Real Life Romance

Swirl of Jamaica Month: Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren

I’ve decided that this August is ‘Turnabout Day’ Month, which sounds a little weird if you say it out loud. In honor of my upcoming release, a short story set in Jamaica’s steam-driven alternate history, I’m going to hit you up with Jamaica-themed blog posts all month long.

And because I’m sure you thought I forgot last month, I’m going to start with a Jamaica-themed Swirl of the Month. This month, we’re going to celebrate Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren.

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Aren’t they pretty together?

Here’s just a touch of trivia for this striking couple.

He got into the movie business when visiting Grace on the set of A View to a Kill; when one of the extras didn’t show up, the director went looking for volunteers.

Grace is a preacher’s kid (well, of course, she is) from Jamaica. Dolph’s from Sweden and studied chemical engineering at MIT.

Grace performed at the Queen’s Jubilee celebration a couple of years ago. She sang one of her songs (“Slave to the Rhythm”) while hula hooping. That’s eight minutes of hula hooping, neighbors. She had her mic in one hand and a pair of finger cymbals on the other, and she started the hula hoop up the way that most of us put on our pants.

Most of us remember Dolph as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (he had to break Rocky, remember?). He also gives a terrific interview. Check him out here with Men’s Health.

Aren’t these two a great way to kick off our new monthly tradition? Be on the lookout for next month’s Ambassadors of Swirl. And in the meantime, be sure to come back here for more hot Jamaican fun and “Turnabout Day” news. Here’s a blurb to tide you over:

Sugarcane heiress Chloe Newton said goodbye to indentured servant Peter Darrow with her first kiss, on a hillside one long-ago summer night as mechanized cane cutters worked the fields below them. Now Peter’s returned, no longer a boy and no one’s servant, to take charge of the fleet of machines that work Chloe’s estate. On Turnabout Day, Chloe takes on the uniform and duties of a maid, and she seeks the courage to offer Peter more than a celebratory drink. By giving in to his commands, she’ll surrender to his need and become mistress of her own desire.

Get ready for this touch of Jamaican heat on August 22 from Musa Publishing!

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Introducing … the Swirl of the Month Club

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Some of my favorite posts to write are for the Loving Day Blog Hop, which brings me together with other authors and some great readers in the service of interracial romance. This year, while I was hunting for photos of real-life interracial couples to put in my post, I actually had trouble deciding which ones to include. I found myself inspired not only by the number of interracial couples but by the length of time so many of them had been involved with each other. I was so distracted by their love stories that I almost didn’t finish my post on time!

So here’s what I’d like to do between now and next Loving Day. Starting in July, I’m starting the Swirl of the Month Club. I’ll be writing about a well-known, well-established interracial couple every month. You’ll get to see pictures, check out some trivia, and read some awesome stories of real-life interracial romances. I’m hard at work on a calendar to keep track of future entries (for me — I want you to be surprised each month), and because I can’t help myself, I’m already looking for cute pictures to post.

I hope you’re as excited as I am! Be sure to follow my blog for your monthly dose of real-life swirl. You’ll also pick up the latest news about my work and whatever else is in my head, but don’t worry. I think you’ll dig that, too.

Why the Lovings Matter and Why They Always Will

They chose each other over all comers, and that's what love is.

They chose each other over all comers, and that’s what love is.

It’s been a whole year since the last Loving Day party, and a lot has changed for me. I’m working on the sequel to my first book, Illicit Impulse, (because I still work slowly — that hasn’t changed at all), but I’ve sold a short story, and I’m building professional relationships along the way. I’m creating the set of stories I want to write and want to be known for, my brand, and as my blog header says, you can count on me for romance served hot, with a swirl.

As I’m finding my place as a writer in the world, I’m often asked why I chose interracial romances. (I’m also often called out for limiting interracial romance to black women and white men, when the Great Spectrum of Swirl is so much larger, but that’s another story.) Mia Zachary expressed much of my reason when I saw her at a presentation earlier this year. She said the protagonist is an avatar through which we enter the story. When I started reading romances, there was no avatar who looked like me, and while it’s hard to explain why that makes such a big difference, it’s hard to deny that it does in fact make a difference.

At a presentation for HarperImpulse’s Romance Festival, Cindy Gallop said this about women in business: “We cannot be what we cannot see.” The Lovings, whom we celebrate today, are actually a great example of that.

David Bowie and Iman celebrated their 23rd anniversary just recently.

David Bowie and Iman celebrated their 23rd anniversary just recently.

So many folks think that interracial marriage was illegal across this nation before the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case that bears their name. But that isn’t true. They’d been married very legally in Washington, D.C. before returning to Virginia, where the trouble started. What is true — in the late 1960s and today — is that lots of people who’d been quietly interested in pursuing interracial relationships look to them and to other real-life couples for the silent encouragement they provide without even knowing they’re doing it.

Somewhere out there, someone saw the Lovings, two extraordinarily ordinary people obviously in love with each other, and took comfort. After all, Richard and Mildred Loving weren’t chasing a fetish or swayed by stereotypes or indulging in sexual curiosity.

They fell in love. They got married. They returned home together and were awakened in their bedroom by the police. They were arrested when Mildred pointed at their marriage license. Because they were man and wife, the Lovings were breaking the law.

So they challenged the law. And the law changed.

Times have changed for those of us in interracial relationships (and they’re changing for those of us in same-sex

Tina Turner married Erwin Bach last year. By that time, they'd been together almost 30 years.

Tina Turner married Erwin Bach last year. By that time, they’d been together almost 30 years.

relationships). My stories aren’t built on such weighty stuff. But when I imagine my heroines and their men, I think of them the way I see Richard and Mildred. I write about people in love who will choose each other over all comers.

Not because of their color and not in spite of it. Not because he doesn’t see it or she doesn’t notice it or they don’t allow it to make a difference.

He’ll fall for her because of who she is. For this man, her color is just a part of who she is. How she lives and moves in the world as a black woman, whether she defines herself that way or merely identifies herself that way, is also a part of her. He loves her. And he’ll fight like hell to keep her.

That’s what my little corner of interracial romance is all about, and that’s why I celebrate Loving Day. It’s a reminder of what real love is made of and how it’s built to last.

So you wanna win something?

Here’s the link to the Loving Day Blog Hop giveaway over at Rafflecopter; head over for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Leave me a comment here, and I’ll pick one lucky soul to win a copy of Illicit Impulse and some snazzy swag.

Want to go on a Loving Day tour and find some terrific IR authors? Here’s the list of Loving Day Blog Hop participants. Stop by and discover some great reads!

And for the next stop on the hop, head on over to Stacy-Deanne‘s blog! Happy Loving Day!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Everybody.

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I have a confession to make. I didn’t get the flap about the Cheerios commercial at first, because I wasn’t looking at it. I had the TV on in the background, and unless you’re looking at the TV, that commercial sounds just like any other commercial.

When I did see it, though, I did a little fist-pumping. An interracial couple…no, it’s better than that. It’s a family. And they’re behaving just like any other family. How cool is that?

In a way, the Cheerios family reminds me of the Lovings, whose Supreme Court decision we celebrate today on the Loving Day Blog Hop. The Cheerios couple isn’t the first to turn up in American television advertising, just as the Lovings weren’t the first interracial couple to be married in the United States. Coffee Mate and Ikea both featured interracial couples before Cheerios. (I couldn’t find Kim and Adam, the interracial couple testing their new Ikea mattress, but here’s another ad for your viewing pleasure.) The Lovings were married very legally in Washington, D.C., before moving back to Virginia, where the trouble started. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal in 24 states – but very legal in the other 26.

So what’s different with Cheerios? What’s different with the Lovings?

It’s the unwillingness to back down. It’s courage. It’s the steadfast belief that interracial couples are and ought to be just like all other couples.

Television advertising is notoriously gun shy about even the appearance of offense, and General Mills got an earful from racists when it unveiled its interracial couple. But the company refused to back down in the face of public pressure. “There are many kinds of families, and Cheerios celebrates them all,” Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said in USAToday.

When the Lovings pleaded guilty to being married interracially in Virginia, their prison sentence (and take a second here to really consider the fact that there was a prison sentence) was suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return as a couple for the next 25 years. They moved to Washington, where they’d been married in the first place, and this story might have ended there. Mildred and Richard shunned publicity, and neither of them was trying to make a huge public stand when they challenged the Virginia law. All they wanted was to be able to visit Virginia – the place they both called home – as a married couple.

Guys, you’ve got to check this out on the Life magazine website – the Lovings were the cutest of couples.

The Lovings got what they asked for in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court found Virginia’s law, and all the nation’s remaining anti-miscegenation laws, unconstitutional. They returned to Virginia, where they spent the rest of their lives. Forty-six years after the decision, popular culture has covered a lot of ground. I can remember a time, not long ago at all, when interracial couples on television were few and far between. Their appearance often meant you were about to see a very special episode or that you were going to be treated to a lot of good-natured ribbing at the couple’s expense (remember George Jefferson and Tom Willis?). At one point this year, prime time network television was home to more interracial couples than I could keep up with. The writers, in the understanding that those relationships are not a pedagogical tool, are not focusing on the interracial component.

It’s the story, not the swirl. Put that way, I almost don’t mind missing the first season of Scandal. Almost.

We’ve made lots of headway. Interracial couples aren’t fighting for recognition in quite the same way today. Corporate America defends their identity as couples, just like other couples.

But there are still holdouts in the so-called real world. I myself have been seated near the kitchen door on dates with white boyfriends. Well-meaning friends have suggested that the course of true love would run more smoothly if I stuck to my own kind. People stare, although in fairness, I’ve been known to stare at an interracial couple just to see if they’re a couple.

Yeah, I’m not much better. You see, when I say “interracial couple,” I’m thinking of black people and white people. I shouldn’t ignore the rest of the world’s diversity, but I acknowledge that I’m guilty of doing so.

We’ve come a long way. We haven’t come nearly far enough. Still, the world’s changed a lot in my parents’ lifetime, and I see more change to come in mine. My hope is that my niece will grow up in a time of true marriage equality.

Let freedom smooch.

OMG! I screwed up and forgot to mention that Delaney Diamond has the next stop on the hop! Go see her — please!

**I join more than 30 other blogs today to celebrate Loving Day with the Loving Day Blog Hop! Check out the roster for other great stops on the hop (Koko Brown, Afton Locke, Vallory Vance, and my sister in swirl, Tracey Livesay, among others, join us today). And just to keep things interesting, I’m going to give away a copy of my book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, to some lucky commenter (relevant to my post, before midnight, Pacific Time, on 6/12/13) below! Happy swirling, my friends.