Sunday, August 31, 2008

Soar with the Best

"Be like the bird, who

Halting in his flight

On limb too slight

Feels it give way beneath him,

Yet sings

Knowing he hath wings."

-Victor Hugo

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Naked Ladies Survive Fire

Prized real estate where egrets and clapper rail tip-toe in the pickle weed; a place where a Marbled Godwit is your next-door neighbor and mustard plants create a fence line. Waterfront property and a home with a view of the San Francisco Bay puts the *fine* in the define of location. I look for the human directional to paradise.

The only sign advertising this location: East Bay Park District. No motorized vehicles. No firearms.

A protected habitat I enter the Pacific Flyway and wetland area. My iPod plays George Strait and I pick up my step. My stress clears and characters and dialogue whip through my thoughts. Midway between a fight and torrid love scene, I stumble on remnants of a grass fire.

Off the trail, I wade through the charred shrubs, the grass crunches underfoot. The smoke and spent embers outline the skeleton of the home that once was and wasn’t. The dry grass the carpet and the thistle the decorations, the open d├ęcor an understatement at best.

I study the charred remains of a ten-speed. Upside down, the wheels barely move with the whistle of the afternoon wind. Licorice bushes and a small tree provide shelter in place of mortar and brick. Driftwood borrowed from the nearby wetlands, the only visible furniture.

A vagabond.

An avalanche of cracked bottles – Vodka, cheap wine and mediocre beer – the scrapbook of someone’s life. Didn’t do Martha Stewart proud I note. Empty cans of tuna, beans and soup rust in a heap. A bottle of Gatorade is buried under the garbage. At least, the homesteader was trying to be healthy.

Under the ash a singed box of cigarettes. I kick the open carton and frown – the dropped-cigarette-on-the-couch syndrome. Only here the couch was red flag flammable, a tinder box of ripe twigs. Too bad.

I take a closer look at the far southwest corner. By the stench, I find the deposit zone for human waste. An untidy bowl moment, I move north and try to cough the odor away. A sweet aroma tempts; a familiar exotic scent that lures men to kiss behind our ears. Intoxicating and aphrodisiac the fragrance begs me to come closer.

What’s this? Naked Ladies dance.

Pink, fringed on the tips, they sway with a rhythm of beauty and grace.

Survivors of the fire.

Beyond the scorched bulbs the ladies sweet perfume fragrances the area. Surprised, I stroke the flower and run my fingers along the trumpet shape. I change my music to Chris Botti, sit down on the blackened earth and reflect.

For now I can forget about the price of gas, foreclosures and traffic congestion. With my hands I form a box and frame the image. Yes, this is the perfect place for a window. Maybe a table to my left. Wonder if I can get free WiFi? A tiny field mouse scuttles nearby. Definitely not part of the deal.

Warned of my presence, a jack rabbit lopes through the brush. His intentions clear, he has no plans to be the guest of honor at my next meal. No problem. I hear rabbit taste like chicken. So just what does chicken taste like I wonder?

The Naked Ladies trumpet touches my shoulder and I hear the petals sing, “Stay.”

I recall the sign at the entrance to the shoreline park: No motorized vehicles. No firearms.

Doesn’t say a thing about a tent and a sleeping bag.

Or better yet a two-man tent. Maybe even a naked man. A theme I learned from the Democratic convention – dream big and make it happen.

I nod to the Naked Ladies and say, “Thanks, I think I’ll stay awhile.”

One can dream. Big.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Romance Writers of America Sizzle in San Francisco

In need of a hormone rush other than my own mis-wired ones, I hop on BART and head to the San Francisco Marriott. I can’t imagine a *hotter* place to be than the Marriott’s lobby or to loiter at the bar bombarded by romance, sex and temptation.

No, the Marriott isn’t the hot spot for singles in the City. This week it’s better. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) are celebrating their 28th annual conference at the downtown hotel July 30 – August 2.

As an author, I discovered sometime back that romance writers put the define in fun. Especially at conferences. Every workshop is a moment to market, to tease and showcase the playful personalities of the word crafters who tempt, taunt and tantalize the reader page after page. Not to mention the cover art.

One step into the lobby and a palatable energy embraces me and I exhale slowly. With my meno-no-longer-in-pause, I greet the first woman with a conference tag and introduce myself. From Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland to Texas warm handshakes and friendly hellos tell me I’m in the right place. Hundred of attendees fill the lobby. I feel the heat. I search my purse for a paper to fan the flush.

More than the need for a sensual ride and peer connection, I’m here to support the Readers for Life program. Over 400 authors are on hand to autograph books, pose for photos, and promote literacy programs. The books donated by the various publishers are as varied in romance genre as the creators. With proceeds going to charity, I’m ready to open my pocket.

Entering the large conference room, I’m overwhelmed with the number of tables, countless authors, and animated chatter equal to a 6.7 quake on the Richter scale. Immediately, I recognize fellow authors: Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. More so, I wander up and down the landscape of tables and note names unknown to my book shelf.

Intrigued by the title, Kiss Her Goodbye, I pick up a novel by Robert Gregory Browne. Not only does his warm personality capture my attention, I’m drawn in by the first sentence and I’m sold. A native Californian like me, I snap his picture. A rare find.

Up and down the aisles of authors I wander. Listed alphabetically I’m lost in this new frontier of romance that reaches beyond the lust and sex of the past. Book after book, the works are rich in prose, plot and characters.

After ninety minutes, I arrive at XYZ neighborhood. Breathless, I need a rest and notice author Connie Brockway, idle at her table.

I glance at her book, Skinny Dipping, and say, “You must write humor.”

Her sparkling smile and vivacious personality answer the question before her words. I kneel by her table and for the next few moments we chat, author to author.

Up to a little Skinny Dipping, I add my dollars to the charitable event. We hug for a photo spot of like-souls – humor people are like that – exit with a smile and I return to my ABC exploration. Dont' we look happy in our photo opp?

No question, author Lisa Gardner, is a definite on my hit-list and Hide tops the pile.

Marketing trinkets of Hershey kisses, bookmarks, magnets and lavender heart-shaped lights highlight the displays. Author Kira Sinclair promotes “Sinfully, Sensual Romance” with sugared-vanilla bubble bath and the offer to “Relax with a Steamy Read!” I note the bottle is just the right size for two. Smart girl. I accept her offer, talk awhile and promise to do my best but I’m not sure how one relaxes while reading a steamy read. Have to get back with you on that.

I hurry to catch the E-list but the two-hour event ends before I cross the HIJK border. And Barry Eisler’s so cute. Damn.

In line Leena Hyat, Author Sound Relations, treats me to an Arnott’s TimTam, a “must” chocolate for romance writers and I’m good to go the distance to the cashier. No question, I’m refueled in more ways than one.

Soon, I’m back in the lobby. The liveliness in the room intensifies and shows no sign of quieting. Friends old and new relax in the lounge and bar area, Cosmos and bottles of red wine the common choice for the respite before the next day’s workshops. Conversations are over-the-back-fence casual and genuine.

Outside, the fog creeps through the streets. I board BART and decide to read Kiss Her Goodbye. A hard cookie to crack, I’m hooked from the first page and immersed in the adventure. I almost miss my train station. Robert Gregory Browne is a rare find.

Back home, I check the RWA conference for next year in Washington DC and read membership guidelines. Curled on the bed, I flip through No More Bobs and consult the cast, “So what do you think guys? Romantic comedy and a flight to DC?”