Thursday, December 4, 2014

Creative Gift Ideas for Kwanzaa....

When my children were in elementary school, they attended a great school, a neighborhood Catholic school. With two children in attendance this was just barely (if at all) within my budget. But because it was so important for me to ensure that they attended this great school, I had to find creative ways to cut corners. This gift idea was one such creative solution....

I forget what exact gift giving occasion it was, for arguments sake, let's say it was Kwanzaa. Rather than go out and buy something, I grabbed a pack of plain loose-leaf paper that we already had at home. Here is what I did next...

1. On Microsoft Publisher, I formatted a page design, sized to the exact specifications of the loose-leaf. Next;
2. I inserted a graphic (my daughter's favorite character) at the top of the page, along with a caption that was personalized with her name and selected to motivate her to get better grades. Next;
3. I fed the loose-leaf paper through the printer, allowing the design to PRINT in the heading space of the page. And then;
4. I placed Personalized Loose-leaf Paper in a folder.


This personalized paper made my daughter (and later my son) The Hit of the class and I was soon receiving requests from her classmates.

How unique is that?

Money Investment: $2-4
Time Investment: 15-20 minutes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I have had a stretch of tremendous blessings and relentless stressors. Like sun showers, full moons in broad daylight, hail in summer, and summer temperatures in November, some things just don't make sense to me.

I tend to worry. Sad but true. But I have learned that life happens whether I think I'm prepared for it or not, so I might as well understand a few things....
1. Breathe.
2. Relax.
3. Fix what I can, when I can.
4. Don't worry about what I can't fix.
5. Until, I am in a position where I do not have to remind myself to breathe, my answer to everything must be, "Probably NOT."
6. Cut myself some slack.
7. I make mistakes, too. Get over myself and keep moving forward.
8. Pace myself, I am not a machine (and even machines need downtime and maintenance).
9. A mistake is better than "no attempt."
10. An apology is a viable option.

BONUS: Pencil in FUN. And if I can not go somewhere and do something fun, make sure the fun happens wherever I am.
Sometimes a fix it or forget it mentality, is actually a food thing (bananas are a good option)....

Sunday, August 17, 2014


  I was an only child until I was an adult. Not always having someone to play with or argue with was near perfect breeding ground for a vivid, creative imagination, as well as becoming resourceful and self-reliant.

 Since injuring my finger back in January, I have had to slow down to a degree, say no to a few of the projects I would have loved to take on, and say yes to the friends and family who have been screaming the same thing at me, "I am here! Hello! Let me help you! You don't have to do it all yourself." 

 I realize that the energy and effort that I have put out into the atmosphere has come back. Or as my Romell character says in LOVE CHANGES, "Respect is like a boomerang. Give it, and it will come back to you eventually."

 So now, this independent, efficient, self-sufficient, uber-responsible, Super-duppa Octopus (with a wounded tentacle), kindly and graciously accepts. I do not have to be a one-man-army. I am a queen. And this queen says, "Yes, please. And thank you!"

Advice From My SHERO....

One of my literary SHEROs gave me this piece of advice after I completed my third draft of Love Changes and was "done." She said to me, "Be sure to make time to 'not write'."

At the time, I was like "huh." But, I SO understand what she means now. Crafting a novel takes focus that is consuming and almost compulsive. Serious writers are always writing, forever students of life, always observing, r
cording, jotting notes, even when we are supposed to be "relaxing." Because we consider everything "grist for the mill," life itself can turn into research for our next project. But life is life, meant to be experienced and enjoyed just because we are blessed...and can breathe.

I realize this, because I have spent plenty of time lately "not writing." Now, back to the drawing board....

Chocolate Love Coming May 2015.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Authors LOVE book lovers!

Looking to write books?
Reading leads to good writing,
Books that readers would read.
True wordsmiths hook 'em...
With a strong lead.
Learn techniques:
The means to The End.

---Eartha Watts Hicks #Earthatone

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

WRITING PROMPT: Bones Found in the Backyard Garden....

Uncle Merle always believed warmer climate would be balm to his bones. Aunty Mavis and Uncle Merle withdrew their retirement savings specifically to relocate to the Jacksonville. Aunty Mavis was just happy to find a patch a grass that she could till and harvest vegetables year round.

The foreclosed property they picked up looked like something from a dream. The previous owners did no damage to it, none whatsoever. They left it as is, as if never disturbed, and I couldn't figure out why. Why flee exposed brick fireplaces, a marble floor foyer, wrought iron banisters, bay windows and hardwoods throughout? How could anyone vacate property this beautiful, property situated within walking distance of a freshwater lake and not be filled with resentment?

The check engine light had been lit on the van for about a week. I wasn't too sure he remembered to fill her up, but my uncle drove that old van to town to pick up more chip wood. He has a pacemaker, so I'm glad he was gone when she screamed.

I stepped on the hem of my nightgown, running out into the yard, falling onto the back porch, scrapping up both my elbows. Aunty Mavis's small shovel was still pitched in the dirt. She was breathing heavily. "What do you make of this, Chile? Dem, dem gots to be pig bones, right?"

I did kick dirt away to get a better look at the end caps. The burlap from the bag of fresh soil was still laying behind her. I snatched it up and dropped it across what I was sure was human remains, the right femur and tibia of an adult male to be exact. And then I said to her, "Of course it's a pig, Aunty Mavis! What else would it be?"

I grabbed hold of my aunt's cold, still trembling hand and led her back inside. I had no clue when Uncle Merle would make it back, but I did know one thing. To be my aunt's balm right now, I had to remain calm.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Let me first open by stating I am basically brand new to AUTHOR status. I have been a writer for over a decade. Self taught (through studying books on craft at the public library), I had been accepted to advanced writing programs, a few on scholarship. The first time, I received a 4-Star review, I thought to myself, "What is this an 80% on a test?" And when even lower numbers came in, I was like "What the heck?" It took me a moment to understand a few things.

Readers read books with their own individual expectations. They do not know nor do they understand the time, energy, research, patience, or legwork that went into putting our projects together. They do not understand that writers kept building their stories through all of life's challenges, family struggles, health issues, financial challenges, caretaking, grieving processes, and a whole slew of other responsibilities. Nor is any of that their concern. When they pick up one of our books to read, whether they are looking for specific information or their objective is to be entertained, they will rate the title, usually based on how well we've satisfied their individual objectives.

In my early years as a reader, I LOVED E. Lynn Harris's books, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Omar Tyree, Terri, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Marsha Hunt, Connie Briscoe. A friend recommended Toni Morrison to me. I attempted to read Toni Morrison, a three volume collection and swore up and down it was boring as all heck. I re-read Toni Morrison when I was TRYING to write and was awestricken. Had I rated  based on my first impression, I would have blasted the titles. I had to go in, reading with a different set of objectives in order to notice the delicate brown fingers separating the pecans whole from  their host shell...such poise, as is her gift in delivery of her message bound in Paradise.

So to all, my fellow hardworking authors, working to profit from our passion, all we can do is our best. And when the reviews pour in, good, bad, or indifferent, try to remember the exact euphoria we felt when we first completed our very first manuscript, like climbing the highest mountain and planting the dang flag, or crossing the finish line at the Boston marathon. Also, try to remember, that just as purple is not everyone's favorite color, we may not appeal to every reader. Nothing personal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


When LOVE CHANGES was half complete (after about 4 years of writing) , I was on the verge of giving up on it, because 1. I wasn't sure I could complete it; 2. I wasn't sure if I could pull off all that I was attempting to do with it (in so far as literary devices); 3. I did not know how to finish it; 4. I wasn't sure it was any good. I mailed the completed half to my aunt and requested that she not show anyone.

My aunt took the half completed manuscript and placed it on her desk. She worked at a very large call center with approximately 300+ employees. She'd hoped that when the calls slowed down, she would get a chance to look it over. One of her coworkers came by, noticed the manuscript and asked what it was. My aunt told her, "That is my niece's book. And it is not published yet."
She said, "Let me just take a peek. I promise I won't show anybody."

About a month after I mailed the pages to my aunt, I got a phone call from her. I asked her if she thought the pages were any good. She told me that she hadn't had a chance to read any of it, because her entire call center had been fighting over the pages. And those who had already read it were bugging her for the rest. It was because of their urging that I registered for a WRITING WORKSHOP called Write Your Novel in 30 days that was being offered here in New York.

NO, I did not finish within the 30 day span, but I wrote the next 7 chapters in 10 days and was averaging 5 chapters a week. I completed the 1st draft within that next year.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

SUPERWOMAN: In Training....

Throughout the decades the "social roles" of women have flip flopped. And for black women, well, they have always been distorted. And that is a-whole-nother conversation for another place and time. But, what I have learned is this: Kim Kardashian, Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Carol Brady, and Hazel the Maid rarely happens in the same individual, the same woman. And is even less likely to occur in a society where EVERY woman aspires to be Oprah.

     Only Chaka Khan can be every woman. For any other woman, that would either be a shock or a con. We REAL women have to be who we are, and in doing so, take care of the things that matter most. Rarely, if ever, will that be EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME.

     I have spoken to friends and family over the years about this. We each have our recipe for womanhood. I have compiled what I consider to be the best advice, but do admit, that sometimes maintaining everything on this list is extremely difficult, but try I must.

1. Put God first.

2. Keep your house clean (yes, even the laundry).

3. Keep yourself together at all times (and this means health AND beauty).

4. Pay ALL your bills, (even if you have nothing left).

5. Always save for a rainy day (Set aside money regularly that you do not touch).

6. Have at least 3-4 streams of income.

7. Have at least one outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks and one fabulous black dress w/shoes.

8. Own a perfect place setting for a meal for two (Mothers may wish to also have a perfect place setting for each one of her children) AND know how to prepare at least one meal fit for a king.

9. Choose a mate that is a friend, as well as a partner. Life is hard enough. A sound relationship should make both your lives enjoyable.

10. Never be too proud, shy, or ashamed to admit that you need help.

MY FATHER'S JEWELRY BOX - Another Odd Lesson

     I remember one year, for argument's sake let's say it was Father's Day (but it may have actually been Christmas...I don't exactly recall. I was around 12 years old). But I remember my father had expensive taste and for this occasion, I wanted to get him something that he would buy for himself. I searched high and low until I saw a jewel box, a wooden jewelry box with an antique car on top. THAT WAS IT. I had to get this for my father.
     I bought it and wrapped it and couldn't wait to see the expression on his face. To me, this was the perfect gift and I had already preselected the perfect spot for it, right atop his dresser. This jewelry box just so happened to be the perfectly matching grain of wood. 

     When I gave it to my father, he unwrapped it and said, "Oh wow! This is nice!"
      I said, "You like it, for real?"
      He said, "I love it!"
      But then he walked into the living room over to his bar that was chrome and had black smoked glass, and sat it on top.
      Now upset, I said, "What did you do that for? It goes on the dresser! I bought it to match your dresser!"
      He said, "It belongs on the bar."
      I said, "No it doesn't! It's a jewelry box!"
      He said, "This is not a jewelry box! They're coasters!" He then opened the drawers and showed me they had no depth, but were embedded with cork disks.

...And such is the depth of the daddy-daughter dynamic!
What does this look like to you?



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Just R.E.A.D. - Eartha Watts Hicks

     I wrote my novel, Love Changes, quite a few years ago. But I wanted to make the work literary. Urban, but with literary devices that could be dissected, analyzed, discussed and studied like works of Alice Walker, J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, and Franz Kafka. And then I wanted to include my poetry and the actual song lyrics from some of my favorite songs. I was advised not to do a lot of that...especially including the song lyrics and poetry. But I was driven by my passion for the work and the desire to see it exist...the way I would do it.
     Tomorrow, June 13th, will be the one year anniversary of the day I received the Just R.E.A.D. Award for fiction from the NYCHA branch of the NAACP. This organization deserves our support. To support this organization with volunteerism or a donation, reply by email to


     One morning my son, who was sixteen at the time, came to me. “Ma, I do not understand this poem and for homework I have to describe what it means.”
     I took a look at it and saw it was the famous one by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night." So I asked him, “What do you think it means?”
     He said, “I don’t know.”
     So I told him, “That poem was actually featured in the movie Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. They actually discuss the meaning of that poem in the movie.”
     He says, “Great! I’ll look for it on Netflix!”
     I said to him, “You can actually find that on YouTube. But before you do that, read the poem yourself three times and write down what YOU think it means. And then after that, you write down what the movie says. Be sure to let the teacher know that you saw that movie and in your essay, compare and contrast your thoughts against those points made in the movie and the reasons why you felt what you felt.”
      “Okay.” He skips away and returns about fifteen minutes later with handwritten notes written all over his poem.
     I asked, “Did you watch the movie?”
     He said, “No.”
     Now I asked, “What do you think the poem is about?”
     He said, “I think death, but that seems too easy.”
     I now say, “You are absolutely right! That poem is about death. You are a brilliant boy. Stop second guessing yourself. Sweetheart, sometimes the worst thing a person can do for you is to give you all the answers.”

Friday, January 3, 2014

Very Useful Article for Authors

     This entry was informative, especially the sound advice of "the best way to sell books is to write more books." I will carry that nugget with me throughout my writing career!

     By way, I learned of this article via Tumika Cain. This very generous author posted your link on the Say What?? Book Club's Facebook page.


Part of the delay in publishing Love Changes was the fact that I was adamant about quoting song lyrics, and adamant about including the three (3) songs I selected for the novel.

Love Changes takes place in 1995. What was happening with music in the nineties was that 90’s songs were sampling other, older, popular songs. And when the time came to obtained licensing, I had to locate and request permission from all the writers, producers, and music publishers from the 90’s popular song, as well as from the sampled original. Sometimes, that was simple as doing a search and sending an email. Other times, it seemed like I had to do everything just shy of buying a plane ticket and showing up at the door with a big smile and a warm piece of humble pie. Meanwhile, all-the-while, I was being told, "Hey, you are a songwriter! Why don’t you just use your own lyric?"

Yeah, I could have. But if my character turned on the radio and sang "Be Happy." I wanted her to turn on the radio and sing "Be Happy." Not some I’m-some-wanna-be-happy knockoff song.
For all who love a good read AND, like me, still find themselves singing R&B songs from the nineties, the name of the book is Love Changes. Here is the link:


Thursday, January 2, 2014

You...saw me...fade...away....
I'll give

That one snippet of Chaka Khan's "Everlasting Love," I could listen to it a thousand times more, and it will still feel brand new....

Each time you pass me by
You saw me fade away
I'll give you more each day

How she ever came up with her arrangement from just these simple words, I will never be able to figure that out!

Riffs like that are not common. Riffs like that (with that kind of flair) are not learned in a high school music class. Riffs like that are what makes Chaka such a shocker.

What a gift! And that's no con!