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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!

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Review of Tumbling by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

This was the first novel that I’ve read by Diane McKinney-Whetstone and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. In Tumbling, McKinney-Whetstone weaves an intricate tale of family, love, commitment, sacrifices, and community. The novel which is set in South Philadelphia during the 1940s, finds Herbie in a tenuous situation. He is a man who loves his wife, Noon, but because of her “problem” of being unable to consummate the marriage because of a horrible incident in her past, he finds comfort in the arms of Ethel, a sultry jazz club singer. These two women were worlds apart:  Noon, a good churchgoing woman is comfortable wearing sensible shoes and Ethel; a woman built to be chased by men and wouldn’t be caught without wearing her red high heels.

One night after coming home from the speakeasy, Herbie finds a cardboard box with a baby in it swaddled in a “loosely knitted bright pink blanket,” with eyes as “dark as coals.” He and Noon decide to raise the child whom they called Fannie as their own and Herbie becomes anchored to his marriage and devoted to his family. However, five years later, things get complicated when Ethel decides to drop off her niece, a red-haired child named Liz, on their doorstep. Liz and Herbie don’t get along because she remembers him from being with her aunt – a secret she decides to hold to herself.

Fast forward two decades later: Fannie has a special gift of “seeing things,” Liz yearns for a fancier way of living and continues to hold the secret of Herbie and Ethel, Herbie still frequents speakeasies because Noon’s problem has not been gone away, and gentrification has hit the neighborhood and the church community. What happens next is a culmination of things where Noon fights to keep her family.

This was a great story full of well fleshed out characters and told in several point of views (POVs). Typically, reading novels with several POVs within the same paragraph or scene would be jarring but McKinney-Whetstone handled it masterfully. However, I felt that there were a few loose ends that needed to be tied up which were only slightly touched on.  Nevertheless, this was a great read and a story that tugs at your heart which shows you can become triumphant after sacrifices, secrets and heartache.

Some of my favorite lines:

She acted mad over it on the outside. Right now she buzzed to Herbie, “Terrible thing she did to that poor chile, just leaving her on the steps like that. I knew that hussy was up to something walking up and down this street last Sunday like something she wanted lived on it. At first I thought it was you. Now I know it was a home for that chile.”

“She can’t stay, Noon,” Herbie said, agitated, but relieved nonetheless to be in this darkened bedroom, under the covers and safe from Liz’s frightened eyes. “You can’t just take no child in and claim her just ’cause she was left on your steps.”

“Can, and will,” Noon snapped. “Did it with Fannie.”

“Fannie was different. She was a newborn; we didn’t even know where she came from.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do, turn her over to the state? You know they don’t care a thing ’bout poor little colored children; stick her in a foster home is all they’ll do where all somebody want is the money. I don’t have it in me to do that to that child. Reverend Schell said to look at it as a gift from God. According to Round-the-Corner-Rose, her aunt’s more into living the fast life than taking care of the chile. So Reverend Schell said to look at it as God giving the child a good home where she can learn about the love of Jesus.”

Rating: 4 stars

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Interview with Shermell K. Ward, Author of Compositions of Me

Author’s Bio: A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Shermell K. Ward now lives in the State of Maryland. Growing up all over the United States as an Air-Force brat gave her diverse experiences and upbringing. Ms. Ward has one son. She graduated and received a dual Degree in Business Management and Marketing (2009), along with a Master's Degree in Management (2011). Ms. Ward continues to strive for awareness in the community by speaking at various events empowering women and men to learn, leave their past behind, and focus on their future. Her hobbies are writing, reading, exercising, traveling, and continually gaining new profound knowledge, spiritual growth, and rebirths.

What inspired you to write your book?
What inspired me to write the book was the process to heal from my pain, disappointments, of relationships, marriage, divorce, and losing a baby. I am not ashamed. I am not a failure. I am a successor, why? Because I survived all of those experiences.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Growing up I always liked biographies, Oprah’s Biography, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, book titled A Kind of Grace, as an adult my late father’s James Russell Ward book titled Passion & Tears which discussed him growing up with an alcoholic father and other traumatic experiences. 

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
No, this is not my first book. When I was eleven years old I wrote my first unpublished book. Compositions of Me is my first published book. The manuscript took a year give or take and my poems are my testimony. I wrote about my pain to help deal with and heal from those situations.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I let my writing flow organically.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
Yes, I have listened to music when I wrote. This book does have a theme song, “Read All about It” by Emeli Sandé. Yet, my favorite is to write with complete silence and allow myself to feel all the emotions.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
The key to success in getting my book out to the public is promotion, social media, networking, and reading my book at public/private events.

What advice would you give to new authors?
The advice I would give to new authors is to write in your own truth, allow readers to see your life, or story through your eyes, and be patient when promoting your book.  Finally, shop around for good publishing companies. 

How about sharing an excerpt from Compositions of Me?

                                                            Plan B Poem
Plan B- damn, now I see, believing the lies and deceit he told me. I married for love you see, but now my husband has no love for me. In his mind love is to hate, destroy, misuse of me. I look into his eyes and all I see is the wicked plans he has in store for me, giving me false hopes of our union and how it’s supposed to be. Becoming someone else like an enemy, I promised to love, honor, and respect, now knowing my husband had no intent. This marriage has been hell from the start, the man I married has strife in his heart, neglect in his veins, and deceit in his smile. I am so disappointed. Why? Because I didn’t have plan B.

What’s next for you?
What is next for me is to continue having book signings, promoting Compositions of Me, motivating others to also break their shackles of shame.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
·         Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Shermell-K.-Ward/e/B016261XW4
·         Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shermelll
·         Twitter: https://twitter.com/SHERMELL_K
·         Website/Blog: https://compositionsofmeblog.wordpress.com/
·         Book buy Links: www.rosedogbookstore.com, www.barnesandnobles.com
·         www.amazon.com (Shermell K. Ward) Compositions of Me

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, April 11, 2016

Interview with MaRita Teague, Author of Every Closed Eye Ain’t ‘Sleep

Author’s Bio: MaRita Teague has a master’s in English from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a bachelor’s from The Ohio State University.  She has taught college English composition for many years.  MaRita has published both fiction and non-fiction and has written the inspirational blog, Abiding in the Vine, Writing to Bear Fruit, for almost ten years.  She also  does freelance writing for Urban Ministries, Inc., among other organizations.  She has contributed to a number of publications, most notably, A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers, All My Good Habits I Learned from Grandma, and Living the Serenity Prayer.  Every Closed Eye Ain’t Sleep is her second novel (Urban Books-Kensington October 2015).  Her first novel, The Taste of Good Fruit was published by Harrison House Publishing Company.  MaRita speaks to women’s groups and is on the leadership team for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Washington, DC.  She resides in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and three sons.

What inspired you to write your book?
One of my inspirations for the book came from the losing my dear Aunt Gaile to inflammatory breast cancer.  She was a jazz vocalist and a light in my life.  I had never heard of inflammatory breast cancer, which is very aggressive.  When she passed away a short time after her diagnosis, I decided that even in fiction, I could bring some level of awareness to the disease.  That’s one thing that was important for me to do in the story.

On another very different note, I’ve always been intrigued by the complexity of the mother/daughter relationship.  I wanted to delve into that relationship with what happens when one woman takes the road of settling in a relationship and what the fallout is for the other.  Both women in the story find out what happens when they’re forced to face the very thing they’ve feared the worst.
Finally, I wanted to really show how difficult it can be for professional women, but more specifically African American women, to find love.  Internet dating is still a hot topic among some, so I wanted to show the fun side and the risks of that issue as well.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Aside from the Bible, I think that it would be too difficult to pick one book.  However, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker have influenced me greatly.  They showed me early on that it was possible and acceptable for me to write about African American women.  They also take risks and stretch me as a writer.  They give me so much inspiration to work harder.  I also really loved Delores Phillips’ novel, The Darkest Child, and Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow.  I think of these women authors often when I’m writing, and they stretch and inspire me as a writer.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
This is my second novel, and it took me much longer than expected to write it because I had several relocations and a baby in the process.  I really took my time to get the story where I wanted it to be.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I really admire writers who can use outlines.  I’ve attempted and found that it’s better for me to let it flow organically.  Often, when I write, the characters don’t do the things or say the things that I expect them to, and I’m okay with that.  That being said, I do always have a general plot and characters mapped out early on in the process.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
I often listen to jazz, and I think John Coltrane’s Naima fits the mood of the story.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
If I only had that figured out!  Aside from the normal book signing events and book club meetings, I think that using social media has been very important for me.  I have also found that resting in who I am as an author and letting that be my brand instead of forcing something that isn’t has been effective.  People are drawn to authenticity.  I’ve also been blessed to connect with a small group of women authors who have been helping me to develop new strategies to market since so much has changed in the book industry over the years.  Connecting and collaborating is smart.  It’s difficult to try to do it all yourself.

What advice would you give to new authors?
My advice would be to read what you love, and write what you love.  So many people tell me that they want to write, but they aren’t avid readers.  It’s amazing how helpful it can be to read, especially in the genre you’d like to write.

I guess another thing would be to set aside a time to write.  Writing takes a lot of discipline, and it’s a lonely process in some respects.  You have to get to know your characters and develop them so that you can’t wait to spend time with them.  That takes the loneliness out of the process for me.  They are so many things vying for our attention, so I think actually setting aside time often to write is very important. 

How about sharing an excerpt from Every Closed Eye Ain’t 'Sleep?

Backing out wasn’t an option.

For the third straight year, I didn’t say no to my secret crush, Lionel Banks, who naturally possessed a charisma rivaling President Obama’s. With aspirations to run for mayor, Lionel, the coordinator of the festival, treated every woman like the only one on earth.

Crush or not, I planned to run in the opposite direction of Lionel’s cool and easy swagger this year. That soothing baritone had done nothing to offset my third straight financial loss from participating as a vendor at the Harlem Renaissance Festival, even if the vendor fees assisted Huntsville’s inner city cultural arts program.

Enough was enough, I decided while putting the finishing touches on my booth area. This would be the last year. People wanted to buy ribs, grilled corn, and bootleg DVDs and CDs, not the handmade upscale jewelry I sold.

After hanging the final set of earrings up, I was struck by the massive chocolate-covered        body headed directly for my booth. I held my sigh on the inside, and asked, “May I help you with something?”

“I believe you can, sweet sister.” He cocked his head to the side, scanning my curves.

I placed my hand on my hip. “What exactly do you need?”

His squinty eyes hid when he smiled, the twinkle of mischief narrowly escaped. In spite of his dirty sneakers, a definite turnoff, his amber-scented cologne wafted through the air just enough to send a quick tingle down my spine. The muscle man clouded my good sense, and overlooking his shoes became easier as I reflected on my lonely days and nights. In mere minutes, as I had done too many times before, I threw my graduate degree–toting, upper class–reared and etiquette-trained self out the window, relinquishing my power to the inviting smile.

The dark stranger pretended to admire my jewelry and casually picked up a pair of iridescent purple and gold chandelier earrings, my personal favorite. “These are some nice earrings. You make these, girl?”

The jewels sparkled, gleaming in the blazing August sunlight. He dangled them and grinned, obviously feeling my gaze. Nothing irritated me more than a brother who talked like a caveman. As a college English instructor at an HBCU, I loved when men used correct English; yet, I couldn’t deny that the man’s charisma held me in a trance.

“Girl?” I asked, looking behind me as if the mysterious “girl” would appear. “I’m nobody’s girl, but I did make them,” I said with enough attitude to run any sane man off.

He turned away grinning, holding his hands up. “My bad, my bad. Missus?”

I ignored his question and in a much too high pitch remarked, “Those took me the longest to make. Good taste.”

Muscle man scratched his gleaming bald head. “People do always tell me that I got good taste.”

I winced. Subject verb agreement is always a plus in a man but again I reminded myself that education wasn’t everything.

His grin widened as he rhythmically moved his head to the calypso jazz resounding through the park, flashing his too white teeth. I couldn’t help noticing that his top teeth were shades whiter and perfectly straight. The bottom row, the color of dirty snow, peeped through every now and then when he spoke. Had he whitened the top and not the bottom?

He flipped the earrings over to check the price and then gripped his chest as if he were having a heart attack. “Whew! You proud of these, ain’t you, girl?”

I looked away and folded my arms. “If you don’t stop calling me girl, we’re going to have a serious problem. My name is Desiree.”

He stepped back to examine the sign on the front of the table skirt. “Yeah, okay, Desi’s Designs, I get it,” he sang, mimicking my business name to the rhythm of the music. “Desi, nice to meet ’cha. I’m Taye, and I guess I’m gonna risk starvin’ next week ’cause I just have to buy these earrings. See, it’s my li’l sis’s birthday. She just loves this kinda stuff.”

Maybe he wasn’t so bad, I thought, trying to grasp at words that wouldn’t come while slowly wrapping his earrings in tissue paper and a customized box. He couldn’t be half bad if he’d buy his sister a relatively expensive gift. I reasoned that even with his raggedy tennis shoes and poor grammar, he did have good taste. The earrings were the best I had on display. “Forty-four dollars and ninety-five cents,” I said, handing the box to him. I made a point to brush his hand as he took the box.

He pulled out his weathered wallet and gave me two twenties and a five. “Keep the change.”

What’s next for you?
I’m near completion on a story that I’m really excited about.  It’s set in New Orleans and is about a former attorney turned pastor and his attorney wife who lose their small church and several members after the flooding in Hurricane Katrina.  The couple gets a windfall and builds a very successful megachurch.  They agree to be featured on a reality television show and get entangled in much more than they bargained for.  Overall, the story is about what can happen when we allow others to steer us off course of our God-given purpose.

I plan to continue writing stories that I hope provoke conversation and thought and of course, to inspire and connect.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
     Website: www.MaRitaTeague.net
•     Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/MaRita-Teague/e/B002ZH3VPM
•     Twitter: @MaRitaTeague
•     Blog: MaRitaTeague.wordpress.com
•     Book buy Links: http://amzn.com/1622868161

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, April 4, 2016

Say What? Say What? Say What?"

How important is dialogue in a story? I asked myself this question as I’m going through the editing process of my upcoming novel, Gotta Get It Back. Short answer – it’s HUGE!

You see, dialogue is what makes the characters come alive. It increases the pace of the story and makes it more dynamic. Moreover, it gives the characters a voice and allows them to engage each other on paper. It also gives readers a reason to pull up a chair and get to know the characters, what drives them nuts, why they have attitudes and why their emotions and motivations matter. And I love it when my characters can tell me what’s up!

Here’s a snippet of what’s to come:

I sat down on the padded swivel kitchen stool. After sucking in a deep breath, I asked my father, “Have you been drinking?”

“James, Chapter 1, verses two through three gives us encouragement…”

My father could make a sermon out of anything. “Okay, don’t have a Bible in front of me right now, but what do you need encouragement for now?”

“You, my dear daughter. I need words of wisdom from the book of James to encourage me to find strength when we face trials. I have sinned and now the congregation knows the truth.”

“What? How did this happen?”

“Ethel, love her but sometimes that woman can be so naive that she goes around trusting the wrong folks.”

I wondered how long it would take before his wife ran her mouth about me being her husband’s love child. “And who might that be? Don’t tell me Sister Sarah?”

“Ding, ding, ding. You win the prize.”

Why wasn’t I surprised? That woman was in the middle of every church gossip that ever graced the steps of Junction Baptist Church. I heard my father take a gulp from what I hoped was a cup of coffee. Drinking liquor never made anyone think clearly.

“But this trial will make me grow. I’m not a man to hide things and if they want to let me go after serving the community for all these years. Well…let it be what it be.”

I heard the defeat in my father’s voice. “Hold up. This is not the man I know. You grew that congregation. You started an after school tutoring program, a mentoring program for the neighborhood kids, a coat drive. Should I go on? Trust me, you won’t go down without a fight.”
So, Say What? Say What? Say What? Talk to me and tell me what’s up!  Leave me a comment on my Facebook page at
 https://www.facebook.com/thewritepen or email me at dlawmba@gmail.com.