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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, February 29, 2016

Interview with Wilma Brockington, Author of Been There, Done That: Lessons Learned on Love and Life from Women 55 and Better, Office Politics and Cinnamon Girl Blues

Author’s Bio: Wilma Brockington is the author of Cinnamon Girl Blues, Office Politics, and Been There, Done That: Lessons Learned on Love and Life from Women 55 and Better, a freelance book reviewer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the communications officer for the Black Writers Guild of Maryland.  Critics have described her fiction works as having a great mix of drama, suspense and romance and her characters as realistic and well developed.  She has been featured at area festivals, panel discussions, and book signings.

As a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Executive and Professional Coaching Program and member of the International Coach Federation, Brockington has coached writers, executives and others to help them develop strategies and actions for realizing success.  She also earned a M.S. in Management and a MBA from the University of Maryland University College.

What inspired you to write your book?  
For my most recent book, Been There, Done That: Lessons Learned on Love and Life from Women 55 and Better, I was inspired by a sermon about new beginnings.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
One of my favorite authors is Beverly Jenkins.  She writes historical fiction.  I enjoy her work because she uniquely marries history with romance.  I always learn something from her writing and at the same time, I learn something new about our history.  Her writing style makes you feel like you’re experiencing history and can bring a vast array of emotions.  In my writing, I hope to make my readers feel emotion and learn something new as well.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
My first book was Cinnamon Girl Blues.  It took seven long years to complete.  Between working a hectic 9 to 5 and completing two master’s degrees, my free time was extremely limited.  Office Politics took 9 weeks to complete the initial draft. I was determined not to let another seven years elapse before I finished another book.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
When I’m writing a novel, I’m organic up until a certain point then I move to an outline.  The outline provides structure and helps me move the story along at a good pace.  At times, my outline may change as the characters sometimes take me into another direction.  When I’m writing non-fiction, I always start with an outline.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
I don’t typically listen to music when I write; I prefer to have quiet — It keeps me in the zone and helps me focus and concentrate.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
Persistence and consistency are key.  You’ll need to try a variety of ways to get your book out.  What works for some may not work for others.  Sometimes it is a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Don’t be afraid to try different marketing techniques.  There are several resources out there.

What advice would you give to new authors?
Learn as much as you can about the industry prior to making major decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  It can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.  Also, get the support of other writers by joining a writers group and attend meetings on a regular basis.  The opportunity to network with other writers is invaluable.

How about sharing an excerpt from Cinnamon Girl Blues? 

Chapter 3

If you can find someone you can really talk to,
it can help you grow in so many ways.
-Stephanie Mills

This morning I woke up not with a smile on my face for another glorious day granted by the Lord, but with heartache. God, I can’t stand it when I feel like this. I just can’t seem to stop crying.

Every time I think about how I fall into a trap, let a man play with my feelings, and allow myself to get this way, I become angrier and angrier. I keep asking myself, why does this keep happening? What is it about me that makes me appear to be a target? No matter how many times I go through dealing with the rejection and heartache from being in a so-called relationship, the pain always feels like it has hit me for the very first time. There is nothing in this world like having blues like mine. I call it the Sasha Grant Blues.

I am so tired of the games and deception. Is there at least one man in Baltimore who has goals and ambition and wants someone who can be supportive? It’s Christmas time again and of course once again, I’m alone. One would think I would be used to this by now because I have spent more time alone than with someone special during this time of year. It happens like clockwork. Time goes back so it gets darker earlier. That alone can cause depression. Then here comes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all of which remind me of all the times I spent alone. And then Valentine’s Day arrives with a vengeance. I cringe each time I hear or see an advertisement for chocolates, flowers and jewelry—the things that lovers enjoy giving and receiving on February 14. I end up wallowing in my personal misery for four long months. It’s a vicious cycle. The one thing I want for this year for Christmas no amount of money can buy—I want love.

I want the kind of love that transcends all time and space. You know--the unconditional type. A man who loves you no matter what.  And of course you love him. There’s nothing he won’t do for you. Your best interest is always at heart. The two of you do whatever it takes to make the relationship work. You take the bitter with the sweet. I’m probably in Lalaland with my thoughts about love and relationships, but I know what I want. I want that unconditional love that typically only comes from your mama and Jesus.

Yesterday I thought about Jordan, my ex. My head tells me that it’s over, but my heart doesn’t want to believe it and for the life of me, I don’t want to let go. No matter how I try to look at it for what it was or even try to justify what happened, the only choice I have is to face reality.

When I returned home from shopping and saw the red blinking light on the answering machine, I haphazardly hit the button to retrieve the message. To my surprise, it was Jordan. His call was date stamped for Sunday at 2:19 p.m. For a brief moment, I could not believe it was him. After seven months (yes, I was counting) he called just to say hello. I willed myself not to call him back after our last conversation. That’s when he decided to tell me that he thought it would be best if we were just friends. I swear I put my heart and soul into that relationship, only to be disappointed once again. In a moment of weakness, I listened to the message two additional times because it felt good to hear his rich, baritone voice. He mentioned he would be home from work around 5:00 p.m.

I immediately began debating with myself whether or not to call him back or wait until later. I decided to play the waiting game since it had been seven months. A few more hours weren’t going to make a difference. At 10:30 p.m., I picked up the phone to call Jordan, but my fear got the best of me. I hurriedly threw the phone back into the cradle before completing the call. I was so nervous. I literally had to talk myself into redialing. I finally redialed. The phone rang three times; he picked up on the fourth ring.  Words could not express how hurt I was when he retorted in response to my cheery hello, “Can I call you back tomorrow?” and I simultaneously heard a female laugh in the background. I was stunned as I said, “Okay”. I didn’t bother to ask for an explanation since we were no longer dating. As I sat on the edge of the bed, I haphazardly hung up the phone. At that moment, I wanted to scream to the very top of my lungs. Instead, I decided just to have a good cry—I did not want my neighbors to hear my agony and think that I had lost my mind.  It hit home that he was too busy to talk and had someone new.

The pain cut like a newly sharpened knife. Unfortunately, my waiting game backfired even before it materialized. For a brief moment, I just wanted to lie down and die. How could he do this to me especially after I had told him of my past? How could he do the very things to me I told him other men had done which had caused me so much heartache?

I spent the next day feeling more than sorry for myself and wondered about my purpose in life. Sure I enjoyed my job ninety five percent of the time. Being a human resources manager is a tough job. Everyone I interview and their mother think that they are qualified for the job. When I inform them that they were not selected, they always disagree. If they only knew how bad they were during the interview, they would go to the library, no, run to the library to learn how to interview and get some coaching from a professional. I have often thought I could make a killing by teaching people how to prepare résumés and be successful in an interview. They should start by getting some skills.

I try to keep my mind busy and off of the fact that I do not have a man, but I don’t believe anything will take away that void. I don’t know how some women live without having the love of a good man in their lives. Being a part of the other team is out of the question. I am alone not by choice. Sometimes, I just sit and think that I would be so much happier if I had someone to go home to. My friend Regina always tells me that having a man doesn’t make you whole--another one of her mother’s sayings. That Miss Sara could have written a book on relationships from the old school. Miss Sara may be right, but it would be nice to have someone who asks me about my day every
now and then.

My friend Beverly tells me to be patient. Regina and Beverly are the sisters I never had. For some reason, they seem to think that I know nothing about relationships. The way I look at it,for every failed relationship, it’s a lesson learned. I guess that’s easy for me to say in my current predicament.  If I had a man, I think I would enjoy life a little bit better. Over the past few years, I have learned to enjoy my own company. At times I think I enjoy my own company a little too much. For instance, my preference is to go to the movies alone. That way, I don’t have anybody to talk to while I am trying to enjoy the movie. I just can’t stand it when people talk during the movie. When I go to the movies by myself, I am guaranteed not to have to talk to anyone else.

Last night, my co-worker Theresa and I went to Cruisers, a local pub, for dinner. Earlier that day, I really didn’t feel like being social, but since we had made plans some time ago to get together, I felt obligated. Besides, I was really looking forward to having a strawberry daiquiri. As the daiquiri did its magic, I was glad I had not cancelled. It was good therapy to talk to someone else about the dates that I had from the “Internet Error” as I had called it.

Over dinner, I began telling Theresa about my many dates I had met via the Internet. I first told her about Don. He was actually the first guy I ever met from a singles chat room. Don and I talked using instant messaging on our home computers and then by phone for four months before deciding to meet in person. The first time we spoke, we exchanged pictures. Although he didn’t send a full-body shot, I thought he was quite a handsome man. He had close cut jet black textured hair and a professionally shaped full beard. His warm cocoa skin accentuated his fine facial features.

During our chats, Don often talked about his hardware business and church. He was divorced, lived in Cleveland, and had a five-year-old daughter named Gabrielle. He had owned his own business for seven years and had been a member of the Board of Trustees at his church. Gabrielle was the result of a relationship he had with a member of his congregation. Six months after Gabrielle’s birth, her mother decided she wanted no parts of him or motherhood.  Without delay, she handed Gabrielle over to Don. He also spoke about the challenges of being a single parent. I could only empathize.  My only contact with children was through friends and family. After spending time with some of the children, I was more than happy to get back to my serene environment at home.

During one evening of intense chatting, Don wanted to know when he could meet me in person. A part of me was interested.  Another part of me questioned my sanity and the survivability of a long distance relationship. Baltimore is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump from Cleveland. After much contemplation, I decided to take the plunge to meet him.

Days before our meeting, I got cold feet. I questioned myself as to why I had planned to meet someone from the Net. I personally did not know anyone who had met someone via an Internet provider. All I could think about were news reports of Internet dates gone wrong. You hardly ever hear of any successes. In fact, during the evening news, the channel 12 anchorman reported the murder of a young college student in College Park who had been raped and strangled by a man she had met through the Internet. I wondered out loud if I was potentially putting myself in a similar situation. Don could have been an escaped convict or serial rapist for all I knew. Was it possible that I wanted to be in a relationship so bad that I was willing to risk my safety? I kept telling myself that this was really no different than meeting someone in the supermarket or at the Home Depot. I figured if anything, Don at least was technology minded and he had at least one good asset—a computer. My ability to rationalize almost anything at that time simply amazed me.

I was running late to meet Don’s flight at the airport. Once I found an open parking space on the short-term parking lot, I made a mad dash to the baggage claim area. I feverishly searched for him without any luck. I tried several times to reach him on his cell phone, but failed. There was nothing left for me to do but go home. He finally called me from his hotel room at the Woodlawn Towne Suites and wanted to know what had happened to me. I explained to him in explicit details what happened. However, he stated that I didn’t look hard enough. That should have been my first clue that I was dealing with a real nut case. He definitely had a problem with being patient and it appeared he enjoyed playing the blame game.

I suggested that we go to City Sights, a local restaurant for dinner. City Sights was just a mere few feet away from Don’s hotel room. I had enjoyed dining there in the past as they had a delectable seafood menu and it was reasonably priced. The smiling hostess greeted us and then announced there would be a twenty minute wait.

Don went ballistic saying that twenty minutes was way too much time to wait for a table. I asked him to calm down and told him that for a Friday evening, a twenty minute wait was quite reasonable for a popular restaurant in the area. His outburst made me cringe as we all of a sudden had become the center of attention for the restaurant’s patrons. He stared down at me with a look of disgust and announced he was leaving to go get himself something to eat from the Wendy’s across the street. I watched him as he exited City Sights heading for Wendy’s. I couldn’t believe he was acting like an eight-year old child. Needless to say, I never talked to him again. Thank God for favors—both big and small.

My experience with Don didn’t deter me from my so-called unconventional dating explorations. Anthony was the second guy I had met by means of the Net. He was a twenty-five year old on-air promotions editor for a local television station, single, never been married, and had no children. In other words, in my eyes, he was a great catch. My only real hesitation was his age. When I met Anthony, I was thirty-one. It wasn’t a huge difference, but I just could not get my mind beyond Anthony being six years younger than me. Every time I brought up the differences in our ages, he would comment, “Age is nothing but a number.”

Over a twelve-week period, our instant message conversations eventually led to telephone conversations. Once again, I was reluctant to give my telephone number to someone I had met on the Net. However, Anthony seemed different. I figured he was somewhat stable since he had never “said” anything that was vulgar up to that point. Besides, it was a nice change of pace to hear a male voice on the other end of the line after a several week hiatus. As we spoke more often over the telephone, I was mesmerized by Anthony’s intellect and charm. As the weeks went by, he put the pressure on to meet in person.

After becoming more and more intrigued with Anthony, I finally gave in and we decided to meet in person at Union Station in Washington, DC which was a few subway stops from my company’s Farragut North location. Union Station was a convenient spot to meet since I regularly took Amtrak to DC whenever I had a staff meeting at the DC location. Union Station offered a variety of upscale shops and restaurants for every style and palate. The train station was also very busy. I surmised the chance of being harmed should have been slim to none as security was always at high alert due to its proximity to government buildings and the White House.

Anthony described himself as having a Hershey’s chocolate complexion, six feet tall, and a football player’s physique. I had imagined someone like Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles or Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. In my attention-starved mind and body, I saw nothing but a “tight end”. I had described myself to Anthony as five feet, five inches tall with a caramel complexion, shoulder length black hair, and seductive brown eyes. I also told him that if he saw me on the street, he’d definitely look twice. There really was no need for him to know about my extra ten to fifteen pounds covering my frame. Besides, I had gotten pretty good at camouflaging my figure to my advantage. Whenever I complained about the extra weight, Regina always reminded me that Miss Sara always says the only thing that wants a bone is a dog. I again vowed to make real use of my sporadically used gym membership.

A part of me wanted to meet the man with the smooth baritone voice who seemed almost too good to be true, and the other part of me questioned my sanity and motive. I was reluctant to tell anyone I was planning to meet someone else from the Net, but I felt compelled to at least tell Regina, just in case something went awry and Anthony turned out to be an escaped convict. Just before we were scheduled to meet, I hurriedly dashed off to the ladies room to check my hair, make up, clothes and smile one last time. Each time I gazed at my perfectly straight teeth, I thanked God for allowing me to cross paths with Dr. Barron. That man did wonders with dental instruments. I swore by him. I had worn a Jones of New York navy blue suit to work that day with similarly shaded five-inch blue spiked-heels. I decided to wear my hair down. I quickly powdered my nose and refreshed my hot buttered rum lipstick and added a little gloss. I took a deep breath, brushed the front of my jacket and then proceeded to head to the Amtrak/commuter train passenger waiting area.

As I was waiting, I noticed a big, dark, coffee complexioned, burly, man walk past me several times in a short khaki jacket. In actuality, his walk resembled a waddle. The man stopped and stared for three seconds each time. As my meeting time with Anthony approached, I systematically gazed at my watch and continued to look for a fine chocolate complexioned man with a football player’s build. It finally dawned on me that the burly gentleman could be no one other than Anthony. My mouth flew open. Anthony appeared larger than life as he hovered around 350 pounds. I could not see myself in a romantic relationship with Anthony even though he had been very charming in our previous conversations. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I can be very shallow. In this world, looks and perceptions can sometimes either make you or break you. Image is everything. If your image isn’t together, people simply just don’t take you seriously.

In the beginning, I was determined not to allow Anthony’s larger than life size to interfere with my getting to know him.  Anthony and I found a somewhat secluded spot at the station. It was important for me to still be in view of the public—just in case he tried anything. I politely engaged in conversation with him. He told me I was pretty. His voice was still inviting. His size was not. I cut our encounter short when I told him that I needed to get on the next train back to Baltimore because of a previous commitment that had slipped my mind. I wasn’t sure if he believed me or not. At that particular moment, all I thought about was getting out of an uncomfortable situation before my facial expressions disclosed how I was really feeling.

Anthony and I had several dates after we met that evening. I tried to be an adult and not allow my shallowness to potentially hinder a friendship. The more time I spent with him, I began to loosen up to a certain extent. I began to enjoy the time we spent together. He was a very sweet, kind man who offered intelligent conversation and discerning thoughts. He took me to interesting places and we dined at exclusive restaurants. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say. Also, he had no problem picking up the tab which was not always the case with some of my other dates.

The most awkward time during our dates was when the evening was coming to a close. My mind fluttered to come up with a plan to let him know I was not romantically interested in him. As far as I was concerned, a friendship was just fine by me. On several occasions, Anthony’s body language indicated that he wanted to kiss me goodnight. My brain just was not going to allow that to happen. A handshake was as far as I had planned to let it go. Each time he motioned for a kiss, I in turn told him that I was not feeling well to discourage him from even trying. I figured he would eventually get the hint and realize that we would be no more than friends. I guess the last straw was when I unintentionally stood Anthony up for a Saturday afternoon date. We simply got our wires crossed. He took it as me playing games based on my previous behavior of not appearing to be interested in him.

I tried to speak with Anthony on several occasions, but he never bothered to return any of my phone calls. I imagine he got tired of my drama and decided to move on. To be honest, I really don’t blame him. Some of us say we really want to be in a relationship with a good man, yet we don’t always act like it when the opportunity presents itself and is literally staring us right in the face. Sometimes, I could kick myself in the behind. Anthony was proof that there were still some good men out there. Who knows what could have been?  That’s one puzzle I’ll never figure out.

Needless to say, Regina and Beverly had given me the “I told you so” attitude about Don, Anthony and all the other men I had met unconventionally. I know that they care about my well being. I made a habit of giving them all of my dates’ vital information. When I first met Don, I asked to see his driver’s license. That way I was assured that it was really him. It really would not have mattered if he had tried anything—I only would have known it was truly him.

Theresa in turn had told me about her one Internet encounter, which really was not an encounter in my book. After several hours of instant messaging a guy, he insisted that she come over to his place so they could get to know each other even better. Theresa’s response to him was an emphatic, “No, you must be insane. I don’t know you from Adam.” She blocked him from sending her instant messages and email. He was never heard from again. What happened to Theresa is probably experienced more often than not. It is those true horror stories that give the Internet and chat rooms a bad name.

Our evening ended on a light note. Theresa and I promised to get together more often. I must say I did have a good time and avoided the monotony of directly going home to an empty house. I guess the disappointment of dating is that it can be tough to face the reality. The reality is that no matter where you meet a man, they always have some kind of issue. They’re either still in a relationship, just got out of one, or are so scarred by a relationship gone bad they don’t know how to act.

When I first met Don, I really enjoyed our interaction on the computer. He seemed so kind. I often ask myself how I could have possibly determined if someone was kind simply based on what they typed. What was I thinking? I guess the camouflage of the computer gives you a certain level of comfort with a person you really don’t know. Initially, I was hesitant to meet him because of his situation with Gabrielle. I didn’t want to put myself in the position of having to deal with any baby mama drama. I’ve been down that road before. That’s a road I’d rather not take again.

My dilemma did cause me to do some serious thinking. I thought about the number of men I personally knew who were single, had a good job, and no children. I counted three and unfortunately none were available. I have three dating rules. One, I don’t date people on the job. I learned that tidbit of information from other people’s experiences at work. Once the relationship goes awry, it is hard as hell to have to look at that person on a daily basis. And if they start dating someone else on the job, the exchanges between the former lovers typically become even more vicious. Jeff and Marcia were two clerical employees I had to fire. After dating each other for three months, the relationship soured. Jeff’s next conquest was for Janice in Accounting. Once Marcia found out, it was on. She confronted Jeff in the company cafeteria which resulted in a fist fight between the two.

Dating rule number two: Never date a married man. This rule seems simple enough. If he’s married, that means he is not available. He’s not available for impromptu dates, he can’t come over for the holidays, and you can’t call him at home. It’s just not worth it. And besides, do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Just for the record, a man who says he’s separated is still married. I found this one out on my own the hard way.

Dating rule number three: Don’t date a man with bad teeth. That’s just not attractive. One of the first things I notice about a man is his teeth. Missing, cracked, and discolored teeth just don’t pass the hygiene test for me. If his teeth aren’t together, chances are he’s not together either. Oh, and one more thing. This isn’t a rule—it’s a given . The man must be gainfully employed, have decent credit, and not live at home with his mama. My former co-worker, Natalie, dated Gerald for nine months. During their relationship, Gerald couldn’t keep a decent job if his life depended on it. His mother always came to the rescue. For some reason, this didn’t phase Natalie one bit. The final straw for her was when she called Gerald at home and his mother answered and told her that it was after 9 p.m. and she didn’t allow calls after that time unless it was an emergency.

Honestly speaking, I’m not a jealous person, but I am getting so tired of hearing about my girlfriends’ happy lives. Some of my friends seem to have it all. Regina is married to a successful attorney and has a great family life. Beverly owns a bookstore and is living large not answering to anyone. I often think of what it would be like to be in their shoes and have it all so to speak.

I am determined now more than ever to focus more on my career and less on getting and keeping a man. My search for a low maintenance, high performance man has been futile. I think that if I channel my energies to alternative outlets, I will eventually get over Jordan and conquer my fear of relationships. My question is—how long must things be this way? When am I going to finally discover and maintain a little happiness with a love of my own?

What’s next for you? 
I have a romantic suspense novel in the works.  Also, I’d like to expand my professional coaching practice to help writers create action plans to make their writing dreams a reality.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)? 
Website:  www.wilmabrockington.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, February 28, 2016

A Review of One Night by Eric Jerome Dickey

There’s just something about reading an EJD novel that engages every one of your senses and leaves you wanting more. Having been a long time reader (aka Dickey Nuts fan), I was not disappointed. Although this book had very few characters, the action, interaction and drama was just as filling.

One Night puts two unlikely characters in an unlikely situation and the outcome was very explosive. While I thought some of the scenes went on for what seemed like forever, there was no doubt the chemistry between the two main characters sizzled.

Some readers may not like that certain things were not revealed like the name of the “man from Orange County,” but I didn’t have a problem with that. I enjoyed that he was a very complex, sophisticated and educated kind of man. One who went off kilter when pushed to the limit. For the female character (“Jacqueline”) I loved her sassiness and her resourcefulness. She was a woman of many skills and talents and she used them all to simply survive.

I also thoroughly enjoyed that through these characters, EJD explored a lot of issues that married and single folks face on the daily: infidelity, struggling to survive, getting over betrayal, mourning the loss of loved ones,etc. There were times when I had to reach for my dictionary (well toggled over to www.dictionary.com) but what would an EJD novel be without stretching our vocabulary. To me this is sexy as hell - reading for entertainment while stimulating the mind! Loved it!

The ending was left to one’s imagination and trust me when I say I could take this story in so many different directions. Nothing in life is ever wrapped up tightly so for those readers who had a problem with the ending, well I’d say to each his own. The dialogue was great, the sex scenes made me turn on my A/C and so for sure, I can definitely see a sequel in the near future. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Until the next Dickey adventure...I shall remain a "Dickey Nuts" fan! 

Rating: 4 stars

Some of my favorite lines:

“You’re a pretty woman.”
“I’m almost as pretty as that silver wedding ring on your left hand.”
“You’re wearing a pretty nice ring as well.”
“On my right hand.”
“Why is it on your right hand?”
“Because it won’t fit on the middle finger of my left hand.”
“But that is a wedding righty, right?”
“Your ring is on your left hand. That means you bought the cow.”
“Yours on the right hand means?”
“It means I’m no one’s cow. So, where’s your cow? Where’s the woman you make go moo?”

Product Details

Monday, February 15, 2016

Interview with John T. Wills, Author of Just a Season

Author’s Bio: Mr. Wills has earned a Master’s and Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He’s been a Professor, Past Board Member of the Bowie State University Foundation, President of JT Wills Consulting, Past Vice President of the MD/DC Minority Supplier Development Council, one of the founding members of the Black Empowered Men, author of “Just a Season” and “Legacy – A New Season,” a Journalist by way of the Washington Examiner, and a blogger via Thought Provoking Perspectives (the most empowering blog on the web); in addition to being a supporter of several community organizations, a volunteer, a strong advocate for literacy empowerment and friend to many.

What inspired you to write your book?
I was grieving the loss of my son due to a tragic automobile accident and used the process of writing Just a Season, which is loosely based on the actual life of someone I intimately know. So I can honestly say writing the book was therapy and helped me heal from my loss.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? 
Books: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Roots, and the Bible.
Authors: Iceberg Slim, Donald Goines, Deliah Lawrence.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book? 
Just a Season was my first book, however, I have written others. It took me about six months to write Just a Season and it was published a few months later.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically? 
No, I did not use an outline. The story in Just a Season was written by someone greater than myself. I was just the vehicle by which the story came through me organically.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book? 
No I do not. Frankly, it was like I was having an out of body experience each time I wrote a word, sentence, paragraph, or page. If there was a theme song, it would be “Trouble Man”!

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public? 
I would say most importantly, believing in yourself and put in the work, overcoming any obstacles, being motivated, and lastly having a commitment to completion.

What advice would you give to new authors? 
Very simple, when publishing your book, you MUST remember that it is a business!

How about sharing an excerpt from Just A Season? (Instead I added several reviews)
“Author John T. Wills has a remarkable gift for writing, a unique talent for story creation. In his book, “Just a Season”, John carries us wonderfully through the life of a boy who becomes a man with the special guidance of a loving and wise grandfather. His writing grasps us emotionally in the first few pages, and keeps us there as he reflects on and reveals this close, heartwarming relationship between grandson and grandfather. The story takes us into the “growing pains” of a boy-child, the diverse and difficult heartbreaking moments this main character experiences, as well as the many humorous antics of a boy seemingly born to be wild. Silver Rae Fox, Actress, Model, Radio Personality

Thank you for your example of tenderness and discipline in what I know is a story of love, delicately shared with readers in a way that says, this life, though brief, is significant. So hold it in highest regard for “the dash” is our legacy to love ones, indeed to the world, which we are blessed to share, albeit, for Just a Season.” Excellent! Sistah Joy, Poet, Cable TV Host

“This is the stuff movies are made of… not since “Roots” have I read a story that so succinctly chronicles an African American story! Amazing! Cheryl, Avid Reader

“Wills pulls you in from the very first page… Just a Season is a heart-wrenching story about growing up and believing in yourself. I highly recommend this book to young men in high school, trying to find themselves and feeling like they have nowhere to turn.” Cheryl Hayes, APOOO Book Club

“Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions. John T. Wills possesses the ability to transport the reader directly into the life and struggles of his main characters story. I was educated in a way that did not afford me the benefit of truly understanding the significance of the historical events taught from a standalone perspective. This book actually touched my heart and inspired me to increase the equity in my “dash”! Excellent! Tonja Covington

“JUST A SEASON is laced with thought-provoking commentary on the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the 1960s, the migration of crack cocaine into inner-city neighborhoods, and a myriad of other ills that have rocked America. This is a very good piece intertwined with several history lessons spanning many decades.” Dawn Reeves, RAWSISTAZ Book Club

“John T. Wills particulars each notion so eloquently that you feel that you’re actually right there with him… this is an inflicting history lesson that I believe all African American males should experience.” JUST A SEASON is a pivotal read.” Carmen, OOSA ONLINE BOOK CLUB

“From the first page you are transported into John’s world as if you are there and are experiencing it with him. I am amazed at how John is able to use the events of the time to let you know where you are in time. I felt as if I was teleported… his ability to describe what was going on during that time makes me extremely proud of my heritage. You will come away with a feeling of, now I know why that is. I thoroughly enjoyed “Just a Season”. Mia L. Haynes

“Just a Season is a work of love, respect and honor… A book filled with the wonder of life, and the pain and growth encountered in living it.” Outstanding! Ron Watson, Editor, New 
Book Reviews.Org

What’s next for you? 
It is going to be a blockbuster: “The Perfect Divorce” coming later this year.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)? 
Media Kit: http://thoughtprovokingperspectives.co/1981-2/
Amazon Author Page and Book buy Links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.t.wills
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnTWills
Blog: http://thoughtprovokingperspectives.co

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, February 1, 2016

Interview with Dr. Hattie N. Washington, Author of Driven To Succeed: An Inspirational Memoir of Lessons Learned Through Faith, Family and Favor

Author’s Bio: Dr. Hattie N. Washington was born in 1946 in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the daughter of Samuel Neal, Jr., a former Navy man, and Janie Lucille Goganious Neal, a homemaker. She has been a teacher (both regular and special education) for over thirty years (in the United States and abroad—Scotland and Greece).  She is currently a college professor at Coppin State University where she was the first female Vice President for over 8 years; former Assistant Superintendent of Baltimore City School System, Program Specialist for the Maryland State Dept. of Education; a local and state administrator; TV hostess, and civic activist.

She was the PTA President of her two biological daughters’ middle and high schools throughout their years in those grades. Today, one daughter is a physician and the other daughter is an attorney. Dr. Washington’s education includes a BS Degree in Elementary Education from Norfolk State University with a Minor in Special Education; Master’s Degree from Ball State University (an Athens, Greece Overseas Program) in Counseling Psychology, and a Doctorate from University of Maryland, College Park in Curriculum and Instruction. She has done further postgraduate study at Glasgow University in Scotland (on a Rotary International Scholarship) Harvard University in Boston and Oxford University in London, England.

Dr. Washington is the Founder & President of Aunt Hattie’s Place, Inc. (AHP) which is a 501 © (3) non-profit residential facility in Baltimore for males with special educational needs. Founded in 1997, AHP rears males from ages 13 to 21 who have been abused, abandoned and neglected.  The foster boys are usually in special education or are several grade levels below their peers when they first come to AHP. After entering AHP their lives have been proven to be both fulfilling and successful.  One such success story is that one of my foster young men whom I got at AHP when he was 8 years old just graduated from Coppin in December.  He has a teaching job already.
What inspired you to write your book?                                                                                  The thing that inspired me the most, to write my memoir, was to show people that they, too, can triumph against all odds. I was in a loving home in Prince Edward County, where my father and stepmother provided for my siblings and me. My parents loved and nurtured us, but things changed after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954, requiring school to integrate.  Many schools, including Prince Edward County school district, refused to desegregate. It was the only school district in the United States to resort to such extreme measures of closing down all of the schools for five years, starting in 1959. 

I grew up with a father who loved his family unconditionally. He sacrificed much so that my siblings and I could have a better life than he had. Back then, my father knew my temperament and my way of reacting in situations; therefore,  for him to make the sacrifice to send my brother, my two sisters and me to live with our biological mother’s sisters in Norfolk, Virginia, so that we could continue to receive adequate education, I think hurt him more than it hurt us. I was eleven years old and in the 5th grade when my two-room schoolhouse was closed.  But, my father knew education would be the key to our success. Because of his sacrifice, I was determined not to let him down; thusly, I was driven to succeed.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?    
The two books that influenced me most are “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
Yes. This is my first book. It took me almost a year to complete it; however, I have been keeping notes, lists, vignettes & thoughts about my life for about ten years. It all just came together when I sat down and made up my mind—with the nudging of relatives and friends--that “it was time” to write my book and share my story and strategies to inspire others.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?  
Yes. I write with an outline to categorize the main points that I am trying to get across and to organize my paragraphs into an order that can easily be developed into a well-written story.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
No. I have to have total silence. Silence helps me concentrate more. I love writing in detail and want the reader to feel as if they were there with me on my journey.  Music would distract me at that point in my writing.  A little peace and quiet helps me accomplish my goals of writing a great book that hopefully everyone will love.  However, I find that when I am rereading a draft or reflecting, I do like to play some soft instrumental music then in the background.  Music then relaxes me and invokes more in-depth insight on various initial thoughts.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?                         
I’m an avid reader myself.  As such, I frequently visit many authors’ websites, posts, and blog, including yours. I see where different authors go to promote their book, and I may follow their path or suggestions.  I also love speaking to people. That’s one of my life’s passions. At most conferences where I am a public and motivational speaker, I share my passion of rearing foster boys and giving back. I also share stories of my life and various experiences. I find that people love stories. I try to make my speeches, workshops or trainings not seem like a lecture or a class at all. I try to make my presentations appear as if I’m just telling an interesting and inspiring story about my roadblocks, divine interventions, achievements, and lessons learned along the way.

What advice would you give to new authors?                                                              
The advice I would give to new authors would be to follow your passion and [to] never give up.  If you have a story to tell, get started and tell it. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles and pains or even your happy moments with others. Your compelling story can help and inspire many people out there.

People need to see our valleys as well as our mountaintops.  One cannot fully appreciate their successes in life if he/she has not experienced some failures, disappointments or roadblocks, and still overcame.  In the words of one of my acclaimed mentors, Maya Angelou, and, “Still I Rise”.

How about sharing an excerpt from Driven to Succeed: An Inspirational Memoir of Lessons Learned Through Faith, Family and Favor

Chapter 8
If I Grow Up
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.                   Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

If I grow up. That line has struck a chord with me since the day I heard it. From a young age, we are encouraged to think of what job we want to do when we grow up. What contribution do we wish to make to the world? We’re asked that question before we even learn how to tie our shoelaces. I had asked that question countless times at Aunt Hattie’s Place, but on one summer evening, after eating a spaghetti dinner with my foster sons, I didn’t get the answer of historically respectable professions—a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer—that I normally had gotten in the past. The response was, “If I grow up.”

I looked at my foster son, Lamont, whose mother was on crack and whose father was murdered. Oh, my goodness. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. To which I asked, curiously, “Did I hear you say, ‘If you grow up?’”

He matter-of-factly replied, “Yes, because kids around my way don’t git to grow up and be somebody.”

            “You don’t think you’ll grow up?” I asked, baffled.   

He looked at me and began his story. His father was a high school dropout and sold drugs to support the family. And his mother had been on crack as far as he could remember. The reason he was placed in foster care was because his grandmother, the woman who had taken on the challenges of raising him, became senile and was placed in a nursing home. Lamont admitted to selling drugs and was hoping to get caught so that he could go to jail. There, he would get what he called “three hots and a cot.”

            I looked at him and asked, “What do three hots and a cot mean?”

Another one of my foster sons answered before Lamont could. “Aunt Hattie, it means three hot meals and a place to sleep in jail.”

Now I was speechless. When my mind could finally process the things they were telling me, I said, “You mean you want to go to jail?” Their response was, “Yes.” They said if it weren’t for Aunt Hattie’s Place, they would be homeless. In jail, at least they’d have a place to lay their head and something to eat.

One of my foster sons named Isaac added, “It’s better than being homeless, shot by the police or shot by drug dealers.” 

I became upset with them for thinking like that. I said, “If you go to jail, you’ll get a record. Then you can’t go to college because you can’t get financial aid.”

They told me that they felt the police were their enemy instead of Mr. Friendly. I was surprised to learn that many of them feel that they can’t make a legitimate life. For some reason, they feel that the policemen are out to get them. I’ve heard many of my foster son say, 

“Why try? I might as well live bad and steal a car and go to jail, so I’ll have a bed to sleep in and something to eat.” 

What’s next for you?
I will be retiring this June and will be going on a book tour to promote my memoir, and I have a new coffee table history picture book coming out soon. The coffee table book details a timeline of my life during the Massive Resistance, a time when Prince Edward County’s school system was shut down for five years during an attempt to block integration. I am also working on a cookbook to be published later this year--in time for Thanksgiving. So stay tuned on my website: www.drhnwashington.com or www.aunthattie.org

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
       Twitter:  https://twitter.com/drhnwashington

      My book is sold at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells and where books are sold.

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