Friday, July 30, 2010

FEATURED AUTHOR: Korika L. Johnson

Thirty-year-old, Tonya Monroe has worked hard to amass her assets: a dream home in one of Washington's largest Maryland suburbs, a "sweet" job, a luxury car, and money in the bank. She has beauty, brains, and a body envied by women and adored by men. But what she hasn't had since her mother was killed while riding with a drunk driver, leaving Tonya to be raised by the two people she begrudges most - her alcoholic father and her mother's closest friend, Carolyn Wright - is peace of mind. Peace isn't the only thing slipping through her fingers when she is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Carolyn, who wielded the car that took Tonya's mother's life, is now a fifty four-year-old devoted wife, ministry leader, and self proclaimed "woman of integrity." Though she believes in "holding folk - especially church folk - accountable for their actions," she refuses to live under the black cloud of that terrible day. She is now strong in the Lord and the power of His might. But her well-built spiritual wall begins to crumble when she winds up the subject of scandal at the Straighter Way Baptist Church, and has to answer for her action.

Korika L. Johnson is a servant, wife, mother, daughter, friend, avid reader, inspirational fiction author and lupus survivor, who is committed to producing and sharing contemporary works that glorify God and impact lives.

She has always been a lover of the Word and written words. As a child, she loved to read and write, feeling even then that God had placed a call on her life to minister through the gift of writing. For birthdays of friends and family members, she created homemade cards containing her original poetry. Their positive feedback was enough to fan the flame that is her desire to Give Glory Through Stories of Hope!

She is the managing member of Toward the Mark Press, LLC, a Christian publishing house, a member of the Lupus in Color Foundation, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and SISTERGIRLS Inc.

Korika resides in Maryland with her husband and their two daughters.

How did you start out your writing career?

At a very early age, I developed a passion for words. Reading and writing. I've been doing both for as long as I can remember. However, it was in 2005 when I was diagnosed with Lupus and was subsequently forced to leave my job with the District of Columbia government, that I feel I was pushed into my purpose. I used writing as an outlet of healing and committed to a ministry of H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Endure). That's what I want my writing to do - offer hope.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned the importance of a support system for those with chronic illnesses. Being able to share how you feel with someone you trust can help a lot. Oddly enough, I realized that, not through my own personal experience, but through the experience of my character, Tonya. Strange, huh?

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

As with my characters, God used the darkest days of my life to strengthen me and I want others to know that God is a loving God of purpose and even adversities are meant to strengthen us. Not tear us down. But build us up in Him. I also wanted to raise awareness of lupus. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. According the the Lupus Foundation of America, 1.5 million Americans have it, yet I'd never even heard of it before my diagnosis.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

The toughest test I've faced as a writer was staying true to myself. Not allowing others to dictate what and how I write.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

I would choose Colleen McCullough, Judy Blume, and Victoria Christopher Murray because they've all played a significant part in my formative years as a writer. My early literary influences included reading everything Judy Blume ever wrote, Colleen McCullough's Thorn Birds made me actually see stories in my head as if I were watching a movie, and it was after reading Victoria Christopher Murray's Joy that I knew I wanted to write fiction professionally. I attended one of Victoria's book signing years ago and actually had the opportunity to talk with her at length about the industry. I will NEVER forget that. She's great and talked openly and honestly about the industry. That's why I'd choose her again.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

The real work for an author begins after the book is written. - Writing the book, for me, was the easy part. Marketing it is a bit more challenging.

Everyone who lines up won't march. - It's surprising how many people you help who won't be there for you when you need them most.

All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28 is one of my absolute favorite scriptures. I would have lived a lot less stressful life had I known...really known that every challenge I've ever faced or will face has worked or is working, not against me, but to make me better.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

Do write from your heart. Don't let anyone or anything stifle your creativity.

I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?

To be able to write for the rest of my days, get paid well for doing it, and bless my readers in the process.

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

I really wish that non-writers would understand that fiction is a literary work based on the imagination. Like Tonya, I was diagnosed with Lupus, but Joy Comes in the Mourning is NOT about me! LOL!

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

I would say the best advice that I've gotten so far was to join a writer's group. Can't really say that I've gotten any negative advice.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?


What is something readers would be surprised you do?

I have a very high level of angst when it comes to public speaking.

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

Spend some time in the library or book store flipping through books that are similar to yours. Research the agents who represent the kind of book that you've written.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

I know for sure that Jesus is real and He can heal us anywhere we hurt.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

My next book is a doozy! See, most women can appreciate a man who is crazy about his mother because they believe it means he'll adore his woman just as much as he adores his mother. Well, that isn't always the case. In my upcoming novel, First Lady, Cheryl Davis loves her mother in-law dearly, but refuses to play second fiddle to her. Cheryl's family means everything to her and she will do whatever it takes to keep it intact. Even if it means devising a plan sure to win her husband Greg's affections. However, when Cheryl goes so far as to enlist the help of an unsuspecting, friendly neighbor to make Greg jealous, she gets far more than she bargained for.

Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness. - Proverbs 14:22

If you don't know the answer to that question, you will after reading First Lady. It takes a journey into the lives of a couple fighting to keep love alive. Feelings are hurt, trusts are violated, and hearts are broken, but in the end they learn that when you apply the Word of God to your life, nothing is too rickety for Him to repair.

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

Readers can visit me at
, send me a shout out at, check me out on Facebook at www.facebook/korikajohnson, hit me up at the spot at, look me up at the Lupus in Color Network at, or e-mail me at

Leave a comment or question for a chance to win a copy of Joy Comes in the Mourning

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Thursday, July 29, 2010


As you know I feature eight authors each month, which means I miss a lot other authors.

Since I'm always looking for ways to introduce readers to new books. I decided to feature a day for excerpts from authors, not featured on SORMAG.

Here's your chance to share info about your book. On the last Thursday of the month, I will open the blog to you to post an excerpt or information about your book. Don't forget to include a link to your website.

Click on the comments section and introduce us to your book. Please keep your excerpt clean.

P.S. If you're not a SORMAG AUTHOR, please consider become one. We have a few perks for our authors, including a free interview.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

COLUMN: Are You On The Net? - July Online Promotion Tips

Promotion is a never ending story. I’m always shocked to hear an author say that they don’t have time to promote their books. To stay in this business you have to make time to promote.

This column will offer tips on online promotion that will hopefully help you use your promotional time more wisely.

We’ll start with the most important promotional tool, email. If you’re online, you have to have an email account. Most contact online is through email, so if you want to stay on top of things, you need an email account.

Email Address:

I highly suggest having at least three email addresses, one for your fans, one for your business and one for other information. I know you’re wondering why would I want three emails, that makes more work for me. However it actually cuts your time when it comes to promotion.

I know for a fact, I’ve received emails from authors who missed an interview email because it got lost in their emails. If they had their emails as I suggested they wouldn't have this problem.

Remember I mentioned making time for promotion? If you’re wading through email looking for promotional opportunities, that cuts into your writing time. I know when you're on deadline, you don't have time to go though emails, especially when they start going past the 100 mark.

When you have an email that is dedicated for business only, that’s the email you will click on and read through for these types of opportunities. Hopefully it won't reach the 100 mark and you can click on the most important emails, like those that are requesting an interview.

When you've finished with deadline hell, then you have time to read fan email. You'll be happy to see this email account that only has emails from the fans who love your writing.

The third email account can be looked at when you have time to catch up on email.

Don’t make the media hunt you down, make sure your email addresses are listed on your website, blog, social media pages and your promotional items (bookmarks, book covers, business cards etc.

Most writers are looking for a way to promote that doesn't cost a lot. Here's my suggestion for a no cost promotion.

Email Signature

Do you have an email signature? Not many writers do. This is an important feature to add to your outgoing email. This is your online business card. This information introduces you to the person who receive your email.

I’ve met many new authors because of their email signature. What they included in their signature intrigued me enough to click through their links to see who they were. If they hadn't included a signature, I probably wouldn't have known they were writers.

Email signature is a great way to promote your book, your site/blog or even an event you will be in.

What to include in your signature:

Make sure it is no more than 3 – 4 lines.

If you belong to a group or forum, read their guidelines. Some places have strict guidelines because some authors go overboard with promoting.

Your name

Link to your site
Book Title

If you have the space, include a one line synopsis

I suggest you hyperlink the site or book title, so it links to your site. If you really want to see if people are clicking on your signature links. Link it to a page on your site that has its own counter.

These are just a few simple tips to help you get started promoting online. Stop by next month for more information on online promotion.

Until then,

I’ll see you on the net.

LaShaunda C. Hoffman

LaShaunda is the creator of SORMAG – Shades Of Romance Magazine. She has 11 years of experience on online promotion, most she learned from trial and error. She has taught workshops on online promotion and is available for private online promotion coaching.

Leave your email signature for a chance to win a 30 minute online promotion coaching session.

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Monday, July 26, 2010


Krystal Bentley is an outsider at her new high school, having just moved to a small Connecticut town. Lately she's been hearing the voice of a teenage boy in her head, and he has become her friend and confidant. The only problem is, he's dead...

Ricky Watson was killed a year ago in the alley behind Krystal's new school. The rumor mill is filled with stories of Ricky and his untimely death. Unfortunately, as a ghost, Ricky is unable to investigate his own murder, so Ricky needs Krystal to find the truth and she needs someone to listen. When Krystal befriends Sasha and Jake, both outcasts at her high school, the threesome soon discover that they have more in common than their outsider status. Each has a unique paranormal ability and an unusual birthmark in the shape of an "M." Jake announces that the M must stand for misfits, and so the three form an unusual clique. They soon realize that solving Ricky's murder can help them understand the mystery behind their powers and may reveal whether there are others just like them.

A.C. Arthur

I am the first born and only girl in my family, and six and nine years separate me and my two brothers. Needless to say, I was alone quite a bit. But being alone gave me plenty of time to indulge my imagination in the world of books. One of the first novels I read was a young adult series that traced the lives of two teenagers in high school, Sweet Valley High. Reading those novels I thought I could do better, and so my quest to write entertaining stories began.

Being an introvert, it took me a long time to feel comfortable enough to let others read my work. How long? Well, the first person to read a story I wrote was my husband. Since then, I’ve been writing professionally for almost nine years now. But it was my daughter who encouraged me to write a book for teens—just one of the reasons I love her so dearly.

I live in Maryland with my husband and three children. If you take away the opinionated teenagers, family drama, overflowing bookshelves and DVDs, my life is pretty boring. But don’t take those things away, since they’re my inspiration.

I love to hear from readers and can be contacted at

How did you start out your writing career?

Reading. It is my love of reading that made me want to write. In the 10th grade, I won a writing contest and was simply amazed that somebody liked what I wrote. From that point on I began writing stories and plays.

What did you learn while writing this book?

Great question. I learned that no matter how old you get, there’s still a teenager somewhere inside. As I wrote characters walking down the halls at school I’d think about my school days and a lot of things that I’d gone through during that time. It was enlightening and gave me a new outlook on how I deal with my teenagers.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

What I really wanted was to write a book about teenagers, for teenagers. I’ve read a lot of books labeled YA in the past year or so and what I repeatedly find are adult plotlines and characters that are a lot growner than they should be. Now, don’t get me wrong I know my share of too-grown teenagers, but that’s exactly what I didn’t want to write. I recognize that teens today are growing up in varied situations with some extreme and/or disturbing circumstances, but for my story I aimed for escapism and entertainment with just enough drama to keep it realistic.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

Not getting caught up in the hype. It’s easy to say that I’m a writer and I’m selling books so I’m above helping the apsiring author, or answering a question or emails. It’s easy to lose sight of why you write and who you write for. The hard part is taking a stand and keeping your focus.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

Wow, I’ve never really thought about this. I think absolutely Bernice McFadden and Pearl Cleage, both extremely talented literary authors who capture me with their style as well as their stories. And Nora Roberts because she’s always been my favorite romance author.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

How to find a good agent.
The value of good editors and agents.
That writing is not an easy job.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

DO be tenacious. Write. Revise. Take Rejection. And write some more.

DON’T get it twisted. This is a job. If you want it, committ to it and do what needs to be done.

I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?

At one point, a few years ago, my fantasy was to have a best-seller and to have that best-seller made into a movie. Today, after tremendous ups and downs in my writing and personal life, I’m just happy everytime a book hits the shelves and subsequently leaves the shelves in a happy reader’s hand.

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

That it’s serious business. We’re not just playing on the computer. We do have very real deadlines and sometimes words don’t just flow from our minds to the computer keys.

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

The best was to be patient, nothing in the literary industry happens over night.
The worst was that you’d become rich after you signed your first contract.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

Italy or Ireland. I’ve read so much about them I just can’t wait to see them for myself.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Watch old black and white movies.

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

Do your research and interview each agent as if they were applying for a job, because they are. If you have a bad feeling about an agent, don’t hire that one. A good agent is worth his or her weight in gold.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

That Jesus loves me.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Mystify is the sequel to Manifest in which Sasha, Jake and Krystal are now facing an even darker source of evil than they originally anticipated, all while Sasha’s falling in love with a guy who’s totally wrong for her.
Release Date: Feb 2011

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

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Friday, July 23, 2010

FEATURED AUTHOR: Claudia Mair Burney

God Alone is Enough: A Spirited Journey With St. Teresa of Avila

No one can teach a Christian to pray, like Teresa can.

This lively little book introduces postmodern readers to one of Christianity’s most endearing prayer warriors, and guides them through her most radical teachings. Here, Teresa of Avila is not a lofty, inaccessible saint; she’s a companion, taking readers on a rollicking journey through their own interior castles. The secrets of Teresa’s intimate devotional life are revealed, and readers learn practical ways to abandon complicated contemplative prayer techniques, and simply “enjoy” God.

This journey through the life and writings of Teresa of Avila will engage Christians who would have never before considered encountering a post-Reformation Catholic nun. Mair Burney makes Teresa accessible—and essential—for understanding what it means to come to know God, and how it’s possible.

God Alone is Enough really is about a love affair with God, and how to achieve intimacy with him.

Claudia Mair Burney is the author of seven novels, including the Amanda Bell Brown mysteries, and Zora and Nicky, a Christy Award finalist in 2009. Readers familiar with her style will enjoy this rollicking journey through their own interior castles. She lives in Kentucky, where she also authors the popular blog, "Ragamuffin Diva."

How did you start out your writing career?

By stealing a magazine out of a hospital waiting room. I know that's sounds strange, and I certainly don't recommend it, but the truth is, I saw a copy of Today's Christian Woman with a black woman on the cover (Sherri Shepherd). I read the entire thing, including the ads, and was so filled with longing to write for God that I took the magazine home with me. I held it to my heart (after I'd re-read it), and said, "Jesus, if you let me write for you, I promise I'll tell people like me that you love them." By that I meant broken, messy people with imperfect lives and no pretense otherwise. I thought NOBODY in Christian publishing will print a word I've written, so I started to blog to keep my promise to Jesus. He opened every single miraculous door. And they were miraculous, girl.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned that I'm not the only one who finds prayer difficult, yet, God has given us so much to simplify the process. St. Teresa's teachings tell us our souls are like gardens. God breaks the fallow ground and pulls up the noxious weeds before we even set out to pray. Our job is to water our gardens, and we do that using any of all the many methodologies of prayer available to us. She says, "Do whatever works," basically. So, St. Teresa she taught me how to pray as I never had before, and to cut myself some slack when I couldn't do it "well."

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

I wanted people to think of their souls as something beautiful: a watered garden; and diamond or crystal of exquisite clarity; a castle, with many rooms to explore.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

To keep at it, come what may. And girl, stuff happens. It isn't particularly a charmed life, though it has it's charms, and many graces.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

I'd choose Thomas Merton because, like me, he wrestled both God and demons about his vocation as a writer. I suspect he got Jacob's broken hip, too. That was one blessed man. I'd want to chat with St. Teresa of Avila, of course, because she wrote under extreme duress during the Inquisition, when women were suspect. She was such a bad mamma jamma, I'd want to sit down and ask her about EVERYTHING. And I'd love to talk to Zora Neale Hurston. First of all, she was so smart, sassy, and funny. And Lord, have mercy, she died broke, and subsisted at one point on the kindness of a benefactor. I want to know if it hurt to have had to live so humbly. I know it causes me pain to know that I'm mostly broke, often afraid, and yet I still want to do this with all my available time, and certainly all my strength. Pray for me, sis.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

That nothing is guaranteed. It could be all flow one year, or for years even, and then the tide disappears, seemingly forever, and you'll wonder if anyone will ever buy a book from you again. What's more, it's possible no one will.

I wish I knew that grace and blessings most often come through people, and it takes much more humility that I thought I had in me to do this work God called me, I'm absolutely certain of, to do. And finally, it really helps to have a skill set that will bring you money when times get lean.

Oh my gosh. I keep talking about money and making a living. Can you tell something is going on right now? Ha! Pray for me, LaShaunda. You know I have NO filters most of the time.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

Do finish a draft. It's rare to sell a book you haven't finished when you're starting out. Publishers and agents need to know you can make it to "The End."

Don't fall in love with your own writing. Baby, you're gonna have to change some of what you think is your best stuff. Count on throwing away almost as much writing as you keep.

I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?

My agent calls me and says, "Mair, you've been nominated for the Nobel Prize, both for literature and for peace." LOL. Okay, I'll take ANY prize at all, including one from the box of Cracker Jacks. Or my author fantasy is, "They want to make a movie out of..." Name the novel. Any one of mine!

I love Carleene Brice! We garden. I bought some orange mint to plant and thought of her.

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

That it's WORK. I don't care if you are in bed, or in your pajamas all day doing it.

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

Best advice, "Don't stop writing. You're a good, and this is a TOUGH business." The worst, " Write a vampire novel." I tried it, too! Epic fail, even though the chapter was fine. It's not what I'm made to do.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

I dream of going to Italy. Oh, the Catholic kitsch I'd collect!

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Watch a ridiculous amount of Law and Order: Criminal Intent

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

First pray. Then look. Then see who seems to resonate with your soul. Then pray again. Then listen. Then submit if your soul says, "yes."

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

That God really loves me, even if he drives me crazy sometimes. I'd probably drive him crazy if such a thing were possible, and who knows, maybe it is. But he loves me anyway.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Next up are the last two novels in the YA Exorsistah series, The Exorsistah 2: X Returns, and The Exorsistah 3: X Restored, coming out this December and Next January. This excerpt is from X2:

Chapter One

I hate demons. A legion of them held my mama captive in her own body a while back. For a long time after that I felt there was nothing I could do. But that particular morning – the morning I turned eighteen – seemed so full of new mercies and possibilities. I, Emme Vaughn had no reason to hide anymore.

It took me two lumbering buses and an expensive cab—complete with ogling driver—to get to Saint Dymphna’s Psychiatric Hospital. But I made it. I even dressed the part. Of a post-modern, urban-girl exorcist, that is. I wore all black: skinny jeans, a cute scarf-dress, and glorious stiletto Prada boots. An onyx rosary hung around my neck.

It was seventy-eight degrees outside. September sunshine warmed my shoulders like a kiss from God. All I had to do was strut into that hospital and kick some devil butt.

There was just one problem; my feet refused to cooperate. The imposing brown, brick building towered above me like Goliath over David, and I was terrified. In cases like this, I usually have one of three responses: I plow through with courage, I bolt away, or I blabber to buy myself time.

I chose courage. But I needed to get myself amped up first.

Got your word, Emme?

I looked down at my Bible wrapped in a pair of dark Levi’s and tucked in the corner of my duffel bag.


The jeans would protect the good book from getting knocked around. Not that my bag held much, just everything I owned: a few articles of clothing Francis bought me; a Russian icon from his Godmother, Mother Nicole; my GED paperwork; my Michigan State ID card; a pair of black Timberland boots.

I fingered one of the shiny rosary beads around my neck to calm my nervousness. “Rosary in place,” I muttered, then trailed my fingers to the Saint Benedict Jubilee Cross medal across my chest.

This made me think of Francis, who gave me the medal after a nasty incubus tried to violate me. If I’m ever looking for a reason to pray, the memory of that a lust-crazed demon does it every time.

I continued down my mental checklist, hoping to summon more courage.

Prayed up?


Kick butt diva boots for whooping devil head, while still looking fly?

My gaze fell to my feet and beheld the butter-soft Puh-rah-dah on my feet.


Francis gave me those as a birthday present. A group of demons projectile vomited all over the last pair he bought me.

I took a long, deep breath and made sure all the hell-busting gadgets I needed were accounted for. Now it was time to move, only fear paralyzed me.

Time to get your act together, sistah. You’re a grown woman now. What happened to your ‘tude? These boots aren’t made for walking!

The kicks brought Francis to mind yet again.

I should have asked him to come. It would have only taken us an hour to get here in his Camry. We could have listened to music on his iPhone. Chilled. Maybe I’d have let the brotha hold my hand.

I smiled to think of that.

I might have let him smooch me again, too.

That thought made me blush.

Warm feelings aside, my thoughts of Francis were a distraction and did nothing to propel me forward. There I was, standing alone in front of a psychiatric hospital with a million thoughts running through my head. You’d think I’d have sense enough to stop, but no.

I shuffled my feet and glanced at my boots again. The next step was getting harder and harder to take. I glanced around to see if anyone was watching me. An old man sitting on a bench in front of the hospital looked up from his sandwich and smiled at me.

I smiled a small, friendly smile back at him and knew I couldn’t stand there any longer. I was beginning to look like someone who needed to be admitted.

There was just one last thing to do before I walked in. I needed to pray.

According to my mama, the Lord’s Prayer takes care of everything. It’s worship, petition, confession, and even has an exorcism built into it.

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” I whispered. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.”

I took a step towards the hospital.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

I took another step.

“And forgive us—”
I couldn’t go on. What kind of daughter was I? I hadn’t shown my face in three years. The fear of getting caught was only part of the reason I hadn’t visited mama more often. I also didn’t want to see her looking like she did last time. Standing there, my heart beat wildly as the memories came flooding back. I remembered when the orderly opened the door and I saw an emaciated figure on the bed. Her skin was the color of caramel, just like Mama’s—a color I knew so well because I used to envy it. I’m dark-skinned. Kids can be brutal.

I was about tell the orderly he’d brought me into the wrong room when the sickly woman turned her head and looked at me. Her skin looked like it’d tear it was stretched so taut across the bones in her face. But it was the unmistakable mole beneath her left eyelid that led to my undoing. Mama had always called it her beauty mark.

A scream stuck in my throat.

My mama was always beautiful and had long, black curls that fell down her back. But this person – bound by restraints, smelling of urine, and smiling at me with broken teeth – looked like an old, discarded doll.

Mama’s glassy eyes fixed on mine, and something vile and haunting inside of her seemed to stare back at me. I knew she was in this condition because of me.

Now just feet from the hospital’s entrance, I was doing my best to take another step forward. I shook my head. Tears slipped down my cheek I hadn’t realize I’d shed.

I’m sorry, Lord. I’m ready for this. Not at all.

The old man from the bench walked past me, up the steps and through the automatic doors.

I don’t know if it was love or guilt urging me on, but I followed the old man in. I had to. Sometimes false bravado and a promise is all a sistah has.

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

My email is, and I love to hear from readers. Or you can find me at my blog, I'm on Facebook, too. Friend me!

Leave a comment, or question for a chance to win a copy of God Alone is Enough: A Spirited Journey With St. Teresa of Avila

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Destined Blog Tour

PATRICIA HALEY is the trailblazing, #1 Essence bestselling author of seven faith-based, novels, including Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, No Regrets, and Chosen. She’s a project manager with degrees from Stanford University and the University of Chicago. She is a born again believer and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Patricia lives with her husband and daughter in Philadelphia.

Visit her on
or become a fan of Author Patricia Haley on Facebook.

Patricia, tell us about Destined.

Destined picks up where Chosen left off, in the lobby of the family’s business. The oldest brother, Don, has returned from his exile in South Africa at the pleading of his mother and former love interest. Don is torn between coming back and wholeheartedly battling his younger, out of control, half brother Joel for the ministry or maintaining his livelihood on another shore. Ultimately he comes to realize that certain wars are inevitable if one is to fulfill their destiny.

How did you come up with ideas for this book?

Inspiration for the Chosen series came from one of my all time favorite characters in the Bible, King David. He is an imperfect man plagued with family tragedy, personal failures, and constant battles. Yet, he is remembered as someone highly favored by God. I’m equally intrigued by King David’s son Solomon who managed to squander away his noteworthy position, wealth, and godly favor after succumbing to his weakness for women. So it is in Chosen and Destined with Joel, the son of Dave Mitchell. At the conclusion of Chosen, readers weren’t satisfied with only an epilogue ending. They wanted more. So, Destined was born.

Who are your main character(s)?

The main characters in Destined include Madeline, the ex wife of the late Dave Mitchell, and their son Don, the eldest and seemingly rightful heir to the company. Then there’s Sherry the second wife of Dave Mitchell and mother of the youngest Mitchell offspring, Joel. He’s the son chosen by Dave to assume the leadership position in the company, creating a war between the two sets of family. Abigail is Dave’s assistant who finds herself torn between the two brothers due to her love for Joel and deep friendship with Don. These characters were introduced in Chosen and maintain a strong presence in Destined. Naledi from South Africa and Zarah from India also come onto the scene in Destined adding a blend of corporate and romantic drama.

Did you have a favorite character(s)? Who and why?

My favorite character is a toss up between Madeline, her son Don, and a ‘colorful’ Uncle Frank. Madeline is a sharp tongued, top notch businesswoman who doesn’t easily back down to opposition. Don is the lesser son who finds redemption in South Africa and the freeing power of forgiveness. Uncle Frank is full of surprises, none of which are typically good. The one thing for sure, Uncle Frank is consistent with his shenanigans. He’s entertaining too.

Did you have to do quite a bit of research for this novel?

I had to do some research for this novel, particularly when it came to confirming the Indian marital traditions and practices. Since the South of France and South Africa happen to be a couple of my favorite travel spots, I didn’t have to do much research for those. However, I did have to research what certain African and Indian names meant, which was very interesting to me.

What do you hope readers will learn/discover from reading Destined?

I want the readers to be entertained first. Then, before closing the book, I’d like for them to grasp the message that in spite of challenges and dysfunction, a family’s ability to forgive, to love, to forget the pain of the past, and to exercise a tad bit of diplomacy can get them through any situation, no matter how tragic the circumstances.

Okay, a not-so-fun question. How important are reviews to you as a writer?

I truly love and appreciate reviews. They are especially helpful to readers as well as to authors. Reviews are encouraging and can also help writers identify areas where they can improve. However, sometimes reviews can become more of a personal attack on the author rather than the quality of their work. Writers can be thick-skinned, but we’re human with feelings too. We should hold ourselves accountable to our readers and reviewers to the extent that we should always want to deliver a good, well written story. I’m fine with a reviewer not liking the story, or the quality, or the message, or simply giving helpful feedback. That generates good discussion, but if a review ever turned into excessive malicious bashing, I’m sure I would stop reading just to maintain enough encouragement to get the next book out, and the next, and the next.

About the Book

Destined by Patricia Haley is the second novel in the Chosen series, inspired by the popular biblical kings David and Solomon.

Don, the eldest son and rightful heir to the ministry, returns from South Africa after three years of self-imposed exile. With a renewed zeal to reclaim the leadership of his late father’s multi-million dollar ministry, his plans are short-lived when a stock transfer agreement goes wrong, rendering Don powerless. Don’s little brother Joel continues as CEO, careening down the path of personal, professional, and spiritual demise, as he drags the ministry down with him. The only hope to save their father’s legacy is Don’s intervention, and so clinging to his self-worth and faith, Don is torn between fighting for a company he wasn’t chosen to run and fleeing back to his South African refuge, a place where his peace, his growing relationship with Naledi, and his dignity aren’t in question. After much soul searching, Don comes to realize that his destiny is inescapable and that his future lies in his family’s legacy.

Combining spiritual themes with family tension, corporate intrigue, and romance, this series is an exciting addition to the faith-based fiction market.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Defeating the Slushpile Monster

Defeating the Slushpile Monster
Encouraging Words for Wannabe Writers
Authored by Cindy A Matthews

According to a recent National Education Association's Reading at Risk study, 15 million Americans have attempted some kind of creative writing. Very few of these writers have had their work successfully published.

Are you one of them? Want to improve your chances?

Defeating the Slushpile Monster is a funny guide for serious writers. It will make you laugh while you improve your manuscript's chances of surviving the arduous submission process. Find out how Only You Can Prevent Formatting Follies, and how to avoid those Prose Pile-Ups on Publication Road. After all, every writer longs for a happily ever after ending, right?

Bonus: Included in this edition, Straight Answers to Tough Writing Questions.

About the author:

Cindy A. Matthews is married to dashing historical and romantic novelist A.J. Matthews. Her non-fiction articles and inspirational essays have appeared in over forty publications. She has worked as a manuscript evaluator, book reviewer and copy editor. More information about her editorial services and non-fiction and children's works can be found at:

Cindy writes fiction under two pen names. Cynthianna enjoys writing light-hearted, contemporary and fantasy romantic fiction. Celine Chatillon writes sf/paranormal, contemporary and humorous erotic-romances.

Click the link to get your copy

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Monday, July 19, 2010



For almost ten years, radio talk show host Nikki Truth has shared life’s ups and downs with her husband Donovan while doling out in-your-face relationship advice to her listeners. But lately it seems the good times in her own relationship—including the sex—are few and far between. Then she meets widower Kenyon Monroe, whose too tempting to resist. But not everyone is under Kenyon’s spell…

Nikki’s best friend, Trinette Montgomery, can’t deny Kenyon is hot, but she never trusts a man who seems too good to be true. And she should know. Married to a successful CFO who travels a lot, Trinette likes to indulge in all of life’s pleasures—including the fine men of St. Louis. But when her game goes too far, Trinette and Nikki stand to lose everything…

SASHA CAMPBELL will shake up the literary scene as an author who’s keeping it real. Get ready because things are about to get crazy! She’s a free spirit who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind or even better, write about it. There’s nothing desperate about this vivacious housewife with her wild imagination and flare for capturing her audience’s attention with every page-turning detail. Visit Sasha online at

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Although I have a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, my back ground is in adult entertainment. I’m a business woman first but I know how to get down to business when needed. In other words, I manage the staff but I have no problem slipping on a pair of stilettos and swinging around a pole if duty calls.

How did you start out your writing career?

I’ve always kept a journal…under lock and key. Lol. Once I started eavesdropping on dressing room confessions that were way more appealing than fiction, I decided it was my destiny to tell our stories. Before long I had the first full-length story ready to be published.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

I’m am entertainer by trade who believes in giving her customers their money’s worth. Lol. Seriously, writing this book was like choreographing a pole dance routine—arousing. I want my customers to feel satisfied. I believe Confessions will do just that.

What did you learn while writing this book?

Writing isn’t as easy as one may think. I felt like I needed to go back to college and take a few more English classes. Ha-ha! I had no idea how much editing was involved in the process. I have a lot of respect for my editor.

What is the toughest test you’ve faced as an author?

I’m facing it now. Although I’m keeping my identity a secret, I’m making it no secret about the type of woman I am. The test is how accepting my readers are of a stripper turned housewife who believes in keeping it real.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

Mary B. Morrison because she reminds me a lot of myself. Terry McMillan because she is an amazing story teller and I would feel honored to be in her presence and Valerie Wilson Wesley. I would love to talk to her and see just how her brain operates. She’s fabulous.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

I wish I had known writing was so therapeutic. I’m able to unleash all my thoughts and inhibitions.

I am a natural born freak and with writing I can be as freaky as I want to be. Lol. Secondly, I wish I had known that getting a book published was just the beginning. Marketing? What’ in the world is that? I have to laugh because I handled all the marketing and promotion at the club yet I guess I never thought I would have to do the same with my own books. I thought the publisher did everything. That was a rude awakening. Third, it took years before I realized so many women live vicariously through me. Because of that I am glad I decided to become an author. I plan to introduce women to my world. So many people think adult entertainment is just about sex but there is so much more to learn.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be writer?

Do you! Write what you know instead of writing what you thinking readers want to read.

It’s got to be true to you otherwise it is going to come across fake. For instance, I can’t write Christian fiction because I am too much of a freak and my mouth is way too raw but for others that’s their talent. Also, if an agent or editor rejects your work don’t get discourage and give up your dream. Everything worth having takes time.

I borrowed this question from author Carleene Brice, what is your author fantasy?

Is amazing you used the word fantasy since that’s what my career’s all about—fulfilling fantasies. Lol. My author fantasy is writing a collaboration with one of my favorites or someday holding a book signing with an endless line of readers dying to meet the vivacious woman behind the mystery.

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

The brain works when it wants to work. People think authors can schedule there writing for 9-5 and shut it off at dinner time but it doesn’t work like that. My husband doesn’t get it so I try to put his needs first and as soon as I’m sure he’s satisfied I’m back to my office working until the wee hours of the morning. A writer’s mind is always working. I have notepads by the side of the bed and even under the seat in my car. When an idea pops in my head, I’ve got to be able to rush and write it down before I forget.

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

The best advice was, writing the book is the hard part after that the rest will come easy. She was right. Writing a book was the challenge. Once I had something worth representing, I was lucky because the rest came easier for me.

The worst advice I got was that everybody wants to be a writer and that publishers were no longer buying what I write. How wrong they were.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

Africa. We as African-Americans have so many misconceptions that I would love to see the rich beauty of that country myself.

Our theme for this month is agent hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

I think I got twenty reject letters before I found the right agent. You can’t take it personal. The worst thing you can have is an agent that doesn’t believe in your work. I have an over-the-top personality which requires an agent whose personality works wonderfully with mine. It’s a relationship…a marriage. Unfortunately, we don’t always get it right on the first try.

Oprah always asks, what do you know for sure?

I know that I am truly blessed to have a family who loves me and has never judged me for living the life that I have chosen to live. I am a woman who has no regrets and I’m confident in everything I do.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Absolutely. Suspicions is the story of four employees of Situations the hottest beauty salon in Chicago and also where drama’s their motto. When Noelle finds an abandoned baby on her doorstep she has to take a suspicious look at everyone including her husband. Candace is tired of the games and ready for love but her baby’s daddy ain’t having it. Tiffany is trying to save her virginity but temptation is becoming almost too great. Chauncey is trying to start a new life, unfortunately, the past always has a way of catching up with us.

How can readers get in contact with you?

Readers can visit me at where they’ll find links to my delicious blog, twitter and facebook page or they can simply drop me a line at

Leave a comment, question for a chance to win a copy of Confessions.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: In a Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy

Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving

Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy share how their family’s lives changed In a Heartbeat

First came the best-selling book, then the Oscar-nominated movie; the story of Michael Oher and the family who adopted him has become one of the most celebrated true stories of our time. The Blind Side—both the New York Times #1 bestseller and the Hollywood blockbuster—introduced the world to Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, the Memphis couple who was out for a morning drive when they saw young Michael Oher walking alone along the side of the road. They stopped the car that day, and their lives changed in a heartbeat. That’s the story we all know, but now, for the first time, the remarkable couple depicted in The Blind Side tells their own story, and “The story is greater than we are,” explains Leigh Anne. The Tuohy family story demonstrates that taking a chance on someone is worth the risk.

In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy with Sally Jenkins (Henry Holt, July 13, 2010) takes readers on an extraordinary journey of faith and love and shares unforgettable lessons about the power of giving. The Tuohys’ deeply inspiring memoir offers readers a detailed picture of a family that makes giving a way of life, the huge blessings that decision has brought to them, and the ways we can all make a difference in our own communities.

Just a few of the lessons in generosity from the Tuohys include:

If you can’t give something big, give something small.

“Get one, give one”—when you receive something, give part of it away.

Giving does not mean enabling—before you give intelligently, you have to learn the value of a dollar.

Generosity starts at home.

One aspect of the story that people haven’t heard is just how close the Tuohys came to continuing on their way without giving Michael a second thought, as so many others must have done. “I was going to keep on driving,” Sean Tuohy says.

Adjusting to their new life with Michael was not without its complications, and the Tuohys speak frankly about the issues faced by everyone in the family. All three Tuohy kids reflect on their experiences. In a Heartbeat reveals:

How bringing Michael into their lives was as much an awakening for the Tuohys as it was for him.

The awkward gaps they confronted between privileged and poor and black and white, and how the family worked together to bridge them.

Their worries and concerns at several stages in their growing relationship with Michael.

The Tuohys’ goal is not so much to tell their own story but to show others how they can make a difference, one person at a time. “There are a million Michaels,” Leigh Anne says. “Not every kid has the potential to become a star player in the NFL, but that kid may be the person who grows up to cure cancer, or who becomes a great husband or wife to someone.” Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohys’ compelling, funny, and profoundly inspiring voices encourage readers to move past the “no” in their heads and follow the “yes” in their hearts to see how—in a heartbeat—anyone can harness the power of giving to change the world.

The Tuohys believe The Blindside was so successful because people see themselves in the story, and that they too could make a difference. They wrote In a Heartbeat to show others how they can do something—big or small—to change someone’s life for the better. The Tuohys feel that it was their family that received the blessing in helping Michael, and they want others to receive the blessings that come with cheerful giving as well. “He had a much greater impact on our lives than we did on his life,” says Leigh Anne.

The Tuohys taught Michael what this book teaches all of us: Everyone has a blind side, but a loving heart always sees a path toward true charity.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

BLOG TOUR: Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness.

Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned. As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?

Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Stanford University , Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FEATURED AUTHOR: Altonya Washington

AlTonya Washington has been a published romance novelist for 6 years. Her novel Finding Love Again won the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Multicultural Romance 2004. In July 2008, the South Carolina native released her twelfth novel A Lover's Worth. August 2009 marked the release of her thirteenth and fourteenth novels: Rival’s Desire and Passion’s Furies.

In addition to teaching a community college course entitled Writing the Romance Novel she works as a Senior Library Assistant and resides in North Carolina. AlTonya will release her fifteenth novel Hudson’s Crossing in March 2009. In March 2009, AlTonya- writing as T. Onyx- released an electronic version of her debut erotica title Truth In Sensuality. In August 2009 she will release her debut audio title Another Love and the final installment in her Ramsey series A Lover’s Soul. Her latest release with the Harlequin/Kimani label is the January 2010 release “The Doctor’s Private Visit”

How did you start out your writing career?

When I started writing it was not with the intentions of starting a career. It was out of a basic desire to see characters that looked like me embroiled in the dramas I’d come to love from the romances I enjoyed. It wasn’t until I started sharing my stories with friends that I realized I loved the sharing as much as the creating and my journey towards a career had begun.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I never thought I’d enjoy writing a heroine who was as much the aggressor as Julia Kelly was in “As Good As The First Time”. I realized that I had a great time creating her character and that there were so many facets to explore with this woman- personality-wise. She could still retain her more “demure” qualities while at the time being a woman who knows what she wants and goes after it.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

To show that a heroine could be somewhat the aggressor while not taking anything from the hero’s masculinity.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

Balancing or working to balance the time it (writing) takes from family and my “real” job.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

Octavia Butler-on being the only black woman (or one of a few) who writes Science Fiction and what experiences (good or not so good) that she’s encountered because of that. Stephen King- because I think he’s an awesome writer (and my favorite author) I just love the chance to talk with him about his work and what inspired some of his titles-especially “IT” my favorite title by him. Virginia Henley because I adore historical romance and hers were among the first I read when I discovered them as a teenager-practically devoured her books when I discovered them.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

1) That I knew I wanted to write as a kid. 2) That I knew I wanted to write before I graduated high school. 3) That I’d been an English major in college.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

DO- Read outside your genre and often. DON’T- Be afraid to take risks and venture down different paths in your writing.

I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?

Writing becomes my major source of income-allowing me to be on my own time doing what I want when I want (or when my son doesn’t need me to do anything for him). This is a fantasy that I’m working to make a reality.

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

I think sometimes folks see all the books and stories and think it’s easy to create this stuff given the number of things on the market with the author’s name. It’s not easy and it has to be in your heart- this is the only way we make this stuff happen. There’s so much that goes into creating the story before even the first word is put down on paper. I spend tons of time simply thinking of my characters and the role they’ll play in the story, then there’s what will they look like, names, friends, etc… Then once the book’s written there’s the revision process and that’s a whole other ball of wax. I wouldn’t trade any of it though.

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry?

Be prepared to do your own marketing and tons of it. The worst? Once you get the book deal, you’re in the driver’s seat.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

Switzerland. I adore cold weather and can just envision myself in some Swiss chalet with a storm blowing in…

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Enjoy Boxing and Bond- James Bond.

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

Be sure that you really need one. Also research the publishing houses you hope to submit work to. There are many houses that do not require agency representation.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

That I love to write and that I love to share what I write.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Gosh!! Which one??!! Honestly, I’ve got so much going on right now, but that’s a constant in my life that I don’t see changing for a while. Let’s see…This fall I hope to release my debut YA Romance- “The Expectation of Beauty” –readers will be hearing more about that soon. I’m really proud of it. Also, I’m working on the next in my Ramsey series- now the Ramsey/Tesano series. “A Lover’s Shame” will be first in the next part of that series. My next Kimani release is “Every Chance I Get” this title features a couple that readers will remember from “Hudson’s Crossing” which released with Kimani and was part of their You’re Expecting line. Many readers were interested in whether the hero’s and heroine’s best friends Talib Mason and Misha Bales would have their own story-this is it. Talib will be featured as one of the Kimani Hotties and the title will release Feb. 2011.

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

Readers can write to me via postal mail at: AlTonya, PO Box 35 Davidson NC 28036. Email me: Visit my website:

Good As The First Time
Detroit natives, Julia Kelly and Cortez Wallace shared an incredible love affair…once. Inside the bedroom they were two people with a common goal: pleasure.

Unfortunately, the relationship was also full of drama and hurt feelings. Julia, had never quite measured up in the eyes of Cortez’s family. She wanted nothing more than to leave Detroit with Cortez and continue their careers elsewhere. Cortez however had just been offered the head news anchor spot at his station. He had no desire to leave and wanted Julia to stay.

She didn’t force Cortez to choose because she was too afraid of what he would choose. She left Detroit vowing to never return. Then, rumors begin to rumble about possible nuptials between two popular Detroit broadcasters. The rumors were without merit as far as Cortez was concerned.

Julia was ruled by her wants and what she wanted was to know if Cortez was truly in love. She couldn’t rest until she knew if the rumors were true. She had to know if her leaving had irrevocably closed the doors for them or whether the man she wanted-wanted her just as much.

Leave a comment, question or email for a chance to win a copy of Good As The First Time.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

COLUMN: Building Colorful Characters

Building Colorful Characters—
The Literary Bones of a Story, Part 7

Wordsmiths, if asked the following, what would your answer be—Fourth of July or crickets, electrifying sparks or sheer boredom? No, these are not dating questions. Instead, we’re determining which of these impressions your characters are making when they enter the room. The room, in this sense, is your readers’ mind. Your readers’ mind is the entertainment area you have rented for as long as or as short as you engage their attention. Are your characters holding a party—or a funeral? Will your readers allow you to enter their “room” again—or bar you forever?

As we’ve discussed earlier, creating characters that dance to a colorful tune for your readers’ eyes and emotions are an important part of what makes an entertaining story. We’ve also examined many ways in doing this, as there are no limits and many formulas to this tonic of literary pleasure.

Using the element of surprise with a character’s behavior or decision patterns is one way to keep our readers from yawning or hearing subliminal crickets chirp during our creations. Transforming a character with a drab or subservient personality into a feisty or domineering position can liven things up in any saga.

For example one, let’s create a familiar scenario but put a twist to it. Let’s use a mid-fiftyish Hispanic male with bad skin, cheap office attire, toting geeklike expressions. This meek, humble, and dedicated employee has been working at his job for twenty-nine years. As a family-man, he’s looking forward to retiring in a year and enjoying the benefits he’s loyally worked for all these years. One morning, right after a company meeting, unexpectantly, he’s given notice that the company is downsizing and he will be let go immediately with only severance pay. His immediate supervisor is given the unpleasant task of making this delivery to him as the company’s haughty CEO looks on and a few other sympathetic employees and coworkers silently pepper the room. Rightfully so, and certainly in this hurting economy, the employee grimaces inside, thinking of his home, car, family, and other obligations that have just been adversely affected.

As his silent internal inferno erupts, his attention aborts from listening to the lengthy explanation dripping from the lips of his soon-to-be ex-employer. The employee makes the decision to take matters into his own hand. No longer thinking rationally, he bum-rushes the exit doors to the conference room, taking everyone hostage but outwardly remains very calm while making his demands for a changed and upgraded decision. Coworkers and his immediate supervisor are shocked by his behavior, yet don’t feel endangered, knowing him to have always been a peaceful man and a team player. They can understand his feelings and have always respected him as a person, so they all sit as ordered in silence, hoping that he will change his mind and return to reason.

The CEO, however, not really knowing the employee other than occasionally seeing him meekly work in his tiny cubicle, doesn’t take him seriously and begins to taunt him with a cocky tone. With the passing of time, some coworkers ask for bathroom privileges and are granted them. The employee makes it known to everyone that he wants them to be comfortable until this “thing” is played out to his liking. Outside the company’s building, the police and crowd intensify. Daylight decreases, the CEO’s annoying words increase, and the telephone rings continuously in the conference room as the police hope to negotiate a life-saving deal. The situation begins to wear on the employee’s nerves, and he begins to realize that his circumstance needs a drastic change in order to get better, quicker results.

The employee politely grants a third bathroom break to a male employee who he has worked side by side with for many years. In fact, he also allows him to answer the telephone and request the police bring food and drinks for the hostages. But when the police ignore the request and only ask the coworker if everyone is safe, the coworker confidently answers yes—but is then stopped short by a barrage of bullets ripping through his back at the hand of the frustrated employee. The atmosphere has now changed, the CEO is shocked into silence, the respect from the employee’s coworkers vanish, and fear tightly clutches everyone’s heart now. The coworker lays dead with bright red blood pooling around his convulsing body, the police hear screams, then silence reigns as the phone conversation is abruptly disconnected, and the character’s personality and perception has been changed for all to see.

Do you think everyone, including the reader, views this character differently now? No longer is he a drab or background character. He is now in charge, very colorful, and at the front of the reader’s room, who waits to see what door the disgruntled employee steps through next.

For example two, imagine a serial killer who relentlessly and brutally murders prostitutes and pimps, yet he religiously wears all white and an expensive cross hangs around his neck. He also enjoys visiting a Catholic church whenever he can, to kneel and pray for the absolution of his sins. Does not this contrast in behavior and personality pluck a unique type of character from the literary tree? While this scenario could be considered strange and not the usual type of situation or story line, it does fall into the category of “it-could-happen.” Therefore, not only is the character colorful in its right, but also the story line as well. Surely there’s enough footage here to have fun with and keep the “room” of our reader very occupied with nail-biting attention.

In this example, I’ve said very little about this character or his background. But I’ve given you enough information so you can use your own imagination to take this character and story line to colorful heights.

Sometimes in our creations, less is more, yet, the intensity and possibilities are largely seen and felt. Too, a writer must also remember that the road must be paved with some reason or rhyme of why a character has crossed over into a different personality behavior or pattern. Otherwise, the change will come off unrealistic and unbelievable. An intriguing story’s plot or twist can get lost if the character delivering the blow is not wielding the sword of “it-could-happen” effectively.

So, while working on that next piece intended on keeping your readers turning pages for hours on end, remember: Fourth of July or crickets, party or funeral? This type of concentration will surely get you booked back into those rooms of your fans every time without reservations.

Wordsmiths, remember to e-mail me with your creations and I’ll post them here for all to meet and utilize. For your gifting, I’ll post a picture of your latest book and a link to your Web site.

Pens up! to building colorful characters the write way.

Rachel Berry has been gifted by our creator to be many things; on the list of these blessings are daughter, caregiver, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, best friend, aunt, published author & poet, motivational speaker, radio talk show host, mentor, columnist and community leader.

She has been a government employee for 24 years.

Rachel is the founder and president of Black Pearls United INC. (an African American sister-circle) which was founded in 2000.

Berry is also an alumni member of Toastmasters International where she has earned her CTM and has been awarded as Toastmaster of the Year.

Rachel is proudly promoting her books 'From The Heart And Heat Of Me.' and her novel ‘Family Pictures:’ the family saga of two women with too many secrets and the up and down relationships they have with those people they call family.

To arrange speaking engagements e-mail her at For book signings please e-mail her at To preview and buy her books please visit her web site at &

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Monday, July 12, 2010


Bonnie Leon dabbled in writing for many years but never set it in a place of priority until an accident in 1991 left her unable to work at her job. She is now the author of several historical fiction series, including the Sydney Cove series, Queensland Chronicles, the Matanuska series, the Sowers Trilogy, and the Northern Lights series. She also stays busy teaching women’s Bible studies, speaking, and teaching at writing seminars and women’s gatherings. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

How did you start out your writing career?

In 1989 I was hit by a compulsion to write and filled legal pads with short stories, poems and personal experiences. In May of 1991 I attended my first writing seminar and was encouraged by one of the guest writers to keep writing. One month later, a log truck hit the van I was driving. My life forever. I was left with chronic pain and disability and was unable to return to work.

One day, in despair I asked God to give me something to do that mattered, and He gave me writing. After attending a four day writers’ conference in 1992 I was encouraged to write my first book.

I returned home and went to work on the book. The following summer I took it to the conference and presented it to an editor from Thomas Nelson Publishing. She loved the story and asked to see the rest of the story. Thomas Nelson offered me a contract, and I’ve been writing ever since.

What did you learn while writing this book?

Each book is a learning experience, but with Touching the Clouds I was strongly reminded that the learning never ends. While I was creating the story I knew that something was out of sync, but life was crazy and I had a deadline so I pushed forward.

Shortly after turning it into my editor she contacted me and agreed that the book needed some major work. I prayed about it and the Lord helped me see that the characters weren’t right to tell this story. I reworked the characters, which changed everything. I basically rewrote the entire book. It was a lot of work, but I ended up with a novel I feel good about.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

First and foremost, I wanted to have fun, and to take readers on an Alaskan adventure. I also wanted to tell the story of an incredible woman who has the courage to do the “impossible”. I admire women who refuse to be average. Kate chooses a life-long dream over the norms of her day. It’s tougher than she expected and could cost her more than she imagined.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

I’d contracted for a three book series, each with an expected word count of 140,000 words. I’d finished the first two books in the series when the publisher notified me of financial cut-backs. My part in the belt-tightening was to trim my books down to 110,000 words. I had to cut 30,000 words from each book. It was a daunting task. I took out every word that wasn’t absolutely necessary, cut entire scenes and chapters. It was tough, but I learned a great deal about writing tight and leaving in only what’s necessary to a plot—a very good lesson.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

Francine Rivers would be one. I admire her writing and I met her once at a writing conference. She seemed to be a steady, reasonable person. I’d love to get to know her better.

It would be a dream to sit down with John Steinbeck. I love his writing style. He had the courage to look at and then write about the darker side of life. He traveled the roads with the destitute during the great depression of the 1930’s. I’d love to hear about his adventures first hand.

James Michener is my third choice. He wrote one of my all time favorite books, Hawaii. Most of his books were lengthy and his writing process of was amazingly thorough. I read somewhere that he read each book seventeen times. I’d love to talk to him about his journey through his books.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

Take the time to read quality writing. I’ve always loved to read, but there are so many great books I haven’t read. Tasting masterpieces help writers create their own works of art.

Market your work. I did almost no marketing in my early years and now as a senior writer I’m forced to learn. At this stage of the game, it’s a steep learning curve for me.

Marketing isn’t everything. This sounds contradictory to what I just said, but writers can get so caught up in marketing they cut too deeply into their writing and personal time. We need big chunks of time to just write. And if we don’t make time to recharge our spirits our creativity suffers.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

Do attend writing seminars and conferences. It’s the perfect place to learn the craft and to connect with people in the industry. Both are extremely important.

Don’t pay too much attention to reviews. They’re subjective and have the power to bring you down unnecessarily or to elevate you to places you don’t belong.

I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?

My fantasy has already been fulfilled. When I set out to write, my greatest desire was to serve God and make a positive difference in people’s lives. I’ve heard from lots of readers who’ve told me that something I’ve written has helped them through a difficult time. It’s hugely encouraging to hear that kind of feedback.

I’d like to share one story. I received a letter from a man serving a life sentence
(no parole) in a federal prison. When he was nineteen he shot and killed a man during a robbery. He’d been in prison ten years when he wrote to me. Although he’d trusted in Christ sometime in his youth he lost his way. He stumbled upon my book, The Journey of Eleven Moons and after reading it he dedicated his life to serving Christ in prison. I recently heard he is continuing to do just that.

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

Writers work hard, really hard.

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

“The best way to learn to write is to write.” I believed those words and wrote my first novel, which became a bestseller.

The worst is “Write what you know.” It’s often said, but if I wrote only what I knew I’d be hugely limited. And I think the whole idea is misunderstood. Stories are about people and I know about them.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

I’d love to visit Ellis Island. In my series, “The Sowers Trilogy” I dealt with immigrants coming into our country and as I did the research my admiration for these brave individuals grew. They had to register at Ellis Island, a challenge to any soul. It was a place of hope and shattered dreams.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Although it’s becoming more common, I suppose people might be surprised to know that I see an acupuncturist twice a month. I don’t claim to understand how acupuncture works, but it helps me manage my chronic pain.

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

The key word here is right. We need agents that are a good fit for us. To accomplish that, we need to do our research. I encourage writers to do more than an online search. It helps to talk to other writers and when they attend a conference to schedule appointments with agents where they can sit down face to face and chat.
Make sure to read the agent’s guidelines carefully and only send proposals to those that fit your style of writing. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

Relationships matter. All the material possessions in the world can’t make up for shipwrecked families or friendships. In the end, all that matters is love. Love well.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

The working title is Heaven’s Promise. It’s book two in the Alaskan Skies Series. The Alaskan adventure continues with Kate, Paul and their friends. Kate is still flying, at least for now, and Paul is working as a doctor in the bush. They combine their gifts to serve the people of Alaska.

When life takes an unexpected turn their grit is put to the test.

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

I love to hear from readers. They can stop by my website at

Touching the Clouds

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.

When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Leave a comment, question or email for a chance to win a copy of Touching the Clouds.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

JULY INSPIRATION - Linda Hudson-Smith

Promises to Keep
by Linda Hudson-Smith

Courtney Campbell has her cake and she's eating it, too. As the owner of an upscale catering business, Courtney is used to dealing with Tinseltown's finest—and their demands. But when movie producer Darius Fairfax walks in, her cool-as-a-cucumber facade melts into an appetite for desire.

Darius Fairfax is used to his phone ringing off the hook—for business and for pleasure. He's attracted to sexier-than-ever Courtney, so why is she pouring ice all over his game? Darius is determined to romance the party professional with kisses sweeter than wine—and throw her a lifetime of wedded bliss!

Linda Hudson-Smith was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and raised in Washington, PA. She furthered her educational goals by attending Duff's Business Institute in Pittsburgh, PA.

In 2000, after illness forced her to leave a successful marketing and public relations career, the national bestselling author turned to writing as a healing and creative outlet.

Linda has won several awards: the Gold Pen Award, numerous Shades of Romance magazine awards, African-American Literary Show Award, and she is an Essence Best Selling Author. Linda was nominated for two Emma Awards and a Career Achievement Award by Romantic Times magazine. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Black Writers Alliance.

For the past seven years Hudson-Smith has served as the national spokesperson for the Lupus Foundation of America, making lupus awareness one of her top priorities. She travels around the country delivering inspirational messages of hope. Linda was awarded the key to the city of Crestview, Florida, for her contributions.

The mother of two sons, Linda shares a residence with her husband, Rudy, in League City, Texas. To find out more about this extraordinary author go to her Web site

Thank you Linda for inspiring SORMAG.

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