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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chatting with children's author Melanee Banks

 When I met Melanee Banks at the Taliah Waajid Natural Hair Show in Atlanta, the first thing I noticed was her amazing spirit. Some people are just so nice that it radiates. Then we had the chance to do a Social Circle interview together. Hearing her talk about the book and her writing path made me smile. And then my niece -- who is 20 by the way-- had to have a copy of the book.

My niece's name is Briana. My niece loves fairies so much that she has a fairy tattoo on her back.
Melanee's heroine is a fairy named Bryana. The book was sold.

This is a book that I wish was around when my Briana was three or four. One day, I'm sure Briana will share this with her little girl.

1. What was the inspiration for Bryana's BiggestWish?

My children Immanuuel (7 years old) and Ky (4 years old) were a huge inspiration.  I wanted to give them a sense of pride and demonstrate that with hard work and patience, anyone can achieve their goals.

The second most inspirational aspect for Bryana's Biggest Wish came from Barack Obama. On January 25, 2011, I tuned in to listen to the President’s state of the union address.  I remember clearly when he said: From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That's how we win the future.  We're a nation that says, "I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. … WE DO BIG THINGS!” 
It was like those words made me rise up and answer his call to arms.  That very night I began to craft the core of a story called “Bryana Does Big Things”.  Later, I would change the name to Bryana’s Biggest Wish.

2. What has the response to the book been so far?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Every age, every race, boys and girls alike love Bryana's Biggest Wish.  To her credit, Naile Zulfulqarova, the illustrator, has created the most beautifully illustrated children's  book  I've ever seen.
The biggest surprise for me thus far is that the book has been so well received that it will be taught in a public school district as a part of their character education curriculum.  I'm so very thankful for all the feedback as it will certainly help me grow as an author.

3. Was it important for you to create a fairy tale that children of color
could identify with? Why?

Is was extremely important for me to create a fairy tale  for children of color.  This is quite personal for me.
Over two years ago,  I walked into the book store like I had done so many times before, looking for something exciting and fresh that would inspire my kids to read.  My daughter, Ky, began to  point out four or five books that she wanted me to buy (even though I said select only one.).  I immediately noticed that all of the books were pink or purple and sparkly!  However not one of those books featured an African-American character. I didn't think this was a big deal until I decided that day to purchase books with
black characters on the cover.  When I couldn't find any, I was first astonished, then perplexed.  It's still amazing to me that there are so few books with positive role models for both girls and boys of color.

4. What's the message that you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope that readers never, ever, ever-ever give up!  Think BIGGER.  Life is about making mistakes, learning from them, picking up the pieces and trying again.  Bryana never gives up.
She uses her powers to believe, give, imagine, create and hope.  In the end, she finds out that the biggest wish of all is love.  If we all possess only a portion of Bryana's faith, we could not only help others but,we can achieve the miraculous.  We only need faith the size of a mustard seed, right?

5. How can readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on my quest to generate love, miracles, inspiration and creativity on Facebook or Instagram @ bryanasbiggestwish.

Here's why you should buy this book: Bryana's Biggest Wish inspires this : Believe. Give. Imagine. Create. Hope. Love. 10% Proceeds Benefiting:  Make a Wish Foundation

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Coffee on the Roof: I love it!

Harris Teeter reopened on Central Avenue today. It's pretty. I'm sure the grocery selection is amazing. I went for ONE thing.

Starbucks. Starbucks with roof top seating. It was everything that I thought it would be. And one thing I didn't count on -- it was hot up there. And sitting directly in the glow of the sun didn't help. I realized today, even though I was Supergirl for Halloween, I'm a mere mortal who should've had an iced coffee rather than that grande HOT dark roast.

Sunlight gives her power, but its my Kryptonite

The view from above
The pros: The upstairs of the Starbucks/Harris Teeter is beautiful. From the winding staircase, to the sofas on the inside facing the wide windows, it is lovely. And then there is the free wifi-- a writer's best friend other than coffee is wifi.
The outdoor tables are wide and great for your laptop, iPad or even your lunch. I guess some people will come up there to eat, drink and look at the skyline. Charlotte has a nice sky line and when it isn't humid and hazy, it is pretty to gaze upon. (That was purple prose. Sorry.)

The Cons: Children and you really can't complain about them. When I go to a standalone Starbucks, I'm always annoyed  amazed by parents who bring babies to Starbucks. What can a baby -- an arm baby -- get from Starbucks? But this Starbucks is attached to a grocery store, so you can't get mad at the parents who bring their screaming, lovely brats kids up on the roof. And I'm sure tossing them over the side would be frowned upon as well. I. kid. I. kid.
There are not electrical outlets on the roof. This wouldn't be a problem if I'd charged my computer last night. But hey, things happen.

Overall: This has got to be the best writing spot in the city of Charlotte and there is a library across the street! Awesome. Sauce.

On another note: I think everyone who lives in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood to the day off to go to Harris Teeter today. I even saw a former politician on the rooftop today.

I have this hidden fantasy to slow dance with the "soul mate" on a roof top while Miles Davis's All Blues  plays in the background.

If I don't, you can bet one of my characters will!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let's go to the show! On Q Productions presents Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.)

Speed Street is over. And some folks think the week after Memorial Day is a blank page.


Starting Wednesday, On Q Productions will host a limited run of Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.)

RLO, The Jazz Diva and Quentin Talley present Miles & Coltrane: Blue(.), by Concrete Generation May 29 through June 2 at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square located at 345 N College St in Uptown Charlotte for a limited engagement.  This special performance will serve as a fundraiser as the show returns to the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival August 3 through 26 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Donations will be used to assist with associated production and travel costs.

Miles & Coltrane: Blue(.) captures the galvanizing energy of the 1950's, an element of time when American society was rapidly changing. During this era, jazz was the soundtrack to a new social revolution. And at the forefront of jazz music was trumpet blaring Miles Davis and skillful saxophonist John Coltrane, who partnered to make a wondrous residual slide in soundscapes that would unleash their names to be forever known as jazz legends. For this production, award winning artist, Concrete Generation and The Stephen Gordon Group articulate this noteworthy shift in music history.

Miles & Coltrane: Blue(.) "is a must-see show for jazz lovers and anyone who is curious about the two giants," says Duffy Lewis of the Charleston City Paper, "... a mesmerizing testament to the transcendence of Davis' and Coltrane's music. Miles and Coltrane: Blue is like going to church - almost."

The show will run May 29, May 30 and May 31 at 8 p.m.; June 1 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; June 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 (May 29 is “pay what you can” night) and are available at To support the Miles &Coltrane “On the Road to Edinburgh” fundraising campaign, go to

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jon B still got it. .

Jon B is not washed up. Robin Thicke didn't eat him and steal his career. More importantly, Jon B is not afraid to tell y'all that he was always R&B and didn't start off as a pop singer and then cross over in his "suit and tie." Well, he didn't say the suit and tie part, but that's what he meant.

While he performed at Speed Street in Charlotte, Jon B kept telling us all that he's been in the game for 20 years. Remember is first album Bonafide? He was 18 when he and Babyface sang about Someone To Love. Sadly, the majority of the crowd obviously didn't buy that amazing first album. How can you not love Pretty Girl?

But I think I have figured out why Charlotte doesn't get good music shows. As a music town, we suck. We're horrible. We let radio tell us what's hot and believe that BS. When Jon B sang Hall and Oates I Can't Go For That, 85 to 90 percent of the crowd either didn't know the song or didn't like it. But what can you expect from a city where the cops arrest a kid for eating Pop Tarts?

 Check out Jon B's new album: B-Sides Collection

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What a Mother. . .

It's stories like this that make me want to leave Charlotte and never, ever come back.

A mother had her son arrested for stealing.

Stealing Pop Tarts.

Stealing them from the house. Not Food Lion. Not Harris Teeter. Not Wal Mart. But the house where he lives.

What a mother! (If you want to add an f-word to that, feel free.)

According to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report, the mother called investigators on Monday to report her Pop-Tarts had been stolen.

She fingered her own son, who is a juvenile, as the culprit.

Neighbor Fred Patrick could not stop laughing when he first learned an arrest had been made over Pop-Tarts.  He knows the young boy.

"He seems real nice to me.  I mean, he is real respectful," Patrick said.

The report said that the boy was placed under juvenile arrest and was charged with larceny/misdemeanor.

Another neighbor, Tiffany Covington, said in her house, food is there for everyone.

"It would be nice if they asked, but they don't.  They are kids," she said.

NBC Charlotte waited over two hours for the mother to come home Wednesday evening.  Apparently warned that a reporter was waiting at her front door, she parked her car a block away and slipped into her house through the back.

She emerged only briefly to hurl an obscenity and then slammed the door.

So, what's the lesson that this little boy is supposed to learn? How do you steal from your home and why in the blue hell did Charlotte Mecklenburg Police waste my tax dollars arresting this child? Last time I checked, there's real crime in the Queen City.

Thank God, this clown is not my mother. Growing up, my mama had one rule about food in the house -- if you take the last one, let me know. If you drink the last of it, let me know.
Having your child arrested because he ate or stole Pop Tarts is the dumbest thing you could ever do. Someone please take this child away from this mother------.

Cover reveal: Freedom's Embrace by Kianna Alexander

Kianna Alexander

This summer, Kianna Alexander is turning up the heat with Freedom's Embrace. This is a story that she believed in. And now, Ellora's Cave is releasing it this summer. August 1, to be exact.

When Kianna visited the blog earlier in May, this is what she said about the journey to get her novel published.

I was having a very hard time selling a story very near and dear to my heart, about a runaway slave and a quadroon doctor in the late 1840's. Five or six publishers had rejected it and I was about to tuck it away under my bed, never to be seen again. I felt this book needed and deserved the broader audience a publishing house could provide, so I didn't want to self publish it. I was at the end of my rope. Beverly Jenkins told me to write the book of my heart, and everything else would fall into place. Sure enough, I sold it when an editor finally saw my vision. It's now titled Freedom's Embrace, and is coming this summer from Ellora's Cave.
Here's what Freedom's Embrace  is all about:

Blush Sensuality Level: This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic).
Jonathan is the only doctor within several days’ ride of Graham, Pennsylvania, and is desperate for a nurse to assist him. His salvation comes in the form of Naomi, a runaway slave who shows up ill on his doorstep. When she agrees to be his nurse in exchange for treatment, his world lights up. Unfortunately, not everyone in town approves of Jonathan’s new nurse. His mother and some of his patients express their distaste for her, but she’s captured Jonathan’s heart, and he’ll defend her at any cost.
When Naomi’s former master rides into town, Jonathan discovers just how far he will go to keep the woman he loves from being torn from his arms, and from freedom’s embrace.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hot M.A.M.A. Land: Biltmore Adventure

Hot M.A.M.A. Land: Biltmore Adventure: What's Biltmore? Located in Asheville, North Carolina among an unbelievable mountainous landscape sits a breathtaking mansion, estate, c...

Read the rest on the Hot M.A.M.A Land blog.

Guest Post: The Good, The Bad and The Un-Likeable by Aja Graves

Aja "The Writer" Graves 
Click to join her on Facebook.
To me the interesting main character is never the one without flaws. -J. J. Abrams

There’s only one person I know of who walked the earth that was perfect. But the rest of us? The rest of us are far from perfect, despite what some would have you to believe. Reality is, they are as flawed as the people they love to talk about. I’m not casting aspersions- I’ve done my fair share of judging(because I’m not perfect) and it’s still a challenge to not continue to do so. But even when I don’t judge, sometimes I just don’t like someone. There- I said it. I could really care less about the reasons they came to be the person they are. I don’t need a biography or history lesson. There’s just something about them that makes me cringe. It’s usually from what I view as some sort of flaw. And so, because I don’t like them (notice I didn’t say hate- hate is not in my heart) I avoid them, not spending any quality time with them beyond what is required for the tasks we might be delegated to participate in simultaneously… e.g. at work. The feeling I’m sure is mutual because not everyone will like me either and I surely have my flaws so it’s understandable (shrugs).

You are probably wondering why I’m talking about something that we all experience and seems so obvious. Well, it’s simple for me. I’m writing a book as I’ve mentioned in my other posts, that happens to fall into the romance genre. And in romance specifically, I feel it is important for your reader to relate some kind of way to your characters and hopefully LIKE them. You don’t want your reader avoiding these characters or your book. If say, I were reading some sort of psychological thriller where the lead character is a sociopath (having many flaws) and has murdered people all over a town, I don’t need to like him or her and I most likely won’t. I just need to like that story, enjoy where it’s taking me-see if it keeps me on the edge of the seat and I might even relish in the possibility that this person is caught and brought to justice.

Not the case in romance. You kind of have to like them to care about whether the hero and heroine make it. As a reader, don’t you essentially become their champion? Rooting for at least one of them to get their man or get their woman after whatever challenge has been placed in the relationship? When I think about it-most of the comments I’ve shared with romance authors about their books I’ve enjoyed, started with me talking about how much I like so and so. The story was good, yes, but in romance, your characters drive that story of love. You love them, so you want them in love.

So what happens when you can’t stand a character? I mean when you really don’t like them and their flaws are hard to swallow. I’ve actually experienced this while reading something recently. The heroine’s character traits or flaws were aggravating and I started to feel that she didn’t deserve the hero. That he worked way too hard to convince her to love him or trust him. I felt that she was hard to deal with and that she cared more about her own feelings and never considered his before she acted. And those being character traits I don’t particularly care for in the real word-selfishness and being difficult-I’d stopped caring about whether they would get a happily ever after ending. She was also funny, well-dressed, had a good job and spent a lot of time with her friends but those other things about her…killed it for me. This is rare I admit, because many authors are able to balance the human flaws we all know exist; developing their characters with enough of what we admire about people and giving us a character that we can relate to and respect in spite of their flaws. But when not done effectively, flaws can ruin our perception of the character and effectively kill the romance.

So the moral of the story is to create a humanly flawed but likeable character in romance. How to do that is the question and as I write this story, I realize I’m liking the characters because they are people I like. What happens when the story you are telling has characters in it that you don’t like? I already have a character playing around in my head that I don’t like and in my blog post Conflict Resolution, I resolved that I would write her story regardless. I’m not sure what genre it will fall in but if it turns out to be romance, I’m hoping my readers will like her. Shoot, I have to figure out how I’ll even like her if it’s romance. And if I can’t figure out how to do that, I should probably just label it fiction.

Tell me: Have you written or read a story that you liked but you didn’t like the characters in it? Were their flaws too great for you?


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