Sunday, July 26, 2009

Author Interview with Rhonda McKnight

Okay...Rhonda McKnight is me and I didn't actually interview myself. I was interviewed recently at Pam's Thoughts (a great aspiring author blog by the way) and thought I'd share it for this Sunday's feature. My book is coming out soon and uh, well, I want you to be interested so here goes:

1. Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m an almost divorced working mother of two sons, ages 3 and 17. I love to read Christian fiction and suspense. I rarely have time for television but when I do you might find me watching The Closer, 24, or Criminal Minds. I enjoy upbeat praise and worship by any of the Clark Family, Kirk Franklin, and Fred Hammond. The teaching ministries of Bishop TD Jakes, Bishop Donald Hillard, and Joyce Meyers bless have added to my spiritual growth. I enjoy spending time in South Carolina with my parents and extended family. South Carolina has the best barbeque. My Aunt and cousins actually sell my grandfather's sauce. Visit the site for Sweet Jazzy Reds at to learn more. (It's good stuff).

2. What is your current profession? I’ve spent the last fifteen years doing work that I love with a large human services agency, specifically, with a federal food and nutrition program. I’ve worn many hats from policy to regional program consultant, but I’m currently a Quality Control Specialist who conducts federal reviews on program accuracy.

3. When did you know you wanted to become a writer and when did you actually begin to write? I’ve been writing since I was a child and I started with books (LOL). I never wrote short stories or poetry like most authors. I always wanted to write a long story about a lot of different characters. I stopped writing in college and then began again in the mid nineties after I read Waiting to Exhale and thought, “I can do that. I’m a writer.” Boy did I learn that it wasn’t so easy. I became serious about finishing a manuscript in early 2003. I joined a great critique group, attended some writers’ conferences and read about 20 craft books.

4. How long did it take for you to complete your first novel? It probably took me about 6 months of actual writing time, but that 6 months was spread over 4 years. I kept putting this particular story down and picking it back up again. Some of the elements were painful for me to write and I didn’t want to deal with it all, so I played the procrastination game.

5. How do you balance your career, family, writing, and other obligations?
Ha! I don’t know if you ever balance it all. I think you just fit stuff in. My career, writing and other commitments fall in around my kids. Sometimes I have to ask my teenager to help with his younger brother while I steal time to write or take time to get work done for my 9-5 which has become more like a 9-7 lately, but mostly I don’t get much sleep. (LOL) I work when they’ve gone to bed or early before the baby wakes, and I rely heavily on my best friend to babysit her godson when I’m under deadline.

6. Do you belong to any writing groups or organizations? I am the Vice President of Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta. We are group of about 18 writers, published and unpublished, that meet monthly to learn about craft, talk about publishing, network , pray, etc. We also critique our work and that was critical in my development.

7. What genre do you write in? I write women’s fiction, but classify myself as a Christian Fiction author. I believe my work will fit into that niche.

9. Share with us a little about your new book; the name, when it is due out, and the date/location of your book release party.

Ah, Secrets and Lies, my first born (book that is) is the story of Jonah and Faith Morgan, a couple who’s troubled marriage is literally collapsing under the burden of…well, secrets and lies. And those lies aren’t all coming from inside the marriage. Old memories and new enemies make for a juicy plot where the characters are really challenged. I mean the heat gets turned all the way up on this marriage. The book comes out November 24th and the book release party will be held in the Atlanta area on December 5th. Still working out the details.

Please visit my website at to pre-order a copy or learn more about me and the book. I also have a blog for the novel, It's new and I'm adding content, so visit frequently.

10. What tips can you share with me and others who are aspiring authors? Write, read, network and find a mentor. Then read some more and write. I also suggest developing a road map for your writing. Beginning, middle, end and what’s happening to get there. There are lots of plotting systems out there, find one that works for you. Find a critique group or partner and never become over confident about your writing. There’s always room for growth and improvement.

11. Who are some of your favorite authors to read? I read alot of Christian Fiction because I love it. My favorite authors are Sherri Lewis, Tiffany Warren, Tia McCollors, Victoria Christopher Murray, Jacquelin Thomas, Stacy Hawkins Adams, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Claudia Mair Burney, Marilynn Griffith, Dee Stewart (she’s not published yet, but she can really spin a tale), the list goes on and on. Why did I try to answer? There are just too many. I also enjoy Deberry & Grant, Walter Mosley, Sandra Brown and James Patterson. The late BeBe Moore Campbell’s work was my absolute favorite.

12. Will you be participating in or attending the National Book Conference at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Atlanta on July 30-August 2, 2009? I won’t be attending NBCC this year. But I know it’s always a blessing for the book clubs and authors who attend, so I’m praying it’s a big success.

The link to the orginal interview is and here's a picture of Pam. Make sure to stop by her blog and say hello. It's one of my favorites.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

Beginning Small

I’m an introvert by nature. I’ve never quite fit or blended well with the ‘in’ crowd. Therefore, I shy away from most large gatherings. My bashfulness became such an obstacle that in school when the given assignment was an oral report, I would opt for a zero as my grade. For me, standing before the class and speaking was unimaginable! Beyond conceivable. Little did I know that it was Satan's scheme to saturate my mind with insecurities to keep me from my destiny. Constantly telling me I wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t matter. Believing those lies held me captive in my own body. As a result, writing became my chosen vehicle of expression. However, I kept my newfound fetish in the closet. It was all for me. My therapy. My sanity. My release. Until God intervened.

Don’t ask me how, but I’ve always sensed God had other plans for me despite my current location in life. I wasn’t sure of the path or where it would lead. But I was curious. No, make that hungry. Greedily, I took steps forward. Determination vanquishing the looming fears to withdraw. I KNEW greatness was out there for me. I heard it calling my name. Then the panic set in. What if I failed? The calling grew louder . To get something I’ve never had, I had to do something I’ve never done—L et go of my fear of rejection and let God rule. Have you ever felt that what you were going through was much bigger than you? In fact, it wasn't even about you. My big aha moment. The end destination was God's direction all along.

The mistakes made.
The pain endured.
The heartache suffered.
The failed relationships.
The friends lost.
It was all a divine setup to get me exactly where God wanted me.
Depended on Him.
Focus and faithful.
Disciplined and decided.

This writing that I love so much wasn’t for me to keep to myself. It's a gift to be shared. Everything that I had under gone was to prepare me for this moment in time. It was up to me to seize it! On shaky trembling legs, I staggered out of my secret closet peering apprehensively around the corner with each stride and accepted my first writing assignment. A poem. That opened doors to other possibilities I would have never dreamt of or believed. Who knew that one step of obedience many years ago would connect my path with the opportunities that lay before me as an author, writer and columnist today. A living testament to at no time underestimate small beginnings, because you never know where they might lead...And though your beginning was small, yet your latter end will greatly increase. Job 8:7

Iris Celeste is the author of Christian Fiction novel Praise Your Way Through. A story of love, betrayal and forgiveness. Because being saved doesn’t mean being perfect. To learn more about the author and order a book visit

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Interview with author, Monique Miller

Today I welcome author, Monique Miller, to UCFT. This is a longgggggg overdue interview. Monique and I are really close writer buddies. We met in 2004 at Jacquelin Thomas' Faith Based Fiction Retreat in North Carolina where Monique lives and have kept in touch eversince. Both of us were unpublished at the time, and now we'll be label-mates.
Welcome Monique! Introduce yourself to my readers.
Hello everyone, I am Monique Miller, Christian Fiction Author. And before I say anything else, I’d like to thank Rhonda McKnight for inviting me to do an interview for Urban Christian Fiction Today.

Tell us about both your novels, Secret Sisterhood and Soul Confessions.
Secret Sisterhood was my debut novel. It is about three African-American women who struggle with the problem of infertility, while learning to rely on God to see them through. My second novel, Soul Confessions, is about a husband who has some skeletons in his closet, skeletons that literally knock on his front door at home and confront his clueless wife.

What was the inspiration behind these stories?
Some one asked me the other day what made me decided to start writing. I told them God. They thought I was joking and asked what I was doing at during the time decided to start writing? I told them that I was praying.

In truth a few years ago I was dealing with some infertility problems. I turned to God for answers. Instead of medical answers or money to finance any medical procedures, God simply told me to, “Write.” So I wrote about three women experiencing problems with infertility and their faith walk with God.

What do you want readers to take away?
I want my readers to have a sense of hope after reading my novels. And I want them to know that with God, ALL things are possible.

Share a little about your journey to publication? Don’t be discouraged if you are trying to get published and are still waiting. Be persistent and stay hopeful. But also use wisdom. My road to publication was long and bumpy. I wrote my first novel, like God told me to and just knew a book deal was around the corner. Well it wasn’t.

I contacted publishers and received rejection after rejection. I also contacted literary agents and received rejections also. I got discouraged and put my novel on the shelf for a while. But something in the back of my mind kept nagging at me. I entered a fiction writing contest with Black Expressions book club and placed 3rd out of over 700 people who entered. That gave me the fuel I needed so I sent my manuscript back out and contacted more agents also. I also networked with other writers and authors during that time.

And after five long years the persistence and networking paid off. An author friend of mine not only mentioned my name to a publisher, she also sent a copy of my manuscript for review. I got a book deal and secured an agent all in the same week!

Advice for aspiring writers?
Re-read what I have written above and continue to write as you try to secure a book deal. Remember writers, write. Writers don’t sit around thinking about writing.

Time to get to know Monique personally. I asked her questions and she shared her answers.
Favorite scripture: Proverbs 18:16 KJV - A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
Favorite dessert: Banana Pudding
If you were a crayon in coloring box, which one would you be? Sapphire Blue – My birthstone.
If you could spend one hour with someone living or deceased, who would it be and why? I think it would be my maternal grandmother, Mable. Lately I’ve been finding myself thinking about her. She died when I was in the 7th grade and I never really got a chance to know her. There are questions about wisdom and insight that I would love to have her advice about.

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? The Color Purple. I’ve never actually read the book, but I’ve seen the movie many times. And as I know from first hand, the book is always better than the movie. I’d like to see how Alice Walker originally wrote the book.

What’s next for Monique Miller?
My next novel Redemption Lake will be out in stores November 2009. It is my third novel, and by far my favorite so far. A couple of my characters are pretty edgy. And there is one character in particular, that I’m sure, will have the readers talking to the book.How can my readers find you on the Internet?
Many, many places – My books can be found on . My website is . I can also be found on various social networking sites like: Facebook, MySpace and Shout Life. My email address is:

Thanks for stopping by, Monique. Thanks for having me Rhonda.
Many Blessings to you all!
Monique Miller

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review - The Devil Is A Lie by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Valuable Lessons About Love and Money...
Nina Lawson's dream comes true when she wins the lottery, or so she thinks. What she quickly finds out is that her nightmares are just beginning. Although she no longer has money problems she's got man problems, family drama, an ex-husband who's not an ex problems and a greedy chic named, Pam wants to get her paws on her money. I mean as if it wasn't bad enough Pam already has her ex-husband. (Dare I say had him while Nina and Todd were still living as man and wife.) Oh yes, Ms. Billingsley went there.

This was a great story. Best lottery story I've ever read. There were lots of thoughtful lessons for all, but mostly the main message is "Money can't buy happiness". Great characters, snappy dialogue and description make for a page turner that was a pleasure to read. The story also had a real twist near the end which was a pleasant surprise. Don't let the devil lie to you and you pass this one by!

Review by Rhonda McKnight

To learn move about ReShonda visit her website at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Being Unpublished is Like Being Single

I have permission to repost this entry. It was posted on July 2nd at Booking It with Jessica Nelson. Bookin It is one of the blogs I follow.

Why Being Unpublished is Like Being Single

Remember back in the day when you longed for a man, that one special man, who would fill your nights with warmth and smother you with spine-melting kisses? Remember how you'd see all the married couples and think "Where's my love?"

And you'd look around and realize you were the only single person in the crowd.

The loneliness got to you, drove you into the bookstore where, foggy-eyed and grief-stricken, you stumbled across a book titled (I'm guessing here) BEING HAPPY WHILE SINGLE.

You bought it because it seemed like a good idea at the time. And then suddenly it seems all people want to talk about is how good it is to be single! The wives tell you to be relieved that you can stay up until three in the morning with the lights on. Be glad no one pees on your toilet rim.

This is us, my dear writer friends. :-)

We are the single folks. Yes, there are wonderful, beautiful thrills to being married (published). But there's also hard work, deadlines, interferences, bad reviews, did I mention deadlines?

So while we keep our dreams alive, let's also find contentment and peace in the place we're at now. Which, based on most of your comments, you already do.

Have you ever wanted something, got it, and realized it wasn't quite what you expected?

Click here to respond to Jessica or respond here at UCF.

Jessica's hard work and committment to achieving her goal is very inspiring. Her blog has daily I love her never give up spirit. Congrats Jessica on being 91% complete!

Click here to see other posts. I highly recommend following her blog and Jessica all the way to a publishing house. :o)


Rhonda McKnight

Sunday, July 12, 2009

'Til Debt Do Us Part - Blog Tour Day One

Meet Michelle Larks

Michelle Larks was born and raised in Chicago, IL. She currently resides in a suburb of Chicago. Michelle was educated in the Chicago public school system and attended the University of IL at Chicago Circle Campus. Michelle has been employed in the IT field too many years to mention.

Michelle is married and the mother of two adult daughters. Michelle signed a two book contract with Urban Christian Books in 2006. Her first book, Keeping Misery Company was released in November of 2007 and went on to attain best selling status. Her second book with Urban Christian Books, The Legacies was released in July 2008. Til Debt Do Us Part will be released in July 2009.

Keeping Misery Company is being adapted for the big screen and will be released in June 2010. Michelle is currently working on a manuscript titled Faith.

Life was easy for Nichole Singleton, with a voice like an angel, a job she adores, and a church she has called home since her teens. While Jeffrey, Nichole’s loving husband, has control over the life they are living, Nichole still feels blessed . . . until her gambling “hobby” turns into a personal cross to bear that threatens to destroy her marriage.

Through her trials and tribulations, will Nichole remember to put her trust in God and reaffirm her faith in the Lord, or will she see her marriage and gambling habit as bigger than even the God she serves? Purchase this book at

Follow the blog tour at

Listen to Michelle read the excerpt

Visit Michelle at her website

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Book Review - Worth A Thousand Words by Stacy Hawkins Adamas

Life at a crossroads?

Indigo just graduated from college with honors and has been accepted into grad school in the Fall. She has big dreams and a bright future ahead of her. Her handsome fiancĂ© has dreams of his own; he’s working to be a Navy fighter pilot.

Can they both pursue their personal dreams hundreds of miles apart and still be together? They find the road to fulfilling one’s goals is not always a straight one, even when love should seem to carve a path. Unexpected things happen and decisions have to be made by all the characters.

I enjoyed this book because I think we live in uncertain times. Many of us know people who are wrestling with decisions they never thought they’d have to make about their finances, families and careers, so it’s timely. Stacy Hawkins Adams has done a wonderful job at bringing that reality home. The lessons of hope and faith are not wasted in this beautifully written, inspiring novel.

Like Book 1 in the Jubilant Soul Series, The Someday List, Worth A Thousand Words is an absolute must read. Although readers would love The Someday List, it is not necessary to read it before reading Worth A Thousand Words. Please visit author, Stacy Hawkins Adams at her website
Review by Rhonda McKnight

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Blessed Thoughts from Iris Celeste

My Father's Business

A close friend of mine and I were discussing an incident that transpired in the Book of Matthew between Jesus and his twelve chosen disciples. Just before The Last Supper Jesus declared that one of them were going to betray him. Of course, they all denied the claim. However, that’s not what shocked me. What caught my attention was not the disciples’ reaction, but Jesus’ response. All along He knew who was going to betray him and when that betrayal would take place…but he changed not! He treated Judas no different from the other eleven. Now how many of us would have responded in the same manner? I know I would have shown all kinda attitude up in there!!! But Jesus did not concern himself with such trivial tactics. He was strictly about his father's business. He refused to take his eyes off the prize and allow anyone or anything deter him from his mission here on earth.

I pray for such dedication and focus. I confess there have been moments when I was doing the right thing, I thought for the right reason but when faced with opposition I allowed it to hurl me off track. But after rereading the message in Matthew it shed some light. What I do for the Lord has nothing to do with popularity, being respected, recognized, neither fame nor fortune. It has absolutely nothing to do with any of those things. In fact, it has nothing to do with me! God selected me as one of His vessels to be used for His glory. Therefore, warfare is expected...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

The devil doesn't want me to reach my goal and though he can't stop what God has already predestined, his objective is to discourage me. He wants to keep me stressed out and distracted enough where I don't have the time or energy to do the work of the Lord. Remember in the desert when he approached Jesus and taunted him in his weariness. But Jesus wasn't fazed nor did he try to tackle the devil in his own strength. He fought back with the word..."it is written, worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." Whether he was confronted with antagonists or entrusted friend, Jesus never diverted from his assignment. Likewise, when assaulted with lies, encounter hurtful accusations or simply misunderstood, do as Jesus did and retaliate with scripture..."did you not know that it is necessary for me to be about my Father's business."

Iris Celeste, Author

About Iris Celeste

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, July 05, 2009

The Devil Is A Lie - Blog Tour - Day One

The Devil is a Lie by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a national bestselling author of 17 books, all published by Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books. Her sophomore novel, Let the Church Say Amen, is being made into a movie and national touring stageplay of which she is Executive Producer and actress Regina King is the director. Five of her other books, have also been optioned for film by CodeBlack Entertainment.

ReShonda’s literary career is such a success that in 2007, she was able to leave her job as a reporter with Fox 26 News in Houston to pursue writing full time. ReShonda has appeared on the Essence Bestseller’s list more than 20 times, as well as The Washington Post, Dallas Morning News and Ebony Magazine Bestseller’s lists.
ReShonda has won numerous awards for her journalism, fiction and poetry writing skills. She is a five-time winner of the National Association of Black Journalists Spirit in the Words competition. ReShonda’s upcoming projects include The Devil is a Lie (July 2009), Holy Rollers (2010) and two more teen novels. The Houston native and University of Texas at Austin graduate also serves as a freelance editorial and marketing consultant. She has ghostwritten four fiction projects and five non-fiction projects. She is married with three small children.


When Nina Lawson wins $16 million in the Texas Lottery, the real estate executive and her fiancĂ©, 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 when Nina goes to claim her winnings, she gets an astounding twist of fate: her ex-husband, Todd Lawson, shows up to inform he he isn’t her ex —since the paperwork for their divorce was never officially filed. By Todd’s side, his money-hungry girlfriend, Pam – the woman he left Nina for.

Between her divorce drama, Nina also has to deal with relatives coming out of the woodwork to seek a payday for themselves. Before all is said and done, 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.

Visit ReShonda online at
Follow the blog tour at

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mid-Year Inventory

The other day I was in a department store and I recognized those familiar cards they attach to merchandise during inventory time. Familiar to me because two careers ago I worked in retail. Twice a year – January and July we would go through the boring and painful process of conducting an inventory of the store’s merchandise. When I saw the cards I realized it was mid-year, July would be here in just a few days. I began to think about the goals I set for this year. Like the store, it was time for me to take a mid-year inventory.

I’m a fan of Stephen Covey’s earlier work. You may remember, the multi, multi-million copy bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I’ve been a fan of the 7 Habits Philosophy since I attended Covey training about seven years ago. Covey’s habits are tied to principles that if applied impact one’s personal leadership style in a way that inserts values and character.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Covey’s philosophy, I’ll quickly share the 7 habits:
Habit 1: Be Proactive – this deals with the principle of personal choice
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind - the principle of personal vision
Habit 3: Put First Things First – a tough one, the principle of integrity and execution
Habit 4: Think Win/Win – the principles of mutual benefit
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – the principles of mutual understanding
Habit 6: Synergize: the principles of creative cooperation (one of my favorites)
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: the principles of balanced self-renewal

Back to my personal inventory. I’ve done extremely well at accomplishing my goals. With most of them I’m right on target or even a little ahead. Except the weight one – I’ve lost 19lbs instead of 30, but I’m not beating myself up on that one, because usually I’m in gaining mode rather than losing.

Where are you? Are you on target? If so, bravo. Are you lagging? Still at the starting gate?

Covey asks and answers the following: “If you were to fault yourself in one of three areas, which would it be: (1) the inability to prioritize; (2) the inability or desire to organize around those priorities; or (3) the lack of discipline to execute around them? … Most people say their main fault is a lack of discipline. On deeper thought, I believe that is not the case. The basic problem is that their priorities have not become deeply planted in their hearts and minds. They haven’t really internalized Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind."

I agree. For years I prayed about my lack of discipline and asked the Lord to help me balance and prioritize. Once I "began with the end in mind", I mean really began the year with a goal that had to be attained, I accomplished it. I shared this in the first installment of my journey to publication series.

I don’t think you have to be a Covey follower to meet your goals. Stephen Covey is one of thousands of leadership gurus and life coaches out there. Pick any one and you’ll receive similar messages and they’ll all include a bit of strategic thinking and action planning. You can also find this in the Bible. It’s not new and it’s not rocket science, but it is something many of us struggle with. I’d love to hear praise reports in December from some of you, but we may need to do a mid-year check to make sure we’re on task.

How are you doing at the half-way point? What things have you done to reach your goals? If you’re falling behind, what things can you do for the next six months to put habits 1 – 3 into action? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by!


Rhonda McKnight

P.S. Felesia: You shared the 7 Habits tapes and purchased the Covey day planner for me more than 9 years ago. When I received them, I didn’t understand why you sent them to me. But as fate would have it I took the training a year later and completely understood the gift you were sharing. Thanks for being such a dear friend.