Thursday, November 30, 2006


“I’m going to take a hike” you say. You’re in the country and plan to head out for an hour or three to wander the countryside. You’ll be walking, a little climbing perhaps. You’ll look at the landscape, the flora and fauna—hills, valleys, trees, seasonal foliage, flowers, birds, maybe a squirrel, a cow, perhaps a deer.

You return from your hike empty-handed. Or maybe carrying some flowers, a rock or a shell.

Everyone applauds your ‘get up and go.’ They envy your exercise, your interest in the great outdoors, in health, in your environment.

They don’t say, ‘What do you mean—you were gone for hours and you didn’t bring anything back? What on earth were you doing out there? Just walking around looking at stuff???”

They don’t say that. They don’t even think it. You went for a hike—that’s what you do on a hike. You walk around and look at stuff.

So is it anti-industrial backlash that vilifies the exact same actions and often similar results when they apply to an urban experience?

“I’m going shopping,” you say. You’re in the city and plan to head out for an hour or three to wander the town, check out the stores. You’ll be walking, a little climbing perhaps. You’ll be looking at the landscape, the flora and fauna—streets, buildings, stores with their displays of seasonal garb and lifestyle choices, multi-faceted entertainment, food—often unique to the time of year and locale. You’ll see people of all sizes and shapes in a phenomenal variety of “plumage.”
You return from your hike empty handed. Or maybe carrying a few things you found.

Everyone says, “What do you mean—you were gone for hours and you didn’t bring anything back? What on earth were you doing out there? Just walking around for hours looking at stuff???”

They don’t applaud your ‘get up and go.' They don’t admire your healthy exercise, your interest in the great outdoors, your curiosity about your environment.

They don’t say that. They don’t even think it. But it’s just as true as a hike in the country. That’s what you do when you go shopping—you walk around and look at stuff.

The only difference is that it’s an urban, not a rural world you are observing—but of no less interest in terms of things to observe and reflect on.

My recommendation? Reject—summarily reject—the often pejoratively-used term “shopping.” From henceforth embrace the more accurate: Urban Hiking.

Hike on!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


It's my favorite Holiday!

A holiday dedicated to celebrating food and eating together is pretty special. It also is non-religious and inclusive. I can sit in the back of any New York cab and wish my driver a "Happy Thanksgiving" no matter what. He or she doesn't even need to be an American: we all have something to be thankful for, don't we?

I realized some years ago that we are never as happy as we are sad.

What I mean is that when something bad happens, sadness is 24/7. You wake up sad, you go to sleep sad, sadness weighs on you.

Happiness is more evanescent. It's wonderful, intense, but tends to be momentary. Yes! Wonderful! Now I have to fix dinner, or whatever. It can last, but never with the same depth and intensity as sadness.

That doesn't seem right.

So at times like Thanksgiving, I try to remember to be truly thankful every day. It sounds trite; perhaps cheesy. But you know how sad you feel when an element of your life goes away, even something small, even just momentarily. You twist your ankle and can't walk. You have a cast and can't take a shower. You have stitches and can't wash your hair. Not to mention big stuff like health issues or losing someone you love.

Are you as appreciative as you could be for what you have while you have it? I decided that appreciation was something worth working on.

I think keeping that sense of appreciation top of mind is one reason why we read romances--to remind us through the stories we read of how lucky we are. Lucky to value love and have people we love in our lives.

Lucky to be capable of compromise, of learning from mistakes, of growing.

Lucky to have the courage to risk relationships, to reach out and connect to another person. It's a beautiful thing.

And when I read a great romance, I get that wonderful sense of satisfaction that no matter what might go on in the world, this works and it's good.

Wishing you and yours and very Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Note from THE WIDOW-maker... Carla Neggers

New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers has just come back from her tour for her first hardcover, THE WIDOW. I've known and enjoyed Carla's work for many years (we won't go into how many) so it is particularly delightful to see the success of her debut hardcover.

You have to check out the contest on Carla's website: It's Adopt-A-Puffin to celebrate the Maine setting of THE WIDOW. Now I know some of you may be thinking Carla is just another celebrity adopter, like Angelina or Madonna, but that's just not true. She has already facilitated the adoption of a Loon and a Whale. It doesn't get any bigger or crazier than that! And the Puffin is really cute!

She's also got some excellent Blueberry recipes contributed from readers on her website. An appropriate match for the moody blue cover of THE WIDOW. And just think of all the anti-oxidants. But let me let Carla share a piece of her life....

"I'm back home on my hill in Vermont after getting out on the road for signing and media interviews for THE WIDOW. . I have only two rules for going on book tour. One, eat oatmeal for breakfast. Two, have fun. I blew the oatmeal rule on my second morning, in Baltimore, after my 4:15 AM wakeup call for a 5:15 AM pickup for a 6:45 TV interview. I was on after Elmo . He helped do the weather. The people in the studio were great, but when I arrived back to my hotel, I ordered pancakes.

"In Philadelphia, I ran into serious gridlock on the roads. George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were there to receive the Liberty Medal. Fortunately, Art, my driver, knew the side streets and a good place to get a true Philadelphia cheese steak (I'd had oatmeal that morning). We're talking heavy security, which turned out okay, because it triggered story ideas, all involving the Secret Service.

"In Maine, I stayed just down the road from the Kennebunkport home of--guess who? George H. W. Bush. No, I wasn't following him, but more stories involving the Secret Service started percolating. The housekeeper at my inn turned out to be a fan, which was nice, and they served a breakfast buffet that did not include oatmeal. I was off the hook. My big indulgence was a lavender martini, the bartender's own recipe...different.

"A bookseller I met in suburban Philadelphia told me what she enjoys most about her job is talking with people who love to read. That sums up the best part about getting out on the road, too. It's not that easy to eat oatmeal every morning, but the people I get to meet make it is easy to have fun."


I asked Carla what's coming up in the future? She said look for:
- CUT AND RUN in March 2007, a reissue, originally published as MINSTREL'S FIRE, a Rita Award finalist
- ABANDON: June 2007, which she is wrapping up now....It continues her "U.S. Marshals" series.

Carla also has a blog so you can keep an eye on what's going on in her life.

There are also a couple of interesting online interviews. One with
with Bill Thompson of Eye On Books and one with
Judyth Piazza of The Student Operated Press

Check it out!