Tuesday, February 25, 2020

WELCOME TO THE TEA TABLE...SYNITHIA WILLIAMS

I don't often get to read for pure pleasure, but recently I was honored to receive a copy of FORBIDDEN PROMISES by author Synithia Williams. Talk about a joyful read! This book was everything I needed in that moment. Super-talented, Ms. Williams builds a beautiful story about a taboo romance and family loyalty. She pulls you in and keeps you holding on as you fall head over heels in love with her characters. It's a five-star read and I'd give it six or seven stars if I could!

I just had to invite her to my Tea Table to talk about her new book, which releases today, and was so excited when she agreed to answer a few questions for us. So please, give a warm welcome to SYNITHIA WILLIAMS!

So, Synithia, what does your writing process look like?

I am very much a plotter. I start with an idea and spend a few days or weeks thinking about the characters and what should happen in the story. From there I’ll draft a synopsis for the entire story and create a plot board outlining each chapter. I don’t always follow the outline I create because the characters always do what they want to in the end, but my outline gives me a good enough road map to stay on track.

What literary character is most like you and why?

That’s a good question. I never thought of that before. I’m probably a mixture of several characters. I can see myself as a combination of Savannah and Robin from Waiting to Exhale and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. I’m a little snarky, pessimistic, and guarded, but I’m also a hopeless romantic. It’s why I write romance.

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Finish the book. That’s been the best advice and what I always go back to. I can’t edit, publish, or promote a blank page. When I wanted to pursue publishing and was working on three different books someone told me to pick one and finish it. That’s the advice I’d give to anyone struggling with writing right now. Pick a book/idea and finish it. You can figure out everything else once the book is done.

What secret talent do you have that no one knows about?

I can pick up things with my toes. That may not be a great talent, and my husband thinks it’s funny, but I wasn’t blessed with a great singing voice, I can’t dance (though I love dancing), and I gave up piano lessons years ago. So, I’ll go with my useful toes.




I so appreciate Synithia taking time from her busy schedule to share a little bit about herself with us. Now, anyone who knows me, knows I love a beautiful cover. FORBIDDEN PROMISES has one of the prettiest covers of any book this year. It absolutely makes my heart sing! Today is the official release day! Run and get your copy now! You won't be disappointed.

FORBIDDEN PROMISES

What do you do when you want the one person you can never have?

Get in and get out. That was India Robidoux’s plan for this family visit. But when her brother needs her help with his high-profile political campaign, India has no choice but to stay and face the one man she’s been running from for years—Travis, her sister’s ex-husband. One hot summer night when Travis was still free, they celebrated her birthday with whiskey and an unforgettable kiss. The memory is as strong as ever—and so are the feelings she’s tried so hard to forget.

Travis Strickland owes everything to the Robidoux family. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for them—his divorce could never change that. Still, he has one regret. Impulsive and passionate, India always understood him better than anyone else. And the longer they work together on the campaign, the more torn he is. Coming between her and her sister is out of the question. But how can he let love pass him by a second time?

More About the Author:

Synithia Williams has been an avid romance novel lover since picking up her first one at the age of thirteen. It was only natural that she would begin penning her own romances soon after. She’s a native of South Carolina and now writes romances as hot as their southern settings. She’s published over fifteen, novels since 2012. Her seventh book, Making it Real, was listed as one of the Must Read Romances of 2015 in USA Today. Her second release with Harlequin Kimani, A Malibu Kind of Romance was a 2017 RITA® finalist and she’s a two-time African American Literary Award Show nominee in Romance. Synithia is married to her own personal hero and they have two sons who’ve convinced her that professional wrestling and superheroes are supreme entertainment.

You can learn more about Synithia by visiting her website: www.synithiawilliams.com or follow her on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Books and Main.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

TYLER PERRY - HIS FALL FROM GRACE



Tyler Perry has pissed me off and y’all know I have always loved me some Tyler Perry. I used to be excited about his productions. I have previously applauded his efforts here and here and here. His business acumen can’t be debated. The brother has recently made history with Tyler Perry Studios, the 330-acre major motion picture studio. As a black woman and a mother, his accomplishment was personal because seeing any black man and son do well, against all odds, makes my heart sing.

For any writer, their voice is important to them. Many writers will have their voice challenged in the editorial process. We fight for what’s important to us and hopefully we learn from the criticisms and critiques. Tyler Perry has his own voice. A very distinct voice that most have come to know well. Tyler doesn’t necessarily get challenged because Tyler is editing himself. He’s a one-man production service; overseeing all his scripts from start to finish. The end all to end all. He’s proud of his work ethic and you surely can’t blame him for that.

Tyler recently gave an interview about not having a writer’s room. He explained that he tried it and it didn’t work. His voice was lost. He thought “the black people” might have been submitting scripts that would need rewrites in order to get paid multiple times. It also seems he felt they were to blame for a drop in his ratings. Apparently, to hear him tell it, they did a really bad job. That may well be true, but we’ll never really know if it was that or if his audience had just grown weary of the same sad story lines being regurgitated time and time again.

I was excited when Tyler moved past the Madea franchise and gave us television. I knew that growth was important for longevity in the industry and I was excited to see how he would grow. Then the television became stale, every line feeling like kindergarten vocabulary being delivered by grade schoolers. My heart hurt for the actors because they deserved better to showcase the abundance of talent Tyler had managed to pull together. The writing didn’t allow them the range to stretch their acting chops.

That’s why I also find his most recent movie, Fall From Grace, problematic. Tyler fell back on old stereotypes, cliched themes, and writing that felt more like a step backward, than a step forward. Production quality felt like the five-day, low budget film he professed it to be. Tyler said on the Strahan, Sarah and Keke Show that he was delighted to give Crystal R. Fox the opportunity to showcase her talent in a leading role, something she hasn’t been afforded in her 30-year career. The sentiment tugs at your heartstrings but it also makes you wonder why he didn’t afford her better. Why would he employ the iconic Cicely Tyson and Phylicia Rashad to showcase them in a low-level production of bad stereotypical tropes? Personally, I think he owes the entire cast an apology. 

And yet, even with more relevant critiques, some adverse criticisms, and the expected high praises from grandma and ‘dem, Tyler dug his heels in to defend his position. Bottom line, it was his movie. He wrote it, directed it, and produced it. He was the end all to end all and once he proclaimed it good, damn all those who didn’t think so. And that’s okay, too. Not everybody is going to like everything. Opinions are subjective and we all have a few. Although I would hope that Tyler is interested in continuing to grow his craft and art, it’s not for anyone else to think that we can make him. 

In another recent interview, Tyler is quoted as saying, “I wish that people, especially black women, would get off the fact of saying, ‘Oh, he’s making money off of black women.’” He denied exploiting black women’s suffering in his films. Reading that, I had one of those eye blink emoji moments. But, let’s examine that for a second.

Tyler can’t deny that black, elderly church mothers put him on the map. They were the ones who flocked to his stage plays when he first started out. Money for their light bills, the pastor’s anniversary celebration, and tires for Junebug’s car went instead to tickets for a Tyler Perry Show. He grew that audience beautifully and those same women are the ones who continue to support him today. White men and women are not Tyler’s core audience and except for a slim few, they are not paying to see his movies or reserving their time to watch his shows. And most black men only go because their wives, girlfriends, and mothers make them. He’s not necessarily telling stories that they find appealing. At least that’s what they tell us!

I thought The Family That Preys was one of his best films (it was one of my favorites anyway) and when it came out, I personally believed he had just reached that sweet spot to garner a wider, crossover audience. It was different from his usual fare and you felt like there was growth in his writing and storytelling. And to some degree I think there was, but I also believe he lost some of his core audience because they weren’t expecting a plot that didn’t include him dressed in drag. Maybe that’s why he came back hard after that with more Madea stories.

My love affair with Tyler started to fade in 2016. Back then I took issue with his TV show, If Loving You Is Wrong. There was a desperate need for positive, quality television featuring Black characters and he was one of few minorities with the resources to bring that to mainstream. Instead he was giving us characters that executed dialogue like they were four-year olds, and storylines that were demeaning to people of color. It was mind-boggling!

It truly has been downhill since then. I watched three episodes of his new show, The Oval and I was done. His continuous portrayal of black women as angry and violent has become contrived and repetitive and continues to be insulting. I'm sure it has found an audience, but it was not my cup of tea.

Recently, I’ve had to question why Tyler hates black women and I didn’t ask that lightly. Maybe it would have been better phrased if I asked why Tyler didn’t LOVE black women. Because Tyler has never been interested in showcasing our strength and brilliance. He has continually stifled our #BlackGirlMagic and has been unapologetic about doing so.

In that recent interview, Tyler also stated that his exploration of women’s pain stems from his mother being abused by his father. It makes me wonder if he’s still harboring resentment about that situation and the choices his mother made. Because the stories he tells about black women consistently feel like he resents us. We are either desperate for a relationship, stereotypically angry and raging, downtrodden and bitter, or lying and manipulative. He has yet to give us a romantic relationship where the audience isn’t asking why the hell did they get married?

There isn’t one of us who can tell Tyler how to spend his money, but I’d rather he not invest it in a movie about us if he’s not going to maintain a standard worthy of our commitment to him and his work. Twitter shouldn’t be able to drag him for technical and continuity flaws that editing missed. Every new venture for Tyler should be better than his last and he failed miserably with this last movie. Even the arguments he had with cast about the wigs and makeup were ignored and dismissed by him.

So, no, Tyler, black women aren’t going to get off your case until you do better. Instead of posturing because your feelings are hurt, weed the constructive criticism from the rest and learn. Consider reaching out for help from those who do it exceptionally well. I’m sure Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, or Nichelle Tramble Spellman can point you to a host of black women writers and filmmakers who would gladly throw you a tip or two. 

Consider reading more black women authors out here telling our stories. I know some amazing sisters telling some amazing stories. Hell, I’d gladly send you a few of my own! Learn about black women from black women. We’ve grown and evolved over the years and our pain today, isn’t necessarily your mother’s pain from yesteryear. 

Too many of us have invested in you, Tyler, shaking our pom poms for your success since day one. So, you don’t get to tell us that we don’t count when we are critical of how you are portraying us. You don’t get to keep making us look like a hot mess on the big screen without being called on it. And you certainly don’t get to wish us away and think we’re actually going to go without you being dragged first by that egotistical, misogynistic pole stuck up your ass. Because if we do go, I guarantee you won’t be able to blame the writing room. And fair warning, the impact of black women ghosting you isn’t something you’ll be able to readily come back from. Falling from grace with us is a no win situation.

And for the love of all things fried, dyed and laid to the side, stop recycling that BEN wig for every part you play. There is nothing about you and that wig that even remotely makes an ounce of sense.


Saturday, November 09, 2019

REMEMBERING TO PRAY SO I CAN REMEMBER HOW TO SHIMMY


It was a random post that landed in my Facebook feed. It read ‘What I've learned this year: He who angers you...controls you.’ I read it once, twice, and then again and it struck a nerve, the depth of it unexpected.

Recently, I’ve had to interact with my former husband on a too regular basis and those interactions have reawakened feelings of hostility and bitterness that I’ve not felt in a very long time. For days now I’ve been ruminating over the past. I found myself caught in a vicious cycle of being angry about things that I swore I’d gotten over and moved away from. Then being angry about new behavior too much like the old bad behavior. The wealth of it has been upsetting and I've wrestled with how to let it all go and move forward from it.

As I read that Facebook post it was as if the author knew what I was struggling with most. Feeling like the ex-hubby suddenly had control over my life again with all the burden and heartache that control represented for me. And then I had to question why I was feeling this way. Why was I giving a man I despised so much control? A man who routinely abused and mistreated me and didn’t deserve an ounce of my emotion, good or bad. A man who made most of my adult life a living hell.

It’s amazing how easy it was to fall back into bad behavior. How a simple statement or gesture sent me back into defense mode. How swiftly rage rose, full and abundant and all-consuming. Just like that I lost my shimmy. My spirit became heavy and I could no longer hear those things that made my heart sing. As I struggled, trying to figure out how I was in this place again and more importantly, how to get myself out of this place, I remembered something my dear friend, author Cassandra B. Durham had written. The world does not have the ability to give us peace. I suddenly realized that in my struggle to figure it all out and make it better, looking for worldly answers, what I had failed to do was pray my way through it.

I am a firm believer that prayer works miracles. I also know that to get through the storm I know is coming, that I will need plenty of prayer. Because this thing between me and my ex-husband will inevitably have to come to a head. It will have to if we are ever going to be able to move forward in a positive manner. Because of our situation with our youngest grandchild, I can't just dismiss him from my life, vowing never to have anything to do with him again. Unresolved issues will need to be addressed. Lies and misunderstandings will need to be remedied. I know words will be exchanged and feelings may even be hurt. But I also know that it doesn’t have to break either of us, and, it definitely will not break me.
 
I have some work to do. I realize I need to learn how to let go successfully, and permanently. I am grateful to friends like Cassandra, whose book The Art of Letting Go, will be my go-to tome until I can get it right. And I will pray my way through it until I can once again hear my heart songs. I will pray until I remember how to shimmy.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

I SAID NO...



My weekends have been all about bowing to the whims of other people. Plans are made, schedules agreed upon and then out of the blue my son wants to throw a wrench into the process and I am asked to bend and twist and conform to what he needs and wants, and my schedule be damned.

In the past I would acquiesce because it was easier to do so than not. But today, I said no. No. When one considers that I’ve never before said no, his reaction was both expected and shocking. He didn’t take no lightly. Mommy didn’t give in to his request and he threw a tantrum, complete with kicking and screaming. I would have been impressed if he’d been five years old, but he’s thirty.

His initial reaction was surprise. He was not expecting that I would deny his request. Then he became belligerent because him screaming profanity at me was supposed to move me to change my mind. It didn’t. In fact, all it did was get him hung up on.

So, he changed tactics. Because in his mental illness he has become a master manipulator. He was certain that guilting me would surely work. I’m the cause of all his problems. My horrible parenting left him traumatized. When he was a child, I never listened to what he wanted. He ranted in text messages. Forty-nine of them. I refused to accept that bullshit, too. 

I refused to argue the point. I refused to feel bad for my alleged misgivings because I know that I was a damn good mother. Were there things I would do differently? Yes. Was there anything I got wrong? Probably a lot. But since I can’t rewrite our past I try to focus on our future.

When I didn’t respond as he had hoped, the air was dashed out of his sails.  He claimed I didn’t show enough emotion. I was too flippant. I said okay and he felt the word okay was patronizing. Then he really became angry. Now he says he is done with me, severing ties completely. He hates everything I stand for and he says he hates me.

I told him I understood. And I do. I would not want to engage with anyone who was detrimental to my mental health either. Nor would I ever want to push myself upon someone who felt that I was not good for them. So, yes, I understand. He needs to do whatever will enable him to heal, and not hurt.

I wished him well. I told him I would support whatever he needed to do to help himself. I told him I loved him and that I would keep him lifted in prayer. He told me to stop talking to him; that I had nothing to say that he wanted to hear. He said he didn’t need my God, my prayers, my love, or me.

I said okay. I told him he was entitled to his feelings. I said I was sorry that he was hurting. And I really am.

But the answer to his original request, was still, NO.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

PURE GOLD


I currently have temporary custody of my youngest granddaughter. The pretty princess started kindergarten a few weeks ago and suddenly I find myself back in elementary school hell. Navigating school schedules, doctor appointments, dance classes and all the stuff raising a six-year-old entails is the stuff of retirement nightmares. I’ve been reminded why people should have children while they’re young and able-bodied. Midlife parenting is for the birds. But as history has proven we grandparents do what we need to do. We step up, fill in the gaps and we shine.

This week I attended the elementary school’s Open House and sat in a PTA meeting. It’s been some twenty-plus years since I felt obligated to do that. There I was, in a room full of young parents giddy with excitement about their offspring’s academic journey. They have no clue what’s coming. Having six kids, all now adults, I’ve been down this road a time or two. I wanted to warn them this isn’t the picnic they think it will be. They’re firmly on a roller coaster and the ride comes with some serious highs and some very low lows. 

There were mothers there who are having a difficult time with letting go, their kids more than ready to spread their wings and fly. The Pretty Princess insisted on the second day that she didn’t need me to walk her to her classroom. I watched her and her oversized backpack march off, her independence and strength on full display. It would have broken me when I was a new mother with my first child. Now, I give her a thumbs up, pride gleaming from my eyes. We’ve got this and this was yet another step toward her being the bad ass Queen I know she’ll eventually be.

As my baby girl and I navigate our new relationship I’ve discovered that midlife parenting also has its benefits. I no longer sweat the small stuff. My parenting style has evolved. I can sit in a room filled with millennial parents and be amused by those things that have them all in their feelings. I know what she throws tantrums about today will be the fodder for jokes when she becomes a teen. That the road ahead will be filled with accomplishments and disappointments and that the joys we experience will be whatever we want them to be.

I’m told math has changed and two plus two doesn’t always equal four with the new math. But I can handle the curriculum changes and I know that allowing baby girl to fly means also allowing her to also fall. I won’t always be there to catch her, but I know how to pick her back up, put her on her feet and push her forward. I’ve learned that protective shouldn’t be stifling and for her to blossom all I need to do is to keep planting the necessary seeds. This time around I have grandmotherly wisdom on my side and that is pure gold.




Tuesday, August 13, 2019

CLUTCH - A ONE LOVE SHORT STORY


GET YOUR COPY NOW!

The ONE LOVE Short Story series has become one of my favorites to write. Each story is different, pushing me outside the box of what others expect me to write. The focus for each story has been character development. Fleshing out the unique personalities on the pages of each book has challenged me and I love that it has allowed me to stretch my creative juices. To dig deep inside myself as the stories come to life. So it is with great pleasure that I announce the release of the third book in the series. CLUTCH!

Calvin "Clutch" Williams, worked me! I hated the first draft/story. So much so that I trashed that version, delayed the release date and sat in the unknown of it for months. It was not the story I was supposed to tell and then just like that Clutch took hold of me and shook me hard. The words flowed like melted butter after that. The book is a short, quick, sweet, and dirty read. Some readers will want more, but it's the simplicity of the story that makes it all it needs to be. I hope that every reader will take what they need from the story. I also imagine that Clutch and Ruth will linger with you long after the last words are read.

Please enjoy, and if you haven't read ARCH and BRAWN, the first two books in the series, please do. I promise you they'll be well worth your effort. 



Thursday, July 25, 2019

RISSI PALMER AND DATE NIGHT!


I went on a date! With the hubby! It’s been ages since we had a real date night. Health issues, timing issues, deadline issues, and princess issues have been all up in our way. But I was reminded that adults need to take adult time to appreciate each other, and adults in a relationship need to take time with each other to remember why. 

Big Daddy and I went to UNC-TV for an exclusive, intimate In Studio concert by country music sensation, Rissi Palmer. Think MTV’s Unplugged. The performance was being filmed as a local complement to the next Ken Burns documentary, Country Music

I can’t begin to tell you what a spectacular time we had. I’m a huge Rissi Palmer fan so for me this was a dream come true. It was hard to contain my excitement and not come across as a crazed stalker! But she was a sheer delight with an incredibly welcoming spirit. Y’all know though, that in my crazed fan mindset, she and I are now the best of friends!

Some of you may remember my POST about Rissi’s 2007 hit Country Girl. Country Girl was my theme song and I wrote the first two Stallion Series books to her self-titled debut album. Everything about her music spoke to my esthetic and brought me immense joy. She embodied the heroines that came to life in John and Mark Stallion’s stories. Her music was everything I needed to help me breathe life into that award-winning series.

https://www.rissipalmermusic.com/Rissi Palmer has a keen sense of humor and is a true storyteller. It was magical to hear the tales behind the songs she performed, and a time or two I had to wipe away a tear. What struck a particular cord for me tonight was the story behind her song Summerville, which was featured on her album The Back Porch Sessions. She spoke about her grandmother and singing on the back porch of the family home as a child. She shared memories of cooking cornbread with her great-grandmother, the freshly washed laundry that hung outside on a line, and many others that centered around the town where her family matriarchs were born and raised. It was those memories that helped her regain her balance when she needed it the most.

For many artists and writers, we often hit a crossroad where we’re not quite sure what will come next. When we have doubts and question our creative journey. I have recently been lost in that space, doubt and frustration holding me hostage. The writing has been stagnant, no ghostly characters haunting my spirit. After 50-plus books I wasn’t sure writing was what I wanted to do anymore. I had decided to quit, changed my mind, and changed my mind again. But tonight, Rissi’s creative energy rekindled my own. I was reminded of those things that ignited my original desire to be a writer. It brought me front and center with why I love to write.

As Rissi shared her own experiences I thought about my grandmother and her admonishments for me to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be. In Rissi’s music I heard the hopes of our ancestors. The dreams of mothers who nurtured and raised us. The trials and tribulations of fathers who struggled to be seen so that we might have a place that was ours. I heard her voice and rediscovered my own.

Tonight, I’ll play every one of Rissi Palmer’s albums, each song in constant rotation. I’ll start with Country Girl, and I’ll write.