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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!

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Review of Getting To Happy by Terry McMillan

It’s been quite some time since I have read Waiting to Exhale. But I loved it then and I loved the sequel, Getting To Happy, even more. For starters, I loved that Terry revisited these four sister girlfriends (Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine and Robin) after 15 years and allowed us readers to peek in on their lives. They have now matured into women dealing with what I would call the “what now” phase in their lives. The phase where you’ve been there done that and now it’s time for a change. And boy did they go through some changes: divorce, job loss, loss of a spouse, pill addiction, etc. But through it all, it was the sisterhood that kept them going, laughing, and challenging each other to be their better selves and to take control of their lives.

Terry’s writing style drew me in as I was laughing out loud so many times during the book. I felt like I was out shopping with Robin, getting my hair done in Gloria’s salon (loved the guys selling bootleg DVDs), listening in on Savannah’s conversation with her mother, cooking in the kitchen with Bernadine while watching Days of Our Lives and wondering why some characters are still on the soap opera, etc.

This novel is not for everyone but those of us who have experienced some things in life will definitely appreciate how these women handled their situations. The choices were not always easy but they got handled. They exhaled yet again and found their  “happy” place. Two thumbs up for this sequel!

Note: I may just have to dust off my Waiting to Exhale DVD - lol

Rating: 5 Stars

Image result for getting to happy

Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview with Nanette M. Buchanan, Author of eight novels, her latest, The Stranger Within

Author's Bio: Nanette Buchanan is a wife, proud mother, and grandmother. She is currently employed full time in the State of New Jersey as a New Jersey Corrections Sergeant. Her literary journey began when she began putting pen to pad, writing poems and children stories while attending Rutgers University. I Pen Designs became a business, catering to personalized writings for gifts. Nanette's debut novel was released in December 2007 and I Pen Designs began its publishing division with its publication. Since then she has published a total of eight novels and one poetry collaboration. Her novels have a "what if" twist, topics with questions that readers may have about everyday living. Her latest work is The Stranger Within and the beginning of a new series is in the making. Her books are available in Kindle, Nook, and e-reader formats.

What inspired you to write your book?
I’ve always been a writer. Putting my thoughts on paper became a welcomed escaped for me. After being asked to convey others feelings in words for gifts, I then realized that my written expressions helped others escape, heal and use their voice as well. Now, I created stories that relate to the realities we live with the intent to heal and inspire my audience.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
There are many… Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley, Nikki Giovanni, are a few that I read growing up. I don’t know that I can narrow it down to one book that influenced me. I read all genres and as a writer I don’t limit myself. However, the voice created by the characters in many of Reshonda Tate Billingsley, Victoria Murray and Trice Hickman have intrigued me.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
No this is my eighth book. I try to stick to a “writing schedule,” a tip I learned reading about other authors that publish more than one book a year. So I write, or delve into promoting, branding or something connect to my novels at least two hours a day. Usually within eight months the book, after editing and re-reads is ready to be published.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I start with an outline. I know the storyline and don’t want the characters to take me away from the focus within the storyline. An outline also helps keep the details of the events and character descriptions consistent. It can be added to it for small changes or to assist in not dragging the story on. An outline is beneficial to my writings. Also if I have a new idea for a story. I can put it in an outline and file it until I’m ready to write that story.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
No particular music. I can have the television on or be in silence. I fell into this habit while attending school. Sounds don’t distract my writing and often set a peaceful mode for the words to flow.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
I wish I knew. Readers, like any other audience in entertainment tend to be trendsetters. Genres are constantly entangled which changes who may or may not read my books. Over the years I learned to be where readers are. As a fairly new author, eight years now, people tend to want to know more about me and then buy my books. There are so many authors that have dedicated their lives to their work and then there are others who just appeared and both groups have been embraced by our readers. The trend is now e-books, a change that has affected authors branding and marketing. At this point, I have chosen to be visible and aware of any new techniques. I blog, post on my various internet pages, do signings and chats with book clubs, and literary events. Leaving one out, one may miss a group of readers, so I delve in it all.

What advice would you give to new authors?
Don’t be discouraged. Keep writing and learn the business. Understand your weaknesses and do what is necessary to improve them. You are your best salesperson, know that one line that will captivate the attention of the readers that ask, “What is your book about?” That elevator pitch, as it is called, will get you a new group of curious readers. Be consistent with your work and your appearance on the internet. People follow you without you knowing it. Lastly, enjoy the ride. When it becomes tedious, frustrating, overwhelming, you will not be at your best. Enjoy what you do and you’ll be blessed in it.

How about sharing an excerpt from A Stranger Within (Chapter Four)
Brenda checked over the dates on the calendar. She was right when she told Deacon Pratt that they booked the wedding for Sister Smith’s daughter and the speaking engagement for Pastor Turner on the same day. Now she would have to call and make apologies for the mistake. The Pastor wouldn’t mind changing the date for his sermon during the recital for Chapel Hill Church in Philadelphia. There would be a problem if the Ministerial Staff couldn’t make the change. The recital was more than three months away. She was sure they would accommodate Pastor Turner’s schedule. She would remind Deacon Pratt again that before any scheduling, he should check the calendar kept in the main office. She made herself a note, a reminder to speak with him in the morning. 

She left the main office and pulled the door close, careful to leave it partially open, so she could hear the phone if it rang. Brenda continued with her end of the day ritual. There was mail that hadn’t been picked up scattered on the table in the foyer. She took a moment to sort it again into neat piles. It would soon be time to leave; she knew the mail would still be there in the morning. Brenda checked the other offices ensuring the lights and computers were off. The sound of Pastor Turner’s voice caused her to pause waiting to hear a second voice answer his questions.

“Not a problem, I’ll give the information to Sister Preston. Yes, yes I understand totally. Thank you so much and I’m sorry about the confusion.”

Brenda could tell from the conversation, Pastor had made contact with Chapel Hill. She shook her head, aggravated that he would have to make the call to reschedule his sermon. As quickly as she thought about it, she dismissed it. Pastor handled it. She learned over the years not to dwell long on the problems others created. Pastor Turner helped her through those years when she worried about every problem, both large and small. There was no way to define her relationship with Jacob Turner. They were friends for most of her adult years. She met him at a party given by a mutual friend. Brenda and Dominique’s father, Zeke were introduced to the man who was leaving at the end of the summer for theological studies in Philadelphia.

Brenda walked into the next room. She checked the magazines, putting them back on the tables and paused in deep thought gazing out of the large bay window. The visitor’s sitting room was where she often fell into her memories from a time that was. The party was a surprise for a friend. Neither Brenda nor Jacob could recall her by name. They both were guests of other people. Zeke, as usual, became argumentative and loud. Brenda was ready to leave. His accusations about her and the men who were in attendance had become vulgar. The nods and smiles, as she tried to explain, were all cordial. Jacob’s smile from across the room was the only gesture she wasn’t sure of. 

She prayed Zeke hadn’t seen it. The young couple had been together off and on since high school, and she knew his jealousy would cause a fight. Zeke snapped. He pushed Brenda back on the couch when she tried to leave with him. His harsh words let the young crowd know he thought she, and Jacob had been sleeping together behind his back. Brenda was paralyzed by his words hoping she could disappear without anyone noticing. The silence brought on by Zeke’s outburst broke when the whispers and laughter around the room increased. It was a matter of minutes, but it seemed like eternity.

Brenda waited until she was no longer under an imaginary spotlight to attempt to leave the room. Jacob noticed her as she eased through the crowd heading toward the apartment door. He followed her, and as he often told her later in their friendship, he thought Zeke might have been waiting for her outside. Their friendship started from that night and lasted longer than her marriage to Zeke. Jacob went on to become a minister and never married. Brenda often thought what it would be like to be the minister’s wife. After Zeke’s death, his murder, she couldn’t bring herself to marry or date again. Their friendship would have to be enough.

“Tiny, are you ready to leave?” Jacob called from his office. She didn’t answer, and his entrance into the room startled her. “Are you okay? You’re not worrying about that mistake with the schedule are you?”

“Oh no, I was just reminiscing.” She turned and smiled at her friend. “Good memories.”

“Must be, you’re smiling. Are you done in here?” He scanned the room looking for items she would deem out of place.

“Jacob, Dominique is having trouble sleeping again.”

“Is that what you were thinking about?”

“No, but I guess my thoughts would have led to it. I thought she got over her father’s death. You know those dreams, and her sleepless nights began after the murder.”
“Is she remembering anything?”

“No, but what am I going to say when she does?”

What’s next for you? I just completed my first book in a Detective Series. I love a good mystery and suspense. “The Perfect Side Piece” will be on the market before the end of the year. Also I am pitching my first novel, Family Secrets, Lies & Alibis, as a film. I’ll be putting it out as a web series. My intention is to go to film or stage plays with my work.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
·         Website: whttps:www.ipendesigns.net
·         Amazon Author Page: Nanette M. Buchanan
·         Twitter: https://twitter.com/nanettebuchanan
·         Book buy Links: https://www.ipendesigns.net

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

Thank you, it’s been a pleasure!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"It's A Schwing Thing Holiday Event"

On Saturday, November 21, 2015 I exhibited at the "It's A Holiday Schwing Thing" at Make Studio in Baltimore, MD. This event had something for everyone: jewelry, art, clothing, and of course books.

I had a fantastic time hanging out with folks from LitMore and the Baltimore Review. And I really enjoyed the avid readers/book club members that stopped by to show our books some love!

Here are some photos from the event:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Interview with Dionne Peart, Author of Somerset Grove and Butterfly

Author’s Bio: Dionne Peart was born in England to Jamaican parents and grew up in Canada. Her debut novel, Somerset Grove, was inspired by the many stories of Caribbean families she grew up with while living in Winnipeg. The Jamaica Gleaner recognized Dionne's work as "part of an emerging genre of writing by Jamaicans in this society" and BET.com featured her debut novel Somerset Grove on their "You Gotta Have It" list for January 2015. When she isn't writing, Dionne loves to read stories that explore another time, place and culture. She now live in Washington, D.C. where she practices law and serves as a literacy ambassador for the Read Across Jamaica Foundation. She is currently working on her next novel.

What inspired you to write your book?
I had not planned to write Butterfly when I did; I had actually been working on another novel, but long story short, I lost that manuscript. It wasn’t coming out the way I wanted it to when I tried to rewrite it, so I decided to leave it alone for awhile. The idea for Butterfly came to me as I was sitting in a meeting with a woman who was very poised and polished and I thought, wouldn’t it be something if she really had imposter syndrome? That brought to mind all the attorneys I’ve known who have second guessed their career choice and from there the main character, Sydney, was born. In the story, Sydney has pursued a legal career to please her parents and finds herself going through personal and professional transition. As her work life seems to be falling into place, her friendship with her best friend seems to be falling apart. Sydney is really tested when she learns something about Loren that could derail her career and their friendship.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I’d say The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, which was the first book I read by a Black author. Growing up, Black authors were never on my class reading lists so it was a powerful experience to begin my discovery of them with this novel.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
No, Somerset Grove was my first novel. That one is a multi-generational story set in Jamaica and Canada that follows the lives of three women, who, as the authors of their own fate, run into obstacles that keep them from living the lives they want. It took me almost three years to write it. Butterfly took me a little over a year to write and it was released in April of this year.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
A little of both, actually. I wrote Somerset Grove organically. I’d started writing Butterfly the same way, but someone encouraged me to go back and outline it to see how that process worked for me. I made it very skeletal so that I still felt I had the freedom to take the story where the characters wanted to go, but still kept to the outline, because even characters need discipline!

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
I do listen to music. My brother is a deejay, so growing up with him I just got used to have something playing in the background (after I got tired of fighting with him to turn it down!). I don’t have a particular theme song, but my books are either set in the Caribbean or feature Caribbean characters, so I usually listen to reggae when I’m writing. It reminds me of the sights, scents, and the feel of being in the Caribbean and that helps me with writing scenes and creating characters.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
Quite honestly, that’s an area that I’m still learning about. I think defining your audience and then finding out how to get in front of them is key. I’m an introvert, but I’ve had to learn to how to get comfortable talking about myself and my books.

What advice would you give to new authors?
Read, read, read! Study your favorite authors, but read others as well. I also think you should try to write every day, and jealously guard that time.

How about sharing an excerpt from Butterfly?
I remember being awed by her beauty. Not in a romantic way, but I was taken by her. She was not just physically beautiful. True, she had that flawless, dark caramel-colored skin that required hardly any makeup and a thick curtain of jet black hair that fell way past her shoulder blades when she wore it straight (which was often). And yes, she was that right kind of tall that made ordinary girls like me jealous and made the boys take notice—not in that “you should be playing basketball or long jumping” kind of way, but in that “you should be a model” way. She was more than that though. She had that radiant kind of inner beauty that made it hard to dislike her despite all that God had blessed her with instead of you. It was the way she treated you like her best friend, looping her arm through yours as she laughed while you walked down the street together, even if she’d only met you five minutes earlier. The way her eyes danced at the sight of something as simple as a red velvet cupcake let you know that she wasn’t really pretentious, even though she could be. The stylish way she dressed, in colors and fabrics described as “camel” and “subdued yellow” and the way she always seemed to be effortlessly polished, yet down-to-earth, let you know that she was not just that ordinary pretty.

If she’d lived in New York City you could easily see her strolling through Central Park in one of her fabulous wool coats and shiny, pointy-toed boots walking a small terrier dog—who always wore Burberry—on her way to meet a friend for a macchiato or something, not just regular old coffee. And she could do this because she wasn’t chained to some cold-looking desk at a tiresome job with a boss from hell like I was. No, she had an exciting career and worked in a converted row house with a brick interior wall, sleek modern furniture, and equally fabulous colleagues who always left the office before sunset, even in the winter.

Even her name was beautiful. Loren sounded like the name of an Essence-type girl who “vacationed” in London or Tuscany. My name was plain and didn’t evoke worldly images. I didn’t vacation; I took leave and went home to visit my family in Minneapolis for Christmas and Thanksgiving. My parents named me Sydney partly because they were certain that I was going to be a boy—all of Dad’s brothers had boys—and partly because my dad wanted to name me after a famous Jamaican. By the time he figured out Sidney Poitier was actually Bahamian, it was too late; the birth certificate had arrived and the name had already stuck.

I wasn’t jealous of Loren in that loathing or hate you kind of way. I wanted to be like her, and I spent as much time around her as I could in the hope that some of that fabulousness would trickle down into my life, but of course it didn’t. Not really. I was on the outside of it. Our lives were so intertwined and yet so different. What I admired most about Loren since the moment I met her was her ability to transform herself. It was amazing to me how she was able to pull off the image that she’d always been well off. I knew better. Her mother and father had, at times, worked two and three jobs each and crazy hours so they could afford to move from their tiny apartment on the north side of Minneapolis to the south suburbs where my family lived. And when Loren was old enough, she too worked nights and weekends in department store stockrooms so she could afford all the designer clothes she wore to high school.

Loren worked on her English until it had become perfectly clipped. Sometimes she sounded almost British. When we were in high school, she could tell you everything you ever wanted to know about places like London or Madrid even though she never visited either city until after college. She worked hard on her image and no one ever questioned her authenticity.

For some reason though, she shared everything with me. It might have been because I accidentally learned about her family’s financial situation after stopping by her house one day. I overheard her father talking about the rent being overdue on the house Loren had told everyone they owned. I never revealed her secret. Perhaps we were so close because she didn’t want me to expose her. But I’d like to think it was because she just trusted me implicitly.

When Loren informed everyone she was moving to Washington, D.C. to start a design firm, I declared it too and followed her out here. I didn’t really consider myself creative though, so I settled for being a junior attorney in a small firm doing civil litigation work while Loren built a bustling business decorating homes for the flood of people who came in each year to work on Capitol Hill. It was a good move for me; a good time to move after what my family had gone through that summer with the loss of my cousin Lennox, who had been the son my parents never had and the brother I’d always wanted.

Loren quickly became part of the who’s who crowd in D.C. She was kind and took me to happy hours at all the new and happening spots along places like the U Street corridor. Her new friends tolerated me well enough, even though none of them would call me on their own to hang out, but Loren always paid attention to me and made sure I was included. She was a social butterfly and I was her shadow.

I remember all of this. I also remember the day that everything changed and I was no longer who I was and Loren was no longer who she was and our worlds would never be the same.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on another novel that is set in Jamaica and based on some local folklore. In my spare time (I know, what is that?) I’m serving as a literacy ambassador for an organization with a mission of helping children develop a lifelong love of reading in Jamaica and the Diaspora.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
·         Website: www.DionnePeart.com
·         Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1So2IJw
·         Facebook: www.facebook.com\deedeepeart
·         Twitter: @deepeart
·         Blog: www.dionnepeart.blogspot.com
·         Book buy Links:
o   Somerset Grove:
§  http://amzn.to/1CqA7Zy (Amazon)
§  http://bit.ly/XfZf5s (Barnes & Noble)
o   Butterfly: http://amzn.to/1IjdQWa (Amazon)

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

Thanks, Dee. I enjoyed this.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Romantic Suspense Presentation at the Black Writers' Guild"

On Saturday, November 7, 2015, I presented a workshop titled - "Smooches and Murder: The Elixir to Writing a Successful Romantic Suspense Novel," to the Black Writers' Guild in Baltimore, MD. The agenda covered the following topics:
  • Defining the romantic suspense genre
  • Common elements of a romantic suspense novel
  • The importance of research
  • Opening with a bang
  • Plot development
  • Heightening the tension (conflicts)
  • Character development (protagonist, villain)
  • Creating a satisfying ending
  • Appendices (Story Planning Questionnaire, Planning Action Engagement, Plotting Sheet, Character Questionnaire)
  • Wrap Up
         The audience participation throughout the presentation and the Q & A session was great! And had a FANTASTIC time presenting to them! 
         Also, Vickie Oliver-Lawson, a Baltimore Arts Education Examiner covered the workshop presentation and wrote a wonderful article for the Examiner. You can check it out at: http://www.examiner.com/article/writing-becomes-suspenseful-for-baltimore-organization