At the start of this year, I had two writing goals in mind:
To complete and publish Grand Opening: A Novella.
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 published, my desired path for this upcoming novel is quite different. It’s such an important story to me that needs to be 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!
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.
A 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.
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!
Grand Opening, my next story, and also the first book of “The Boutique Series” will be published on June 14, 2019!
This romantic suspense story follows Eden Harper, owner of Josi’s Boutique, and her beloved Nelson Donnelly, son of one of the first highly-regarded black actors of Hollywood’s golden years. Eden and the boutique were first introduced in Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short.
About Grand Opening:
After four years, Eden Harper’s esteemed fashion boutique is getting a makeover, an overhaul actually. Not only is she excited; so are her dedicated customers, the city, her family, and her beloved Nelson Donnelly. While the work’s being done, Eden discovers a major deficit in the renovation budget. The money had been stolen from her bank account! So, in addition to worrying about who stole it, concerns about paying for the work weighs her down more.
When the opportunity for getting the money repaid arises, she’s grateful, but she also discovers the additional costs – for the boutique and her life with Nelson as she knows and loves – that come with it are too much for her to bear. How much of that price is she willing to pay?
Mark your calendar and get your ebook reader available for the download!
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This month, enter to win a $30.00 gift card when you sign up for free e-books in the “Romance Getaway” giveway! My short novel, 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 stories.
Click here now to set up your free summer reading list collection AND a chance to win a $30.00 gift card you can use for even more books!
Seems like my hiatus from here took much longer than I expected. Even though I’ve been away from here, I’ve been writing my stories. Hooray! So, my historical novel is still in rewrite and my aim is to have that ready for PitchWars this fall – okay, so with that, I am now completely accountable. Besides, that’s a deadline written by them in stone, so I’ve no choice but to have it ready by then.
Also, at work, has been the first book of “The Boutique Series” that I got underway a few years ago. My short story, Burying the Bitter, was the introduction a bit to Eden Harper and her store. Grand Opening is the full-fledged story about Eden and her fashion boutique, set, of course, in my hometown, Richmond, Virginia. It was supposed to be ready by the end of May this year.. well, here we are – May 31, this year and it’s not out yet.
Needless to say, I’m devastated because I put the pub date out there as such and didn’t meet it. However – the good news is that it’s just about ready and even though I missed my (self-imposed) deadline today, it’s only by a few days. It will definitely out as an ebook BEFORE June 15! The paperback will be available in July.
I’ve got a new newsletter coming soon which will feature news about Grand Opening as well as more about my upcoming historical novel and other bits and features surrounding it. My short novel, Without Your Goodbye, is FREE when you sign up for the subscription! I’d love for you to be a part of it and to let you know when Grand Opening is ready for you to read!
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!
Today, we lost one of Richmond’s literary giants: Tom Wolfe, author of acclaimed works such as The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities. He was eighty-eight years old. My copy of the latter has been pulled from my shelf after an embarrassingly lengthy stay since buying ages ago, so I can add to the TBR pile for the summer. I’m surprised I haven’t yet read his hugely popular, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I will.
In grad school, one of our required readings included “Yeager”, Wolfe’s essay on Chuck Yeager. There, I learned his masterful way with words and place. The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a story today about a man who’d moved into Wolfe’s childhood home in the Sherwood Park neighborhood of Richmond (where the characters of my novel live, but I digress) and shared the incredible, delightful nostalgic letter Wolfe wrote back to him after he’d sent a letter and picture of the home to the author letting him know how proud he was to have purchased it. Click below (and be sure to open the link in the article for a clear pdf version of the letter!):
My essay with my thoughts on “Yeager” is below, which also includes my commentary on a piece by Jon Franklin and one of my lovefests with a Joan Didion essay from Slouching Towards Bethlehem which were also a part of our syllabus. Dialogue with my professor also follows. I thought of this all today when I learned of Wolfe’s passing and realized that along with my pride of sharing his hometown, how much I’d gathered about writing from him.
Jon Franklin’s “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster” was an emotionally draining read, yet riveting at the same time. The tension pulsated through his use of otomotopaeia (the heartbeat’s popping on the monitor throughout), the sounds of the operating instruments, and the punctuation of time with the keeping of the clock from Dr. Ducker’s breakfast to Mrs. Kelly’s last heartbeat.
I liked the way Franklin first introduced “the monster”. It was characterized specifically as the menace with a personality of sorts. It wasn’t “a monster”; it was “the monster” (Sims 75). It was known and feared.
As Franklin explains the Mrs. Kelly’s condition, he attaches her to us. She’s more than a woman on the operating table. The “tangled knot of abnormal blood vessels in the back of her brain” that she possesses is detailed. The consequences of its eruption were not merely told, but illustrated, “one of the abnormal arteries… burst [and] Mrs. Kelly grabbed her head and collapsed. After that the agony never stopped.” (76). Franklin garnered our sympathy. We understand of her plan to endure the risky operation.
It was a gripping, highly informative article about a life-threatening brain ailment. In order to reach a larger audience, it needed people, not just statistics. Franklin gives us that. We were connected to the patient and the doctor. I liked Franklin’s metaphors; they embodied concepts. The mind was incarnate – “the landscape of the mind expands to the size of room” (78) on the screen, as was the feeling of horror and pain combined, when he identified the “topography of torture” (81). Franklin deciphered mounting frustration in the operating room as the doctor tried again to move through that tunnel: “Millimeter, millimeter after treacherous millimeter the tweezers burrow…”. Repetition, such as “gently, gently” also intensified the slow and deliberated pace against the race where time was also the opponent.
Short sentences also resembled verse in the middle of the narrative beating to the crux of the battle, along with the heartbeat, and even the end (82, 84):
The neurosurgeon freezes.
The instruments retract.
Mrs. Kelly is dying.
The monster won.
That concept stood out for me the most as one to practice in my writing. This abbreviated sentence structure packs more power than lengthier ones would.
As a Richmond native, I was happy to read Wolfe’s Yeager. It’s also his hometown. I love southern literature and his folksy tenor was up my alley. It was a compelling biography of an influential man in work and spirit. Wolfe’s narration kept Yeager close to us.
I liked the way he filtered our vision to Muroc from the broad scope of the Mohave Desert: “Nevertheless, there was something extraordinary… to Muroc Field in California for the X-1 project. [Next paragraph, the pinhole transition to the place] Muroc was up in the high elevations…”. (294) The spacious topography featured a busy terrain of its own in full action. I read his description about the shrimp and sea gulls, and the Joshua trees, more than once. I admired it so much; I realized I could see it. I loved how he stressed his wonder of the place with repetitive emphasis, even though the terms were different. I was amazed by the “antediluvian crustaceans in the primordial ooze”. (295) Quite a phrase! Even the witty account of the Joshua trees, standing out “in silhouette on the fossil wasteland like some arithmetic nightmare” returned later in the story. I learned a lot about the desert and certainly about the Mach I. It wouldn’t have been interesting without Yeager’s participation in it all and nor perhaps even Pancho Barnes (296).
Didion’s On Keeping a Notebook was a writer’s portrait. A narrative that fellow writers get, the one we try to explain to others and after a few aggravating moments of wasted breath, we sigh and change the subject. Didion eloquently explained the meaning of writing, the need to write, the feeling of writing for one’s self. Reading this, I remembered my early days with a pencil and the encouragement from my mom and teachers to write what I thought and to primarily draft an account of my day. Like Didion, I believe that writing goes beyond merely chronicling events. Once I begin recounting something as I write, I have to attempt to find significance in that moment, of the moment, with the people involved, the affect on me. It’s what we do. “Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed… afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” (Didion 133) Yes – there is a need to decipher, to rearrange, to finagle outcomes lived and imagined, keeping us secure and sane in our humble and content little worlds. It encouraged me to keep writing.
I also liked the slices-of-life in Didion’s Los Angeles Notebook. Each segment reminded me of a brief skit on an old Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In program. Especially the Helen Gurley Brown bit. Music and all in between. Her blurb about the Santa Ana winds included a rare opinion:
Easterners commonly complain that there is no “weather” at all in Southern California, that the days and the seasons slip by relentlessly, numbingly bland. That is quite misleading. (219)
As she explains it, in her distinctive style, she is detached from the topic again with facts and accounts involving the winds. I’ve never experienced them and I realized that her opinion, “That is quite misleading”, kept me grounded. I wanted her to disprove the aforementioned complaint, and I knew she would.
Didion, Joan. Slouching Towards Bethlehem. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux. 1968.
Sims, Patsy, ed. Literary Nonfiction: Learning by Example. New York: Oxford University Press. 2002.
Tonya: “Short sentences also resembled verse in the middle of the narrative beating to the crux of the battle, along with the heartbeat, and even the end (82, 84):”
Dr. G: “This type of reflection is great to consider. I often tell my fiction students that they should take a lesson from the poets. Poets test every word to make sure it is working for the whole piece. As short story writers, we do that some of the time, as novelists, wow, most of us forget to consider it. CNF writers too should learn from those poets and play with how the words sound and act on the page. What would it take for you to dig deep like this?”
“Hello, Dr. G. I think the rhythm of a piece has a lot to do with it. I’ve employed this technique in fiction, which stems from writing poetry over the years. With the mood, I feel the tempo. I don’t think I’ve seen it in non-fiction like this, which to me certainly characterized it as creative and it stood out. Franklin was winding down, slowing down, the pace was still pretty quick and the tension remained high. However, those sentences were like breaths in between the tense final moments of the narrative, bringing the story down to the gentle stop. ~Tonya”
Well, certainly now on my reading list is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, you know – the one for which 45 had a cease and desist letter sent to the publisher to stop its publication. That paper was wasted for naught. The book’s the Number 1 bestseller on Amazon and it just came out today!
Since 45’s primary credits involve being a salesman and a reality-show trumpeter (hmm, so how that term just fits), there’s no way I’d bet he didn’t think his theatrics about this upcoming book would really harm Wolff’s sales.
Watching it all unfold this week, I realized how much this episode of the White House Saga (and I do say that lightly; this shit is not really very funny) reminds me of The Golden Girls episode, “Vixen: The Story of a Woman”, when Blanche verbally trashes the book her sister, Charmaine, wrote – while they’re in the bookstore, during her sister’s book signing (!) – since, she thinks its about her life and its sexual escapades and adventures and the crowd tumbles over itself to get copies.
Just as I would have grabbed a copy of that one then, I’ve certainly gotta read this one… Sales like this show we’re for the most part always up for juicy dishing. And from what I’ve also read – there are tapes, so it’s not a sitcom sketch, which in truth, is really not a funny point.
Goodreads began their yearly Reading Challenge yesterday and, as usual, I’m in. Last year, I surpassed my goal of 10. Not as much of a lofty number as I wanted to set, but with work, parenting, marriage, and writing my own stories, that to me was the best and safest number.
So, this year, I’m at 10 again – for now. It’s a bar I know I can reach and I’d prefer to do just that. I’m also confident that I’ll surpass it as I did last year. 🙂
Right now, I’m just past the halfway mark of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. After that, I’ll return to finish Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. Her latest book, In the Midst of Winter – I’m beyond anxious to get my hands upon, so I’ll probably reach for it after Island.
I’ve had an untouched copy of the grand classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, on my shelf for sooooo long, it’s not even funny. It’s a story I’ve been meaning to get to for years. I still haven’t seen the original Disney movie, since I refuse to do so until after I read it and with the new adaptation coming out directed by the dynamic Ava DuVernay, I’ve got to get my read on that immediately because I don’t want to see that in any other place but the big screen and a further delay may mean DVD-viewing instead.
The third story of Beverly Jenkins’s Old West series, Tempest, comes out some time this month. After tearing through the first two, Breathless and Forbidden, respectively, I’ve been honing in on the release date of this one and I can’t wait. I’ve learned quite a bit about blacks in the Old West and I’ll tell ya, she gives us some interesting and intriguing history lessons with heat – that’s for sure. A hot history book! Who knew?!
The long-anticipated An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones comes out just before my birthday next month and that’ll be a birthday present to myself!
What’s on your reading list so far this year? I’m always open to recommendations, so please share.