Monday, November 19, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Haz Spoken...

Wanna know what I sound like?

No?

Ummm....

Wanna... ummm... Well, anyways, I did my first audio book interview ever! With Bill at The Bookcast! And it's now up for your listening pleasure! And wow, so many freakin' exclamation points because I am that excited!!!

We talked about No One Knows You're Here and my upcoming release A Girl is Like a Shadow and all things writing-related and fa-la-la.

Please visit The Bookcast and then share with the world. Please?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chapter 6 - Red Sky in the Morning

Mom and I reunited in the empty waiting room. How small she looked. Seemed as though the chemicals that streamed through her bloodstream had shrunk her to be the size of a sixteen year-old, only weaker, frailer. Her fawn-colored skin had paled, and blended with the beige scarf on her head.

She scrutinized me with eyes set deep in their sockets. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Ready?”

“You’ve been crying.” She smoothed my hair. “I’m sick but I’m not blind.”

“I’m fine.” I faked a smile. “Let’s get you home.”

She smirked. “So I can throw up in private, right?”

We laughed even though her sickness was far from funny. It took the length of our commute from Westwood to Long Beach—thirty-two miles—for her body to rebel against Taxol. As soon as we’d get home, Mom would hop out of the car, and nearly kick down the front door.

She’d race to the upstairs bathroom and sink to the tile floor. She’d grasp the sides of the toilet and drop her head over the bowl. Her body would convulse, then, as it tried to rid itself of the drugs that would make it better.

#

Downstairs, in the hospital’s lobby, patients, doctors, and staff rushed from exam room to pharmacy to lab. Someone tapped the keys of the baby grand near the front entrance. The well-worn linoleum was slick with puddles and mud.

“Neve!” A woman’s voice had cut through the noise. “Neve!”

Both Mom and I turned to see a small woman wearing a puffy Raiders parka rush over to where we stood. A cloud of wet-smelling cigarette smoke followed her. “I thought that was you!”

Mom squinted as she tried to remember the gap in the woman’s front teeth, her bloodshot hazel eyes, and the crucifix tattoo on her neck.

“Girl, it’s Aretha,” the woman said with a broad smile.

Mom squinted more.

The woman put her hand on her hip. “Aretha. Remember? Girl, I know you remember me.”

Mom’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Aretha from the Broadway?”

The short woman nodded. “Yeah!” Her golden hair weave rustled against the nylon jacket.

Mom turned to me. “Remember Aretha, Cat? She used to work in Girls.”

“This is Cat?” Aretha screeched. “Honey, I remember when you was nothing but a baby. Remember me?”

Guarded, I said, “Yes. How are you?” In truth, I barely remembered Aretha from Girls. And I barely remembered that Mom had worked as a department store salesclerk.

“So, what you here for?” Aretha asked my mother.

I tugged at Mom’s coat. “We should go. Traffic...”

“That sure is a beautiful head wrap.” Aretha turned to me and said, “Your mama always had taste. Just like Diana Ross. That’s what we called her at the store.”

Mom touched her head. “Actually, I’m losing my hair.”

“Already?” Aretha coughed—three packs a day, it sounded. “You what, forty-something? Cat giving you the blues?”

“No,” Mom said. “I have breast cancer.”

And it happened, like it always happened when Mom told someone that she had cancer. The Eye Dance:

Breasts?

Check.

Eyebrows?

Gone.

Sores!

Ugh.

“But you look so healthy,” Aretha said, unconvinced. “Remember this: the Lord will never give you more than you can handle.”

I cringed at these words. They were shaped like little burs that stuck to your socks.

“Well, looks can be deceiving.” Mom had never used that cliché before she had been diagnosed.

Aretha’s eyes now shifted between the exit and the floor. “So y’all still living in the Jungle?”

Mom shook her head. “No. My husband and I—”

“Husband? You ain’t talking about Paul, are you?” Aretha grinned, narrowed her eyes.

Mom tugged at her coat. Fidgeted with the strap to her purse.

“You really should get home and rest,” I said.

Mom nodded. “Aretha, it’s good seeing you again.”

Aretha said, “Yeah,” relieved that her brush with death and disease was almost over, but ticked off that she didn’t find out more about Mom’s private life.

My mother and I watched her shuffle to the elevator bank and wriggle into a full car. She didn’t look back. Looking back would change her into a pillar of salt, I guess.

Mom took my arm. We left the hospital that afternoon and braved the rain together.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Rules for Writing

In the New York Times, Colson Whitehead shares with us his rules for writing. My favorite is this one:

Rule No. 6: What isn’t said is as important as what is said. In many classic short stories, the real action occurs in the silences. Try to keep all the good stuff off the page. Some “real world” practice might help. The next time your partner comes home, ignore his or her existence for 30 minutes, and then blurt out “That’s it!” and drive the car onto the neighbor’s lawn...

Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chapter 5 - Red Sky in the Morning

After three hours of chemotherapy, Synthia unhooked my mother from the Taxol drip. The skin on Mom’s forearm had already bruised into a dirty yellow. It would be the color of seaweed by tomorrow morning. Synthia checked Mom’s blood pressure a final time, then said, “You did great today, Neve.”

Weak, Mom could only smile.

“You okay?” I asked my mother once the nurse left the room.

She nodded, then asked me to pray with her. “You don’t mind, do you?”

We held hands as she asked God for a successful recovery. I peeked: her face tilted up to the cork board ceiling, as though healing would shower down like rain. Mom thanked God for Synthia and Doctor Pearson, the pharmaceutical company, cancer researchers, me. The tremor in her voice betrayed the calm on her face. I squeezed her hands to remind her that I was still there.

After she finished praying, I whispered, “I’ll be outside,” then stumbled back through the corridors to the waiting room, now empty. I took a deep breath and leaned against the back of a chair. Even though we were finished, we weren’t finished.

My cell-phone chirped and interrupted any thoughts about the next several hours. I grabbed the phone from my bag. The caller I.D. display flashed Sam Chappelle’s phone number. We met five years ago. Ran into the back of him—literally—in my old Hyundai. He was a star reporter for the Times. I was a starting photographer on my first day. He had eyes the color of cognac, a strong chin covered in barely-there whiskers, and a lithe, tennis player’s body.

The phone continued to chirp. Didn’t know whether to smile or be annoyed. Wondered if I should answer or...

“Hey,” I said.

“Happy birthday.”

I rolled my eyes. “Thanks.”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“At the hospital with my mother.”

A pause. “Oh.” More silence. “Is she okay?”

I wandered over to the smoked glass windows. Raindrops still slashed across the thick panes, and down below, people rushed from the hospital to the parking lot across the street. “Hard to tell.”

“So are you celebrating tonight?” Sam asked. “It’s the big 3-0.”

I could hear his fingers flying over the laptop keyboard. For the past week, he had been writing a story on toxic sludge discovered beneath a proposed school site.

“Really don’t feel like it,” I said. “With everything going on.”

He was probably sitting at his desk, surrounded by empty root beer cans and Doritos bags. He had muted the sound of Judge Judy or Oprah, listening instead to Tupac or Biggie Smalls on the stereo.

“I’d really like to spend more time with you,” he said. “You’ve been pretty busy lately.”
I sighed. Heard this all the time from any poor sucker I dated. This time, I could blame my mother for my distraction.

“Cat, you there?” Sam asked.

Outside, gusts of wind forced palm trees to lean back like long-legged limbo dancers. I closed my eyes and pictured the freeway: cars, rain, brilliant pink flares thrown on the asphalt, forcing three chaotic lanes into one. There would be Highway Patrol squad cars on the side of the road with officers calming frightened accident victims and concerned truckers.

“Cat?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

Sam stopped typing. “You have nothing to apologize for.” His voice sounded tight, cautious. “So when will I see you again?”

I closed my eyes. “Soon.”

“When?”

“Next week?” But next week was... was... I’m sure next week was something.

Sam said, “I’ll call for reservations at Dan Tana’s.”

I placed my hand against the window. “That sounds great.”

Sam said, “If you don’t want us to go out anymore, you can say that. I’m 34 years old. I can handle it.”

I didn’t speak. Just watched the rain hit the pane. Just listened to my heart thump in my chest.

“Am I talking to myself?” he said.

“I like you, Sam,” I said, “but I have to think of my mother first. Know what I mean?”
He said, “Yes. I didn’t mean to push.”

I gripped the phone tight.

“I’ll still make reservations,” he said, “and if you can’t make it, you can’t make it. How’s that?”

Relieved, I nodded. Whispered, “Okay.”

I knew that I would cancel last minute. And I knew that Sam knew, too. I also knew that he wouldn’t tolerate me much longer. He’d leave. That’s what men do. They fall in love. Fall out of love. Then, they leave.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Sign to Share

Runaway Bay, Jamaica
July 2012



Funny.

And 'Speedkills'? Is that a classification of food hit by cars? Like the Jamaican version of 'roadkill'?

And dude, they really do drive fast over there. Like, for real. We were there for a week and many times, manymany times, I silently called on the Lord.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chapter 4 - Red Sky in the Morning

Mom and I remained in that windowless room with its bad art and cheap furniture. As Taxol seeped into her blood stream, I etched each drop into my memory. One of them would lead the fight against the cancer now holding her body hostage.

At her first treatment, I had thought, How easy this is. Mom just sits here and waits until the bag empties so that she can go home. But half an hour in, goose bumps had swarmed across her arms. She began to shiver, then shake. Before I could even call, Synthia had rushed in the room with an extra blanket, socks, and a sweater from the lost-and-found.

“It was like brain freeze,” Mom told me later. “But with my entire body.”

It was a paralyzing cold, she said. Achy and warm at the edges.

I didn’t like seeing her tortured. I didn’t like seeing her cry. I was helpless, though, and couldn’t prevent either. So, I sat next to her, alert, in my chair, waiting for her to get better, waiting to witness the exact moment of her recovery.

I reached for Mom’s purse in search of a stick of gum. She chewed several sticks of Double-Mint to combat nausea and dry mouth. The pack of gum hid among lipsticks, medicine vials, and makeup. An old, crumpled photograph—the kind with the white frame and time-stamp—hid in a smaller pocket.

I gasped. Muttered, “Wow...” A five-year old girl was sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the hood of a black Thunderbird. She wore green and orange plaid pants and an orange T-shirt. Her two ponytails had been tied with orange cotton yarn. A grinning black man stood next to her. His conk shone in the sunshine.

My heart pounded so fast and hard, I grasped the chair’s arm to steady myself from fainting. “Wow...” I glanced over at Mom. She was still asleep. A good thing.

This picture was twenty-five years old. I had never seen it, even though the images were familiar: my father, his T-Bird, and me.

#

On the Sunday that picture had been taken, Mom had been watching Wild, Wild West in the living room. She never missed an episode: Robert Conrad made her swoon. I had settled next to her with a Ramona book and read as she muttered, “Get him, Jim.”

Ten minutes into the show, I placed my head to her lap and stared at the pictures on the walls. A black and white of my naked mother holding a naked, newborn me. A picture of me (three years old, maybe) in a bathing suit, reclining on a lawn chair. A magnolia is tucked behind my left ear. A coloring book sits on my lap. Another picture of Mom, Dad, and me. We wore white dress-up clothes as we stood on the beach.

These pictures proved that we—the Paul Smith family—had existed. Can’t capture myth on film, no matter what I think at times. No matter what Mom thinks now.

I had fallen asleep.

The smell of English Leather made my nose twitch and I opened my eyes. Dad sat next to Mom on the couch. His hands were lost in her hair. He nibbled at her earlobe. Mom held the side of his face with her eyes closed. She was smiling—a different smile from the one she gave me.

I narrowed my eyes and stared at Dad, unsure if he was real or if he was a dream. I didn’t speak in fear of waking myself up, even after he separated from Mom and said, “Hey, Shorty.”

“Daddy?” I sat up and rubbed my cheek. “Are you back?”

“Yep.” He had grabbed me, hugged me tight. Beneath his cologne, he smelled of Ivory soap. He had taken a shower before returning home. The peppermint Certs he sucked couldn’t hide the Scotch on his breath. Never did. He always smelled of Scotch and soap on the days he returned from photo assignments.

He pinched my arm. “How you doin’, Shorty?”

“Fine.” I stared at his shoes. I could see my face in the black patent leather. He hadn’t had those shoes before. “Did you bring me something?”

“Yep.” He nodded to the coffee table.

A wooden Russian doll sat on top of T.V. Guide.

“If you open her up,” he said, “you’ll find another doll. And then, if you open that doll, there’s another doll.”

I looked at him, my mouth open in awe. “Dy-no-mite!” I snatched the doll from its place and pulled it apart. Sure enough, another doll hid there. “Dy-no-mite!” My father always brought back cool souvenirs from each place he visited.

Dad smiled. His teeth were large and white, like slats on a fence. “I got another surprise.” He stood and his leather jacket creaked. His beginner’s beer belly bulged against his slacks’ waistband. He ate and drank well on these trips around the globe, those trips without Mom and me. “Come on Neve. Shorty.”

Mom pulled me from his arms. “Where are we going?”

He said, “Outside. And bring the camera.”

“Paul.” She looked at him with suspicion, as though she had never slept with him or borne him a child. “Where’s your camera? Where’s your equipment?”

“Why you bein’ like this?” He frowned. “Stop being silly and come on, now. See what I got us.”

I said, “Yeah. Stop being a worrywart. Let’s go see.”

Mom sighed. She shuffled across the living room to the kitchen drawer that housed extension cords, a broken hammer, and a Kodak camera. “We’re out of flashbulbs.” She tossed a blue flashcube stained with black powder into the wastebasket.

Dad called from the porch, “You don’t need no flash. It’s still light out.”

Mom slipped her feet into a pair of clogs. I reached under the couch and found my princess shoes, the ones with fake rubies and emeralds, and a barely-there heel, then followed my parents outside.

A black 1967 Thunderbird was parked in our driveway. Its belly hung so low to the ground, you couldn’t roll a marble under it. The car glistened like onyx even in the late moments of full sunlight.

Mom gasped, then muttered, “Jinkies.”

“Ain’t it bad?” Dad rushed over and ran his hand across the car’s top. “This son-of-a-gun is solid, ain’t it? Come on. Get closer.”

I clomped over and peered inside the car. Its leather seats and dashboard were as black and shiny as the outside. Like the interior had been greased down with Crisco. A green pine tree cutout hung from the rearview mirror.

Mom held her stomach, as though she had been sucker-punched. “How... where... where did you get the money?”

“Relax, Neve. Shoot. It’s what I work for.” Dad smiled at me. His face reminded me of the dark man’s face on the Cream of Wheat box. “Like it, Cat?”

“It’s dy-no-mite!” I said, avoiding Mom’s eyes. Yes, I betrayed her, but it was a bad-azz car.
Dad reached beneath my arms and picked me up. He swung me high into the air, then sat me on the hood. He pulled out a packet of Bottle Caps from his coat pocket and offered it to me. “Sweets for my sweets.” He smiled, so I smiled.

That day, the clear sky was the color of Windex. The Santa Anas had blown the smog and the cumulus clouds to the Pacific Ocean and all the way to China. I tore open the bag of candy and ate a cap in my favorite flavor: pink. The sugar slowly melted in my mouth, between the spaces of my teeth, until it became syrup. It was a perfect day.

Dad turned to his wife. “Take a picture of me and my two babies.”

And Mom obeyed, though not pleased.

Dad took the camera and snapped a few more pictures of the car, fascinated and still reeling from the fact that this steely mass of American badazzness was his, all his. And with nothing to hold (except a grudge), Mom stuck her hands in her jean pockets.

#

I stuck the picture back in Mom’s purse. Why she hadn’t shared it with me, I don’t know. It wasn’t like I didn’t know about my father. Maybe she thought I knew enough, and so we didn’t have to talk about him ever again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Little Good News...

I can now announce my very-good, very-exciting news!

From Publishers Marketplace:


July 18, 2012
Fiction:
Mystery/Crime
Rachel Howzell Hall's A GIRL IS LIKE A SHADOW, in which a LAPD homicide detective must learn the truth about the apparent suicide of a teenage girl which may be related to her own sister's disappearance more than twenty years ago, to Kristin Sevick at Forge, in a two-book deal, by Jill Marsal at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.


I'm THRILLED and can't wait to share GIRL with you soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chapter 3 - Red Sky in the Morning

The door that led to the examination room opened. A black nurse with long, silver hair said, “Genevieve Barrett?”

“Want me to come with you?” I asked.

Mom rose from her seat. “Not yet. I’ll have the nurse come for you after I get settled.” She kissed my cheek, then offered a crooked smile. “See you later, alligator.” She disappeared behind the closed door.

Moments later, another woman took her seat. She looked to be my age. A strip of gauze peeked from beneath her blouse. A Star of David pendant dangled from a chain around her neck. I wanted to ask her: Are you okay now? Are you scared? Why are you here alone?

The woman considered me with sea-colored eyes. And with that look, I imagined that she and I stood at the beginning of a Lifetime Television moment. She would be the best friend that I never had. We would hold hands as we walked along the beach. We would drink lavender lemonade and remain friends until her illness claimed her life. It would be just like those friendships in the movies. One of the heroines is sick. The other heroine is Jewish.

I smiled and nodded at her. It didn’t matter that I was black and she was not. She would be my Bette Midler. I would be her Gentile.

My Lifetime T.V. friend wore a tangerine and lemon-colored Hermes scarf over her head. Mom had that same scarf. I purchased it at Saks (definitely not a knock-off) after her third round of chemotherapy. She had tired of strangers’ stares and with friends who ridiculed women with short hair (ugly, mannish, lesbian, they believed). These friends gasped once they remembered that Genevieve the Beautiful had prettier hair than they. And now, she sat across from then, almost bald.

Her friends would apologize and promise to be more careful in the future.

“Oh, Neve,” Mom’s best friend Erlynda would say. “You know we’re not talking about you. Stop being so sensitive.”

“They were always sorry,” Mom had said to me. “But they were always forgetting.”

The moment passed with a smile from the young, Jewish woman seated beside me. She shifted her gaze back to the book in her lap. She didn’t look at me again. And when the nurse called her name—Jenna Goldenfeld—she sprang up and walked past me without a word.

#

I don’t know how much time had passed when someone touched my wrist. “Are you okay?”

“What?” I snapped.

A man with gray eyes jumped, snatched back his hand. His skin flushed until it turned cranberry. He was a Husband, and he was holding a sheet of pink tissue. “I asked if you were all right.”

I glanced around the room: the other husbands were staring at me. “I’m fine,” I said.
Water had spilled onto the back of my hand, then slipped underneath my palm. I touched my face: my fingers came away wet, slick with tears. When had I started crying?

He offered me the tissue.

I plucked the sheet from his fingers. “Thank you.”

He nodded, then ran his hand over his thick, graying hair. “No problem.” He yawned. Laugh lines crinkled at the corner of his eyes. “Wanna get some fresh air?”

“No. I really shouldn’t leave.”

He grunted, then returned to his Road and Track. After turning a page, he closed the magazine and tossed it on the coffee table. “Was that your mother?”

I nodded.

“When was she diagnosed?”

Annoyed, I squinted at him. “Excuse me?”

He smiled “None of my business, right?” He picked stray lint from the sleeve of his cable-knit sweater. “My wife’s forty. The doctor thought she was too young to get breast cancer.” He shrugged. “This is her first chemo session, and I’m scared out of my mind. Probably not as scared as Lizzy, though. That’s my wife.”

“My mother’s forty-eight,” I whispered. “She thought a spider bit her.”

But the skin around the ‘bite’ had dimpled like an orange peel. She hadn’t suspected that anything serious had happened, even after calamine lotion failed to heal it.

“She had no clue,” I said. “And she didn’t want to go to the hospital.”

“Cuz you know what happens when you go to a doctor,” Mom had told me.

The rash clears up or your throat’s no longer sore, or those strange palpitations in your chest stop as soon as the doctor walks in the room. He sees nothing with his handy-dandy penlight, and looks at you as though you’re an idiot. You apologize profusely and tell him that it was there, but he sighs, tells you to take a Benadryl and get some rest. So, you leave, horrified and confused, out of ten dollars for your co-pay and out of five dollars for the box of antihistamine that you already had at home.

The man laughed. “Can’t argue with that. You and your mother really close?”

I said, “Umm... We’re close.”

He blushed. Stared at me as though I had called Mom a bad word.

Then, I realized my faux pas. ‘Umm...’ meant ‘no, not really’, which suggested tension.

Umm...’ meant that I had to think about it, then lie. My ambivalence flew in the face of those mother-daughter relationships portrayed in Massengill and laxative commercials. We definitely didn’t ask each other about freshness. And she had a best friend that wasn’t her daughter.

It wasn’t my fault that my mother chose to keep some distance between us. We all have our areas of improvement. My area is interpersonal relationships with men. Mom’s is interpersonal relationship with me.

Ashamed, I told the man, “We are close. Very close.”

The guy held up his hand to stop me. “Well, at least you’re here.” He grabbed Road and Track from the coffee table. Flipped through it without another word.

His reaction meant that I had said enough, and now, he didn’t want to have polite conversation with me.

I wanted to pop him in his face and tear up his magazine. Instead, I pulled my cell-phone from my purse. The display showed that my boss Zeena had left two voice-mail messages.

I left the waiting room and retreated to the far-end of the hallway. Strange: the further I went, the calmer I became. I punched in the numbers to Zeena’s direct line. After several rings, she picked up. “Yeah?”

“It’s me,” I said. “I’m at the hospital.”

“Are you coming in today?”

“Probably not,” I said. “Is that a problem?”

“Mike developed your pictures from the party last night. You need to look at them before tomorrow morning.”

“Can he e-mail the contact sheet to the house?”

Zeena sighed. “Catherine, I’m trying to be understanding, but this is important.”

“I realize that.” I rubbed my eyes. My contact lenses had dried despite the weather. “Do they look good?”

“They look great,” Zeena said. “But I begged them to let you do this feature for the magazine, so you can’t fuck up on this.”

Although life had stopped for me, the Sunday Times magazine continued its coverage of Los Angeles galas, Los Angeles gardens, and Los Angeles restaurants. Last night, I had temporarily joined society to photograph a high-profile fundraiser organized by a Hollywood wife dedicated to the fight against... against... I can’t remember.

I had taken artsy-fartsy portraits of Hollywood Wife for the cover, then wandered the Beverly Hilton’s grand ballroom, clutching my Nikon, in spiky Jimmy Choo’s and a pantsuit that needed dry-cleaning.

All around me, important people shared their thoughts on the fight against... I don’t know, the mortality rate within the Yeti population. I snapped candids of power agents with tumblers of Scotch in hand, of vacant actresses nibbling crudités, of scions of rich families slapping each other on the backs. They all said the same things since they were all aware that their deep thoughts and Botoxed mugs would appear in the Sunday’s magazine.
Life had been tidied up on nights like this, and the players that mucked up the paper’s front pages with their corporate raids, messy divorces, and shoplifting convictions, hid their evil ways and imperfections beneath layers of Richard Tyler and Estee Lauder for the glossy rag found among coupons and sales papers. They remembered to look fabulous as they poked at rubbery breasts of mushroom-stuffed chicken. Some tried to act humble as I hoisted the camera to my face.

“I look a mess,” they’d say.

“You look great!” I’d say.

I laughed when they laughed. Soothed their egos when they complained of zits. Ignored the very-married mega moguls that eyed my boobs and brushed and bumped my backside as I bent to find more film or another lens in my bag. All in a day’s work.

“Well?” Zeena asked.

“I gotta go,” I said. “My mother’s probably looking for me. Have Mike e-mail everything to my home computer, and I’ll call you tonight. Swear.”

The nurse with long, silver hair had returned to the waiting room. She crooked her finger, motioning me to come with her. Synthia, the nurse, had helped Mom during her previous treatments. She always wore a small button on her scrubs top. It was a picture of her children Kelvin and Tomika. They had been killed in a drive-by last year.

I followed Synthia past the nurses’ station and down the bright, narrow corridors. “How’s she doing?”

“Better than last time,” the nurse said. “Still getting used to that I.V.”

Each small room we passed had been occupied. I recognized three women from the waiting room. Some listened to opera or classical music. One woman listened to her husband read. They all lay in beds with tubes snaking from their arms to plastic bags on poles.

Today was Mom’s third chemotherapy treatment and the last two times with that needle had left her arm bruised and tender. She had cried all through that visit, and I stood there, patting her shoulder, whispering, “It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.” But I could turn my head and only wonder how it felt to be poked over and over again with a thick needle.
Synthia and I reached Mom’s room. Gold light escaped through the cracked door, but it wasn’t from sunlight. There were no windows in these rooms. The theme music for All My Children had just ended, and an ad for Pine-Sol now followed. I took a breath, thought a quick prayer – Lord, please help me say the right thing – and pushed open the door.

“Hey, Mom,” I said, my voice an octave higher.

Mom lay in bed, hooked up to her bag. A small television sat on a credenza in front of her. Motel art of seascapes, lighthouses, and poppy fields hung on the walls for synthetic cheer. The furniture was Montgomery Ward circa 1976, the Great Faux Oak movement.

Synthia checked the machine and Mom’s heart. “Let me know if you need something,” she said, then left the room.

I sat in the armchair next to Mom’s bed. “Is it better today?”

“Yeah,” she said, a bit dazed.

“Want some juice?”

“No, I’m fine.” Mom’s eyes remained on the television temporarily visiting Pine Valley, a town where no one really died. Erica was in trouble again. Brooke had married again.
Adam... or was it Stewart... argued with his long-lost daughter. Again.

“Didn’t this happen three seasons ago?” I asked.

“You hate the stories, huh?” Mom asked.

I slouched in my chair. “They’re okay.”

“You don’t have to come here,” she said.

“I know.”

I didn’t read on these trips. I couldn’t watch television, either. I even refused to nap. Entertaining myself as my mother suffered seemed selfish to me. Sitting and waiting was the least I could do. And someone had to shoo away the vultures and shout that she wouldn’t die today.

“Chemo drives me crazy,” Mom said. One Life to Live titles had faded on screen. “I can either watch these rich people live ridiculous lives or watch this stuff drip from this stupid I.V. into my stupid vein.”

She turned to me. Dark circles hugged the bottoms of her eyes. “I can taste this stuff,” she whispered. “Even when I’m not hooked up, I can taste it. It’s... it’s... it tastes like pennies.” She closed her eyes, then opened them. “I’d understand if you didn’t want to come anymore. You have a life.” She closed her eyes. Her breathing slowed.

I drew close to her.

She was asleep.

What if she didn't wake up?

I told myself to stop thinking such dramatic thoughts. Stupid soap operas.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chapter 2 - Red Sky in the Morning

Two Months Ago...

At Mom's final appointment at Mercy Medical Center, kids were playing tag in the check-in area. Stepping in front of the automatic sliding doors. Open. Close. Open. Close.

She wanted to shake those little bastards as they threw wads of wet toilet paper at the surveillance cameras bolted to the walls. Meanwhile, their parents read, napped or chatted with a neighbor about something other than their demon spawn now tagging obscenities near the public phones.

Up in front, a medical assistant—the woman was an Amazon—was shouting at a woman with sores on her skin. And the woman was shouting back that she wasn’t gon’ pay no g.d. ten dollars for no g.d. co-pay. Kept asking to speak to the g.d. manager.

Fifteen minutes later, Mom approached the same registration clerk, now scowling, baggy-eyed and pissed off.

“Card.”

Mom slid her health card and driver’s license towards the woman. To make her happy, Mom clutched a ten-dollar bill in her hand, ready-Freddy.

The clerk typed something into the computer. “What you here for?”

Mom leaned forward and said, in her best inside voice, “I found a lump—”

“Huh?”

Mom said, a little louder, “I found a lump in my breast and I’d—”

The woman sighed, turned away from her, then scribbled something onto a form. “It’s after five o’clock. Urgent care hours.”

“This is urgent,” Mom said. “It’s been there over a month—”

“Make an appointment to see a regular doctor cuz these are urgent care hours. Like for emergencies.”

“But isn’t that what the emergency room is—?”

“It’s gon’ take too long for you to see a doctor tonight cuz...” She returned Mom’s cards and craned her neck. “Next!”

“I don’t mind waiting,” Mom said.

The clerk had glared at my mother. “It’s gon’ take a long time cuz it’s busy tonight.”

The woman looked big and angry enough to jump from behind the counter and beat Mom up. Still: “I’ll wait,” my mother said with a shrug.

The receptionist squinted at her, probably wondering if she was for real, if Mom just wanted to create more drama in her already fucked-up world.

I’ll wait,” Mom repeated, more firm than before.

The clerk’s look said, It’s just a lump, bitch, but the woman sucked her teeth, snatched back Mom's cards, completed the forms, and told my mother to sit down.

Men swore at women. Women swore at children. Children kicked the seats of strangers who were in too much pain to say anything. Everyone else glared at the T.V. or at the dirty carpet, or at Mom since she could be called before them even though she didn’t look sick.

It was too much. Too much. The noise, the kids, the colors... Everything was too... alive.

After a two-hour wait in the congested waiting room, Mom stepped over patients who were forced to sit on the floor, and followed the nurse to an examination room. Twenty minutes passed while she sat on the exam table in a paper gown.

Eventually, Dr. Hennigan found her, a man who looked like he had just graduated from high school. Like he hadn’t seen a breast in real life, especially a black one. But they went through the routine: ears, eyes, blood pressure.

“Wanna lay back?” he asked.

At his request, Mom lifted her right arm and placed her hand behind her head.

His fingers circled her right breast, then kneaded her armpit. “Now the other.”

She switched arms and stared at the ceiling.

He circled her left breast, then grunted. He looked away as he continued to examine her. “Is this the lump you’re talking about?” He took Mom’s hand and led her fingers towards the mass.

She said, “Yes.”

“Do you check your breasts every month?”

“Yes.”

He grunted again and kneaded more, then reached for his clipboard.

“Should I be worried?” Mom asked.

“I wouldn’t be. Young women have lumpy breasts, especially around their menstrual cycles.” He motioned for Mom to sit up. “Mind if I get another doctor to examine you? For a second opinion?”

She shook her head.

He left the room and closed the door behind him.

Minutes later, the door swung open. An old woman with frizzy, white hair stood in the doorway clutching a ream of forms in her hands.

“Yes?” Mom said to the woman, alarmed.

The old woman, obviously, was not the doctor.

“Where’s the nurse’s station?” the crone asked.

Mom clutched her gown. “Umm...”

“I’m lost.” The woman blinked hard and looked at her battered sneakers.

“This isn’t the nurse’s station,” Mom said. “It’s down that way.” She pointed westward, toward the flu season poster on the wall.

But the old woman had already shuffled in the wrong direction. She didn’t close the door.

Dr. Hennigan returned with a gray-haired white man. “Genevieve, this is Dr. Stanley.”

“I’m Dr. Stanley,” the gray-haired man repeated. “Could you lay down for me?”

Again, Mom placed her left hand beneath her head.

Dr. Stanley touched her left breast with cold, blunt fingers. “Ah.”

“You feel it?” Dr. Hennigan asked him.

“I feel it.” Dr. Stanley peered at Mom. “Are you pregnant?”

“No,” she said.

He muttered to Dr. Hennigan, “She isn’t pregnant.” Then he asked Mom, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

He turned to Dr. Hennigan. “She says she’s sure.” He lifted his thick eyebrows, unsure if Mom was lying about the status of her womb. He scratched his trimmed Vandyke, then closed her robe. “It’s inflammation.” He stepped away from her and turned to write on his clipboard. “Yes. Inflammation. She can sit up now.”

Mom didn’t wait for Dr. Stanley to tell her to sit up since she was in the room and could hear him just fine. “What kind of inflammation?” she asked. “How does that happen? How—?”

The older doctor turned to Dr. Hennigan. “Some women experience breast inflammation before their periods.” He leaned against the counter with his arms folded as though they were chatting about the Dodgers or traffic on the 405. “Nothing for her to get worked up about. Hormones create milk-producing cells, since that’s what breasts are for. Then, this fluid is stored for pregnancy. Breasts swell and become more sensitive. Simple.”

Mom nodded. “Excuse me, but it’s been this way for—”

“It’s completely harmless,” Dr. Hennigan reassured my mother.

“But I’ll prescribe Prednisone," Dr. Stanley told the younger doctor, "since it’s bothering her." He began to scribble again. “It’ll help relieve some of the swelling and pain.”

Mom said, “What’s preg—?”

“An anti-inflammatory,” Dr. Stanley said to the air and light fixtures. “Once a day with food.” The gray-haired physician handed Dr. Hennigan a prescription and my mother’s registration slip. “It’s just fibrocystic disease. Like I said: nothing to be worried about. Almost every woman has something like it. We’ll just watch and see what the medicine does.” He placed his liver-spotted hand on the doorknob. “If nothing changes, she can come back in and we’ll look at it again.” His foot was out the door.

“Or,” Dr. Hennigan said to Mom, following the old man out of the room, “you can schedule an appointment at the women’s clinic upstairs.”

“Anything else?” Dr. Stanley asked the young doctor, his body on the other side of the threshold.

Dr. Hennigan turned to my mother.

Mom wanted to know: how did it happen? How could she keep it from happening again? What the fuck was pregni... prezi... whatever it was? She wanted to scream and say that she didn’t understand and that someone should write this down.

But then, a nurse was tugging at Dr. Stanley’s arm.

“Are we finished here?” Dr. Stanley asked Dr. Hennigan. “Does she have any questions?”

So, with a numb mouth and thick tongue, Mom mumbled, “No. I don’t have any questions.”

And the two doctors left my mother on that padded table, left her there with fibrocystic disease and a prescription for a drug that she couldn’t even pronounce.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chapter 1 - Red Sky in the Morning

On the day I turned thirty years old, it rained. It was an oily, April rain that slipped like silk against the skin. This kind of rain made cars and semis and SUVs collide and made news helicopters hover above the highway in search of a story. The radio traffic report said that four cars and a truck bound for the Long Beach Harbor had piled one upon the other earlier this morning. One person had been killed. That forced me to grip the steering wheel tight. Forced me stop tailgating the station wagon ahead of me.

My mother, in the passenger seat, had whispered, “Those poor people,” as we crept up another clogged freeway that had only suffered from a fender-bender.

We entered the Women’s Health Clinic ten minutes late for her appointment. Relaxed, I leaned against the check-in counter, thankful for many things: a safe arrival, decent medical insurance, and a peaceful waiting room with nice art, soft light, and clean chairs.

My mother told the receptionist, “I have a ten o’clock appointment.”

The receptionist, a Mexican woman with pitted skin, consulted a scheduling book. “Genevieve Barrett?”

Mom nodded. “Sorry I’m a little late.”

The woman shrugged—she didn’t care. “How are you today?” She reached for registration forms in a hanging file folder inside her desk.

Mom said, “Same ol’, same ol’.”

Not true. Mom had cried in the car for several minutes after I had parked. Clutched her purse to her chest and said between sobs, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m tired of coming here.”

“I know,” I had said.

“I’m so sick of needles and that I.V. I’m sick of hurting and... and...”

“I know, Mom, but—”

“No one understands,” Mom had snapped. “Why is this happening to me? What did I do?”
She didn’t want an answer, especially from me. She already knew that God rained on the good and the bad. He gives. He takes. And that’s that. Ask Job.

“We’re late,” I had said. “We should go in and get it over with. Sitting here is just gonna prolong it.”

She had nodded, then wiped her nose with a tissue. “I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just...”

She sighed and sunk low in her seat. That burst of energy had cost her.

“I know,” I had said.

“I’m better now.” She had dabbed the corners of her puffy eyes with tissue, then opened the car door. “I’m much better now.”

But then she had trailed behind me in the parking lot, an inmate on her way to the electric chair.

And now, here we stood.

The receptionist slipped the tip of her tongue into the gap between her two front teeth. “Ten dollars, please.”

I handed the woman two five-dollar bills.

“Such a nice place,” Mom said, more to herself than to me. “Not like Mercy. That place will make you worse before making you better.”

She said this every time we came here. She was right, of course. This hospital was comfortable. No chaos. No violence. No police hovering over handcuffed men in the corridors. No talk show announcer shouting from a staticky television, ‘Big breasted babes go bra-less on today’s Ricki Lake,’ cuz there was no T.V.

Instead, the theme from Phantom of the Opera whispered on hidden speakers. The tranquility made the rapid beating of my heart slow to its regular pace. I even hummed a few bars.

Since Mom’s job didn’t offer premium medical insurance, she could only afford that scary HMO where the shot, the stabbed, and the infected congregated for mediocre medical treatment and were then sent home still bleeding, crazy, and contagious; where rude nurses barked at patients, and doctors feared those teeming masses and their suffering.

“It was awful there,” Mom whispered. “I’m so glad I listened to you.”

“It shouldn’t be too long,” the receptionist said.

Mom and I found two seats together.

Three other couples were waiting to see their doctors. Marrieds, I assume. The men held their wives’ hands. Their wives flipped through People or Us. They were white. Affluent, perhaps, if you measured wealth by fine-grained leather, titanium diving watches and yellow diamond solitaires.

I took Mom’s hand and squeezed it. “You’ll be fine.”

She smiled, then tugged at the worn handle of the Gucci purse that I had bought her years ago. She took that bag everywhere: church, Target, chemotherapy. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a knock-off. But maybe she didn’t have the heart to tell me that she knew that it was.


Sharing a Short with You (Yes, You!)

You know me.

I like novels - reading them, writing them, buying them.

Sometimes, though, sometimes there are stories that don't need 70,000 words.

Like my new short story, Red Sky in the Morning.

I'd like to share this short with you, one chapter at a time.

Is that cool?

What is about first
, you ask. Then, I'll say, 'yes, that's cool.'

Well, how's this?

On her 30th birthday, Catherine (Cat) drives her mother Genevieve to chemotherapy. Since Cat is her mother’s caretaker, the two are always together; but the departure of Cat’s father
Paul twenty-four years ago has strained their relationship. With the onset of her mother’s illness, Cat wonders about this distance. That evening, she combs through her mother’s old mementos to remember the year her father left.

Red Sky in the Morning offers a glimpse into the lives of two women with secrets and regrets. It asks, what is a good mother? What is a good daughter? Catherine had always hoped that life would correct itself with a father, a healthy mother, and a Cosby-family relationship with both parents. Instead, she realizes that real life and real relationships are never that easy to navigate.

We cool now?

Hope so. Stay tuned for the first chapter later today.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Southern Point of View

Hey, y'all!

So I'm into the second draft of my new novel -- it's a Se7en (the movie) meets Agatha Christie type of story. One of my characters, Miriam, is 40 years old, African-American, college graduate, one daughter, newly divorced and resentful of it, before-the-divorce household income of $250,000, always wanting more, More, MORE! She lives in Atlanta...

A city I've never visited.

Gulp.

So, I need your help in creating Miriam's World.

If you'd be so kind, could someone please tell me:

The restaurant to be seen in for dinner:
The restaurant to be seen in for Sunday brunch:
The church to be a congregant of (A.M.E.):
The mall to shop at:
The place to jog:
The most popular strip club:
The most-used freeway/highway:
The neighborhood where someone like Miriam would reside:
The high school where her 16-year old daughter would attend:

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Responding to the Stink

So, yeah.

There's always a simmering debate among writers about whether or not to respond to bad reviews.

In one recent article titled When You Wish Upon A Star, You Get the Pointy End, writer Elle Lothlorien believes that writers must respond. She considers it a type of customer service.

Personally, I dwell in 'Camp Don't Respond, Simply Learn Even if You Don't Agree,' (imagine THAT on the camp tee-shirts) along with urban fantasy writer Stacia Kane said it best in her response Customer Service.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A New Site to Heart: Front Row Lit

Hi, All!

No One Knows You're Here is being featured today on Front Row Lit. Please pop over to this new (to me) site filled with great literature.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where I Be At?

I haven't posted cuz I'm up to my neck in words!

Words, words, words - reading them, writing them, loving them, hating them.

As for writing them? New story in the works. Yay. Almost finished with writing first draft (pen and legal pads) of this Great American Cozy.

As for reading them? Right now, I'm lost in three books:

Love in a Carry-On Bag by Sadeqa Johnson:

Erica Shaw spends her week babysitting the country’s bestselling authors for one of the top publishing companies in New York City. But on Friday nights she escapes to DC, where her sexy-lipped musician boyfriend, Warren Prince, works and performs. Their connection is fierce, and the couple promises to never miss a weekend together. But when real life walks in—an overbearing father, an alcoholic mother, office politics, and a lucrative job contract—the couple starts unraveling at the seam. Tempers flare, violence breaks, while new lovers eagerly wait in the wings—to claim both of them.

Blasphemy by Douglas Preston:
The world's biggest supercollider, locked in an Arizona mountain, was built to reveal the secrets of the very moment of creation: the Big Bang itself.

The Torus is the most expensive machine ever created by humankind, run by the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It is the brainchild of Nobel Laureate William North Hazelius. Will the Torus divulge the mysteries of the creation of the universe? Or will it, as some predict, suck the earth into a mini black hole? Or is the Torus a Satanic attempt, as a powerful televangelist decries, to challenge God Almighty on the very throne of Heaven?

Twelve scientists under the leadership of Hazelius are sent to the remote mountain to turn it on, and what they discover must be hidden from the world at all costs. Wyman Ford, ex-monk and CIA operative, is tapped to wrest their secret, a secret that will either destroy the world…or save it.


And A Deadly Game by Catherine Crier:
In this #1 New York Times bestseller, Catherine Crier, a former judge and one of television's most popular legal analysts, offers a riveting and authoritative account of one of the most memorable crime dramas of our time: the murder of Laci Peterson at the hands of her husband, Scott, on Christmas Eve 2002. Drawing on extensive interviews with key witnesses and lead investigators, as well as secret evidence files that never made it to trial, Crier traces Scott's bizarre behavior; shares dozens of transcripts of Scott's chilling and incriminating phone conversations; offers accounts of Scott's womanizing from two former mistresses before Amber Frey; and includes scores of never-before-seen police photos, documents, and other evidence.


I know: book slut.




Sunday, March 11, 2012

Books N Beans: Spotlight shines on Rachel Howzell

Happy Sunday, y'all!

Just wanted to share this awesome book review site with you. Called Books N Beans, it features book reviews as well as author spotlights. I'm featured today. Yes! I know.

And Kristi, the mistress of Books N Beans gave No One Knows You're Here an awesome review.

Ch-ch-check it out!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kindle Fire Department: The View from Here: Kindle Book of the Day for 3/6...

Morning, Friends! If you haven't checked out Kindle Fire Department yet and you own a Kindle Fire, you are not human. I'm TELLING YOU -- go there now and learn about new, old, free, cheap apps for your Fire. They also feature great e-books... e-books like The View from Here!

Kindle Fire Department: The View from Here: Kindle Book of the Day for 3/6...: When we featured Rachel Howzell 's bestselling glimpse into the darker side of marriage, The View from Here, a few months ago, it was a huge...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ink - A Handy-Dandy Guide

To make a world realistic, writers have to learn about all kinds of crazy ish.

Are there birds that can fly backwards?

Play-Dough: why?

Which bugs are first to arrive at a dead body?

I write stories about city-living and the people who inhabit that world. Some of those people are gang members. Since I no longer personally know gang members, I turn to other resources for information. Which leads me to:

Tattoos!

Yes, there are meanings behind those tattoos and Gawker posted a story about the comprehensive document Canadian border officials keep on gang-related tats!

Eight-plus pages of goodness, from Crips to Russian gangs.

Click away, my friends, and read!

By the way, hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards, Play-Dough was originally created to clean wallpaper, and blow flies come first.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trust, It Ain't About the Money

What ain't about money?

Writing.

Writers don't write to make lots of money.

Okay, I shouldn't generalize. It only takes one red car to kill the statement 'All cars are white.' Or one literary novelist makin' it rain up in the hizzouse to prove me wrong.

So: many writers, the writers I know, the writers I admire, the writers I friend on Facebook, the writers who still have day jobs, don't write just to make money.

Money is nice. A nice, "Wow, and I get this, too?!" Money is validation. Money is gravy ... and I like gravy. In a house with a mouse, in a car, near and far. I like gravy. But I made gravy, ahem, money, before selling novels. Doing discovery for ARCO. Stocking the Levi's wall at Miller's Outpost. Stuffing envelopes for almost every non-profit organization I've worked for. Anyone can make money. That dog that was in 'The Artist'? He's made a lot of money. Whitney Houston, rest her soul, has made more money in her death than I've made in my life. So, yeah: Dead People see Dead Benjamins.

So, if it ain't about the ends, why is it about?

I love words. I love story. I enjoy my disbelief when observing people and their actions and I want to share that disbelief through the best way I know how: with a pen and pad. I sing but I don't pen great songs like Bernie Taupin. I play piano but I don't compose like Gershwin. I write.

And I write because I must. Because I can. Because someone has to tell you, yes you, that there's a dead body (real or imagined) in that alley over there because you need to know so that we can all stop the monster who's doing scary s*&t to other citizens.

And books are my vehicle for doing that, a modern day, Here Thar Be Monsters!

I hope that makes sense.

And yes, this is a reactionary post.

And no, they didn't say nothin' 'bout my momma.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Great Review for NOKYH!!!

Nina Sankovitch of Read All Day just posted an INCREDIBLE review for No One Knows You're Here. I was in tears as I read it. For real, though. I was. Here's is the part that really... whew.

Howzell is the Sue Grafton of her generation, with a bit more social conscience and street cred. Like Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, Syeeda is determined to be her own woman, solving crimes and facing down danger, and protecting her own body — and heart — as ferociously as she hunts down bad guys. I hope to see more, much more of Syeeda (Ms. Howzell, you hear me?) and I look forward to reading another novel starring the scrappy, savvy, and stalwart Syeeda.

Read the rest of the review here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Library for the New World

So NASA found a planet like Earth last month or whenever.

Yes, yes, yes! That means more closet space, more Starbucks and a new location to Facebook about. 'Rachel checked in at the AMC Theater on the south side of Kepler 22-B." Hopefully, Groupon will offer this as a Getaway Deal cuz my bags, they are PACKED!


Isn't she pretty?

But what will I read when I get there? Kepler-22B may not have WiFi capability so my Kindle will be useless since I read all the books loaded onto it once I awakened from hyper-sleep and had to read during the rest of the journey over. So: old-school books -- we have to send a capsule full of them for the first public library in New Los Angeles, Kepler-22B (Okay, and we'll have to have a write-in contest maybe sponsored by our new overlords to change that name. Sounds like something I should pour into my camshafts).

What should we stock?


Here are my ten picks:

1. The Bible (of course, cuz we need rules and poetry and stories about sex, redemption and salvation in this new world)
2. The Joy of Sex (I'm sure we'll lose a few space travelers so we'll need to repopulate) by Alex Comfort
3. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
5. The Odyssey by Homer
6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
8. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
9. Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
10. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

What other books should we stock?

To Ill or Not to Ill...

So there's this awesome back-and-forth going on between the New York Times crossword editor and this freelance writer about the true definition of 'illin'.

From: Julieanne Smolinski
Date: Sat, Jan 7, 2012 at 5:05 PM
Subject: Crossword Puzzle Correction
To: nytnews@nytimes.com

Dear New York Times,

The clue for 28 down reads "Wack, in hip-hop," and the answer provided is "ILLIN." These are not the same things, at all!

Sincerely,

Julieanne Smolinski,
Not Even a Hip-Hop Expert


Click on over to Gawker for the magila!

And Now, I'll Have to Kill You...

Writers have secrets. Oh yes, we do. We're just like the Masons and the Illuminati but in more comfortable shoes and moleskins in our back pockets.

Wanna know a few?

Okay!

Here's this great list I stumbled upon from a blog called Aliventures:

Secret #1: Writing is Hard

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. (Gene Fowler)

There’s a myth – not just in the writing world – that if you’re good at something, it’ll be easy. And established writers, me included, do have writing sessions where the words flow smoothly.


Read the rest here.

One secret of mine that didn't make the list: Writers have an obsession with writing supplies.

I'm a pen snob. And pad snob. Don't just throw me a Bic or a regular #2 pencil. I need Uniball Fine or Micro and those blue art pencils, Staedtler Mars Lumograph Lead H. I would enjoy a gift card to Office Depot rather than a card from Best Buy. New pens! Fresh legal pads. Notebooks of every size! I'm swooning now as I write.

Another secret: We're watching you.
Yeah, you. You, too. Where the hell do you think we get that character who picks their teeth with a matchbook cover and then eats whatever he finds? Or the character who wears some type of sequined article of clothing every day? Or the character with the verbal tick, the one who says, 'Right, right' as you talk? YOU that's who. A writer who says that you're not a part of the story is a writer who lies and whose writing probably sucks. (Or not.)

So you writers out there. What secrets do you have?




Friday, January 27, 2012

Free Tomorrow, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, It's Your Birthday

Just a head's up, my reading friends. The View from Here goes free all day tomorrow on Amazon, January 28!!



I'm excited about the free thing. Does it show??

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bargain eBook Hunter

The View from Here is the Book of the Day for this great site! Bargain eBook Hunter features incredible reads at low, low prices! Please go on over and make yourselves comfortable.

Kindle Fire Department: The View from Here: Book of the Day

Kindle Fire Department: The View from Here: Book of the Day: We've got a great book of the day lined up for you in Rachel Howzell's The View from Here. Highly rated and highly gripping, this look at t...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Writing Life with Deatri King-Bey

I love the Internet. Sometimes. And I love Facebook. Sometimes. You meet a lot of awesome people on-line, and a lot of great writers.

I met writer Deatri King-Bey earlier this month and we thought we'd share each others writing life on our blogs.

Dee had great questions and I'd like to share my interview with you!

Here's one question:

When did you begin writing?
I was a shy child and didn’t really share with anyone how I felt about things and kept all my angst and worry to myself. And then, my GAT (Gifted and Talented) teacher Ms. Anderson bought me a fabric-covered journal when I was in third grade. And that was that. I haven’t stopped writing since. My first story was called “Blue Monday” and I still have it! I was telling dark, sad stories even as a third-grader.

Please click on over to Dee's site and read the rest. Then, tour the rest of her site and check out her books! (I'm being bossy, aren't I? Telling you to do this and to do that? Can't help it -- I'm a wife and mother.) So, yes, her books, please check them out. She's also part of the writing team L.L. Reaper.

Thanks for inviting me over, Dee!

What I Saw...

On Saturday, January 14 around noon, two signs during my bike ride (yes, I bought a bike, no, I hadn't been bike riding in 11 years, yes, my ass hurt like it had been stomped by trolls, no, I couldn't even relax on the couch later cuz my heart was beating so fast, yes, I'll do it again and no, not this weekend because it's too... too... bright?) from Playa del Rey to El Segundo with my daughter and husband.


So, yeah, it says Tsunami Hazard Zone. My seven-year old freaks out whenever we see these signs around Marina del Rey. And while we kind of talk her off the ledge, we know that anything's possible even tsunamis. And I like the No Stopping sign beneath it. Don't dilly-dally cuz a wave's a'comin'!

The next sign technically wasn't at the beach. It was afterwards, when we drove to Honeybaked Ham, the one by Big Lots and Winchell's in Culver City.


Okay, so the big sign isn't what made me take the picture. It's the sign that borders the top of the building.

It says Secret Pole Dance Studio.

...

What the heck does that mean?

I'd never noticed it until now, with my heart beating so fast.

So, I went to the Googles and lo! The Secret Pole Dance Studio is a Thing!

OH. EM. Awesome. Sounds like a field trip for me and my girls!

But then, will I get pole burn? Guess that will re-direct the pain from bike-butt-blues.

My take-away from The Secret Pole Dance Studio? They need a better sign. And maybe not next to the doughnut shop. I had to pretend not to hear my second-grader ask what is a pole and what do you do on it? That's a fourth grade question answered during that special assembly and you giggle and blush throughout the entire thirty minutes.

Right?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From One Geek to Another

Ever wonder what a male swan is called?

Yeah, me neither.

Ever wonder why a writer writes what she writes?

All the time.

Wonder why I write what I write? What inspires me? Then, please pop over to Girls Gone Geeky to read my Guest Post.

All things inspire me – really, they do. Both the crime sections and the fluffy stories in the newspaper inspire me. I read everything. I’m such a book slut. Right now, I have in my nightstand stacks and Kindle a variety of things: a mystery by James Patterson, a book about e. coli bacteria, a true crime book about a murdered mother, and a book about an American family in Nazi Germany.

There's more! Oh, yes there is more. So please click on over. And if you're a Geek Girl like me, then you're OBLIGATED to check out this awesome site filled with geek things and book reviews and so on.

And a male swan is called a 'cob.'

The more you know, indeed.

Don't Tread on Me!

We don't want no stinkin' SOPA (Stop On-line Piracy Act).

From the ACLU (my old bosses) website:

The bill is aimed at taking down sites that allow Internet users to acquire pirated versions of original artistic content online. At a recent hearing, the ACLU expressed opposition to the bill because it would allow for the takedown of non-infringing content along with infringing content, in violation of the First Amendment.

As a writer, can't have NOBODY messing 'round with my First Amendment rights (that's freedom of expression for those needing a rights refresher).

To find out what you can do to stop SOPA -- other than supporting the WIKI black-out, please visit here. And if you have some 'thing' against the ACLU, then go here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kindle Fire Department: Gigantic Blast: Today's Free App, Plus BOTD: No On...

Kindle Fire Department, one of the most helpful sites ever for the Kindle Fire -- and some of the nicest, most helpful people I've ever met -- are featuring No One Knows You're Here along with its Free App of the Day:

Kindle Fire Department: Gigantic Blast: Today's Free App, Plus BOTD: No On...: Today's highly acclaimed book of the day comes to us from thriller author Rachel Howzell , who has been mentioned in O Magazine and Publishe...

This site is a MUST if you have a Fire. And there's a Facebook page, too, and any questions you have about the device? They answer them.

Really. Kindle Fire Department is awesome.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What I Saw...

on December 20, 2011, at almost four in the afternoon, at the intersection of Bixel and that street whose name I can never remember but it runs east-west and you can hop onto the 110 South there. I sat at the red light in my car.

That's when my former co-worker Hal walked past me.

I sat up in my seat and said, "That's Hal."

But I didn't blow my horn and call out his name. Just wondered why he was walking in this part of town since I had heard he was working over on Sunset now.

Did he hear the crazy homeless man who panhandled at this light shouting at him?

He looked the same as he had when I saw him last, back in 2007. Thin. Too thin. Same style khakis. Same haircut. Hal.

If I blew my horn, would he remember me?

I look the same as I had back then, too. There is that single strand of gray hair in my bangs that wasn't there then...

Was I memorable enough?

Maybe. Maybe not.

And if he didn't recognize me, then that would be awkward.

And so I didn't blow my horn. Just watched him walk east until the light turned green and I drove past that street whose name I can never remember and into the crowd of car.

I think about Hal at least twice at week. The iris bulbs he gave me to plant almost ten years ago are always blooming.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Little of This... A Little of That

Wanna read a sample of No One Knows You're Here and from other talented writers? Then, check out Jake Bible's site Sample Saturday! So many words, so many stories...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What I Saw...

on December 31, 2011, a little past two in the afternoon, on the corner of Bixel Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard as I waited in my car for the light to change from red to green, a man lay dead, his arms out like that and his legs twisted like an out-of-work mannequin. I couldn't see his face, just the back of his head and black hair. A small crowd had formed around him, not too close. The dead man wore a red plaid shirt, black pants and black, raggedy sneakers -- not the dress of someone working in a highrise, at a desk, or working at all.

I heard sirens coming from the west as I waited in my car at the light that knew not to change.

The sirens got closer and a black woman in braids and a postal worker's uniform stepped away from the huddle surrounding the dead man. She held out her arm, hailing the ambulance.

The red rig turned left and stopped at the curb.

Like Lazarus, the dead man came back to life. He was a white man -- I had not known that until he lifted and then, slightly turned his head. That side of his face, that side that had lain on the asphalt, resembled hamburger meat and the blood was almost too bloody to be believable in a city of Make Believe.

The EMT climbed out of the rig, in no hurry, la-la-la-la-la. His partner had already pulled out a slick red back-board from the cabin. Red rig, red board, red light, blood. So much red. Both paramedics looked too young to rescue anyone and that back-board resembled a sled named Rosebud.

The light turned green.

With great reluctance, I crossed Wilshire Boulevard.

I found my phone and called David.

He didn't answer.

I broke the cell-phone law and phone to ear, left him a rambling message about the dead-not-dead man just laying there, in the middle of the afternoon, can you believe it, call me back.

I ended the call and drove into the sun, onto the 110 Freeway, wondering...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Myst Noir

In my inter web-journeys to share NOKYH, I discovered Myst Noir, a site managed by the lovely Angela Henry, that features African-American mysteries! Yes, I know! I was THRILLED. After clicking around, I contacted Angela and she graciously agreed to include NOKYH on her site. So please check out Myst Noir -- it's a great site featuring great novelists and mysteries. And here's a link just for you:

Featured Title for January: No One Knows You're Here By Rachel Howzell