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Showing posts from 2017

Confederate Statues, Trump, and the Power of Words

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“When he was young, he’d learned that words hurt, maimed, scarred. When he got older, he’d learned that words could also comfort, heal. But he’d never forgotten the first lesson. Perhaps that was why he’d chosen a career in finance: numbers. Numbers added up; they did not tear down.” From Black & Ugly
I grew up in an era when our parents told us to remember “sticks and stones make break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Having been called faggot more times than I can remember, and once the N-word by an alcoholic white trash neighbor in our otherwise democratic, and progressive East Falls neighborhood, I know from experience our parents were wrong.
As a wordsmith, as a writer, I understand the power of words—I understand that words can strike with the force of a hammer. Words can also heal; they can bring us together. Or, tear us apart.
Let’s talk about the Charlottesville tragedy and Trump. From this writer’s point of view what was most offensive about Trump’s reaction—Trump’s

On Writing Books & Dreaming of Movie Versions

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Before every book’s release, everything seems possible: This will be the one, this one will be widely read, and receive accolades; this one will top the New York Times Bestseller list. Ellen will call. And then inevitably the book comes out and you get up early and check your Amazon ranking. Not Number One Not even close. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes and the day after that and the day after that. And you continue to dream, begin boldly to imagine the movie version…
I was part of the Authors Corner at the Ask Rayceen Show in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. One of the questions Rayceen asked each of us authors was which of our books we saw as a movie and who did we want the lead actors to be. I didn’t have a ready answer, stumbled through a response. But it wasn’t the right answer. I’ve been obsessing over the right answer ever since. I know on one level this obsessive pondering of this question was partly due to my OCD—which now thanks to a wonderful doctor and …

Borrowed Voices

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I have lived with dogs for 22 years. Channing, Coco, Toby of York (Toby), Victor Lorde Riley (Riley). But I have been with Toby the longest. Like an old married couple, we are familiars; we know each other’s quirks and preferences; we are comfortably with the rhythm of our life together as the tides wash us up against each other and pull us apart, secure in the knowledge that it will also bring us back together again. We take comfort in each other’s presence even when I am writing and he is sleeping at my feet. Our nearness is enough.
Channing, Coco, Toby, Riley. I have learned so much from living with dogs. This post is all about what I have leaned form the canine companions I’ve been lucky enough to know.
Approach every stranger as if he or she was a friend, a potential ally. If they respond by throwing shade your way, hike up your tail and walk away.
Help your friends. Coco used to always rush to the kitchen door to greet me when she
heard the garage door open. After she went deaf, To…

In His Eyes—Happy Release Day to Me

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Today is the release of my third novel—my first full length work since Unbroken which was released in 2013. This is my fifth release in six years—still it feels like the first time I’ve ever released a book. It’s accompanied by the same worry, the same doubt: did I write the best book I could? Will readers like it? Will anyone read it?
On Saturday, we saw Diana Ross in concert at the Mann Center in Philly. The outing was part of our new effort to get out more, to do things together. Our therapist says that’s important—yes, we have a therapist; after twenty years together, the waters of matrimony are still sometimes difficult to navigate. Anyway, back to Miss Ross. I watched her closely, as I watch all artists—and let’s face it we writers are artists, too. I was impressed by her energy, her humanity: from the stage, she came off not so much as a diva as a person, doing her best and hoping to please a crowd. Her daughter opened for her and she brought her grandchildren on stage—yes Miss …

"In His Eyes" — The Soundtrack

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I’ve talked about this before but I believe every life has a soundtrack. My own life’s soundtrack is dominated by Donna Summer, Grace Jones, and Michael Jackson. Music is a marker—every song can take us back to a specific moment in time, or fix us to the mood we were in when we first heard it. Thus couples always have “our song.”
As I said, every life has its own soundtrack. The same is true, I believe of books. Songs referred to in books, can set a mood, it can also anchor the story in time, just as descriptions of fashion and hairstyles can. All of my novels have soundtracks and my latest, In His Eyes, which releases a week from today (August 1) is no exception.
This post is dedicated to looking at the songs from this book. I’ve included the Chapter headings in which the song appears for easy reference. 60. Independence Day“Independence Day” by Bruce Springsteen. Each character is different so each has his own taste in music. This song sums up Reid’s inner tumult that leads up to the …

On the Importance of Pianos

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I am enamored of pianos—if not simply obsessed with them. It’s one of the few things we don’t own that I’ve always wanted. Even though I’m not at all musical.
I suppose that is one reason pianos always seem to appear in my books.
It is at a piano that Thomas Edward and Dondi’s brother, Matthew first connect in my first novel, What Binds Us:

I was wandering the corridors of that huge house when I passed by an open door. Light and music splashed onto the hall carpet. Someone was playing the piano. I stopped to listen.
“Don’t just stand out there,” the person said. “Come on in.”
So I did. A rosewood concert grand piano held court in the middle of the room. Its elaborately scrolled legs knelt on a Tabriz carpet the color of dreams. Matthew sat in a lyre-back chair in front of the piano. His legs were stretched out and his bare, pale feet curled around one of the piano’s massively carved legs. His hands rested on the pale ivory keys. He stared at me with his grey eyes.
If Dondi was an epilogue…

Who You Calling Bougie?

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Recently, a friend of mine called me“bougie.” In case you’ve never heard the term, Urban Dictionary defines bougie,a hacked truncation of the word Bourgeoisie, which refers to the middle-class in Europe, as “aspiring to be a higher class than one is.”
Now, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been called bougie. And generally, being called bougie doesn’t offend me because it calls me out for daring to dream, for striving to accomplish something. I have, after all been called other, worse things. And I don’t particularly care much what other people think of me. But being called bougie does rather irritate me because it inherently asserts that I have no right to dream, to achieve, that who I was at birth is who I should be at death.
The word bougie seems to stem from a screwed-up thought process that defines a place for everyone, a place they must always remain. I remember as a kid, when I talked back, I would be told I was “out of place.” And that was often a punishable offense. The idea t…

It's Mother's Day and I'm in the Doghouse

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Mother’s Day. I know the drill.
STEP 1: Buy Card. CHECK. STEP 2: Sign card. CHECK. STEP 3: Mail Card. Aw, shit!
Now Meatloaf said, 2 out of 3 ain't bad, but he never met my mother. I’m in the doghouse for sure. Which, I suppose id better than ending up in the woodshed.
I would ask my brothers for help. But the youngest, Vernon, is the perfect son. He’s some sort of saint, I swear. (He takes after our dad.)
I used to go to my parents for Mother’s Day, but one year it took me 4 hours to get there and 5 to come home. I hate the George Washington Bridge!
So I started sending flowers to cover my absence. But there was always a debacle. One year, they delivered the flowers in a broken case. I called to complain and the florist sent out a second set of flowers—with NO VASE. I called to complain again. Yep, they delivered more flowers but no vase was to be seen. Another year, another florist. This time they delivered the flowers to the wrong apartment and as they had a signed receipt, they refus…

The Eagle Has Left the Nest (Carrying a Book)

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This morning at 2 am EST, after eight months, 61,000 words and eighty-three drafts, I sent my newest book to my editor at Beaten Track Publishing. I’m romantically inclined to say writing this book was a labor of love, but the practical me says it was just labor. Eight months is pretty good for me. Usually it takes me a year to write a book, though Unbroken only took nine months.
I am amazed I wrote 30,000 words in the last three months so essentially half the book was written in three months. Reading it though a last time this week before submitting it, I realized once again that the story I tell isn’t the story I sat down to write back in August. And months into the writing of it, I realized I had to restructure it because the way I envisioned telling the story—in flashback, starting at the end and working forward—just didn’t work for the story.
At first the idea of writing a different book and structuring it differently to my first idea, scared me, but this is my fifth book; I h…

Chiseling Out a New Book

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I had one of the most productive writing weekends in recent memory. 2,772 words between Friday and Sunday. Friday night, around midnight, I sat down to write. My husband had gone to bed, and Riley with him. Toby stayed with me in my office on the third floor. He never leaves my side. When I stopped writing, it was 1:30 a.m.
Saturday, the dogs needed walks, and I had errands to run and laundry to do. By the time I sat down to write it was after 4 p.m. The dogs, tired from our afternoon hike, fell asleep as I sat down at my desk. Everything fell away as I typed. The dogs woke and started whining. It was then that I realized I’d been “in the zone” for two hours and I’d missed their dinner time.
I’m not a very disciplined writer. My writing process is...chaotic. But it works for me. I don’t outline or create character bibles. My stories are more organic. I’ve heard sculptors say they didn’t create the sculpture, they simply freed what was already inside the stone. That’s how I feel about …

Celebrating Love: Remembering a Beloved Aunt

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Friday, January 20, 2017 was a dark day for many in our nation. For me it was even darker. Our beloved Aunt died last Friday. So while for many it was “The Inauguration of the Nation’s 45th President,” for me it will always be the day Aunt Terpe died.
Beloved aunt. Those words beggar description. She was so much more than that. She was a force of nature; she was unconditional love; she was a staunch advocate for those lucky enough to be loved by her.
Euterpe Cleopha Richardson was one-of a kind, as unique as her name.
Though, I never formally came out to her, she always knew; she was the first person in my family to implicitly acknowledge and support my gayness. She made me feel it was ok to be myself. She gave me advice, “Never move in with a man; he can move in with you, or you can move someplace together but never move into his place; that way he can never tell you to leave.” And this,” Never give a man a second chance; if he hurt you once, he will hurt you again.”
Whenever I sho…