December 29, 2010

5 Things I Learned about Publishing by Author Maryann Reid

5 Things I Learned About Publishing 

Almost 10 years and 7 books later, I learned that nothing is what it seems.  

My books have been published by St. Martins Press, Penguin/Putnam, and my writing has appeared in hi profile magazines like Newsweek, Glamour, and more.  No matter the recession, a good idea still sells.  True, the industry has changed and downsized but authors are getting signed everyday, and why not you.  The self publishing route is always there, but it takes time and money.  Getting published by a major will always be attractive to those who want to write and collect checks.  If you want to publish successfully, well, there are some things you should know.  Here’s what I learned:

1--A Good Idea Sells--Take time to develop your idea.  If you think it’s great and you can’t sleep at night thinking about it, I can find at least one person you thinks it is not.  You want an idea that people “get” right away.  The industry and its editors have very little patience for rambling explanations and long queries.  Make it good.  Make it quick.  Make it happen.

2--Agents Do Call Back--I can’t tell you how many times I hear people make excuses for agents like it’s dating.   “The agent didn’t call back.  He must be really busy.”  “The agent hasn’t emailed me back yet, they must be out of the office for the holidays.”  Believe this: If an agent is interested, they will call and email you back asap.  I’ve seen responses in as little as 3 minutes.  They know you are querying more than one agent.  They want you and you will know it.  When an agent’s really interested, there’s no guess work.

3--Editors Are Not Your Friends--When the deadweight needs to be cut at the publishing house, Editor Suzie has to do her job.  She has to say bye-bye.  No more lunches.  Emails.  Long talks over the phone about the ending of your book.  Just business.  Never take it personal.

4--Trailers, Blogs, Oh My--You need them.  Long gone are the days when the website and a press release is sufficient for promo.  Get creative.  With Flipvideo and Youtube anything can be put on the screen.  Blogs are living words, not static ones like a website.  You will attract new readers, and maybe get someone to pitch you for a change.

5--Be Prolific-- If you have an idea that you’ve exhausted and evaluated many times, think of another one.  Sometimes you have to let certain ideas die, to get new ones.  Pretty hard, but even flowers do it.  That is what all the famous authors--Kings, Rowlings, Clancys, Collins, etc do.  They have a slew of ideas and they go through them one by one.  Get one, start another.  If you become a bestseller, your editor will want to publish them all.  No editor wants someone who is a one-hit wonder.

Maryann Reid is an award winning author and runs the popular  online Write Book Get Paid Bootcamp.  Next online cycle starts in January 2011

December 19, 2010

Book to Screen 1: Some Basic To-Haves & To-Dos

Becoming a Lifelong Learner of the Craft of Writing

By author, editor, educator Shonell Bacon aka ChickLitGurrl™

The Write Life for You is a series of articles on the writing craft. Past articles have focused on building character, developing a solid plot, and editing a screenplay.

In the last article of 2010, I kickstart a new series on turning your book into a screenplay. I know there are many of you out there who have written books that you see across your mind's screen and you know, just know that it would make for a great movie. Well, this 5-part series will offer information and advice for you to roll up your sleeves and transform that book into a screenplay.

Head to APOOO Bookclub to read my latest article in The Write Life for You series, "Book to Screen 1: Some Basic To-Haves & To-Dos"!

December 1, 2010

A Murder & Mayhem Christmas ~ DDIW Style

Have Yourself a Murder & Mayhem Christmas

with Shonell Bacon's Death at the Double Inkwell

You know what makes for a merry Christmas? A little murder and mayhem! If you haven't picked up your copy of the mystery Death at the Double Inkwell, I won't hold it against you--for now. Like RIGHT now. You owe yourself the purchase so that you can meet mystery novelists and twins, Jovan Parham-Anderson and Cheyenne Parham and get pulled into their world of lies, betrayal, and a little murder or two.

She watched him leave then looked down. Spots of blood dotted the otherwise snow-white sheet.

At my official website, there is a page totally dedicated to the novel, and one section of the page focuses on PODCASTS. Head to the [site] now, and you can hear me read excepts from DDIW and you can learn about the journey to creating the novel, getting an agent for the novel, and finally getting to the land of Publishdom.

“I have to play the loving wife tonight,” Jovan reminded herself. “I can hate him later.”

More podcasts will be coming the week or so leading up to Christmas, so you'll want to stay tuned! But for now, head over to the site and check out my podcasts. If you already trust me and the five-star reviews Death at the Double Inkwell have received thus far, then mosey to your nearest online bookstore and GET THE BOOK! You won't be sorry you did so!

November 29, 2010

2011 Feature Topics at All the Blog's a Page

The following are topics to be covered on All the Blog's a Page [website] during 2011. Author features will be bi-monthly, with some features focusing on genres and subject matter and other features focusing on discussion pertaining to writing.

I'm currently finalizing authors for January; however, if you would like consideration in being featured for another month in 2011, please e-mail me!

TOPIC: Defining the "Good Book"

MARCH 2011
TOPIC: Death and Writing

MAY 2011
TOPIC: Ingredients to Making a Great Character

JULY 2011
TOPIC: Domestic Violence

TOPIC: Plotter vs. Pantser

TOPIC: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

November 8, 2010

Finding Space to Write ~ Latest Blood-Red Pencil Post

At The Blood-Red Pencil, I'm back with my latest Writing in 140 blog post; this time, I'm looking at SPACES, specifically the spaces you write in. Come read about where I do my best writing and share with us where you like to make your characters come to life! Here's the [LINK] directly to the post!

The Blood-Red Pencil
Sharp and pointed observations about good writing

November 5, 2010

Two Tips to Spark Your Writing ~ Latest The Write Life for You Article

Becoming a Lifelong Learner of the Craft of Writing

By author, editor, educator Shonell Bacon aka ChickLitGurrl™

The Write Life for You is a series of articles on the writing craft. Since 2008, I have written articles focused on building character, developing a solid plot, and harnessing a writing style--to name a few.

November's article fits really well with the month, considering it's NaNoWriMo. If you're feeling a little stuck and unsure of what to write about, in my latest piece, I share two tips with you to get you going--and one combines a little Chinese food eating with your writing!

Head to APOOOBOOKS.COM to read my latest article in The Write Life for You series!

October 29, 2010

Making Friends with Your Internal Editor ~ Latest Blood-Red Pencil Post

At The Blood-Red Pencil, I'm back with my latest Writing in 140 blog post; this time, I dredge up a character who is often cast as the antagonist in your quest to write: the internal editor. In 140 words (or less), I argue why the IE is actually the writer's friend. Come read my advice and make sure to comment! Here's the [LINK] directly to the post!
The Blood-Red Pencil
Sharp and pointed observations about good writing

October 11, 2010

Using Pictures to Spark Writing ~ Latest Blood-Red Pencil Post

At The Blood-Red Pencil, I'm back with my latest Writing in 140 blog post; this time, I'm talking about using images to help spark story ideas. Come read what I have to say on the subject, then leave a comment, letting us know if you use pictures for your writing endeavors, and if so, HOW you use them! Here's the [LINK] directly to the post!

The Blood-Red Pencil
Sharp and pointed observations about good writing

October 8, 2010

Writing the Short Short Story ~ Latest The Write Life for You Article

Becoming a Lifelong Learner of the Craft of Writing

By author, editor, educator Shonell Bacon aka ChickLitGurrl™

The Write Life for You is a series of articles on the writing craft. Since 2008, I have written articles focused on building character, developing a solid plot, and harnessing a writing style--to name a few.

For October's article, I look at writing the "short" short story. I recently helped a sisterfriend work on a short short story for a contest, and it sparked me to write this article--for others and for myself. Some of us shy away from writing short works because you still have to paint a vivid picture with characters, conflict, setting, etc., but you get a smaller canvas in which to paint that picture. In the article, I offer some advice on how to tackle the preparation of writing the short short story.

Head to APOOOBOOKS.COM to read my latest article in The Write Life for You series!

October 2, 2010

New Coaching Program for New Writers!

Book Coach and Best Selling Author Fon James presents...Get My Book Out of Me!

An online coaching program designed especially for new writers who are procrastinating on getting their books completed. If you're fed up with your writing/procrastination habits, desire a coach to keep you accountable and guide you every step of the way, this is the writing program for you! If you know you're ready to finally get that book out of your head and into the hands of your readers, learn more about this exciting and highly recommended program by visiting the Get My Book Out Of Me website. Be sure to mention us when you register to receive your free 30 minute 1:1 coaching session with Coach Fon (value $175)!

September 29, 2010

Influences - In Touch with Author Jennifer Coissiere

The Writer

Creativity seems to course through the veins of Jennifer Coissiere. Words has always been a part of her world; from she was young creating worlds for the characters she drew on paper to the poetry she wrote to express her unspoken feelings and emotions. Besides being a writer, Jennifer creates handmade beaded gems. She is also a wife, mother, and a student. Once she’s gotten all those things out of her system, like she really ever could, she does the next best thing, grab a book and read. There’s no telling what other things she will pull out of her bag of tricks, you need to write her name down and be open minded for any and everything.

You can learn more about Jennifer on Twitter, Facebook, and at her official website.

The Book

Rachelle Martin's mother died Mother's Day, when Rachelle was only 15. To make matters worse Rachelle was in church singing her mother's favorite song. Now, at age 30, she still has not gotten over the loss of her mother. She feels it is her job to mother and protect twin brother, Raheem. However, when her dad asks her to sing as a Christmas present to him, she is transformed. She becomes the focus of many as she focuses on the here and now. Her loved ones and the ones she is unsure of witness her transformation. She goes from a perceived ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. Her transformation changes the lives of others, making them realize what they want in life. Slowly but surely, they will all begin, Crossing Over.

Can Rachelle change enough to sing, or will her voice be buried forever?

Click the cover above to order your copy of CROSSING OVER today!

Check out the trailer for Crossing Over!

What three books have inspired you as a writer and why?

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe… I remember when my class read "The Tell-tale Heart"; I was intrigued and afraid all at the same time. Then I realized how twisted Poe was. That’s why I loved his writings. I could write in such an obscured manner and people would turn my poetry and stories into whatever they saw in their mind. The main thing was they are enjoying my works as I enjoy Poe’s masterpieces.

How to Win Friends and Influence Other People by Dale Carnegie… someone told me to read this book because they believed I needed an attitude adjustment. I used the information I learned in that book to better develop my characters. Of course I learned how to interact with others better, but I learned how to develop relatable characters. I still have the copy I bought over 13 years ago.

My last answer will sound so cliché, but it’s the truth. The Bible! Where else can a person come across so many different writing styles and genres? There is poetic prose and stanzas, biographies, gospels (some of my favorite gospel songs are based on Bible verses), prayers, letters, parables, etc. A person can truly learn how to tell a story that will live through the ages by reading the Bible. It’s one book I will never get tried of exploring. I always find something new I missed the last time. The Bible is a book with meaning(s). I want the stories that I write to be of importance, not just words on the page.


Crossing Over by Jennifer Coissiere
Chapter Eight

Dawn looked around, making sure everything was in its place, fluffing the pillows on the couch one more time. “They’ll be here any minute,” she announced. “We promised Raheem we’d give Leigh a better chance than we did before, so let’s do our best.” She would try to fake it as much as she could, but the truth of the matter was, she didn’t want to get to know Leigh any better. Having Leigh in her space was overwhelming.

Dawn had watched how Raheem follow her as she went from table to table doing her job that night at DeMali’s. His eyes didn’t leave her presence much while they were eating and fellowshipping with each other. Even though Dawn hadn’t worked that hard to get him to notice her, with Leigh now taking all his time and attention Raheem would never realize the passion she had growing inside her for him. The desire was at times over bearing and she hadn’t a clue why. He’d never shown her any signs of being interested in her other than being a friend to her through association with Rachelle.

The only other time they came close to having anything, Raheem didn’t seem to remember. However, Dawn still recalled the way she felt when she awoke beside Raheem. She would never forget the night they had shared. She only hoped Raheem would one day recall the connection they had.

A set of quick loud knocks on the door signaled they had arrived. Each person put on a welcoming smile.

Kenyon said, “If no one else is going to open it, I will,” walking over to the door.

“Hey, y’all come on in. I hope you’re hungry,” Kenyon said to the couple. Turning back to everyone already in the apartment, he said, “You remember Leigh right?”

Rachelle was the first to acknowledge Leigh. Draping an arm around both Leigh’s and Raheem’s shoulder, she led them into the apartment.

“Leigh, welcome to our little get together. Make yourself at home. I want to apologize for not giving you a fair chance before.” Rachelle, being her typical self, held a welcoming smile that only she could pull off. Whatever she was thinking, no one could tell because she had kept her face neutral from all emotions except for that dutiful smile.

She looked at Raheem; he didn’t say a word. He let Leigh decide for herself what to believe. Maybe she would be able to let her guard down and make new friends.

“No sweat. I understand.”

“Let’s not dwell anymore than needs be on the past. Let’s eat, I’m starved,” Dawn said.

She and Raheem locked eyes for a quick moment, but they broke it almost immediately.

“Something smells wonderful,” said Leigh.

“Kenyon will have to take all the credit for this. Usually when we all get together like this, we all chip in and cook or bake something, but not tonight.”

If his pride would let him, he would have been blushing, but he just waved his hand at Dawn trying to get her to be quiet.

Rachelle whispered in Dawn’s ears, “Stop embarrassing him in front of company.”

“Girl, please this is what he lives for, attention from a woman.”

“So Leigh, do you have any family here in Georgia?” asked Zion.

“I don’t have any family, anywhere.”

Eyes bore into her from all sides; everyone had family somewhere. Raheem came to her rescue.

“She doesn’t know any of her family. She grew up in a group home.”

“Oh ok. Well what do you do for fun?” Rachelle asked.

“I uh, um…go to the clubs and drink,” she said nonchalantly.

The response she got was not surprising. It was pure silence. Raheem placed a reassuring hand on the center of her back. Turning she smiled at him. The tension he felt drained from his body, slowly. There was a possibility they all could be friends.

The acceptance of Leigh into their friendship circle was not the only thing grating on his nerves. He was still trying to figure out how did he gone from hanging out, drinking with Leigh to ending up in bed with Dawn.

The morning she woke up neither said a word. She got dress and left the hotel room. All he knew was they were both naked and nothing else.

“Ok let’s try something different to stay positive and not dampen a potentially wonderful evening. Maybe you should ask us questions instead,” Rachelle suggested.

“Alright, Kenyon the first question is for you. What did you cook?”

Laughter erupted.

“Amarillo arroz con pollo, y épinards à la crème.”

“Are you Spanish?”

Dawn playfully slapped him in the back of his head.

“What’s that for?” he asked as innocent as he could.

“You know we don’t know what that is. And no he isn’t anything close to a Latino.”

“How you know I’m not a little Latino? You know everyone is always claiming to be one-quarter Cherokee Indian. I went a different route. Any way we are having yellow rice and chicken with creamed spinach.”

“Man, you need to let that go. You going to have Leigh thinking we are all crazy, but that’s an honor you can have all alone,” Zion said.

“Leigh, you get to sit at the head of the table across from Zion. Everyone else pick your seat, they’re our guests, so they get to sit at the heads of the table, to be made to feel honored,” said Kenyon.

“Thanks, I could have sat at one of the other seats,” said Leigh. “I don’t mind really.”

“It’s our way. We do it this way. Anytime anyone comes over especially for the first time, we make sure they feel welcomed and special by the time they leave.”

“Consider it a good deed,” said Dawn.

“Before we take our seats, if we can join hands, and bless the food,” Rachelle said. “Dawn since you’re the hostess, if you don’t mind could you do the honor, please?”

Reluctantly, Leigh placed her hands in Dawn’s and Raheem’s. Raheem squeezed her hand, trying to calm the anxiety she was obviously feeling.

“Almighty father, I say thank you for this day, for the chef, and a time to fellowship with old friends and new friends. I ask for you to allow the food we are about to take part of, to do as they should, in nourishing our bodies, our minds and our spirit, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, amen. Now let’s eat.”

“Amen,” said the others, everyone except Leigh.

“How long have you all known each other?” Leigh asked.

“We all met at different times, but for the most part we grew up together,” said Zion.

“So were you all born in Georgia or did you migrate here later on?”

Pointing to his sister and back to himself, Raheem answered, “We were born and grown right here.”

“Yes, I’m a real Southern Belle,” Rachelle said. Everyone else laughed except for Zion. In his eyes she really was a southern bell.

“I’ll go next,” said Dawn. “I’m not from here. I was born in Salisbury, North Carolina. I moved her to live with my aunt Rebecca.”

“Did something happen to your parents?”

“No, heavens no,” she answered startled at the thought. Whenever she prayed, it was always for the safe return of her parents. “My parents are missionaries, and my aunt didn’t think it was wise for me to be growing up in a foreign country. So I ended up here. No we didn’t attend the same school, but we did and still do worship at the same church.”

“Wow, have you gone to visit them? Have they been back?” Leigh asked very curious to know more.

“You know they come back every couple of years, mainly for important occasions. It’s been a while because I didn’t go to college, so I didn’t have another graduation for them to come to. I guess their next big visit it will be when I get married. Now a secret that many don’t know, I am afraid to fly, so no I haven’t gone to see them in the Philippines as yet. ”

“Kenyon, you can go before me,” said Zion.

“Alright, I grew up with the twins. Our parents are related.”

Shock appeared on Dawn’s face. She’d known them for many years and they never disclosed that bit of information.

Kenyon continued. “It’s always been so simple to tell people we’re best friends because even though we’re really cousins, I’ve felt more like their brother. I was born here as well.”

Finally coming out of her shock, Dawn asked the question bubbling within her, “Did you guys forget to tell me this little bit of information? If Mr. Dwight is your uncle, why do you call him Mr. D instead of Uncle D?”

“I don’t know. What does it matter, I’m still respectful when I speak to him. By now you should be calling him Uncle D you’ve been around long enough.”

“We’ll talk about it later, OK,” Rachelle reassured.

“Last but not least, Zion, spill it. Can you top these guys?” asked Raheem.

“I’m a preacher’s son. We didn’t move around a lot as far as our home goes, but it took sometime before my father finally found the location where we’re at now. It had to be right, or else he would not settle for it. I’m from Georgia as well, but a city two hours from here.”

“Well you are an eclectic bunch. I have one other silly question, and it’s for you, Dawn.” Everyone turned to look at Leigh while she in turn focused her attention on Dawn.

“Well go ahead. I have nothing to hide. What do you want to know?”

“Your um, thing that’s on your head is beautiful. I remember at the restaurant seeing you with one on and admiring it at that time as well. Any way my question for you is do you always have your hair covered and what are you hiding underneath it?”

Dawn had been wearing those loc caps for so long, everyone was interested in her answer. She had their undivided attention. She on the other hand was contemplating how she wanted to answer the question. It was moments before she said she had nothing to hide, but Leigh proved her wrong. There she was eating her words, and truly not understanding why. What was there for her to hide; they’d either love it or hate it, but they would have to accept it.

She was hiding the person she’d become from them and it was time to let them in on the rest of her that they were unaware of. Rather than answering with words, Dawn slowly pulled off her loc cap, revealing what she’s been hiding for some time. When the cap came off, completely, hanging from her head was the most beautiful, well-groomed locs touching her shoulders.

“Dawn, you look gorgeous. Why have you hidden this from us all this time?” asked Rachelle.

September 22, 2010

Influences - In Touch with Author Dan McNeil

The Writer

Dan McNeil was born in Toronto, Ontario but grew up in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. He was a television news editor for the past twenty-four years but discovered a passion for writing four years ago. His first book, “The Judas Apocalypse” was published in 2008, and he just finished his second, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” a light hearted romp about a heist during the Beatle’s first visit to the United States in 1964.

You can learn more about Dan on Twitter and at his official website.

The Book

It’s the eve of the Second World War and Dr. Gerhard Denninger, an archaeologist working in Germany’s Heritage Bureau is approached by famed Grail hunter Otto Rahn. He weaves a fantastic story of the Knights Templar, church scandal, and assures Denninger that he holds the key to the location of the famous lost treasure of the Cathars. With his appetite whetted and a mysterious Templar scroll in hand, Denninger begins a quest that ultimately leads him into the middle of a war zone. When he is captured by a rag tag group of American soldiers and his goal in sight, he grudgingly lets them in on the hunt. With dangers dogging them at every step, will they find what they're seeking? And will they be prepared for the shocking discovery that awaits them?

Click the cover above to order your copy of THE JUDAS APOCALYPSE today!

What three books have inspired you as a writer and why?

Books are a particular passion for me and over the years, I’ve read hundreds of them. Here are three that definitely pushed me towards writing my own.

I must preface this selection with a little background info. I love old movies. Now, I know nowadays, old usually mean the 80’s, but I’m talking the classics – Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy – I just love that stuff. When I was a kid I went to a Bogart retrospective at the Britannia 6 (it’s gone now) and I got to see, for the first time ever, “Casablanca,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Petrified Forest” and “Angels with Dirty Faces” on the big screen (yeah, I know Angels was a Cagney flick but Bogie was a co-star). Anyway, I was immediately infatuated with the classics and watched ‘em whenever they were on TV.

When I was in high school, a friend of mine, who knew about my old movie fixation, lent me a copy of David Niven’s “The Moon’s a Balloon” about Niven’s life and his career in Hollywood. I knew who David Niven was, having seen a number of his films, but had no idea that he was a writer, too. I remember starting it that night and finishing it about two days later.

I think it was the first time a book ever made me laugh out loud. I’ve read a lot of books that made me smile but none that made me guffaw (I swear to God, at times I actually guffawed). It was written in a wonderfully breezy and conversational style that I found very refreshing. It was as if you were at an old time Hollywood party and he was regaling you with his terrifically funny anecdotes. It was personal and endearing and the way the words just fell off the page in such a simple and straightforward way, it made me think, for the first time, that writing might be something I might be interested in doing myself. I had never, ever thought about being a writer before, but this book really made me believe that if I ever decided to put pen to paper, I would like it to be as enjoyable as this one was.

It is still one of my all time favourites.

Because I was so horrendous at maths and sciences in high school, I wound up taking a number of English courses instead. I took one called English Novel and Drama. It mainly focused on older literature, but you were encouraged to read as much as you could. Two books in particular stood out – “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” by Mordecai Richler and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Richler’s book was amazing, and the film adaptation with Richard Dreyfuss is phenomenal, but “The Catcher in the Rye” remains to this day my favourite book. I must have read it about 20 or 30 times, no bull****. I’m always stunned when I find someone who hasn’t read it and invariably wind up lending him or her my copy which I also invariably never get back (I’m on my 12th or 13th copy now).

I knew that the book was controversial in its day and some schools had even banned it at one time. I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Keeping in mind that when I read this, it was the 1970’s and Holden Caulfield’s world appeared much tamer then, but I was still blown away by the narrative. Like just about every reader of the story, I could identify with Holden Caulfield. What a kick-ass opening line - “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Well, I couldn’t put it down. When I finished it, the thought of writing a book occurred to me again. I knew that I couldn’t come close to the brilliance of Salinger, but I understood the writing and the style and if I could write something a tenth as good as this, I would be proud.

Oh yeah, the last line – “Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” is, in my opinion, the greatest last line ever written. I think I want it on my gravestone…

A few years back, friend of mine turned me on to author Jeffery Deaver. She told me to pick up “The Bone Collector,” which I bought and read over that weekend. Holy crap, what a page turner! The idea of a flawed hero (Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic) and a killer leaving historic clues to his crimes really appealed to me. This sure wasn’t your average thriller and resonated with me for a long time.

What really got me with this book though, was how Deaver made every chapter a cliff hanger. To me, that was the key to making a really enjoyable book – hook ‘em at the end of every chapter. I thought, “Okay, let’s give this a shot.” I had finally found the resolve to try writing something myself. I already had the idea for the book I wanted to write, but all I needed was a kick in the pants to do it. Thanks to these books and books like them, (as well as a special on the Shroud of Turin that planted the seed of the idea in my head years ago), I began to write my first book, “The Judas Apocalypse,” which was published in 2008. I’m now putting the finishing touches on my second novel, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” about a heist during the Beatles’ historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964.

Thanks for the inspiration.


Read an excerpt of The Judas Apocalypse below through BookBuzzr!

September 15, 2010

Influences - In Touch with Author Karen Templeton

The Writer

RITA-award winning author Karen Templeton (for A MOTHER'S WISH, Contemporary Series Romance, 2009) has been writing family-and-humor rich romances and women's fiction for Harlequin/Silhouette books since 1998. To date she has more than thirty titles in print and is currently at work on her next book in her popular Wed in the West series for Silhouette Special Edition.

You can learn more about Karen at her official website.

The Book

After a lifetime of watching her mother flit from one failed relationship to another, at twenty-five apprentice midwife Jewel Jasper isn’t even remotely ready to settle down. And even if she were, heaven knows straitlaced, single dad Silas Garrett isn’t. Not to mention he’s totally not her type. Except when he needs a part-time nanny for his two energetic little boys, and she desperately needs the cash, she soon discovers there’s a lot more to the sweet, geeky accountant than meets the eye…which is not good. Not good at all.

Even though Silas has resisted romance since his marriage’s crash-and-burn two years before, Jewel’s ingenuousness and generosity burrows right into his sad, dried-up little soul. But something about her doesn’t add up – the air-headed image she presents to the world simply doesn’t jibe with the unflappable young woman who can take whatever his little scamps can dish out, who clearly loves her own mother who never grew up herself. But what can Silas possibly do to convince Jewel that while he’ll do everything to break the cycle of false hope and abandonment that’s left her afraid to trust love, he would never break her heart?

Click the cover above to order your copy of ADDING UP TO MARRIAGE today!

What three writers have inspired you as a writer and why?

From the beginning of my foray into this crazy business some fifteen years ago, I have never been interested in writing solely for myself. Those writers who declare that even if no one read their stuff, they'd still have to write their stories or they'd go crazy? I'm not one of them. I write to be read, to -- hopefully -- make readers happy the same way other authors have been making me happy since I was a wee little thing. So, when I decided to do this writing thing For Reals, I asked myself two things: What sorts of stories did I most love to read (which would translate into stories I'd probably be happiest telling) and where would I be most likely to find readers for those stories?

Didn't take long for me to focus on category romance -- Harlequin/Silhouette -- as the answer to both those questions. The conciseness of those "little" books especially appealed to me because, with five kids around at the time, I didn't even have time to read 500 page tomes, let alone write them. I'd also heard one didn't need an agent to submit to Harlequin (which is still true) and, with so many books published each month, they're always open to new writers. (A side note: That does not mean it's "easy" to break in there -- they still only buy 1 out of every 1,000 submissions. Which thankfully I didn't know at the time.). But the important thing was -- the fit felt right: I had stories to tell, they had potential readers for those stories. Win-win.

Except...the more I read, the more dejected I became. Yes, I still felt I could write stories that worked, but I was having a hard time finding writers whose voices resonated with me, whose books made me feel as though category could truly be my writing home.

Then I picked up an old copy of THE ICE CREAM MAN by Kathleen Korbel (Eileen Dreyer) and nearly wept with relief. And joy. Here was someone who wrote characters who acted and sounded like real people, about harried single moms who suddenly find themselves staring love in the face, whose sense of humor was based not on silly situations but on the simple fact that, often, life is funny. I immediately sought out most of her backlist -- JAKE'S WAY, A ROSE FOR MAGGIE, A SOLDIER'S HEART (all for the old Silhouette Intimate Moments line, before it was all guns and suspense, all the time), a whole bunch of her wonderful Desires. Encouraged, I started writing in earnest, writing what I knew while keeping the parameters of category romance firmly in mind. And shortly thereafter I made my first sale to Silhouette Yours Truly. And when I was switched to Intimate Moments not long after, I cannot tell you how both proud and humbled I felt to be writing for the same line as the gal who, unbeknownest to her, inspired me to bring my own voice to category romance.

In the years since I've discovered several other authors whose voices speak to me and have undoubtedly colored my work to some degree, but none more than Jennifer Crusie and Curtiss Ann Matlock. Granted, their styles couldn't be more different -- Jen is all about the acerbic and the crazy, while Curtiss Ann's quiet, subtle storytelling goes down like a cold glass of sweet tea in a heat wave. Both, however, lovingly, humorously and brilliantly chronicle women's lives and issues, and anyone looking can probably find traces of these seemingly disparate influences in my work. Jen's is probably more about craft -- reading her work has taught me there's always a better/funnier/more original way to write even the most mundane passage -- while Curtiss Ann's is about the power of honesty and simplicity.

Fifteen years into this career, I still search out authors whose work meets those four criteria: Craft, truth, humor, voice. But those three will always be my personal standard bearers, whose work has probably most shaped my own.


From Chapter One of Adding Up to Marriage

Seated behind the computer in the woodworking shop’s cramped, cluttered office, Silas Garrett caught the blur of color zip past the open door. Then back. Then finally light in the doorway.

“Oh! Hi!” a breathless, bubbly Jewel Jasper called over the whine of saws ripping lumber, a booming “…manana en Santa Fe y Taos…” from the Spanish talk radio station. “Noah around?”

Silas couldn’t help it, every time he saw her the image of a cute little bunny popped into his head. And not, alas, the sort clad in skimpy satin, bow ties and high heels.

Even more unfortunately, if Jewel – with her shiny brown ponytail and her big, blue-gray eyes behind her delicate oval glasses and her skimpy, ruffly sweater buttoned over her even skimpier breasts – was a bunny, his brother Noah was definitely the Big Bad Wolf. Fine, so Silas was mixing his fairy tales, but he doubted it was much of a stretch to suppose the Big Bad Wolf occasionally dined on bunny.

Especially if the bunny kept hopping across the wolf’s path.

This had to make the third or fourth time in as many weeks the midwife-in-training, temporarily living in the house another Garrett brother had vacated after his marriage, had popped in – or hopped in, in this case – on the pretext of “needing” Noah to fix something or other in the quasi-adobe.

“Sorry.” Jabbing his own glasses back into place, Silas returned his gaze to the bookkeeping program on the screen. Numbers, he got. Women, not so much. Especially women who fell for his brother’s chicanery. “Not here. Won’t be until later.” He entered a figure, then forced himself to be polite, despite all that ingenuousness taking a toll on his good humor. “Care to leave a message?”

“It’s the roof again,” Jewel said, inviting herself in and plunking her baggy-pantsed bottom on the cracked plastic chair across from Silas. Why, God only knew. “Over the living room, this time. I’m really sorry to be such a pain – especially since I’m not even paying rent! – but I can’t exactly get up there and fix it myself.”

She giggled. Silas’s least favorite sound in the world. From anyone over ten, at least. Then her pale little forehead bunched.

“If Eli’s fixing to sell it, I don’t imagine he wants to keep repairing water damage. Oh – and I tried to make a fire the other night and ohmigosh, there was smoke everywhere!”

Her hands fluttered. Visual aids. “So I’m guessing the chimney’s blocked—oh! Noah!” She bounced up when his younger, bigger, buffer brother appeared. Damn. “Silas said you wouldn’t be back until later!”

Slapping his denim jacket on a rack by the door, Noah barely spared Jewel a glance before tossing a crumpled stack of receipts on the desk. “From the Manning project,” he said, swiping his muscled forearm across his sweaty forehead. “Figured I’d better get ‘em to you before I lost track—”

“Noah?” Jewel tapped his shoulder. “Sorry to bug you, but the roof needs attention. Again. And the chimney’s clogged, too.”

Noah shot Silas the same “why me?” look he did every time Jewel made an appearance. Since even wolves, apparently, could be picky. And Jewel was not, apparently, on Noah’s menu. Although for how long, Silas surmised, was anybody’s guess. Since not having a hankering for myopic bunnies this week didn’t mean he wouldn’t at some point.

However, it still being this week, Noah cut his eyes to Jewel, nodded, mumbled, “I’ll send someone over,” and walked away.

Jewel collapsed in a deflated heap on the chair again, clutching the seat edges on either side of non-existent hips. “Honestly. You’d think I had cooties or something.”

Wondering Why are you still here? Silas muttered, “Did it ever occur to you he’s not interested?”

She straightened, her rosy little mouth pursed. “There is that, I suppose. But…” Standing, she yanked down the hem of the short sweater. Despite at least two other layers – a T-shirt and a tank top, neither of which matched the sweater or each other – it was quite evident, in the early fall chill permeating the small room, she wasn’t wearing a bra.

“I thought Noah was more equal opportunity than that. And did you know you’re staring at my boobs?”

Silas jerked his gaze back to the screen. “Sorry.”

“No, actually it’s kinda flattering, since most men don’t take notice.”

Oh, for cripes’ sake…

Giving up, Silas leaned back in his father’s chair, his hands laced over his stomach. In a small town like Tierra Rosa, you knew everybody, by reputation at least if not personally. So between what he’d heard and what he’d seen, he’d concluded Jewel was the strangest mixture of naïve and world-weary he’d ever met. And God knows he’d met his fair share of women. Even if not solely by choice, his mother having sworn to end his single-father days if it killed her. In fact, how Jewel had thus far slipped Donna Garrett’s radar was a mystery.

Especially as Silas had no doubt his mother would think Jewel was perfect for him. Being female and breathing and all.

“I don’t get it – why are you so determined to hook up with my brother?”

“And what earthly difference does it make to you? Or do you discuss Noah with all his girlfriends?”

Whoa. Bunny had a bite. Who knew?

“First, to call them ‘girlfriends’ might be pushing it,” Silas said, having no idea how to answer the first part of her question. “Second…no. Hell, half the time I have no idea who he’s…seeing.”

Arms folded over the nipples. “They why single me out?”

He didn’t figure she’d appreciate the bunny analogy. “Because I seriously doubt you know what you’re getting into. Noah isn’t, uh, exactly looking for forever.”

Her gaze sharpened. “First,” she said, mimicking him, “you’re a lot safer staring at my breasts than patronizing me. Second, I’m well aware of your brother’s reputation—”

“But you just know you’re the one who can make him change, right?”

“Change?” She burst out laughing. “Boy, have you got the wrong end of the stick. I’m no more interested in settling down right now than I am in growing horns. Which is why Noah would be perfect. All I’m looking for is…a little fun. Somebody who isn’t interested in ‘serious’ any more than I am.” Now her eyes narrowed. “So if you could, you know, kinda drop that hint…?”

After several seconds’ of Silas’s silent glare, she shrugged, then stood, sighing out, “It was worth a shot,” before hiking to the door…only to swivel back in her black-and-white checked rubber-soled flats. With red daisies over the toes. “But you really need to lighten up, Silas. You are way too tense.”

Then she was gone, leaving Silas staring blankly at the computer screen, his shoulders knotted.

“She gone?” he heard a minute later.

“Not nearly far enough, I don’t imagine.”

Palming his short brown hair, Noah exhaled. Loudly. “She’s a sweet kid and all, but…not my type.”


“Dude. She’s like, twelve.”

“Actually, she’s somewhere in her mid-twenties. Well past legal but nowhere near desperate. Your perfect woman, in other words.”

He said, through inexplicably gritted teeth.

Noah seemed to consider this for a moment, then shook his head, and Silas’s teeth unclenched. “Nah. Cute hasn’t been my thing for a couple of years now.”

“Then perhaps you should tell her that. Although maybe not in those exact words.”

“I have. Several times. All she does is get this goofy – and yet, eerily knowing – look on her face.” He paused. “Not that she doesn’t have a certain weird appeal—”

“Hence the eerily knowing look.”

Another moment of consideration, another head shake. “Nope, not caving. Not this time. Shoot, it would be like taking candy from a baby. Besides…” His younger brother grinned.

“I met this gal in Espanola last weekend—”

“Don’t want to know,” Silas said as the phone rang. Chuckling, Noah waved and was gone before Silas answered. “Garrett Woodworks—”

“The boys are fine,” his mother said, well aware of Silas’s tendency to freak whenever she called while watching his two young sons. “Me, however…” She sighed. “I was bringing in some firewood and somebody left a toy truck on the porch step, and I tripped over it and fell – would’ve made a great America’s Funniest Home Video – and now my ankle’s all big and purple. Ollie says it looks like Barney—”

Phone still in hand, he hit three wrong keys before finally logging out of the program, then rocketed from the chair. “On my way—”

“Why don’t you see if Jewel’s around, let her have a look at it?”

So much for the not-on-his-mother’s radar theory. “She delivers babies, Mom. I’m guessing you’re done with all that.”

“She’s also a nurse, smarty pants.”

True. Unfortunately. “Fine. If she’s home, I’ll bring her.”

“Good. Oh, and…” Donna lowered her voice. “You might want to hurry before the boys realize they could set the house on fire and there wouldn’t be a darn thing I could do about it.”

* * *

Plugged into her MP3 player, Jewel flinched when she opened her door to find Silas punching his arms into his corduroy jacket sleeves and looking extremely annoyed. But then – as he indicated she needed to ditch the earbuds – when was he ever not?

“My mother messed up her ankle. She asked if you wouldn’t mind coming over.”

Yep, caught that emphasis, all righty. Then his words sank in. “Ohmigosh—” she shoved her bare feet back into her shoes, yanked her sweatercoat off the hook by the door and pushed past him and down the stairs “—does she think it’s broken?”

“No idea.” She heard the door shut, Silas catch up with her. “But she said it was real swollen. And purple.”

“Might only be a sprain,” Jewel said, tucking her chin into her chest against the suddenly frigid breeze – September in northern New Mexico tended to be fickle – as she

hotfooted it down the flagstone walk. At the end, she made a sharp left, only to practically get whiplash when Silas grabbed her elbow and lugged her toward his Explorer, parked in front of the house.

“Quicker this way,” he said, hauling open her door, then zipping around the hood, the wind wreaking havoc on his normally neat, dark brown hair and probably irritating the very life out of him. Oh, yeah, Jewel had him pegged, all right – a man who prefers his universe precise and orderly, thank you very much, and woe betide anybody or anything who disturbed it. Or him.

Silas climbed in, rammed his key into the ignition. Glanced over, all Heathcliffian glower. “Seat belt.”

“For heaven’s sake, it’s two blocks—”

“Seat. Belt. Now.”

Sighing, Jewel secured the lap belt, only to release it less than thirty seconds later. Without, it should be noted, passing a single other vehicle. But considering the don’t-mess slant to Silas' mouth, she opted to let it go.

The moment they were out of the car, the Garretts’ white front door swung open to expel a pair of wide-eyed, agitated little boys. The younger one, a curly blond cherub of maybe four or so, made a beeline for his father and grabbed his hand.

“Gramma fell and hurt her foot!” he said, tugging him inside. “It’s huge! I gave her the phone so she could call you!”

“Did not!” the older boy said, his straight, wheat-colored bangs blowing every-which-way in the breeze as he smacked his younger brother’s shoulder.

“Did too—”

“Boys. Not now,” Silas said with the sort of quiet authority that makes a person go, Whoa. The little one now clinging to him like a koala, he shut the door and crossed to his mother, seated on the old blue sofa with her foot propped up, her graying red hair a distressed tangle around her very pale face. Jewel took one look and shook her head.

“Silas, go put a whole bunch of ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel, bring it here. But no sense in me even examining it. The ice might take down the swelling some, but if that’s not a candidate for the X-ray machine, I don’t know what is.”

Donna simultaneously winced and sighed. “I don’t suppose it helps that I heard a cracking sound when I went down.”

“Not a good sign, no. Still…” Jewel carefully sat by the offending foot, nodding her thanks to Silas when he returned with the ice pack. “It might not be that bad,” she said,

carefully cushioning Donna’s ankle in the ice pack before looking up at Silas. “But you should probably get her to the ER.”

“Yes, of course, absolutely. Okay, boys, go get in the car—”

“For goodness’ sake, Si,” Donna said. “They can’t go with us! Who knows how long it’ll take? Besides, an ER waiting room’s no place for children.”

“Like they’re both not on first name basis with the staff already.” Donna gave him a look. “Fine. But who’s gonna watch ‘em? Noah’s clear across town at the Mannings, Eli and Dad are in Santa Fe. We could drop them off at Jess’s, but that’s a good half hour out of our way—”

“Um, hello?” Jewel raised her hand. “I’d be happy to keep an eye on them.” She aimed a smile in the boys’ direction, only to be met with a pair of dubious frowns.

“See?” Donna said, her face contorting as she shifted her ample form to put her good foot on the floor. “The Good Lord provides,”

Silas’s gaze shot to Jewel’s. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea—”

“Nonsense. Oliver?” This in a strained voice to the straight-haired one. “Get my poncho from the closet, honey. And Tad, grab my purse off the table by the door. That’s right, sugars – bring ‘em to me—”

“I don’t want to stay with her!” The little one inched closer to Silas, his worried eyes nearly the same muddy green as his father’s. “What if she’s mean?”

Jewel gasped. “I’m not—”

“For heaven’s sake, boys,” Donna said as Oliver dumped the well-worn, Peruvian patterned poncho on the couch beside her, “Jewel helps deliver babies! She obviously loves children! Don’t you, honey?”

“You bet! And really, Silas, it’s no problem. I don’t have any appointments today or anything.” Although despite the generous amount of cheer she’d injected into the words – what with her lack of pressing obligation being momentarily convenient – overall this was not a good thing. As in, she had far too much free time on her hands and not nearly enough cash in them—

“So it’s settled,” Donna said. “You all can stay right here. Si, give me a hand—”

“But we can’t stay here!” Oliver put in, his dark brown eyes all watery. “It’s almost time to feed Doughboy!”

Oh, for pity’s sake…

Crouching in front of the child, Jewel smiled. “Tell you what – if it’s okay with your daddy, we can go to your house, and you can feed Doughboy—” who or whatever that was “—and if it gets late you can go right to sleep in your own beds. But before that,” she then said to Tad, tapping him on his nose, “we’re gonna have so much fun your daddy’s gonna be sorry he wasn’t with us!”

The boys shared a glance…then a shrug. Jewel couldn’t decide if that was good or not. Then her mouth fell open as Silas scooped his mother – who was by no means a frail little thing – into his arms, before, with no outward evidence of strain, carting her across the room and out the still open front door.

“My daddy’s strong, huh?” little curly-head said, grinning at Jewel with one of those sweet, baby-toothed grins designed to make a woman want to rush right out and fill her womb.

Especially when said womb had just been nicely primed by the sight of a good-looking man acting all manly and such. Silently cursing biological imperatives and what-not, Jewel took her little charges by the hand, deciding it was best all around if she not answer that question.

Copyright 2010, Karen Templeton-Berger. All rights reserved.

September 12, 2010

Five Things You Need To Get Published

Doesn’t it seem like these days everyone has a book? If they don’t have one, they are working on it. Unfortunately, only a small percentage will ever see that book in print or have it pay their bills. Too many people are just writing, and not strategizing. There’s this ugly little secret that mixing business and art is a bad thing. If you are a writer, you need money and business sense to make it a career. As much as you want to see your book in print, if readers can’t find it or don’t know about it, it can’t do anything for you. Being an author is more than just writing a good story, but connecting to others, and if you’re lucky have them think you’re a pretty cool, too. All of that takes more than pretty words.

There are 5 things that can set you apart from any writer, make you stand out in an agent’s in-box, and make your publisher partner with you to sell, sell, sell.

Platform--Fiction and nonfiction authors all need an issue or a cause that they write about and address. Are all your novels about single women with children? Or all your books about living debt free? A platform is built on real-life issues that are addressed in the media or a personal cause you have. A platform is the springboard for your brand.

A Gift Of Gab--You have to know how to talk and spin. You have to be ready for the media and give great sound bites. When asked about your book, discuss it like it’s the second coming. Readers don’t want to read “humble” they want to read “hot”. Don’t discuss your book in terms of what it’s about, but discuss it in terms of what it does. A book about single mothers is about single mothers, but what it does is inspire, make readers laugh and cry, and encourages a dialogue about the real issues those women face. Now, isn’t that more interesting!? Plan for greatness.

Twist--Every book needs a twist. That “thing” that makes your Jackie Collins-like story stand out from Jackie Collins. It’s the age-old mystery novel with a catch, the coming of age story with a bite. The better the “the twist” the better the story.

Agent--You need one. Even a self published author should have one in their back pocket in case they get a call from a major one day and for solid advice. Agents not only sell books, they find you ghost writing projects, movie and TV interest, publicity opportunities and more.

Fans--A social media network is your best friend. You need to connect to causes that reflect your platform, start a blog, get a mailing list, and start building your fan base--yesterday.

The path to getting published should begin before the book is even finished. Think big. Gather your resources, and start mapping out a plan about how you’re going to be the next best seller. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you.

To find out more join the Write Book Get Paid Bootcamp by author Maryann Reid (St. Martin's Press) that starts on September 16th. Mention “Shon Bacon” for 15% off. Visit

September 8, 2010

Influences - In Touch with Jill of All Trades, Author Ananda Leeke

The Writer

Yoga + Creativity + Internet Geek = Ananda Leeke. Leeke is a lawyer turned “Jill of many trades”: innerpreneur, author, artist, coach, and yoga teacher. Her mission is “Empowering U2BU through creativity coaching, Reiki, self-care, social media, volunteerism, and yoga.”

She penned That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery and her debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One. She is currently writing Sisterhood the Blog: Soundbytes from the 21st Century Women’s Online Revolution (2011) and Love’s Troubadours – Symon: Book Two (2011).

Leeke works as an artist-in-residence for Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts, the DC Social Media Examiner for, social media for creative professionals, and online yoga teacher and host for MomTV. In 2009, she spoke about the way authors use social media to build their audience and market their books at the Capital BookFest. She moderated the "Women in Social Media: Creating Your Digital Footprint" panel at the Blogalicious DC Meet Up and taught yoga for social media users during DC Digital Capital Week and Blogging While Brown; and gave a talk on "Who's living inside of me?" at Ignite DC #4 in 2010.

You can learn more about Ananda at her blog site and her official website.

The Books

In the poetic memoir That Which Awakens Me, Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke shares her journey of self-discovery from a law school graduate to a creative woman who learned to open the door to authentic living.

When Leeke graduated from law school in 1989, she was a twenty-something with a life plan focused on becoming a successful attorney. Using her multiple bar exam failures and two bouts of unemployment as a catalyst for self-discovery and lifestyle reinvention, Leeke followed her own unique path during the past twenty years and made changes in the way she feels, thinks, lives, works, and manages her finances. Through poetic reflection and personal stories, she shares the lessons that taught her to trust her intuition, expand her spiritual practices, heal emotional wounds, tap into her creativity, discover her passions, open her eyes to hidden opportunities, volunteer and serve her local community, travel the world, and heed her calling as a writer, artist, creativity coach, yoga teacher, Reiki Master practitioner, radio host, blogger, social media strategist, and innerpreneur.

That Which Awakens Me provides insight for anyone seeking guidance on how to both handle and benefit from the ups and downs of their own life journey.

Watch Ananda discuss the power of writing her memoir!

Click the cover above to order your copy of THAT WHICH AWAKENS ME: A CREATIVE WOMAN'S POETIC MEMOIR OF SELF-DISCOVERY today!

Karma Francois is a thirtysomething, California-born BoHo BAP (Bohemian Black American Princess) with Louisiana roots and urban debutante flair. But her life has suddenly taken a drastic turn. Her relationships and the museum curator career that she struggled to form in New York City have crumbled, leaving no viable options to rebuild.

Relocating to Washington, DC, Karma struggles with denial, depression, and debt. A lack of full-time employment opportunities forces her to craft a gypsy existence as a Jill of Many Trades: yoga teacher, art consultant, and freelance curator. Unable and unwilling to appreciate these jobs as gifts, she wallows in a pool of lost identity—and doesn’t see a way to keep from drowning. When she looks in the mirror, Karma sees a woman whose choices have dishonored her true character. Now, for the first time in her life, Karma must learn to see herself for who she really is. Love’s Troubadours reveals how our everyday decisions affect our future and explores the healing power of love.

Watch Ananda on the news, talking about Love's Troubadours!

Click the cover above to order your copy of LOVE'S TROUBADOURS - KARMA: BOOK ONE today!

What three books have inspired you as a writer and why?

Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf and Nappy Edges, and Maya Angelou’s Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie were the first books I purchased as a teen poet in 1978. I used my hard-earned paper route money from delivering the Washington Post to buy these inspiring books. Shange's and Angelou's words helped me explain myself to myself as one of the few Black girls at St. Elizabeth Seton High School, a predominately white, all-girls Catholic school in Prince George’s County, Maryland. They also inspired me to tell my stories through writing my own poetry and sparked my interest in reading other Black women writers that I learned about while reading Essence.

I think I always knew that there had to be some feminine aspects of God. Reading the words of the Lady in Red in Shange’s for colored girls gave me permission to really believe that God was made up of both feminine and masculine energy. I still come back to the Lady in Red’s words: “I found god in myself and I loved her/I loved her fiercely.” Shange’s poetry in Nappy Edges used both English and Spanish words. Her work taught me how language and location connect Black folks to Brown Spanish-speaking folks. She also reiterated what I learned the first time I traveled to Puerto Rico with my family in 1978: There are Brown Spanish-speaking people who look just like me. We all come from the same place – Africa.

As a writer, poet, and artist, I believe I am called to be a vessel of authentic expression that comes straight from my soul and heart. I think Ntozake Shange and Maya Angelou tell stories and write poetry in an authentic voice that reflects the inner workings of their souls and multi-layered emotions that can be seen as threads woven into the center of their hearts. Their work gave me a creative blueprint on how to develop a connection with the reader. They also gave me the recipe for making that happen: complete surrender to the creative process.


From Chapter One of Love's Troubadours
Copyright 2007 by Madelyn C. Leeke. All rights reserved.

Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. An ocean of tears followed. The clock registered three thirty-six a.m. My psyche was attacked by the same nightmare that has repeated itself for the past several months: my life in living color. This time I was left with a question. Who am I? After the tear storm stopped, I tried to hide under my covers to avoid answering it, but it repeated itself until I turned on the light and reached for the handmade journal that my therapist Francis convinced me to purchase.

I wrote the question in big black letters across the pages of my journal:

Who am I?

My birth certificate says that I’m Belle Violette Francois, the daughter of Eugene Jerome Francois and Hyacinth Belle Baptiste Francois. I was born a few minutes after my twin sister, Violet Belle Francois on December 15, 1967. My family and friends say I’m Karma, a nickname my father gave me as a child. When I look in the mirror, I see that I’m a woman with long reddish-brown locs who sees the world through cocoa eyes. My skin is the color of burnt sugar. The French call it caramel, a contrasting force of salt and sugar. But who am I really? If I knew I guess I wouldn’t feel like a victim of identity theft. Not the typical kind where someone takes your identity for financial gain. I’m talking about a new and improved kind where life robs you of your hard-earned professional identity and leaves you with nothing more than a pile of ashes and never ending suffering.

Do I sound bitter? You bet your sweet ass I am. My life was supposed to be a certain way. I did everything I was supposed to do. And just when I was about to cash in on all of my hard work, I lost everything. I feel like an IDP, an internally displaced person who has been forced to leave her cosmopolitan life in New York City as a result of a human-made disaster called termination of employment. I’ve been deprived of my livelihood, network of friends, and access to personal services such as my yoga classes at Ta Yoga House; shiatsu massages at Artista Salon; manicures and pedicures at Perfect Polish; appointments with my loctician at Khamit Kinks; chocolate martinis on Fridays at Soul Cafe; Salsa dancing at S.O.B’s; and shopping sprees at Carol’s Daughter, Ann Taylor Loft, Eileen Fisher, and Moshood.I miss my life. I miss it dearly like a child longs for her mother or a lover mourns the loss of a lover. I do indeed miss my life. I miss who I used to be.

August 9, 2010

Advice for Writers from Writers

Check out my latest Writing in 140 blog post at the Blood-Red Pencil today where I give writers advice...from other writers I've interviewed over the years. Share YOUR OWN words of wisdom with the readers, too!

The Blood-Red Pencil

Sharp and pointed observations about good writing

July 19, 2010

It's a Mystery ... Author L.J. Sellers

The Writer

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series based in Eugene, OR. The first two books, THE SEX CLUB and SECRETS TO DIE FOR, have been highly praised, and the third book, THRILLED TO DEATH, will be released in August. Her next two novels, PASSIONS OF THE DEAD and THE BABY THIEF, will be published in 2011. When not plotting murders, L.J. enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, attending mystery conferences, and editing fiction manuscripts. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

[Website] [Blog] [Facebook] [Twitter]

The Book

Monday morning, a young mother disappears after a doctor’s appointment. Monday evening, a young socialite leaves a risqué lounge and never makes it home. Detective Jackson lands both cases, but at first he can’t find signs of foul play. When the socialite turns up dead, his investigation uncovers her dirty secrets, which complicates everything.

The case runs into even bigger trouble with a suspect who hasn’t left his house in a year. Jackson must push all the boundaries to find the connection and answer the question: Where is the other missing woman?

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Writing Mysteries & Thrillers

What draws you to write mysteries?
It’s what I like to read. I’ve loved crime novels since high school when I discovered Rex Stout’s detective series. I love the action, the puzzle, the fast pace, and the grittiness. I write the kind of stories I would love to read—that no one else seems to be writing.

The first book of your series—what came first: the main character of the series or the main situation that arises in the first book?
When I wrote The Sex Club, it was simply a story I was compelled to tell. I felt very passionate about the subject of abstinence-only sex education and the damage it could do to teenagers. But I’m a practical person, so I figured I might as well create a character, a detective, that I could base a series on—if I was fortunate enough to sell the book and readers wanted more.

Who are some of your favorite mystery/suspense novelists, and why?
I love John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. They’re great police procedurals with fast-moving action and a compelling character. The same is true for Michael Connelly’s series about Harry Bosch, and Leslie Glass’ series about detective April Woo. There are too many great crime novelists to mention them all, but my all-time favorite author is Lawrence Sanders because he was so versatile.

What is a key element to any good mystery/suspense?
For me, the key to a great crime story is a complex puzzle. I want to be mystified and unable to figure out what’s happening. I want layers and twists and turns. I want the unknown factor to pull me along.

I know that mystery/suspense is your major genre for writing; have you thought about moving into other genres in the future?
I’m writing a futuristic thriller now, but it’s still in the crime genre. I may occasionally read sci-fi or even something literary, but I have no compulsion to write in either genre. I’m still a journalist so I write nonfiction as well. That’s all the diversity I need.

For those interested in writing mysteries, what three pieces of advice would you offer?
1) Read dozens, if not hundreds of mysteries, to become familiar with various tones and structures.
2) Take a workshop if you can. There’s nothing like direct instruction and feedback to help develop the craft.
3) Be patient. Nothing in writing or publishing happens overnight. Don’t send your manuscript out until you’ve let it sit, revised it, and had someone else proofread it. Don’t be surprised or disappointed if it takes three months for someone to answer your query. Don’t give up after 15 agents say no thanks.

The Excerpt

Chapter 1

Monday, April 6, 9:52 a.m.

"I want to give my baby away." The words nearly tripped over each other in their rush to leave her mouth.

Dr. Callahan's eyes widened briefly. "How much thought have you given this?"

"I don't know." Danette squirmed in her chair. This was why she was in the psychiatrist's office, to verbalize some of the horrible things she'd been feeling. "I've been thinking about it for weeks, but without really admitting to myself that's what I want. I'm overwhelmed and depressed all the time. I don't think I love this baby as much as someone else would."

Dr. Callahan scribbled something on a pad. "Are you talking about giving him up for adoption?"

"Micah's grandmother would love to raise him."

Her shrink looked at the clock. "We're past our time, and I have another patient waiting." She handed Danette a slip of paper. "This is a prescription for Lexapro. Start on it right away. I don't think the Paxil is working for you. Please don't do anything rash until we've had a chance to talk some more. You'll be back on Thursday, correct?"
Danette nodded. Thursday was her regular day, but she had called Dr. Callahan last night, crying and begging to come in because her life felt out of control and she no longer trusted herself with little Micah. Luckily there had been a cancellation for this morning.

Danette bolted from the office, feeling ashamed. What was wrong with her that she didn't want her own baby? Dr. Callahan clearly disapproved. Danette pulled up the hood of her sweatshirt, wishing she could hide her face as well. She pounded down the stairs and out of the building. Maybe she should leave Micah with Kera

As Danette turned the key in her car lock, she heard the van door slide open.

July 12, 2010

It's a Mystery ... Author Ronald S. Barrios

The Writer

Ronald S. Barrios was born and raised in Oakland, California. He wanted to be a writer as far back as he could remember and began writing short stories when he was about seven years old, all of them mysteries. He always had a character in mind who was a private investigator but never had a name for him.

Growing up in the 80's, Ronald was there at the start of the Hip-Hop movement and like most other kids in Oakland, and across the country, quickly became a part of it. Yes he is a hip hop head to this day. He dabbled in graffiti, but wasn't very good at it, and took on the name of Rey. This became his alter ego and everyone from his friends to his family began calling him Rey. Ronald put writing aside for many years. When the urge to write came back up, it was at that point he realized he now had a name for the character that had followed him around for so many years and begged to be written about. His name was ... *drum roll* ... Rey.

Ronald always wanted to write books the way he envisioned them, without having to compromise, so Rey Books was born.

He calls his talent a God thing because where else could it have come from. Ronald takes no credit because he is just a vessel.

The Book

When a woman disappears, Rey is hired by her husband to find her. But a case of a runaway wife quickly turns into something more. Every lead takes the case in a new direction and it seems everyone has something to hide. Eventually murder becomes the solution to the problems at hand. There's a mob hit man whose involvement is unclear, infidelity on the part of the missing wife and the husband,and as if that wasn't enough, a teenage boy is murdered execution style on the streets of Oakland, CA. In retaliation for the murder, Rey's cousin is gunned down in front of his own home. This threatens to spark a gang war that will leave a trail of victims in its wake. It's a case that Rey can't afford not to solve even though it appears that no one wants him to.

Click the cover above to order your copy of BLOOD DROPS today!

Writing Mysteries & Thrillers

What draws you to write mysteries?
I’ve always loved mysteries. When I was a child, one of the first book series I read was the Jupiter Jones mysteries and I watched a lot of Scooby Doo.

The first book of your series -- what came first: the main character of the series or the main situation that arises in the first book?
The first book in my series is Blood Drops. The main character, Rey, actually came first. He was a character that I’d invented when I first began writing around the second grade. Of course then he had no name because the name Rey actually came later when I dabbled in graffiti and took on Rey as a nickname. When the time was right, I transferred the name to the main character of my series because to me it seemed natural as I write in the first person and Rey is really patterned loosely after myself.

Who are some of your favorite mystery/suspense novelists, and why?
My absolute favorite was Robert B. Parker, the ‘Dean of Crime Fiction’. He was and remains the best to ever do it, period. I was introduced to his Spenser series in the ‘80’s and quickly realized we had similar styles in writing even though I had never read him before then. He then became my role model for writing much in the way Raymond Chandler influenced him. I used to say that if Robert B. Parker read one of my manuscripts and threw it on the floor and spit in my eye and told me to never write again, I would have stopped writing at that moment. That’s how much I admire him. Now since his passing, there isn’t another writer alive whose opinion means that much to me.

What is a key element to any good mystery/suspense?
Well I have to say I think the key to any good novel is the dialogue. If dialogue doesn’t ring true, or isn’t fluent, then the story is dead in the water. Specifically for mystery/suspense I’d have to say the story has to give enough information to make the reader want to know how it ends because if you don’t keep the readers' interest, then they won’t want to finish the book or any other book you write, so you need to keep feeding enough information, action and dialogue in the right amounts. That’s why I try not to let too much time lapse without something happening in my novels. I know I get bored when things aren’t moving along at a good pace. Hopefully readers will find my novels do that.

I know that mystery/suspense is your major genre for writing; have you thought about moving into other genres in the future?
I’m toying with the idea of horror, so we’ll see if that manifests itself in the future. I have an idea for a series of short stories in mind, but I don’t want to give too much away. In fact this was an exclusive.

For those interested in writing mysteries, what three pieces of advice would you offer?
First, read, read and read. Get a feel for different styles of the many talented writers out there and see what works for you. What kinds of styles do you enjoy because if you can’t read your own book how can you expect anyone else to read it.

Three, don’t worry too much about creating an ‘Original’ murder or crime because let’s face it, every crime possible has already been written about by someone. Instead pick a crime/mystery and work on the story surrounding it. Make the characters your own. Make the setting your own. Create your own world so when people read your novel they know they are reading a novel written by you. Familiarity is what you want. You want to connect with your readers and become an old friend that they look forward to hearing from.

July 5, 2010

It's a Mystery ... Author Angela Henry

The Writer

Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she's a mystery writing library reference specialist, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She's the author of four mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, and the forthcoming romantic suspense/thriller The Paris Secret. She is also the founder of the award-winning MystNoir website, which promotes African-American mystery writers, and was named a "Hot Site" by USA When she's not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline. Visit her online at:

[Website] [Blog] [Twitter] [Myst Noir: African-American Mysteries] [MySpace]

The Book

GED instructor Kendra Clayton's high school days were nothing to brag about. So she's not too thrilled when on top of having to take a class to renew her teaching certificate or be fired, she gets roped into serving on her high school's reunion committee. Spending time with her former classmates is even less fun than having a root canal. Then to make matters worse, Kendra and the other committee members start receiving strange messages and having freak accidents. When one of the accidents results in a death, Kendra is convinced it's murder. Unfortunately, neither the reunion committee nor the police take her seriously. To try and prevent another death-and to keep from worrying about all the time her sweetie, Carl, has been spending with his scheming ex-wife-Kendra digs into the lives of her fellow committee members and uncovers enough secrets, lies, and betrayal to make her head spin. When a second murder occurs, Kendra realizes she needs to watch her back in her search for the truth before a killer turns her into another buried secret.

Click the cover above to order your copy of SCHOOLED IN LIES today!

Writing Mysteries & Thrillers

What draws you to write mysteries?
First and foremost, I love the puzzle aspect of writing mysteries. I really enjoy creating clues and obstacles for my sleuth, Kendra Clayton, to discover or stumble over. Secondly, I love creating back-stories for my characters. For me, writing mysteries isn’t about the murder itself but what drives ordinary people to kill.

The first book of your series -- what came first: the main character of the series or the main situation that arises in the first book?
Definitely the main character. Kendra Clayton sort of sprang fully formed from my imagination and I had to find trouble for her to get into.

Who are some of your favorite mystery/suspense novelists, and why?
Agatha Christie because she’s the queen of the whodunit. I’ve modeled my Kendra Clayton series after the village cozy mysteries she’s famous for.

Ruth Rendall because she’s so good at psychological suspense.

Walter Mosley-Easy Rawlins, need I say more?

Janet Evanovich-because she’s hysterical.

JK Rowling-because she sure knows a thing or two about world building.

What is a key element to any good mystery/suspense?
I think a key element to any good mystery is a believable/plausible motive. You have to give your victims believable reasons for being victims and your suspects good reasons why they are suspects and you must show these reasons. You never want your readers to feel cheated.

I know that mystery/suspense is your major genre for writing; have you thought about moving into other genres in the future?
Despite my best intentions, everything I write ends up with dead bodies in it. If I branch out it will be to other mystery/suspense sub genres. For instance my first romantic suspense/thriller, The Paris Secret, will be released this fall from Harlequin’s new digital-first imprint Carina Press.

For those interested in writing mysteries, what three pieces of advice would you offer?

  1. Read the kinds of books you want to write.
  2. Educate yourself about the publishing industry and how it works.
  3. Don’t try to replicate someone else’s success. There is no one size fits all method for getting published. Every author’s journey is different and you have to chart your own path.

Check out an EXCERPT!

Schooled In Lies