And Still I Rise

It doesn’t seem like it would be Black History Month without a mention of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This stalwart intellectual, author and filmmaker is a regular supplier of commentary and programs for the Public Broadcasting System, a sample of which includes his recent “And Still I Rise:  Black America Since MLK” documentary (there’s also a book; see below.).

hl-gates-book

When I am able, I watch his show Finding Your Roots, which traces the family lineage of famous people sometimes going as far back as their original homeland. I will never forget the episode with Chris Rock (actor, comedian) who discovered his great grandfather (I might be missing a great) was a Union soldier who took up the fight for freedom once he became free. Rock cried when he discovered this and I cried, too. It was moving! After learning something that profound, how does one not stick out one’s chest and proudly proclaim, “I’m black and I’m proud!”

As we celebrate Black History Month I think about what Black America would look like if every black person stuck out their chest and said, “I’m black and I’m proud,” and meant it. I imagine there would be no more gang violence or black-on-black crime. I imagine the effects of separation by light-skinned versus dark-skinned would vanish and there’d be a great reduction of black men in prison or on the streets. In the Black America of “I’m black and I’m proud,” education would be priority number one, hard work number two, and one goal—the continued rise of all black people in body, spirit and mind—would be the be all, end all.

Black people, we can do this! We can still rise, and not only during Black History Month when pride runs high, but all year, every year. Even if our great-grandfather did not fight for freedom, we can all claim a legacy of freedom fighting. How? By voting. By writing letters to our newspaper editors or writing emails to news/media outlets. By attending board and council meetings and challenging our leaders when necessary. By creating our own non-profits that address societal ills. By starting our own businesses (and supporting those businesses). By posting positive images and facts over negative ones. By speaking truth regardless of how hard that might be. By fighting, fighting, fighting.

Black people, we can do this! If our forefathers could rise out of slavery to run countries and businesses, to raise healthy families, to hang on to positive morals and values, to make a way out of no way, how can we not rise with all that is available to us? We can do this. We can rise. We must rise.

New Year, New Book

It feels good to start the new year with an accomplishment and that’s exactly what the release of “Voices from the Block” is…a major accomplishment.

 

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I was heavily involved, along with three other writers, in bringing volume two of “Voices” to life, and I can honestly say that even with my first self published book in 2013 (with a high learning curve to overcome) I never encountered so many delays and production issues. It’s like Mercury Retrograde shadowed this book its entire twelve months of production. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. But, finally, it is here!

Like volume one, volume two of “Voices from the Block” is a compilation book of poems, short stories, creative non-fiction essays and for the first time ever – fiction starts. “What is a fiction start?” you ask. A fiction start is a way for an aspiring author to showcase a work in progress by publishing the first few scenes of their fiction novel in an anthology. This allows the author to garner readers and build interest in the story even while it is in the draft stage. Basically, it’s a tease!

In this volume of “Voices,” readers will encounter four new writers, all members of the Writers’ Block. As well, three veteran writers/members have returned to put their stamp on the project. In spite of the production issues, I am extremely proud of this collection. As Toyette, one of the co-authors in this work said, “It just keeps getting better and better,” and I couldn’t agree more. There are some really strong pieces in this anthology and the feedback from early readers has been amazing. If you’d like to check out the first few pages of the book and judge for yourself, click on one of the links below.

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

In March, I plan to spotlight some of the writers whose works appear in this anthology. Please stay tuned to learn how they kept the vision alive. And now…on to the next goal of 2017–write, write, write!

Signing Off

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!

Yes, it’s the holiday season and starting now until January 2, 2017, I am signing off. I plan to spend the holidays traveling, visiting family, checking in on friends, and immersing myself into many a comforting and spiritual holiday traditions. During this period of absence, my wish is for you and your families to enjoy a blessed season full of goodness, joy and cheer. Peace be unto you now and always!

Love,

Ann

 

 

Loving Lady Lazuli – A Book Review

I do most of my reading in the early morning hours between two and four a.m. So since I’m sacrificing valuable sleep to engage in my absolute favorite pastime – reading – I want to make sure the book is really, really good. And I’m happy to share I’ve only had a few misses. Most of the stories I’ve read this year have been great, enjoyable, recommendable. As is the case with Loving Lady Lazuli by Shehanne Moore.

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When you have a story where the heroine has a wicked background and the hero, too, there are soooooo many interesting ways the story can work itself out. So many interesting ways for the characters to grow and change…or not. So many interesting ways to put a nice, red bow on the ending. And that’s exactly what Moore has done: created an interesting story that is ripe with potential and the fulfillment of expectation; one that doesn’t disappoint.

Page three puts the main characters—Devorlane Hawley and Sapphire—in a forced encounter, which we quickly learn is not a first for them. Their attraction is rekindled immediately, and readers, hold on to your e-readers because it goes fast from there. In the next few hundred pages, there’s lies, sex, betrayal, bloodshed, sex, conditions, misunderstandings, sex and finally, love (breathy sigh!).

I won’t spoil your enjoyment by sharing story details but I do want to point out that this is a historical fiction novel. Moore expertly blends English customs, various dialects, and factual points of history into the telling of the tale. All combined, it adds even more depth to a story pregnant with strong story conflict, a cast of savory and unsavory secondary characters, humor, and an ending to please.

You’ll be glad you read this one and here’s an additional bonus (drum roll!)…it’s book one in the London Jewel Thieves series. That means there are more gems (characters and books) to come.

Loving Lady Lazuli is a creatively-thrilling and engaging read. I hope you’ll join me on this wickedly jeweled reading adventure.

To learn more about Moore and additional titles she’s written, click here.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

God Help!

The recent election of the president of the United States hit me hard. In fact, I am still struggling with the outcome. I have not turned on the news. I have not listened to analysis reports. I have spent little time on social media. I am just not at acceptance yet because I am still in shock. And I think what shocks me more than electing a man of questionable character is knowing that millions of Americans chose hate and fear. Of course I am not naïve. I know hate has deep roots in this country, stemming as far back as the arrival of Christopher Columbus. And of course I know fear has been bred in this country from the beginning. But I honestly thought we, the United States of America, had made huge advances toward love, acceptance, inclusion and peace. Apparently not. Apparently there’s still lots of work to do and for me that work begins with a prayer.

God, Creator, Eternal One, Universal Spirit…

Help me!

Help me ease past the disgust, shock and sadness that has me stymied;

Help me move beyond the tears, fear and anger;

Help me remember that you are in control and what happened was sanctioned by you for a greater purpose that we know not today;

Help me remember that all is not lost, that the only way evil wins is if good people do nothing;

Give me the strength to move beyond the darkness and embrace a path that promotes all things that are “good, just, noble and right;”

Empower me with wisdom and courage, faith and hope to operate day-by-day with an open heart, an open mind and a love that surpasses hate;

Grant me peace with this outcome and above all I pray your special blessing on…

  • The white people in this country who understand our current condition is not survivable for any of us, and who are working tirelessly to end racism, sexism, colorism and white privilege;
  • All people who are poised to challenge the incoming administration by holding it accountable to the lofty ideas of our founding fathers;
  • All people who are dedicated to the attainment of civil and human rights as well as social justice for all people;
  • All people who are committed to the progress that has been made and will continue to be made;
  • Organizations and groups that are working to eradicate barriers (in all its many forms) so that all may enjoy the liberties and privileges guaranteed in our founding documents;
  • All people who understand that “none of us are free until we are all free.”

This prayer I ask in your name…Amen!

Now excuse me while I continue working on myself by listening to “Rise Up” by the talented Andra Day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmHfo_3EGFA

20 Questions with Ann Fields

Thank you Don for the author interview and for your support of writers. The interview was fun and your hospitality unmatched. Write on!

Don Massenzio's Blog

Today we sit down with author, Ann Fields. She is going to tell us a bit about her writing journey, her work and her inspiration.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:


ann-black-white-01 Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Even though I wrote my first story when I was in middle school, I didn’t give much thought to being a writer until college. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) held a conference a few miles from the college I was attending and one of my sorority sisters went. She returned to campus very excited, telling us all about the conference. I remember muttering something like, “I want to do that.” But I secretly believed that being a writer was not a viable career option for black people even though I knew of Langston Hughes and Phyllis Wheatley. So years passed and in 1990 I bought…

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Halloween Reading

In about three weeks, one of my favorite holidays occurs–Halloween. Naturally, it’s a favorite because I am a paranormal/supernatural writer. Naturally, it’s a favorite because I am a paranormal/supernatural reader. So considering all this, I thought it appropriate, not to mention fun, to feature a paranormal book this week. I choose…

maledicus-final

Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

by Charles F. French

The paranormal/supernatural genre chose me through weird circumstances so I am always curious how other authors fell into this particular genre. I posed this question to Charles and his response is below. I hope you find it as revealing and interesting as I did.

Why I Write Horror, Paranormal, and Speculative Fictioncharles-french-maledicustee

“I am Charles F. French, a writer of speculative fiction, including horror, paranormal, and young adult fiction. I have had an interest in the genres of Gothic, horror, and science-fiction since I was a youngster. As a young teen, I read Dracula by Bram Stoker and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and these books immediately appealed to my youthful imagination.

I continued reading works in these genres throughout my life, including in my academic studies, as well as for pleasure. Now I teach some of these books in various courses as an adjunct professor at Muhlenberg College and Lehigh University.

One of the great strengths of books in these genres is that their authors are able to make social critiques about their real worlds but offer them as metaphor in the fictional environment. The plots capture the readers’ attention but then often go deeper into discussions of life and societal concerns. Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein, deals with such issues as limits of scientific research, abandonment of children, the position of women in the 19th Century, and justice/injustice.

While I am not placing my writing on the level of Mary Shelley, I hope that I both create a compelling story and also include important themes. It is in the writing of speculative fiction that I can work simultaneously on both creating interesting plot and characters but also speak to matters that I find important about the world. But always, story comes first. If the piece is not interesting, if I lose the reader, then nothing else will succeed.

I believe that in Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, I have created a novel that will capture the readers’ interest and imagination and also aid them in considering important thematic issues.”

I am in total agreement with Charles’ thoughts on writing and reading paranormal/supernatural fiction, and am pleased to feature his book. If it’s been a while since you’ve indulged in a paranormal read I can think of no better time than now, what with Charles’ new book and Halloween. Click here to purchase your copy. Go on, I dare you!