Friday, September 29, 2006

Breast Cancer, Pt.2

This is for the guys out there. The ones who have a wife or daughter or cousin or sister or friend or any woman they care about coping with breast cancer—or any serious challenge, for that matter. It’s from a letter I wrote to a friend in that situation--because breast cancer doesn’t just affect the woman herself. I wrote it because it’s really scary watching someone you love go through something like this and this is when you need each other more than ever.


When women are scared or going through something tough, we want and need to know that someone knows and understands and cares what we're going through. In other words, you don't need to have solutions for (my friend). What she most needs is to know that you understand how scared she is. She needs to know that you care how scared she is and that it matters more to you than any change to her physical appearance. She needs to hear you say it. She needs to know it's okay for her to be scared. She needs to hear you say you'll be there for her no matter what.

Then she can focus on doing what she needs to do.

I'm guessing you're in shock and scared and going through hell, too. And it's going to be tough to do that for her. If you can do some things that make her laugh, maybe make you both laugh, that will help. If you can surprise her with little things that make her smile, that will help.

One thing I've learned about really tough times is that making sure I do things that make me smile, every day, is makes a huge difference. It is a reminder that I won't always feel this way. It is a reminder that no matter what horrible things are going on in my life, I have the power to choose to be happy--even if only for a moment or two. And I believe that choosing to smile or laugh a little every day gives us resilience that helps us have the strength to cope with those difficult times.

(My friend) instinctively knows she needs to find ways to laugh--no matter how hard that may be. Encourage that, if you can. Find ways to laugh with her. If all a silly movie does is distract you both for a little while, it will help. If all a walk in the park does is let you both feel closer to each other, that will help. If a silly card or a small box of chocolate makes her laugh or smile that will help.

You don't have to fix the cancer. You can't. That's a job her doctors and her body will have to do. But you can help her through it by letting her know you know how scared she is and that you'll be there for her.

And it's amazing how much of a difference that understanding can make to a woman. You'll find that (my friend) is stronger if she knows she doesn't have to be. You'll find that she's less scared if she knows it's okay if she's terrified out of her mind.


To all the women out there fighting breast cancer, you are in my thoughts and prayers. To the men who love women fighting breast cancer--or any major challenge--I hope these words will help you feel less powerless to be there for those women and bring you closer together.


Monday, September 25, 2006


No, not me, but a dear friend has been diagnosed with cancer. It seems to be an aggressive form. One day there was apparently nothing there and the next day she felt a large lump.

I’d like to rail about the medical system—and how it took 4 weeks for her to get the mammogram and another week or two before they could do the biopsy. I’m waiting to hear how soon she can have surgery and what else the oncologist will recommend.

If you haven’t read it and can find a copy, Barefoot in the Grass is a wonderful book by Judith Arnold. It’s a romance novel about a survivor of breast cancer. I’ll be giving my copy to my friend.

I want to rail at the unfairness of fate that my friend had to first fight Hepatitis C and now breast cancer. I remind myself that she was told, when diagnosed with the Hepatitis C, that she only had three years to live and that was almost 15 years ago.

We’re telling each other jokes and citing statistics on all the women who have survived breast cancer. And secretly crying about it, too. This is one of those times I wish I wasn’t so far away. Fortunately I’d already planned to be in New Jersey in October and I’ll get to see her then.

I’m a writer. That means I know I’m storing up all my memories of these moments, these days and weeks of worrying, and sooner or later the emotions will pour out onto the page. Because that’s what we writers do. We put into words the fears and hopes and all the other emotions human beings feel. So that others will know they’re not alone. So that others will know what it’s like to feel these things.

I watch my friend and I admire her courage and ability to make jokes. I know it’s what let her survive the Hepatitis C and it’s what will get her through this as well. And I wish we didn’t live in a world that had things like cancer to deal with.


Monday, September 18, 2006

I Won!!!

Okay, so we’re told as kids we’re not supposed to brag but...I love this manuscript so much! And I’m thrilled to be able to say that Black Cat of the Family won first place in the Paranormal category of the PASIC contest!

So I’m celebrating.

And I think that’s important—that if we are writers, we celebrate every victory, big and small. Because let’s face it, this is a crazy business. Things can go wrong that we have no control over. If we don’t celebrate the good moments, the victories, who will?

I love that the PASIC contest is called the Book of Your Heart contest. It allows those of us known for other things, to try something new. And I think that’s also important—to make sure that we sometimes do try something new, do find ways to keep our love of writing alive.

Sometimes the changes will be within the context of the books for which we are known and sometimes we may need to do something totally new. Black Cat of the Family falls somewhere in between.

Did I mention it would make a great series?

I’m also finding another totally new idea begin to germinate. The idea came out of my trip to California to speak at the East of Eden conference. At one point, at a dinner, I was literally scrambling to find a scrap of paper on which to write the first two lines! So often conferences do this—trigger new ideas for us or ways to transform the stories we are working on.

Well, anyway, I’m celebrating. I hope all of you are finding reasons to celebrate in your own lives.


Monday, September 11, 2006


I was going to go to the NJ shore that day with my daughter before she went back to Stanford. A friend called and said, “Turn on the tv.” That’s how I learned we were under attack.

I was living in NJ then. My husband had family in NYC. We all had friends there.

As I drove to the shore with my daughter, the roads were mostly deserted except for emergency vehicles going the other way, headed north to NY.

We saw the best and the worst of humanity on that day and the days that followed.

I hope we never forget that we are all—whatever race, nationality, religion, belief—connected. We cannot hurt each other without hurting ourselves.

I hope we never forget that sometimes we are the ones who have to take action—no matter how scared we may be—to stop harm from being done.

That day was a turning point for me. It helped to shape my decision to ask for a divorce. It helped to shape my determination not to write anything in which I did not truly believe. It helped to shape my determination to make a difference in whatever way I could.

One of my privileges was to be able to suggest ways, a year or two later, that the mother of someone who died on 9/11 could write about her pain without being overwhelmed. I now use the advice I needed to create for her to help others who want and need to write about painful events in their lives.

I still remember talking with my daughter. She was due to start back at Stanford in one week. Did she want me to drive her across country or would she wait and hope planes began to fly again? She chose not to live her life controlled by fear and decided she wanted to fly back to Stanford as the planes did begin to fly again.

I cannot forget 9/11 or the horror and grief this entire nation felt. I also cannot forget that if we turn our hate and our anger on all who are different or who are Muslim, then the terrorists have won for they will have taken from us part of what has made this nation so great—the willingness to welcome those who are different into our midst. We lose too much if we replace love with hate. And if we only hate, then we will inevitably create more hate in the world and we will be even less safe.

It is hard not to want to lash out, not to want to hurt those who hurt us. And I believe we should do whatever we can to stop terrorism. In doing so, however, we MUST remember that if we do harm to those who did not harm us, no matter how much they seem to look like those we fear, then we destroy ourselves and we invite future anger and terror from those who might have become our friends.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Allure of Magic

This is something that has come up on one of the Book in a Week loops I host. Why are paranormal romances doing so well right now? For the same reason, I believe, that inspirational romances are doing so well.

This is a time of fear for our country and for the world. Ever since 9/11, people have felt afraid. It has affected how we vote, how we travel, how we interact with each other and even what we want to read.

In times when the world seems out of control and no place seems truly safe, people want to believe in something greater than themselves. And they turn to spirituality to provide hope. People also find stories of magic or the paranormal enticing. What if there was magic or some super power that if could keep us safe?

I suspect that’s one of the reasons I’m having so much fun writing my paranormal historical.

And I’m not sure all of this is a bad thing. The safer we feel, the less likely we are to lash out at others, trying to keep ourselves safe. The safer we feel, the more kindness we will want to extend to others—even those who WE THINK are different than we are. The safer we feel, the more we will live our lives, truly live them, rather than hiding to try to keep safe. The safer we feel, the more we will encourage our children to explore all the possibilities before them. And every act of kindness, every act of courage, every act of tolerance and understanding has a positive ripple effect in the world.

So enjoy paranormal or inspirational romances and then perhaps practice your own random acts of kindness and courage and understanding and discover what positive ripple effects you can create in the world!