About Me

My photo
Author | Blogger | Workshop Facilitator Visit my website at www.authordeelawrence.com to learn more about my romantic suspense novels, Gotta Let It Go and Gotta Get It Back, the sequel. Connect with me online @authordeelawrence (Facebook). Thanks for visiting with me today!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Interview with Claudette Bard, author of Negro Island Light and Negro Island Light: The Road Home

Author’s Bio: Claudette Lewis Bard’s love for writing began in her first year of college. Thanks to an English 101 professor who gave her the following advice when it came to writing: dig deep, put those thoughts into words and put them on paper. From that advice, she learned how to express herself through writing. But it wasn’t until years later, after taking creative writing courses, writing short stories for herself, writing a non-fiction narrative (that chronicled the lives of several elderly relatives) and much encouragement from her husband, Ed, Claudette decided to publish her first novel in 2016 entitled Negro Island Light. Its sequel, Negro Island Light: The Road Home followed in 2018.

Claudette holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore. She is a member of both the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland and Baltimore’s Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (BAAHGS)/Agnes Kane Callum Chapter. She is a banker by profession. 

DL: What inspired you to write your book?
CB: In the summer of 2015, my husband and I had just returned from a vacation in Maine, where we attended the Maine Lobster Festival. While visiting Camden, Maine, we stopped by the library and in a display case, I saw a presentation about an island in Camden Bay called Negro Island. Needless to say, that name piqued my curiosity and I wanted to know more. After asking the librarian and doing some research, I uncovered an incredible story: it was of a white boat captain back in the 1700s, who was sailing into Camden Bay. He had an African cook on board and asked the cook if there was any place he’d like to live, where would it be? The African pointed to a small island in which the boat was passing and said he’d like to live there. That small gesture prompted the town’s people to name it Negro Island.

A lighthouse was subsequently built and it was called Negro Island Light. Unable to find the African cook’s name, I thought to myself, he has descendants. The idea of a fictional account about a woman who descended from the African cook rolled around in my head once we returned to Baltimore. I began writing the story about Eugenia Watts and how she is connected to this island and to this town. Camden, Maine is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen, with its marina full of boats, a river running through the town and mountains making up the horizon. It was the perfect backdrop for a romance, in which the main character finds. My husband, who has been a photographer for over 40 years, took stunning pictures of the island and the lighthouse, which made a perfect book cover. 

DL: Describe your writing process. Do you use an outline or let it flow organically?
CB: I use an outline. I have several small writing books and hand-write an outline. My nephew gave me these books for Christmas a couple of years ago. They come in handy if I’m in my car and get an idea. I outline the beginning, middle and have an ending in place although things frequently change along the way. I develop the characters—age, race, body image, marital status, personalities and other vital statistics.   

DL: What do you think makes a good story?
CB: I think the basics such as a good plot make a good story. What challenges do the characters face? Who/what are the antagonists? Stories should be wrapped up before the novel ends. There should be surprises, mysteries, etc.  The first chapter should draw the reader in and make them want more.

DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
CB: As a child, I must admit, I wasn’t much of a reader, although my mother’s love for the written word influenced me then and still does. She encouraged my siblings and I to read and we made frequent trips to the library. One author who influenced me as an adult is Harper Lee and the fact that her first book, To Kill A Mockingbird, won a Pulitzer Prize. Of course, the entire book was brilliantly written, coming from a child’s point of view about a very disturbing subject.

DL: If you were hosting a dinner party, which three authors would be your dream guests?
CB: They would be the following:

A.    Nicholas Sparks—I hate to be sexist but when I first started reading his books, I thought, “How can a man write such romantic stuff?” His description of his characters, how he slowly peels away the traits of an individual to where you want to know more about them and the romance that is brought out is incredible.

B.     Lalita Tademy—In Cane River, she writes about several generations of her African-American family before and after the Civil War, with particular emphasis on the women. Since I am a genealogist, it made me want to know more about my ancestors and the struggles they withstood.   

C.     Maya Angelo—In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I loved the way she would describe a scene or incident. It was so unorthodox and she used words I would never think of using. Yet, after reading the description, you know just what she was trying to convey. Her use of words absolutely floored me!  

DL: What are the keys to success in marketing your books?
CB: I market my books in the following ways:

A.    Facebook page—I have a Facebook page solely for the purpose of marketing my books. I have used some of the tools Facebook offers to get the word out.

B.     Book readings at local libraries—flyers printed (with the help of my husband, who is head of marketing), announcements in local publications.

C.     Soliciting in person to have my book placed in the circulation at local libraries.

D.    Book readings for book clubs.

E.     Books are for sale on Amazon. 

F.      Flea markets.

DL: What tips would you give aspiring writers?
CB: I would recommend they do the following:

A.    Join a writer’s group such as the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland.

B.     Educate yourself about the differences between self-publishing vs. traditional publishers.

C.     Educate yourself about “vanity publishers.”

D.    Save your money.

E.     Take creative writing classes.

F.      Read-read-read, especially books/authors who write about the same subject in which you are interested.

G.    Write—It sounds like a cliché but everyone has a story and you never know who may be influenced by what you have to say.

H.    Writing a book is a team effort. You will need the following: beta-readers, a good editor, an understanding of book construction, how to market your book, starting a business, etc.

DL: How about sharing an excerpt from one of your books?
CB: The following is an excerpt from Negro Island Light

Eugenia Watts has always heard stories that she has a connection to the beautiful, picturesque town of Camden, Maine, and an island once named Negro Island. She now has the time to explore these stories because in the summer of 2015, she has been laid off from her marketing job at a Washington, D.C. bank where she had been employed for over 20 years. She takes a much-needed vacation to the summer cottage her deceased parents bought in Camden. She wants to clear her mind, relax and take a break. Upon her arrival, at the urging of one of her neighbors, she goes to a local restaurant that boosts the best chowder in town. The following is her first encounter with Scott, a piano-playing restaurant owner. 
     “How’s the chowder?” said a male voice, startling Eugenia. She looked up to see a bearded, dark-haired man who stood in front of her, so tall that she had to tilt her head back a bit to see his handsome face. His nearly shoulder-length, dark brown hair was a bit tussled as it fell around his face. He wore glasses, brown herringbone patterned with plastic frames, kind of a round shape. She noticed his bright brown eyes behind the glasses seemed to sparkle, or maybe that was the effect of the wine. He had a pleasant, warm, comforting smile that created crow’s feet in the corner of his eyes. 

     “It’s really great,” Eugenia answered, smiling back at him. 

     “Hi, I’m Scott Mackey, part owner of this fine establishment,” he bragged. 

     “It’s nice to meet you, Scott.  Are you the piano man?” 

     “Guilty as charged,” he answered. “My two partners and I bought this restaurant a few years ago.  Always wanted to be a lounge singer, probably was one in my former life. So, I made good use of those piano lessons I took as a kid and I entertain the patrons.” He then paused.  “I’ve never seen you here before. Are you here for the Lobster Fest?” 

     “Yes, kind of. I’m Eugenia Watts. My dad owns a cabin right over there.” She pointed towards the marina. “Just came up for a couple of weeks for vacation.”  Eugenia didn’t want to go into the gory details of the layoff. 

     “Oh, my God, are you related to Chuck Watts? I see a slight resemblance.”

     “Yes, guilty as charge. I’m his daughter.”

     “It is so great to meet you! I’m sorry to hear of his passing. Great guy!”

     “Thank you. He came here?” 

     “Oh, yes, well, since I’ve been here which has been a little more than three years. Yes, he loved the chowder.”

     Eugenia looked out of the window for a second and Scott noticed the expression changed on her face, with the reminder of her father’s passing. 

     “Well, I’m going to make my rounds. That’s what any good restaurant owner does, right?”  Eugenia looked up at him and smiled. “It was such a pleasure meeting you, Eugenia. That’s a pretty name.”
As Eugenia continued her meal, she was made aware of Scott once again.  

     Eugenia was eating the delicious calamari salad and heard the piano again. As she researched a company that interested her, her attention turned to the song that was playing and she recognized the tune as an instrumental version of “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. She began to think about some of the words. The song tells of a man and a woman getting ready to leave to attend a party. The man compliments the woman on how beautiful she looks, while she is applying her makeup and brushing her hair. Okay, this can’t be happening, thought Eugenia. If I wasn’t a sensible, level headed woman, I’d think he was playing this song for me. Nah. This is crazy!  

Needless to say, the song was for her.

DL: What’s on the horizon for you?
CB: I have the following things on the horizon:

A.    People who have read both books would like a sequel. Others stated they wanted a prequel—either about the main character or her ancestor. I haven’t decided if I’m doing either.

B.     I’m really inspired by Cane River and would like to do a historical fiction novel based on my mother’s stories about my great grandmother. It would tell of her struggle to keep ownership of property as an African-American woman in 1930s Maryland.

C.     Further promotion of my books.

DL: Where can readers learn more about you and your books? 
CB: They can learn more here:

It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know and your work.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Review of Big Red’s Daughter by John McPartland

This is the first time I’ve read John McPartland’s work and I simply loved it. In this novel, readers are introduced to Jim Work who has just returned from Korea and driving around Carmel. He gets into a fender bender with Buddy Brown who beats him up. While this is happening, Jim gets smitten by Wild Kearny, Buddy’s girlfriend who watched the fight.

If that wasn’t enough, Jim follows them up to Wild’s place, called the Zoo and meets her rich friends. Jim then challenges Buddy again and gets the brunt of Buddy’s knuckles. Buddy leaves to get his car fixed and that’s when Wild makes a proposal to Jim. She wants him to act as her boyfriend and to meet her father, Big Red Kearny. Unbeknownst to her Big Red wants to her get married immediately and all hell broke loose when Big Red realizes that Buddy was his daughter’s boyfriend and not Jim. But Jim is on a mission to make Wild his girl and the only way to do that would be to get Buddy out of the way.
Things then went all kinds of left: Wild’s friend, Pen Brooks is in love with Buddy, but engaged to Pete Barrow, Pen is killed with a pair of scissors, Jim is accused of murder, then there’s drug smuggling ring, alibis and more lies. This was definitely a roller coaster ride and I enjoyed every minute of the description, dialogue and romantic entanglements.

Great read! Two thumbs up!
My favorite lines:

“I’m Jim Work,” I told the police. ‘Wild Kearny is in the cabin of a boat at the end of the Fishermen’s Wharf, bound and gagged. Better hurry.”

They hustled me into the back of a squad car and sirened down the black and out of the end of the wharf.’

Quite a weekend for you, Work,” said the policeman next to me in the back of the car. “Kill a girl. Kill a guy. Escape from jail. Almost beat a man to death in front of his mother. Shoot another man.”

It’s been quite a weekend,” I agreed.

What a character!”

Rating: 5 stars

Monday, January 28, 2019

Interview with Norwood Holland, author of Material Witness

Author’s Bio: Norwood Holland is a freelance writer, lawyer, and author of the Drew Smith legal thriller series based on the capers of a bon vivant DC trial attorney. Holland is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and earned his degree in English from Fisk University where he studied under the renowned Harlem Renaissance author Arna Bontemps. He has served in several government agencies including the National Labor Relations Board and several top Washington law firms. In the mid-90s he began freelance writing with bylines in The Writer Magazine and the Examiner. He blogs at editorialindependence.com. Material Witness is third in the series launched with Sleepless Nights, followed by the prequel Minus One. Private Number the fourth series installment will be released in early 2019.

DL: What inspired you to write your book?
NH: Material Witness is my third book and it’s a legal thriller. I wanted to write about a flawed hero with mental health problems. I wanted to write about a world of middle and upper-class African Americans and their sexual mores and corrupting values

DL: Describe your writing process? Do you use an outline or let it flow organically?
NH: When I start writing a book, I commit to 700 words a day. In 90 days or three months I have my first draft. I spend the next year or two rewriting and layering the book. I’ll table the book for a year and begin the publishing process.

DL: What do you think makes a good story?
NH: A good read with an easy writing style, suspense, dynamic characters and a strong plot.

DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
NH: Chester Himes. Growing up I like to read crime fiction and there were no other successful black writers in that genre.

DL: If you were hosting a diner party which three authors would be your dream guests?
NH: They would be:

1.      Stephen Carter

2.      Donna Drew Sawyer

3.      John Grisham

DL: What are the keys to success in marketing your book(s)?
NH: Marketing requires targeting a market and finding a way to reach them. To me the biggest key is money. It is often said, best sellers aren’t written, they’re created. I believe I can create a best seller with a substantial advertising budget and an abundance of energy.

DL What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
NH: Read what you like and write every day. Keep a daily journal. Journal writing gets you in the habit of writing. Study the techniques. Subscribe to The Writer Magazine or Writers Digest.

DL: How about sharing an excerpt from Material Witness?
NH: Here you go:

            I couldn’t erase the image of David on that bed. I had spent hours with Edward and Stephanie before returning home that evening. This would rank as one of the worst days of my life. Exhausted, I parked in my driveway and went around to the trunk to unload my fishing gear. The sound of an engine perked up my ears, and a car stopped at the end of my driveway. Damnit. It was Jackie, my pain in the ass borderline stalker. Jaqueline Cole. A confident, beautiful CEO of her own software company who had power, and money to buy anything and everything she wanted. Unfortunately, she thought she could buy me. The only problem I wasn’t for sale, Drew Smith is beholden to no one, man or woman.

            A month into our dating the relationship soured and despite my efforts to end it she resisted. On my first impression, I imagined she was everything I ever wanted, an independent woman. Then I got to know her. Clever, charming, and pleasantly manipulative, but she could turn on a dime with uncompromising demands. She had shown me her rough side transforming from ladylike to something akin to a foul mouth gangster moll. I began to fear her. She reminded me of a female octopus—a species known to kill the male after mating. The male octopus must approach the female gently and probe her with a single arm. He may grab her, but carefully, before inserting his arm up into her body, injecting packets of sperm. After sex, she would maliciously coil around his body squeezing, cutting off the supply of water to his gills with her deadly suffocating embrace. That’s how Jackie had me feeling after the remarkable sex like I needed to run. I found something dangerously satisfying in her. It scared me. I sensed I had to cut her loose or there would be hell to pay. At the time it seemed I was suffocating in a constant struggle to disentangle her tentacles. She was so relentless I began to wonder if she was bipolar. I couldn’t make her understand our relationship had run its course.

DL: What’s on the horizon for you? 
NH: Just sent my fourth book, Private Number, to the editor. Hope to issue it this summer.

DL: Where can readers learn more about you and your book(s)? 
NH: They can learn more here:

·         Web site:  http://norwoodholland.com

·         Blog:  http://editorialindependence.com

·         Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/norwoodholland/

·         Email address for readers to contact you:  norwoodholland@aim.com

·         Directions or link to where the book can be purchased: Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Qq2ypV

It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Interview with Victoria Kennedy, author of Sometimes Love

Author’s Bio: Victoria Kennedy is a fiction writer whose stories range from fun and romantic to insightful explorations of cultural and societal challenges. Sometimes all these elements are combined to create stories of Black love and woe. Victoria’s work is included in The Dating Game anthology and the self-published collection, Where Love Goes, which includes “The Uninvited Guest,” adapted into an eponymous stage play. 

Victoria is the founder of Zora’s Den, a writing group for Black women writers that entails a closed Facebook group, a series of writing workshops, and a monthly reading series based in Baltimore. Her debut novel, Sometimes Love was published by Brown Girls Books in August 2017. Her next novel, Don’t Walk Away, will be released in February 2019.

DL: What inspired you to write your book?
VK: Insomnia inspired me to write my first book. I don’t sleep very much and I fill those sleepless hours with all things creative – from writing, to playing music, or reading.

DL: Describe your writing process? Do you use an outline or let it flow organically?
VK: After loosely planning what my story will be about, I don’t outline. I write, as the story develops, very organically. I identify as a “pantser” as opposed to a “plotter.”

DL: What do you think makes a good story?
VK: I think interesting characters placed in relatable circumstances make for stories in which readers can see themselves or fantasize about. I like having readers imagine being in my stories. It drives them to invest emotionally.

DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
VK: The first novel I ever read was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It showed me the magic of engagement in a story. It was the beginning of my love affair with reading, which to me is the gateway to writing.

DL: If you were hosting a diner party which three authors would be your dream guests?
VK: They would be:

a.)    Zora Neale Hurston

b.)    Beverly Jenkins

c.)    Colin Channer

DL: What are the keys to success in marketing your book(s)?
VK: These 3 keys have been successful for me.

a.)    An online presence (social media, blogs, website).

b.)    Participation in conferences and readings.

c.)    Local promotion (It’s important to create familiarity where one is located physically).

DL: What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
VK: I’d advise aspiring writers to create a regular practice of writing, to read widely (across genres and interests), and when possible, interact with other writers.

DL: How about sharing an excerpt from Don’t Walk Away?
VK: Here you go:

     The candlelight from the votive on their table created an ambience that relaxed Leah and made her glad she’d accepted the dinner invitation. The seafood restaurant he’d chosen was located right above the marina at the Inner Harbor.  Floor to ceiling windows framed an endless view of black with occasional twinkles on the face of the water. Except for three other couples, the place was almost empty. Leah was glad for that. She liked the idea of having Morgan all to herself, but she couldn’t forget her own rule about them not dating. She had no right to yearn for his kiss again, yet she couldn’t shake the reminiscence of tasting his succulent lips.   
     “Did you enjoy your food?” His eyes communicated something else, a question where he asked for permission to touch her and even though the words were not spoken, he reached across the table to take Leah’s hand.
     “Yes, very much.”
     “You have very soft hands. You know that?”  The steady rhythm of his hand rubbing hers was doing things that made being in a public place uncomfortable. Each stroke of his flesh across hers made her mouth drier and her panties wetter. Leah crossed her legs and cleared her throat.
     “No. But I’ll take your word for it.” She withdrew her hand from his.
     Morgan smiled.  “You’re not going to make this easy for me, are you?”
     “It seems you’ve got the impression this is easy for me.”  She raised her brow in a questioning gesture. “It’s not, Morgan.”
     “Well, let’s make it easy.”

DL: What’s on the horizon for you?
VK: After releasing my next novel, I’ll be publishing an anthology from Zora’s Den. Other personal projects include resuming work on a short fiction collection and the sequel to Sometimes Love

DL: Where can readers learn more about you and your book(s)? 
VK: Readers can find me here:

·         Website: www.victoriaadamskennedy.com

·         Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Kennedy

·         Facebook: Victoria Kennedy, author page

·         Twitter: @vickiewambui

·         Blog: www.victoriakennedywritenow.wordpress

It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Review of Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

In this book, Zora Neale Hurston told the story of Cudjo Lewis (Oluale Kossola), who was  brought over to the United States via the Clotilda as “cargo.” He was held in the barracoon a tight space where he and one hundred other slaves were confined and then sold to work in the fields.
Over a three month, Hurston made the trip to see Cudjo, bringing him fruit and other foods while building his trust. Some days they would talk and some days he would turn her away. Although his story was told in his vernacular, I didn’t have a problem with it. Actually, I felt I understood his story on a deeper level as a slave then a freed man, a husband, father and finally a sexton at his church in Africatown (Plateau Alabama).

I found his story heart wrenching especially when he talked about how his village was attached by female warriors who slaughtered his family and friends. He didn’t get the chance to train to be a warrior, get married and start a family before he was snatched away as “cargo.”
I tried not to be angry as I read how he was treated after he was freed as a slave. He had no money to buy passage back to Africa, he had no land to build a home and he no place to call home. But somehow, through all his struggles he was able to build a life be a founder of Africatown (Alabama). A place where some of his customs could be preserved.

By all regards, he had a good family but they were plagued by death. He and his wife had six children and all died except one who took off and we the readers have no idea what happened. Also, I would have loved to know what happened to Cudjo at the time he was interviewed by Hurston, he was eight-six years old.
Overall, it was good book that gave a different perspective of the slave trade and how vicious and complicit some of the tribes were in Africa. Very informative read!

My favorite lines:
On the Tuesday after the New Year, I found Cudjo in a backward-looking mood.  He was with his departed family in the land to the west.  He talked about his boys, he grew tearful over his wife.

“I so lonely.  I los’ my wife de 15 November 1908.  We been together long time.  I marry her Chris’mas day, 1865.  She a good wife to me.”

There was a long, feeling silence, then he turned to and spoke, “Ole Charlie, he de oldest one come from Afficky, came one Sunday after my wife lef’ me and say, ‘Uncle Cudjo, make us a parable.’

“Den I axed dem, ‘How many limbs God give de body so it kin be active?’

“Dey say six; two arms two feet two eyes.

“I say dey cut off de feet, he got hands to ‘fend hisself.  Dey cut off de hands he wiggle out de way when he see danger come.  But when he lose de eye, den he can’t see nothin’ come upon him.  He finish.  My boys is my feet.  My daughter is my hands.  My wife she my eye.  She left, Cudjo finish.”

Rating: 4 stars

Why Joining A Writing Group Makes You a Star!

November 18, 2018 marked 10 wonderful years with my writers’ critique group members (L. Trovillion, M. Paris and S. Yanguas) aka “The Talented Scribes.”  We celebrated by having dinner at a nice restaurant and reminisced about how we started and how far we have grown as writers.

Although we write in different genres of fiction (e.g. romantic suspense, young adult, chick lit) and non-fiction, we have garnered collective strength through our love of writing. We support and cheer each other on throughout the highs and lows of our writing while still having fun.

So, when I recently taught the workshop “Why Joining a Writing Group Makes You a Star!” at the Black Authors and Readers Rock Weekend in Oxon Hill, MD (September 14 – 15, 2018), I didn’t have to look too far for inspiration.

Here are the 7 reasons I shared with the audience why joining a writing group makes you a star:

1.      Motivation 
a.       As writers we tend to want to stay in our comfort zone until we get motivated to see that magic happens in our creative projects.

2.      Inspiration
a.       Sometimes we get stuck and we can’t put our pens to paper. It helps to be in a group that inspires us to generate or spark an idea to get our creative juices flowing again.  

3.      Support & Encouragement
a.       Writing is a very solo thing to do. However, when we get together we support and encourage each other in a collective way. 

4.      Achieve our writing goals
a.       We all have writing goals to finish the next project, to start a creative work, etc. However, when you are in a group you can get ideas how to accomplish these goals via organizing ideas, reviewing details, etc. 

5.      Hone new skills
a.       Nothing beats when collectively you learn about creating a rough draft, proof reading, editing, etc. to get us on the way to publishing. Sometimes, these are things that folks didn’t think they can do.

6.      Networking
a.       This has to be my favorite part as I enjoy going on road trips with my group to various writing conferences/events and networking with other creative folks.

7.      Constructive Criticism
a.       Providing valuable feedback is a great thing. And one thing for sure, we come through for each other every single time to polish and make our work sing.

I am blessed to have a group of ladies that gel so well and I look forward to many more years of writing, inspiring, and supporting each other. 

Here are a few photos from our Christmas gathering on December 18, 2018. We were missing a member who was delayed due to a volunteer commitment but we’ll get her next time!