I saw something the other day that said ‘think of where you were last year‘.
It was supposed to be uplifting so I did. And you were there and for that moment I was happy.
Until I stopped and remembered that you are gone. And won’t be back again.
Now I know in this past year lots has changed. Some for the bad and as with life many things for the good. But without you it’s hard to feel that good fully. Without you I don’t know how quite how to be… just me. I’m honestly not the same.
Lost within myself. A stranger in my own mind. I know I should be better and as you would always say, ‘pull up my big girl panties’ and I promise I will with more time. But that time is not now. What is a year to a heart in pain?
Because if I were granted one wish right now, one happy thought for now… Today… It would be to go back- just a year and 1 day.
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.
Those in the know will recognize the nod the Notorious B.I.G. in my blog title. Those who don’t, I’m sorry about that, it’s the lyric that’s been running through my head for the last week or so that along with the probably much more appropriate, gospel lyric, “I’m so glad they prayed for me.” Both are almost equally fitting to my monumental feelings right now.
A little over a week ago, after more years than I’d now care to admit (I’m getting up there ya’ll) I got my first ever CALL. You know the one that all writers dream of and daydream about and make up elaborate stories around. Well, nowadays THE CALL can oftentimes come via email but this one actually did come on the phone.
But before the CALL I did receive an email from my new rock star agent, Rachel Brooks, with the L. Perkins Agency with the subject line: CAN I CALL??? In all caps. And her being the amazing magical intuitive fairy she is, knowing me oh-so-well for the neurotic I am, she put in the email that she had good new and a super fun gif of two women in a lather of excitement because she also knows I love a gif way too much.
I quickly answered her back, yes, and to that Rachel called and let me know that after so many years of trudging my way, I had received an offer from the amazing Selena James for a 3 book deal plus a Novella with Kensington Book’s Dafina imprint. Hold the phone!
What the- Get. Out. Of. Town!
Here is the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace.
I am over the moon right now and so thrilled to be welcomed into this new publishing home. Not to mention, but to mention, being humbled and honored to be in the presence of so many talented writers who have come before me at Dafina. Talk about blown away.
I know my late Nana is smiling wide right now. Her prayers and mine plus those of my mother and all my family and friends have been answered and I hope to make her and the rest of them very proud.
Thank you all, and especially my ever patient Dear DH, so much for all your continued support and love.
I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring us!
As many of you know I have been beating the drum for more diversity in romance creating the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag on twitter in honor of my Nana and her love of the genre. It has also been a way to thank her for introducing me to the genre, getting me on my career path and always believing in me.
The time for more diversity in romance is now.
So by popular demand the #WeNeedDiverseRomance is here! Show your support for more diversity in the romance genre we read and love with a #WeNeedDiverseRomance Tee
Available in both black and white for a limited time:
Oh so much snow. This winter has been weighed down with it. Thick and heavy and seemingly never ending.
Poor Jack has barley been out more than a few moments at a time with the temperatures constantly below freezing so all we do are quick runs in and out. As we go along on our dashes we both look back out at the porch with longing. Dreaming of the days to come when we can once again sit out and have the sun shining warmly on our faces.
But from now on those lovely porch sits will be different forever changed. Our very good friend not by our side but always in our hearts.
This week marks my one year anniversary going indie and being self-published with BOUNCE And what a year it’s been. Filled with the highest highs, including BOUNCE winning the GOLDEN LEAF for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements from The New Jersey chapter of Romance Writers of America and me being honored with the Golden Apple Award from my New York City Chapter for Author of the Year 2014.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have another year quite like 2014 as it was also my lowest since as I write this I’m missing like crazy my Dear Nana. All I can say is I’m so grateful that she got to see these things accomplished in 2014.
But hold on now,it’s not just my one year self pubbed anniversary, I do like to do big things in December, this week also happens to mark my 7th Blog Anniversary!
Wow I cannot believe it’s been 7 Years!! Talk about flying by. I’m standing up and giving a cheer to all of you for sticking with me for so long.
As I head into 2015 I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m wishing you all the very best and thank you so much for supporting me. To show my thanks, if you have not yet checked out BOUNCE I’ve put it on SALE for this week only for just $0.99. Tell your friends or better yet, gift them a digital copy!
A week and a half ago I said goodbye to a big part of my heart. No, that’s not true. I don’t think I’ve said goodbye yet and don’t know when I will. All I know (and a part of me doesn’t even grasp that) is that she left. Gone. She was with us and things were fine or at least they seemed so, but on that Wednesday morning, after strangely waking up to answer an early phone call, she went back to sleep and didn’t wake up again. Nana went the way she always said she wanted. Not long and drawn out and without lots of fanfare.
Little did she know—though what do I know, maybe she knows now—there is much fanfare to be had. As a woman who has touched so many could never leave this earth on a mere whisper.
The loud, pounding, fierce, sweet, tart, savory, full, joyous, loving, yet somehow still peaceful beat that was her life could never go quietly or be fully silenced. It will go on in all who she touched. Forever loud, shouting, fierce, sweet, tart, savory, full, joyous, loving, hopefully peaceful & yes, still writing.
Never to be forgotten. Never to say goodbye.
She was my biggest cheerleader and now I must learn to cheer for myself. Thank you for schooling me Nana. Rah Rah!
A big thank you all of you that gave birthday wishes to Nana yesterday. I went down to her apartment with the twins and the DH and surprised her with presents, balloons and her favorite strawberry shortcake. After I booted up her computer, she was so happy to read all your kind words that she got all choked up (which doesn’t happen easily) and she gives her heartfelt thanks to you all for that.
Nana had a wonderful day going for lunch at her favorite restaurant, fielding countless phone calls, taking deliveries of edible arrangements (yeah we enjoyed that one) and she got more bouquets of flowers than she could count. It was a great day!
What’s Jack up to? I never found out what Jack got into or what he was trying to say with that look that he gave me the other day but he was a lot happier over the weekend since Nana came back up for a visit.
I’m thinking Jack would love it if Nana just moved in. I’m sure the Dear Twins would too since Nana spoils everyone on her path. It seems the word ‘no’ is no longer in her vocabulary. Man, it’s a whole lot different from when I was a kid and getting into all sorts of mess or at least trying too– you see in my day nothing got by Nana. But, I guess that’s the fun of her now being a great-grandmother. Getting to say ‘sure’ and ‘yes, go ahead baby’ then sitting back and watching the fun unfold.
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