Friday, July 31, 2009

Today I'm feeling very fortunate...

Something I didn't mention in the last post about the book release party is the part that made it a party *and* benefit, and that's because I wanted to devote a special space to that important aspect of the event. And here it is.

Very early in the planning stages, I read about the murder of a woman in Pakistan by the Taliban (which I blogged about here: for the simple reason that she was a dancer.

I couldn't believe it. It was something that didn't seem possible in this day and age. But the reality is, we're lucky in this country to be able to dance and express ourselves openly. There are many women around the world who cannot, and I thought it was important during an event that celebrates belly dancing and a book about belly dancing, to also do something for women who don't have the same luxury.

After searching for an organization that helped women in these troubled areas, I discovered Women for Women International. Its mission is to help women survivors of war rebuild their lives, and it operates in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and parts of Africa. The organization is dedicated to improving women's lives in a lasting way. Here's how it's described on the group's Web site:

"We begin by working with women who may have lost everything in conflict and often have nowhere else to turn. Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen. We identify services to support graduates of the program as they continue to strive for greater social, economic and political participation in their communities.

"As each woman engages in a multi-phase process of recovery and rehabilitation, she opens a window of opportunity presented by the end of conflict to help improve the rights, freedoms and status of women in her country. As women who go through our program assume leadership positions in their villages, actively participate in the reconstruction of their communities, build civil society, start businesses, train other women and serve as role models, they become active citizens who can help to establish lasting peace and stability."

It's a meaningful message of self-empowerment, and it's women reaching out to and helping other women. These are themes that were very important to me as I wrote THE BELLY DANCER, and I can't think of a more appropriate way to honor the art and history of belly dance than to support this noble cause.

That's why I'm feeling very fortunate today. Not only do I enjoy the freedom to dance and live my life the way I want, but our event helped raise money for the organization, thanks to the help of so many individuals who donated either drawing prizes or cash, or both. I was thrilled and honored to be able to mail off those proceeds today.

If you'd like to learn more about Women for Women International, you can do so here. And please consider making a donation. There are women in this world whose lives may depend on it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Photos from THE BELLY DANCER Book Release Party & Benefit

Is there any other way to celebrate a book about belly dancing than with a night filled with belly dancing and belly dancers? I think not.

We had dancers, lots and lots of dancers, as well as drummers, belly dance costume models and even pirates! (Oh yeah, and some of them were even extras in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies).

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Merry's Fashion with Passion boutique in Long Beach for allowing us to take over her store (and her sidewalk, and her alley, and the street in front of her shop...) on Saturday night to throw this party for our friends, family and folks who wanted to get their own signed copy of THE BELLY DANCER.

We had a phenomenal turnout -- at least 200 people at one point packed the store and back patio, where the guys from Hana Lima Industries set up the most amazing Moroccan tent. The crowd was so thick, it spilled out onto the sidewalk and street. My husband says he watched as the traffic on Broadway had to maneuver around the crowd, and at one point a city bus slowed down to a crawl so the driver and passengers could get a good look at the dancing and drumming taking place on the sidewalk.

We sold out of the books that Laguna Beach Books so kindly provided!

The event was such a wonderful success because of all the help and support from so many people.

The dancers: Katerina, Sarah al Nour, Enala, Sooz & her troupe Azuluna & the Om Sisters!

The musicians: Ed Lee, Donavon, Austin Cameron, Marc, and their friends

Andrea Farese of Stellar Advantage for providing the belly dance costumes for the fashion show.

Rachel from O.C. Bellydance Connection for taking great photos!

And of course, my parents, who kept my 9-week-old daughter fed, dry and entertained during the madness, and my dear friends Alane & Diane, who were the first to arrive and the last to leave, and stepped in to help me fix all the little problems that popped up throughout the night.

Honestly, I can't thank everyone enough. You're the best :-)

(Photos courtesy of Rachel of OC Bellydance Connection)

Friday, July 24, 2009

THE BELLY DANCER Book Release & Benefit party tomorrow!

If you're planning to be in Long Beach tomorrow evening, stop by! We'll have belly dancing, live drumming and a belly dance costume fashion show.

We'll also be raising money for a really great cause -- Women for Women International, which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.

All the proceeds generated from the drawing for drawings for the great belly dance-inspired prizes will go toward this amazing nonprofit group.

And we have so many wonderful people to thank for donating the prizes!

Belly Dance magazine (1-year subscription)

Naked Rhythm's Alex Spurkel (1 month of drum lessons and Naked Rhythm CDs)

Om Sisters (3 belly dance classes) / Hollywood Music Center (3 belly dance CDs)

Sashi (her new Gothic Bellydance instructional DVD)

Alane Canzone (a custom-made hula hoop)

I'll be donating a bunch of stuff, too: two cosmetics gift packs, a Moroccan caftan / coverup, a restaurant gift card. And we're adding new donations every day!

The event will go from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Merry's Fashion with Passion boutique, 2747 E. Broadway, Long Beach. 562-987-4363.
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Giving stuff away at the Romance Book Club -- come see!

Today I'm guest blogging about my inspiration for THE BELLY DANCER over at the Romance Book Club, and one lucky commenter will win either a signed copy of the book or a belly dance hip scarf.

You can check it out here:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today's winner is...

It's been a great publication day! I discovered more good reviews ( and, to name a couple) and that book sales are already strong. Yay :-)

For all of you who bought the book: THANK YOU! I haven't had much time to soak it all in yet -- most of the day has been spent with the little one running to and from the post office to get the bookmarks and other materials out to all the people who have requested them from here and the belly dance forum on, along with some bookstores around the country.

But here's the fun part of the day: giving away a belly dance hip scarf to today's lucky winner.

So, here we go:

My little independent auditor:


Congratulations, Catherine; I'm e-mailing you now to get your address.

Thanks to everyone who entered! I'll be doing more contests, so stay tuned!


It's release day for THE BELLY DANCER! Woohoo! I'm celebrating with a guest blog over at Historical Tapestry on why I love the legend of Little Egypt. That one is up now, and an interview with author Shauna Roberts on her For Love of Words blog that will be up a little later on.

I'll also announce the winner of today's contest at 4 p.m. -- so if you've entered, be sure to check back!