Friday, April 27, 2012

Fun Friday

Recently a good friend sent me one of those forwarded e-mails that I have to share. Since I've been dealing with one of the challenges of getting older (arthritis in my knees and shoulder), the truth in this little missive really struck a chord with me. I don't know who the author is, but I'd like to thank her/him for the awesome reminder...
***
As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

 

Whose business is it, if I choose to read, or play, on the computer, until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 & 70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I will walk the beach, in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the foolish young people.



They, too, will get old.

 
 

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But, broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.


As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

 

So, to answer your question, I like being older. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Author Spotlight

I am thrilled to introducea debut author that I am proud to call a friend. I met Sharon Cooper at a Georgia Romance Writers meeting two years ago, and we've been friends ever since.


Sharon is here to tell us a little bit about herself and her debut release, Something New.

Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Chicki! I’m excited for the opportunity to introduce your followers to my debut novel, Something New.

Tell us a little about your story.

My story is an edgy sweet romance about a woman, Simone Edwards, who did what any intelligent woman with a ticking biological clock would do: she asked her longtime boyfriend to marry her. Devastated when he turns her down, and fed up with dead-end relationships, she swears off men … and takes a vow of celibacy. Simone thinks, How hard could it be? She soon learns it’s harder than she thinks when the most irresistible man in the world, Tim Hollister, shows up at her job. They haven’t seen each other in over ten years, and Simone quickly realizes Tim is a temptation she doesn’t want to resist. But isn’t there some rule about dating your friend? Simone must decide if a romance with Tim is worth risking their friendship, and her reclaimed virginity.

What genre do you write in the most, and what is it about the genre that attracts you?

Though my debut novel is a sweet romance, I mostly write contemporary – for the same reason I love reading them. They’re usually easy reads –takes you away from your day-to-day life, offers a little entertainment and drama, and most importantly, filled with romance and hot sex. Eyebrow

What is your favorite book? Why is it a favorite?

Wow, my favorite book, hmm…some authors would probably list one of their own, but I’d have to say Redemption Song, by Dr. Bertice Berry. I haven’t read it in many years, but whenever I’m asked about my favorite book, that’s the one that comes to mind. It’s my favorite because it’s a layered love story. Not just between a man and a woman, but love of family and their history. The story had a little bit of everything to keep me turning the pages - humor, drama, the amazing journey of two African American families whose lives intertwine over two or three generations…and the book also reveals the awesome power of love.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

I can’t imagine my writing life without critique partners! I’ve been blessed to have some wonderful ones who are quick to tell me when they like something, and are not afraid to tell me when they don’t. Lol.

Do you have any new works coming out soon that you can tell us about?

As a matter of fact – I do! I have a contemporary romance (short story) that’s available FREE on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble; a romantic suspense, Blue Roses, coming out this summer (2012); and another romantic suspense, Rendezvous with Danger, planned for release this fall (2012).


Short Excerpt from Something New

Tim glanced at her, soaking up her attractive face and those kissable lips. He suddenly remembered the explicit dream he had of her the night before: the way she felt in his arms, her body molded to his, while his lips devoured hers. His hands had had a mind of their own as they caressed every inch of her delectable body.

What the heck am I doing? He shook his head vigorously. These are definitely not thoughts I should be having about my friend. His focus should be on getting settled in and figuring out a way to deal with Andrea. No way should his mind be trained on another woman, especially if that woman was Simone.

“I have to ask you something.” He lifted his glass and guzzled his water in an effort to extinguish his steamy thoughts. “Why have you been resistant to us hanging out outside of your office?”

With downcast eyes, she used her fork to move her grilled chicken and pasta around on her plate. For a moment, he didn’t think she’d respond, but she said, “Fear.”

“Excuse me?” He leaned forward, not sure if he’d heard her right.

She looked up at him, eyes unsure and shy. “I was afraid. I recently got out of a relationship and had vowed no more men.” She stopped, mumbled a curse, and rubbed her forehead in frustration as if she’d said too much.

“Simone, we were always able to talk freely and just enjoy each other’s company. What changed? I get the feeling you’re uncomfortable with me, but I don’t understand why. I’m still the same person.”

She arched a manicured brow. “You’re kidding, right?”

He shrugged. “What?” He was clueless to what she was referring to.

“Look at you. You’re gorgeous. You were nice looking in high school, but now you…you have muscles poppin’ out all over the place,” she said, pointing at his biceps. “You give a whole new meaning to tall, dark, and handsome.” Apparently seeing his confused look, she continued. “Come on, Tim. You had to notice that every woman we walked past when we first arrived couldn’t take their eyes off of you. And I can’t blame them. Whenever we’re together, I have to remind myself that we’re friends. I shouldn’t be attracted to my friend.”

How can readers connect with you? Email, Twitter, Facebook

E-mail: Sharon@sharoncooper.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1575943684&ref=tn_tnmn
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Sharon_Cooper1
Subscribe to her blog: http://sharonccooper.wordpress.com/

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Something New is live on Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/IpqEK7 and on Barnes & Noble.com on Friday, April 27, 2012. It will also be available in paperback, May 18, 2012.

Lastly, as a reminder, anyone who leaves a comment on this post today will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win an electronic copy of Something New!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

B is for Black


Today, as I continue my alphabet blog entries, I’d like to talk about a topic that is often discussed among African-American authors but not so much among writers in general. Why do some non-black readers think our romance novels are different?


Here are some of the misconceptions as I see them:

·     Since 1981, the romance readers have been influenced by the Romance Readers of America. Until recently, the recommendations of RWA carried a lot of weight when it came to buying choices for a large portion of romance readers. But considering that only two or three African-American authors have ever won their top awards in the history of the organization, many of these readers have never even heard of even the most successful black authors.

·     Black isn’t synonymous with urban. The majority of African-American romance authors do NOT write urban or street lit. Unfortunately, all many readers know about black people is what they see on television or on the news, which does NOT represent the vast majority of black people in this country.

·     In relation to the urban misconception, I believe readers that are unfamiliar with black romance often imagine the stories are filled with language they won’t understand.  In contemporary African-American romance there might be some colloquial slang, but not enough to confuse the reader, and so many of our colloquialisms have been borrowed by pop culture and are familiar to everyone. For instance, if a character is talking about his “ride,” anyone living in the US knows he is speaking about his car. Or, if a female character mentions getting the tracks in her weave tightened, now lots of Caucasian women can relate.

·     Most authors write what they know. I, for example, was born and raised in small town suburbia and have never lived in an urban area. Therefore, my characters are predominantly what used to be called “middle class” and professional people. Of course, I always throw in a few filthy rich characters or a couple of down and outers just to make things interesting.

The main characters are not hustlers, drug dealers, pimps or prostitutes and neither are the characters in the black romances I've read.


In Have You Seen Her? Marcia/Dani is a wealthy socialite. Taylor is a nightclub bouncer.

The ensemble case in Hot Fun in the Summertime includes a romance author J, an actor, an accountant, a real estate agent, two college professors, a cosmetologist and a hip-hop video dancer.
Hollywood Swinging follows two of the characters from Hot Fun, but the other characters in the story are a community activist, a pro football player and a fashion model.

In I Can’t Get Next to You, Tamyra is a college student who works by day in Sears and by night as an exotic dancer. Rick is an attorney.

In Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Dee is an interior designer. Her husband, Michael owns a jazz supper club.

In You Make Me Feel Brand New, Jan is a personal chef and Mac is a sport agent.


I am very thankful that my books have received across-the-board acceptance from readers. Indie readers seem to be more open-minded when it comes to their book choices. The novels they select do not need to have the blessing of RWA, or won a Rita or a Golden Heart award. In fact, readers that buy indie romances seem to be more influenced by price more than any other factor. They don’t seem to care about the race of either the author or the characters. These readers are simply looking for good stories.

If you’re reading this post and you’ve never read a romance written by a black author, I encourage you to try one today.  Here is a partial list of some of the best African-American romance and women’s fiction authors:

Traditionally published:

Beverly Jenkins
Ann Christopher
Bettye Griffin
Brenda Jackson
Kayla Perrin
Farrah Rochon
Shirley Hailstock
Michelle Monkou
Wayne Jordan
Adrianne Byrd
Angelia Vernon Menchan
Marissa Monteilh
Donna Hill

Indie authors:

Yours truly, of course! J
Delaney Diamond
Ednah Walters
Pamela Kay Brown
Kimberly T. Matthews
Elise Marion
Nana Malone
Candace Shaw
Chanta Rand
Benjamin Jones
Yvette Hines
Toye Brown
Kianna Alexander
Sharon Cooper








Thursday, April 19, 2012

Author Spotlight

Today I have the pleasure of featuring a great author, Raynetta Stocks.

Raynetta Stocks

She stopped by today to talk about her writing journey and her fantastic new book, The Grim.  Take it away, Raynetta ...


What will readers like about your book?

What I think readers will love about The Grim is the intimate dynamic the main character, Jaycee, shares with each character in the story.  And because Jaycee is so spontaneous, it gives the novel an unpredictability that makes for an enjoyable thrill ride.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?
I think that depends on the story.  It took me years to get a full first draft of The Grim, but with other novels, and obviously short stories, I can bang out a first draft in a few months.  This one took me longer I suppose because it was therapeutic in a way; there’s evidence of so many of my own struggles, past and present, in Jaycee.

Why did you publish on Kindle and other eReaders?
Technology is the future.  It permeates every aspect of our lives, to the point of making all other mediums extinct.  E-books are the technological future of leisure and academic reading; they are cheaper and lighter.  Owning a Nook myself, it’s simply easier to carry my Nook on the road with me than several paperbacks, although I still love the sound of cracking open a brand new hardback.

Can you please tell us a little-known fact about yourself?
Hmm…well, I didn’t always want to be an author.  Initially, I wanted to be a lounge singer and wrote all my own songs.  It wasn’t until I co-published a prose collection [in 2005] that I realized I touched people more intimately as a writer.

What is your favorite book?  Why is it a favorite?
Gosh, I have so many!  If I had to pick just one, I would say Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.  No matter the walk of life or prior experience, everyone can relate to someone in that story.  Struggle and perseverance—and love, true love—are personified so brilliantly that no matter how many times you read the book or watch the movie, it tugs on your heart strings.  That’s powerful.

Why did you self-publish?
Well, this is a tough industry to break into and the likelihood of snagging an agent and a major publisher who love your work as much as you do shrinks daily.  I had something to say, and the only way I was going to get that message out there was to put it there myself—in my own way, with my own words, and my own creative rights and control.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What genre do you write in the most, and what is it about the genre that attracts you?

I’ve been told recently that my work is considered “contemporary fiction”.  I like that term because it implies I can write anything, that I don’t fit into just one category.  I enjoy the freedom that comes with writing whatever story that moves me, be it romance, parody, or psycho thriller.

Have you seen a change in the independent publishing community?
Absolutely!  There’s a camaraderie out here now that wasn’t before.  Each indie writer/blogger/publisher is truly interested in seeing all others succeed, and there are whole agencies, like the Independent Author Network, set up just for that purpose.  We are the majority, but looked upon by the industry as the minority, and by supporting one another, we help each other gain success on our own terms.  It’s a great feeling knowing there’s that mutual support out there.

Do you have any advice for someone who would like to be an Indie author or publisher?
Perseverance is a must.  You’re going to hear “no” a lot, and the investment it takes to do it yourself can sometimes be extensive.  But if you research the resources available to you, there’s very little you can’t do yourself, even for free in many instances, if you just keep at it.

What authors most inspire you?
I am a big fan of Maya Angelou; she’s a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, and her words permeate your soul, make you want to be a better person.  I also love Khaled Hosseini [author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns] because he depicts a world that is arguably worse than any you know, and through his characters’ struggles, teaches his readers tenacity and courage in the face of extreme hardship.  That’s inspiring.

Where can readers reach you?

Website: www.raynettastocks.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/raynettastocks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/raynettastocks

Monday, April 16, 2012

A is for Amazon

Lately, I've been amazed and baffled by all of the hoopla over Amazon.com. Recent blog posts, articles, essays and even TV news stories, which decry one or sometimes all of the following.

Amazon is the devil

Amazon is plotting to take over the world and control literature worldwide.


And the most ridiculous one of them all, Amazon is abusing it's authors, and they just don't know it.


For the first time in history, authors are able to make real money and enjoy the freedom of control of their own product. Since I've been writing and studying the publishing industry, I've heard a constant lament from traditionally published authors about how little money they make, how infrequently they get paid, how they weren't allowed to have creative input when it comes to their covers or book titles, etc., etc., etc.

Amazon pays either a 35% or 70% royalty. while traditional publishers pay their authors between 12-17.5%. The company does not make the pricing decisions for independent authors. Authors choose their own price and royalty rate.

As long as I live, I will never understand human nature. Why is it that many people will fight for dear life to hold onto what has formerly taken advantage of them? Joe Konrath took a lot of flack about his entries on the subject here and here, so I won't rehash them, but I tend to agree with him.

This whole argument is ridiculous. Get over it.

Spring ... time for a change


All right, I confess. I've been struggling with this blog, and until today I haven't an answer for what to do about it. But this morning, my author friend, Tonya Kappes, wrote a splendid entry.

Her post got me thinking about the things I do that result in putting unnecessary pressure on myself. One of those things is the idea that I have to always post something educational or informative for writers. There are already hundreds of blog that do an incredible job with that, for example, WG2E, Let's Get Digital, Publetariat, and The Passive Voice.

This month many bloggers joined the Alphabet Blog. When I first received the invitations, I had considered participating then changed my mind, because I knew writing an entry every day would be too much for me with my already crazy schedule. Now I have reconsidered.

The concept of the Alphabet Blog is to write an entry using a topic that begins with a different consecutive letter. So, I've decided to join the parade albeit sixteen days late. LOL! Considering how easily I succumb to pressure, I won't put these entries on any type of schedule. Let's just say, with the exception of previously scheduled guest blogs, I'll start with "A" and whenever I post again, the next entry will be on a topic that starts with "B."

I'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

FREE today!

Hot Fun in the Summertime is FREE today until midnight in all Amazon stores!



Amazon US -  http://amzn.to/dWZSxA
Amazon UK - http://amzn.to/kKHoN1
Amazon DE - http://amzn.to/HhEmiJ
Amazon FR - http://amzn.to/HhEEGa
Amazon IT - http://bit.ly/HMmFWG
Amazon ES - http://bit.ly/HYGM5B