HAPPY. NEW. YEAR.

It’s a relief to bid 2020 adieu. A year that brought unprecedented economic, health and political hardships to America.

As is the case with really hard times, we can learn so much about ourseves and others if we pay attention, and reflect. Happy New YearCOVID-19

Those of you who are extroverts (I’m not one) had to slow your social roll. Reduced face time; reduced personal engagements, reduced outings.

For those who, sadly, lost jobs or businesses you’ve had to change your lifestyles, and in many cases ask for help. Nothing teaches like being in the position to have to ask for help.

For those who suffered the ultimate loss-the loss of loved ones and friends-you may have had to mourn without even the simple comfort of a hug. Many of us had to miss the ceremony of funerals and memorials for our loved ones.  My heart goes out to you.

For students, you’ve had to make adjustments in your young lives that affect the way you learn and connect with friends, and live life.  Things will, soon, change. I hope the loss of some of your freedoms will push you to appreciate the things you DO have.

Social Injustice

Before Covid rocked us on our heels, we were outraged by another slew of police shootings of black citizens. Covid-19 gave us the time and bandwidth to reflect on where we really stand when it comes to championing racial justice.  A lot of people read books, and gave money and time to the Black Lives Matter movement. Some of us were changed, forever.  Let’s continue to work and fight for the fair treatment of ALL of America’s citizens. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the ONLY thing to do to keep our divisions from growing wide and wider.

Politics

Men (so far) have come and gone from the most important position in our democratic Republic.  We’ve reeled from 4 years of chaos, fear mongering, and mean spiritedness. We can do better, and in my abundant optimism, I believe we will. If not, like the perils of ignoring racial injustice, we will have what James Baldwin invokes in his seminal work on race, The Fire Next Time.

So, Happy New Year. We can be hopeful, and look forward to more peace and grace and trust and good works. But, we can’t be complacent, or sit on our laurels, or revert to our old ways.  If we do, 2020 will be a preamble rather than an anomaly.

 

Musings: Coronavirus & Writing

Well, what do you write about when you don’t have any particular thing to talk about, but haven’t posted in a while….coronavirous.

Like so many people around the world, and more recently in the U.S., I’ve been thinking about Coronavirus. I’m not quite in the worry stage yet. Although, I’m in the “worry- about” age demographic.

I’m a news junkie.  The American media began reporting about coronavirus in earnest after Super Tuesday. But months before, the BBC and NHK media were reporting on the spread of the virus in the Wuhan province of China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy. I’ve been paying attention to the rapid spread of the virus in China and beyond. I replenished my supply of anti-bacterial hand soap weeks before the CDC told me to sing Happy Birthday and wash my hands.

Truth is I’ve always been a bit of a germophobe.  I wash my hands a half-dozen times or more on an average day, and when I’m cooking, I double that. I have hand sanitizer in my car, my bathrooms, my purse, my luggage.  I have hand wipes, on hand. I have tree/grass allergies, so I had masks in my house even before the virus concerns. I love having guests in for dinner, and my regular diners know to wash their hands before they even think about heading to my kitchen.

Good news.  I’ve been writing and editing the past few weeks, and staying close to home. So, I haven’t been among the masses.  I have a new Charlie Mack book out this spring. I’m also working on a stand-alone crime book set, in Washington, DC, I’m planning to shop to an agent.

Bad news:   It’s difficult to stay focused on writing when talk of the coronavirus outbreak swirls around you, and the details change on an hour-by-hour basis.

I have a lot of travel planned in the next few weeks. So, I’m mulling over the decisions to go, or stay.

I’ll play it by ear, nose and throat.20200309_142007

The Times They are A’Changing

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Wow. It has been a wild season of change which has kept me away from my blog.

I’ve been crazy busy.  Mostly dealing with life. The ups and  downs of it. The personal things that can drain your energy, and monopolize your time and attention.

Not necessarily listed in order of importance, but just as the events present themselves in my mind right now:

I’m helping my brothers and sister to find an Assisted Living Facility for my 90-year old

Mom and me in 2014

Mom and me in 2014

Mom.  She is feisty, and extroverted, and opinionated, and a force of life to be reckoned with.  It is only in the last 3 months that she has decided she doesn’t want to live independently.  We all love her, and want what’s best for her. She will stay with my sister and her family, for now.  It is a good, short-term solution.

I live in a home in Washington, DC that was built in 1850. The city Historical Homeowner’s Office wants me to rehabilitate the front facade of my Capitol Hill row house to its original look. 20170602_110138
It has been a one-year back-and-forth to apply and receive a grant to do this work which is now scheduled for this already disruptive summer.

I’ve had a change in my relationship status. That’s all I’ll say about that.

My ex-husband passed in May. He was a good man who helped everyone he could, whenever he could. He was full of jokes, laughter and fun. Our child, AJ, and I are still grieving his loss.

Book 2WMWIOI had a new book released in late May.  I have not had the time or space to be out and about with my latest Charlie Mack Motown Mystery, but she has received some positive reader reviews which I hope will continue.  I’ll be out on the first phase of a book tour starting in July at the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) annual meeting in Vegas in July. I’m also happy to announce a mini-book reading/signing tour in Michigan in late August where I will appear at two Detroit Public Library branches for book club discussions, as well as a reading at Pages Bookshop in the Detroit neighborhood where I lived twenty-five years ago. I’m so excited to be promoting my book in the city that gave me my roots.

There will be more details on the Book Tour on my Events page.  Please come out and see me if you can, and feel free to drop me a note, or comment, as the spirit moves you to do so.

Cheers

Words On a Train

I, too, like writing on a train.  Yesterday, in a 2-hour trip from Philadelphia to Washington, DC I outlined my next book.   That’s the kind of productivity I can’t usually find at my desk.

Up to now, the appeal of writing in DC’s cafes/coffee shops/bookstores has eluded me. Orders for lattes, cranberry scones, and milling hipsters does not inspire my prose.  I need a grittier approach.  Case in point, last week, to get myself writing, I yelled aloud (in my own house) Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!!Train yard

My current writing is a set of short stories (more on that later) and a crime series, with lesbian protagonist, P.I. Charlene “Charlie” Mack.  It’s set in Detroit, in the mid 2000s, when Detroit was caught between an era of chaotic and depressing government mismanagement, and its inevitable slide to insolvency.  Then, sliders were more prominent than scones; liquor more ubiquitous than lattes.

The stimulation I need to write this series, comes from watching people in the urgency of their lives.  So, there’s nothing like sitting in a train station for a half-hour  before your announced departure, and spying the microcosm of humanity that parades there.   I get great ideas for clothing descriptions, how people walk, body language, and what I’ve come to label the various train “types.”

My short stories are about the dynamics of relationships–among friends, within families, occurring in casual encounters, playing out in workplaces.  Many of these stories depict the lives of black people, in all their huge normalcy, innovation, dysfunction, hope and challenge.

Those stories are supported by my life and experiences, but also from the information that bombards me from television, Twitter, Tedtalks, telephone conversations, and train rides.

Train travels…short and long…are wonderful sources for dialogue, eavesdropped or overheard.  The window seat provides a panoramic view of the backsides of people’s lives where industry, poverty, and creativity abound.  Peering into the backyards of houses gives you a better sense of how folks live, then the facade of curb appeal.  The manufacturers of today and yesterday display their real enterprise at the rear of factories.  Graffitti–phat, bold, cursive and colorful, demonstrates the vitality of ideas that wish to be expressed.

For me, riding the rails sparks my imagination; and locomotion stirs my writing.

 

#Enough

It says so much about America and its citizens, that we continue to allow mass murders via the easy access to assault weapons and high capacity ammunition.    Sensible gun control IS something we can act on.  We can advocate for it, actively and strongly, by writing letters and making phone calls to our legislators.   We can use the power of our vote to elect and maintain lawmakers who want to legislate common-sense gun purchase restrictions.  We can be vocal about our outrage and demonstrative of our sadness when innocent people are killed by individuals who kill civilians–whether for the purpose of terrorism or hate.

The parents of the Sandy Hook elementary school children who were victims of our lax gun/ammunition laws must be demoralized by our inaction.   I am demoralized and ashamed of my country on this issue.   Enough is enough.  This is simply a matter of the NRA’s influence over our legislators, cloaked in a false argument about the Second Amendment.    Gun manufacturers:  How much profit do you need?

The Confederate Flag is a Red Herring

The outrage about the flying of the confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse has been refueled and re-furled after the horrific shooting and hate crime committed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

flag-southcarolina

I don’t care whether they take this flag down or not.  Because this symbol is not the reason for America’s racial issues.   America’s soul is the issue.    Whether we know or acknowledge it our nation is suffering from a wounded soul.   One that will never heal until we face, head on, our history with racial injustice.

It is difficult to have conversations that uncover discomfort, shame and guilt.    But putting a salve on our collective souls cannot begin until we engage in this sustained dialogue.   It will make us hurt.  It will test our hearts.  It will make some of us hunker down in our prejudices and fear.    Transformation is difficult and attitude change is a daunting task.  For 150 years we’ve changed laws, changed policies and enforced new behaviors.  I’m grateful for the changes.  But only confronting the core of our beliefs, self-reflection and an openness to understand how we benefit from change can truly set us free from bigotry and its residuals.

In the short term, taking down walls, fences, signs, and flags can make us feel good.  But the work of racial healing cannot be successful through surface acts.  In the long run we must go past the color of skin and flags.  Go deeper to view our soul’s hue.

I mourn the loss of nine souls.  And the irreparable damage to the lives of their loves ones.

February’s Shades of Gray.

Aside

February TreeFebruary also has its shades of gray.

A frosted leaf,

A stark sky,

The muted bark of trees,

Salt-stained pavements,

The shadowy forms of huddled pedestrians,

Darkened snow drifts,

Ashen skin,

Winter-coated squirrels,

Icy streams,

A somber heart.