halloween? And do you NaNoWriMo?

Where Have All the Bookstores Gone?

For years in my hometown of Yonkers, New York, there has been a Waldenbooks in the Cross County Shopping Center (so old that it pre-dates malls). I've done a few very successful book sigings there during visits to town. I was so disappointed to learn that store was closed in the last year. Whoever heard of a major shopping center without a bookstore?

Another place where I've signed with success was the Waldenbooks in Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis (known in the local vernacular as "The Black Mall." When I was down there a few weeks back I noticed that J.C. Penney and Sears were both gone (these are, of course, staples in most malls). That prepared me, so when I went inside to get my eyebrows threaded I wasn't all that surprised to see Waldenbooks gone and a Hip Hop Fashion in its place. Again, given the general deterioration of the mall (which has lost all of its anchors the last few years, although it is still reasonably clean and well-kept), I wasn't all that surprised.

The B. Dalton in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, where I also did very well with the lunchtime crowd, closed quite a while ago, when I was still living there. It was replaced by a discounter of older titles that had overstock, but at least there are books being sold there.

Finally, the Waldenbooks inside Regency Mall in Racine, Wisconsin, closed its doors in January of this year, leaving yet another mall with no bookstore.

I read that Borders (who owns Waldenbooks) and Barnes & Noble (parent of B. Dalton) both wanted to concentrate on their larger stores, but regardless, I miss the smaller but well-stocked stores in the local mall. The book superstores are usually in strip malls that I wouldn't normally visit otherwise. My town has no bookstore; my one complaint about what is otherwise a perfect environment for me at this stage of my life. I have to either drive across the border to Gurnee, Illinois to go to Borders (about 17 miles each way) or drive north to Racine to go to the Barnes & Noble up there (about 12 miles). But if this is the trend, it doesn't look like my town will be getting a smaller bookstore anytime soon.

How close - or far - is your neighborhood bookstore? Does your local mall still have a bookstore, or has it closed?

Gone Blogging

I'm over at Blogging in Black today, talking about author mailing lists. Stop by if you get a chance!

All Active on the Publishing Front gives Save The Best For Last 4-1/2 stars!

Genevieve Shane has all the material things money can buy. On top of that, she is intelligent as well as beautiful. She has everything...except her U.S. citizenship. Time is running out, and she has to do something, fast. If the INS catches up with her and deports her back to her country, she will be killed. Her current beau, Barry, whom she has no romantic feelings for at all, offers marriage. Gen is desperate, so she accepts, even though she only believes in marriage for love. When their plans are delayed, Barry suggests she move into his friends' rental room, where she would share the upstairs floor with an unkempt, devilishly handsome doctor who is in law school. Dexter Gray has one more semester before he will be finished with law school, but he has encountered a problem. Can Gen and Dexter come to a mutual agreement that will benefit them both without their hearts getting involved?

Save The Best For Last is an excellent read by Bettye Griffin. The characters are very realistic and relatable. You find yourself drawn to the characters and rooting for their relationship to succeed. The plot was very well developed. The storyline also flowed well, which made for an easy read. I thoroughly enjoyed Save The Best For Last.

Reviewed by Tenecia for

Also, the mass market edition of Once Upon A Project is now available for pre-order on This edition will include a sneak peek at my next mainstream, Trouble Down The Road (which will be out two months later).

Finally, Trouble Down The Road is also available for pre-order on Amazon. April 27th is the official release date.

I wish you good reading!

Never Can Say Goodbye

My husband and I spent the weekend in Indianapolis visiting family, and on the first, most boring part of the drive back home to Wisconsin (the state of Indiana consists of one large city, numerous college towns, suburbs of Chicago, and a lot of cornfields) I told him about an article in the Sunday paper about the Michael Jackson King of Pop tour of Gary, including the sights it covered and its cost. Bernard, a native of Gary, Indiana himself, laughed so hard I thought he was going to lose control of the car.

He spontaneously got off the highway at one of the Gary exits, telling me he was going to take me on the Michael Jackson tour.

He skipped driving past the hospital where Michael (and, incidentally, Bernard himself) was born; I'd been there to visit various family members over the years. So our first stop was Lucky's Lounge, where the Jackson brothers first performed as professionals.

If a contest for the city with the most boarded-up buildings is ever held, Gary would probably win. Lucky's is an abandoned building with a board partially covering its large front window. On the front door a message of thanks for patronizing them, plus a warning that a person had to be 21 or over to enter, is still visible. This part of the building, Bernard explained, had been a liquor store. The lounge portion was in the back, its entrance around the corner. A sign that reads "Granny's Hometown Cookng" or something like that now hangs over the front door. We didn't bother to go closer to determine whether Granny is still cooking. The building looked so forlorn, it was depressing. "Now, would you pay to see that?" Bernard asked me. I understood his laughter from earlier better now.

From there we drove toward the Jackson family house. Bernard pointed out a Fifties-style two-story elementary school within walking distance of the house, saying it was likely this was where the Jackson children received their fundamental educations. It is now a girl's academy.

We drove a few blocks to Jackson Street (named for President Andrew Jackson), where, on a corner marked with brown street signs saying Jackson Family Way and 2300 Jackson Street. On the corner sits 2300 Jackson Street, a plain one-story house with weathered white siding that is, and I'm not kidding, about as wide as my garage (which can hold two cars and a motorycle or snowblower). But, like most houses in Gary, the house has a full basement, which effectively doubles its size. Still, it is very, very small for a family of 11 people. Across the street is a house that appears identical, except its siding is a light greenish-blue color. Two of those portable roofed strutures in the front yard shield tables of souvenirs from the elements. The tour does not include going inside the Jackson home - which until recently was occupied by a cousin of the family - but the operators have worked out a deal with the owners of the similar house across the street for the tour participants to walk through. Of course, participants are invited to shop at the souvenir stand in the yard. This may well represent the only time the tourists actually get off the bus (the tour also includes driving past the home of the owner of the Jackson's first record label, whose home included a recording studio and who apparently is still in residence). Then, I suppose it's back aboard for the trips back to the Far South suburb of Matteson, Illinois (about a 45-minute drive) or E. 53rd Steet in the Hyde Park section of the city (near the President's digs), a ride which can easily run close to an hour.

The tour takes from 3-1/2 to 4 hours in total, the largest chunk of which is spent just getting to and from Gary. The city hung a large banner across Broadway in honor of Michael Jackson. A downtown theater, long abandoned, has on its marquee, Jackson Five Forever.

This love Gary shows for its most famous sons is ironic, considering the Jackson brothers never performed in Gary after they became Motown recording artists. Kids from Gary who wanted to see their old friends and classmates had to get to Chicago, some 30 miles away (quite a distance for 14- and 15-year-olds) to see the Jackson Five. Michael himself only returned to Gary once more in his lifetime, in 2003, to receive the keys to the city.

It's important to note that the city of Gary was economically healthy in 1969, when the Jackson family left town. Sometime after that the steel mills began cutting back, manufacturers moved to different locations, retailers closed, and the boarding up of buildings began. I never understood why Gary shows such love for Michael, given that he never so much as gave a concert in his hometown after becoming rich and famous. For that reason, I personally hope the tour operators make a bundle. Likely there is no licensing is required to drive past public or abandoned buildings or pointing out where Michael and his family lived, or opening up a house across the street to the public. No licensing means the organizers don't have to give the family a cut of the profits (this may well explain why the Jackson house is not open for tours). And the tour is not cheap - you'll learn the price at the end of this column - so profits are probably plentiful. Plans the city has to open a museum would absolutely have to include a payment to the family for the right to display Michael's belongings. But good luck trying to get 2300 Jackson Street declared a historical site, something the mayor of Gary is reportedly attempting to do. It's the former home of a pop star, for crying out loud, not Abraham Lincoln's log cabin.

Which brings me to what my husband said to me after we pulled back out on Broadway. A sign at the corner proclaims, "Visit Michael Jackson's childhood home, turn here" because apparently people driving to Chicago are stopping off to look at the house (and buy souvenirs across the street, no doubt), bringing in more money not related to the tour. Bernard held out his palm and said, "That'll be $55, please."

Wait 'til it happens to you

I've been transcribing medical reports for many years now. One of the things that always amazed me was the things people get stuck in their ears. Insects, earrings, peas (little kids do play with their food), just about any small object can slip down that ear canal. Of course, I'd never have such an incident...

Yeah, right. Last Thursday, getting dressed for a funeral in Indiana, a defective Q-tip came apart in my ear, and my husband couldn't even see it, much less attempt to get it out. Because we had somewhere to be and I didn't really feel it, I went on with my day. I knew it would have to come out within a couple of days (before infection set in) at the emergency room, but like most people, I put off going.

By Sunday night I had an odd sensation whenever I swallowed, and I knew the time had come to seek medical attention. The physician assistant got it out quite easily with a nurse holding a light for her. The moment it was out I was back to normal. The PA cautioned me against putting anything inside my ear, and I was discharged.

Do any of you guys actually insert Q-tips inside your ear, or just along the outer rim? Have any of you every gotten anything stuck in your ear? Did you have it removed immediately, or did you wait a few days? How did it make you feel?

Finally (almost) Complete

Well, the manuscript for Trouble Down The Road has been submitted, actually yesterday. All except the last page, that is. I like to have a strong last line; like the one in A New Kind of Bliss:

You might remember that's how this whole thing started.

Of course, you'll have to read the book to know what the character is talking about. Usually I write the last line well before finishing, but not this time. At least my editor has 370-something other pages to read. I'll come up with something over the weekend.

I'll also be getting out a newsletter over the weekend to my subscribers that will include the first look at the cover of Trouble Down The Road. A good weekend to all!

Loose Lips

You've probably heard of the debacle involving the message President Obama sent to Governor David Paterson of New York in which the governor was asked not to run for election on his own merits, because his low approval ratings practically open the door for the state to be lost to the Republicans (Rudy Guiliani is the name often bandied about).

My first thought when I heard this was not What the heck is Obama doing, sticking his nose into state politics? or even I haven't been a New Yorker in 20 years and don't follow their local politics, but I do feel Paterson made a mess out of that Senate appointment, but instead...

What jerk blabbed this to the press?

The President is always the head of his respective political party, and it's part of his job to keep an eye on how the governors are doing in the time leading up to midterm elections. New York is a powerful state with a large voting population, and naturally the First Democrat wants to keep it under Democratic control. However, the particulars of this situation have ignited a firestorm. David Paterson, like Barack Obama, is a black man. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts is the only other black governor (although he was actually elected to serve in this post; Governor Paterson was elected as lieutenant governor and moved into the top spot after Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal forced him out). Many people are going to be outraged that a brother is putting party politics before the support of another brother. Still others will resent Presidential interference in state politics. On the other side of the coin are the people who praise the President for his efforts at trying to keep the important state of New York in the Democratic column, and the fact that he cannot be accused of only looking out for the interests of black Americans. Instead Republican lapdog Michael Steele declared he found it "stunning" that the White House would ask one of just two black governors not to run. The funny thing is that we all know Steele would have been equally stunned had it been leaked that Obama had privately urged Paterson to run for election instead of not to run.

That is a prime example of why this is a sticky situation of the sort that is best kept quiet because of the lose/lose factors involved. Presidents have been known to appear at campaign functions for politicians of their party to help with election or reelection. That's the type of party support that deserves publicity, not the behind-the-scenes suggestions. The fact that this controversial correspondence was released to the public suggests that there's a Democrat in someone's inner circle who is really a Republican.


A classic movie recommendation

Last night when I got home from work I tuned in to see what was playing on Turner Classic Movies, as I usually do. I was delighted to recognize one of my favorites, Alfred Hitchcock's remake of his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much with James Stewart and Doris Day.

I always loved this movie, although I never actually sat down and watched the whole thing from start to finish until just a few years ago. It reminds me of Hitchcock's North By Northwest in that it's sort of a chase movie. But what I truly like about this film is Doris Day's part. Her Jo McKenna wasn't simply another 'Yes, dear' wife role with little to do other than look beautiful, cleaning the house in high heels and pearls and a chiffon apron. Her anguish when her husband tells her their son has been kidnapped is so real that it never fails to bring tears to my eyes (I missed that part last night). But she doesn't proceed to have a nervous breakdown and leave all the work to her husband. Instead, she worked alongside him to locate and retrieve their boy, and she used her own wits when he wasn't around. Considering how women were often portrayed in that era (this film was released in 1956), it's really something special. And although Day was 16 years younger than Stewart, they looked like a real couple to me. (I'd guess Day looked more mature than the 32 she was at the time rather than Stewart looking younger than his 48.)

It's also the film that introduced what became Day's signature song: Que Sera Sera. This little ditty plays a pivotal role in the film's climax.

In case anyone's wondering, Doris Day is still alive at age 85, although she had been a recluse even before the death of her only child a few years back.

The Man Who Knew Too Much, the 1956 remake. It's one of Bettye's favorites. Watch it if you get the chance.

Gone Blogging

Today I'm over at my friend Shelia Goss's blog, so stop by and "meet" Genevieve of Save The Best For Last, and feel free to leave a comment!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, plus the beginning of the new week.

Sweet children, infamous date

Forty-three years ago I was nine years old and didn't watch much news, but in recent years I've heard about how panicked expectant mothers begged their doctors to do something to extend their labor because they didn't want to give birth on a certain date. That date was the sixth of June, 1966. It was the 22nd anniversary of the famous Battle of Normandy during World War II, but what these women feared was giving birth on the date of 6/6/1966, a date associated with the antichrist.

This was a story that might not have even made the network news, which was much different in those days, carrying mostly hard news and little human interest stories. Besides, who wanted to talk about the antichrist?

Babies are born at any time. My own mother celebrated her eleventh birthday the day the stock market crashed in 1929 and plunged the country into the Great Depression. I've known people born on December 7th and November 22nd, the anniversaries of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy. Both of those dates have faded somewhat over the last 68 and 46 years, respectively. The date to avoid these days is September 11th.

My granddaughter was born prematurely on this date, three years ago today, on what was the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in three locations of our country. Between the day of her birth and the fact that her mother's name is Katrina, one might think she's a disaster in the making, but she is one special little girl who happened to be born on the anniversary of a horrible event in our country's history. There are likely thousands of babies who are turning eight years old today, having been born on the actual day that so many people died. One can't help when they are born, and I hope they all celebrate this most special day in their lives without the shadow of the other event they share their day with putting a damper on their joy.

So, may all the victims of that day rest in eternal peace. On the same token, happy birthday, sweet children, especially to my Baby Girl! I can't wait to see her when she gets here this evening. We're going to celebrate her birthday all weekend long!

The Week in Review

RIP, Edward M. Kennedy. You made some very public mistakes, but you did your best to be a worthwhile human being. It was very big of you to let the world in on some of your private thoughts by having them revealed after you were gone. You would have loved your homegoing services. Your eldest son and namesake was particularly touching.

It seems like everything our president done is met with scorn and criticism by the opposing party, and it's really getting on my nerves. Now he can't even talk to schoolchildren without kicking up a fuss? Puh-leeze.

RIP also - somewhat belatedly - to Michael Jackson, finally buried 70 days after his death. The rumor mill is saying that the family is going to sell footage of the funeral service on a DVD. That seems more than a little crude to me, and I certainly hope it's not true. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

I wish everyone a wonderful holiday weekend! I still have 25,000+ words to write in my WIP between now and next Thursday, when it's due. Three guesses what I'll be doing this long weekend?

A little irony for your Friday

I was tickled when my friend, author Shelia Goss, sent me a link to the bestselling books as reported by Jokae's African-American Bookstore in Dallas, for the Dallas newspaper. A New Kind of Bliss rounded out the five titles. After informing my editor and agent, I promptly forgot about it...until I saw the latest issue of Essence magazine at the Islip, Long Island, airport earlier this week. Jokae's is a contributor to their list of bestselling books, and I thought there was a possibility that I might see my name on that list for the first time (wouldn't that be great!).

Well, I bought a copy, and guess what? After scouring the magazine plus the table of contents, I came to the unhappy conclusion that there is no bestselling list of books for September! I haven't been a regular reader of Essence for quite some time now, but this list has been a staple of their issues for years now. I don't ever remember there not being one.

I then checked their web site, which traditionally has an extended list of the 10 top books in four categories (Hardcover and paperback fiction and nonfiction), only to see that it still has the August listing...and just 5 books at that (not an extended list).

Could I have made the list? There's still time for a September update on the website, even if it was not included in the magazine. But if they don't update their website, I guess I'll never know. Such is life, I suppose.

Have a great weekend!

Reviews are coming in

The reviews from some of the big review sites like RAWSISTAZ and Urban-Reviews are not in yet, but readers and at one major book club are weighing in on Save The Best For Last. Here's some text borrowed directly from Amazon:

"Save The Best For Last is a wonderful book . . . you will not be able to put the book down once you begin reading it." -- Louise Brown

"I enjoyed this book for the suspenseful elements in the story. . . I recommend this book to romance readers and fans of Bettye Griffin. This is a perfect book to read as you wind down from the lazy days of summer." -- Beverly Jackson, APOOO Book Club

"This was a very moving story with a well thought out plot, believable but everyday type characters and enough emotion to keep you turning the pages every minute." -- Charlotte Robinson

Have you ordered your copy yet? Remember, this is not available in stores, but can be ordered from my e-store, from me directly, or from in trade paperback or Kindle format.

Gone Conferencing

I'm still out of town (isn't the Internet wonderful?), but I'm over at SORMAG, participating in the Online Conference. This conference is a wonderful source of information for readers and writers alike, so click here to visit!

We have had gorgeous weather. Hurricane Bill made for some fantastic waves in a beach known for its waves. I'm writing this on the covered patio, and the sun is sparkling off the water of the pool. It's my last day here, and I'm going to make the most of it!

Heading for the Hamptons . . .

. . . sadly, to bury my uncle. It is a sad occasion, but yet a joyous one. Chester E. Morris lived for 88 remarkable years, and he wa loved by many. As my cousin said, we will shed a few tears, but we will also celebrate his life.

I'm taking some time for R&R while I'm up there (it is, after all, the Hamptons). Will be back midweek next week.

Contrition and Redemption . . . and he's still a young man

I saw part of Michael Vick's news conference this morning as he reported for training with his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

There's going to be a lot of controversy about his return to the NFL after his horrendous activities came to light. I hope this young man realizes that if he didn't possess a great talent that can help his team make money and win the top prize, he may well not have been given this second chance. He certainly seemed geuninely contrite about his past actions, and equally appreciative of this second chance. I hope he can successfully rebound, and I wish him success ... it's not going to be easy for him, and it will take a strong spirit not to crack under the heckling that is bound to happen from spectators.

I pray Michael Vick will become an upstanding citizen, and I say God bless Tony Dungy for stepping forward to help him.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

My friend(s) Bettye/Bette (and a guest blog, too!)

Those of you who know me know I never did much in terms of online networking, other than my blog and an occasional guest blog or online chat, simply because there were too many of them out there, and there isn't time to do that and write, too. My personal editor, Kim, suggested that I join Facebook for more exposure, which was easy enough where it would only take about ten minutes of my time, so I bit the bullet and set up a profile.

I must say I'm getting a kick out of reconnecting with old friends and fellow authors I haven't seen in a while. But I'm also meeting new people. Anyone who has ever looked for anyone on Facebook is probably aware of how many people out there have the same name, and two of my new friends are Bettye Griffin and Bette Griffen.

Bettye was aware of me, as people have asked her over the years if she's the novelist. Bette learned about me when she noticed there were two more of us out there with the same name and saw I was a writer.

I always knew there was at least one other Bettye Griffin out there; someone is listed on Amazon as having written a book with a copyright back in 1980 (no, I did not write the book Family to Family). But it's really swivvy to learn that there are two more whom I never would have known about otherwise, since we're all in different parts of the country. I'm so pleased to have met both ladies, and you can bet if I ever get to their respective neck of the woods I'll see if we can meet for lunch!

Incidentally, I'm doing a guest blog today about writer obsession (but it's not creepy, I promise) over at Love Is An Exploding Cigar. Please drop by later (it's not yet posted as I write this at 7AM Central Time) and leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Save The Best For Last!

Honoring Hilton White

Hilton White was the father of my best friend, Kim (not the Kim who edits my books, who is much younger than us). I am so proud to say that a street in the Bronx was named for him this past Saturday, August 1st. (The photo above is of Derrick White holding the newly minted street sign identifying his father's namesake street, Hilton White Way.) Unfortunately, I was unable to get to New York this weekend . . . but I was there in spirit.

Those of you who've read my older books might think that name sounds familiar. With the permission of his family, I named the hero of my second romance, A Love of Her Own, after him.

Here's the text of the article reprinted from The New York Times about a tribute to a wonderful man:

August 3, 2009
More Than Playing Ball on a South Bronx Playground

The small patch of concrete in the South Bronx features slides and swing sets, along with a large fountain where neighborhood youngsters frolic happily through the spray. But the basketball hoops, and the legendary coach and recreational leader who once presided over them, have vanished, part of the ever-changing demographics of this gritty neighborhood.

But every once in a while, some local residents say, the deep baritone of the unforgettable Hilton White can be heard echoing across the old playground, and his muscular, 6-foot-3 frame can be seen stalking the former sideline. For it was here — on a small concrete playground near the intersection of East 163rd Street and Cauldwell Avenue — that the locally renowned community leader and coach taught some of New York City’s greatest 1960s and 1970s basketball players (like the former N.B.A. star Nate Archibald) how to become both outstanding basketball players and responsible adults.

It was also where White, who died at 57 in 1990, put together one of the most successful recreational teams in city history: the famed Bronx Falcons, who became local legends by often winning well-known amateur tournaments, like the Rucker in Harlem.

On Saturday, dozens of White’s protégés, most now in their 50s and 60s, returned to the Bronx from across the United States to pay homage to a man many called their surrogate father. Against a background of thumping soul music and speeches by elected officials, an enthusiastic crowd of about 170 — including roughly 30 members of White’s extended family — beamed as the little fenced-in park was renamed Hilton White Playground and an adjacent street received a new moniker, as well — Hilton White Way.

During White’s decade-long career as the reigning youth basketball coach at tiny Cauldwell Park and Playground in the South Bronx, White taught the fundamentals of the game to hundreds of teenagers — including Willie Worsley, Nevil Shed and Willie Cager, three Bronx youngsters who later gained national fame as starters on the 1966 Texas Western College team. That year, Worsley, Shed and Cager helped lead an all-black starting lineup to an astonishing upset victory against Adolph Rupp’s all-white Kentucky team to win the N.C.A.A. championship.

On his small outdoor lot, White insisted that his young charges learn the value of education, discipline, hard work and respect for others. By combining basketball instruction with fatherly guidance, he helped mold hundreds of teenagers into socially responsible adults. Many went on to become doctors, judges, social workers, educators and coaches.

During the ceremony Saturday, many attendees said they missed White and the other “parkies,” former city recreational workers who had helped to shape their characters. They also lamented that these recreational positions were eliminated in New York during the 1970s by budget cuts.
“What I remember was the sense of excellence he instilled,” said Walter M. Braswell, 59, now an administrative law judge in New Jersey who sometimes sought out White for advice. “He looked you in the eye, and he was a big guy, tough. He was very convincing that you could accomplish whatever you want.”

Braswell, whose son plays basketball at Yale, looked around the park and added: “And the results he got. He told us how good we could be, and then the Falcons went out and were that good. And the kids started getting college scholarships. That’s what I think really woke everyone up in the neighborhood to the fact that, there was a way out.”

Standing near the little park’s iron fence, the former White disciple Robert McDonald described how he ran into the coach in 1987 at an educators’ conference in Washington. There he asked White why he had put so much extra time and effort into working with young people.

“The main thing,” McDonald said, “is he wanted to help our community get more scholarships for the underprivileged kids — he wanted these kids to get a fair shake and he thought education would be their road out. He used basketball as a tool.”

At the renaming festivities Saturday, the players hugged and slapped hands, some of them looking ready to tip off in shorts, T-shirts and shiny high tops, others in slacks and collared shirts. Shed, now 66, stood tall at 6-8 and flashed his chunky, gold N.C.A.A. championship ring on one finger and his diamond-inset Naismith Hall of Fame ring on another, while Archibald, a longtime N.B.A. star, warmly greeted old friends.

Many remembered White’s incredible dedication — how he would follow them home at night to make sure they stayed out of trouble or would call their parents to discuss both basketball victories and potential behavior problems.

Speaking earlier at a Bronx reunion dinner in honor of White, Shed remembered receiving a hug from his old recreation-league mentor at Cole Field House in Maryland, moments after the 1966 victory over Kentucky.

“He was beaming, and I hugged him,” Shed said. “We didn’t have to say thank you to him, because we knew that he was proud of us.”

Then, tears coming to his eyes, he added, “I would say that I’m a child of God, I’m the son of Lillie Mae and James Shed, and I’m a product of Hilton White. He helped make me into a man.”

### Gives A New Kind of Bliss 5 stars!

I saw Jackie at last weekend's Bookfest in Milwaukee and she told me she absolutely loved the book, but I wasn't expecting the Top Shelf rating (I thought it would be a 4, which I'll take at any time!)

Here's what Jackie had to say:

"After Emily's father passed away, she decided to go back to her hometown and her mother. Emily had no time for a personal life due to helping her mother out. That's until she unexpectedly meets Dr. Aaron Merritt. Aaron's a successful physician, very handsome, and a single parent. Aaron showers her with expensive gifts and extravagant dinners, but there's something missing from her relationship with Aaron.

"Emily runs into a guy from junior high that she used to have a huge crush on named Teddy. Teddy doesn't have Aaron's money, but he's the one that can fill the void missing in her relationship with Aaron. What will Emily decide? Will she continue to see Aaron and live in the lap of luxury or will she choose true love?

"Bettye Griffin keeps your interest in A New Kind of Bliss from beginning to end. She intrigues readers with the complications of Emily's life and the decisions she needs to make about her future. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of the characters in the story. Each character had his or her story to tell and it was told in such great depth that it would peek your interest to find out what would happen next."

A New Kind of Bliss is available from stores and online retailers.

Talk about making it all worthwhile

I write for letters like this one from a reader in Norfolk, Virginia:

"I'm not an avid book reader, but your Save The Best For Last had me curled up on my bed refusing to put the book down. I read the book and it seemed like I was in a movie. Keep up the good work. Enjoyed a lonely evening as if company was there."

These words, particularly the beautifully worded last sentence, literally brought tears to my eyes. Someone shelled out hard-earned money to buy my book, based on just the cover and excerpt I provided . . . and what's more, she felt it, to the point where the characters felt so real it was as if they were there with her.

It's enough to make me get all sniffly all over again . . . .

Great Midwest Bookfest 2009

The organizers, Urban Reviews, did a fabulous job of organizing this inaugural book event, and they proved that Milwaukee is full of readers and book buyers. There was something for everybody: Romance and women's fiction, Christian fiction, nonfiction, young adult, plus a bookseller (Cultural Connection) had a table selling biographies and other categories. The ambience was wonderful, with soft jazz playing in the background and comfortable lighting (and the bar was open!). Everyone who purchased a book received a gift bag. A very special moment was the brief period of silence we all observed in memory of the gifted writer E. Lynn Harris, who had passed away the day before.

A few photos from the afternoon (you can see more photos at these publicly available pages of Facebook):
Me with Radiah of Urban Reviews
Radiah and her hubby, Charles. They worked tirelessly to make the
event the success it was.

Me with Michelle Larks, whom I met for the first time

Me with Adrienna Dionna Turner, one of the local authors participating
(she's holding her copy of Save The Best For Last)

Be sure to visit to read book reviews and author interviews, both audio and visual.

A Dark Day in the World of Literature: Bestselling author E. Lynn Harris passes away

Donna Deloney (I should call her, "the AP") informed me of this breaking story:

"A Random House executive has confirmed to The BV Newswire that best-selling author E. Lynn Harris has died.Harris was 53. He was currently on a book tour of the West Coast promoting his 11th novel 'Basketball Jones,' which involved an NBA player and his gay lover.A cheerleading sponsor/coach for Arkansas and a passionate Razorbacks fan, Harris' books dealt with black, gay culture. Most recently, he served as served as a visiting professor for the English department at the University of Arkansas."

This story is still unfolding, but there is word of an unspecified "health event" that led to Mr. Harris' death.

What a shocker. My sincere condolences to his friends and family.

Saturday in Miliwaukee

If you're in the Milwaukee area, I hope you will attend the Great American Bookfest tomorrow (Saturday, July 25th), being held from 1 to 4PM at Bradley's Jazz Club, 4740 W. Bradley Road, Brown Deer, Wisconsin. I'll be selling many of my titles, including Save The Best For Last, and will be accompanied by seven other authors, including Danita Carter ("Peer Pleasure"), Michelle Larks ("Til Debt Do Us Part"), and Tina Brooks McKinney ("Dubious").

For more details on the Bookfest, click here.

The club will be operating at full service during the event, both the kitchen and the bar. Just imagine . . . not only can you load up on books, you can have a sandwich and even have some of the beer that made Milwaukee famous!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Going Underground

Although I'm making excellent progress toward completing my manuscript for Dafina by the new (extended) due date (and I'm updating my counts on the menu on the left of the page), a little push never hurts. I'm going to be participating in author Candy Havens' latest writing challenge, which she's calling "The Writing Game." Candy will post a number daily, and that is the number of words the participants should produce at a minimum. "Banking" is allowed, so if you have a good day with more than the minimum, you can take those extra words and apply them to another day where you might come up a little short.

To participate, you have to first join the Yahoo group:

Today's goal is just 500 words. Since I'm off, I expect to do much more than that.

I'm excited at the possibilities, and I'll let you know how I do!

Friday Funny

It's been a productive but extremely hectic week. I'm not complaining, though; I got a lot of work done. But I'm definitely ready for the weekend.

As you might know, I love old movies. I found this quick reel of movie bloopers from the Warner Brothers Studio. Most of the folks in these are now dead, and it's nice to see them having a good time while at work as opposed memories of them being elderly and not looking their best (Bette Davis comes to mind). I was never a fan of Ronald Reagan, but I'll give him credit for being quick with a quip.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Good News All Around

Save The Best For Last is now available on Amazon in both book (click here) and Kindle (click here) format.

It was supposed to take up to 15 business days. It actually took only about 2.

Save The Best For Last is also available at my e-store (click here).

Plus, my editor at Dafina granted me an extension on the manuscript that was originally due August 1st. I now have until the day after Labor Day.

I love it when things work out!

I'm signing off now. Got a lot of writing to do.

Live from Wisconsin, it’s . . .

My e-store for Save The Best For Last has gone live! Click here to go there.

This means that you can place an order as early as today for delivery next week! (It will be approximately 2 weeks before the Amazon page goes live.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I do want to tell you that I will be offering this book at a 10% discount through my almost-ready revised website starting next week, but that, at least for the time being, I will only be dealing with mail orders paid for by check or money order. This means it will take a week or more to process orders. So if it’s speed you’re looking for, order the book through the e-store!

Another note: To try to compensate for the book being available only through on-line retailers, I am going to give away a $25 Amazon gift certificate to a lucky reader in September, so you will want to make a copy of your packing slip and mail it to me to be entered:

Bettye Griffin
P.O. Box 580156
Pleasant Prairie WI 53158

As always, I wish you good reading!

First Look: Save The Best For Last

I’m proud to announce the upcoming publication of my newest novel, Save The Best For Last.


Graphic artist Genevieve L’Esperance has got it all together, even by tough New York standards: A thriving career, a spacious Upper East Side condo, even a sort-of boyfriend named Barry. But the one thing she doesn’t have is something Americans take for granted . . . and if she’s found out it’ll mean the end of life as she knows it. And now the law is closing in on her . . . .


Gen’s friend Barry comes up with a solution and quickly moves her to a rented room uptown while he finalizes arrangements to keep her safe. While Gen is grateful to him, she can’t help feeling that she’s sold out her future. But then Barry’s master plan gets delayed, and when she mets Dexter Gray, the struggling law student who occupies the other room on the floor, things really start to get complicated . . . .

This is a project I published myself under my business name, Bunderful Books. It is a print-on-demand book and is available online only. The book packager I used does not work with any of the book distributors, so you will not be seeing this book in your local store.

You’re probably wondering why an author with 15 published novels and who is still under contract chose to publish her own book. There are several reasons, so let’s run them down:

First, it happens to be a damn good story. Two years ago, when I was informed that Arabesque Romance was changing direction, leaving no place for me, I was invited to write for Kimani Romance. I made a few stabs at it, but the bottom line is that I am not a category romance writer. I have difficulty writing a fantasy romance; it just isn’t my forte. Length is also a problem for me (more about that later). Save The Best For Last represents a story idea that’s been kicking around my head since the beginning of this century. It’s been seen by more editors than I can count, all of them at various lines within Harlequin Enterprises. My agent and I both felt that this story was too good to be put away in a closet to gather dust, simply because it didn't fit into a tightly defined category. Earlier this year I decided to take the bull by the horn, put my money where my mouth is, and publish the damn thing myself.

This proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. First of all, I quickly learned that if I wanted to keep expenses to a minimum (and who wouldn't, not knowing what the response would be?), those book packagers who offer expensive editing services, charge three times the actual cost of a copyright, etc., were out of the question. That meant being responsible for everything myself: the writing, the editing, the back cover copy, the proofing . . . everything. Despite my best efforts, I’m sure I missed a few things.

This book was put together by three people: Myself, Kimberly Rowe-Van Allen, who has pre-edited most of my books; and author Sean D. Young, who in her other life is a talented graphic artist (by coincidence, the same profession as my heroine). Between the three of us, we created a quality product that I’m proud to have my name on, but as the author, most of the work was done by me. As a result of all the hours put into this project I now find myself writing like crazy to meet my Dafina Books deadline for my 2010 women’s fiction release.

Reason #2, There are only so many ideas to go around in romance. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot and deliberately kept the back cover copy vague (although some of you might have guessed what it is Gen needs so desperately), other than to say that I’ve never seen it used before in a contemporary romance, at least not African-American. A possible reason for this is the hero’s circumstances, which are much more modest than most. Eventually, someone is going to write a similar story, and probably be praised to the heavens for it. I try not to let ego get in my way, but I'm vain enough to want my copyrighted story out there first.

Reason #3, Because I could. This story, conceptualized as a 65,000-word short novel, ended up at 90,000 words (did I mention I’ve determined I’m not a category romance writer?). This meant it was long enough to submit to publishers who put out lengthier romances, but by then I'd already decided to publish it on my own. Because I’m the publisher, I’m not bound by any restrictions, length or otherwise, only by my own imagination. So why not?

Okay, now that my reasons for this craziness have been addressed, here's an excerpt:


Genevieve was toasting a bagel on a Saturday morning when she heard the sound of running water. She immediately thought of the stacked washer and dryer in the alcove. If a hose had burst, the entire floor would be flooded.

She rushed out to the hall, but found it dry. The problem had to be coming from the bathroom. She took a few tentative steps toward it, but stopped abruptly, covered her mouth in shock, and quickly turned around.

A man, his back to her, stood relieving himself in front of the toilet. She returned to the safety of the kitchen, tented palms covering her mouth. How incredibly gauche. How dare he use the bathroom and not close the door! Surely he’d been told someone had moved into the vacant room and he no longer had the entire floor to himself.

Her bagel popped out of the toaster. At the same time she heard the unmistakable sound of a toilet flushing, then more running water and a swishing sound. In spite of her annoyance she found herself smiling. At least the lout believes in washing his hands afterward.

She managed to put the unpleasant picture out of her mind as hunger took over. No way would she allow a stranger’s boorish behavior spoil her appetite. She spread a generous amount of her favorite cream cheese with chives onto her sesame seed bagel.

Uh-oh. Her head rose automatically at the sound of a male voice she knew was directed at her, but she didn’t turn around right away. It would be embarrassing to face her floor-mate in light of what she just witnessed, and she dreaded it. If she hadn’t had a bagel in the toaster she would have merely gone back to the privacy of her room and closed the door.

With a soft sigh, she slowly turned around.

Genevieve’s eyes widened at the sight of the man who stood before her. He was handsome, yes, to the point where she could momentarily forget she’d be sharing a bathtub with him — not at the same time, of course. But when she looked a little closer he was hardly the typical college student, which raised concerning questions of identity. While his lanky build suggested a freshman or sophomore majoring in Getting Laid, his face reflected the maturity of an adult male . . . one who, based on his tall frame, curly if unruly black hair – personification of the term ‘mop top’ – and perfect nose, could still get lucky virtually anytime he wanted. She put his age in his early thirties, too old to be the college student Brenda had described. But if he wasn’t her neighbor, who was he and what was he doing in her bathroom?

All right, so she knew what he’d been doing. But why had he been doing it in her bathroom if he didn’t live here?

“I apologize for startling you,” he said, his hands stuffed awkwardly into the pockets of his jeans. “I’m really very sorry. I wasn’t aware Stan and Brenda had rented this room. I’m afraid I allowed myself to get a little careless while I was here alone.”

“So you do rent the other room?”

“Yes. Didn’t they tell you, or did they let you think you had the floor all to yourself?”

“No, they told me. You just . . . .” she groped for something tactful to say — “You look a little different from the way I imagined you. Brenda said you were a student.”

He nodded. “So you thought I’d be nineteen or twenty, not thirty-two.”

Genevieve began to regret not having simply gone out for breakfast. First she’d walked in on him in the bathroom, and now she’d essentially told him she felt he was too old to be in college. This situation was growing more discomforting by the minute. “Frankly, yes.”

“I’m a student, but I’m in law school.”

Now it was her turn to nod. “I see.” But she didn’t. At his age he was certainly old enough to be finished with law school by now. Maybe he had taken a sabbatical to ‘find himself,’ a frequently used respectable-sounding explanation for indulging in wine, women, and generally hedonistic behavior. He certainly looked bohemian, with his wild mop of hair that coiled into tendrils, plus a growth of stubble covering the lower part of his face. He reminded her a little of the pop singer Yannick Noah, whose signature dreadlocks were a shorter chin-length during his days as a tennis pro and who, like this man, stood well over six feet tall.

“Go ahead with your breakfast,” he said. “I was going to fix something myself. Do you mind if I join you?”

I’d rather undergo a pelvic exam. “No, not at all,” she said brightly.

“My name’s Dexter, by the way.”

“I’m Genevieve.”

“Jon who?”

She giggled, momentarily forgetting her self-consciousness at the dual embarrassment of having witnessed his intimate act and putting her foot in her mouth. He looked totally clueless as to her name, something Genevieve had grown accustomed to. Americans always mispronounced her name. “Zhuhn-vyehv,” she said phonetically. “It’s French. But you can call me Jeh-nuh-veev if it’s easier. Or even just plain Gen.” Her parents and friends, both the ones from Paris and the ones from New York, had called her that. Barry, on the other hand, preferred the French pronunciation of her full name, shortening it only when he was trying to placate her, a practice she found irritating. The clients she’d worked with frequently enough to be on a first-name basis also used her full name. It would be refreshing to be called by her longtime nickname by someone for a change.

“Gen it is,” he said.

The moment having passed, she went to the refrigerator, wishing there was a way to get out of this awkward situation while she poured herself a glass of orange juice. She stole a glance at Dexter as she poured. He looked perfectly comfortable as he reached in the cupboard and put something he got from there into the toaster. He’d clearly managed to put their rather awkward encounter of just a moment ago behind him. Genevieve sighed softly. She should probably do the same.

She carried her plate and glass to the bistro table and bit into a bagel half, closing her eyes and letting out a contented sigh. The deli cream cheese was expensive, but worth it. She’d never tasted better. Sometimes she felt like she could spoon it right out of the container and into her mouth, like yogurt. The flavor of sour cream and chives floated up to tantalize her nostrils. She took another bite, and her contentment this time came out as a little moan. Twice.

“Good, huh?”

Her eyes flew open, suddenly aware of the sounds she’d been making, which she belatedly realized bore a strong similarity to those of making love. The unveiled amusement on Dexter’s face left no question that he’d made the association. Now it was her turn to be embarrassed. How could she have forgotten that she wasn’t alone in the room?

“Excuse me,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster, trying to put aside her mortification. “It’s just that this cream cheese is very possibly the best in the world.”

“Where’d it come from?”

“There’s this little family-owned deli in midtown, near one of my clients. They bake their own bagels and mix up different flavors of cream cheese. Zabar’s has nothing on them,” she explained, referring to New York’s famed Upper West Side deli.

“So your work involves calling on clients?”

She found herself relaxing as she answered his question. “Yes. I’m a freelance graphic artist.”

“I’ve always admired people who were artistic. I’ve never gotten any further than stick figures.”

Genevieve suppressed a smile. From what she could see he was a stick figure, although certainly a good-looking one. She took a few moments to chew and swallow. Now she understood exactly what Dexter meant about getting careless when you thought no one was around. She hadn’t bothered to disguise the utter joy to her taste buds from the flavored cream cheese. But with her next bite she didn’t sigh, and she certainly didn’t moan. A quick lick of the inside of her mouth had to suffice, plus the tingling she felt from her throat to her belly. Sometimes food could be almost as satisfying as sex . . . or maybe it had just been too long since she’d had sex.

“My second grade teacher sent a note home to my parents telling them she thought I might have a special gift,” she explained. “They enrolled me in extracurricular art classes almost immediately.”

The toaster buzzed as it raised its contents. Not even looking at his food, Dexter automatically lowered the lever for a second go-round. He wore a sleeveless muscle shirt, and she noted that his arms were surprisingly muscular for his thin build. She wondered what he looked like shirtless. Just because a man wasn’t beefy didn’t mean he had to be scrawny, and Dexter clearly wasn’t. Those definitely weren’t the arms of the proverbial ninety-eight-pound weakling. He could probably lift her without difficulty . . . .

Whoa. Where did that thought come from?


I hope you enjoyed that little peek at Save The Best For Last. This book will be available sometime next week from my e-store, and in coming weeks from Amazon, and some time after t for the Kindle. I also plan to make it available for order through my web site, which is in the process of being redesigned.

As always, I wish you good reading!

Do You Know Him?

I confess, when I heard about Michael Jackson's untimely death last week, I thought, as I usually did whenever I saw a picture of him, of how different his life might have been had he not started tinkering with his looks, and that led me to think about another celebrity who came out of Gary, Indiana. This man had a nose that could have stood some repair work, being both oversized to begin with and broken a couple of times. He left Gary and became one of the busiest character actors in the business and years later was the star of one of the longest-running advertising campaigns, a commercial for American Express in which he began with the question, "Do you know me?" (an appropriate opening for a man whose face was well known even if his name wasn't.

His not-exactly-handsome looks didn't keep him from finding personal happiness as well as professional. He married, had two kids and in what may well be a Hollywood record, stayed married to the same woman for 70 years.

The man from Gary whom I thought about last week, the man who kept his original nose and from all indications had a very happy life, was named Karl Malden. He died today of natural causes at the ripe old age of 97.

I guess some things are pre-ordained, but still I can't help thinking about how things might have been for Michael without all the alterations to his looks.
I'm signing off until next week. I'll be celebrating my birthday tomorrow (which is about 5 minutes from now) and preparing for weekend guests on Friday. Enjoy your Fourth, and for God's sake be careful with those fireworks!

Melodies from Heaven

I'm feeling highly retrospective lately, and I'm saying a lot of prayers.

My work as a medical transcriptionist gives me insight into the personal situations of strangers, and the large number of people in trouble can be overwhelming. It's not unusual for MTs to say little prayers for these people we don't know as we transcribe their personal histories along with their health issues.

Like the elderly woman who was caring for her ailing husband and is now ill herself but is desperate to remain living independently at home rather than face nursing home placement for herself and her spouse. Like the young Iraq War veteran who suffered injuries in combat that threaten one of his limbs. Like the people who have lost jobs and health insurance and who end up hospitalized because they've cut back on their medications in an attempt to stretch them.

I have friends who are coping with job losses, dwindling (or exhausted) savings, or working at much lower salaries than what they are accustomed to, and the depression that can stem from the resultant stress.

Music has always been a great soothing mechanism for me, making any situation seem less desperate. The radio stations have been playing some great songs by Michael Jackson, a man whose problems are now over and who left a treasure trove of music behind for people to enjoy forever. Listening to these songs helps me forget about all the sad things I hear about every day about people I don't know, well-known or not. Today I heard a disturbing story about someone claiming to have proof that former politician John Edwards promised to marry his mistress as soon as his terminally ill wife, Elizabeth, passes away. Now, how is this supposed to make Elizabeth Edwards feel? The rumor mill is also working overtime relating to Michael Jackson's death, which in itself is probably surprising to no one, but the stories sound just plain vicious to me.

It's been reported that court papers filed by Michael's mother asking for permanent custody of his children, plus control of the money for their care, plus control of his estate. What judge in their right mind would even consider granting a 79-year-old woman permanent custody of two adolescent children plus a 7-year-old? And where exactly do Mrs. Jackson's priorities lie? What about burying her son? (I heard a news report that the family is waiting for "results" of the second autopsy, but since this can often take weeks, I'm presuming that was merely a poor choice of words).

So, I turn to the great music Michael left behind. I have two favorite Michael Jackson recordings, one from his years recording with his brothers, and one from his very first solo album in 1971, he was still young enough to hit those high notes . . . and both from the days when he had the good looks he was born with. Enjoy, and feel free to share your own favorite Michael Jackson tunes with us.

And please say a prayer for someone going through challenging times. There are so many . . . .

Never Can Say Goodbye, the Jackson Five

I Wanna Be Where You Are, Michael Jackson

The Week in Review

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the Republican Party. One more of the so-called Golden Boys has fallen by the wayside. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford stood before the cameras earlier this week and confessed to having an affair with a woman in the Southern Hemisphere. Apparently the guv was quite surprised to learn that there was so much interest in the fact that he'd slipped away (for 5 days, yet). And this man's name was being tossed around as a possible Republican Presidential candidate in 2012?

One refreshing thing about this was the absence of Mrs. Sanford at the press conference. I don't think I could have stomached yet another political wife standing by her man and looking like she'd rather be undergoing a breast biopsy. I haven't seen such defiance since Gary Hart's wife Lee claimed that an ear infection prevented her from joining her husband at a campaign event just days after news of his cavorting with a much-younger woman on a boat became public way back in 1988 (the Harts are still married, if anybody's interested). What a nice change from Mrs. Spitzer, the former Mrs. McGreevey), and Mrs. Craig (her husband of the famous toe-tapping restroom shenanigans).

Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald passed away this week, with remarkably little press. As the lone physician at the South Pole station in 1998, she found a lump in her breast during the half of the year when the bottom of the world is inaccessible. She had to perform her own biopsy, and when it proved to be malignant she had to train some of her non-medical colleagues to assist her in administering chemotherapy treatments that had to be dropped from a plane because it was too frigid to land. Ms. Nielsen made the most of her remaining time after her 1-year South Pole contract ended, writing a book about her experience, traveling extensively, and remarrying. Her cancer returned in 2005, attacking her bones and brain, yet she remained active until her last 90 days. This brave woman was just 57 years old.

Another brave woman was Farrah Fawcett. I admit to never being a fan of hers, but I'm glad she insisted upon playing more substantial roles than the fluff that was Charlie's Angels. But where she really impressed me was with her warts-and-all chronicling of her illness and the sharing of her private thoughts. It's rather sad that her only child's life is on its way to becoming the same train wreck as his father's other children (have any of Ryan O'Neal's children not had substance abuse problems?), but the one I really feel for is her elderly father. Like Luther Vandross' mother, he is the last survivor of the family he created with his spouse. It's got to be hell to have to bury your children as well as your spouse, especially when you're past 90.

The cynic in me wonders how Ryan O'Neal feels about Farrah being kicked to Page Two by the unexpected death of a superstar. His widely circulated account about how he asked Farrah to marry him and her acceptance of his proposal, but dying before they could carry it out just seemed a little too publicity-driven for me (who the hell marries on their deathbed . . . not to mention it suggests Farrah was in denial about her terminal condition (she reportedly promised to marry him when she "felt stronger.")

It was when a co-worker about to leave for the day on Thursday was surfing the net and remarked that Farrah Fawcett had died that I checked the New York Times website for more information. The headline was not of Farrah's passing, but that an unconscious Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital. Not five minutes later, when I turned on the TV in the break room to watch the NBC Nightly News, that I saw a picture of Michael with the dates "1958-2009" underneath. My jaw dropped, but I managed to recover quickly enough to run to the door and shout out the news to my co-worker, who had just gone off duty and was getting into her car.

Now, maybe I shouldn't admit this, but after the initial shock wore off I realized it wasn't all that surprising to me. Michael Jackson struck me as being a very unhappy person for many years now, and that usually isn't conducive to a long life. He also had the look of someone who swallowed a lot of pills. This aside, my condolences go to his family, and I fervently hope his children don't inherit his eccentric ways. Incidentally, there will be some very large royalty payments issued to somebody, likely the person or persons who ultimately end up with custody of the kids. Is a custody battle to follow the money on the horizon? Let's hope Michael left a will and not just a lot of bills, which happens all too often in the black community.

The media has gone completely goofy in their coverage of the passing of these two icons. I personally thought Farrah Fawcett unusual in that her looks were both wholesome and sexy, but hearing her described as "extraordinarily beautiful" made me gag (very reminiscent of the ridiculous praise of the "beauty" of the ordinary-looking Jackie Onassis). And spare me from any more reminisces about Michael like the one by Quincy Jones, in which he stated that Michael told him he's had people standing outside his house hoping for a glimpse of him from the time he was 5 years old (I'm sorry, but in 1963-64, when Michael was 5, I don't think anyone in Gary, Indiana, even knew who he was other than a cute kid in a house with many cute kids).

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping next week is quieter!

Enjoy your weekend.