Saturday, May 26, 2007

Paranda music

Yesterday was grueling... was up at 3:30 a.m. and didn't get home until 9:30 p.m. because our plane was late. At least we got home...

I am emotionally drained from working, working, working, and all the travel this month to Haiti and Honduras.

But one of the best things about the travel is learning about different cultures. While in Honduras, I wandered into a gift shop on some down time and heard this fascinating, driving music. And I became introduced to Paranda music. I bought a CD by Aurelio Martinez.

Paranda music is a wonderful blend of African and Latin music, acoustical, with lots of guitar, drums and a beat that makes you want to shake your booty. It originated with the Garifuna people; those people who settled along the Caribbean coastline of Central America; Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and on the island of Roatan (where there are very very nice beaches, not that I will ever have the chance to go there, lol)

The people are descended from African and Amerindian roots. They're best known for the punta dance in which they dance on their toes and move their hips and lower body.

The music is lively, driving, and emotional, even if you don't understand the lyrics, the language of the music speaks to you. One of my favorites on "Garifuna Soul" is "LUMALALI LIMANIGA." Here are the lyrics in English from Stonetree Records, they correspond well with what we saw in the field this week; the sad sad orphans, the hungry, the homeless:

"Why is it that organizations are more powerful than the people? Why is it that the leaders are more powerful than the people?Look at the children in the streets Look at the children freezing in the cold
With hunger, freezing in the cold
I am the sound of silence
We are the sounds of silence
Voice of the children The elderly The unheard The Garinagu Pech Misquitos Sumos Mayas
Like me
The voiceless
Andy, how sad But it's true, Aurelio Their bed and sheets are made of cardboard. Where are the authorities at midnight?"

Check out Aurelio's album at this link:

Friday, May 25, 2007

The wake

Yesterday we drove into Santa Rosa to look at a very nice housing project. The community has formed teams to build the houses and one person from each family must contribute. I met a woman who was laying cement on a wall of her home. She told me that the house is a dream come true. She was terrified that the Chagas insect would bite her or her family because she lived in a very poor mud and stick home where the insect likes to live.

Chagas is a horrible disease... this insect passes these deadly parasites on in their feces and bites a person on the face when they are sleeping. The victim gets infected when they scratch the bite. Treatment is only effective in the initial stages. Eventually the victim dies of cardiac failure.

We also saw a dead baby.

At another mud and stick home, a grandmother was holding a wake for her infant granddaughter, who had died the previous day. Only 26 weeks old. The mother had a c-section but the baby was too underdeveloped. The baby was in this tiny tiny white coffin, with plastic flowers surrounding her. the grandmother had a candle burning on the table for the baby because they are too poor to afford oil for the lamps.

The contrast was so striking...the pristine tiny white satin-lined coffin on this plastic table, the crude mud brick walls of the home and the dirt floor and the grandmother's sad sad face...

I think the hardest part of this trip was the visit to the HIV orphanage. All the children are HIV positive. They have a strong family bond among each other because almost all of them lost their parents to HIV. They are on drug therapy, thank God, but still.... Carlos told us on one visit, when a child was asked what he wanted, he replied, "I want to live longer."
Damn, what the hell do you say to a child who tells you that?

Going home today and I am so exhausted I can barely drag myself to pack. I wrote about 4 pages this week and they suck. I don't know how the hell I will finish this book. I'm working two jobs this year, at the day job and writing these books and this month with a trip to Haiti and now this Honduras trip.... I'm burnt out.

I feel like I almost don't even care anymore... and maybe it isn't worth writing romance. Even the day job... do I really make a difference? Does anyone really care? I work and work and work and I need a break, but I can't take one because I have two books due and I have a day job. Some days I just wonder if it's really worth it, when I collapse into bed and all I can see are those kids in the HIV orphanage with their sad sad faces who just want to live.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The garbage dump

This is Angela. I met her at the garbage dump today in San Pedro Sula. She's 10. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. she works with her mother and two brothers picking out plastic bottles to resell. Her family makes about $2 US a day doing this. She said she does it so they can save money to buy food. I asked her if she could have one thing, what would it be?

She shyly said she'd like "ropa" clothing, so she could change her clothes and have pretty clothes. Angela was wearing her only real clothing... a dirty shirt and shorts that she wears to work in the dump.

This morning we visited an orphanage and met a 10-year-old boy whose mother told him she hated him and wished he was a girl. SHe used to whip him with an electrical cord and once made him hold a live wire in his palm. He still has the burn mark on his palm.

The kids, always the kids, you just want to scoop them up and hold them and make it all go away for them. All of it...

Monday, May 21, 2007

A great view on life...

We had dinner tonight with Carlos and his wife, Rosanna. They speak fluent English and I had a great time at dinner. They're so cute together and lively and make a great couple. We talked of everything from work to Carlos' hobby of triathlons. Dinner was at a restaurant that was an historic house.

Carlos, who is the project coordinator here for the organization we're working with, told me that his job isn't a job. It's so much more. He loves getting up in the morning and going to work. "I love my job. I make people happy. I give them things that make their lives better. I'm like Santa Claus. How can I not love my job?"

It was very gratifying to hear, and a good reminder. Kinda like a pep talk without asking for one. Because I basically do the same,only by raising the money instead of working with individual projects. My job is seeing mostly the bad stuff... and so far today, everything has been a good reminder of how very good the good stuff can be.

And here I am...

This is funny. Because I'm in Honduras logged onto a server here, blogger is all in Spanish. I will not publish my post, I will "publicar entrada."

We didn't end up driving to Santa Rosa. That's Thursday. We're in San Pedro Sula all week. OMG, it is hot here. The sun is brutal. I think even my eyelids are burned. Now I know why the windows are all deeply tinted on the buses and why the men wear cowboy hats. Dusty as well... it's their rainy season, but it hasn't begun yet.

We saw a few projects this afternoon that made me feel good. One is a papaya and guava and tilapia co-op that is very successful. They've had two harvests already of papaya and are doing great, even exporting the fruit next time to El Salvador, as well as giving the locals a very low cost source of nutrition. The above photo is the field. The Taiwanese mission project, I forget the name now, trains them and stops by every 15 days to see how they are doing. The papaya trees are a special hybrid from Taiwan that produces twice the amount of fruit.
The tilapia ponds are my favorite; a low cost project that produces excellent fish. Honduras is the number one exporter of tilapia.
I asked our projects guy about doing more projects for WOMEN to teach them self-sufficiency and work with them in an arena where there is a need. Not just teaching them to sew, but teaching them to sew, setting them up in cottage industries to fulfill a need and teaching them independence.
Translation: You're a single mom. You don't need a man to rely on. Or tell you what to do.
He is going to do just that... which will be really cool. And the organization we are touring with this week, the one we work with a lot here, is headed by a woman who is very very enthusiastic about development projects for women. We're seeing one tomorrow...
I need to see fulfillment and hope because it's been pretty much a downer in the stories I've gotten, which is necessary... because the gut-wrenching stuff raises the money. But for me personally, I have to see the good side, the fulfillment, which makes me feel more cheery and realize we are making a difference.
I did interview this woman today... she was born with both feet backwards, but walks just fine. No one will give her a job because they just assume she can't work because of her disability. She has no house, but is living in a borrowed room with her two sons and her nephew. Her bed is bricks and a board.
She was also gang raped. Literally. By one of the local gangs that terrorizes the communities down here.
I didn't ask her about that. I just didn't want to know... I guess that makes me sounds chicken, but it wasn't necessary to the story... I can't use the violent angle anyway. And I know we'll build her a house. And get her a little project to sell stuff and support her kids.
I just didn't want to hear any more horrific violence stories. Not today... today I just wanted to gaze in peaceful contentment at the field of papaya and guava and the tilapia ponds, and remember the good stuff. Not the bad...

I don't want to go but...

I really do NOT want to go to Honduras this week. I want to stay home with DH. Play with the dogs. Write. Watch American TV. Listen to American music. Eat American food. Drive to work and talk with my co-workers, brainstorm ideas for creative campaigns (the schedule today).

I don't want to drive 45 minutes south to Miami, sit in an airport, get on an American Airlines flight for 2.5 hours with elbows in my side, people oozing over their seats and the drink cart banging my elbows. Then arrive and drive 2.5 hours to our destination, a town north of San Pedro Sula.

I don't want to see any more poverty.

I don't want to see hungry children, orphaned children, women who need help, who just want a little dignity and a little hope for their kids.

I'm burned out. Nearly 14 years of this type of work, seeing suffering, destitution, need, haunted, pain-filled faces... has worn me down.

And then I start to think, what if? What if I didn't go? What if I were wealthy enough from my romance books (insert big laugh here) that I could simply stay home and write and could give up the day job forever?

Wow. It would be really really tough. Because as much as I don't want to go to Honduras, I must. I'm compelled.

So much pain and suffering in the world. And I have a chance to make a difference.

Yeah, it sounds corny and sentimental, but it's true. I come home, write appeals, raise $$$ and feed children, build decent homes for families, give women self-help training and help them try to achieve economic independence.

I keep thinking of the restavek girl I met in Haiti two weeks ago. The call made to authorities to find her a new home, take her away from slavery.

What if I weren't there that day?

If I have a chance to make the world a better place, I must take it. I have to keep slogging.

I'm not trying to sound noble or wave a banner calling people to action, I'm just stating the facts in my particular case. I work at a day job that can and does make a small difference in the world. So I have to keep trying.

Because trying is better than not trying.


I registered for RWA. Not sure if I will make up, but I registered anyway. It's a big big loss if I can't make it, just like I couldn't make RT, but I badly want to go, so I figured I'd take a shot and register, save the early registration fee and guarantee a slot before they are full up.

Reasons I want to go: See friends, cheer on Jennifer and Pamela for the RITA awards, drink heavily at the bar, see my editors, agent, etc. Drink heavily at teh bar. Take in a couple of workshops, find out what's going on in the industry.

Reasons I don't want to go: The Deadline. DH. Time home just to chill.

I figure registering will give me a kick in the arse to really go full speed ahead on this book, a reward of sorts. If I'm very good, I get to play in Dallas.

So this is why I'm packing my laptop when I leave for Honduras this morning. I'm hoping to get a little work done this week ... not sure what the schedule holds, but I'm going to try like hell to write. I fell short 19 pages of this week's writing goal. Need to make up for it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blowing rocks

Surprise! Dh put away ALL the laundry and cooked and cleaned up so I could pack. Whew... I feel much better now!

We went to Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve this afternoon to watch the waves crash against the rocks. Brine in the air, cool breeze, and the ocean. Very relaxing. Just what I needed to download before leaving tomorrow.

Not sure if I'll have internet, if I do, I may post photos from the road...

A leetle crazy...

I feel like one of those donkeys struggling uphill with a big burden that's so heavy, he doesn't notice until another donkey asks, "Wow, how did you get up that hill with that load?"
And the first donkey asks, "Duh, what load?"Just call me an ass, lol

Haiti last week, running around, touring, all the while escorted by four armed security officers, first time I've ever toured in 13 years in Haiti escorted by armed guards. We were in a large group for part of the trip, that's why...

I interviewed kids who lost their parents in the violence that is Cite Soleil, one said, "My father's head was chopped off by gangsters." I hugged a little boy who stood as cold and silent as a stone statue because he's so numbed by the violence he can't respond to affection. And I saw a voodoo ceremony, which was kinda cool and made me want to ask the houngan if I could swipe a bit of his very powerful clarin( rum).

Came home Friday, FIL was in the hospital, we went Saturday to take him home with us for the weekend. That was my weekend last week. Not a heck of a lot of time to write. I had a sick FIL to care for, laundry from Haiti, unpacking, etc. etc. No time to write. But I still have a book due in September.

So I took Monday off, wrote 15 pages. Yay. But then self-doubts kicked in. These pages suck, blah blah blah. Worked Tuesday through Friday. Wrote yesterday, 11 more pages. I have a better grip, I think, on this story. I always panic when writing, thinking the story isn't this or that. How can I make it stronger, the hero sexier, yada yada.

I keep forgetting the mantra, JUST WRITE IT.You can always change it later.

Last night I had a dream about Nora Roberts. Not that I WAS Nora Roberts, that would have been quite funny. This dream was funny in itself. In the dream, Nora and I were sitting on a bed in someone's room, like a girls' sleepover, like at RWA National. And I looked at Nora and I gushed, "Wow Nora, how do you do it? You're soooo amazing! Look at all those books you put out! You must love to write!"

And Nora replied, "Hell no. I'd rather be shopping."

That made me feel better, even though it was only a dream.

In the meantime, today I need to spend quality time with Dh since I'm leaving him again for the second time in two weeks, clean the house because we're picking up FIL and bringing him over for dinner tonight, finish laundry, and pack for my trip to Honduras tomorow in which I'll see more poverty and more destitution and more starving kids. The dog threw up on the carpet and judging by the smell, there is something dead in our attic. DH is busy with yardwork and arguing with me that there isn't something dead in the attic, it's probably his dirty socks.

I have a hero who wants to have hot sex with the heroine and I'm leaving him in a state of sexual frustration because I have laundry to finish and stuff to mail and I have NO time to attend to his arousal.

I'm leaving the country tomorrow and leaving him with a permanent erection, kinda like a literary Viagra state.

Nora, if you're out there, ever reading this, I'd rather be shopping, too.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How much do you masticate?

The more you masticate, the healthier you are.

That's what Horace Fletcher advocated.

Watching Animal Planet about camels chewing their food and they mentioned Mr. Fletcher. Not that he's a camel. He's a guy known as The Great Masticator.

Known for his health beliefs, he believed in the doctrine of "Fletcherism," from 1895 to 1919, in which all food must be chewed and not swallowed until it turned to liquid.

He thought all this extreme mastication helped reduce overeating, and was good for your health. Any food you didn't chew enough should be spit out.

So remember. Always masticate a lot every day, then don't spit, but swallow.

This has been a public ridiculous announcement brought to you by a writer who is overtired and needs more sleep, not more mastication.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Whistle of a different sort

ONe I'd love to see... blows much better smoke, too!

The Farting Preacher 5

REALLY silly, really funny

Heaven only knows

Juvenile but hilarious

Monday, May 14, 2007

Something for "hump" day

Even though today is only Monday... hee hee

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Back from Haiti

Here's some photos... it was a good trip, very tiring, somewhat sad, somewhat not. I'm kinda numb now...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Release date for my first Nocturne

Is this December. It's official.

The name is staying the same as well. EMPATH.


Here's a brief description: A veterinarian is a gentle-natured creature until she is seduced by an embittered warrior werewolf who has to mate with her and turn her into a killer to destroy the shapeshifters stalking his pack.

The coolest thing about this book, besides the paranormal elements and the romance, are the Morphs. Morphs are former werewolves who turn bad by killing relatives and sucking out their energy. Then they can shapeshift into ANY animal form. Any. Alligators, birds, bees, ants.

It's very dark and wicked... I love it. Except one scene I wrote did make me squirm for a while.. and keep checking where I walked in the backyard for anthills... yikes.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pulling up the bridge

I'm not talking about what Fefela posted about the whole "public lynching," though I saw it and inwardly cringed the more and more I read the comments. I'm talking about something else, but it's not worth mentioning here. I need to pull up the bridge and fill the moat. Spend some quality time this weekend thinking about life and other issues that matter most to me.

I'm going to Haiti next week, country of real public lynchings, place where people are shot, stabbed, kidnapped, violence, etc. Where they put gasoline on tires, set them on fire and put them around their enemies' necks. Where people I know were kidnapped. During Mass. During a freaking MASS. At gunpoint.

I hope I get to see him next week. Then again, that means he has to come out of his house to see me. Maybe he's better off staying home... maybe I am as well...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ghosts of Cité Soleil

Gripping reality... this documentary releases next month.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Immortals

Jennifer Ashley's great new paranormal series, THE IMMORTALS, starts today! Woo hoo!

Here's a synopsis of THE CALLING, the first book. Authors Joy Nash and Robin Popp are doing the other books and Jen is wrapping up the series.

Created at the dawn of time to protect humanity, the ancient warriors have been nearly forgotten, though magic lives on--in vampires, werewolves, the Celtic Sidhe, and other beings. But now one of their own has turned rogue, and the world is again in desperate need of the IMMORTALS.
He burst into the battle, his leather jacket billowing and his huge silver sword flashing. Amber had no idea why this windswept warrior would rescue her, but there he was--fighting the same demon who'd killed her sister. Though he was a stranger, she immediately sensed he'd come to protect her. And with the first touch of his lips on hers, she knew he was bound to her, his body meant for her. Yet the shadow of evil is spreading quickly, and more death will follow unless they can discover the secrets of...THE CALLING.

Cool, huh? You can buy THE CALLING HERE.