Friday, July 08, 2022

DIVAS ON MY BOOKSHELF: PIPER G. HUGULEY


Today’s Diva Spotlight is shining on historical fiction author Dr. Piper G. Huguley. If you’ve not read any of her books, you’re missing out. With amazing story-telling skills Huguley is able to take us back in time to bear witness to the untold stories of amazing African American Christian characters. She educates, enlightens, and allows her readers to escape into historical experiences that have been largely left out of traditional history books. Huguley is out here doing the Lord’s work with her stories, and I greatly appreciate her ministry.

I adore Piper Huguley. I'm blessed to call her a friend and a sister of my heart. I aspire to be just like her when I grow up. She is an educator by profession and has influenced many a young mind to excel at whatever they desire. She a woman of Southern gentility, her grace, patience, and serene spirit reflected in the words she paints on paper. She epitomizes the very essence of #BlackGirlMagic.

I was honored to share a book with her, a trilogy with our author-sister-friend Iris Bolling. SONGBIRD is an incredible book, and  Huguley’s contribution is reflective of all her writings. It’s better than great. Sharing the stage with this amazing woman was a privilege and an honor I don’t take lightly.

Huguley has an extensive and impressive back list of books, starting with her two-book HOME TO MILFORD COLLEGE series and her MIGRATIONS OF THE HEART series. She’s been included in numerous anthologies and is often sought out to share her historical perspective on black history.

An award-winning author, Piper Huguley’s most recent release, BY HER OWN DESIGN: A Novel of ANN LOWE, Fashion Designer to the Social Register, is making quite the buzz in literary circles. Well received, the reviews have been reflective of her talent and masterful story-telling abilities. BY HER OWN DESIGN is the incredible, untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America's most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy. I can personally attest to this book being one of the best of all times, although I might be slightly biased. But it is that remarkable and deserving of all the accolades.

Discover the work of Piper G. Huguley for yourself. You’ll be equally impressed!




Friday, July 01, 2022

DIVAS ON MY BOOKSHELF: VANESSA RILEY

Good morning! I'm so excited about this new series, DIVAS ON MY BOOKSHELF! Today, I’m thrilled to talk about the incomparable Vanessa Riley.

Vanessa Riley is one of the most prolific writers I know, and this is not my first-time sharing news of her books and upcoming releases. My last posts are HERE and HERE. I aspire to Vanessa’s level of creativity. I am always captivated by the sheer beauty of her words. She can take the 26 letters of the alphabet and string together stories that are transformative. I love me some Vanessa Riley!

Most recently I finished Island Queen, for the third time! Based on the incredible true-life story of Dorothy “Doll” Kirwan Thomas, a free Black woman who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies. Vanessa Riley breathed life into each character and her portrayal of Doll’s staunch determination to rise above her circumstances and reign was absolutely riveting. This writer’s ability to evoke emotion knows no bounds and with each chapter, I found myself lost in the eighteenth-century world of sugar plantations, island marketplaces, and London drawing rooms. If you want a real treat, purchase the audio book, too, narrated by the British actress Adjoa Andoh, (Lady Danbury of Bridgerton fame).

I'm anxiously awaiting the July 12, 2022 release of Vanessa’s next novel, Sister Mother Warrior. 

 

It’s the vivid, sweeping novel of the Haitian Revolution based on the true-life stories of two extraordinary women: the first Empress of Haiti, Marie-Claire Bonheur, and Gran Toya, a West African-born warrior who helped lead the rebellion that drove out the French and freed the enslaved people of Haiti. I know that Vanessa Riley will transport us to a whole other world as she again, pulls us into history we’ve never before been told or had been denied.

But Vanessa's writing talents don't stop there. She will soon be taking us on a jaunt into historical mysteries with her upcoming book, Murder in Westminster, the first book in her new Lady Worthing Mystery series. The anticipation is giving me goose bumps! Adding each new book of hers to my collection is me snatching a tiny piece of literary heaven to include in my small book world!

If you’ve never read Vanessa Riley, you’re missing out. Do yourself a favor and journey through her backlist. You’ll thank me later.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

DIVAS ON MY BOOKSHELF: BEVERLY JENKINS

Many have heard me tell the story of being a romance snob before I became a romance author. I did not read romance, believing those happily-ever-after stories were a waste of good ink on even better paper. Boy, did I get that one wrong! It was after the publication of my first romance book, when die-hard romance readers came for me, that I discovered my shortcomings. It seems I’d written a good book, but it failed the romance litmus test.

To write romance and write it well, I needed to figure out what I’d been missing. So, I began to read romance and discovered these incredible stories of love and life written by amazing women, and even a few good men. Some of these stories included characters who sometimes looked like me and sometimes didn’t. The joy I experienced was like nothing I’d known before. It surpassed my favorite chocolate cake and the occasional romp between my silk sheets. Well, maybe not the silk sheets, but definitely the cotton ones! But I digress.

Eventually, I got better at writing romance. Then I found myself shifting toward romantic suspense, and most recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of mystery. In each genre, I have found women who tell brilliant stories and who have generously shared so much of themselves with me. But I digress again, because this post isn’t about me. It’s about my love of reading and for those women writers who sweep me away with their brilliant writing!


During this exploratory phase I discovered the writings of Romance Queen, USA Today bestselling author, Beverly Jenkins! I dare to say that she’s able to don that literary crown and retains her seat on that romance throne because of her brilliant storytelling. Beverly Jenkins’ books have graced my bookshelf since that very first read. I had started with her first contemporary romances, Edge of Midnight and then Edge of Dawn. Since then, I've meandered my way through her Blessings series, and become totally engrossed with her historical romances after backtracking to the books Indigo and Vivid. Her historical romances were my sweet spot, filling a hole in my literary heart that I didn’t even know existed. I had no idea that she would later become a mentor and a friend. The romance genre became a blessing that has continued to give, and give, and give!

I devoured Jenkins’ last book, Wild Rain. It’s the second novel in her compelling new Women Who Dare series and follows Spring, a female rancher in Wyoming after the Civil War. A reporter has come to Wyoming to do a story on doctors for his Black newspaper back east. He thinks Colton Lee will be an interesting subject…until he meets Colton’s sister Spring. She runs her own ranch, wears denim pants instead of dresses, and is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met. But Spring, who has overcome a raucous and scandalous past, isn’t looking for, nor does she want, love. As their attraction grows, will their differences come between them or unite them for an everlasting love? You’ll need to read the book to find out for yourself.

Next up in the Women Who Dare series, is To Catch a Raven. It’s the story of a fearless grifter who goes undercover to reclaim the stolen Declaration of Independence. With a release date of August 23, 2022, you’ll want to pre-order your copy NOW! I know I have, because there’s not a Beverly Jenkins book that I foresee myself ever missing. All hail my romance queen! 


Lately, I’ve been feasting on historical romance and stories that bring our collective pasts to light. I love historical fiction and there are a few authors who’ve become automatic buys! Over the next few weeks, I plan to share how amazing these writers are, and what they’re bringing to the reading table that has moved me beyond words.

I haven’t blogged in some time and to now do so with a series that I plan to call, DIVAS ON MY BOOKSHELF feels like Christmas in Spring or that milestone birthday complete with unexpected surprises, great gifts, and the sweetest champagne. It’s a celebration of sorts and I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me!

 

 

Monday, May 09, 2022

MOTHER'S DAY!

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. For those who celebrate I pray that it was everything you wanted and needed the day to be.

Although I had a very pleasant day, it is always a bittersweet experience for me. Since birth, my sister and I have gone to church with our mother every Mother’s Day. Unless of course I was living out of the country on an island, or the sister was away in college. Yesterday, we came together with my granddaughter in tow to continue that tradition. The Pretty Princess and I rose early to make it in time for service at Morehead Avenue Baptist Church to get the word from mommy’s pastor, Reverend Charles C. Barnes, Sr. My mother was ecstatic and that brought me much joy. I don’t take it for granted that at her age, with her declining health, that we are immensely blessed to still have her here with us. Brunch followed. We laughed and reminisced and our time spent together was a breath of fresh air for my spirit.

For many, many years I have claimed six children. The ex-husband came with four, fathered the fifth with his mistress and we shared the youngest. Some who know me, believe they are all mine by birth, and I have never before felt it necessary to correct that assumption. They were mine and I loved all of them with every fiber of my being. I took them to school, cheered at all their extracurricular activities, wiped away tears and fussed when they did wrong. I was there during their formative years, the younger bunch from birth. I did what a mother did to the best of my ability and I was practically a child myself. More times than not I got it right, but those times when I made mistakes, I thought them monumental. Most mothers do.

When the divorce happened, the older kids were adults with families of their own. I know that their father smeared my name at every opportunity, but I was so hell bent on being free from his abuse that I didn’t care. I thought the bond I shared with them would be enough. They knew me. Knew my heart. Knew I loved them beyond measure, no matter what was said about me. That first Mother’s Day when I heard not one word from any of them, I was devastated. I sat in church with my own mother trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.

The second year didn’t hurt as much. By year five I’d become numb to it all. The one child I had birthed still wished me a good day and joined me and his grandmother at church. Then suddenly that went left. I became persona non grata. He told me he hated me and blamed me for everything that was wrong in his life. He turned on me, his wrath so vapid that it still has me reeling. I had to be reminded that it wasn’t personal, it was his mental illness. But it felt as personal as personal could ever get. It was pain in a way I have never experienced hurt before. I cried continuously when no one was watching. There were times I could barely breathe thinking about it, wondering if I would survive. It was unfathomable grief and through it all I kept smiling, kept saying I was fine, and hid it from others to the best of my ability.

Things have gotten better. The holiday is no longer as difficult to navigate as it was in years prior. I’ve learned not to great Mother’s Day with any expectations. Yesterday, I received two messages. The first was from my new bonus son, saying he loved me and appreciated me and wishing me the best day ever. The second came from my youngest, apologizing for not calling, but he wasn’t well. He hoped I had a good day. Both greetings made me happy.

Big Daddy and the Pretty Princess gave me a Mother’s Day parade. They showered me with affection and love and presented me with the sweetest cards and the most generous gifts. And then I sat in church with my mommy, feeling immensely blessed.

 

 

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

ISLAND QUEEN by Vanessa Riley

I love a great historical novel and ISLAND QUEEN by renowned author Vanessa Riley is one that should not be missed. And now it's on sale!!! Learn more here: https://bit.ly/IQsaleDV

Island Queen  is a remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true-life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful
landowners in the colonial West Indies. Accolades for the story and for the author have been sweeping!
 
“Richly detailed, vividly depicted, and sweeping in scope, Island Queen is historical fiction at its absolute finest. A stunning must-read!” — Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
 
“Island Queen is the magnificently reconstructed life story of Dorothy "Doll" Kirwan Thomas, whose fascinating legacy of grit and success desperately deserves to be better known. With lush prose and raw emotion, Riley vividly captures the complexity of bringing to life a time of rebellion and possibility.”    — New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Dray
 
“Reading Island Queen and I am riveted. RIVETED, I tell you! Whew! That woman can WRITE! What a book!”
   — Kristan Higgins, from Twitter

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.
 
Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.
 
From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

Buy a copy for you or a friend:  https://bit.ly/IQsaleDV

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

CONFIDENCE IS EVERYTHING!

 I was feeling myself today. I woke early, nothing hurt, and I felt ready to take on the world. The Pretty Princess hopped out of bed without being prodded and she too greeted the new day with a bright smile and no grumbling. I had two quick errands to run this morning, so after dropping the Princess off to another day in second grade, and the Paw off to the groomers for a much-needed haircut, I made a quick run to the post office and then to the library. Errands complete I decided to swing by my favorite store for a quick browse. I reasoned it was early, there wouldn’t be a big crowd and I might have an opportunity to shop the aisles in peace.

It was my lucky day! One elderly woman entered before me. Two staff members greeted us, and we had the entire store to ourselves! In times of a pandemic this was an epic moment! The other woman headed in one direction, and I headed in the other. We passed each other in the home goods section, avoiding all contact.

And then I turned down another aisle and there he stood. Even with a mask I could tell he was a nice-looking guy. He was large with an athletic frame, closely cropped haircut, and a warm umber complexion. There was the barest hint of gray in his hair, and he carried himself with an air of maturity. After a quick assessment (okay, maybe not so quick) I apologized and turned to head in the opposite direction.

“No problem,” he said, the timber of his voice sliding like butter against my ears. “I hope you’re having a good morning?”

“I am, thank you for asking,” I responded.

“I’m looking for a gift for my mother,” he said as if I’d asked. Maybe there was something in my eyes that questioned why he was looking at China serving pieces.

“Well, aren’t you sweet!”

“She has everything so it’s near impossible to shop for her and it’s her 85th birthday.”

“What a blessing! I’m sure she’ll love anything you get her. I have no doubts that just spending time with you will be the best gift ever.”

I could see him smile behind that mask and he nodded. We chatted for a few more minutes and then he continued on his search as I resumed my browsing. Heading to the children’s section of the store I found myself grinning, thinking I still got it! Appreciating that I couldn’t tell you what “it” was if you paid me. I just knew I felt good. I felt confident and emboldened and immensely blessed.

He was paying for his selections as I exited the store. A minute or two later he called out across the parking lot. “Would you like to grab a cup of coffee?”

I waved. “Thanks for the invite, but I don’t think my husband would appreciate that.”

He laughed and nodded. “I understand completely. He’s a lucky man, your husband.”

I laughed with him. “You have a good day and happy birthday to your mother!”

Sliding into the driver’s seat of my car, I did a little shoulder shimmy as Ginuwine’s song, Pony, blasted out of the speakers. I sat in all that confidence for a good, few minutes, then I looked at myself in the rear-view mirror.

I’d left the house and forgotten to comb my hair and I hadn't put on an ounce of makeup!

Confidence is everything!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Dear Santa Claus

 

Dear Santa Claus,

How are you doing? I pray this finds you safe and well.

As I write this, I know you were just spotted in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. You’re expected to arrive in Bolivia shortly. I’m envious. You’re still able to travel around the world. Many of us can neither afford that luxury nor are we willing to take the risk travel holds today. I have no doubt that you are vaccinated and boostered. We all know this pandemic is nothing to play around with. I always air on the side of caution. Better safe now than sorry later. Just make sure you keep a mask close in case you bump into anyone along your trek tonight.

It’s been quite a year, Santa! After 2020 there was expectation and hope that this year would move us past viruses and quarantines and return us to a semblance of normalcy. That didn’t unfold in the way we’d anticipated. We are still plagued with illness and loses, and things are far from the normal we all remember. We now have Omicron, a new variant to the virus, and more people are willing to put themselves and others at risk just to prove a point that’s disputable. It’s a sad state of affairs, big guy, but many of us are still holding out for a miracle of sorts.

On a personal note, I can’t complain. I’ve been immensely blessed this year and I’ve tried hard to bless others as often as I’ve been able. As a family we experienced a wealth of loss last year, burying more than our fair share of family members. It was bad. This year we welcomed babies! Lots of new babies. Life continues and it’s a choice whether we keep up, or not.

I don’t have a lengthy wish list this year, Santa. All I want is to see loved ones safe and healthy. I wish for abundance and prosperity for those in need and when you have a moment, blow some common sense though the air for those who do most of their thinking without their brains. I’m grateful to still be standing, Santa and I appreciate that I’m still able to do what I love. Even when things got hard and all seemed lost, I continued to be blessed and I don’t take that for granted. Some more of that would really be nice.

Lastly, some kid out there has a pony on her wish list Santa. Please, don’t make her wait for thirty-plus years to get it. I’m still trying to figure out your problem with giving a girl a stallion! Just imagine what I could have accomplished if I’d gotten mine when I’d originally asked.

Keep your head down, Claus! We’ve missed you and we want to see you again next year. Give the Mrs. my regards and kisses to the elves. Tell Rudolph we know about that problem of his and we’re keeping him lifted in prayer. That bright red nose is a dead giveaway! Booze rarely solves problems long term, but I understand. Starting my day with a shot of bourbon in my coffee had become a bad habit I had to break. Might I suggest organic juices for our four-legged friend?

Continue to bless us with joy and love, Santa! I promise to try to do the same.

Until next year,

Deborah