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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!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Review of Wicked Ways by Donna Hill

Wicked Ways

Although I haven't read Getting Hers, this sequel from Donna Hill certainly had me wanting to learn how this trio (Tess, Kim and Nikki) got together to form a bond that would be tested in this novel. There were a lot of twists and turns but I wanted more action. I felt that Tess and her sister's relationship needed to be fleshed out some more. The ending was somewhat abrupt and left me hanging. Nevertheless, it was a good read!

My rating: 3 stars

Monday, September 28, 2015

Interview with D.M. Cuffie, Author of At Least Once

Author’s Bio: D.M. Cuffie currently lives in her hometown of Columbia, MD where the main character is from and a few of her beloved locations are highlighted. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park (GO TERPS) and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.  She serves as an usher in her church, line dances throughout the DMV, and runs to keep away the crazy. She absolutely loves football and her Baltimore Ravens (GO RAVENS!).

Cuffie rediscovered the love of a good book in high school, and experienced complete joy when reading novels was offered as a class in college. She discovered she could tell a better story on paper, rather than writing emails to her friends.  At Least Once is her first of five novels she plans to write.

What inspired you to write your book?
Two Reasons: 1) I suggested my cousin take a particular singles course. And the first thing out the facilitator’s mouth was, “not everyone is going to get married.” Albeit true, no one wants to hear that when getting married is their heart’s desire and are searching for answers or just some comfort during their season of singleness. 2) I watched a documentary called ‘Soul Mates’ and the married subjects were almost begging singles to enjoy their ‘singlenesss’ for as long as they could. There was one woman who said, “I’m not trying to hear that!” I had her, her fight and determination in mind, when I wrote this book. There are too many African American women 35 and over who have never been married and have no children. Why is that? What can be done about it? How can we endure with the wait?

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? 
So many books come to mind. Books with the characters jumping off the page, mastering the dialect and not necessarily the English language, wrapping up a story neatly, to laughing out loud where ever you are, were all factors of influence and I have plenty of books to choose from. However, NPR’s National Story Project, I Thought My Father was God, had an absolute strong influence to write a story. The book showed me everyone has that one compelling story to tell that will resonate with someone else. I want my readers to remember the characters, their lines, nodding their heads in agreement, or shaking their heads with disbelief, and a scene that will cause anyone to laugh out loud, anywhere, like I did with this one book.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book? 
Yes, this is my first book. I always thought of myself as a reader. However, sharing a story is easier for me on paper.  I worked on this book collectively, for 11 years. However, those years allowed me to grow, making my characters grow as well.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically? 
I need my outline to keep the scene, my characters, and what I want to convey in the chapter, in line. The dialogue among the characters just flow, sometimes it take over.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book? 
I have a ‘Just Music’ playlist, with very little lyrics. Words get in the way. Plus, my playlist sets a timer for me to write. Even though I have a mental soundtrack for certain scenes, Joe Sample and Lalah Hathaway’s One Day I’ll Fly Away was going through my head while writing the first part of the book, while Bebel Gilberto’s version of Summer Samba belongs to the second half.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public? Mastering Social Media. I put my book launch social primarily on Facebook. Not one book left. Joining a writer’s organization is another way to guide you to introduce your book to the universe, eventually reaching your actual target audience.

What advice would you give to new authors? 
Do not cut corners. Make a decision if you want to go the traditional route or self-publish. And when you do, listen and jot down the good advice, and let it sink. Then do it!! If someone is offering “publishing and promoting” services, please, please, please, check their references first!! If you can accept what you see, arrange to pay half or a certain amount first and pay the rest when services are rendered.  

How about sharing an excerpt from At Least Once
“There is a lot of disgruntled, disgraced, displaced, discontented, dismissive, disenchanted, disheveled, disinterest, and just plain dissed faces, hearts, and minds in this room. We will examine and discuss whatever dis-ease you are feeling. But ladies, we will not stay here.  I want you to learn and grow from your past, not just run away from it.

“Now some of you have given up finding him. Some of you are tired of waiting for him to find you. But each of you, in some way, is hiding His best. And that is unacceptable. I am not here to show or tell you what you are doing wrong. I want to enhance what you are doing right.

“Ladies, according to your bios you got it going on: properties, careers, side hustles, and exotic trips. You are in situations of prosperity your parents did not dream of doing by themselves. Each of you has never been married and have no children. All of you are over 35, except for one.  Your faith and trust is somewhat strong in Him and are quite active in your place of worship. You have a strong foundation of support from your family and friends, which love and care for you deeply.

“However, for some reason, you are letting your heart and mind dwell in an extremely dark place. We will spend the next eight months getting you out of that dark place and let your light shine bright even if you find yourself visiting that dark place again.

“Ladies, if you do not want to stay, are not willing to stay or cannot stay, you are welcome to leave. And yes, I will give you your money back, tonight. But I would love for you to stay, share with me, and grow with your sisters. I will leave the room to allow you to think it over.” She smiled while her white line ensemble made her float out of the room.

What’s next for you? I plan to write five (5) books total. The next two books deal with enjoying our season through vacations for Breeze and her classmate Iris. Once I come down from my writer’s bliss, I plan to dive into story on her ‘cruise like no other’ journey, called “How Quickly We Forget.”

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)? Stay tuned for more, but for now…
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Baltimore Book Festival"

Well, today was the kickoff of the Baltimore Book Festival which runs from Friday, September 25 - Sunday, September 27, 2015. This is the second year that the festival has taken place at the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

Although the weather was overcast, I was thankful that it didn't rain. I was also thankful for comfy shoes because I had to walk for what seemed like forever before I got to the Black Writers' Guild booth (#s 95 & 96). But I had a fantastic day hanging with some very cool authors which made the time fly by very quickly.

Here are some photos from the event. I hope some of my readers will be able to make it down to the Inner Harbor for a nice stroll while diving into some good books and engage in some fun activities too!


Sunday, September 20, 2015

"7 Ways to Shore Up the Confidence in You"

I love reading articles in the Muse – an online resource that gives career advice. It’s always chock full of great information that not only serves you well in your professional life but also in your personal life. Recently, I read an article by Jayson Demers of Inc. who stated that confidence is harder to achieve when you are in unfamiliar situations or around people you don’t know. This is so true even if you are confident on the inside.

Here are 7 tips he shared to look to always look confident:

1. Stand Tall – When you slouch, you tend to look uncertain. So, stand tall as a folks will take you more seriously. Since I am not one for slouching (which I find to be a bad habit for your back) this tip works for me.

2. Make Eye Contact – This goes without saying that making eye contact means that you are engaged in the conversation. If you’re in a group, make sure to occasionally give eye contact to each person. If you look away, you appear to be inattentive as well as indecisive. I always give my full attention and sometimes I think when I make direct eye contact, some folks tend to feel uneasy. This simply tells me that they need to read these tips too.  

3. Stay still – Fidgeting is a sure way to scream lack of confidence. I remember being in a meeting and the person next to me was fidgeting so much I had to reach out and grab their hand. I know it’s sometimes hard to do but try to remain still.  By remaining still you give your full attention and your confidence increases.

4. Speak Slowly and Clearly – Nothing annoys me more than when someone speaks quickly as if they are in a race. Somehow I feel like I’m being sold to (picture a car salesman). So why not slow down and speak clearly. To me this allows time to gather your thoughts and when you speak you will appear more confident.

5. Allow for silences – There is nothing wrong with silence during a conversation. Because silence allows for consideration and shows that you’re confident in your speaking abilities. I tend to pause when I talk which gives me time to choose my words carefully.

6. Keep Your Hands Visible - Don’t go crazy with your hands all over the place. Keep them controlled and not stuffed away in your pockets or fold your arms. When you gesticulate wildly with your hands, you tend to be unfocused and your audience will lose confidence in you. I try my best to minimize my hand gestures unless it’s necessary to make a point. And even then I keep it at a minimum.

7. Take Big Steps – Don’t be in a hurry to enter, exit or move around a room. Take slow, deliberate steps as they make you look confident and people in the room will take notice of this. As for me, I tend to walk very deliberately unless the situation calls for me to do otherwise like an emergency requiring my assistance. 

So go forth and enjoy the CONFIDENCE in YOU!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Center Stage: "A New Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice"

On Sunday, September 13, 2015, I attended the world premiere production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at Centerstage in Baltimore, adapted by Christopher Baker and directed by Hana S. Sharif. When the play opened, I felt as if I were watching a movie: the music, the scenery and the stage props were very cinematic. But this was a play and a very sophisticated one. Being a fan of Austen’s plays (I love Sense and Sensibilities), I was curious to see this stage production and I must say that I was thoroughly impressed.

The story centers around the Bennetts, especially Mrs. Bennett’s quest to find husbands for her unmarried daughters. Being of the “fairer sex,” a woman’s place in Regency England could only be secured through marriage since they were unable to own property. In addition, women were believed to be intellectually inferior to men and could only hold certain jobs such as being wives, mothers, and hostesses. There were no universities open to them at the time and so their education was gleaned from their mothers, governesses, or boarding schools. And only then could they obtain lessons in proper etiquette, social conduct, and moral behavior in addition to needlework, dancing, and music. The Bennett girls learned these lessons well enough to snag a few marriages to a wealthy newcomer Mr. Bingley, the very critical and snobbish aristocrat Mr. Darcy, and a soldier, Mr. Wickham.

That was 1797 and now it’s 2015. A few centuries have past and it would be unfair to compare the plight of women in 1797 to 2015 because many strides have been made. We are educated, make our own money and can decide whether to get married or remain single. However, we are still subjected to unequal pay in the workplace, sexism, double standards related to promotional opportunities, and disrespect (just watch a few music videos).

But I still ask myself whether Mrs. Bennett was foolish in her plight in getting her daughters married in 1797 stuck in a “society well versed in patriarchal pride and gendered prejudice?” Short answer: No. And although it’s now 2015, I still hold admiration for the main character, Elizabeth  Bennett, the second and smartest daughter. Not only was she intelligent, she was also independent and quite the match for Mr. Darcy. Overall, this was a great adaptation...a breathtaking one and a must see production. Two thumbs up!

Side note:  As a patron of Centerstage for many years, I'm thrilled to see the changes that the Artistic Director, Kwame Kwei-Armah and his team have made to the theater. Specifically, transforming the lobby to match the themes/settings of the play and sometimes including a drink or two reminiscent of the times (e.g. Red Stripe beer for the Marley play, special punch for the One Night in Miami play, etc.) – so cool!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

"Exploring Historic Fredericksburg, VA"

On Tuesday, September 1, 2015, I went on an exploration trip of Fredericksburg, VA. The first stop was the A. Smith Distillery. Erin, the knowledgeable tour guide of only 23 years did an excellent job at giving us the history of how the family-owned distillery came to be, the different types of spirits they produce, the aging process, how the barrels are stored (right side up instead of sideways), the difference between whiskey, scotch and bourbon, etc.

At the end of the hour long tour, we were informed of the liquor laws in Virginia (way too strict for me) and then we were offered the chance to try 4 different types of spirits. We selected Bowman Brothers, John J. Bowman, Abraham Bowman and Mary Bowman (this was my favorite). If we didn't like the taste we couldn't give it to someone else, it had to be dumped.

Overall, it was a very informative tour and I can't wait to try the bottle of Mary Hite Bowman (a caramel creme liqueur) I bought. I want to try it in my coffee, on ice cream, on the rocks...yummy! For more information, you can visit http://www.asmithbowman.com/

Here are some photos from the tour.

After the distillery tour, it was off to another adventure. This time it was the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Military National Park. This was where the civil war climaxed into a bloody mess. There was a lot of looting and death.

After viewing the 20 minute documentary, I was ready to see some sights. We walked the short trail around the visitor center and then the cemetery -- so much history. I was in awe of the number of unmarked graves (the website said there were more than 85,000 men were wounded and 15,000 were killed - most in unmarked graves). For more information, you can visit http://www.nps.gov/frsp/index.htm

Here are some photos from this tour.

Well, it was quite a day. It was now time to find some good food before heading back to Maryland. And J. Brian's Tap Room fit the bill. It was half burger Tuesday but I wasn't feeling like having one so I settled on having the shrimp and grits - delish! Check out J Brian's Tap Room: http://www.jbrianstaproom.com/