Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tumbling, by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

My cousin Denita knows me well. She gave me Tumbling over Fourth of July, thought I'd like it, and I only now got a chance to finish it. Ooh, boy, it was a hard book to read; not because the mechanics of reading was difficult, but because the emotions that it drew to the surface made me feel really, really raw. Noon and Herbie; Ethel, Fannie, Liz. Willie Mann. Reverend Schell. Thomas Moore. Black people in the '40s and '50s in South Philly. My grandma was there; as was my dad. She could've easily been talking about them or a neighborhood like theirs. Gentrification. 60 years later it's still going on; still having a devastating affect on black and other minority communities. About passion and having it taken away from you . . . given to someone who shouldn't really have it, but she's the only one there who'll take it; a father resenting his child; a daughter resenting her father; a woman loving too much but not in the way the receiver wants. Slick, silver-tongued, too-fine man that woo the innocence from a girl who just wants to be held. A girl who knows too damn much and people are frightened by that knowledge, mad at it. A woman who offers healing the only way she knows how.

There were no villains in this story. No one was all good or all bad. They were human, and textured and tactile, like you knew them personally; like you were invested in how things turned out almost more than they seemed to be; that you wanted everything to come out right for everyone--not "comeuppance" right; "find peace" right.

When I grow up, I want to write like this too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Updates and a Chat

I finally got a response back for a submission I made for Manna Tree. The good news is the editor thought the story was well-written and packed with strong emotion. Unfortunately, she passed on it. This is one of those bittersweet rejections, because the person recognizes the talent, but aren't feeling the story. One day . . . I'll marry the two. But jeez, it's still frustrating as all get out.

Anyway, I'm going to have a chat tonight from 7-10 PM EST at my Web site. It's pretty much an open chat, but I will be discussing my works--both released and upcoming; posting up excerpts of works in progress; and even giving away some books. I hope you all can make it!

SJF Books Chat Room

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hard Drive

Beyond dead, it is. This news does not make me happy. Something inside it is broken. o.O I haven't dropped my laptop in a good minute! I don't know what happened.

Do you think God is telling me I need a new computer? I . . . don't know how I feel about that message. I will say that for my experience, Dell is fantastic in terms of customer service, so I'll probably get another one. I have to go to Staples and get my beyond-dead hard drive, though.

But, now I can continue to work on Trolling Nights (as well as two other WiPs that decided to bite this month. Oy). The feedback I'm getting on this story really is awesome. Now that I can go forward, I'll be posting some things up.

And would anyone be interested in a chat this weekend? Friday too soon? Sunday?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Oh, NOW He Talks!

Okay, those of you familiar with Being Plumville might be a interested in this news.

Felix is now speaking to me after, basically, four years of being mum.

So . . . yeah. Onward.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Hard Drive: 2004-2008


It was a sudden death, one that hadn't been expected. There were no spurts, no fainting spells . . . just the clicking death knell and then silence. Because I had no idea what was going on, I tried to restart it twice . . . and then a third when the Dell people told me to run a diagnostic.

All of my most recent work for Trolling Nights is on that hard drive, as well as the updates I made to The Beauty Within and Reconstructing Jada Channing. BUT, I had updated my backup drive about two weeks ago, so it's not as bad it could've been and sending out some drafts to friends of mine (even if they are in pdfs) was probably the best thing I could've done.

I am not at a point of no return; I am at an inconvenient detour. I thank the Lord that's all it is. However, for those who read this blog, please pray I CAN recover those files. I'd really liked where I was going with Trolling Nights especially, but thank goodness I haven't lost too much that I cannot recreate it. To make things a little more "oy", I'd planned on sending out submissions this week, but I reckon not right now anyway. But . . .

This is definitely not as bad as it could've been But I'll be backing up my docs like a FIEND when I get back up and running, you best believe.

Monday, August 11, 2008


The owner of Red Rose Publishing told me first-week totals of The Coach's Counselor . . . they definitely overshot my expectations. So I thank you for buying the story, and tell others to get their copy. It's a dope story. Bernie is a dreamboat. I wanna be Eunice when I growed up. The RRP's owner loves the story. Can't get much better than that, peoples. Buy! Buy! Buy!

In less enthusiastic news, Sunday morning I awoke to a lovely (this is not sarcasm) rejection letter from an agent regarding Reconstructing Jada Channing. Was I disappointed? Absolutely, because my pitch to her had gone really well and she'd seemed exciting about it; and to know months later the project with her is a no-go does smart.

But then, I realized there is this lovely thing called self-publishing, and my straits weren't as dire as they'd seemed upon reading the e-mail. TPtB at HBF Publishers have it, and even if that doesn't work out, I can still put it out on my own. RJC doesn't have to languish until someone puts her seal of approval on it--I could publish the novel whenever I want, really. And considering it's my baby . . . I probably SHOULD publish it myself instead of risking a publisher/agent culling it out to "make it more marketable" (which sometimes, from what I've been told, could be a struggle between the author's original vision and the publisher's vision, and with this story in particular . . . there is a specific vision I have in mind for it). And if I really play my cards right, should I be picked up by an agent, and they do a reprint . . . the value of the first edition will be exceedingly high, right?

Or that's what I'd heard. Sotheby's, here I come!

(A girl can dream, can't she?)

It's a strategic game, this publishing business. I'm taking the bull by the horns, yes, but I also can't wait for the day until I can relinquish them and concentrate on the part of this business I want the most--the writing. Another idea has come and bit me, and one sentence on a Post It has grown into something that's taken me hours of research, so many "restarts" that I don't remember. And this isn't counting all the WiPs that are waiting for their day in the sun. I'm in that period of the job that sustains me is impeding on the career that feeds me. NOT a good feeling, because I actually like my "able-to-live" job, but this WRITING, people. This is what I'm supposed to do. And it's scary to be good at other things . . . have a greater chance at success at those others things . . . but those other things are in the way of THE THING.

Options. Sometimes I don't know if it's better to have too many or not enough.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

July=Dead Zone . . . Sort of

Which is why I'm only now posting about it in August! Ha! July is the dead zone month for me creatively, because my job . . . the one with benefits that allow me to go to the doctor and maybe survive once I retire (if that is still even an option by the time I reach that point) got insane. I worked a total of 207 hours in July (not counting the editing job I do for Red Rose and etc). Technically, I am only supposed to work 175 hours/month. I had no space in my head for anything creative. At all. I'd try to write and it just looked so foreign and AWFUL. It was not a good look. Even my bosses were like "get some rest."

But did I do that? No. Instead I call myself going out of town EVERY OTHER WEEKEND. What is this foolishness? Granted, the first weekend of July was the 4th, and I went home to South Jersey to the fam--Dad and Cousins I haven't seen in almost two years. I figured it was about time. I also had the opportunity to meet Eve Vaughn, erotica writer extraordinaire. Keep in mind, I've been fangirling her for several minutes, until another member of TST told me she loved my writing.


Right, so obviously, I was like, "we must meet" and we did. And we talked . . . actually not about writing! Which is fantastic, because when you don't talk about writing, you talk about things that make you a writer or give you inspiration/material for writing in far more organic and salient ways, to me, anyway. I learned so much about her, and she me, and we met for much longer than I thought. She's good people, Eve Vaughn, and all of you need to check out her books. And speaking of, we went to Borders, and her book was on the shelf! So of course, I bought it, even though I already had a book with me I wanted her to sign. I want that to be me one day, just browsing through the shelves and see a book with my name on it . . . yes. And then she had the nerve to say (as she signing her books for me, no less) she can't wait until I'm a bestselling author.

Um, whose book was just bought at a bookstore? Certainly not mine! lol

But the bigger thing is that even though she's definitely ahead in the game, she has nothing but well wishes for ME. I'm still learning how to get used to that, all of these established SUCCESSFUL authors who are expecting great things from me. I've not really ever had that in terms of something that's REALLY important to me. Academically, yes, that went without saying. But this writing thing, something that I haven't started sharing with the world with my name until about four years ago . . . I realize I am an infant in this business. I really am, but people are so excited for me.

It's humbling. Mentors rule.

So, two weeks later, the week that I worked 50 hours for my benefits job, I went directly from the work to NYC for the Harlem Book Fair. It was really a last-minute decision, because I was EXHAUSTED, but I need to network. That is something that needs definite improvement in my skillset, I feel, so I went.

Glad I did. I really only sat through two panels: the one on African-American Publishing and the one on Black Romance and Street Fiction. That last one was the main reason I went to NYC, and I wasn't disappointed. Although the Publishing panel was more geared to nonfiction/self-help publishing, it highlighted the importance of African-American booksellers, word-of-mouth, and creative ways to gain access to the resources the major mainstream/white publishers have in comparison. As an African-American author who writes primarily Interracial romances no less, that was a very worthwhile panel for me, because I know it's going to be harder for me to gain access to some of those resources than other types of romance writers. However, the Black Romance panel . . .

I rode on the elevator with Sandra Kitt and didn't figure it out until she sat on the panel.


Clearly I was more exhausted than I thought, because Sandra Kitt . . . she was THE FIRST black romance novelist/interracial romance novelist that I EVER read. Ever. And my slow self didn't catch on it was her, which meant I missed a GREAT opportunity to talk to her. But, she was fantastic on the panel. She broke down the history of black romance, kind of shocked it's only a few years older than I am, and she talked about her way of writing her novels. She, like I, can't just have them falling into the bed after a sentence. She takes the slow-burn approach. And considering she was the first I read, maybe that's why I do, too. But it's hard for me to write sex/intimacy just for the sake of it. Like Ms. Kitt, it has to make sense for the characters and the story, or else why bother?

Also on the panel were Leslie Esdaile (LA Banks), Gwynne Forster, and Nathasha Brooks-Harris; and it was moderated by Donna Hill. Just listening to these ladies speak was so informative and wonderful. I learned so much--I think I was probably the only one there with a notepad and writing notes, like I was Black Romance 101 and I had a quiz in two days! After the panel, I found a huge pair of ovaries somehow and approached them all. Ms. Forster actually remembered me from Chicago, which is notable because the only interaction we had was me asking her to autograph my book of hers! Ms. Brooks-Harris, who sat on the panel with me and Ms. Jenkins, gave me a hug and her contact info! And THEN, in a move that surprised even me, I asked them to sign MY proof copies of The Beauty Within and Reconstructing Jada Channing because I didn't have a book of theirs to sign--to give me inspiration and encouragement when I start to lose focus and faith. They did so willingly, even Ms. Banks, who I'd never met until I asked her to sign my book. They were all so gracious and stayed and signed as many books after the panel as they could. The only reason Ms. Kitt couldn't was because she had a panel directly after the Black Romance and Street Fiction one ended, or else I would've asked her to sign too.

After that, I met an online friend who, which shocked me, said I was the first romance novelist she'd ever read. Wha? MORE shocking was she was the SECOND person to tell me this in as many weeks (the first being my coworker who actually read the proof copy of The Beauty Within before I even did--said she loved it. yay!)! She was patient and let me meet some members from Beverly Jenkins's Yahoo Group and the authors to sign my books. Unfortunately, the long week had caught up to me during the panel because I had a headache the size of Jupiter, so she let me get some drugs from the corner market (the combination of the lack of sleep, eating little that morning, the heat (it was HOT), and meeting everyone . . . she was awesome with her understanding). Then I had to hurry to a manuscript pitch, and she had to go to the ATM because she was buying two copies of AJ's Serendipity for me. Yay!

Of course, I got sidetracked walking through the Fair and talked with an author, Lizette G. Carter, who was with a traditional publisher and self-published her second release and doesn't regret the move. This is further ironic because the manuscript pitch I gave was actually for HBF Publishers, a DIY publishing company established by the same person who started the Harlem Book Fair. I thought it was going to be an editor from a publishing house, but I'm glad because I now have yet another avenue to get my books out there, and it sounds like something that people should keep an eye on in the future. They liked my pitch, and apparently so much so because the reps mention me on their blog!

Too cool! Especially since I know I was among the last to have a pitch with them!

But, of course, to further complicate things, I spoke to Ms. Banks again to thank her for signing my book and briefly about my publishing experience thus far, and she encouraged me to talk to her editor at St. Martin's Press, because traditional publishing is the way to go, in her opinion.

So, two votes self-pub, and two votes traditional pub, because Ms. Banks is VERY successful and clearly it's worked for her fantastically.

I don't know what got to me, people, but I must've been either too tired to let my shyness hinder me or the pain medication I took to get rid of the headache gave me some extra courage. I talked to the editor and gave her my card, and she was lovely with giving me advice and quick To-Do and Not-to-Do pointers for when I submit to editors and agents. Considering the fair was winding down, I was very appreciative of her taking the time out to talk to me!

Finally, I leave and meet up with a friend I hadn't seen since I went natural with my hair (so, over five years ago). He gives me the name of his agent, who SELLS books, and we talk about ways in which to get our names out there (he writes, too, mainly commercial fiction/thrillers). I hope I helped him with my limited expertise, but his connections into the publishing industry are really out of control, so I don't see him having such an issue with getting his work into the right hands, and he has a style and a product that lends itself well to crossover/mainstream publication.

So I make it back from my weekend in NYC (complete with an, essentially, two-hour detour to Philly because I got on the wrong bus! yes . . . 50-hour weeks are clearly no good), and then from then until about last Friday not an original thought crossed my head because I had no space. Couldn't really even be excited that my first contracted story The Coach's Counselor was going to be released at the end of the month because I was THAT out of it. I even thought the stuff I'd already written was utter garbage, which made Aliyah want to reach through her monitor and slap me for speaking, in her opinion, utter nonsense.

Well, I'm better now! I'm writing again, on Trolling Nights especially, which those who have read drafts are loving, especially Tim . . . which I really can't blame them because he is a whole lot of hotness (Maybe I'll be nice and post up a few more chapters here, yeah?). The Beauty Within is formatted and ready to go barring me seeing just ridiculous errors in this (hopefully) final proof. Other authors are doing the dang thing and releasing books so I'm never bored when my own characters are trippin'. And I'm an Author Spotlight on Rae's blog! Check it out!