The Last Romantics by Elizabeth Malin

12227028_995096090548734_5565326495476873244_n“Like The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, The Last Romantics by Elizabeth Malin is a layered story that sends you back to the golden age of American literature and forward to the world of contemporary popular literature with the editorial mantra of ‘sex sells.’ Malin deftly brings each of the three stories in The Last Romantics to a successful conclusion that should please all readers.” – Joan Reeves, NY Times & USA Today bestselling author

Three stories, three couples, three intertwined tales of the challenges of requited love:

Kate and Jim: A struggling romance novelist, Kate must deal with an editor pushing her to write steamier books and a husband who decides to dabble in producing his own “art.” But is he really creating something of value or just mocking Kate’s own attempts at becoming a literary artist?

Jake and Belinda: The hero and heroine of Kate’s latest romance novel, this duo faces danger as someone makes an attempt on Belinda’s life while they try to figure out if lust can lead to true love…

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: While Kate pens her hot new novel, she discovers a cache of pages penned by a “Beatrice Rutherford,” who appears to have been a typist for the great literary writer and who sheds new light on what really happened to the famous couple. These papers provide Kate with a pathway to greater publishing success, but she questions whether her good fortune is real or fake…

The Last Romantics is a sweet love story, a hot romance, and an inside look at the publishing world, filled with delectable tidbits and juicy details professional writers will especially enjoy. If you enjoy “insider” books such as The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll like this behind-the-curtain peek at the publishing industry.


“…it wasn’t that he was afraid of losing her…He wanted to be always falling in love with her. I saw the desperation in his eyes for it, the question — will I get it back? And he wanted it back for practical as well as poetic reasons. You can’t write about unrequited love so well when your own love’s sitting in your lap, cozy as a kitten….Scott, I discovered, didn’t write fiction so much as memoir…He couldn’t seem to pull a foreign idea from his heart. It was Zelda, Zelda, Zelda. Endlessly fascinating Zelda.”

“‘It amazes me that publishers don’t know how to sell books to readers,’ Kate wrote. ‘They do not know how to actually sell the books’….’Amazon knows how, ‘Marie countered…’And they loathe Amazon,’ Kate wrote.”

“Big publishers were the old blood, Amazon the new. And like most old money, the publishing houses looked down their noses on outré arrivistes…

The book business was part of the entertainment industry. And while other parts of that industry had figured out long ago how to market directly to their consumers, the publishing business stayed stuck in some nineteenth century model, occasionally muttering about the decline in readership like a spinster complaining of morals today, prim pinky finger raised by her teacup….”

“There is a moment in that Gatsby of his where Daisy, his Zelda, tells Nick she’s been everywhere and seen everything. ‘Sophisticated — God, I’m sophisticated!’ she tells him. But it’s a sham, a bit of fakery, to cover her real heartbreak at finding out the world — the everywhere and everything — didn’t care about her as much as she thought it did…You see, Daisy’s something of a cipher, isn’t she? Did she love Jay or Tom or just herself? I like to think she loved Jay truest of all, but it broke her spirit when she couldn’t have him, so she decided that’s what being sophisticated meant, giving up tenderness and kindness and honesty for the accumulation of comforts and consolations…”

“‘Will you please stop this?’ Becky said. ‘You think you’re not sophisticated, but what you really want is to be accepted by a bunch of folks like that Ranier person. And she’s not sophisticated. She’s a snob….a snob feels superior even though he himself has nothing beyond the most shallow understanding of things he holds dear, only knowing that they set him apart from the rabble…most snobs probably reflexively dislike anything that’s popular.'”

“…seeing her again made him realize just how much she’d populated his thoughts. Every day for the past five years something related to her had floated through his mind, even if it was an ephemeral impression, like an audio imprint, or a sand indentation, quickly smoothed out by the next onslaught of reality, work, life…”

Exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Available at all e-tailers and in print in 2016.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Buy the shoes”

It’s August, which used to be the month of birthdays in my family when I was a girl. Mine, my father’s, and my mother’s–all within five days of each other. (My sister, the rebel, has a birthday in February.)

Sadly, my parents are gone, leaving only me to celebrate during the dog days of summer. However, I do think of my parents a lot during this time of year, especially my mother. And when I think of my mother, I hear her whispering in my ear: “Buy the shoes.”

You see, when I was a teenager and then a young adult, I went through what I guess you could call an awkward fashion phase that lasted, oh, maybe 20 years? For a while, when I was younger, I favored chiffony things, but since you can’t wear those every day, I ended up “borrowing” a lot of clothes from my more practical and stylish sister. She loved that. Oh, yeah.

Then I moved on to my don’t-look-at-me phase, which dovetailed with the time I started working in a college PR office. During this stage, I favored neutrals and blend-in-with-the-wall shades, all designed to make me appear “professional.” I guess at that time I thought professional meant boring.

There was one constant through these various style shifts, however–shoes. Or rather, my complete blindness to good-looking footwear. I just didn’t pay that much attention to it. It was more fun to spend my meager paycheck on blouses, skirts, dresses, jeans, a haircut. Besides, since I wasn’t staring at my feet most of the time, why would other people notice them? This led me to wear shoes until they practically fell off my feet. Scuffed, run-down, battered-looking shoes. Shoes that appeared as if they’d made a trip across the country and back…walking alongside a Conestoga wagon.


My mom, with me and my sister

My poor mom, she probably struggled to bite her tongue about my fashion choices (after all, we all know what mother-daughter discussions on clothes are like–raging battles with no chance of diplomatic resolution). But she found a way around my fashion sense, including my shoe blindness. She zeroed in on my taste and bought me items accordingly–a lovely cream-colored herring-bone skirt, for example, that suited my beige-is-the-new-black era, and a sleek pair of ecru pumps which were about the swankiest pair of shoes I’d ever owned up until that point. She chose wisely. The shoes fit, and I ended up wearing them a lot since they blended so well into my blend-in wardrobe.

Owning that sweet pair of shoes triggered an epiphany. First, they made me realize that I liked wearing nice shoes. They made me feel more confident, more professional, more “together.” They made me realize that small details can make a difference. They made me feel…I was worth it, to borrow an advertising slogan. I was worth good shoes. I deserved good shoes.

I used to love going shopping with my mom, and even today when I’m in a department store, the smell of new clothes brings back memories of going through the racks with her, a silent bond between us. And while I don’t collect shoes the way some women do, I have a decent assortment of comfy and good-looking footwear for virtually every occasion–from lightweight walking shoes to silvery slingbacks I wore at my middle son’s wedding.

Every time I go shopping, if I’m hesitating over a purchase of something I really like, I hear my mother’s voice: Buy the shoes. But that mantra really means something much more than just pursuing a materialistic comfort. Now I know its true message:

Be good to yourself. Value yourself, and others will value you, too. Don’t scrimp on this wonderful gift of life I helped give you. Buy the shoes.


Filed under Uncategorized

“The family that love built”: the Charleston martyrs

“I acknowledge that I am very angry…(but) she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.” Thus said Bethane Middleton-Brown, sister of one of the victims, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, killed last week by a racist murderer in a Bible study class at a church in Charleston, SC.

The family that love built — the parade of victims’ family members who addressed the murderer in the courtroom the day after his horrific act ended their loved ones’ lives was one of the greatest witnesses to Christian faith I’ve seen in my lifetime. Still grieving, their voices sometimes trembling with tears, sometimes strong and clipped, they came to the microphone one after another and offered this simple message: We forgive you.

“It was as if the Bible study had never ended,” a New York Times reporter wrote.

I suspect these families will struggle with the pain, the anger, and even some hate in their hearts over the years. But when they had the chance to speak publicly, on the record, in a courtroom, they used their moments in the spotlight to preach love, not hate, not personal agendas or political points. 540_293_resize_20120701_662a9a6687957abd8bb58f60d5257c1a_png

Would that we all learned from them. So often, when horrible acts like this occur, we reach for our own particular solution. Angry that it was never enacted (gun control, better mental illness care, anti-racism/terrorism programs), we let that anger spill into hate, at times, for opponents of the solutions we favor.

We saw this in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre. We saw, sadly, hate, not love from some quarters. Hate for gun control opponents. Hate for those who won’t rush to take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina. Hate for anyone we disagree with. Don’t get me wrong — I agree with some of the solutions these people espouse. But to be effective, you must learn to love your policy idea and the people you want it to benefit more than you hate its opponents . (For how this plays out, just look at the last push for gun control in the US Senate, where proponents were happy to use the issue to bludgeon opponents but lacked the fortitude to even “whip” the vote.)

To a certain extent, it’s understandable to get so riled up that we lash out during times like this. When something this horrible happens, even removed from the personal pain of those directly affected by it, we still ache for them in our hearts. It’s easy for that ache to search for expression. And it’s very easy for that expression to become: “If only those horrible people hadn’t done or said X or stood in the way of Y…”

A conservative website, Ace of Spades, acknowledged the legitimacy of this kind of feeling in a raw post right after the shooting:

“The feeling I have — apart from shock and horror — is shame. Shame that this creature looks anything at all like me, shame that there may be a few stray nucleotides in his envenomed heart that resemble my own….

Black people are going to be angry at white folks — even if they hide it, they’re going to be angry at white folks for what this bloody bastard did. And I won’t jeer at this feeling. I understand it…”

But then, in that courtroom, we saw the opposite of hate. We saw the love of Christ. We have to acknowledge it as this because those family members testified as Christians called to live their faith.

Christianity has been around so long now and has been such a part of the history of the western world that we have forgotten how revolutionary its message was at the beginning. As theologian David Bentley Hart has pointed out, Christ’s message of loving one’s neighbor, of forgiveness, was fresh and radical in an ancient world where violence and revenge were not only tolerated but in many cases sanctioned. Think a world dominated by the likes of ISIS, by tyrants. And then think what it must have been like to have someone preach a gospel of love, of “good news,” that actually turned hard hearts away from slaughter, hate, and oppression toward love and forgiveness.

Think of those families in Charleston.

They represent what Christianity should be, the “family that love built.” Thanks to those Charleston family members, we were able to witness it anew.

Leave a comment

Filed under Charleston, courtroom, love, racist murders, SC, testimony

The Eve of Destruction: A Mad Men fan fiction

“Nothing so rare as a day in June.”

“It’s not June. It’s September.” Peggy pulled her sweater tighter. A sweater set? Pearls? Low heels? She screamed suburbia. What had she been thinking? She knew. Cover the curves. The years had added pounds, as well as debt, resentment and a growing sense of disillusionment. She sipped her coffee and stared at the bustle outside the cafe. This had been her city once. Before she’d married him. Before she’d decided a career wasn’t such a big deal. Before she’d had Heather and Greg.

“You know what I mean. Beautiful day. Great day for Roger,” Stan said, perusing the menu. Would he order a big breakfast? If she’d put on curves, Stan had added the inner tubes of the Michelin Man. Yet, because of his height, he merely looked burly when he stood. And his health seemed as robust as ever.  At least he still had his hair, a bushy, if shorter, head of it. She’d caught a glimpse of Pete checking in the night before. His receding hairline had turned into no hairline at all. She had to admit he’d done the right thing by shaving it all off, though. That gleaming pate was a good look. A Bruce Willis look. Trudy probably nudged him on that. Why wouldn’t Stan listen to her when she suggested a health diet, more exercise? On the latter point, he’d say “when we pay off the mortgage, then we get the gym membership.”

“Roger is dead,” she said flatly. The waitress came over, and she ordered toast and fruit, narrowing her eyes when Stan asked for the eggs, pancakes, sausage and hash browns plate.

“But his legacy lives on!” Stan said with forced good cheer. Stan had become a veritable font of cheer over the past decade, trying to jolly her out of empty nest syndrome, encouraging her to go back to work. But an office held no appeal any longer. It was a cage after years of the flexible schedule of a stay-at-home mom. Her brief stint in a college PR office had ended after a year and a half, when migraines began plaguing her days. But she wasn’t giving up. Stan didn’t know, but she’d sent an email to Joan, after finding her on Facebook, and hoped to talk to her some time today, after the Roger memorial thing was over. Stan might be coasting into retirement. Peggy still had things to prove. To herself.

“Oh, look!” Stan said, gazing behind her, then standing and waving. “Joan! Over here!”

She turned to catch a glimpse…and tried to suppress her shock…


“You won’t believe this,” Pete said, clicking off his cell phone. “They screwed up the reservation.”

“What?” Trudy popped her head out of the bathroom, placing a diamond stud earring in. She looked gorgeous, as always. Still trim, with a chic haircut that emphasized her big eyes, her face as smooth as when she’d been in her twenties. And, despite their Kansas residency now, he knew she’d put many a Manhattanite in the shade with her Dior suit and Prada pumps. His heart swelled looking at her, and for the umpteenth time since moving from the city, he felt something bubble up in his soul–a prayer…of gratitude?

“The ceremony. They bollixed up the location. It’s being moved. Everyone should be getting a call.”

“Oh,” she said. “I was looking forward to being in that building. Damn. Maybe we can have lunch there tomorrow.”

“Sorry,” he said, inwardly cringing. “I have to get back. I moved up the flight time. How about breakfast?”

Disappointment morphed to happiness in a second. “I’ll take it. And when is it you said you’d retire?”

He shook his head. They’d been having this discussion for five years now. She wanted him free-er so they could travel more. Specifically, travel to see Tammy and Clay, now in North Carolina where Clay was establishing himself as a top-notch resort real estate agent. But it wasn’t Clay they both wanted to see. Nor, for that matter, was Tammy the drawing card. No, it was their three grandchildren–Peter, Abby and Dustin.

The thought of children rattled his serenity, but he shook it off. He’d deal with that. Later.


Sally Draper Wiggins plopped her soft leather attaché on the desk of her old friend, Bob Gremont, and clicked her phone to see the time. Just after six. He was late. Sure it was early, but it was the only time Bob could fit them in. Dammit. Couldn’t even make it on time for–

Bob breezed in, holding out a coffee while he got comfortable behind his desk. She thanked him and sat down.

“I appreciate you coming so early. Sleep okay?”

“Jet lag and the time change conspired against me,” she said good-naturedly. She’d flown to LA from Boston just last evening, and had spent most of the night poring over California law. Although she was a member of the Massachusetts and New York bars, she didn’t practice here. Thus her frantic appeal to Bob, and his squeezing them in before his day began. The suite of offices was dark, except for this lone spot, and the gray dawn had just begun to creep over the city.

A soft knock at the door was followed by the entrance of her father. She stood and waited for the hug and peck on the cheek, as she tried to control the geyser of emotions threatening to blow away her professional calm.

“Sally, Bob,” he said in that low reassuring tone, as if he were the host here. They all sat, and as Bob started laying out the issues, she glanced at her father, studying him. Except for a brief text exchange last night to announce she’d arrived safely, they hadn’t spoken since he’d been charged.

Man-men-LogoStill had good looks under there, she had to admit, but now his lean figure seemed less attractive, more…seedy…like the body of a drug addict who’d abused himself for too long. His skin was tan, though, and his hair–she really had to tell him to stop coloring it. The stuff he used was so monochrome that it shouted fake and just made him look older than the gray it tried to cover. His sport coat and open shirt were fashionable, but retro, and she wasn’t sure if the items were made to look vintage or had been sitting in the back of his closet for lo these many years. In a flash, she saw him as a stranger. And she realized he was the type of man who would normally make her skin crawl. A creepy, slick kind of fellow who thought he was more appealing than he was.

Oh, Dad.

“…so I’m going to recommend we settle for…”

He’d retired in ’86, a year after the Coke debacle. New Coke had been a disaster, and everyone knew that Don Draper had been a moving force in suggesting the formula reworking to the company. Once that scarlet F was emblazoned on his head, it was easy to push him out. From the bits and pieces she’d heard, McCann Erickson wasn’t sad to see him go. He was a problem employee, and his creativity didn’t seem to keep up with the times. The firm had brought on new blood by then, young men and women who understood the zeitgeist better than Don Draper, who, despite efforts to keep up, was as out-of-date as yesteryear’s science fiction movie costumes. They’d given him a nice sendoff, a gold watch, a severance package that made for a comfortable retirement, and he’d moved to LA, where he’d enjoyed partying with old buddies, until they started dying off, and he started getting careless.

Her thoughts screeched back to the present as she heard her father’s voice rising.

“She’s always been about the money! I tell you, that was what she wanted from the get-go!”

“That might be true, Mr. Draper, but the fact remains she was fourteen. Roman Polanski is still in exile for similar.”

Her father grimaced and shook his head. “But it sets a bad precedent. Any girl will see this payout and know I’m good for more.”

The anger she’d suppressed earlier shot up. “Then keep it in your pants, Dad,” she said drily. “For god’s sake, you’re what, seventy-five? Is it really that difficult to act as responsibly as, say, a well-raised teenager?”

“Oh, you mean like you back in the day?” he retorted.

“Was I a well-raised teen, Dad? And is that what you aspire to now–becoming like me, back then?”

She saw his jaw work, as he gritted his teeth. He didn’t like being told to rein it in, and he certainly didn’t like it when she acted the parent. She was prepared to say worse. Still up her sleeve: her brothers had told her to cut him loose, let him face the music on his own. They were done with him. And they lived in fear of the day they’d have to face taking him in.

Finally, he stared at Bob. “What’s involved?”

“They want a DNA test…”

“No,” she said, interrupting him. No DNA record entering the system. Not when Dick Whitman’s secrets were still buried. Just the other day she’d seen a story of long-ago war dead remains being shipped home from hither and yon. She knew some of her father’s history, and she knew enough of his temperament to realize there was peril in unearthing the past.

“Just negotiate a good settlement,” she said to Bob. “Contingent on charges being dropped–she comes up with a story that she lied about her age–”

“Who says it’s a lie?” her father groused, but she ignored him.

“–so the slate is completely clean. He pays, everyone’s happy.” She turned to him. “And you learn to grow up.”

In the artificial light of the office, he appeared old, no longer current. Standing still. Even during his most dapper days, though, he’d stayed the same, the one constant as time marched on like a news reel. That constant was out of place.

She remembered her drive from the airport. The taxi had gone past a newly developed block, with one lone small house in the middle, a holdout. But now its owners had lost their leverage, their prestige, their value and lastly, their looks. Her dad was that house. The world had grown up around him, faster than even the nimble Don Draper could keep up, and he’d eventually decided to ignore it all and stay who he was. Who he’d always been.


Kisses and hugs. Perfume so heavy, she nearly coughed. But then again, she’d nearly gagged when she’d seen Joan come in. Her Facebook photo had been flattering, of course, as if she hadn’t changed. But up close, it was apparent that constancy had been achieved through multiple plastic surgeries. Joan’s face appeared slightly distorted, eyes just a millimeter too uplifted, cheeks just the tiniest bit too firm, skin just the faintest bit too taut, its expert makeup adding to the artificial  effect. Her hair was an orangier shade, slicked into a contemporary cut that owed its waves to heavy doses of some product, and her tight-fitting designer dress hugged her Spanx-captured body the way her purse jailed a little pooch, whose head looked with sad eyes at Peggy as they sat down. My god, it was awful.

And, oddly, it made Peggy feel better. Joan might have a successful company–now run by her son, it turned out. She might live comfortably in a rent-controlled apartment in town and a beach condo in Florida. But if you had to carry a dog in your purse for company, something was missing.

“Did you hear?” she said in a voice more gravel than velvet now. “They’ve moved us! Someone double-booked the room.” She shook her head and gave a click of her tongue that took Peggy back to a time when Joan controlled appointments and schedules with the exactness of a military commander. This made her smile, too. Joan was meticulous, but not creative. She could organize things, not make them. With online programs, instant connection via cell phone, palm organizers, no one needed the Joans of the world anymore. Secretaries, how Joan had started, were becoming dinosaurs.

The door to the cafe opened again, and Pete and Trudy stepped in. Peggy’s attention flicked between them and the TV mounted in the corner where a picture of disaster flamed into view. A plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

“Oh, my God!” she whispered, her hand fluttering to her chest. Others turned to look. The world changed.


In the horror that followed, they stayed together in the restaurant, a band of survivors on an island, grimly fixed on the news reports, the occasional rumors that swirled into the cafe from people rushing by. They were far enough away from the towers that the rubble and dust didn’t find them when they fell. But Peggy found herself shaking uncontrollably at the thought that, had some weaker version of Joan not double-booked their room in the World Trade Center that day, causing McCann Erickson folks to scurry to find a hotel banquet hall nearby for the ceremony honoring Roger Sterling with a college scholarship fund in his name…they would all be dust.

As she sank into a chair, Pete came up to her, claiming the seat next to her. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Is anyone?” she responded, unable to take her eyes from the television.

“Peggy, I need to talk to you about something,” he said.

She stared at him. What on earth could be so important that he’d choose this time to bring it up?

“I signed up for the bone marrow registry a year ago–there was a drive at the office because some fellow’s niece needed one. Anyway, I’m a match for a fellow,” he said, leaning forward.

“That’s nice, Pete.” Maybe he needed to talk about something good in the world with all this evil destruction around them. She let him go on.

“A perfect match, Peggy. Perfect.”

He let the words linger. It took her a few moments to understand, and when she did, her heart fluttered again. No. Yes. Tears sprang to her eyes. She needn’t hide them. Not on this day. As she searched for a handkerchief, he went on.

“He’s in New Jersey. I’ll go for the procedure next month. I can let you know when it is. You could, well, visit me in the hospital.”

“But how do you know it’s him?”

Pete reached out and squeezed her hand. “They told me — the docs — that they’ve never seen such a good match, that it looked like a family match.”

“Does Trudy know?” she managed to squeak out.

He nodded, and she saw at that second Trudy turn around and look at them, her face a mask of compassion.

“He might not know he’s adopted,” Pete went on. “He might not want to know who his real…I mean, his biological…parents are.”

“But we could see him.”

Pete nodded.

She let out a heavy sigh. And then a sob broke through, as if against her will. Stan, who’d been close to the TV, heard and rushed over, kneeling in front of her as Pete pulled away.

“Honey, you okay?”

She let him hug her, rocking in his arms, sobbing into his shoulders. Yes, on this day of death and loss, she’d found something that was alive and whole. She was whole again.

“Thank you,” she mouthed to Pete.


On the street, Sally put the phone back in her purse and swayed. She felt unsteady, faint. Her father came over to her.

“You okay?” he asked. “Who was that?”

“Bobby. Our Bobby,” she clarified, meaning her brother, not the lawyer upstairs. “He said…he said….” She was hyperventilating. She had originally been booked for a flight from Boston to LA today for a late meeting this afternoon. She would have been on that plane if Bob’s office hadn’t called yesterday asking if she could do an early morning meeting instead.

She calmed herself, told her father the news. If he was shaken, he didn’t show it. He grabbed her elbow.

“You’re lucky,” he said, staring into her eyes as if he was a mesmerist intent on calming her. “Like me. Let me buy you breakfast.”

“Okay,” she said, happy to be led, to have her father play father to her. “Okay.”

They walked down the street, his arm on her shoulder, and she felt like a child again, cared for by a very imperfect but loving dad. She was lucky.


Leave a comment

Filed under fan fiction

Beach Blanket Bingo Summer Writing Program

So, this happened: I came across a promotion for a summer writing program at a prestigious college. Curious, I clicked through to see who would be there, what they were offering, and what the fee was. Several literary authors are on the bill, with promises of panel discussions with agents and editors. I recognized some of the authors’ names, but lately I’ve not been reading a lot of what passes for Lit-RAH-chure these days, so most of them were only vaguely familiar. I’m not judging them by my lack of awareness, though. But…

bookbannerParticipants have to shell out, oh, around $3,000 for this ten-day program. And they’re not guaranteed a slot. They have to submit writing samples first, to see if they’re worthy, I guess. And, in the FAQ section of the website, you learn: Participants stay in dorm rooms. Un-air-conditioned dorm rooms. Rooms do not have private baths. Baths are in the hallways. The dorms do not have elevators. There’s no parking. Breakfast and lunch are provided, but dinner, you’re on your own.

Sorry, but I started laughing then. I’m thinking: Why would I want to shell out several thousand dollars for ten days of what will most likely be at least some self-flagellation as I listen to critiques of my work or hear talks on what constitutes great literary effort these days (hint: probably not my stuff) and get to add to this “pleasure” by sweating away the nights in un-air-conditioned dorm rooms with hallway baths, while paying extra for dinners and having no place to park my car?

I have a better idea. I might try this writing seminar instead. I call it The Beach Blanket Bingo Writing Program (BBBWP, for short). Here are the deets:

For less than a third of what Prestigious Writing Program costs, you can rent a beautiful, comfortable two-bedroom, two-bathroom, air-conditioned condo with great parking on the Bethany Beach coast of Delaware. There is no writing sample requirement for the BBBWP. You are, however, encouraged to bring with you your favorite book(s) about writing, from Anne Lamott to Stephen King, and any novels/short story collections that inspire you. Also bring a computer, as BBBWP does not provide any, but Wi-Fi is available in each condo.

The BBBWP schedule is as follows for each of the ten days:


  • Rise early to view sunrise over the Atlantic.
  • Return to condo for yoga, meditation on your own.
  • Breakfast at nearby McCabe’s Gourmet Market on French pastry and coffee while engaging in amiable conversation with the Eastern European workers there.
  • Return to condo for either: reading or writing.

LUNCH in condo (in addition to bedrooms and baths and air-conditioning and parking, the condos also have fully equipped kitchens).


  • Spend time on beach thinking about writing.
  • Exercise in heated pool.
  • Nap.

DINNER ON YOUR OWN, either at the condo or at one of the many restaurants nearby.

As you can see, the BBBWP does have some drawbacks–you won’t be interacting with other aspiring writers or published authors or agents or editors. To compensate for this, the BBBWP will provide a phone line consultation daily. Because of call volume, however, you will hear only recorded messages, along the lines of:

  • AGENT RECORDING: “Your characters must be married to theme more.”
  • FAMOUS AUTHOR RECORDING: “The writing was beautiful and you are clearly highly skilled, but you seem to be stretching for a more literary feel than your writing actually achieves (unlike my writing, which is always spectacular and where everyone goes out for cigarettes and commits suicide at the end).”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “I am so impressed. But I wanted more. More plot twists. Or something. I’m not sure – so I’m going to pass with thanks.”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “I do see this working for someone else; it’s so well drawn.”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “Surely some other editor will love this, and it will be a great success.”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “I was very impressed with your unique premise, well-drawn characters and page-turning plot. But in this tight market, it won’t sell, so I have to pass.”

Most of these recordings, by the way, will have the advantage of being culled from the actual words of real editors and agents!

So, sign up today and get your BBBWP certificate (of need), along with the T-shirt and name tag lanyard (which will not have the BBBWP name on it, but will carry the name of the resort so you can get into the pool and private beach).

All kidding aside, if you do prefer the group experience with its promise of meet-ups with agents and editors, my advice is simple: Join Romance Writers of America (even if you don’t write romance) and go to a chapter conference or the big national one. You’ll find lots of supportive writers there. I’ve never come across a more supportive group of writers than those in RWA. They’re always eager to cheer you on, offer encouragement, suggest publishing routes and share information. As I said, even if romance isn’t your writing thing, you’ll still find something to like here and maybe, just maybe, a door will open. Unless you can be guaranteed one of those things — writing support and open doors — I’m not sure it’s worth shelling out thousands of bucks for any conference. But that’s just me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, writing

The “I am not worthy” syndrome

So, this happened: Patricia Arquette won the Academy Award for best supporting actress and used her moment at the podium to advocate for equal pay for equal work. Hear, hear. Meryl Streep gave a great fist pump, or some sort of gesture indicating endorsement.

And who wouldn’t endorse such a notion, really? Of course, women should be paid as much as men for equal work! What a ridiculous notion that anyone would believe they shouldn’t be!

rs_560x415-150222222309-1024-Patricia-Arquette-acceptance-oscars.jw.22215But out in Hollywood, famous for its left-leaning politics, you’d think you’d find those thoughts in action. Not so. As the hacking of Sony records revealed, female stars (not just actresses but bona fide, household-name stars with box-office drawing power) were getting less than their male costars. Oopsie. 

Sony’s now-former CEO Amy Pascal explained the gender pay gap bluntly in an interview:

Pascal said the problem was much bigger than just her studio. “Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money,” she said. “Women shouldn’t work for less money. They should know what they’re worth. Women shouldn’t take less.”

Ouch. But, the reason it hurts is because it’s true. Women often accept less because they don’t ask for more. This was also explored in an excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. Written by a woman, it went through the various ways women differ in their approach to jobs. Here was an enlightening tidbit about promotion-seeking:

Mr. Kaufmann of Cardinal Health noticed that if a job opening has five criteria, a woman with four of them won’t apply—but “a guy will have one of the five and will say, ‘Give the job to me!’ ”

A recent CBS News story about the gender pay gap being a myth interviewed a career expert who pointed out, among other things, that women business owners get paid significantly less than their male counterparts:

Women business owners make less than half of what male business owners make, which, since they have no boss, means it’s independent of discrimination.

I don’t think the pay gap is a myth, and I suspect most women don’t think so either. But count me among those who believe there are complex reasons for pay disparity, few of which are linked to outright discriminatory practices. In the CBS story, the expert noted that women business owners make less than their male counterparts often because they place more value on more flexible schedules and shorter work days/weeks, while men…just want the money.

Women also seem to suffer from the “I am not worthy” syndrome, as indicated in the Wall Street Journal essay mentioned above. I know I often do. Just ask me about my book royalties, and I’ll tell you a story about not paying adequate attention to them because I thought I wasn’t a best seller, so why bother. (I wasn’t worthy of success, see?)

Throw in the mix an angle to the problem that possible Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has been trying to draw attention to–seniority pay systems. Many unions use seniority to determine pay scale. Since a lot of women drop out of the full-time work force to rear children, this puts them at a disadvantage on the seniority scale. Fiorina argues that merit pay rather than seniority pay is part of the answer to some gender pay gaps.

What’s the right response to the pay gap problem? Is it legislation? Or is it…education? Maybe a combination of both. I find utterly distasteful corporate policies that forbid employees from talking about salaries. It seems to me that’s a violation of free speech rights. Information is power, and, if women knew what others were getting paid in an office, they might speak up more for similar amounts for the same work. (Actress Charlize Theron did just that after finding out what her male costar was making on a film–she demanded and got the same.) But I also think women need to be coached, mentored, educated on how to stand up for themselves, how to fight the “I am not worthy” syndrome, how to apply for promotions, place value on themselves and learn, most importantly, when to walk away from a deal that isn’t so sweet.

Women’s organizations would do a great service to their sisters by sponsoring such programs. Maybe many already do. This would be a far more serious effort to advance gender pay equality than some of the theatrics we’ve seen recently where pols on the left (who are guilty of paying women staff less than men, too) use the issue to bash pols on the right (who too often deny the problem).

Women should be paid the same as men for the same work. But they shouldn’t wait for men to solve this problem for them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, women's issues

Can I get a witness?

We’ve all been horrified, haven’t we, by the cruel executions carried out by ISIL? I can’t bring myself to talk about them, their barbarity is so horrible. And the question that dances around in my head is: What is to be done?

Not on a national or global level. But what is to be done on a personal level? How does one confront such evil acts on the individual level, in the here and now, in our own lives?

I’m too old to don a uniform and volunteer to fight to protect those who are in the path of this savage group. My thoughts instead go back to the gospel I’ve grown up with and embraced with more vigor as I age: Christ’s message of love. Love one another.

But to think of loving those barbarians who perpetrate such evil, horrific acts? It’s a hard slog. Far easier to love the person who irritates you or whose views you don’t share. There’s a smugness in that kind of love that lets you feel…superior. No, it’s far harder to love, to even seek to love, those who have only hatred in their hearts.

But I am a Christian, and this is the message of Christ, to forgive one’s enemies, to offer them love in exchange for hate. It’s hard to do. We can go through our entire lives without realizing how hard it is. The church’s life itself contains a history of not always recognizing the true meaning of the message of love.  As David Bentley Hart argues in his book Atheist Delusions:

“….men and women have done many wicked things in Christ’s name….(but) Christianity expressly forbids the various evils that have been done by Christians, whereas democracy, in principle, forbids nothing (except, of course, the defeat of the majority’s will).”

Hart’s point is apt.  Depending on your political sympathies, you might point a finger of blame for Mideast turmoil at the leader you think (or thought) most feckless and least honest.  But, come election day, the majority rules.

Speaking of majorities, Christianity is still the dominant religion in the US, according to Gallup, but over the years, the percentage of people identifying themselves with any religion has declined, and the percentage who belong to a church or synagogue has gone down even more. Gallup’s numbers on this are here.

john_15_12_love_one_another_poster-rac0d4c53566348458f59796e03c63b1a_au58_8byvr_512All of this leads me back to the word of Christ, His message of loving one another. There are a multitude of ways to exhibit such love . My friends and family provide examples for me daily, and I hope I reciprocate in ways that make a difference to them. Where I fall down on the job most, I think, is in spreading the gospel to those who might be seeking a spiritual home. I suspect many of us fail in that regard, if Gallup’s numbers are a reference. We don’t know how to reach out to seekers and searchers. We’re afraid of offending or turning off a searcher, especially in an age where religious sentiment is often mocked and religious-minded Christians painted as being one step away from an intolerant brand of fundamentalism that few share.

How does one evangelize in this secular, diverse time, where we celebrate tolerance and respect for other faiths — a good thing, a wonderful thing. But in our respect for other faiths and points of view, many of us have stopped celebrating our own beliefs. We think it impolite or politically incorrect to stand up and say, I’m a Christian, and Christ teaches us to love one another. Won’t you join me?

It’s that last question that’s hard these days. To ask someone of another faith to join you in your celebration of Christianity is, to some, an insult. “What–you don’t think my faith is good enough? You need me to convert to yours?”

Most mainline Protestant churches don’t do much evangelizing. The Catholic church doesn’t do much either. Oh, I know they all send missionaries overseas. But they don’t evangelize the way, say, Mormons do, going door to door. They don’t reach out the way evangelical churches might, on radio and television. It seems so déclassé, so outré, to engage in that kind of up close and personal religious persuasion. But maybe we Christians need to do more of it. Maybe we need to have the courage to stand up and actually talk about that message of Christ’s love and how essential it is in our lives. Maybe we need to…witness.

So, here is my witness:  I believe Jesus Christ came into a world of barbarity and said: It doesn’t have to be this way. You should love one another. Even when it’s hard. Let me show you just how hard it can be…

So, yes, I’d like to be able to say to those cruel barbarians across the ocean the same thing: There is a better way. And, in my view, it’s the way of Christ. But if you find that better way on a different path from mine, I will still be able to see Jesus in you.

If you love one another.

I cannot join the fight. I can only try to express the love of Christianity in my own life. For those seeking such love, let me issue an invitation–try going to your local church or temple. Find one where you are comfortable. It might take a while. You might need to go back several times to get to know people and figure out how you fit in.

My church is St. Edward’s Episcopal Church on Harrisburg Pike in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There, you’ll find a loving group of people who’ll help you when you’re down but won’t badger you when you need to be alone. It’s filled with groups that try to do good by knitting shawls (the Knit Wits!) for those ailing in body and spirit, by feeding the hungry through a local food bank, by actually serving the hungry at a local shelter, by squeezing the hand of a friendly soul who is suffering an inner pain. We laugh together. Sometimes we cry together. We eat together. We worship together. We pray together. We love together.

In the name of Christ, I ask you to come join us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized