Saturday, December 31, 2011


This list of "wisdoms" came to me in a chain-mail from a friend in 2009.  They moved me so much that I revisit them on a regular basis and with each New Year they've become my mantra as Father Time bows out and Baby New Year rolls in.

This past year was one hell of a year.  There isn't one moment I regret, not even those that were drama-filled and absolutely unnecessary.  2011 brought me immense joy, much love, and the lessons learned were life-invigorating.  Abundance came in ways I had only imagined and if 2012 manages to be one-third as prosperous and productive then I can't wait for it to get here!

So, please, take these wisdoms in and savor them a moment. Hopefully they'll move you as well.  I wish you each a very happy and prosperous NEW YEAR!


1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and look back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


From our home to yours, have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


So, it’s raining and the temperature has nose-dived some twenty degrees from last night’s low.  I’ve been nursing the last remnants of a migraine for a few days and now I feel a cold coming on.  

My favorite guy made me a special hot toddy to nurse the cold away and I was headed to bed to feel better when the doorbell rings.  The doorbell rarely rings after eight pm unless it’s an element of crazy come to stir up some drama.  But low and behold it was our neighbors, and their holiday choir, come to practice their caroling at the bottom of the steps.

I stood in the doorway, wrapped in a blanket, as they serenaded us with a rendition of Silver Bells and then Silent Night.  Then the rain got the best of them, running us all back inside.  I’m in bed now with my favorite cuddle toy and that hot toddy is beginning to cure everything that might have been ailing me.

But it was a simple serenade that made it feel a lot like Christmas, and it's made me feel a whole lot better.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


One of the single greatest blessings in my life is my relationship with my father.  As a little girl, he was my idol, the first man I loved and he set the standard for all the men who later came into my life.  As a little girl I thought that he could do no wrong, the sun and the moon rising and setting on everything that was my daddy.  I was his Baby Girl, the nickname that not even my younger sister could usurp and it represents an understanding that he and I have had between us that continues to cement the bond we share today. 
My father and I have had our moments, and there were many that were not good.  I wasn’t always the good daughter he would have liked me to be, but even at my worse, I remained his Baby Girl.  From the moment I drew breath he has been the parent who has most controlled and manipulated my life.  When I rebelled, he was the first to let go, insuring that I learned some very difficult lessons the hard way.  And when I fell, and fell hard, my father was there to pick me back up, hold me until there was no more hurt, and who set my steps back in the right direction.  Sometimes he didn’t even know he was doing so much but me wanting him to be pleased and proud of me made it so.
There was a moment this past week where I was reminded of just how much my father has always loved me, how he has fought for me, and believed in me, and it just took him calling me Baby Girl when I needed it the most for me to remember.

I have a friend, Mrs. Sharon Hunter Barrow, who has initiated a program for fathers and daughters, to celebrate that special bond little girls would hopefully have with their dads.  The Father-Daughter Ball that she has hosted for the past three years has been a highlight of many little girls in her community.  And with each year the number of participants has increased ten-fold.

To continue to bring this amazing event to those special little women who need it, Mrs. Barrow is hoping to win a grant from the Pepsi Foundation for her Father-Daughter Ball.  She needs support, in the way of votes, from those who like and believe in her idea.

I am voting as many times as I can.  I am also asking for your votes as well.  So, please, if you would, follow the link here,  FATHER/DAUGHTER BALL and vote!
Thank you.
PS – Voting requires registration and even though that can sometimes be a nuisance, the benefit far outweighs the annoyance. Registration is simple and for your efforts, some little girl might be afforded the opportunity to dance at a ball with her most favorite guy in the whole wide world.  Just imagine the memories years from now!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It’s well past my bedtime and I’m up baking cookies.  I can’t sleep and baking cookies makes me feel better.  And I need to feel better because I’ve had myself a day.
Every family has its fair share of crazy hanging from the family tree.  My crazy decided to visit, planting their branch right in my living room for five hours longer than I could tolerate.  Had I been able to leave I would have.  But since it was my living room there was no place for me to go and crazy was having far too much fun wreaking havoc on everyone’s sanity to get the hint that they’d worn out their welcome. 

Too much crazy taxed my last nerve and I snapped.  My Zen aura was all discombobulated and I was well on the way to kicking crazy right in their too wide ass.  When crazy pushed my very last button I responded with a resounding F*ck you!  Crazy responded with their own choice words.  I’m not proud of my own bad behavior or my potty mouth but in the moment it really felt good.  Then, it didn’t.

I learned years ago that I need to keep crazy as far from my front yard as possible.  That branch of the family tree is better planted in places where I’m not expected to weed, feed, or nurture it.  Planting crazy in my garden is like planting kudzu in the South.  It overwhelms everything and everybody and no matter how hard you try to get rid of the pestilence, it always manages to thrive. 

And now that crazy’ has finally gone I’m baking cookies so I can feel better.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


The holiday weekend is winding down.  We’ve eaten leftovers from the leftovers, no one even wanting to think about another slice of turkey or spoonful of stuffing.  Now we’re squabbling over who gets the final few slices of chocolate pecan pie and who snuck the last almond cookie, leaving the empty plate still covered on the countertop. 
It was a delightful holiday and a great weekend.  There was much quality time with my favorite guy, a ton of fun with family, and catching up with old friends.  We enjoyed good food and some really decadent desserts so tomorrow it’s back to the gym.  There was a surprise marriage proposal, an early baby delivery, unexpected gifts, and the completion of my latest book.  I couldn’t have planned a better holiday if I’d tried.  I hope everyone's holiday was as magnanimous.
I have had much to be thankful for.  My blessings have been many.  It’s been a very good year.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Despite the sudden cold weather and rain, today was another really great day.  I had a wonderful lunch event at the Wake County Express Library in downtown Raleigh, NC.  It was a small, intimate group and we had a great conversation about books and writing. 

After a wonderful meal (antipasti, chicken & gnocchi soup, and vegetable lasagna), a really good bottle of red wine (Cavi Roscato Rosso Dolce) and an incredibly sexy dinner companion, I came home to get my reality TV fix with the XFactor results show. 

And now I’m a bit perturbed, so much so that I’ve been a tweeting maniac on Twitter tonight.  Finally think I have the hang of it with all the practice I’ve been getting!

Was I surprised by the bottom two?  Yes and no.  Was I disappointed by the outcome?  Yes and no.  What really galled me though was the attitude of the young contestant Brian Bradley, who calls himself Astro.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think the kid has mad skills.  He freestyles like someone twice his age with three times the experience.  I believe that with some proper guidance and great business advice he has the potential to have a very successful career.  But he is still incredibly young, with not an ounce of maturity under his belt.  And beyond any doubt, he is whole-heartedly wearing that big chip on his shoulder that 15-year-old boys, seem to think is a badge of honor.  Astro’s chip is the size of a big ass boulder though.

My son-shines had boulders too until I had to wear some behind out to help them get their problems fixed.  It's amazing what a good butt-whipping will cure!  I so wanted to reach right into the television to shake the piss out of Astro, I can’t tell you how much!  And then he swiped away his tears and I had to remember he is still very, very young and he was hurt and disappointed to discover that not everyone is going to show him love when he wants it. 

Just as my mommy sympathy kicked in, he tweeted that it was "POLITICS", and we shouldn’t be fooled by what we don’t know.  The kid irritated me all over again.  Someone forgot to tell him that his public image should never reflect the politics happening behind the stage.  And politics don’t have a damn thing to do with him exemplifying respect and decency to win him $5 Million dollars. Found myself tweeting that he needed to show his talent and not his behind.  He idolizes Jay-Z and I wish Jay-Z could whisper some advice in his ear.  Remember when Jay took on Oprah?  Even Oprah had to show him some love and respect after the fact.

I hope that young Brian will learn a valuable lesson from this experience, because he will find himself on the bottom again and probably sooner than later.  It's just the nature of success and failure when you are fighting to attain a dream.

Not everyone shows us love when we want it.  I only have to read a book review or follow sales to know that.  And then there are those who will go to bat for us when we least expect it, like showing up at a book event on a Thursday afternoon in the cold and rain.  Astro has a host of fans who are going to bat for him.  That’s why he needs to learn that his “Disney” smile and a better attitude will get him a hell of a lot farther than that damn boulder on his back.


So, what are you doing for lunch?

I'm reading from, and discussing my books in downtown Raleigh, NC this afternoon, from 12:00pm until 1:00pm.

I'd love for you to join me!

Wake County Express Library
336 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, NC  27601

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have never considered myself an outdoorsy-type.  It was out of character for me to commune with nature if there were buggy-things around.  The family tells many stories of my summer adventures on my grandfather’s  South Carolina farm when I’d throw tantrum after tantrum if something even buzzed by my ear. 
My appreciation for nature came as a result of my baby boy who preferred the outdoors over everything else.  From the moment he was able, he would often rise early, head out the back door and disappear into the woods that bordered our property.  He’d scavenge things that intrigued him and then bring them back for me to identify, explain away, or just be in awe of.  Soon I was trailing behind him to scavenge my own treasures.   Discovering the outdoors through his pale grey eyes was absolutely enchanting, even with the bugs. 
Hiking wooded trails was one of our favorite past times.  We trekked a mountain side together right before he left for the military.  It was quality time, the likes of which, I will hold near and dear to my heart forever.  I hadn’t made the opportunity to do any hiking since.  Not until today. 
This time of the year is my favorite.  There is something about the fall coloration and the crisp, clean air that moves my spirit.  Today was picture perfect for a hike and so I found a two-mile trail in a mountain-like setting that I’d never explored, tied up my favorite boots, packed that requisite bottle of water and disappeared into the woods with one of my favorite friends. 
As I stood on an overlook, staring out to the expanse of yellows, reds, golds, and browns that bordered the most peaceful blue-green lake, it took me back to ta time when I was certain that all was well in the world.  When life was good and blessings were abundant.  And as I reflected in prayer, love beside and around me, I was reminded that it sometimes takes communing with nature to know that life, with its many contradictions, can still be good and personally, my many blessings continue to be abundant.
It was a very good day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Rap legend Heavy D, whose real name was Dwight Arrington Myers, one of the most influential rappers of the 1990's, died earlier today. He was 44 years old.

His massive musical hits included Is It Good To You, The Overweight Lovers In The House, Big Daddy,  and my personal favorite, Now That We Found Love.  He also wrote and performed the theme songs for In Living Color, MADtv, and The Tracy Morgan Show.  Drawing on a promising acting career he'd made appearances in brief movie and television roles including Life, The Cider House Rules, Boston Public, Living Single, Bones, Law & Order: SVU, and most recently, Tower Heist.

As Kelley L. Carter reported for MTV, "Heavy D was the big guy who could move. His size never stopped him. He moved in ways that intimidated the slimmest dude in the crowd.   He was smooth, dapper and celebrated the around-the-way-girl through song; his music helped soundtrack 10th-grade dances near and far, and his colorful, danceable and at times sensitive brand of hip-hop clearly proved to be wildly influential to new-millennium household names like Diddy or Drake.   You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who came up after Heavy D that doesn't cite him as an influence — and if they didn't say it out loud, their showmanship certainly was a giveaway."

Heavy was on the list to be my ninth husband.  He will be missed.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


I come from a praying family.  Most of my kin stand firmly grounded on a foundation of faith, unyielding in their belief in a higher power.  For a very long time I struggled with my own faith, unsure of what I believed in, determined to find contradiction in everything I’d been taught and was being told.  When I finally opened myself to what I could not see and began to trust in the power of prayer, life changed drastically for me.  I suddenly found solace when I let go and let God.
Recently, I’ve been challenged and my spirit has been in crisis.  With things I’d been most confident of, I’ve not trusted my intuition.  I have felt my faith wavering and I have not been able to pray.  A few years back, I bumped heads with a woman I admired, respected, and thought of as a dear friend.  With my feelings hurt, believing that no true friend would have done to me as I felt she had done to me, I’d closed that door of friendship, deeming her toxic to my spirit and a detriment to my growth.  We had not spoken since, our only knowledge of each other’s lives coming only from mutual friends.
Two weeks ago I received news that this woman was not well, diagnosed with an exceptionally aggressive carcinoma.  My first instinct was to rush to her bedside to apologize.  I wanted her to know how much I regretted my own actions and that I have thought of her often and with much fondness.  I had hoped to make amends, to be a friend as she endured what she was going through.  And then for no discernible reason, I second guessed myself, deciding that I needed to “think” about my decision before I acted.  And through it all what I could not do, what I did not do, was pray for guidance.
I took two weeks to “think”, where I mostly did nothing at all, and then this past Friday, the option was taken from me, my friend losing her battle with cancer.  After learning of her death, I found my spirit completely battered, crushed beyond recognition.  I will live with many regrets, but this one was of my own making.  Then suddenly all I could do, all I wanted to do, was pray.
To get there though I had to seek out my praying family for support, retreating to my mother, and her church, and a host of friends and family who stand firmly grounded on that foundation of faith.  As I struggled to pray, they all prayed with me, and they prayed for me.
My spiritual journey seems to be unending but I’m determined to make the trek.  I know without any doubt that I need prayer in my life.  I need my faith.  Mostly, I need to let go and let God.
I’m so sorry, my dear sweet friend.  I will miss you dearly.  Rest in peace, Janet Knight Ledbetter (7/23/1945 - 11/4/2011)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Y’all might remember how this works. Every so often a thought will cross my mind but never quite make it into a full blown post. I call them dribblings, just random, trivial stuff that passes through my thoughts.

Do we really give a flying fig about Kim Kardashian filing for divorce? I mean, really. Girlfriend made in excess of $17 Million for 72 days of wife work. And I’m sure it wasn’t really hard wife work. Looking at cutie patootie Kris Humpries, I’d bet she spent more than half of those days on her back, or quite possibly her knees. I mean really, how strenuous was that? She made $5 million performing wife work with Ray J for 30 minutes on camera. Did we really expect more than that from her? Since 2000 she’s averaged a boyfriend a year, having more ex’s than that video she starred in. She’s changed men the way some folks change their drawers. If anyone should have an issue with her relationship drama it should be E! Entertainment and the dumb ass who signed that multi-million dollar check. Let’s just give her a Thank You For Saving A Sister tee-shirt and move on! Kim already has.

Is it bad parenting to knowingly allow your teenage child to have sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend in your home while you wait around the corner for them to finish the deed or is it bad parenting when your teenage child has sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend in your home and you don’t have a clue that they are doing the deed?

Is it politically incorrect to give an overweight friend a bottle of Fat bastard wine? Really, I’m asking. It’s a pretty cool vino if you like that kind of thing. Made by a French guy named Thierry and his buddy Guy, it’s not bad. It has a big, robust flavor, deep color and a richness that’s pleasing to the palate. And I like the unique name. Fat bastard! But would it be insulting to give a bottle to a fat friend?

Guys go to the gym like women travel to the restrooms – in packs. I get them herding together with the free weights. It’s necessary from a safety perspective, needing someone to be the spotter so they don’t hurt something important. Like having a designated driver after a night at the bar. But what do they need to spot when they’re working out on one of the machines? Three guys standing behind their guy pal while he takes his turn on the elliptical machine is really not cool. Not cool at all.

An acquaintance asked what I thought about her guy keeping pictures of his ex around his house. I thought since it’s his house he can pretty much do whatever he pleases. She said she’d moved in and was now living with him. The pictures had been out of sight for over a year, now they were back again. I repeated. It’s his house and he’s making sure she gets the hint. She needs to find her own home and put her own pictures up then she wouldn’t have an issue with him and his. Just what I thought.

Is it remotely possible to get movie butter flavor with pop-at-home/on-the-stovetop popcorn? Or am I just wasting a whole lot of popping corn?

So much for dribbling. Time to get back to writing!

Monday, October 31, 2011


For me, Halloween kicks off the holiday season. 
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year!
When my kids were little I loved making their costumes for Halloween and they can tell you some of their costumes were really out there!  There are no costumes this year, but I still have my favorite holiday images that always make me smile. 

This one always makes me chuckle out loud and for some reason I can't stop thinking about pie!

Happy Halloween!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011


My beautiful daughter-in-law has joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team-In-Training to run a half marathon in honor of my late son and her husband Allan Mello Jr.  I have written about my sonshine here before.  November  3rd will be the anniversary of his passing, Allan Jr. having died after a too short battle with a very rare T-cell lymphoma. 
Always the meddling in-law I would like to do everything possible to support her endeavor so I am sharing this information in hopes that there will be some who might lend a hand and make a donation toward her fundraising efforts.  I’ve written my check and only wish I had much more to give.  But since I don’t, I don’t have any qualms about asking for a little bit of help. 

This incredible young woman has raised two amazing children without her life partner.  She continues to amaze and delight me with her fortitude, her spirit, and the sheer will with which she has persevered.  My son loved and adored her and she has done him and the entire Mello family proud.

As part of her mission baby girl is looking to raise $3,800 help find cures and better treatments for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.  She is running for a cause and with everyone’s support can help improve the quality of life for patients and their families as well.  Every dollar helps get a step closer to finding a cure for cancer.

So, please, won’t you DONATE?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I read book reviews today, something I do periodically to remind myself what I’ve done right with a story and in some cases, what I might have done wrong.
I happened upon the most interesting review of PROMISES TO A STALLION, the story of Luke Stallion, one of my billionaire brothers from Texas.  The reviewer HATED the book, acknowledging that she was clearly not my target audience.  The story was deemed MATURE and she noted that her mother would be more open to such a story line.  My book was reviewed with one other, a collection of homoerotic sodomy tales set in South Central LA, both books purchased for their potential use as masturbation tools.

I found the whole scenario quite amusing (and slightly disturbing that my book was purchased for its masturbation potential).  But I also couldn’t help but wonder why a reader who acknowledges that they prefer hard-core erotica and urban literature would even bother to read a traditional ROMANCE just to snub their nose at it and deem it unreadable?  After all, it is ROMANCE.  It’s marketed as ROMANCE and that in and of itself would tell someone they are not going to get blatant pornography and profanity in the storylines.  In ROMANCE the characters actually become friends and fall in love before they jump into bed with each other and the jumping into bed is preceded by a lot of sensual, very sappy foreplay before the deed ever gets done.  There is rarely any sodomy, bestiality, or hardcore sadomasochism and definitely not an ounce of homoerotic adventure. 
As a ROMANCE writer I don’t use the F-word, the N-word, the B-word or any other word that would be deemed insulting and unacceptable in church or a public place where adults who are older than I am might be congregating.  But there are writers who comfortably write those words and publishers who happily publish those books and not one of them lists the genre as ROMANCE.

There is a generation of young people who have no moral boundaries.  There are no limits to what they will say or do and there are no restrictions with what they will read, view, or listen to.  Fortunately, there is more than enough stuff out there for them to enjoy, that will satisfy what they do like. 

But why buy and read what you know from jump is not going to be your cup of tea just to spit it out because it’s not what you like?  When I want porn, I buy porn, not something faith-based!  I would think that if you want stronger, then you would buy stronger so that if you do end up spitting it out, it’s because it just didn’t suit your taste buds.

I guess it’s a good thing I don’t get paid to think!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Steve Jobs, the visionary in the black turtleneck who co-founded Apple in a Silicon Valley garage, built it into the world's leading tech company and led a mobile-computing revolution with wildly popular devices such as the iPhone, died today, losing his long-time battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

With the ability to transform entire industries with his inventions, Jobs was one of the great innovators of our time, pioneering the concept of the personal computer and of navigating them by clicking onscreen images with a mouse. In more recent years, he introduced the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet -- all of which changed how we consume content in the digital age.

In 2005 Jobs spoke to the graduating class of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.  He said:

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."

Words for all of us to live by. 

He is survived by his wife of twenty years and four children.  My condolences to his family and friends. 

Monday, October 03, 2011


Well, I didn't win that contest but I'm delighted to share news of the man who did.  Although I didn't come close to his 2,832 votes, I am still very proud that I placed in the top 5% and again, want to extend my sincerest appreciation to everyone who supported me.  So again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Times Square Awaits Stratford Artist
Stratford resident Ricardo Murillo will have his name and a photo he took displayed on a billboard in Times Square next month for winning an online contest.
By Jason Bagley - Stratford Patch
 The story of a Stratford resident who will soon have his face on a billboard in Times Square begins 15 years ago.

As a teenager growing up in Norwalk, Conn., Ricardo Murillo would sketch designs on T-shirts with a marker.

"Art has always been a part of me," said Murillo, 30, now living in Stratford with his girlfriend of seven years and two sons. "I used to draw to clear my head."

When, in 2009, Murillo lost his job at a sports clothing store in Southport, he bought his first camera and started to capture the culture of the street through film.

"I had nothing to fall back on to feed my family," said Murillo, who would post the "random street photography" and photos of his two boys on various Internet and social media sites.

A year after the photography endeavor began, Murillo was invited to San Juan, Puerto Rico -- though he had to pay his own travel expenses -- to take photos of the 2010 Latin Billboard Awards. While wandering around city streets between shoots, Murillo stumbled across some graffiti, which featured a depiction of a ragged blue whale with a dopey eye. Naturally, he had his camera on him and took a photo of the facade.

And come Oct. 8, that image -- along with two photos of Murillo and his first and last name in big blue letters -- will look down on the tens of thousands of people who bustle about Times Square on any given day.

The image, photos and letters are all part of
Murillo's online social-media-gathering profile on a website called Murillo submitted his profile into a contest sponsored by the website in August, and last week he was notified that his "digital business card," as he calls it, received the most online votes with 2,832.

The top ten vote getters are awarded play of their one-page profile on a revolving digital billboard in Times Square starting Oct. 8, and running for four subsequent weeks after that. However, the top three get the most face time and are treated to an all-expenses paid, three-day trip to New York City on Oct. 10.

"Millions of people are going to see it every day," said Murillo, who started two of his own businesses,
SELFMATHEMATIKS Clothing Co. in 2006 and SELFMATHEMATIKS Photography in 2009. "Who knows who will look at it ... It's huge for my career."

Saturday, October 01, 2011


I have a favorite little haunt that I frequent too many times each week for dinner.  Having refined my eating habits, I’ve eliminated most meats and all fried foods from my diet.  At my favorite little haunt I usually eat the same foods with an occasional variation and I always leave feeling that I’ve had a substantial and healthy meal.  The veggie plate is my favorite, an eclectic mix of three vegetables, a fresh baked yeast roll and my must-have sweet tea.  The cooks are all Southern born and bred and it is home cooking at its very best. 
Yesterday I met a friend for dinner.  I ordered my favorite plate with collard greens, pinto beans, macaroni and cheese, that roll, and my tea.

After blessing the food, we dug in and I began to extol the many virtues of my very healthy vegetable dinner.  My friend smiled sweetly, nodding in agreement as he enjoyed his own meal of green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy and an oversized breast of fried chicken.

When we were sated and contemplating whether or not we would share a dessert, my friend laughed, his head waving back and forth.  “You do know that mac and cheese is not a vegetable, right?” he said.  "There's really nothing healthy about it."

There was a moment of pause as I took in his comment.  “It is here,” I finally responded.  “Otherwise they wouldn’t put it on the veggie plate menu.”

He shook his head.  “If you say so.”

And I do.  I know that mac and cheese isn't the best choice and it certainly isn't a vegetable but it makes all these vegetables I have to eat a little more palatable.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Only four more days until the release of ALL I WANT IS YOU, a novella featuring two stories by me and my author-friend Kayla Perrin.  Kayla's tale was a sheer delight to read and my holiday story was an absolute hoot to write.  I am absolutely tickled that both offerings have already gotten great reviews.  As we slowly slip into the fall season and prepare for the holidays to come, slip ALL I WANT IS YOU into your must-read  pile.  You won't be disappointed. 

Romance was the last thing on their minds—until the holidays brought these two women face to face with the men of their dreams…

Her Holiday Gifts Deborah Fletcher Mello

Commissioned to bake a towering cake for the Whitman Corporation’s CEO at their New Year’s extravaganza—Malisa Ivey is mortified when she gets trapped inside. Even worse, the cake is then transported—with Malisa inside—to Gabriel Whitman’s office. The sexy business tycoon is shocked when a beautiful woman pops out of his dessert—and can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have such sweetness in his life all year…

Holiday Seduction Kayla Perrin

Mikki Harper isn’t looking forward to going home for her sister’s wedding—especially since she’s just been dumped. Then she runs into “Boring Barry” from high school and soon the two are catching up on old times—and Mikki discovers Barry is anything but boring. Mikki doesn’t expect to see him again, especially not at a dinner hosted by the groom’s family. It turns out Barry wants to relive their fling. But will Mikki run into his arms—or back to her ex, who’s suddenly had a change of heart?

Kayla Perrin is a USA Today and Essence® bestselling author who resides in Southwestern Ontario with her daughter. She has a bachelor of arts in English and Sociology and a bachelor of Education, having entertained the idea of becoming a teacher—but she always knew she wanted to be a writer. Kayla's novels have received plenty of accolades and awards. She has twice had books voted onto Romance Writers of America's Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year list, and has also been the recipient of a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine. Her books have been profiled in Entertainment Weekly, Ebony, Essence, and Cosmo. Visit her online at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


"It takes pain to be pretty....I hurt all the time!" 
Dolvett Quince - Celebrity Trainer

I hear ya' talkin', good lookin'.  And I'll be thinkin' of ya' in the morning as I master that elliptical machine.  Biggest Loser is some serious motivation!  And I post this for no reason other than I imagine my next male character will look just like my new friend Dolvett. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I’ve been trying to finish the proposal for a new book and it’s not coming together the way I need it to.  Publishers need their romances to be pretty.  Even the conflict needs to come with designer wrapping paper and a pretty bow tied so pristinely that it really doesn’t feel like conflict at all.  Publishers don’t like real life.  No discussion about finances and personal issues that might ring true.  The hero and heroine can have no flaws that can’t be easily buffed away to get to that happily-ever-after.  Both must be polished until they are picture perfect. 
But real life never plays out like that.  A happily-ever-after can come with some serious bumps in the road.  In real life couples can get ugly with each other.  Things can be said that can’t be taken back.  The hero can tell his girl he wants her out of his house so he can have some space to fix some things.  In real life, if he tells his girl he no longer wants to be with her she can get angry and defensive and she can wallow in the hurt of that heartbreak.  She can be ugly and he can be ugly back.  In a romance novel, the hero would not be a hero if he wasn’t fighting tooth and nail to get his girl and keep her as close to his heart as possible. In real life, there might be no interest in the fight for a couple’s future together.  Real life is about the tears that get you to the laughter and sometimes, it’s about the tears that get you nowhere at all.
I need to be thinking about the pretty, polishing all the players until they’re perfect.  But with everything that can happen in real life I’m really not interested in writing another pretty story. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011


On September 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm, Troy Anthony Davis saw the face of God for the very first time.

Davis was executed by the state of Georgia for the 1989 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. Davis maintained his innocence until the very end. And despite the reasonable doubt that existed the courts repeatedly upheld his conviction.

Hours earlier, at 6:21 pm, the state of Texas executed white supremacist gang leader Russell Lawrence Brewer for the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr.  There was absolutely no doubt at all about Brewer’s guilt.

If the bitter hatred that compelled Brewer and his friends to chain a man behind his pickup truck and drag him to his death, remained in Brewer’s heart at the time of his death, I can only imagine whose face he saw for the very first time.


Her name was Nancy. One might describe her as fragile, age having taken control over her petite frame. With her mane of snow white hair pulled into a neat bun and the pallor of her ivory complexion, she was delicate, like fine porcelain. Out of sync was the GPS tracker that circled her ankle like a bracelet.

We were celebrating a beloved relative’s birthday when she casually strolled to our table and came to a stop. She had wandered from her family’s side, strolling through the restaurant to investigate the offerings on other people’s plates. She smiled sweetly, the gesture illuminating her face and brightening the moment. We smiled back in greeting.

My dinner companion asked her how she was doing. The melodic tone of his deep voice drew her attention from the strawberry shortcake that sat table center. Her smile brightened even more as she nodded.

“I’m learning,” she said, her voice barely a soft whisper.

“Learning is good,” my friend replied.

By then her husband had moved to her side, gently taking her hand into his. He met our collective gazes and mouthed an apology for the intrusion.

“Nancy, dear,” he said softly, “Come back to the table. Everyone wants to talk to you.”

For a brief second she looked confused, unsure of the man’s intentions and then her smile returned, recognition seeping into her eyes. She laughed softly, her head bobbing with excitement.

“Frank!” she said, clutching tightly to his fingers.

“Yes,” he said as he led her back to her seat. “Come with me, dear,” he intoned as he lifted her hands to his lips and kissed the back of her fingers.

“Enjoy your dinner,” I said to the couple.

We all watched as they made their way back across the room. My friend and I smiled.

We were all learning.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Today is the last day to VOTE for my profile, ending my efforts to win a billboard in Times Square. Right now I’m in the top 5%, but I’ve been stuck there for the last two weeks, never seeming to be able to pull myself any higher. I think that’s’s way of playing with my head.

Yesterday I spent hours in reflection, wondering what else I could have done / could do, to promote Deborah Fletcher Mello and her books. I approached the process as if I were a client and I felt satisfied with all that I did do. I’ve been a one-woman promo machine pushing flyers about my books, meeting and talking with complete strangers, and forcing persuading acquaintances and friends to vote. I enlisted help from those I love most and they didn't fail me, stepping up in ways I couldn't have imagined.  I don’t remember campaigning this hard to be my high school senior class President.

Admittedly, I have done more in the last month than I have ever done in my entire career. But I am still well out of my comfort zone and this experience has finally convinced me to hire a publicist to do that leg work for me. While reflecting, what I kept coming back to was my writing. All I wanted to do was write. And so, as you may have noticed, I did. I wrote what inspired me, three posts coming back to back. I wrote because it felt good to do so and because that is my strength. It’s what I’m great at. It’s what I absolutely love most.

I would still love that billboard and the opportunity to spread the word even farther about my writing, so I’m giving one final push for as many more VOTES as I can muster up. Today I’m beat-feeting it to the library, my favorite book stores, the hair salons and anywhere else I can think of to go beg for VOTES. It’s going to be a great day and until 11:59pm ET tonight, I hope that you will take one opportunity to VOTE for me. Thank you.

Click HERE or any of the VOTE links to VOTE one last time!


I was eight-years-old when my mother taught me how to make cornbread from scratch, baking it in a cast iron frying pan. Back then, everything my mother cooked was made from scratch and she demanded that I learn and learn early. I remember my mother’s delight when Jiffy cornbread-in-a-box hit the shelves, cutting down on her cornbread-making time, but once learned I have never had the itch to shortcut the mixing of finely ground yellow cornmeal, self-rising flour, that tablespoon of sugar and the butter and milk. I will probably always make cornbread from scratch and bake it in a cast iron pan.

I didn’t demand that my older boys learn how to cook. Their wives would probably like me more if I had. And the one girl child of ours had about as much interest in the kitchen as the man in the moon. She was too busy chasing after her big brothers to care about anything "girlie" going on in our house. My youngest son, however, was not so lucky. He’s like an only child since his older siblings were all out of the house by his fifth birthday. Him, I commanded. Luckily, he followed willingly, motivated by the prospect of mixing elements in a bowl and hoping that they might explode.

By the time Baby Boy was ten he could run circles around me in the kitchen. At the age of thirteen he volunteered to cook for his grandparents for the first time, delighting them with a restaurant-quality shrimp and fettuccine alfredo. By then, I’d nicknamed him Chef Boy-U-Good. He had a talent for mixing flavors and colors so that the food not only looked pretty on a plate but tasted like a definite serving of more. I miss my Baby Boy’s cooking.

I cooked dinner earlier tonight. The things I think about while making cornbread from scratch.

Monday, September 19, 2011


It is premiere week and I am about to go on TV overload. The DVR will not be able to handle everything I am determined to watch and keep up with. The guilty pleasure I am most looking forward to though is NBC’s The Playboy Club which premieres tonight at 10:00 PM.

Back in the day, (and it really isn’t important how far back), I secretly wanted to be a Playboy Bunny and not the naked kind in the centerfold of the magazine, but the kind who got to wear that cute, velvet/satin bunny outfit. Because my mind couldn’t connect being a bunny with waitressing, my goal was to be a dealer at the blackjack table at one of the Playboy Club casinos. Blackjack, poker, and cards I knew, thanks to my granny. And there was no way I was going to risk having food spill on my very cute, velvet/satin bunny suit. No one can say I didn’t have ambition!

Ambition sunk like a rock though when I casually mentioned my intentions to my daddy. After staring at me like I’d lost my mind the man essentially said, “I don’t think so! Find another profession if you plan to remain a child of mine!” But he didn’t say it quite that nicely. After that my Playboy Bunny ambitions were relegated to knockoff Halloween costumes at some very dodgy holiday parties.

For me, with 60’s era shows like Mad Men, and now The Playboy Club and Pan Am, there seems to be a resurgence of all things I consider classically feminine. I have always been enamored with those classic Grace Kelly/ Beverly Johnson/ Jacqueline Kennedy/ Talitha Getty stylings.  It brings to heart a bygone era that was last seen in old family photos of our mothers and grandmothers. Had I been old enough, (and I wasn’t, thank-you-very-much) it would have been an era I would have rocked like nobody’s business!

So I can’t wait to trip down memory lane wondering what might have been. It’ll be my guilty pleasure, along with the ten or twenty other fall shows premiering this week that I just can’t wait to see.


So, I have a membership at this really great gym. It’s that one decorated all in purple and yellow that passes no judgment and just encourages members to come in and have fun. It’s been some time since I was last there. Over the last three weeks or so, my excuse has been that I had to be out and about promoting myself and hopefully encouraging people to VOTE for me at to win a billboard in Times Square with my face on it. We won’t mention the other 365 days that I might have missed, thankful of course that when I do/did return, no judgment was passed especially since I’ve paid faithfully every month without complaint or refund for being a non-show.

But this morning I was determined to get back to my exercise routine to tighten up some stuff that has started to jiggle and to tame the other stuff that’s determined not to fit into my favorite pair of denim jeans. Back in the gym though I was quickly reminded why I stopped going.

I hate exercise. I hate it with a passion that exceeds all comprehension. I reserve sweating for mind-blowing sex and only mind-blowing sex. I have no desire to sweat at any other time and definitely not while I’m on a treadmill next to an adolescent half my age and a third my size. But I plunged head first into an exercise routine designed by the cutest little trainer who’s old enough to be my child and I did it with a smile. When all was said and done I left feeling accomplished and thankful that my baby boy had left me with his Zune player and playlists of some really great music.

Really great music just transforms my disposition. It transformed that hatred for exercise into a strong dislike.  And it got me through a really great sweat.  It wasn’t mind-blowing but it put that jiggle on some serious notice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


There are only seven (7) days left for the ABOUT.ME competition to get my face on a billboard in Times Square. And since friends, family, and fans can vote once per day, that’s seven votes each to support me and my writing. SEVEN!! Seven multiplied by however many more persons I can convince to support me may actually get me to my goal. I can only hope and pray.

So once again I’m extending my reach even further to ask for support. (Thank you Troy from AALBC.COM!)

I also realize that many of you may never have read anything I’ve written. All you know is some crazy woman has been bugging you insistently for the last two weeks. To remedy that I hope you’ll enjoy the first chapter of my latest release, Rested Waters, HERE. My writing is important to me. It speaks to who and I am and everything I strive to achieve. I’m a storyteller and if I can say so myself, I’m pretty damn good at it. So, if you enjoy the first chapter I hope you’ll consider buying it from HERE, HERE, or wherever books are sold.

So, once again, please know how much I greatly appreciate everyone’s support. Thank you so much for voting! And thank you for passing the word to your family and friends asking them to VOTE as well.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


September 11, 2001 was a turning point in our history. Believing ourselves untouchable we could not fathom the impossible happening and then it did, sending the country into a tailspin. But in the aftermath of tragedy, we demonstrated the very best of our selves. We exemplified our resilience, our giving natures, our dedicated spirits and we rose like the phoenix from the ashes, born anew, stronger, and better, from the experience.

A decade has passed, and today, we pay tribute to the 2977 individuals who lost their lives. We also honor the countless heroes who gave tirelessly of themselves on that fateful day and in the weeks and months that followed.

And today, we celebrate the very best of who we are as a nation, the world taking note that on this day, in our history, we still stand.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Even in times of great sadness, there is no greater joy than to be surrounded by family. I was surrounded by family this weekend, a host of us gathering to celebrate the life of a beloved uncle who passed on earlier in the week.

And despite the heartache and the tears, there was no denying the wealth of love that flowed abundantly with much laughter. We embraced the remembrances of times long since passed, that path of memories a welcome journey. We welcomed the prospect of bright futures in newborn babies and the pattering of little ones who had no understanding of what they had just lost. We rejoiced in our love for our Higher Power and bonded together in prayer.

But even in our grief, there was hope, and promises of a better tomorrow and brighter futures. And it came on the wings of family and the greatest joy imaginable in our simply being together.


Friday, September 09, 2011


I really have to take a quick moment to express my sincerest appreciation to everyone who has voted for me and to all of you who continue to faithfully vote for me every day.

This entire process has been a challenge. Marketing myself has really taken me out of my comfort zone. Historically I’ve allowed my writing to speak for itself. My audience grew by word of mouth with little input from me if it wasn’t written on the pages between a cover.

And every time I beg for votes I have to fight the feeling that I’m being a complete and total annoyance. I question how many times I can say please vote for me before everyone tires of hearing it. But I have to keep asking to reach my ultimate goal.

And my goal is that billboard in Times Square. Because attaining that billboard means I’ve gotten myself noticed and if I get myself noticed then I get my books noticed and ultimately if I can steer people to my books and my writing, then I’ve reached my ultimate goal.

So again, thank you, thank you, thank you!

And again, would you please VOTE for me?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


The things I find in the middle of the night when insomnia is in control.
This was a little disturbing.  Even though the little cheese thing looks totally terrified, I couldn't stop myself from laughing.  

Then I was singing at the top of my lungs.  (I believe in sexy thing...)

Okay, it's 3:00 AM and I am officially out of my mind.  Feels like a story coming.  Just as soon as I...and yes, I'm going to say it.....just as soon as I VOTE!

You really didn't expect me to be brilliant at 3:00 AM, did you?

Friday, September 02, 2011


It's FRIDAY!  And the cutest old man who resembles Barney Fife just killed the Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight at karaoke!!  The guy even had his dance moves on lock!   The polyester suit wasn't doing much for him though.

They're having a party over here and I'm having a great time.  I can't wait to get my slide on!!  'Dem 'der lessons done started to pay off!!!  Step left/right/left/Slide up/Slide back/Dip down/Roll up/Spin it back/And do it all again!

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend and if you happen to think about it, please VOTE !!! Everyone's support now has me in the top 5% with 92 votes.  Wouldn't it be cool if I could triple that by Monday?  Might as well dream big if I'm going to dream at all, right? 

So, thank you all.  I greatly appreciate the love!!  And I wish everyone a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!!!!

Thursday, September 01, 2011


I don’t know from one day to the next what I may blog about. I may wax philosophically one day and ponder the dynamics of dryer lint the next. Then there are those days when I don’t write a darn thing, nothing sparking an ounce of motivation.

Pursuing a billboard in Times Square has sparked much motivation. I’m so far outside of my comfort zone that I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find my way back once this is all done and finished. And that might not be a bad thing.
Today, I passed out promotional material about myself and my books. I’d designed and ordered promo cards months ago and they’ve been sitting pretty on an end table waiting for attention. The few that actually made it into my purse had to be tossed, the edges so weathered that it was darn right embarrassing. But today, I pulled up my big girl panties, sucked in a deep breath, and passed out over a hundred of them. I pushed cards wherever I went. Doing so pushed me to engage in conversation with complete strangers about myself and my books. By card number 25 I’d hit my groove and was doing it like an old pro, easily asking folks to visit my website and to vote for me at

The first few times I couldn’t help but think about my mother and her admonishments when I was a little girl and we would go visit family and friends. “Don’t get in there and ask for anything,” she’d say, her index finger shaking inches from my nose. Or my personal favorite, “Act a fool if you want to and see if I don’t act a fool on your behind when we get home”. Asking for votes these first few times has felt like I was begging for a cookie when I knew it would not bode well back at home. But the more I thought about my mother, I couldn’t help but remember each time she loudly announces to anyone who’ll listen that I am her daughter the writer with eleven published books. My mother would have passed out cards, sold books and had people voting like their lives depended on it.

I am very much responsible for promoting my books because as a mid-list author, whether I have national, best-selling acclaim or not, there is no one else out here promoting me and my mother can't always be there. And, truth be told, before this I wasn’t doing but so much promotion. I’m really didn’t think that I was any good at that sort of thing. I would blush and get tongue tied and I can’t begin to tell you why but perhaps it has something to do with my extremely shy personality. Now I have friends who’ll raise an eyebrow at that statement, but I truly am very shy in certain situations. Not all of them, but most of them.

In the last few years my books have done very well but I imagine that they’d have done even better if I’d been out on the road promoting myself along with them. In the past I’ve avoided the writer’s conferences and it’s been a rare occasion where I’ve done book signings. But that too has to change. I understand that if I really want to expand my audience then I need to get out here and meet people one on one. Readers need to know that I’m really not as uptight or as annoying as I might seem. And I know I've been some sort of annoying the past few days. But probably not as much as I'll be until September 20th and I win me a billboard! I’m also quite funny when I don’t try to be and I can be pretty engaging when the moment moves me.

Writing is hard work and when all is said and done, promoting that writing experience is even harder. I’ve been wading through it all like one might dip their toes into a kiddy pool just to get wet. So now I’m pulling on my hip boots so I can walk thigh high in the midst of the Promo River. So, please, wish me luck as I go wading in the promotional waters. And as I get myself good and wet, please do VOTE! Thank you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I wrote once before about a friend who thinks it is the funniest thing that I never drank Kool-Aid until I was well into my teens. Every time the subject comes up he is rolling on the floor with laughter. I can’t help but laugh myself because what family back in the day didn’t raise their children on Kool-Aid? Well, mine didn’t.

My first experience with Kool-Aid was at a cousin’s house during a summer break. I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to make a full pitcher of drink from that little packet of colored powder and a bucket load of granulated sugar! When I returned home and shared the experience with my mother she looked at me like I’d told her we’d built an atomic bomb out of shoe leather and toothpaste. She was not amused and it was many years later, after her first grandson was born, that she finally broke down and allowed Kool-Aid into her home. It was also that presweetened variety as well, not the little flavor packets that you could sweeten yourself.

My dear friend laughed himself silly when I told him I’d also never eaten canned vegetables, potted meat, Vienna sausages, or government cheese either. Not that he could talk because he never ate grits. I mean really, how many Southern Baptist black children do you know that didn’t grow up eating grits? I know I ate me some grits and I wasn’t Southern or Baptist!

I was raised in an extremely white, upper middle class neighborhood in very wealthy Fairfield County, Connecticut. My friends were kids who got BMW’s for their first communion and Mercedes Benz’s for their bar mitzvah’s. My mother shopped at Lord and Taylors and Bloomingdales, and I’d be the first to say that I grew up privileged, prissy and just a tad pretentious.

Ours was the first of four black families to integrate the neighborhood and until fifth grade there were only two black students in the elementary school I attended. We attended the AME church on the other side of town and I spent my summers on my grandparent’s South Carolina farm where I learned to pick cotton and eat watermelon right off the vine.

Growing up, I was an anomaly. I wasn’t blonde or blue-eyed, my mother wasn’t a stay-at-home Mom, and my father worked three jobs and none of them were on Wall Street. During my fifth grade year bussing became en vogue and suddenly there were other black kids filling up the classrooms. That’s when I discovered just how different I truly was. I didn’t feel different or look different but to everyone else I was suddenly too white to be black and too black to be white. I was called Oreo, half-n-half, high yeller, wannabe, jigaboo, and a host of other expletives more than I was called by my name. It wasn’t pretty, left me traumatized and would have made for great afternoon fodder on Oprah's sofa.

I’ve had to deal with issues of race most of my life. The environment I was raised in called it into question on a daily basis. I was either treated differently because the color of my skin was different, or I was treated differently because I spoke and behaved differently. Out of sheer necessity I learned early how to walk in two very different worlds but I was never made to feel welcome or comfortable in either.

Fast forward a few years and I married and divorced a biracial man of white and Portuguese parentage straddling his own fence. He still doesn’t have a clue where he falls on the color wheel. Our children are an amalgamation of many ethnicities and they could care less. Depending on the mood of the moment they’ve been known to check either the "black" box, the "white" box or the "other" box proudly, not having a clue what color their Kool-Aid should be. They listen to rap, classical and hard rock, eat chitlin’s, pizza, and Puerco guisado, and genuinely can’t understand what all the hoopla is about race and why people fear it so.

When I was first called about my very first manuscript, the editor at the time spoke to me on the telephone for a good fifteen minutes about my book. The conversation was curious at best and then she asked if I would please email her a picture of myself. I thought it a pretty strange request but hey, a real publisher was interested in my writing so I was ready to send as many photos as she wanted. Ten minutes after she received the email I received my second CALL and an offer to purchase my book. I later understood that they wanted to be sure I was what I claimed to be, a black woman who'd written a black romance. Apparently that didn’t come across over the telephone line.

I have no doubts that the majority of my readers are black women. Interestingly though, I had a book signing once where I sold a lot of books. Only one of the fans who came to see me was a black woman. Most of the books sold were purchased by non-black readers, male and female. I thought for just a brief second that there was actually some progress being made and then one elderly “fan” felt compelled to expound on what she thought about me and my writing. The praises were plentiful and complementary and then she leaned in, her hand pressed against my shoulder and said, “I really do like your writing. And it’s not like you’re really black, dear.”

As a black author published in the romance genre I find myself once again straddling a fence where I understand that I’m not necessarily welcome nor is there any concern that I’m comfortable. I’m discovering that to write what I want to write I will clearly have to walk in two very different worlds or make the conscious decision not to be published at all.

I wish I could be as dismissive about race as my children but I can’t. My race has a major impact on where my books are shelved in the stores, if they’re carried in certain bookstores at all, and whether or not I can even get a book deal for a book that isn’t a black romance.

I’m not blonde this week and since my last blonde disaster I doubt highly that me and Miss Clairol will be trying that ever again. I’ll never be blue-eyed and there is no longer anything prissy, privileged or pretentious about me. I am, however, one hell of a force to be reckoned with.

And more importantly, I’m a damn good writer no matter what I happen to be writing about. I’ve got a lot of storytelling in me and just like my Kool-Aid, the flavor I tell them in will be however I choose. Since I don’t plan to go anywhere any time soon, pull up a seat, grab yourself a glass, choose your own flavor, and join me. I’ve got a great story I’d love to tell you.

But before I get started, did you VOTE today?