Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Journey to Publication - Part VII

Hi, it's me, again. Rhonda McKnight. Your host here on UCFT Blog. Today I continue my series "My Journey to Publication". If you’ve missed any installment of this series you may click here to catch up.

It’s early summer of 2008, six months after I received “the call”. At this point I’ve been paid. I have a contract that commits me to two books. I want to emphasize here that it’s really important to understand your contract. I don’t know if it’s my publisher or if this is how it’s done with them all, but there was no “this is what you do next” class, but your contract will clue you in to questions you should ask. For example: I’m sitting at my house, looking at the contract one day when I notice it says I have to turn in my first book, Secrets and Lies, on September 1. “Hmmm,” I muse. “What do they mean turn in my first book. I’ve already turned it in.” I mean, I turned it in so they could buy it, right? I think this must be standard language, maybe for an author who is writing on spec. (that’s someone who gets paid before they produce a book); that’s not me. I sent in a manuscript to get a deal. But it keeps nagging at me, so I ask my author buddy, Sherri Lewis and she explains that I actually turn in my final copy on September 1. What you say??? How was I supposed to know that? I get over not knowing how I was supposed to know fairly quickly, because I realize its good news. Good news because I have an opportunity to fix three things that are broken:

1. There are a few things about Secrets and Lies that continue to bug me. Scenes that could have been tighter and dialogue that could have been sharper. I’d assumed I’d get feedback on my editor on this stuff and that would’ve been the time to fix it, but now that I have until September 1, I can work on fixing it myself.

Tidbit #1 - Editors love for you to turn in your best work, so turn in your best work.
2. I had a fault in my critique system. The only people, other than my best buddy, Janice, who had read my book were people from my critique group, ie. other writers. That’s not good. Writers kind of think like writers. I needed more feedback from readers, so I sent the book to several non-writing, avid readers who were not in my circle of friends. They provided really valuable feedback on the story.

Tidbit #2 – You can never have enough feedback and please make sure you do get feedback. Others can see things you can’t see and you need that input to smooth out the wrinkles.

3. I didn’t have endorsements from other authors and I had no idea where getting them came in in the process. So I decided since I had time, to seek them out. I made the changes the readers suggested and printed a few copies of the book and sent it out to get those “What People Are Saying” blurbs.

While Secrets and Lies was out being read by my new readers I realized something else. (As you can see I’m always thinking). My publisher has a lot of authors – 29 to be exact and we’re all competing for 24 slots in the annual rotation. Plus there are a few folks who are pretty prolific that release more than one book a year. If I wanted to be in a book a year cycle I needed to be proactive about making that happen. I contacted my agent and she told me to get her a proposal for the 2nd book, NOW! She’d actually told me that before, but I think I was somewhere being annoyed about my contract being delayed.
So I started to really think about my second book. I’d been kicking a sequel around in my head for a few months, but I decided I didn’t really want to do a sequel. I thought it might be too hard to sell to readers who haven’t read Secrets and Lies. I know that’s kind of a silly thought, because sequels are everywhere, they’re very popular and of course you can write any book to be a standalone title, but I just can’t get the notion out of my head that I’d lose sales on book two, because people hadn’t read Secrets and Lies. Plus I was sick of those folks in Secrets and Lies, really. We’d been married to each other since 2003! I opted to do something different, I decided to do a spin-off. I took a minor character from Secrets and Lies, and gave her her own story world. Cool right. I know, that’s kind of a sequel, but I feel better about it.
The process for submitting book two is to submit a synopsis and the first four chapters. I get that done in a few weeks and submit it through my agent to my editor with a request for a September 2010 release. It’s approved. Yeah! Then I get lots of great feedback on Secrets and Lies, incorporate it and on September 1 – push the send button on an email to my editor. It was a busy summer, but hey, I wanted to be a published writer, right?
What’s next? Content Edits…now it’s getting good.
Don't forget to pre-order your copy today. Just click on the image. The price is down to $10.17 and you don't actually pay until it ships!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.


Rhonda McKnight

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interview with author, Linda Beed

Today, I welcome one of my informal mentors back to Urban Christian Fiction Today. Linda Beed is the founder and moderator for Black Writers Christian Lit, an invaluable online network for African-American Christian writers, where we learn everything from basic grammar to the nitty gritty details of the publishing business, celebrate, fellowship, and pray.

Welcome to UCFT, Linda. Tell us about yourself?
Linda the person is one in love with life and the things of God. Through love and obedience on any given day I function under the headings of, wife, mother, grandmother, educator, speaker, columnist, reviewer, developmental editor and children’s minister. I have a passion for seeing others excel at what they set their hands to and am ecstatic when people discover and operate in purpose. Basically, like most women, I’m a nurturer of those set under my care.

Tell us about your novel. Business Unusual is the first release from the Covenant Series. It is the story of an eclectic group of people, all of who are at the crossroads of life. They are humorous, complex, accomplished, have set and are marching toward personal goals that most people only dare to dream about. It will be in their quest to go to the next level that they find that their lives are not their own and that the decisions they have to make have the potential to change the course of not only their lives, but that of generations to come.

Who is your favorite character and why?
It’s hard to choose because I like them all. For the sake of this interview I will choose Hayes. I choose Hayes because he is not the stereotypical man we meet in most books. He is a man who is not afraid to be a man, a lover or friend. His personality is one that challenges and provokes in a way that dares you say that he is not true to what and who he believes in. The question is – what are his beliefs and in whom does he pledge his allegiance?

Is there a message you’d like readers to take away from the story?
Exiting the pages of Business Unusual I would like the reader to understand how valuable they are to God that the errors they have made and will make does not change the plans/purpose He has for you.

What is your writing process like?
My writing process is somewhat unorthodox. I tried following the advice of outlining the story and making a character chart for the cast before writing, but found that this strategy hampers the process for me.

When I have an idea, I jot it down and then free write until I cannot without structure. I will then go back and incorporate the mechanics necessary to flesh out the storyline and my characters.

You went the independent route with publishing your novel, tell us why and share some wisdom about the process? Prior to shopping the manuscript around I thoroughly investigated the options available to me at that time for publishing. After realizing that the traditional contracts being offered did not align with my vision for the book, I chose to independently publish.

Publishing a book by whichever method you choose is hard work. I would advise writers to understand that in addition to this being an art form, writing is also a business. The business can be trying as well as fulfilling. You can minimize the amount of trauma to be overcome when you take the time to become skilled in both the writing and business side of craft.

What’s been the most rewarding thing about being published?
By nature and I am a teacher and exhorter. For me, I would say that the most rewarding aspect of being published is the opportunity to minister and encourage others.

Linda, you are quite the teacher – your ministry of sharing information has benefited so many writers and authors. There’s a lot of time involved in the teaching that you do. Tell me about your personal mission with respect to this.
During my time of preparation (pre-publication) I asked many questions. I also took notes when people shared the pitfalls of uninformed choices and/or fell prey to predatory practices. Hearing their experiences planted a seed in me to help others bypass as many stumbles as possible by making available ongoing information regarding the literary industry.

Thank you for taking the time today. What’s next for you?
Before I answer I would like to thank you for providing a place for readers of Christian works.
This year has truly been one of preparation for things to come. I have a contribution in the October 2009 Anthology – The Gumbo for The Soul/Women of Honor: The Special Pink Edition. In 2010 I have another anthology release (The Breakthrough: A Triumph of My Soul) along with a non-fiction release and Continued Business, the second installment in the Covenant Series. There is also a forth-coming workshop series and a historical fiction set to release in 2011.

Sounds great, Linda. We can expect quite a bit from you. How can readers find you on the web? I invite you to visit me on the web at:
Website: http://www.lindabeed.com/
Review Blog: http://lindabeed.blogspot.com/
Industry Blog: http://bwchristianlit.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Devil Is A Lie

ReShonda Tate Billingsley has been on this blog several times for her young adult fiction, but did you know she write's women's fiction? Really good women's fiction. She's an award winning, bestselling women's fiction author and that's where her published writing career began. Her newest release will be on shelves July 7th, it's "The Devil Is A Lie" from Pocket books. Here's a little about it:

As Luck Would Have It...
4-7-14-17-21-25. Those numbers, printed on a slim paper ticket, are about to change the lives of two couples, lovers past and present, in Houston. When Nina Lawson wins $16 million in the Texas Lotto, the real estate executive and her fiancé, personal trainer Rick Henderson, ecstatically begin planning their future -- from paying off their credit card debt, to setting their wedding date, to a spontaneous, spare-no-expense island getaway.

But while counting her millions, Nina didn't count on one other astounding twist of fate: her ex-husband, Todd Lawson, isn't her ex anything -- since the paperwork for their divorce was never officially filed. Now he's shown up with his money-hungry girlfriend, Pam, to claim half of Nina's winnings. Add to this the relatives coming out of the woodwork to seek a payday for themselves, and Nina must ask herself if scoring a fortune in cash comes with too high a price tag. With a little bit of luck, Nina will discern the real wealth in her heart, not just her bank account -- or risk losing everything -- to find out what matters the most.

I had an advanced review copy. I'll be writing my review soon, but let me go ahead and say - page turner. I loved the story.

ReShonda says she came up with the idea for the book this way:
I was talking with a friend who thought she was divorced and years later found out she wasn't. I'm a 'what if' person, so I immediately started, "what if someone was in that position, after they won the lottery?"
To learn more about Reshonda visit her website http://www.reshondatatebillingsley.com/

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

Have you ever been tired…of mothering? Truth be told, I have. I’ve been to the point where I wanted to throw in the towel and just give up. I’ve even gone as far as contemplating dropping my boys off to their father and not returning. I would simply keep driving and not look back. I was tired. Burnt-out. Exhausted. Spent. Overwhelmed. Underappreciated. Anyway, you call it, it all comes up the same…t-i-r-e-d! I was tired of giving and giving, receiving nothing but bad attitudes and ungratefulness in exchange. I fuss and I punish, only to have disobedience resurface. I attempt to love them into submission, with no avail. Tears become my closest friend as I ponder where I went wrong. My heart grieves a slow death as I watch up-close the destruction of my hopes of having a perfect family.
Reality check: After the Holy Spirit slapped me around a bit I was brought back to remembrance of how when I was at my worst what my Father did for me—His very imperfect child…You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 Wow! He didn’t turn His back on me as I acted up and ran amuck. He didn’t wash His hands of me when I was a wayward mess. Instead, while I was my filthiest, dirtiest self He continued to show me love. Real love…God demonstrates His own love for us in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Roman 5:8

Jacob was a practiced trickster. Noah an alcoholic. David a renowned womanizer. All imperfect. All flawed. All God’s children. But, yet, they all were used for His glory. Who am I to think of abandoning my own children of promise, when God didn’t permit me to fall by the wayside? Children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3
I’ve found motherhood cannot be contained in a box with a pretty red bow tied on top. Heartaches are guaranteed. The laboring will be heavy and intense. You won’t have the answers to all the questions. You will feel defenseless to their pouty mouths and puppy dog eyes. They will try you at every end. Your patience will be lost. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel…Little children, you are of God (you belong to Him) and have (already) defeated and overcome them (the agents of the antichrist), because He who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
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. She can be contacted at her websiste at www.irisceleste.com

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Worth A Thousand Words Blog Tour - Day 1

Jubilant Soul Series Book Two

by Stacy Hawkins Adams


Life has always gone Indigo Burns’s way. She’s smart, pretty, and talented, and she knows exactly what she wants. A photography internship at her hometown’s local newspaper is the next step in her well-laid plans for her future. But her long-term goals are put to the test when her boyfriend Brian proposes–two years before he’s supposed to and in front of all the guests at her college graduation party.

Too concerned about his feelings to say no, she heartily agrees, but inside she’s cringing. Indigo knows in her heart that she’s not prepared to sacrifice her dreams to become Brian’s wife–not before she has achieved any of them. Will she find the answers among family and friends in Jubilant, Texas? Or will the picture-perfect life she dreams of be left behind?


Indigo Burns peered over the balcony at the crowd that had gathered in the courtyard below to celebrate her achievement and her brief homecoming. "Brief," if that's what one could call the next four months. In a town the size of Jubilant, seventeen weeks could feel like sixty, especially after being away for four years, pursuing your dreams.

"This day is perfect," she said, surveying the colorful variety of flowers that bathed the grounds of Jubilant Botanical Garden."I feel like God is giving me a thumbs-up and sealing it with a kiss."

Brian tweaked her nose with his thumb and forefinger. " Then I guess you don't need mine, huh?"
She chuckled and raised her head so his lips could easily reach hers.

Brian delivered the smooch with a smile and she returned the gesture. She laid her head on his chest and closed her eyes.

This man was another special gift.

Without consulting one another, each had come to the party wearing tan linen outfits and brown leather sandals, although his shoes were flat and hers bore two-inch heels.
"How does it feel to be a college graduate?" he asked. "A summa cum laude one, at that?"
Indigo squeezed his waist. "Feels good, babe. I'm excited about the next chapter."

He wrapped his deep brown arms around her, and they both turned their attention back to her friends and family milling about below. The intimate group laughed and chatted as they enjoyed seafood and barbecue and browsed through scrapbooks filled with photos from her childhood. Along with snatches of conversation, the scent of fried catfish and basting ribs wafted upward, and Indigo felt herself growing hungry again.

Young and old guests were dancing to some of her favorite old school R&B and hip-hop grooves. At one end of the patio, Brian's parents swayed in sync, tucking their round bodies into each other's like matching puzzle pieces. They had surprised Indigo by driving the two hours from Austin to attend the party.
A few feet away, her mom and dad sashayed to the riffs of Chaka Khan, a half second offbeat as always. And holding center court were Indigo's cousins Rachelle and Gabe. Indigo smiled as she watched the tall, lean couple move in close and pull away at the beckoning of the beat. Their eyes remained locked, and at one point, Gabe lowered his head and savored a kiss from his wife.

Indigo blushed and instinctively framed the picture in her mind. If she weren't locked in Brian's embrace right now, she'd grab one of her cameras to capture this miracle. Those two clearly didn't need words to let the family know their marriage was back on track.

The song ended, and before the DJ could start another, one of Indigo's aunts climbed the steps to a small stage adjacent the patio. Indigo's best friend followed on Aunt Melba's heels. A bed of multicolored tulips and roses served as their backdrop.

Each of the women grabbed a microphone from its stand, and Aunt Melba shushed the crowd by tapping hers. She pointed in Indigo's direction.

"That's where they're hiding," she said into the mic. Everyone looked toward the balcony and laughed. "Brian, will you please escort the guest of honor to the stage?"

In jest, Brian saluted Aunt Melba. He held out his arm so Indigo could tuck hers inside, and they descended the curved stone stairwell. A minute later, Indigo was facing her guests.

Wearing a smile that showcased her perfect teeth, she slid between Aunt Melba and Shelby and waved at her cheering loved ones.

We're in perfect position for a photo shoot. She chuckled inwardly.

One of the companies she had interned with a few years agowas always looking for catalog models of different shades and sizes. Today, the three of them would have been hired at their asking prices-Indigo with toffee skin and a thin bone structure that gave her jaw and cheekbones prominent angles; Aunt Melba with her bronze complexion, full red lips, and thick hips; and Shelby, a dark chocolate Hershey's kiss, whose smooth skin and curves made her eligible for Barbie-doll status.

"Aw, y'all really love me!" Indigo said in response to the lingering applause. Her eyes moistened as she scanned their faces. There was her great aunt Margaret, now ninety and wheelchair bound; her childhood babysitter, Sheila; the leader of her Girl Scout troop, Mrs. Jones; and her favorite instructor ever, eleventh grade humanities teacher Mrs. Hutton.

Thank you, God, for this day.

Shelby opened her palm and revealed the tissue she had tucked inside. She passed it to Indigo.

"Any of us who know this girl well knew this would happen,"Shelby teased. "We haven't said a word about her yet, and she's acting like the Grammy is hers."
Indigo swatted Shelby's arm.

"Seriously though," Shelby said, "it's an honor to be here to celebrate Indigo Irene Burns. For those of you who don't know, I'm Shelby Arrington, Indigo's friend and sister in spirit. We met at Tuskegee University our sophomore year and graduated together yesterday."

Aunt Melba waved. "If any of you don't know me, you better ask somebody!"

The guests roared.

Indigo shook her head. Aunt Melba was always trying to be hip.

I am Indigo's favorite aunt and one of her biggest fans," Melba said. "Indigo graduated with honors yesterday, with a 3.9 GPA. She has received a partial scholarship to a prestigious school in New York City, and she'll move there in August to get her master's in digital photography."

She's going to tell us what her summer plans are in a few moments, but her long-term goal is to become as good as, if not better than, some of America's most famous photographers."

Shelby continued the introduction. "She wants to shoot fine art images for magazines and museums and maybe even still-life for movies. The awesome thing about Indigo is that, not only does she want to do these things, being the person she is, she'll get them done."

She turned toward Indigo. "Indie, we wish you much success and Godspeed on your journey. And when you hit it big, I'll be your 'Gail.' If Oprah can have a 'ride or die' girlfriend, you can too!"

Indigo hugged Aunt Melba and Shelby and took Shelby's microphone. The women stepped aside to give Indigo center stage. She thanked everyone for coming and for supporting her over the years.

"Now, to my parents," Indigo said and shook her head. "I can't say enough. They gave me a camera that used 35 mm film when I was ten. Remember those? I took so many pictures that at some point they began upgrading me to a better model every Christmas."

They've always believed in me and supported me, even when it meant they had to sacrifice something else. They have taught me, and shown me, that with God and personal grit, there's nothing I can't accomplish. Anything that I've achieved so far, or will achieve-I share those accolades with you, Mama and Daddy. I love you."

Indigo dabbed her eyes with the tissue again and searched the crowd."

Where are Rachelle and Gabe?" she asked.

The couple waved from their seats, in the last row of black folding chairs positioned near the stage. Their teenage son and daughter sat next to them.

"Rachelle, you're a cousin who's more like a big sister, and I appreciate you for that," Indigo said. "Thanks to both of you for giving me this party at this beautiful place. Our usual backyard barbecue was all I had in mind. You're so good to me!"

Gabe stood up and blew her a kiss. "Remember this day when you're rich and famous and I need a loan!"

Indigo raised an eyebrow and laughed. "Okay, Doctor Covington," she said. Just about everyone there knew Gabe was one of the top heart surgeons in the nation and wouldn't need her financial help anytime soon.

"Tell them what you'll be doing this summer," Aunt Melba reminded her.

"I will be interning at the Jubilant Herald for ten weeks," Indigo said. "My long-term interest isn't photojournalism, but I'll get to add a range of shots to my portfolio before I head to grad school. Plus, it will be great to spend the summer at home."

Brian approached Indigo and put an arm around her waist."No men on the stage!" Shelby teased.

Brian winked at her."Hey, everybody," he said in his husky, laid-back drawl, skipping the self-introduction. "I just want to say that I'm very proud of Indigo. We met at Tuskegee when she was a sophomore and I was a senior." Brian looked in Shelby's direction. "Our friend over there introduced us, and within half an hour of talking to Miss Indigo, I knew she was special," Brian said. "She hasn't proved me wrong. She has big plans for the future, and I'm praying that I'll be part of them."

Indigo felt tears surfacing again. Brian had never been much of a romantic; this overt show of affection surprised her. Then he knelt on one knee. She stopped breathing.

"Indigo, if you'll take this ring, and agree to become Mrs. Harper, you'll make me the happiest man in the world. Will you marry me?"

Indigo stared at Brian and tried to process what she'd heard. Did he just propose? In front of everyone she knew? Had this man forgotten that he'd be leaving in a few weeks for the Navy's Officer Candidate School, with plans to become a pilot?

Countless emotions engulfed Indigo, from love and gratitude to a tidal wave of fear. Suddenly she felt her stomach churning.

Please, God, no. Not now. Not here. As much as she loved Brian, becoming his wife wasn't in her immediate plans. Neither was giving up her first choice grad school.

"I love you too, Brian," she said weakly, hoping her grin effectively masked her mental wrestling match. How could she say no to this fine, smart brother, who had a bright future ahead of him and happened to be crazy about her?

She couldn't. Not in front of all these people. God forgive me."Yes-I'll marry you!" she told Brian.

She flung her arms around his neck and let the tears fall. She did love him, and she did want to be his wife. Just not now-before she, and her dreams, had a chance to blossom.


Stacy Hawkins Adams is a nationally-published, award-winning author and speaker. Her contemporary women’s fiction novels are filled with social themes and spiritual quests that take readers on journeys into their own souls.

She holds a degree in journalism and served as a newspaper reporter for more than a decade before turning her full attention to penning books, speaking professionally and writing freelance articles. Stacy lives in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two young children.

Follow the blog tour schedule at http://bitly.com/WorthAThousandWords

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 4 of the Isaiah 40:31 Blog Tour

Soar like an Eagle!
By Lily Ratliff

One of the most famous scriptures in the bible today is Isaiah 40:31 which says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (KJV) However, we as a people recite this verse, not truly realizing the extent to what our God is really saying to His people, especially in these last and evil days.

Many of us today are facing a financial crisis that this world as never seen since the Great Depression. People are losing their jobs and their homes, their life savings from 401K’s and stocks and bonds are gone by the close of the day, and sickness and disease has crept up into many a families from the stress of all that’s going on around them. However, if we are children of God and truly living within the body of Christ, we are not a part of the recession. As children of the Almighty King, we shouldn’t have to claim that Egypt mentality. Oh no, we are living in Goshen if we are lined up to the will and power of God! Amen!

God wants us to wait on Him. And not just wait in the literal sense of waiting for Him to respond, which we know he will also do, but also waiting (as the Hebrew Qavah suggests-which means to hope or look for, or have great expectation in receiving His salvation and help in the time of need). We can’t do everything on our own accord and our own will, because it will do nothing but collapse and fail. God calls those people in Isaiah 40:30-youth or vigorous young men because they run like mad men trying to work up something, but fall flat on their faces from weariness and fatigue. Selfishness is something God will not tolerate. But if we are ready to receive all that God has for us, then God will grant us power to withstand-it’s the kind of strength that will move mountains! He will restore us to our rightful positions. Hallelujah! It says in Isaiah 40:28, and I will paraphrase this: Didn’t you know? Haven’t you heard that our Almighty God, who made heaven and earth, never fails, nor gets weary or weak in well-doing? You may not understand Him, in His infinite wisdom, but he’s asking for you to do the impossible! You may complain about the length of your journey, and feel you can’t make it. If you look at God through your circumstances, He will seem small and very far away, as if you can’t get a prayer through, but if by faith you look at your circumstances through God, He will draw very near and reveal His greatness to you. When the devil tries to come against us, with the authority God has given us, we will be able to step on his head, and make him our footstool as we mount up, rise, and fly like eagles, and experience life on a higher plane, a soaring supernatural life which is always available to every believer.

This scripture also takes me to another familiar scripture that’s similar and it’s Hebrews 12:1-4. In it, the Lord tells us to set aside every weight that so easily besets us, or the cares that you might have that you want to hold onto; you know the ones about your children, or your unfaithful spouse, or the boss on your job that’s giving you a hard time. Even though those things are disrupting your thought life, we are still to run this race knowing first, that God is there and will never leave us, but also two-God has been through what we’re going through and more.
2. “Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3. Just think of Him who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds. 4. You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood. (AMP)

See in verse two and three of that chapter, he goes on to explain that he endured the cross, he despised and ignored the shame and endured patiently. He didn’t lose heart; he didn’t give up; he did it all for us! Think about what God had to struggle with each and every day. That should give us hope for a glorious future in His Kingdom! But don’t think for a second that that future couldn’t start today! Oh no! God wants us, while we are in this race, to live victoriously! An abundant life, health, wealth, prosperity, wisdom, peace, and joy are ours, right now! Just speak it, declare your faith towards God, and encourage yourself in this faith walk. Keep pressing Saints of God! We must not be moved. God is in control! Amen.

I do hope you have been inspired by this wonderful devotional. Now, enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of the anthology Have a Little Faith edited by Vanessa Miller, which includes the story “The Breakthrough” by Lily Ratliff.

Trivia Question: In the latest anthology, Have a Little Faith (released May 27th), what is the title of Lily's short story?

Leave your answer to today’s question in the comment section of this post. All correct answers will be placed in a drawing and one lucky person will win an autograph copy of Have a Little Faith from the author!

About the author

Lily L. Ratliff is a writer, educator, entrepreneur and speaker. Lily is the debut author of the Christian autobiography, The Life of a Lily. Lily has taught elementary through high school English and Reading for eleven years. She also owns and operates "Everything That's Lily, LLC," an online book and inspirational jewelry business. Lily is also a dynamic inspirational speaker who has been sought after by churches, writing circles, schools, and community organizations to motivate, encourage, and inspire today's youth & young adults. Lily resides in Lithonia, Georgia, with her daughter, Asia Denise.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Journey to Publication - Part VI

Money, money, money, money...Money!
Rhonda McKnight

I’m back with more on the journey. If you’ve missed any installment of my story, please click here for the link to the other five parts.

I left off with the contract. You know the part where the $$$ comes into this scenario. Depending on your attitude and goals this is can be the good part or the part of publishing that sucks. I have a good attitude, nothing sucks about attaining a lifelong goal.

My contract was delayed, but I finally got it. I’m a pretty thorough reader, so I sat down and read it, made notes about questions and set a telephone meeting with my agent. She explained all the confusing stuff. What’s the confusing stuff you ask? For me it was book club royalties payments (to clubs like Black Expressions or Crossings), direct sales details(I’m still foggy on that), reserves (that’s where the publisher holds back royalty payments because of anticipated returns from the distributor) and the option clause. The option clause can vary, but it’s basically language around whether or not the publishing house has a legal right to see your next work of fiction before anyone else can. It gives them the right to buy it and in some cases can have you stuck with them. Most publishers require an option, it protects their investment, but the author does have some rights to refuse, all be them limited. So once I understood the contact, I signed, put it in the mail and about a month later the advance check came.

Advances come in all shapes and sizes. Let me say for a new author with a small press the size of my advance was not sizable, but it was nice to pull it out of the ole mailbox and take it to the bank. I had my son take pics of me smiling as I held it, and I took great delight in going to the bank to open a new account for my writing business. So exciting. Someone had paid me to write. Let me say here that no matter what the advance, be it $1000 or $5 million dollars, you don’t get it all at once. Most contracts split the payment and it’s done in various ways. I have a two book contract, so I got 1/4 of the total contract value at contract. I’ll receive another 1/4 thirty days after Secrets and Lies is released, another 1/4 when the final edits are completed for my 2nd novel and the final 1/4 when the second novel is released. I know you’re thinking, wow, talk about splitting it up. Yep, that’s what they do, but that’s actually a good split. I talked to an author the other day whose publisher split her advance into eight payments. Can you imagine the manpower it takes to manage that stuff at the publishing house? I mean I’m sure it’s all automated and such, but still, the oversight and postage. Give me a break.

So I gots the big bucks now and I’m wondering is it time to quit my job? Hee, hee, hee…I am so kidding. What it was really time for was to sit in front of the computer and start book two.

To be continued…

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to ask me questions.


Rhonda McKnight

Monday, June 15, 2009

What the Bayou Saw Blog Tour

What the Bayou Saw

by Patti Lacy

Segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal assault bound them together. Forever. Thirty-eight years later, Sally, a middle-aged Midwestern instructor, dredges up childhood secrets long buried beneath the waters of a Louisiana bayou in order to help her student, who has also been raped. Fragments of spirituals, gospel songs, and images of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are woven into the story.

Take a Sneak Peek inside "What the Bayou Saw"

Hold the Wind, Hold the Wind, Hold the Wind, don’t let it blow.

—Negro spiritual, “Hold the Wind”

August 26, 2005, Normal, Illinois

I am meteorologist Kim Boudreaux.” Clad in a dark suit, the petite woman smiled big for her television audience. “Katrina’s track has changed.” She pointed to a mass of ominous-looking clouds that threatened to engulf the screen. “She’s no longer headed for Mobile but is on course for the Crescent City.”

Sally Stevens checked her cell phone, then paced in front of the television, as if that would make her brother Robert pick up the phone. She needed to talk to him, needed to know that he’d gotten her nieces and her sister-in-law out of the death trap that New Orleans suddenly had become. Needed to have him assure her, with his balmy Southern drawl, that he and his National Guardsmen were going to be okay.

A slender hand pointed to what must be a fortune’s worth of satellite and radar imagery. “As you can see, Katrina’s moving toward the mouth of the Mississippi, toward the levees . . .” The meteorologist buzzed on, high on news of this climactic wonder.

Every word seeped from the television screen, crept across the Stevens’s den, and crawled up Sally’s spine. Louisiana had once been her home. Her heritage. What would this hurricane do to the Southern state that she still loved?

A glance at her watch told Sally to get moving. Instead, she once again punched in Robert’s number. If she could just hear his voice, she’d know how to pray later as she stood in her classroom pretending to be passionate about her lecture on the history of American music, pretending to act like it was another ordinary afternoon in Normal, Illinois, while this mother of a storm wreaked wrath and vengeance upon her brother. Her home.

“. . . the next twenty-four hours are crucial . . .” The camera zoomed in for a close-up, focusing on a perfect oval face that, for just a moment, seemed to stiffen, as if a personal levee was about to be breached. “I’m not supposed to say this.” Urgency laced the forecaster’s voice. “But I’m telling you. Leave. This is a killer.” The pulsating weather image, a mass of scarlet and violet whirling about an ominous-looking eye, seemed to confirm her report.

Growing like a cancer.

Moving in for the kill . . .

Talk turned to evacuation, log-jammed roads, but Sally barely listened. Years flew away as she studied Ms. Boudreaux’s flawless mocha complexion, the tilt of her chin. The determination of this woman to save her city, or at least its people. So like the determination of Ella, that first friend, who’d taken off for New Orleans. It was as if the lockbox of Sally’s memories had somehow sprung open. Ella, that friend who’d saved her. Ella. And her brother, Willie, if he’d gotten out of the pen. Were they digging in, evacuating—

A classical song Sally’s kids had downloaded onto her phone poured from the tiny speaker as the device vibrated in her palm.

“God, let it be—” She glanced at the readout. 504 area code. New Orleans. Robert. Her fingers suddenly clumsy, she struggled to flip open the phone. Static greeted her.

“Robert? Bobby?” She was shouting, but she didn’t care. “Are you there? Are you—”
“Ssss—got them out.”

He’s out there somewhere, right in the elements, from the sound of it.

“Where are you?” Sally cried. “Robert, what’s going on?” Sally pressed the phone against her ear until it hurt. All this technology, yet she could barely hear him, could barely—

The whooshing stopped. So did Robert’s voice. Sally stared at the readout. Ten seconds she’d had with him. Ten seconds to gauge the climate of a city. A city that might still claim as a resident that once-best friend. Sally whispered a prayer as she grabbed her briefcase and headed to class.
The rest of this prologue can be found on Simply Said Reading Accessories starting June 16th.
Do you like what you are reading?

Purchase What The Bayou Saw at Amazon.com.

For more FREE peeks inside "What the Bayou Saw," be sure to follow the full blog tour schedule at

ABOUT THE AUTHORPatti Lacy graduated from Baylor University in 1977 with a B.S. in education. She taught at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, until she retired in 2006 to pursue writing full time. She has two grown children with her husband, Alan, and lives in Illinois. Visit Patti online at http://www.pattilacy.com/.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Author Interview with Toyi Ward

Today, I welcome author, Toyi Ward, to share a litle about her new novel, Par For the Curse.

Here's a synopsis of the novel:

The men they love with never love them. The men who love them, they will never love. These simple but ominous words describe the complex situation in the life of Stormy Briggs. The drama in Stormy's life is caused by a curse put on her great-grandmother, Lila, over eighty years ago. The heart line of Grandma Lila's palm was sliced in two which led to a life void of love and lasting relationships. Though her cousins, Riley and Lourdes, accept the lot they have been given in life, an unexpected event forces Stormy to return New Orleans to investigate the origin of the curse. This trip changes her view of herself and her family.

Par for the Curse is unpredictable and not easily put into a box. Breaking the rules of genre, the story manages to make us feel like we are entrenched in reality, with drama that you only want to read about in books. This story was written to shed light on how we often hurt our family members with the best of intentions. Family secrets are most often meant to protect loved ones but instead end up being painful baggage carried for generations. Stormy is determined to rid herself and her family of the curse and the baggage that came along with it.

Toyi, this is your first novel. How long did it take you to write it?
Five years. I had a full-time career. Not a job, but a career as a sales and marketing executive at Johnson & Johnson. I traveled a lot and had a team of people who demanded my attention. I liked what I was doing on most days, but writing was always burning inside of me.

Voodoo, what an interesting topic. Tell me why you chose it for your debut?
It’s not really about voodoo. That’s the back drop of the story. It’s more about the family dynamics and the baggage that people carry from their parents and grandparents. I chose voodoo as a back drop because I’ve always loved New Orleans and had some knowledge of palmistry. My great-grandmother read palms. She lived to be a healthy 102 years old and so I had a lot of time with her growing up.

Is the story based upon your family?
The premise of the story is but not the characters or the plot. My family on my mother’s side was very matriarchal. There are also quite a few husbands among us. Not as many as the Briggs girls, but enough. No one in my family has been married only once.

What do you want readers to walk away with when they finish Par for the Curse?
Well, first I want them to enjoy the story. It’s fiction because I want people to be entertained. I also find that it is easier to digest a tough message if it’s wrapped in fiction. That’s why Jesus spoke in parables. Then, I want people to think about the baggage they carry. Throw it out and don’t recycle.

You say you want to always do fiction with a message. What’s your next project?
I have no idea, exactly. I’ve had a pretty eventful life which has given me an equally active imagination. I can look at someone or something and ask "what if"? That’s how I start my projects. So I’ll take a topic close to me and "what if" it until I get a story.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I have two very important lessons that will always stay with me. Number one, You must never quit. Number two is a profound lesson I learned. The subject that you dread the most is the one you should write about. Be uncomfortable. It will produce a raw and authentic representation of your voice.

What's next for you? Whatever God has for Toyi Ward, I want it. I'm in a very uncomfortable place because I have no idea what is going to happen in my life from one day to the next. With the radio show, the book, my company, and my civic involvement, God could take me anywhere.

Toyi, how can readers contact you? At my website http://www.toyiward.com/ They may also learn more about my characters at my novel blog http://parforthecurse.toyiward.com/

About the author
Toyi Ward is an author & media host. After ten years as a Fortune 100 sales & marketing executive, she pursued her writing career full-time. Her debut novel, Par for the Curse, examines the impact of generational secrets on the family. She is the host of "TOYi Talk-Authenticity with Attitude" on the Blog Talk Radio Network.
Find out more at http://newsroom.toyiward.com/

Friday, June 12, 2009

Anointed Authors on Tour - The latest from Tia McCollors

Anointed Authors on Tour consists of seven award-winning, bestselling authors of Christian fiction and non-fiction publications with a commitment to write and/or publish integrity-based literature, touring as a testament to the power of using gifts and talents for God's glory. Over the next two weeks, plan to meet Kendra Norman Bellamy, Tia McCollors, Vanessa Miller, Michelle Stimpson, Shewanda Riley, and Dr. Vivi Monroe Congress. Each of these authors have current and upcoming book releases that are must-reads for your summer reading list.

Listen to a SNEAK PEEK from The Last Woman Standing by Tia McCollors

Click here to read or download the excerpt.

Click here to pre-order The Last Woman Standing. Available August 1, 2009.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review of Unsigned Hype

Debut Author from World of Hip-Hop
Delivers Story that Brings the Urban Young-Adult Experience to Life

Synopsis of the novel -

Tory Tyson may only be in high school, but he knows what he wants out of life--a successful music career. And he's not going to learn about all that at school. So when school lets out next month he's not going back. He's finally ready to stop spinning old records at parties and start laying down his own beats--and the Unsigned Hype music contest is the perfect place to launch his career. But will he be able to handle the fame and fortune he seeks?

A review of the novel -

I had my 17 year old son, Aaron, read and review this book. Here's what he had to say:

"This is a great story about a young man taking the right steps in life to become successful. This kid named Tory Tyson, "Terror Tory", has an incredible, God-given talent to create and produce music that inspires everyone to come together and enjoy life. While on his journey to stardom he goes through the good and bad things that come with being popular and famous. He still strives to do things the right way through the good and bad. Author, Booker T. Mattison's plot was great. Everything flowed smoothly and transistioned well. The characters were well thought out and perfect for this story. This story will inspire all young people. It shows that even though you grew up in a bad neighborhood and around negative people, that you can still overcome the overwhelming odds and obstacles in life and be successful and do good things with your life." ...Aaron McKnight

I'm going to make him a writer out of him yet. :o)

Aaron enjoyed the book. He read it in two days which is always a good sign, so this is a highly recommended one for the young set.

About the author -

Booker T. Mattison is a writer and filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for and directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime. His films have been screened at the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, the Directors Guild of America, and Harvard University. He has also written and directed music videos for Grammy-nominated the Cross Movement, as well as other Christian rap and R&B artists. His music videos have aired on BET, MTV Europe, the Gospel Music Channel, and TBN. Mattison lives in Newburg, New York, with his wife and four children. This is his first novel.

Visit him at http://bookertmattison.com/ and Facebook

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Blessed Thoughts From Iris Celeste

Dearly Loved

I love road trips. There is nothing like witnessing God's creation through the beauty of nature itself. The splendor of the trees, standing tall and strong. The greenery of the grass and the backdrop of the sky, all established for my enjoyment. Not one thing is fighting for its own space or beckoning for attention. Everything is as it should be. The exact way God designed it...In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

My life is the same way. God views it all from beginning to end. The pitfalls, as well as the mountaintop experiences. He is not shocked by my bad decisions and wrong turns, disappointed maybe. But not at all aroused. He created me and knows all about me...Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30 How humbling. Nothing I do can change the way He feels about me...Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. Romans 8:38

While driving in my car, surrounded by nature's ambiance, I felt the evidence of God's love. It was His protection that enhedged me and kept my vehicle on the road. It was He who commanded the angels to keep close watch over me-His prize possession...He shielded them and cared for them; He guarded them as the apple of His eye. Deuteronomy 32:10 Just as the trees and the land doesn't have to vie for God's affection, nor do I. He loves me simply because I'm me...God's chosen one, holy and dearly loved. Colossians 3:12

Iris Celeste

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. You may learn more about Iris and her novel by visiting her at http://www.irisceleste.com/

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Interview with author, Nicole S. Rouse

Today I'm hosting Nicole S. Rouse. Nicole is one of my label mates at Urban Christian Books.
Welcome Nicole. What is the synopsis for your latest novel.
“What’s done in the dark eventually comes to light.” When delivered by his pastor, those words stir up memories of guilt and shame for Jerome Thomas. In the early years of his marriage, Jerome made several mistakes—neglecting his family, struggling with bouts of alcoholism, and wasting money. But, the one mistake he regrets the most is cheating on his wife.

Every morning before she opens her eyes, Taylor Belle says a quick prayer for forgiveness. The guilt of the affair she had and the lives of the people she hurt weigh heavily on her heart. She knows that she needs to settle things with Jerome before God will lift her burden.

Several years have passed since the affair, but there is still unfinished business between Taylor and Jerome that could destroy their families. What will happen when the repercussions of their last intimate encounter catch up to them? Will God mend old wounds and restore the love and peace they once knew, or are Jerome and Taylor destined to suffer the consequences of their past sins for years to come?

Is there a message in this story that you want readers to grasp? There is a consequence for everything you do. In this story, Jerome and Taylor had an affair. Although the affair ended years ago, the repercussions of their actions have come to light. Instead of being honest from the beginning, they now have to deal the consequences. This story is just one example of what can happen when God is not in control of our lives.

Who was your favorite character in the story and why?
Taylor Belle. Taylor represents women who have made several mistakes in their past. She is now a successful wife, mother and businesswoman, but allows her past to interfere with her future. Taylor is the perfect example of how holding on to the past and keeping secrets can cause a person to lose focus on things that matter most. She is so busy trying to win the love of others, that she looses who Taylor is and who Taylor needs to be. Like Taylor, we must learn to stop pleasing others, and instead let God guide us on how to have healthy relationships and who to be in a relationship with.

What are your other titles? Is this a sequel?
Happily Ever Now is my first novel. Someone to Love Me is the sequel.

Tell us discovered you were a writer?
Although I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school, I don’t think I realized that I was a writer until college. Friends and family would ask me to help them write papers, letters, and other written documents.

Then one day I read Disappearing Acts by Terri McMillan. I think I read that book in one day. The characters felt like people I knew and they dealt with issues that were real to me. I felt like I could write a story about “real” people, too. So, I went home and started writing my first novel.

What was your journey to publication like?
When I made the decision to follow my dream, I had no clue about where to begin or how to start. I had written a love story, but wasn’t sure where to go from there. I did some research in the library and discovered how to send query letters. After a few rejections, I felt God pushing me to do something different. I took several writing classes, became a part of a small writer’s group, became an intern for a local newspaper, and taught teachers how to incorporate writing into all subject areas.

While I was busy with all these activities, a co-worker stopped me one day and told me, “It’s never too late to follow your dream.” She had no idea what my dream was, or that I was becoming discouraged and frustrated in my pursuit of becoming published. Once again I felt God’s presence, and after praying for direction, I was led to Chicago.

I didn’t know what was ahead, but I moved to Chicago and several doors opened. Again, I took classes, organized and taught workshop for parents, and worked for a small magazine. I also met someone who had self-published her first novel. We became very good friends and eventually I became, in a sense, her assistant. Eventually, we started doing workshops together. And, it was at a book fair with my friend, that I met Joylynn Jossell. As I listened to Joylynn talk about shifting from mainstream writing to Christian fiction, my spirit jumped. I was struggling with the same thing at the time. When she was finished speaking, something inside me said, “Go talk to her.” I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I rambled on about my novel while she patiently listened. When I was done, she said, “Send me your first three chapters.” I cannot tell you how excited I was when I left that building.

As I think about my journey, I realize that God was preparing me for what was to come from the very beginning. One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11. I am often reminded that no matter what a situation looks like, or how long something seems to take, God has a plan for me. A plan to prosper me. So, I continue to move forward and wait for the day God brings my dreams into reality.

What’s been the most challenging part of being a published author? The most rewarding? I find that the most challenging aspect of being an author is time management. There are so many hats that an author must wear. I am an educational editor, so I understand the publishing process and business. There are deadlines that have to met, and many times you have to burn the midnight oil to meet them. You have to be a promoter, publicist, and accountant. You have to make time to attend events, visit book clubs, and organize book signings. Writing and planning your next book is only a portion of what needs to happen. If only there were more hours in the day …

Although there are many challenges, having the opportunity to touch so many people is extremely rewarding. When I decided to write Christian fiction, it was because I wanted to create stories that would promote healthy conversations, and in some way inspire others. Many readers have shared how my first novel touched their lives, either because they shared a similar experience, or because it encouraged them to communicate better or reflect on how their lives changed as a result.

The fellowship that occurred at the numerous book clubs I visited, have truly been a blessing. Together, the members of the book clubs and I have laughed, cried, and shared experiences that left us inspired and encouraged. It feels great to be a part of such a wonderful ministry.

What does Nicole enjoy doing when she’s not writing or promoting a book? I am a part of the sports ministry at my church, where I keep score for the basketball leagues. I belong to the Bravehearts ministry as well, and once a month the women in this group plan adventurous trips. I’ve been whitewater rafting, rock climbing, horseback riding … all things I never imagined I could do.

And, when I can, I also enjoy traveling back to my hometown in Philadelphia to visit family and close friends.

How can readers contact you? http://www.nicolerouse.com/

It was great having Nicole on, so tell me, what do you think about things done in the dark coming to the light? True or not?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

What's On Your Summer Reading List?

It's not June 21st, but it was 90 degrees here in Atlanta on Monday, so it's officially summer. My seventeen year old made a pitcher of home-made lemonade on Sunday and we pulled the grill out of the garage. Call me old fashioned, but now that it's past Memorial Day I also reached back in the closet for my white sandals and went for the first pedicure of the season. As I enjoyed the one luxury I afford myself, I cracked open Vanessa Davis Griggs newest release "Practicing What You Preach". I'm loving the story. Now that I'm almost finished with my second novel (the one I turn into my publisher in September), I'm looking forward to a summer of stress free reading. Here's what's on my list of gotta reads:

Worth A Thousand Words by Stacy Hawkins Adams

The Devil Is A Lie by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Till Debt Do Us Part by Michelle Larks

What The Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy

Cross Country, and Double Cross by James Patterson

The Last Woman Standing by Tia McCollors

Sins of the Father by Angela Benson

What's on your summer reading list?

Have you read The List by Sherri Lewis or The Bishop's Daughter by Tiffany Warren yet? If not, they're must reads.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

That "Ooh-Wee" Factor

This blog has made me one those fortunate people to receive advanced reader copies (ARC) of books. Two months ago I received an ARC of Victoria Christopher Murray’s new novel, Lady Jasmine. I read the two page prologue and literally screamed, “Ooh-wee, this is going to be good!” As I closed the novel, twenty-four hours later (that’s record time for me with the kids and all), I opened my blog to begin writing the review. The first line is “Lady Jasmine is without a doubt the best book I’ve ever read.” I think to myself, I said that last year about Too Little, Too Late, and the year before about The Ex-Files and for sure I said it about A Sin and a Shame. I’m starting to sound like a cliché, and that’s not good, because writers shouldn’t use clichés. But this is exactly what I think every time I close a new Victoria Christopher Murray novel; basically, I’m rendered speechless.

I’m a contracted author. Now that I’m writing under deadline I don’t have as much time to read, but like most writers, I love to read. With reading time cut by more than half, I’m very selective about what goes on my “to be read” shelf. I’m even more selective about what I actually finish reading. In my world, I read two kinds of books to the end: those I can easily finish and those that I can’t wait to finish.

The first type is a good book—good characterization, good plot, good description: lots of goods, including the ending. Suffice to say, it’s always a joy to find a good book. The second type of book, the kind Victoria Christopher Murray writes, is a great book. I can’t wait to finish these books. Simply switching out the word good for great in the above description to explain the elements of a great book doesn’t quite nail the definition.

Since completing my first novel I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find out what makes a great novel. I’ve employed several avid readers in this quest, and we’ve come to the conclusion that nobody really knows. I think that the best novels I’ve read are the ones I couldn’t really put finger on why it was so great. It’s just got that chemistry, that mix of character, plot, prose, dialogue, and conflict that makes me say things like, “Oh, my goodness,” or, “No she didn’t,” and, “Ooh-wee!”

Creating an “Ooh-wee book” is not easy. And I believe it’s particularly difficult to get an “ooh-wee” from African-American readers because by and large we love DRAMA. It’s evident in our best-sellers list. Bring the drama and keep it rolling till we close the book if you want to hook us. That’s why even though African-American Christian fiction sales have increased exponentially over the last seven years, they’re still not where they could be. Many of the authors are writing nice stories, but the reality is that an untapped segment of their readership are drama junkies who don’t quite want nice. As I write, I pray about getting the ooh-wee in there without losing the ministry. As a student of the writing craft, I found literary agent Donald Maass teaches me how in his book Writing the Breakout Novel.

What I call good drama, he calls micro-tension. Micro-tension is the little bits of tension in every scene, on every page, in every paragraph, which keeps a reader turning the pages. Among other things, Maass says it’s characters we care about. The stakes matter to those characters, and therefore, by association, they matter to the reader. A continuing sense that something important is about to happen or could happen keeps us turning the pages. It’s the anticipation of change. I’m inclined to believe he’s correct, because that’s what I love about a Victoria Christopher Murray novel. I never really know what those people in her stories are going to do. In A Sin and a Shame, she held me hostage until the final sentence of the book. I know a hair turned gray waiting to find out what Hosea was going to decide. She even does it with minor characters. In Too Little, Too Late, we had Kyla wielding the power to destroy Jasmine’s world with a single phone call. Does she tell or not tell? Good Lord, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen.

I have no idea if Victoria has ever read Maass’s book, but I do know she broke out in her first novel and continues to break through with readers every time she releases a new book. It’s a blessing to have someone like her leading this genre for African-American authors because we have a model of ever increasing perfection to aspire to. Victoria has always gotten across the message of love, hope, faith, compassion, and redemption without losing the dramatic intensity. From her self-published version of Temptation to her upcoming release, Lady Jasmine, she’s continues to deliver the “ooh-wees.” She is the quintessential Christian entertainer, and I love her for it.

About the Author - Rhonda McKnight
My debut novel, Secrets and Lies (Urban Christian Books) will be released in December 2009. I'm your host here on Urban Christian Fiction Today. I also own Legacy Editing, a free-lance editing service for fiction writers. You may learn more about Legacy at http://www.rhondamcknight.net/

This article was originally published in the April edition of Christian Fiction Online Magazine at http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/best_multicultural.html