Friday, June 26, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
CLG: Do you find that many of the things you write about are intrinsically connected to you?
SS: Yes, easily, my creative writing is connected with me. With commercial writing, though, I try to connect with my subject in a personal way. It helps me to write authentically even when I’m not writing about me.
CLG: How important is social media to the promoting of your writing?
SS: I think social media is really powerful. I don’t use it regularly to promote my work so much as to socialize. When I do use it for my work, I see the difference in my traffic. For my next book, I will use it much more.
I’ve heard that mainstream publishers are advocating their writers join social media sites, naming Facebook and Twitter. The self-publishing company I used for my book also advocates using social media and provides offers to help you get set up on the sites. Like them, I respect the power of word-of-mouth and personal interactions.
CLG: What is one important thing you've learned through your writing life?
SS: One important lesson that surfaces often is that words have power. And wielding that power is a privilege best tempered by humility and gratitude.
Midori Saito, a young woman, fresh from Japan and too independent for Japanese society, refuses to heed her mother’s advice that marrying a foreigner will bring her nothing but trouble. Turns out Mom was right and Midori is now suddenly on her own in San Francisco. Will she be able to find her American Dream and the perfect dessert?
When asked How important is it for you to integrate your cultural experiences into your writing, Tokunaga said, "As you can probably tell from my photograph, I am not Japanese. I’m Caucasian, was born in San Francisco, and my Japanese last name comes from my husband. Both my novels are about Japan and Japanese culture. When I took my first creative writing class many years ago, the teacher required us to complete three short stories in a semester. And all three that sprang out of me were about some aspect of Japanese culture. I didn’t plan it that way, but that’s what happened, and it made me realize how important this culture has been in my life.."
Come by AtBaP to read more about Tokunaga's appreciation of the Japanese culture and to learn about her next book coming this fall: Love in Translation!
Monday, June 15, 2009
About Over and Over Again:
At first glance, 27-year-old Dionni Stone, owner of Whatever You Like Entertainment seems to have what all black women desire: natural beauty, a successful business, and a beautiful black man on her side. Until…
Dionni has found the love of her life – once again – in a compromising situation. For Dionni, this is the final heart break. With the love and support of her family and friends, she concentrates on her business, and it’s there she meets new client, Xavier “Zay” Grey, an investment banker that hires her to plan a surprise graduation party for his baby sister. Timidly, Dionni begins to think she might have found “the one” for her, but a devastating secret finds her world once again shaken. It also finds her back in the arms of an unlikely man, and even more pain than even she could imagine.
Over and Over Again is a funny and sensual tale that weaves between lies and love, deceit and truth, teaching Dionni the ultimate meaning of what is honesty, passion, and friendship.
CLG: NI'COLA: THE SOUNDTRACK. What are three tracks that would HAVE to make it onto the soundtrack of your life and why?
The second would be No More Rain (In this cloud) by Angie Stone. Just like anyone else in life, I have been through a plethora of trials and tribulations. I had to decide that I was going to be stop letting life harbor me, and press forward. So I consider the cloud me and my life, and I had to learn to stop crying and start living up to the potential that I know that I have. I’m only half way there though. The storm tends to come, but I do not allow for the rain to develop.
The last song would be Queen of the Pack by Patra. Being from Jamaica, I know all about struggle. But I had to let people know that I am not accepting anything. The song compares life to a pack of cards. It basically states that I am telling you what I am about, and I am not going back on my word. What ever life brings, I will come out on top, and be the Queen of the pack. I make my own destiny, so you better watch out.
CLG: You are indie publishing OVER AND OVER AGAIN through your company NCM Publishing; did you attempt to publish through traditional publishing routes? If so, how was that journey?
Ni'cola: Yes, I did attempt to publish through the traditional, but I am very impatient. By the time I began receiving feedback from a traditional publisher, I was already half way through with self-publishing.
I really have not had any major issues with self publishing. In fact, I believe that this was the best route for me. I prayed about it and jumped in head first. I know this is what I am supposed to be doing because everything has gone smoothly from day one.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
You're the happiest woman on the planet because you are about to marry the love of your life: then tragedy strikes.
Imagine having to go on and live your life as if a huge part of you hasn't died and broken off. Imagine having a mind and a heart that can't let go of that love, that constantly replays precious, wondrous moments of absolute happiness. How do you go on? Can you really?
Erica N. Martin's novel Something Old Something New is a remembrance of love story that shows us through Audrey, the dedicated main character, that love never dies, and when it's real and when it's true, you will never lose it.
Martin does a good job pacing this story to its climactic ending with a nice twist, and what I enjoyed most of the story is the importance of love and memory. We all know the traditional love stories of boy meet girl, gets her, loses her, then gets her back; but this is a story that celebrates the sweet moments of a love story cut short but is determined to return.
If you want a story that reaffirms love, then definitely check out Martin's latest fare.
It's hard being a young woman in today's world - just imagine what it would be like for a gentleman’s daughter from Regency England who is thrust into the technologically-driven, "loose" world of the twenty-first century.
This is the initial setup of Laurie Viera Rigler's novel Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, a novel I highly enjoyed for its great main character, solid storytelling, and social commentary on women, independence, and love.
Rigler does an excellent job keeping the main character Jane Mansfield within her time and culture's speech, a difficult task when placed around the contemporary setting, people, and things that are 21st century L.A. It was that ability of Rigler's that kept me throughout the story, seeing little things like Jane marvel at the TV thinking it to be a window. I believed the main character, and I was willing to follow her throughout the story.
And this was a strong story, a coming-of-age (albeit, in another's body) story that explores the world in which a woman lives in and how she is to find her place in that world. No matter the time period, no matter the language barrier, a woman still needs to find her place, and Rigler does a fine job showing us that this idea crosses time and space.
I don't know how Rigler will top this novel, but I do look forward to seeing where her creative mind wanders next.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
When reading a book, I love to be entertained; even more so, I love to be taught something, and while reading Tracey Michae'l Lewis' latest novel, INTERRUPTION: The Gospel According to Crystal Justine, I definitely received big helpings of both.
Crystal Justine is a young woman in a long line of women in her family to endure a devastating generational curse, a curse that finds the weakest part of the women to crush their spirit and kill them. CJ has a slew of issues, many of them stemming from the mother who succumbing to the curse, died when CJ was young. CJ, searching for a life that is all hers and all good, must battle for every good thing she wants, for evil refuses to allow her to be the interruption to stop the curse from coursing through her family's veins.
Aside from the story itself, which I really enjoyed, my favorite part of this story is its discussion (through literature) of "the generational curse." We are set for victory, but there are a lot of forces that don't want us to succeed, and sometimes, those forces go beyond dealing with a person one-on-one; it infiltrates an entire family, an entire bloodline for the sole purpose of completely obliterating that family.
Lewis' novel vividly shows us how these forces can use everything against you, to include your family, to break you down, but there can be victory if you keep your eye on God, keep your heart on what's true, and what your mind focused on what's right.
I look forward to seeing what Lewis can teach us with her next novel.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A young, spiritually righteous woman, Faith Darling, must face the fact that you cannot escape from your family and the truth.
When Faith’s notorious great-grandmother, Miss Sunny Vincent, dies, Faith, as the only surviving relative, must arrange the funeral. However, Miss Sunny Vincent’s remains are hard to dispose of because God won’t have her and the Devil don’t want her.
I SO enjoyeed reading this story - Zetta has a great style, voice, and she quickly will bring you into the characters and story. Need a quickie treat during lunch break? Been working all day and need a little quick escape? Click the cover to order your copy of "Devil Don't Want Her" today!
Monday, June 08, 2009
What’s a woman to do when she discovers she used to be married to a spy?
Cassidy Raleigh Sebastien has learned to live without her ex Gabriel, that is until he returns to New Orleans and sweeps back into her life one night during a masquerade party. She has no plans on letting Gabe see the desire that still makes her heart pound, especially when a mysterious stranger beats him to the punch.
Gone are the days of playing spy for former agent, Gabe Sebastien. His only mission: to reconquer Cassidy’s heart and he’ll start with his own covert
operation of seduction.
CLG: How important is it for a writer to "grow"...and what does growth mean to you as a writer?
SK: Growth is part of the writing journey in my opinion. My writing style now has varied from the work I currently have out – it has broaden which I believe readers will see from my upcoming works. Growth means always placing yourself in a position to learn.
CLG: You've moved into poetry over the last year, and I've had the pleasure of reading them - deep, powerful. What do you get from writing your poetic pieces?
SK: Poetry is a big part of who I am. The words come to me embedded with life experiences, passing thoughts. Poetry for me is born from every breath I take and I learn something different each time. It has helped me step outside my comfort zone and expose another level of my creative self.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Recently inducted into the National Association for Professional Women, This angelic and poetic songstress comes by way of the Bronx, New York. Vibrant and complete in spirit she has been singing since the tender age of 4. Early on she shared notes with her mom and was influenced by the sounds of Anita Baker, Etta James, Faith Evans, Sam Cooke, Dianne Warren, David Foster and Patti Labelle. Furthering her passion to be a part of the musical universe she participated and tested her abilities in talent shows during her junior and high school years. Possessing a raw determination to get it done, she then proceeded to work on her talents and creating her own mold. As part of her determination to advance she has obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication.
She made it an inner promise to accomplish her aspirations with the untimely departure of her Mother and this past June 2008 her Father, who both always inspired her through music. She has concentrated on her creative vision in songwriting and honing her craft as a vocalist. Well aware that it requires a relentless, dedicated approach in the music industry she has made every effort to elevate her momentum in anyway. She has managed to establish relationships with some reputable talents of today like Multi-talented Wyclef Jean and Producer Younglord with them providing her with feasible insight and direction.
Senyah has remained in the loop in anyway where it can provide her with some form of experience and development whether it is through vocal training to being an extra. In 1998, she actively partook as an extra in the movie “Stuart Little 2”, Marci X featuring Damon Wayans and KC and Jo-Jo’s “All My Life” video. She has also participated as a background vocalist for upcoming artist Mary C. She was most recently cast as “Emma Jackson” in the Off Broadway play “The Sanctuary” written, produced and directed by Anne L. Thompson Stretching. With understanding that one step has to be manifested at a time she also has aspirations on acting and doing the big screen in her career travels. Currently, Senyah is working on her self-written catalogue of music that she hopes to present and make a profound impact to the musical universe through it. She proclaims as a personal quote that “Nothing in life is free, hard work pays off and you must have complete Faith in yourself and in God. With that all things are possible”.
Through all of her personal struggles and experiences she founded the non-profit organization Determined to Educate, Inc. Founder and CEO, Senyah Baah has made a commitment to herself to help those who are less fortunate and need a helping hand. She was inspired by her parents Victoria (Adwoa) and Frank (Kwame) Baah, who have both been called by the Lord. She has promised to continue their legacy by believing in those and helping those to believe in themselves.
What birthed the idea of Determined to Educate (DTE)?
One day I sat at my computer at work and was thinking of all of the issues that people I knew had and even I had. Issues that bothered me and even caused people so much pain. It was a familiar song. There is so much selfishness going around and I said, “Wow, does anyone not care about anyone besides themselves?” Who wants to live like that when life is so precious and short. I wanted to do something or say something to have people recognize that this is not the way we should be living. I know I couldn’t change anyone, but I knew that I could have people thinking in better ways. Then I started typing subjects/issues that needed to be addressed on my computer. I wanted to see how the message could get across and I remembered how much I loved the t-shirts made by “School of the Hard Knocks”. Those shirts always had some kind of word or sentence that stood out to me.
Talk to us about Determined to Educate; what is its mission?
Determined To Educate, Inc. was established to re-invent community. I walk the streets and see that there is no more community. People aren’t helping each other out and everyone is basically staying to themselves. I didn’t grow up like that. It bothers me to see that. I want this organization to bring back the importance of the old educating the young and the young helping the old. We have created two entities which are “Better Man University” and “Better Woman University”. We will be coming out with our third entity mid-summer called “Young Gift Academy” for children ages 22 and under. It’s an intergenerational concept.
What programs and services do you offer through DTE?
We have developed an interactive website. The website is designed to interact with patrons who visit the site. There are a team of “professors” on the site that will give insight on issues that evolve in our communities. These “professors” are not accredited “professors” but “professors” that have lived through these issues. You as the patron will be able to ask a question, give a comment or tell a personal story after each lecture. We do not post derogatory comments. We are working to promote a positive state of mind. Right now to register patrons click on the “admissions” section on the top right corner of the page. We are currently working on the back end of the site so that people will be able to sign in with their email addresses.
I talked with you recently about DTE and your goals, and I love that this vision you have is community-based. We talked a lot about back in the day and how important it is to have that community involvement in an individual's life. Why do you think we have fallen away from that mentality?
I bring the word “selfish” up again because that is indeed what some of us have become. We don’t remember that “Bernadine” on the 7th floor has 3 kids and is a single mom and may need help with the kids tonight because it gets overwhelming. We forget that “Mr. Jenkins” in the next building lost his wife a few years ago and may want company this afternoon just to talk about the old days or current events. Situations like that, we fail to look at. I feel its time we open our eyes.
Why do you think community involvement is so vital to this project?
I feel that this organization can bring that “GOOD” part of life back into the community. You don’t need money to help your neighbor. All you need is time, patience, KNOWLEDGE and a smile. I know it’s not easy but it is possible. If we can’t come together in our own community and teach ourselves and others better ways of life, we are headed for destruction within ourselves. It’s a cold world out there.
How can people get involved in DTE?
People can log on to the site and read the lectures that we are giving. We have already held a face to face Men’s forum for “Better Man University” and a face to face Women’s forum for “Better Woman University”. Beginning this winter we will be looking for volunteers. Those who wish to volunteer for different events that we have, there will be a posting on the site on how people can get involved on different projects coming up in Winter of 2009.
How do you plan to expand DTE in the future?
We just had our First Annual Book Donation Drive benefiting senior citizens in nursing homes as well as children and adults rehibilating from physical sicknesses in Harlem, NY. We raised over 150 books! At the present time we are based in New York. I’d like to open up a facility in Harlem, NY where we can have more face to face forums and have programs for children. We are actually working on getting a couple of projects started for “Young Gift Academy”. I’d also like to expand to other parts of the country and eventually other parts of the world. We are working on having a one year anniversary fundraiser at the end of the year for Determined To Educate, Inc and much much more…so stay tuned Folks!!
Any last comments you'd like to make?
I’d like to thank everyone that has been supporting the organization and the movement and welcome those who are unaware to log on to our website to find out more about us. Another special shout out to James Watson who designs our website. He does such a phenomenal job and gives great input to the organization. My COO, Donald Baah and brother for his amazing drive at such a young age, My staff and team of “Professors” that volunteer their time and words of wisdom. I would also like to thank everyone who attended/donated and those who helped at the Book Donation Drive and broke some sweat (Claudette, Grace, “Prof”, Shani Myers, Anthony, Janine, Rahman, Owen and family, “Prof”.Jaimie Jennings, Chris, Justice, Maia, Earl, Mali, Cathy, Kimmy, Niko, Jaquan, Sidelle. “Prof” Jai, Earl Christian III and Alan from The Urban Wall Street Project – Thanks so much for all the hard work, it paid off!!!) and a special thank You to our sponsors, Tonnie's Minis in New York, New York (West Village) and Absolutely Creative Advertising in Brooklyn, New York. We are going to have our apparel line coming soon where you can make a donation by buying a t-shirt or other Determined To Educate, Inc. accessories. Proceeds will go to the programs which we support. Let’s give back people! This time it’s real and it’s important.
And I finally I want to thank you, Shon, for all of your help, support and taking the time with me for this interview and getting the word out as much as you can!