Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Not Published Yet

People who know me well, like my mama, remember that when I was a little girl I was a big Diana Ross fan. I didn’t want to just be like Diana Ross, I wanted to be Diana Ross: the hair, the voice, the glamorous persona. I bought almost all of her albums and watched as many of her HBO specials that mama would allow me to see. I still even have a Diana Ross fashion doll, complete with disco-era evening gowns and shoes. I loved her style.

As a writer, it’s taken me a while to develop and believe in my own style, my own voice, without worrying about whether my writing is as good as other authors that I admire. It’s more important for me to study the craft of writing so that I can tell my own stories well, rather than trying to imitate someone else. I had to find out who I was as a writer, which I like to call the art of discovery.

Things I’ve discovered in the process:

If there are no words on the page, there is no story, hence there is no voice. Fleshing out a story idea takes time. The first draft may not be the best draft, but at least it’s a start to the journey.

Only talking about writing a story does not create book. Writing a story creates a book. (see paragraph above)

Writers must use time wisely. Whether you have 15 minutes in the morning before everyone else in the house wakes up or you have 30 minutes at lunch, use that time to be creative. Even if you only get one or two sentences written, that’s still forward motion.

Writers read. It’s essential to expose yourself to good writing in a variety of genres, whether it’s the classics or contemporary writing.

Writers embrace their creative gifts, even when those gifts are still in the process of being molded and shaped.

I encourage other writers to seek out your own voice, your special expression. Only you can give your view of the world, your testimony. Nobody can tell your story like you can.

Tell the story that God gave you.

About the Author

Veronica Fields Johnson is a freelance writer, trivia buff, game show enthusiast and avid reader. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and the President of the Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta, formerly Visions in Print. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two daughters and is currently working on her first novel.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interview with author, Xavier Knight

Today I welcome back C. Kelly Robinson, known by the nick-name Chet to Urban Christian Fiction Today. Chet writes under the pen name Xavier Knight, and he's released his second Christian Fiction title, God Only Knows.

Chet summarize this book in one sentence for us. God Only Knows shows how lifelong friends come together and face down the consequences of a violent act they committed as teenagers.

What is the spiritual takeaway of this book?
The book shows how standing on Christian faith, trusting in the friends God places around you, and telling the truth can free you from shackles of fear and secrecy.

Ah, there’s fear again. You mentioned it in your last interview for your novel, The Things We Do For Love. Why is the main thread between both your novels fear? How fear affects not only the way we live, but our loved ones quality of life. (If fear plays any role in your life - fear of losing your job or of not being able to find another one in this economic crisis, fear of your or your family's security, or fears of your past coming back to haunt you in some way - this book is for you.)

I’ll ask this again for those that haven’t read your last interview. Why did you use a pen name? Has it affected your readership?
The pen name was my publisher's idea, to better attract Christian fiction readers who might not want to read books by a formerly "secular" author. Frankly I think it has kept some of my old fan base, most of whom would still enjoy these books, from finding me as easily.

Can you tie God Only Knows with a popular topic affecting urban Christian society today? One popular topic is the divide we see nationally right now between right-wing Christians and minorities (and most of the country for that matter). The Christian Light school system that Julia and Cassie grew up in was based on a school system I grew up in, one which is a perfect example of the culture that eventually grew into the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family-type groups that put George Bush into office. GOD ONLY KNOWS shows the toll that such cultures can take on African-American and other minority children raised amidst these heavily religious, often racially prejudiced environments.

Why did you choose to discuss multiculturalism in this novel and what is its relevance to today's Christian? Another popular topic that the book can tie to is the Obama family, in at least two ways. First, the role that interracial dating (still somewhat of a taboo in the eyes of many Black women, even those who are now thankful that it happened between Barack's parents) plays in Julia's relationship with Maxwell. The Obama election at least indicates that people 40 and younger are now very comfortable with interracial dating and its taboo is lessening. Julia even concludes ultimately that she has no grounds for holding Maxwell's past interracial relationship (or his biracial daughter) against him, but that she needs to overcome the self-esteem blows she took from years of being told that "light is right" and "long is right, short is wrong" when it comes to hair.

The second tie to the Obama family news-wise is the growing popularity of the Obama girls. Malia and Sasha may be on the way to truly making "Black beautiful" in the eyes of the mainstream pop culture - already they are being recruited to show up on the "High School Musical" type shows and Hollywood is trying to cast actresses and models who look like them, in order to hold them up as role models for girls of ALL races. This is major, and perhaps means that Julia and Cassie's daugthers may grow up without all of the same baggage about their looks that was enforced on their mothers by the Christian Light school culture.

Who is Chet Kelly? What defines you as a Christian artist?
I am not the fast-talking, entertainer-masquerading-as-author type. I am an "artist," a real writer currently focused on commercial fiction but interested in writing deeper/more challenging books eventually. I love my wife, daughter and new baby on the way and am generally nice guy.

Do women readers embrace nice guys, who write stories that aren't filled with drama, but meaning? I think they do, though admittedly drama sells! I definitely get my share of encouragement and thanks from women who enjoy reading books that provide some entertainment but go beyond that. When people tell me that something I wrote encouraged them in their daily life struggles o r their faith walk, that's a great reward.

Chet, what do you know that you know? I know that I know that I need God in my life - that apart from that power source I am capable of falling just as far as the next person. I know that my wife, children, parents and brothers love me and have my back and that the emotions are fully mutual. I'm even blessed to have a handful of friends about whom I can say the same.

How can readers contact you Chet? Through my website at http://www.ckellyrobinson.com/ or at ckrob7071@aol.com. You may also learn more about him from his last interview on UCFT at http://www.urbanchristianfictiontoday.com/2008/11/author-interview-xavier-knight.html

God Only Knows is available wherever books are sold and online at Amazon.com, BN.com, and various other online book sellers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Welcome - APOOO

As you know, we live in a time when you can just about anything virtually. Email, chat rooms, wireless technology...all make it possible for you to connect with people with mere tap on a keyboard or keypad. In recognition of that, this month's book club feature introduces a "virtual" book club: APOOO Books. I interviewed the clubs' founder and president, Yasmin Coleman, and she shared how they get things done virtually.

Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Yasmin. Tell us about APOOO. APOOO (A Place of Our Own) is an online book club and author and reader community dedicated to advancing African American literature. Our mission is to expose readers of all ages to a good book in any genre; to support African American authors, books, literary events and book clubs; to provide marketing resources, tools and tips to authors; and, to promote literacy within the African American community.

With the encouragement of fellow amazon.com review friends, APOOO Books was founded in 2000 by Yasmin Coleman as a book club for friends and fellow reviewers who wanted ‘A Place of Our Own’ to release, relate, relax and fellowship in a comfortable environment while discussing a good book. Because we enjoy discussing books openly and honestly with like-minded individuals, the book club is by invitation only and limited to 30 members.

Since inception, APOOO Books has grown from a book club to include a review team, bookstore and promotional/publicity arm. APOOO is an authority on book recommendations for all African American genres and is known for our ability to read, discuss, and critically dissect a book. Need the 411 regarding a good book? Look no further than APOOO. We can offer recommendations for a good book in any genre.

I have always loved the name of your book club. Tell me why you selected the name and what it means to you. APOOO stands for A Place of Our Own. Over 10 years ago, I had the vision to open a book store and I needed a name. I went to my sorority sisters and asked them to help me come up with one. I told them that I wanted something that would represent us—African Americans and that the book store I had in mind would be an old, Victorian styled home with various rooms (i.e. kids place, meeting room, reading room overlooking the river). Hence, APOOO/A Place of Our Own was born.

Are you exclusively online or are there local chapters? We are exclusively online…and this is a lot of work. Not sure I could handle overseeing local chapters. LOL.

How does your club have its “virtual” book club discussions?
The Book-of-the-Month (BOM) discussion begins the fourth Sunday of the month. The facilitator for that month starts the discussion with a question or list of questions and for a week or so members chime in with feedback/comments via the e-mails. Occasionally, we’ve discussed books via online chats as well as with authors via phone and online conversations.

How do you make your book selections, and how can an author get your club’s attention? Each member has a chance to nominate one book that they would like to read for a given month. Books nominated are entered into a poll. Book with the highest number of votes becomes the BOM. If an author is interested in having us consider their book as a BOM, we ask them to follow the link below to have their book reviewed by the review team. Books that we’re partial to reading as a group include literary fiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, fantasy/sci-fi, mysteries and a few non-fiction books.

Tell me a Christian Fiction book your club enjoyed last year? What made it standout? One of my favorites that I read and reviewed at the end of last year, but it’s actually a 2009 release, is The Someday List by Stacy Hawkins Adams. It stood out because it was well-written, creativity crafted, possessed strong character development, steady pacing, realistic without being preaching and the ending didn’t wrap everything up in a pretty, little neat package. And, it make me think about what I would include on my own ‘Someday List.’

APOOO does book reviews, a valuable resource for authors and the African-American reading community. Tell us about your review service. We have a team of 15 reviewers and review all genres including poetry, non-fiction, street-lit, erotica, Christian fiction as well as all the other genres. And our services are still FREE. If an author is interested having their book reviewed by APOOO, they can click on the link below for more details.

We ask author’s to note the disclaimer below:
Please note that at APOOO, we do not believe that reviewers can serve two masters–authors and readers. We honestly have to choose and decide who we want to direct our reviews to as well as whom we want to influence with our reviews. While we respect authors, and it is not our intent to flame any author, APOOO’s first priority is to readers. With that in mind, we aim to continue to write reviews that will help readers decide which book is best for them. We look forward to providing reviews for authors who are looking for open and honest feedback.

Yasmin, you obviously have a passion for reading, please share anything else you’d like us to know about APOOO and its commitment to African-American literacy. Rhonda, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to discuss APOOO. Our motto is ‘promoting our voices, showcasing our stories’ and APOOO is always willing to give authors a platform…many times at no charge other than a couple of books for giveaways. I invite readers and authors to visit us at http://www.apooobooks.com/ to get to know us better, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the African Literature Diaspora and to find out APOOO can better serve you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aspiring writers and new authors you don't want to miss this...

Taking It To The Next Level In 2009

Virtual Fiction Writers Conference
“Coming to a computer and telephone near you!”

Thursday, April 16, 2009 – Saturday, April 18, 2009

$50 Registration Fee Includes All Sessions!

We’re back with our second annual Virtual Writers Conference Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta, formerly Visions in Print Writers Group is raising money to award a college scholarship to a Class of 2009 high school student. We invite you to attend a not to be missed Virtual Writers Conference. We’re offering seven workshops and teleconferences sessions with top selling authors and industry experts that will help you improve your writing and/or market your current work.

Virtual Workshops
Linda Leigh Hargrove

Description: Making it Real and Keeping It Relevant

Create a richly textured world that captures your reader. Learn how to add effective detail to your writing so that the reader goes on a visual and physical journey with you.
Linda’s BIO
Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her writings include two novels: The Making of Isaac Hunt (June 2007) and Loving Cee Cee Johnson (September 2008). The former environmental engineer currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and three sons where she designs Web sites when she’s not writing. She blogs at 17seeds.com and UrbanFaith.com. Her website is http://www.lindaleighhargrove.com/

Pamela Samuels-Young

How to Keep Readers Turning the Pages: A Lesson in Pacing
What is pacing? Pacing is moving your story forward smoothly. It’s a critical craft component of a well written novel. Learn how to get your groove and keep it, so you keep your readers.
Pamela’s BIO
When attorney and author Pamela Samuels Young isn’t practicing law, you can usually find her penning her next legal thriller. Described by one reviewer as “John Grisham with a sister’s twist!” Pamela is the Essence best-selling author of four legal thrillers. Pamela’s debut novel, Every Reasonable Doubt (2006), won the Black Expressions Book Club’s Fiction Writing Contest, received an honorable mention in the SEAK Legal Fiction Writing Competition and was a finalist for USA Book News’ Best Books of 2006 awards in the mystery, suspense and thriller category. In Firm Pursuit (2007) was honored by Romantic Times magazine as a finalist for Best African-American Novel of 2007. Murder on the Down Low (2008) was an “Editor’s Pick” by Black Expressions magazine and was also featured on the cover of Publisher’s Weekly. Her next novel, Buying Time will be released in November 2009. You may find out more about Pamela at her website http://www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com/

Tiffany L. Warren a.k.a. Nikki Carter

Writing the Young Adult Novel
Tiffany Warren will teach you how to write for the young adult market. Give you tips for engaging young readers with a hip voice. She’ll also share marketing tips to reach the younger market.

Tiffany’s BIO
Tiffany L. Warren, author of What a Sista Should Do, Farther than I Meant to Go, Longer than I Meant to Stay and The Bishop's Daughter ( January 2009), has long been a favorite in Women’s Fiction, but she’s released her first teen fiction book, Step To This, under the pen name, Nikki Carter. Tiffany is also the founder of the annual Faith and Fiction Retreat to be held this year in Orlando, Florida http://www.faithandfictionretreat.com/ The retreat allows readers and bookclubs to come together in a spirit of sisterhood and to get up-close-and- personal with their favorite Christian Fiction Authors. Tiffany can be reached at her website http://www.tiffanylwarren.com/ or www.myspace.com/authornikkicarter

ReShonda Tate Billingsley

What It Takes To Make a Bestseller

Ever wonder how some authors make it to the bestseller list, while others don’t? Find out ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s method for success. This is the tele-conference you don’t want to miss. Register early and pre-submit your burning questions on the topic.
ReShonda’s BIO
ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a national bestselling author with more than sixteen books under publication including her most recent adult novel, Can I Get a Witness and teen novel, Friends 'Til the End. Her other projects include the #1 Essence Magazine Bestselling Book, Let the Church Say Amen, the bestselling sequel Everybody Say Amen, and the national bestseller I Know I’ve Been Changed (all of which are currently being made into movies where she will serve as Executive Producer). She is also the author of the multiple Essence bestseller, The Pastor's Wife and five other teen inspirational novels in the Good Girlz Series, as well as her non-fiction title, Help! I’ve Turned into my Mother. She has won numerous awards for her journalism, fiction and poetry writing skills, including an international honor as Best New Author from The Black Writer's Alliance and she is a five time winner of the National Association of Black Journalists Spirit in the Words competition. Let the Church Say Amen was voted best Christian Fiction book of 2004 by the Library Journal.

ReShonda’s upcoming projects include The Devil is a Lie (July 7, 2009) and the teen book, Caught up in the Drama. She also has a book of poetry called Something to Say: Poetry to Motivate the Mind. You may find out more about ReShonda at her website http://www.reshondatatebillingsley.com/

Dee Stewart

The Business of Book Events

Learn insider secrets on how to book promotional, sales events/speaking engagements for your book.

Dee’s BIO
Dee Stewart is the owner of Dee Gospel PR Company, http://www.deestewart.com/. She is a one stop author source: editor, publicist, book marketing consultant, the Atlanta satellite for Mocha Readers Books, an Essence Magazine Reporting bookseller, and for the past three years she’s served as a Christy’s Book Awards Judge. Her writing has appeared in: Gospel Today, Precious Times, Anointed, Hope for Women, Rejoice Atlanta, Romantic Times, Spirit Led Woman, Mosaic Literary Journal, Atlanta Christian Family and Spirit Led Writer to name a few. Dee is also the owner of Christian Fiction Blog http://www.christianfiction.blogspot.com/ , a syndicated blog that highlights Christian publishing, gospel music and plays and movies. The blog gets over 10,000 hits a month.

Vanessa Miller

Independent Publishing: Who, Why and How to Get It Done Yourself.

Special - 2 Hour Tele-Conference

Thinking about self-publishing your novel? Learn who should self-publish and why. Also learn the technical A-B-C’s of how to get it done, marketing and sales.

Vanessa’s BIO
Vanessa Miller is the multi-published author of the Rain Series and the Storm Series. The books in the Rain Series are: Former Rain, Abundant Rain, and Latter Rain. The books in the Storm Series are: Rain Storm and Through The Storm. These books have received rave reviews, winning Best Christian Fiction Awards and topping numerous Bestseller’s lists, including Essence and Black Expressions. Vanessa self-published her first three books; then in 2006 she signed a five-book deal with Urban Christian/Kensington. She is currently working on the Live Right or Die Trying Series. The books in this series, although they can be categorized as suspense thrillers, will still have elements of God’s redemptive power throughout the stories. She is also preparing the stage production for the Former Rain novel. You may learn more about Vanessa at her website http://www.vanessamiller.com/

Tia McCollors

Sentence C.P.R. – "Resuscitate your sentences....bring life into your writing"

Covers the following topics:
* Description (General vs. Specific Words)
* Action: Replacing weak adverbs with strong verbs
* Emotion
* Sensory images: Using 5 senses and the "sixth sense"
* Using beats and engaging dialogue

Tia’s BIO
Bestselling author Tia McCollors entices the taste buds of her readers with a sweet blend of faith and fiction in her inspirational novels, A Heart of Devotion (January 2005), Zora’s Cry (June 2006) and The Truth About Love (March 2008). The Last Woman Standing (Sept 2009).

In addition to being a novelist, Tia is an inspirational speaker and instructor for writing workshops. In 2006, Tia was voted as the Breakout Author of the Year by the Open Book Awards of the African American Literary Awards Show and was honored to be featured in the 2006 edition of Who’s Who In Black Atlanta.

As a founding author with the Anointed Authors On Tour , (AAOT) she has teamed with six other award-winning, best-selling authors of Christian fiction and non-fiction. Together, they have committed to write and publish integrity-based literature, touring as a testament to the power of using their gifts and talents for God's glory. In addition to AAOT, Tia is a member the American Christian Fiction Writers(ACFW). You may find out more about Tia at her website http://www.tiamccollors.com/

Conference Host - Dana Pittman of Nia Promotions

How a Virtual Conference Works: A virtual conference is a conference hosted on the Internet and by telephone. Participants can attend without leaving the comfort of their home.

Who it is for: This conference is for anyone who is writing fiction, particularly those who have an understanding of basic writing and want to take their craft and marketing/promotion to the next level.

How You Will Participate: You register for the conference at http://fbfwritersofatlanta.eventbrite.com/
A few days before the conference you’ll receive instructions on how to enter the main site for the conference. On the day of the conference, the workshops are presented in the forms of articles that are posted on the conference site by the workshop presenter. Participants will review the material and post questions or comments in a threaded discussion format. The presenter will come into the forum and answer all questions. Additionally, each workshop presenter will hold a live tele-conference. (Questions for the live tele-conference may be pre-submited until the close of registration. )

Door prizes: All registered participants who are interested will be entered in a raffle to win a 5-page critique from Legacy Editing Service. Three critiques will be given away. Plus books and more.

Don't miss out on the learning or the fun! Contact us at fbfwriters@yahoo.com with questions.

*** All teleconferences will be held in the evening beginning at 7 p.m. and 8:15/8:30 p.m. eastern standard time. Saturday sessions will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. eastern standard time.

Normal telephone charges will apply.

All sessions will be available for purchase after the conference barring no technical issues.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

Due Season

I have learned that life is not always fair. I’m not going to always get what I want when I want it nor will things easily come my way. Nevertheless, in the midst of going through, God is there. It is He who keeps me from losing it all…my mind, my finances and even myself. Just when I am about to do something completely foolish, God steps in. He thoughtfully removes a bad influence from out of my life. He closes the door of a potentially disastrous business venture. He locks up all possible expansion for advancement. Why you ask? I ask. The timing simply wasn’t right.

Though my spirit is fully aware of this knowledge, my flesh instinctively wants to fight against it and it is at those times when I am tempted to make things happen in my own strength. I toy with the idea of maneuvering people and circumstances around to better suit my needs. But then, I’m reminded of Sarah’s story in the bible. God had made her a promise and when it didn’t manifest in her timetable, she plotted her own plan. Her impatience causing disorder and chaos. However, God remained faithful and the promise was delayed, but not denied.

God has His own reasoning as to when and how He rains down miracles and blessings and He has ordained an appointed time to release blessings into my life…for in due season we shall reap a harvest. I may feel I’m ready to elevate to the next level in my career. But God knows there is still a work He needs to perform in me. Delayed, but not denied. I’m packed and all ready to move into my new home right NOW. But God sees down the road that the interest rate/price will be lowered and therefore making the house more affordable. Delayed, but not denied. I cannot understand why I continue to run into the wrong guys and have yet to run into the Right One. But God recognizes my potential and is using this time prefecting and preparing me to birth a ministry for Him. Delayed, but not denied.

As my fruit ripens, God keeps me in a holding pattern. While in transition, He is maturing me. Strengthen and stretching my faith. Grooming me for what’s about to occur...when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold. Strategically aligning the atmosphere for the anticipation of my arrival…Yet I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory He will reveal in ME later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for the manifestation of when God will reveal who His children really are! Confirmation that the best is still yet to come—in due season!

Iris Celeste, Author

About the author
Iris Celeste has always loved the written word and spent endless hours as a child being entertained through books. Writing became her chosen method of expression and with that her debut novel Praise Your Way Through was brought to life, as well as, a collection of her poetry entitled Seasons of Life. Iris also writes a weekly column entitled As a Woman Thinketh for Big Time Publishing Newspaper.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Interview with author, Roishina Clay Henderson

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming a member of my writers' group. Roi has an exciting new novel that has just been getting great reviews. Makes me proud to say I know her. Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Roi. Introduce yourself to my readers. Hello, everyone! I’m Roishina Clay Henderson, a new author who penned Make Me Whole. I work in public relations by day, but fiction writing is my dream turned reality.

It must have been exciting to finally hold your debut novel in your hands. Tell us about that experience, and tell us about Make Me Whole. It was a pretty awesome feeling to hold my novel in my hand for the first time and flip through the pages to see my name in print. As a former newspaper reporter, it was a thrill to see my byline. But to see my name on a book? That took it to a higher level of excitement and appreciation for the craft of writing.

Make Me Whole is about three women in Atlanta who battle with broken faith, infidelity and resentment. Readers journey through the lives Jacky Jayson, Neicy Chavez and Cee-Cee Bates as they finally put the mirrors up to see the reflections of their broken lives. Cee-Cee invites her friends to Memphis to attend the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Annual Holy Convocation that is celebrating their 100th year in faith. This fiction story gives real accounts of the COGIC convocation experience that is held every November in Memphis.

Are these ladies about to experience an unexpected spiritual transformation? It’s much needed when you see how true-to-life these ladies are. Jacky is knocking down 30 and still bad with handling her finances. She also doesn’t like staying on jobs long term and has let her relationship with God fall by the wayside since the death of her mother. Neicy is stunning, and she knows it. Her beauty and hour-glass figure don’t interest her husband anymore, but it doesn’t stop the men of Atlanta from pursuing her. When her countless efforts to amend her marriage fail, she knows she can always find a temporary, lustful fix elsewhere. And Cee-Cee has it all from anyone’s view on the outside. But within the confines of her 6,000 suburban abode, she dreads the touch of her devoted husband who is a well-respected preacher and attorney. Can she ever get past her resentment issues to love her husband the way he loves her? Jacky and Neicy are no strangers to God, but can they put their trust back in God to find restoration in love and faith?

You chose to publish your novel independently rather than try the traditional route. Why? Well, I’m new to the literary and publishing world as an author, so I wanted to learn the ins and outs first. And I’m still learning. I also wanted 100% creative license to share my work to the world the way I wanted. From the cover to the interior design of the pages to the editing and to the official release date, I wanted to be involved and make the final decisions. I have absolutely no regrets for choosing the independently published route, because when (and if) I do decide to pitch my work to the traditional/mainstream publishers, I will hopefully be a little more prepared and ready to face whatever will come my way. I definitely want to gain the attention of traditional publishers when (and if) the time is right.

Any regrets? Advice for others thinking about going the independent route? I would say that I regret that I didn’t start sooner. But everything is in God’s time. I don’t think I could’ve written Make Me Whole five years ago and stepped into the lives of Jacky, Neicy and Cee-Cee to see and feel what they were dealing with in the book. These characters are not based on my life, but I definitely felt their struggles and desires. Any woman could. This is all a learning process, and I’m just getting started.

My advice to those who seek to publish their own work is to do lots of research. Find out what’s already out there in your chosen genre, choose an attention-grabbing book cover, carefully choose quality editors, and compare quotes on your cover designers, editors, marketing collateral and printing companies. And it’s vital to get your manuscript professionally edited; it’s money well spent on your product (your book). So again, shop around and ask fellow writers/authors who they would recommend.

Independent publishing is an investment, so choose wisely on how you spend your money. There can be a handsome profit in the end when you use good business sense and a great marketing campaign, but the best compensation is when your words have touched and transformed someone’s life for the better. So, don’t make quick decisions. Attend workshops, network with like-minded people and take full advantage of the internet to educate yourself. Get a game plan together, write your goals and execute. And of course, seek God for direction from beginning to end.

By now you’ve gotten feedback from readers and reviewers. Any one contact stand out that you’d like to share? I have had some AWESOME feedback from readers. The best one I got was through a text message a couple of months ago when the reader said she renewed her walk with God and her faith was restored. I hope Make Me Whole continues to minister to the souls.

I asked Roi some personal questions and she gave me the followoing answers:

Favorite Dessert: Edwards’s Turtle Pie. It’s a danger to have that pie in my house. It’s the devil. LOL!

Favorite Movie: Too many to name, but I never, ever get tired of watching The Color Purple.

Favorite Bible Story: The woman with the issue of blood. She was determined and knew that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment she could be made whole. That story is true in today’s life: you deal with adversities and people try to discourage you. But you press on, and God answers. He heals and makes us whole. Talk about being a “Rewarder to those who diligently seek Him!”

Favorite worship song: It changes with the seasons, but right now Jonathan Nelson’s “My Name is Victory” is my head and heart.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? I’m not hard to please. Maybe because I don’t travel often. I’d like to go anywhere quiet with a beautiful beach and lush spa inside the hotel. Why? For once to just totally relax and not have to worry about a buzzing blackberry or meeting a demanding deadline.

If you could spend an hour with any person, living or deceased, who would it be and why? It’s funny how people impact your life and you can never let them go after they’ve passed on. Marlon Chavers. He was my high school classmate who I shared homeroom with for two years. He passed Nov. 7, 1995 at the age of 19. He’s been gone 13 years now, but I still think of him often—like he was a blood brother. Make Me Whole is dedicated to him, along with a few other loved ones.

If you were going to a deserted island and could only take one novel that you didn’t write, what would it be and why? The Firm by John Grisham. I’m late to reading his books. I knew about the movies that were based upon his novels, but I never read the books— until recently. His style of writing is so intriguing, and the story lines are awesome.

Roi, it’s been a pleasure having you. Tell my readers where they can find out more about you and how to get a copy of Make Me Whole.
Come sit a spell with me at my cyber home at http://www.roishina.com/. I’ll greet you at the door, tell you more about the book, myself and give you an opportunity to purchase the book and reach out to me via email before you go. Save my website as a favorite to find out the details to the sequel to Make Me Whole in the near future.

Rhonda, thank you for the opportunity!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Coming soon...It's Not About Him

Remember in December I had Michelle Sutton on the blog for her great book It's Not About Me. Well she's back with her new title, It's Not About Him.

Okay, so this is obviously not African-American Christian Fiction, and I just received a wonderful compliment from a reader about how my blog stays true to it's purpose, but I have to have Michelle on the blog. She's my friend and she's helped me soooooooo much. I love her. Plus she's a great writer. So I'm deviating. Just for today.

Coming September 2009

Here's the back cover blurb:

Susie wakes up after a party knowing something isn’t right. When she discovers she is pregnant but has no idea who the father is, she decides to place her baby for adoption with an infertile couple from church. Following through ends up being more challenging than she’d imagined. But she wants to do the right thing. If only Jeff would quit trying to marry her so she’ll keep her baby! Why doesn’t he understand? It’s not about him; it’s about what’s best for her child. Meanwhile, a man shows up in her life that looks irritatingly familiar. Could he be the father?

Jeff feels guilty. Someone took advantage of Susie when she passed out at his house—at his party—and she ends up pregnant. He offers to marry her so she won’t have to give up her baby, just like his birth mother had done with him. She refuses, saying he should he marry someone he loves. Because he is an adopted child, she believes he has unresolved issues that are influencing his decisions. His constant pursuit of her leads to rejection, which leads to further pursuit. Somehow he has to convince her that his love is genuine before it’s too late, but she’s not listening.
Can these friends find true love despite the horrible circumstances surrounding the unplanned pregnancy, or are they destined to remain “just friends”?
Sounds good Michelle. Looking forward to it.
If you missed Michelle's interview in December you may learn more about her by clicking here.
Visit the following sites to learn more about Michelle, her books and to hook up with some more edgy folks.
http://edgyinspirationalauthor.blogspot.com/ (my blog – I give away books!)
http://www.michellesutton.net/ (my website – designed it myself)http://www.christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/ (my online magazine – check it out)http://edgychristianfictionlovers.ning.com/ (my edgy fiction lovers group)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Faith and Fiction Retreat 2009

Faith and Fiction Retreat in Orlando on July 16-19. This conference, founded by author, Tiffany Warren was an excellent getaway last year and is sure to be even better this year. The retreat allows readers and bookclubs to come together in a spirit of sisterhood and to get up-close-and- personal with their favorite Christian Fiction Authors.

This year featured authors include Angela Benson, Reshonda Tate Billingsley, Tia McCollors and Tiffany herself. Conference events include everything from late night book discussions to book signings to panel discussions with 14 of your favorite inspirational writers, a special session for teens and a session about building a bookclub.

The hotel is a five star resort with a lots of amenities right in the heart of Orlando's theme parks. For details on registration, select here and join us!

I'll be there. For more details visit http://www.faithandfictionretreat.com/

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm Not Published Yet

Story Structure: And The Crowd Roars, An Unforgettable Ending

Have you ever watched a basketball game and your team was down by a few points? They have possession of the ball and the clock is winding down fast. Whether you are sitting in the bleachers or on your living room couch, the anticipation of the final outcome has you riveted. All is quiet as the crowd watches a player throw the ball from what seems like miles from the basket. Swoosh! And the crowd goes wild! "We won! We won!"

Okay, so what does this sports analogy have do with writing the ending of a novel? Other than the fact it's March Madness, I do have a few "points" for you. By the time a reader reaches the last third of your book, there should have been some emotional highs and lows. As the writer, you are the player who has everything riding on his shoulders as he attempts to make the winning shot - that an unforgettable ending.

Think back to a book you've read where you closed the book in disgust. There have been a few books in the last few months, if it wasn't for the fact I'm a mature adult, I would've thrown it across the room. The endings were either rushed, didn't make a bit of sense or just left me hanging with questions.

Let's review a few elements you can use to please your crowd (readers).
1) Increase the Tension
Keep the tension tight by creating page-turning scenes that flow. You want to keep the reader on the edge of their seat (bed, wherever they are reading). Now, creating tension can be a bit tricky. You can either make the story move too fast or painfully slow.

Lately, I have been reading romance novels, which I rarely read, but I am now for research purposes. Some of the tension towards the end in some of these novels were a tad bit on the soap opera side which just slowed down the reading experience for me. While your novel is meant to entertain, keep it realistic and keep in mind your readers wants a feel good story, but also don't want to be insulted in the process.

If you write suspense or mystery, don't drop too many surprise or twists as a way to create tension. You might leave the reader scratching their head, trying to figure out where are you going with this drastic turn of events. The ending is NOT the time to lose your reader's focus (Well, actually you never want to do that).

2) Don't Forget to Conclude your Subplots
You are going to have to tie up loose ends, especially those created through subplots. Don't be tempted to overload the reader in the last few pages. If you are plotter, you might want to really review your outline to see where you can wrap-up minor story lines. A pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer), should still go back to review previous scenes.

When a few of my critique partners started asking similar questions about my manuscript, it dawned on me, that I had not full developed and completed a subplot, even though my ending made sense. So, remember if you don't resolve loose ends, the reader will have questions even after the conclusion of the book.In some cases, no matter what you do, readers will still be curious about characters. I know many authors who have completed a novel, but those characters (or fans insisted) wanted to come back to life. It's quite possible a minor character may receive the starring role in a future book.
3) The Defining Moment
In every story, ever written, the protagonist (main character) has a defining moment. The reader will find out if your character is a hero/heroine or a wimp. If they are going to stay the same or burst forth into a new level of maturity. This particular moment works very closely with the tension you've created up until this point. Your character may have to make a life-changing decision. She could be fighting for her life. The antagonist (or villain) may have the advantage and there's just no possible way for the outcome to turn out in the protagonist favor.
You can visually see this moment demonstrated in movies and television. Think about your favorite movie or recent episode. Were you on the edge of your seat (remember the basketball scenario earlier)? Did you start crying or fussing at the screen (like they can hear you)?Brainstorm some ideas and work on writing something fresh. A defining moment can really push the reading experience up a notch or dash it to pieces.
4) Provide Closure For Your Readers
The overriding motivation to finish a book is to find out the conclusion. Who was the killer? Will John and Jane finally be together forever? Will Karen experience freedom from her childhood secret?

However you are led to end a novel, try to bring some closure to the reader. I've noticed with serial books, where the author will be publishing book two or three in a few months, they may leave some unanswered questions on purpose. I personally don't like this because some publishers pump these series books so fast, it's hard to keep up with them. I'd rather read a book and have a satisfying ending with the choice of continuing to read the series.
With all that said, I must add there is nothing quite like typing "The End." I don't know about other writers, but for my first time, I felt like I heard "a crowd" roaring in my ear, "You did it!"
This concludes the Story Structure Series. Add a comment to the post to let me know if this series help you. Next month, I will start a series on "points of view".
Be Blessed!
Tyora Moody is the editor of WrittenVoicesBlog.com where she features “AA Literature that Edifies the Soul”. She often finds herself trying to juggle various hats on her short frame. Those hats include being a military wife, writer, blogger, book reviewer, web developer, and “momma” to two spoiled cats. Follow her journey to publication on TyoraMoody.com.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interview with author, Kimberley Brooks

I'm excited today to have an interview with a dynamic woman of God. Kimberley Brooks is the author of fiction and non-fiction titles and she's going to share the ministry God has birthed in her. Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Kim. Tell us about yourself. Thanks for having me here, Rhonda. Well, I've been writing ever since I was about 8 years old – poems, short stories, plays, you name it. Once I got saved at 18 and prayed about my purpose in life, it was then that God revealed that my passion for writing is part of the calling that He has for me. I majored in English at Michigan State University and a few years after graduation God called me to the ministry so I attended a two-year Bible college and later a licensed minister. So now I'm blessed with the opportunity to minister the Word of God creatively through books. To God be the glory!

I remember the first time I read the title “He’s Fine But Is He Saved?” I laughed out loud literally because I got a mental picture of sistahs all over the country whispering that very question on Sunday morning as a handsome man enters the church. Tell us about the first novel and what inspired it. (LOL) The funny thing is, as a grade-schooler I would always right stories about “boys” and relationships. It's almost as if I was destined to write romance novels. I wanted my very first novel to be something I and my single friends, and other single ladies can relate to, and I still wanted to write about my favorite subject - “boys.” Lol My debut novel, “He's Fine...But is He Saved?” is about the daily challenges and triumphs three single, saved, girlfriends face while waiting to be found by love. Sandy is the “babe in Christ,” who loves God, but also loves the attention she receives from men and she finds herself in some interesting situations. Liz, the evangelist, is also the “super-spiritual one” who needs “no man but Jesus” so she gives men a hard time. Michelle is the glue of their friendship and the mature believer who is not out here chasing men, but is believing God for her Boaz. She ends up dating Pierre Dupree, their church's finest and most eligible bachelor, so by the end of the novel the reader discovers whether or not Pierre was The One.

So now in the follow we have what happening in book 2, “He’s Saved But Is He For Real?”
The response from my debut novel, which went on to become a Black Expressions Bestseller, was so great – that my readers wanted more. I hadn't planned on writing a sequel, so it was written mainly for them. It continues on the love journeys of Michelle, Liz, and Michelle and gets deeper with their own personal issues. Michelle must choose between the ex-boyfriend who betrayed her and a new man, while minister Liz finds her insecurity and jealousy threatening her relationship with her man of God, and Sandy's loneliness leads her into the arms of the one brotha who should be off-limits. Most tell me they enjoyed the sequel better than the first, and some have read the sequel first and are now going back to read the first book. Both novels are available in bookstores nationwide.

Any personal experience with your character’s journey?
Lol I get that question a lot. It's all good. To be honest, the character I relate to the most is Michelle. She's the balanced one. She has her own desires for marriage, but she basically prays about every opportunity she is presented with and makes pleasing God her #1 priority. While all her experiences in the novel are not similar to my own, I will admit that she and I share similar thought processes.

With all the daunting news about women out numbering men, the increase in homosexual and down-low men, it seems like slim pickings for the single woman, saved or unsaved. What do you say to that? Well, the Word tells us to walk by faith and not by sight. We, women have to remember that we're not out here believing God for fifty men, we're only believing God for just one, so we have to trust and believe that the God we serve has a man of God out there for us, and that our steps are ordered by Him and as long as we continue on the journey that God has for us, then He will make sure our destinies cross. I try not to get all caught up in statistics, because if it were up to statistics, then no body would get married because no one would have any faith. You have to have faith that you will meet and marry the man that God has for you in His season for your life, not your season but His season, and not be weary in well-doing.

Kim, you’re a licensed minister and highly sought after speaker. Tell us about this aspect of your ministry. I'm actually called to be a minister before I'm an author. The books are just tools God is using right now to help get His Word out. Throughout my novels, the character's pray together, and as they find themselves facing different challenges they always go to God and each other for support. I write with my readers in mind, knowing that they may be going through something similar. I've had many tell me, after they read the book, which character they can relate to the most, or that they were going through a similar challenge as one of the characters, or that they were the “lonely one” like Sandy and end up getting blessed as Liz and Michelle encouraged her. To me, that's ministry. After writing the first novel, I realized that a lot of struggles we, single believers, face on a daily basis are similar, the enemy has no new tricks when it comes to feeding lies to our minds, which is why I wrote my first non-fiction book, The Little Black Survival Book for Single Saints.” It's a miniature, yet powerful book broken into 6 chapters filled with prayer confessions and Scriptures on how to overcome loneliness, sexual temptation, impatience, jealousy, insecurity, and lack of forgiveness as a single believer. Autographed copies are available through my website, http://www.kimontheweb.com/

What’s next for Kim Brooks in terms of Christian Fiction? Any more books in you?
Yes, definitely! I'm working on my next non-fiction book for singles now, and I also have ideas for more Christian Fiction books. My next fiction release will be with all new characters and new drama – with Jesus as the Way Maker ;0)

Kim, I'm going to label you my expert of the day on this subject so would give the ladies looking to end their singleness some good sound, Holy Ghost inspired advice. I would just like to encourage the singles to stay focused on pleasing God and maintaining your relationship with God – on a daily basis – in order to not get anxious or make wrong decisions in relationships because you're looking at statistics, or how long you've been “dateless,” or your age. Know that God doesn't operate on our timetable. We may look at the fact that we're at a certain age and thought we would be married with kids by now, but God looks at where you are now in your relationship with Him, so use this time in order to allow God to prepare you for the mate that God has for you, while He's also preparing your mate at the same time. Keep active, pursue your purpose, have fun and live your dreams now instead of waiting on your “Knight in Shining Armor.” Allow your Heavenly Father to be your Knight in Shining Armor now and be content knowing your desire will come to pass in due season, knowing that your mate will be an added blessing when he shows up, not the blessing. The ultimate blessing is true contentment, peace and happiness in a life that serves and pleases the Lord.

Great interview. Thanks so much for stopping by, Kim.

Thanks so much for having me, Rhonda! Oh, I also would like to let your readers know that they are more than welcome to sign up to receive my free monthly E-Newsletter meant to encourage Christian singles entitled, The Single Heart, emailed directly from me each month. Thank you so much for your time, Rhonda, and may God continue to bless all that you put your hands to!
I receive that blessing, Kim. Please make sure to stop by her webiste http://www.kimontheweb.com/
and sign up for The Single Heart and be encouraged.


Rhonda McKnight

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Step To This: A So Real Novel by Nikki Carter

Introducing author, Nikki Carter a new addition to the African-American Christian Young Adult Fiction. She has been a book-lover since she was in elementary school. Her favorite stories are fun, fresh, and full of drama. When she's not writing, Nikki enjoys reading, shopping, and hanging out by the pool. Nikki lives and loves in Dallas, Texas.

Here's a little bit about Step to This...

Fifteen-year-old Gia Stokes knows exactly what she needs to make her life fantabulous:

*Get her mother Gwendolyn to let her relax her hair
*Find a boy to ask her out
*Get on the Hi-Steppers dance squad

Gia doesn't have the hair or the clothes, but she's got the moves and the attitude to make her sophomore year at Longfellow High unforgettable. But not everyone agrees, so Gia decides it's time for a makeover. With her stylish new look, she scores a date with hottie football player, Romeo, snags a spot on the Hi-Steppers dance squad, and makes a ton of new friends. Gia's on top of the world?until things go horribly wrong. Now Gia feels like all she has left is her mom and her faith. That's not going to stop Gia, she's just got to convince the Hi-Steppers and everyone else at school, to follow her lead and step to her beat.

"Step to This is hot, it's new, it's now...with characters that leap from the pages, it's absolutely a must-read." --Monica McKayhan, Essence bestselling author of Indigo Summer

"Filled with smart and witty characters, Step to This is a fun, fast-paced read teens will love." --Ni-Ni Simone, author of A Girl Like Me

"Nikki Carter steps up and delivers a home run with her debut novel, Step to This. It's a real winner." --Chandra Sparks Taylor, author of Spin It Like That and The Pledge

"Nikki Carter is a fresh, new voice in teen fiction! Step to This has it all--drama, humor, and a lesson that everyone can learn from. Full of fun-loving, unforgettable characters that readers will love, Nikki has written a page-turner that will leave the reader wanting more!" --ReShonda Tate Billingsley, author of The Good Girlz series

"Gia Stokes might be a Hi-Stepper, but this teen role model has both feet on the ground as she meets life's challenges with style and grace. Kudos to Nikki Carter for a great start in this fun and relevant teen series!" --Melody Carlson, author of The Carter House Girls, Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors and The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor series

"Step to This is a wonderful, witty tale that is full of laugh-out-loud moments and great lessons." --Victoria Christopher Murray, National bestselling author of The Divine Divas series

"Fun, honest, and so for real ... I loved Gia and cheered for her as she struggled to find where she fits with friends, family, and faith. Debut author Nikki Carter is now on my must-read list!" --Shelley Adina, author of the All About Us series

"Step to This has alluring characters, wonderful scenes, and a fascinating premise. Nikki Carter has a real talent for writing stories that deal with real issues, but are gripping to read by teens and adults alike." --Jacquelin Thomas, author of The Divine Series

STEP TO THIS is the first of a four-book series. Books 2 & 3 IT IS WHAT IT IS & IT'S ALL GOOD will both be out in 2009. The fourth title COOL LIKE THAT will be released in early 2010. Here's the link to the excerpt...

I want readers to know that the books are fun, fly, and parents don't have to be afraid of their children enjoying them. I'm very excited about the series, and I would love to talk to teens and preteens about the issues in the book. I can be reached for speaking engagements at tiffany@tiffanylwarren.com or on Facebook or www.myspace.com/authornikkicarter

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

Two are Better

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if one fall down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. I love this particular scripture. It explains God’s mindset as to why He created Eve for Adam and the logic behind why He sent the disciplines out two by two. We all need a partner! I’m a single parent and one thing I find to be extremely trying is raising a man-child without a man. But God is so good, He placed a male role model in my son’s life by way of my best friend. He is also a single parent with a teenage daughter the same age as my son! We made a pact to not only be a blessing to one another, but to extend that blessing into the lives of each other's children, as well. Whenever I am having difficulty with my teenager or just plain don’t understand what the boy is going through, my friend swoops in and enlightens me. He gives me insight within the walls of the male psyche. They are a whole different species all by themselves and being a mother, there are some things I just don’t get or comprehend regarding boys, especially teenage boys. I pray I serve as the same voice of reasoning for him when it comes to his daughter.

Life experiences are meant to be shared. Shared with someone you can completely open up and be yourself with. All day long, I walk around with a smile plastered on my face or faking the funk a term my friends and I use. But then there are moments when I need to take the mask off and be free to show the real me. The scared me. The frightened me. The unsure me. I need to know that the person I am expressing myself to genuinely cares about my well-being. I have to be certain when I am in need of prayer they are sincerely praying on my behalf and my concerns are being taken to the Lord, not the telephone exposing my secrets to others. ..blessed is the man that walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

God's design was for us to coexist and prosper. ..if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done. I thank God for the awesome friends He placed in my life. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I was able to use their supportive shoulders to lean on when life had almost beaten me down. Their encouraging words sheltered me and pulled me through many rainstorms. They loved and accepted me for who I was, while also pushing me into becoming the woman I was created to be. They served as my loudest cheerleaders and number one fans. Without them, I would have surely given up long ago. The bible says…my intercessor has been my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God—and my heart when joy is abounding. Now that's what I call friends with benefits!

Iris Celeste, Author

About the Author

Iris Celeste has always loved the written word and spent endless hours as a child being entertained through books. Writing became her chosen method of expression and with that her debut novel Praise Your Way Through was brought to life, as well as, a collection of her poetry entitled Seasons of Life. Iris also writes a weekly column entitled As a Woman Thinketh for Big Time Publishing Newspaper.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Interview with author, Vanessa Davis Griggs

Today we our interview is with author, Vanessa Davis Griggs. Vanessa is the author of six novels and an awesome woman of God. Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Vanessa. Tell us about yourself. I was born in a small town called Village Springs, just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. I now live in Irondale, Alabama. Growing up in a small community, I loved playing softball, reading, and dancing. Actually, I’ve always loved music. I grew up listening to gospel music and loving the music of Earth, Wind, & Fire which to me has always had a spiritual overtone. I’m a Christian who loves the Word of God, and I enjoy reading and studying the Bible. I’m married, the mother of three adult sons, and the grandmother to two beautiful little girls. As a speaker, I make appearances at churches, schools, colleges, businesses, and conferences. And had you met me early on in life, you would know I’ve always loved to talk. My published books include: The Rose of Jericho, Promises Beyond Jordan, Wings of Grace, Blessed Trinity, Strongholds, If Memory Serves, and May 26, 2009 the release of, Practicing What You Preach.

Tell us about your series. What’s the most current release?
My books mostly play off of each other. That’s why people think of them as a series. I didn’t start out intending to do this. It just worked out that way. Two characters, Pastor George Landris and Johnnie Mae Taylor Landris, have consistently appeared in some way in all of my books. I generally introduce new characters with new storylines in each new book. My current release is IF MEMORY SERVES. It’s the third book in what was being promoted as the Blessed Trinity Trilogy that consisted of BLESSED TRINITY, STRONGHOLDS, and IF MEMORY SERVES. But here again, BLESSED TRINITY picked up where WINGS OF GRACE left off.

Can these books be read as stand alones? Or do you recommend starting at the beginning? Yes. I write my books so that if you pick one up and begin, you’ll be fine. When many who read my books learn there are others that can go with it, they want to read the previous books. However, if you have or happen to read my books from the start, it’s fun watching the characters grow and see things unfold as it actually happens. But, I try and give enough back story to ensure it’s not necessary to read from the beginning to grasp the book you’re reading at any time.

Some authors say they don’t like writing series and some readers don’t necessarily want to read them. Do you feel limited at all writing a series? Since I don’t necessarily write my books as though they’re a series, I don’t feel limited. Lots of people will read one of my books not realizing there are others. They’ve told me they were fine. They enjoy discovering a character they might have liked is possibly in another one of my books. I’m often told they’re excited to know they won’t have to go through withdrawals waiting on my next book to come out as they read my others. I get a lot of request to keep doing what I’m doing. That’s always great for an author to hear. And my audience of readers is really growing. Personally, I love my readers and think they’re the best! Many of them bless me so much with their encouraging words.

Promises Beyond Jordan has remained one of my all time favorite Christian fiction books. What inspired these characters? This is a great example of how things evolved out of another book. I had written a book called THE ROSE OF JERICHO. George Landris was a minor character in that book. One morning a few days before Christmas, I heard “Have you ever loved someone that you never had?” in my mind as I lay in bed. I loved that sentence and was going to write it down when I decided instead to type it. I did, and before I knew anything, I’d written four pages. When I read those pages, I knew I had something special. The other characters appeared clearly in my mind, and all that was left for me to do was to get their story down on paper.

How did you learn to write, Vanessa? Any favorite craft books or Web sites you use to improve your work? I’ve always written something, since I was in middle school, which is the best way to learn how to write. The more you write, the more you find what you’re really good at doing and what needs more work. I loved to read good books. I also read many books on the art of writing. When I happened to read a good book, I would look to see what was it that made me think it was so great. I attended writing events and publishing conferences especially after I left my job with corporate America. I love reading nonfiction books on how to become better at whatever concerns me. I read and learned as much about my craft as I could. Another thing: I turned off the television, and it was so nice not having the chatter. I didn’t watch television for five years as I put all of my attention to writing and publishing. My point is: if something is important enough to you, you should do whatever you need to do in order to reach your goal.

You’re pretty prolific. What’s your writing process like? How long does it take for you to finish a novel? Thank you so much for that. I generally get up early (about 6 a.m.) when my mind is fresh and begin to write until I feel I need a break. Most times when I’m in the writing process, I’ll write until about 2 p.m. I stop and get something to eat, watch a little TV, then usually write some more. If I feel I want to stop, I stop. I love getting the book out of me. But the fun really begins when I step into the revising/editing role. I love polishing up the rough, and watching it become smooth. If I write nonstop, I can write a book in two weeks. But the editing and polishing takes a lot longer than that. Give me two months, and I’m generally pleased with a completed, polished book and ready to turn it over to my editor for the next phase of the process.

Tell us about some of your other interest/activities outside of writing and promoting your books. Wow, I suppose what you listed above is what I love to do the most and it’s what I do the most of. (LOL) But I do love spending time and playing with my grandchildren. I love time with family and friends and encouraging people. So, when I’m out speaking or talking to others, I really am having a ball. I like to do things on my Web site and other computer type things where I can create. You know, now that you’ve brought this up, maybe I do need to look at getting a life ;-)

What do you know that you know?
I know that God absolutely loves me. I know that I will be all right as long as I’m in God’s will. And I know that if God promises me something, He will bring it to manifest. I don’t care how long it takes, I just need to remain steadfast, unmoveable, and stand on His promise.

Thanks for stopping by Vanessa. Where can readers find you on the Internet?

Web site: http://www.vanessadavisgriggs.com/

Thank you, Rhonda! I enjoyed this so much. And thanks to those of you who read my books. Without you, what I do wouldn’t be nearly as special!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Reshonda Tate Billingsley on why she writes "The Good Girlz"

As a teen, I had an active imagination. From making up stories about life in the hood, to convincing my little sister I knew how to fly, to writing off-the-chain poems, I could always be found with a pen in one hand and book in the other. I loved to read and loved making up stories just as much.

Because I'm such a reader, I was looking for something for my teenaged nieces to read. The stuff I found they said was too young or too boring. The stuff they found was too adult for my tastes. So I decided to write something teens could enjoy and their parents wouldn't mind them reading. And because I'm all about keeping it interesting, I wanted to make sure it was something that would keep them turning pages! I'm blessed to say I've found that in the drama-filled lives of The GoodGirlz.

Writing these books is so fulfilling. I get emails daily from people all over the country who say they hated reading until they picked up a Good Girlz novel. Parents write in to say thanks for sparking a love of reading in their child. But to see a young person passionate about a book, well it just makes everything I do worthwhile.

The sixth book in The Good Girlz series from national bestselling author
ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Joy in her heart...

It's for real -- Jasmine's in love! She never thought she'd be boy-crazy like her girlfriends Camille, Alexis, and Angel, but now Jasmine and football star C.J. Taylor are inseparable -- they've even been voted the school's cutest couple. And with love in the air, everything seems to be going right: Jasmine's mom has allowed her and C.J. to go out on dates, and even her relationship with her brother Jaquan has improved. Maybe love is contagious!
Gone in a heartbeat?
But Jasmine's happiness is shattered when a neighborhood gang begins harassing Jaquan -- and trouble quickly escalates to tragedy. With C.J. and his family caught in the crossfire of lies and violence, Jasmine will have to hold on tighter than ever to her faith, to the friends who have never let her down...and to the belief that love truly does conquer all.

Click here to read an excerpt...

Connect with Reshonda at her website http://www.reshondatatebillingsley.com/ and the Good Girlz at http://www.goodgirlz.org/

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I'm Not Published Yet

My columnist for "I'm Not Published Yet" was unable to submit today, so I thought I'd take the time to give some advice to unpublished writers who are working their way towards achieving their dream.

Writing Tips
Rhonda McKnight

Ah, "The End". I can't think of words I've ever written that were more satisfying. Not even a final paper for my bachelor's or master's degree gave me the rush I had when I typed "The End" on my first manuscript. I began writing at the age of six, so "The End" was more than thirty-three years in the making. I cried for at least an hour. Thanked God over and over again that he had moved me to this point and reflected on the goodness of the writing community that had helped me achieve my dream. I'd like to pass on the ten tips that helped me the most. If you're a writer you may have heard them before, but getting a reminder never hurts, because sometimes we find that we're not really doing the things that people advised us to do either because we forget them, we don't think they'll work, or we just hadn't figured out a way to incorporate it. I know, been there done that, especially the forgot it after I heard it part. I am good for getting a lightbulb moment and then getting home and sitting in the dark. So here are my tips:

1. Plot out your story. There are very few truly organic writers and you're probably not one of them. Take the time to sit down and think through the entire book. If you ever become a professional writer you'll have to do this to sell more books, so learn it out right.

2. Write often, daily if you can. You have to have butt in the chair time to get to "The End", plus writing often keeps the story fresh.

3. Don't self-edit while you're writing. I CANNOT emphasis this enough. That's for advanced writers. Get the first draft down before you go back and try to fix anything. You'll make yourself crazy trying to perfect what you've written. Draft writing and rewriting/editing are different processes, so let them be different.

4. Read craft books and/or take writing classes. Executing a saleable commerical fiction novel is not just art, some of it method. I'm sure you've heard terms like opening hook, beginning, middle, end, goal, motivation and conflict, black moment, three act set up, scene and sequel, etc, etc... These are some of the components to a story and no good novel is written without them. Learn how from the experts and save yourself time.

5. Do the stuff you learn in the books and classes. Check your writing to make sure you're practicing what you've learned. For example if you read a book on description, look at your descriptions and analyze if you're doing what the craft books suggest.

6. Join a critique group or find some one to help you with your work. If you dont' have access to a local writer's group, try an online group or invest in a writing coach (like me!). Be prayerful about this. The Lord will lead you to the right people.

7. Be teachable. Learn from the critique process. Take what you can use and leave what you can't in the wind, but learn something, because in most critiques there's something of value that can help you.

8. Reach out to other writers. I know in the Christian Fiction community, most authors and writers are friendly people who love to help and share advice. Don't ask anyone to read your entire manuscript and help you edit it, that's unreasonable, but don't be shy.

9. Read well written books. Learn from the best.

10. Trust the creativity is really inside you. If God has called your to be a writer, you have it in you, you just have to do the work to get it out.

Hope this helps.

Happy Writing!


About my novel - Secrets and Lies

It’s hard enough to keep a secret without telling a lie, but when you’re married it’s almost impossible. In Secrets and Lies, the Morgan’s marriage is collapsing under the weight of both. Against the backdrop of old memories, new enemies, and a plot for revenge this drama unfolds addressing several relationship issues; communication, honesty and trust among them. The story takes readers into the complex mind of Dr. Jonah Morgan, a man who’s dedicated his life to physically healing children, but he’s emotionally and spiritually sick himself. And can his wife, Faith, keep the “faith” after Jonah’s accused of sexual harassment? Or when a woman’s fed up, is she truly fed up? Find out in Secrets and Lies, coming December 2009 from Urban Christian Books.

Click here to read or listen to prequel to the novel...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Prequel to Secrets and Lies


A prequel to the novel, Secrets and Lies, coming December 2009


Rhonda McKnight

“Forget it. I’m not calling.” Jonah Morgan pushed the end button on the phone and dropped onto the sofa. Faith Andrews was the woman he’d been looking for his entire adult life. All he had to do was ask her out, but he was trippin’.

“You need to go on and call her,” Les Abrams, his best friend channel surfed with the remote control. “Ya’ old behind is almost thirty. It’s time to get married.”

Jonah craned his neck in Les’ direction. They had been friends since their freshman year at Morehouse. “How you advocating marriage when all you do is complain about your wife?”

Les settled on the Knicks game and reached for the bowl of popcorn in front of him. “Look negro all I’m saying is you practically a monk. Why not give this one a try, especially since it seems like she’s not feeling you anyway. You need the challenge.”

Jonah reached for a pillow to his right and threw it at Les’ head. “Very funny.”

Les caught the object mid-flight and laughed. “You been sending flowers and trying to be all suave with this sister. She has your number and I know you ain’t seen those digits on the Caller I.D. That’s a first for you. Usually your woman have to be taken away by the police and served with a restraining order,” Les laughed again.

Click here to read more....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sherri Lewis's new novel...The List

Welcome back to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Sherri. Give us an synopsis of The List. Rhonda, you know how sometimes you write something and it makes you smile and pat yourself on the back? I love the blurb for The List.

Single and satisfied? Not Michelle, Angela and Lisa. These saved but sexy, successful black women think they’re getting too old to keep waiting on God to send their soulmates. Under the protective eye of their more spiritual sistergirlfriend, Vanessa, and the scrutiny of newly saved manhater, Nicole, the ladies go on a hilarious adventure to “be found” by their husbands.

Armed with their list of essential must-have’s, would-be-nice’s, icing-on-the-cake’s, and total-deal-breakers, they start their search – but soon encounter issues specific to the saved woman on the dating scene. Is online dating okay for Christians? How long do you wait before you tell the hottie you just met that you’re celibate and plan to stay so until married? He’s too fine to pass up – how saved does he really need to be? And of course, how do you keep things holy when he’s oh-so-sexy?

It’s not long before they realize they still have to trust God to know what’s best for them and that He loves them enough to send them everything on The List.

Here's a audio recorded excerpt Sherri shared:

Sounds great. Well, actually I know it's great, because I already read it. Share your inspiration for this story?
I always say that writing is therapy for me. It’s much cheaper than going to a shrink and I actually get paid for it. I also get to bless other people and make them realize they’re not alone in whatever difficulties they may be facing in their lives. So The List was inspired by my experience as a single black woman over the past 5+ years since my divorce. It has been hilarious, painful, educational and so many other things. Because I realize that almost ½ of black women are in the same state that I’m in, I thought it would be fun to share the laughs and pain. So far, the response has been great. Women that have read the book can relate completely.

What would you like readers to take away from The List? Most importantly, I want them to get a good laugh. With some of the dates I’ve been on and men I’ve met in the past five years, that wasn’t hard to do. Don’t anybody email me and ask me if some of those dates really happened. I ain’t trying to get sued! It can be really painful enduring what can be a lonely season waiting for Mr. Right. It can be even more painful finding Mr. Wrong and having to deal with the heart consequences of it. So to be able to laugh about the whole thing can be very healing. Hopefully laughing will be therapy for all my single sistahs out there who find themselves looking up at God on a Friday night wondering why. The other take home point is that we serve a God who loves us deeply and is concerned about every detail of our lives, even our hearts and our desire to be in love. If we submit that desire to Him, He’ll grant us our hearts desire, in His timing. It’s important to be prepared for that time, and also to have the wisdom to choose well to avoid heartbreak and disaster.

Who is your favorite character and why? I really enjoyed hanging out with the whole cast of the book while I was writing. Michelle, the main character, of course I really liked. I loved the interactions between all the sistahcircle of friends she’s surrounded us with. Felt like I was hanging out with a beautiful group of lifelong friends. I’d have to say my absolute favorite is Isaiah. The great things about being an author is that you get to create the best MEN in the world! I’m head over heels in love with him. Too bad he’s trapped within the pages of the book…

What events do you have planned for the release of the novel? I have a full calendar for March. Thankfully I just quit my job otherwise I don’t know how I would do it!

March 7th 1-3 pm Book Signing at Barnes and Noble Camp Creek Parkway Atlanta, GA
March 14th 3-5 pm Book release party!!! Mocha Match Café, Decatur, Georgia
March 21st 2-4 pm Book Signing at Borders Stonecrest Mall, Lithonia, GA
I’ll be doing a full weekend in Dayton, Ohio the last weekend in March.

More events to follow on my website. I also have several Internet radio interviews scheduled:

BlogTalk Radio Interviews
KC Girlfriends March 2nd 8pm EST
AAMBC March 5th 7pm EST
The Rapturous Reader March 8th 5pm EST
Sistah Confessions March 13th 9pm EST
ASA Network March 21st 8pm EST

Whew! I’m tired just looking at it!

Thanks for stopping by Sherri. Readers can learn more about Sherri at her website http://www.sherrilewis.com/ and visit her blog where she asks the question, a list - Should You Have One or Not? http://sherrilewisbookclub.blogspot.com/