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Friday, May 30, 2014

Chatting with debut author Aja Graves

Some people are just meant to be writers. Aja Graves is one of those people. She attended Romance Slam Jam this year as a published author.
Her debut literary work is titled, Unexpected

Maya Taylor has been left stung by the arrow of love one too many times for her
liking. Swearing off heartache she decides that the staid and boring life is just fine for her. But a well-meaning friend points out that she isn’t really living at all and helps Maya embark on a journey with a new attitude. This leads to a chance encounter with a handsome gentleman that is all about living in the moment.

Roman Newsome has constantly been on the search for the perfect woman. She needs to look beautiful, have something to talk about other than herself and be able to keep up with his prowess in bed. But having found out that most women pretend to have it all only to reveal their true unappealing colors, he’s decided the perfect woman must not exist. Until he meets Maya. . .

Can these two fundamentally different people make their romance work? Will he settle his spirit long enough to realize that “perfect” really just means, perfect for him? And will Maya accept that she has to take a chance at love in order to truly live her life.

What happens between them may just be . . . unexpected.

 Aja spoke to me about her journey to being published.
Tell the readers about your debut novel.

Unexpected is a romance novella about a woman, Maya, kind of stuck in her heartache. Instead of living her life, she decides to hide from it until she meets Roman Newsome, a man all about living. Both of them learn a lot about love and forgiveness and ultimately about living.

   When did you know you were going to be a writer?

I have been a writer since I was old enough to string a sentence together; about four years old. But I knew I wanted to do it as a profession at six. That dream died in pursuit of college. It didn’t come back to me until about a year and a half ago.

   What did it feel like when you got published?

Exhilarating. Well actually, the most exhilarating part was completing a body of work for others to read. Publishing it was the icing.

  What's the best advice you've received about writing?

There are a couple bits of advice that have worked for me. To write every day and also to know how the story ends.
    What's next on the horizon for you?

I am currently working on a full length romance novel I Am Yours. It was actually in production when Maya in Unexpected started to bug me. I also have a collaborative project titled The Pursuit that I am working on with my writing partner, Roy Glenn.

     How can readers follow you online?
I can be friended on Facebook as Aja TheWriter and I can be followed on my blog:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest blog post: Nila Brown and why editing should be covered by Obamacare

The Editing Process – Why ObamaCare Should Cover It

Hello my Lovelies!
Thanks to the fabulous Cheris Hodges, my favorite author in the whole world for blessing me with the honor of guest blogging with her today.  I’ve been webbing with her for quite a few years before I knew she was an author and I’m totally appreciative to her for giving an up and coming Cheetah Diva out of nowhere a shot at the title of Craziest Diva!

Anyhoo, I’m in the process of editing the second book in my trilogy, “Kurai Utopia,” entitled Book Two – Ignition. I’m anxious to finish up the series because I need to move forward with other writing projects, but some annoying health issues, along with my daytime job responsibilities and outright laziness, has slowed me down significantly. This book was supposed to be released by the end of April, but don’t worry, my Lovelies! I’ve grabbed my supersized pen, geared up the keyboard, put on my big girl bloomers and away I go!

To say that I’m not a millionairess wouldn’t be stretching the truth.  Hell, I’m not even a hundredairess, let alone a thousandairess.   I live paycheck-to-a little more than paycheck like most people in this country but I’m not complaining, though. It could be much worse and I’m grateful to have a full-time job that I love. I have nothing but love and respect for authors who have made this their full-time careers; some without a 9-5 job. I’m self-published but the royalties I get wouldn’t feed an ant, much less my college-age daughter. The most important thing is we have a roof over our heads and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

With that being said, being a poor but proud Cheetah Diva author I can’t afford an established editor. I’ve done research on them and the cheapest I came across were advertised on a site called “fiverr,” where you can get up-and-coming artists/writers/editors/everything else people like me who you can contract to help you out. This is done so they can gain the experience and show off on a resume. I went this route at the end of last year and trust me when I tell you I’d rather eat kitty litter than go through this process again. The person I contracted to create the cover for my first book left me and several others hanging, pushing my publishing date back nearly a month. I had to do the cover myself, and if I do say so myself, I liked my results a lot better so I took it as a positive thing.

I did have others set to “beta” my story; fans who would read the document, make corrections and/or tell me what they really thought of the story; except I had a deadline set for them to return the edits before Christmas and that never happened. Two of them apologized to me and two others were never heard from again. You know, as quick as I am to pull the trigger, I didn’t get mad. Sometimes shit happens and this is my dream. I couldn’t leave it to chance for someone else to help me with it and then get mad when their lives happen.  Instead of wallowing in well-deserved anger, frustration and a bag of Funyuns, I just kept it moving.

The book was finally published on January 20, 2014. If course there were some errors in it relating to how it translated over to CreateSpace. In spite of their system telling you to use .doc documents, it scrambled some of my words and threw them into other sentences. With my daughter’s help, I was able to get the story edited better and republished using Acrobat.

Yay me.

So now here I am in the editing process for the second book and although I’ve learned a lot of lessons from editing the first book, this process is still insanity on a stick.  I have to go over the pages line-by-line, make the corrections, rest a day or two, then print it and go over it line-by-line, rinse-repeat until I’m satisfied that I have something that doesn’t read like some crap I wrote in crayon and doody when I was four.

Recently, I had a doctor’s appointment and while having my blood pressure checked, I went into full detail about a lot of anxiety and stress in my life. Somehow the editing of the book came up and before I knew it, I bent this poor woman’s ear for nearly an hour going over and over and over this horrible process. Bless her sweet heart, she just let me vent. Not only am I becoming blind by looking at a bright computer screen, I’m killing so many poor little trees with the constantly printing, redlining and reprinting this ridiculously 17 chapter book.  I actually woke up screaming one morning, “AAH! NO! HE DOESN’T COME IN UNTIL THE NEXT CHAPTER!!”
Scared my daughter to death with that one.

ObamaCare, or the Affordable Healthcare Act, was enacted with the goal of increasing the quality and affordability of health insurance by lowering the uninsured rate and expelling public and private insurance coverage and reducing the cost of healthcare for individuals.  In a nutshell, the insurance companies can’t force you into bankruptcy by refusing to cover you because of preexisting conditions. The same wingnuts who were screaming “REPEAL OBAMACARE!” are now saying “THANK GOD FOR OBAMACARE!” because you don’t have to go into debt just to get healthcare, and in the greatest nation in the world, this shouldn’t even be an issue. I’m sure President Obama appreciates their enthusiasm and gratitude.
Anyhoo, I see a therapist who helps me with the anger management issues that I have because I’m twisted like that and normally all I do is rant about that, but the last session I went on and on about the book. She’s actually a great therapist but even she’s sick of hearing about my book series. She told me she hears Japanese names in her everyday life now, even when she’s at home, in the tub and with her newborn; for example, she called childhood friend by my heroine’s name “Hikari.” The lady’s name is actually “Joyce.”

*Elvis singing voice* “Insanityyyyyyy! That cool refreshing drink!”

It’s bad enough that authors have to conceive the actual book; we have to conceive the plotline, scenarios, character development, see it from the first squiggly-lined storyboards to the “about the author” section. That’s tough enough, but for someone like me who is a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Paranormal author, I have to invent worlds, different species, and in some instance different languages. Do you understand what an endurance trial that is?  ADD EDITING TO IT!  It’s not like I make J.K. Rowling’s cheddah…oh hell naw – my last royalty payment won’t even buy me a Number 2 at MickeyD’s.  The amount of stress that comes from not just one, but 10 – 20 rewrites and editing takes a toll on one’s mental and physical state, and I aint a healthy Diva by anyone’s standards to begin with.

So, I did what any other irrational individual with a gun permit and Xanax would do – I called Aetna.
(…after holding forever and a half and watching my toenails grow…)
Aetna Customer Service, this is Elizabeth - what is your Group ID? (name changed to protect the victim)
My number is blah blah bluh blah blah. Does ObamaCare cover stress-related editing?
Um, I don’t understand.
I’m an author and I’m under a shitload of stress trying to edit what’s shaping up to be another 500 page book all by my dammy. Does ObamaCare cover this?
Your profile says you work for Shooby Boo Boop (name changed to keep my job).
Yeah I know, but when I’m not having a whip cracked across my back, I’m an author who’s on the verge of a drive-by shooting because of all the editing I have to do and I need to see a therapist completely different from the one who now hates me. Does ObamaCare cover this?
Hold please. (new age music – another reason for ObamaCare – actually, a reason why shotgun shells should be non-traceable)
Uh, Ms. Brown?
If your stress is a preexisting condition, yes the Affordable Care Act should cover it, but you have Aetna so this is a non-issue for you. Check with your primary for a referral for stress-related issues.
Really?  Huh…I thought so.  Well, thanks!  Have a great day!

Here’s my take on the whole thing:  ObamaCare should not only cover editing, it should cover everything limited to but not excluding:
Family members who are yelled at
  Dogs that are not walked
 Husbands/wives/significant others who go to bed alone at night
  Snatched weaves
 Depression/post-traumatic stress syndrome
   Cussed out publishers
  Coffee (this should be a refillable prescription)
 Thrown cell phones
  Paper cuts
Chair cushions
  Likka stow runs
  Anything else that makes me feel some kind of way

I love writing. I really do. I’ve been doing it on and off since I was 11 years old and hopefully, I’ll be doing it until I can buy my home in Bali and laugh at the little people.  What I meant to say was until I can afford an editor who will do this shit for me.

Yeah…karma save!

What you have to do is make sure your lame congressman/senator/lunatic doesn’t take ObamaCare away. We need this very desperately. After all, your favorite author’s mental health depends on it, and we really work hard to entertain you. Don’t let us fall into the millions of people who don’t have affordable healthcare. Can you imagine how many more fine works F. Scott Fitzgerald could have produced if ObamaCare existed to cover his alcoholism?  That’s food for thought. 



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I write because Maya Angelou said I could

Today I woke to the news that Dr. Maya Angelou had passed away. I cried as if I'd just lost a family member. In a way, I have.
When I was a little girl, the first book I read by a black woman was I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.  My mother brought that book home and I devoured it.
And I wondered if I could write about my life — granted, I didn't experience anything that Maya Angelou had. But she taught me that our stories are important.

She opened the door for me to love poetry.  She taught me to use my words to express my pain, my happiness, my joy, my sadness. Maya Angelou saved a lot of lives by sharing hers.

Then came the day when I actually met her. I wonder if she heard how my knees were rattling as I approached her table at Special Occasions in Winston-Salem that day. Did she know that I was having trouble breathing as I stood in the presence of greatness? In front of a woman who had given me permission to follow my dreams?
I'm sure she didn't because once we started talking, I discovered that she was a joy. I'm sure she never looked at herself as MAYA ANGELOU. And that's why I've always had a place in my heart for this woman.

From the New York Times:
Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Her death was confirmed by her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. No immediate cause of death had been determined, but Ms. Brann said Ms. Angelou had been in frail health for some time and had had heart problems. As well known as she was for her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, Ms. Angelou very likely received her widest exposure on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered the inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, who, like Ms. Angelou, had grown up poor in rural Arkansas.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chatting with EMMA award winning author AC Arthur

 AC Arthur won four Emma awards, including author of the year at the recent Romance Slam Jam Conference in New Orleans. The Maryland native has always had an active imagination and we're lucky enough to savor the fruits of her mind.
Working in the legal field for more than twenty years now she’s seen lots of horrific things and longs for the safe haven reading a romance novel brings. Her debut novel Object of His Desire was written when a picture of an Italian villa sparked the idea of an African-American/Italian hero. To date, Artist has written in several genres including, young adult paranormal (written as Artist Arthur,, erotic romance as Sapphire Blue, a sensual contemporary romance following the loves and life of The Donovan Family, and most recently a sexy paranormal series titled The Shadow Shifters, both written as A.C. Arthur.
Coming in October.
AC spoke to me about her award winning night and the upcoming Season of the Shifters event in Disney World.

1. How did you come up with the Shifter Series? 

I've always loved the paranormal genre so when my editor asked me to come up with a concept that we could build a series around, I jumped at the chance. I had this picture of a panther and he was gorgeous. (Bear in mind I am deathly afraid of cats!) But I loved this picture. There was another picture that I think I saw on a book cover, it was of a male's torso and I just knew he was the other half of my panther. My daughter was also working on a research paper revolving around the demise of the Amazon Rainforest at the time. So as I helped her with that project I figured this would be a great home for the shifters and the world just grew from there.

2. There are not a lot of African Americans writing urban fantasy, was this something you always wanted to venture into? 

Yes. I wrote another paranormal when I was at Genesis Press, titled Heart of the Phoenix, and really enjoyed building a world that was different than our everyday life.

3. Tell the readers about you new adult Trilogy, The Shadow Shifters: Damaged Hearts.
I write what I like to read and for the past two years I've read a number of new adult books because my oldest daughter made the transition from high school to college and changed her reading habits. I loved the emotion and angst in these books. So when it came to my attention that the next book in the Shadow Shifters series would be pushed back I asked my editor if I could do a few novellas to fill in the gap. I really expected her to say sure, write more adult Shadow Shifters, but she asked, "Would you like to write a new adult spin-off?" The answer was a resounding yes! So Damaged Hearts is about three shifter brothers who are just coming into their shifter abilities and grappling with how to live in this human world with these differences. Two of the stories are set on a college campus where there are several other issues facing the teen transitioning into adulthood. The final story has a more urban setting, a bar in D.C., but still tackles those growing pains of new adulthood.

4. Is it really wise to break a shifter’s heart? LOL. 

No. That's as simple as I can tell you. They don't take rejection well at all.

5. You really cleaned up at the EMMA awards and congratulations on being named Author of the Year. Tell me what your emotions were like that night

Sometimes I do not like to be nominated for awards because I'm so anxious about the final announcement. With the EMMA awards its part of a year of waiting for the answer and then three long days of conference still wondering. So by the time I walked into the banquet and took my seat my heart was about ready to jump right out of my chest. LOL My parents were there and my husband and two of my cousins, which only made me more nervous. The first time they called my name I was like, "wow". I thought, okay, I can get up there one time. But then they kept calling it and by the time Author of the Year rolled around I was ready to faint. I am still amazed that so many people enjoyed my work enough to vote for me.
6. The Season of The Shifters event is coming in August, is there still time to register? 

Yes, registration is open until July 15th and authors and readers are invited.

7. What can attendees expect? 

Fun, fun, fun! When I get together with my street team to discuss these events the one thing we always try to focus on is taking the attendees in a different direction than other literary conferences. We want them to have fun with the stories they've read and the authors they enjoy. So we have a couple of great parties planned, one that will require animal outfits. We also have a good lineup of authors that will not only talk about their books but will answer any and all questions the readers wish to throw at them.
8. What’s next on the horizon for you?

Well, I just signed a contract with Alloy Entertainment for a book that I re-released in 2013 titled Within The Shadows and I will be wrapping up my Donovan series with the final five books.

9. How can readers follow you online? 
They can LIKE my Facebook page, ACArthur's Book Lounge and I'm on Twitter @AcArthur

Registration runs through July, 15th! 
The Season of Shifters
Reader Appreciation Event
Eleven talented authors shifting the scene of  
paranormal, erotic and romantic suspense!

Featuring National Bestselling Authors: Kianna Alexander, Koko Brown, Vivi Dumas, Tigris Eden, Sara Humphreys, Farrah Rochon, Melissa Shcroeder, Yahrah St. John, Paige Tyler and Eve Vaughn.

August 29 – September 1, 2014, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort©
There are still spots left for authors and readers to join us, visit for details.

Coming this summer, July 29th!