Sunday, October 04, 2009

Enter the contest today!

To celebrate the release of my novella,, in the Holiday Brides anthology, I'm giving away books, gift cards, and beautiful keepsakes!

There are two ways to enter and yes, you can enter both ways.

Reader Thank You Prize Pack:
Sign up for my newsletter and you'll be entered to win a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card and a signed copy of my backlist books, Where Souls Collide and The Holiday Inn. Three lucky readers will each win one of these prize packs.

Grand Prize Pack:
My heroine, Brenna, has decided that the only way to make good on her mission to find a man is through online dating at For a chance at the Grand Prize Pack, you need to sign up for my newsletter AND write your own online dating profile! It can be funny or serious. Please keep to 50 words or less. I'll pick five to be highlighted on my web site, here on my blog, and on my Facebook and MySpace pages. Two winners will receive a grand prize pack that includes a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card, signed copies of my backlist books The Holiday Inn and Where Souls Collide, and a gorgeous souvenir ceramic tile from Detroit's nationally renowned Pewabic Pottery studio.

Click here to enter the contest!

**Contest ends midnight, January 1, 2010

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Holiday Brides is now available!

It's release day for Holiday Brides! Woo hoo! I've been celebrating around the blogosphere, promoting my novella and talking about the writing life. I'm also enjoying the reviews that have rolled in so far, including this one from Ramsey's Reviews:

4 1/2 stars!
"HeavenSent.Com is a sensuous and compelling read. Stefanie Worth has conveyed a splendid, romantic and angelic story with a happy ever after ending. She has a unique gift for portraying lifelike characterizations which radiate true emotions and designing a plot that is as charming as the story itself. I am sure any reader will find this a delightful and inspiring short story."

I have to admit that this release day is pretty much as exciting as the first was for Where Souls Collide, except that today I've topped the occasion with a wee bit of anxiety. There's a different pressure to produce now -- precisely the kind I've longed for -- that keeps the thought of "I have to get back to writing" on the fringes of my celebration.

That is why I do this after all; so that each release day leads to new readers and new reasons to keep writing. I love being an author and count myself blessed to have another book to share with the world.

About in the Holiday Brides anthology:

The holidays aren’t so festive when you’re celebrating by yourself. But with a little luck and a lot of love, three single women find their soulmates and get the holiday weddings of their dreams.

Brenna has a list, and she’s checking it twice. But unfortunately for her coworker Evan, she just doesn’t seem to see him as anything more than a friend. Can an online dating site and two guardian angels change her mind before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve?

Watch the trailer
Visit my web site

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Journal Entry - Side Effects

Dear Diary,

Today my son and I were watching I am Legend in which the wonderful Will Smith portrays "the last man on earth" after most of humanity is killed by a plague. The movie starts with a news show in which a reporter (April Grace) is interviewing Dr. Alice Krippin (Emma Thompson) about her medical breakthrough. Their final exchange is along the lines of, "So you've cured cancer?" answered, "Yes."

Well, right away my son and I think:

Side effects include insomnia, increased testosterone levels, a taste for human flesh, fear of sunlight, extreme aggression, loss of looks, exaggerated animal instincts, and a herd mentality. Please consult your health care professional if you notice these or other zombie-like symptoms as they could indicate a severe reaction to your treatment.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Early reviews for!

Reviews always stir the angst pot for me. Of course, I believe I've written one heckuva story. But it's like an author said at a workshop once: Out of 10 people, one person is going to love your writing. Period. One person is going to hate your writing. Period. One or two may feel so-so about it, another couple of folks will really enjoy it. The remaining readers fall somewhere in between.

And in the years since I first heard that philosophy, I've come to believe that the "like it" scale sways with each new work, and that for people -- like me -- who write paranormal, we have to factor in the whole "Did they get it?" question that comes with writing otherworldly stories.

That said, I'm pretty excited about the following two reviews that have come in for my novella in the Holiday Brides anthology due out in about 10 days. I'm going to spend the moment feeling fabulous, then get back to work on my WIP.

"***** FIVE STARS! I was sent a galley copy of this novella for an honest review. I am going to assume (yeah, I know the joke about assuming) that the other two stories are as good as this one. Therefore, this book receives the full five stars from me. Stefanie Worth's story hits close to home as she clearly shows how the economic world of today is, as well as how it affects people who live in it. Her characters, both mortal and angelic, are totally believable. Nothing comes across as odd or false. This book is perfect for reading while you are cuddled up in front a cozy fire indoors while the snow piles up outside. *****"

" is part of the Holiday Brides anthology. Ms. Worth does a fabulous job of bringing readers into this short story while filling it with an unexpectedly sweet romance, as well as heavenly paranormal elements. A fast-paced escape that’s sure to capture reader’s attention."

Visit the page on my site to view the book trailer or read an excerpt.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month

After my second son was born and diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia, I joined an online group of special needs moms for support. I remember us passing around emails in those much earlier days of the internet, one of which was about how we were chosen to be mothers to these children for God's own reasons. While I clung to that belief at the time because so much uncertainty awaited us, I understand that poem much better now, 12 years later.

I'm lucky to be chosen as the caretaker of a terrific kid with an awful disease. I see and nurture the strength in him that I know he'll need when I'm no longer able to escort him into a doctor's office and speak on his behalf. The disease has developed character and advocacy in me I didn't know I had, but I still want it cured.

We had an awful spell around Memorial Day when he was hospitalized for the first time in almost two years. We're fortunate that he does not experience daily pain episodes like some children do, that he's only had one transfusion -- preceding removal of his tonsils and adenoids at two -- and that he's been stroke-free. But, boy, a few months ago. . .well, it still makes my breath catch in my chest and brings tears to my eyes.

Sickle Cell isn't as media-sexy as childhood cancer or pediatric AIDS, but it hurts. And to see your child unable to walk or move because it hurts so bad, to watch as another dose of morphine doesn't make it better. Oh, my dear God. I cannot tell you what that is like as a mother. I even had to pause in writing this to try and shake off the memory.

But I tell the story because there is kinship among those of us who share this difficult walk with our children. And kinship among those who've watched their children grow up with this disease and now worry about whether or not they'll find mates who understand and provide them with the support they need, and whether or not the disease will be passed to grandchildren and beyond.

As a global village, we all have parts we can play in eradicating this disease that afflicts one in nine African Americans as well as people of Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern descent (and others, too). My role is to write about our experiences and donate to the cause. Researchers are so close to a universal cure and I want to believe with all my heart that when my son is grown and finds a good woman to be his wife that passing on this disease to their children will not be the issue it is today. Let's hope, pray and act today.

To learn more about Sickle Cell, visit the Sickle Cell Disease Center of America.
My essay about The Baby God Gave Me

Please join us for the Sickle Cell Health Awareness Fair on Saturday, Sept. 19th, from 5:30 - 9 the Boll Family YMCA (downtown Detroit). There'll be hustle lessons, food, fun and education. Tix are $20. Call 313-864-4406 for info. I'll be there signing books and spreading hope for a cure on behalf of my son.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Crafting Characters

Unlike some authors, I don’t “see” my characters before I put them on paper. They come to me a bit like spirits; colorless, odorless, shapeless forms in the midst of doing whatever it is I’ve concocted. But, how they influence or react to the central situation is carefully constructed. In this way, characters are very much my designer babies.

Read the rest here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Journal Entry - Partly Sunny With a Chance of Overload

Dear Diary,

I -- as always -- am trying to do too many things at once. The washer has stopped filling because I haven't put the laundry in yet because I figured I had a minute to check my email while my waffles are in the toaster and the electric tea kettle hasn't shut off yet.


I'm really wired today. I'm still translating my plotting grid from poster board to computer, which is going okay, except I just don't seem to have enough space. Grrr. I split the doc into two pages, legal sized so that I can still post it on the wall and write-in comments as brain storms occur. I think it will work and it's definitely now portable. But it's different and change takes a minute. (That's all the time I have, so that's all the time it gets.)

This is for the remainder of The Wicked and the Wonderful, which I recently sold to Dorchester. I'm at a point in the story where the main and subplot need to be carefully followed so I don't leave any loose ends. And the secondary characters with their unique story purpose and individual quirks could be so easily lost right now. Can't have that happen. Don't want any nasty reader letters.

But, it's Saturday, so the writing -- especially today since the sun made an unexpected appearance -- must take place episodically, between real life.

Really, I do love it though. My mind will race all day. I'll steal away here and there as I can to spew a few paragraphs onto a page and run off to the next to-do.

Right now, that's running to the corner drug store for a pack of AA batteries because my wireless mouse has died. Ugh. Then, put that load in the laundry, make a cup of tea (that will be sipped for hours), gulp down the waffles and write some more.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I need a man

Well, I'm looking for a hero. And I'm going strictly on looks. He must be worthy of a push pin on my cork board: intoxicating enough to keep me spellbound until I've typed The End. He should not bore me. Every time I look at his face, I have to feel what Fallon (his wife) feels for him. Only I have to feel it more because I'm the one who has to bring him to life on all these pieces of paper that lie ahead of me.

I'm talking tall (let's go with six feet), muscular (not overdone, but purposefully sculpted), savvy, sensuous, sensitive. He ought to be willing and able to cook. And he's not big on housecleaning, but he'll spring for the maid (very personal preference entering the fictional realm there).

Oh, and can he sing. A Musiq, Maxwell, Robin Thicke kind of vibe. Plays the guitar but he's not a playa. I'm flexible on the hairstyle, but he's very well groomed. (In other words, there are two sinks and a huge mirror in the bathroom so Fallon doesn't have to fight him to get ready for work.)

Of course, he's a great lover -- knows when to be gentle and when to put on the power moves. But he's not too insecure to learn a thing or two from his woman.

This man has lived in my head since last year's novella Can You Believe (in The Holiday Inn anthology). I'd leave him there, but I have too many other folks clamoring for my mental mirror these days. I need to make him materialize and relegate him to a square across from my computer. Right now I've got Djimon hanging around as a placeholder, but I'm not trying to fight Kimora for him.

In summary, I need the m-m-good fineness of Terrence Howard, the casual charm of Dwayne Johnson (you know, The Rock), the versatility of Johnny Depp, the youthful vigor of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and the intensity of Laurence Fishburne.

Got any suggestions?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Way With Words

I’m sure my high school English teacher, Gary Wendell, had no idea what he ignited when he told me I had “a way with words” – though it would be nice if he could see the fruits of his encouragement.

I poured his remarks – along with the wisdom of my parents, kind comments of faithful friends (who read every piece of angst-ridden poetry I wrote), and admonishments of journalism school instructors – onto the roiling mix of uncertainty and determination I harbored in my gut like marinade.

The brew turned out to be pretty good, I think, though it’s one of those concoctions that not only needs to marinate, but then has to simmer half the day, and still tastes better after a night in the refrigerator. You know, like those prize-winning sauces, chilis and gumbos you’ve read about or tasted.

As I’ve been stewing all these years, letting the ingredients of craft meld into stories, I’ve discovered that it takes more than a hodgepodge of words to be a writer. Even stringing those words with eloquence and wit isn’t enough to become the cream that rises to the top of the pot. Style (that elusive writing “voice”), subject matter and sensitivity are so important to success. I’m not saying your recipe for storytelling will get you on the NY Times or USA Today lists, but you’ll have the assurance of generating satisfaction in your readers and just doing it right.

One of my Novel Spaces co-bloggers, posted his thoughts on writing outside yourself recently. How do, can we, should authors write characters who don’t look, act or think like themselves? To me it’s possible, of course. It just requires observation, experience, research, openmindedness and the modesty to admit that no one persona you create in your pages will be the be-all, end-all representation of any particular race, creed, color or gender.

Like one of my Michigan Chronicle editors once taught me, “No, as a journalist you can’t be objective. We all bring our opinions, experiences and subjectivities to a story. But we can be fair.” This, of course, looks different in editorial than in fiction, but I can still apply the principle.

I build my characters on archetypes and psychological profiles so that they’re true to themselves and their role in the story. Would I date Luke from Where Souls Collide? I sure hope not. The guy’s a jerk – and I’m okay with that. He wasn’t created to give Black men a bad rap. His job was to give Navena, the story’s heroine a hard time. Really. No ulterior motives or subliminal messages there. Nor was Maxwell (the story’s hero) meant to make up for Luke’s shortcomings. Maxwell had his own issues that rendered him, hopefully, human.

Those pieces of authoring are far more than words. I’ve promised myself to keep learning, that I’ll be a perpetual student of humanity. I hope that not only makes me a better writer, but a better person as well.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Turning the page

In order to turn a page, there must be pages to turn, right?

I'll be the first to admit that my writing productivity took a major nosedive when my household went wireless. Not only did dial up keep me tied to a phone line, it kept me off the internet as a result. Maybe you remember those days when going online was a major expedition.

When I knew that checking my email was going to be a 20-minute undertaking between dialing up and logging in, I set aside a designated time period to do this and was much more organized in my approach. I'd dial in. Wait. Log in. Wait. Read. Respond. And get off line. If I didn't, I was bound to miss a phone call.

Even after I installed some kind of modem monitor software to tell me when a call was coming so that I could get off line, I still stuck to my system unless the incoming call seemed to be urgent. Once I dialed in, hopping on and off line was just too much trouble.

Once I'd finished my 30-60 minute email check and quick surf, it was back to writing. How many of us can say that we only spend, let's say, 45 minutes attached to our internet? Yes, well, like I said, it's affected my productivity.

So, today is the first day of my new writing plan. I've compartmentalized my writing duties, separating the creative, from the social, administrative and promotional. Sunday eve through Friday eve is now reserved for developing manuscripts. I'll check my email, but no surfing (unless it's book research), no social networking, no non-urgent marketing. Friday night through Sunday eve gets to be Facebook, MySpace, Twitter time. That's also when I'll craft blogs, update my web site and tend to my promotional and author admin.

For me, the best way to attack this new separation of duties is through my writing journal. I already set aside a page for goals each month, I'll now add a page for web site updates, and promotional to-do's. So instead of spending chunks of time doing each of these items every night, I'll condense them into the weekends. Just as I can't be all things to all people, my time can't effectively serve all my needs all at once.

Here's to change!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Things I'll remember about Michael Jackson

What are those four stages of grief? Denial. (Are you serious?) check. Anger. (How could this happen?) check. Depression (What a tragic loss.) check. Acceptance. (What can I learn from this?) check.

So, as I move on, I just thought that for the sake of posterity, I'd focus today's Thursday 13 post on things I'll remember about Michael Jackson:

1) Very carefully writing the lyrics to I'll Be There on that thick-ruled primary manuscript paper in a love note to SH in second grade. (He never got it, of course, because I had one of those mothers who went through all my stuff every day. She found the note and that was that.)

2) Bringing my parents' brand new 45 of the Jackson's Dancing Machine to class in sixth grade. For one day I wasn't the too-tall goodie-two-shoes who talked "proper." I was the inspiration for an impromptu Soul Train line in the middle of the room. Being in good with the teacher has its perks. ;)

3) Cutting an ABC 45 off the back of a cereal box to play on my red Close and Play record player.

4) Wanting to marry Michael Jackson.

5) Teen magazines that always pitted the Jackson 5 against the Osmonds. So no contest. . .

6) College skate parties with PYT in the background.

7) Watching Michael moonwalk during his Billie Jean performance on that Motown 25th anniversary show.

8) Standing around waiting for the airing of Thriller on MTV. (Then, as a former dancer, trying desperately over the years to learn the steps to Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, The Way You Make Me Feel, et. al.)

9) Standing in line very pregnant, for three hours, outside a downtown Detroit AAA office to purchase tickets to see Michael Jackson at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the Pepsi tour.

10) Buying a copy of the Off the Wall CD to replace the album upstairs in my bedroom.

11) Wondering why on earth he picked that Rowe girl over me. ???? LOL

12) Playing Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson CDs in the car so often that all three of my kids (who span 13 years) know the words to his songs. He is as present-day to them as any of their current (and, yes, temporary) fave "artists."

13) Making sure to buy a copy of Ebony magazine's collector's edition tribute to Michael in honor of Thriller's 25th anniversary.

Not believing he'd died when I heard the news and read the ticker across the bottom of CNN, but coming to accept the magnitude of the loss in the days and weeks that followed. I feel proud to understand why he meant what he did to music and the world. Honored that I was along for the ride.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What if Michael had written the book?

Once upon a time, I was a staff writer and editor for Detroit's Michigan Chronicle. And during those days, LaToya Jackson penned a book called, "Growing Up in the Jackson Family." This was during the days when she was struggling for stardom and Michael's star seemed to be fading into absurdity. The book alleged that she and her siblings were abused by their father Joe and people decried her as a liar. My thoughts on the topic were a little bit different. The following is a re-print of that editorial. What do you think?

What if Michael had written the book?
By Stefanie P. Worth
Re-printed with permission of the Michigan Chronicle

I have been a fan of Michael Jackson’s since the Five’s first days. I can recall penning the words of “I’ll Be There” on primary ruled paper to Sterling Harris, my second grade crush. Years later I continued to follow the successes and supposed doings of the Jackson clan.

From Janet on “Good Times” to Randy’s near-crippling auto accident to Rebbie’s single solo success and Janet's climb to rival Michael’s stardom. I watched as the brothers six went their separate ways — Jermaine’s lukewarm fame, Jackie’s violent breakup with his wife and Michael’s downward spiral into eccentricity.

Eccentricity? At 30? Why would the boy who had everything go weird? Doing so made him favorite tabloid fodder of the ‘80s — feeding our human morbid curiosity, drawing speculation into what happened along the way to make him become as odd as he has. Sad to say, despite his unquestionable musical genius, the “thriller” has been reduced to ridicule in many gossip circles.

Now comes LaToya, on the heels of several failed recording ventures and a scandalous Playboy pictorial with “Growing Up in the Jackson Family,” her novel account of childhood life in the famous brood.

Girlfriend has taken much flack since the release of her book. Though I’m in the process of reading it, I am as yet undecided on the book’s contents. First of all, none of us but the Jacksons grew up as Jacksons. So what really went on behind their four walls we are not privy to say. If LaToya is lying, then as I say, that’s between her and God. But secondly, if there is an iota of truth to what she discloses about the abuse and molestation, then Joe Jackson — rich, powerful, highly-revered and all — needs to have his behind in jail.

I think part of the reason the public outcry has been so against LaToya is that she has not achieved the success her brothers and Janet have — and we all know how long she’s been trying. But people disclose family skeletons all the time, celebrities and everyday folks alike, to the tune of great public empathy. Maya Angelou did it in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Was she scorned for the revelation? Perhaps we have allowed the Jackson mystique to cloud our judgment and render them infallible. Nobody deserves that burden.

News of fallen child stars fill the media these days. These now adult used-to-be’s recall the difficulties they encountered when they were no longer cute and couldn’t find work. Imagine what LaToya and Rebbie must have felt being the only two untalented children in a superstar family. The public is also much more aware of the sleezy side of life in childhood stardom. It’s no more peaches and cream for them than it is for adults trying to make it in the cut throat world of show biz.

One point LaToya emphasizes is their father’s dislike of his oldest son (for whatever reason). Jackie, she says, took the brunt of Joe Jackson’s abuse well into his early 20s. Most of us are familiar with the reports of abuse leveled at Jackie several years ago resulting in the dissolution of his marriage. The divorce was equipped with court-ordered injunctions keeping him away from the wife he battered and their children. Don’t psychologists say that abuse is cyclical? Could there be a link?

Janet’s Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis-produced “Control” album, and title video were widely touted as being autobiographical — a fact to which she even admits. Remember her marriage to James DeBarge which insiders report was destroyed because her parents disapproved? There are even sadder rumors about the destruction involved floating around DeBarge’s hometown of Flint. Since when is a financially independent 18-year-old still expected to bow to the beck and call of her parents? According to LaToya, when it’s a Jackson.

Then there is my dear, dear Michael. You say you think homeboy has some problems, eh? Animals in the backyard...gloved hand...pinched nose...Bubbles.... Ever stop to wonder what could have pushed him over the edge (if indeed that’s where he’s dangling)? Could Michael’s altered personality be a wealthy version of multiple personality disorder — generally brought on by childhood sexual trauma? Maybe, maybe not.

Well, I didn't grow up with those 11 people anymore than you did, so I, too, can do no more than speculate. But I’ve followed the Jacksons for years and these are not the first allegations of abuse to air about “Papa Joe.” I feel that enough questions have been raised over the years to merit some serious thought. He did for his family what most of us only dream of. But who knows what he did to get there and at whose and what expense.

LaToya alleges that the family abuse was a well-known secret in Motown’s halls. (Much like the now confessed to Ross-Gordy romance that resulted in Diana’s first child). The public has been known to ignore the grim realities of star life to protect images in the past. I’m just saying maybe it happened with the Jacksons, too. I could indeed be wrong, but the fact that LaToya is the family media hound should not overrule the reality that serious crime and sickness could lie beyond that famous doorstep.

Old folks say what’s done in the dark will be brought to the light. So maybe she just hit the switch. I’ll bet that if Michael had penned this tell-all tale he would have been besieged with public sympathy. The masses would exclaim with a sigh of relief, “So that’s what happened.”

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wrapped in life

Yesterday, I’m watching hour after hour of Michael Jackson news coverage and I’m listening to reporters ask people to sum up their experiences with MJ or thoughts of his music in snappy sound bites. Can you do that for a life like his?

Maybe it’s because I just finished writing the synopsis for my latest novel, that the whole wrap up thing seemed so glaring to me yesterday. I know what my story’s about – all the pieces in the plot, who does what and why. But it’s such a struggle to squeeze 400 pages into two. Yet we do it. In fact, we authors manage to scrunch an entire novel into a single 10-second pitch line that makes the story easy-to-grasp for potential readers.

So, I sit back from the news coverage and get to thinking about my pitch line for life with Michael Jackson and landed on “Got to be There.” From the time I was small, I’ve regarded that tune and its lyrics with starry-eyed wonder. The idea of needing someone’s nearness is not unique; people sing about that stuff all the time. But it’s the way Michael sang it. And beyond the throes of love, “Got To Be There” epitomizes the way I view life as a whole. I hate the thought of missing out on experiences and interactions or opportunities to dream and grow. I want to be here to take it all in.

All of it. Always. As in forever.

Now, we know that isn’t possible, is it? That’s where my deep-seated denial comes in. I shudder when I hear phrases like “tomorrow’s not promised” or “the present is a gift.” I know they are so true, but the implication – well, the reality – is that they mean one day there won’t be a next day. No more phone calls to the kids/grandkids/great-grandkids. No chit-chat with friends and family. No treks to the store or church. No volunteering. No news. No flower garden. No sunshine or rain. Heaven, I do pray, but none of the little things that make this world what it is.

Maybe 50 years from now I’ll be tired and I’ll be ready for thoughts of final rest. But not today. So, this morning when I awoke and confirmed that Michael Jackson really had passed on, I had to wonder if he was ready. Did the King of Pop have a clue yesterday morning that there would be no more music after that day?

I wrote a poem about my grandmother some years ago; about how three days before she died, a cousin said he saw her dancing in the kitchen. Laughing, free, really enjoying herself. Mind you, Grandma Mary was saved and sanctified and she absolutely did not dance. But after we heard that story, we thought maybe she knew death was on its way and she was ready. I compared it to “trying out her wings-to-be.” The idea that she was ready for the trip brought comfort in the aftermath of her sudden and difficult departure.

Michael’s death brings a familiar though not familial sadness. I never thought about the King of Pop not being here. My “got to be there” assumption was that he’d always be here. But none of us get to stay on the charts forever.

Now I am left with the startling reality of a life not too many years younger than Mike’s. I reflect on reports that say his children are inconsolable. I consider my kids. I reflect on reports that say he was in ill health. I consider my own health. I reflect on his genius, how his gift changed the world. I consider my own dreams. I reflect on how the world changed him. And I consider the good and bad of this life we live.

While I’d rather not think about it, there’s no sense missing the reminder in all this that we get many moments, yet just one life.

I am really going to miss Michael Jackson. Every news clip I’ve heard that attempts to edit his life into a tidy sound bite has represented a different perspective of his world. Between spliced chunks of stowed-away quotes, studio moments, laughter and sadness, illumination spills forth in smiles and silences. As much as I’ve enjoyed trying to sum up my own MJ memories, I can no more easily pare his life into 25 words than I can my novels. I’m no MJ, but I hope my life won’t fit within the confines of a nice, neat sound bite bow either. I’ll take that as evidence that I was there for my life.

Peace to you and yours, Michael.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Reading to not make changes

The galleys for Holiday Brides arrived yesterday. They come via email and -- this being my third set -- I now have this ritual of checking the ink cartridge, adjusting the print settings, and readying a stack of fresh paper to feed into the machine as it spits forth the laid out pages for me to proof.

It's a little nerve-wracking, the whole "read and don't make any 'unnecessary' changes" thing. Don't publishers know we're writers and constantly improving our prose is what fuels our existence??? Then again, I'm sure that's why the guideline is in place. *sigh*

So, my only real to-do this weekend is to re-read (a/k/a Brenna and Evan's story) and make sure what's on the pages-to-be matches what I submitted. I quit last night after two chapters. The back and forth was making my head spin. . .and I got distracted by VH1's "Black to the Future." My bad.

I'll do better tonight. When the June 16th deadline to return these galleys rolls around, I so need to back into my WIP. Deep, deep back.

On that note, wish me few typos, missing words, or lost chunks of plot!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - Places I've Written

Like babies who can sleep anywhere and through everything, my Muse is pretty flexible. Despite the special place I've created for her to reign, she pops up at will, despite what I'm doing at the moment. Here's my Thursday Thirteen list of places my books have been partially penned in (so far):

  1. In a hospital room (passing the hours with my son)
  2. In an airport (forced to write when I refused to pay for wireless access to surf)
  3. In my car (before work when I'm putting off going in)
  4. In a bank drive-thru (on the back of a receipt)
  5. At the park (as I fight off bees while the kids are playing)
  6. At the kitchen table (for some reason I couldn't revise in the same place I originally wrote. ???)
  7. On the front porch (watching the kids ride bikes)
  8. In the movie theater (in the dark, on the back of a ticket stub)
  9. At a conference (boring @#$ speaker. . .)
  10. In a meeting (pretending to jot dates on my PDA)
  11. At the doctor's office (Okay, so what's the logic behind overbooking again?)
  12. By candlelight (when the power went out)
  13. On a long stretch of highway (En route to Idlewild. The scenery was too beautiful to not be inspired.)
Not so many places in the great scheme of things. Guess I need to get out more...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

With special thanks to and for my brother, The Marine

This Memorial Day weekend, I just wanted to take a few minutes to say “thanks” to my brother for his work as a Marine, keeping me and mine as well as you and yours safe in this America. I also wanted to say “thanks” to God for keeping him safe during his tour in Iraq at the start of the war and to ask for a replay as Cal prepares to leave for his second tour there in a couple of months. (May I mention that his first tour earned him a Bronze Star for heroism in combat?)

I am grateful to be part of a family where the kids grew up to do what they love. For Cal (or CJ to us) being a Marine is as ingrained in his being as writing is in mine. That’s a blessing I don’t take for granted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Free Your Mind

I took a walk with my kids yesterday and the entire way my son was picking on my daughter. She finally says to me, “Mom, he’s making me feel bad.”

My immediate response to her was, “He can only make you feel bad, if you let him.”

The statement seemed to shock them both. You could almost see light bulbs swirling in their heads. For me, the knee jerk reaction was meant to instill lessons it will take them years to realize: (1) Do not abuse power – or perceived power – bestowed on you by position, trust or affection. (2) Do not grant power – real or perceived – over any aspect of your life, to anyone without deep, conscientious and rational thought.

But we do this even as adults, don’t we? Find ourselves letting people exert influence over ourselves or specific situations that they don’t deserve to exercise. Maybe it’s because of friendship, love or family ties. It may be habitual. It may be impulsive. It may bring us comfort. It may bring us down. The ones we empower may be current cohorts, past demons, or a fusion of both.

The point today is mostly for me and I share it with anyone who might want to use it for themselves: Spring cleaning ought to be an ongoing personal effort. Today, I will take time to assess the people around me and their place in my life. Many good things have happened for me lately and I have plans for the days and years ahead (God willing.) I’m just going to spend a few minutes making sure that the people or circumstances I’ve allowed to occupy space or take root in my life ought to be along for the journey ahead in their current capacity.

I could not have come this far in my personal or professional life without the support of people who are genuinely in my corner. I am so grateful for them and include them in my daily prayers. Those other folks – the naysayers, haters, wolves in sheepskin – don’t deserve my time or attention.

After all, writing – for those of who consider ourselves craftsmen – takes incredible energy, drive and focus. I cannot afford to allow undue influences to sap me of my strength. Plain and simple.

So, where’s my broom and dustpan? Today I am sweeping out the debris in my life; freeing my mind and re-charging my life force to help me create better days and better pages in my future.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

April blessings bring May challenges

Well, I had a wonderful April. I have so much good writing news that my head is about to burst. (I'll share soon. Really.) As a result, there's also a whole new crop of characters lined up in my ever-busy brain itching to plot their way out.


It's May. There are deadlines (both real and perceived), word counts and new promo avenues to tackle. And, of course, the Worth in me insists on kicking butt on all of the above.

Bear with me as I challenge myself to learn to write (much) shorter blogs (about) twice as often and juggle this with my son being home from college for the summer watching loud movies and rummaging through cabinets (in search crumbs he might have missed) during my precious midnight writing hours.

Here goes!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting Sucked In

Being the sparse television viewer that I am and avid channel hopper, I tend to catch a lot of movies in snippets. So the other night, in a post-revision haze, I was flipping around cable and caught “The Brave One” starring Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard about 20 minutes into the film.

I’d read the cable channel’s information summary about the plot before settling on the station and apparently I joined the action after the inciting incident. (Writers, you know, the point at which the story catapults forward.) And though I missed seeing the actual scene that changed the course of Jodie’s character’s life, I didn’t feel like I missed anything at all.

You know how some flicks are: You come in five or ten minutes late, get to the end and say, “Hmmm, I must have missed something” because the ending leaves you less than satisfied. Or confused. Or irritated that you wasted your time watching at all.

Well, I have to say that Jodie’s acting was so on-spot, her character so engaging, that I could sense the depth of what must have happened to her in the minutes I missed just by watching her actions as the movie unfolded. I don’t even feel like I need to try to catch the first 20 minutes of the movie another time.

So, of course, as an author, what does one have to do to make a character that complete? A heroine (or hero) who is so compelling that you feel their emotion, understand their behavior, empathize with their flaws, anticipate their actions? That you want to run your fingers across the type as if feeling their skin beneath your fingers? How does a make-believe person become that real?

Of course, there are many how-to's on developing characters. I use two books in particular: Writers Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D., and The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders. I also spend a lot of time people watching; looking for the quirks that make for great plot twists and for the humanity that makes us real.

And then there's Jodie, sucking you into the screen.

Duly inspired, I’ve set a new standard for myself: I want my words to rise from their sentences, take shape atop the book, and distract the reader with their all-too-real antics. In deference to the art of my craft, I will write fictional people as if Jodie Foster or Don Cheadle had already breathed life into each line.

Friday, January 30, 2009

In a world 40 years ago my son probably wouldn’t be here

At one point in time, the average life span for people with Sickle Cell Anemia was twelve years of age. Today, my younger son has hit that milestone – and not without a whole lot of reflection and praise from me.

Thank you, Lord!

Mine is a quiet spirituality that has carried me through the difficult reality of raising a child with an uncertain prognosis. When I began doling out medicine droppers filled with prophylactic antibiotics when he was two months old, I did so out of duty (the doctor insisted), obligation (this is my child to care for) and, okay, trepidation (what if I don’t?).

A couple of years ago, I wrote a lengthy and cathartic essay about our journey with Sickle Cell Anemia; the hospitalizations with their umpteen pokes, the threats of being fired for being off with him too much, the anger with a teacher who decided to treat a 104 degree temperature and day-long pain by telling him to get a drink of water instead of calling me as instructed.

If I sounded a little ticked in that last line, it’s because I still am.

The emotion is as much anger with that type of ignorance as it is disappointment with a scientific community that still hasn’t defined a CURE for this disease. It’s one of the oldest (if not the oldest) known genetic conditions. And it took how many years for someone to figure out that one teaspoon of penicillin a day could extend these lives to near “normal” length? Come on now.

Today, what we have are bone marrow and stem cell transplants. But because of what the procedures require, both are reserved for the most severe cases: children who have strokes and other debilitating complications. My sweetie is not quite sick enough, it seems, for that morsel of wholeness.

Stem cell transplants are much less invasive, but not yet widespread – reserved still for those who are most ill. Our hematologist, Dr. Wanda Shurney of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, once told me that she believes that his Sickle Cell Anemia will no longer be an issue for him by the time he grows up; that science will have refined the technique to make the transplants more accessible to all those who need one.

He sure can.

Till that fine day arrives, let’s donate, support the research, know your genetics, and say a little prayer for my son and the thousands of children like him. Please.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!
Mom is so glad you’re mine.


For more info:
The Sickle Cell Center at Children's Hospital of Michigan
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures
Sickle Cell Camp

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I've got the magic

When I was little, I loved to watch Cinderella – the Rogers & Hammerstein TV version featuring Leslie Warren. My favorite part was when she sang the song, “In My Own Little Corner” about how she could be anything her imagination wanted in that personal space. Now all grown up, I too, have such a magical space. I’ve most commonly heard it referred to as a Writer’s Cave.

At one point, my Cave consisted of a Sauder desk (complete with hutch) that I assembled myself. It has traveled from apartment to flat to my current home, where it originally bounced from a wall in the living room to a place I carved out for it in my bedroom between my lingerie chest and the bed. That's the Cave that birthed Where Souls Collide. Eventually, I relocated the desk to our unfinished basement and staked my first claim on an official writing territory.

I had the pleasure of hearing Beverly Jenkins speak at the Macomb Book Fair and Writers Conference last year where she shared the memory of her first offices; a closet, I believe, and the space under a stairwell. Like her, I have shared my Cave with many a spider over the years. And like the once untamed West, my territory and I have settled into each other.

I traded in the hutch desk for a more expansive corner unit that my oldest son helped me assemble. The hutch became a book and binder holder. I added a bookshelf and shelving unit. The patio blinds I hung to hide behind were replaced by drywall two years ago. (Ooooo!) Can You Believe in The Holiday Inn anthology was born there along with countless ideas for the Future File. And just last month I added another shelving unit to relieve, and retire, the 18-year-old hutch. In this new Cave, I've already conceived two new works in progress.

Just as educators tell parents to ensure that their children have a designated place to study, I think it’s important for writers to have their own little corner -- or Cave -- in the world.

Sure, I can write anywhere really. When pressed, my muse speaks in the car, on a plane, at my kids’ sports and dance practices, or at the park while I watch them play. I even wrote by candlelight when we lost power for two days during a recent snowstorm.

I'm sure my writing center will evolve as my craft continues to blossom. While an attic cove getaway overlooking water and trees would be wonderful, I am so cool with having this place that the entire household knows is MINE. Because when I hustle down the basement stairs, navigate the play area obstacle course before me and arrive at my softly-lit, Feng Shui-esque Cave in the corner, then, the magic begins.


Treat yourself to Brandy's rendition of "In My Own Little Corner"

Sunday, January 04, 2009

“Is it fear or courage that compels you, fleshling?”

I thought my favorite line from the movie, Transformers, would make a quick and easy New Year’s blog topic. And it did, for a minute.

One of the quotes listed on my Facebook profile is from a sheet of paper my father gave me when I was about 16. “The most unfortunate thing that happens to a person who fears failure is that he limits himself by becoming afraid to try anything new. Give yourself a chance.”

I can honestly say that I’ve gone beyond the chance aspect of living and changed that into an expectation. My brothers and I might call it the Worth Ethic. We simply have this expectation that if we set our minds to it, the doggone thing will happen. End of story. So fear, I presumed at the start of this blog, has no place in my life.

But it does!

I am deathly afraid of failing to try. I am certain that if I have the slightest inkling of a talent that I don’t put to productive use, the good Lord will look at me as I stand before him and say, “But why didn’t you ever. . .?” I am a staunch believer in the parable of the talents (about multiplying what you’ve been given) to the point that I’m willing to pounce on the slightest glimmer of interest in any new activity by my children.

“Oh, you think you might like to draw?” We try an art class. “Want to be like Denzel Washington, do you?” Acting workshops. “Like to shake it up?” Dance class it is. And for speed, tackling, a good arm, a strong kick, there’s been track, football, hockey, soccer, basketball and baseball. Oh and viola and trumpet lessons -- with the next household instrument to be determined. I even bought a camera for my son who (temporarily) showed a knack for great composition in impromptu photos.

Some might consider it overkill, I call it exposure. How else would Barack Obama have known he could be president if he’d never tried to be an elected official? I just want my kids to venture into new experiences without fear of failure. In our house, it’s not not succeeding that I focus on. It’s not exploring your heart’s desire, not attempting to discern your strengths and weaknesses, not learning what’s out there in the world waiting for you to find it.

As a writer, I’ve done my share of dabbling. Those things that didn’t work out get added to my Lived & Learned file. And I relish those experiences. Taking them along on this writer’s journey is perhaps one way of multiplying my gift; expanding my own mind while sharing with others.

The fear I carry is not a worrisome one that flinches at failure or cringes at condescending viewpoints. It’s more of a "Forget Everything Else And Rise!" motivator that keeps pushing me to do me best.

"Fear or courage"? For this fleshling, it’s both.

Here’s wishing you a FEEAR-ful 2009!