Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Strategies for Mastering 'The Game'

In a world where everything is neat, pristine and without blemish it’s the perfect type of environment to feel that a favorable existence would be most desirable. It would be par for the course not to assume that the races are not bonding and getting along the way God intended in such a scenario. All of the aforementioned is fine and perfect, and the way it should be...but if you are a person of color you would not believe any of this is possible now, and surely you have no reason to believe it wouldn’t be attainable in the foreseeable future if change wasn’t eminent. Now comes authors Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson who has answers and devised how the game should be played, and how you can stay in place and THRIVE! Their new book, Black Faces in White Places not only has a plan of action, but it comes intact with ten game changing strategic gems to achieve long-lasting success where greatness isn’t a second thought to destiny. As an African American you may have done all you can feeling that you are ready for the world, ready to ascend corporate American and show her what you can do and what you’re made’re credentialed and well-learned; and you feel that you’ve arrived -- been there, done it and certainly ready to prove that you belong.

Alas, along the way to reality there’s a few obstacles in your way. In your mind you would know that strategies and a viable plan would definitely be needed because things just haven’t gone right with you stumbling every now and then and feeling that it’s no fault of your own. Or is it? “Why am I not looked upon with the same accolades as my white counterparts, some whom I consider peers, even”, you may say. Sure, you’ve put yourself in these shoes because they are real and it may have already happened to you. And you also ask yourself, “what can be done to turn the can we stay in place without having to prove that we can hang with whomever has been deemed the ones we should emulate”?

This is no ordinary ‘how to’ book with rudimentary precepts that cannot be used with a sense of continuity. Black Faces in White Places is a mindset written and designed for Black folk to change the game and score repeatedly. I feel that there’s greatness in all that apply and are able to persevere against all odds. The ten strategies are well-placed and thought-provoking to elicit challenges and changes. The book is divided into four parts with each strategy interspersed in subcategories with its own topical subjects. The authors’ voices are vociferous with all of the analogies and objectives loud enough as if to jump off the pages to keep you rooted to the cause. The ‘game’ is all about living, learning and listening. There’s homilies on learning the game, playing the game, mastering the game, and redefining the game. Would you be effective and respected if you don’t establish strong identities and purposes, or not obtaining broad exposure to create branding operatives? What about the need to build diverse and solid relationships while seeking the wisdom of others...and if there’s strength in numbers, then can we collectively allow entrepreneurial fortitude to bolster self, family and community? The key would be to give back generously for sustained synergy for solid scale and scope. All of these questions are answered in-depth with applicable initiatives to use and expand the idea of ethnicity as an asset in lieu of liabilities that have always plagued Blacks in America.

I loved this book, and as a matter of fact, is one of the best books I’ve read this year (2010). I’m partial to this book for many reasons, but the main ones are the ones where comfort zones are challenged to recognize how the search for excellence is not a moot point, but a point of contention. As a Black man myself, I’m not immune to what needs to be done for me to be accepted and assimilated in the icons of respectability. I’m concerned about not being able to beat people of other persuasion at their own game. I want to be able to master ways to balance scales and plant seeds for positive practices and lasting legacies of strength. You should too. Moreover, reading this outstanding book gave me hope that there’s a method to the madness, and ways to build beneficial relations and powerful networks. In closing, social responsibility is ours to exact ways to diffuse inferiority complexes that we have allowed ourselves to operate from. For sure, Black Faces in White Places is a ‘must read’ tome for us to redefine the rules, narrow gaps (real or imagined), and to master the inherent 10 strategies to navigate the authors’ roadmap to respectability. I’m more than ready, what about you? Buy this book , do an about face and create your own space in the place!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Going Home Again is Not All Bad!

More often than not we experience life and feel that we have all the answers, and we feel we're ready to fly the coop, leave the nest and do it on our own -- until we come face to face with reality, and acknowledge that the school of hard knocks are common ground for redemptive value. Redeeming truths merely states that you can always come home, pick up the pieces and start over again. Nobody knows that better than best-selling author, Wanda B. Campbell who gave few talented authors a chance to do just that. Her anthology, HOME AGAIN is a testimony for accountability to manifest those truths. She gave me the opportunity to write the Foreword to the book and my introduction says in volumes what I think of this effort. This is the complete unedited version, and you're getting it firsthand from me!

I have one word to describe this book: Poignant! Publisher and author, Wanda B. Campbell has assembled an interesting coterie of stories that are at the center of timing and a place to come back to for redeeming value demonstrating the power of love restoring broken relationships and accountability as part of the process. Coming home always has special meaning when amends are made and the better part of valor are allowed to be in place to save face. How do you define that particular ‘place’? Is it home, perhaps? Home is an institution where we are loved and cared for...a place of genuine affection and security. Ironically, it can also be the source of our greatest heartaches and biggest disappointments. With God’s love and guidance we are always susceptible to be circumstantial in relationships and predicaments learning to love again.” Now comes this volume of short stories and creative endeavors featured in this book to offer eloquent forays of erring misfortune and the chance to get it write! The authors in this set have something to say and refused to let the ink dry before writing it down. At their best, and behind such compelling fare help illustrate in convincing fashion just how truly diverse, urgent and haunting the stories are. “All we want to do is to be able to come home to make our wrongs write!” -- so says the authors with their shared stories all in one volume.

I shared moments with Ms Campbell as she gave me the impetus behind this project. I got the sense that with the myriad of success we’re apt to garner in life, there’s equal amounts of angst and disappointment that colors our landscapes. These colorful stories bridges gaps between redemption and salvation tinting the forefront and backdrops from her ‘friends’. I blatantly asked what was the premise behind this literary effort when there’s so much instability and uncertainty due to an economy out of control? Undaunted and unfazed, she answered, “every author has a story and these stories are just components to getting where one needs to be to come home for restoration...for this project, relationship is not limited to male/female romance, and ‘home’ is not limited to a physical building. Besides romance, we’re looking for stories in which the parent/child relationship is mended, sibling rivalries are dissolved, and friendships are restored.”

The opening statement has a lot to do with the 9 writers chosen to give accounts of restored relationships ready for the healing process. I believe in the publisher, the authors and their stories therein. When asked to write the Foreword, I never hesitated because I know what it means to come back to repair a relationship. If there were methods to the madness willing to expose broken relationships and how they affect those that believe that home is where the heart is, I wanted to be the one to tell why these writers were willing to bear their souls, and why you should read their stories. Yes, you SHOULD read these stories! There are stories that tug at your heartstrings, where passion and sensitivity are the genesis for wanting to be accountable, and stories with the audacity to render you spellbound under the shroud of intrigue.

Who are some of these talented writers who dug deep into the inner spectrums to give us something to think about? Each author brings diverse writing acumen as I introduce them to you and let you read the rest. Tyora Moody’s Birthing Pains’ is a story with excellent ebb and flow. She allowed the premise of her story to mesh with intrigue and contrast to embellish her characters. A Graphic Designer and Book Promoter, her story is not only graphic but designed to be a page-turning delight. Likewise for Shenette Jones! ‘Uncovered’ is not one to be hidden without discovering why committing adultery can have devastating consequences with reciprocal repercussions. This beautiful story resonates with a theme of ‘if you can do it, I can too! Ms Jones, a multi-talented singer, dancer and writer bared it all in her portrayal of what it means to be faithful with a purpose. Pastor Bernard Boulton gives us the story of Jake and Eric.’ He delves into reasons why we’re still our brother’s keeper and why sibling rivalry will always be central to it needing an intercessor to be par for the course. In it, there’s the immovable object against the irresistible force -- Carnality vs. Spirituality. Dr. Linda Beed, the erudite and gifted voice of reason comes to us with ‘Flavorful’ and a good taste to digest. She previously published Business As Usual and follows it up with a warm and intrusive narrative about forgiveness through the eyes of a young clairvoyant girl and the essence of replanting seeds for better growth. Her story told in first person is one that you wished would have add more.

When I read Maurice Gray, Jr, and Dijorn Moss, I recall the words I use for authors who get their ideas from countless sources and parlay them into vignettes near or far to what inspired them in the first place. Mr. Gray gives new meaning and an interesting take on dealing with familial (dis)order. Read ‘Family Matters’ and see why this author has gotten rave reviews for earlier published projects. ‘Journey to the Throne’ gives good analogies to the fight game and real-life references to beating back the demons attributing to alcoholism. Moss takes you to the arena and don’t leave you hanging on the ropes. Trinea Moss (yes, she’s the wife of Dijorn) brings us ‘Couple On Trial’ along with other tribulations attributed to marital life with the story of James and Ebony. Tavares S. Carney, a book reviewer, educator and social media promoter felt that there’s a story that had to be told in herConfidential Relations.’ In it, she delves into foster parentage and a revealing mother/daughter relationship that comes full circle after much soul searching. Alas, we come to Ms Wanda B. Campbell, publisher extraordinaire and literary maven with a story poignant and provocative with a sense of urgency where sensitivity and familial fortitude gives new meaning to forgiveness.

These, indeed are the stories that you will come home to, want to read them and get a sense that the authors will be trust-worthy enough for a subsequent following. With this book we want to whet your appetite and present a generous sampling of creative personalities and the stories that color the canvas for the hue and cry of balanced writing. No matter your taste, there’s bound to be that story or two that brings you full circle...we want the lot of them to be committed to making work of the highest caliber. Coming back to the roost to regroup is not bad at all and at the very least, coming home again will be worth your while! Buy this book, read it and DO enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One Author's Story of Living A Psalm 118:17 Existence

Any epiphany worthy of due diligence is one that should have a message that can be emulated and given its proper place for better understanding. Anyone with the privilege of reading best-selling author Kendra Norman-Bellamy’s initial foray into inspirational nonfiction will hav no problem in educing how poignant her story is. I SHALL NOT DIE is much more than a surface adaptation of angst gone awry...rather, it’s a real-life ordeal that saw the emergence of a woman come of age and her determination to rise up and be a galvanized influence on her family based on her late husband’s decree. And what a story!

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but empathize with the surreal ramifications of dealing with the AIDS virus, and not because I happen to know the author on a personal stems from me having a member of my family succumbing to the malady, and understanding the real meaning of why she had to come forward. Moreover, it allowed me to dig deeper into my reserve and resolve and report to the general public how and why surface interpretation is not enough to understand what is needed to survive seemingly unsurmountable odds without faith initiatives. But this is the author’s story and she indeed goes deep to portray a man, his legacy and his affect on those that knew him best. It’s about an autobiographical sketch as a prelude to establishing an empowerment ministry, along with a window with a view. This indeed is an easy read, but profound with the message therein.

The author leaves nothing to bare and nothing unturned in depicting her journey. Thirteen intrusive chapters will allow readers a candid and gut-wrenching truth analogies on why it’s so important to at least get the truth about AIDS. I was asked after reading the book why I felt it was such a poignant and important read. I had no problems and illusions illustrating via my opinionated view that living testimonies are true testaments to how one can unlearn things that are so misunderstood in life, and why Jesus can make a difference when so much is shown why faith cannot be compromised. I loved this book for all of the emotion and truths that the author gave in baring her soul on issues that are often taboo when going deep into the pools of personal intimacy. What then are the messages the author wanted to convey?

Kendra Norman-Bellamy HAD to write this story. To wit: “Tests and trials are inevitable. The choice that each of us has to make is whether we will endure and believe God to deliver us...or if we’re just going to give under the pressure and die”, or this, “...although God is long-suffering, He wouldn’t let me get away with not fulfilling His purpose. There were hearts that needed healing, He said; minds that needed encouraging, and souls that needed saving. The were assigned to me, but the only way I would reach them is by way of obedience to write I Shall Not Die.”

And there you have it. Proof that this book -- the life and times of Jimmy Holmes, is the making of a woman, wife and mother in sharing and alluding graphically to the fact that there’s no need to die when there’s a purposeful reason for living. I recommend this book highly...and if you read no other this year, do yourself a favor and be enlightened by a true story destined to be the forerunner of more truths by this talented, gifted and blessed writer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Romer Review's LITERARY SHOWCASE Presents Author, Jacquelin Thomas

In the African American literary arena, I’m sure there are many authors that you find yourself reading over and over, and ones that you consider to bring it often and with pizazz. Yes, we all have our favorites. I’m not ashamed to admit that the standards I have for writers to allow their stories to be definitive in allowing words to give imaginative verve to them is what I look for. Best-selling author Jacquelin Thomas is all of that for me! What you’re reading now on this blog is part of a ‘blog tour’ featuring her latest book that I was asked to showcase. In it you will find a few intrusive questions that have been asked of her with my intent to give flavor to her what she is all about...and of course the review of her latest book -- ‘SAMSON’, a modern-day adaptation of Samson and Delilah’s story.


Q. You wear so many hats as a writer—romance author, Christian fiction author, young-adult author. How do you decide what to write next? What are the differences, if any, in writing for different genres?

I love writing, and God has given me so many stories I find it’s hard to keep up at times. I love romance and I’m married to my very own Hero, so writing romance is just a celebration of love. With writing Christian fiction, it’s more of a ministry for me, and with YA, I have a heart for teens so I wanted to write books that spoke to their issues. There really isn’t any difference between them as I always strive to tell a good story. The teen books are geared toward ages twelve to eighteen. None of my books have profanity or graphic sexual situations.

Q. Can you walk us through your writing regime? Do you have a set outline that you follow, or do you go where the narrative takes you?

I write from an outline, which changes from time to time, but for the first draft, I tend to keep it close to my initial notes. The rewriting phase is when I really flesh out my scenes and let the characters tell me where to take the story.

Q. How important is it to incorporate your faith into your work? What does your faith bring to your life?

It’s very important as my writing is a gift from God. I didn’t just decide to be a writer—it is what I was born to do, and I truly believe this. God wants us to use our gifts to glorify Him and that’s what I want to do. Without Him, none of this would be possible.

Q. Throughout your Christian Fiction novels, the characters refer back to the Bible. Do you have a favorite passage from scripture? What is it, and why?

I guess it would be Habakkuk 3:17–19, because it talks about how Habakkuk lost everything, but he continued to rejoice in the Lord because God is his strength and has equipped him to endure trials and tribulations. I believe that we find out what we’re really made of when we go through hardships. Oftentimes, we feel life isn’t fair and we pout, but another way to look at our struggles is this: The harder the struggle, the more faith God has in us. He knows just how much we can bear, so when life gets rough, just know that God is there cheering you on, because He knows that you can make it through! He just wants you to realize it, too, and trust that He’s already worked it out.

THE BOOK REVIEW… Samson by Jacquelin Thomas

Inspired by the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah, the first chapter wastes no time in setting the stage with what’s to come as Samson Taylor gives readers why a man is vulnerable without the covering of righteous intent with a heart that sustains it. Best selling author Jacquelin Thomas whets our appetite with a delicious menu with her latest book, SAMSON. The table is set and the players are ready to show that it takes more than one to allow iniquity to prove that the pulpit is not exempt from snakes. Is it fair to call Samson Taylor a snake? An unmarried man of God unwilling to give up his player’s card? The story unfolds with Taylor newly installed as Assistant Pastor at a gregarious North Carolina church. He’s perceived to be a man of God—and proves early that he’s definitely not ready to ascend the dais that his father previously held. Armed with adonis-like features, with a gift of gab, his charisma stirs up only adds to problems dealing with any beautiful women that happen to cross his path. And they come out one by one -- Savannah, Delinda, and most notably Meagan.

The book is a moving fast-paced drama that speeded along with enough intrigue and contrast for the denouement to justify Samson finally getting his act together. Like the story it’s crafted from a voice of reason is constant as a quasi-omniscient present in aunt Helen, who admonishes him more often than not about ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ morals. The author gives a plausible attempt to show Samson with enough reticence to be remorseful, but not before he meets Delinda, married to a popular NBA star which culminates to a public altercation with her husband. The chagrined and disgraced pastor tired of the frustration and shameful acts embarks on a journey to save grace where a new sense of awareness clarifies his current vision. Reading this story, you know that God will forgive Samson’s past—but will Samson himself be able to truly change his heart and turn the other cheek?

I loved this book. Simply because it reminded me of how lust and the challenge of conquering the desire to have any woman that appealed to me. Trying to get a life without the temptation that Satan throws to the weakened flesh can be fraught with dangerous dalliances with a false sense of security. Samson found out at the right time for salvation to be the progenitor of a great read, and I’m so glad that it was Jacquelin Thomas who gave it to us with page-turning delight. This in my opinion is one of her better books and I don’t have problems rating it 5 stars out of 5. Pick up this book and add it among the ones you savor and support!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Romer Review's LITERARY SHOWCASE Presents Author, Allison Hobbs

Allison Hobbs resides in Philadelphia, PA. A former singer during the era of the Philly Sound, Allison was a member of a female trio known as Brown Sugar (Allison Hobbs, Phyllis Nelson, and Karen Dempsey). The Philadelphia trio toured as background singers for Major Harris who's number one single, Love Won't Let Me Wait, allowed the group an opportunity to perform as the opening act for artists such as Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Brown Sugar later signed and recorded with Capitol Records. A self-taught folk artist, Allison's prolific body of work portrays scenes of black Americana. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Temple University. But it's her writing that has everybody excited about.

"Ever saw something that appealed to you so much that no matter the circumstances and consequences you knew in your mind that you just HAD to have it? Even going to the extent that you'd beg, borrow or STEAL it? True to form and with a slew of books written where you stole time to read them, best-selling author Allison Hobbs has something sweet for you. I took time to talk to this maven of myriad thoughts of page-turning delight and she gave me all I could handle in answering my questions." Alvin C. Romer/Editor, The Romer Review

I first discovered you as a prolific writer with one of your first books, ‘PANDORA’S BOX’ a while back, and your star since then has ascended to greater heights...who is Allison Hobbs, why do you write as you do, and why should readers buy your books?

My mother named me Allison after a character in a book she was reading. I grew up in a household where every family member read daily. My mom read three newspapers a day. Her book collection was extensive, including autobiographies, classics, poetry, and controversial novels of her time such as The Tropic of Cancer and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Her favorite novelist was James Baldwin. My older brother read classics that were appropriate for young boys: old-fashioned, hard back classics, i.e. Huckleberry Finn. His book collection seemed terribly boring. In fact, I felt a little sorry for him and was perplexed as to why he kept his head buried in such dull-looking books. My younger brother, a prodigy of sorts, devoured comic books in addition to reading Invisible Man and other books that were considered adult literature.

While my mother and brothers read important works of fiction, my dad read “cheap little paper backs.” He always had a book in his hand. There was usually a cowboy on the cover. My mom definitely disapproved of his reading material, referring to his cowboy fiction as “trash.” My dad also had a vast collection of pornographic paperback novels that he kept hidden in the back of a closet. Like everyone in my family, I was also a voracious reader. My reading choices, however, were limited to classic Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables and nursery rhymes. I loved books about queens and castles, make believe and magic. Books with glossy pictures and happy endings. I was very content in my make believe world and had no desire to try out different genres.

I was the eccentric and artsy member in a family of intellects. By the time I reached thirteen and was still obsessed with fairy tales, my mom no longer viewed me as merely quirky, she became seriously concerned about my emotional development. She insisted that I read a full-length, age-appropriate novel. I went to the library and browsed. I remember the librarian giving an audible sigh of relief when she saw me venturing outside the aisle of fairy tales. But instead of getting something that was recommended for teens, I selected Gone with the Wind. That thick book was a huge leap from fairy tales, but I read it in a few days. I became addicted to books. At the conclusion of a novel, I had to immediately begin another. No pun intended, but my lust for reading led me to explore my dad’s porn stash. I was intrigued by the naughty titles of those books. By day I read books from my school’s recommended reading list, but at night behind my locked bedroom door, I read eye-popping, arousing tales of wanton, scandalous sex!

I believe that my writing style and the genre that I’m known for is a reflection of the reading that inspired me during my youth. Classy and trashy—a meshing of profound literature and explicit porn. Though I never set out to become an erotic writer, being a creative person, it is my nature to express in a flamboyant and vivid manner. In my novels, I try to paint a picture with words. Like a songwriter, I play around with prose until I’m satisfied with the cadence and rhythm of the sentences. My covers are bold and salacious, my titles are often audacious, but don’t let that fool you. Inside the pages, the reader will find originality, rich language, and clever plot twists interwoven with messages of social importance.

With so many books on the market how has the journey been for you; what have you learned, and what would you do differently if you were starting out again today?

I’m fortunate that with so many books on the market that I have managed to stay current and stay in the game. I can’t take total credit. My publisher, New York Times Bestselling Author and Executive Producer of Cinemax’s Zane’s Sex Chronicles, Zane, gave me my start in the publishing industry and continues to enthusiastically support my efforts. That is a blessing that I don’t take for granted. If I were starting out again today, I would learn more about the craft of writing before getting mid-way into my manuscript.

Authors are always asked the question relative to their beginnings as a writer. Was it your goal to become a writer, or was it something that inspired you to choose this field?

No, I never planned on becoming a writer. My oldest brother, now deceased, was encouraged to pursue writing. He became an award-winning journalist and a published author. My younger brother was published by Holloway House while in his twenties. My mother constantly told me that I had the gift of storytelling, but I don’t think she actually expected me—free-spirited and unconventional—to ever sit still long enough to complete a novel. Had she lived to my collection of work, she would be extremely proud. In 1998, after the untimely death of a dear friend, I felt compelled to write about my journey in life…a journey, in which she had played a huge role from teenage years up until that point. When I attempted to write my autobiography, I had no illusions. I knew that my story would be of no interest to a publisher. But I wanted to document my life…for my children. For posterity’s sake.

After beginning the process, I found that writing about the past was a punishing task. I’d managed to suppress many painful memories, and reopening old wounds seemed more damaging than cathartic. So I distracted myself by playing around with fiction. I began to let my imagination run wild. Without planning, I found myself writing my first novel, Pandora’s Box. Making up a story was easier and much more pleasant than dredging up the painful past. Midway into the manuscript, I began to believe that I could actually become a published author. It was clear to me that I had the same talent that my brother’s had…that my mother had. My late mother had been active in the Civil Rights movement and she was once a free-lance writer for our local newspaper. Her commentary concerned social injustice. Though I never read any of her articles, I have some of her hand-written letters and I hear her voice in my own writing style.

To date, I hear ongoing inner dialogue that is prompting me to tell the story that I set out to write, but I’m still not emotionally strong enough. Apparently my protective subconscious won’t allow me to write any more than a few fragments at a time. Tiny, disjointed pieces of my life are interspersed in my various novels.

What are some of the timeless if not memorable occurrences that shaped you as a writer, and why would it be beneficial in sharing them with other aspiring writers?

After writing the first one hundred pages of my first novel, I proudly asked my cousin, a professional editor, to read what I’d written thus far. I recall smugly awaiting her email…confidently expecting to be praised. She took forever to respond. I couldn’t figure out what was taking her so long. After a few weeks, she finally sent me an email stating that she didn’t know how to tell me in a kind way that my manuscript was awful and was giving her a headache. She informed me that being a good storyteller didn’t necessarily make me a good writer. “I am a good writer,” I insisted. She vehemently disagreed and suggested that I take a writing class, join an online group, or get books that teach the craft of writing fiction. I was flabbergasted. Why would I need instructions on writing? My vocabulary was up to par, I was not grammatically-challenged, and as I’ve mentioned, my ability to tell a story was legendary. So what in the heck was she talking about?

We argued back and forth. Furthering her case, she said, “You have five girls in a scene, and you give the reader each girl’s perspective.” “Yeah, so what? What’s wrong with that?” I asked, really annoyed. Then she asked me the meaning of point of view (POV). I didn’t know and didn’t care. It sounded like some unnecessary, technical jargon. I was halfway through the book and I was very proud of my accomplishment and I was going to get published, darn it. But my cousin the editor, wouldn’t budge. She refused to continue reading my book—not even for money. “Learn the craft,” she persisted. Words cannot express the degree of my agitation. But I had no choice. I had to appease her if I wanted my 150 page-manuscript edited. With a birthday coming up, I told my significant other (at the time) to forget about flowers, no Godiva chocolate this year, and to take Victoria’s Secret off my wish list. I didn’t want any of the traditional birthday crap he usually bought me. “Get me books. I need tons of “How to Write Fiction books.”

He bought me eight different fiction-writing books. I randomly cracked open one of them and began reading. I was stunned to discover that my cousin had been one hundred percent correct. I had been arrogant, willful, and falsely suspected that she was envious of my new-found talent. To have been so blissfully ignorant was extremely embarrassing. But I was also grateful that she had risked hurting my feelings and that she had used tough love to steer me in the right direction. Knowledge is power. I rewrote those 150 pages and eventually finished the novel, adhering to all the rules I’d learned. My advice to all aspiring writers: Please take the time to learn the craft of writing. Your editor will appreciate not having to rewrite your work to make it readable.

Simon & Schuster (S&S), the distributor for Strebor Books International (SBI) the imprint you write for has been great partners together literally...has their relationship impacted on you as a writer and a sense of legitimacy?

I began as a self-published author. During that brief stint, I couldn’t refer to myself as an author without feeling pretentious. After signing a publishing deal with Strebor Books, and having Zane personally overseeing my career, I felt completely validated. The partnership between Strebor Books and Simon and Schuster was the icing on the cake. The library has always been a second home to me. I remember going to the library and inquiring about Pandora’s Box. A very snooty librarian told me, “We don’t have those kinds of books on our shelves.” I shrugged and thought to myself, we’ll see about that! Since then my books are on the library shelves nationally and in high demand. Since childhood, I get an adrenaline rush when I walk inside a library. Now that my books are on the shelves, that excitement is heightened. I get a total sense of legitimacy when I see my novels on the public library’s hallowed shelves.

Charmane Parker at SBI and Yona Deshommes at S&S keep me busy with the authors they represent relative to the books I get to review...share with the readers the process once you’ve submitted the final draft for publication...Are there any interaction individually or collectively between you for dialogue?

Zane edits my manuscripts. Her editing skills are as extraordinary as her writing ability. She understands my style and typically doesn’t need to confer with me or ask me to make any changes. Occasionally, she has to return a flawed manuscript for me to rewrite. Charmaine Parker reads the proofs after the book has been type-set. I’m always grateful for Charmaine’s eagle eyes. I can read the proofs ten times and still not find all the errors that Charmaine picks up. Yona Deshommes handles the publicity after the book is in galley format. Yona and the S&S publicity department collaborate with Zane and Charmaine on the marketing plan. With my next release, Stealing Candy, my input is being included in the marketing plan. Yona is accessible, personable, creative, and super intelligent. I feel privileged to work with this powerful team of women.

Let’s talk about your latest book, STEALING CANDY. What’s the premise or motivation behind this book, and how does it differ from others that you’ve written?

Stealing Candy deals with the disturbing topic of teenage sex trafficking. This problem is usually viewed as something that only happens in other countries, but it is rampant right here in America and is getting worse. Teenage girls and boys are being kidnapped and forced into sexual servitude. Children are being sold to sexual predators by their own parents in exchange for illicit drugs. A few stories make the national headlines, but for the most part, the children that are forced into the commercial sex industry have no voice. Every time I hear about an innocent child that has been violated in any manner, it hurts me to the core. Writing this novel was my personal way of bringing awareness to the plight of sex-trafficked children, especially those within the African American communities who don’t get the media attention as missing white children.

In Stealing Candy, I do not gloss over or allude to the dehumanizing and heinous crimes that are inflicted upon the main characters. The reader is given the raw, graphic, and ugly truth of what is happening to our children. Though there is always an underlying social message in most of my novels, Stealing Candy is the first novel that I specifically wrote to raise awareness.

What has been the favorite among your books, and why?

In addition to Stealing Candy, my next favorite is The Enchantress. I stepped outside my comfort zone and wrote a paranormal/erotic novel. The setting of the first few chapters is a plantation in Virginia during slavery. Adding that historical element along with the supernatural and erotic aspects was a stretch for me. After the doing the initial research on slavery and on mythological goddesses, the book required very little of me. It seemed to write itself. I was amped, exhilarated, and in this miraculous zone where hours would fly by. During the writing process, it seemed that I was merely a vessel in front of the keyboard. The book had its own will. The words flowed faster than I could keep up with them. I wrote The Enchantress in a only a few months.

What matters most to you both as a novelist and a writer…can you actively separate them in definitive terms as they apply to your writing sensibilities?

In my opinion, a writer can write anything from screenplays to advertising copy. A novelist writes fiction. As a novelist, I’m very aware of what my readers enjoy, but I’ve also taken risks and written books that appeal to my own tastes. However, book sales matter and I can’t force my preferences on my readers.

Let me throw a few topics at you. I want you to comment responsively and say the first thing that comes to mind!

Self Publishing: Hard work!

Your ideal book tour: It’s coming up this summer with the Stealing Candy promotional tour.

Learning the business: Arggh! The creative end is much more fun.

Your writing process: Turn off phones. Stay off the internet. Limited communication with the outside world while working on a manuscript.

Book Reviews and Reviewers: I love it when the reviewers “get it.”

What’s next on the horizon for Allison Hobbs?

Lipstick Hustla, the third installment to Double Dippin’ and Big Juicy Lips will be released in November 2010. My 2011 release is focused on three female friends with relationship issues. I guess you could call it a sister-girl novel…with a wicked twist. Also in 2011 or possibly 2012, I’ll be co-authoring a book with the best and hottest writer in the game. I’m totally looking forward to having fun with this project. Collaborating with my “shero” is a dream come true.

For additional information on Allison Hobb's latest and upcoming book, and to join the cause, refer to this link:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Romer Review's LITERARY SHOWCASE Presents Author, J.D. Mason

Anyone who is familiar with good storytelling and have read a lot of it should know author, J.D. Mason. Her books are all the rage and I make no apologies relative to the fact that she's one of my favorite writers. Moreover, I'm proud to announce the first presentation that THE ROMER REVIEW is offering under a subsidiary production called, 'The Romer Review's Literary Showcase Presents...' series. J.D. Mason is the author of several bestselling novels including, And On The Eighth Day She Rested, This Fire Down In My Soul, and You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, which has been selected as one of the best books of 2008 by Black Expressions and the RAWSISTAZ Online Bookclub, and has been nominated for The Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award in the African American Fiction category. She is the recipient of the Atlanta Choice Award for her novel One Day I Saw A Black King, and her novel Don’t Want No Sugar was also nominated The Romantic Times Magazine award for Best Contemporary Fiction. Her novels have consistently been selected by The Black Expressions Book Club as main selections, and her work has appeared on bestseller lists in the Dallas Morning News, Black Expressions Book Club, and on Without further ado, we've decided to allow this author to be our first presentation and hope that you embrace her as we have! I had a chance to secure this one-on-one discussion and would like to share it with our reading audience:

Over the years you’ve written well enough to elicit an outstanding fan base with 6 books under your belt, not including contributions to two more anthologies...what has contributed to the longevity of your writing acumen, and what has been your experience from idea to bookshelves?

"Knowing that there is always another perspective to circumstances and being willing to consider other points of view is key to seeing the bigger picture. When I start new projects, it’s not about being overwhelmed with buckets of inspiration raining down on my head. It’s about choosing a subject matter that I think readers might find interesting and then asking myself the question, “What’s the best way to tell this story?”. That’s the motivation for me. The questions, “What’s the best story to tell” or “What’s the most unique story,” don’t necessarily come into play all the time for me, because I believe that just about any story can be made better if you are willing to tell it in an original way. People are absolutely fascinating, even when we don’t mean to be. We’re especially unique in our subtleness, when we think no one is paying attention, or when we’re being our most honest selves. I’ve always been pretty intuitive and observant, and those are the strengths in me, I feel, that keep me focused and driven as a writer.

The experience from idea to bookshelf is always a challenging one, and one that never unfolds the same way twice. Just when I think I’ve found that magic formula of how to put a book together, it never seems to work the same way again. I always struggle a lot in the beginning. Usually, it’s a process of starting and stopping and starting over again, before I finally find the “flow” I’m looking for. When I find the feeling I’m seeking, then I can usually finish the book, but until I do, it’s like driving a car that sputters along because you somehow got water in the gas tank."

Why is writing so important to how you can express putting it all down on there a method to this madness? When and where is the best time for you to write?

"There’s no method, but plenty of madness. I actually hate the process of writing. I love storytelling, making up stories, but writing is hard work. It’s not something I consider fun. It’s boring, tedious, frustrating, and did I say tedious? I know that once I get started, and find that vibe or rhythm, then it’s off to the races, and I try and write as quickly as I can to get as much done as I can before I lose it. But there is no best time to write. Some books I’ve written in the early hours of the day. Other books, I may have written in the afternoon hours, and some may be written late at night. I used to think that I’d have a formula figured out by now, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen."

You may not remember me, but I was formally introduced to you via Marlive Harris’ G.R.I.T.S. online reading and book club about 4 years ago and have never stop admiring your afinity to great important are book clubs to all things literary pertaining to you as an author and the books you write?

"Book clubs are the pulse of the literary world. It’s the book clubs, I believe, that have kept most of us in print, and without them, I don’t know if I’d still be here after all these years. Individually, I don’t think they realize the power of their influence in this business, but collectively, they are as important as publishers, writers, bookstores… And it’s always wonderful to see people gather together to break bread to discuss a good book. Honestly, I think that’s the best way to truly enjoy reading."

From the first book you wrote -- And the Eight Day She Rested’ to the current ‘Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It’ how have you matured as a writer?

"I’ve become more comfortable with the sound of my literary voice. With my earlier books, 8th Day, and Black King, I honestly had no idea that I even had a literary voice. When you’re a new writer, you write mostly from passion, and the desire to finish a book and to hopefully see it on the shelves someday. But as time goes on, and you write more books, the passion is still there, but it’s different. I am still a nervous wreck before a book comes out, worrying over whether or not people will like it. But I write with purpose, now. I write with a specific direction in mind, and with my earlier books, I don’t think I did that, intentionally. Now I’m passionate about being more creative and exploring new directions with my books. As a writer, I feel that I’m brave enough to do that now—on purpose!"

I’ve always feel that your stories are character-driven with great plot twists, compelling settings with story lines that give drama a favorable flair...are there formulas you use to weave a fabric to tell your stories?

"All I know is that if I’m bored writing the book, then readers are going to be bored reading it. When that happens, I usually hit the delete button on my computer and start over from scratch. There’s not a formula, but I believe that reading should be more than two-dimensional. You have to do more than just see the words and hold the book in your hand. Reading should stir emotions, and physical feelings in the reader, and in the writer. I can’t just go through the motions and put words on paper just to fill a word count for my publisher. When I hit that last keystroke, I need to feel satisfied."

Let’s talk about Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It’...tell us how you came about writing the gist of the story, and why was it so poignant for you to illustrate it in a narrative?

"The original premise of this book was to show the mature woman (40plus) in a different light. The three main characters, Renetta, Phyllis, and Freddie, are all about forty-eight, and thirty years out of high school, and I wanted readers to see that women of this age could be funny, daring, sexy, flawed, and still stumbling along trying to find themselves. The idea to add Tasha, the long lost daughter of one of these women, came later to add an element of tension to the group. This is a great book for book club discussions and for women to maybe see that getting older means getting more out of life in a way that you were too clueless to do when you were younger. It’s also about coming to terms with a decision these women made years ago, and realizing that each one of them, in her own way, has been mourning that decision for too long on her own."

People whose lives are connected seem to be one of the mantras you use to fuel dramatic interludes, are any of the characters in the books you’ve written related, or have issues that would justify fodder to be used in subsequent books?

"The only characters that I have carried over into other books so far are the characters from One Day I Saw A Black King, which I call my “unintentional series”. It was never meant to be a series, but I loved the characters, and they all had such a rich story line component, that it was hard not to do. And readers kept asking for more of these characters, which was surprising. I’ve been asked if I plan on writing sequels to other books, like That Devil’s No Friend of Mine and And On The Eighth Day She Rested, but I don’t think it’ll happen—necessarily. There are some characters from other books that I’d like to keep on the back burner, though…just in case."

‘On the Eighth Day She Rested’ and ‘One Day I Saw A Black King’ are two of my favorite J.D. Mason books...and I like them for many reasons, but mainly because of human values are interwoven with how relationships are won and lost on how decisions are made... What can you tell the reading public about how issues between people may be staples for you writing a good story?

"People and their relationships are the best and most plentiful inspiration. I mean, it’s endless. An individual has a ton of different relationships going on all at once, and in each of those relationships, that person can represent someone different to each person; a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife…and in each role, we behave differently depending on who we’re with. We think differently, we speak differently. That’s the beauty of being human, and that’s why the inspiration for exploring relationships in books is so bountiful. It’s about stepping outside of my skin and pretending to be someone else. And when I do that, I have to try and think and act like they would. I get to play pretend when I’m writing, just like I used to play when I was a kid. That’s why this is such a great job."

What is your favorite book you've written...the one that you feel best exemplify how you nailed your concept for reader appeal. Explain why.

"I honestly can’t say which one is my favorite. I’ve loved them all for different reasons, and I don’t know if I’ve ever completely nailed any concept for any particular reader. I think that if you ask different readers, you’ll get different answers as to which book they liked best. Personally, I like them all."

If someone were to ask you, “Who is J.D. Mason, why you write as you do, and why they should buy your books, what would you tell them?

"I’m probably one of the most unassuming people you’ll ever meet, and I can be a bit shy too sometimes. I communicate so much better as a writer than I do in face to face conversation. But still waters run deep, and I am more confident on paper than anywhere else. Sometimes, I don’t even know how deep I can be until I go back and read something I’ve written, then look at it, like “where did that come from?” Being a creative writer is what I do best, and when you read my books, I think you’ll be carried away by good stories that offer new and different perspectives that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I write to get you thinking and talking, and maybe even arguing and disagreeing. I write to stir feelings in you that maybe you didn’t even know were there, but are surprised and happy to discover."

Are there any suggestions, tidbits of information or good advice that you could give my granddaughter about becoming an accomplished writer?

"Have an open mind and spirit. Be receptive to your thoughts and characters voices, no matter how much they conflict with your own. And be brave enough to try new things, to explore new and unique concepts. Be diligent, because this business is tough. It’s tough to get into, and even after you’ve signed a contract for your first book, it’s still tough. I won’t tell you to get a thick skin because the criticism will come. All criticism hurts, but you should learn to separate constructive criticism from insults, and grow from it."

What’s next for J.D. Mason on the horizon?

"I’m finishing up the very last book featuring the characters from Black King. The new book is called Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, and should be out later this year. I’ve just turned in my first science fiction novel to my editor, and I’m waiting to hear from her on how I well I did, or didn’t do, with it. It’s the first book in a three book series. I have just started a new novel called 'Beautiful, Dirty, Rich' and it centers around a rich and powerful black family from the south called the Gatewoods, and I’m toying around with the idea of writing a YA sci/fi novel or series, if it works out."