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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stand Your Ground: An important tale, a must read

There are few books that are as relevant to today's times as Victoria Christopher Murray's Stand You Ground. 
 Released today, this book takes you inside the family of a black young man shot and killed by a white man, who uses the controversial stand your ground law as his defense. What's unique about this story is that Murray shows both sides of this tragedy. The heartbreak and pain of Janice Johnson, Marquis's mother, flows from the pages and right into your heart. There are moments in this book where you will weep. I'm talking ugly cry. Janice is torn on the public protests surrounding her son's death. What is a mother to do when she's hurting and the public wants her to speak out? 
On the other side of the coin is the Spencer family. Meredith Spencer is married to the shooter, a wealthy white man who claims he was defending himself against Marquis. But Meredith knows more than she is brave enough to say about the deadly encounter. The Spencers have a team of lawyers who do everything to demonize the Johnsons and their son. 
Law and Order often boasts that its episodes are ripped from the headlines, but this book is well written and sad reminder of the headlines we see every day. 
Stand Your Ground is a don't miss novel! 

After reading this book, I had questions for Victoria and the writing process of this novel. I knew if reading it changed me, I could only imagine how writing it changed her. 

Stand Your Ground takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster. Tell me what it was like writing this story? 

I'm an author, yet, I don't think I have the words to describe what it was like writing this story. Everything that the reader experiences -- tears, fear, anger, sadness, grief...and even a few moments of joy, I went through over and over again. I went through it when I wrote the words the first time, I went through those emotions through each draft, and every edit. I was drained when I finished the book, but more than being drained, I was changed. After writing this book, I want to always write "important" books. I want to write books that have meaning. I hope from now on that I will write books that will do more than entertain.

Did writing this book change you or your views on these types of tragic events? 

The only change I think I can say that I experienced is that I did my best to write this book from both sides. I had to force myself to see the victims on the other side. That was a stretch for me at first, but then the journey became real and I could really see how both sides are affected. I just can't imagine being married to a man who killed someone -- even if he says it was self defense.

 How did your prepare yourself to tell this story? 

I didn't have to do much preparation. We'd all been living the events of these kinds of tragedies over and over and over and over...the only way I needed to prepare myself was to calm down. Seriously, over the past few years I'd become an Angry Black Woman, something that I'd never been. But I was so angry after hearing about how another person got away with murdering an unarmed teen boy. So, I had to take my emotions out of this and just "write the right story."

No one was perfect in this novel. Do you think that when events like this happen that the media expects the victim and his or her family to be perfect for the public to support them? 

Hmmm...that's an interesting question. I would hope that folks know that no one in this world is perfect. And I love writing about flawed people the best. People who are just like me. :-)

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Well...I said I wouldn't do it, but I'm gonna do it. One of my all time favorite novels of the over twenty that I've written is Joy. Joy was my second novel and it touched my life in so many ways. And what was best was that it touched a lot of readers.  I said I would never write a sequel...but I am. I don't have the title for the follow up yet, but it's told from two points of view -- a white man, a black woman who are connected by a child that was conceived during a rape. Now, the man is out of jail (he spent seven years in prison) he's having a difficult time reentering society. But he knows he has this daughter out there and he thinks getting to know her may help to make his life better. And then, the woman, Anya...she and her husband have never told their now fifteen-year-old daughter that she is the product of a rape. So once this man enters their lives once can imagine the story. There are actually twenty states that allow parental rights to rapists -- can you believe that? I can't wait to really explore that story.

What's next for Victoria...

One black white gun....

Monday, June 15, 2015

Dear ESPN: She is his wife! Respect that, jerks!

I have a special place in my heart for Stephen Curry and his family. See, I grew up watching his dad, Dell Curry, drop threes for the original Charlotte Hornets. I have a Dell Curry trading card. He was a member of the Hive Five. He was the man.

So, I've watched Stephen Curry grow up and take Davidson College on a Cinderella ride in the NCAA tournament. He's the kind of player that you want young kids to look up to, a family man, a classic man and who doesn't love his twin, little Riley Curry. 

And he's out here kicking LeBron James's ass. 

Ayesha Curry is Stephen's wife. The mother of his children, as she's expecting right now. She's been married to him for four years. They've been together for seven. 
A baby mama she is not. 

I don't hear ESPN calling white women baby mamas. Let's not pretend this wasn't a racial thing. Folks love saying that black women overreact to the way we are portrayed in the media. Well, damnit, we have a reason to! Everyone wants to paint sisters with the same damn stereotypical brush. I am sick of it. 
SportsCenter host John Buccigross, dude, you are not Stuart Scott, stop trying to live off his memory. You aren't funny and wives are not baby mamas. I'm sorry that your limited interaction with black folks hasn't allowed you to see families. You know, mom and dad are married. They're provided a stable home for the kids. 

Now, Tom Brady has a baby mama. But no one ever talks about that. I guess Stephen Curry is the black athlete that the media can't stand. He doesn't have drama, scandal or a bunch of baby mamas. He has a wife, a daughter who he loves and a baby on the way WITH HIS WIFE! 

I guess I'm expected too much from ESPN, a station where a talking pinhead can say a woman provkes domestic violence and nothing happens, but as soon as one white woman gets offended by something he said, then he's off the air. 
I'm glad I got rid of cable. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Size does matter

When it comes to ordering clothes on the Internet, size does matter.
I order a bathing suit for the AC Arthur Beach Bash this July. While waiting for the suit to come back, I've been going to the gym and working out on the Wii.

So, my suit arrives today.
It's a UK 4X. DAMN, talk about a slap to the work out regime. Now, a 4X in London is a US 12 to 14.

On the other size of that, I ordered a Wonder Woman costume because I'm going to Heroes Convention in Charlotte with my BFF. I ordered a large and it is too big. I'm like WTH.

I guess I should stop buying clothes online. . .

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Victoria Christopher Murray on why she wrote Stand Your Ground

Victoria Christopher Murray is a prolific writer, publisher and all round amazing person. This month, Victoria will release a book that is ground breaking and an emotional tour-de-force.

She explains to readers why she wrote this book in an open letter that makes you want to buy the book right now. Stand Your Ground will be released on June 30th, by the way.


"Not again," were words that kept reverberating through my mind on February 15, 2014. We were just a few weeks away from the second anniversary of Trayon Martin's murder and as I watched the verdict come down in the first trial of Michael Dunn (the man who murdered Jordan Davis) I felt like this country was taking giant leaps backwards.
It had happened again. While Michael Dunn had been found guilty of attempted murder, the jury couldn't reach a verdict on the murder charge for Jordan Davis's death.
Of course my social media timelines blew up. People were upset and rightfully so...though, I didn't understand the specific reactions. People attacked the men and women of the jury, and then, there were those who were once again calling for America to boycott one of its own states. "Nobody go to Florida!" became the social media mantra.
That confused me -- I didn't understand how people could get upset with Americans who had not only stepped up to fulfill their jury duty, but who were following the law. And it was even more confusing that people wanted to boycott Florida when two dozen other states had some version of the same law. So what...were people going to boycott every state? Were they going to boycott the states where they lived?
I couldn't make sense out of what I thought was nonsense. I couldn't understand why people were attacking juries and attacking states, and not going after the real culprit. Why not make this a political rallying cry? Why not register thousands of people to vote? Why not go after the law?
Yes, people are behind the law, but not the people who would suffer under a boycott. And not the people who fulfilled their civic duty by serving on the jury.

It was that night and those reactions that started the seed of this novel to grow inside of me. I so wanted to get people to understand that the law was the problem. I wanted people to understand the law better, I wanted people to know that Stand Your Ground is not a defense in itself, it is part of self defense. And though I had never been through anything like this myself personally, I wanted people to really think about the families in these situations. Maybe all of that would get us to finally stand our ground...stand up and do something. Do something that would matter, do something that would count.
And while this idea began to brew inside of me, one of my friends on FaceBook said, "Victoria, you should write a book about this." Others agreed, saying they believed that I could teach something. That was when I knew that I did have a platform to reach thousands of people about this -- I could do it through entertainment; I could do it through a book.
It was my editor who challenged me to add layers to this story and to show both sides of this tragedy. It was my publisher who gave me the title.
And so it was on and I was ready.
But then, I wasn't as ready as I thought. When I sat down and thought about these women in Stand Your Ground -- the mother of the victim and the wife of the shooter, it became such a difficult book to write. Of course, the emotions that I had to write for the mother were clear and obvious. What I didn't expect was to feel for the wife of the shooter. These were two women who were suffering -- in different ways -- but still, they suffered. And as I lived with both of them in my head for all of those months, I suffered with them.
Another thing that surprised me a bit about writing this book was the language. I always believe in being true to my characters, but to this point, profanity hasn't had any place in my novels. Not that there is much inside of Stand Your Ground; but I'm sure you can imagine that the N word -- a word I abhor -- comes up a time or two.

But if I wanted to write the truth, which I always try to do, if I wanted to speak to the two opposing sides of Stand Your Ground, I had to speak their language -- especially the language they would use in this particular situation.
So, I went with my characters. And I took this journey. Never before can I say that a book I've written has changed me. But writing this one did. It wasn't writing this book alone that changed me -- it was that I was half-way through writing this book when Eric Garner was choked to death in New York, and then Michael Brown was executed in the streets of Ferguson. I wrote this novel while those incidents and the aftermath played as background music in my mind.
And I changed. I wrote and I changed. I wrote and I became an Angry Black Woman. My prayer, though, is that I will channel that anger in the right way. I was able to work
some of that anger out in the pages of this book. Now, I hope that I'll be able to work that anger out in a way that will help to change America -- for the better.
And that begins with repealing Stand Your Ground. We must know the facts. We must never forget....