I know I've been a very bad blogger lately. I've got a lot going on with my day job, writing Kendra book #4, planning promo for Kendra book # 3, and the upcoming holidays(I'm not done shopping and still haven't put up my tree : 0). So, I'm taking a break and will be back to blogging the first week in January. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season! See you next year ; ).
Monday, December 18, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Shelving in black & white
Personally, I don't know why, as Terry McMillan and others have suggested, books can't be shelved in more than one place in a bookstore: the African-American section AND the mystery section. I've gotten my share of email from both black and non-black readers who tell me they enjoy my books. But I always wonder how and where they got a hold of my book. Mystery lovers no matter what color they are aren't frequenting the AA fiction section of bookstores looking for good mysteries to read. So, my questions to the readers of this blog who've read my books are: How did you hear about my books and where did you get them?
In other news, my first book, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, was named the 2006 Book of the Year by The Page Turners Book Club in Connecticut! The Page Turners Book Club was founded in January 2006 by a group of friends who share the love of reading a good book. It started with a group of four and has grown to a group of ten members. The club is a forum which fosters sisterhood among women residing or working in the Bridgeport/New Haven/Hartford area. THANK YOU LADIES!!!!!!
Friday, December 01, 2006
Meet Dakota Knight!
Dakota Knight is the debut author of the thriller SOLA as well as being the driving force behind the Blogging In Black collective blog. She was gracious enough to take time from her busy schedule to answer questions about her new book and her road to publication. SOLA is also the featured title for December on MystNoir. Welcome Dakota!
1. Q: What appeals to you about writing thrillers?
I think thrillers are the perfect entertainment vehicle in the publishing industry. I love the idea of taking readers on a ride. By writing thrillers, I hope to craft stories that readers can’t stop reading until they’ve reached the final page.
2. Q: Was it hard for you to get published?
I wouldn’t say it was hard, but it was long. It’s the process the majority of writers should expect. I sought an agent, had some rejections, and then found my current agent. Then, I had to edit my manuscript so it would be presentable to publishers. It took about six months for SOLA to find a home with Urban Books. Plus, tack on another year before it hit bookstores. The waiting is the hardest. But as a writer, I am used to it.
3. Q: Describe your debut novel, SOLA, and how you came to write it.
SOLA centers on a female assassin, Sola Nichols. She has risen through the ranks of her boss’s organization to become his top killer. When Sola makes a fatal mistake while taking care of one of her boss’s rivals, the huntress becomes the hunted, and she must utilize all of her skills to survive. While she attempts to save her own life, she reflects back on the past and the events that led to her becoming an assassin. For Sola has a secret, a secret that will lead to an epic encounter with a killer she never thought she would have to face.
My initial thoughts about SOLA stemmed from the movie, The Professional, with Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman. I wanted to explore what circumstances could make a female an assassin, and eventually Sola’s story emerged. From concept to completion, it took several years.
4. Q: How much research was involved in writing your book?
I spent the most time researching the places in the novel. Almost all of them exist or existed. When I was younger, I spent time in some of those places, and I had to revisit them in order to write about them. Some things I gathered from experience. And, of course, I tapped in to my imagination for the rest.
5. Q: Do you write in any other genre?
Yes, I write in other genres. I write in the science fiction, romance, and young adult genres.
6. Q: What is your writing schedule like?
I try to write whenever I can. I’m most productive at night because I can sit in front of my computer without a lot of interruptions. Most of the time, I write from an outline, which helps me a lot, especially when it comes to the dreaded “writer’s block.” At a minimum, I try to write 1,000 words per day, but I often write more.
7. Q: Can you tell us what you're working on now?
I’m putting the finishing touches on what will be my second released novel. It’s imperative that I get that in by December 1st. I’m also working on a mystery, which I will complete by the end of the year. I am also outlining another thriller that I’m very excited about. I hope my agent and publisher will be excited about it as I am.
8. Q: Do you have a website or blog?
I have both. My website, www.dakotaknight.com, was recently nominated for a Black Web Award for Best Personal Website by an Individual. The URL for my blog is http://dakotaknight.blogspot.com. I am also a regular columnist for Blogging in Black, the largest collective blog of Black writing professionals on the Net. You can read my commentary on the 1st of each month at www.blogginginblack.com.
9. Q: What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?
I recently finished Great Sky Woman by Steven Barnes. All I have to say is WOW! I highly recommend it.
10.Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep writing. It’s the best thing an aspiring writer can do. Don’t send out your work until you have a completed manuscript. I would also join a great organization like the International Black Writers Association. It’s a great place to network and hone your craft. There’s so much information out there, and it’s good to have a one-stop shop to get what you need to become a better writer.
Thank you, MystNoir and Angela Henry for your support!!!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Hello, Great Unknown World Out There,
Have you missed me? Two things on my mind. The Quill Awards, sponsored by PEN which gave out awards for it's best books? Floored when I heard Tyler Perry's book won Book of the Year. I later found out the award is similar to the People mag award for film and television--it 's a popularity thing, Quill Award honors popular books.
Well, of course, I had to pay attention. Tyler Perry is a one-man marketing operation and is a genius at it. He has catapulted his Ma'deah character to popularity among many types/backgrounds/ethnicities of people and made a bunch of money while doing so, and kept control of his product(s). Wow. God Bless the Child That's Got His Own. Amen.
We should all take lessons.
Speaking of popular books---I had the honor of participating in the success of another African-American author--not that I was responsible or anything, just a part of. Lalita Tademy wrote a highly successful bestseller-Oprah-pick fiction book based on her family's history, called Cane River. She wrote a second book, Red River, and I got to read one of the character's for the second books-on-tape version. First time I've done one of those. But as an actress I really like reading aloud--I would love to read many more books on tape--for fun and profit--including my own. I was so surprised how fast the Red River tape/CD version was put together. Seemed like the next week they were advertising it. I ran across it by accident--trying to track down copies of my first book. I don't believe it will be released until early next year, but it's on pre-order status. Damn. Wish my books would get all that hoopla. Someday. Soon. Ver-r-ry soon.
Re: my first book, A Landlord's Tale. I just don't understand the publishing business. For six months from the date of the release of my mass market version of the book, Hard Luck and Trouble: A Landlord's Tale (won't be out until Feb., 2007) it has been very hard to find my book, yet the publisher says it's not out of print. I've been doing my thing, still promoting at various venues and have a hard time getting it for bookstores, etc. You'd think the company'd keep some around--especially when a second book in a series comes out. New readers invariably want to read the first book in the series. At least that's what people have told me--don't you agree? Of course you do. That's why I talk to you.
At Bouchercon I met a first time writer who had the guts to stamp his/her feet and argue about the choice of his/her cover. In the end, he/she got his/her way. I thought that was pretty ballsy. I have felt so powerless. I've seen a system operate in a way that's not particularly related to any business acumen or practices, but the publishing industry seems to "jest keeps rollin', jest keeps rollin'--along... with the way they do things, whether it makes sense or not.
Kudos to those writers who are starting their own companies. I don't quite understand they way some are set up--they hook in their own line to already established publishing houses. Wonder what the percentages and the agreements between the two are?
Arrgh, why am I even involved in gross speculation about money, finances, business, etc. ?
Art, art, art is what we writers should be concerned with. N'est-ce pas?
Enough. Signing off. Comments?
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Well, I'm back ; ). Actually, I've been back since Monday night and have just now found the time to write about my trip to LA. All I can say is, I know why people go to LA and never want to come back. That city has everything and I mean everything! Great weather, dining, shopping, nightlife, not that I got to take advantage of a lot of it because they kept us so busy. I was exhausted at the end of each day. But I did get to walk around Rodeo, and even bought something. Okay, it was only a pair of sunglasses. But, hey, sunglasses from Rodeo are sunglasses from Rodeo. No one has to know they only cost $15. Anyway, I was in LA to attend the Sisters in Crime Hollywood Conference, not to be confused with the Crime Sistahs. The conference was awesome and I got to meet some fellow Sisters in Crime, some who came from as far away as Europe, as well as fellow Crime Sistah Pamela Samuels-Young. Pamela and I along with another author, L.C. Hayden, had a booksigning at a Border's Bookstore in Glendale. I wish I could say we had tons for people who showed up. But, we didn't ; (. In fact, no one came. But, we had a good time talking amongst ourselves.
The conference also included a tour of Sony Studios where we saw the set for Jeopardy and got to watch some filming for the upcoming Disney Channel movie, In Case of Emergency. We also saw sets for the new series Big Day and the upcoming thriller Vacancy, which according to this bit of gossip from Page Six is turning out to be not such a thrilling experience. We also got a screening of the pilot episode of Showtime's new series Dexter, afterwhich there was a Q & A with the series producers. The main portion of the conference consisted of panel discussions with the movers and shakers of Hollywood: the producers, writers, and agents who turn books into movie for the big and small screen. The culmination of the conference was a one-on-one meeting with a producer to pitch them our book. I've never seen so many nervous writers in one place before. We were all practicing our pitches to each other and trying to cut them down to the allotted time, which was five minutes, three really if you take time for questions. The biggest piece of knowlege I got from the conference is that it takes a lot to get an author's book to the screen and the money that authors get for movie options has decreased greatly over the years. So, basically even if my book were to be optioned for a movie, I probably wouldn't make much money UNLESS the movie actually gets made and that's a very big long shot. But, I'm still glad I went and here are a few of my observations on LA:
1. If you live in LA you spend half your life in a car. With LA traffic it seemed like it took at least an hour or more to get just about anywhere.
2. Because residents of LA spend so much time in their cars, I hardly saw any old junky cars. Most of what I saw was new and expensive. I also saw a lot of beautifully restored classic cars.
3. Everyone knows someone who has some kind of connection to the movie biz. I'm not exaggerating. Every conversation I overheard in public consisted of someone taking about an audition or a meeting with a producer.
4. If you want some excellent Italian food in LA. Go to this restaurant. The calimari was really good!
5. As much as I enjoyed myself in LA. I could never live there for a variety of reasons, the main one being that the average home in Los Angeles is half a million dollars. Yikes!!
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Patricia Sargeant is a debut novelist, and fellow Ohio resident, who's first romantic suspense novel, YOU BELONG TO ME, is being released today. She's graciously agreed to be interviewed here on the Crime Sistah's blog. YOU BELONG TO ME is also the featured title for November on MystNoir. Welcome Patricia!
1. Q: What appeals to you about writing romantic suspense?
I love romance and I love suspense. Together they're a powerful combination. A well-written suspense keeps your reader in your story. At the heart of that story is your character's motivation. What is the ultimate motivation? Love. Love of family, friends and country. Love compels you to reach inside of yourself and find the hero within. That is a universal truth that connects your reader to your character. Make your reader care about your character and she'll finish your story.
2. Q: Was it hard for you to get published?
I would say "challenging." It took me 15 years. But then, nothing worth having comes easily. A lot of people think they can write a book in a couple of weeks or months and then sell it a month or so later. I never believed it would be that easy, but I hadn't realized learning the process would be so challenging. There's a lot more to succeeding as an author than writing the book. You have to learn the craft, study the industry, and be willing and able to market yourself and your work.
3. Q: Describe your debut novel, YOU BELONG TO ME, and how you came to write it.
You Belong To Me is a romantic suspense that reunites a divorced couple in a race to unmask a serial killer. All of my stories start with the question, "What if?" What if you were given a second chance with your soul mate? What would you be willing to do to ensure your happily-ever-after? The story is also about family. How do you define family and what are you willing to do to protect them?
4. Q: How much research was involved in writing your book?
I didn't have to do too much research. I read a couple of how-to books for independent film producers to learn the terminology and understand the process of producing a film from conception to distribution.
5. Q: Do you write in any other genre besides romantic suspense?
Yes, and thank you for asking. I'm working on a mystery series with romantic and paranormal elements. It takes place on a fictitious Caribbean island. My agent is currently shopping that project. I also have an epic fantasy trilogy and a time travel that I hope to propose soon.
6. Q: What is your writing schedule like?
I have a full-time day job, so my writing takes place in the evenings and weekends. The days are long, but very worth it.
7. Q: Can you tell us what you're working on now?
I would love to. I'm finishing another romantic suspense, On Fire. The release date is September 2007. The hero is a fire investigator. The heroine is an investigative reporter. The two start out as adversaries but, when a string of arsons become a series of murders, they work together to solve the crimes. In the process, they uncover a powerful political machine. It's the first book in a three-book series.
8. Q: Do you have a website or blog?
I have a Web site, www.patriciasargeant.com, and an e-newsletter, Patricia's News. The title is simple and to the point.
9. Q: What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?
Oh, so many. I've recently discovered L.A. Banks's Vampire Huntress series. I'm coming late to the party, but having a good time. I highly recommend the series.
10.Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
If becoming a published author is your dream - don't give up. Work at your craft and write the best story you can. Learn the business side. Writing is an art, but it's also a business. Understand an agent's role, an editor's role, an author's role. Learn about contracts, royalty statements, subsidiary rights. Study the market - what editor at what house is buying what genres? Learn how to market yourself and your work. Never stop learning.
Thank you for this opportunity, Angela. I very much appreciate it.
You're welcome Patricia. Thanks for stopping by!
Monday, October 30, 2006
This week I'll be making my first ever trip to Los Angeles for a conference. Thus far the farthest west I've ever been is Las Vegas. Needless to say I'm really excited, or at least I will be after I get off the plane. I'll also be meeting up with fellow Crime Sistah Pamela Samuels-Young. Pamela and I, along with fellow authors, L.C. Hayden and Kate Flora, will be participating in a panel discussion and group book signing this Saturday, November 4th at 3pm at the following location:
Borders Books and Music #149
100 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
If you live in the area, and are able to come, I'd love to meet you! Also, if you'd like to score a cheap copy of the mass market paperback of The Company You Keep, someone has placed a used copy on eBay. The starting bid is 1 penny, one level above free. The shipping and handling costs more than that! Boy, why didn't they just donate it to thier local library or leave it someplace like a doctor's office or a restaurant so someone else could read it? Oh well, I'll be back to blog about the trip on the eighth. In the meantime, look for an interview with debut author Patricia Sargeant on November 1st!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Brand Name Game
A couple of years ago, chicklit author Carole Mathews was paid by Ford to mention the Ford Fiesta in her books. More recently author Meg Cabot hooked up with Clinique to promote her latest young adult novel. Author Mitch Albom's new book is being sold in Starbucks. Whether people like it or not, I don't think the marriage between books and name brands is going to dissolve any time soon. So why not use it to help sell books? My question is, where are these deals for black authors? Let's face it, the pages of a lot of our books practically drip with high end product name dropping. So, why aren't any black authors inking deals with car manufacturers, cosmetics companies, and designers to help promote their books? Eric Jerome Dickey could ink a deal with Ducati motorcycles for his latest book Chasing Destiny, Zane's erotica novels should be attracting any number of product cross promotion deals from condoms to lingerie, and wouldn't Tamera Gregory's The Passport Diaries have been a perfect gift with purchase for travelers booking European vacations on Travelocity or Expedia? Are black authors, or their publishers, not seeking out these kinds of cross promotions or are they being turned away? Honestly, I'd really love to know. If you have any thoughts or knowledge on this subject, or if you know of any black authors who have made any deals like the ones I've mentioned above, please let me know.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Got this email and thought I'd pass it on. FYI
I am working on the 2007 literary events calendar for Black Issues Book Review magazine. If you're receiving this message, you likely provided information for an event in past years. Please respond with the details for your 2007 event or direct me to the current contact person.
We are looking primarily for events that have a literary focus or a major literary component.
If you are an author, please send me any events you've been invited to as a speaker or presenter (festivals, conferences, workshops). Even if you don't have all of the details, you may know of events that we have not included in the past - I can follow up with the organizers.
Feel free to forward this message widely to other event organizers and authors.
Include "BIBR" in your subject line and please do not send events that occur in 2006 - the calendar will be published in January 2007 and will include events from Jan. - Dec. 2007.
Festival name and theme:Location - city and venue:Date:Brief (50 words) description and highlights (major authors, key literary elements):Web site and email address: Phone number: Ticket price or price range:
Please email the information to: firstname.lastname@example.org by October 13, 2006.
Bernadette Adams Davis407928.email@example.com
If this is something you'd like to do, please tell the world about your schedule. Pamela Samuels-Young is also trolling for members to join Authors of Color, a part of Sisters in Crime. The purpose of the sub-group is to address concerns particular to, you got it, authors of color.
I didn't make any comments re: Bouchercon, except to say that there was a mere trinkle of black folks or, authors of any other color than the non-color, white. Lots and lots of mystery authors, however, and fans, of course.
I have to say I'm still upset re: the non-response from Sisters in Crime re: their promo help via grants for author appearances at book stores. I say we try to use EVERY MEANS AVAILABLE to promote our books. And in truth, black bookstores are in dire need of assistance PERIOD. Promotional monies would help everybody. Sisters in Crime National didn't make the process easy, and although I sent an email to the board re: same, have not heard back since.
Next on my agenda is a mystery convention in Boise, Idaho, Murder in the Grove. The group invites their authors and you don't have to pay a conference fee and in some cases, the group pays authors for leading workshops, etc. You do have to pay for hotel and plane fare.
I sure would like to see more participation of African-American authors at some of these conferences. To let them know we exist. I think our books are not being entered in the Edgar or other Awards to the extent that they should.
Any opinions out there?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Let The Music Play!
Actually, I do understand how she feels, though I didn’t tell her so. To be honest, I don't listen to too much music when I'm writing because I find it too distracting. However, I'm constantly thinking about music when I write. When I'm writing certain scenes I think about what music would be playing in the background. With the exception of my third book, which has tons of movie references, all my books have references to songs in them. In fact, the one thing my character Kendra Clayton and I have in common is our love of music preferably classic soul and seventies funk. My series is set in the nineties. So you won't find any references to any current songs in my books and not even many songs from the nineties. I like it that way because it serves two purposes. (1) I don't have to do any research on what songs were popular in the 90's and (2) By using old song references it makes the time period in my books a little ambiguous, which for some strange reason appeals to me. I can't imagine life without music and often wonder if the absence of music would affect my writing. I hope I never have to find out.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Blogging In Black
The new Blogging In Black blog launched on October 1st and is off to a great start. I'm going to be a regular columnist and will be contributing my two cents on world of publishing and writing on the 19th of each month. The blog has a stellar line-up of folks from the publishing world including debut, veteran, and best-selling fiction and nonfiction authors, agents, and promo people. I you haven't already, please check out Blogging In Black. All of the posts have so far been excellent and thought provoking.
If any of you have a manuscript you'd like critiqued then head on over to eBay. Author Nichelle Tramble is auctioning a full manuscript critique for a great cause. If you're interested I wouldn't wait the auction ends on October 14th.
I was saddened to see this news last week:
ACTRESS TAMARA DOBSON, STAR OF "CLEOPATRA JONES," DIES AT AGE 59
Fashionable Kung Fu Queen of 1970s Blaxploitation Film Was Hollywood's First Black Heroine
Baltimore, MD (BlackNews.com) - Actress Tamara Dobson -- best-remembered for her portrayal of the kung fu-fighting, Afro-wearing, fashion-conscious government super agent Cleopatra Jones -- died Monday of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis in a Baltimore rehabilitation facility. She was 59 years old.
Born May 14, 1947, in Baltimore, Ms. Dobson was a former beautician who earned a degree in fashion illustration from the Maryland Institute of Art. She went on to work as a professional model, appearing in magazines such as Vogue, Essence and Mademoiselle. She also graced the cover of Redbook and posed for a legendary fashion spread in Ebony magazine sporting her signature giant Afro. In addition to appearing in television commercials, she served as the face of Faberge's "Tigress" for several years, and she appeared in ads for both Chanel and Revlon's "Charlie" perfumes.
Ms. Dobson launched her film career in 1972 with a small role in "Fuzz," playing Yul Brynner's girlfriend (the film also starred Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch.) Her big break came in 1973 when she was cast in the title, pioneering role of "Cleopatra Jones," opposite Shelley Winters, Bernie Casey and Antonio Fargas. The film, directed by Jack Starrett, and written and co-produced by actor Max Julien ("The Mack"), introduced the first black super heroine to the silver screen; prior to Ms. Dobson's role, the blaxploitation genre had been distinguished primarily by black males doing battle with the white establishment, crooked cops, drug dealers and pimps. Her character inspired the creation of other tough, black female leads in movies such as "Coffey," "Foxy Brown," "Get Christie Love," and "Black Belt Jones," and Cleopatra Jones was parodied in "Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002), which starred Mike Myers and Beyonce Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra.
In 1975 Ms. Dobson reprised her super spy role in "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold." A federal agent fighting the drug trade in the United States and abroad, her character was often likened to a female version of James Bond, every bit the fierce fighter and fashion maven as the iconic spy. Known for her 3-foot-wide hat brims, colorful garb and flowing fur robes, Cleopatra Jones' penchant for exotic clothing and super-sized Afros inspired mid-1970s fashion trends, including the popular waist-length, leather-trimmed fur jackets.
Boasting measurements of 38-26-39 at the peak of her career, Ms. Dobson, who also trained in martial arts, cut a stunning figure. At 6 feet, 2 inches tall, she was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest leading lady in film.
"She was not afraid to start a trend. She designed a lot of the clothing that so many women emulated. With the knowledge from her degree and her natural creativity, she helped develop elegant fashions, especially for tall women," says Dobson's brother Peter.
Ms. Dobson continued to work throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her film credits include: "Come Back, Charleston Blue" (1972; starring Godfrey Cambridge); "Norman, Is That You?" (1976, starring Redd Foxx and Pearl Bailey); "Murder at the World Series" (1977, starring Lynda Day George); and "Chained Heat" (1983, starring Stella Stevens and Linda Blair). "Amazons," a made-for-TV movie directed by Paul Michael Glaser ("Starsky and Hutch") in 1984, was Dobson's last feature-length film. Her other television roles were on "Jason of Star Command" (during the 1980-81 season) and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (1980, as the evil doctor).
Ms. Dobson lived most of her adult life in New York, where she and tennis legend Arthur Ashe became the first two African-Americans to reside at the exclusive Carnegie House Condominiums at 57th and 6th Streets. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis six years ago.
"It was tough going through that debilitating disease, especially with her athleticism and involvement in karate," Peter Dobson says. "That was something she had to fight, and that fight was horrendous...and being a proud individual, the fight was even harder for her."
"She was the perfect combination of power and kindness," he added.
Ms. Dobson is survived by her brother, Peter, and sister, Darilyn, a model who became known as the Palmer's Cocoa Butter girl. She was also a devoted aunt to her brother's three children: Kaleb, 10; Valyn, 12; and Aaron, 17.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Interview with Claudia Mair Burney!
I had the great pleasure of reading debut author Claudia Mair Burney's MURDER, MAYHEM, AND A FINE MAN this summer. It was a wonderful read and is the first book in her Amanda Bell Brown series. I even featured it on my mystery website, MystNoir. The next book in the series, DEATH, DECEIT AND SOME SMOOTH JAZZ is already available for preorder on Amazon. Don't sleep on this series ya'll. It's a winner! Claudia has graciously consented to be interviewed here on the CrimeSistahs Blog. Welcome Claudia!
1. Q: What appeals to you about writing crime fiction?
I've always been facinated by true crime, even when I was a child I was reading detective magazines. People are amazing. We are capable of such good AND such evil. That blend makes for great drama, and great story.
2. Q: Was it hard for you to get published?
Heavens no! Talk about amazing grace! God dropped the opportunity in my lap. It took me 20 years to prepare for that day, but once I made up my mind to be serious about being a writer, doors flew open in a supernatural way. It was crazy.
3. Q: Describe your sleuth, Amanda Bell Brown, and how you came to create her.
Bell, and I can call her that because I love her, is an everywoman. She's a psychologist--smart, but sometimes she does dumb things. She's loyal, and kind, but definately not a pollyanna. She struggles with the temptations we all struggle with. Sometimes she gets it right, and sometimes she doesn't. And she's got baggage. She's hurting, and a bit self-sabotaging, and sometimes she's the last to know this, but she wants to be good. And she loves God. I totally cheated and made her frightenly autobiographical. I gave her a career I knew something about, and put people around her that were very familiar to me, either people in my life, or my favorite kind of television people.
4. Q: How much research is involved in writing your series?
I do a lot of research about the criminal mind. I also did a lot of forensic science research, mostly through books. I needed more police procedural advice for Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz, book two, so I consulted with the local police. I found it all big fun.
5. Q: Do you write in any other genre besides crime fiction?
One could argue that I wrote in other genres in Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man. There's a big, juicy romance right in the middle of the book, and some would say it's got leanings toward women's fiction as well. I'm working on a romance, and I'm contracted to do a supernatural joint about a teenaged exorcist called The Exorsistah. She's like a Jesus freak Buffy without the vampires.
6. Q: What is your writing schedule like?
Hahahahahahahaha. What's a writing schedule? Girl, I do what I can when I can. I'm all over the place.
7. Q: Can you tell us what you're working on now?
I'm finishing the third book in the Amanda Bell Brown Mystery trilogy. It's called Saints, Suspicions and a Ticking Clock, with NavPress. It's due on the shelves in August of 2007.
8. Q: Do you have a website or blog?
Yes. My personal angst filled blog is ragamuffindiva.blogspot.com, and my writer blog is claudiamairburney.blogspot.com. I've also got a book myspace page: myspace.com/amandabellbrown.
9. Q: What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?
I'm really into Pat Brown's book Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers. Malicious Intent, in the Writer's Digest Howdunit Series is by my bedside, too. It's by Sean Mactire. Understanding the real live criminal is vital for mystery and crime writers. I also recommend a wide range of books in every genre. I read and loved Chasing Francis, recently Ian Morgan Cron. It's a fictional adventure with St. Francis of Assisi. Read about everything that interests you. And I highly recommend spiritual reading, especially if you're knee deep in death. I love Eugene Peterson's The Message, a very contemporary paraphrase of the Bible.
10.Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write! And write the book you'd love to read. Your love and enthusiam will show up in the work. Also, honor your unique voice. I hate boring narrators that sound like anybody could have written it. Write the book you, and only you could write.
Thanks so much for having me, Angela. You are terrific!
Friday, September 22, 2006
Readers: Born or Made?
I've been an avid reader all of my life. Every since I can remember, I've read anything and everything I could get my hands on. My father's an avid reader and people say I get my love of books from him. However, my father and I aren't close. He and my mother divorced when I was nine. I don't recall he and I bonding over books, which has always made me wonder. Was I born a reader? Or was I made a reader? Clearly my love of books and reading comes from someplace. I turned forty this year and my memories of my childhood seem to be getting dimmer with each passing year. But I can remember being in grade school and getting catalogs for books we could order. When the order came my teacher would put the books on our desks while we were at recess. I'd come in and see a small stack of books on my desk, usually including the latest Amelia Bedelia, and feel like a kid at Christmas time. I couldn't wait to dig into those books. I also remember being only one of a few kids in my class who ordered any books. I can remember being tutored in math as a child. I'd meet my tutor in Wittenberg University's Library. My tutor would have to bribe me with a visit to the children's book section to get me to do any work. But I don't remember the first book I ever read. I don't remember who first put a book in my hands. I don't remeber being read to. My mother isn't much of a reader, mainly because of her vision. My middle brother became a reader in his early thirties. My youngest brother only reads magazines and newspapers. I have aunts who are avid readers and all my close friends are readers. So, how does an appreciation of books and reading develop? Thoughts anyone?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I'm Back. . . and with Great News!
Sorry I haven't been around lately. I had a good reason. I was on vacation in Niagara Falls. I've been going up to the falls whenever I need to get away for several years now. I can never get enough of watching all that falling water. I know Niagara Falls has become a cheesy tourist trap but I still love it anyway. I do the Maid of the Mist every time I go. I also love wondering through the shops in the little town of Niagara On the Lake and having tea at the historic Prince of Wales Hotel. Boy, you can sure tell I'm low key. No clubs and bars for me! This year I saw a couple of things I'd never seen: The Totem Pole Park and the Dufferin Islands. I'd advise anyone who plans on visiting to do it soon. Starting in December of 2007 you'll need a passport to visit Canada. A passport costs about a hundred bucks, which might be pricey for those not planning to do any other foreign traveling.
Okay, now for my great news! I know I probably shouldn't announce this until it's a done deal but it's done enough as far as I'm concerned. I got a new deal from my publisher for three more Kendra Clayton mysteries!! I got the news from my agent when I got home from vacation. Can you tell I'm excited? This means there will be at least six Kendra Clayton novels. Of course this also means I have to come up with more trouble for Kendra to get into. But I'm up for the challenge ; ).
Sunday, September 03, 2006
A BOOKSELLER WHO LIKES ME. SHE REALLY LIKES ME!
Well, okay, I'm being a little grandiose. She's not really a bookseller--she's a CRM at Borders in Fairfield. CT., but I have to say she's really on my side. She used to be a nun before, and she really looks like what one would think a nun looks like. Her books tastes are very "catholic." Pun, pun. Anyway, she told me she'd like to have an event night at her bookstore with African American authors, but I guess she doesn't know any that are around in the area that might come.
Anybody out there in the New York City and surrounding area interested in being part of an African American Book Night? She's really terrific. She prepares well, and she gets people to come out. She asked me if I knew authors--I said, no, I don't associate with writers. Ha! Which is half true. I'm only now beginning to meet other authors. And there are so many of us. It seems it'll take a lifetime to become acquainted with everybody current and know something about their work. These days, especially--takes all I can do to focus on MY writing.
I find myself escaping into movies, however. Okay, I know I'm late with this movie too, but I just saw Syriana. I was impressed--another topical film--fiction, but with truths a part of the background that makes me want to grit my teeth! Grrr! Loved Jeffery Wright's performance. Understated, but solid--that boy is good.
Oh yes, I read Monique Truong's Book of Salt, a literary novel. It captured my interest and I'm amazed a young woman can write with such depth. It takes an imagined circumstance-- a closet Vietnamese gay cook in the employ of Gertrude Stein and her partner. "Salt" is a metaphor for many things in the life of this cook. Very interesting. If you want "fast," this won't be the book for you--but it's thoughtful and it'll make you think.
On of these days I'm going to read a Zane book and see what all the hoo-hoo is about. She's really piqued my interest--mostly as a marketing genius. I think she's to be admired, operating in a profession where ain't too many people getting rich--except her and one or two others.
And I'd like to pick apart what "best-selling" means. Everybody declares themselves bestselling, but how many books sold does that translate to? And does that mean the author is making a decent living? Makes me wanna go, hmm...
Okay, signing off. I'll be in Orlando this Friday, SIBA--Southern Independent Booksellers Assn. Trade Show, promoting Down and Dirty, A Landlord's Tale and seeing if I can get any interest in my mass market title to be released soon.
Oh, and to my zillions of fans out there, Hard Luck and Trouble, A Landlord's Tale, will be released Feb. 2007. No, it's not a new book--it's my first one, re-titled and mass marketed. (marketed, is that a word?) Trusting it will reach the audience for whom it's intended--the MASSES--bwa-ha-ha!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Out of My Rabbit's Hole
I've been intensely going at my third novel which seems to be wandering in all directions. I've finally realized I have four stories and that's why it's been so tough. But man, I've got to get out of my rabbit hole. There's a whole world out there.
I missed the film The Constant Gardener when it was playing in the theaters, but I've recently subscribed to netflix--what the heck--I thought I'd try it, and I've been seeing a round of movies, including the abovementioned The Constant Gardener. Hey, I didn't realize it was a John Le Carre invention--I would have flown to the theater to see it. No, he didn't write the screenplay, but he wrote the novel on which the movie is based. I have not kept up with him--and I don't know why that is. Maybe I thought he was deceased. But no, he's still writing! I read the Spy That Came in From the Cold many times and I don't do that that often with books. I also read other books of his--I was hooked, and then I dropped off his radar--so I was shocked when I learned he wrote that book. Sometimes I'm just so unaware. Angela mentioned the good news news, which is great--but often I just skip the news--it's too depressing and I often know nothing of what's going on in the world. But of course, people are going to tell you anyway. They can't help it. It's social--what happened in the news today. A conversation starter. A cab ride conversation. An opener on a date.
Now, of course, I have to get the book and read it. Which is totally backwards for me. No one sees the movie first and reads the book. Do they? Except me. But I'm dying to read it. A thriller with the premise of how American drug companies used African countries and their people as guinea pigs for drug testing and cover up the evidence of deaths and dying. Reminiscent of the syphillis testing in the U.S.
Greed, greed, that's what fuels this country! I don't get a good feeling about being an American as I used to. Those first pictures of troops in Afganistan and the first acts of running to the oil fields to keep them intact has stayed with me quite a long time, no matter what patriotic rhetoric is being blown up my ass.
Well, I certainly didn't mean to go there, but hey, that's what blogs are for, n'est-ce pas?
I'm going to be with my girl Pamela Samuels-Young at Bouchercon--a first for both of us. Pamela told me she'll be trying to re-start the defunct Authors of Color sub-group of Sisters in Crime. I think it could be useful to start a group like that--only because our publishing problems take on a different color--no pun intended. The character of the problems are a little different, I think. Or maybe not, perhaps it's just the different publishing houses and different philosophies of publishing. I'd like to hear other authors of color comment about that.
We've talked before about how the new African American lines within the various publishing houses have a different "flavah" now as opposed to days of old, different product, etc.
Okay, shutting up now. Until next time.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Same Name Game
Have any of you been noticing lately how many books have the same title? I was flipping through the September issue of Ebony magazine and saw that Walter Mosley's new Paris Minton/Fearless Jones novel will be out next month and is called Fear of the Dark. The title sounded so familiar. Then I remembered that another mystery writer, Gar Anthony Haywood's debut mystery, which introduced his stellar private eye Aaron Gunner, was also called Fear of the Dark.
Currently, I'm listening to the audio book for Jonathan Kellerman's latest Alex Delaware mystery called Gone, earlier this summer I listened to the audio book for Lisa Gardner's thriller also called Gone. As a matter of fact, I'm currently working on a thriller that was tentatively titled Gone. I've since changed the title.
Remember last summer when two books called Bliss were published? One by Danyel Smith and the other by Fiona Zedde? Two completely different books but with one thing in common. The female main characters of both books escape to an island paradise to seek answers to the problems plaguing their lives. And four years ago an author named Garbrielle Pina wrote a mystery also called Bliss. Don't know if an island was featured in that one.
Both of my books, The Company You Keep and Tangled Roots, share titles with other books. Author Neil Gordon's The Company You Keep was published in 2003 and is a about an ex sixties militant who's new identity is uncovered and goes on the lam for a long ago bank robbery. Mystery writer Taffy Cannon's book Tangled Roots was published in 1995 and is the second book in her series featuring trial lawyer Nan Robinson.
My editor came up with the title The Company You Keep, which was originally The Pleasure of His Company, and I came up with Tangled Roots, which had originally been The Braider's Tale. The original title for my third book, which is about the murder of an actress, was One Dead Diva. My editor thought it was too harsh so it was changed to Diva's Last Curtain Call. Personally, I suck when it comes to thinking up book titles. I wonder what authors and publishers would do if book titles were copyrighted? I guess we'd be forced to think more creatively.
Angela ; )
Friday, August 18, 2006
Sleepy Blog Round Up
I'm dog tired this morning. I got very little sleep last night. I woke up to use the bathroom and discovered the bathroom floor flooded. A leak had sprung under the bathroom sink. I cleaned up the mess, switched off the water, and put something under the pipe to catch any left over water figuring that would do until I could call a plumber this morning. Guess what? It flooded three more times! @#$&! Too tired to blog. So, here's what's going on other more awake people's blogs. Enjoy!
Author Monica Jackson has started three new blogs highlighting books and authors. One for black fiction called Books in Black, one for women's fiction, and one for paranormal fiction. Monica highlighted yours truly on Books in Black earlier this week ; ).
The BackList Blog has a good discussion about writers using MySpace to promote their work.
More on authors and MySpace on Media Bistro.
Literary Diva Rhonda Swan's latest blog entry discusses former Iraq POW Shoshana Johnson's new book deal.
Dr. Jelani Cobb will be doing an upcoming Q & A on author Tayari Jones's blog discussing his article in the September issue of Essence magazine on the growing number African-American men making trips to Brazil for secret sex vacations. There is also a link to Dr. Cobb's interview on NPR. Secret sex trips? Sounds like a great premise for a thriller doesn't it?
More Than Words, AOL's Black Voices.com Book Blog, features an interview with best-selling author Karen Quinones Miller.
The Budget Fashionista's latest blog entry discusses two things I thought I'd never hear together in a sentence: Payless and designer. Yes, Payless is launching a new line of designer shoes.
Los Angeles based literary agent Mondella Jones has launched a new blog called MJ in LA.
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Behold The Good News!
I don't know about everyone else but the constant barrage of bad news is really getting me down. War, Death, Famine, Natural Disasters. I mean it's gotten so that I've been avoiding the news on TV altogether and everytime I click on CNN.com I cringe wondering what fresh hell I'm about to see and read about. So, I decided to go on a hunt for some good news. Below are the outlets that report good news. Some are even looking for good news to report or link to. So, if you have any, by all means let them know.
Good News Now
Good News Broadcast
Good News Network
Good News Blog
Good News Garage
And as for good news on the book front, I finished revisions on my third book, DIVA'S LAST CURTAIN CALL! YEAH!!
Friday, August 04, 2006
Location Location Location
I happened to be making the blog rounds the other day and came upon discussion about black book segregation in bookstores on author Monica Jackson's new blog Books in Black. I was reading the visitor comments on this particular post and saw one that made my jaw drop. A reader named Katiem shared her experience with going to Border's to buy my latest book Tangled Roots. I won't post her comment word for word. You can read it here (scroll to the bottom) if you'd like. Long story short, Katiem easily found Tangled Roots in the black book section of Borders, which was no big surprise to me. I knew my books were shelved in the black book section. The thing that was so disheartening to me was when she said she went to the mystery section to see if my books were shelved there as well. Not only were my books not shelved in the mystery section, which again was no big surprise to me, but she goes on to say that there were a lot of black readers in the mystery section buying mysteries by white authors, which tells me black mystery lovers are NOT going to the black book section to look for mysteries. Why?
Is it just a lack of awareness of black mystery writers? Is it a belief that mysteries by black writers can't be as good as their white counterparts? Or is it simply that readers black and white assume that the only place to find mysteries in a bookstore is in the MYSTERY section? I'd love to think it's mainly the latter. So, I decided to do a little research to see if ALL mysteries by black mystery writers are shelved in the black book section. I limited my search to Borders. I went to Borders.com because you can not only search store inventory to see what Borders stores carry a particular book but you can see what section the book is shelved in.
Here's what I found:
The following books were listed as being shelved in the Mystery Section of Borders
Cinnamon Kiss By Walter Mosley
Dying in the Dark By Valerie Wilson Wesley
Strange Bedfellows By Paula Woods
Chosen People By Karen Grigsby Bates
A Dark and Deadly Deception By Eleanor Taylor Bland
Blood on the Leaves By Jeff Stetson
The Following Books were listed as being shelved in the African-American section of Borders
Down and Dirty By Gammy Singer
Every Reasonable Doubt By Pamela Samuels-Young
Tangled Roots By Angela Henry
Plain Brown Wrapper By Karen Grigsby Bates
Ghosts of Saint-Michel By Jake Lamar
The Other Brother by Brandon Massey
As you can see, not all books by black mystery writers are being segregated. The question now is why are some black mysteries segregated and not others? Is it the publisher? Gammy, Pamela, Brandon and I are published by black imprints. Gammy and Brandon write for Kensington's Dafina, while Pamela and I both write for Harlequin's Kimani Press. So, at first, I thought maybe it was writing for a black imprint that landed us in the black section. But that can't be the only reason because Jake Lamar writes for St. Martin's Press' Minotaur Books, which is not a black imprint and Karen Grigsby Bates writes for Harper Collins' Avon, also not a black imprint. Also strange is the fact that Karen Grigsby Bates' first book, Plain Brown Wrapper, can be found in the AA section BUT her second book, Chosen People, is shelved in the mystery section. So then I looked at the cover art thinking maybe that was the reason for where our books were getting shelved.
The cover for Plain Brown Wrapper is brown with an illustration of a black woman. Chosen People is just a plain pink cover with title and author, no people of any color. So, is it a cover with a black person on it that determines where books are shelved? Again, I'll point out Jake Lamar. His new book Ghosts of Saint-Michel also has no people on the cover yet his book is listed as being shelved in the AA section. And as a matter of fact, Walter Mosley's Cinnamon Kiss HAS a black woman on the cover and is listed as being in the mystery section. As you can see, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where books get shelved. But I do feel a little better realizing black readers are going to the mystery section and being exposed to at least some black mystery writers. But they still aren't finding my books and I'm really at a loss as to what to do about it ; (.
On a more positive note, Black Issues Book Review Magazine named Tangled Roots as one of the best Summer Reads of 2006! And for those of you who live in the Minneapolis area, I'm going to be profiled in Insight News. I think it might be in today's issue but I'm not sure. If you see it let me know.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Where did June Go?
Summer is slipping by much too fast for me. And it's been a while since I've blogged. Yikes. First, let me report about the Harlem Book Fair. Such a dark and gloomy day with "intermittent" deluges! I popped about in two places. I joined my publisher's booth for signing and free giveaways of my book. I was happy to see people accepted them, even though they looked at me warily. Like, there had to be a catch!
That went fine, and then I popped back to join my Harlem Writers Guild
set. Confusion, confusion, everywhere, and not one drop to drink. Book vendors were playing musical chairs. A vendor had taken over our booth--I was afraid blows would be exchanged by some of our more passionate members. Me, I was repeating, "Can't we all just get along?" while I watched people with foam on their mouths.
The end result? We shared a booth, which I suggested in the beginning but no one listened to me. The staff of Harlem Book Fair couldn't resolve it because they had given the nestors permission to nest in our paid-for area. I don't want to resort to the old--mah peoples, mah peoples, but there were aspects of coordinating and organization that sorely needed more attention. You would think after seven years they would get it together. The good news? Thousands of African-American brothers and sisters (and others) visited 135th Street between 5th-7th Avenues to a plethora of book vendors. I personally passed out about 500 postcards and sold quite a few books. It has quite a carnivale atmosphere, but there were books on sale of all kinds.
The Harlem Writers Guild now is a participating publisher through I-Universe, and several of the members had their books published and ready for sale that day. People came in droves--although I suspect during the latter part of the day the "illiterates" came. I even got--"Who me? Naw, I don't read." I just blessed them and wondered why they even came. I don't want to stereotype and say it was the younger crowd out cruising cuz there were some old dudes and dames who came to eat? for the music? and because they were curious, I guess.
It is quite something though, to see that many black people foraging for books. Remarkable. Love it.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's Forty!
ME! Well, today's the day. The big four oh. People keep asking me, "So, how does it feel to be forty?" My answer is, "I feel just fine, thank you." I always wonder if people expect me to say I've fallen into a deep depression and am currently under suicide watch, or I'm about to have a plastic surgery overhaul. No such luck I'm afraid. I never could understand why people get so freaked out over getting older. I guess there are a lot of things I could be depressed about if I let myself, such as no romantic prospects anywhere in sight, or the fact that my sixth grade teacher, Mrs Calabreze's, horoscope for our class--the one that predicted I'd be a wealthy man's wife, with a diamond stud in my nose, and driving a red sports car--hasn't even remotely come close to coming true, at least not yet, or that the only parts of my body that are still a size seven are my feet. But, I won't go there. Instead, I choose to think about how many people love me and how I've managed to arrive at 40 in relatively good health body, mind, and spirit. And not to mention having become a published author, which is no mean feat. So, for me, turning forty is no big deal. Today is just like any other day. . . but with cake and presents, of course ; ).
Friday, July 21, 2006
Since everyone seems to be doing summer reading lists, I thought I’d add my own to the pile. The following books are either what I’ve recently read, am currently reading, or planning to read.
Ghosts of Saint-Michel By Jake Lamar-I loved this book! This is the second thriller by the talented Lamar to be set in Paris. This time the story is centered on Marva Dobbs, an African-American ex-pat who owns a successful soul food restaurant and has established herself as the grand dame of black Paris. The sixtyish, married, and still gorgeous Marva finds herself in peril when her much younger lover, and sous chef, is accused of being a terrorist and disappears.
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse-This book was awesome but not for the faint of heart. It’s a long book and filled with a lot of detail some of which causes the plot to move at a snails pace. All in all I really enjoyed this alternate story of the quest for the Holy Grail seen through the eyes of two women separated by 800 years.
Murder, Mayhem, and Fine Man By Claudia Mair Burney-I really enjoyed this debut mystery which introduces forensic psychologist Amanda Bell Brown. This book has it all: mystery, humor, suspense, romance, religion, and a heroine you will fall in love with. Look for an upcoming interview with author Claudia Mair Burney here on the Crime Sistahs Blog!
Twelve Sharp By Janet Evanovich-Always good for a laugh, I look forward to reading the new Stephanie Plum book every summer. This new installment doesn’t disappoint and continues the never ending saga of who will she pick: Ranger or Morelli? I know who I’d pick!
Chosen People By Karen Grigsby Bates-I’ve been looking forward to the second book in the Alex Powell series ever since the release of the first book, Plain Brown Wrapper, five years ago. This time Alex is looking into the death of a controversial author.
Dope By Sara Gran-I loved Sara Gran’s novel Come Closer and figured I’d give this one a try. I loved the book even though the ending made me mad enough to throw the book across the room. I won’t say any more. Read it yourself and let me know what you think.
The Long Mile By Clyde W. Ford-This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. I was fortunate enough to snag copies of it and the sequel Deuces Wild at BEA this year. The Long Mile is the first book in the Shango mysteries and introduces former police detective John Shannon.
On the book front, Tangled Roots will be featured this Monday July 24th( the day before my birthday) by the Shades of Romance Book Club.
Shades of Romance Book Club sends members emails of book excerpts by established and up and coming authors twice a week. You have to subscribe to receive the excerpts and members will have a chance to win copies of featured books.
To join the book club send an email to:
Thursday, July 13, 2006
When Opportunity Knocks
I constantly get asked advice by aspiring writers about the best way to go about getting published. I honestly don't know what to tell them. All I can do is share my own experience, which may or may not be helpful. But one piece of advice I can give is that whether you approach a publisher directly, or decide to try and get a literary agent to represent you, it always looks good to have some writing credits to your name. Whether it be from having contributed to an anthology, or winning a writing contest, or writing a column for an online publication, writing credits are writing credits and you need to let any editor or agent you approach know about them.
When I was shopping for a publisher I was able to list the honorable mention I won in Ebony magazine's annual writing contest, a short story I contributed to an anthology, and a column I wrote for a writing newsletter as my writing credits in my query letter. Ultimately, it was the chapters I sent that sold my editor on my book. But I believe listing those writing credits made me sound a bit more legitimate and piqued her curiosity enough to make her want to take a look at my chapters and not pitch them in the recyling bin. So, I've listed some excellent writing opportunities below that I hope some of you will be able to take advantage of.
St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic Contest-This is a great contest. The winner receives a book contract!
African-American Romance Anthology-Don't be thrown by the romance element. The guidelines state you can mix romance with many types of elements. So, dust off that sci-fi romance and send it in!
Writer's Digest Writing Contests-Writer's Digest magazine sponsors several annual writing contests. Currently they are seeking submissions for short stories and popular fiction.
Holiday Crime Fiction Anthology-Proceeds for this go to charity. No monetary compensation but you get a byline and a copy of the anthology.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I don't really have anything to blog about today. So, I thought I'd give you all an update on the interesting things other authors, with much more to talk about than me, are blogging about.
Tayari Jones always has something insighful to share on her blog. Her latest entry is an essay on the whole rappers vs Oprah issue by Spelman College professor Jelani Cobb.
Nichelle Tramble was nice enough to invite me to participate in the Q & A series on her blog this past Friday. I think it's still posted.
Monica Jackson is debating on whether blogging sells books. She's got a nice reply from author MJ Rose posted.
MJ Rose's recent blog post lists the winners of the first annual Thriller Awards at this past week's first Thrillerfest.
Literary Diva Rhonda Swan gives some excellent advice to those wanting to self-publish in her latest blog entry.
Sharon Cullars asks "Do you know your American history?" in her recent blog entry and also offers the first chapter of a work-in-progress.
Over at Murderati, Naomi Hirahara discusses her technophobic ways.
Lolita Files's latest entry on the Lo Zone discusses the irony of Ken Lay's death from a heart attack. She's also posted the official movie poster for Snakes On A Plane.
On her Politopics blog Angela Winters discusses how uppity black folks make good book material.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Bryant Park Reading Room
Wednesday was a glorious day--really, it was. What with all the rain in New York and surrounds, I bet you think I'm lying, but no... Rain clouds threatened, but we managed to stay dry in the park even though it was terribly muggy. The "Reading Room" is really an outside venue in a park with books available for all the park people who sit there during their lunch hour. They munch and read the books for free.
The occasion was a panel discussion of female mystery writers which I moderated. It was the first time that I've done that job and I must say it was made pleasant by the panelists that were assembled: Carol Goodman, Laura Lippman, Cynthia Baxter, and Sandra Scoppetone. I fielded them questions--and they ran with it--piece of cake--kinda'- sorta'. They did very well. Range of their writing is incredible.
Sandra is known to be one of the 100 Masters of Crime Fiction and writes a kind of nostalgic hard-boiled crime fiction and broke ground early in her career with a lesbian PI who went about her day to day affairs without all the angst usually associated with gay characters.
Laura Lippman, a former reporter from Baltimore has won every mystery award imaginable with her books with her heroine PI Tess Monaghan and she contributed one of the best questions re: our responsibilities as crime fiction writers.
Cynthia Baxter, president of the Tri-State/NY Chapter of Sisters in Crime, presented intelligent comments about the "cozy" genre and we became acquainted with her amateur sleuth, veternarian Jessica Popper.
Carol Goodman is also a mega award winner and her category of fiction is literary suspense--all of her books thus far allude to "water." Interesting. Her husband also writes the poetry that is often included in her books.
Gives one a warm feeling to be among women with such intelligence, warmth and charm. I'd do it again in a NY minute--it was that pleasureable. Hmm..have I spelled pleasureable correctly?
One sour note--not really--I was concentrating so much on the other authors I don't think I described my own book to great effect. Well, my turn next time.
Plus, no matter how I try to disguise it, as a actor, I still like to jump up in front of people. And contrary to some other authors, I loooove to read my stuff--I love to read other people's stuff. Hey, I love to perform!
A year ago, I was sitting on a panel next to a much admired author (who shall be nameless) and we were all asked to read our stuff. Good for me, bad for some others. The person was such a good writer, but wasn't doing justice to her material and the audience had zoned out--I wanted to snatch the book out of the author's hands and read it myself! It left me trembling. If I ever do a workshop for writers I think it will be, "How to Read in Public." Think I'll get any takers?
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I’m writing from the dry, hot, but beautiful city of Phoenix. I’m here attending the first annual International Thriller Writers Conference. I’ll be speaking on a panel tomorrow afternoon along with four other much more experienced writers. The title of our panel is Beyond Good and Evil.
I’m looking forward to the discussion because I love writing evil characters. As a reader, I like rooting for the underdog, but I really love waiting and hoping that the evil character gets what he or she deserves.
During my book tour, people often asked if the character David in my novel Every Reasonable Doubt, was patterned after someone I actually worked with. Thank God no! I've worked with my share of annoying attorneys over the years, but no one as conniving as David. I had to hype him up a bit for literary enjoyment.
I’ll touch bases with you after tomorrow’s panel and let you know how it goes.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Observations On New Orleans
I won't tell you about the ALA Convention. I was supposed to sign books but my books were MIA ; (. So, I had nothing to sign and was more than a little put out about it. Don't know what happened. My guess is that they're floating around in some postal nether region between New York and New Orleans. I'm still investigating. But enough about that. New Orleans! What a city. Here's what I observed.
1. You can walk just about anyplace you want to go in the city, which is what I did.
2. The French Quarter is really, really old but still quite charming. It kind of reminded me of an old woman who you can tell used to be really beautiful. You walk down the streets of the French Quarter and you can not only see the history but feel it, too. I know it sounds strange but it's true.
3. Bourbon Street smells like vomit. If you ever go, avoid stepping in any puddles. Was told more than once that it's probably not water.
4. Customer service in the restaurants rocks! I mean it. The servers bend over backwards to make sure you have everything you need.
5. Don't know how I've survived thus far without ever having had a muffuletta or beignets!
6. Spent a little too much time here. But left with more than I came with!
7. If you're looking for a fun inexpensive way to kill a couple of hours and find out fascinating facts about the city, I highly recommend doing this. I also recommend booking online to save a few bucks.
8. Spending most of my time in the French Quarter, I didn't see much of any of the devastation left behind by Katrina. But Sunday night in my hotel I tried to take a shower, turned on the water, and only got a brown trickle. The next morning while waiting for the airport shuttle, I overheard a plumber telling the hotel clerk that the problem was the water and gas mains which were still suffering the effects of Katrina.
9. Okay, one little thing about the convention. Got a chance to meet a librarian from this library who told me they are always looking for authors to come do talks. So, I guess you can figure where I'm planning to go next year!
10. Everybody was so grateful to have people back in the city spending money and supporting the local businesses and I was happy to be there. Can't wait to go back.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Ministers + Groupies = Trouble
Boy, what was it about ministers that made women swoon? Was it the power, the glory, the closeness to God? Maybe they were trying to get closer to heaven.
Kendra Clayton, TANGLED ROOTS pg 159.
The July issue of Essence magazine features an article by Michelle Burford called Caught Up in the Rapture: Confessions of a Church Groupie. The title instantly conjured up an image of a flashily dressed preacher rockin the pulpit, much like a rapper rockin the mic, with scantily clad women in big hats swooning all around him. The article is about women who purposefully go after ministers the way groupies go after professional athletes and musicians. One woman in particular had an affair with her married minister only to be discarded and fired from her job at the church when she becomes pregnant by her minister lover. It also discusses why women become attracted to ministers and why ministers sometimes succumb to the charms of female parishioners. This article could have easily been about some of the characters in Tangled Roots, namely handsome and charismatic Reverend Morris Rollins, a minister so attractive to women he has to practically beat them off with a stick.
While reading the article, I was surprised at how accurate I was about when these little hook-ups occurprivate meetings after church usually in the guise of some kind of counseling. Yeah, uh huh. I even made mention of such meetings in Tangled Roots. But I never gave much thought as to why such affairs happen, other than simple poor judgment and loose morals. But after reading the article, I now I have a little better understanding of why these affairs take place, thought it still seems to me that anyone with good sense should know better. But, then again what do I know? What's that saying? You know the one about before judging someone you should walk a mile thier shoes, or in this case, high heeled fuck me pumps ; ).
Anyway, I'm off to New Orleans this weekend. See ya next week!
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
NOLA Here I Come!
This weekend I'll be in New Orleans for the American Library Association's annual conference. But even though I work in a library, I'm not attending the conference as a librarian. I'm attending as a writer. I'll be signing copies of TANGLED ROOTS at the Sisters In Crime booth Sunday morning. So, if you're attending the conference, please stop by say hi and get your free autographed copy of TANGLED ROOTS.
I've been wanting to go to New Orleans for years. Now that I'm getting a chance to go, I have mixed feelings. I'm still excited to be going. But, in the wake of Katrina, it's more a of a quiet subdued excitement. Because the New Orleans I've been wanting to visit doesn't exist anymore. Still, I plan to do a lot of sightseeing(Haunted Walking Tour) and of course eating(beignets at the Cafe du Monde!). And even have a drink or two or three. As for the conference, I'll try not to load myself down with books and stuff. It won't be easy but I'll try.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The sun will come out tomorrow...
"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day..." Shakespeare
"Don't put off tomorrow..." Anon? (But it sounds like something Ben Franklin would say.)
"Tomorrow is as fragile/ as a sheer curtain pulled tight/ Any old dog/who comes along/can put his paw/through it." Carol Connelly "No Vacancy," Payments Due
Today I wrote a paragraph--A PARAGRAPH! I hope I do better tomorrow. Oh, tomorrow I'm singing with my choir in concert. We have to get there for a sound check at 3:00pm, and I have to get my nails done, my hair washed.
Okay, the day after that, I'm really buckling down... See--I don't have a contract deadline staring at me. Makes all the difference, I think. Ugh, this book is choking me. Aaaaargh...
Monday, June 12, 2006
Then there were people who read about me in the newspaper write-up I got earlier in the week and people who read my first book and wanted to get the second. The thing that was even more amazing to me was that more than half the people bought two books! My first book AND my new book. I was so humbled. So blown away by all the support.
One of the people I met at the signing was a man named Michael Gilbert, who is an aspiring author, who even brought his digital camera and was nice enough to take pictures of the party. Thanks Michael! I also did a radio interview on WULM a local station Saturday morning. I felt like quite the celebrity. The bookstore staff was amazing and everything went smoothly. But we did have tons of food left over. But I'm not complaining! I had a wonderful time. If only all booksignings could be that fun.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I'm making final preparations for my book launch this Saturday at B Daltons. I had a book launch for my first book but it was a small private affair with family and friends. This time around it will be open to the public and I'm worried there will be either too much or too little food. I'm also worried no one will show up. Then again, I'm worried people will show up, eat up all the food, and not buy any books. Or show up, not eat or buy any books. Or worse yet, show up, pelt me with rotten fruit, call me names, and run me off the premises. Okay, I know that won't happen. I hope. Seriously, I do feel like and eighth grader worried that no one will come to my sleep over.
I did get a nice write up in my hometown paper the Springfield News-Sun the other day. But a newspaper article doesn't guarantee people will come to a signing. I watched Kathy Griffin's show "My Life On The D-List" last year and remember an episode where she was promoting her latest comedy DVD. She was going to be signing copies of it at either Tower Records or Virgin Mega store in New York and did a ton of press: The View, Leno, some radio interviews, etc. So how many people showed up to her signing after doing all that high profile press? Eleven people. Eleven! Of course it could have all been staged just to prove that she truly is on the D-list. I'll let you know how the party goes. But hey, if no one shows up maybe I can have my own reality show: Angela Henry "My life on the Z-List".
Sunday, June 04, 2006
With the release of my first novel, Every Reasonable Doubt, just four months behind me, I’m amazed at all I have learned since achieving my goal of being a published author. Here are my top three lessons learned.
1. Authors have to be self-promoters. I didn’t think much about the marketing aspect of the book business. I simply figured that my novel would hit stores and fly off the shelves. I now know that many good books can flounder without the right push.
2. People are amazing. I have met incredibly supportive individuals who have encouraged me, publicized my books to their family and friends, set up book signing appearances for me and served as my personal cheerleaders. These strangers-turned-friends have made this journey more than worth it.
3. Finding time to write is much, much harder. All the legwork that is required to promote a book can tremendously interfere with your writing time. I try not to gripe about this too much since I would much rather be a published author with little time to write than an unpublished author with lots of time to write.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Since today is the official release day for my second Kendra Clayton mystery, TANGLED ROOTS, I've decided to mark the occasion with a contest. The winner will receive a $20.00 Amazon gift certificate. Simply click the link below to read an excerpt of Tangled Roots and answer the following questions:
1. What street does Kendra live on?
2. Who is waiting for Kendra when she gets home?
3. Why wasn't Kendra feeling very hospitable?
4. What gives Kendra comfort during stressful times?
5. What does Kendra ask her visitor before she agrees to help?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 16, 2006. I'll pick a winner at random from all the correct entries.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
My first wake-up call that I was growing older was in Florida. I was in Saratoga, doing a play, Having Our Say, ( and already feeling old because of it--those wrinkles I was painting on my face every night had begun grooves all upside my face--I no longer had to look for the lines!)--Well, anyway, I was sitting in Denny's and they asked if I wanted the senior breakfast? I was too shocked at first. I thought, I look like I'm 65! Oh, I've got to stop doing this damn play--immediately. I was living the part--oh no! Well, turns out you only have to be 55 in Florida to qualify as a senior citizen and they have quite a few senior citizens all over Florida.
Sad to say, I qualified as a senior in Florida, so I munched on my senior breakfast--glad for a deal!
I'm having a birthday soon, June 11th--let us all bow our heads and mourn another year's passing. Don't even ask how old I am.
News on the writing front. I still haven't finished my third book! But I got reviewed by a writing student, no less, and was sent a review. Ha! My writing was deemed "literary fiction" and the author thought teens should be assigned my book, especially as it has wonderful discussion questions in the back of the book. He described it as a combination of "Ralph Ellison, Quentin Tarantino, and Elmore Leonard writing a novel in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson." Now, I ask you, does that make a person's day or not!
The reality is, my publisher and others want to categorize it as urban fiction--which, to some minds, is one step up from the trash heap. One mystery reviewer looked at the cover and flipped through it, noting some "rough language" and, swear to God, in her review wrote, "I must apologize to the author,"--she had decided, pre-read, it was not her cup of tea. After, of course, she said she loved it, but then, not everyone would read a book after that initial judgment. And it's funny, too, because I just read a book by Laura Lippman that, I think, has many of the same elements as my books, but of course, she's not considered an "urban writer." Makes you go, hmmm....
By the way, if any of you are in New York June 28th, I'm moderating a panel of female mystery writers, different styles and genres, in the Word for Word series in Bryant Park at noon. Laura Lippman, Cynthia Blair, Sandra Scoppetone and Carol Goodman. The lil' tete-a-tete is being sponsored by Sisters in Crime, NY-Tri-State Chapter. Hope to see some of you there. Oh, and I'll be in Brooklyn, June 15th at Barnes and Noble on Court Street, 7 pm.
Oh, and I have to give a big smackeroo to John Hanson from Texas, host of Black America Radio, who re-ran a radio interview of me --'cuz some people looked me up from Tennessee. If one can't physically visit places to meet and greet fans and potential readers, it's good that there are people like John Hanson who spread the word with his excellent programming.