Monday, June 29, 2009

What will your neighborhood look like in 100 years?

It sounds like a new meme, but it's the question I'm asking myself as I plot my new post apocalyptic YA book. It's grim fun to decide what's fallen apart and what's survived. I also find myself looking at my own world with new eyes. I have a lot of stuff, and if I lost most of it, I'd still be okay. Lamps, sofas, garden tools, that concrete gargoyle that lives under the blueberry bushes - all if it could vanish (okay, not Phred the Gargoyle, but everything else) and I'd be fine.

Here's another question that I've asked myself for this book: If I had to flee tomorrow with just a backpack, what would be in it? And given that the backpack now represents everything I have in the world, what would I do to keep it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My iPhone is coming! Pardon my geek moment.

I have a blended household. In my case, that doesn't mean kids who started off in separate households, it means Mac and PC. My husband, who is against all things PC, started us on our Apple journey back in 2001.

My little Mac iBook is a powerhouse machine, but I still have a PC laptop and a PC tower. I like them too, although I've learned to save frequently to conserve my work. I don't want to repeat the heart-stopping panic of having my PC seize up in the middle of a complicated Photoshop file, or an almost finished chapter blink out of existance. The Apple is much more stable.

On Tuesday the 30th I'm going to add to my Apple tech stash when I toddle over to the AT&T store to pick up my iPhone. Then I'll go app shopping. Ahhh....techie bliss.

Just don't tell my PC. It's still trying to save my last session of Sims3.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting ready for the Con!

Tomorrow begins Timegate, where Michelle Roper and I will be guests (as Gillian Summers). I received boxes of our books to have on hand when we man our table, and now that we have The Secret of the Dread Forest, the last book in the first trilogy, we can offer complete trilogies for sale. We thought we'd offer them at $25 for the set, a $5 savings over buying individual books.

Timegate hosts a fundraiser, each year benefiting a different charity. It's a cabaret. As in performance. Michelle and I are so not performers! Sing? Um, no, although the thought of Michelle and I doing a duet of "Sweet Child Of Mine" is amusing.

Instead of frightening the natives, we decided to do a skit. Michelle sent me a slew of funny short pieces she'd written over the years, and after I mopped up all the coffee that I sneezed out when I made the mistake of reading them during breakfast and had an attack of caffeinated giggles, I chose one to turn into a play form.

So Saturday evening Michelle and I will perform, with the help of Jana Oliver and perhaps others, "The Haunted Chicken Truck of Lake Lanier" (cue spooky banjo music). We'll save "Earlene's Evil Pickles," which came in second, for another time.

If you're in Atlanta this weekend, catch our act - God willing there will never be a repeat!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Want to get published? Here's a not so secret way to come closer...

GRW's Moonlight and Magnolias

**********PERMISSIO N TO FORWARD***** ********* ********* **

Come have some Dark, Bad, Fun with the Georgia Romance Writers at one of the largest regional annual writing annual conferences!

GRW's Moonlight and Magnolias, October 2nd – 4th 2009 at the Atlanta Hilton Northeast.

Featuring keynote speaker and #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon along with our featured GRW author and New York Times Bestselling author Dianna Love.

Registration is now open.
http://www.georgiar omancewriters. org/mmconf/ 2009/MM09Registr ation.php
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Free entrance to the Pitch Workshop for the first one hundred registrants. Hurry, because this one is filling up fast! Further your career by getting help pitching to this year's all-star line-up of editors and agents including:

Emmanuelle Alspaugh- Judith Ehrlich Literary Agency
Chelsea Gilmore - Avalon Books
Raelene Gorlinsky - Ellora's Cave
Melissa Jeglinski - Knight Agency
Monique Patterson - St. Martin's Press
Barbara Poelle - Irene Goodman Agency
Becca Stumpf - Prospect Agency
Denisa Zaza – Harlequin.

Enjoy workshops with veteran presenters Stephanie Bond, Rita Herron, Wendy Wax,Raven Hart, Berta Platas, Dorie Graham, Ann Howard White, Jennifer St.Giles, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Molly O'Keefe, Tami Cowden - And Many Others!

***New in 2009: Thursday night movie night, intensive craft workshop with Mary Buckham and Dianna Love on Sunday morning, Friday meals, genre themed mixers, and much more! Special Guest Barbara Vey from Publisher's Weekly! Check the conference schedule for updates

We also offer special programs for published authors.

Low conference prices: GRW Member - $199, RWA Member - $209, Non-RWA -$219

Please visit for more information.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cigars? Dinner?

In a strange coincidence, tobacco tax has shot up just as Obama relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba. Not sure if the U.S. will impose purchasing limits, but according to the Cuban government's regulations, each traveler may leave Cuba with 25 cigars. That's a lot of cigars. I don't think I'm going take advantage of that offer, though.

Despite the The New York Times's report that Cuba is ready for a deluge of American visitors, expecting 1.5 million, um, guys, not that many of us want to go back, or have immediate family to visit.

I'd love to go but have no immediate family there. My mother, who remembers the vibrant place that Cuba was in the 1950's, doesn't want to see the sad derelict it is today. Me, I remember the playground, the kindergarten, the front yard and the swings on our porch. At four, my world was limited.

How many people like me have the many thousands of dollars that it costs to visit Cuba, especially when our own economy is in turmoil?

The exciting change, for me, is that now we can once again send money to our Cuban family members. As long as the government doesn't get too big a chunk of it, I think my relatives on the island are going to have a much rosier life in the near future. It depends on how the rules are laid out. I may go back, but it will be with a Habitat for Humanity crew, or a church mission. One thing's for certain: those 25 cigars are going to stay on the store shelf. I was never a smoker, and you can't eat cigars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's Spring! Romance is in the air--at WalMart?

It was gratifying to read the big article on romance in today's New York Times. For one, it verifies what I've noticed in several economic downturns, that movie box office receipts and escapist literature sales stay strong. According to the Times article, it even increases: romance sales were up 7% last year according to BookScan, and that's probably low because BookScan does not track WalMart sales.

This is great news for romance authors, but tinged with caution: due to mergers and downsizing, the market has shrunk, and with it author advances. I think every career romance author would do well to diversify, writing for different houses, expanding to young adult and nonfiction.

I wish I could remember where I read recently in a blog that now is not the time to write the book of your heart. The blog's author recommended that aspiring authors write something commercially viable. She obviously does not know the ladies of Georgia Romance Writers, a pragmatic group of writers who write for the thrill, but with an eye out for the market.

We know that the bonbon-munching, martini-swilling author is a myth (well, except for the martini part, at my house) and work hard at our craft. Now's the time to get those proposals in the mail!

Can't open the link for the NYT article? Email me at and I'll send you the pdf.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Writing Blizzard and the Meandering Post

I've been writing like wild the last few days. I have one proposal off to my agent, synopsis and four chapters, and another one almost ready to go. I've also mapped out key scenes of the next Gillian Summers book and shared it with Michelle, who is on a writing blitz of her own. Knowing her, the next email she sends me will have the first 100 pages of the book. Speedy is her middle name.

The weather folk say we're in for some snow tonight, which I'll believe when I see it. In the meantime, I'll be shrink-wrapping my backyard to protect all my new green babies. I'm really sad about my dogwood, which is in full bloom and totally gorgeous. It's a tall tree, but before my house was plunked down in a shaved-out piece of forest, it was crowded by much taller trees. At some point a heavy, falling branch must have taken out most of its crown, so the tree grows straight up, then has one graceful branch, like a ballerina's gesture. When it's in bloom it looks like a Japanese flower arrangement. I'll try to snap a picture later and post it here, before the cold ruins it.

I had another idea for a book after church yesterday, and reading the earthquake coverage from Abruzzo today cemented the idea. I've been making notes like crazy. I would have wanted to live in the middle of Italy, until I found out about the earthquakes. Georgia is the best. Except for the occasional tornado that wanders through, we're immune from most bad weather events.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Climbing Over Stone Walls

I've written about how excited I was about my new book. I've been writing ten pages a day, which is a lot for week days, after eight hours at work plus two more hours of commuting.  Today I hit a stone wall. Sometimes life seems to contrive to keep you from your creative work, and this one was a doozy. I'm going to go to bed without having written a word. Maybe tomorrow will be different.

I have to be extra dilligent, because I'm afraid it will be like starting a new diet or a new exercise program. Everything goes fine until you slack off one day. What's one doughnut? Or piece of office birthday cake? Why not skip the treadmill today?  And before you know it, your newfound habit is no longer a habit, but an inconvenience and a source of guilt.

I'm climbing this stone wall. No way I'll stay stuck on this side of it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The thrill of a new project

I've been plotting a new book all weekend and it's so much fun to have the time to do it wholeheartedly, instead of sneaking in ideas while I'm writing on another project. I've been under deadline for months with three different books, not to mention galleys and copyediting. Now my time is my own, for a little while anyway. 

All this work is done with an eye towards April 18th, when Deb Dixon comes to Atlanta to present a writing workshop. I've taken her Goal, Motivation and Conflict workshop three times and always get something new out of it. 

I learned long ago not to get married to an idea when writing. Flexibility keeps you from going insane in this business. Critique partners, my agent, and my editors have all pointed out ways to better my books, and while grateful to them all, I've also learned to distinguish between "change" and "improve" and to implement only those suggestions that will indeed improve my work. 

So I know that what I write today may be changed tomorrow. I don't like to waste time, my most valuable resource, so I've been working on character sketches, writing the story out from the point of view of the heroine, the hero, the villain, the secondary characters. This will make  the story more well-rounded, and has pointed out flaws, gaps, and places where I can deepen the conflict. The writing process is crazy-making sometimes, but I love every step. Plotting just happens to be my favorite one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Blog Award! Free martinis all around!

My friends over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales have awarded the Premio Dardas to this blog. As is traditional, I must explain that this is an award that acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day. 

The rules to follow are:

1) Accept the award, then post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I'm not tagging the full 15 required for this meme. It would take a ton of research, and the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales snatched up my faves, Barbara Vey and Stephanie Bond, so here are mine:

Blake Snyder, who blogs about screenwriting and is the author of Save the Cat, THE best book on plotting novels, cleverly disguised as a book about screenwriting., John August, another screenwriter, and his great advice and sometimes random real life advice, such as useful instructions for washing tennis shoes in the washing machine. Really. He's the Martha Stewart of screenwriters.

Mary Castillo, a Latina who writes funny contemporary chick-litty books and blogs about the writing life, living in California, and being the mom of a very energetic toddler son.

Neil Hollingsworth's blog, Painting in Oil. Neil is an Atlanta artist who blogs about his own and other's paintings and makes me feel a little connected to my previous life as a visual artist. I keep saying I'll paint again, but it's an all-consuming passion. I'm afraid it'll take over and then I won't write again. At least not while I have a day job. There's only so much room in life for all-consuming passions.

Okay, I'm done for now.  There are many other blogs I follow, such as The Seekers (writers), Sugar Mountain Farms (advice on running a small farm), and the Chicken Whisperer (keeping pet chickens for eggs, and skirting anti-livestock laws in the Atlanta area), but I'll save them for another day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Divine E-books for E-books Week

I've been enjoying catching up on Sookie Stackhouse's adventures on my Sony eReader now that the Redwood book is turned in. I purchased the Charlaine Harris bundle from the Sony bookstore and got the whole library at once. Thank goodness, too, because although she's one of my BIH (Buy In Hardback) reads, I lend her books out so often that I can't recall which ones are where. Some of them eventually come home, but I miss them.

Another point in the Sony Reader's favor: you can't lend e-books. Mwa ha ha. I'll still buy the darn hardback, just to keep her on the NYT bestseller list so that she'll stay so spectacularly published.

Imagine my surprise last night when I got an email from the delightful Debbie Kaufman, she of the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (not sure if she's a cakelet or a saucy tamale--I think those ladies take turns being one or the other), informing me that this is Read an E-Book Week and sending a delicious link to a whole page of wonderful downloads. All legal, all great press for the publishers and authors who support this ever more popular way to read. I started downloading left and right, and bookmarking great bookstores that I'll be sure to revisit once the week is over. Hurry over and grab your ebooks now, because at midnight on the 14th, the links will vanish.

Visit the download link for yourself. I think the new iPhone/Kindle app was just what was needed to push the industry over the slope and down the hill, in a yay-we're-sledding-fast-way, not a geez-bail-out-now-before-we-wipe-out-like-the-economy way. Interested in more about epublishing? Check out literary agent Richard Curtis' blog at He comments on all the news.

Singing and Driving

Anyone who's had the dangerous pleasure of driving in a car next to mine will be treated to a view of my tonsils as I try to sing along with my favorite music. Sometimes it's Van Halen, sometimes Dianna Krall or Amy Winehouse, or a Donizetti aria sung by Anna Netrebko, but whatever it is, I give it my all. Music enthralls me. The artist creates the recording, but I get to play along. You can't do that with a painting, and acting along with the TV is too weird (but hey, that's CosPlay, isn't it?). Books have a bit of that pleasure baked into them. You read the text, and the story unfurls in your head, like magic.

I was hesitant to try audio books for fear that the magical element would be lost. If someone read the story, it would be the reader's voice I would hear, their intonations and characterizations. A few years ago, when my commute became hellish, I checked out an audio book from the library. I remember that it was a Nora Lofts novel, although I'm not sure which one. Just as a new bicycle rider spends a while concentrating on balance and maneuvering before thrilling to the wind in her hair, I spent a little time hearing the narrator and not the story. Three tracks into the first disk, I was hooked. Now audio books take the chore out of cleaning floors, dusting furniture and scrubbing bathrooms.

It took much less time to appreciate ebooks. Before I asked (begged, pleaded) Santa for my Sony reader, I tried them out on my computer. I loved the experience. Maybe my audio books gave me practice with accepting stories in different media, different formats. My only annoyance is that not enough titles are available. I still buy paper books, but I'm now duplicating all the titles on my "keeper shelf" with electronic versions.

I've been thinking a lot about new media as I plot a post apocalyptic young adult novel (it's actually more of a Peak Oil novel). What happens to ebooks without electricity to charge the reader? Paper books are always ready to be enjoyed, barring darkness, illiteracy, or misplaced reading glasses. I'm giving this a lot of thought, and for that, I have to remove my headphones. Can't think if you're listening to someone else's story.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The sap is rising...

And no, I don't mean the Fed Ex guy that I accidentally knocked out when I swung my laptop case around in the elevator. Kidding.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 70's this weekend, my book is turned in, and I'm going to put on my wellies and hit the garden. Roses to prune! Garden beds to prepare! I'm an indifferent gardener all other seasons, but I enjoy digging and planting this time of year. I'm not sure whether I'll listen to the new audiobook I downloaded from the Gwinnett Public Library, Nora Roberts' HONEST ILLUSIONS, or just let birdsong and ideas for my next book waft around in my head. I guess it depends on whether any of my neighbors are playing "git 'er done" with chainsaws, blowers, and mowers.

My little mp3 player looks like an oversized cough drop, red with a white circle on it, and it holds 2g of audio - a pittance if you're my daughter, but plenty for me, and I use my iPod Shuffle for music, anyway. This little red baby is just for audiobooks. I was forced to buy it when I discovered the wonderful world of downloadable audiobooks from the library, none of which could be put on an iPod (this has since changed). It died the other day, and I almost chucked it, but the $40 I paid for it (lus the fact that it's so cute and tiny) made me grit my teeth and look online.

I googled "dead mp3 player"and got back many angry hits. I googled "repair Zen Stone Plus" and bingo! I downloaded a little patch of software, ran my mp3 through it, and it works good as new. I love the internet. This weekend, I'll share that love with my garden.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Make a Referral - jump start the economy

I'm pledging to make a referral to a business I want to help as part of a national campaign to make 1000 referrals March 9-13. What a great small business stimulus plan.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting a new book....

Well, in a few days. It's down to the wire with the latest Keelie Heartwood YA. This will be the first of the next trilogy, set in the Redwood forests of the northern California coast. Michelle and I have been working like fiends, writing on our own, then emailing our chapters to each and working online in chat format at night. We got ourselves totally confused the other day and had to step back and revisit a couple of scenes. Almost done, though, and after a big workathon this weekend, it should be in shape to email to our editor Brian at Flux on Monday!

After that we can start our new book. This is totally different. No elves! Lots of humor, and some field trips in store for us as we visit a few wild animal parks and get friendly with leopards, lions, and tigers. As friendly as they'll let us get, of course, and double-checking that our nametags don't read "Lunch."

At the same time I'll be rereading my next women's fiction manuscript, then it's off to my agent, too. I love being productive. Some stages of the life cycle of a book seem more like a stationary bike than a road trip, but you get there eventually. I just happen to be at my very favorite part, the crossroads between "the end" of one project, and "my story begins when...".

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pushing your creative buttons

I'm a big fan of crafts. I'm not necessarily creative that way, though. I can come up with a plot in a second. Need help with a plot of a book? Give me a call. Miniatures, scrapbooking, knitting, sewing, and all kinds of gluey, twinkly paper crafts that I adore? Not so much.

Give me some guidance, though, and I'm absorbed for hours. I love projects, they make my creativity soar. After working on an art project, I can write for hours!

And I love, love, love Kathy Cano-Murillo's site, The Crafty Chica. So much fun stuff to do! I have her Art de la Soul book, which I won't even allow out of my house because I know one of my fellow crafty sisters will steal it (love you guys but I know you will), and now she has an equally fab followup - Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing. Chock full of great ideas! BURSTING with cute, colorful projects. My 14-year-old daughter snatched it out of my hands and ran off with it, so you know it's not some kind of granny thing. My mom's button box has disappeared, so I think she's sewing buttons to the back of her denim jacket. My glitter is missing as well - suspicious.

Since it shows you how to sew, step by step, as well as gives detailed lists of the what you need to make each project, you can wild without worry! I may start at the beginning and make every single project.

I'm buying copies for all of my crafty friends. And for that girlie who took this one - next week is her birthday. I think I'll stuff a box full of ribbons and buttons and charms. How can you say no to creativity? I think that the Crafty Chica, Goddess of Glitter, would approve.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Literary Hamster Wheel

So co-author Michelle and I are back to cooking up our latest YA, due *gulp* March 1st, and we had to stop to do edits on The Dread Forest's Secret, our June release. That took a week, then we were back to work on the new book and now we just got the copyedits on Dread. The sound you hear are my mental brakes screeching.

The reality of being a published author is that you're always revisiting the past, whether doing edits on a book you finished months before or marketing for an older title. Our first two YA books, The Tree Shepherd's Daughter and Into the Wildewood, are now available as ebooks in several formats, because busy Michelle and busy Berta love alternate ways to get our stories. We're both big fans of audio books, and since Christmas, when I got my Sony reader, I've been gobbling up the digital reads. In between writing my books, of course.

You'd think that March 1st when we turn in the book we would get a little vacation, but I have two more books to write, and Michelle is feverishly working on a couple of others, not counting the ones we do together.

Why work so hard? We've asked ourselves that, and come up with two reasons. One is the feeling that time is running out. We have these great ideas that we want very much to get on paper. The other is that it's so much fun to see our books on bookshelves and in catalogs.

I wouldn't trade that fabulous feeling for the world. If only the literary hamster wheel could do something about my thighs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

January book winner!

Congrats to Amber, who won the copy of LUCKY CHICA in my January contest. I'll contact you by email, Amber. Stay tuned for my February contest!

Twitter, yet another reason not to write

I keep a digital timer by the computer to help me stay focused while I write, something I learned from Stephanie Bond. I was checking out my Facebook page night before last and realized that instead of the three minutes to read mail, I'd spent thirty minutes friending folks, catching up on their 25 answers (a meme that's still circulating), and otherwise not writing my book. I wondered how much time I actually spent checking up on my friends, or to be honest, checking up on who was thinking about me. I used my handy timer, and every time I checked Facebook, Myspace, my email or Twitter, my latest favorite time waster, I noted the total time.

Don't be shocked: TWO HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES. Holy cow. In two hours I can easily write five pages. More than five, but let's keep at that for experiment's sake.

So if I didn't write five pages that night, nor any other night that week, in a month I would not have written 150 pages. Two months later, that equals a book, folks.

I know that not every night is productive, and that I usually write my five pages as well as check my social networks, but it was disturbing. I'm thinking of a solution. Maybe I'll tweet about it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The good, the bad and the sneezy.

I had my first booksigning for Lucky Chica at the fabulous Eagle Eye Bookstore in Decatur. Thanks to everyone who came out!  I gave away scratch-off lottery tickets to everyone who purchased a book!  One of my readers might get rich. I promise I won't be too jealous!

Next chance to get wealthy before reading my fun book - next Saturday, the 24th, at the Norcross Barnes and Noble at The Forum shopping center.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Guest blogging on Friday -- come visit!

I've been interviewed by the chic and lit-savvy chicas at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. Click on over Friday morning and post a comment to win an autographed copy of Lucky Chica!  I'll be checking in all day tomorrow to answer questions and chat. What a great way to start the weekend!

They asked my favorite martini recipe and I told all. If y'all will excuse me, I feel a martini coming on...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lucky Chica is in stores now!

Hooray for release day! I'm going to cruise on over to the bookstore later to see if I can spot Lucky Chica on the shelves. This is one of the sweet moments in an author's working life. Even sweeter is to catch someone actually reading your book. Someone other than your mother or best friend, that is.

When my second book was published (All of Me, way back in 2000) I was passing through the Barnes and Noble at Union Station in Washington, DC and saw a woman leafing through a copy of it. I had to force myself to move on and not frighten her, because my first impulse was to hug her and declare, "I wrote that, yes I did!" If you're ever in a bookstore browsing, and find that someone is staring at you intently, don't assume it's the author. Chances are it really is a creepy person. Act accordingly. Of course, there's always the possibility... Maybe that's why publishers print author photos on the backs of books. Or not.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The winner of yesterday's blog tour post is...

Mrs. V!  Cruise on over to Julia Amante's blog and give her your info so that you can claim your prize!

Congratulations, Mrs. V. You are such a great supporter of Chica Lit!

Big hugs,


Chica Lit Blog Tour - My turn!

One of the things that intrigued me about using a lottery win as the core of Lucky Chica was not the fabulous shopping opportunities it gave my heroine, Rosie Caballero, although I had a lot of fun letting her go wild. I found that I got the same answers from folks in all walks of life, in all economic conditions, when asked why they play: it's the hope that each ticket provides, whether it lasts the time that it takes to scratch off or hours, until the winning numbers are called out, that makes the players return to the game over and over. Of course, it's great if you do win, and a win is certainly incentive to play again, even if all you get is a free ticket. For Rosie, as for many people in an economic squeeze, one dollar provides the hope that her troubles will soon be over. Curiously, that's not holding true in our current tough times. Lotteries across the country are reporting a decrease in sales. Are we pulling our belts tighter? Frankly, I think it's a fluke and it'll rebound.

I wish I could send each of you a ticket to celebrate the New Year. I was going to post the first chapter of Lucky Chica, then realized that you can already read it at the St. Martins site, so here's a piece that I wrote to help me explore Rosie's life, but that I cut out of the start of the book. I gave it a New Year's twist. For some reason, my indents didn't show up, and no amount of fiddling has helped, so it looks strange. If you find it impossible to read, please send me your email, I'll send you a Word or PDF version.

New Year’s Hope – a Rosie Caballero story

Only one day into the new year, and the Christmas turrĂ³n was officially gone. Rosie had offered the last chunks of the almond nougat candy to her cousin an hour ago, and he’d wolfed it down, still talking about the party he’d attended the night before, while she’d been with their grandmother at a party full of gray-haired oldsters.
“So this chica shows up in this feather dress, I mean with real feathers and everything, and she’s not wearing a coat so she cuddles up next to me –“
“Cheeto, if this is a story about how you conquered yet another woman I don’t want to hear it.” She was still peeved that he’d munched down her carefully hoarded Christmas treat.
Cheeto pretended to look offended, and swung his head so that his dark, straight hair flipped out of his eyes. He was handsome enough to get any girl he wanted, but he kept trying to prove it. Abuela wished desperately that he would settle down, but Rosie liked her playful cousin, even if he was sometimes exasperating.
Sharp cracks sounded in the apartment parking lot and they both leaped off the coach, then laughed as the sounds continued. “Fireworks,” Rosie said.
“Yeah?” Cheeto didn’t look convinced. “Why don’t you move in with us. Abuela has a spare room, and she says over and over that she’s worried about you living here.”
“There’s nothing wrong with this apartment. It was good enough for my parents.” They’d died two years before, and Rosie was not about to give up her last tangible memories.
Cheeto gestured at the discolored walls, ratty furniture and generally sad appearance of the cramped room. A row of paper lanterns from the Top One Asian Supermarket that Rosie had thumb-tacked to the wall didn’t help. She thought it would cheer the place up, but their crisp, bright colors made everything else look even more grim.
She hit him with a throw pillow, startling the old poodle asleep between them into frantic barking. Rosie touched the dog’s chest, then pulled her onto her lap. Half blind and half deaf, old Tootie had been her mom’s beloved pet, and Rosie wouldn’t hear of having her put down, a suggestion that her neighbors made whenever they saw Tootie stumble down the concrete steps when Rosie took her for a walk.
“That old perrita is done for. You should relieve her suffering and have the doctor give her a shot.” Or worse, “take her to the pound. It won’t cost anything and then you’ll be rid of her. They’ll just put her to sleep.” It made Rosie cry just to think about it.
“Gotta run.” Cheeto patted Tootie’s snarled topknot and got up. “I’m meeting some of the guys from work at Los Primos.”
Rosie put Tootie on the floor and got up. “Shooting pool, right? Don’t go beer crazy on a work night. I can’t believe you went to that party and you’re not tired.”
“I can take care of myself.” He kissed her cheek, then turned to go.
“Wait.” She ran to her bedroom and pulled open her parents’ dresser, now filled with her clothes. She pulled out a rubber-banded roll of bills from under her panties and tugged a ten-dollar bill free. Cheeto was standing by the door, rubbing Tootie’s stomach with the toe of his work boot.
She tucked the money into his jacket pocket. “So that you can buy a pitcher. I know it makes you the man.”
He laughed. “Rosie, you know me so well. Thanks, prima. Oh, and Abuela wants to know if you’re bringing anyone to lunch on Sunday.”
“Yeah, she asked me last night, too.” Rosie sighed. “One of these days she’ll start fixing me up with one of the old dudes she plays cards with.”
He was still laughing when she closed the door behind him, clicking shut the two thumb locks and running the chain into its slot. She felt safe, even though all the locks in the world wouldn’t protect her if someone wanted to crash through her door.
She went to her room and chose her work outfit for the next day – a gray wool skirt, a sleeveless white sweater, and a red wool blazer that she’d found at Goodwill last week. Post Christmas shopping had not always been good at the thrift stores, so she felt lucky to have located such a nice piece in her size. Red, too. She’d read that it was a power color.
She wouldn’t be a receptionist all her life. She hoped soon to be put in the back office at Cartwright Supply, the office supply company where she worked. She’d file, and type up invoices and call customers, and she’d make twelve dollars an hour, which was two dollars more than she made now.
No more thinking about money, she reminded herself as she put on her nightgown. She didn’t want nightmares.
The following morning Rosie answered phones for an hour before anyone noticed her new blazer.
Trisha from accounting stopped by to pick up her messages. “Cute jacket, Rosie. I used to have one just like it.” She pranced out of the reception room before Rosie could thank her, but then she had an awful thought.
She whipped off the jacket and examined the tag. Not that grown women wrote their names on their clothes, but it would be awful if her clothes had been discarded by someone she worked with. It had not occurred to her before, and now her Goodwill bargain didn’t seem as pretty.
She pulled out a paper and started a list of what she’d get with her extra money.
-New clothes – at least three different outfits
-Shoes to match each outfit, and not from Wal Mart or Payless
-A new coat, thick wool. Not like her quilted nylon one. It was warm, but so puffy and out of style.
She hurriedly stashed the list under a pile of files as one of the salesmen walked by. He pointed at her and smiled as he headed out the door. The salesmen were always nice to her. He had glossy white earbuds in his ears, and a cord that led into his pants pocket. She added “iPod” to her list, although she didn’t have a clue why she would need one. Maybe she just needed the earbuds, for the look.
At lunch time she discovered that she’d left the paper bag containing her sandwich on the kitchen counter. She checked her wallet. Two dollars and fifty-eight cents. Enough for a taco, but not enough for a drink. She sighed. Water was good for you. At least she wouldn’t starve.
She left her desk to find out who’d be relieving her for lunch. The first two offices she passed were empty, then she heard voices coming from the break room. Of course. The receptionist never got to goof off.
“Did you see her this morning, in that three year old jacket? I swear it’s the one I gave Goodwill last Christmas.” Trisha’s voice was rich with laughter.
“Red, too. You know they always pick those tropical colors,” another woman said. It sounded like Jen, who worked the catalog sales desk.
Rosie knew that “they” meant Spanish speakers like her. She knew that a lot of people weren’t like her co-workers, but somehow, she’d landed in a nest of haters. If jobs were easier to come by, she’d be out of here. She pasted a smile on her face and stuck her head in the doorway.
“Hi guys. Any chance one of you can spell me so that I can grab lunch?”
Three shocked faces quickly smoothed into faux-friendly expressions. The third woman was Lana, her boss.
“Rosario, I didn’t hear you coming down the hall.”
Rosie looked down at the carpet. “Should I start wearing cowboy boots?”
The three laughed loudly, overcompensating for the words that they probably suspected she’d overheard.
“I’ll be out in just a minute,” Trisha said.
“Great, thanks!” Rosie turned and started back down the hall to her desk. The silence behind her proved that the three thought she’d linger to see if they said anything else. As if she’d stoop so low.
When Trisha appeared fifteen minutes later, Rosie’s stomach had started to growl. She hurried out, headed towards Buford Highway and its dozens of food choices from countries all over the world.
She wolfed down a pulled pork taco at El Taco Veloz and then headed towards the convenience store. Brad Merritt was on the cover of People and she wanted to read the article inside. She wished she could buy the magazine so that she could have his picture, blue eyes looking straight into hers. She’d tape it to the wall by her door, so that he would be the last thing she saw when she left for the day. Or maybe in her bedroom, so that she could kiss him goodnight.
Jorge was talking to the beer deliveryman when she entered the Jiffy Mart. He glanced up when the door’s bell jingled, and his face brightened.
“Rosie, long time.”
“Yeah, not since Tuesday when I came in.”
He flushed. He was such a nice guy, and nice-looking, too, but he couldn’t compare to Brad, and it was his face she was yearning to see.
She headed straight to the magazine rack and grabbed People, her heart thumping sideways when she saw his face again.
He was perfect. She read the story quickly, disappointed that it revealed little that she didn’t already know. He was working on a grueling shoot, a cowboy movie plagued by bad weather. He was looking forward to returning to Los Angeles, and he was noncommittal about his rumored relationship with his costar.
She put the magazine back on the rack.
“Keeping up with your boyfriend?” Jorge smiled at her from behind the counter. Cheeto had no sense of discretion. No pelos on that lengua, for sure, and he’d told Jorge that about her fan girl crush.
“He’s really good-looking, that’s all.” She hated that she sounded defensive.
He shrugged. “That’s okay. Mami is in love with some Venezuelan dude on her telenovela. My pops thinks it’s an insult. But this Brad, you know he’s a player, right?”
“Like I’m ever going to meet him. Believe me Jorge, it won’t ever come up.”
He laughed. “Want a lotto ticket?”
She searched her pockets. Eighty-five cents. “I don’t have enough.”
He reached into his own pocket. “How much do you need? Although I shouldn’t feed your gambling addiction.” He grinned to show he wasn’t serious. Everyone knew that Rosie played the lottery faithfully, but she was no gambler.
“Fifteen cents.”
He put down a dime and nickel. “I know you’re good for it,” he teased.
Rosie added her change and he swept it off the counter and rang up the purchase. “Mega Bucks, cash option?”
“Nope. I already bought my Mega Bucks ticket for this week. Give me a scratch-off.”
“Wouldn’t it be good to add another number to your Mega Bucks?” He seemed surprised at her choice.
“If God wants me to win, one number will do it,” she said firmly.
He pulled a scratch-off ticket from one of the rolls under the glass counter, and handed it to her.
She took a penny from the Take A Penny tray and scratched off the waxy security film. “I won a ticket.”
“See? God wants you to pick another Mega Bucks number.”
Give me another scratch off, wise ass.”
He pushed another one across the counter. She scraped the film off. Nothing.
Jorge shook his head. “You should have gotten a Mega Bucks.”
Rosie glanced at her watch. “Holy cow, I’m going to be late getting back to the office. Want to have lunch at my Abuela’s this Sunday? She said to bring someone.” She didn’t use the word “date.” She and Jorge had dated a couple of times, and though they could be friends, romance was not for them.
Jorge’s smile broadened. “Cheeto told me that you’d probably be asking. I’ll put on a good show for your abuelita. Want me to pick you up?”
“Please! She’ll be so thrilled when I show up with a breathing man, not a magazine picture. And you’re employed and own a car. She’ll be absolutely giddy.”
“Giddy enough to feed me well. I’m looking forward to it.”
Later, she’d have to let Abuelita down gently. No, she wasn’t going out with him again. No, there was nothing between them. At least Jorge knew that it wasn’t for real.
She put the losing lottery ticket in her pocket. “See you on Sunday.” She walked out in the cold Atlanta afternoon and started to pick her way back down the rutted path that served as a sidewalk on Buford Highway.
Rosie knew that her grandmother wanted her to find a nice man to marry, that she worried that she would die before Rosie had settled down, as if she needed a man to make her life complete. Of course, she worried about Cheeto in the same way, and good luck to the crazy woman who would have her wild cousin.
Jorge would give her grandmother a little hope; the same hope Rosie had every time she bought a lottery ticket. She knew the chances of winning the lottery and dating Brad Merritt were nil, but a girl had to hope. And today, as she hurried towards her dead end job, nothing in her pocket but a receipt for her cheap taco, hope was all she had to live on. This year would be better. It had to be.


Three months later, Rosie’s life changes drastically when she wins the biggest lottery in US history. To win a $10 Amazon gift certificate, what is the name of Rosie's dog? I'll post Julia Amante's winner this afternoon - so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Revenge of the Clutter Bunny

Is there a twelve step program for clutter collectors? If so, I need their contact info, stat! My house is clean(ish), because with two large dogs and a cat, if you don't sweep, vacuum and dust constantly, you can soon start a pet toupee business from all the hair that drifts into the corners of every room. I love a clean bathroom, too, and to sleep on fresh sheets, so I clean those a little more often than most. But clutter seems to be my friend. Teetering stacks of books, both unread and favorites, and just things. I've quit doing new year resolutions, because they always seemed to be the same, with weight loss at the top, followed by writing more and exercising more. I know I have to do those things, so I don't need a resolution to remind me to do them, but I am now resolving to get rid of STUFF. Why do I need entire wardrobes in three different sizes? Why am I keeping my running shoes from college? My daughter's baby dolls (she's fourteen and doesn't want them)?

I'll post my toss-out, eBay, Goodwill triumphs as they happen. My goal is to have a tidy house. My dream is to have one sofa, one bed, one plant, one bookcase. Ha! Like that'll ever happen. Well, it might, in a nursing careful what you wish for, right? And I think I'll pump up the tires on that dusty bike and take it for a spin. Who knows, I might come up with the solution to that plot problem while I'm pedaling around.

Don't forge to read Julia Amante's Chica Lit Blog Tour post today! Read it at