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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!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Review of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is a prolific piece of writing that spans decades beyond his time here with us.  This book features two letters: My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation and Down At The Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind. Both pieces give the readers a profound and oftentimes provocative look at racism and what it meant (and still means) to be Black in America amidst police brutality, and an uncertain political and economic climate.

Although this was written over 50 years ago, I realize that its relevancy and truth still permeates society’s norms, beliefs and expectations.  Injustice surrounds us all and the rules are not always the same depending on the color of your skin and the amount of money in your bank accounts. It’s as if Baldwin had a looking glass into the future because we still have a ways to go before equality becomes a way of life. And so for today, the struggle is still real.

This book is a must read by both men and women, young and old! Two thumbs up!

My favorite lines from the letter to his nephew:

“Take no one’s word for anything, including mine – but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.”

My favorite lines from the letter regarding the region in his mind:

“There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior. And this human truth has an especially grinding force here, where identity is almost impossible to achieve and people are perpetually attempting to find their feet on the shifting sands of status.”

Rating: 5 stars

Monday, October 26, 2015

Interview with Melanie S. Hatter, Author of The Color of My Soul and Let No One Weep for Me, Stories of Love and Loss

Author's Bio: Melanie S. Hatter is the winner of the 2011 Washington Writers' Publishing House Fiction Prize for her debut novel, The Color of My Soul. Her short stories have appeared in The Whistling Fire, Defying Gravity anthology, TimBookTu and Diverse Voices Quarterly, and her short story, Obsessed with Claudia, won the First Annual Romantic Tales Writing Contest. Her short story collection, Let No One Weep for Me, Stories of Love and Loss, was released in May 2015. Melanie is a visiting author with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation's Writers in Schools program. She received a bachelor's degree from Hampton University and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. She has a background in journalism and corporate communications. Born and raised in Scotland (UK), she now lives in Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

What inspired you to write your book?
The Color of My Soul came out of my experience being biracial and growing up in Scotland, a predominantly white country. My mother is Scottish and my father is African American. When I came to the States, I was quite naïve about race and culture and had a lot to learn. I studied at Hampton University and became a newspaper journalist in Southwest Virginia. I wrote some news stories about the Native American culture and through all of these experiences, I came up with the story for the novel. I was fascinated by what it means to be black, white, mixed or Native American in this country.

My short story collection is comprised of stories I’ve written over the past 20 years or so. When I pulled them together for a collection, I realized this theme of loss in all of them – something so many of us can relate to in one way or another. I decided to try my hand as an indie author and released the collection myself earlier this year.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Yes. I’ve always been an avid reader, and one of the first books I remember reading that had a profound effect on me was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I was enthralled by the story (from the perspective of a horse) but especially enamored by the author’s ability to create a world that felt real. That book definitely made me want to learn to write fiction.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
The Color of My Soul is my first published novel and it took more than 10 years to complete. I finished what I thought was the final draft only to learn that writing a novel involves many re-writes, so it took me awhile to get the story to where it is now. A lot happened to me in those years, and much time passed when I wasn’t writing. But something about this story kept pulling me back to it until I was able to get it finished. Then it took about a year of submitting to agents and publishers before I finally sent it to the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, a local non-profit press, which selected the book as its 2011 Fiction Prize finalist.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I flow organically, although I was accepted into a four-week writing program in Bali, Indonesia, in November (I’m so excited) and the goal is to complete a first draft in the four weeks, and I’m required to write an outline. So I’m interested to see how this helps or hinders my writing process.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
Not when I’m actually writing, although sometimes songs will get me thinking about a particular character or a scene and can help me think it through. I don’t usually have a particular song for the whole book, though.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
I’m not the best person to ask. Reaching the public is a challenge because there are so many books out there competing for readers. I try to stay in touch with readers through newsletters and social media, and then attend book events when I can. It’s not easy maintaining balance between the writing process and marketing your books. I’m still figuring it out.

What advice would you give to new authors?
My biggest advice is to read – read A LOT. Especially in the genre you want to write in, but read everything and anything. This will help you find your own voice as well as what you like and don’t like; it will help you hone your technique. I also tell writers to learn the mechanics of writing. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure – for many this part of writing isn’t fun, but these basics are important and can make or break your writing.

How about sharing excerpts from your books?
You can find an excerpt from The Color of My Soul on my website (http://melanieshatter.com/books/the-color-of-my-soul/), so I’ll include here a story from my collection. This is the opening of Taking the Shot.

A hood drawn roughly over my head made the night darker. The coarse fibers scratched my cheeks; the stale suffocating smell filled my nostrils. My vague sense of danger became real as the steps outside my hotel disappeared in a moment of chaos, filled with voices of Colombian rebels, their firm hands shoving, pulling. The dizzying whirl from sidewalk to truck disoriented me. A nightmare come to life.

They thought I was important, a member of the media, a figure to garner money. My disjointed and muffled pleas battered unconvinced ears.

“I’m not what you think. I’m no one. Just taking pictures for a book.”

“You work for an American newspaper in Washington, D.C.,” the man said as he hustled me into the back of a van. “They will pay to release you.”

“No, no! They won’t. I’m just a freelancer — I’m not employed by any one paper. No one will give you money for me.”

I had heard of the FARC, but full of typical American bravado, I had believed nothing would happen to me in Colombia. What would anyone want with me, a freelance photographer working on a coffee table book? My new companion, Rita — secured through a friend of a friend — served as my travel guide. We had spent the day exploring the beauty of the Parque National Natural Chingaza. 

Exhausted and content, we’d eaten dinner at a quaint restaurant and planned tomorrow’s adventure in the Amazon after a good night’s sleep. Just one more day to explore before I flew back to the States, back to my regular life.

What’s next for you?
I am doing some re-writes on a second novel and hope to get some interest from an agent for publication. As I mentioned, I will be heading to Bali in November where I will be working on a third novel idea. Wish me luck!

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
·         Website: www.melanieshatter.com
·         Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Melanie.Hatter
·         Twitter: https://twitter.com/mshatter1
·         Book buy links: www.melanieshatter.com, www.amazon.com

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Black Authors & Readers Rock Weekend"

Another fantastic event presented by Sharon Lucas. The Black Authors & Readers Rock weekend certainly rocked!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Interview with Maurice W. Dorsey, Author of the biography, Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr. 1916 to 1989 Capturing the Life of a Businessman Who Was African American

Author’s Bio: Maurice W. Dorsey graduated the only African American in his class at the Bel Air Senior High School, Bel Air Maryland in 1965.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1970; then earned a Master's degree of Liberal Arts from the Johns Hopkins University in 1975; and earned a second Master's degree of Education from the Loyola College of Maryland in 1976. He returned to the University of Maryland to earn a Ph.D. in Education in 1985. He has worked in both the public and private sector finding his career in secondary education, higher education, and government.  Maurice is a life member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Phi Delta Kappa. He retired from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2012. Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr. 1916 to 1989 Capturing the Life of a Businessman who was African American, an authorized biography is his first book.  He resides in Washington, DC.

What inspired you to write your book?
The inspiration for my book came from a very successful businessman who was African American.  His name is Henry G. Parks, Jr., creator and builder of the Baltimore based Parks Sausage Company.  The company’s radio and television ads bellowed:  "More Parks Sausages Mom!"  "Please!"  This ad integrated Mr. Park's market making him a multi-millionaire in 15 years and one of the wealthiest African Americans of his time and the first African American to issue stock on the New York Stock Exchange.  There was a 30 year difference in our ages but we became friends until his death in 1989.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I was first influenced to read by my late father James Roswell Dorsey, Sr., who introduced me to The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham; my sister, author, Margaret D. Pagan later introduced me to Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger; Another Country by James Baldwin and Black Boy by Richard Wright who became favorites in my early years; however, as an adult I added Running With Scissors and Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs as another of my favorite writers.  I like the freedom of speech and honesty these authors used in telling their stories.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
Businessman First Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr. 1916-1989 Capturing the Life of A Businessman Who Was African American, a biography is my first book.  This book was organized for over two decades before life gave me an opportunity to sit down and simply writing it.  When I finally got started writing it took 90 days day and night with minimal rest to complete since the decision to write it occurred twenty-five years earlier.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I wrote with a moving outline.  Thank goodness for cut and paste!  I literally moved chapters from back to front and vice versa throughout the process to maintain the flow that I wanted.  So much of this was in my head for so long that I could almost sing the book in a song but the lyrics did change and I can say the name of my book Businessman First didn't evolve until chapter three.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
At first I could not listen to music as I wrote but as I got more comfortable and fatigued from writing, classical music helped a lot in soothing my fatigue and anxiety about writing my first book.  However, if there was a popular song I associated in my mind during the years Mr. Parks was living, it would be “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross. Due to the 30 years difference in our ages the likelihood of us ever being friends was universe orchestrated.  It was also at a time in my life that I needed a friend really bad.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
To date, I have not discovered any keys to success to getting my book out to the public.  I learned from Deliah Lawrence, author of Gotta Let It Go, that the best person to market your book is YOU!  She is correct, but it is a tremendous amount of work, much more difficult than writing the book.  Maybe with more time I will find additional keys other than myself!

What advice would you give to new authors?
I highly recommend to new authors to know your audience.  Who are you writing the book for and why?  There are over 3,000 books published daily worldwide so the competition is out there.  So know your target audience otherwise you will be running all over the place spinning your wheels.  You also need to know what you want the reader to take away from your book.  What is the benefit to the reader?  These two things will help you define your audience.

How about sharing an excerpt from Businessman First
"After Henry graduated from Ohio State University with honors from the College of Commerce and a major in marketing, and as the only black in his class, there were jobs for all the white students, but no jobs for Henry in the field of business.  Henry's advisor could not understand why Henry chose marketing as a field of study, knowing no one would hire him.  Henry's placement advisor recommended that Henry go to South America, learn Spanish, change his name, and come back to the United States pretending to be of Spanish descent, and he could get a job anywhere he wanted.  Henry didn't feel the guy meant any harm, but he was not running from his race."

What’s next for you?
I am in the process of writing a second book.  The working title is Mother's Boy...Catholic, Gay, Black, and Unwanted.  This book will be autobiographical in nature that tells the story of transcending institutional and personal obstacles.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book?
My book can be found at:
Blog on website:  www.mauricewdorsey.com
Buy book links:

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Center Stage: "Protect the Beautiful Place"

On Sunday, October 4, 2015, a very good friend and I checked out Center Stage's Play Lab: Protect the Beautiful Place by Nathan Alan Davis. Play labs is a way to showcase to the audience the development of new plays. There are no props and so the audience is left to use their imagination to envision what's happening.

I must say that the cast was excellent. The dialogue was great and the storyline kept the audience laughing and engaged. I look forward to checking out more play labs at Center Stage.

The Cast
Kim James Bey - Gail
Joey Ibanez - Ha-Ha
Valeka J. Holt - JOy
Maria Broom - Early
Bus Howard - Walking Man
Kellie McCants - Symphony

Gail doesn't have time to die. She has a house to hold together and a tenuous legacy to preserve. But her dead husband, Walking Man, has been visiting at night, insisting that it's time to join him on the Other Side. When the rest of the family won't let her ignore this summons, Gail's reluctant journey to acceptance begins. Protect The Beautiful Place is the first in a series of plays about an eccentric and mystically inclined Black family that has carved out an existence for itself in an Illinois forest.