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Summer Reading 2017

It’s summer! A belated, yet no less warm (no pun intended) welcome to a more relaxed time, a time when reading figures more prominently in the schedule. At least for me it does and I attribute that to a lighter work load, but mostly to that glorious week called summer vacation. During that wonderful week of disconnecting from the daily grind of life, I have been known to finish up to three books (mostly fiction, 300 pages or less). So in anticipation of my summer vacation (and the reading I’ll do before and after that), I compiled my reading list, ordered my books, and have them neatly stacked, waiting on me. Take a look below at my “goodies” and let me know how your list compares. I’m always on the lookout for great reads (thanks Shamira for last year’s referral!).

Ann’s Summer Reading List – 2017

The Island of Lost Children by Kim Batchelor – A tale that reimagines (who introduced this word into our current language?) the friendship between Peter Pan, the lovable boy who flies and Wendy, the lovable girl who cherishes books. A favorite for adults and children!

The Roux in the Gumbo by Kim Robinson – A multi-generational family saga that traces the lineage of a Louisiana family from slavery to present day. Reminiscent of “Roots” and “Cane River,” it is a long read but quite entertaining.

The Writer and the Rake by Shehanne Moore – A love story that is no doubt all the title promises it to be. A time-traveling, wanna-be bestselling author changes a gentleman of dubious character into a hero. Or does she? Hmmmm, I already feel heat rising from this one.

Shadow of the Final Storm by Carol Craver – This is a story of family intrigue narrated by a ghost. Yes, a ghost! Think “The Lovely Bones” and you’re almost there. There’s no time like summer to prepare for Halloween!

Letters to Yeyito by Paquito d’Rivera – As a nod to my upcoming vacation locale, I am anxious to read about one of Cuba’s most legendary musician, Paquito d’Rivera. In this abbreviated memoir, he writes about music, career, expulsion from Cuba and life in America. I have a feeling this one is going to be a keepsake.

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar – To get a jump on my fall reading, I’ll finish my summer reading with our book group’s selection for September. This book tells the story of a Pakistani boy growing up in America with struggles that center around identity and religion.

So again, how does your summer reading list compare? What other titles would you recommend?

Happy summer! Happy reading!

PS: During the time it took to create and post this entry, I finished the first two books on my reading list. Please check Amazon and Goodreads for the reviews I wrote about the books.

Here’s Lei…Another “Voices” Author

I am proud to present another author whose work appears in the anthology, “Voices from the Block,” Lei Scott.

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Lei is a poet, songwriter, creative non-fiction memoirist, and a jazz singer. She and I met over ten years ago when we were both volunteers for a community program called, the African-American Read-In. When the Read-In ended, our paths diverged and then one unexpected day, we reconnected through our writers group, the Writers’ Block, www.writersblockinc.org. When I first read her pieces in “Voices,” I was blown away. Her storytelling ability is amazing. In fact, I’d call her a natural considering she hasn’t taken many writing classes and has never attended a writing conference. She is a neophyte to the literary world. Below is the interview I conducted with Lei. I hope you enjoy learning more about this young lady and that you’ll get a chance to read some of her writings.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I didn’t pursue writing, writing pursued me and there was nothing creative about it. At the age of eleven, my mother made her transition. Pen and paper called me, luring me to unleash the pain into written words. This was a way of escape for me. I could take it out of me and pretend the ugliness ’round me was only words on paper.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? Most of the time, I don’t get in the mood. The mood gets in me. When “it” calls, I better answer. Sometimes I’m defiant, especially in the middle of the night when I’m sleeping “real good.” But this never works out for me because no matter how awesome and wonderful I think the idea is and I just know I’m going to remember “it,” in the morning, I seldom do. However, while I don’t prepare myself to get in a writing mood, my favorite writing space consists of a beautiful bright sun, mountains, the view and sounds of water flowing, birds chirping in lush green trees and a nice cold or hot something to drink in my hand.
  3. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?” When there is nothing left to write, a peace comes over me announcing “it is done.”
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? Ann Fields (I promise I did not pay her to say this!). Ann is a great mentor and has supported and encouraged me as I take my baby steps. She is knowledgeable and well skilled in her writing craft. She just doesn’t write words, she creates visions with her words. She is a beautiful sister with a big heart. I appreciate her and everything she has done for me and the Writers’ Block, Inc.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? I don’t know yet, I’m just starting. Before this is all over I plan to put my creative hands to whatever spirit brings to me to write, and taste all the flavors. I feel blessed that there are so many forms to choose from and the universe is infinite.
  6. What are your future writing plans? Keep growing, writing, expressing, cleansing, healing and sharing my spirit through words and music until all the hurt is gone and every heart is smiling. Looks like I’ll be writing for a very long time.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”  I get excited and talk about Ann Fields and the Writers’ Block. I say “go for it” and “everyone has at least one book in them.” I don’t say anything negative or discouraging. They will find out how challenging it can be at times and when they reach those stumbling blocks I hope they have their own “Ann Fields and the Writers’ Block” in their corner.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? Thank you God, we did it.
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? This was my first published piece. Exposing myself to others, during the critique process, and listening to, what I felt at the time, as judgement on my life and creativity was hard. I learned to grow thick skin and keep on writing. What was the most rewarding? Realizing that I actually completed the process, I didn’t give up or give in.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? Publishing has become easier with the ability to self-publish. I see an increase in self-publishing as we move into the future, opening doors for writers who might not have had the opportunity to be read. The challenge of getting out to the masses may still exist and the major publishing companies may still control who makes it to the top. But making it to the top and bringing in a bunch of shekels is not always the most important thing – using the gift God gave you is. Write on Writers, Write on, Lei Scott.

So, you’ve just met Lei Scott. I told you she was impressive. And I think you’ll be even more impressed after you’ve read some of her writings. Excuse me now while I go prepare myself for her upcoming songwriting workshop. I know it’s going to be as awesome as she is. Happy reading! Live creatively!

A Continuation of Women and Poetry

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to introduce Danette Cross, a fellow author in the recently released Voices from the Block. I am continuing my series on women writers who are also poets as a nod to Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April). This time out I am super excited to feature Kisura Usiku.

Kisura Pic

Kisura writes poetry and fiction and freelances in her spare time. When she’s not writing, she’s making the world a better place through her role as Special Educator in her local school district. In Voices from the Block she has the most diverse offering–a poem, a fiction start (the first few scenes of a novel in progress) and a creative non fiction essay.

I asked Kisura a few questions so we could get to know her better and below are her responses. I hope you enjoy reading her comments and learning more about this dynamic young writer.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever pursued it…writing sort of strolled up to my house one day, knocked, and when I opened the door, writing moved in. I guess that means we just clicked. Writing showed up and the connection felt like the most organic thing that’s happened to me.

  1. How do you get in the writing mood?

Reading, listening to great music or watching other creatives work…I also get into the mood to write via emotional pulls: if someone pisses me off or if I am overwhelmed with love, lust, bitterness, rage or snark…I write it out.

  1. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?”

It’s different for different forms for me…with a short story, I enjoy writing endings that leave you wanting more…you know, that’s the end of that conflict, but there’s something lingering or something that makes a reader wish the story went on. A poem, I know it’s done when I’ve conveyed the message in a way that vibrates…like the message echoes in the head of the reader. It’s difficult to pull that off, at least it is to me, so sometimes I will leave a poem unfinished for awhile because I’ve lost the mood or I’ve gone through the emotion that has caused me to pen the poem in the first place. I usually come back to it when the emotion resurfaces.

  1. What or who has been your greatest writing influence?

Um..well there are quite a few and the list is still growing, but some of my favorite writers are Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan, John Steinbeck, Gillian Flynn, Colleen Hoover, Paula Hawkins, Caroline Kepnes, Robert Dugoni, Robert Bryndza, and quite recently: Yaa Gyasi and Angie Thomas.

  1. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.?

No preference…just write what moves me.

  1. What are your future writing plans?

I plan to finish and self publish a labor of love: a book of poems about, for, and to my husband…as my first self published book. I have no intention of marketing or doing anything that falls within the traditional realms of publishing/self publishing with this book and will only publish one copy…it’s personal, just for him, but an accomplishment for me because it will be my first published book. It’s the most romantic gesture I can offer…and he deserves that and then some. From there I’m working on a mystery and a literary fiction novel…

  1. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”

Ha, me too, let’s stop talking and do it.

  1. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands?

I still can’t believe it…I held it in my hands and just looked at it and thought, WOW! I’m in here (regarding Voices from the Block)? I half expected to open it and discover that I was the victim of some cruel joke and my writing was cut out of the anthology at the witching hour.

  1. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding?

What isn’t? But if I had to pick I’d say the most challenging thing to me is finding a great cover designer and editor. The most rewarding is avoiding clichés while writing.

  1. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing?

That’s a question that goes against me living in the now…LOL. How do I feel? I feel that I am the future in publishing…not in a self centered way, but in a visualize and manifest my dreams, law of attraction type of way…so I see published works in my future. As for the industry of publishing: it’s controversial…the big five have clout but there is a growing eclipse with self publishing and indie authors. It’s no longer looked down upon…and that’s a great thing for ALL writers in my opinion. You get total control over your art from start to finish…

To check out Kisura’s writings, click here! And I’ll be back in a few weeks with more women as poets.

One Month Wasn’t Enough

Last month we celebrated Women’s History Month and this month we celebrate poets and poetry during National Poetry Month. Because LIFE has been hectic since January, I wasn’t able to post my usual features on fabulous women authors and women groundbreakers. So without consulting the gods, I decided to carry over March and mix it up with April to feature some amazing women poets, some of whom (who vs. whom, anyone know?) I happen to share publishing pages with in Voices from the Block.

So without further delay, the first featured woman poet,

Danette Pic

Danette Cross

Danette is not only a soul-stirring poet, but also…

  1. a gifted vocalist
  2. an inspirational blogger
  3. an expert proofreader
  4. a newlywed
  5. and an all around good person. She’s one of those rare people you easily bond with because she has such an accepting, loving spirit.

I asked Danette to share a bit about herself as a creative person and here’s what she had to say from her soul to her pen to you…

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I love creative expression and realized over time that writing repeatedly gave me the most comfort to the point that I, on occasion, crave the feeling of a pen in my hand.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? I try to create a relaxing environment, sometimes with instrumental music. This allows my thoughts to flow uninterrupted.
  3. How do you know when a poem is “finished?” A poem is finished when the thought is resolved in some way. Typically, it stops “speaking” or “doing”.
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? My love for reading and words as well as various poets and authors, like Maya Angelou, e.e. cummings, Emily Pound, Victoria Christopher Murray, Francine Rivers, Frank Perretti, J. California Cooper, Donna Hill and Cornel West.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? Poetry. It’s my way of getting my thoughts on paper without strict grammar rules.
  6. What are your future writing plans? More poetry and hopefully some storytelling.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?” Go for it and take it seriously. Use other critical pairs of eyes to produce a good read.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? “Wow. I’m printed on a page.” I was blown away, humbled and exposed. My secret was out. 🙂
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding? The most challenging was adhering to deadlines. The most rewarding was completing each step along the way.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? 2 things. 1.) I am excited for those who self-publish. Why wait on some select group to approve your work when you can approve yourself? 2.) I hope physical books last forever versus electronic everything. I love hardcovers and am fond of paperbacks.

A big thanks to Danette for opening herself to the world both through this interview and through her lovely poetry. You can learn even more about Danette and read some of her beautiful thoughts by visiting her blog at frolicfinagle.tumblr.com.

Thanks for celebrating women, poetry and more with me. I encourage one and all to go out and discover a new poet this month…maybe it’s you!

2017 in Numbers

The American New Year started January 1, 2017. The Chinese New Year started January 28, 2017. The astrological new year began March 20, which also coincided with the first day of Spring. What all these dates and “new beginnings” tell me is this is the perfect time to share a forecast for 2017. Yeah, I know some of you are saying, “she’s late.” I say, “not.” Only recently have I started feeling like I was finally out of the clutches of 2016. Only recently have I started feeling like a change is happening. Like I have a new sense of confidence, of hope and joy. It feels good to finally shake the severity of 2016 and smile more, laugh more, be more. I attribute this newness to the new year–regardless of the date it actually started.

So on to the 2017 forecast, a year that I’m sure will be like no other. Let me start by saying, I am by no stretch a forecaster. But lucky for us, I know one who is:  Cindy L. Herb. Cindy is a numerologist. She has studied numerology for over 30 years and knows it better than the backs of her hands.

 Cindy Herb

Cindy L. Herb – Numerologist, Author, Friend

When I asked Cindy to write a short post for me about 2017 and what to expect, she so lovingly agreed even though she no longer consults or counsels with individuals or companies on numerology. She only asked one thing of me…be sure to add a disclaimer informing readers this is a forecast only, not a done deal. Freewill and one’s own attitude is as forceful as the universal energies. So remember, how this year plays out rests with you and your heart!

Year 2017 Numerology Energy Vibrations

by Cindy L. Herb

Every year has a specific ‘Universal Year’ number associated with it, giving everyone the dominant general trends for the coming calendar year. In addition, all numbers exert vibrations from both aspects of our world, light and dark. Therefore, in any Universal Year you can expect to see both the constructive and destructive meaning of numbers. Since we all have choice, it is up to you to bring forward those traits you wish—either the constructive side, the destructive components or a combination of both.

The 2017 calendar year is a 1 Universal Year in numerology. Whereas 2016 signified a time of death of the old, 2017 is new birth. This year marks the beginning of a new 9-year Epicycle in numerology. Therefore, you will have more determination and self-confidence. Use this energy, as the things you do this year will affect the next nine years. So be decisive. Now starts a time of new things and major changes. So, if you have wanted to change careers, improve your health, retire or change directions in any way, now is a good time to begin.

Set new goals and begin the process of working towards them. Plan, have a clear vision and direct yourself with strong drive in order to achieve those goals. Look at 2017 as a year of opportunities. Do not worry if it takes a few months to get things rolling (especially since we are still in the shadow of 2016). Therefore, you may be more emotional within the first 3 months. However, if you stay focused, keep a clear head and are organized, things will work in your favor.

You can expect the following monthly highlights for 2017:

January: Emotional month as the energy of 2016 is still around conflicting with the new energy of 2017.

February: Events inspire creativity and optimism, as well as need for adaptability.

March:  Focuses on hard work, progress and opportunity. A time to set the foundation for plans.

April: Brings changes and the unexpected (such as career or residence), requiring more flexibility.

May: Concerns relationships and all affairs of the heart. Responsibility and home are featured.

June: Inward soul searching leaves you more serious and less social.

July: You will begin to see fruits of your hard work. This begins the best couple of months of the year to increase finances and career.

August: A time to let go of things no longer necessary in your life, making room for the new. It could mark the end of a certain era of your life.

September: Could be an emotional month, especially if you have waited to take advantage of the energy this year provides, NOW is another big opportunity to begin new projects. This month highlights heightened confidence, independence and individuality.

October: A time to work in the background, using an indirect approach.

November:  You may start to see your plans taking a more concrete form.

December: Finishing the year with a final push towards the goals set at the beginning of the year.

Copyright Statement: This article was written by Cindy L. Herb and may NOT be reproduced on any related website without express permission of Cindy L. Herb. Copyright 2017 Cindy L. Herb. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Didn’t I tell you she was great? I love her dearly and appreciate her more than words can express. I hope you were encouraged by Cindy’s knowledge and wisdom. Write to me throughout the year and let me know how things are going for you. And I promise to do the same via this channel. In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about Cindy and her amazing journey to becoming a numerologist, check out her book “Awakening the Spirit:  The Open Wide Like a Floozy Chronicles” by clicking here.

cindys-book

 

Make it a GREAT 2017!

 

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!

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!