Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I wrote once before about a friend who thinks it is the funniest thing that I never drank Kool-Aid until I was well into my teens. Every time the subject comes up he is rolling on the floor with laughter. I can’t help but laugh myself because what family back in the day didn’t raise their children on Kool-Aid? Well, mine didn’t.

My first experience with Kool-Aid was at a cousin’s house during a summer break. I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to make a full pitcher of drink from that little packet of colored powder and a bucket load of granulated sugar! When I returned home and shared the experience with my mother she looked at me like I’d told her we’d built an atomic bomb out of shoe leather and toothpaste. She was not amused and it was many years later, after her first grandson was born, that she finally broke down and allowed Kool-Aid into her home. It was also that presweetened variety as well, not the little flavor packets that you could sweeten yourself.

My dear friend laughed himself silly when I told him I’d also never eaten canned vegetables, potted meat, Vienna sausages, or government cheese either. Not that he could talk because he never ate grits. I mean really, how many Southern Baptist black children do you know that didn’t grow up eating grits? I know I ate me some grits and I wasn’t Southern or Baptist!

I was raised in an extremely white, upper middle class neighborhood in very wealthy Fairfield County, Connecticut. My friends were kids who got BMW’s for their first communion and Mercedes Benz’s for their bar mitzvah’s. My mother shopped at Lord and Taylors and Bloomingdales, and I’d be the first to say that I grew up privileged, prissy and just a tad pretentious.

Ours was the first of four black families to integrate the neighborhood and until fifth grade there were only two black students in the elementary school I attended. We attended the AME church on the other side of town and I spent my summers on my grandparent’s South Carolina farm where I learned to pick cotton and eat watermelon right off the vine.

Growing up, I was an anomaly. I wasn’t blonde or blue-eyed, my mother wasn’t a stay-at-home Mom, and my father worked three jobs and none of them were on Wall Street. During my fifth grade year bussing became en vogue and suddenly there were other black kids filling up the classrooms. That’s when I discovered just how different I truly was. I didn’t feel different or look different but to everyone else I was suddenly too white to be black and too black to be white. I was called Oreo, half-n-half, high yeller, wannabe, jigaboo, and a host of other expletives more than I was called by my name. It wasn’t pretty, left me traumatized and would have made for great afternoon fodder on Oprah's sofa.

I’ve had to deal with issues of race most of my life. The environment I was raised in called it into question on a daily basis. I was either treated differently because the color of my skin was different, or I was treated differently because I spoke and behaved differently. Out of sheer necessity I learned early how to walk in two very different worlds but I was never made to feel welcome or comfortable in either.

Fast forward a few years and I married and divorced a biracial man of white and Portuguese parentage straddling his own fence. He still doesn’t have a clue where he falls on the color wheel. Our children are an amalgamation of many ethnicities and they could care less. Depending on the mood of the moment they’ve been known to check either the "black" box, the "white" box or the "other" box proudly, not having a clue what color their Kool-Aid should be. They listen to rap, classical and hard rock, eat chitlin’s, pizza, and Puerco guisado, and genuinely can’t understand what all the hoopla is about race and why people fear it so.

When I was first called about my very first manuscript, the editor at the time spoke to me on the telephone for a good fifteen minutes about my book. The conversation was curious at best and then she asked if I would please email her a picture of myself. I thought it a pretty strange request but hey, a real publisher was interested in my writing so I was ready to send as many photos as she wanted. Ten minutes after she received the email I received my second CALL and an offer to purchase my book. I later understood that they wanted to be sure I was what I claimed to be, a black woman who'd written a black romance. Apparently that didn’t come across over the telephone line.

I have no doubts that the majority of my readers are black women. Interestingly though, I had a book signing once where I sold a lot of books. Only one of the fans who came to see me was a black woman. Most of the books sold were purchased by non-black readers, male and female. I thought for just a brief second that there was actually some progress being made and then one elderly “fan” felt compelled to expound on what she thought about me and my writing. The praises were plentiful and complementary and then she leaned in, her hand pressed against my shoulder and said, “I really do like your writing. And it’s not like you’re really black, dear.”

As a black author published in the romance genre I find myself once again straddling a fence where I understand that I’m not necessarily welcome nor is there any concern that I’m comfortable. I’m discovering that to write what I want to write I will clearly have to walk in two very different worlds or make the conscious decision not to be published at all.

I wish I could be as dismissive about race as my children but I can’t. My race has a major impact on where my books are shelved in the stores, if they’re carried in certain bookstores at all, and whether or not I can even get a book deal for a book that isn’t a black romance.

I’m not blonde this week and since my last blonde disaster I doubt highly that me and Miss Clairol will be trying that ever again. I’ll never be blue-eyed and there is no longer anything prissy, privileged or pretentious about me. I am, however, one hell of a force to be reckoned with.

And more importantly, I’m a damn good writer no matter what I happen to be writing about. I’ve got a lot of storytelling in me and just like my Kool-Aid, the flavor I tell them in will be however I choose. Since I don’t plan to go anywhere any time soon, pull up a seat, grab yourself a glass, choose your own flavor, and join me. I’ve got a great story I’d love to tell you.

But before I get started, did you VOTE today?

Monday, August 29, 2011


Why the sudden onslaught of self-promotion? Why so much about me? And why do I want people to vote for my ABOUT.ME page?

Because I write. It’s what I do. More importantly, it’s what I love to do. Many would say I do it well. Just as many might disagree. I know that I do the very best that I can and with every new book, I try to do a better job than I did on the story before.

I’m successfully published in the contemporary romance genre. But romance is not the only thing that I write as proven by my newest book, RESTED WATERS. Personally, I did not consider my first book a romance novel. Neither did hardcore romance fans! Some clever editing made it so. Hardcore fans didn't necessarily agree. Some proponents of more literary writings have been known to malign romance writers and their work. Castigating what one does not know comes easily to some folks. But hey, who am I to throw stones when I once lived in that same glass house myself? I remember well when I would readily dismiss romance novels, thinking them in some way inferior. Some exceptionally talented authors who write romance set me straight with the absolute beauty of their prose. I know now that no matter what the genre, there are GREAT writers, Good writers, and others who probably need to find a new day job.

In writing romance I’ve learned that describing how to plant a tree may have its challenges, but describing the ecstasy of a kiss being planted some place one has never been planted before is a whole other beast. Don’t even get me started about writing about the seductive nuances of sheathing a man in a condom when he’s buck naked and skinny-dipping in a swimming pool. It takes a certain finesse to get that man and his partner protected without losing the ambiance of the moment!

Typically, I write about ordinary people, doing ordinary things. They work normal jobs, struggle to pay bills, raise children, the kind of ordinary things we all do on a daily basis. Then of course there are my billionaire Stallions who live extraordinary, fabulously filthy rich lifestyles. But no matter their occupation or life status, my characters, always get a happily-ever-after ending. They find love with partners that complement their ordinary, or not so ordinary existences. Not everyone is as blessed. I have plenty of stories in me where there are no happy endings but then I have to wonder who would want to read them? Our real lives have far too many unhappy endings for anyone to want to read about someone else’s trials and tribulations. I like being able to give readers a few feel good moments and a very happy ending in a book.

Romance fans are very critical and exceptionally demanding of their authors. They expect GREAT stories. Not all of us are able to deliver GREAT, but I certainly give it one heck of a try. When I’m only Good my readers don’t hesitate to say so. Fortunately for me, no one has suggested I find myself a new day job. So, until they do, I’ll just keep writing, because it’s absolutely what I love most to do.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Since embarking on this journey of shameless self-promotion I’ve been asked “what” about me and “why” this endeavor. I thought it only fair to respond since there have been so many new visitors here and to my About.me page.

So, “what” about me?

I’m a storyteller. I endeavor to do that by writing stories and writing them well. I discovered my knack for storytelling when I was a little girl. It started with a lie; a very elaborate, very detailed lie. I learned that when I lied to Daddy it only got me one hell of an ass-whooping. My beloved granny, on the other hand, helped me to see that when you refine those fibs into really good stories, then that is something else altogether.

In middle school, I was good at fabricating reasons for never having my science homework. An astute science teacher recognized that I was most likely not going to have a career in the sciences. Acknowledging the poetry I doodled in the margins of my science lab book, she afforded me the opportunity to write for a passing grade. The rest is history in the making.

Now, with eleven romance novels under my belt, a novella coming in October, and my very first literary drama I’m hoping to take my storytelling to a whole new level.

And that brings me to “why” this endeavor.

Promoting myself and my work, in hopes of winning the About.me contest, is taking me well outside of my comfort zone. I don’t do this well. Writing is my art. Storytelling is the gift I’ve been blessed with. Self-promotion has been the bane of my existence. About.me is on the same mission I am, trying to grow their brand. It only makes sense to ride their coattails as I venture to grow my own brand and to discover just what I’m capable of while I do. I also need to sell books and I'm hoping that by putting myself out here, it might garner more interest in my newest book, RESTED WATERS. Besides, I’m also a little vain. Why wouldn’t I want my face on a billboard in Times Square?

So as you discover more about me and more important, my books, please, visit my About.me page and give me your vote. It’s greatly appreciated.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I know I’ve mentioned it before but marketing is not my strong suit. I do a better job of marketing other people than I do marketing myself. But I’m trying to get better. My newest venture is going to test my marketing fortitude and I’m reaching out wherever I can for assistance.

About.me is a new website where you can quickly build a simple and visually elegant splash page that will point visitors to all the content you have around the web. In its infancy, About.me is marketing itself by launching a contest to find new faces for their fall promotion. The selected winners will see their About.me page featured in their campaign, which includes a giant billboard in Times Square. Visitors to About.me are allowed one vote per profile per day with the contest ending on September 20th.

I want to win this contest. I have a great About.me profile. I created it myself. So I’m asking everyone I can to vote for me. And I’m asking you to please vote for me every day from now until September 20th.

For me information about me, please visit ABOUT.ME. And please, VOTE for me!!!

Thank you!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


There is no lack of controversy surrounding Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help and its recent big screen movie release. From being pissed about its historical accuracy, relevance, and context, to the age old argument about whether white authors should or can write black characters, too many have had much to say.

Having read the book, I had some issues regarding her handling of the black vernacular, but they were my issues. As a writer I respect Kathryn’s right to tell her story her way. Had she told it the way others would have liked, it would have been their story, and not hers, and no writer would want that for themselves so why should they expect it from someone else. I say go write your own damn book your way if you didn’t like this one.

Set in the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help tells the story of African-American maids who care for the children and homes of wealthy white families. Encountering cruelty and racism, Abileen, played by Viola Davis and Minny, played by Octavia Spencer are the two primary maids, while the third protagonist is Emma Stone’s character, Skeeter, a young, white college graduate who enlists their help in writing a book about their experiences.

Seeing the movie, I had different issues. But they are issues I probably would have had with any movie that was over two hours long. Personally, I liked Kathryn’s story despite my issues and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. As for the controversy, I’m not interested in any intellectual over-analysis of the subject of racism and how it was or should have been handled. For everything believed to be wrong about The Help you can go HERE, or HERE, or HERE.

What I am interested in is all that was right and good about the movie, starting with the Oscar-worthy performances by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. This movie truly belonged to both of these incredible actresses who gave gut wrenching performances as women both concealing and ultimately sharing a lifetime of hurt. With so many negative portrayals of black women in the media I loved seeing black women who were nurturing and loving despite the obstacles they were forced to face.

Historically, black mothers sacrificed their own children and families to the benefit of families and individuals who rarely appreciated them. The infamous Cicely Tyson as Constantine demonstrated that no matter the degradation, or betrayal, there was little if any animosity and much, much love in their hearts.

I was entertained, thought the casting was perfect, and just enjoyed the story for what it was worth to me. But then I wasn't expecting Kathryn Stockett to be the end all to every ill between the races, nor did I expect that she could, should or would roll up centuries of what has been done wrong in 566 pages of a paperback or 138 minutes of film.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I watch a lot of movies. There is little in the theaters now that I haven’t seen or will probably see before the weekend is out. It’s a “habit” of sorts that was necessary for a previous business operation. Now it’s a “bad habit” I enjoy for the sake of pure entertainment. Occasionally I will see a movie that did not inspire me in previews, which most folks passed right on by, that turns out to be an absolute delight. Midnight in Paris was one of those movies. I thoroughly enjoyed it and that surprised me.

Recently I sat through Russ Pharr’s new film 35 and Ticking, which features an all-star ensemble cast with Nicole Ari Parker, Tamala Jones, Kevin Hart, Keith Robinson, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Meagan Good, Mike Epps, Clifton Powell, Jill Marie Jones, Kym Whitley, Luenell, Dondre Whitfield, Darius McCrary and Aaron D. Spear.

As with most movies with predominately black casts, 35 and Ticking has gotten little, if any promotion. It hasn’t faired well at the box office but it’s a movie that exceeded every one of my expectations. I was prepared to be thoroughly annoyed by bad writing, vulgar humor, and every other stereotype associated with a black film and Russ made me feel foolish for doing so.

Russ Parr is somewhat of a dinosaur where the entertainment industry is concerned. He’s been around the block a long time. He has worked behind the scenes at ABC, worked as a stand-up comic, and he has even appeared in bit parts on a few sitcoms as well as some commercials. You may know him best from the radio and the “Russ Parr Morning Show”, a nationally syndicated radio show with around 3.2 million listeners in 45 cities. He also has five film and television projects on his directorial resume.

His latest film, 35 and Ticking, is the story of four best friends, Victoria, Zenobia, Clevon, and Phil who are all approaching the age of 35 and struggling to build the families they’ve always dreamed of. While Zenobia (Parker, “Soul Food,” “Brown Sugar”) is still looking for a man, Victoria (Jones, “Castle,” “One on One”) is married to a man who doesn’t want children. Clevon (comic Hart, “Not Easily Broken,” “40 Year-Old Virgin”), meanwhile, is too geeky to get a woman, and Phil (Keith Robinson, “Dreamgirls”) is already married with children, but his wife (Jones, “Girlfriends”) is not very interested in being a mother. The subtext of this film centers around the important theme of building a lasting relationship and is delivered with the right balance of drama and humor.

I absolutely LOVED this movie. The writing was smart and the jokes were funny. It flowed with emotion, was well acted and was beautifully filmed. Russ deserves major props for this accomplishment. He told a great story with flair and integrity. I hope he continues to bring us quality films about black experiences and that he will one day garner the acknowledgements and success that he rightfully deserves. Like a great book, this one left me immensely satisfied.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


When Tessa would walk into a room Joel would light up like a Roman candle. Other people had often commented about the look in his eyes when she was near. There was no denying the connection that existed between them, the energy vitalizing every aspect of their lives. She thought it so perfect that it was almost too good to be true.

Then something changed, shifting into a pit of distant and cold. Now Joel barely acknowledges her gestures of affection. He has a mistress with no name, everything and everybody else consuming his time and attention. Life has become the lover he would seem to need more. He wakes each morning thinking of things that are not Tessa and when he lies down at night, sleep, not Tessa, is the only thing on his mind.

Tessa misses his smile, his laugh, his touch, and the look in his eyes that says she fulfills the empty in his heart and is the light in the dark caverns of his mind.

Tessa hates that perfect has turned out to be too good to be true.

Friday, August 05, 2011


I love dance. I love absolutely everything about dance!

The CBS hit show, So You Think You Can Dance!, is by far my favorite dance reality show simply because it seems to treat dance more seriously, showcasing choreography across a range of genres and artists from companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the American Ballet Theater. This show is more about the art and not necessarily the sport.

Last night viewers narrowed the competition field down to the top four contestants, and my personal favorite, 23-year old Sasha Mallory made it to the finals.

Sasha Mallory began studying ballet technique at the Royal Academy of Dance. She has trained at the Houston Ballet, the Boston Ballet and the Ailey School's summer intensives. Her specialty is contemporary, but there doesn’t seem to be anything this young woman doesn’t excel at. She is truly a gifted artist.

Initially, Sasha auditioned with her 18-year old sister Natalia. The audition process uncovered some health issues for Natalia who does not have a typical dancer’s body. Natalia is a bigger girl with curves but she had impeccable technique and an amazing heart. The girl could truly dance her butt off. I wish she’d made it to the top 20 because I know, like her sister, Natalia would have met any challenge put to her and viewers would have loved her. I’m really feeling that if she’d been given the opportunity we might be seeing a finale with two sisters competing against each other.

Instead, Sasha will be competing against 19-year old Melanie Moore, another incredible talent. Melanie trained at Centre Stage School of Dance and Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, GA. She is also a freshman at Fordham University.

And not to disregard the final two male dancers, Marko Germar and Tadd Gadduang, both exceptional as well, but for me, this finale will be about the strength of two incredible young women who I think have already blown both boys right out of the water. But that's just how I'm voting.

Now, I think I need to go dancing!

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Books are golden to me. I read constantly. I also watch much TV and am passionate about a good movie. Documentary films are my absolute favorite so I am just head over heels for Oprah’s new documentary club on the OWN network. The first original documentary, SERVING LIFE aired recently and I was hooked.

Narrated and executive produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker the film takes viewers inside Louisiana's maximum security prison at Angola, where the average sentence is more than 90 years. The prisoners within its walls are considered the worst of the worst with prison sentences so long that 85 percent will never again live in the outside world. My character Manroot Tucker in my latest book Rested Waters, dies while incarcerated at Angola for the murder of his wife.

Serving Life documents an extraordinary hospice program where hardened criminals care for their dying fellow inmates. Revealing the humanity that exists inside each and every one of us, the Angola prison's hospice program is a volunteer situation whose participates must pass a rigorous interview process and training program. They are pushed and tested as they embark on an experience that inevitably ends in their personal rehabilitation.

The volunteers embrace most everything that is asked of them. They tend to the personal needs and hygiene of prisoners who are gravely ill or have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Most of the patients are aged and have lived most of their adult lives behind bars. Some have no family or haven’t seen family in years. They are alone and they are dying and when they have reached a point of no return it is a hospice volunteer who sits vigil with them until the end, allowing them to die with true dignity.

I wept through most of this film. Knowing its impact on me and others who have viewed it, I can only imagine the effect it has to have on the men who are living it on a daily basis. A standing ovation for producer and director Lisa R. Cohen.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Music plays an important role in my writing process. It fuels my creative spirit and the right playlist can keep me writing like my life depends on it.

Every so often a single song can inspire an entire story. The old Beatles classic, BLACKBIRD, performed by Dionne Farris was such a song. The story came when I needed it most, unfolding through my thoughts like an A-list movie across a big screen.

A playlist that’s included treasures by Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Macy Gray, Tracy Chapman, and my girl, Jill Scott, has had me writing like a mad woman, my life depending on it.

Sometimes life just doesn’t get much better. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Leslie Esdaile Banks, author of the popular Vampire Huntress and Crimson Moon books succumbed to late stage adrenal cancer early this morning. A prolific author, Leslie wrote under the pseudonyms; L.A. Banks, Leslie Esdaile, Leslie E. Banks, Leslie Banks, and Leslie Esdaile Banks.

Leslie was a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, who had penned over forty novels and twelve novellas in a wide range of genres and was the recipient of the 2009 Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention Career Achievement Award for Paranormal Fiction and the 2008 Essence Magazine Storyteller of the Year Award, as well as the 2008 Best 50 Women in Business Award for the State of Pennsylvania.

Leslie was also an adoring mother and devoted friend. She was a kind and generous spirit who touched the lives of many. She was one of my literary idols and a generous mentor, and her passing is a loss to us all.

My sincerest condolences to her daughter and her family.