"Read My Lips" is the new initiative began in November 2006 to encourage reading and writing among those both young and old. We want to help feed a passion for the written and spoken word to help individuals continue to mold the future. Want to know how you can be featured? Contact us at cawebb4@juno.com or 601.896.5616.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Conversations Book Club explores the life and message of Bestselling author V. C. Andrews

This summer the people of Mississippi have the opportunity to be a part of something historic: A two-month discussion of one of the world's most celebrated authors, V. C. Andrews!

With millions of her books in print in over a dozen countries worldwide, there have been few authors who have been able to make the kind of impact as V. C. Andrews. Even her death couldn't stop her success, as it has enabled generation after generation of readers to come to know her as a masterful storyteller.

But who really was V. C. Andrews? What happened in her mysterious life and untimely death? How is she still enthralling us from the grave? This and more will be discussed during July and August 2007 in discussions led by Conversations Book Club founder C. A. Webb.

Below is the schedule for the discussions. All are free to the public, and look for refreshments to be served.

* Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS) --- An Introduction to V. C. Andrews and her book "FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC". This will set the stage for the weeks to come by opening up discussion about who was the woman behind the masterful stories.

* Tuesday, July 10, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS) --- Inside "MY SWEET AUDRINA", the novel that explores the lengths a father will go to protect his child.

* Tuesday, August 7, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS) --- Inside the story of RAIN, the novel which began the Hudson Series and explores the life of a bi-racial child serving for where she belongs.

* Tuesday, August 21, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS) --- Webb continues his discussion of the Hudson Series with LIGHTNING STRIKES and EYE OF THE STORM, the second and third books in the series.

* Tuesday, August 28, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS) --- Webb concludes the Hudson Series with THE END OF THE RAINBOW and recaps the lessons learned through the six books that were discussed during the V. C. Andrews discussions.

For those who would like a more concise discussion of the live and writings of V. C. Andrews, Webb is providing the following:

* Tuesday, July 31, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Pearl Public Library in Pearl, MS) --- Webb will recap the life of V. C. Andrews and discuss the social issues addressed in her books FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC and MY SWEET AUDRINA.

* Tuesday, August 14, 2007 @ 6p.m. (Pearl Public Library in Pearl, MS) --- Webb will discuss the four-book Hudson Series and the story of a bi-racial child's journey to find out where she belongs in the world.

We hope you can join us for these exciting discussions, and add your input to the conversation. For more information on the all the books written under the V. C. Andrews' name, click here. To discover more details on the HUDSON SERIES, you can visit this link.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

New Book Club Branch Announced: "SUBWAY CONVERSATIONS"

It is a match made in heaven: a great book being discussed over great food.

That is what will be happening at the independently-owned Subway Restaurant located at 3000 HWY 80 E in Pearl, Mississippi beginning in June 2007.

Conversations Book Club has teamed up with the eatery (locally owned by Dorothy and Chris Lawson) to provide book discussions every 2nd and 4th Thursday beginning on Thursday, June 28, 2007.

The book club, which has ganered national attention for being an interactive means for readers to talk directly to authors came up with the idea as it was planning its Summer campaign to encourage reading.

"I am a big fan of Subway," admits C. A. Webb, the club's President. "I eat at the Pearl location at least once a day and was impressed with the service and how clean and well-managed it was. I approached the manager with my idea, and was excited when she agreed.

Dorothy Lawson saw the opportunity as a win-win. "People will come in to discuss the author of the week," she says, " and will more than likely grab a bite to eat in the process. Likewise, regular patrons will see the group meeting and will likely join in as they dine."

Conversations Book Club normally discusses more controversial titles during its discussions, but Webb says that the tone of this branch will be different.

"We are going to read authors who deal with more family and relationship issues. Already a roster has been gathered for the Summer which includes books by authors Felicia Madlock, Alisha Yvonne and others." Webb goes on to explain the logistics of this book club discussion.

"We will begin the discussions at 6:30p.m. CST, and will conclude by 8p.m. CST. Since we have more time than our weekly meetings, I am going to use the first 20-30 minutes to familiar the group with a synopsis of the book and then get into the meatier issues that it addresses."

For more information about this partnership, contact Subway restaurant owner Dorothy Lawson at 601.936.4803 or email C. A. Webb at thebestbookclub.hotmail.com.

Friday, May 25, 2007

CONVERSATIONS EXCLUSIVE: Bestselling author Thomas Long interview

On April 10, 2007 Conversations Book Club conducted a live interview/discussion with Bestselling author Thomas Long. Published through Urban Books, Long has released three full-length novels (A THUG’S LIFE, CASH RULES and PAPA DON’T PREACH) as well as appeared in the anthology AROUND THE WAY GIRLS 3. During our conversations, he came across as a man full of determination and purpose: someone that was not going to allow anything to stop him from achieving his goals. He talked about how he broke into the publishing industry, the storyline for the bestselling novel A THUG’S LIFE (which has been turned into a motion picture called 4 LIFE that will be released in July 2007) and how his portrait of a thug should cause all of us to give them a second look.

Thomas, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Let’s start at the beginning: Where are you from?
I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, having graduated from Morgan State University in 1996, with a B.A. degree in Sociology.

How long have you been writing, and what prompted it?
I actually started writing in 2002, but I have always been an avid reader. From as long as I can remember, I always loved to write poetry and rap. Creativity has never been a problem for me. I have always been creative.

The book that I was introduced to you through was A THUG’S LIFE. Was that your first published work?
Actually the first thing I got into print was REFLECTION OF MY SOUL, a collection of urban poetry that was released in 2003. The novel actually came afterwards.

Let’s talk about the full-length novels you have written for a moment, A THUG’S LIFE and CASH RULES. Talk to us about the writing process for you?
For me the book is pretty much the end product of a story line that I have already seen. Before I write, I visualize the scenes I am going to depict.

Were you at all frustrated by the politics of the printing and publishing industry?
There are going to be compromises when it comes to someone else helping to develop your vision. The business side of the publishing industry is what you make it to be. You just have to stay true to yourself during the process.

You have your own publishing company, XSL Publishing. How is it that you ended up with Urban Books when it came to your novels?
I had met Carl Weber, and told him about the book I had just finished writing (A Thug’s Life). He asked me to email him the story. It all just went from there. Carl liked what he read and signed me to a book deal. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to go the route of self-publishing like some authors who are just breaking into the business, but I believed in what I had written.

Let’s talk a bit about the book A THUG’S LIFE. We are introduced to some strong characters there. For those who haven’t read the book, we are introduced to close friends Ty and Dayvon, who have a strong hold on the drug game and are the ringleaders in a powerful street team. Things seem to spiral out of control, however, when Ty is arrested and he begins to suspect that Dayvon may have had something to do with it. Dayvon, who has been loyal to Dayvon and the game, seems to be tiring of the lifestyle and begins to plan his exit strategy—but this move only fuels Ty’s suspicions and lead to a chain of events that will hold the reader until the end of the book.

When it comes to the relationship between Ty and Dayvon, they were essentially good guys, who chose criminal pathways to get the success they thought they needed and deserved. Where did this storyline come from?

You’re exactly right. Ty and Dayvon, who came from different sides of the track, were united in a common cause: getting money. What I really wanted to do with A THUG’S LIFE was show some depth and personality to people who others look at and dismiss: the drug dealers and thugs. I wanted to give them substance and some thought, and show that even though they live the life that they chose they still had a conscience.

Two other issues that you bring up in A THUG’S LIFE were the realities of HIV/AIDS and how the choices youth make estrange them from those close to them. What made you bring these into the story, issues that some people seem to ignore.
Cyrus, I wanted to pretty much discuss everything that was affecting the black community in this book. HIV is part of that. It’s my hope this will be a wakeup call for someone and open up much needed dialogue.

You have some big news to share with us about the book as well, Thomas. Tell us about how movie lovers can get into the story of A THUG’S LIFE this summer.

Tony Austin (a native of Baltimore) of Watch Me Now Films approached me about adapting A THUG’S LIFE into a movie. He has made quite a reputation for himself and currently works with Russell Simmons. The star cast was assembled, and you will be able to get the dvd in stores by July 2007.

With all the success you have had thus far, what’s next for you?
I am releasing my next full-length novel PAPA DON’T PREACH (May 2007) and promoting that along with by other work.

Thank you again for this opportunity, Thomas. For those who want to know more about this author and his books, they can visit www.urbanbooks.net and click on Thomas Long. They can also visit www.thebestbookclub.info for updates.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Conversations' Interview with Bestselling author Nikki Turner

Having been crowned by her literary peers and critics as the Queen of Street Lit, Bestselling author Nikki Turner has been critically acclaimed since the release of her debut A HUSTLER’S WIFE. Now with over six volumes under her belt, she is promoting her newest bestseller: FOREVER A HUSTLER’S WIFE, the continuation of the love story that captivated her fans years ago. Picking up where she originally left her fans before, the book reintroduces us to Yarni and Des, and tells us the cost of loving hard and the consequences that come from living life in the fast lane.

In the opening author’s note to her fans, Nikki Turner surprised many with her candor as she exposed the fact that some of the story we had fallen in love with was her own journey through love and loss. She describes the process of writing the sequel as a “pregnancy” that couldn’t be rushed, and had to be carried completely to “term”, even with deadlines hanging over her.

Now the book that bestselling author Zane called “one of the most anticipated sequels of our century” is here and already living up to the hype surrounding it, topping the USA Today’s Bestsellers List and many others.

Conversations Book Club met for its regular roundtable discussion with Turner, and what followed will go down in history as one of our most thought-provoking discussions to date.


Nikki, thank you for taking out the time from your whirlwind promotional tour for FOREVER A HUSTLER’S WIFE to talk with Conversations. Let’s start at the beginning: Can you tell us when your love for reading developed and how it led to your writing?
Thank you, Cyrus, for this opportunity to talk with you and your group. I have always been an avid reader. I loved to read, but was frustrated by the fact that there were not a lot of books out there with people that looked like her and about experiences that she was dealing with. Because of that I started to write, and the book that I produced was A Hustler’s Wife. Before penning the novel, the most experience I have had writing was to my man in the penitentiary.

You came out of the gate with a bestseller. A Hustler’s Wife earned you the title of “High Priestess of the Hood” because of the realness you were able to capture. When it came to the first book, Nikki, were you at all surprised by the way that the book was received?
The success was a surprise for me in a sense, but I always believed in what I wrote. I used to tell people that I was going to be a bestselling author, so I had that kind of confidence. I just didn’t know that it would catapult me into the career that I have today.

There have been quite a few books released by you since the first novel. Did you purposely want to write about different journeys before you went back to the rollercoaster that was the lives of Yarni and Des?
To be honest, I had no intention of writing a sequel to the story of Yarni and Des in A Hustler’s Wife. When I finished writing the book, I felt a sense of closure. However, those around me wanted more, both in the business and the fans. It was because of that the second book was written.

One of the projects you did before the release of the sequel were two books with Urban Books publisher Carl Weber. The books are part of a series geared towards young women and deal primarily with everyday street life as well. How did that come about, and how was it for you?
Working with Carl Weber was a great experience! After I wrote my book Project Chick, he called me and told me about the Girls from Da Hood series of books that he wanted to do. I was honored that he wanted to work with me, and was excited about the response that the books have gotten.

Has your success really sunk in yet? I mean, out of all of the accolades you have received, does it seem real to you?
Everyday of my life is an ongoing reality check. I know that I have been truly blessed, and that I would be nothing if it wasn’t for my fans believing in me and the stories that I tell.

Going back to the story of Yarni and Des: What is the lesson you want to share with young women who might be impressed with the glitz, glamour and money that comes with street life?
When it comes to young women I want them to read the highs and lows experienced in A HUSTLER’S WIFE, and know that I am sharing with them what is the truth. Girls want what they see—but they need to see the consequences of those wants. In the second book, I wanted to show that even though you have been in trying situations that you could do well for yourself. Sistas can make their own money and lots of it, just like the men.

NOTE: After my Q&A with Ms. Turner, the group was asked if they had any questions or comments for her.

There were two moments that instantly stick out as special with this discussion.

The first was when Ms. Laura Turner, the librarian for the Medgar Evers Library, said to Turner that “When people mention the impact of authors like Maya Angelou and Alice Walker (on the face of literature) in one breath then that they are surely to mention the name Nikki Turner in the next breath.” Also present was a woman (who we want identify here) who tearfully shared her story with Turner and the group about how her own hardships in life had caused her to pen her own story. The group listened intently as she shared how her being molested as a child and beaten at the hands of the man she loved had caused her to look at her own life and search for something better. She contributed the courage of Nikki Turner to tell her own story with others through her books as a catalyst for her to try and do the same. Turner encouraged the young woman to go the extra step and share her work with the world, saying that it could be a help to other young women who are experiencing the same things in their lives.

Learn more about Nikki Turner by visiting her website here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Conversations Interview with Bestselling hiphop artist/author C-Murder

If you would like to see exclusive pictures from C-Murder's first book signing that was held in Louisiana, click here.

When I reached out to Corey Miller (aka C-Murder) earlier this year about giving a live interview with my book club about his blockbuster debut novel DEATH AROUND THE CORNER, I was surprised at how quickly he responded with a Yes and a phone number where he could be reached.

The man who has proved himself to be a prolific force in the hiphop industry seems to transition effortlessly into the literary industry—and with a novel that is sure to grab your attention. DEATH AROUND THE CORNER is a urban blend of Dean Koontz, James Patterson and Danielle Steele. It tells the story of a young man’s rise, fall and the absolution that seems to call to him from the streets.

C, tell us about your life growing up.
I was born in Louisiana, the Calliope projects. Life was tough in the beginning, but I came from a strong family.

And the writing? When did you begin to take an interest in books?
My brother (Master P) started writing in the 80s. We all did well in school, and I got hooked to books early on in my life.

Anyone in particular that you liked to read?
I like all different kinds of authors and books. It really didn’t matter. One of my favorites though was Dean Koontz. I like the way he phrased things and the twists and turns he seemed to have. I had always said if I wsa to ever write a book that I wanted to be like him.

I’m sure people might find that surprising, C, especially since you are known primarily for your music. Where did the book DEATH AROUND THE CORNER come from?
First of all you have to remember that I was behind bars facing a life sentence so I didn’t know what the future held. But I knew one thing: I had to get on my grind. I had to get my hustle on. Plus I like to express myself and put my words out there. Since I couldn’t do it in music, I said let me do it with a book.

While you were locked up was there anything in particular that you read?
I had been doing a lot of studying and reading a lot of books. A lot of people don’t know I was an honor student in school. I read about 500 books since I’ve been locked up. It really didn’t matter what it was. Books took me away from where I was. I told my family to send me whatever they could get. I read all kinds, including the autobiography of Malcolm X and novels Joan Collins. So I felt like it was time for me to get started, to become an author.

How did you start the book?
Whatever I’m doing, I learn quick. Writing Death Around The Corner from prison took me two years. I wrote everything out by hand in notebooks and then mailed them out to be typed up on a computer. It could have been done before that, but sometimes there’s so much happening on the tier and so much going on in your case and your personal life that you just have to chill.

I chose the title Death Around The Corner because every day I was locked up I kept hearing about people getting killed—young dudes mostly. There was just a lot of brothers getting killed. So I said it looks like everybody has to watch their back. It’s serious out there. Death is so close—right around the corner. Everybody can relate to it, from my hood to your hood. Anywhere. So that was the theme of the whole book.

What has been the response from your fans?
It’s been all good. A lot of them write me and tell me that they bought the book initially just because they like my music. After they read it, though, they were actually feeling it.

I think you would agree that you are probably misunderstood, mainly because of the misconceptions about you. Take your name, for instance. How did you become C-Murder?
You're right about people judging me without getting a chance to know me. When I was young and spitting rhymes on the streets, folks used to tell me that I was murdering the tracks I but lyrics to. My name is Corey Miller, so I became known as C-Murder for my lyrical skills. It's just that simple.

With your music career being revived with the new album, do you see more books coming in the future?
Oh, definitely. I have started my own publishing company, Tru Publishing, so look for other books representing the streets from myself and other talented authors.

Thank you again, C, for speaking with us. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
I thank you for this opportunity. To my fans I just want to say thank you for sticking with me and keep on the lookout for the new heat that I’m bringing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Conversations Magazine's interview with Bestselling author Roy Glenn

Bestselling author/Associate Publisher Roy Glenn proved to be somewhat of an enigma to me. After I became hooked on his novels (which include IS IT A CRIME, MOB, DRUG-RELATED and the newest mystery saga OUTLAW), I began my research on the man behind the books. To my surprise, there wasn’t much to find. Glenn, a 47 year old from Bronx, NY, does not seem to do many interviews or online discussions, but he is easily one of the top suspense writers—regardless of race—on the market at this time.

My phone conversation with Glenn covered a lot of ground, including what started his journey as a writer, the turbulence before his fame and what his fans can soon expect of the man behind the mystery.

Roy, first of all I want to say thank you for this opportunity to talk with you. If I could, I want to address one of the most fascinating things about you: that being the lack of information about you online.
Thank you for having me, Cyrus. I appreciate the interview. As for the online presence, I honestly don’t know what to say about it. Recently a friend told me to Google myself and see what came up and I was surprised as well.

Can you tell us when you decided you wanted to write?
In 1994, after my divorce from my 2nd wife, I told my sister that I just didn’t understand women. Mind you, this was during the time that the movie WAITING TO EXHALE had come out. That was my motivation right there. I wanted to write something to counter the male-bashing that was going on.

Was it an easy process for you to fall into?
I’ve always been an imaginative person. I enjoy making up stuff, creating my own worlds. Mine were always been better than what was going on in real life.

Tell us about the first book.
In 1999 I self published IS IT A CRIME. After I finished the book I initially found an agent and began to shop it to publishers. It was repeatedly rejected. In fact it became so depressing that at one point when the letters came, I would just open them over the trash can. After experiencing this for a while, I went out and got everything I could find about self-publishing and financed it myself.

What inspired IS IT A CRIME?
IS IT A CRIME was a story that just came to me. Everything about it: the characters, the dialogue and storyline just all fell into place. Of course I used some of the things I had seen and heard on the streets to bring the realism but it was truly a work of fiction.

Roy, on the cover of your books they are labeled as “Street Sagas”. All of your books are published by Urban Books (owned and operated by bestselling author Carl Weber). So many authors that I talk to tell my readers about the labels that are attached to African American authors and the books that they write. How do you feel about this?
Honestly, I don’t see myself as a writer of what is considered “Street”. I prefer to be called a mystery writer. That is what I write. That is what my books are. Yes I grew up in the Bronx, and my books reflect that life because I have seen a lot of things. My books are labeled as street sagas simply because I write about the streets, but as a GENRE they are mysteries.

I know it happens that people see street and may never pick up one of my books. My suggestion is that we should be shelved by genres with the spine facing out. Judge my books by their content, not a label.

I agree with you that your books are indeed mysteries. I think one of the things that sticks out to me the most about your body of work is that even your supposed “bad guys” have good qualities.
Exactly. My characters are like real people, like you and me. The things my characters do don’t define who they are. The same can be said about all of us.

For those who haven’t read your mystery series featuring Mike Black, they might be surprised to see that he appears in several of your titles. Was that planned from your first book, to keep the story going?
No, it wasn’t. when I wrote IS IT A CRIME, I had no idea that the others would come after it the way they did. The books weren’t meant to be a series, but fans kept wanting to know more about Mike black so he became more prominent. As the books have continued, I have been able to build anticipation for the next one.

Not many authors in your genre, Roy, have been able to keep the staying power that you have. What is the key?
Good writing. I took creative writing classes to learn how to properly develop a story so as to keep the interest up. I learned that you have to have the reader’s attention by page 5 or they will close the book and put it down. That is why I keep my books so action-packed, to keep them wanting more.

Writing about the underworld of the streets I’m sure has brought you a mixed bag of feedback. How does it affect you, if at all?
Writers have a great deal of responsibility, and I used to find myself apologizing for some of the themes that I addressed in my books. But at the end of the day this is a form of entertainment, so now I don’t apologize for what I write like I used to. It is what it is.

Out of all of the books you have released, two of them have strayed from what you are primarily known for, those being CRIMES OF PASSION and GIGOLOS GET LONELY TOO. What led to those two books, and were you concerned as to how your fans would receive them?
CRIMES OF PASSION was written in 2000, but was released by Urban Soul (a division of Urban Books) in 2006. That line of books are more geared towards female readers and has actually drawn a new market for me.

As for GIGOLOS, my publisher Carl Weber, wanted to do a guy anthology after the success of the Around The Way Girls and Girls from Da Hood series. Like the other anthologies, it was to feature three authors. Dwayne S. Joseph (bestselling author of The Womanizers & Never Say Never) was the first author involved in the project. Jihad (bestselling author of Street Life, Baby Girl and Riding Rhythm) was next, and then I joined the bunch. I actually already had my story written before Carl approached me about the project. My main thing was just to condense it.

I enjoyed both of the projects because they were a departure from what I ordinarily write. I think writing a full-length relationship book would be harder for me now, though.

What would you say has been the secret to your success?
There are so many components. I feel great about everything that I do. Getting people to read is the biggest thing for me. I had heard black people don’t read. In fact I was at a book signing as a self-published author and asked someone where were the readers. I was told they are in the county jail. People can relate to the stories we’re telling. I write about what I know.

If you had to judge your best work, what would it be?
Crime of passion is my best written work. Like I said, I enjoy writing a good mystery. I think what makes me unique in the genre is that mystery has a way of taking you on a straight line; I try and write in such a way as to get you to look around the corner sometime.

And your current projects?
Currently I am touring with my latest release OUTLAW. You can be on the lookout for AROUND THE WAY GIRLS 4 which will come out in July 2007. My novella is called “All About the Money”. Later this year I will also be releasing the full-length novel BODY OF EVIDENCE, and November 2008 my book IN A COLD SWEAT will be in stores.

Again we thank you for this unique opportunity. Do you have anything you want to say to your fans and aspiring authors who might be reading this interview?
To my fans I want to say that I love you all. My advice to aspiring writers would be to write something everyday and to remember that that the key to good writing is great dialogue.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

E. Lynn Harris' I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER an excellent read from start to finish!

Okay, I have to tell you that I am really proud of myself at this moment. Yesterday I was at the Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS looking for a new book to read (like I don't have enough books of my own at home), when I came across E. Lynn Harris' book I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER. At first I passed by it, but something brought me back around to it, and after I had it in my hands I knew that I had to read it.

The book is my first of Harris' to read, and now that I have completed it in less than 24 hours, I don't really know exactly why. He has definitely outdid himself in a book that focuses on the importance of self-expression, self-respect and more importantly than anything else, self-love.

The main characters burst onto the pages with just enough depth to let you into their world, and wish that they shared a bit of your own.

Most people know that I am a sucker for anything with real social issues, and that is exactly what this book delivers: a book that is filled with messages about the role of sexuality in the church and politics as well as how much we respond and respect others that might be different. Harris even manages to get into the relationship between parents and their children and the domestic violence debate with this book has something for everyone.

I loved it. There is no better way to say it. There is nothing like a book that lets you find characters that have depth and real character... and that don't mind working hard to get what they want.

So many times you find books by African Americans who don't have any real worth. Not so with this bestselling novel. I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER is built on the power of a strong work ethic, and you can feel the passion of the characters--- and their need to succeed in all areas of their lives.

Thank you E. Lynn for this book. I know I had contacted you last year about an interview and didn't follow through on it--- and for that I apologize. Be on the lookout for me now, though.

This book will have me talking for quite some time.