Monday, March 31, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Tina Brooks McKinney

Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

Tina the person is shy and enjoys reading. She does not like a whole lot of attention and can normally be found at home with her family. She avoid crowds like the plague and will spend the entire weekend in the house and be completely happy. The writer is more outgoing on paper. She can use her keyboard to say things that normally would never cross her lips LOL. I guess you can say writing Tina is my alter ego. I have written four books but only three are available at this tine. All That Drama, Lawd, Mo' Drama and Fool, Stop Trippin'. I am currently working on my next novel that is untitled at the moment.

Tell us about your current book?

Fool, Stop Trippin' is the story of a woman determination to keep her man by any means necessary and if she can't have him, no one else will. I loved creating this story because I really let my imagination run wild. I used a few of the characters from my other novel to create this slightly paranormal tale. As with all my books, there is a lesson to be learned but you will have to read it to find out what it is.

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

The loudest message that I try to deliver in all my books is the need to love yourself. I've suffered from low self esteem for most of my life and the effects can be devastating. Once we learn to love ourselves unconditionally, we are less likely to fall for the okie-doke.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I am a whenever I can get the opportunity writer. Since I am still holding down a day job, I get in where I can fit in LOL.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I love the creative process, seeing the characters grow before my eyes. I detest the editing process LOL.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

The most frustrating thing about the business to me that I didn't understand how long it takes for a manuscript to become a novel. Had I known, I would have worked extra hard to make sure I had several books stacked on shelves ready to go to print. I think my second book would have done better if it hadn't taken so long to be printed. I lost the momentum of the first book and people had to re-read it to understand what was going on in the second one.

I also wish I would have understood how important it is to network. I do well with friends that I've met either on line or my fellow writers but I still have a ways to go with strangers. When I get to these big events, I tend to blend into the woodwork hoping to go unnoticed but that's the time to really strut your stuff.

What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?

I don't really see my life as having been changed. Sure, it's different when I am out on tour and folks actually appear excited to meet me but when I'm home, it's business a usual. I think some people expect me to change but I'm happy with the way things are.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I feel like I'm joined at the hip with this laptop. That is where most of my marketing is done. This works for me because I can do it in the privacy of my home and it reaches a broader market. I also host a weekly radio show where I introduce both new and established authors. To hear one of my shows, go to

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Please don't take this the wrong way - Authors do book signings to sell books. Often times, we have paid good money for airfare, hotel and other such expenses to do them. Be considerate of this when you see a author at the store. Don't use this time to ask a gazillion questions. Instead, ask if it would be okay to email them later to have a one on one discussion. You will find that most authors would love to speak to you in detail outside of that setting. On the flip side of that, don't go out of your way to ignore us either. It's nothing wrong with just stopping by and saying hi as we love to meet new readers.

Name your top five favorite writing books.

I have two shelves of writing books. It would be unfair of me to just list five. Each give me what I need when I need it. I also learn from reading books by other authors.

What do you do to make time for yourself?

Huh, what's that? LOL

This month our theme is Writing for Children. Have you ever considered writing a children’s book?

No I haven't. My children are all grown and I don't have any young children in my immediate family living in Georgia therefore, I am out of touch with children. I believe once I start having grandchildren, I will consider it but I'm not rushing that process LOL.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website),

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ARTICLE: Five Fiction Facts


by MaryAnn Diorio, Ph.D.

Writing fiction is an art based on important principles. Here are five of them:

Character comes before plot

Just as people still argue over the proverbial question, Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?, writers of fiction argue over what comes first, character or plot?

We Christians know that the chicken came first since God directly created the chicken. The egg, then, comes out of the chicken. The same is true in the best fiction--the kind of fiction that most impacts lives. The author creates the character, and the plot then comes out of the character.
Think about the best stories you've read. What comes to mind first--a character or the plot? Most often, it is a character who remains branded in your memory, long after the plot is forgotten.

Plot evolves out of character

What your characters do is your story. Therefore, before you even
begin to write, you must know your characters--what motivates or drives them. It is out of this knowing that your story (or plot) will emerge and develop.

Start your story in the middle of the conflict

Think about screenplays or television dramas. The story always opens in the middle of a conflict or problem. It is the same in fiction. Start your story at a point of conflict. This immediately captures your reader's interest and draws him into the story.

When writing, think of yourself as a camera

Stories are not written in words; they are written in pictures. The mind operates in images, not words. For example, when I say "house", do you see the letters h-o-u-s-e, or do you see an image of a house, most likely your own? The answer is obvious.

Remember that people read fiction for entertainment

Don't preach or moralize. Your message must be intrinsic to the story, not tacked on.

Copyright 2004 by MaryAnn Diorio, Ph.D. MaryAnn’s short stories have appeared in Show and Tell, Today’s Christian Teen, the Young Generation Book of Short Stories, Junior Trails, and Romancing the Christian Heart. She is currently working on her first novel. MaryAnn hosts a popular writers’ blog called Musings That Matter at

Monday, March 24, 2008


Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

It’s a huge secret that I graduated high school by the skin of my teeth, and my last report card consisted of 4 Ds and 1 B. The B was in art. Needless to say, I absolutely loathed school, but given a second chance, I know I could do better. LOL!

I self published my first book five years after I started writing it and it sold a whopping 117 copies! Then I published it again, and it sold ten thousand copies. And finally, it was picked up by Monique Patterson at St. Martin ’s Press and published for the third time in 2003, and the rest is history. Becoming a writer is the one thing in life that I set my sites on, and saw it through to the end. It’s the one thing I know I’ll do until I take my last breath, whether I continue to get published or not.

Tell us about your current book?

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved is the final installment of the One Day I Saw a Black King series, which was never meant to be a series in the first place. The characters in Black King are probably my favorites because they were all interesting enough to spawn so many different types of stories into so many different directions. Wherein Don’t Want No Sugar was the backdrop to John King’s saga, You Gotta Sin to Get Saved fills in some blanks to Connie Rodgers’ life.

Charlotte Rodgers abandoned her two daughters in 1976, chasing after the man in her life. I wanted to let readers know what happened to Charlotte , and to bring closure for her girls.

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

That God don’t like ugly! Charlotte was a selfish woman, putting her needs before anyone else’s, even her own kids. In the end, she learned a powerful lesson that only this confrontation can teach her.

And that you don’t necessarily have to let your past define you. Connie, the oldest of her children, was the hardest hit by her mother’s neglect. In her own way, Connie has carried the burden of her past for too long, but despite her trials growing up, she owes it to herself to stop blaming herself for those things that happened to her when she was younger.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

That depends on deadlines. I’ve gotten to the point where I seldom turn a book in on time anymore, and because of that, I’m usually rushing at the last minute to get it done, so I have to write whenever I can. Sometimes, I don’t have the luxury of choosing when to write. I just have to hurry up and get it done.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I love it when I finish a book! LOL… I hate starting one, but it’s the beginning that’s the most critical to me. I hate writing the middle, because I just want to get to the end, and it sometimes seems like that’s never going to happen. Writing can be boring, tedious work when I’m up to my elbows trying to get to ninety-thousand words, but when I type that last word, and I know I’m finished, I usually go out and celebrate with a frozen, strawberry daiquiri.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I don’t think I have an answer for that one. I’ve been in this business for many years, and I still don’t understand it all. It’s competitive, complicated, confusing, but I guess that at some point, like anything else, you come to accept the good with the bad.

What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?

I’m actually rather shy. The first time I had to speak in front of a group to promote my first book, And on the Eighth Day She Rested, I didn’t sleep the night before because I was up all night, taking care of business in the bathroom. I do much better now, but it took a long time to feel comfortable speaking in front of crowds.

I’m not very good at self promotion, and I tend to get uncomfortable when I’m out in public and someone I don’t know (or remember) recognizes me.

I get letters from folks from all over the place, telling me how much they like (or don’t like) my books, and that’s amazing to me. I remember when I first started out in the business, and I’d go to Barnes and Nobles dreaming of the day that my book would show up on their shelves. Corny as it may sound; it really is a dream come true knowing that my books sell all over the world.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I’m terrible at marketing. I think it comes from that shy thing. I use the internet a lot, and I have a publicist at St. Martin ’s that does some things for me. I tried doing the “traveling doing book signings” thing at book stores across the country, but those things never work out for me. I usually end up standing there, looking scared and desperate, and hoping someone will stop by my table. The last signing I did at a store was in Philly, and they had the room set up for me to speak to a rather large group. Well, three people showed up (one was my sister). I went ahead and did my spiel like the room was packed, but I vowed – never again.

I do like doing the bigger events, like the Book Expo America . I’ve got a captive audience, and know that folks are going to stop for a FREE signed book! LOL

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I wish they’d understand that this really is work. People kill me when you meet them and they say something careless like “I think I’ll write a book some day”, like it’s really so easy to do. All I can think is that maybe for them, it is. For me, writing is tough and requires time, energy, attention—blood, sweat, and tears to do.

And I’d like for them also to know that first book you write is probably going to be the easiest. That’s been my experience. I have to dig a little deeper, reach a little farther, and stretch my imagination a little thinner each and every time.

What do you do to make time for yourself?

I procrastinate. LOL

I do some obvious things, like go to movies, hang out with friends, and I love listening to live music. But I can never stay away from writing for too long, so as lame as it might sound, I write for fun too. I love writing plays, and work with a small local theater company here in town where they put my plays into production. Theater is a great outlet for me, because unlike writing novels, the entire burden of storytelling isn’t on the author. It’s a team effort; the writer, producer, director, and actors. I really enjoy the collaborative effort and the results take my breath away.

This month our theme is Writing for Children. Have you ever considered writing a children’s book?

I’ve thought about it, but I think I would scare them. I have two great kids, but other than my own, I’ve never been able to relate to them all that well. I have tons of nieces and a nephew too, but they look at me like they just don’t get me. I love them, though. LOL.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Readers can visit my website at, or my myspace page at

Friday, March 21, 2008


Me, as a child: someone who could have been locked up indefinitely in a mental ward… thanks go to my parents for not doing it. I’m a recluse…. Me professionally: Before I was a writer I was a psychotherapist, stress management trainer and hypnotherapist… and yes, the only people I cannot hypnotize are people who have mental deficiency – I left this profession to go live in a cave, but alas I had a car accident and while healing began to write. And here I am now… a quasi writer of sorts. Me personally: I prefer never venturing out of my house. I love laughing but jokes need to still be rooted in logic. I’m a dog lover after years of being terrified of them. I have a husband, one of many, two daughters and two grandchildren. Other than God, family and friends are, and always have been, the most important thing in my life… oh, except that time sex took precedence… wait I might have that mixed up. Anyway I am a Southerner, even though, I don’t care for many southern foods. My favorite food is chocolate layer cake. And I do abide fools easily –otherwise I’d have to run from myself. My favorite books to read are thrillers, not the serial killer kind but good old fashioned espionage. I love martial arts (practiced a while back) and have seen every martial arts movie that’s ever been released in the US. One of my favorite all times movies was a Spaghetti flick titled “The Stranger.” Now my favorite movie is Taladegha Nights with Will Farrell… I’ve seen it probably 200 times. I know most of the lines now to that and the indy film, Kinky Boots.

Tell us about your current book?

Currently I have two new middle school books:

“Shadows on Society Hill,” American Girl’s doll Addy’s first mystery, set in 1866 in Philadelphia. This book introduces Civil War spies, spycraft and a few other phenomenon that haven’t been explored in children’s books. (JUST NOMINATED FOR AN EDGAR AWARD)

“Freedom Train,” is about the train that traveled to 322 cities carrying the US’s most precious documents in 1947-48. This book deals with racism, classism, war, patriotism and the parallel Universe of poverty. Only this time the rich boy in the story is Black… YIPEE -- finally.

For adults I still have “What a Woman’s Gotta Do” (available from Random House in paperback) If you like “thrillers, science, physics and the cosmogony of other peoples, particularly African cosmogony, you’ll like this book. As one reader complains “so many twist and turns and you don’t know what is happening until the very end.” Yes, it’s that kind of book… along with a strong kick-butt kind of woman.

What would you like your readers to take away from your books?

I want them to take away knowledge, learn something they didn’t know before or begin to think in new ways about old information. My work always deals with the theme of justice and I rarely have ambivalence – the very reason so many children today don’t think of slavery as “all bad.” Why?????? Read the literature….

In almost every instance the line or the intimation appears that there were “many decent slave owners.” REALLY????

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I’m an all night writer. I usually go to bed around 4am and get up at 10:30am. Can’t write this tidbit in interviews enough because almost every morning someone calls me before 10am.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I don’t really love any aspect of writing, it’s torture to me really. I find myself swearing to give it up daily. I am never satisfied, always wishing I had more knowledge, more skills, more whatever it takes to become a “great” writer that I do not possess. And a picture book, let’s just say it’s the one thing that makes me cry and tear my hair out. Now if you ask what I hate the most – it would have to be that after all this time I still don’t feel like I’m a much better writer than I did when I started this path. But as I have struggled, trying to place finger to key, I have followed Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice: “Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?” And always my answer is a resounding YES.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That in the end the only person who cares that “you wrote a book” is the reader who loves your work. Not all your family or friends will be excited and glad for you… and almost every one you meet will say, “I’m going to -- or I am writing a book too,” without even caring that you wrote one… except the confirmation that if “this ditsy broad could write one I sure as heck could do it too.” Oh yes, and unless you can say you’re a “Bestselling New York Times or Essence author,” you’ll be as adrift as Roger Dangerfield or Moms Mabley in today’s celebrity driven environment. And for sure, that an advance is just that… and they’ll take their good time getting it to you.

What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?

Hmmm. Some of my family that didn’t really ever talk to me, talk to me more… YIPEE! Oh wait, some librarians understand that I might keep the library book out longer… other’s don’t get it though and scold me harshly. I love librarians either way. Most staff in a bookstore could care less if I “wrote a book.” And now, when I say I’m a writer and people smugly sneer, “Are you published?” I can say, “yes,” before they respond so politely, “I’m sorry but I’ve never heard of you.”

How much marketing do you do?


What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Prayer I suspect, luck could but hasn’t, and if I was more inclined, being able to “sell” my own greatness—which turns me off completely. I’ve only tried the prayer and that didn’t work yet for me. As for “selling,” I have always hated selling anything… that’s why my family had tons of Girl Scout Cookies to eat. I don’t want to be a salesperson, or a marketing/ advertising wiz but I know that it will help you if you are willing to do that. I don’t knock it, just can’t do it. I think in my mind there is only one thing a writer needs to do, that is to develop your craft, which will allow you to write a solidly plotted or constructed book, with meaningful characters and you’re half way there. One thing is for sure though, I would be doing a lot better right now as an African American writer if I had had the good sense to be a pimp & a ho-drug-dealing-murderer-c-sucking hiphop moguling- scank video dancing--thieving-slut. But alas I missed that train.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

That it is hurtful and disrespectful if you ask me to help you get published and you’ve not even bothered to read a book I’ve written. They’re in most libraries for crying out loud. Wait, did you say non-writers…. They still ask me too. Somehow there’s a large group of people now, who think getting published has little to do with writing. And they’d be right considering the trends in publishing these days. If someone ask me if I think they will be able to get published, now I usually say, “Great chance if you’re a super sales person or have a gimmick, think being a drug addict and getting your teeth yanked out in rehab without Novocain.” Ouch! Here’s the thing, one day I wish to write a book that will make “the man,” want to hunt me down and kill me… so far, I’ve just pissed people off. My father used to tell me that writers were passionate beings bringing light so others could see the world clearly. I hope we all aspire to become that “writer.”

Name your top five favorite writing books.

The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman

The Career Novelist, Donald Maass (hope it’s
been updated)

Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass

Don’t Murder Your Mystery, Chris Roerden

A Dash of Style, the Art and Mastery of Punctuation, Noah Lukeman

Bonus: Stephen King, On Writing;

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont and anything that bell hooks writes about writing

What do you do to make time for yourself?

Invent and develop new products, watch movies endlessly, listen to Betty Lavette sing over and over again

This month our theme is Writing for Children. Why did you choose to write for children?

I have always loved the transitory nature of children’s literature, from the fairy tales that spoke to the class injustice of their times to the revelation that children know dark things too. Once I decided to pursue writing professionally my plan was simple, break into writing in magazines and newspapers, study, go to as many workshop and university programs as I could find, read every writing book, until I had honed my writing skills. Then I felt I would be ready to tackle the difficult task of writing for children. I thought that it would be helpful to have my extensive knowledge of subliminal seduction but as it turns out writing for children has been and continues to be my nemesis. It is when I feel my most inadequate as a writer and my most vulnerable as a human. Children bring me large slices of humility when I consider what they must do to navigate our world. And the only thing I can offer is a little illumination in as honest and forthright story as I can write. My heart, spirit and soul reside in children’s literature and one day I hope to improve my skills so that even I am satisfied with the tale I must tell. In the meantime, as I grow as a writer, I feel blessed to know that children are a thousand times more forgiving than others on the planet so when I have mis-stepped, fallen short or missed the mark, they will forgive me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

EXCERPT: Being Plumville

Being Plumville
by Savannah J Frierson

iUniverse, Inc.

ISBN-10: 0595430201

ISBN-13: 978-0595430208

Living in the small, southern town of Plumville is effortless, seamless, and safe . if you follow the rules. You're given them from birth, and anything that could possibly make you break them is removed from your life-even if it's your best friend.

Such is the case for Benjamin Drummond and Coralee Simmons, two best friends separated during childhood because Benjamin is white, Coralee is black, and relationships between the two races are unspoken in its taboo. However, fifteen years later during the turbulent 1960s, Benjamin and Coralee are reunited, and despite their upbringing, neither are able to deny what they had in their innocent youth, nor suppress the desire to rekindle it-maybe even into something more.

The reunion forces the pair and those around them to examine the consequences of following the status quo versus following their hearts. Is friendship too high a price to pay to be Plumville? Is love? Will Benjamin and Coralee become who Plumville raised them to be, or who they were born to be?

The speakerphone felt impossibly heavy in her grasp, and it took all of Coralee’s strength to hold it to her mouth.

“Ladies and gentlemen . . . we are here, on the brink of change, of starting a new era for Solomon College, and later, the world . . .”
The words tumbled off her tongue, automatic and precise, though her stomach jumped with each word pumped from her diaphragm. This was her important speech, and she had to deliver it well.

“Too long has our history been in the hands of another, spun, molded, and shaped to fit certain perceptions, to justify the gross wrongs done to us. Tonight we take it back, but not only that, expose the real truth of our people. Black Studies today, Black Studies forever!”

The crowd cheered, and some of the weight on Coralee’s shoulders fell away. They were responding to her, energized. Posters ranged from “Black Studies Now!” to “We Have History, Too!” . . . some only decorated with black fists or afros or black bodies holding books at their chest and a raised fist. Some at the rally wore dashikis, others more American clothes, and Coralee thought it was a fitting tribute to their two histories. They learned about one extensively, almost oppressively, while the other was only anecdotes told by their parents or other elders.

Jermaine was right; there could be no half-stepping when it came to their cause.
The sun’s rays honed in on the library like a spotlight, as if she were an actress in her biggest debut. Instead, however, Coralee felt she was a proxy for her ancestors—their ancestors—the ancestors of black Plumville, Bakersfield, Georgia, America; the many blacks who came from all classes, regions, and colors.

They were tired of being treated as second-class students at Solomon College, tired of being discounted because their skin color triggered notions of an ignorant, incapable people. They would show the school what they could do, what their people had done; they would show that without them, there wouldn’t be a United States of America.

“The journey toward our goal will be long and arduous, but not as long and arduous as our forefathers and mothers, who toiled the fields and picked the tobacco, rice, and cotton that made the South what it was—the richest region in the nation. It was from our forefathers and mothers’ blood, sweat, and tears that many of our peers’ families were able to live as comfortably as they did—”

“And it was because of y’all uppity niggers forgettin’ yo’ place the South fell!”
A chilling breeze swooped across the gathering, strains of Dixie floating upon it. Coralee clenched her jaw at the Confederate flag flying high from the other group. Though it wasn’t a foreign sight, it still caused an unpleasant, visceral reaction. In one piece of cloth held the hatred, humiliation, and harassment she and hers had experienced since the moment they were born. Never had Coralee reacted so strongly to something inanimate, but how could she not when most in Plumville and Bakersfield pledged allegiance to that flag instead of the national one.

Not that the national one was much better, but at least those under that flag made an effort.

Jermaine eased Coralee aside, taking the speakerphone from her. Dixie got louder as the group approached, and the rally members moved closer together in a show of unity . . . and protection as well. “This is a peaceful rally! We don’t want any trouble!” Jermaine said, his static-reproduced voice echoing throughout the quad.
The second group booed, jabbing the flag and other less benign posters in the air.

“Get down,” Jermaine whispered to her.


“Get down from the steps, Coralee! Right now you ain’t nothin’ but a target!”

A whiskey bottle barreled toward them, overshooting its target and exploding with a sickening shatter behind them. Coralee didn’t run down the steps, refusing to show her fear, but as soon as she reached the bottom, Freda and Nick yanked her into the safety of the crowd.

“That Negro needs to get off those steps! What if they don’t miss next time?!” Freda said, terror lacing her voice. Jermaine remained and picked up Coralee’s speech where she left off, his tone strong despite heckling and vulgarity from the dissenting group. Another whiskey bottle exploded at Jermaine’s feet, soaking his brand new sneakers. It was then Coralee realized they weren’t missing at all, aiming just enough to show intent, to warn.

“And now we rally, my friends, rally so our voices will finally be heard . . . we rally for change!”

Booing and cheering fought for dominance, and Jermaine jogged down the steps to join the rest of the BSU board. They linked arms and began singing We Shall Overcome, and walked towards the office, but the other crowd moved to stand in front of them, blocking their progress and looking mighty pleased to do so.

They didn’t stop singing; instead, they got louder, unleashing the power of their voices and the voices they represented. The song angered their opponents. Their jaws clenched. They gripped their sticks, branches and bats harder. They waved the Confederate flag more vigorously than earlier. Coralee felt the disgust and lust from each foe she saw, but she gasped and stumbled back when she met a particular set of eyes. Benjamin Drummond stood looking every bit as angry and severe as the rest of his group, and she tightened her arm around Nick’s to draw strength. As if last week’s comment wasn’t enough, his presence added salt to the wound.

Dixie now clashed with Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel, the songs dueling for supremacy. However, this was not enough for some, and a scream pierced the cacophony.
A fight ensued. Nick pushed her back into the crowd, away from the oncoming opposition, and Coralee fled. Someone grabbed the back of her cardigan; a scream lodged in her throat. She began kicking and scratching as an arm wedged itself between her collarbone and jaw.

“The only thing you nigger women are good for is a screw . . . and not even a good one!”

Coralee struggled against him, especially when he worked his hand down the front of her blouse to grope her breasts. Before her, a rally member stood dazed, blood seeping from a wound at his temple and small twigs from the branch used to strike him strewn at his feet.
Coralee gagged.

“I could take you right now, right here in the middle o’ all this, and no one would stop me . . . not even yo’ lil’ uppity nigger boyfriends—ouch! You stupid nigger bitch!”

Coralee had stepped on his foot and jabbed him hard in the stomach with her elbow, gaining freedom. She tore through the crowd, tears of frustration, sadness, terror, and anger coursing down her cheeks. All the weeks of planning, of preparing for every possible counter-attack, had fallen short because none in the BSU could fully fathom the animosity and hatred of their opposition. It seemed no amount of discussion or teaching would do anything to stop it.

Amid the chaos Coralee stumbled upon the sidewalk, not realizing it was even there. Suddenly arms wrapped around her and she screamed, struggling once more. A hand clamped around her mouth, and she fought for breath, she thought he was choking her again. Instead, he lifted her, cradling her like a baby, and she wrapped her arms around the person instinctively. Coralee gasped when she saw Benjamin’s tight jaw, and hid her face in the crook of his neck.

He ran with her, his football training coming in handy, to a faraway alcove of trees behind the chapel and library. He set her down with her back against a tree, his front pressing her against it. His arms locked her in, and he kept looking behind him, as if searching for danger. Coralee tried to relax against the tree, but she couldn’t stop trembling. Blood and adrenaline surged through her and she took deep breaths as if oxygen would run out in the next five minutes. She felt her heartbeat in her wrists, temple, stomach, chest, the backs of her knees—everywhere—as the heart worked overtime.

Thunder bounced off the roofs and trees, mixing with the yelling and fighting from the melee. Lightning flashed too brightly to be unconcerned about it, and Coralee jumped, a sob escaping her. Benjamin’s large, calloused hand touched her cheek, catching the silent tears she shed. Coralee jerked, glancing at his eyes that were still full of the righteous anger and severity from before. What if Benjamin was the attacker from earlier?

She gasped again, pushing against the tree as if forcing it to envelop her. She hadn’t recognized her first attacker’s voice, her adrenaline-enhanced senses distorting it, but Coralee couldn’t rule Benjamin out, no matter how much she wanted to do so.

Trust him?

His hands moved from her face to her body and Coralee froze, feeling the backs of his fingers ghost across her stomach and the bottom of her breasts as he worked her buttons. Her bottom lip slid between her teeth and she closed her eyes tight. Suddenly he stopped touching her, but she didn’t relax, slowly opening her eyes to him. He was looking at her intently, his expression blank and hands fisted in his pockets. Coralee relaxed and looked down at herself.

He had righted her clothes, even buttoning the formerly opened cardigan she wore on top of her blouse. Rain began falling, flourished by the thunder and lightning, and she hugged herself. Benjamin opened his jacket in silent invitation.
Trust him.

Experience taught her not to, conditioned by her father and grandmother and everyone else who told her white people couldn’t be trusted. Yet here this white boy was,
protecting her from molesters and now the elements, only asking for her trust in return.

Did these small acts of chivalry deserve it?

They weren’t children anymore; they couldn’t hide in the bubble of innocence, of make-believe. The dragons were real, disguised as rednecks in pickup trucks who ran black people off the road for the fun of it. The wicked witches and warlocks were real, disguised as fellow students, professors, and police officers. The only person who hadn’t been real was her prince, and yet . . . it seemed he was trying to be, even if he didn’t know how to go about it so well.

She peered at him, hugging herself tighter. “Benny?”

The name was small, barely discernable from the pelting rain and wind rustling through the leaves. A flash of lightning illuminated behind him, casting shadows along his face. His blue eyes totally focused on her, and he stepped closer, opening his jacket wider.

“Ceelee, please.”

It was the please that uprooted her feet and propelled her into his arms. She hugged his middle, and breathed in his scent mixed with the rain and whatever soap he used earlier, and that cinnamon smell he always had, even when he was younger. Coralee was warm, partly from the jacket, but mostly from him. This was a familiar embrace—the embrace he would give her when he used to protect her from Luther Jr., or Tommy Birch . . . a spider.

The rain was more calming than it should’ve been. Her clothes were ruined, but the rain had less to do with that than her harasser. Water seeped into her shoes, squishing around whenever she moved or redistributed her weight from one foot to the other.

She snuggled closer to Benjamin, taking more of his heat.

“You’d never guess this,” he said after a while, one hand sweeping along her back slowly, comfortingly, “but your mama asked me to look out for you while you were here.”

That should’ve surprised Coralee far more than it did, but it made perfect sense. Her mother still worked for his family, and Patty had always liked Benjamin. Yet if that were the case . . .

“You never spoke to me until this year.”

“I don’t have to talk to you to look after you.”

“Then why did you look so surprised to see me that day in Professor Carmichael’s office?”

He laughed, and his chest rumbled under her ear. “You were going to be my tutor!”

“Oh, yes, a black girl tutoring a white boy? Who would’ve thought?”

“No, Ceelee,” he replied, his hand now smoothing down her hair. “The student now was the teacher.”

She pulled back slightly. Water dripped off his long, narrow nose and fell to his lips. Freda had been right—they were very full . . . kissable.

That was certainly an inappropriate thought, and she coughed in reaction.

“Maybe we should get you inside,” he whispered.
Coralee dropped her forehead against his chest again, fully against the idea. It meant she had to leave his warmth.

“I’ll walk you to your room, loan you my jacket.”

Even as Benjamin shrugged out of it, Coralee remained close, staring at the ground as the rain churned up dirt and small rocks. The jacket came around her shoulders, and she slipped her hands through the arms of it. The garment was wet and too large, and every time she pushed up the sleeves, they fell back over her hands.
Finally the rain stopped and it was quiet, the weather apparently scaring off everyone and leaving her and Benjamin alone in the quad. They didn’t talk or touch as they walked on the rain-soaked path; Coralee concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, bunching the excess cuffs in her hands. Benjamin sighed and looked around as if discovering a new place. Perhaps he was, they were, and yet, it wasn’t so new.

The trust, the friendship, had been easier once—natural and automatic.
Benjamin hesitated, grasping her elbow gently to guide her in front of him, helping her avoid a large puddle she had been one step away from walking in, and she muttered her thanks. Her attention hadn’t been on her feet despite her show of otherwise. He fell into step next to her, but didn’t remove his hand. In fact, he tightened his grip, and eased her towards him so smoothly Coralee barely registered it.

She didn’t make him let go.

They reached her dormitory and Coralee slid out of the jacket, still staring at her feet. “Thank you,” she whispered, handing it to him. Their fingers brushed against each other, and she shivered, meeting his eyes briefly before going to the door.


She turned to him, and had the strongest urge to brush his wet-slicked hair from his forehead. Benjamin approached her, studying her. She pressed her back against the glass door.


His lips were even softer than Nick’s as he kissed her cheek. Coralee forgot to breathe, especially when he squeezed her shoulder a little before drawing away and going back down the lane.

Clouds cleared and the moon shone high in the sky, its man smiling down on her and the rest of campus. Tomorrow morning, after a night’s sleep, she would wake up to the same campus with the same people living on it.

But a new balance had been formed, especially between her and Benjamin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

COVER AUTHOR: Paula Chase Part 2

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

More than I care to, that's for sure. Marketing and promotion take up way more time than I'd like. I try to implement promotion in blocks. If I didn't I'd never have time to write. Still, even managing it that way doesn't preclude it from distracting me from writing, because there's so much planning to do. Then as soon as you finish planning there's the element of implementation. It's a cycle that really never ends if you want people to know about your book.

My website was the best investment I've made to date. It's a 24-hour "storefront" giving people the ability to research me and my book on their terms. But, my best marketing tool is me. Not me talking about my book, but me talking about things I know - writing, the issues my books cover, life as a writer and author. So that means appearances at libraries, schools and lit festivals are key for me. When you connect with people on different levels, they're more interested in you and by relation, the product you're selling. The market's saturated with people trying to sell other people something. Me standing there talking about my book for 30 minutes or an hour is nothing more than a commercial. I'd drown me out too.

But me telling a room full of writers about how I got my agent or what the process was once I signed my contract with Kensington empowers them. And afterwards, they're naturally more curious about the product of that journey. Same with teen readers. My library visits are interactive. I get them involved in a writing exercise, because it's way more interesting than me standing there waxing philosophical. Inevitably, after a library visit my books are checked out in that branch consistently.

Writers can benefit from studying the art of indirect marketing - connecting with people without constantly going on about your "product." It's tough for some of us though because many writers are introverts or at the least, like being behind-the-scenes.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

That it's not easy. People who write well just make it look so. It's like anything else. It's easy to be a Monday night quarterback. But get in the game for a few minutes and you realize just how difficult it is to make decisions under pressure. Same with writing. People read a book and think, "I can write that." But the second you sit down facing a blank page, without something to react to, you realize - Hmmm...well, maybe I can't.

Name your top five favorite writing books.

I'll be honest, I've never used one. I'm a die-hard pantster, as in flying by the seat of my pants. I write because I'm compelled to. What comes out, comes out naturally without regard to format, structure or even laws of grammar. I've been writing since I was a young child, it's always come to me naturally. That doesn't make me an expert, by any means. But it does make me rather impatient when it comes to reading a book about writing.

What do you do to make time for yourself?

Wait, you mean I can have time to myself? That means I'm owed a lot of back-time. Seriously, since I became a mom and wife (13 years ago) I've had to find time for me in a lot of small pleasures. Losing myself in a good book is still something I enjoy now and then. I'm just not able to lose myself for an entire weekend without interruption. I also enjoy being outdoors. Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons, just to be out taking a walk or sitting around enjoying the nice weather.

This month our theme is Writing for Children. Why did you choose to write young adult stories?

I've always liked working with tweens and teens. I've been mentoring youth since the early 90's. I wrote for Girls Life and the now defunct Sweet 16 magazine. The teen years fascinates me. You feel so mature when you're 16. You're making big decisions and experiencing new things. It's not until you're 25 that you realize how much more maturing you'd endure over time. So I love writing about the time period when so much of what you do and say, you believe is very adult. Whether your teen years were the best or worst of your life, for everyone they're the most essential, the most impactful.

What advice would you offer someone interested in writing for young adults?

Only write for young adults if you have a passion for them. Teens can smell a contrived story a mile away. And contrary to popular belief, YA books aren't basic. They deal with the same issues as many adult books - loyalty, love, life, death - only they're being told from a teen's perspective.
I've heard aspiring authors talk about wanting to teach a lesson, thus their interest in writing YA. Nothing wrong with that. But teen readers don't want to be talked down to. As I mentioned in the last question, they already believe they're very mature. You go in preaching and they tune you out. So capturing the teen voice can be challenging. But being validated by a teen reader, having a teen reader tell you they related to what you wrote, is the best feeling in the world!

What’s the hardest part about writing for young adults?

Blocking out preconceived notions about teenagers. Sometimes writers get caught up in - do teens say this? What do teens wear? How do teens talk? I never worry about those things. It may sound strange, but those things aren't key to my story. The emotion and how my characters deal with life's trials and tribs is what my books are about. From the slang they use to the way they dress, I try to make true to them as characters. I don't go out attempting to make them "every teen," because that's impossible. But I think some people do and they spend more energy than necessary on those peripheral elements.

But there are people who will try and "assist" you in building your teen world. They'll say "well the teens I know wouldn't do this or that." But I'm not trying to imitate a teen, I'm creating real teen characters and real only has to apply to - would Mina (my series’ main character) really do this? Would Kelly really say that? If the answer is yes, mission accomplished.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Did you miss PART ONE, check it out.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

I'm an Essence Best Selling Author of 5 novels, "Secret Society", "Diary of a Mistress", Mommy's Angel", Sistah for Sale ", and "Never Enough" plus a short story in the anthology "Diamond Playgirls". I've been writing since I was nine-years-old and decided to pursue my dreams of becoming an author after hearing Karen Quinones Miller's speech at my college graduation.

Tell us about your current book?

My current book, Sistah for Sale , is about a girl, Sienna, who witnesses her father's murder, is stripped away from her mother, and sold into the sex trade industry in Miami . She believes the only way out of the trade is to make enough money to buy her freedom. So she teaches herself various languages and cultures to appeal to her owner's wealthiest clients. And when she does become her owner's highest-paid prostitute, her plan backfires when he isn't willing to give up his cash cow. She now has to do whatever it takes to get out even if that means risking her life.

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

First, I'd like for readers to learn something about the sex trade that they may have not known or thought existed. And particulary for this book, I want readers to walk away feeling like they've just watched a great movie. After my agent read this one, she said, "I just felt so satisfied." And that's what I'm looking for readers to take from the book--pure satisfaction.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Night writer. I can stay up all through the night without getting tired but as soon as the sun starts to rise, I feel the need to go to sleep.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I love when I feel what I write, when it flows naturally and makes me excited about continuing. I hate having to fluff or flesh out areas that I've already written. Sometimes I feel like writing is forced when you have to add stuff as opposed to when you have to take stuff away.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Fortunately for me, nothing. My time in the publishing business so for has been spent pretty wisely. I can't say that I've wasted any time in this industry. And as for frustration, I get frustarted when I'm working with people who don't put forth the same effort that I put forth and in publishing I haven't come across that yet. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?

Complete strangers recognizing me or my work and being overly excited to meet me. It's the best feeling in the world to have people you don't know tell you how much they love what you do.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I do a ton of marketing and I actually believe that I have a reputation for my marketing tactcis. That's one area of this business that many find difficult but for me it's come second nature. Several things work well for me. For instance, the magnets on the side of my cars, my decision to do photo shoots with each book, and other tools like soundtracks, calendars, and the trailer I shot for Mommy's Angel. I also believe throwing extravagant release parties has worked well for me too because it gives my fans something more to come out for than just a book thus, I establish a following from non-readers as well as readers.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

That it's not something you can just clock in and clock out of. It happens when it wants to happen. I don't write everyday because I'm not creative everyday. Sometimes I go weeks or months without writing. Other times I write for weeks or months at a time. You have to be in the mood--in a zone.

Name your top five favorite writing books.

How to Write and Sell Your First Novel

The Screenwriters Bible

Screenplay-The Foundations of Screenwriting

Naked Playwriting--The Art, the Craft, & the Life Laid Bare

What do you do to make time for yourself?

I pencil me in... lol... No, I just follow my heart, mind, spirit, and body. When I feel like I need me time, I just take it then and there. I was never one afraid of putting myself first. I know and understand how important it is to take care of myself. Without my health, my sanity, and my peace of mind, none of what I do would get done. So usually, I go to the movies with my husband or to the spa when I need some time. And believe it or not when I'm on tour is when I take the most time for me. Yeah, I do my book signings, but afterwards, I'm in the hotel room, ordering room service and watching movies.

This month our theme is Writing for Children. Have you ever considered writing a children’s book?

Yes, I did actually. I want to someday write poetry books for children. I remember when I first had my son and I used to hold him most of the day wanting to talk to him but not being able to find the words to express how I felt about my newborn. I thought it would be a good idea to write poetry for those moments and then I thought it would be an even better idea to put those poems in a book and share it with other parents who have those same moments with their children. I have a title and everything--"Love, Mommy". That just may be a goal I accomplish sooner than later so look out for that one.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Please go to my interactive website and join my mailing list. I keep in touch with everybody through that list. It's the best way to get me. Thanks so much!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

EXCERPT: After The Dance

After the Dance
by Lori Johnson


Here's my deal-I'm not knocking myself out to find Mr. Right anymore. As far as this thirty-something sistah is concerned, it's now about reciprocity, not romance. A brother doesn't have to whisper promises he won't keep or make me any kind of commitment. All he needs to do is respect my boundaries, rock my world-then step the hell on before anyone gets too attached. That's why the last man I need to be trying to hook-up with is my next door neighbor, Carl.


Who does Faye think she's fooling? She and I both know all that talk she does about game-playing is little more than a big front. Besides, playing by the rules won't necessarily keep us from falling in love. And if what's been going on between us lately is any indication, I'm thinking at least one of us is already halfway there..

After the Dance
Publication Date: April 2008
ISBN-13: 9780758222374


I had never really paid that much attention to him before, even though he lived right next door. Usually when we ran into each other we’d nod, speak our helloes, and keep on ‘bout our business.

Nora, my roommate, was the one who told me his name was Carl. She’d talked to him on several different occasions. She also told me he’d tried to hit on her--like I wouldn’t have guessed it. Nora’s got this, well, this sluttish quality about her. And I’m not trying to talk bad about the girl or anything, it’s just that I don’t know how else to describe it. She kind of puts you in mind of some of those girls you see dancing on Soul Train. You know, the ones who look like their titties are about to shake outta their clothes? Or, the ones who are always turning their asses up to the camera? And that’s cool when you’re twenty-three and under, and don’t have the good sense to know any better.

Anyway, according to Nora, our tall, dark-skinned, bearded neighbor was sweet, but not her type. I kind of looked at her sideways when she said that, but I didn’t say anything. Me and Nora go way back. I know all about her “type.” It’s dog. Straight up and down, dog. I’m telling you, she’s not satisfied unless some guy’s smacking her upside the head, taking her money, whoring all over town, or some combination of the three.

Problem with Nora is that she’s still under the impression that there’s actually something called love out there, and if she searches long and hard enough, she’ll eventually find it. I don’t have any such illusions. See, I know ain’t nothing out there but game. And having played hardball with the best of them, I also know the secret to winning is knowing how not to get played--something Nora has yet to learn. That’s why every other month, just like clockwork, you can find her sitting up in the living room of the condo we share trying her best to kill off a fifth of scotch, looking crazier than Bette Davis did in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and playing them same old sad-ass songs over and over and over again. And Lord knows I’d go to bat for my girl Phyllis Hyman (God rest her beautiful soul) any durn day of the week, but listening to “Living All Alone” fifty times straight, on a Friday night, with no interruption, is enough to drive even the sanest sister out her cotton-picking mind.

And that’s how it happened that Carl and I had our first real conversation--if you want to call it that. I had just stepped outside for a break from the music and the madness and was settling comfortably into my patio chair with my package of Kools, a chilled glass of wine, and a romance novel, when he opened up his back door, stepped outside, and noticed me sitting on the other side of the fence.

He said “Hey” and I said “Hey” and I thought that was gonna be the extent of it before he went on his merry little way. But no! He decided he was going to be sociable.

“Must be Nora in there jamming to Hyman.”

I said, “Yes. If it’s disturbing you, I’ll ask her to turn it down.”

He said, “No, I was just wondering ‘cause you don’t exactly look like the Hyman type to me. No, you look more like a--let’s see--Millie Jackson. Yeah, you look like the kind of woman who could really get into some Millie Jackson. Am I right?”

I guess he was banking on me not knowing about Miss Millie, the late '70s and early '80s trash-talking forerunner to the likes of today’s Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown.

No, you ain’t right smart-ass, and you must be blind is what I started to say, but didn’t. Instead, I blew my smoke, swirled the wine in my glass, cut my eyes, and said in my coolest "don’t mess with me, man" voice, “Is that supposed to be funny?”


I knew I was taking a risk when I opened my mouth. My Uncle Westbrook was the first to warn me, way back in the day. “Son,” he told me. “You never know how a woman’s gonna react to what you say. Sometimes you’ll get a smile, sometimes you’ll get an attitude.”

But really, I should have known better ‘cause every time I see this chick, she looks like she’s got her jaws tight about something. I mean, we’ve been neighbors for nearly six months now, and she still acts like she don’t hardly want to speak.

Some women are like that, man. If you didn’t know any better you’d swear they were born with permanently poked lips. Have to say though, I’ve noticed it more in fat women. Not that I have anything in particular against fat chicks. Matter of fact, I’ve gotten right close to one or two. But a fat chick with an attitude-- hey, that’s something else altogether.

Yeah, she’s one of them feisty big-boned girls, man. She’s got a pretty face, though. Actually, she’d probably be a stone-cold fox if she lost, say, thirty or forty pounds and smiled every once in a while. But I guess that’d be asking for too much, huh?

So, I was standing there, right, trying to figure out how I was going to work my way out from under this Millie Jackson comment, when Nora came out and got me off the hook by informing the fat would-be-fox with the pretty but unsmiling face that she had a telephone call.

Now, me and Nora, we’re cool. She kinda puts you in mind of a young Lola Falana with a double dose of spunk, you know? Though, I’ll be damned if she ain’t always crying the blues over some dude. And this particular evening was no exception. Before I could even get out a proper hello, she’d launched into an all too vivid, blow-by-blow account of her latest hellacious affair. I don’t know man, I guess it’s just something about me that brings out the worst in a woman. But being the polite fool that I am, I stood there nodding, grinning and grunting in all the right places, until both boredom and curiosity got the best of me and I walked over and picked up the book left by her roommate.

Call me a proper bourgeois if you want to, but I still say you can tell a lot about a person by what they read. And it wasn’t like I was expecting the big sister with the bad attitude to be into something as heavy as Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth or anything, ‘cause I’d seen her sitting out on the patio enough times with her head propped up behind a Harlequin to know better. But yet and still, I wasn’t at all prepared for anything on the level of a Jungle Passions either. I mean the title alone was a bit much, but on the cover was this crazy Tarzan-looking character who’s got this even crazier-looking, big-breasted blonde wrapped up in one of those back-breaking, humanly impossible embraces. And you know me, I wasn’t about to let something like that pass without comment.

“Excuse me for interrupting Nora,” I said, “but might this be the type of relationship you’re looking for?”

She glanced at the book and rolled her eyes. “Honey, don’t even try it! I’m into real life, flesh-and-blood romances, not paperback ones. But yeah, Faye, she’s always reading that junk. And then got the nerve to tell me I live in a dream world. Ain’t that a blip?”


I heard them out there talking about me. Didn’t faze me any more than him taking the book did. Yeah, girl, when I went back out there the next morning, the book had mysteriously vanished into thin air. Nora tried to play dumb and acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked if she had seen it anywhere. I guess the way they had it figured, I’d eventually get around to asking him--you know--Carl about it. Give me a break. Like I said before, I know all about games, and anybody with half a brain could peep that one a mile away. And as far as my indulgence in romance novels is concerned, let it suffice to say that I read them purely for their entertainment value, and I’m perfectly capable of distinguishing the carefully drawn lines between fiction and reality.

I didn’t bother to listen long enough to find out, but I’m pretty sure their trite little conversation concerning moi ended somewhere along the lines of “Poor, poor Faye, if only she had a man . . .”

Yeah, I’ve heard it all before and really couldn't care less. It’s not hard to get a man--if that’s what you want. I just don’t happen to want one--not to keep anyway. To me, having a man is about as emotionally satisfying as having a fish in an aquarium or some other kind of pet. I’m not into pets. That’s not to say that I don’t have, well, certain needs and desires. Yes, there are those times in a woman’s life when all the tender finger stroking in the world just ain’t gonna get it. Okay? But I’ve yet to meet the man whose stuff was so good I wanted to trade my heart in for it. Uh-huh, when I go out, I do what any sensible woman would--I leave my heart at home, locked away for safekeeping.

Really it’s better that way. It evens out the exchange. And in my book that’s about all a relationship boils down to anyway--a simple exchange of goods and/or services, a sexual contract, if you will. I think my deal’s a pretty simple and fair one. I don’t expect them to take me out to expensive places or buy me gifts. I don’t expect any displays of affection outside of the bedroom. And they don’t have to worry about any discussions having to do with commitment, babies, or the like. In turn, I fully expect them to come equipped with adequate protection. I expect them to make an honest attempt to satisfy my sexual needs. But most important of all, I expect them to exit my life promptly after the contract’s expiration, which with absolutely no exceptions is after the third lay.

Why three? Well, to be perfectly honest, after the third time, the thrill of it all has begun to dissipate. And if you think about it, that’s about the point at which most guys want to try and take the game to another level. I don’t play that. So I’m very careful about whom I choose to negotiate with.


We’ve bumped into each other a couple of times since the night of the infamous Millie Jackson comment, but she has yet to say anything to me about the book. I know she knows I have it. The chick really baffles me, man. There’s something ‘bout her game I haven’t quite figured out. As it stands now, I’m putting my money on split personality because the last time I saw her she did an almost complete about-face.

It was another Friday evening, right, and I was just getting back from the video store with a weekend’s worth of entertainment--a soft porn flick, a couple of Eddie Murphy movies, and something educational for the kids to watch when they came over Saturday night. I’m getting out of my ride with my goods when I saw homegirl hunched down beside her car trying to change a tire.

So, thinking man that I am, I paused and deliberated on the situation a moment before deciding upon an appropriate course of action. Like, should I (a) do the honorable thing and offer my humble assistance. Or (b) keep on walking and pretend like I don’t see her big ass all pressed up against the curb. Yeah, you know me man, sucker city all the way, I went for (a) and ask the chick if I could give her a hand.

Instead of thanking me with a big pretty smile and a few kind words, she said, without even looking up mind you--“I’m perfectly capable.” Can you believe that?! “I’m perfectly capable.” You know I wanted to cuss, man, but hey, I played it off like a gent.

I said, “Well, I can see that Ms. Fix-It, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a couple more hands on the job. Or would it?”

Chick hoisted her big butt off the ground, tightened her grip on the wrench she’d been using, looked me dead in my eye and said, “Look, the name’s Faye, okay?!”

Now, I could see the sister was ‘bout ready to go into this nut act on me, so I backed up a bit, but I wasn't about to be deterred from my program. I said, “Okay, Faye. Okay! I’m Carl. Nice to finally make your acquaintance. So, tell me, Faye--are you planning on handing me that wrench or smacking me with it? No offense intended, mind you, just thought I’d ask.”

So, I was standing there waiting for her take a swing at me, when the miracle happened. I’m not lying, man, the chick actually smiled. Came right out of nowhere! And it was so quick I almost didn’t catch it. But it was definitely a smile. Okay, if that wasn’t strange enough, after we’d finished the job, she actually thanked me and invited me inside for some lemonade.

Heck, yeah I accepted--though, out of curiosity more than anything else. I think deep down a part of me really wanted to be there when she morphed back into Dorothy’s wicked witch of west Tennessee. But no, she was cool. We even chit-chatted a bit--general stuff like car repairs, the weather, our jobs. And get this man, I was helping the sister take her things inside when I noticed the “Dr. Abrahams” name tag pinned to the front of the lab jacket she’d given me to carry. Come to find out ole girl is a pharmacist, of all things. She’s only been out of a school a little over a year and she works up at the Veteran’s Hospital. The fact that she deals with old and crazy, doped up vets on a daily basis might certainly account for her funky little mood swings, huh?

Anyway, I followed her inside, had a couple tall glasses of lemonade, and had more than a few slices of some of the best carrot cake I’ve ever had in my mouth. But not wanting to overstay my welcome, I got up to leave after twenty minutes or so. I was in the living room and almost out the door when I realized I’d left my videos in her kitchen. While she went back to get them, I mosied on across the room and started browsing through the bookcase that housed a huge CD and album collection and covered one of Faye and Nora’s living room walls. Now as you well know, what a person listens to says as much about them as what they read. So I’m busy trying to figure out how all these Al Jarreau, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, and Rachelle Ferrell numbers fit in with Nora’s round-the-way-girl personality when Faye comes back in with my package of videos. Completely forgetting my previous musical misinterpretation, I say right off the top of my head, “Nora’s got quite a selection of music here.”

Faye gave me one of those looks sisters are famous for around the world and said, “Those aren’t Nora’s. They’re mine. And if you look closely I’m sure you’ll notice, there’s not a Millie Jackson, a Lil' Kim or a Foxy Brown in the bunch.”

So to get out off it, what do I do? Quite naturally the next fool thing that comes to mind, which for some reason was to invite her over to watch the flicks with me. Of course she promptly refused with one of those “thanks, but I don’t think so” lines and ushered me out the door. But get this man, later on that evening when I was going through the tapes trying to decide which one to watch first, I noticed my porn flick was missing. Now, what do you make of that?



Friday, March 14, 2008


Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

Mitali Perkins was born in Kolkata, India and immigrated at age seven to the States with her family. She studied political science at Stanford and public policy at Berkeley before deciding to try and change the world one children's book at a time. Her blog is a virtual fire escape where she chats about books, movies, music, television, and life between cultures.

Tell us about your current book?

In First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, Sameera (Sparrow) Righton helps her dad win the presidential election. Readers continue to enjoy Sparrow's witty, one-of-a-kind take on life at 1600 Pennyslvania Avenue in First Daughter: White House Rules. These smart, funny, and timely novels provide an engaging behind-the-scenes glimpse into American politics.

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

A big smile and the characters alive in their imaginations.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I’m a night writer under deadline, a morning coffee-house writer when I’m writing on a regular basis.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I love revising the last draft of a story, when the backbreaking work is all done and you add the grace notes. I don’t like the middle of novels, the second third.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

If you don’t treat yourself like a professional nobody else will either. Also, as Winston Churchill told his people during WW2, NEVAH GIVE IN. Monsoon Summer, my second book, was rejected over 20 times and it took ELEVEN years for it to come out. You need big dreams, thick skin, and ruthless revising to succeed.

What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?

I didn’t expect to enjoy public speaking so much, and love doing gigs in schools, libraries, and at conferences.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I do a lot of marketing. My blog is my primary marketing tool, but for each book launch I try some different things to get the word out about the book. You can read my post on pajama promotion if you’re curious about what I did to promote the First Daughter novels:

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

It takes courage to finish a book. Each time, it’s a huge internal, psychological struggle and I die a little more. But I also live a little more.

Name your top five favorite writing books.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
Elements of Style by EB White
The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning And Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim
Roget’s Thesaurus and Webster’s Dictionary

What do you do to make time for yourself?

I take silent retreats about twice a year at a nearby monastery.

This month our theme is Writing for Children. Why did you choose to write for young adults?

My soul is pretty much stuck at age fourteen, so I don’t think I could write for any other group of readers. Knowing how much I was shaped and formed by the stories I read when I was a child, I feel it’s a high calling and responsibility to write for kids. Adults read with their minds first and hearts second; kids do it the other way around. There’s an openness to the power of story that wanes as we grow older and become jaded. I do write non-fiction for adults, but I’m sticking to fiction for young readers till I can write no more.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BOOK INTRO: Perilous Passions

Perilous Passions
Katherine D. Jones

Former policewoman, Karen Bryant, creates a new life for herself after a career-ending injury. Instead of finding a way to help criminally-troubled families in her Cleveland neighborhood, she finds a way to prevent criminal activity with a program aimed at the youth. Unfortunately, her one obstacle appeared to be a very sexy, Officer Caro Spencer.

Karen and Caro fight crime during the day and fight their passion for each other at night, until unstoppable desire pushes them over the edge.

Romantic Times:
4 stars "This late author's talent for characterization and plotting is obvious in this steamy, suspenseful and unforgettable novel, her last--and possibly greatest work."

This is the last book by Katherine. Please support her book.

To learn more about Katherine and her work:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EXCERPT: The Chemist

The Chemist
by Grayson Reyes Cole

Huntington is a smart, clairvoyant Public Relations phenom trying to make a respectable man out of playboy CEO and chemist, Remy Durant. But, can she fight her way to love through suspicious expiration dates, the paparazzi, old flames, focus groups, and a very, very angry scorned witch?


Huntington had been told at the desk that he was in Laboratory One. She took a deep breath and made her way towards the series of Labs on the basement level. She tugged at the soft pink shell she'd chosen, feeling self-conscious. That wouldn't have mattered if she hadn't spilled her coffee, but she had and there wasn't anything she could do about it. She shook her head telling herself it didn't matter. She would make the best of this situation as she had made the best of them all. She came to the last Lab and realized she had gone all the way from Lab Forty to Lab Two. There was no Lab One as far as she could see, and she had even stopped to inspect an emergency evacuation diagram above a row of multi-colored fire extinguishers. Hunny decided to ask someone and started in the door of Lab Two. She checked the light above the door: Green. She pressed on it, squaring her shoulders as if she was about to do battle. Every new adventure with The Chemist was, in essence, a battle and she hadn’t even met him yet.

At first, she didn't think anyone was there. The lab seemed absent of any organism not manifesting in a Petrie dish or beaker. It smelled clean, sterile even and the counters were neatly organized with their trays and vials and tubes and fascinating machines all in order. The lab was silent. But she was wound so tight, she just knew there was something momentous about to take place. Then she heard a rustle and the door opening behind her. The hairs rose on the nape of her neck. Worse and worse! Huntington recognized him right away, the client’s next devious plot against her: the cruelest sort of distraction.

The Chemist was tall, tall and big, much more so than she’d thought from the pictures. He hadn't noticed her yet and she watched with fascination as he shrugged out of his white lab coat. His black, golf shirt—hanging the right way off his body—showed off thick, sinewy muscles in his wide back bunching with each smooth motion. Shoulders as broad as they come led to arms that were thick and defined and strong. His shirt tucked into gray slacks showed off even more. It exhibited a narrow waist and hips. Hunny could see the curve of a healthy bottom leading down to strong thighs and calves she could sense even in his loose-fitting pants. He turned toward her, sensing her presence, and she could see the power in his chest. Just a quick, unconscious contracting of the muscles there that drew her eyes and dried her throat.

Hunny swallowed. She hadn't seen a body like that in a long, long time. She hadn’t had such a powerful physical reaction to a man in such a long… long… well, never. She swallowed again, not wanting to see his face if the body was so perfect. But, Hunny had never been a coward. Slowly, her eyes traveled up and up until she absently pressed a hand to her chest.

Huntington didn't know if she had ever seen someone so delicious looking and so…so… damn. His skin was dark chocolate, smooth, and shining with a young, healthy glow. He had high, proud cheekbones and a straight, firm nose. His jaw was strong and square. His chin was just as adamant with its neatly trimmed beard. His lips were full and... just full. They looked soft and warm and ready to kiss. And his eyes—Good Lord, they had not left her since he came in—his eyes were the deepest brown, black even, and mesmerizing with their almond shape. They were warm eyes that held amusement and intelligence and just a hint of something else that was more than a little intimidating. They were talking to her. His eyes were talking to her and Hunny didn’t know if she was ready for what they were saying. She took a step back. The amusement kicked up a notch and Hunny swallowed. The man looked like an angel and a devil at once.

Hunny had to look away for a moment. Her throat was dry and her insides felt like they were all stirred up. She needed to clear her head. She took a deep breath then—pure accident—cast her gaze back his way. He crossed his thick arms across his chest and leaned back against the counter. He smiled a brief, appraising smile that gave Hunny a glimpse of incredibly straight, white teeth, with the barest hint of a gap in the front two. Goodness, even the gap was sexy. She’d never in life thought of a gap as sexy. This man’s gap was sexy! And, as if that wasn’t enough, The Chemist started to speak. His voice was heavy and hot like a caress. Then she realized what he’d said and her eyes widened, “Hello, Honeybee.”

She knew immediately why he’d chosen that silly moniker. She’d been called it before, even before people knew her real name. Her butter-colored skin, sand-colored hair, and light brown eyes were frequently enough commented on. But, she’d never been called Honeybee. Everyone had shortened Huntington to Hunny since she was little, but never Honeybee. She didn't like it. She was certain she didn't like it. She absolutely didn't like the liquid warmth that had pooled inside her at the sound of that nickname rolling off his tongue.

Remy Durant. It would have been impossible even without the magazine to not know him. He was gorgeous, he exuded power, and already, with a single word, he’d shown himself to be cocky. And though she’d been convinced she would not be affected by him, she couldn’t fool herself. His attraction to her in that moment was so intense she could feel it like a palpable thing. He fairly radiated sensuality and it was completely directed at her. She told herself not to blush. She told herself and told herself. He wouldn’t understand it. He probably didn’t think he had given himself away, but emotions that strong always bared themselves to her gift. From birth, Huntington had been blessed with the ability read a person’s deepest thoughts, feelings, and finally, desires. In that moment, she had been reading Remy Durant’s.

It was going to be pretty damn hard to get through this first meeting if he was going to keep heating her up with his desire. And she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why. Why was this gorgeous man so attracted to her? Sure she was attractive enough—she’d have to be slow not to know that—but she had never picked up on a passion so strong from only a first meeting. Huntington found herself frowning. She certainly didn't like this coffee-complected Adonis being thrown at her as another wrench in her plans. She didn't like it at all. All she could think was she was not looking forward to the next couple of days. Oh this was definitely on the upper side of cruel!

For a moment, she considered leaving. She couldn't stay there. Her best bet would be to leave the Lab, find Gina and tell her she could present the work they’d done earlier that day. She would call Arthur and tell him… tell him… well she didn’t know what she would tell him. All she knew was, she couldn’t work with him. He was dangerous. Dangerous to every part of her person. He held her career in the balance, and he was making her body go haywire while she needed all of her mental energy to land this troublesome contract. She didn’t know if she could do it.

He was the single most handsome man she'd ever seen up close and personal, and his overpowering, predatory attraction to her was unnerving to say the least. How was she going to get the words out when she couldn’t stop staring at his chest and his arms, and that damn gap knowing full well that if she just gave in a little she could… How did a woman resist the power and draw of having a man like him at her fingertips?

Already the Chemist was trying to get her. Hunny knew it was irrational to think a company was a living thing out to thwart her, but if it continued to kick obstacles in her way, she would continue to think of it like that. She wondered if anyone had tried to file a harassment claim against a person’s private thoughts.

Quickly, with as much composure as she could muster she explained, "I'm sorry, were you expecting me?" she pushed out her hand and stepped forward. “I’m—“

“Huntington Lewis?” Hunny couldn’t tell if he was asking a question or not. His face, though hotly assessing before, was now almost inscrutable. He had put on his mask. Too bad the man didn’t know he couldn’t hide from her special talent. The stronger the feelings, the clearer they came to her. He engulfed her hand in his.

“Yes,” Hunny answered nearly embarrassed by the breathy sound of her own voice. That’s when she realized she should be shaking his hand back. She had spent an entire lifetime practicing indifference, making sure she never betrayed her skill. Her mother had taught her that. All she needed was to make a slip and make it to a scientist at that! Her melodramatic mother had given her all kinds of nightmares about testing facilities like the one in Firestarter. “Huntington Lewis.”

“Honey,” he stated clasping hers. For a moment, she couldn’t look away from his face. He was so masculine and beautiful… until she noticed that his nostrils flared. He was sniffing her!

“Huntington,” she corrected trying not to sound startled or surly.

He didn’t respond, merely smiled and inclined his head. “Shall we go to my office?”

Huntington nodded. She started toward the door and turned to leave. However, when she hazarded a glance behind her, she found that Adonis—Durant—hadn’t budged. He was still standing by the counter and now he was sporting a full-on, devastating grin with one eyebrow cocked up at her. That couldn't bode well.

Hunny frowned and he motioned her towards another door she had not noticed earlier. She changed her direction and went through the door as held it for her. As she walked past, she could hear him taking a deep, long breath right next to her hair and she felt that passion flare up again.
Opening the door she paused. It was the most sumptuous office she’d ever seen. She’d expected something dark, gray, black. Something cold and uninviting. Something industrial and manly. She couldn’t have been more surprised. It was bright and cheery with beautiful hardwood flooring (Was that redwood? Wasn’t that endangered or something?) shined to perfection and plush and large red, gold, and copper paintings on three walls. There were two over-large sofas, both covered in durable, crisp white canvas with bright yellow leather cushions artfully arranged on them. A polished inlay coffee table tied the sitting area together and coordinated with Remy’s desk. It was situated in the corner between two windows. A huge, flat monitor sat on it. Hunny figured there was a keyboard and mouse on it somewhere, however she certainly couldn’t see it. The desk, a beautiful polished piece she would later find came from Poland, was an uncontested mess.

Remy Durant went around and sat down. Huntington watched as he started to stack papers and pamphlet galleys and folders together to sit them on the floor behind him. Thankfully, his thoughts seemed to be moving towards a less provocative path.

“Drawers,” he said to her almost apologetically. “I wanted a desk with drawers, but this one doesn’t have any. I had to decide which I wanted more.”


Hunny thought of every description of him she’d read. How many times had she seen him in magazines or in society pages or even heard from MedSol employees that he was a total “hunk?” He was obviously that and more. Just from the look of him, she knew he was the exact sort of executive playboy to completely undo the image she had worked out for this company in her head. She was daunted to say the least because she still had the whole Mindy Banner thing to fix. What had possessed him to dump the wrong woman, a Senior United States Food and Drug Administration Inspector? What had the man been thinking?

Huntington was glad to put a hand over her eyes. Remy turned away to adjust the blinds over his right shoulder against the afternoon sun. She took a ragged breath as she faced him full-on again. She groaned in agony Damn! Damn! Damn! The man was good to look at.

She sat across from him at his desk and watched him sheepishly continue to straighten it up. “Really, I’m not normally this messy. I just need drawers. The designer said he was going to do a couple of file cabinets for me to fit under the desk. They’d match the wood and inlay, of course.” he told her self-consciously.

Trying to avoid staring at his handsome face—especially the succulent lips or the play of the muscles in his arms as he moved, or the charming and humble attempt he made to both explain and tidy his desk—Hunny focused on his hands. Big, broad, manicured hands with strong and deft fingers. She turned her gaze to the scenery out of the window. Safer that way.

“Well,” he startled her with his deep expectant voice. “Would you like to start?”

“Yes,” Hunny answered collecting herself. She looked him directly in the eye and smiled. She did this with every client. Then she started to present him her work. The tension thankfully eased out of her quickly and she became lost in her presentation. She loved what she did and her love for it managed to stop her from staring mouth open at the specimen across from her.

Remy proved to be a very attentive listener. He peppered her presentation with a question here or there or a “yes, I like that” but mainly sat across from paying attention and concentrating. Not once did she sense those waves of heat pouring off him again. All she could feel was this genuine enthusiasm for his work. She respected that.

“Legal has redlined the contract already,” Remy told her. “I anticipated that I would like what I saw,” he offered as explanation. “We’ll get that back to your folks probably by tomorrow.”

“Well, it is Monday,” Hunny stated glancing at her watch. “I’m sure I can get the specs back to you before I leave on Friday. Then you can contact me or Arthur back at—“

“I’d rather you stayed here.”

The voice was so quiet and non-intrusive, that Hunny didn’t notice it and continued. “Once you give the final thumbs up, I’ll have my team working solely on this project. Of course I’ll oversee and be the final judge on everything after—“

“I’d prefer to be more involved with the project than that,” he stated looking directly into her eyes. This time she was unable to look away. She swallowed when she noticed how obscenely long his lashes were. So intriguing for a man and so—“Have you ever worked with your team remotely?”

“I’m sorry?” Hunny breathed. She had already started to feel her breasts tighten and she could no longer cross her legs. And he smelled so… glorious? Why the hell did he smell so good when she’d been cautioned not to wear perfume?

“I think it would probably be better if you worked out of this office for a while. That way, I can be readily at your service to review and approve the material you all produce. I have all the faith in the world in your work. I just don’t want to be in the dark during the process. I want to watch the process.” True, all true. But, there was more. There was that attraction on the edges of his interest in her work.

“But that’s wholly unnecessary,” she caught herself arguing. “Besides, if they do the mock ups in DC we’ll still be faced with either evaluating them online or waiting for them to come in an overnight delivery.”

“That’s fine,” the stubborn man answered.

Hunny’s jaw worked as she tried to work out what she was going to say. “I’m not sure that it is fine. I understand your company is doing very well, but my remaining here will be an added and completely avoidable expense.” With what she hoped was a cheeky smirk, she added, “And, you can be assured that G&A would charge you for it.”

Remy returned her smiled but with a glint in his eye that Hunny couldn’t quite identify. She tried to focus her perception then, but found it difficult, almost as if her senses were blurred. He was trying to put that mask on again. He picked up the phone and dialed an extension.

“Hey Rich,” he greeted congenially. Rich Beltran, Head Counsel, had to be. “Yeah. How’s it coming?” he paused. “Oh yeah? Let me look.” Huntington watched him wedge the phone between his head and shoulder. His hands flew over the keyboard of his computer (which had been uncovered as he straightened his desk) and a calendar opened. “Yep. Good for me.” He typed in something Hunny couldn’t see then closed the calendar again. “No. I was calling about the contract to make sure you put in language ensuring that the Account Manager will work out of this office for the duration of the contract negotiation. At least three weeks out of the month. Well, of course… Weekends… Yep. That’s your job,” he laughed. “Carte Blanche,” Huntington noticed he said the words with a full on French pronunciation. Interesting. “I’m sure you’ll work out the pricing.”

That’s when Hunny processed what he was saying, and she processed the meaning behind the words. Her heart was beating so hard she thought her chest would bust open. She could hear the blood rushing in her ears which had all of sudden turned hot. Her whole body had gone still with the tension of fury. She tried to hold on to it. She really did. And, when she tried to hold on to her temper, it always worked. Except with her brother and now, apparently, with this overbearing bear of a CEO.

“I’m not staying here,” she bit out. As soon as the words left her lips she thought of Arthur Murray. He was going to kill her. “There’s no need,” she added quickly.

“Firstly, it’s in the contract.” It may have been in the contract, but he well knew there was no need. Huntington started to say something again but clamped her mouth shut. She was liable to kill him if she kept going. The audacity of the man! The ever-loving gall! “Secondly—“

With more calm than she felt, she offered “Perhaps we should talk about this more once the final ink dries.”

“Perhaps,” The Chemist agreed with a small shrug though his demeanor indicated he had no intention of that ever happening. Determination, that was the predominant sentiment coming from him. He reached over to one of the tidy stacks and picked up something completely familiar to Huntington. “Secondly, have you seen this?”

“Yes, I have.” Hunny swallowed. It was the magazine that had broken the dumping of Mindy Banner. That morning, Hunny had even seen a quick blurb about it an entertainment news program. Interesting, since absolutely none of the three in the overexposed love triangle were entertainers.

“Do you think either of our interests would be best served with you back in DC?”

Hunny gritted her teeth. “No,” she answered honestly.

“Shall I go ahead and book you on my calendar for Wednesday, too? We meet with the board every other Wednesdays and I’d like you there.”

“Of course,” she answered with a professionalism that belied her internal exasperation. She was done with this meeting. Standing, Huntington told him she would see herself out. Durant stood as well and showed her to the door.

“See you tomorrow, Hon—“

“Huntington,” she cut him off.

“Huntington.” He relented and inclined his head.

Hunny started out of the room, but she could have sworn she heard him sniff. She turned back to him. Rather than ask the potentially dangerous question, she had something else she wanted to know.

“No one’s been able to duplicate your formulas.”

“That’s right,” He answered. Huntington noticed the tension in his jaw. The first bit of tension she’d seen in him.

“It’s been one of the reasons why this company has skyrocketed in success since you’ve been at the helm.”

“Right,” he repeated.

“Even if other pharmaceutical companies come close to the same chemical makeup, they typically can’t offer the same shelf life MedSol can.”


“Why?” Huntington didn’t know why she’d been so blunt, but the question was out there, and now she realized she wanted it answered.

“Patents,” he answered and ushered her out of his office. He closed the door behind her before she had even walked away.

He acted like a man with the upper hand. Hell, Huntington could tell he felt like a man with the upper hand. Little did he know, when she tried, Huntington could come pretty damn close to reading a person’s mind under the right circumstances. And the power to read a person’s mind almost always gave one the advantage.

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