Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Sorry for the interruption in service. It's been a long dozen days. I won't presume to bore anyone with the travails of my private life. Suffice to say, I hath returnéd.

I'm sending prayers and good wishes to anyone feeling the effects of Katrina. We're feeling the tail-end of it up here in the northeast, but frankly, we need the rain. "Sympathy" doesn't begin to cover what I feel for those who've lost everything.

When I was young and callow, I disregarded the idea that confession is good for the soul, but lately I've embraced it. So I now I will confess that when I saw all those people who had refused to evacuate before the evidence of Katrina's oncoming wrath, stubbornly clinging to their homes in the face of the storm...and then saw the lengths the rescuers were forced to go to just to pull them to safety...I made unkind remarks. I was contemptuous. Angry, even, when I witnessed tiny children left in harm's way by families who apparently didn't possess the sense God gave cabbage.

But today, while I was cruising around the 'Net, looking for a good way to procrastinate my writing time away, I stumbled upon something that made me ashamed of the conclusions I'd jumped to with regards to this issue. And while I'm sure there were and are some examples of folks in the Gulf area who were just flat-out too stubborn/stupid/prideful/mean to come in out of the rain, my thinking has been changed. Mostly, by people explaining to me in words of one syllable that when you're living from tiny paycheck to tiny paycheck, and don't own a car, and have nowhere to go, it's tough to evacuate.

Once upon a time, I lived tiny paycheck to tiny paycheck. I didn't own a car. And while there was never a time in my life when I was unlucky enough to have nowhere to go, I hope my relative good fortune hasn't turned me into the kind of person who can't imagine what that kind of desperation and hopelessness feels like.

I was wrong. I'm sorry. I take it back.

I offer links.



I offer quotes:

'The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. 'We’ve sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary,' Gov. Kathleen Blanco said.
With all due sympathy for the governor, it’s hard to avoid wondering why the heroic measures couldn’t have been taken before the storm, rather than after. Oh, wait, I know! If we’d had a plan to evacuate the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents who didn’t own cars, someone might have gotten something for free that they didn’t deserve. Which, in questions of American public policy, is always and forever the most important concern.'

(And in New Orleans, they closed the Greyhound bus station on Saturday, which pretty much screwed the poorest people in terms of getting out of town, didn't it?)

'Look at the money trail. Everyone knew the levees were in trouble. The city had been begging Uncle Sam for money to fix them, but federal money had slowed to a trickle.
At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars. There's cash to be followed, if you're interested. Go here and read.' --FROM WICKED WISH

And now, the latest news:
Mayor: Katrina May Have Killed Thousands
By BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS - Hurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans, the mayor said Wednesday — an estimate that, if accurate, would make the storm the nation's deadliest natural disaster since at least the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
"We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and other people dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."
The frightening estimate came as Army engineers struggled to plug New Orleans' breached levees with giant sandbags and concrete barriers, while authorities drew up plans to clear out the tens of thousands of people left in the Big Easy and all but abandon the flooded-out city.
If the mayor's estimate holds true, it would make Katrina the nation's deadliest hurricane since 1900, when a storm in Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. The death toll in the San Francisco earthquake and the resulting fire has been put at anywhere from about 500 to 6,000.
"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is we have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."

Thousands dead. I'm trying to wrap my head around that. We lost around three thousand in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and we had no clue that was coming. But we saw Katrina from three hundred miles away, DAYS before she made landfall. Can someone explain to me how this is possible? If we can evacuate a city NOW, when it's twenty feet under water and there's no power, why couldn't we evacuate a city THEN?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Dig This Chick

Author Morgan Hawke has a large and rabidly loyal following due both to the amazingly readable quality of her fiction and her sharp insights into the publishing world--particularly the erotic e-pub and small press arenas.

My only complaint would be that she doesn't update her
blog nearly often enough. If you haven't perused it yet, be prepared to spend a couple hours sifting through the tasty nuggets of advice.

Her latest post includes this quote from corporate psychologist Steven Berglas:

"Throughout my career, I've noted that the most authentically motivated employees are the ones who will get in your face and get angry. I always counsel managers that the yes-man/yes-woman is the most malicious force in organizational life because they're the ones who are whoring, who are mercenary, who are talking behind your back."

I'm not going to draw any connections between the above statement (made by a man with years of experience watching corporate hotshots crash and burn) and the current situation with the RWA, and all those folks who think the best way to handle the recent string of disasters is to SHUT UP AND KEEP SMILING. I'm going to just let Mr. Berglas's words sit there and marinate in their own juices.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What's the Lesson, Please?

So, I managed to talk my husband into watching the kids for three hours so I could take in a movie, right? Not something I do very often, but I've wanted to see The Skeleton Key ever since the first trailer hit the screens six months or so ago--mostly because I love a good scare, but also because the setting (New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana) matched that of a novella I'd written two years ago, and I wanted to see if there was anything I could pick up in the way of detail to add to my own work.

A little background on this particular novella: it finaled in a fairly well-known contest, and the judge--a senior editor at a New York publisher--phoned me at home...let me repeat that...PHONED ME AT request a copy of the full manuscript. A delightful woman. An individual of exceptional wit and taste. My new favorite person on the PLANET.


Anyway, I polished up that puppy and sent it in, and sat down to wait. And wait. And wait some more. Many months passed--fully twice the number I'd been told to expect. Finally, I worked up the nerve to call the office, only to be informed by the editor's very kind, gracious, and apologetic assistant that they'd either never received my manuscript (nope, got the return receipt, kept it, practically FRAMED the sucker) or had lost it. Would I please re-submit?

Absolutely. But, of course, first I'd have to give the manuscript a good read-through, because it was two years old, and I'd LEARNED stuff in the interim. And lo and needed tweaking. Nothing major. Nothing HUGE. I still liked my heroine and loved my hero. So I tweaked and polished the manuscript in preparation to send it out into the world again...

...and went to the movies.

And sat there, by myself, in the dark. And watched as the last twenty minutes of The Skeleton Key played out remarkably...nay...EERILY like the last three chapters of my missing novella, minus my happily-ever-after epilogue. There were snippets of dialogue I swear I could've written, and small plot details I swear I envisioned while sitting in my office chair two years ago.

Now, I'm IN NO WAY screaming 'foul' here. Nobody stole my story. It's just one of those flukes--a crazy pitch, and aren't I lucky I happened to be wearing a helmet? Because if the impossible had come to pass, and the witty and tasteful editor had purchased my novella? We might very well be staring at one another aghast at this moment. The basic paranormal premise of my story is just too damn close to that of the movie for somebody NOT to shriek 'rip-off' once they'd compared the two.

So now I'm left with a story I love and believe in that I can never sell. I have to decide if I should find a way to somehow change the premise, or just put the thing away and chalk it up to 'experience.' Or I suppose I could cannibalize it for characters, setting and dialogue for other work.

On one level, it's disheartening. On another, the irony makes me laugh out loud. There HAS to be a lesson here, somewhere. God, or the Universe, or Whoever just doesn't DO this stuff without a HIGHER PURPOSE, right?



In other news, RWA President-elect answers questions over at Smart Bitches. Some folks are concerned by her seeming to say that erotic romance and gay romance don't constitute 'romance' for the purposes of the organization. I've re-read her comments and have decided to take a 'wait and see' approach on the issue, because I'm not entirely certain how she meant what she said.

However, it's tough to miss the meaning behind this open letter from TPTB at Medallion Press. They're mad as hell and they aren't gonna take it anymore in respect to being asked to prove they meet RWA standards for recognition.

Now, I don't know what happened here. But having been on the receiving end of the 'kiss-mah-grits' attitude that sometimes comes out of the front offices down Houston way, and having heard numerous tales of others who've received less than stellar treatment despite being dues-paying Members In Good Standing, I tend to envision all sorts of outrageous behavior. But my imagination is a wild and an untamed thing, and I may very well be totally off the mark.

I do know the RWA needs publishers a whole bunch more than the publishers need the RWA. Medallion appears to be a going and growing concern, with good distribution and books stocked in the major chains. Alienating them was a dumb-bunny move, no matter how you look at it. I hope the rift can be mended. Otherwise, as I've said before, it's just another move in the direction of a tea party with a helluva high cover charge.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Yellow Brick Roadtrip

Two works of erotic urban fantasy romance.

A contemporary erotic paranormal romance.

A medieval-set erotic fairytale romance.

An erotic chick lit with paranormal elements.

The above describes the five projects currently taking up my time and attention. When I shove each into its own teeny, neatly labeled box, it's easy to see how the whole 'branding' thing may jump up and bite me in the ass.(Also, the labels themselves make me break out in hives.) The only similarity between them is the vast amounts of what the
Smart Bitches call the 'rumpy-pumpy.'

When pressed, I'll admit that each also contains some element or elements of the paranormal. But these elements--classic late-show monsters characterized as villains, the same 'monsters' cast as heroes, black witchcraft and hoodoo as practiced in present-day Louisiana, fairytale magic full of talking horses and bad guys turned into rodents, and a ghost that may or may not be a figment of the protagonist's soiled conscience--are so disparate as to be nearly useless in helping me and my work fit into a particular marketing niche.

The problem lies entirely with me and my short attention span. Once I've told myself a story in my head...once it's laid out like a movie I can rewind and fast-forward and edit and re-edit obsessively...I find myself losing interest in actually getting it down on the page. I KNOW the story, and how it ends. Even if I'm not entirely certain of every detail, my subconscious or unconscious or muse or WHATEVER is already barking like a cop on the corner: "Move along, now. Nuthin' to see. Ya don't hafta go home, but ya can't stay here."

Of course, once I actually complete something, the satisfaction is enormous and gratifying and motivating and all that excellent shit. But the idea of writing something else in that world? Or--God forbid--employing those characters? Appalls me. I want fresh meat. I want to research another city/state/country; I want to explore a new kind of supernatural/paranormal phenomenon. I want to get to know new characters and find interesting ways in which to make them miserable. I want to FLIT to the next project, telling myself I can always come back to the first one later. I'm addicted to FLITTING. I...*hangs head in shame* a FLIT-ER-ER.

So, being perverse and naturally inclined to torment myself, I've begun a series of novellas set in the same world. I've already sold one, and if it generates interest and sales, I'll be writing three more--hopefully enough to fill a small anthology (always assuming my brilliant, sensitive, and startlingly well-groomed editor likes them, of course). By the time I'm finished, I fully expect to be thoroughly sick of that world and those who inhabit it, but I'll have proved I can do it, at least to myself.

I guess the big question is this: Is the rumpy-pumpy, combined with utterly disparate paranormal elements, enough to 'brand' an author? Or will my natural inclination toward diversity--and, let's be honest, the lack of self-discipline that's led to the diversity--screw me big-time in terms of marketing? Do I need to pick a 'type' of paranormal element (urban fantasy, contemporary witchcraft, fairytale skullduggery, magic realism) and stick to it in order to build a readership within the erotic romance audience? I'm askin'.

So, to re-cap...from my last post, we know I'm a lily-livered coward who's afraid to submit projects out of an irrational terror of rejection. And now we know I lack self-discipline and am in possession of the attention span of a two-year-old hopped up on a full box of Cocoa Puffs. What a pretty picture, no?

My buddy and crit partner, Watcher Don,
discusses similar issues in his usual insightful manner. (I take no responsibility for his views on romance fiction or the process by which it's created or published, btw.) It's good to know I'm not alone as I struggle with this issue.

In other news, the indescribably talented, witty, and brilliant Barb Ferrer has
officially announced her deal with Pocket/MTV Books. Self-discipline? And an attention-span that can be calculated in millennia? She's got 'em both, and look what they--along with the indescribable talent, wit, and brilliance...did I mention those?--have gotten her.

There's a lesson here. Of course, I'd have to ingest the creative equivalent of a boatload of Ritalin to sit still long enough to learn it, vicious FLIT-ER-ER that I am.

But that's okay. As Jenny Crusie has been known to say, there are many roads to Oz. The fact that my road is complicated by detours of my own design may only make my journey that much richer. And after all, if a virgin with the bad taste to wear gingham with red-sequined shoes can find her way, how tough can it be?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Is virtue its own reward? Discuss.

Thank you to all who've emailed and left positive feedback here and there. Though it may not be made evident by my unrelenting snarque, I'm shamefully sentimental even when I'm not hormonal and have been moved to tears repeatedly by the supportive and encouraging comments.

And now it's time to get back to the actual *gasp* work.

Two years ago this month, I sent to an editor a proposal for what I thought was going to be a 30K-word novella. She replied almost immediately and said she'd love to see the finished work.

Flash forward to the present. My 30K-word novella is approaching 65K words, and is within a couple chapters of completion. It's been polished and reworked and taken apart and put back together and set aside and picked up again numerous times. I imagine my poor crit partners cringing each time they see an attachment with that distinctive title.

The editor in question has been more than patient. If I ever start my own religion, I'll make her Patron Saint of Forbearance. I have no doubt she thinks I'm a total flake, completely incapable of completing anything I begin, and holds out no hope of ever reading a finished product.

I have a couple very good excuses having to do with big-ass family crises, depression resulting from said family crises, et cetera, et cetera (make sure you do the Yul Brynner voice in your head when you read that and I just REALLY dated myself, didn't I?) as to why it's taken so long to write what amounts to a category-length novel. But the bottom line is that my husband, God love him, continued to go to work every day during the same family crises by which he was just as depressed and disappointed. He didn't lift a pallid, delicate palm to his forehead, roll his eyes heavenward and declare himself just "TOO UPSET TO WORK!" We'd have been pretty thoroughly fucked if he had, his being sole breadwinner and all.

So while the family crap took its toll, the fact remains that if I'd been treating this "writing thing" like a job in the first place, I'd have worked through the crises--though perhaps not as quickly or as well--and completed the manuscript, along with the other requested and non-requested work that sits on my hard drive.

So that excuse doesn't wash. Maybe it would if I allowed it, but I won't--not anymore.

The real reason I have trouble completing manuscripts and submitting finished projects? My true motivation for being Queen of the Slackers?

Fear. Sheer, yellow-bellied cowardice. I hate rejection more than anything else on earth. I'd rather eat glass, walk on hot coals, and endure another forty-hour labor AT THE SAME TIME than be told "no, thank you, that's not what we're looking for/this isn't right for our line/you're just not good enough."

So I take my own sweet mo-fo time, editing and re-editing as I write, taking hours to get a thousand words on the page. Last night, I rewrote the same paragraph six times. It took me a solid hour to get it right. IT WAS THREE SENTENCES LONG.

This? This must stop.

So right here and now, in front of everybody who might drop by even though the bulk of the RWA drama seems to be over for now, I vow to ignore the voices in my head that say that every word must be perfect in the first draft, when I know damn well I'm only going to go back and edit it again anyway.

I vow to keep my editing to one or two passes, to remember that perfection is boring, and that while virtue may very well be its own reward, a sold manuscript is a SOLD MANUSCRIPT, dammit.

I vow to finish the projects I've already begun before I start anything brand new.
Barb has permission to threaten me with bodily harm if I try to weasel out of this one. And as she's in possession of both a baseball bat named Bertha and the willingness to use it, that's more a promise than a threat.

And I vow to submit the projects I do finish and take my rejections like the big girl I most of the time pretend to be.

Now...those of you who found all that insufferably boring and haven't yet read Nora Roberts's latest comments on the GH/RITA fiasco, try
here. You'll need to scroll a bit and check various pages, right up to the most recent. Nora is the one with the South Park 'Kenny' avatar. And how cool is THAT? A mainstream romance writer who appreciates South Park...there may be hope for us yet. Also, check out what TechnoSage has to say about the events leading up to the crowning debacle--she has a unique perspective.

In other news, Peter Jennings
died last night of lung cancer. I met Mr. Jennings in 1987 at a college graduation ceremony (not mine) at which he was the keynote speaker. I had a hand in organizing some of the backstage preparations, and got the opportunity to speak with him briefly. He was kind, gracious, funny, self-deprecating, and not in the least put off by our small-town, amateur attempts at seeming professional and urbane. His formal remarks that day were both sobering and inspiring. And when we stood to sing our Alma Mater, and several members of the graduating class broke down in tears, I saw Mr. Jennings wipe away one or two of his own.

A good egg, in my estimation. Shame his life had to be cut short. Take-away message? SMOKING WILL KILL YOU AND BREAK THE HEARTS OF THOSE YOU LOVE.

*looks pointedly at one or two individuals in particular*


And amen.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Trash Like Me

UPDATE: link to official letter from RWA Board of Directors. Please note that this letter was sent WITH PERMISSION TO FORWARD. Also, please note that the AWARDS CEREMONY BOARD LIAISON referenced in the letter is RWA President Tara Taylor Quinn.

And check out Jenny Crusie's take on the sitch. I should've shut up and let her say it. She does it so much better.

(8/6/05 at 11:30 AM EST)


"Blame it all on my roots...I showed up in boots...and ruined your black tie affair..."

The backlash has begun, as we knew it would. I, and others like me--we bloggers in the romance community who just couldn't keep our mouths shut in public--are being told we've betrayed our sisters with our candor. We're being called disloyal. Unladylike. SHRILL.

Is this the part where I'm supposed to apologize for possessing both an opinion AND the temerity to express it where I believed it would do the most good?

"Keep it private."

"Don't air our dirty laundry in public."

"...for the good of the organization..."

"Protect the image of romance fiction..."

I've heard this before. Every product of every dysfunctional family in the world has heard some form of it.

"If anybody asks, your father is out of town on business."

"Tell Grandma/your teacher/your best friend that you fell down the stairs."

"If the people from the electric company call, tell them I'm not home."

"Shhh...nice girls don't tell." Not even when the guidance counselor keeps them late after school and sticks his hand down the fronts of their shirts and his tongue down their throats? Really?

Really. Four different nice girls in my high school graduating class didn't tell. And believe me when I say we were ALL "nice" girls. He knew how to pick 'em. We were the ones who knew our place, and knew how to keep it.

I quit being a nice girl the day I ratted him out. I took quite a bit of shit for that, too. Our small town didn't know too much about sexual abuse or harassment in 1983, so we played a few rounds of "blame the victim," and then I graduated and went on to college and never looked back.

I haven't been very nice ever since. And I've learned to despise the tea party politics that allow shit like the Graphical Standards mess, the Definition of Romance gibberish, and now the 2005 GH/RITA Awards Ceremony disaster to fester.

People are saying we shouldn't be talking about it off the RWA loops. They're saying we shouldn’t be pointing fingers and asking for explanations and demanding that the guilty parties stand up and take responsibility for their screw-ups--not even ON the private loops. Because what good will it do? Why hurt people's feelings? Can't we just move on?

(Ken Starr didn't seem to think so. But that's different, of course. TOTALLY different.)

Who's afraid of the light of day? If we have to protect the image of the RWA from the truth, then is that image worth protecting? How about if we start from scratch, right out here in front of God and everybody, and build a new image? One that doesn't include the panicked secrecy and furtive machinations that have so obviously been a part of the most recent incarnation?

This will be my last post on this subject, unless something else of significance happens. There are more important matters to talk about, like the tragic loss of author Marianne Mancusi's home to fire while she was at the national conference. You can find out more and discover how you can help rebuild Marianne's lost library, or make other donations HERE and HERE.

Lest I leave the impression that I'm being persecuted, my mail and blog comments are running about fifty to one in the "you go, girl" category. The Ladies Who Lunch may have no use for trash like me, but I'm pleased to note that I've got friends in low places.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle....

Do you remember the scene from the show/movie CHICAGO, in which the character of Billy Flynn does a long, long, LONG-assed tap dance, moving faster and faster as the score speeds up behind him, ending up looking a little desperate and out-of-breath near the end?

Certain individuals closely associated with the recent RITA/GH awards debacle have that air of desperation about them now, as they dance as fast as they can away from any responsibility for the fiasco. I can't quote what's been said on RWA email loops, due to confidentiality agreements and such, but I can paraphrase.

*It's not my fault. Yes, it's true, I volunteered to head up the committee in charge of organizing the event, but I was so busy cleaning up the Graphical Standards mess and the Definition of Romance muddle, that I had no time to actually supervise...*(remember--paraphrased, not quoted)

Someone seems to have forgotten her history. Does "the buck stops HERE" ring any bells? It's a motto that served at least one popular president well.


Hmmm. Funny. That's not what certain of your own board members recall as being the facts of the case. And they're willing to call you on it, in public. That takes some balls, and kudos to them.

But who needs facts anyway, when we've got TAP DANCING??

As an aside, specifically for Kate Rothwell...the dirt on the AGM? A weird-ass speech from Madame President, referencing child molestation, adultery, and nasty language. Those with whom I've spoken didn't get the point of it. But they DID get the part where a member stood up and asked if the board was considering implementing an erotic romance RITA/GH category, and was shot down, real quick-like.

Barb Ferrer's description of that stellar moment on Smart Bitches:

"Someone got up to ask about possible future inclusion of an erotic romance category in the Ritas and GH and was shot down so harshly and coldly by Ms. Quinn, that I think they were still scraping the ice off walls some time later.

I don’t write within that particular genre, but I’ll be damned if I want one individual saying that our organization will not consider including it as part of its most prestigious contest.

What kind of message does that send? It’s okay to include the numbers for our percentage and marketing purposes? It’s okay to take their money for ads, but hey, when it comes to showcasing your ability… uh, no, sorry, go to the back of the bus and don’t dare speak up again."

So, to recap...


And NO, dammit. Erotic romance in the RITAS/GH is OFF THE TABLE FOR DISCUSSION. But if you'd like to chat about child molestation or adultery, she might pencil you in.

I'd like to believe we're nearing the end of this reign of terror, and that those who have been responsible for the recent nonsense will, at some point, be held accountable for what they've wrought. (And by no means do I believe that Tara Taylor Quinn is the sole perpetrator here. The Intolerance League may not be a huge presence in the upper levels of RWA, but its numbers are larger than one.)

I'd like to believe I like to believe in truth, justice, and the American Way.

But if you'll recall, at the close of that tap dance scene, Billy Flynn was winded and perspiring, but unbroken. And in the end? He got Roxie off for murder, using pure, unadulterated deceit and bravado.

And we were glad, weren't we? Because who wants to see the cute little blonde thing suffer?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

People are talking...

...about the GH/RITA awards ceremony at this year's RWA national conference in Reno. And with good reason.

Among other deserving authors, Jenny Crusie (BET ME), Lani Diane Rich (TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR), and Laura Kinsale (SHADOWHEART) took home awards. I've read the three aforementioned books and can vouch for their quality--check 'em out.

But what people are REALLY talking about...whispering about, the debacle that was the ceremony itself.

The story goes that the reigning Queen of Romance, THE Goddess of the genre, NORA ROBERTS herself, was slated to MC the awards ceremony, which was supposed to be an all-out celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the RWA. But after reading the script for the presentation, Nora flatly refused to participate unless allowed to do MAJOR rewrites.



What a diva, right? I mean, the nerve.


Because they refused to rewrite the script, and Nora didn't MC, and what followed, according to some who WERE in attendance, was a horror show to end all horror shows. Instead of a celebration of RWA and romance fiction over the past 25 years, the RITA/GH awards ceremony included the following:

* a video and audio rehash of every national and international tragedy that's taken place since 1980, set to a back-drop of kicky tunes from each year represented.

Imagine, if you will, footage of the tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square with "Don't Worry, Be Happy" playing in the background. Apparently, only a last-minute edit managed to save the ceremony attendees from being forced to watch the shuttle Challenger explode in mid-air and...AND...the Twin Towers fall.

Think about that. All those NYC agents and editors in the audience. Think about it some more.

Yee-HAW. We're celebratin' NOW, baybeee...

** images of political leaders flashed on the screen, looking handsome and honorable.

Okay...wait. Let me rephrase. Images of REPUBLICAN political leaders--specifically Presidents Reagan, Bush I and II--flashed on the screen, looking handsome and honorable.

Word has it the only time President William Jefferson Clinton--you remember him? Rhodes Scholar? Two term president? Led the country through a time of exceptional prosperity? Had a little trouble keeping it in his pants, true, but left the nation with a JILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS?--was shown was in conjunction with the Monica Lewinsky nonsense. Biased much?

(Hey, I understand political bias. I'm a walking, talking political bias, lefty lunatic that I am. But I'm not leading a 9K-strong organization, either, and if I were, I'd put aside my political leanings when organizing a FREAKIN' AWARDS CEREMONY, and understand that I need to TRY to reach EVERYBODY. Or, at least, to openly offend as few as possible.)

*** virtually no positive images of women. Lewinsky was there, as noted. Lorena Bobbitt made a showing. Donna what's-her-name...the one that sunk Gary Hart's political career? She was pictured. Princess Diana got the full treatment, and--GET THIS--they called her story a FAIRY TALE.

What were these people smoking and where can I get some? 'Cause most fairy tales I read don't end in adultery, divorce, and gruesome death for the HEROINE.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Nowhere to be seen. Sally Ride and Oprah were mentioned, apparently, but not shown. Anyone could spend ten minutes and come up with a list of names appropriate to celebrate in a venue such as that and do a better job...but the ceremony organizers had another agenda, I'm thinking.

**** virtually no positive images of people of color. O.J. in his white bronco they got, ad nauseum. Bill Cosby flashed by once, so I'm told, and, as I said, Oprah got a brief mention.

Really? That's all they could come up with? How hard were they trying, do you think?

And over top of it all, let's not forget the music. And the stretch limos, right up there on stage. And the slow-as-molasses fashion show.

The adjectives I'm hearing to describe this event range from "unfocused and unenjoyable" to "hideous, conference-ruining mess." Folks don't understand how any of this was supposed to celebrate romance fiction or educate the members on how far RWA has come in the past 25 years.

A retrospective on romance trends from the eighties, nineties, and today? Maybe with a slide-show of the RITA-winning covers from the past 25 years? Safe, staid, boring, you say?

Tell it to the bitca who thought watching the Towers fall was the best way to say "I love RWA." Thank God cooler heads prevailed on THAT one. And yes, I know which specific individual organized this morbid little homage to bad taste, but I'm not saying. I'll let Nora herself tell you, in the letter to which I've linked, down below.

People are talking. People are PISSED. People are writing letters to the BoD, and to the RWR (Romance Writers' Report).

Other people--the usual suspects, otherwise known as the Ladies Who Lunch, aka: the Stepford Wives of the RWA--are pooh-poohing the uproar with the standard "can't please all of the people all of the time," and spreading the rumor that Nora bowed out because she was "sick."

Don't. You. Believe it.

Nora wasn't so much sick as SICKENED.

Here's the LINK to the letter written by Nora Roberts to the Board of Directors and the RWR, regarding the ceremony fiasco.

It will be interesting to see if the editorial staff at RWR will have the balls to print this letter, plus the others they'll be receiving--at least a few from other well-pubbed authors. My money's on "not in another quarter century," but I hope I'm wrong.