In Repair

the woman
you admire from afar
with her back straight
voice strong
and laughter like
a summer breeze
I, too, see her
and wonder
what dark does she
hold in the curve of her smile
do her demons have names
and is the blade under her pillow
forever sharp
because please know
you don’t get all that might
that heart
that fortitude
without a terrible fight
a phoenix can
only rise from
the ash


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance. And politics. And my brown and black brothers and sisters. We are the magic.

xx – M

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A Writer’s Running Log

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4.5 miles – 10:16/mi

True to my Fall running schedule, this past thursday morning my alarm went off at 5:15. And I got up. But I didn’t get out of the house until 6:06. Because it was dark. And admittedly, I was kind of scared.

Such is life as a woman.

Or at least this woman.

The one raised by a mother who instilled a healthy fear of cops – don’t ever roll your window down far enough for them to stick their hand inside – strangers, and taking unnecessary risks. Because everything leads to rape. Indian mommies, you’ve gotta love them.

Sneakered up and ready, I stood on my porch, and sighed. Even waiting almost another hour didn’t assist in the lighting department – it was still too dark for my liking. But I sucked it up and hit the pavement anyway, my podcast turned low, and my Jason-Bourne-I-see-everything vision on high. And I’m so glad I did.

I ran a new route, from Jersey City up into Union, and felt as if my fortitude was gifted by these random bursts of cityscapes along the way. Vacant lots or parks with gorgeous shots across the Hudson. I love wandering the city streets before anyone else is up – but it’s light outside, of course – and watching the city come to life, but this was even better. It was like watching both the sky and the city greet the day.

And was wholly worth my few minutes of nerves.

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Tremendous

sweet girl
do not try to
break your bones
and become
small for another
bones heal
and you were always
larger than life


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance. And politics. And my brown and black brothers and sisters. We are the magic.

xx – M

A Writer’s Running Log

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A couple of things to note: 1. the original series of posts from this running log included the day of my run in the title, such as A Writer’s Running Log, Day 4. That was 326 miles ago. Put another way, I’ve logged 73 runs since (follow me on Strava, every mile is there). Which is to say I’m a runner, we needn’t count my days anymore; and 2. the original series also included the tag line “I don’t run. I do yoga. And yet…” Obviously, a load of horse shit. I do run. I do do yoga. And so, yeah, here we are.

Which is where exactly?

The tentative, not-ready-to-commit, my-feet-already-hurt-just-thinking-about-it answer is training for the 2019 Brooklyn Half. The certain, excited, feeling-all-kinds-of-possible answer is one run into my Fall running schedule. Which is something I put together yesterday – on a whim. It looks a lot like runs on Monday afternoons, Thursday mornings, with a longer run on the weekend, and feels a lot like new beginnings.

Yesterday’s run – the Monday afternoon inaugural run – was the 4.7 mile loop from my gym to Central Park (the lower Reservoir) and back.

It. IMG_3331

Was.

Great.

I think because it was solitary and meditative, at a moment when I could use some clarity and perspective, the temperatures have dropped – this summer my runs were pure hell, no matter how early I did them – and best of all, I had two writing epiphanies along my route.

Like words came at me full force, demanded my attention, and forced me to stop in my tracks to jot them down. Something I hate to do, but I did it anyway. I tried to ignore them, ran a few paces, then stopped.

Because I had to.

Because the words.

They’re annoying like that sometimes.

And even though it sounds like I’m grumbling, I must admit – it was pretty sweet. Not like I’m going to get all Haruki Murakami out here on these streets, but hey, you never know. An essay or two might make its way onto the page. At the very least, these blog posts will…

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Vengeance Is A Meal Best Served Cold

cunning eyes and
perfectly coiffed hair
parted and combed
and so very thick

hands made for building
lips curved in mischief

a boom of a laugh
a clap on the back

gravel in his voice
demanding attention
allegiance
awe

all of him
lifetimes of
malfeasance

so please do pardon us
drunk on circumstance

we ripped him limb to limb
devoured him alive
body soul mind

there are no regrets
his hubris was so very tasty

with blood on our tongues
we turn to each other
smile
and wonder

who’s next?


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance. And politics. Which, as of late, has been nothing short of a triggering shit-show, full of disdain and disregard for all things woman. I find it difficult to write about Kavanaugh and the hearings and Dr. Ford and Debbie Ramirez and all the other women I am sure he harmed along the way – it brings home the fact that those in power think little of us. As a woman of color, the jeopardy is double. I worry, I fret, I fill with fury. And when it all gets to be too much to hold inside, I turn to my words. And fantasy. And mad mad sisterhood. And although none of this makes any of that better, somehow poetry soothes. And feels like self-care. My tiny shout of vengeance and dark rage into the ether. Thank you for stopping by.

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Again

last night
the stars focused
on the moon
the moon seemed awash
in memories of the sea
the sea growled when
I sought her solace

so I stole
a cup of sky
and a handful of aurorae
wrapped my heart
in a blanket
of soft light
and promised
to try again
tomorrow


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance. And politics. And my brown and black brothers and sisters. We are the magic.

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Failure, A True Story

A few days back, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a thread by another writer – an admission really – about the pain she feels when she walks into a Barnes & Noble and realizes her novel is no longer on the shelves.

Also a few days back, I was interviewed by Noreen Sumpter for her Live Life Your Way internet radio show and for the first time, publicly discussed the pain I feel about the disaster of my Keeper Series* trilogy.

In both instances, the act of standing on the other side of a publishing failure with toes dangling over, looking that failure in the eyes, and sharing it with others was something both the author of that tweet and myself know doesn’t happen too often. Instead, we’re regaled with the stories of JK Rowling, Stephen King, John Grisham, and the like. Best-selling authors – empires built upon words – whose first novels were rejected.** They’re used as literary talismen, legends, beacons of bright light from the shore, intended to keep us writers sailing our ships into the rough and tumble waters of the publishing world.

We need those Rowling, King, and Grisham tall tales because we all love a good story, and everyone wants a hero.

But what of the not-so-famous authors, the ones who don’t wield all that power or garner all those number one spots on the NY Times Bestseller list? What about the writers who never made it? Or those who wanted it, but never found an agent or signed a deal? What about their stories?

I’m one of them. And we don’t talk so much about folks like me.

Part of it – I’m guessing – is that no one wants to seem a cry-baby, or a let’s-burn-some-bridges type. And part of it – I’m guessing again – is that no one wants to discuss the not-very-pretty sides of writing. The unfavorable deals, sluggish sales, horrible marketing. The books pushed to the back of the rack, genre mishaps, poor reviews. As much as I understand that mentality, the desire to ignore the not-so-glam and keep all eyes on the bestsellers, I also know firsthand how stuck-on-an-island-all-alone one can feel when that book deal doesn’t quite turn out as planned. As much as I understand the desire to move onto the next project and keep our disappointments to ourselves, I also don’t.

What’s wrong with admitting if you had to do it all again, you wouldn’t sign that contract? Or expressing despair over the fact you’ve lost a coveted shelf spot in Barnes & Noble? Where is the shame in an open dialogue on false hope and paralyzing insecurity?

I’ve been down the road of pretend perfection, I know its curves and valleys well, I can map all of its shortcuts for you – I did it for years in my marriage. I made sure the outside world believed all was well, while inside I was a disaster. And in the end of it all, a random counselor I crossed paths with in a room of too-harsh overhead fluorescent lights and 1970s fake wood paneling, taught me the importance of sharing my story, letting others know what’s going on in my life, what’s happening. She left me with the following words: if I don’t speak up, no one else can.

I think that lesson applies here, too.

If I don’t share my story of failure, no one else will. It’s my tale to tell. And maybe in its telling, I’ll feel better and leave someone who reads it feeling less alone. Maybe in admitting I should have never signed that book deal – the one that screamed don’t give away the rights to your words to those people –  another writer will remember reading this and will walk away from the negotiation table. Maybe another writer will entrust their book baby to the most capable and enthusiastic publisher – which might very well be themselves – instead of the only one showing some interest.

I don’t know. I certainly hope so.

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Suffice it to say, I signed an electronic-only deal for my trilogy, The Keeper Series, with a small imprint of a major publishing house. It was a complete flop, from beginning to end. Part of that is my fault – I wrote something no one but myself, and maybe five other people, like. But part of that flop lies elsewhere.***

The trilogy was marketed as women’s romance, despite the fact it’s urban fantasy. It was pushed on romance readers and bloggers who 1) wondered why it was in the romance category; 2) hated it; and 3) hated it so much, they couldn’t finish it. (The Keeper Series is the first time I received DNFs on Goodreads. And I’d published five books prior to Dutch hitting the shelves.) I believed the mere imprimatur of the publishing house would open doors otherwise closed, and my books would be surefire hits.

I was so cute and naïve once upon a time.

That, or I was too busy lawyering and meeting writing deadlines to think long and hard about the deal I signed. Looking back, it’s easy to see the Keeper Series had failure written all over it from the beginning. At the time, though, I was just too excited to know better. The summer the trilogy was published, the imprint unexpectedly released many of its authors – I remember hearing the news and crossing my fingers in hopes I was on their list. I wasn’t, and as such, they still own the rights to my words.

Circling back to my radio interview with Noreen, I came home that night cursing the fact I discussed my disappointment over Dutch, Juma, and Death so candidly. I wondered at my honesty, chided myself for venturing into that sacred territory of things-we-shall-not-discuss. I talked it through with my therapist. Twice. But tonight as I write this, I have to say I don’t regret it, or this post, as they are necessary pieces in my writing journey.

I have friends who are wildly successful, immensely talented, brilliant gifts bestowed upon us all. I feel lucky to be alive and present to experience their magic.  But I need to stop comparing myself to them, or to any of the other writers I follow on social media, and focus on me. I need to stop feeling like an imposter, a fake who has no right to call herself a writer. Because like Noreen said during our interview, I’ve licked my wounds long enough – it’s time to get over my hurts and back to my words.

I think she’s right. Sharing my failure helps. Talking about my missteps and foolishness makes it a little easier to swallow. Laughing at myself is good medicine.

And now, it’s time to write.

In his poem “So You Want to be A Writer?”, Charles Bukowski implores, “if you’re doing it for fame, or money, don’t do it” and that’s kept me going the last several months. It’s not why I write – the fame or fortune – but for a few months of my life, it did seem I had one foot down the path of tantalizing possibility.

Oh well… maybe next time.

And yes, believe me – there will be a next time.

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*just-now-discovered fact: if you search The Keeper Series on Amazon – that’s the name of my trilogy – you will pull up everything but my trilogy. And that, my friends, is the definition of a flop.

** I’m not even going to touch the iceberg of rejection-and-perseverance stories in writers of color circles. Not because it isn’t important, but because it will derail me from the point of this post. And because it demands a post all its own.

*** My purely unscientific analysis, of course.