Saturday, April 30, 2005

Overheard at RT

"Did you know if you are ever on SURVIVOR, belly button lint can be used as fuel for a fire?" Author Rowenna Cherry

"They used my chest as a model, but mine is much bigger." Cover model CJ Hollenbach, talking about the Ellora's Cave book, TALES OF THE SHAREEM

"I had teeth, but I lost them in my underwear drawer." Author Susan Squires (The Companion) talking about how her VAMPIRE teeth found a home among her delicates.

"Sock. Definitely a sock he has in there." Me, to my friend Connie about one of the contestants in the cover model competition when they all paraded on stage as cowboys. Yee haw.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

RT and hunks

So here I am in St. Louis, at RT. It's been two years since my last RT convention (gosh that sounds like a confession.) I'm not as overwhelmed as my first, when I was a virgin. Now I'm an experienced RT "ho," i know just what to do. Got here last night, met up with some people (found the bar!) and having a good time.

I love meeting people at RT. It's always so relaxed, friendly and laid back, and it's fun to talk with everyone. I have my notes all set for my hot hunk workshop tomorrow. But i haven't seen any cover models yet. Maybe I need my contacts cleaned or something. I will keep looking. I will not give up.

Monday, April 25, 2005


I never imagined my Aunt Joan would die of cancer, just like my mother and grandmother.

In fact, I never imagined her dying at all. She was the youngest, the vibrant, adventurous one. The sister so much in love with her husband. They were matched bookends who traveled the world, settled into retirement and the tennis and golf set like settling into well-worn, beloved shoes. She just seemed so young. Strong.

The call came last Wednesday night. Breast cancer. Her family only found out recently, as it had only been diagnosed barely three weeks ago. Like my mother, and her mother, she never went to the doctor. Not even at the first sign of trouble.

My grandmother died of cervical cancer, a cancer detected early through a PAP smear.
My mother died of colon cancer, a cancer detected early through a colonscopy.
Joan died of breast cancer, a cancer detected early through a mammogram.

It was horrid watching my mother die of cancer, watching her laughing, smiling face dissolve into a mask of constant pain. But as horrible as it was, it wasn’t the same kind of shell-shocked blow Joan’s death delivered. No warning. No chance to say good-bye.

Just a phone call in the afternoon.

I just wanted to sit numbly and let the tears fall. Because of a lost chance. Because that part of my family is gone now, for good. And I'll never get it back again. The last time I saw her, Joan told me funny stories about growing up with my mom. I felt connected, as if mom were still alive. That part of my life has been severed. I had no chance to say good-bye. But that's nothing compared to what her family lost. My uncle lost his love of 50 years, my cousins lost their mom and my second cousin lost her grandmother. They had no warning.

Nothing can prevent cancer. I know that for a fact, from watching friends who ate healthy, exercised and lived healthy, subcumb to it. But there are tests that can detect it early. Treatments that can save lives or at least prolong them. Breast cancer was detected early in one of my friends years ago on a mammogram. Today, I still email that friend. She’s alive, well and doing great, and she saw her daughter graduate from high school.

Saturday was my birthday. I drove Friday from my aunt’s memorial service back home and then Frank drove me over to Naples for a quiet weekend away. On Saturday, he gave me a special gift as we dined with friends. A copy of my third book, THE COBRA & THE CONCUBINE. He had called Dorchester and Diane, sweet person she is, expressed him an early copy just for my birthday.

I was thrilled to see the book. I opened it up to the special thanks I had written. At the very end, I saw what I had written for Frank. My inspiration and greatest love.

Then I looked up into his smiling face, the face that has loved me dearly for nearly ten years now. And I realized how I don’t want to ever put him through what my grandfather went through, my father went through.

What my uncle just endured.

I can’t prevent cancer, but I sure as hell can do everything in my power to get an early warning.

All I could think of was my cousin Susan walking me to the car Friday, when I was leaving after the memorial service was over. She gave me a big hug and said to me, almost fiercely, “We’re not going to let it happen to us.”

Saturday was my birthday. My birthday gift to myself this year is a pap smear, a colonoscopy and a mammogram.

Susan’s right. We’re NOT going to let it happen to us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I'm cheating on posting today because my plate doth overflow, like a filled storm drain. I still have green bookmarks. I'm still typing up workshop notes for the workshop Jenn Ashley and I are doing next Friday at RT. I have no costumes. I'm wimping out by bringing my Taco Bell chihuahua and going as Paris Hilton does Walmart. So i'm posting the first part of my Egyptian WIP, the book that will not end, the book that seems doomed to wander the desert, like Moses and the lost Israelites (hey, WHY didn't they ever ask for directions?)

Panther & the Pyramid
copyright 2005 by Bonnie Vanak

The red hair haunted him, as it always did, in his deepest nightmares.

Red. The color of blood. His blood. The hair… its crimson shock flapping in the air like a warning flag. The thick tangle of red gold billowed from the force of the wind whistling across the desert sands. Always the desert, the harsh yellow sun grating on his sweating body, mocking his dry, childish screams for help. Green eyes, brilliant as glossy emeralds, stared at him with scornful challenge.

He moaned, tossing and writhing. Hands clawed the air in a desperate attempt to fight his attacker. His attacker, who wanted the magic wishing casket buried deep in Egypt’s sands. He tried, oh, he tried so hard to wrestle it away, to keep its awesome power hidden, but his tormentor grabbed the box. Then words drifted from those mocking lips. “There’s no escape from the truth. You can’t hide from what you really are.”

With a strangled yell, he sat up. Sweat dampened the soft Egyptian cotton sheets beneath his naked torso. His hand shook uncontrollably as he wiped moisture from his forehead with the sheet’s edge. An ominous foreboding shook him.

It wasn’t the red hair this time, nor the words that caused him to tremble still. It was the face. This time, it wasn’t the face of the man who abused him that one day in the desert.

It was the face of a woman. And she would make him scream until only hoarse cries wrung his dry throat. Only this time, his screams wouldn’t stop with a dirty rag frantically shoved into his mouth.This time his screams would not end…

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Elderly drivers on oxygen

So I'm at the DMV today, renewing my license, waiting for two hours, thinking mournfully how how this Saturday is my birthday . Hello middle age, firmly set upon me, no leeching it away. And then I see this little wizened white-haired midget, I mean, there is no other way to describe her. I felt sorry for the lady, she was on oxygen, wheeling a green bottle behind her, hobbling along on a walker with big wheels, supported by her nurse.

Then she sits down to get her photo taken. For her driver's license.

The woman is wheezing and creeping along, practically being wheeled out of the office by her nurse. I guess the state of Florida says if you can breathe, (even if you're on oxygen.) you can drive.

Whoa boy. I get my license, keep my eyes peeled for elderly midgets on oxygen driving through the parking lot and speed back to work. And the order for my bookmarks for THE COBRA & THE CONCUBINE has arrived from the printer! Oh joy! At last! I need these for RT next week. I promised some bookstores I would send bookmarks. I tear open the carton and...

They're green. The printer added too much yellow tint. I'm staring at a green warrior guy sitting on a green horse.

I'm frantic. I show the bookmarks to the guys I work with and B says, "Well, it sets the mood. It looks kind of sinister. Moody."

I said, "It's a green horse."

B: "But people probably won't NOTICE it's a green horse."

I show the bookmarks to another guy I work with. He stares at it like the masses concentrated outside St. Peter's stared at the chimney, trying to see the holy smoke. And he says, "It looks, uh, kind of sinister."

I said, "The horse is green."

He said, "Yeah, I did see that. Green horse. But I don't think people will notice it."

I can only hope the printer has good news for me tomorrow. In the meantime, I have some 1,500 limited edition bookmarks of my May Egyptian release. Special today! A green horse with sickly looking green warrior guy.

About the same color I'll be if I ever run into that elderly driver on oxgyen on the road.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Beating your papaya

So I have this little reference book on herbs and I'm writing PANTHER, my WIP. Rashid and Jillian are journeying to the deep desert to find the lost treasure and need herbs when he gets injured.

The book I bought is from Jamaica. No problem, mon. I just need ideas.

I'm skimming along and come to the myths and legends page. And I see this: PAPAYA: "It is believed that if a young man beats his penis on the trunk of a papaya tree it will grow to a large size when he gets older."


Now I finally understand why there are so many papaya trees in Jamaica. No wonder they call it a woodie...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

She looks so innocent when she's sleeping... and then she wakes us up at 6 a.m. I AM UP, PEOPLE! LET'S PLAY!  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mr. Manhood

When romance writing goes bad - crossing over into the day job. Wrote an appeal and instead of writing the president's name, I typed, "Mr. Manhood."

Oops. It might raise more money. Maybe I should have left it. Later I started thinking about what kind of character a Mr. Manhood would be. You could do a whole series of romance novels.

Romancing Mr. Manhood

Mr. Manhood, circumcised, a cut above the rest

Mr. Manhood gets caught by lover’s husband: See Dick Run, Run Dick, Run

Mr. Manhood gets stuck in the tunnel of love

Literary Mr. Manhood:
Mr. Manhood the virgin: Great Expectations
Mr. Manhood at sea: Moby Dick
Mr. Manhood in a field: Catcher in the rye

Regency Mr. Manhood: This neckcloth is too freaking tight

Fantasy Series:
Mr. Manhood wears jewelry; Lord of the Rings
Mr. Manhood finds Viagra: Return of the King
Mr. Manhood talks about his friends belowstairs: The Two Towers
Mr. Manhood admits the truth about size: The Hobbit

Category series:
Mr. Manhood makes a secret baby
Mr. Manhood has amnesia and doesn’t remember where’s he’s been all night
Cowboy Mr. Manhood back in the saddle

Detective Mr. Manhood; a .44 that shoots straight

Sheikh Mr. Manhood finds oil in the desert: Lubrication is good!

Monday, April 11, 2005

I found my G-spot

It arrived in the mail today. My government check...from the IRS. Tax Refund.

If that doesn't bring a girl great pleasure, getting money from the government, I don't know what does...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Here's the nasty-mouthed parrot eating a french fry. I'm trying to teach him to say, "Yo sexy thing!" when I enter the room. But he still only warbles, "F*** you." Sigh... Posted by Hello

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ellora's Cave & Stephania

I guess Blogger was drunk last night and hiccuped, because it never did record my blog. I had tried to write that I sold CINDERELLA'S REBELLION to Ellora's Cave. This is my paranormal comedy in which Cindrella escapes her story because she doesn't want to marry "that nancy boy prince."

It's pretty damn funny, even if I have to say so myself. And sexy. And totally wacky. I'm writing under the name of Blair Valentine. I'm excited about selling to EC, because it's something I always wanted to do.

The Cinderella story provides a needed break from writing about the misery and suffering of the poor so we can raise money to help them. Last night I was trying to sleep, and I couldn't. I was thinking about the people I've meet in my 11 years of traveling to Third World countries. And I thought of Stephania in Haiti. I wrote an essay about her.

Copyright 2005 by Bonnie Vanak

Her name was Stephania

It’s late at night. I should be sleeping now. But I can’t get this face, nor this name, out of my mind.

Her name was Stephania. I don’t recall her last name. In a way, it doesn’t matter. All that matters, really, is her.

I met her a few years ago in a children’s hospital in Haiti. She was six years old. And dying of AIDS.

Her frame was bone-thin. Sores had broken out on her skin. Patches of hair had fallen out as well. Her eyes were large, brown and expressive. They dominated her sunken face, with the hollow cheeks, the thin lips and the resigned look of a child who is too young to die, but knows she is dying.

B, our photographer, spotted her before I did (that photographer’s eye). I went to her bedside. The nurses cried as they told me how Stephania’s parents never visited. They had dumped her there, like laundry, to die. On the days when parents visited their sick children, like the day we were there, they combed their hair. Chatted. Brought them food. Hugged them.

Stephania sat alone in her little cot. No one came to see her. She was six years old. Alone. Dying of AIDS.
She was a small, innocent victim.

I went to her cot and hugged her. I had never really hugged an AIDS patient like I hugged her. But she needed it. I needed it more, I think. Her bones jutted out. She was so damn thin. I could feel her shoulder blades sticking out, like tiny, blossoming angel wings.

I didn’t speak Creole. She didn’t speak English. No problem. I gave her my pink pen, and showed her how to draw on my notepad. She drew something for me. And she smiled.

Then the other children gathered together and sang a song. They included Stephania. They didn’t care that she was dying of AIDS, a disease that ostracizes you or get you burnt out of your own house in many Third World countries. They sang songs and she sang with them.

When we left, I left my pink gel pen with her, with a piece of paper. I instructed the nurse to tell her in Creole that I wanted it as a gift.

When we got outside, they were wheeling a body out of the morgue, which was a just small outdoor concrete building. It was a grim reminder of how fragile the barrier is between life and death.

I know Stephania is dead by now. I hope she died, surrounded by love, holding the hand of a nurse who cared, because her parents didn’t, or were too afraid. I hope she died surrounded by people who weren’t afraid to hug a little girl dying of AIDS.

I have to remember her name. I must, because no one else will. She’s just a statistic to the world by now, a sad tale of a disease.

She’s not a disease nor a statistic to me. She was a little girl. Only six years old, with jutting shoulder bones like tiny angel’s wings.

Her name was Stephania.

Thursday, April 07, 2005



Policeman beheaded

I'm headed back to Haiti next month. Short trip, just around the city. More violence and bad news. Yesterday a cop was found beheaded, his body burned.

One NGO said Haiti's violence is making aid work impossible. I refuse to believe that. One of the visits will be to our girls home orphanage. I have a special interest in that home, because I was there when it was founded. I remember the girls living on in the abandoned building we turned into the home. One was only six, filthy, suspicious, distrust flaring in her dark brown eyes. I went back a few months later and there she was, in a clean, pressed uniform, giggling and hugging visitors. Just thinking about those girls now brings tears to my eyes. It's been ten years since we opened the home. All those young lives dependent on us.

Who will help them if we're forced to leave as well?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


In the book I'm writing now, Rashid's story, there's a line Ramses says right before Rashid and Jillian travel to the deep desert to find the lost treasure. He warns her, "The desert can kill the strongest man, but it is the darkness inside a man that can make him lose his soul.”

I think the darkness that is inside a writer can make her find her soul. When we look deep into those dark corners and write with passion, as if our fingers were bleeding on the keyboard, the results can be spectacular. Or dreck.

We take what's inside us, drag it out, sometimes kicking and screaming, and pour it into our books, like smooth, warm chocolate. And the reading public can either consume it with gusto and wax poetic over it.

Or it can cause them to have a severe case of the runs.

A long time ago, my editor gave me some wise advice. I appreciate it more now that I’m multi-published. He told me not to let others influence how I write because it can squelch the creative process.

How right he was.

What's most important is being true to yourself as a writer, finding your voice and taking that soul journey to keep the spark alive.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The brain condom. Protect your mind against thought. Because the mind is a terrible thing. Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 03, 2005

14 miles, I almost ran over an alligator and my butt hurts


Today I finally did something I wanted to for years, but never got around to it. Perfect day. Temp. 74, cloudless sky, low humidity. I coaxed DH into taking the bikes down to Shark Valley and riding the 14-mile loop road. Shark Valley is a slough in the Everglades. Every winter I love going there to glimpse the bird activity. Summers are brutally hot.

14 miles and DUH! I forgot a hat. Brought one bottle of water. The first seven miles had me pedaling like the Tour de France. Me, overweight, out of shape, cruising along. We're laughing, joking, stopping once in a while to snap pictures of the gators. I counted how many we spotted. 55 in total.

We got to the viewing tower, the halfway point. Climbed up, took more pictures. Got back on our bikes to complete the rest of the circuit. Seven more miles.

Against a headwind that suddenly kicked up. I suddenly realized my head is sunburnt. The water we took is dwindling fast. My butt is killing me. I'm pedaling and trying to keep an even pace and here I am...

ME: I think I can, I think I can, pant pant pant, gasp gasp gasp


A speed bicyclist flashes by, like a pulsar. DH and I are struggling along and this guy is doing 90 mph. What really made me wince was that this was the second time on this 14-mile circuit we had seen him.

I'm tired. My head hurts. My thighs are burning. But I'm determined I am going to make it. I'm so determined, I'm staring straight ahead. I don't see the wide, grassy river, the hardwood hammocks or the anhingas sunning themselves.

I didn't almost see the alligator I nearly ran over.

I'm on the left, puffing away and HOLY GATOR! He's right at the road's edge, sunning himself. I swerved, missing him by a nose. My heart, which is already galloping a mile a minute, is in my throat.

I kept pedaling. And when we finally made it, I felt like Rocky. Not Rocky in the movie.

Rocky Road. Damn, doesn't a girl deserve ice cream after 14 miles and a sore ass?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The pope died today

The Pope died today. We were going to the movies, but both DH and I are too sad. It doesn’t feel right.

He was a good man, a holy man. And though I clashed with some of his conservative views, I cherished having him as pope. He championed the cause of the poor and downtrodden. He was a pope for and of the people. He stuck to his convictions. He was a pope of peace, and reached across the chasms dividing religions.

When he left the note at the Wailing Wall, asking forgiveness for those who caused the suffering of the Jewish people, and wishing to commit to brotherhood with those of the Jewish faith, I was deeply moved. Equally so when he visited a mosque. So symbolic and ground-breaking. The pope was a man people of all faiths could admire. A devout man of prayer. He did not grandstand nor try to grab political favor. He spoke out against communism with courage. He stated his opinion and did not fear people mocking him for it.

He wasn’t politically correct. And he didn’t care. Have to admire the man for that.

I saw him once, in Miami. 1987. I was serving as a Catholic young adult steward for the open air Mass held in Tamiami Park. We had to be there the night before, and slept on the ground. It rained fiercely the next day. My friends and I stood there, soaked, watching him pass by in his Popemobile. An awe-inspiring moment. And the electrical storm, wow, they had to finally cancel. Too dangerous.

Years later, I saw another popemobile in Guatemala. The one he used to tour the city. The priest who showed it to us was explaining proudly how the pope visited his country. And it struck me at how far traveled this pope was, and what his visit meant to the thousands of Catholics in that country. To the poor, who lived in misery and tiny hovels, whose cause he championed. What an inspiration it must have been for them to see him.

I think what I’ll miss most about him is his championing the plight of the poor and the suffering. In 1994 he wrote a deeply moving Christmas message to children.

He wrote, “But it is also true that in our days, unfortunately, many children in different parts of the world are suffering and being threatened: they are hungry and poor, they are dying from diseases and malnutrition, they are the victims of war, they are abandoned by their parents and condemned to remain without a home, without the warmth of a family of their own, they suffer many forms of violence and arrogance from grown-ups. How can we not care, when we see the suffering of so many children, especially when this suffering is in some way caused by grown-ups?

And he concluded with a message of love. “I hope that they will be joyful and peaceful for you; I hope that during them you will have a more intense experience of the love of your parents, of your brothers and sisters, and of the other members of your family. This love must then spread to your whole community, even to the whole world, precisely through you, dear children. Love will then be able to reach those who are most in need of it, especially the suffering and the abandoned. What joy is greater than the joy brought by love? What joy is greater than the joy which you, O Jesus, bring at Christmas to people's hearts, and especially to the hearts of children?”

Pope John II. A man of peace, champion of the poor, firm in his convictions. A very tough act to follow.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Then again, maybe I'll promise him wild, kinky sex if he dresses in something like this... Posted by Hello

Wild, kinky sex research

Tonight I think I'll tell hubby I need to get naked and have wild, kinky sex with him as research for the new book I'm writing. Then, as his eyes light up, I'll calmly smile and say...

April Fool!

Man, I'm so bad...