Note: Those dealing with the problem on a daily basis don’t need this post. I was debating about publishing this but my tweet on the subject is mentioned in Newsweek, so…here we go. :)

This year, one of the nominees in the inspirational category of the Romance Writers of America Rita Award for Excellence in romance fiction, For Such a Time, featured a romance between a Jewish concentration camp survivor and a German concentration camp *commander.*

In the end, both find God and convert to Christianity.

If you are appalled at that very concept, you’re not the only one.

Once the storyline of For Such a Time became widely known, there was an uproar that eventually caused the RWA to issue a statement about the inclusion of the book in the awards, which basically boiled down to “yes, we see the problem with this book but we can’t censor entries for content rather than quality, that’s up to the judges.”

Most of the blowback, especially outside the romance community, has not only come back to the author and this book but on inspirational writers and their stories in general. That makes me wince because there are so many wonderful inspirational novels out there with love stories that work beautifully.

But controversy is part of a larger discussion that we, as romance writers and readers, need to have about diversity in our books.

As someone who wrote a Jewish heroine, I have first-hand knowledge that the inspirational community isn’t the only one with a problem with Jewish heroines.

These are the judging comments I received this year in a prominent published RWA contest for my steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract:

I would also advise the author to be cautious about bringing in religion into a novel if it is not necessary and is mixed with magic. Culture, including Indian, Jewish, or Christian, sure, but it can drive readers away if it is not essential to understanding the story. Although the author might believe some of those Jewish tenets are necessary to the plot like man being the head of the household in this historical context, those tenets are actually in other religions like Hindu and Christian at the same moment in time – which is why I’m suggesting to treat it more like a cultural/family history belief rather than a religious teaching within the context of any story. Quite frankly, who cared that August was Christian and wanting to marry our heroine? It didn’t really add anything nor add conflict. 

When I first began reading these comment, I thought they would concern the dangers of cultural appropriation (as I’m not Jewish myself) and a warning not to cross that line, which would have been absolutely appropriate.

But it quickly becomes clear that what I was being told is that there had to be “a reason” for the heroine to be non-white or non-Christian. In other words, the book would be better if my heroine were Christian and not Jewish. WTF?

This is faulty and dangerous reasoning.

As one of my fellow panelists at the Diversity in Romance: Why it Mattters panel at RWA National last month said, diversity isn’t important only in providing a wider range of stories for everyone–g: changing people’s minds and hearts about those they view as “different” is literally a matter of life and death to people who live with this prejudice everyday, people like Sandra Bland.

Being a straight white Christian is only *one* of numerous choices authors can make for characters.

There doesn’t have to be a “reason” to write non-white characters.

Your characters simply have to be characters you’d like to write about. Period.

This false, insidious reasoning is an attitude that filters down from publishing to writers and has a chilling effect, leading to comments like the ones I received.

The fascinating part of all this is that this is the first *negative* comments I’ve received on this story about the heroine being Jewish. I’m not even close to a bestselling author but this book is my bestselling book.

What that tells me is readers are already way ahead of the curve.

But the purpose of sharing these comments isn’t to slam the judge or the contest or RWA. It’s to illustrate a problem. (ETA: Yes, I emailed the contest coordinator with a polite note that basically said ‘this is so not right’ but they never emailed back to even acknowledge receipt of my email.)

And to suggest some solutions:

1. We have to acknowledge and get this stuff out in the open so it can be shot down as myth and we can, as writers and readers, move past it. Bury this whole “but they need a reason to be…X.”

2. Two, we need to let publishing know they’re wrong for believing readers won’t read books about non-white/LGBTQ or other marginalized groups.

A great start would be to tell Harlequin to stop segregating romances written by black authors featuring black protagonists in their separate line. As Farrah Rochon said at the Diversity panel I mentioned above, it’s segregating pure and simple. All of Harlequin’s other lines are segregated by genre: suspense, spicy, sweet, etc. Only the Kimani line is “black” and has all romance subgenres in it.

Send an email to Harlequin about this at CustomerService@Harlequin.com

Better yet, send a snail mail to either

United States:
P.O. Box 5190
Buffalo, NY 14240-5190

P.O. Box 615
Fort Erie, ON L2A 5X3

Dear Harlequin, 

I’m a romance readers and I love romances of all kinds. Stop the segregation and place black books by black authors featuring black protagonists in their proper subgenres. 



It won’t solve every problem but it’s start.

3. We, as a romance community, need to have this discussion and, more, we need to listen to authors of colors, LGBTQ authors, and authors with disabilities about the change that needs to happen. Their voices must be heard. At the RWA Board meeting at National last month, the board established a diversity ad hoc committee. That’s also a start.

The very last thing that those of us who are straight, white authors should do?

Actively discourage diversity, as this judge did for this contest.

Don’t be that judge. Don’t be that person.


Hey all!

Should you be infused with a burning desire to meet me, this summer is your chance.

First, this Wednesday, in New York City, I will be part of the massive Romance Writers of American Literacy Autographing at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.  That’s Wednesday, July 23rd. From RWA:

“At the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, hundreds of romance authors meet with and sign books for fans in this two-hour event, with the proceeds from book sales going to literacy organizations. This year’s beneficiaries are ProLiteracy Worldwide, Literacy Partners, and Literacy Assistance Center.

In 2014, Romance Writers of America raised more than $53,000 to benefit literacy organizations. Since 1990, RWA has raised more than $878,000 to fight illiteracy.


Thank you to the Nora Roberts Foundation for underwriting the Literacy Autographing!  The 2015 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing will be on Wednesday, July 22, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the New York Marriott Marquis in the Westside Ballroom.

Note: While the event takes place in the Westside Ballroom, the queue will be in the Broadway Ballroom (6th floor).

Second, I’ll be in the Chicago area, mid-August! Come see me and other authors! Hope to see some of you there!

Schaumburg graphic.pages

Officially out in paperback June 9th.

Officially out in paperback June 9th! 



Those of us who carry the banner for science fiction romance look forward to the annual SF Romance Galaxy Awards, organized by Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express.

This year, I’m thrilled to have the Phoenix Institute as one of the award winners. And I can’t resist quoting the award post in full.

ETA: And Ghost Phoenix is now out in paperback. Check it out at Amazon, B&N, and Samhain Publishing!

“This series is kind of an X-Men/Batman crossover, if everyone is not just gender-bent but also talent-switched. And even that Batman analogy requires that Batman’s gifts be more super and less obsessed-neurotic based. But still awesome.

The Phoenix Institute starts out as “The Resource” run by one of the very definitely bad guys. His mission is to find people born with super talents and train them to be super soldiers obedient to his every whim. His evil plan is foiled by supers that got away, aided and abetted by one of his own. If Professor Xavier was a firestarter married to a telepath, you get the Phoenix Institute. Pun is intended, the Phoenix Institute rises from the ashes of the Resource and reaches out to supers everywhere, while righting the very big wrongs perpetrated by its predecessor.

On the main series, we have a telepath who rescues the firestarter, and a self-healer who finds his way back to the woman he left behind, who just happens to be in a long line of charismatics. We end with an invisible woman who falls for her clean cop in a dirty city, and a teleporter thief who saves an immortal queen. The alternate history angle in Ghost Phoenix is surprisingly twisty and results in a happily ever after that may just really mean “ever after”. This is paranormal romance with a delightful superhero twist, made even better by continuing into 2015.”

–From Marlene Harris.

Add that to the Patriots victory last night and that I hit 50,000 words on the “cliff-jumping” work in progress and it was an excellent weekend.

That next work coming? Phoenix Inheritance, coming out March 3, already up for pre-order.


Out March 3.

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love—and their lives.

Phoenix Institute, Book 4

Ex-Navy SEAL Daz Montoya and rescue dog handler Renee Black have made a career out of saving people. But when their whirlwind affair resulted in pregnancy, Daz’s verbal fumble tore their budding relationship apart.

It’s been a tough eight years for Renee, raising Charlie alone with his autism-fueled impulsiveness, but she’s managed—until now. When she has to chase him to the edge of a cliff in a snowstorm, seeing the face of their rescuer is just the rotten cherry on top of an already rough day.

In the close confines of a snowbound cabin, Renee and Daz rediscover the heat still simmering between them. But while Renee welcomes Daz’s renewed determination to help Charlie however he can, she’s reluctant to trust him with her heart.

With the Phoenix Institute’s help, Renee and Daz discover their son’s gift for animal telepathy is real. And that to save him from old enemies that would kill to control him, they must join forces—and risk losing everything they’ve ever loved.

Warning: This novel contains explicit reunion sex and characters used to mixing a little danger in with their romance.

WriteHardDieFreeI’ve never been happier to see a year end and a new year begin. Serious illness  laid my family and myself low several times and then we lost two of our kitties. All I wanted from 2014 was to survive to 2015.

That achievement unlocked, like everyone else in January, I’m taking stock of the new year.

I’ve decided this is the year where I jump off the cliff.

PhoenixInheritance72lgFirst, I’m talking more openly about the challenges my family faces as our kids deal with autism and other special needs issues. I put so much of this into Phoenix Inheritance that talking about it is unavoidable.

I want this book to get as much audience as it can because, if a fictional version of my story can reach and help people, then all that blood on the page is worth it.

I had three new books come out last year, shining bright spots amid the chaos.

This year, I have one new book, Phoenix Inheritance, coming out on March 3, and The Curse of the Brimstone Contract and Ghost Phoenix will be coming out in paperback. But after that, nothing is on my publishing schedule.


Because I’m writing something new, something I’ve wanted to write for two years and put it off because other writing obligations and health issues had priority.

It’s time.

The tentatively-named The Crystal Tower is an urban fantasy, a modern-day Arthurian tale set in a city on the verge of falling apart, like Detroit, or my fictional Charlton City in Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past. The lead is Aurelia (Lia) Artos and there’s an equivalent to the Holy Grail and Excalibur involved. No vampires, no werewolves or other shifters, no witches, etc. There is an element of a Cherokee legend that, I hope, adds an entirely new twist to the familiar story.Someone mentioned Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to me as a possible influence and I put my fingers in my ears because I haven’t read it and now I don’t want to read it because while Gaiman is awesome at whatever he does, I have to do what I do without trying to imitate him.

I’m only half-finished with the rough draft so I’m reluctant to say more but I know that the events that happened in Ferguson, Missouri are filtering into this tale. I’m not going to duck racial politics but meet them head on. To do otherwise would be a slap in the face of those dealing with this in their daily lives.

I’m not sure what’ll happen after I jump off this cliff.

I may crash and burn.

But I know that the way down is going to be glorious.

Oh, did I mention I also want to write a novella that goes with the steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract? And it will have a romance with characters over 40? Yes, one appeared in Curse and one is mentioned numerous times. I have it outlined.

And I have to finish that comic book horror mini-series that’s been on the back-burner. That one scares me to write.

All the more reason to add it to this year.





The not-so-secret ingredient.

The not-so-secret ingredient.

As I sat down to write this post, being tagged in this awesome cookie exchange by my friend, author Gin Jones,  I pondered which of my characters would actually make fudge.

Alec Farley, the firestarter from Phoenix Rising, would likely burn the fudge on his first attempt but he’d persevere. Philip Drake of Phoenix Legacy, the man who can become whatever you need, already knows how to make it and has modified it to feature several different flavors. He makes it for the love of his life, Delilah Sefton, who loves the fudge but is trying to figure out how to make it a mixed drink of some sort.

I bet Marian Doyle of Ghost Phoenix has made it but she doesn’t like baking and would rather buy gourmet chocolate in Little Italy. And Renee Black from the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance makes it with her son, Charlie. They (of course), lick the remains on the fudge on the saucepot, even at risk of burning their tongues.

Meantime, Al and Noir of Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past ask:

What the heck is Marshmallow Fluff?

To those who don’t know, it’s a mix of corn syrup, sugar and egg whites. It’s even gluten free!

Here’s the base recipe for Never Fail Fudge, which is on every jar of Marshmallow Fudge:

2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp margerine or butter
5 ounces of evaporated milk
1 jar of Marshmallow fluff, 7.5 ounce size
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (12 oz.) of semi-sweet chocolate

My additions? Always, always use real butter. And buy Ghiradelli or other gourmet chips. They don’t have to be chocolate either. I’ve made this with peanut butter and white chocolate chips too. When I used white chocolate, I crushed up small candy canes and sprinkled the crumbs on top when the fudge was still hot.

To make:
1. Combine first 5 ingredients Stir over low heat until blended.
Advice: Trickiest part? Getting the fluff out of the jar. I run my spoon under hot water first so it doesn’t stick.

2. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to mistake air bubbles for boiling. (That’s because Fluff is full of air). Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
Advice: Stir, stir, stir. Never stop stirring. How do you know when it’s done? When hard residue begins to build up on the edge of your stirring spoon. But always do it for at least five minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and chocolate until melted. Pour into a buttered 9X9 inch pan and cool.
Advice: If the mixture is super-hot, the vanilla will boil and spit when you add it. Put in the chips first to cool it down, then add the vanilla. Stir, stir, stir and the chips will blend in nicely. And make sure you transfer it to the pan right away because it will start hardening quickly.

Also, I grease the pan, cover the pan and side with wax paper, and then pour in the mixture. This allows you to basically lift the fudge out of the pan with ease for cutting.


You’ll notice I forgot the wax paper this time. And this is a 13X9 pan because I made a double batch. Also, yes, we did sample some, just to make sure it tasted good before we cut the fudge to give away as gifts. I know, I know. A rough job, tasting, but someone had to do it.

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

Wonder Woman shoes, journeys

I want these!!
But I already have these:

journeys, Wonder Woman hi-tops

image via Journeys

And these:

journeys, DC comics shoes

image via journeys.com


Nah! :)

On the holidays, I have an upcoming release!

Already up on Amazon for pre-order. It’s my vision of Christmas in a Gotham-like city. So there’s a bit of murder but also more than a bit of sex.

Unfortunately, there’s precious little sex in the television show Gotham so far. Instead, the show earns its mature style with over-the-top deaths, like being floated into the sky via balloon or crushed by ATM or death via insane ritual.

Also about sex, from a more serious standpoint, is my recap of the Sex Scenes From the Female Gaze panel at GeekGirlCon last month.

A sample:

When I put together this panel for GeekGirlCon 2014, I had two goals. One was to have a good time. The other was to shine a light on how our society tends to view sex and sexuality from only one perspective.

To those who attended the panel, I hope you had fun. It was awesome to see a packed house. I’d no idea we’d draw that many people to our panel. I laughed when reading the “Pool Boy” letter in preparation for the panel and I thought it illustrated our point well: this is how the stereotypical male gaze views women. (God forbid one should be over 40 and not have a bikini wax.)

But the second goal was more serious. I need to thank the questioner who asked why call it “sex scenes from the female gaze?” because that brings in all sorts of gender assumptions that may or may not be true.

I could lie and say I thought “The Smut Panel” wouldn’t be accepted by the GeekGirlcon organizers but the truth is that when I named the panel, I thought less of how individual men and women view sex and more about how our pop culture, which is predominantly male-dominated, views sex, especially sex for women. Whatever gender we happen to be, we get a steady diet of what female and non-straight-white male sex looks like through the straight white male gaze.

The rest at the link!

And speaking of the real Gotham, I’ve been recapping every episode over at CriminalElement.com

Here are some highlights. Click on the links for the full recaps.

Premier: Episode 1:

The first episode of the series nails Jim Gordon’s essential morality. There’s a line he won’t cross and shortcuts he won’t take. At least so far, because the first hour of Gotham promises some serious challenges to his worldview. It also provides Gordon an excellent counterpoint in cynical, slovenly and yet smart Detective Harvey Bullock. If Ben McKenzie doesn’t watch out, Donal Logue’s Bullock is going to steal the show from his Gordon. Watching the two of them this season together promises to be a lot of fun, especially if they can continue to exchange the wryly funny looks like the ones they gave each other while upside down on meathooks.

So what did we learn about the future of this show in the pilot?

“Selina Kyle,” Episode 2

Instead, from Falcone’s public beating of Fish’s lover, to the too on-the-nose dialogue about being “with the program” from Capt. Essen, and Bullock’s repeated badgerings of Jim Gordon to stop acting all high and mighty, Episode 2, “Selina Kyle” became, at times, almost as silly as its Monday night companion, Sleepy Hollow but not nearly as fun as Sleepy Hollow, which embraces its ridiculousness. (Look, everyone, studly naked torso!)

“The Balloonman,” Episode 3:

The show’s writers know that handcuffing corrupt officials to weather balloons and sending them up in the sky is a comic book murder concept. They use that ridiculousness to their advantage, even having one of the dead bodies fall back to earth, squishing an old lady in a scene that reminded me of the old woman with the dogs in A Fish Called Wanda.

“Arkham,” Episode 4:

Gotham should be subtitled “Rise of the Penguin,” as it’s clear by this fourth episode that this season is all about Oswald Cobblepot’s bid for power.

Focusing on the villain is a tradition in Batman screen adaptations, all the way back to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. And Oswald is perfectly cast to fill this need. Robin Lord Taylor has on-screen charisma to burn, enough so that while he’s a cheerfully unrepentant murderer, I find myself rooting for him. Oswald took a big step forward with this week’s orchestration of a robbery and then dispatching his hired help via poisoned cannoli. (He takes the gun, the cannoli, and the money.)

“Viper,” Episode 5:

Oswald doesn’t kill anyone this episode. That’s a first. Still, I need to give the writers full credit for finding another fun but gruseome way for Gotham denizens to die: crushed by ATM.

“Spirit of the Goat,” Episode 6:

What’s next?

Likely Barbara will stand by her now-proved innocent man. In any other show, I’d be worried that Barbara would be killed to add some more angst but, hopefully, Barbara’s future role as the mother of Batgirl prevents that.

Oswald will have fun manipulating everyone and trying to “help” his good, true friend Jim. It’s amusing that both Barbara and Oswald look to Jim as a paragon of virtue.

Bullock might keep on doing real work? I hope that means he’s redeemable.

And this show went a whole episode again without Oswald killing anyone. Pretty sure that’s not going to last.

“Penguin’s Umbrella,” Episode 7:

And, yet, it was also full of what’s becoming Gotham’s trademark humor: from Penguin being overly formal, apologetic and making honking noises, to villain Victor Zsasz’s Funkytown ringtone and to Harvey’s taste in bedroom companions. But the funniest sequence had to be Falcone’s idea of kidnapping nuns and chaining them together to block Maroni’s trucks from leaving the city.

What do I think of the show so far? Entertaining, a bit shallow but growing progressively better each episode.

This is a look at our heroine, Marian Doyle, doing what she does for the family firm. She enjoys using her ability but not this part of it.

Ghost Phoenix available for pre-order at AmazonSamhain Publishing, and B&N. It releases on October 7th.


The wheels of the plane touched down on the runway at LaGuardia. A day in the air after taking off from Athens, and now it was almost done, almost time to deliver the item. Deliver. That’s what her grandfather called it. Everyone else, including the legal authorities, called it smuggling.

Marian preferred smuggling. Call it what it was instead of pretending.

When Marian had first started working for the family firm, she’d stupidly thought it was fun. The adventure of evading authorities, the rush when she used her phantom ability, and the praise of her grandfather and father made it all worthwhile.
But in the last few years, there had been too many close calls, too many hours of uncertainty that set her nerves on edge. Now, all she wanted was for the jobs to be over.

The best part was coming home, like now.

The plane taxied to the gate. Most of those around her pulled out their phones to contact those waiting at the other end of this flight. For her, that had to wait. Only after she successfully snuck the little ivory elephant carving past customs could she consider her work over.

All she had to do was duck into a bathroom before customs, go phantom, phase through the walls and hand off Tantor—it was too cute to not give a nickname—to whomever her grandfather sent to wait on the other side of the customs gate.

She hoped it would be Dad. That would be perfect. He’d pamper her with dinner, and pampering was desperately needed after this marathon trip. She’d spent weeks looking for Tantor for their client, traipsing around the hills and dirt-encrusted ruins of Greece.

Worth it, however. Little Tantor would bring in a cool million. Grandfather was probably salivating over the money already.
Once Tantor was delivered to the other side, she’d phase back through the walls to the bathroom before anyone knew she was even gone and navigate customs perfectly legally, like any other passenger. Aside from the over-long and complicated forms and the risk of death by boredom, that was the easy part.

Marian waited over fifteen minutes for the plane to clear out enough to grab her carry- on from the overhead bin. Grandfather was a damn cheapskate. She smuggled for him, and he made her fly coach back to New York every time. She could have used the extra pillows.

Marian tapped her front pocket to reassure herself Tantor was still there. She hoped most people would assume she was checking for her phone. She shuffled behind the other passengers disembarking and wiped moisture from her palm on her jacket sleeve. Sweat already drenched her back.

I hate this.

But she couldn’t quit. It was the family business. Everyone, extended cousins and all, depended on her to keep the family firm flush with money. She was the only one in the current generation of Doyles to have the phantom ability that had supported the family for over two centuries.

Quit and she’d let everyone down. Maybe she’d even be exiled or shunned. It might be worth it. They took no risks. She was the one who sweated out all the trips through customs, terrified that this would be the time she would be caught, or worse, have her phantom ability exposed.

“Miss Doyle!”

She blinked and raised her head. Damn, she’d spent too much time staring at the floor, or she would have noticed people in front of her before this. She focused on the person wearing a uniform, calling her name. Flight crew? No, it was a TSA agent.

Oh, hell.

“Yes?” Swallow the fear, swallow the panic. She could do this. There had to be a way out.

“Please follow me, ma’am. The customs officers need to speak to you.”

“I don’t understand. Speak to me about what?” Maybe if she stared at him long enough, he would vanish as if he were a figment of her imagination. Two other uniformed officers came up to her from behind. Not figments.

“Follow us, ma’am,” said the first one.

She did, wishing she could go phantom and disappear through the floor. Better yet, float up and out through the ceiling and ride the air until she landed near the cabs that would take her home.

And then what? They knew her name, probably her address and her place of work. Unless she wanted to be a fugitive, she had no choice but to go with them. To say nothing of what would happen if she went ghost on them. Never let anyone see her do it, that was the family rule, and the airport had to be full of cameras.

It was Tantor that needed to disappear, not her, and before they searched her. “Just what is the problem?” she asked again. “Do you need to see my papers? I know there are some items in my luggage that need documentation. I have everything in order.”

“That will be up to customs, ma’am,” the officer said. “We are ordered to deliver you to
them.” “I don’t understand.” “I’m sure they’ll explain it, ma’am.” Somehow all the ma’ams made it much worse. “Can I use the bathroom first? It was along flight and I really need to stop there.”

“Orders are to take you directly to their office,” he said. “Sorry.”

They kept hustling her along, one person ahead and one person behind her. Customs knew something. Someone must have tipped them off about what she was carrying. It was the only explanation that made sense. Maybe the tip came from someone who also wanted the carving? No, they would want it to get through customs, not to be confiscated. Unless someone paid off one of the agents. Bribing agents was the usual way to smuggle antiquities into the States. Doyle Antiquities never did that.

They had her.


Releases 10/7/2014

Tentatively titled The Crystal Tower, the work on the Next Big Thing has begun. I’m using a notebook for the rough draft and so far, I’ve filled over 30 pages and that includes the ending.

It’s first person, urban fantasy.
First line: “In the Crystal Tower, I was born and died.”
Last line: “In the Crystal Tower, I died and was born.”

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