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

Urban-Reviews.com 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 Urban-Reviews.com

Also, the mass market edition of Once Upon A Project is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com. 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!