My Sister, the Serial Killer by Okinkan Braithwaite

38819868._SY475_I swept through this book quickly and loved pretty much every moment. Finished it in the wee hours of the morning. As macabre as the title is, and as grim as the subject matter, too, the humor woven through the story lightened it up JUST a bit. Korede narrates the story about her sister’s – shall we say – penchant for murdering her boyfriends. Once her sister, Ayoola, has set her sights on the doctor that Korede has loved (from a distance at the hospital where she works as a nurse), Korede begins to wonder just how much more of her sister’s homicidal ways she can take. Can or should she try to protect the doctor? How can she keep her sister away from him? How long will she be haunted by the victims – while fussing at Ayoola to stay off of Instagram like everything is okay? Moments like this are the ones that lighten things up for the reader and perhaps Korede as she shares this story. Even darker than these troubles is the childhood the girls lost and why and how. It makes the tale more somber and even a tad understanding. Set in Nigeria, My Sister, the Serial Killer also brings to light how women there are perceived by men, in terms of social status, work, their expectations of women, and looks. As Korede notes, that looks part can be a sad breaking point for some men.

Korede had spent so much time of her life protecting Ayoola as demanded by their mother, it reached the point where Korede expected it at all costs… and demanded it. My Sister, the Serial Killer is a story about a sister’s bond – an incredibly, strong one, and it’s quite a testament to the question of whether or not one could be broken even if the desire to do so is this freaking strong. Highly recommended.

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The Poe Museum, Richmond, VA

Photo: Tonya Rice

The Old Stone House located at 1914 East Main Street, near Shockoe Bottom, is Richmond’s oldest known structure. It was built around 1750. Perhaps much more significant than that to the rest of the world is the fact that it is also home to the memorabilia and artifacts of the gifted poet,  horror short story writer, and Richmond resident, Edgar Allan Poe. The Poe Museum was established in 1922 to honor Poe’s life in Richmond and as a tribute to his literary contribution to the world.

Richmond lays claim to quite a few literary notables, including Ellen Glasgow, Tom Wolfe, and Patricia Cornwell. However, no one else creates such a thoughtful pause as Edgar Allan Poe. Through much of his work, Poe’s writing gifts demonstrated his mastery of effectively illustrating the macabre, suspense, and terror with intelligence, wit, and the use of beauty in language. He is an inspiration to many writers within the genre to date.

Poe was born in Baltimore in 1809 and raised in Richmond by the Allan family following his mother’s death in 1811. John Allan was an owner of Ellis & Allan, a mercantile shop in downtown Richmond. As a young man, Poe attended Monumental Episcopal Church (now known as Monumental Church) with the Allans. It is believed that Poe’s strained relationship with Allan may have served as the muse for his works. Many of his stories mirror the intellectual and psychological experience of his youth and are carried through calculating and unhinged characters. He was reared in a large downtown Richmond home called Moldavia, which is also believed to have served as a form of inspiration, as many of his tales feature a mansion filled with gloom, madness, and events of a mentally spiraling nature.

The opposite of his maniacal expressions through prose was pronounced hopeless romanticism in verse. Three of his most beloved poems, including “Annabel Lee” and even “The Raven” are presumed to have been inspired by women of Richmond with whom he was known to have been involved.

The plan to use The Old Stone House as a museum was supported and funded by

Photo: Tonya Rice

local historians, Mr. and Mrs. Archer Jones. The house possesses its own interesting piece of history. Poe’s connection to it may have been stemmed from his duty, around 1824, as a color guard escort to France’s Marquis de Lafayette during a visit to the Ege family, the original owners of the house. During the Revolutionary War, approximately fifty years earlier, Lafayette had stayed there as he worked to help Washington defeat the British. Other than that, there is no other association known between Poe and the house. However, commemoration of his works and time spent in the city was desired.

Remarkable thought went into the development of the museum and grounds. The Old Stone House is a small portion. By incorporating various items connected to Poe’s life to the museum, the grounds were expanded as a unique, heartfelt, nostalgic dedication towards his work on his craft and his life in Richmond.

The Old Stone House, which features the gift shop, contains the original heart-of-pine floors and a uniquely designed fireplace. The first leg of the self-directed tour in the House introduces the visitor to Poe and his family. The short walk to the Model Building reveals a stunning model of an early-to-mid 19th-century Richmond, complete with painstakingly created miniature houses and labels as they pertained to Poe’s lifetime. The minutest details of the model are so convincing, they constructively pull the visitor into the past. Featured are models of many of Richmond’s landmarks along with homes that are significant to Poe’s life, such as Elmira Shelton’s home – the woman to whom he was once engaged.

Photo: Tonya Rice

The Enchanted Garden – a peaceful courtyard with an engaging fountain – was designed in 1921 to resemble the garden in his poem, “To One in Paradise”. At the north end of the garden is the Poe Shrine, where a copy of Poe’s bust from the Bronx Historical Society sits. Bricks and granite rescued from the demolition of the Southern Literary Messenger, a local magazine where Poe had worked and practiced his craft prior to his fame, are used in the shrine and throughout the garden.

Photo: Tonya Rice

In the Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building, named in honor of his mother, many dynamic aspects of his literary self are displayed, including his desk from the Southern Literary Messenger. Also safely stored and displayed is the staircase from the first Allan home in which he lived. Several of Poe’s wares displayed in this building demonstrate his fine aesthetic tastes.

The last stop of the self-directed tour is the Exhibits Building. Most of those artifacts bring a more modern-day connection to Poe with the exhibit of film adaptations to his work. Included is an impressive letter displayed on behalf of Universal Pictures’ president, Carl Laemmle, asking that photo stills from the 1932 hit, Murders in the Rue Morgue, be added to the Poe Collection.

In 1849, at the age of forty, Poe died in Baltimore about two weeks after leaving

Photo: Tonya Rice

Richmond for a brief stay. Even though he is buried in Baltimore, his life remains immortal here in Richmond with each piece that represents him, his contribution to the world he provided, and his life as a Richmonder in that charming Old Stone House and its grounds.

The museum features special events throughout the year, most notably in October, since Poe is usually synonymous with Halloween. Any time would make a great family outing to learn more about Poe’s era in the city. Make your plans to visit soon. Ticket prices range from $6 to $8.

Museum hours:
Sunday                        11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday                       CLOSED
Tuesday                       10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wednesday                 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday                     10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday                          10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday                      10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

My Literary Crush – Ponyboy Curtis

This was originally a post for the #ReelInfatuation Blogathon a few years ago that I participated in with my classic movie site, Goosepimply All Over, celebrating my movie crush. It’s been updated a bit. Since he’s also my literary crush, it’s quite relevant here as well. 🙂

THE OUTSIDERS, C. Thomas Howell, 1983, © Warner Brothers

When I recently watched The Outsiders (1983) not very long ago, I could still recite most of the lines with the characters – beyond “Do it for Johnny”. It was of no surprise to me or my kids, because they’ve heard me wax poetic about that movie a lot over the years. When C. Thomas Howell popped up on some show my son was watching one night some years back, my shriek, “It’s Ponyboy!”, had him shaking his head with the shame of a teenage boy embarrassed by his mom being a fangirl. When he had to read the book by S.E. Hinton in his high school English class, all of my feelsoutsiders for Ponyboy came back and I was too anxious to rewatch the movie with him (even though they’d also watched it in his class!). Needless to say, while all of the Curtis boys and their friends making up the darling ’80s memory known as the Brat Park were adorable to say the least, none captured my heart like Ponyboy Curtis.

MCDOUTS EC026Ponyboy Curtis was the writer, the dreamer, the sensitive, sweet, and caring one. In the midst of all the chaos he had endured living between the rivalry of the Greasers and the Socs, that made up much of his childhood, everyone on all sides knew he was the one who could try to make sense of life for himself and the rest of them through writing. Johnny told him so through his beautiful letter after he died and Dallas tried to protect him long before he died. I certainly understood that method of coping – it’s why we were kindred spirits, I guess.

It’s why we were kindred spirits…

I adored him so much, I didn’t even want Cherry Valance to talk to him (and I am a Diane Lane fan). I loved that movie so much, I memorized Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” outside of my 11th grade English class, not so long after the movie had come out. I can still even sing the ending song, “Stay Gold”, along with Stevie Wonder. And – I even had a conniption fit when I realized that the copy of Gone With The Wind my uncle gave to me when I was in college is The Exact, Same Edition that Ponyboy and Johnny had at the church!! (It was his copy in college. Of course, I still have it – see below 🙂 and here!)

So, yes… my movie and literary crush is Ponyboy Curtis. I’ve got other movie crushes of course, (like Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh – see him on the telephone here and you’ll know why…

And Ray Milland in Beau Geste -sigh) but Ponyboy Curtis was the first to come to mind for this fun blogathon!

Who’s your literary crush? Please share in the comments below.

Originally posted on June 16, 2016 on Goosepimply All Over, my classic movie site.

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The Carillon in Byrd Park, Richmond, VA

The Carillon, Richmond, VA – photo: Tonya Rice

Standing high within the beauty of Byrd Park in Richmond’s West End, visible from various driveways of the city, is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first memorial to Virginians who served in World War I: The Carillon. An illustrious landmark, this campinale is a beloved gathering area for local residents and visitors.

In 1924, several years after the end of the First World War, the General Assembly formed the World War Memorial Commission to determine the best way to honor those men and women. The City of Richmond donated an area of Byrd Park, located at the southern end of Blanton Avenue. After a lot of public discussion, which changed the initial proposal, construction on the tower began in 1931. It was completed in 1932.

On October 15, 1932, The Carillon was formally dedicated to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Ralph Adams Cram, a noted Boston architect, had designed the structure, which stands at 240 feet. Cram was a favorite architect to the city, as he had also designed several buildings at the University of Richmond, which featured his trademark Gothic style. The bell instrument was designed by Taylor’s Bell Foundry, the world’s largest bell foundry. Known at the time of The Carillon’s construction as John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd, this company also cast Great Britain’s largest bell in St. Paul’s Cathedral of London.

At set intervals, the bells chime melodic patriotic hymns which sound throughout the park. Concerts at the Carillon usually take place on patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day and Labor Day. Most notably is the Fourth of July celebration with fireworks and the Richmond Concert Band. In the spring, the Carillon Civic Association hosts the renowned “Arts in the Park”, which helps to introduce the work of many national artists and artisans to the area.

The tower is a welcoming presence in the park and to its neighborhood residents. At the edge of a grass mall are crepe myrtles donated by the James River Garden Club. Other trees line the mall and the long, brick walkway. Quaint marble benches commemorate the gesture of 1937.


Prominently and sacredly featured is the grand star leading to the front of the Carillon which was laid in honor of the Gold Star Mothers. Their sons and daughters served from 1917 to 1918.

Visitors are welcome to climb the steps of the tower. Once visitors get closer, they will notice the ornate cast of the Virginia seal. Those marble steps lead to the imposing balcony which provides a dramatic panoramic view of the park and neighborhood. Lined by a stylish balustrade, the balcony allows one to take in the striking details much more closely as well as the opportunity to rest and take in the breathtaking view of the park from one of the benches along the walls.

Behind the tower is the Ha’Penny Stagewhere movies and plays are held. Also, next

Dogwood Dell amphitheatre, Richmond, VA – photo: Tonya Rice

to the tower is the beloved Dogwood Dell Amphitheatre, where many concerts and plays are performed. After World War II, the annual Christmas production of “The Nativity” began on the steps of The Carillon; each year it is held on December 23rd at 7:00 p.m.

This coming Fourth of July, bring your picnic basket, blanket, and/or folding chairs and enjoy the Independence Day celebration, featuring music by the Richmond Concert Band and fireworks, all for free! Events begin at 6:00 p.m.

Originally posted on November 11, 2010 on examiner dot com.

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Summer Book Bash!

Summer Book Bash BannerThis month, another great gift card giveaway is going on!! From now until the end of the month, you can enter to win a $25.00 gift card when you sign up for some great free romance e-books in the “Summer Book Bash” gift card giveway! My short romance, Without Your Goodbye, is one of them! If you haven’t yet gotten your copy, hit the link below and get it now for free along with a host of other great romance e-books available there! If you have gotten my story, thank you so much, but please still click to get those additional books and a chance to win that $25.00 gift card!

What a great time to stock up, too… its a long holiday weekend!

Click here now to set up your free summer reading list collection AND a chance to win a $25.00 gift card you can perhaps use for even more books… just a thought! 🙂

Be sure to sign up now – contest ends July 31, 2019.

Living Vicariously Through My Character

boutiqueseries pic LI2

In the Author’s Note of my books in “The Boutique Series”, I point out just how Eden and her fashion shop, Josi’s Boutique, came about:



Given my love for fashion and makeup, my high-styled life lived vicariously through Billy Eikhorn of Judith Krantz’s Scruples saga, and the long, unfulfilled desire to run my own dress shop, it’s only fitting that Eden take the helm for me.

It’s true!

During college, on breaks when I was home and part-time when the company opened a store near my college in my senior year, I worked for a major department store as a sales associate. The experience was great, especially as a “floater” since I had the chance to work in every department and therefore no spot was a stranger to me. That includes a stint in the gift wrap area which made me nervous as hell because having your packages wrapped at that store was of high-esteem and my skills were certainly not near such a caliber. Thanks to the Lord, I had a great co-worker, that afternoon, who took away the sting with her patient training and as a result, it’s been me, as a matter of fact, wrapping all the gifts for my family over the years!

After college, I was fortunate enough to move up to management of my own department with plans to move up even further to the special events department and travel to all the stores sharing the latest fashion and merchandising trends. Unfortunately, that never came to pass since all the stores were eventually closed and torn down, and my career path took quite a turn. I still believe an opportunity to work in Special Events would have given me the additional skills needed to open my own little boutique at some point. As a department manager, I learned a lot with inventory supervision, sales planning and forecasting, personnel training, etc, and could see myself taking it all with me to my own store. (I could still do this all with a bookstore I’m realizing now, but I’m really going on a tangent right now with that!) Working in a large store, however, wasn’t my motivation; it was this cute little, local dress shop owned and run by a woman. I’d only gone in there once, but it stuck with me for years and I soon fell in love with the entire concept of staying on top of the latest fashions with and for other women and running my own business as a way to do it.

I’m sure that my grandfather was my inspiration in this regard. As a locally (and quite a few places outside of the area) sought-after upholsterer and furniture repairman, he ran his own business and trained many of his employees (and his children, including my mom) his trade. His drive and passion to use his artistic gift as the means to support his family and the blessings to even be able to do so has long stayed with me. That little dress shop was my idea of doing the same in something I loved.

20190628_025111 (1)

Well, it didn’t really work out that way, but, I have another career – a family-run business with my husband – and the fortune to use my writing as a way to bring that old desire back and the ability to share my boutique owner and her adventures with everyone else. For that, along with Judith Krantz sharing Billy Eikhorn with me inspiring me to put Eden – a black woman at that – and her luxurious boutique to the page as well, I’m grateful. (Also, may Ms. Krantz rest in peace… I’m still saddened that we lost her this week and will long cherish the memory of reading Billy at a much too young age(!) and jumping right on out of children’s books with the rest of her stories and those of Jackie Collins.) Perhaps if my mom had known what Jackie Collins’s and Judith Krantz’s books were about long before they reached the TV and even before I’d bulldozed my way through them, I wouldn’t have had the chance – and then I probably wouldn’t have developed my own colorful language.

Click here for “The Boutique Series”.
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2019 Reading Challenge

Photo: Tonya Rice

As of now, I have read 5 of 10 books for the 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge! I’m a bit slow going through my such-a-tiny list as books come in from the library (Overdrive and physical copies) and I have to read them as quickly as I can in case there’s a hold on them. Oh, problems that are actually nice to have!

Since I’ve been concentrating on my writing, my TBR for the entire year has been shorter than usual. However, I do expect to surpass it. I’ll keep you posted!

My list of books read this year, so far…

Currently reading:
Photo: Tonya Rice

The Widows Club (Book #2 of The Ellie Haskell Mysteries) by Dorothy Cannell. I recently read Book #1 – The Thin Woman so I was pretty anxious to get to this one. It’s a nice cozy mystery set in the English Countryside; my go-to light reading series right now. Will soon post my thoughts about both books. In the meantime, feel free to pass along suggestions! I’m always open to a book suggestion or two or three… 🙂

Thanks for reading! For immediate publishing updates, please stop by my website and sign up for my newsletter. My thanks to you is a FREE story – Without Your Goodbye!

First Writing Goal of the Year Achieved… Onward!

1achievedAt the start of this year, I had two writing goals in mind:

  1. To complete and publish Grand Opening: A Novella.

  2. To finish revising my historical novel for the upcoming #PitchWars event in September.

I’m thrilled to say that Grand Opening: A Novella was published last week. Yay! Writing Goal #1 for 2019 was achieved, but there’s no time to rest on my laurels. Number 2 has to be done – on time.

My historical novel is a story that’s been a part of me for nearly thirty years. As my thesis for my MFA in Creative Writing a few years ago, I was finally able to get it out of my head. It still requires a bit more work and polish for publication and will indeed be closer to query-ready for #PitchWars this fall.

#PitchWars is a social media event that brings agents to writers, with the aim of helping them get their novels query-ready. What better opportunity is there for an author to have a literary agent guiding them to get their stories ready for a fellow agent, knowing just what an agent is looking for and wants to see?!

Even though my other stories have been independently publishedmy desired path for this upcoming novel is quite different. It’s such an important story to me that needs to One down one to gobe told and shared, and since I believe a literary agent can reach the vast marketplace much better than I, it prefer to have it traditionally published.

I’ll share more details of the story as I approach the #PitchWars deadline.

Well, since Goal #1 was met – Grand Opening: A Novella, a romantic suspense story and the first book of my series, “The Boutique Series” – it’s out there for you to read!

Click here and get your copy today!

Thanks for reading! For immediate publishing updates, please stop by my website and sign up for my newsletter. My thanks to you is a FREE story – Without Your Goodbye!

Book Launch Day is Here! Now!

Eden bk ebk2

Grand Opening: A Novella – Book #1 of The Boutique Series is available now!

New Release!! It’s finally here and I’m so happy to get it out there to you! Grand Opening: A Novella, a Romantic Suspense story, is the first book of my series, “The Boutique Series”, featuring Eden Harper and her esteemed, high-end fashion store, Josi’s Boutique, along with her boyfriend, Nelson Donnelly, son of one of Hollywood’s first black actors from its golden age and her family and friends.

I’m soooo excited! It’s been underway for quite some time and I didn’t realize just how long until I looked at the date of an early draft… we’re talking years! I’ll explain more on that soon.

Eden was first introduced in Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short. For more about Grand Opening: A Novella, including the story info, please click below and get your copy today!

I really hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, I’m back at work on my historical novel. Details on that, too, up later!

Note: Grand Opening: A Novella is currently available for e-readers. Paperback edition will be out soon; I’ll definitely let you know when.

Thanks for reading! For immediate publishing updates, please stop by my website and sign up for my newsletter. My thanks to you is a FREE story – Without Your Goodbye!

Writing at The Round Table

2017-09-03 15.51.31A few years ago, my family and I took a long needed vacation to The Big Apple. For me, I was living a part of one of my literary dreams just by being there. A trip to 30 Rock, taking a tour of NBC Studios, and standing at the corner of Bedford and Grove (Monica and Rachel’s apartment building), seeing Wicked on Broadway (!!!!!!!) among so many other highlights were icing on the cake. However, when I realized how close our hotel was to The Algonquin, there was no way I was leaving that city without the opportunity to see The Round Table where Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Tallulah Bankhead, and so many other writers and thespians gathered, played games, and pulled practical jokes on each other. It was a spot of a high echelon of the literati of the time and to even sit in its air was a plan to get some of that grace on my writing and me.2017-09-03 14.36.50

So, not only did we go there, we had lunch there – AT The Round Table! Now, the staff  – who was absolutely wonderful and accommodating to my, albeit, subtle excitement – did point out to me that it wasn’t the original table, but still… no matter really to me. It was in the same spot as the original and nevertheless, I was in there, at that spot!

Grand Opening: A Novella was still in one of its many drafts at that time. I made sure I had it with me to work on, or really to at least take a picture of me doing so. That I did and here it is to share!

Well, the book will be out any day now and putting it within that setting, to me, gave it a bit of that literary magic  I desired for it and I’m so happy it will soon be out in the world!

For publishing updates on Grand Opening: A Novella and my other books, please click here for my newsletter!




For immediate publishing updates, please stop by my website and sign up for my newsletter. My thanks to you is a FREE story – Without Your Goodbye!