Friday, February 27, 2009

Sister-friend Love - How Would We Make It Without It?

by Rhonda McKnight

“Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.” Proverbs 27: 9

It’s Wednesday, January 28th, and I’m sitting in a surgical center waiting room. The medical team has just rolled my seventeen year-old into the O.R. #2 for his third knee surgery. I want to cry. Not because I don’t believe things will go well. Really I’m a woman of faith. I entrust my children to God’s care every day. I want to cry because I’m already beyond this operation, thinking about the pain he’ll endure, and the agony of physical therapy. He’s out of school. He can’t play the basketball he loves, and I know my son will once again isolate himself from most of his friends. He doesn’t like for people to think he’s not at 100%. Then there are the lesser concerns; this is all expensive and I’ll be missing quite a few days of work in an economy that dictates a sistah show up. I whisper words that I’ve come to say daily, “Lord, please help me.”

Click here to

Thursday, February 26, 2009

G.I.R.L.S. Book Club

Today I welcome another exciting book club. This time we've traveled to Memphis to meet the ladies of Girls in Real Life Situations (G.I.R.L.S.) Book Club. I interviewed the club president, Shauntay Hampton-Prewitt, and she answered these questions about her book club.

Welcome Shauntay, tell us about the G.I.R.L.S. The G.I.R.L.S. book club is a part of New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, TN. We have been in existence about 4 years and have on average 15 members.

Great acronym for your name, what are those “real situations”? The real situations are things like baby mama drama, cheating husbands, loss of jobs, unruly children, broken hearts, and stuff like that.

You have a large number of members, you've had up to 30 at one point. How do you keep the sister love amongst so many women? We try to get together out side of our monthly meetings. We go places together and call each other while we are reading to chat about a part that sticks out to us.

Tell me about the types of books your club likes to read. How do you make your reading selections? We love the authors, Victoria Christopher Murray and Kendra Norman Bellamy. Before the book is read by the group, the pre-read team reads a books and votes to see if it is a book the entire group would enjoy.

What format do your meetings take? Our church owns the restaurant where we hold the meetings. We order a couple of group appetizer platters and talk about what parts of the book stuck out the most to us. We love talking about what we call "God Nuggets". That sounds like a great place to meet and I like that, "God's Nuggets".

Tell us about a recent Christian Fiction book you’ve enjoyed and why? We love books that are part of a series, because you get a change to keep following a character throughout there journey.

What types of stories would you like to see more of in Christian Fiction? More books from a man perspective. Something that men would enjoy reading. When we first started the book club it was called G.I.R.L.S. & G.U.Y.S (God Understands Your Struggles) however there was not enough books to keep the men’s attention. Okay so you'll enjoy Secrets and Lies, my novel is written in the point of view of a man.

The number of book clubs in the African American community has grown by leaps and bounds. Tell me why you think that is? Well it is an opportunity for people to get together and have fun.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Shauntay. I hope to be chatting with your book club when my novel comes out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

Perfect Peace

Earlier this week I started back working out, if you call ‘walking’ working out. No, I don’t do it to lose weight. I do it more for my sanity. It’s amazing how the thirty-minute exercise helps relieve some of the stress from my otherwise chaotic day. While I walk, I’m able to meditate, thank God for His many blessings and mentally process the events from my day. Afterwards, I feel rejuvenated and ready to conquer my next obstacle with confidence and a sound mind.

Before taking the time to ‘walk’ my body out, I noticed how groggy, tired and downright grouchy I had become! If you don’t believe me, just ask my kids. They can attest to the grouchy part. After closely evaluating the situation, I concluded that I needed to reinstall the exercise regimen back into my daily activities.

This small, but needed routine that I have taken up to help balance my day made me think of something. My prayer life has the same effect. I’ve observed if I hadn’t spent quality time communing with God, my mind is also thrown into a jumbled mess. Consequently, not taking the time to feed my spirit caused cluttered thoughts. With my focus and purpose unclear, it didn’t take much to set me off or derail me off track. What I needed was to start my day with prayer…You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. Isaiah 26:3 Praying served as a way for me to release all of my worries and anxieties directly to God and worked as an agent for me to also hear from Him as to what direction I needed to approach my day…The steps of a good (wo)men are ordered by God. Psalm 37:23

Just as physical exercise was the medicine my body needed to keep it fine-tuned and running properly. Spiritually, my mind could not function as it should without first conversing with my Heavenly Father…I urge, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made—that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Iris Celeste, 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, February 22, 2009

Interview with Author Vanessa Miller

Today I welcome author, Vanessa Miller, to Urban Christian Fiction Today. Vanessa's interview is way overdue. She's one of the authors I met in 2004 who so inspired me to get my story written.

Welcome Vanessa, introduce yourself.
I’m an author, playwright and motivational speaker. Several of my books have made the Essence Bestseller’s list and have been a part of Black Expressions Book Club. I am a dedicated member of my church, serving as administrator of our Wednesday night children’s Bible study. I have a daughter (Erin) and a grandchild (Amarrea). I also love books and would rather buy more bookshelves than get rid of the hundreds of books that I own.

Tell us about your latest release.
My third book in the Rain Series, Latter Rain just re-released as of February 2009. Here’s the synopsis: Isaac’s out of jail and has committed his life to God. But which road will he take? Will he revisit his old life of crime? Or will he embrace the respectable future as provider and protector for the woman he loves and the child they share? Sure, hustling wasn’t easy, but Isaac was a master at ruling the underworld—a self-made CEO of the streets. And then came, Nina. She dared to show him Christ’s love and her way changed all the rules. Now all Isaac wants is to live by God’s Word and win Nina back. Though when the past catches up with him, and tragedy creeps through the back door, all bets may be off... Will he prove to his enemies—and to Nina—that the lure of the streets no longer has any power over him?

The Rain Series has been very popular. Tell us why you think so.
I think the series has been popular with readers because they can relate to the characters. The emails I receive from readers consistently say something like, “Vanessa, you wrote my story.”
My readers also seem to like the spiritual aspect of the books… and that puts a smile on my face.

Who has been the most difficult character to write through the series? Do you have a character your readers love to hate? And why? Any favorites for you?
Cynda Stevens was my most difficult character to date. I knew nothing about the type of lifestyle she led or how in the world I would take her from being a down and out crack addicted prostitute who disliked the world and didn’t trust God… to receiving God’s deliverance and becoming a loving and caring person… that was hard.

My favorite character through out the rain series is Isaac Walker. He’s the bad boy in Former Rain. I like his character because he is forever growing, changing and becoming better. Isaac is also the character my readers love to hate.

You began as a self-published author. Share some advice for other independent published authors. The most important thing the author most do is get a distributor… some one who can help get the books into bookstores. Self-published authors must also find avenues to sell their books besides the bookstore. Self-publishing is a hard business, but if you work at developing an audience and continue to seek avenues to sell your books it can work.
I asked Vanessa to get personal and she shared the following answers:
Favorite Scripture?
Psalm 37:25 "For I have been young and I have been old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread."
Favorite dessert? Ah, no you didn’t go there while I’m trying to lose weight. Okay, here it is. My favorite dessert is PEACH COBBLER. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Dream vacation spot? I have been out of the country on vacation numerous times, but I have never been to Paris… I need to go to Paris. Hopefully, I’ll get there within the next five years.
If you were going to a solitary location and could only take one novel that you didn’t write, what would it be and why? Redeeming Love – by Francine Rivers. That novel showed me God’s love as no other novel has before or since. When I finished reading Redeeming Love, I remember getting on my knees and praying for a double portion of the anointing Francine Rivers has. Because I don’t want to just write books, I want to write anointed books that my readers can find the secret to living God centered lives in.

If you could change one thing about your publishing journey/writing career what would it be? The thing that most frustrates me is how long it takes to grow your audience. I know that thousands of people read my books, but I want millions of readers. That may sound a little greedy, but that’s what my dreams are made of… If there was a way to just snap your fingers and instantly become a New York Times bestseller, I would have already been there. But since there’s no magic to this thing, I keep working and building my audience, one reader at a time.

You’re a member of a tour group, you still have independently published anthologies and you write stage plays. Tell us about these activities.
Anointed Authors on Tour (AAOT) is the group that I travel with. We go on tour each year in an effort to promote our books and spread the good news about Jesus Christ. If anyone is interested in knowing more about us, please visit our website:
Anthologies: I write fictional stories of faith, but I wanted provide my readers with true stories of faith so I now publish a series called Faith Anthologies. These anthologies are filled with stories of hope, triumph and victory.

As far as my stage plays go, I have written and produced (4). The last stage play was based on Abundant Rain, my second novel in the Rain series. I hope to begin touring some of my plays in the coming years.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Vanessa!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beta Gamma Pi Novel Series

Stephanie Perry Moore has an exciting new series. It's a five book series about black college, sorority life. Each novel focuses on a different young lady’s pledge experience. In addition to friendship issues to be overcome and dreams and goals becoming clearer each girl also falls in love. The stories cross over, but happen over a five year time span. The stories will be heartfelt and will touch readers to understand the true meaning and worth of sororities when then operate the way the founders intended. The sorority Colors are "Sunrise and Sunset" (Teal & Purple).

Book 1


They’re about to learn what true sisterhood is all about…

Here's a synopsis:

Between moving off-campus, learning to live with three roommates, and gearing up to pledge a sorority, Hayden Grant is about to become one very busy Beta. But in the midst of all the excitement, can she still put her faith first—and keep her ego out of the way?

College sophomore Hayden Grant has wanted to be a member of the Beta Gamma Pi sorority since fifth grade, when her own mother became a Beta. Now it’s Hayden’s turn, and she’s especially excited because her three roommates, Myra , Bridget, and Chandra, are going to pledge with her. At least that’s the plan—until they announce they’re each pledging a different sorority. Can Hayden and her girls hold onto their own sisterhood—and share an apartment—even as they pursue different organizations? And speaking of pursuit, Hayden’s caught the eye of Creed, a hottie she met her first year. There’s just one complication: Hayden’s ex-boyfriend heads the fraternity Creed’s pledging. It looks like it’s going to be one crazy year of trials, tribulations, and unexpected lessons—in leadership and love.

Book 1 Subject- Leadership

Hayden is a sophomore and she is the president of the college’s niece. Her mother is in this sorority and she longs to pledge. However, she is on a line that has many problems when old heads who have graduated come back to cause trouble. Many are suspended when a girl on the line gets dramatically ill. After Hayden’s line makes it, they vote her to be the sorority president. At first, she feels she is born to lead, but then tries to dictate and alienates much of the group. Her beau who is pledging himself and her close friends who pledge different sororities help her lose the ego and truly get it all together.
Book 2

The Way We Roll

Book 2 Subject-Sisterhood

This lady is the National Presidents daughter. She is not wanting to be a part of it though, but does because of her mom. A girl from Hayden’s line does not like her because this soror and the president’s daughter both like the same guy. This girl does pledge and her line becomes really close as she learns what joy sisterhood can bring when you care for someone else with your whole heart.

To see other titles visit her website at

Thanks for stopping by!



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm Not Published Yet

Story Structure: Pressing Through the Middle

Tyora Moody

If you are reading this article, you may have written the first chapters of your book and like many writers, you've reached an invisible wall. You've been wondering how you can stretch your story idea to 85,000 words? When you think about it, there's a bit of pressure to keep a reader's attention from beginning to end.

For my first manuscript, When Rain Falls, it took me months to get past Chapter 10. I kept revisiting the previous scenes and trying to figure out where to take the story next. I eventually pressed my way through to the end. I will share a few techniques that helped me keep the story flowing.

1. Adding Conflict
Life is messy. You really can't avoid conflict. I recently re-read the Book of Job. If you are familiar with this Old Testament story, you will recall life was all good in the neighborhood for Job. He was wealthy, blessed with ten children, well-respected among his colleagues and he loved God. The antagonist (or villain) stepped forward to spice the story up. With permission from God, the greatest adversary of all time, the devil, brought one catastrophe after another on poor Job. The chain of events happened with such swiftness, Job barely had time to catch his breath. There are many biblical lessons from this story, but the one a writer can take away is the art of making life difficult for your protagonist (main character).

For a mystery or a suspense thriller, the villain, may appear periodically, sharing their diabolical plot. The reader can see what the killer is plotting, having knowledge that the protagonist doesn't have. In a suspense book I read recently, the author took the time to introduce a character in the first few chapters. To my horror, in the middle of the book, this really likable character was killed. The plot twist upset me, but it also motivated me to really want to find out who was the villain.

Now, it's not necessary to have a bad guy or villain to bring in conflict. If you write romance, you know even with love at first sight, a man and a woman are going to bump heads at some point. Maybe the man mislead the woman by not revealing the whole truth about his past. What if the woman's ex-boyfriend returns town? There are variety of ways to keep this couple apart, even though they are clearly attracted to each other. Just be creative and think of new ways to write the storyline with a twist.

2. Add Subplots
Subplots help strengthen the main plot as well as lengthen the word count. By the time I started the second draft of When Rain Falls, I realized that I could work in more scenes with my protagonist, Candace, and her two children. She is widow who has become attracted to the male protagonist in the story. The problem. Her teenagers are old enough to remember their dad very well. Accepting another man in their mom's life would not be easy, especially since the tragedy was still in the not too distant past. Adding this subplot, allowed me to deepen the character development as well.

One thing about subplots, you don't want to get to far off course from the main plot. I ran into that trouble and needed to remove scenes so I still kept the "who-dunnit" part of the story in focus.

Just remember your characters have families, friends, jobs, co-workers, etc. Use current events like the economy or global warming to add depth to the storyline and make it relatable.

3. Add Supporting Characters

You can probably think of a movie where the supporting character almost stole (or did steal) the scene from the main character. You don't want that to happen, but don't forget you can use supporting characters to strengthen the story. I mentioned adding more scenes with my protagonist' children above. I also included two older women in the protagonist' life, with woman bringing comic relief and the other one sharing wisdom. Each woman had their role in Candace's life during certain pivotal moments of the story.

Now you have to be careful not to build a cast of characters until you acquire enough skills to not confuse yourself and the reader. Not many authors can write multiple points of view without at some point confusing the reader. There are some books I've read where I have had to flip to previous chapters to figure out where did this character come from and what was his/her purpose in the scene.

Keep in mind that word, "purpose." Don't add characters just to lengthen the story. Be sure all scenes relate back to the main plot.

4. Take a break.

Okay, so this suggestion isn't very literary. Sometimes you have to put the story down. Maybe you need to revise your outline. You might need to cut a character. Get a notebook and brainstorm scenarios. Read books and study how particular authors keep the momentum going in the middle.

One of my favorite references for structuring a novel is Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. He provides way more tips for beefing up the middle than I do in this article.

A lot of writers mention they already know the ending of the novels. It's just getting there is hard. Next month, I will talk about endings. Even if it is a rough draft, it's always exhilarating to be able to type "The End."


Tyora Moody is the editor of 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

Monday, February 16, 2009

I've Been Nominated!

So, I found out last week that somebody thinks Urban Christian Fiction Today rocks! Literally, this blog has been nominated for the Black Book Clubs Rock Award for "Best Blogger". How cool is that?

Now let me tell you what's even cooler; my competition: APOOO Book Club (I hang out with Yasmin and her crew everyday), Christian Fiction Blogspot (Dee Stewart's Blog and you know she's my girl), Written Voices Blog (Ty Moody's site. Ty's one of my guest blogger), and there's All The Buzz (Renee does a great job, also). I'm so honored to be on the panel with friends. People I totally respect and actually appreciate being compared with. So who should you vote for? ME of course. Nah, just kidding. I'll celebrate with ladies either way. Vote your heart, but vote, okay.

Thanks so much Tiffany Jones from the Sistahconfessions Book Club for including me on the ballot.

Thanks for stopping by!



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Interview with Author, Marilynn Griffith

Today I welcome back author Marilynn Griffith. She has a great new book and some other interesting happenings in her world.

Welcome back to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Marilynn. Great cover. Give us a synopsis of the book.

Thanks for having me back, Rhonda and thanks about the cover. I'm glad you like it. Here's a short synopsis on the story. Birkenstock meets Manolo. When a burned out mom and trying-to-conceive diva become neighbors, both wish for taller fences. Or at least some ear plugs. Can two very different women mend their fences for 21 days to get what they want? Or will three weeks change their lives forever?

Tell us about the inspiration for Mom’s the Word.

A Christian mom's organization was launching a fiction line and was interested in having me submit something. Having seven children of my own, I've spent a good deal of my life being a mom and being with moms, so I was excited. I sat down to just make some notes, but two friends emerged under my fingers very quickly. They meant everything to each other, raised their kids together, lived next to each other, prayed together...until one of them moved away. And then someone who is directly opposite and has no kids moves in. They can't stand each other, but they need each other. That was all I knew at first, but I had to know what would happen.

You had some of the best characters in your Sassysisterhood Series. Since this is another Steeple Hill Café novel can we expect more of the same fun?

Thanks Rhonda! You know I love Dana, Rochelle and Tracey from the Sassy Sistahood series! This book is a little different in tone though, maybe a little more grown? Perhaps closer to Happily Even After, I'd think, since that was a mom-focused story too.

Will we see these characters again?

As usual, I have no idea! We'll see... I really enjoyed them.

Steeple Hill Café’s novels can be very light on the “Christian”, often they’re more inspirational which is okay, too, but tell us what you’d like your readers to take away from this story.

I don't know if that's true of all Cafe's or just mine, but I've learned to just let the story be what it is. Sometimes that means it's loaded with scriptures and church scenes and sometimes it means a good story with people struggling with faith, forgiveness and friendship. It's usually the latter. :) I'd love for readers to walk away from Mom's the Word knowing that God knows... He knows who they are, where they've been and where they're going. He sees them and has a glorious plan, even if that plan sometimes looks to us like a disaster.

Share something personal going on in your world in 2009.

The biggest thing going on with me this year is SistahFaith, a conference and community birthed out of my personal friendships and the Sassy Sistahood series. Our first conference is May 2, 2009 here in Tallahassee, Florida and I'm looking forward to meeting many of my readers and reconnecting with friends. Join us at http://sistahfaith.ning/.

Other than that, my biggest news is that my daughter is graduating high school and my youngest is in kindergarten. So this year is definitely a transition. Thanks for asking.

What’s next for you Marilynn the author?

I just got the cover for SONGS OF DELIVERANCE, the follow-up to RHYTHMS OF GRACE. Songs will be out in the Fall, (Lord willing!) and after that will be the SistahFaith: Believing Beyond Shame anthology with stories from over 20 women of power, strength and grace. It's based on Tamar from II Kings who was raped by her brother Amnon. It will be released from Howard Books/Simon and Schuster.

Readers can find out more about Marilynn at

It was great having you again, Marilynn. Thanks for stopping by!



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Remember God's Love For Us This Valentine's Day

When people (including myself) think about Valentine’s Day, we think about familial love, marriage, maybe kids at school exchanging Valentine’s Day cards. I wanted to take a moment to focus on a different kind of love today: the love our Savior has for us. None of us deserves God’s love, yet he loves us unconditionally and accepts us as His Children. He sent his son as a sacrifice to die for our sins, and the most important decision we can make in our entire lives is to accept His gift of eternal life! So, this Valentine’s Day, take some time to remember God and His love for us.

Sometimes, we might feel that we’re not deserving of God’s love. I know I’ve felt that way at times. And you know what, we don’t deserve God’s love, but He gives it to us anyway! God accepts us as we are, and we need to come to Jesus, even though we know we re not perfect and don’t always live up to God’s standards.

In my novel, Milk Money, Frank is an alcoholic. He feels worthless, undeserving of God’s love. Although he finally accepts Christ, he still doesn’t feel worthy of God’s grace, and Emily (the heroine in Milk Money) reminds him that he doesn’t have to fix himself before he comes to Jesus. Jesus accepts us as we are. So, if you are struggling with issues in your life, leaning on God can help you get over those hurdles. Faith in God is the most important thing to have in our lives. Developing a strong faith in Jesus is a journey, and I admit that it’s hard to always place our faith in Jesus while we’re battling sin in this world.

So, this Valentine’s Day, as you share chocolates, flowers, candy, and cards with your loved ones, why not share some of the gospel with them, too? This may turn out to be a Valentine’s Day they’ll never forget!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Also, if you want to know more about me or my novels, feel free to visit my website and blog! My novels are sold for only $2.97, so they'd be a nice gift to give to your friends and family who like reading wholesome romance novels with an inspirational message!
~Cecelia Dowdy~

Thanks for hosting me today, Rhonda!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

Real Love

I’ve searched for love most my life.

Thought I would find it in being a wife.

Thought I would find it in being a mother.

Though both are feelings like no other.

The love that I was searching for.

Was locked behind a metal door.

It was inside me all the while.

But had turned hard and hostile.

From years of disappointments and lies.

My love I learned to cover in disguise.

Never let them see you cry.

That was the principle that I lived by.

Although I cared, I pretended not.

‘Til one day I realized it was all a plot.

Designed and orchestrated by Satan, my foe.

To confuse me of everything I know.

That love was meant to be given away.

Only the truest will return one day.

As God demonstrated love by giving His son.

He established the convenant of how it begun.

Now my search is over and the victory’s been won.

I’ve found real love in The Anointed One.

Iris Celeste

About the Author

Iris Celeste is the author of the novel, Praise Your Way Through. She resides in Macon, Georiga with her family.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Interview with Author, Patricia Haley

Today I welcome author, Patricia Haley. I had the pleasure of meeting Pat at a Christian Fiction retreat hosted by author, Jacquelin Thomas in 2004. Along with Victoria Christopher Murray, Pat taught a class that changed my approach to draft writing. Patricia is a multi-published Essence bestselling author who's newest title, Chosen was released last month.

Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction Today, Patricia. Introduce yourself to my readers. Hello everyone. I’m Patricia Haley. My first book, Nobody’s Perfect, was self published in 1998 and went on to become an Essence #1 bestseller. It was such a blessing for the novel to be the first African American faith based book to make #1, proving at the time that we could write, publish, and sell entertaining, clean, inspirational, fiction loaded with dynamic, yet African American characters dealing with real life issues. I’ve tackled various stories and themes since, with each of my books coming back to the central theme of hope in spite of circumstances and the power of forgiveness.

Besides writing, I’m a project manager who loves my husband, my daughter, my family, my relationship with the Lord, and my membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. With the rest of my time, I manage to relax, watch plenty of movies, go to my daughter’s basketball games, hang out with my hubby, and travel as much as we can. That’s pretty much me.

Tell us about Chosen and what inspired you to write it.
Chosen is based on the popular biblical kings David and Solomon. Dave Mitchell (the father) abandons his wife, business partner, and children for a younger woman. He has a son with the new wife and, years later, chooses him as CEO of the multi-million dollar family ministry. Madeline, the first wife, and her oldest son (Don) are outraged because they feel like the rightful heirs. An all out war erupts between the wives and the brothers with the father in the middle. Of course there’s always an element of love lurking. So it is with Abigail, the young business exec. who is torn between love for one brother and loyalty to the other.

Sounds like a compelling read. I can’t wait to read it. Who was your favorite character? And why? My favorite character is a toss up between Madeline and her son Don. She’s a sharp tongued, top notch businesswoman who doesn’t easily back down to opposition. He’s the lesser son who finds redemption in South Africa and the freeing power of forgiveness.

Which character was the most difficult to write? And why?
The difficult character was Abigail. Although she was love struck and long suffering when it came to waiting on her man, I didn’t want her to seem shallow, naïve, or compromised. Throughout the story she is clearly a strong business minded woman. It just so happens she lets love get her thoughts clouded for a minute before recovering to a position of strength.

You were one of the original African American Christian fiction trailblazers, but you’ve been missing from my favorite authors for a few years, tells us about the hiatus. Yes, I am one of the original trailblazers in the African American Christian fiction genre. Fortunately for me, once I got my first two book deal for No Regrets and Blind Faith in 2000 with the old BET Books, I’ve had a deal ever since. For Chosen, I actually had multiple offers and decided at that point to switch from BET Books/ Kimani Press/ Harlequin to Pocket Books/ Simon & Schuster. However, there have been several breaks in between the release of my books for one primary reason -- I’m not a writer. I say that half heartedly, but in actuality I’m a businesswoman whose passion is finance. I’ve been working in corporate America pretty much the entire time since my first book came out in 1998. You ask, “Then why do I write?” Writing is undoubtedly a gift that I’ve been entrusted with to help fulfill my purpose in life, which is to encourage others. That’s it, I said, my purpose it to encourage. My books are just one tool in the chest. So, I have plenty of books to write while also doing the other things I’m called to do.

Very interesting. I'm glad God has anointed you to minister through writing. I've enjoyed every one of your books. I still have that self-published version of Nobody's Perfect.

I asked Pat to answer a few personal questions and she shared these answers:

What’s your favorite worship song? My favorite worship song is I Can Only Imagine

Favorite color? My favorite color is purple.

What would people be surprised to know about you? People would be surprised to know that I cook and cook well. They may also be surprised to know that I have a creative gene even though my educational training is very technical. In addition to writing, I used to sing in the gospel choir (I could hold a tune), and I love arts and crafts, especially with my daughter.

What’s the silliest or most embarrassing television show you watch? The Outsiders Inn with Bobby Brown & ‘Marcia Brady’

If you could spend one hour with someone living or deceased, who would it be and why? My beloved younger brother, Erick Lewis Haley

If you had to go to a solitary place and could only take one novel, that you didn’t write, what would it be and why? If I could go to a solitary place and take one novel, it would Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, one of the old classics. That’s one of my top five love stories of all time.

Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite classics, too. Please share anything else you’d like us to know about you or Chosen. Chosen is the first of a four part series. It took me about 5 weeks to write which is pretty much what it takes me to do a novel now. Many scenes are located in Capetown, South Africa, one of my favorite vacation spots in the world. The sequel Destined releases in Jan. 2010. This time the oldest brother Don returns from South Africa ready to embrace his destiny and battle his brother to the finish.

Tell my readers how they may find you on the Internet.
Your readers can reach me on

Author Bio

PATRICIA HALEY is the award-winning, Essence national bestselling author of Nobody’s Perfect (ranked #1 on bestseller list), Blind Faith, Still Waters, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (nominated 2006 Best Inspirational Fiction), and No Regrets. The trailblazing faith-based author is a project manager with an engineering degree from Stanford University and a M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and lives with her husband and daughter on the East Coast. Her title Chosen is available in stores January 2009 followed by the sequel Destined. The books represent the first two in a series depicting the modern day story of Kings David and his son Solomon.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Introducing...Rhonda McKnight, Part III

I’m back with more to say about me. Here's a little known fact. Today's my birthday! Tonight when I'm about to endulge in some really decadent chocolate cake I'll be blowing out 39... 40...41...hmmmm 39 candles. So now you also know I'm a little vain.
I’m a new author, or should I say an author in waiting. My debut novel, Secrets and Lies will be released on December 1, 2009. Secrets and Lies is the story of a couple whose marriage is collapsing under the weight of – well, secrets and lies. My publisher is Urban Christian Books/Kensington Publishers. I’m excited. It’s been a goal of mine to become a published author for more than ten years. I haven’t started promoting my novel, because it's a wee bit early for that, but in 5 months I’ll be all over the early promotion thing. You’ll learn lots about Secrets and Lies. I really believe it's a great book and not because I wrote it, but because God truly inspired me. The themes in the novel will make for some very interesting discussions.

I do have one one early promo item coming up. On February 26th, as a part of a Valentine’s month feature on Written Voices Blog, I’ll share a short story about one of my characters. This is my first attempt at writing a short story since my highschool creative writing class. Written Voices is permitting me to share a short that will introduce Jonah and Faith Morgan. You’ll get to know one or both of them before their marriage. Then in June I’ll launch the Secrets and Lies Blog where I’ll chronicle more about the characters and story. Should be interesting.

Well that’s it about me for now. I’ll make sure to post a link to Written Voices. Also check me out at where I write a monthly column.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for wanting to know more about me. Please continue to send me your emails sharing what you want to see on UCFT. This is for you.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Introducing...Rhonda McKnight, Part II

I’m back with my getting to know Rhonda McKnight, your host here on Urban Christian Fiction Today. Here’s the answer to the second most frequently asked question: What were my favorite books in 2008 and who are my favorite authors?

I read a lot. Not as much as I’d like to, because I have to write. Honestly, reading is a whole lot more fun than writing and certainly more relaxing, but we do what we must. I kind of avoided saying who my favorites were on this blog, because I’ve built such great relationships with the authors I promote that it seemed unfair to push one over another. Although in looking back, you can clearly see that some folks names pop up more often than others. So I’ve decided to go ahead tell you who I enjoy the most and what my favorites have been. To be classified as a favorite author I have to have read at least three of your books, otherwise it would just be a favorite book, not author, right. I read broadly and not just in Christian Fiction. In fact I’d say I probably read outside of Christian Fiction about 50% of the time. But we’ll just talk African-American Christian Fiction here since this is Urban Christian Fiction Today.

My favorite author in the whole world is Victoria Christopher Murray and I love all of her books. My favorite is always whatever book she has recently released. At this time that would be Too Little, Too Late and her teen book India (which I couldn’t put down). Victoria has the ability to take a bad situation, and make it a whole lot worse. She turns up the tension on every page. How she keeps doing this better and better, book after book after book, I don’t know. I only pray I’ll be half the artist one day.

My second favorites are Sherri Lewis and Tia McCollors. Not just because they’re great writers, but they’re great friends. These two ladies have taught me so much about the craft of writing. Of their books, Dance into Destiny by Sherri Lewis is my favorite. Although I have to admit, Sherri’s upcoming release The List is going to be a favorite of everyone’s this year. Guaranteed. Tia’s A Heart of Devotion is a classic. I love her other two books, but A Heart of Devotion really spoke to me and taught me some things that God wanted me to know, and those lessons resonate with me daily.

Stacy Hawkins Adams and Marilynn Griffith, who I’ve met a few times and gotten to know through email are really two of the most gifted CF authors writing today. These ladies have awesome writing ministries and both are pretty prolific. Of their books, I have to say The Someday List by Stacy really got me thinking about a lot of things. One being how similar some aspect of our stories are! But in a good way. Just means God has a message he wants to be heard. Marilynn has soooooooo many books. Lawd! More books than she has children and she has a lot of them, too. So I can’t pick one on Marilynn. I loved Rhythms of Grace and Happily Even After.

Now for the others, I won’t list their books, but suffice to say when they have something come out, I read it, because I know it’s going to be really good: Jacquelin Thomas, Tiffany L. Warren, Angela Benson, Reshonda Tate Billingsley, and Stephanie Perry Moore.

Others I didn’t list Michelle Larks, Sharon Oliver, Monique Miller, Pat Simmons, Shana Burton, Michelle Stimpson – I had the 3 book minimum (Women's Fiction) so that excluded you, but watch out for these ladies, they’re doing their thing.

Now drum roll for my choice of the author of the year. Claudia Mair Burney. Best writer I’ve read in ever and a great story teller. The Library Journal agrees and named her novel, Wounded one of the Best for 2008. Tremendous honor. I haven’t read Wounded, but her Amanda Bell Brown series, Zora and Nicky and The Exorsistah were all outstanding. Zora and Nicky in particular had me laughing out loud on every page. She's sooooooooo talented.

So tell me about your favorites and why?

Stay tuned for my final installment of getting to know Rhonda McKnight on Friday… and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm Not Published Yet

Respecting the Message
Anyone with aspirations of becoming a published author has at least one story idea that excites us every time we think about it. When we share our ideas with others who seem intrigued by our creativity, we get an adrenalin boost. But when it’s time to write that story, we have to remember that every story to tell has a message that we writers have to respect.

Respecting the message means we should be willing to learn how to tell our stories. Yes, God may have given you a vision for your story, but it’s your responsibility to educate yourself on how to make the story the best it can be.

Would you like to be known as a writer who is difficult to understand, or one who is straight to the point? Would you like to be known as a writer who uses lots of words but really doesn’t have much to say, or one who keeps the reader’s interest from the first sentence to the last?

What do you want your reader to learn? Is that lesson clearly coming across, or is it confusing to the reader?

Say you make out your grocery list and write down bread. If you are the one doing the shopping, you already know the exact brand of bread you want. But what if you hand that same list to someone else to do your shopping for you? That person then has to interpret the type of bread you want because reading the list doesn’t make it clear. If you write down one loaf of Veronica’s Heart Healthy Wheat Bread, then the person reading your list knows exactly what you want.

Think about letters or emails you’ve written to another person. Consider the times that you’ve searched for the right word to express your emotions. You know what you want the reader of that message to feel. Whether you are trying to encourage them or admonish them, you know what words do the job. Writing a story is no different.

Respecting the message also means respecting oneself. Do you really want to sign you name to writing that is shabby, unclear and confusing? Don’t allow pride to keep you from asking for help when you need it, or from heeding advice from another writer or an editor you respect when it’s clear that changes they suggest would make the story better.

Finally, respecting the message means respecting your audience. A reader will know if you are a person who takes the time to research your setting, your character’s occupations, or historical facts. A reader will know if you care about their time because you have labored to give them a story worth reading and remembering.
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 Visions in Print chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two daughters and is currently working on her first novel.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Illusions Blog Tour - Meet Author, Wanda Campbell

Today we welcome Wanda Campbell, one of my label-mates at Urban Christian Books, for the first top of her month long blog tour.

Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction Today Wanda, tell us about yourself. I am a wife of nineteen years and mother of three. I also hold the unique position of being the youngest of twelve siblings and the oldest of five siblings. I was born in Chicago, but having left the Windy City at age two, I consider myself a native Californian.

I am an ordained minister and operate in leadership capacity at my local church. Currently, I am pursing a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies. My favorite hobby is reading, actually, I am addicted to reading. I literally have to pray before entering a bookstore. I enjoy traveling and collecting magnets from new destinations.

My favorite musical artist is Israel Houghton & New Breed. Okay, I am more of a fanatic. I have every CD, DVD and have flown twice to see them perform. Israel, if you read this, please contact me. I would love for you to sing at my fortieth birthday party in 2010.

What type of jobs or careers have you worked in the past?
I began working on the grill at McDonald's at age sixteen. I was working fries the night I met my husband. For the past seventeen years I have worked in public heathcare. Presently, I am also a licensed real estate agent.

When did you begin to realize you wanted to write?
December 13, 2005 was the first day I picked up a pen and pad and began writing. At the time the only thing I knew about writing was the residue from my twelth grade English class. From the hundreds of books I'd read, I knew what not to do.

Tell us about your journey to publication.
My journey to publication began on a red-eye flight to Georgia in June 2006. After a four-hour writing workshop conducted by bestselling author, Kendra Norman Bellamy, I flew back home and submitted a short story for the anthology, The Midnight Clear. The short story, Mommy's Present, was accepted and received good reviews.

Armed with just the basics, in January 2007 I self published my debut novel, First Sunday in October, the story I began writing that day in December. In August of the same year, I won the Cruisin for Christ I short story contest with Illusions. The prize was the chance to turn the short story into a full novel published by a mainstream publisher. At the time I did not know the name of the publishing house, I just wanted a deal. The result is a multi-book deal with Urban Christian Books.

Are you a full-time writer? If so, describe your day?I would love to write full time. For now, I hold down a full-time job. Three, if you count family and church.

What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
I consider my entire literary career my biggest accomplishment. Daily I am amazed at the favor God has placed on my life. In three years God has opened doors I never thought possible.Wanda, we've learned quite a bit about you today.

To close out this part of your interview, do you have a favorite bible verse and or quote you wish to share?
My favorite scripture and the words I endeavor to live by is Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to to justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

ABOUT THE BOOK Illusionsby Wanda B. Campbell

After three years of marriage, Denise Hightower discovers that her husband, Pastor Bryce Hightower, has a secret addiction that not only jeopardizes his marriage, but impairs his ability to effectively preach the gospel.

Yielding to pressure from her mother and her husband, Denise agrees to keep his addiction a secret, although her self-esteem plummets. Her life as the perfect First Lady is falling apart at the seams.

Self-centered and determined to uphold his pastoral image, Bryce is oblivious to his wife’s emotional state. He’s convinced that he can overcome his “little problem” on his own, so he rejects the spiritual help God sends him. But when his secret is discovered, will he be able to come clean with himself, God, and his congregation?
For more information about Wanda, visit her at

The Illusions Blog Tour Giveaway We have some great prizes for visitors. Let us know you were here by leaving your response in the comment section below. Prizes will be drawn weekly.

Week 1 - An autographed copy of The Midnight Clear
Week 2 - Valentine's Day (Celebrate Wanda's birthday!) - A Box of Sees Candies.
Week 3 - An autographed copy of First Sunday in October
Week 4/GRAND PRIZE - An autographed copy of First Sunday in October, The Midnight Clear and Illusions.

The winner from each week will also receive a coupon for a FREE print design (choose a bookmark, postcard or business card) courtesy of Tywebbin Creations. Winner(s) are responsible for printing.
Check Wanda B. Campbell's blog for the winners.