Friday, September 30, 2011

Fun Friday Dedication

Yesterday I read a great blog entry by my cyber-mentor, Joe Konrath in which he compared the predictions he made in 2009 on the future of publishing with the current reality. I love Joe, because since I started reading his blog back in 2007, he's had his finger on the pulse of this business.

 
His entry got me thinking about the people who seem to be launching an offensive against electronic reading. As I've said in previous posts, these are the folks I like to call the "cold, dead handers." The proudly and vehemently proclaim the someone will have to pry their paper books from their cold, dead hands before the succumb to reading their beloved books on an electronic device. What amazes me is many of the ones screaming the loudest are half my age.



Even though I am a "woman of a certain age," I am a lover of all things electronic. I love change, progress, and anything that makes life easier.


In my mind, it's simply more practical and easier to carry one device containing all my books than being able to carry only one or two books with me. The ability to switch over to a dictionary or thesaurus when I'm reading and run across a word I don't know just geeks me out. And when I'm in the middle of something that just doesn't get my motor running, I can click over to a more interesting or exciting story. In my opinion, this is a reader's dream.



On top of those perks, in general the cost of e-books is lower than hardcover editions
and the price of the devices themselves is decreasing by the month. This week Amazon introduced their new $199 tablet and two new Kindles priced at $79 and $149.

I dedicate this post to the paper people who refuse to move into the future. They are in good company with these visionaries of the past.

  • At the turn of the 20th century, carmakers produced only four million automobiles because the experts believed the world would eventually run out of chauffeurs.
  • Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, made the bold pronouncement that radio had no future in 1894.
  • Mark Twain refused to invest in Alexander Graham Bell's telephone because he didn't see a use for it.
  • Thomas Watson, the President of IBM, once said the future world would need "maybe only five computers."
  • And in 1899, the director of the United States patent office told President McKinley, "everything that can be invented has already been invented."
(from http://www.lightsource.com/devotionals/seniors)


This weekend I am reading both Vivid by Beverly Jenkins and The Help by Kathryn Stockett on my Kindle. Waiting in the wings are The Temptation of a Good Man by Delaney Diamond, How to Get Out of Your Own Way by Tyrese Gibson, Red Mojo Mama by Kathy Lynn Hall, Crossing Over by Jennifer Coissiere and many more.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writer Wednesday

Today I am continuing my e-publishing series. The next most frequent questions I am asked are about e-book formatting, specifically:
 
Who does your formatting?
Is it expensive?
Do I need an ISBN number to sell my e-book?

Let me answer those three first.

1.     I do my own formatting. When I was preparing to upload my first Kindle book, I discovered most formatting services would charge me between $150-300. That was my first book, and I couldn’t even afford to pay $50, so I set out to teach myself how to do my own formatting. And now that I know how to do it, I figure why pay someone all that money for something I can do myself for free?
Amazon provides a detailed (70-plus page) formatting guide online. Thankfully, you don’t need to study all 70 pages. All you need to know is contained in the first 25 pages.

Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Press, Smashwords and Kobo also have their guidelines available on their sites.

2.     I promised myself when I decided to write this series that I would be completely honest, and being truthful about formatting means I must say this. It doesn't cost a cent to upload and sell your books on these sites, but formatting an e-book isn’t for the faint of heart. It is not a hard process, but it is precise and can work your last nerve.

Although Amazon, B&N, Kobo and Smashwords do give extensive instructions about formatting, none of these sites offer much assistance when you run into problems. And if your manuscript was created using Microsoft Word, you can run into problems.

All of the retailers allow you to directly upload your Word document, and they convert it for you. Smashwords has what they call the “meatgrinder” which is supposed to take care of the conversion process, but honestly my manuscripts kept coming back as unapproved because it didn’t agree with the meatgrinder. I did everything they told me to do in order to fix the issues to no avail. I finally gave up and decided to pay someone to format my manuscripts for Smashwords.

3.     You do not need an ISBN number to sell on any of these sites. Amazon will assign each book an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). B&N does the same. Smashwords offers free ISBN numbers but doesn’t require Now, lets talk about the “cleanup” process. If you’re just starting a manuscript, you can avoid this step by creating the Word document with these caveats – no tabs, no fonts over 16 point, no fancy fonts and no hard page breaks, no headers or footers and no page numbers.

Since my first five novels had already been written, I had to go through the additional steps of removing those things. I won’t go into the specifics here. Instead, I’ll direct you to the links below.

I’ve heard some authors say what works best for them is to save their Word documents into Notepad, which strips it of all formatting, then they essentially reformat it. In my mind, it’s easier to go the other way.

Inevitably, you will run into some kind of difficulty, and if you think I’m just being negative, just check out the comments on the KDP forums. It is filled with moaning, crying, screaming authors who’ve run into some freaky glitch they can’t figure out how to fix. Basically, all three sites recommend that you find the answer to your formatting problems on these forums. They don’t want to deal with technical issues, or take the time to hold thousands of authors by the hand and walk them through the problems, and I honestly can’t blame them. The poor customer service reps answering these calls would be subject to the foulest, most vicious language known to mankind!

 

There is one fabulous source of help with Kindle formatting. It’s a web site called, cjs-easy-as-pie.com. CJ, whoever he or she is, deserves a medal for creating such a wonderful, helpful site.

 
The good news is that once you have your manuscript cleaned up, you can use it for all three sites (with a few special changes for Smashwords). 
 
Some other points to consider before you begin formatting are:

1.     Have your book cover in JPEG format in the exact size required by the site.

2.     Write your book descriptions (one short and one longer) to include in the general info.
3.     Consider the categories your book fits into before you upload and make a list of these. Categories are required for all three sites. A drop-down menu of categories is offered during the uploading process.

4.     Also make a list of tags to be used in describing your book. These are words that describe your story. For instance the tags I used for Have You Seen Her? were: romance, women’s fiction, domestic abuse, Atlantic City, and Santa Barbara. Adding tags helps readers searching for something to read by subject find your book easier.

5.     Another crucial warning – be sure to check each and every single page in the previewer provided before you click “publish.” The reason I say this is because you can upload a book, look at the first few pages and everything looks perfect only to discover that on page 19 or 271 an entire paragraph has shown up in bold. When you look at your Word document, the text is not in bold, or there is a huge chunk of blank space in the middle of a page, or something else really ugly. That’s where CJ’s Easy as Pie comes to the rescue.

The great thing about e-books is that authors can go back at any time and make revisions to their books as many times as necessary.

Just last week I read on one of my indie writer groups that Amazon is sending e-mails to authors about books they deem as needing revision. I suppose finicky readers precipitated this move. Amazon is giving authors time to fix the problems, but warns if the revisions aren’t made the book will be removed from their site. Surely Nook and Smashwords will follow suit.

In conclusion, my advice for those attempting to upload to an e-book for the first time is to take it slow. Don’t wait until the week of release to start the actual uploading process. You can put the book on the site, get all of your details in order and publish it days or weeks later. The book won’t go live until you tell it to. Also, it takes 24-72 hours after a book is uploaded for it to be cleared and get “Live or “On Sale” status. So be aware of that when scheduling your release date.

Links:

Simplified formatting guide for Kindle: http://amzn.to/1aq8TKW

Video tutorial for Kindle: https://kdp.amazon.com/selfpublishing/help?ie=UTF8&topicId=A2M7MM0UP7PHK0

For help with specific Kindle formatting problems: http://www.cjs-easy-as-pie.com/

B&N PubIt! Frequently Asked Questions and formatting instructions: https://www.nookpress.com/support - scroll down to Preparing and Managing Your Projects

How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords
Smashwords Style Guide (e-book format – Free):  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52
 

That’s about it. I hope this was helpful. If you think of questions I hav en’t answered, please post in the comments. I’ll try my best to answer them for you.

You can read the next post in this topic here: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com/2011/10/writer-wednesday.html 

 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Contest Winners!


I am happy to announce the following contest winners:

1.  Amy Manemann
2.  Yolanda Moore
3.  Cathy Clough
4.  Jan Brown
5.  Melissa

I have everyone's e-mail except Melissa and Amy. Please contact me ASAP and let me know which book you would like.

Congratulations, ladies!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sample Sunday - Excerpt from Hollywood Swinging #1

Newlywed author Shontae Nichols Burke is trying to adjust to her life in Hollywood as the wife of actor Devon Burke, one of the film industry’s brightest upcoming stars. She’s left her home and her friends and moved to Los Angeles.

They both have blossoming careers.  She’s attending movie premieres and living a life she only dreamed of.

Unknown to Shontae, someone else also believes Devon Burke is the love of her life. When this disturbed woman insinuates herself into their lives, Shontae learns that all Hollywood drama isn’t scripted and finds herself in a fight for her marriage that’s worthy of the big screen.


Here's the excerpt:

“Bernie sent you a message. Let me grab a Vitamin Water, and I’ll tell you what he said.”

“Bernie? Why?” Her narrowed gaze followed me into the house. “Why would your agent have a message for me?” She asked with her arms folded when I came back out.

“I asked him if he would give you an insider’s crash course on movie premieres.” I held the Vitamin Water bottle in front of my face half expecting her to throw something in my direction like Shari had always done when she got upset. Instead her face softened and the lines between her light brown eyes eased.

“You did? I’m sorry I haven’t wanted to talk about going. The whole thing makes me nauseous.”

“I know. It’s not as bad as you might think. In fact, you’ll probably have a great time.”

She grimaced. “I doubt it. The right dress, right jewelry, right shoes stuff annoys me. The last thing I want to do is embarrass you.”

“What are you talking about? You couldn’t embarrass me.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please! I can hear Cojo now. ‘And here comes that gorgeous Devon Burke and his frumpy wife. What’s her name again? She’s not exactly a Hollywood insider. I think she writes romance novels or something. Oh, my God what in the world is that she’s wearing?’” Shontae joked with unsmiling eyes imagining the outspoken commentator ruining her red carpet debut.

“Cojo won’t be there. And no matter what you wear, no one in his right mind could ever consider you frumpy. Relax, okay?”

“Besides, I hate spending all that money for just one night.”

“Even if I tell you that we’ll be partying at Sid Goldman’s house afterwards?”

A spark flickered in her eyes. “Really?”

“Yup. It should be outrageous.”

“Hmm…so, what did Bernie say?”

I think she was warming up to the idea. A cast party at a director’s home was guaranteed to be a big blowout. “He said to drop by his office tomorrow at one o’clock if you don’t have any plans.”

“I planned to write for a few hours in the morning then visit Barnes & Noble in Studio City. I’m trying to introduce myself to the store managers in the area before my new book is released. I guess I can swing by Bernie’s office on the way back.” She gathered up her papers and tucked the word processor under her arm. “Did you eat anything?”

“I’m not hungry. I grabbed a sandwich from the buffet on set before I went to the gym. When I finished my workout, I wanted to get home and see what you were up to.” My wink let her know what was on my mind.

“If you don’t mind skipping dinner, I wouldn’t mind you joining me in the shower.” She opened the back door, and I followed her into the house.

“You don’t have to ask me twice.”

Shontae kept several bottles of Bath and Body Works shower gel inside the stall and beside the tub. I covered her in a blanket of fragrant bubbles as we showered.  My body instantly went on heightened alert at the scent of her favorite fragrance. As she washed me, her gentle touch stirred my senses. I ended our shower by wrapping her in a towel and carrying her into the bedroom.

We made love in our typical rhythm that always began slow and unrushed yet ended with a breathless combined song of each other’s names. No one needed to tell us how to hold each other. It didn’t matter where the light was or if her hair covered her face. This was the real thing, and I lived for it.

Afterward I turned on the television and scanned the channels for a movie. Shontae laid her head on my chest and cuddled her soft body against mine. Once the credits rolled, her hands began a slow dance over my chest. Her foot ran up and down the inside of my leg, a clear signal that she wasn’t interested in going to sleep.  Of course I’d pay for it when the alarm went off in the morning, but the word no wasn’t in my vocabulary when it came to a little four-legged frolic with my wife.

I don’t care what anyone said, there was nothing better than being married to a woman you loved who loved you back. I’d been with a lot of women in my past, but never anyone who loved me the way she did. Shontae had become my world; but lately I’d been having weird dreams about her. They always hinted of someone or something threatening her. The threat was never clear in my nighttime visions, and I hadn’t shared them with her or anyone else. All I knew was the thought of anything happening to her made me crazy. I would kill to protect her.

She pressed a kiss into my chest, murmured a soft goodnight. After I pulled her closer, I shook the disturbing thoughts from my mind and let the gentle rhythm of her breathing lull me to sleep.

From HOLLYWOOD SWINGING – 99 cents Kindle - http://amzn.to/lpgC8m & Nook - http://bit.ly/kx0ihv

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fun Friday!

Computer/Internet Addiction - Self Diagnosis
Six Symptoms of Computer Addiction











Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writer Wednesday

 
Since I've had some modicum of success self-publishing, I been getting a lot of questions from aspiring writers and writers who want to e-publish their existing books. In the fifteen months since I’ve published on Kindle and Nook, there are several questions that I am asked over and over again. I love helping my writer peeps, but sending individual e-mails and Facebook messages can become pretty time intensive. As a result, I’ve decided to do a series on my blog, so I can direct people here.

Starting today, every Wednesday will be Writer Wednesday. Today I’ll start with the question I am asked most often:

What is the benefit in direct electronic-publishing as opposed to traditional publishing?

Of course there are the obvious reasons, like 1) having total control over your product; the ability to write what you want; 2) no submitting to agents/editors; 3) no waiting for 12-18 months for your book to hit the shelves; 4) no cost to e-publish other than what you shell out for editing and to have your covers created; 5) no need to do signings or deal with bookstores; and most importantly making 35% or 65-80% royalties paid monthly versus 6-25% paid quarterly or twice a year.

But there’s also the matter of respect. After years of being “beaten up” by constant rejection from the traditional publishing industry, I had begun to feel as if I just wasn’t good enough. The thousands of readers who have purchased my e-books have shown me that Big Publishing was WRONG!

Author John Locke, puts it this way:

“For many years self-published authors have been forced to fight in the traditional arena, a place where we had almost no chance of competing, much less winning. Add to that the stigma self-published authors face that no other business on earth imposes. The general public has been conditioned to believe if you’re self-published your books don’t measure up. And, the media have done all they could to hammer that message home.

The phrase “vanity publishing” was almost certainly invented by traditional publishers year ago in order to squash the competition from entrepreneurial authors.

It worked.

By ridiculing and publicly shaming self-published authors for daring to invest in their own talents and abilities, publishing houses were able to elevate themselves to god-like status. What they’re saying, when an author believes in his abilities to the extent he’s willing to invest his own money to publish a novel, he’s writing purely for his vanity!

I have to give credit to the geniuses that came up with this hogwash, because publishing is the only business in the world that has managed to make such a ridiculous notion seem plausible.

When I invested my own money to start my insurance agency no one accused me of make a vanity investment. When I invested my own money to buy a life insurance company no one called it a vanity investment. When I paid cash for my first office building to lease it out for a profit, no one accused me of making a vanity investment. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen invested their time and money into developing code for the Altair computer, no one accused them of writing vanity code.

But if Bill Gates and Paul Allen invest their own money to write a book, they’re no longer businessmen, they’re vain! And any company that charges them to publish that book is catering to their vanity! How absurd is that?

It’s laughable. And those who perpetuate the notion are going to be forced to re-think that premise.

Many years ago the publishing industry managed to crush and humiliate men and women who dreamed of writing and selling their books to the public. They created the false impression that the only standard of quality writing is for someone else to invest in your startup in return for a percentage of future profits. You might as well claim I’m less of an investor because I don’t ask other people to fund my real estate investments! How is it that self-publishing is the only business where self-funding is considered undignified?

Enter eBooks and ePublishing. EBooks allow a guy like me an opportunity to level the playing field.”
How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!

(from How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months by John Locke –http://amzn.to/oxrUG2)

Next, I’ll address the other questions: Where do you publish your books, and what’s the difference between the retailers? You can read that post here: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com/2011/09/writer-wednesday_28.html

Monday, September 19, 2011

I've been nominated!

SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) has nominated me for Author of the Year, Fiction Book of the Year (for Have You Seen Her?) and New Author of the Year!


I am so thrilled, I can hardly sit still.

Please vote for me here:

Thank you!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contest!

My latest release, I Can’t Get Next to You, is available for purchase in all e-book formats.
I would love to give away some copies of the book to readers. All you have to do is leave a comment, and I will randomly select 5 readers and "gift" them a Kindle copy of the book (or one of my other titles.)

The contest will run through next Sunday, September 25th at midnight (Eastern Standard time). Be sure to leave your e-mail so I know how to get in touch with you. I will also announce the winners on Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you're friends with me.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:


      The hair on the back of my neck bristled when I realized the conversation no longer involved just Rick and me.

“I’ve been working as a dancer,” I answered as calmly as I could over my thumping heart.

“Really?” Mrs. Gardner asked with a sparkle of interest in her eyes. “When I was young I always wanted to dance professionally, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. What type of dance–ballet, modern, stage?”

Just as I opened my mouth to respond, Rick spoke up. “Exotic. That’s how we met.” He clutched my hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Mrs. Gardner inhaled sharply and the blood siphoned from her face. Royce and Veronica’s shocked gazes met across the table. In an instant, the frivolity that had filled the room earlier disappeared and the room became a silent, airless vacuum. Mrs. Gardner’s long, dramatic hesitation held everyone at the table in suspended animation with their eyes glued on her face. No one made a sound. She cleared her throat and glared at me. “How long have you been doing that?” She spoke as if the words had a horrible, bitter taste.

“For about eight months. I only took the job because it was the quickest way I could find to raise the money I need to start my business after I graduate from school.” My voice was shakier than I would have liked.

      “She wants to open a store that sells handmade jewelry, home décor and specialty items,” Rick jumped in before his mother had a chance to ask if I planned to sell vibrators and edible body jelly. “She has a real eye for those things.”

Silence lingered as none of the family wanted to acknowledge the big, honking elephant in the room. Her loathsome expression at my frail attempt to explain only made me forge ahead despite the acid churning in my stomach and rising into my throat. “I dance at a bikini club. There’s no actual stripping going on.” Like that would make a difference to her.

“You’re in school? Where do you go?” Lisette asked cheerfully, obviously sensing my discomfort and trying to change the direction of the conversation.

“Georgia State. I’ll graduate with a B.A. in business with a focus on entrepreneurship this May.”

“That’s a four-year program, right?” Lisette encouraged me to continue, only I doubted the rest of the family even heard her.

“Yes. It’s been a long haul.” My gaze locked with Mrs. Gardner’s. “But it’s almost over. The SBA has been helping–”

      “Please excuse me.” Rick’s mother shot to her feet. She gripped the end of the table, her body shaking as if she’d stepped out of the shower into a frigid breeze. “I’m no longer hungry. Finish your breakfast.” She rushed from the room with Veronica right behind her.
    
      If the ground had opened up and swallowed me at that moment, I would’ve rejoiced. No such luck.

Mr. Gardner glared at his son then rose and went after his wife and daughter.

      Rick blew out a heavy sigh.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming, Ricky?” Lisette said, sounding a bit incredulous.

“I’d imagined it going differently,” he said, still holding my hand under the table. “I thought …”

“What did you think, Warrick?” Gram finally spoke. “Tamyra, I don’t mean anything against you. You’re a lovely girl, but he should have mentioned this to his mom and dad earlier.”

Rick shook his head. “I didn’t tell them, because I wanted them to meet Tamy without any preconceived notions. Was that so wrong?”

“Your motives were right, only you went about it the wrong way,” Gram said. “Your mother is clearly upset. Go check on her.”

Rick put an arm around my shoulders and rested his forehead against mine. “Will you be okay for a few minutes while I talk to my parents?”

“Shouldn’t I go with you?” I asked, unsure of whether I should even ask.

“No. Let me do this.” He caressed my cheek then left me with a room full of people whose opinion of me I could no longer determine.

Sample Sunday excerpt #3


The hair on the back of my neck bristled when I realized the conversation no longer involved just Rick and me.

“I’ve been working as a dancer,” I answered as calmly as I could over my thumping heart.

“Really?” Mrs. Gardner asked with a sparkle of interest in her eyes. “When I was young I always wanted to dance professionally, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. What type of dance–ballet, modern, stage?”

Just as I opened my mouth to respond, Rick spoke up. “Exotic. That’s how we met.” He clutched my hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Mrs. Gardner inhaled sharply and the blood siphoned from her face. Royce and Veronica’s shocked gazes met across the table. In an instant, the frivolity that had filled the room earlier disappeared and the room became a silent, airless vacuum. Mrs. Gardner’s long, dramatic hesitation held everyone at the table in suspended animation with their eyes glued on her face. No one made a sound. She cleared her throat and glared at me. “How long have you been doing that?” She spoke as if the words had a horrible, bitter taste.

“For about eight months. I only took the job because it was the quickest way I could find to raise the money I need to start my business after I graduate from school.” My voice was shakier than I would have liked.

“She wants to open a store that sells handmade jewelry, home décor and specialty items,” Rick jumped in before his mother had a chance to ask if I planned to sell vibrators and edible body jelly. “She has a real eye for those things.”

Silence lingered as none of the family wanted to acknowledge the big, honking elephant in the room. Her loathsome expression at my frail attempt to explain only made me forge ahead despite the acid churning in my stomach and rising into my throat. “I dance at a bikini club. There’s no actual stripping going on.” Like that would make a difference to her.

“You’re in school? Where do you go?” Lisette asked cheerfully, obviously sensing my discomfort and trying to change the direction of the conversation.

“Georgia State. I’ll graduate with a B.A. in business with a focus on entrepreneurship this May.”

“That’s a four-year program, right?” Lisette encouraged me to continue, only I doubted the rest of the family even heard her.

“Yes. It’s been a long haul.” My gaze locked with Mrs. Gardner’s. “But it’s almost over. The SBA has been helping–”

“Please excuse me.” Rick’s mother shot to her feet. She gripped the end of the table, her body shaking as if she’d stepped out of the shower into a frigid breeze. “I’m no longer hungry. Finish your breakfast.” She rushed from the room with Veronica right behind her.

If the ground had opened up and swallowed me at that moment, I would’ve rejoiced. No such luck.

Mr. Gardner glared at his son then rose and went after his wife and daughter.

Rick blew out a heavy sigh.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming, Ricky?” Lisette said, sounding a bit incredulous.

“I’d imagined it going differently,” he said, still holding my hand under the table. “I thought …”

“What did you think, Warrick?” Gram finally spoke. “Tamyra, I don’t mean anything against you. You’re a lovely girl, but he should have mentioned this to his mom and dad earlier.”

Rick shook his head. “I didn’t tell them, because I wanted them to meet Tamy without any preconceived notions. Was that so wrong?”

“Your motives were right, only you went about it the wrong way,” Gram said. “Your mother is clearly upset. Go check on her.”

Rick put an arm around my shoulders and rested his forehead against mine. “Will you be okay for a few minutes while I talk to my parents?”

“Shouldn’t I go with you?” I asked, unsure of whether I should even ask.

“No. Let me do this.” He caressed my cheek then left me with a room full of people whose opinion of me I could no longer determine.


I CAN’T GET NEXT TO YOU - $2.99. http://amzn.to/pIMyTS & http://bit.ly/q9Wd9o

Monday, September 12, 2011

Growing ...

This past week I started revising my manuscript for my next release. It's the last of the four remaining unpublished novels I've previously written that I believe is good enough to put on Kindle and Nook. The other three need way too much work! It would be easier to just write a new story from scratch.

As I went over the first two chapters of Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, it was amazing to see how much I've learned about writing since I finished this story in 2004. One of the first things I noticed was my tendency to rely on backstory. TRT is the sequel to Lyrics, my first manuscript. At the time, I felt as if I had to recap the first story in order for the reader to get to know the characters. Now, some seven years later, I know how to sprinkle backstory throughout the book rather than dumping it all up front. LOL!

The best part of this story is the awesome love Michael and Dee Reese have for each other. To give a brief overview, The Real Thing is a story about a good man who makes a bad decision, how it affects his marriage and how he goes about rectifying it and making amends to his wife.

This is my second faith-based novel. Unlike the theme of I Can't Get Next to You, which is acceptance and obedience, the theme of TRT is the power of forgiveness and the question, "Are some things unforgiveable in a marriage?"

My first three published novels were mainstream romance and women's fiction. Most people don't know that the first four books I wrote were faith-based stories. At the time, everything I learned about writing said to write what you know, so that's what I did. The manuscripts weren't those "dirt in the church" stories. Personally, I don't like those. These were stories about people facing change or crisis in their lives who just happen to be believers. This is what I know. It's my life and the lives of my friends, family and church family. Real people facing real issues.

I want my faith-based books to always have a message, but I never want to come across as being heavy-handed or preachy. Some readers, whom I've already heard from, take issue with this kind of writing. They feel the issues are too raw and the writing is too edgy, but I don't apologize for that. I am not a Pollyanna writer who only presents life as all roses, puppies and happy-happy joy-joy.


That's not reality. What I desire to get across is how my characters rely on their faith to overcome the harsh obstacles they face.

These two books will not appeal to everyone, but what book does? I hope readers won't be afraid to buy the books because they see "Christian" or "born-again" in the descriptions. The drama readers will experience in both books is something everyone can relate to.

Writers, have you ever reworked an old manuscript? What did you discover about yourself and your writing?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sample Sunday excerpt #2

Here's an excerpt from I Can't Get Next to You, Chapter Four.

After a lengthy deliberation, I ordered the Puck’s Chinese Chicken Salad and a side of sofrito rice. Rick ordered braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and organic mushrooms and even asked for a basket of bread. “I usually eat a big lunch because I don’t cook dinner when I get home at night. By the time I leave the office, it’s too late for a heavy meal.”

“No need to explain. You’re a big man and can handle the extra calories.” I studied him on the sly. He had the body of a running back, well built but not freakishly large.

Rick shifted in his seat, pulling my attention back to his face. The way he smiled told me he’d been watching me watching him. Busted. “Do you still play football?” I asked, letting him know I had indeed done my cyber search.

“Not since I got out of college. So I guess what you discovered online didn’t turn you off.”

The only surprise had been discovering his real name was Warrick. Since his business card read Rick Gardner, I’d assumed it was short for Richard until I read his profile online. “Nothing negative came up, but you already knew that.”

His smile widened. “One of my father’s favorite sayings is, ‘Keep your nose clean, son. As soon as you mess up, someone is going to make sure the whole world knows. There’s no one in this world that’s so important they can’t be taken down by bad decisions or scandal.’”

“Yeah, just ask Tiger Woods,” I said with a smirk.

“Exactly.”

Today Rick seemed so confident and self-assured, not all awkward and ill at ease like the first night he’d come into Dreamland.

“I read that you’re from a family of New Jersey lawyers. What’s that like?”

“Having everyone in the family in the same field is reassuring in a way. We all understand each other.” He uttered a strange laugh. “It’s just that sometimes the family expectations can get to be overwhelming. I always wanted to be an attorney.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“The problem is that my family specializes in business law. My oldest sister, Veronica, is a patent attorney. I was the rogue of the family until my little sister came along. Lisette is still in college. She wants to specialize in non-profit law.”

“Business law wasn’t exciting enough for you? You wanted to go for the drama, huh?”

“That’s an interesting way of putting it, but yes.” He paused when the waiter delivered our meals and left the table then he continued. “I guess that’s what I wanted. Mergers and acquisitions make me nod. For years I went along with the program. My friend, Camp, the one you met the other night, has been with B.A.G. for a while. He called to tell me there was a position opening up here in Atlanta, so I flew down to interview and got the job.”

I closed my eyes and savored the flavor of the Asian mustard-sesame dressing on my salad, thinking he was rather talkative for a man. But then he was a lawyer. They made their money with their arguments. When I opened my eyes, he was staring at me. I squirmed under his blatant scrutiny. “How long have you been in Atlanta?” I asked, attempting to draw his attention away from me.

“A little over a year,” he said without taking his gaze from my face.

“I bet mama and daddy weren’t too thrilled about you leaving the firm.”

“My father wasn’t. My mother isn’t an attorney. She just wanted me to stay close to home.”

“That’s how mothers are. So what does she do?”

Another strange laugh. I didn’t understand until he said, “My mother has never worked. She and my father married in college. From that day her calling in life has been to spend the money he makes by making the world a more beautiful place. She shops, decorates and dresses those around her.”

He finally looked down at his plate and picked up a rib. “Tell me about yourself.”

“I’m an only child. My family is as different from yours as it can get,” I answered as he threw down on his man-sized meal. “My parents divorced when I was young, and my father remarried. Once that happened, I saw him less and less. My mom works auto assembly. Luckily she has seniority and has been able to hang onto her job during the recession. We’re not interesting at all.”

Rick wiped barbecue sauce from his mouth with a napkin, leaned back in his chair and retrained his smoldering gaze on me. He had an aura of power and assurance not many men displayed. It wasn’t a street swagger, but more like he was sure of his intelligence, good looks and raw sexuality. His poise and quiet manner of speaking must have come from growing up around people who had money. “I wouldn’t say that. What are you studying at Georgia State?”

“Business. This semester I’m taking risk management/insurance and marketing. That’s about all I can handle and work too. Next semester I’ll have entrepreneurship and taxation. I have less than a year left until I graduate.”

“What are your plans then?”

“To open my own store.” For the next few minutes I launched into an impassioned explanation of my business idea.

When I finally caught my breath, he looked impressed. “So you want to be a business owner. That’s a far cry from what you do now. You’re a student, and you’re so intelligent. Why do you dance at a place like Dreamland?”

There it was. The disapproval. I should’ve known it was coming sooner or later. You’re so intelligent. I hadn’t expected him to be one of those people who assumed all women in adult entertainment had IQs six points above a houseplant. That’s why I refused to tell many people where I worked. The judgment was too much for me to take. “It’s all part of the plan.” I kept my voice calm so I wouldn’t reveal how much his attitude annoyed me.

Rick frowned, skewered a couple of mushrooms with his fork and popped them between his full lips.

“You planned to work there?”

“That’s right.” I poked around for the remaining chicken in my salad, while I tried to come up with an answer that didn’t sound defensive or snippy. “As you said, I’m only on my way to becoming a successful entrepreneur. I needed something that paid more than the typical desk job, waiting tables or retail sales. It takes a lot of money to pay for school, rent and living expenses, and then also come up with the collateral for a government business loan. My decision was based on the fact that I’ll probably make as much as you will this year. Do you think only stupid women dance in gentlemen’s clubs?”

Strip clubs,” he corrected. “And that’s not what I meant to imply.”

Oh, no he didn’t. I know he wasn’t trying to pass judgment on me. After I dragged in a long breath, I calmly tossed the ball back into his court. “If I remember correctly, you were a patron in that strip club.”

Rick glanced down into his plate, avoiding my eyes for the first time. “True, but that wasn’t intentional. Well, not the first time anyway.”

He was throwing mixed signals, and I resented the reproach in his tone. “And what was your excuse for the second time? Nobody dragged you in there kicking and screaming. What problem do you have with Dreamland?” The conversation had ruined my appetite, and I pushed my plate away

“I don’t have a problem with the club. It’s just not the kind of place God wants me spending my time.”

I knew it. This guy was on a religious crusade to save the poor misled girl from a life of degradation. “What does God have to do with it?”

Rick drew his lips in then poked them out before he answered. “I’m a Christian, Tamyra.”

“Oh, and you came to worship at Dreamland?”

A look of discomfort flashed across his face before he frowned in exasperation and spoke softly. “No. God wasn’t pleased with my being there. He has a vested interest in everything I do, but I think He understands my motive for the second visit.”

“Which was?”

“To simply ask a very beautiful woman out to lunch.”

His tantalizing smile took all the fire out of the scathing comeback I had ready. He was torn, and I had no time for a confused man in my life. “My job doesn’t define me. It appears you have some issues with what I do. Don’t be a hypocrite, Rick.” I opened my purse, took out a twenty and placed it on the table. “I need to get a few hours sleep before work tonight, so I’d better go now.”

 Speechless, he watched me walk away. As I strode out of the restaurant, my coworkers' warnings came to mind. I should have listened to them.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Can't Get Next to You - Sample Sunday


Rick had been drifting in and out of my thoughts since I’d danced for him on Thursday night. Since starting at Dreamland, I had probably given fifty lap dances, a few of them for some very good-looking men. None of them ever stayed in my head like this. Yes, he was definitely fine, well dressed and generous, but there was more. Right from the beginning I sensed a compelling air of isolation about him. Something deeper drew me to him. Something that completely eluded me.

That’s why I was so shocked when Deion came back to the dressing room a little while later. “Jet, you have a request. Remember the lawyer posse from Thursday night?”

“Yes.”

“The guest of honor is back.”

My stomach flipped when I pictured the handsome, subdued brother whose massive shoulders filled his designer suit so perfectly. I hadn’t expected to see Rick back so soon. In fact, I hadn’t expected to see him again at all after his celebration was over. Perhaps I’d been wrong about him feeling out of place on Thursday night. He’d obviously liked it enough to return.

 “Is he alone this time?”

“No. He’s with the dude who arranged the party.”

“Ugh.”

“Listen, Jet. He said he doesn’t need you to dance for him, that he just wants to talk.”

Whenever I heard that request, alarm bells went off. It meant I was getting ready to deal with a man who wanted more than a few minutes of harmless entertainment. They usually tried to convince me to meet them somewhere after working hours. During his first visit I hadn’t seen a wedding band, but that meant nothing. Some men removed theirs before they entered the club. Was taking off the ring supposed to remove the guilt? Or did they actually think the dancers cared whether or not they were married? That issue was between them, their wives and their god. So, it was possible Rick might be among the Discontented Married Men after all.

“You know how this works,” Deion continued. “If he wants something freaky that you don’t want to deal with, excuse yourself and come see Tree or me. We have girls who’ll do freaky. If he doesn’t want one of them, Tree can escort him to the door.”

Deion Washington was an enigma. All of us who worked at Dreamland considered him our guardian. He protected us and never insisted we do anything we felt uncomfortable doing. In spite of his goodness to us, he wasn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination. He was the one who made arrangements to fulfill any requests for kinky liaisons in the VIP rooms.

“That’s okay. He seemed decent. Tell him I’ll be out in a minute.”

 ***
Rick

After several minutes of nervous waiting, a potent rush of desire washed over me as Jet appeared. She strolled toward me in a shiny red wrap-around robe that hit her mid-thigh. She obviously knew it was her best color. The innate sensuality in the way she moved showed her confidence. What was happening to me? Normally I didn’t react to women this way. In the past I had always prided myself on my ability to control my emotions. It was one of the reasons I was a good trial lawyer. Yet in Jet’s presence I felt as if someone had lit a fuse. I was helpless to do anything but stand there and watch it until I burst into flames.

“Hello again, Rick.” Her fingers rested on the belt of her robe. “Do you want me to take this off?”

“That’s not necessary. Could you sit with me for a few minutes?” I slid a fifty across the table, remembering Camp’s instructions.

“Sure.” Her gaze went to the bill, yet she made no effort to reach for it. Instead, she sat and crossed her legs. The edges of her kimono separated over her thighs, and one corner of her mouth rose slightly when my gaze dropped to the tempting display.

I wasn’t sure of how to start the conversation. “Would you like a drink?”

“No, thank you. I don’t do alcohol when I’m working. It dehydrates me.”

I nodded in understanding. An uneasy silence lingered in the air. “I wanted to thank you for how you handled the lap dance the other night.”

Her soft, round face eased into a small smile, and her light, fresh perfume-free fragrance instantly took me back to Thursday night.

“You’re welcome. You didn’t seem like you wanted to put on a show for your colleagues. I was hoping I’d read you right.”

“You did. Are you always so intuitive?”

“Most of the time the reactions are the same, if you know what I mean.”

As she spoke, I couldn’t take my eyes from her mouth. Her dark lipstick made her full lips even more tempting, like ripe blackberries. Why did everything about this woman remind me of something delicious to eat?

Jet caught me off guard when she asked, “So, what is it you wanted to talk about?”

“You certainly are direct, aren’t you? All right then. Would you have dinner with me one night this week?”

Her exotic slanted eyes narrowed. “Dinner?”

“Yes. You know, the meal between lunch and breakfast. We could make it somewhere very public, in case you don’t think my intentions are honorable.” I took a business card from my pocket and placed it on top of the fifty in the center of the table. “And you can Google me if you want to be sure I’m not a serial killer or anything.” It was the first thing smart women did before dating a man they knew nothing about, so I wanted to make it easier for her.

She glanced at the card. “Just because you work for the biggest black law firm in Atlanta doesn’t mean you’re not a serial killer, just one with a good job.”

I laughed out loud.

“To tell you the truth, I rarely have evenings free.”

I wasn’t giving up that easily. “How about lunch then? We could meet someplace.”

“Umm … I go to school during the day.”

“Where?”

“Georgia State, Downtown.”

That really rattled my cage. I was usually pretty good at estimating a woman’s age, but with Jet’s toned body and flawless skin, I could’ve been way off. Being an officer of the court, the last thing I needed were legal complications from getting involved with an underage girl. I figured she had to be at least eighteen in order to work in the club. Yet, I wasn’t like Camp. I had no interest in tenderonis. They couldn’t relate to where I was in my life right now. I preferred a grown woman. “Every day?”

“My, aren’t we persistent? I’d certainly hate to be cross-examined by you. I see why you’re a lawyer.”

“It’s the secret of my success. So how about lunch on your day off? You must have one day off. The choice of the restaurant is yours.”

“All right.” She stood, claimed the fifty and my card then folded the bill and tucked them into her amazing cleavage. “Meet me at Twist in Buckhead on Thursday at one.” Before she walked away from the table, she leaned in and whispered in my ear, “My name is Tamyra.”

She had just broken the first rule of exotic dancing, according to Camp. Tamyra. Unique just like her. We hadn’t spoken long, but she seemed to be intelligent as well as beautiful. She’d recognized the firm name when she’d looked at my card, and her sensitivity to my predicament during my first visit to the club had struck a chord in me.

I raised my glass in a silent toast to Tamyra then guzzled what remained, trying to cool the heat that engulfed me as I watched her walk away. She went through an unmarked door at the back of the room. That heat cooled a bit at thoughts of what she might be doing back there. I wasn’t one of those naïve guys who’d just gotten off the bus from Podunk and fallen in love with the first stripper who rubbed her stuff up against him. I was well aware of what went on in these places. Just because the on-stage performances were tame, the back room routines were pretty vile. Camp was sampling some of that at the moment.

I’d just asked this woman for a date knowing I might need to repent later. Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the urge to find out more about the beautiful ebony-skinned Tamyra.

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