Guest Author Patrise Henkel Discusses “How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo”

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NaNoWriMo Goal: writing 50,000 words in 30 days with over 300,000 writers

Fact: Only 14% complete the challenge

Patrise Henkel

Author: Patrise Henkel and NaNoWriMo Winner

CH: I am so happy to present to you today, our Guest Author, Patrise Henkel. She is a local Maryland author and a writer friend, who has participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge five years in a row. Today, we will discuss How to Succeed at the NaNoWriMo challenge.

CH: Patrise, thank you for joining us and welcome. Let’s get started. What is the best way to prepare your mind and body for the challenge?

PH: Ha! NaNoWriMo is quite a challenge! I like to say that I may not be able to run a marathon, but I sure can write one! So, yes, it does take good preparation and pacing. And stubbornness. And coffee.

CH: How can a writer identify ideas, storyline, characters, plot, setting, narrative voice and story tense?

PH: Great question, but you really don’t need to worry about all that in order to participate. NaNo has a tradition of including anyone who wants to write, including very young writers. The founder, Chris Baty, even wrote a book, No Plot? No Problem!, to encourage people to jump in and write, and just see where it takes them. This process is called ‘pantsing,’ writing by the seat of your pants.

CH: Should a writer prepare an outline for the novel before starting to write?

PH: ‘Pantsers’ will find a great deal of support and encouragement for this approach, and there is definitely something to be said for showing up at the page and seeing what happens. My first few years, I had an IDEA, but not much of a plan. And there were surprises.

This year, however, I have devoted much more time to planning and will have an outline to work from. I even know the ending! So, planners are welcome. You have lots of company. The boards have been busy with writers working on character profiles and research, getting ready for that November 1st green light.

CH: Should a writer make chapter sketches beforehand?

PH: More than chapters, character sketches are the essential ingredient. This week, I attended an amazing NaNo prep workshop with the writing coach Mia Zachary. She really pushed us to define our characters, in terms of background, temperament, capabilities, even their Myers-Briggs profile!

CH: Is this going to be a “first draft”?

PH: Yes, very much so. There is no time to stop and edit. All the clean-up happens after November. If you look at yesterday’s work and feel like you’ve gone off course, just jump back in, and write yourself back to where you need to go. There is no re-write in NaNo, and don’t delete anything!! Every word counts!

In Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott, she says your first goal is to write a really shitty first draft. That’s because you want that excellent raw material for the work of editing, after November. They should call it ‘National First Draft Month,’ but that doesn’t sound as sexy! First drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be written.

First Drafts

CH: What about catch-up days? What about writer’s block? What about brainstorming?

PH: Everybody’s schedule is different, although writing every day is certainly recommended. Moms with full time jobs manage to do this challenge, so it is possible. It just requires that you make it your top priority.

Some folks work all week and write like the devil on weekends. Some get up early and write in the pre-dawn hours, some write 2 hours a night and take weekends off. You will find your own rhythm.

Attending NaNo write-ins are great for beating writers block! Get out of your physical rut, go meet some other writers and do it together. I am hosting local Write Ins on Wednesdays in November at the Accokeek Library (Maryland) from 7-9pm.

At write-ins, you hunker down together and have the peer reinforcement of writing together. We write for a while, then take breaks and share the frustrations and relief of making headway. Also, ‘Word Wars’ are a fun, competitive way to get your fingers flying. Set a timer and write until it dings; see who has the highest word count!

CH: Should a writer use the NaNoWriMo website and forums?

PH: Absolutely! First of all, in order to officially ‘win’ you will want to verify your word count at NaNoWriMo before midnight on November 30. For that, all you need to do is register with a username and password, and paste your draft into the Verifier.

Beyond that, the resources on the forums and regional threads are amazing! While forum chat can be a way to procrastinate, it’s also a great place to make new friends, share your struggles and victories with others, and ask for help.

You know how some things come easy, but other little things can be a challenge? For instance, naming characters is something that I find really challenging. There is a whole forum called Appellation Station dedicated to naming of all kinds, and I’ve been helped out by some amazing people who love to name characters, suggest book titles, place names, etc. That’s just one example of the kind of help available on the forums.

CH: What software should a writer use (word or special writing software)?

PH: I’ve used Word, and Google Docs; and now I use Scrivener, which is pretty cool, but takes a while to get used to. Everything has different advantages.

Google Docs is brilliant because it’s always there in your account no matter what device you log in on.

Word—for many of us this will be the most familiar and the most comfortable tool. But be sure to back up your files!

Scrivener is a NaNo sponsor, and will provide you a free trial edition to use during NaNo, a NaNo-specific template, and a 50% discount to use for purchase for NaNo Winners. It’s a pretty cool program, since you have all the pieces and parts of your novel contained in one universe. Scrivener calls it the Binder. You can organize your research items, character profiles, outlines, and more all in one file. It also has great formatting tools for self-publishing. I look forward to needing those very soon!

CH: Is it better to use a pc, laptop, notebook, or tablet?

PH: Whatever you are comfortable with is best. There are plenty of people who write longhand, too. Although, they have the added challenge of transcribing in order to verify their word count.

CH: What about handling other things, such as emails, calls, visitors and meals?

PH: Ha, the interruptions of life! One gets accustomed to repeating the phrase, “Not now, I’m writing!”

And that is good practice for every day. The most valuable thing about this project is how you choose to put your creative work at top priority, and get used to how that feels. I believe this is a radical act for women writers in particular.

CH: Should files be backed up daily?

PH: Absolutely. You need a backup plan. When I wrote in Word, each day I emailed the draft to myself, so it was always archived in email. Using Google Docs, I wrote each chapter as a separate document, downloaded them as Word and pasted it together to track total word count. Just make sure you are not left without a backup in case of the worst. Hard drives fail at the most inopportune times!

CH: Do writers need a writing buddy or support group? How do you find these?

PH: The forums are there to encourage you to connect with local writers, as well as make online friends. Each region has its Municipal Liaisons, or ‘MLs’, who are in charge of the local meetings. They will usually arrange a kickoff meeting or two, and encourage local writers to host meet-ups throughout the month.

Register with your region and you will see the regional calendar on the forum, complete with events highlighted for the next few days. That’s how I discovered the character development workshop I attended this week.

Locally, the Accokeek Womens’ Writing Group meets the 2nd Monday of each month from 1-3pm at the Accokeek Branch Library. I will host Write-Ins there on Wednesday nights. I know there will also be some Write-Ins at Panera (restaurant) in Waldorf, MD.

CH: Should I tell family and friends that I am doing this challenge?

PH: Absolutely! Shout it from the rooftops! Get yourself some stickers for your laptop, a NaNo mug and T-Shirt! I’m wearing mine from last year. It declares “I’m a Winner!” Actually, it’s good to buy it now; it’s one more thing that helps you keep your commitment to yourself.

CH: Any closing remarks?

PH: Yes. Write down that dream, persevere FOR YOUR CREATIVE SELF, and the rewards are immeasurable and priceless. There are new people in my life, I have paid writing work that would have never come if I had not followed my Muse and made my creative work a priority. So if you want to write, this is a great time to do it—NaNoWriMo! On the Nano forums I am Patrise and you can check me out here http://nanowrimo.org/participants/patrise/novels.

Bio: Patrise Henkel is an artist and writer born in Detroit and living in Southern Maryland. A self-described eccentric, Patrise is in love with color, never tires of geography, wants to read everything and takes her dog everywhere.

For gainful employment Patrise operates Clearwell Co., a marketing communications consulting and coaching firm that helps clients promote their small business or great cause with online marketing. She also ghost-writes for the Commercial Real Estate and Public Health and Safety Marketing niche/genres. Co-founder of the Accokeek Women’s Writing Group (AWWG), Patrise functions as Blogmeister for the Women’s Pages, AWWG’s official blog.

CH: Patrise, thank you for sharing your NaNoWriMo experience with my readers

Note: Photos are compliments of Patrise Henkel and the Internet.

CH: Share it, if you like it. I’m counting on you!

Don’t Keep this Blog a Secret…Tell Your Friends about it!                                         Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

Celebrity Guest Author Interview – Kendra Norman

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Please, join us for Celebrity Guest Authors Month!

Kendra Norman

Author: Kendra Norman (Formerly Kendra Norman-Bellamy)

CH: I am so blessed to present to you today, our Celebrity Guest Author, Kendra Norman. She is the national bestselling author of numerous faith-based titles. She is best known for her fiction writing, but is also the author of nonfiction spiritual empowerment books. Kendra is also a motivational speaker and a licensed minister.

CH: Kendra, thank you for joining us and welcome. You began your literary career in 2002 and since then, you have won numerous awards and you have received multi-book deals. Can you tell us a little about your literary journey? 

KN: I believe God designed my journey to be uniquely mine. I began writing, not because I aspired to be an author, but because I found the craft to be refreshingly therapeutic. The idea to publish came in 2001 after I’d written the manuscript titled For Love & Grace, but I actually began writing a number of years earlier. For Love & Grace became my debut novel when I self-published it in 2002, after getting a number of rejection letters from mainstream publishers. It was in circulation in its self-published version for just shy of a year when the publishers of the now defunct, BET Books, called me and asked for not only the opportunity to re-release my novel on a national level, but they also asked that I make it a 3-book BET series. (Ironically enough, BET was also one of the many companies who had already rejected that same manuscript.) Less than a month later, one of the acquisition editors at Moody Publishers called and offered a contract for a separate manuscript that I’d sent them a few months earlier; a manuscript that they’d originally rejected, as well. Each of these companies agreed to non-exclusive contracts which allowed me to write for both. Eventually, I was writing for three mainstream publishers, simultaneously. My literary journey has come with its highs and lows, but I consider myself to be very blessed to have been ordained for such an assignment as this. The awards and recognitions are awesome, but they don’t compare to the joy that comes along with receiving emails and letters from readers that share the details of how much they have been blessed by the works God has inspired me to create.

CH: Can you explain how it works when you write a book with a co-author, such as Hank Stewart?

KN: There is no set in stone answer for the dynamics that come along with working with a co-author. Every writer’s experience may be different. I’ve heard horror stories from some of my fellow authors regarding their experiences, but it was easy to work with Hank on the two projects on which we collaborated. We already had an established relationship in the industry having worked on several community and literary events together. Hank is a nationally recognized poet. He’d written a few poems that he decided deserved to be brought to life in full fictional stories, and he contacted me for help. The poems he’d selected were romantic in nature. I combined the romance with a faith-based drama-filled storyline and the end results were amazing. Readers loved those two books. I had a lot of fun working with Hank. Basically, I did all of the writing, but he and I would talk regularly during the process, and I would feed off his adrenalin. He was like a big kid in a candy store! He was so excited about the projects without even seeing them, and I thrived off his enthusiasm. When we spoke, he would give me ideas to incorporate in the storylines. Both Three Fifty-Seven A.M. and The Morning After were written by me, but they were based on poems that Hank created.

CH: Since you are a licensed minister and most of your books are faith-based titles, are they an extension of your ministry?

KN: Absolutely. When I stand in a pulpit and minister to crowds of listeners, it is my most earnest prayer that God will use my lips to say something that will uplift their spirits, encourage their hearts, and change their lives. When I sit down to write a book, the process is the same. I’m very prayerful, and I desire that God uses my hands to write something that will not only entertain, but also bless the hearts of the readers.

CH: What was your favorite book to write?

KN: I can’t tell you how difficult of a question that is to answer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing all of my books. I don’t necessarily have one that I enjoyed writing most. I will admit, though, that I have characters that I enjoyed creating more than others. I think that the characters in the Grace Series (For Love & Grace, Because of Grace, and More Than Grace) are the ones I most enjoyed creating and living with as I wrote the books that they’re in. (Gosh . . . I hope that doesn’t make the characters in my other fictional novels jealous.)  :-)

Office

Kendra Norman’s writing space/office.

CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your Christian writing?

KN: It’s no secret that in books largely geared toward the African-American community, very few are found wherein the male character is depicted as a genuinely good, decent, and strong role model. This was especially true when I first began writing. Because of that, people pegged me as a different kind of writer. First, I was a female whose fictional books were written from the male perspective (meaning the main lead character was a man). And secondly, the men in my books were good upstanding men who loved God and tried to do right by their families. They weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but as flawed as they may have been, they were men whose motives and actions were pure. I found that readers enjoyed that change of pace. It was refreshing for them to see the community (especially its men) shown in a more positive light. When men read the books, they told me that they felt emancipated. When women read the books, they told me that they felt like there was hope, after all.

CH: How did you start writing?

KN: My love for writing began as a ten-year-old, fifth grader. It was at that age that I began writing poems. Poetry was my specialty all through my teen years and even as a very young adult. I didn’t begin creating manuscripts until 1999, and even then, I wasn’t writing to publish. I’d endured the heartbreaking loss of my first husband a few years before, and had gone into a state of depression because of my refusal to properly grieve that loss. I discovered that writing dramatic fictional stories about love and redemption brought me a sense of joy, peace, and healing. I wrote for quite some time before I ever had a thought or desire to publish anything.

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Readers can pre-order this book.

Title: The Path From Pain to Purpose

Genre: Christian

Synopsis:  Purpose is a destination, which means before reaching it, we must first travel. And along the way, we discover that the road to getting there can come with many unforeseen trials.

Before we can carry out our God-ordained purpose, He must first prepare us. We have to be molded and equipped for our life’s assignments, and that process is often accompanied by pain.

The phase that takes place between our spiritual transformation and our final destination can be so agonizing that we want nothing more than to give up and detour onto what appears to be an easier path. I know. I’ve been there more than once. But what my experiences taught me first hand is that we only come to the full realization of PURPOSE when we endure.

Walk through the pages of this book with me as I share my incredible true-to-life testimony of the earth-shattering challenges that I triumphed on the path to finding my divine purpose. In candid transparency, I share my experiences of betrayal, embarrassment, heartbreak, and by the grace of God…my amazing triumph!

All things work together for the good of them that love the LORD and are called according to His purpose!

CH: Do you have plans for a new book?

KN: Well, my latest one, The Path From Pain to Purpose, was just released in September. Right now it’s available in electronic download format only (for e-Readers such as Kindle and Nook) and can be ordered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. I’m working toward having some limited print copies available later this fall. Because it’s my 20th book and I consider that a landmark accomplishment, it will only be released in print in limited edition collector’s copies. Print copies can be pre-ordered through my website. Only those who pre-order are guaranteed a print copy because I won’t be doing any reprints once the original print run is sold out. Early next year, I will begin working on another fictional novel. I know the title, and I have much of the storyline already in mind, but readers will have to wait awhile, before I divulge any of the details.

CH: When you are coming up with a new idea for a book, do you look at the market for trends? Or do you just write your own story?

KN: No; I never look at what’s trendy at the time of my writing. I never piggyback my storyline on headline news, celebrity gossip, or what was seen on a popular talk show. Nor, do I look to see what books are the hottest selling ones and try to come up with a story that addresses that same issue in hopes that it’ll result in high book sales for me. I’m not saying anything is wrong with doing those things. The industry may even applaud them as smart ways to market. But that’s just not the way it works for me.

CH: Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from when you write?

KN: My story ideas are drawn from everyday life, but they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m a very prayerful writer. I literally ask God to feed me ideas that He wants me to write about. I do that because I want whatever I write to be a blessing to the reader, and only God knows what the readers need to be exposed to in order for that to happen. Generally, He’ll allow me to see or hear something that will spark an idea for a storyline. Sometimes, it even comes by way of dreams. I love my unique creative process.

CH: Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life?

KN: None of my fictional novels are based on real life experiences. However, some of the characters in those books have been inspired by real life people. But even though none of the situations I write are replicas of my real life, none of them were hard to create either. In the world we live in, very little that happens is a shock anymore. Things that used to be unimaginable when I was a child are virtually normal in today’s society. It’s a sad truth; but it’s the truth nevertheless. It’s not that much of a challenge for an author to create a believable situation for a fictional book without basing it on the happenings in their real life.

CH: Of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite book?

KN: At this point in my career, I’m primarily known as a Christian fiction writer, but personally, my favorite books are my nonfiction/ministry titles. Of the twenty books that I’ve published over the last twelve years, only two of them are nonfiction, but those two—I Shall Not Die (released 2010) and The Path From Pain to Purpose (Released 2014)— have brought me the greatest sense of accomplishment and joy. That makes them my favorites. Because of how personal they are and the unmasked messages of life and hope that they offer the readers, my nonfiction titles are the ones that are nearest and dearest to my heart.

CH: You are a national bestselling author.  Can you explain how you felt the first time?

KN: No, actually I can’t. It really was a very indescribable feeling when I first got the news of my national bestseller status. My third title, Crossing Jhordan’s River, was the first to reach that pinnacle. One would think that after attaining that status the first time, every subsequent time would feel more and more routine. For me, that hasn’t been the case. Eight of my titles have been named national bestsellers and several of those titles reached that status on multiple occasions. Still, every time it happens the feeling is just as euphoric as the ones before it. It never gets old. I’m just so thankful.

CH: Do you find anything challenging while writing your books?

KN: The only real challenges that I’ve faced are the ones that have come with writing, while also working a full time corporate America job. For me, that was a monumental challenge. It doesn’t make it impossible, but it does make it much harder. Based on how mentally or physically draining a writer’s “day job” is, it can be next to impossible to write at any time except on off days. And even then, it can be difficult; especially, if they have families or other obligations. Thankfully, I write full-time now and have done so for the majority of my career. I’ve worked an outside job for less than five of the twelve years that I’ve been a published author. Being able to write full-time really frees up the focus and creativity that’s needed in order to do it well. It’s a blessing that should never be taken for granted.

CH: Do you read in the same genre that you write?

KN: Yes; pretty much. If I’m not indulging in Christian fiction, then I’m reading faith-based nonfiction or some other type book that’s motivational or inspirational in nature. I like to read material that inspires and encourages me.

CH: Is there a certain routine you implement when writing? If so, what is it?

KN: I have a morning devotional time prior to jumping in to my writing, but that’s about it. That includes prayer, scripture reading, and a quiet, meditational time with the Lord. He’s going to be in the driver’s seat once I get started, so when I sit at my desk, I need to be sure that we’re in the same car, so to speak. Other than that, I don’t have any routines. I don’t do character sketches or chapter outlines like many other writers do. Nothing’s wrong with doing those at all; it’s just not a personal practice of mine.

CH: Your daughter Brittany Holmes is also an accomplished writer. Did you have any influence on her becoming a writer or did she just follow in your footsteps on her own?

KN: She credits me as her biggest influence, but it was due to what she saw in me, not what I said to her. I never approached her and encouraged her to pursue the craft. As a matter of fact, Brittney was writing even before I knew she was writing. She had completely finished her first full length manuscript before I had a clue that she even knew how to write a manuscript. I was clued in on her extraordinary talent by a close cousin of mine. She’d given him the manuscript to read, and he called me one day and told me about it. I was actually floored. And once I read it, I was floored again. She’s a very gifted writer, and just as it is with me, her writing is like second nature. Her first manuscript, Living Consequences, became her debut novel. She was offered a contract by the first major publisher that we ever shopped the manuscript to. She reached national bestseller’s status much earlier in her career than I did. I’m very proud of her achievements, so far. She’s five books in now, and I know she has more successes to come.

CH: Where can my readers find your website?

KN: My official web address is www.RoyaltyWriter.net

CH: Where are your books sold?

KN: The less frustrating place to find my books is online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They can be found in major bookstores as well, but the African-American sections of most bookstores are not as generously stocked as other sections, so the titles aren’t as readily available. Often times, readers have to go to the front register and have the store order the books that they want. Because of that, I typically direct people to Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

CH: Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

KN: Yes, to any aspiring writers, I like to encourage you to press forward to reach all of the goals that you have set for yourself. Life is too short to have regrets. Press forward. Invest in your career, respect the craft, and enjoy every moment of your journey!

CH: Any closing remarks?

KN: To any of my loyal readers, I’d just like to say thank you for your priceless support. I couldn’t do what I do if you weren’t doing what you do. Your support is never taken for granted. I appreciate you more than words can say. To any future readers of my works, let me say thank you in advance for venturing out and allowing space for my books on your bookshelf (whether that bookshelf is physical or electronic). It’s my prayer that you will read something that will have you coming back for more.

Cheryl, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be featured in your online blog. I appreciate your generosity and I count myself blessed that you thought enough of me to make the request.

CH: Kendra, you are quite welcome and thank you for sharing your writing experience and your book with my readers

Note: Photos are compliments of Kendra Norman and the Internet.

CH: Share it, if you like it. I’m counting on you!

Don’t Keep this Blog a Secret…Tell Your Friends about it!                                         Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

Book Review – Endangered: A Novel by Jean Love Cush

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Title: Endangered: A Novel

Synopsis:  An innocent black teenager is accused of murder in this provocative and compassionate thriller that skillfully probes issues of race, class, crime, and injustice and offers a searing portrait of modern America.

From the time her son, Malik, could walk, Janae taught him that the best way to stay alive and out of trouble with the law was to cooperate. Terrified for his safety, she warned him, “raise your hands high, keep your mouth shut, and do whatever they say,” if the police ever stopped him. But when a wave of murders hits Philadelphia and fifteen-year-old Malik is arrested, Janae’s terror is compounded by guilt and doubt: Would Malik have escaped jail if he’d run?

Unable to see her son or pay for his defense, Janae, a cafeteria worker, reluctantly allows Roger Whitford, a white human rights attorney, to represent Malik. With the help of an ambitious private attorney named Calvin Moore, Roger is determined to challenge the entire criminal justice system and expose its inherent racism—racism that threatens the very existence of America’s young black men.

Offering a startling and unprecedented defense, the lawyers spark a national firestorm of debate over race, prison, and politics that burns to the very core of Janae herself. As she battles to save her son, she begins to discover that she is also fighting for her own survival and that of her community.

Jean Cush

Author: Jean Love Cush                                                                                                 Note: Jean Love Cush is a first-time, self-published author.

I must preface this review by saying that there have been many reviews of this book, and I merely add my impression of Endangered: A Novel.

For those readers who know me, you know that I am a paralegal who loves legal thrillers. So, I started reading…

It was a little slow at the beginning, but picked up to become a page-turner.

Malik’s mother, Janae, only wanted justice and fair treatment for her 15-year old son, who was wrongfully accused of murdering his friend, Troy. Janae had raised her son in a poor disadvantaged area of Philadelphia. She had said, “If approached by the police, raise your hands high, keep your mouth shut and do what they order.” He did exactly what his mother had told him and now he was charged with murder. Janae didn’t have the money to hire a private attorney to properly defend Malik. So, his life was in the hands of a public defender. Or was it?

Roger Whitford, an attorney for the Center for the Protection for Human Rights (CPHR), wanted to try Malik’s case because of the social issues involved. He told Janae, “We’re not in the business of innocence or guilt. Our job here at the CPHR is justice…African American boys ought to be deemed legally endangered.” He told Janae that our current legal system is unfair to black boys and new laws should come out of this whole situation.

She wasn’t worried about changing laws; she was worried about getting her baby out of jail and proving his innocence of this murder.

Calvin Moore was a brilliant African American attorney, who was added to the legal team to bring clout and a different perspective.

I enjoyed an honest judge, who wasn’t afraid to express his personal opinion. I also enjoyed how the mothers and women of the “hood” stood by each other. I wasn’t quite sure if the budding romance between Janae and Calvin was appropriate or added to make the readers feel the realism of the story. The ADA was over zealous and unlikable.

Kid in Prison

Dealing with social issues is difficult, whether in real life or in a book. There were a lot of real issues in this book—real statistics, real issues of crime and real issues of justice. These are “real issues” that we must deal with today. This book is going to make you think about all of this…whether you want to or not.   Endangered: A Novel allows the reader to think beyond the crime that was committed; think beyond the consequences of the courtroom decision; and think about what can be done in today’s society. We can think about recent headlines with similar issues of African-American teens in Sanford, Florida; Ferguson, Missouri; and Chicago, Illinois.

Malik hadn’t had a chance to be a teenager—he hadn’t even had a first date. I wanted to hear more from his point of view. I wanted to hear how he felt about his beating by the police; his time in jail; and his being scared in the courtroom.

This book was well written, so that attorneys and readers alike could understand the story. The ending was good, but I would have liked an epilogue with how Malik and Janae had enhanced their life as a result of this incident.

My only real negative issue was that the cover didn’t really do justice to the book.

I wish Jean Love Cush much success in her writing endeavors.

I rate this book…

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Action Steps:                                                                                                                    

1.  View/read this blog and comment  

2.   Invite your friends to view/read this blog                                                                 

3.  If you read the book, let me know what you think.

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We’d love to hear about what you’re reading and enjoying on our blog, so please drop us a line in the comments.

DISCLAIMER
Endorsement Disclaimer: All reviews posted on this site and written by Cheryl Holloway are personal opinions of the book by the reviewer. The reviews are NOT paid endorsements of the book or the author. They are not advertisements. All reviews are honest, forthright and the opinion of the individual reviewer, freely given. Our opinions are not for sale.

Special Feedback From A Reader: Seven Sentence Sunday

header1_An Author Writes

I saw one of my blog readers at the library, Mili, and she told me that she enjoyed the “Seven Sentence Sunday” Exercise that I did in August.  She said that it inspired her to write something. She also said that she would have never believed that anyone could write a short story in just seven sentences.

So, Here’s to you Mili, two more short stories.

Once Upon a Time

Story 1: A Haunted House

A chill engulfed my body the moment I entered the haunted house.

Looking around the room, I felt bathed in darkness, as my thoughts began to drench me in fear.

I saw a broken mirror and I looked in it, only to notice no image looking back at me.

I could smell a burning candle and when I got close to it, I saw footprints on the ceiling.

I reached out my hand to touch the candle, when suddenly a black cat jumped on me and I heard screaming.

I don’t know if the screams were coming from me or someone else, but I ran for the door.

My heart was beating faster and faster as I was trying to open the heavy, wooden front door, then someone touched me and said, “Happy Halloween.”

Short Stories_2

Story 2: A Guardian Angel

The baby was crying and I had to quiet her, so that we could walk to the bus stop to pick up my older daughter from school.

Just as I was about to walk out the door with the baby in my arms, I heard the loud screeching of brakes.

All of the mothers were running towards the bus stop, and in my heart, I knew that something eerie had happened.

I held the baby close to my body and sprinted the short distance.

When I arrived, the bus driver was crying and she was bending over a child—mine!

She had black tire tracks on her new red coat, but the bus had missed her by an inch.

My daughter said, “Mommy, this nice, old lady pushed me out of the way so I wouldn’t get hurt!”

 

Thanks for reading the stories. Please give me some feedback and tell me if you like them or what you think about them.

Note: The clip art is compliments of the Internet.

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Celebrity Guest Author Interview – Beverly Jenkins

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Please, join us for Celebrity Guest Authors Month!

Heart of Gold_Cover

Title: Heart Of Gold: A Blessing

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis: NAACP nominee and bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns to the charming town of Henry Adams, Kansas—a place that always feels like home—in this heartwarming story of family, friendship, and the surprises hidden in our lives.

Henry Adams has had its fair share of drama ever since Bernadine Brown bought the town with her divorce settlement. Now just when things are starting to settle down, it’s about to get crazy again . . .

Cephas Patterson doesn’t just want to be left alone—if you dare step onto his property, he’ll meet you with a shotgun and a warning to stay away from his gold. He reminds Zoey of the lonely time she spent living on the streets, so she quietly begins leaving him small offerings. But then Cephas dies and leaves a saddlebag of gold—to Zoey.

And that’s not all. Zoey’s parents are going through a trial separation, her former BFF Devon is giving her fits, and friend Crystal has run away from home. Then there’s Bernadine’s mean-spirited baby sister who has arrived unexpectedly, and an ongoing battle with a neighboring town is about to heat up.

Will Henry Adams ever be the same again?

Beverly Jenkins

Author: Beverly Jenkins

CH: I am so honored to present to you today, our Celebrity Guest Author, Beverly Jenkins. She is a national best-selling author of historical romance fiction and she specializes in 19th century African-American life. She has received numerous awards including two Career Achievement Awards; a Pioneer Award from Romantic Times Magazine; a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild; and she was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th Century by AABLC. Beverly Jenkins is the author of over thirty books.

CH: Beverly, thank you for joining us and welcome. Please tell us in one sentence, why we should read your book.

BJ: Because my books make readers stay up all night.

CH: One of your reviewers, said that this book warms the soul. What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your writing?

BJ: Each book and the characters within are different and have distinct personalities. I make a conscious effort not to write the same book twice.

CH: Do you write full-time or part-time?

BJ: I write full-time.

CH: As far as accolades or achievements, what would you say has been your greatest achievement?

BJ: My greatest achievement, besides having my first book, Night Song, published in 1994, was to have A Wish and A Prayer, the fourth book in the Blessings series, nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature.

CH: Is there a certain routine you implement when writing? What is it? 

BJ: At the beginning of my career, due to a job and family, writing at night was a necessity. Now, it’s a habit.

CH: Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole concept?

BJ: Ideas for my historicals come from old pictures, diary entries and African American history. The idea for the Blessings series grew out of an article in Parade magazine about a woman, who started a town for foster children and their foster parents.

CH: Tell us a little bit about your book. Where did you get the premise for this story? 

BJ: Heart of Gold is the fifth book in my Blessings series. It’s a contemporary story about an African American woman who buys a historic African American town on the Kansas plains. She then brings in five at risk children to be raised by foster parents; and the story is also about the senior citizens who reside there. Each book has centered on one of the kids and Heart of Gold is the story of the youngest child, Zoey Raymond.

CH: Where do you get inspiration for your characters?

BJ: Some of the inspiration comes from my personal experience as an adoptive parent.

CH: Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life? 

BJ: Some of the situations are adapted from real life.

CH: Did you find anything challenging while writing this book?

BJ: It’s always a challenge for an adult writer to try and remember what it was like to be ten–which is Zoey’s age in the book.

CH: How long have you been writing? How did you start writing?

BJ: My first book was published in 1994 and I was the editor of my elementary school newspaper in the fourth grade.

CH: Where are you from? Does your background have any influence on this book?

BJ: I am from Detroit. I think my background of growing up as a voracious reader continues to help my writing.

CH: Which character was hardest to write?

BJ: Zoey was the hardest character to write in Heart of Gold.

Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins autographing a book for one of her many fans.

CH: Do you have plans for a new book?

BJ: Destiny’s Captive will be released in a few days, Oct 28, 2014. I have already finished book 6 in the series, titled For Your Love, and I will be starting to write my thirty-second historical novel soon.

CH: Where can my readers find your website?

BJ: My website is www.beverlyjenkins.net

CH: Where are your books sold?

BJ: My books are sold everywhere–in print, eBooks, audio and some are in large print, too.

CH: Any closing remarks?

BJ: I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to connect with your readers.

CH: Beverly, you are quite welcome and thank you for sharing your writing experience and your book with my readers

Note: Photos are compliments of Beverly Jenkins and the Internet.

CH: Share it, if you like it. I’m counting on you!

Don’t Keep this Blog a Secret…Tell Your Friends about it!                                         Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

 

 

 

Happy Columbus Day and A Quick Writing Exercise

Columbus Day

May you enjoy Columbus Day by doing whatever makes you Happy!

I always enjoy a day of writing.

header1_An Author Writes

For my Women’s Writing Group, we met today and we had a writing exercise that was fun. We could choose a topic from a list and write a one page short story.

It’s a game to get you writing. Choose a Title and write 1 page. Don’t forget Halloween is just around the corner. You could write a haunting story.

Choose Your Weapon   The Gold One        The Witch’s  Dream

The Darkest Night           Eating Alone         The Exploded Pumpkin

Cheese, Only                 Wild Card                Haunted Kitchen

Where She Was             The Taken               Full Moon

My topic was Wild Card and here is my story.

“OMG, I can’t believe I just did that!” she said with anger and frustration at herself.

Her sister came in just as she uttered her frustration.

”Wow, what did you do?”

“I forgot to pick up my package from the post office and it’s 6pm on Friday before a three day weekend. Damn. It’s from my publisher. What do you think it could be? ”

“I have no idea. Did they give you a hint as to what it was?”

“No, my agent just said that it was important. Do you think it is a book contract?”

“Once again, I have no idea. It could be anything.”

“If you knew that it was important, why didn’t you stop what you were doing and go pick it up.”

“Because I got side tracked. I know you’ve never ever gotten side tracked.”

“Hey, don’t take it out on me. I would have at least reminded you by 4:45 to pick it up.”

“Now, I will worry about it until 8:59am on Tuesday.”

“The best thing you can do is fill your time with something that you love doing to keep your mind off the package.”

“Okay, I think I will write!”

She engulfed herself in writing. She wrote well into the night on Friday before falling asleep. She woke up early on Saturday and continued writing. She hadn’t written this much in a long time. She was on a roll. Once again, she wrote well into the wee hours of Sunday morning. She slept for about 4 hours and then grabbed her laptop and proceeded to write like a journalist on deadline. She wrote all day Monday. Finally, on Monday night about 11:50, she finished her writing. She had completed a novella. She was elated and really hadn’t thought about the package until now.

Oh, well, she thought. I will get a good night’s rest and pick up the package at 9am. Then and only then will my curiosity be satisfied.

She slept like a baby without a care in the world. It was a peaceful and tranquil rest. She didn’t hear the alarm. She didn’t hear the phone ringing. However, she dreamed about receiving the package. Just as she was about to open it, her sister touched her and woke her from her dream.

“What time is it? I have to get to the post office” she said frantically.

“It’s 5:05.”

“She began crying and just couldn’t stop.”

“Let me know when you’re finished. I have something for you.”

She stopped sobbing long enough to ask, “What?”

Her sister handed her the package.

She tore it open and read the letter inside.

Dear Ms. Johnson,

We will need an additional sample of your writing before we can offer you a book contract. Please send it as soon as possible, preferably on Tuesday. Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Jones, Simon & Schuster Publishing Company

 

Thanks for reading the story.  I hope you will join me in a simple and quick writing exercise. Please give me some feedback and tell me if you like the story or what you think about it.

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Celebrity Guest Author Interview – Shelia M. Goss

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Please, join us for Celebrity Guest Authors Month!

The Joneses_Cover

Title: The Joneses

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis: Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t all it’s made out to be. In this intriguing novel full of drama and plot twists, one family tries to hold on to their “perfect” life before their secrets, lies, and scandals are exposed.

On the outside, the Joneses seem like the ideal family: Royce Jones, a funeral home mogul, and his wife, Lexi, are parents to Charity, Hope, and Lovie—and everybody wants to be them. But it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, and the Joneses are harboring secrets that can’t stay hidden forever…

The funeral home business has been slow lately, and Royce is in serious trouble. When Lexi learns of their financial strain, she vows to hold on to her status by any means necessary—even if it means going behind her husband’s back. Lovie, seeing his beloved mother so stressed, will do whatever it takes to put a smile back on her face. And sibling rivalries tense up when Charity and Hope both fall for the same guy. On top of this, they all have secrets they’re hiding not only from people outside their family—but from each other. It’s only a matter of time before the Joneses’ perfect life goes spinning out of control and they’re revealed for who they truly are.

Shelia Goss

Author: Shelia M. Goss

CH: I am so pleased to present to you today, our Celebrity Guest Author, Shelia M. Goss. She is a national best-selling author and screenwriter, who received many accolades and awards every year from 2006 through 2014, including The Top 100+ Most Admired African-American Women in Literature, 2012 Emma Award Finalist, and 2013 Women of Color, Power and Influence Award.

CH: Shelia, thank you for joining us and welcome. Please tell us in one sentence, why we should read your book.

SMG: It’s a fast-paced novel that’s full of drama and plot twists that will have you eager to turn the pages.

CH: Since everybody wants to keep up with the Joneses, what prompted you to write this book?

SMG: I’ve always wanted to write a family drama.  I wanted to show that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Some people miss out on happiness trying to compare their lives with someone else’s life; never knowing what the other person has to go through.

CH: When you are coming up with a new idea for a book, do you look at the market for trends? Or do you just write your own story? 

SMG: I don’t write for trends because trends change.  I get story ideas in my head, but decide which one to work on based on what genre I want to write in, at the time. Once, I decide on the genre, I write the characters story.

CH: Are there any writers that you consider your mentor?

SMG: Yes. Vincent Alexandria, Linda Dominique Grosvenor, Magdalene Breaux and a few others were my mentors when I first decided to be an author.

20141001_183324 (1)The Aftermath#2

A woman on the go! Shelia’s writing space—her ipad and her iPhone.                                 The Aftermath (The Joneses 2) Coming in April 2015

CH: How long have you been writing?

SMG: I’ve been writing since I was about nine years old. My first novel was published about ten years ago.

CH: When you start a new story, does the story trigger the title or does the publisher have the final decision on the title?

SMG: My title is the theme for the book—99.9 percent of the time. I have the title before I start writing the first paragraph. There’s only been two times that I’ve had to change a title because the publisher didn’t like it.

CH: You included some sibling rivalry in this book, was it hard coming up with ideas for their issues?

SMG: No, it was easy. I just went with the flow and allowed the characters to tell me their side of the story.

CH: Did you have to do any special research to write this book?

SMG: No. I drew from past experiences of having to help my mom plan my dad’s funeral and attending wakes and funerals to help me with some of the scenes.

CH: Not only is there drama on the page, but also between the sheets. Did you find anything challenging while writing this book?

SMG: No, not really. I just allowed the characters to tell me their story.

CH: Since you write in multiple genres, which is your favorite genre?

SMG: I like writing in all of them, but if I had to choose one genre, I would say romance.  Regardless of what genre I write in, there will be some romance in the book. :)

CH: Can you tell us a little about your work in supporting literacy projects?

SMG: I try to support different literacy projects by using my blog as an open forum. I go out and speak at events with hopes of encouraging others to read.

CH: How long does it take you to write one of your books?

SMG: The time frame varies. I can write a first draft in four to six weeks, if I work on it consistently—five hours a day and at least five days a week.

CH: Who was your favorite character to write?

SMG: Lexi Jones from my book, The Joneses, was my favorite character to write because she was smart, sassy and didn’t take mess from nobody.

CH: Which of all your books was hardest to write?

SMG: Sade’s Secret was the hardest book for me to write. So, Sade was my hardest character to write. I was emotionally drained after writing Sade’s story due to everything the character went through to overcome her adversities.  The book deals with the sensitive subject of child molestation and the fact that the mother failed to do something about it when her daughter brought it to her attention.

CH: So what’s next for you as an author?

SMG: The Aftermath (The Joneses 2) is coming in April 2015. But it’s hard to say. I plan to continue to write books. I’m also writing screenplays. There’s no limit to what’s next for me.

CH: Where can my readers find your website?

SMG: It is www.sheliagoss.com

CH: For my readers, where are your books sold?

SMG: My books are sold at any national retailer, such as Barnes and Noble, Walmart, etc. It’s also available at any of the online retailers, such as Amazon, Between the Lines Book Store, etc.

CH: Any closing remarks?

SMG: Thank you for introducing me to your network. I appreciate the support.

CH: Shelia, You are quite welcome and thank you for sharing your writing experience and your book with my readers

Note: Photos are compliments of Shelia M. Goss and the Internet.

CH: Share it, if you like it. I’m counting on you!

Don’t Keep this Blog a Secret…Tell Your Friends about it!                                             Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

Celebrity Guest Author Interview – ReShonda Tate Billingsley

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Please, join us for Celebrity Guest Authors Month!

What's Done in the Dark_Cover

Title: What’s Done in the Dark

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: #1 national bestselling author ReShonda Tate Billingsley gets to the heart of loss, love, and betrayal in her latest novel that is sure to delight her legions of fans.

Felise is not the kind of woman to cheat on her husband—especially with her best friend’s man. But after one perfect storm of a night, it happened…and she can hardly believe it herself. To top it off, when she woke up in the morning, she found that the man to whom she guiltily made passionate love died of a heart attack overnight. Felise, who is a nurse and a good citizen at that, leaves the hotel room without reporting his death.

When her best friend, Paula, finds out about her husband’s sudden death a day later, Felise is overcome with guilt and grief. She must be there for her friend and her family, but when her husband repeatedly tries to apologize for his absentminded behavior and Paula starts investigating who Stephen was with the night he died, Felise finds it hard to hold herself together. Should she come clean and tell everyone what she did? Or should she just let it go and move past the mistake on her own?

Reshonda Billingsley

Author: ReShonda Tate Billingsley

CH: I am so pleased to present to you today, our Celebrity Guest Author, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, who is the author of over thirty books and who originally self-published her first book.  ReShonda is a winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature for her book Say Amen, Again and was nominated also in 2013 for her book The Secret She Kept. ReShonda is a former professor of Broadcast Journalism at Langston University; and a former television and radio news reporter. 

CH: ReShonda, thank you for joining us and welcome! Can you sum up your book in 20 words or less and tell us why we should read What’s Done in the Dark?

RTB: A woman accidentally sleeps with her best friend’s husband and he dies in the hotel room. Does she stay or leave? Read the book to find out!

CH: What inspired you to write What’s Done in the Dark?

RTB: I presented the ‘What if you slept with your best friend’s husband and he died?’ question to social media. I was amazed at the responses and decided to explore the issue further.

CH: This book is about forgiveness, betrayal, friendship and love. Is there a message in your novel that you want the readers to grasp?

RTB: I do, and it’s that sometimes good people do bad things. That’s why forgiveness is essential to the soul. I also wanted to present a moral dilemma to see how people would handle it, and I wanted readers to see how one bad decision can ruin so many lives.

CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your page-turning writing?

RTB: I am big on character development, so I believe in putting my readers right in the room with the characters.

CH: Did you find anything challenging while writing this book?

RTB: Not really. The main thing was just getting it done, while running a publishing company.

CH: Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life?

RTB: I take bits and pieces from real life. And I write reality, which is why I think my characters are so relatable.

CH: Which character was hardest to write?

RTB: Greg, because he made me so mad! I kept wanting to hurt my laptop.  :-)

CH: Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from when you write?

RTB: I am a very observant person (some people call it being “nosy”), so I’m always taking in my surroundings.

writingspacepic2

According to Sheretta, her assistant, “ReShonda is very nontraditional in that she doesn’t have a particular ‘writing space’ where she actually writes. As a busy mom and business owner who is involved in multiple projects at any given time, she writes when and where she can. She is working on a book project while standing in a checkout line.”

CH: How long does it take you to write a novel now, and how long did it take you to write your first novel? 

RTB: My first novel took about seven months to write. Now, it takes me about three months.

CH: When you write, do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole concept?  

RTB: I write all over the place. There is no particular shape or form.

CH: Are there any other genres that you would like to write a book?

RTB: Actually, I’ve been blessed to write in multiple genres, so I really have covered everything that I’d like to do.

CH: What kind of advice do you have for those aspiring to write? If you had to give them a blueprint for success, what would that be?

RTB: Stop talking about writing and write. Don’t worry about editing or how something sounds. Just get the words onto the paper. Good novels aren’t written. They’re rewritten.

CH: What authors do you read? And who are some of your favorites?

RTB: I’m an avid reader. I love reading established authors and discovering new, independent authors. Since many of those I read are friends, I’m not about to name names. :-)

CH: You’ve written 30+ novels, can you tell us a little about your writing journey?

RTB: I started out self-published, got picked up by Simon & Schuster in 2003, and here I am, 35 books later.

CH: Where can my readers find your website?  

RTB: www.reshondatatebillingsley.com

CH: Where are your books sold? 

RTB: My books are available everywhere fine books are sold.

CH: Any closing remarks?

RTB: Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.

CH: You are quite welcome and thank you for sharing your writing experience and your book with my readers. ReShonda, we didn’t discuss that you and bestselling co-author and friend, Victoria Christopher Murray have teamed up and started Brown Girls Publishing (BGP), a new digital publishing company. BGP publishes a variety of genres and releases books in digital and POD trade paperback editions. But then, that’s a different story that I will have to have you back to discuss. ReShonda, it has been a pleasure talking with you, and we are looking forward to having you back soon! 

Note: Photos are compliments of ReShonda Tate Billingsley and the Internet.

CH: Share it, if you like it. I’m counting on you!

Don’t Keep this Blog a Secret…Tell Your Friends about it!                                             Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

1st Blog Anniversary Behind The Scenes Thank You

Well, we’ve been celebrating our anniversary all month and the celebration is winding down.

A Very Special Thanks to Special People who have helped me in the first year to make this blog what it is today.

These people are special because they are my back-up strength. None of this would have been possible without their help, since I was new to blogging, I didn’t know much and I needed a little help along the way.

Martha Lane, my very first guest author and All of the Guest Authors, who followed her, who helped to make this blog a success.

Jack Passarella from AuthorPromo.com, who designed my website/blog and answered so many newbie questions.

Patrise Henkel from Clearwellco.com, a marketing communications coach and a member of the Accokeek Women’s Writing Group who has several blogs and has been blogging for a number of years.  She helped me with maximizing my use of wordpress and gave me a few simple tricks.

Heather King, an all-around helper. There is no way I could put into words how much  she has done to help make this dream of mine a reality. Sometimes I could afford to pay her and other times I couldn’t. But she always came through with a finished task.

To these people and others who I didn’t mention, but who helped in some way.

I absolutely am excited about what the next year will bring on this blog. We have some great plans for theme months, such as Celebrity Month, International Month, and Male Authors Month.  Just to name a few ideas.

I would like to raise a ‘virtual glass of sparkling apple cider’ to all of those wonderful people who helped me in so many ways.

Sparkling Apple Cider

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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Note: Picture thanks to the Internet.

Mourning Another Great Writer – J. California Cooper

J California Cooper

J. California Cooper was a celebrated African American playwright and author.

African American Author, J. California Cooper, dies at 82

The American literary arena will sadly miss J. California Cooper, her pen name.  I had the privilege of talking to Ms. Cooper many times on the phone, but never got the opportunity to meet her in person. She was chosen San Francisco’s Black Playwright of the Year in 1978; and she won the 1989 American Book Award for Homemade Love. One of her short stories, Funny Valentines, was made into a TV movie in 1999. Born Joan Cooper, she had an illustrious career with many accolades over the years.

J. California Cooper wrote about the struggles of black women and always offered wisdom and knowledge as the take away in her books. Alice Walker was a friend and her first publisher in the 1980’s when she suggested that Cooper write books in addition to her many plays.

Cooper was a storyteller for many years; she started by telling stories to her dolls and played with dolls late into her teens (much like my own daughter). She was very down to earth and had a sense of humor that I just loved. Our business conversations sounded more like friends. I emailed her once about our interview on my radio show and she said, “Honey, just call me. It’s easier than me trying to fool with this email stuff.”

I will miss J. California Cooper and her enjoyable writings.

Condolences to her devoted daughter, Paris Williams, and family. The literary world will miss her!

Guest Author Interview – O. H. Bennett

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Recognition Cover

Title: Recognition: A Novel

Synopsis:This fourth novel by O.H. Bennett represents a departure from his earlier work, characterized by rich depictions of African-American families rendered in quiet but powerfully charged prose. These qualities are present in Recognition, but with the addition of a twisting plot and thriller-like intensity.

Dana, a single-mother, is driving home one rainy evening when, as she passes a homeless panhandler, she recognizes the features of her long-absent husband. Warren Reynolds disappeared from Dana’s life a decade earlier — his body mysteriously missing after a terrible auto accident from which a pregnant Dana was rescued. After glimpsing the man she believes might be her husband, Dana begins surreptitiously searching for him, and is plunged back into memories of the difficulties they were grappling with at the time of Warren’s disappearance. She struggles with whether she can reveal her belief that her husband might be alive to her friends, her in-laws, and, most importantly, her son.

Masterful and psychologically penetrating, Recognition is a taut, engrossing work from a critically acclaimed author. Bennett, known for his terse style and vivid characters rooted in the mainstream of African-American experience, has put his rich, unique, and riveting storytelling talents on full display for all readers.

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Author: O.H. Bennett

CH: O.H. welcome to my blog. Can you sum up your book in 20 words or less? And can you tell us why we should read your book.

OHB: Thank you Cheryl for this chance to connect with your readers.

Driving home one night, a single mother spots a homeless man, who she recognizes as her husband, who supposedly died nine years ago.

I think your readers will enjoy Recognition because it’s fast paced, suspenseful and a human story.  Dana, the mother, is searching for her husband and searching for a way to put her past at rest.  It’s something she prayed for, but never imagine could happen, this chance to piece her life together.

CH: It has been said that you have a story-telling talent. Does story telling come naturally for you or did you have to learn how to do it?

OHB: I think talent is only part of the equation.  The other part, the larger part, is desire.  Whatever it is you want to be a dancer, singer, artist, writer, you need a dose of talent and a whole lot of never quit.  I love hearing stories and reading them.  I love telling them, too.  I’ve always wanted to write.

CH: Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life?

OHB: I take my stories from real life.  Not necessarily my life, but from the known world around me.  It doesn’t matter if it is literary fiction, science fiction, or urban fiction.  If the readers recognize the characters and can see a bit of themselves in them, then the stories will have weight and be believable.

CH: Is there a message in your novel that you want the readers to grasp?

OHB: I don’t try to stick in a message.  If the story works, the readers will find the messages and they’ll do a better job of finding them than I do.

CH: Where did you get inspiration for your characters?

OHB: The characters come from parts of people I know or have met.  Hopefully they will feel real to readers because they are based on real people.  But no one character is based solely on one person.

CH: Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole concept?

OHB: Stories come to me as single ideas and I jot them down in my journal.  The ones that I find the most compelling end up in my stories.

CH: Since this is a thriller with multiple plots, did you have to do any special research to write this book?

OHB: In Recognition, I used one point of view that of the single mother and teacher, Dana, and let the story unwind as she experiences it.  The story takes place over ground that I’m a little familiar with so not a lot of research was required.  But I am an advocate for due research, anything that will make the story more authentic for the reader.

CH: Did you find anything challenging while writing this book?

OHB: The challenge is always to do what it takes to tell the story and keep the readers interested at the same time.  As Dana, my main character, gets closer to the truth, danger gets closer to her.  Readers have to guess along with her just who is who.

CH: Are there any books or authors that influence you as an author?

OHB: Yes!  Too many to name them all, but a few from the top of my head are Ernest J. Gaines, Edward P. Jones, Toni Morrison, Walter Moseley, Richard Wright, and many others.

CH: Since you are a relatively new writer and this is your fourth book, what attracted you to writing in the first place? How long have you been writing?

OHB: I’ve been writing for a long time.  Decades.  I love reading.  Writing and reading, of course, are different sides of the same coin.

CH: What’s next on the agenda in your writing career?

OHB: I keep writing.  I’m working on a new manuscript right now.  I don’t tell anyone about my stories until I’m past page one hundred.  Story ideas are fragile things.  One wrong, though well-meaning word can kill them.

CH: Do you have a website?

OHB: No, but I invite your readers to check out my Amazon author’s page at www.amazon.com/books/O.-H.-Bennett.

CH: Where is your book sold?

OHB: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, lots of web sites and bookstores.  The good people at Agate Bolden do a great job of getting books by black authors out and available.

CH: Any closing remarks?

OHB: Again, thank you Cheryl for the opportunity and I wish you and your readers all the best.

CH: Thank you so much, O. H. for sharing your new book and part of your writing journey with my audience.  

Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

 

Book Review: Seeds of Magnolia by Bill Miller

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Title: Seeds of Magnolia

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: The most peaceful years of Austin Miller’s life were before he married. Only he, Sophia and her mother, Elizabeth, were in the house. After his marriage, the house became a hotbed of chaos fueled by overzealous attitudes and unyielding temperaments. His marriage had been strained by adultery, and after it had been patched, they were separated by the war. Sophia’s best friends were three white girls that she grew up with. When seen by someone that did not know them, they would assume that all four were white. The color of their skin would not be enough to tell that one had a trace of black blood in her veins that made her a slave. Appearing to be white did not make a person white, and being black had its’ limitations. Yet, in a small southern town in Tennessee, Sophia ignored the social code regarding interracial relationships. Seeds of Magnolia unveils some of the stories that have been sheltered by the family—stories that have been kept in the closet, swept under the rug, or just gone untold.

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Author: Bill Miller                                                                                                         Note: Bill Miller is a first-time, self-published author.

For those readers who don’t know me, let me preface this book review by saying two things: I dislike historical books; and I dislike books that are almost 450 pages. But I started reading…

Just reading the synopsis captured my attention. This book was an emotional page-turner. I cried, I laughed, and I got angry…throughout the book to the very end.

The story began when Austin Miller purchased Elizabeth as his housekeeper from the Mrs. Taylor. Mr. Taylor had just died and they had recently moved from North Carolina to Tennessee. Mrs. Taylor was happy to get rid of them, since Elizabeth had been raped by Mr. Taylor, and had a baby, Sophia, who strongly resembled Mr. Taylor. Mrs. Taylor did not want to look at Sophia, a toddler, as a constant reminder of her deceased husband’s infidelity.  So, Elizabeth and her child were sold to Austin Miller.

Elizabeth had no idea if the Miller plantation would be any different than the Taylor plantation for their slaves. But indeed the Miller plantation was like no other plantation. On the Miller plantation, Sophia grew up with three playmates and best friends, Caroline, Amanda and Emily. And when people saw the four of them playing together, they assumed they were four white girls, and they didn’t realize that one of the girls was a slave.

Austin Miller was a lawyer, a politician and a wealthy single businessman, who worked long hours and just wanted peaceful evenings, so he didn’t bother correcting slave life at the plantation—as long as it felt right, he was fine. For many years, this was a peaceful life for Austin Miller, his slave housekeeper and her child.

Then Mr. Miller married a rich widow with two children and an arrogant attitude.  Mrs. Miller believed that slaves were at the bottom of the social class, while their owners were at the top of society and she ran her household as such, which contrasted with how Mr. Miller had run the household before his wife’s arrival.

Mrs. Miller had an inimitable personality and there was constant conflict between her and Sophia, who was now a teenager with an attitude, as well. Life happened during the next few years—Magnolia Manor was built, children were born, Mr. Miller was a member of the Senate, adultery scarred their marriage, friends came and friends were lost, love blossomed among slaves at bush harbor, and the family continued to grow in size.

Then the biggest change of all—the Civil War. It divided families, friends, the North and the South, slaves and slave owners. Mr. Miller left for his safety. Generals Grant and Sherman arrived to take over Magnolia Manor. Mrs. Miller and the slaves were left to fend for themselves during this time of destruction.

Absolutely nothing was the same after the Civil War was over. Life and attitudes would never be as they were prior to the war.

So much happened and I just couldn’t put the book down. When I finished reading, it was a sigh of relief and happiness, because my thirst had been quenched. I always enjoy it when an author mixes both history and fiction to make a truly believable and spell-bounding story.

There were some minor editing issues—misspelled and omitted words—that I attributed to the length of the book…450 pages. I am looking forward to the sequel. After reading Seeds of Magnolia, I can no longer say that I dislike historical books. LOL.

I wish Bill Miller much success in his writing endeavors.

I rate this book…

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DISCLAIMER

Endorsement Disclaimer: All reviews posted on this site and written by Cheryl Holloway are personal opinions of the book by the reviewer. The reviews are NOT paid endorsements of the book or the author. They are not advertisements. All reviews are honest, forthright and the opinion of the individual reviewer, freely given. Our opinions are not for sale.

Guest Author Interview – Stacy Campbell

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Title: Forgive Me

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Synopsis: In this fast-paced sequel to the debut novel, Dream Girl Awakened, five characters come to grips with their pasts amidst broken friendships, infidelity, grief, and loss.

Aruba Dixon has hit rock bottom. After two years of marriage, her second husband has died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and she finds herself wanting to end it all. A botched suicide attempt makes her parents reach out to her ex-husband, James, for assistance. Up until that late-night phone call, James is living the golden life of success and wealth, but now everything is about to spin out of control… Meanwhile, Tawatha Gibson is grateful for the chance to be free again. After serving five years in prison, she is released on a technicality. Though shunned from those she loves most, Tawatha clings to the dream that she will be given another chance to start anew. But when her daughter, Aunjanue, learns about her release from prison, she’s not sure she can celebrate her mother’s freedom, let alone forgive her.

Then there’s Victoria Faulk, who struggles with forgiving and forgetting. After a messy divorce, she wrestles with feelings of inadequacy and doubt. When her new beau, Emory Wilkerson, proposes in front of family and friends, she knows she’ll never be happy until she forgives the one person who hurt her—her old “friend,” Aruba Dixon.

As the events unfold around the lives of these women, they face the challenge of letting go of the past and building new bonds. Will they come full circle and learn to move on, or will their past mistakes follow them forever?

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Author: Stacy Campbell

CH: Welcome, Stacy. Thank you for joining me and allowing my readers to get to know you and your writing. 

CH: Please tell us in one sentence, why we should read your book? 

SC: Readers should read Forgive Me to understand the beauty of letting go of grudges and forgiving others.

CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your type of writing? 

SC: My type of writing is different because I write about things people say could never happen to them, but may in fact, can.  I like to explore themes of relationships, love, and why it’s important to stay connected to those we love. Also, there’s something about the concept of the grass being greener on the other side that intrigues me.  I’ve seen so many friendships and relationships crumble due to this myth. I say, “Water your own grass!”

CH: How long have you been writing? How did you start writing? 

SC: I’ve been writing since I was younger; I began to take the craft seriously about twelve years ago by entering contests, workshops, and applying for grants.  I realized, although I love literary fiction, lots of subjects fascinate me and I can tell a tale more than one way.

CH: When you are coming up with a new idea for a book, do you look at the market for trends? Or do you just write your own story?

SC: I write my own stories, or what I call heart stories. I tackle things that I know or things I’m willing to research. Trend following is too tricky and too unpredictable. There is only one, The Help. There is only one, The Fault In Our Stars. There is only one, Addicted.  (Let’s face it, Zane cracked the erotica market years ago.) By the time an author jumps on the trend bandwagon, a new wave of themes hits the bestseller lists and writers are stuck with imitations. There is nothing new under the sun, but the way an author spins the tale, their heart story, makes the difference.

CH: That’s a great way to look at trends. So, what inspired you to write Forgive Me

SC: Forgive Me is the sequel to my first novel, Dream Girl Awakened. Readers contacted me about the story and wanted to know what happened to the three main characters. Forgive Me takes place five years later and looks at the lives of the key players from book one.

CH: Did you find anything challenging while writing this book?  

SC: I wanted to make sure the characters grew. That was a challenge for me because one character is still stuck on stupid. (Yes, they’re my children, so I can talk about them.) I also wanted to paint a realistic portrait of the fall-out of infidelity.  Once I started the story, it came together for me.

CH: Did you have to do any special research to write this book? 

SC: I researched my local prison system and talked to lots of my educator friends, who helped me with field trip protocol, teaching, etc.

CH: What genre are you most comfortable writing?

SC: Contemporary Women’s Fiction.

CH: Who was your favorite character to write? 

SC: Victoria Faulk. I hated her the most when I started writing book one, but had so much compassion for her by the end of both books. She was truly a victim of circumstance. 

CH: Take us through your writing process. When you get an idea, do you map out the book beforehand, or do you allow the characters to write their own story? 

SC: I wrote the first two books freestyle because the stories flowed quickly. I have discovered a great tool called the Ten Scene Plotting Tool. It was created by James V. Smith and the twelve beat script plot. The chart is designed to eliminate writer’s block and give the writer a big picture look at the story so ideas will flow. It is available at http://www.kkitts.net/downloads/files/TenScenePlot.pdf.   I can attest that this helped me with book three tremendously. So, I am more open to plotting and outlining now.

CH: Do you have plans for a new book? 

SC: Yes. Wouldn’t Change A Thing, my third novel, will be released in the summer of 2015.  On the morning of her engagement party, Atlanta architect Antoinette Williamson awakens to her family’s secret of mental illness on the front page of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The story explores mental illness in the African-American community and how far one family member goes to protect her niece.

CH: Do you have a website? 

SC: Readers can reach me at www.stacyloveswriting.com. The site is being revamped, but I’m also reachable at my email address georgiapeach2814@aol.com.

CH: Where are your books sold? 

SC: They are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.com. You can also order the books directly from me through PayPal.

CH: Any Closing Remarks? 

SC: Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I appreciate the support and look forward to hearing from readers and writers.  Also, I hope aspiring authors know that anything is possible and to never give up on their writing dreams.

CH: Thank you, Stacy, and thank you for sharing your book with my audience and your writing journey. I wish you much success for your writing career.  

 

Readers and followers, please share this post with your friends.

 If you find us deserving, please nominate us for Writer’s Digest “101 Best Sites for Writers.”  Email: writersdig@fwpubs.com with “101 Sites” in the subject line.  Type: “Cheryl Holloway Author Blog http://www.CherylHolloway.net/blog in the body of the email.  It’s that simple!  And “thank you” from all of us!

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                       ~ Cheryl Holloway

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Questions? Comments? Contact : AuthorCherylHolloway@gmail.com or Cheryl@CherylHolloway.net

1st Blog Anniversary: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Blogging That Successful Bloggers Know by Cheryl Holloway

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10 Things Ive learned

I’ve been writing on my blog for one year and I have over 100 posts. In that year,  I’ve learned ten things that successful bloggers know.  They are:

  1. Blog Readers are important.  My blog readers mean the world to me! I love each and every one of them, especially those who take the time out of their busy schedule to visit my blog. I just wish I could meet more than one blog reader at a time.
  1. Writing for readers is even more important. I enjoy writing for my readers. Good appearance, proper grammar and topics of interest are at the top of the list.
  1. Building a blog is difficult. You can’t build a blog over night.  You have to be realistic in your expectations. So, I try to build my blog by writing more good posts and by giving the readers what they request.
  1. You can’t blog all the time. Sometimes, life gets in the way and you have to take a break. I try to blog as often as I can.
  1. Blog on a regular basis. You need to blog at least 2-3 times a week. Often, life gets in the way and I can’t blog as many times as I have planned.
  1. Blog about varied topics. I have to change things up from time-to-time. I try to write when I have interesting thoughts. I want to give my readers something different, and I don’t want to be like everyone else.
  1. Bloggers need to tell readers about themselves. I try to tell a little bit about myself. A short bio is listed on the blog, but the best bio is listed on my website.     I try to give you a peak into my life then and now. I like just being me.
  1. Other bloggers are willing to help. From time-to-time, I need suggestions and help from other bloggers. I also post on other blogs for writers.
  1. Blog reader comments are sparse. Comments don’t come as often as I’d like. Blog readers care…they just don’t comment much. I only get a few comments—but the ones I get are great!
  2.  Bloggers love blogging.  I love blogging! (And I love writing, too!) So, I will be around for years to come.

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