The Forbidden Kingdom

Let me start with a confession: my first crush was on Bruce Lee. The movie was Enter the Dragon, and my mom took us kids to the Rialto theater in downtown Atlanta to see it. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Now I love Jet Li and Jackie Chan. And April 18th, I get to see them both in a movie, called The Forbidden Kingdom. Happy Spring for me!

PS: Speaking of spring, I’m blogging over at Blogging in Black today. Look for my post entitled “The Call of the New”. and comment if you can. I’ll be going on a writing vacation tomorrow (checking into a hotel for the weekend, coming out with an edit, a novella, and a couple of proposals, I hope. And a blog post for Divas of the Dark.) Here’s hoping your weekend is a happy and productive one!

Free Read

I haven’t posted in a bit, so I thought I’d see if anyone would like to read the prologue to Dream of Shadows. Instead of posting it on the blog or my website, I thought I’d make a handy-dandy PDF for you to download and read at your pleasure.

To download a copy of the prologue, just follow this link.

Happy Reading!

Sick Again

Yesterday was rainy and 67 degrees. Today there were snow flurries and the high is 39. Low tonight in the 20’s. And once again, I am sick. Day three of the sore throat and ears. All I want to do is curl up on my couch with the last Harry Potter book that I’ve owned for six months and STILL haven’t read.

Fortunately or unfortunately, my characters won’t let me. And I mean a lot of them. Maybe it’s the sickness, but I have characters from four separate stories all vying for attention. I sent off blurbs to my editor for the upcoming anthologies (you can check them out on my WIP page) one of which was a story I hadn’t even named the heroine for. But the story just popped into my head, clear as crystal and just as bright. I’m going to enjoy writing about Anaru and Cam. If you thought Dream of Shadows was dark, wait until you check out this premise for the anthology Carnivale Diabolique.

Right now, I’m finishing up IN WALKS TROUBLE, my story in the last of the Vegas Bites Trilogy. It was supposed to be very action oriented, but it looks instead like it’s going to be another angst-filled, character-driven tale. I hope people don’t mind, but I think my co-authors are well and truly able to deliver action.

When I get done with that, I’m going to immediately roll into RODE HARD, which is a sequel of sorts to my entry in my latest release, What White Boyz Want. Gina is sarcastic and funny and deserves her own story. Come on, her name is Regina Maria Lourdes Lieberman, and she’s a black Puerto Rican Jewish woman. She’s got to have a sense of humor.

And then, then I get to THE SHARPEST EDGE, which is my entry for Carnivale Diabolique. I really do enjoy writing novellas. I think they’re perfect for my Geminian short attention span nature.

By the way, those of you waiting for the sequel to DREAM OF SHADOWS, I need to offer my apologies. Between real-life issues and the current writing schedule, the sequel hasn’t been written yet and therefore won’t be out until late 2009 or early 2010. But the good news is that it will be A CURSE OF SHADOWS, chronicling the story of Nicole’s parents, the Romanian parapsychologist Stefan Antonescu and Arielle Legere, who became head of her family at 19. That means it will be an interracial paranormal historical romantic thriller. Confusing enough? Yeah, I’m a touch ambitious–or a glutton for punishment.

Apparently I’m sick in more ways than one.

In Like a Lion…

Wow, it’s March and my Rita scores are due in three days. What’s neat is that we can log the scores in online, which I think is really cool. Still, I think I’m going to take a break from judging next year. Which of course, means I shouldn’t enter next year, but that’s okay.

Because I entered the paranormal category, I couldn’t judge that one, so I got a mix of a couple of others. Some were good, some were great, and some were okay. I read a variety of genres, so it’s not like I got a category I would never read in a million years even if all the other books were vaporized. (sob!)

But I got to thinking–I know, not a good thing–and really, this isn’t truly a reflection on the books I judged, but I miss the romance of romance books.

Now I know I’m sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, but here I go: I miss the days when you could pick up a book with romance on the spine and expect certain things: the genesis, development, and mostly maturation of a romantic relationship. Some hint of a happily-ever after. I don’t need a wedding at the end of the book, but I don’t want it to end with, “hey, let’s go for coffee,” or “You know, you’re pretty hot,” or “I think I like you,” or heaven forbid, the death of one of the principal characters.

I don’t care if there’s more than two people compiling the relationship. I don’t care if there’s hot monkey sex on page one (if it makes sense to the story, but that’s a post for another day.) Just make sure there’s a believable romantic relationship that has a clear-to-me happy ending by the time I close the book.

Is lurve and commitment too much to ask for in romance these days?

A Tale of Two $20's

So yesterday, my sister and I went to the Michael C. Carlos Museum on Emory University’s campus. This museum is most famous for having the mummy of Ramesses I and donating it back to the Cairo Museum in Egypt. I went because my sister and I have both long been fascinated with Ancient Egypt, and they have a great collection. They also just opened a special exhibition of Nubian Treasures and I wanted to see it.

For $20, my sister and I got admission to the museum and the audio tour. The Nubian exhibition was great and did what it was supposed to do–made me hungry to know more about this ancient civilization that gave the 25th Dynasty to Egypt. I’ve been doing some research ostensibly for an urban fantasy and my hero is an immortal Nubian, but really I’m completely fixated on the history.

The exhibit was awesome, and I bought some books from the museum store that will further my research.  There are lectures coming up later this month and next that I hope to attend as a human sponge.  I won’t be able to work on that urban fantasy for a while, but I’m so glad the exhibit’s there.

After the museum, we went to the movies.  Unfortunately at 4 pm, there was only one show we wouldn’t have to wait 40 minutes for: Jumper, based on a 1992 novel by Stephen Gould.  Apparently Regal Theaters has abolished not only the matinee, but the $9 ticket.  Jumper cost us $10 each.  Add to that $7 for a large popcorn (we stopped and bought candy and sodas at a convenience store) and the movie cost more than our museum trip did.

As for the movie, all I can hope is that the book is better.  Too many holes and unanswered questions.  How does a guy in Post-911 America get through airport security with a backpack stuffed with loose cash?  If the NSA knows who he is (Samuel L Jackson visits his apartment) then why not flag his passport so he can’t fly out of the country with his girlfriend?  ANd please don’t get me started on the girlfriend.

The bottom line is, no more so-so movies for me.  If movies are going to cost me $20 (I can’t go without my popcorn) then it better be a fla-damn movie from now on.  Otherwise, I’m going to buy books instead.

Happy Black Folks Month!

It’s that time of year again, the time when people acknowledge the accomplishments of black people then promptly forget when March 1st comes around.

Okay, yeah, that was a little harsh. I’ve always been of two minds about Black History Month. On one hand, it’s the best way to discover little known facts about black folks in the historical context of America. On the other hand, I resent that we have to have a month in which to highlight black people. In my rose-colored-glasses world, the accomplishments of all people would be covered in our schools, history books, and media. But we know that’s not the case.

Which means it could and should fall to writers to show just how rich the tapestry of American history is. I personally would love to see more Black historicals.

Unfortunately, when people think of black folks and American History, their minds immediately go to two eras: slavery and the civil rights movement. It’s quite easy to ignore that there were free blacks roaming the country. According to, free blacks came over with Columbus during his second trip to the New World in 1494. In 1526, slaves who’d been brought to work in the Spanish colony of San Miguel de Guadape in Georgia escaped to live among the native Americans. Then there is the rich and proud history of the Black Seminoles.

One great resource was recently published, and I think would be an excellent investment for schools, libraries, and black writers. It’s called the African American National Biography, and it profiles some 4000 well- and little-known black folks in American history.

One such figure was profiled in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage of the AANB:

Stagecoach Mary Fields

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Ursuline Convent, Toledo, Ohio

Stagecoach Mary Fields was a gun-toting, hard drinking, cigar smoking frontierswoman who gambled, brawled and reputedly even killed a man. Well into her 60s, she dependably steered her coach through some of Montana’s harshest weather to deliver the mail.

She was also a beloved housekeeper at a convent, tended her own vegetable garden and late in life presented bouquets to men who hit home runs during baseball games in Cascade, Mont.

How could you not want to write a story about this woman?

The African American National Biography is a joint effort of Havard University and Oxford University Press, and is edited by Henry Louis Gates, Hr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, both of Havard. The eight volume set covers the lvies of some 4100 well-known and obscure people. You can order it through the Oxford University Press website for $795. I think it’s worth part of an advance, and for writers it’s tax-deductible. There is an online version forthcoming, and they are soliciting donations to make the collection available for libraries.


The good news is, I wasn’t among the 500 people my company released this week. Bad news is, I knew some of the folks who were in that number, and my heart goes out to them. My boss was a casualty. Half my team’s job was taken away as well.

So stuff like this puts things into perspective. You have to always have contingency plans. I’d love to say that if the worst happened, I could make a living on my writing. I can’t. My 1099s prove that much to me.  Few black romance authors can, though there are some that do. I’m working on being part of that some, I really am. It’s not easy when you’re a household of one. It’s not as easy to take a risk, say, quitting the day job and hoping I can make it writing fiction and freelance. But write fiction full time and live off it, I want to do that. At least, I have motivation to try.

I’ve finally begun diversifying my portfolio and I feel really good about the prospects.  This will probably be the only time that I’ll mention it on this blog.  It’s part to avoid cross-pollination, and it’s part experimentation.  I want to see how much $$ she can make versus what I can make.  It’ll sure be interesting.

Fair Use in Fiction

You know, with all the hullabaloo with Savage Gate, there’s been a lot of bandying about of the term “fair use.” You can check out fair use and copyright by visiting the site of the US Copyright Office. But here’s a good explanation from the US Copyright Office’s website:

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

See how I attributed the quote that I used for this non-commercial use of information? That’s an example of fair use. I used someone else’s words with attribution. You should also note that there’s no mention of “in a work of fiction” in the quote. Or anywhere else that I could find on the copyright site.

I know, that’s a lot of eye-glazing content to try to understand. But what I’ve gleaned from various sources is that fair use requires some sort of acknowledgment or attribution of the work used. Example, Vanilla Ice got into a lot of trouble for sampling Queen’s Under Pressure in his song Ice, Ice Baby.

To use someone’s work without acknowledgment of some sort is plagiarism. Without the attribution or acknowledgment, the “fair user” is by default claiming the work as his own. This isn’t necessarily copyright infringement, especially if it’s something that is too old to be protected and is now in the public domain. Check out’s list of different types of plagiarism.


Say I’m working on a historical romance in which my hero is a free man of color working the Underground Railroad and my heroine is a runaway slave who killed her master’s son. To get my story right, I need to do research into the Underground Railroad, slavery, and runaway slaves. In my research I uncover a first-person account by Frederick Douglass on the Internet. Can’t get much more sourced than that.

So as I’m reading this narrative, the words just touch me. Especially this part:

“I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin. I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass.”

Reading this, I realize it’s a powerful motivation for my heroine to not only kill her master, but to escape afterward. The words are powerful and give the reader a blunt picture of the realities of slavery. So I decide to use them.

My hero asks, “What made you kill him?”

“It was too much,” she replied, her voice thin. “I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. ”

She knotted her hands together. “The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin.”

Tears burned her eyes, tears of righteous anger. “I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. ” She stopped, swallowed. “It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. With my very soul at stake.”

And my chapter continues. At no point in the story do I mention that Frederick Douglass wrote this in his autobiography either by inserting a footnote, an author’s note, or a bibliography at the end of my novel. I have taken Douglass’ words and put them in my heroine’s mouth as if they were my own creation.

People, this is plagiarism.

EDITED TO ADD: In the just about out Vegas Bites Back, my hero is a werewolf who met Frederick Douglass. At one point the heroine notices the copious stacks of books in the hero’s bedroom and asks him about them. He replies, “Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ I took his words to heart.”

That’s how you attribute something you use word-for-word.

Is plagiarism illegal? Not necessarily. Douglass’ autobiography is of course more than a century old, and as such is in the public domain. Any student or scholar could quote parts of Douglass’ narrative in a research paper or other critique with no worry as long as they acknowledge the source. That’s fair use. Taking the narrative and creating a story about escaped slave Delilah Mae Reddick is plagiarism.

Not illegal, but definitely unethical. I’ve besically allowed people to think my book is composed of my words. My name’s the only one on it, after all. Fraud? Perhaps. Wrong? Abso-freakin’-lutely.

Perhaps there should be an Author’s Code of Ethics. Arts – Romance cuts across racial lines, publishers find Arts – Romance cuts across racial lines, publishers find

Between the cat food and the diapers in most North American supermarkets lurks a haven of verdant passion.

It’s the aisle for romance novels and its customer in 2007 is nearly always female, but just as likely to be a woman of colour as a Caucasian soccer mom.

Publishing houses across North American are creating new lines of romances aimed at people of Asian and African descent, according to Brian Miller, a Seattle journalist who follows the market for romance novels.

The article doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know, but hey–we’re getting coverage. And we should get even more as Black History Month approaches!

(Okay, I’ll admit–I’m shocked that there’s a journalist in Seattle who follows the market for romance novels.)

Drought + Freeze Warning = WTF?

So I get home today to find a notice on the townhouse door. The management company has a Freezing Weather policy that they wanted to make me aware of. Basically, I have to turn on every faucet in the house, both hot and cold taps, and run a stream at the thickness of pencil, until they take the signs down.

    Did I mention I pay the water bill?
    Did I mention I have six faucets in my townhouse?
    Did I mention Georgia is still suffering from drought, and that we barely escaped having the driest year on record by five-hundredths of an inch?

Oh, and I also have to run the heat so that the interior will remain at least 60 degrees, and I have to open the cabinet and closet doors so the pipes can be heated and those areas can be warmed too.

Nice. Wonder if I get a discount for following all their rules.

But hey–it saves them from having to pay for a busted pipe. I’m so glad I can save them money.