Thursday, October 21, 2004

Love scenes

I hate writing them. I love writing them.

I must be neurotic.

They are so difficult to write, and yet, when I do it, it's like ... ha ha ha... riding a bicycle. Suddenly I remember how to do it. It all comes back to me. It helps to listen to romantic music. Writing a love scene to "Who let the dogs out" is NOT advisable, at least for me.

But ohhhh, when it's done right... ohhhhhhh. I read over the ones from COBRA and sighed. But not so much over the actual lovemaking. It's the dialogue and emotions and, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW would put it, Antic... Anticipation... that makes me melt. This is one of my favorite scenes from COBRA & THE CONCUBINE, right before Kenneth makes love to Badra the first time after he's purchased her as his concubine... He teaches her how to eat a date, pressing it against her lips...

"The symbolism of the act became apparent with each tiny thrust, each gentle, but determined push against her mouth. Kenneth bent his head and murmured reassuring words, crooning to her in Arabic all the while pressing the date against her lips. Her tongue wanted the sweetness inside, tasting wet juiciness. She reached out with her tongue to taste it and parted her lips just barely and at that precise moment he gave one last firm, determined push and slipped inside her mouth.

Startled, she chewed slowly, let the fruit explode in her mouth and swallowed. Her huge eyes met his.

“That is how you eat a date, my love,” he said softly and covered her mouth with his. The kiss was deep and drugging and he pressed her body close to his, devouring her mouth as she had done with the date. He tore his mouth away, and framed her face in warm, strong hands. His deep voice flowed over her, seductive and filled with dark promise.

“Let me fall again, Badra. Let me fall into you and drown in the full moon. I am Khepri, god of the sunrise and I want to die into you, the moon. Let the sun and the moon collide in passion and love and eclipse all else. I promise I will be there to catch you and I will not, ever, let your feet touch the ground. Come and dance in my light as I will dance in yours. Let me hold you in my arms and never let go.”

Denver and reflections on Rashid

Wonderful anniversary trip last weekend. Frank and I drove to the Rocky Mountains and visited Estes Park. Threw snowballs at each other. Trail Ridge Road was closed, due to bad weather, already in October. Since it’s still about 88 degrees in Florida, we forget it’s autumn, approaching winter elsewhere. It began snowing as we left the park, much to our delight. Snow!

Met up with fellow Leisure author Pamela Clare for dinner. Oh, Pamela is sooo much fun! She's incredibly humorous, charming, down to earth and just a lovely person. She gave me a cover flat to her hot hot hot next book, RIDE THE FIRE. Wowzer! Nice John DeSalvo cover, very hot, very compelling. I can't wait to read this book. It's going to be incredible!

This week, playing catch up. We returned home from our delightful trip (having arisen at a not so delightful 3:30 a.m.) to find our living room and kitchen flooded. The fridge leaked. Sigh…

The workshop on Story Magic last weekend, most excellent, dude! My right brain needs a framework for plotting. I’m a seat of the pants writer and sometimes scribble scenes as they come to me, which is fine, but I need a disciplined method for framing a story. I’m quite excited about trying to use it to write Rashid’s story.

Finished revisions for Cobra and read over the m.s. Sigh… I truly like this book. It’s darker than anything I’ve written, but the romance, ah, the romance… I didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I do. I kept getting that wonderful gut-wrenching twist which means I’m emotionally drawn into the book. And saying aloud, “Oh!” Tia, lying at my feet near the computer, kept glancing up as though to say, “Oh what? What’s wrong? You have that funny look on your face. Are you well? Can you stop making those noises and fetch me a doggy biscuit now?”

Rashid keeps invading my thoughts. I can’t push him away. He’s so complex, he fascinates me. I have NO idea where this character came from. He just sort of popped up while I wrote COBRA. And he keeps shifting, like Egypt’s sands, eluding me, teasing me with his actions. It’s amazing how this happens. I suddenly decided to make him fascinated by steam trains. A little of this comes from my own fascination with them, but his interest is far different. Rashid is drawn to their mechanical fuctions. They are impersonal, and efficient but cold iron monsters. They operate. They are logical and consistent and predictable. Unlike real life, or human beings which can inflict cruelty at random. He’s suffered so much in the past, agonized over why he was ill-treated as a child, and he finds comfort in the orderly, logical operation of indifferent machines. He grew up fascinated by them in Egypt, watching the locomotive speed across the sandy plain, fixating on its mechanical compulsions. It seemed to him, a helpless boy, powerful and invincible. Nothing would stop it. He imagined himself as the machine, chugging along, blowing steam, threatening to blast over all who dared to step in his way and hurt him.

Oh, and a very nice surprise. I teased Frank last weekend that he didn't get me flowers for our anniversary. He said what was the point when we would have to leave them? After we got home, got the water up from the flood, etc., and he went to the store, guess what he brought home? Yup. Flowers. Sigh... he's such a romantic.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Mouthy heroes

Okay, I think I’m nailing down Rashid’s character. His internal conflict, goals, personality. Rashid is dark, complex. A bit violent inside. He’s tormented and brooding because he longs to…

Deep male voice from the side, clearing throat: Ah, excuse me.

Me, startled: Whatthe…

Rashid: Did I hear you crow about creating me? Something about internal conflict, goals.

Me: Uh, yeah, and I think…

Rashid: YOU think. Always you you you you. What about ME? Have you once considered MY feelings? My needs? Who I really am?

Me: I thought that’s what I was doing…

Rashid: Oh fine, fine. Tormented. Brooding. Violent inside? I think not. Do you really know the real me? What about my hobbies? My hopes and dreams?

Me: Uh, okay, your hobbies? What about sharpening your scimitar? Is that a hobby?

Rashid, sarcastically: Very amusing. You’re not listening to me. You never listen!

Me, sighing, rolling eyes: All right, all right. Go on, tell me.

Rashid: Perhaps I would enjoy picking wildflowers. Conducting a session on centering your chakras. Why not bring out my tender, gentle side? The woman inside of me? Did you know I bake a mean vegetarian casserole?

Me: Whatthe…

Rashid: I don’t eat meat.

Me: You’re a WARRIOR. You HUNT.

Rashid: I want a vegetable garden. And a cute, floppy straw hat. My skin is very sensitive to the sun, you know.
Me: Oh sheesh! Where the hell did YOU come from? Listen here, buddy. You’re a MAN. An alpha hero. Women readers don’t want you to bake or warble about chakras or lisp Zen poetry OR wear prissy hats!

Rashid, indignant: And how would you know?

Me: Go away. Just git. Go, shoo! You’re morphing into some lame, wussy hero. Next thing I know you’ll be demanding I put you in a scene holding hands around the campfire and singing “Kumbaya.”

Rashid: Oh the humanity! You’re limiting me according to your demands. I want to be ballet dancer, not a warrior. Ah, to leap and take flight across stage, to express my inner self through dance…

Me, pressing DELETE key: Buh bye! Muttering: Damn, knew I shouldn’t have watched that Sex & the City episode on gender swapping last night!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Brooding heroes & research

Feel more optimistic tonight because I researched some of Rashid's story. Found the perfect setting, background, and tie-in. Crocs. Sobek, the ancient Egyptian croc god. Croc of something, if you ask me.

Rashid's story, oooohhh, so dark. So very very dark, brooding and sexy. Kept thinking about him, how he's missed out on childhood, how isolated and alone he is, vulnerable inside but never shows it. I am beginning to feel sparks of hope for this book. It's so very different from anything I've ever written. Writing about an emotionally scarred, abused hero challenges me. I glance over my notes from my talks with Dr. Cassell, a therapist who gave me pointers on the behavioral traits of abused children. Rashid is not humorous, though he does joke at times. He is so very complex and fierce and changes, shifts like the wind. I sketched out a scene in which he does a very proper, gentleman-like fencing exercise with foils. This sharply contrasts to the brutal fight he engages in much later in the desert, a fight to the death.

Speaking of violence...sigh...saw today that more are being killed in Haiti. More beheadings. More aid groups withdrawing from Gonaives... sigh... will it ever end?

A word about reading

I know I must be drained, because everything I pick up to read is blah. Everything but one book. Claudia Dain's THE FALL. Brilliant, lyrical writing, clever witty dialogue that reminds me of Shakespearean plays, and a strong-willed hero and heroine. It's the only book holding my interest. Normally I devour books when I have time, but not right now. Even books that look interesting I'm reading a few pages and putting them down with a sigh. A chick lit that makes me want to sleep, an historical that's rather dark and supposed to be sexy, but I'm finding it boring. It must be me. Only Claudia's book holds my interest right now. How could I go wrong with writing like that? Some people are truly, truly gifted. She's one of them. I read her books and I aspire to be a better writer. I know I'll never get to her caliber. All I can do is try to be the best writer I'm meant to be.

Just be. How utterly Zen. I should go contemplate my belly button now and life. Instead, must write again about sad sad sad orphans. sigh...

Orphans and whining characters

Writing about orphans all day yesterday at work depressed me. An orphan who went blind when his mother left him in the sun by a riverbank, pinning a note to him, explaining she couldn't feed him and hoped someone would care for him. An orphan who was physically abused by her father. An orphan whose mother died and she was eating garbage from the dump to survive. No wonder I write romance. I control the characters. The setting. The outcome. My characters may suffer to find love, but they find it and resolve their conflict and all ends well.

Not everything ends well in real life. Some of the children I write about die. They just die. Last year I wrote about a baby suffering from starvation, cared for by nuns at a clinic. He died. The mother I met this year who got a new house who kept her bible tucked under her pillow and read from it for strength died as well, weeks after I met her and her children. She was such a quiet, gentle soul. I know the little girl I met who had AIDS is dead by now. She was dying when I met her. She was only seven years old and cried because her parents never visited her in the hospital. They dumped her there like a sack of potatoes. On visiting days, the other children all had parents visiting them, combing their hair, bringing them food. She was alone and cried. No one wanted to visit her, the little girl with the disease everyone feared.

That's why I write romance. Because some days, just plain and simple, real life makes you cry.

I'm still emotionally and physically wiped out from post-hurricane stress and the Haiti trip. Too exhausted to write my stories. I hear Rashid and Jason and Jillian and Darcy in my mind, complaining loudly. "Yes, but what about US? When will you devote time to US? We need to get out. We're stuck here in your head, milling about and we're rather bored and impatient. We want to get out on paper. On your computer. Pay attention to us!"

Characters. They're so demanding.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Too early

It's too early to write, but here I am, anyway. Stopped by friend's house to catch Dolphin game. Even a beer couldn't help. Ouch! Talk about a lousy game... we spent yesterday cleaning the house. Post-hurricane clean-up. Now it's more organized and looks much better. Dogs just lay about, watching us lazily, moving when the vacuum came their way.

Tia snored so loud last night, got little sleep. Feel like telling her she has to go to work this a.m. in my place.

Now just have to write. Have to find time to write. I feel like a ping pong ball.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Appliances & bye bye hurricane stuff?

Went to my RWA chapter meeting yesterday and came home to a very nice surprise. Frank had bought a dishwasher! Yup, the ugly gaping hole where the water leaked through from the roof during Hurricane Frances & Hurricane Jeanne is now covered up with a shiny black dishwasher! Only $98 from BrandsMart. We grilled steaks last night and tested out our new toy by washing dishes in it. My kitchen is finally beginning to look a little normal again! Now to get rid of the case of water and coolers sitting there since Jeanne. It's like taking down the shutters. Will doing so invite another storm? I hope not...

Did send off autographed copies of FALCON & TIGER, along with an autographed roof shingle, to the Trish Jensen fund to be sold on eBay. Karen Fox & co. are coordinating it. I hope they raise lots and lots of money with all the books and critiques they are offering.

News: I'll be in DENVER next weekend attending the Story Magic workshop. Woo hoo! I've heard so much about this workshop. It's been a while since I attended an educational workshop and I'm thrilled about going, plus Frank will be with me. We're doing a little anniversary r&r in Colorado next week. Nine years! I'm also meeting up with fellow Leisure author Pamela Clare. Now this should be fun! Pamela is a real hoot, very very talented author and a fellow journalist. I can't wait to meet her.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Agents and turbo charged toothbrushes

News to share. I have an agent! Woo hoo! I'm excited, nervous and happy.

Must share my other news as well which makes me almost as excited. I now have a turbo-charged toothbrush.

Yesssirreee, Frank bought me a new electric scrubbing utensil for my pearly (so so) whites. The old one gasped for breath. He tried fixing it. It spun sadly for a few revolutions then went to the great Toothbrush Heaven in the wastebasket.

My turbo charged toothbrush swirls. It spins. It revolves like a waxing machine gone wild. My teeth are not merely cleaned. They're scrubbed as madly as a maid on cocaine doing the bathtub. This little baby could revolutionize the modern mouth as we know it. I am happy. I am Content. I have clean teeth.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Late this afternoon, I was at the office looking over some photos Ben took in Gonaives. This little boy, eyes filled with sorrow as he stared at the camera from the confines of his mud-filled home. Ken, our production guy, was there and studying them. I pointed out the little boy and started talking about Rosemarie, the woman who watched her children drown, minutes after the 4-year-old asked her, "Mommy, are you going to leave us here to die? Are you going to save us?"

I couldn't go on. I got choked up. Ran to my office and knew the damn would burst. So I left the office. Drove to publix, sat in the parking lot.

And I cried. And cried.

I guess it was some time in coming, those tears. I kept seeing Rosemarie's haunted face, that blank look of shock. In my mind, I saw her children, crying and so very scared, sitting on the wall, waiting for Mommy to come save them. Then the wall collapses and they drown.

And I wonder, does anyone really care? Yes, some people do, but hell, sometimes I feel like the world shakes its head and passes by in oblivious disregard. Yes, maybe something I write will raise money to feed this woman, and what is left of her family. But it will never replace her kids. Never.

Years ago, a newspaper editor where I worked told me he feared I wouldn't last at my current job. He said I was too sensitive. Doing this kind of work, seeing nothing but heartache and misery and suffering, he predicted, "You'll burn out in a year."

Next month, I'll be here 11 years. Haven't burnt out. Yet. But oh, sometimes, it hurts. It really hurts. So I leave, cry and then go on. Just like they do. Just like Rosemarie must do.

Hairy chests

Decided this a.m. must do something to yank self out of spiraling descent into the Pit of Despair. So I'm thinking hairy chests. Should I do a hairy chest poll? Always was curious about that. Which do readers prefer, the smooth, muscled waxed surfboard chest of a hero? Or the furred, rug mat? Does the amount of hair count? Color? Texture?

I sound like I'm shopping. I envision a mall featuring a hip, chic store in which a reader can wander, shop amongst the male chests she prefers, and match with other physical assets of equal interest. Like accessorizing. This chest to go with that mop of windblown hair. Those bulging biceps to compliment strong, long-boned thighs. And those big hands to go along with his very large...

Never mind. That's a myth, anyway. Then again...

Working on Rashid's story, just for the fun of it, though it's not a fun story. This man is very, very complex. He fascinates me. He's the darkest character I've ever created. I wrote a battle scene for him in the desert. He kills a man in a fight to claim the heroine. Very cave man, primitive. The desert brings out his raw, wild side, the baser underbelly of this man. Survival of the fittest.

Then of course, he gets to have great sex with Jillian, the heroine. Equally raw, wild and heated. I think there's going to be a lot of sex in this book. Hell, it starts off with a sex scene in the first chapter. It's NOT a love scene, because he doesn't love her. But it is very tender and passionate. I've never written a book like this before. I like my characters to be in love before they had sex. But I couldn't write this one that way. It just fell into place. I used my gut feelings about Rashid and just wrote. And really liked that first chapter. This is where following your gut comes in handy. Where you must chuck the rules, the formulas and just write write write as it comes to you. I know my writing SHOULD be more structured, my plotting, which stinks at times, needs work. But when I get strong feelings about a character, I go with it. I don't want rules or formulas or "thou shalt nots" that some writers insist on following, to hedge in my characters.

This is where dreaming comes in handy. If I dream of a character and get ideas for a scene, usually I jot down the ideas, write and see where it goes. I can always change it later. I'm a firm believer in the power of the subconcious. This is a level where pure creativity exists. Dreams are powerful. I often get interesting ideas from dreams. Once I dreamt an idea for a cool paranormal. Never did write the whole book, but what I did write was fun. And speaking of dreams, what do dogs dream of? When Tia, my Shih Tzu, sleeps on the chair, does she dream of chasing Tiger? Of exploring in the back yard? Does she dream of a giant bone and a lovely doggie fantasyland where she sits eating a large sirloin and her owners sit on the floor, whining and begging? ;-)

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Look at these two orphans. Lost their parents in the May floods. So sad. Oh yeah, here we go. I'm crashing. Knew this would happen. After two hurricanes, hurrying to finish revisions, rushing off to Haiti, seeing everything, I'm crashing into depression. Inevitable. It's like a car racing racing racing and suddenly, stopping. Everything grinds to a halt. And I'm left with images haunting me. Faces I left behind. Tears I didn't shed. I sit there in dull numbness, wondering if anything I did, anything I will write, will do any good. I know I must put up a shield, a protective covering, like an emotional flak jacket. But still the bullets pierce me, the faces, the memories.

Tomorrow we're going to the Keys for the day for a little r&r. Told Frank I am in sore need of r&r. Today I want to work on my silly erotica. Something to take my mind off everything. Something different to push back the edges of depression, the faces that keep tugging at my memory.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Haiti recap

Back from Haiti. I wrote entries on the Alpha Smart and downloaded. Posting them here. I'm still a little dazed. Soooo glad revisions are done and mailed. Thank God for author friends like Jennifer Ashley, who pitched in during the hurricane last Saturday when I frantically emailed her COBRA during the middle of Jeanne. I asked her to print COBRA and mail it to my editor if my power went out. (I would still have the laptop battery and a phone line). Hopefully, please, NO MORE HURRICANES. Want to have fun this weekend, something relaxing. I need relaxing. Boy, do I need it!

Haiti, Sept 28, 5:25 a.m.

In the lobby of the hotel Montana, waiting for Ben and Catherine to show up. Hotel is playing zesty muzac. Very bizarre to listen to at this hour and considering where we are going. The Montana with its polished marble floors, gleaming wood furniture, greenery in large clay pots and mirrored pillars is such a stark contrast the suffering and misery I know we’ll see. Dawn is just starting to break, a kind of grayish hue. Must remember duct tape to patch bullet hole in Montero so the water doesn’t come through.

6 am: On the road. Yesterday afternoon was, um, interesting. Found out Wyclef Jean from the Fugees is staying at the Montana. We were at the bar, having a drink and hanging out with a photographer. He gave us a lot of good information about what’s going on. He told us the name of the guide he hired. There are guides standing at the entrance of the “lake” the flooded road just outside Gonaives. If you don’t drive in the right place, you fall off the road. He told us there are about 200-300 people living at the bishop’s house, which is where we are headed first.

Ben brought electrical tape and taped up the bullet hole in the Montero b/c this photographer told us that the water is up to the headlights. It will surely gush in if we don’t tape up the hole. Couldn’t get duct tape at the hotel, no one around at 5:30. The road to St. Marc is fairly good. Gets bad after that. National Road Number One. Dusty. Dry. As you drive along, I remember the old saying’ the road is their living room. People built their homes close to the road and some of them sit and watch the traffic go by. Entertainment. Instead of the Disney channel, they have National Road Number One channel.

They have these speed bumps on this national road in the oddest places. I can understand them in congested areas, but you’ll be hurling along, going 60-70 mph to try to make up time, and suddenly come upon a speed bump. Go figure.

The tap taps and buses are fascinating both in their human cargo and appearance. Blue, red, yellow, some with American flags painted on them, with sayings in Creole like “God is good” or “You woz.” You woz what? Some tap taps are crammed so full they become low riders and the back nearly hits the road. They’re called tap taps because you pound on the roof when you want to get off.

The photographer told us that the UN compound, which is the only real medical facility open, will not let patients remain for the night. They are doing amputations and letting the people go. Many are getting gangrene from washing their injuries in the water contaminated from decaying corpses of people and animals and sewage. Imagine having your foot cut off and then having to immediately leave. The mass burials are also facing problems. Dump trucks of bodies turned away by people tossing rocks b/c they believe if you don’t properly bury a person, their spirit will roam free. The photographer told us they saw a mass grave, a pit the size of house. Also problems with looters hijacking trucks of food.

Tuesday Sept 28 2004

11:00 p.m.

Thinking about our fall into the drink. Sitting on the wet seat for the 5 hour ride back to the hotel that turned into a 6 hour ride because it got dark. The Montero stunk. I joked that we could bottle the smell and sell it to armchair field workers. The NEW Essence of Disaster. When you want to be in the thick of it, and can’t, live the experience through Essence of Disaster.

It’s dangerous to drive in Haiti at night because you can’t see…but hell after driving through that water, I’ll take the dark. I wasn’t even worried, just concerned when it was Catherine’s turn to drive because she got shot at night and surely it must be a little harrowing for her.

My feet are swollen. They were standing in icky water for nearly an hour. I think I’m going to read a little and hope I don’t have nightmares. Every time I close my eyes, I see the Montero tipping, and imagine it falling all the way over, the brown funky water gushing in, flooding us as we sit there, trapped.

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004

6:55 a.m. I was very lucky. No nightmares. I slept very deeply. And woke up a couple of times during the night but it wasn’t too bad.

Yesterday we met a woman who lost both her kids. She’s staying at the bishop’s house. Actually, there were three women who lost their children. They were all staying together. Rosemarie’s five-month-old and four-year-old, and two other children under the age of six. The women struggled to make it outside with the kids and these tall men helped them. Rosemarie swallowed water, as it was nearly over her head. They got to the kids to safety, a high wall where they put them so they’d be safe, the poor kids crying and so scared the whole time. And the men helped the women onto the roof. Then they returned for the children. The wall collapsed and the children were swept away.

The last words her four-year-old said to Rosemarie were, “Mommy, are you going to let me die? Are you going to save me?” Rosemarie is still in shock. Her eyes are glazed over, dull and blank.

God, I can’t even write about this. It’s too horrid. I have to dredge it up later when I write the story. I can’t think about this now. Just can’t.

7 p.m.

Oh man! That Montero stunk today, oh it smells soooo bad. Stink of death and sewage. It was horrible and then when we got to the office, we took the pick-up while they did a deep cleaning of the Montero. We returned from the orphanage we visited and had to wait wait wait for them to fetch the Montero. Finally got it back and climbed in and I wanted to retch. They did a “deep cleaning,” which did nothing to rid the truck of the smell and then amor all-ed it. So they sealed in the stink. I gagged.

Went to a great orphanage with lovely kids and a nice pastor and his wife, who is also a pastor and a doctor. Our tip into the drink was nothing compared to the pastor’s story of horror. He drove from flooded Port au Paix to Gonaives, through flood waters, got stuck twice and trapped in the water in Gonaives from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning. They were driving under water, water sloshing over the hood, couldn’t see and praying the whole time. They were one of the first ones to make it out of Gonaives.

The kids are clean and well kept but poor. Saw two little ones whose parents died in the earlier flooding on the border. They were brought in naked. A lot of children were saved, as in Gonaives because it was easier for adults to pluck the children out of the water. The one-year-old made me melt. I held him on my lap and his little fingers curled around my index finger. He has these huge, sad brown eyes. They have to dress him in girls’ clothing because they have no boys’ clothing. His sister is three and has aged eyes. Did she watch her parents drown? Who knows? But she does not smile. I tried to coax a smile from her. Nothing. And then she curled against me on the bench, rested her head against me. I had to choke back a sob. These kids, they’ve endured so much. They need so much love.