RW… hey, hey, hey! My time at #RWA15 in pics

This post is late in coming and I apologize for that, but here it is.  Last week most, well many in the romance community, convened at the Marriot in Times Square for the annual Romance Writers of America National Conference. A fun and enlightening time was had by all, ok I’ll say most because what do I know? What I do know and can say is that I had a good time, though it was quite the whirlwind.

I’d love to know how is it a day could speed by so fast?

I want to thank so many for their amazing support of #WeNeedDiverseRomance by wearing their Tee Shirts on conference Thursday. Seeing so many Diverse Romance tees around the conference was just amazing and I do think made quite a bold statement that those in the gate keeper positions could not ignore (I do believe I heard some keys rattling).

Also I’d like to give thanks to all who came to the multicultural workshop I participated in on Thursday with Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart and Falguni Kothari. Your support was priceless and so appreciated.

I was also so happy to attend the other workshops held on diversity this year. As a longtime member of RWA I feel there was a much more open and truthful vibe to the conference dialogue this year all around when it came to diversity, self -publishing and the state of the industry. The dialogue, for the most part, was well received and for the parts that were not, let’s just say, they needed to be said.  I’m so happy to hear that RWA will now be forming a special committee on diversity so this will not just be a one year buzz hashtag type of thing.

Thank you all so much once again for helping make this happen. Please keep up your support by continuing to voice your opinions and get the word out about the need for more diversity in romance and all genres of publishing. #WeNeedDiverseRomance

Now onto the pics…

So many beautiful faces! Can you spot some of your faves?

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Lauren Dane, Members or RWA/NYC, Flappers at Passionate Ink party,  Me & the fab Nora Roberts, Holley Trent, Vanessa Peters, Falguni Kothari, Trent Hart, Elizabeth Mahon, Jenn Le Blanc, Trent Hart, Falguni  Kothari, Carolyn Jewel & Carolyn Crane,  Vanessa Riley, Jamie Wesley, Farrah Rochon, Synithia Williams, Tracey Livesay,  Alyssa Cole, Laura K. Curtis, Megan Frampton

 

RWA Collage 2

 

Sugar Jamison, Kianna Alexander, Ginger Merante, Falguni Kothari, Kianna Alexander, Farrah Rochon, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Adrienne Trent, Jeannie Lin, Me and Farrah again :-) , Me and the Carolyns (again LOL) ! Carolyn Jewel & Carolyn Crane, Seressia Glass, Jamie Wesley, The panel of Diversity in Romance: Why it Matters : Corrina Lawson, Sugar Jamison, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Farrah Rochon, Alisha Rai, My panel Multicultural Romance: When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong and How To Make It Right: Alyssa Cole, Me, Falguni Kothari, Lena Hart, Me and Laura Von Holt and finally the lovely: Synithia Williams, Lena Hart, Mia Sosa and Karen Manns.

Wowza! Looking back at all of these pics I see how great the conference was and how incredibly lucky I am to know so many amazing, talented and lovely people. Thanks for making this an unforgettable RWA.

All the best,

KMJ

Just here… looking pretty

Jack says, hey people! He wants you all to admire him and his lovely haircut and his bandanna that says ‘I am handsome’ while Kwana runs around over on the sidelines doing all the things a writer does a week before the biggest conference of the year (no, she’s not grumpy or stressed at all).

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For those coming to RWA National next week she can’t want to see you and remember Thursday the 23rd is #WeNeedDiverseRomance tee day.  Later!

 

All the best,

Jack & KMJ

#WeNeedDiverseRomance …tweet on…tweet on…

Hello dear friends and welcome to what I must reluctantly confess now is really and truly summer. I don’t know how that came to slither up on me but there it is. I’m now elbow deep in writing my current novella while little hidden closets of my brain cook up scenes for other stories that I have in the works while deadlines, they be looming.

I’m also busy getting ready for the big Romance Writers Of America National Conference this July where for the first time I’ll be participating in (see: shaking in my boots) a workshop with three of my friends and chapter mates the talented authors: Alyssa Cole, Falguni Kothari and Lena Hart. For our workshop, on Thursday July 23rd which is called: Multicultural Romance, When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong And How To Make It Right, we’ll be talking about quite a few topics one of which will be diversity in romance including the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag.

I’ve also self-proclaimed July 23rd #WeNeedDiverseRomance Tee day at RWA so if you have your tee and are coming this would be the day to wear it and represent.

I started the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag around 8 months ago to honor my dear Nana who had recently and very suddenly passed away. Nana was a huge influence on me becoming the romance writer I am today. I have strong memories of seeing her, after a long day of being a child caregiver for working Harlem mothers (a job she took on right after I was born and one she retired from after my own twins went off to pre-school), tiredly taking a moment for herself to relax with a Harlequin romance before she went to off bed.  Nana was a veracious reader of romance, a lover of these books that took her far away from her day to day everyday, but in no way reflected the amazing woman she was or the incredibly hard working black women (and men) who went off to work and entrusted her with their precious children as they did so. It will be so hard to fight back tears as I go to the RWA literacy signing this year and for the first time since I’ve been a member I won’t have the assignment from Nana to go and get a signed Nora Roberts for her. She was such a huge Nora fan that Nora’s was the one book I HAD to get every year without fail.

That said it was due to Nana that as a preteen I picked up these books and like her was entranced with the love stories that took me away from my concrete jungle with their high level of love, emotion and passion even though I could never fully put myself in the shoes of the creamy skinned, blue eyed, blond heroines that the Greek tycoons fell for no matter how many times I put my tee shirt over my head and pretended it was my own flowing locks.

But it was what it was, and being lover of books, I read what was available in the genres I loved and that was women’s fiction and romance. Taking nothing away I still found many books, authors and stories I adored.  It would be few and too far between, but I was thrilled when I found books like Terry McMillian’s Disappearing Acts and the iconic AA couple of Zora and Franklin who looked on the page like people I could possibly know or, hey, even maybe be one day, just way more passionate. I wanted more of these type of stories! And thankfully with that book’s success there was more. Many more, but sadly not nearly enough.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and movement has been making great strides since it was started and does so much for children’s literature discussion and I hope landscape and I’d love for that to continue into romance and all genres of literature. It saddens me so much when I see how disproportionate the bestseller lists are when it comes to authors of color. Now I’m not sure I know the fix to this problem as I don’t think there is one fix all as the problem has come from years and years of the “norm” being books by Caucasian writers and book by writers of color being labeled as other and shelved separately if picked up by a mainstream publisher. And if not picked up by a publisher then self-publishing being the other option for an author of color where discoverability is even more difficult. So with these obstacles I think the fix will take a not so subtle shift of the norm being truly diverse catalogs put out by publishers. And by diverse that means having more than 1 or 2 offerings by authors of color a month and consistently giving equal presence and retail marketing money to authors of color. That way when the public goes looking for their next read the offerings truly look like a rainbow and instead of the “right” choice being subliminally made for them.

It would be great to also address the lack POC staffing in publishing. Not to mention but to mention the fact that African American college educated women are the largest group of readers in the country so why not service them and stop leaving money on the table?

This year the need for the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag and the movement has been brought home even more with what has been going on all over the country. From the awful police shootings and targeting of black men, women and children to the most recent horrific event in Charleston at Emanuel AME. How many times have we asked the question or shouted the rally call #BlackLivesMatter? How sad is it that we have to ask this question and remind people of this fact in the first place? But the truth is too often POC color are looked at as so called “thugs” before they are looked on as regular citizens with all the rights that come with that label. I think having more men and women of color lifted up as heroes and heroines from early on in literature is one way this perceptions can change. We can also go far with changing these perceptions on the big and small screen but that is a post for another day.

Sidebar: If you are looking for another great hashtag to follow please check out #WOCRomance and also check out Rebekah Weatherspoon’s @WOCInRomance on twitter and tumblr where she highlights new offerings from women of color in romance.

I’ve gone on long enough but I want to finish by saying that I know #WeNeedDiverseRomance will mean different things to different people and that is fine and as it should be. This post is about why I started the hashtag. Your perception is your reality as mine is mine.  #WeNeedDiverseRomance is also shouting out to the persons with disabilities and the LGBTQ and transgender community. We are all here, all having been marginalized and all fighting the good fight for our truths to be told.  I’m just the one here today rambling on about why I started the hashtag with a tweet on a day back when I was feeling low in my grief watching what was going on in the world and and missing my grandmother terribly. The response has been overwhelming and humbling and I’m honored that the hashtag still continues today and to that I say tweet on. Tweet on until the hashtag seems silly and redundant because we are truly equal and not segregated and all is well because finally well and truly do have Diverse Romance. Thank you.

 

Early tweets for #WeNeedDiverseRomance

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Click the blow links to order your Tee!

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All love,

KMJ

 

P.S. I’ll always love you Nana and will forever thank you.

Nest … not so empty

Nests empty… then they fill… and empty, then fill again.

The constant is the babies, no matter the size, demand to be fed.

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(Pic of nest of new baby birds from tree on my front lawn.)

What are you working at to get your feed on this week?

All the best,

Kwana

Out and about…

Happy new week friends! Wishing you all a wonderful one!

I have a busy week/month ahead as I’m sure you do too and I need to get planning in my planner big time to get it all done. With a now not so empty house anymore I suddenly feel like I’m wrangling a heard of kittens again.

That said I’m happy to say I will be out and about with some bookish fun this month…

On Saturday, June 20th from 1:00-4:00 my writing chapter RWA/NYC will be celebrating our Romance Festival at the Morris-Jumel Mansion.  I will be there with some other chapter-mates with books for sale and autographing.  There will also be readings by bestselling authors and panel discussions. So if you are in the New York Area please come out! For more info please visit the RWA/NYC website

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The Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace
(between West 160th & 162nd Street)

Admission to the festival is FREE!
Tours of the Morris-Jumel Mansion $5.00

Guest Speakers
Maya Rodale
USA Today Bestselling Romance Writer

Lauren Willig
New York Times Bestselling Author

Panel
TBA

I’d also like to invite you to check out a fun interview with me on my friend, the fabulous author, Falguli Kothari’s blog. I’m talking THREADS OF DESIRE and Falguni gets a a few secrets out of me that no one knows. Check it out here.

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All the best,

KMJ

Feeling Friendly… Deal News!

I’ve been holding on to this news for a little while and I’m so happy to now be able to share it far and wide (social media pun totally intended). I’ve been signed on to write a novella called FRIENDING THE FASHIONISTA for Samhain Publishing under the fabulous executive editor Latoya Smith who I adore and have been wanting to work with for so long. FRIENDING will be the first in my Flirty Fashionista series, marrying my love of fashion and romance.

Samhain PM announcement

 

I can’t thank Latoya enough for taking me on and my fantastic agent Rachel Brooks from the L. Perkins Agency for making it all happen. Thank you ladies for helping to make my publishing dreams come true.

 

Now let me get to writing… after a dance just a little but more.

#WeNeedDiverseRomance

 

All the best,

Kwana

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Falling Hard for author Aliza Mann- the Interview

Today on ye old blog we have fab author, Aliza Mann here to discuss writing and her latest project, a new adult paranormal romance novella called DARK HEARTS in the FALLING HARD Anthology.

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Hi Aliza, thanks so much for being here on ye old blog today. It’s a real treat.

KMJ: First off can you tell us a bit about your current work, DARK HEARTS? 

AM: Hi there Kwana. I’m happy to be here. Long time fan.

Dark Hearts is really a story about taking chances. The hero is a young man who believes at the start of the story at least, that he can block himself off and protect himself from being hurt. It’s a story about the vulnerability that comes with trusting and loving others.

While struggling to contain the beast within, Mitchell Rowland imprints on the beautiful and mysterious Aurora Tanner. With Mitch’s dangerous lycan secret and Aurora’s demon father out to kill her, they must band together to fight against the very things that could ultimately keep them apart.

I sincerely enjoyed writing characters who was so passionate and young. It was a lot of fun and I hope the readers will enjoy it, as well.

KMJ: What inspired you to write this story?

AM: The inspiration for this story, like many, came from personal experiences. Mitch is very afraid of intimacy. He was the first character who popped into my head, and he was born from some of the things we’ve all experienced. There are times when you meet someone and think, hey, I wonder if I can really be myself around this person? It can be very scary to drop your mask for another person. And I was so interested in exploring those types of issues fully through my character’s lenses.

 

KMJ: What made you want to join in on an anthology?

AM: Oh, this was fun. I have a very fabulous critique group and at one of our sessions, someone said, let’s write an anthology! And as we unpacked all the reasons we should, and shouldn’t, we decided to go for it. And we decided to self-publish.

I can tell you, none of us knew what we were getting into. First, we decided we would have a thread of continuity throughout the entire collection through each relationship. For instance, Mitch is best friends with Hazel – in the last story of the anthology, Hunting Witch Hazel. I had no idea it was so difficult to capture another person’s character based on a description. I can tell you, there were times when Heather, the author of the other story, would tell me I had the voice all wrong. And it hurt my feelings, but I’d go back to the drawing board the next day.

Then there was all the self-publishing things, like book covers and editing, to deal with.

But was challenging as it all was at times, I had a great time creating this. I can’t believe it’s done, but it is just as rewarding as I’d hoped it would be. They really are a wonderful group of authors, and I’ve learned so much. That’s the reason behind it all.

KMJ: What made you choose this genre to write in?

AM:  I have always loved paranormal, but because of some of the market trends and decline in new sales of paranormal romances, I haven’t been writing in the genre. Since we had complete control over the content, I took the chance to revisit my first love. It’s a story I was really interested in telling, so that was my opportunity.

KMJ:  What advice would you give other aspiring writers?

AM:  To never give up. Walking in stilettos takes time to learn, along with a few bruises along the way. I wouldn’t expect writing to be any other way.

 

KMJ: Lastly, what can readers expect next from you?

AM: Well, I have a few stories in the works. The first would be a sports romance, which is currently under consideration by a publisher, so hopefully that will be the next. My current work in progress is a contemporary romance about co-workers who begin a relationship and try to maintain professionalism. That one is fun to write. It’s always great to watch to strong willed people try to jockey for position. So, a couple of contemporary and we’ll see if I can get to another paranormal soon. I should mention, all are multicultural romances.

 

Aliza would love for you to join her and the other Falling Hard authors over on Facebook on 5/31 for their release party. Lots of fun and prizes to be had!

Click here to join: https://www.facebook.com/events/376131875905513/

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And now here is an excerpt from Dark Hearts:

Aurora Tanner had told herself that she wouldn’t get into any mischief. She’d been friends with Hazel since she’d arrived, and with the assistance of Hazel’s witchcraft and multiple safety wards at the bridge to keep her father at bay, Aurora had managed to stay out of trouble.

This Mitch was trouble on a stick. He had the swagger of a hip-hop star, the looks of an actor, and the body of a god. When he’d walked up to her, the awkward moment of silence had made her want to jump him with both hands and feet. He sent her demon intuits into overdrive.

Something about him cracked her exterior. “Well, you’re standing here. What can I do for you, Mitch?” she asked, glancing around the room. There was no sign of demon handiwork, so she relaxed a little.

Mitch stepped into her personal space. Inhaling deeply, he stared at her. Unlike most men, he focused on her face. “Oh, baby, you’ve done a lot for me already,” he growled.

His eyes were different. The deep coal black of them reminded her of her father. Alchoe, her incubus father, had those eyes, along with the rest of their kind. Mitch wasn’t a demon, but she could tell that he wasn’t fully human. His dark hair languished in his face, making him look somehow both deadly and safe. “That was classy,” she said.

This man stood before her, seizing her and making her want to latch onto him. His deep-set eyes were Superman blue with an icy edge, framed by thick, full brows, giving him a sexy, dark look. His jaw line was pronounced. Thick tufts of dark brown hair framed his face, the close-cut sides highlighting his chiseled features.

Her panties were suddenly uncomfortable as he leaned into her, too close.

“If I had a choice, I would apologize. Doesn’t seem that I do. I noticed you from across the room. You’re . . . different than the other girls,” he said.

 

 

You can pick up Falling Hard here:

ARe

http://bit.ly/1G0a9Ts

Smashwords

http://bit.ly/1AS4eda

Amazon U.S.

http://amzn.to/1G0aCoQ

Amazon UK

http://amzn.to/1bKvOmc

Amazon AU

http://bit.ly/1cJgJT9

 

 

And you can find Aliza Mann on the web here in these cool places:

Website: https://alizamannauthor.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aliza-Mann/142973155767149?fref=ts

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/alizamannauthor

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SONY DSC

 

 

KMJ: Thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a real pleasure.

AM: Thanks for having me, Kwana. It’s been a blast.

Peekaboo…

I see you!

Spring or maybe it’s Summer (it sure feels like it) has slipped in on us over this past Memorial Day weekend with surprisingly warm temperatures and clear skies in the north east. A far cry from our friends in the mid-west dealing with terrible weather unrest. But isn’t that the way of things? As with our country’s weather I’d say this is the way with just about every part of life. There is always an up/down push and pull to keep you on alert. Letting you know don’t get too comfy in that recliner. A storm can come at any moment, just as the sun can come out and shine when you least expect it.

A little reminder of the hi/low up/ down of life is this hidden bird’s nest my DH pointed out on a tree in our front yard that was just about bare just a few short weeks ago. It’s almost hard to see though the tangle of fresh green leaves. but if you look closely you can see the mama bird sitting in her nest, keeping her babies safe until they are ready to leave the nest and fly on their own.

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Have a wonderful week.

 

All the best,

KMJ

Holding on…as you let go…

This has been both a long time coming and the shortest time ever. Over the weekend our girl aka “little twin A” aka “The DD” graduated from college (with a double major in International Studies and French thank-you-very-much-bring on those jobs please).

It was an amazing, proud and bittersweet moment for both me and the DH. And we’re now in the position of welcoming her back home as a young woman when at the same time (not entirely by choice) we’re sending her out into the “real world” as a young adult. It’s such a strange time for all of us. Not just a new chapter but a whole new story just waiting to be written and the hardest thing is this story I’m not writing.

Try as we might have to hold her tight and keep her our baby she still went and grew up, so with that all we can do is let her know how incredible we think she is, how much we love and care for her and hope that the world will love and care for her at least half as much.

Either way we are here. Still full of love, the love of parents, of family and that never changes.

 

Kayla Grad collage 1

 

Love,

Us

Happy Mother’s Day!

A very Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers and like mothers out there.

What you do and how you care means so much more than is often expressed back to you.

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I’d like to say thank you to my family for these lovely flowers that were delivered to me for Mother’s Day.

I’m so grateful for them.

mother's day 2

I also want to send all my love and a Happy Mother’s Day to my mom.

I love you Ma!

ma and kwana

We all do. And though the look of the family may have changed the love is still here.

Always.

 

Love,

Me and the gang