"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.

Get your literary word search ebook for only $5.00

Get your literary word search ebook for only $5.00
Click the cover above to learn more!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Photo Albums of Authors Hosted by Conversations Book Club, 2007

Authors Shelia Lipsey & Daphine Robinson visit MS
Hosted by eSnips

Def Poetry Jam artist C-Bone Jones
Hosted by eSnips

Bestselling author C. J. Domino-- 07/20-21/07
Hosted by eSnips

Bestselling author Lovell Brigham
Hosted by eSnips

K. Elliott trip to MS --- 03/30-31/07
Hosted by eSnips

Reshonda Tate Billingsley's trip to MS---03/07
Hosted by eSnips

Bestselling author Alisha Yvonne's trip to MS '07
Hosted by eSnips

Author Alphonso Morgan's visit to Mississippi
Hosted by eSnips

Conversations Book Club Presents Carl Weber,012307
Hosted by eSnips

Friday, November 23, 2007

E-Books by Mississippi author C. A. Webb now available

Treat yourself with just the perfect literary treat online: an ebook by Mississippi author C. A. Webb. For the past few years, he has been writing stories with strong characters and chilling events that will leave the reader wanting more. Any of the following can be yours for under $5.00 each! Click on the special google checkout links below to read about each selection.


Ever wondered what led up to the wife of Lot losing her life in the city of Sodom? Award-winning Mississippi author C. A. Webb explores this in his novella THE WIFE OF LOT. In it, you will meet Myra, the unnamed woman in the bible, that found out too late the danger of longing for what she should never want... Take the journey with Lot, his daughters and wife as the last day of their life in Sodom is revealed...

A CORDIAL AFFAIR (written by C. A. Webb's protege' Sabrina Andrews)

Mississippi's hottest lovers are revealed in this sensual masterpiece that can only come from Shadow Play Publications...
In this novella you will meet Blair Lancaster, a news anchor for WCAN in Canton, MS who is from the cream of the state's white upper middle class and Jake Taylor, the up-and-coming African American photographer who is poised to create his own legacy. Their routine rendezvous at the Nelson Hotel sets the stage for an erotic adventure that will leave you wanting more- and a surprise ending that will draw you forever into their spell.

A CORDIAL AFFAIR 2 (written by C. A. Webb's protege' Sabrina Andrews)

“She knew. She knew the moment he locked the door that this was a mistake. Jasmine Dupree had felt very little regret in her life, but this night was going straight up to the top of her list. Big mistake.”
These words begin what is the latest sensual tale from Mississippi’s own Sabrina Andrews. Meet Richard Towns and Jasmine Dupree, the steamy couple created by Shadow Play Publications.
He came looking for relief. She came wanting everything.


Destiny's Child tells the story of Kaleel Yant: a man who finds that he will do anything to succeed, no matter who or what gets in his way. Meet one of C. A. Webb's most passionate characters, and strap yourself in for the ride of your life.
At a young age he is a man that begins a company that has tentacles in the worlds of the arts, radio, television, print media and retail... His public life is full of secrets and unspoken hurt and desire.

People either love him, love to hate him or fail to understand him...yet it is difficult NOT to respect him...

No, we're not talking about Mississippi's C. A. Webb... Introducing Kaleel Yant: C. A. Webb's most intriguing character to date.

Through DESTINY'S CHILD, you will see the ends and outs of a man whose desire to accomplish something in his life could cost him everything.

Kaleel Yant is the no-nonsense creative born in Mississippi yet raised in Montgomery, AL that finds himself following his dreams as an artist and entrepreneur. What started out as a hobby became the keys to a livelihood that attracts local and eventually national attention.

His ambitions join him with Catha Ayers, a young woman who sees his vision and vows to help him carry out his plan to lead an artistic revolution in the South. She is attracted to his confidence and search for power, yet finds out too late exactly what he will do to end up on top.

Kaleel Yant's personal and public lives mesh and collide in a series of events that affects the lives of people in Alabama, Mississippi and soon the entire United States.

Set between Alabama and Mississippi and then branching beyond, "Destiny's Child" will leave you wondering what is real and what is imaginary in this tale that questions the various degrees of passion- and what one man will do to experience them all!

C. A. Webb is pleased to present UNFINISHED BUSINESS, BOOK ONE, introducing the world to the deLoran and Tate families.

Mississippi's deLoran family would do anyting to keep their impeccable image in society, and with Cassandra deLoran as the mistress of the powerful empire nothing would be out of the question to protect what she has helped create, even murder... So when a young servant girl seems to threaten the deLoran livelihood, the wheels are set in motion for the most sinister plot ever created...

At the age of 18, Christopher Tate realized that he had let the one woman he ever loved get away from him once, but the news of her marriage to another man forces him to Tennessee to bring closure to his feelings once and for all...

TWO SAGAS UNDER ONE COVER... and it's just the beginning!


C. A. Webb is pleased to present UNFINISHED BUSINESS, BOOK TWO... The second chapter of the deLoran and Tate Families!

The private life of Cassandra deLoran is revealed, along with the cause of her terrifying reign over the deLoran empire.

Discover the conclusion of Chris and Rebecca's search for love and happiness.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Conversations Get Exclusive TV Interview with C-Murder

Conversations Book Club made history in 2007 by bringing Platinum-selling recording artist/bestselling author Corey "C-Murder" Miller to Mississippi to promote his book DEATH AROUND THE CORNER. Now you get to view the first tv interview C-Murder has done in over 5 years...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Conversations EXCLUSIVE: Bestselling author Caleb Alexander

Never one to mince words---or shy away from a platform to raise awareness of today's social issues--- Bestselling author Caleb Alexander tells it like it is with little no apologies. The first author under Zane's newest venture, STREBOR ON THE STREETZ, he knows the life in which he writes about. There are few in the industry that can give you the raw emotions of this man. His passion for what he believes shines through, and he feels compelled to expose the dangers of the streets---whether you're ready to see it or not.

This Conversation is like none other that you will read on our website, in our magazine or hear over our airwaves. Alexander's narrative grabs hold of your mind and heart and doesn't let go...

Caleb, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations about your book EASTSIDE. Before we get into what inspired it, why don't you tell our readers a little about who Caleb Alexander is.
You’re welcome. I want to thank Conversations for having me. I really want to get over to Mississippi and do a reading and hang out with you. My neighbors are from Mississippi, and they go home regularly, and they are dying to show me their home state. I was actually over in Mississippi a few months ago. I spent the night in Jackson. The state is really beautiful.

To answer your question about who Caleb Alexander is, wow, that’s difficult. I believe, I’m still finding out who I am, little by little, with each passing day. I know the person whom I aspire to be, and I know that I’m not there yet. Right now, I’m a loving husband, a doting father of three, a prolific writer. (I do a lot of ghost writing.) Let’s see. I love my Spurs, and my Dallas Cowboys. I guess one of the things that define me the most, is my love of writing, and my passion for my people. I have combined these two loves into one, and I love to tell stories about my people. James Baldwin once said, “It is the responsibility of the writer, to excavate the experiences of the people who produced him.”
I try to tell stories about our experiences. I try to tell stories about our humanity, and all that that entails.

Do you find that the environment you grew up in did more good to you than harm? What made you so different than the many who have taken the wrong road in life?
Well, actually, I was raised by my grandparents. I had the benefit of a great education. I grew up in probably the last generation where the teachers actually lived in the communities that they taught in. My sixth grade teacher lived across the street, my kinder, first, and fourth grade teachers all lived within a few blocks. We were a close knit community, located just outside of two military bases. The overwhelming majority of the community, was retired military. My neighborhood didn’t get tough, until my generation came of age, and messed it all up. What went wrong with my generation, I have no idea. Different ideas, different mentality, different period. I don’t know if it’s because of our experiences growing up in the eighties or what. I didn’t grow up rich, but I didn’t grow up poor either. I think that my experiences were different from most. I had a younger sister who was born with cerebral palsy, and she was the ambassador for the March of Dimes. I used to go with my mother and grandmother to the giant mansions, where these people were hosting fundraisers for the March of Dimes. In other words, I got to see that there was a whole other world that existed, outside of the hood. I was hooked. I wanted that world.

I wouldn’t say that I was different than the many who have taken the wrong road in life, because I too, have fallen for some of the traps that are out there. But in life, we all stumble, that’s almost a guarantee. Life is about learning. And we learn by living, and making the mistakes that living entails. But in the end, it’s not the falling, it’s what you do after you stumble and fall. Do you give up, or do you get up? I chose to get up. We have to make sure that we all get back up after a fall. We absolutely cannot allow ourselves to become a defeatist society. We absolutely cannot allow ourselves, as individuals, to become dejected, and to give up hope. I see that a lot in the inner cities; Indications of defeatism. Many people walk around like, this is my life, this is my station in life, so be it. There’s more out there. The world is bigger than the hood. I believe it’s just a matter of education and exposure. Primarily education.
I also had the benefit of having some friends from different parts of the world. And it was these friendships that allowed me to gain an international perspective of things. It was through these friendships that I was exposed to Cheikh Anta Diop, Ben Jochannon, Chancellor Williams, GK Osei, Francis Welsing, Anthony T. Broader, J.A. Rogers, and so many others. I started to understand my place in the world, and my responsibilities to that world, and to my people. I wanted to do more, and to be more.

What role did reading and writing play in your growth from a boy to a man?
Wow! It was huge! Especially reading. It was reading on my own, away from college when my learning really began. In primary school, you are never taught about the history of your people, and their contributions to the advancement of humanity. World History books, for the most part, start with the Greeks and the Romans, and then jump over to the civilizations in Asia. The really good books, will glance over the Egyptians, but they won’t portray them as being Africans. And there is absolutely no mention of the civilizations of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and the numerous other African civilizations. These are important, because they show our accomplishments as a people, as opposed to just individual accomplishments. For me, this knowledge, gave me shoulders to stand on, and the confidence to deal with any people, any time, any where. I knew that I could do anything that I set my mind to, because I came from a people, who did great things. Reading, made me understand that I belong to something greater than myself. That I am a part of a people and a community, that stretches back to the beginning of time. I think that if more of our youth is made to understand that, then they would understand their value and their worth, and the value and worth of others who look like them, and then it would not be so easy to pick up a gun and pull the trigger. When something has value, it’s hard to destroy it. Our young people have to understand their value, their place in the great cosmology of our history, their worth, and then, I believe, their greatness is inevitable. Can you believe I actually learned French at one time, just so I could read the original works of Dr. Diop? LOL.

Do you think you would have even chosen the literary road if your life had been any different?
That’s had to say. I can easily say no, but then, it would be against my religious beliefs. I believe that God has a path for each of us to walk. If I would not have stumbled into writing in the way that I did, I’m sure that He would have led me to this path in another way. Many times in my life, especially when my path was dark and obfuscated, I would pray to God to use me for something. To make me an instrument. Maybe through my writing this is being done. From what I’m hearing, Eastside is reaching people. Mother’s are passing the book on to their daughters and sons. Hopefully, a difference is being made. If I could save one life, just one, or turn around one teen, then Eastside has done its job.

A lot of times on television we see the street life portrayed as something glamorous. How do you think this view of real life affects the young people who see it?
I think that it’s sad when the street life is portrayed in such a way. And I think that the result of that glamorous portrayal, is a lot of kids in prison, and the cemetery. I don’t have a problem with showing street life, as long as it’s balanced. Don’t just show the millionaire drug lord, show the prison time, and the cemetery filled with all of the ones who didn’t make it. In Eastside, some of the main characters didn’t make it. Lil Fade didn’t make it. Too-Low didn’t make it. Frog, didn’t make it. I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the book, was that these kids didn’t see a future for themselves. In the hospital, Lil Fade told Travon that he wasn’t supposed to live past eighteen. And that’s the thinking with a lot of kids who grow up in these kinds of environments, they can’t see past what they are doing today, and so they don’t plan for tomorrow. Again, it goes back to a sense of despair, and a lack of hope for tomorrow.

I think Eastside giving up the real deal on a lot of things, helps present a balanced side to the whole street life thing. I’ve had so many people tell me how real the story was, or how good the story was, because it was so real. Many people have told me that while reading Eastside, they were transported to another world, and that it’s like they were right there. I sincerely hope that the book gives young people a balanced perspective on street life. Honestly, I hope that it scares the bejeezus out youngsters, and keeps them from wanting to participate in this kind of activity.

I'm sure one of the questions you get a lot is how you were able to team up with Zane. Do you mind telling us?
I contacted Zane. The funny thing is, I would send materials to other publishing companies, who would then buy the books outright for other authors. I had been ghost writing for some time, but doing that, I was never able to build my own name into a brand. I wanted a deal for myself. So, I contacted Zane, and we hit it off well. I sent her a broad sampling of material. She said that she wanted to sign me. I remember asking her which book she wanted to publish, and her reply was, “All of them.” She asked me which books did I want to do first, and since Eastside was the first book I had ever written, I wanted to do it first. I had held Eastside close for several years, and I was determined to not sell it to another author or a publishing company so that they could put it out under another author’s name. I had sunk so much into Eastside, and the book truly meant a lot to me. Zane used Eastside to launch her new line, ‘Strebor On The Streetz’. The rest is history.

* In the book Eastside, the premise of the story seems to be the power of the decisions we make. Would you agree---and how can we go about as individuals and try and show those coming up that we are accountable for what we do in life?
I agree, one of the premises in Eastside, was accountability. These kids made some really bad decisions. But the tragic thing about those decisions, was the rational behind them. Survival, brotherhood, protecting my homies and my family, etc… Almost like the wrong execution, of the right idea. We rationalize away our decisions, instead of standing up, and taking responsibility for them. I think that we as individuals must lead by example. The generations after us, are just getting smarter and smarter. Kids these days are savvy. The PS3s, IPODS, MP3 players, X-Boxes, the movies, music, video games, etc… These kids are exposed to a lot of information at a really young age. And they are developing the ability to process tons of information at younger and younger ages, as time progresses. What I’m trying to say, is that these kids are sharp, and cynical. They have an in-built BS detector. So, just telling them, is not enough. Just going through the motions is not enough. You have to really walk the walk with kids these days. So, I think the best thing that we can do, is lead by example. Be accountable for what we say, what we do, how we react to everyday situations in our own lives. We can’t teach patience, if we shouting and cursing at every car that cuts us off, or cuts in between us on the road. We can’t tell our kids to read, if they don’t see us reading at home. In this day and age, sending kids off to school to learn, is just not enough. There is another level of education that our kids should be getting. School, is not going to teach our kids about violence, about God, about saving and investing, about patience, understanding, forgiveness. School, doesn’t teach our kids to dream, and dream big. Unfortunately, now days, school is about a law of averages. They are trying to herd as many through the system, as painlessly as possibly. Losses, are acceptable to them; even expected. They mentally place some of our children in an acceptable loss category, and write them off. Each of us, must stand up for our children, and make it our holy mission, to make sure that they aren’t written off as part of an acceptable percentage.

I do want to revisit the statement about Eastside being about accountability. I really think that the primary underlying premise in Eastside, was redemption. It was about second chances. Everyone wanted Travon to make it. Everyone was trying to redeem Travon’s life, everyone was trying to give him a second chance. Mr. Chang talked to Tre about getting away, and changing his life, Mrs. Davis wanted to get him into a college, and get him away from there. Even the young man whose life he saved at the concert, didn’t kill him. He told Travon to get out of the game, because he didn’t belong in it. Aunt Chicken, Elmira, and so many others throughout the book, kept trying to redeem Travon. God’s Grace and mercy can be found throughout the book. Even Travon fell down on his knees at that car wash and asked God, why does he keep getting second chances? Taariq, Darius, and finally, Lil Fade himself, brought powerful messages of redemption to Tre. I think the underlying message in Eastside, is that no matter what you’ve done, no matter what sin you’ve committed, the power of God is infinite. God’s grace and mercy is boundless. There is salvation to be found. I want kids to read Eastside and understand, that it’s never to late to turn their lives around.

Caleb, when the book was released recently did you feel in any way anxious as to how it would be received? In your mind, what was the worse case scenerio?
I was extremely anxious as to how it would be received. I wrote Eastside years ago, and gang violence had declined significantly. And so I wondered if the book was still relevant. Well, unfortunately, there has been an upsurge in gang violence of late. But in the end, Eastside is about people. It is a chapter in our long history, and it needed to be told. It needed to be told, if only to serve as a historical record, if only to serve as a memorial to all of those young lives that were senselessly snuffed out, if only to tell the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children of those left behind, that we care. If only to let them know that they are not alone, and that their pain is understood. Eastside says to many people, hey, we survived a national tragedy, and now, it’s okay to go on with our lives. Eastside, is about survival, and that story, the story of survival, is never out of date. In my mind, I really didn’t have a worst case scenario. The book was finally being published, the message would finally be out there in public, so there was nothing that could go wrong in that sense. Maybe the publishing company has fears about books tanking. But me, I’ve been writing for years. It wasn’t my first published book, and it definitely wouldn’t be my last. I have six Essence #1 bestsellers, that I’ve ghostwritten for others. I didn’t approach Eastside with an ego, or any fears about sales. I’m a writer, I have a love for writing, for telling stories about my people. I pay my bills with my ghostwriting. Now with that said, don’t get me wrong, I would like to build my own name into a brand. I feel that I can write good stories about us, and build a base at the same time. I sincerely hope that Simon & Schuster allows me to tell good stories, to grow as an author, and to grow a large fan base.

* And now that the reviews have been coming in, can you give us an example of something a reader has said that stuck by you?
Definitely. I’ve had mothers hug me, and tell me stories about the sons they lost to gang violence. I would love to do a documentary on the subject. Talking to mothers who lost their children to gang violence, and then talking to the kids who pulled the trigger. A lot of what they said to me, was about closure. And about getting the message out there to other kids. I think the definitive statement about the book, or the conversation that I had that resonated the most, was with a young man in his early to mid thirties. He said that it was only after he read Eastside, did he realize the scope of the destruction, that he had participated in. I have people tell me all the time that they cried while reading the book, but that statement about realizing the scope of the destruction that he had participated in, has always stuck with me. I think that Eastside really forces people to think about their actions. And for those who sat idly by while the destruction was taking place, their inaction.

Thank you so much for your time, Caleb. If our readers want to find out more about you, the book and upcoming projects, how can they reach out to you?
Thank you. I want the readers to look out for Two Thin Dimes, a light-hearted, romantic comedy. I wanted to tell a fun story, after Eastside, and so I wrote Two Thin Dimes. It’s a great book, to relax with. That book comes out, Jan 8th, 2008. Also, look out for Big Black Boots. It’s a huge story, with a wonderful message about race relations, about redemption, about survival. It points a glaring light at America’s prison system, and the brutality, racism, and violence that goes on inside. It’s a HUGE book. Also, look out for When Lion’s Dance. I believe that When Lion’s Dance is my greatest work to date. It is literary fiction. The story of an African American woman’s life. It opens with her at her son’s funeral (He was killed in Afghanistan), and then it goes back and spans some fifty years. From her childhood, through the Civil Rights Movement, all the way to present. It’s a big story, and a beautiful story, told in a very lyrically beautiful tone. It is my thank you to African American women. Thank you to my grandmother, my mother, my great grandmother, and to all woman of color. It is my love note to them. A testament to their strength, and perseverance. Look for those books. As for reaching me, you can email me at either caleb@calebalexanderonline.com, or CalebAlexander_1@yahoo.com. You can also reach me at . It been my pleasure to chat with you. We’ll definitely have to do this again sometime. And soon, I hope.

Conversations Presents.. Bestselling author Brittney Holmes

Brittney, we are so honored to have the opportunity to talk with you. We know you are busy, so we’ll get right to the discussion. I first have to ask you how you are able to coordinate all that you do?
Well, because I am involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, in and outside of school, I have to prioritize and for me school always comes first. There are times when I have to forgo participating in something I really like because of school or literary events. I am able to be a part of so many activities, though, because I make sure that I don’t schedule events at the same time, and if I don’t have any other choice, I make sure that I place what is most important at the top of the list.

I read your book LIVING CONSEQUENCES in three days, and I found it to be one of the most powerful novels I have picked up this year. Tell our readers about the inspiration for it and now that some time has passed what has been some of the feedback you have receieved.
I always say that “Living Consequences” was divinely inspired because I had no intentions of writing this book. I was planning on writing a personal journal concerning something I was dealing with in my life at the time and when I sat down to do so “Living Consequences” began to form. I honestly believe it was something God wanted the world to be exposed to. Since the book’s release, I’ve only gotten positive feedback. Most of my readers are teens and young adults, but even those a few years older have expressed how much they enjoyed reading “Living Consequences.”

You are part of a growing list of Christian authors. Are you comfortable with the “label” and do you think that some of the books that are advertised as such confuse readers as to what it is suppose to represent?
I am very comfortable with being labeled as a Christian author because Christianity is what I write about. I feel that since God has blessed me with the gift, I should be gracious enough to share His word with the world. As far as other Christian or inspirational writers possibly confusing their readers due to the content in their books…it happens. I’ve read books where characters who are supposed to be Christians are living in a way that would make anyone question the validity of their spiritual walk. Christians aren’t supposed to be perfect, but they are supposed to be examples and I feel that Christian authors should make sure this is depicted throughout their books.

Your mother is Kendra Norman-Bellamy, another bestselling author. How much does her example encourage you in your literary journey?
My mom is one of my greatest inspirations, aside from God, and I feel like her passion and desire to please God and reach His people using her gift of writing has encouraged me to do the same despite the fact that every one of my books may not make the top ten on the bestseller’s list. She has made me realize that it’s not about selling out of books, but it’s about reaching those few whose lives could be changed just from reading my book.

I talked to your mother about the pressure she feels with so many other authors on the market. What about you? Do you think more is expected of you because of your mother?
I feel like I have very big shoes to fill, but I know it’s a path I’m more than willing to follow. I don’t mind having a literary career as blessed as my mother’s and I’m sure others expect me to have chart-topping books, but I try to concern myself with what others want from me, but what God has planned for my career. Focusing on that keeps me humble.

Brittney, I have heard some authors talk about their work as their ministry to the world. What does writing do for you personally and what do you hope it does for others?
Personally, writing keeps me from stressing out about day-to-day issues that could have me losing my mind. Writing keeps me focused on my goals and aspirations and allows me to clear my mind so that I can hear from God when I need to. For others, I hope it does the same. Everyone should be able to read an inspirational piece of work or write down their feelings and in the end have a sense of peace within themselves.

Do you think that young people think enough about the consequences of their actions, especially at a time when the media feeds into the idea of young people being invincible?
Strangely enough, I do believe young people think enough about the consequences of their actions, I just think that they believe if they take commercialize precautionary measures they won’t be susceptible to those consequences.

For the young people that are reading this interview, what would you like to say to them about the issues they might be facing in their personal life?
In all of my works, I want the readers, especially the young adults, to realize that no matter what they may be going through—whatever the trial, situation, or setback—God is always with them, walking with or carrying them through it and, if they genuinely trust in Him, they will come out victorious.

What projects do you have in the works?
My next book, “Testing Relationships,” which is the sequel to “Living Consequences,” is scheduled for release in June 2008.

Thank you Brittney for the time. How can our readers get in touch with you and find out more about your upcoming project.
Thank you for allowing me to share aspects of my literary experiences with you. Readers can find me on my website, www.brittneyholmes.com, or on Myspace, www.myspace.com/authorbrittneyholmes.

A Conversations EXCLUSIVE: Bestselling author Che Parker, author of The Tragic Flaw

Che Parker is one of those authors who you just know will last a long time in the literary industry: he’s calm, cool and collected—and not satisfied with anything but success. His book, The Tragic Flaw, is something that all people can relate to, but not all will admit to seeing themselves within the characters.

In this frank discussion we touch on everything from his beginnings, race in the literary industry and why the adage of ‘reaping what you sow’ is all too true.

I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and although I've lived in Virginia for seven years I still consider KC home. I have a very loving and supportive family and I wouldn't be here today without them. I never know how much detail to provide so I'll just say that I really like cold beer, I love barbeque and I'm a really big fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

I'm not sure my life has changed all that much at this point. I'm holding book signings and interacting with people a lot so that's all new. Having a new book out can definitely be a full time job with promotions, and signings and events. It's been fun, though. It's been a blessing.

My day job is in public relations for a very large company, so communicating with people is what I do on a daily basis. In addition to that my jobs have always had a writing aspect, be it as a journalist, or a staff writer, or a public relations professional. So I've been able to bring a professional writing aspect to my fiction. My undergraduate degree was in Communication Studies and I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Writing at Johns Hopkins University, so I'm constantly trying to gain more knowledge and perfect my craft.

What's interesting to me is that I just wrote. I just wrote what was in my heart and what was in my head. In fact there were instances where I had no idea where something came from. I didn't think about the audience or the genre or how the book would be categorized. In that way the first book is easier because there's no pressure, no deadlines and no specific expectations. I do think The Tragic Flaw is different than a lot of fiction out there because of what I bring to the table and how I approach the subject matter.

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW YOUR BOOKS---AT LEAST I CAN SAY HERE IN THE SOUTH---ARE CROSSING OVER RACIAL LINES SIMPLY BASED ON THE STORY LINE? I can't really say I'm surprised. I think what surprises me more is that reading and literature is still segregated. Do we really need an African American section at the bookstore? We don't have a Caucasian section. Some people may say that it's helpful that we have a separate section, but I'm not so sure about that. I think when you have a section like that some people may avoid it because they may feel it's not for them. I think we're writers first, and we just happen to be black.

The Tragic Flaw is about one man's thirst for the power and the flaw that leads to his downfall. For me it's a modern tragedy with a twist. Basically you reap what you sow. The bad guys are cool and dangerous and the women are too.

When I was searching for a book deal I would often look at the Book section of the Washington Post and find out which authors would be in town for book signings or talks. I saw that Zane would be a Howard University's bookstore making a rare public appearance (at the time), and I decided to go check it out. Turns out her editor was also there, and we struck up a conversation about writing, submitting work, and so forth. I sent her my material and a few weeks later she e-mailed me saying that she loved it and that they were interested in publishing me. The rest is history...

Zane has an amazing fan base. It's primarily women but it's really diverse and they love her. With that being said, at signing events when Zane is present there will be crowd, and she has been great in promoting her authors and allowing us to shine and write material that's creative and true to us.

I'm working on my next novel now. Completely different characters and storyline. It's about how an ideal marriage can end tragically (I guess I have a thing for the dark side of life). But it's new characters, new setting. It will probably be based in DC or Maryland, but I'm still working on that part. And for the record it's not about my marriage (laughs). Just wanted to put that out there. I also enjoy writing short stories so hopefully I'll be able to pursue that one day.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME, CHE. IF READERS WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU, YOUR UPCOMING WORK OR JUST WANT TO SAY HELLO, HOW CAN THEY REACH YOU? Thanks for having me. Your readers can visit my web site at www.cheparker.com, or e-mail me at cheparker@hotmail.com. They can also check out my myspace page at www.myspace.com/ciceroday. Shoot me a note or send me a friend request.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Conversations Book Club chats with Bestselling author Kendra Norman-Bellamy

Bestselling author Kendra Norman-Bellamy has done more than just added her voice to the growing list of Christian Fiction authors: She has redefined the very term. Combining her way with words and real-life situations that all of us can relate to, it is no wonder she has been entertaining readers for years now.

As 2007 ends, she is only beginning---providing opportunities for other authors and finding new and innovative to meet her fans.

In November 2007, she will visit Mississippi as part of the "FAMILY AFFAIR" event with her daughter, Bestselling author Brittney Holmes. Kendra talks with us about her life, career and what her literary journey has taught her.

Kendra, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Before we get into your book IN GREENE PASTURES, do you ever just sit back and marvel at the career that you have had in the literary industry?
Thanks for the interview opportunity, Cyrus. I’m always grateful for every opportunity I get to share my testimony with the world. Do I marvel? Yes! Not so much at my career itself, but at the reality that God chose me to carry out this mission. I’m very humbled by every accolade, recognition and award that I and my books have received. To God be the glory!

What about your family? Do they look at you now and say that they knew this was in you even as a child?
They don’t really verbalize that sentiments; but for certain, my father saw it in me when I was growing up in the country all those years ago. I wrote plays, poetry and skits on a regular basis and I recall him telling me on more than one occasion that God had given me a gift for writing and that I should use it. But of course, as with most children, what my dad said went straight over my head. I knew I had a love for writing, but I had no idea that a “writer” was actually what I was.

You are signed with Carl Weber’s Urban Books imprint with Kensington. How did you all meet and was that your first publisher?
No, Urban wasn’t my first publisher. Only my latest title (In Greene Pastures) was published through it. Urban also re-released a book that I’d self-published a couple of years ago. Carl and I officially met back in 2003, I believe. He was releasing a new book at the time and I went to the celebratory event just to support him. I never anticipated that I’d one day be writing for his imprint. He called me in 2006 and asked if I’d be the lead/flagship author of his new Christian imprint (Urban Christian) and I agreed. That’s how our working relationship was birthed. My first publishing deal came through BET Books (New Spirit imprint). BET Books was later bought out by Harlequin, so now the New Spirit imprint belongs to Harlequin as well. I also write for Moody Publishers (Lift Every Voice imprint). So, Urban is my third publisher. I am actively writing for all three publishers simultaneously.

I don’t know if you are too modest to admit it, but you really changed the landscape for African American Inspirational stories when you hit the market. How does that change your attitude when working on a project?
WOW! Now, that’s an enormous compliment! I’ve never looked at myself as being one who had that profound of an influence on the AA Christian fiction market, but it is indeed the type of legacy that I long to leave. All I know is that when I sit down to write a book, I am extremely prayerful and I want my pen (which is really my fingers on the computer keyboard) to be directed by the Holy Spirit. My desire is to have every one of my books find someone where they are and motivate, encourage, or inspire them on some level. I want to share good storytelling, good entertainment and the Good News of Jesus Christ, all at the same time.

IN GREENE PASTURES was chosen by the Subway Conversations Book Club as its book of the month for November. The story really resonated with me on so many levels. What prompted you to write it?
First, let me thank the Subway Conversations Book Club for choosing it. I have a secret appreciation for mysteries, and only a few people know about that. Admittedly, I am a “scary cat” when it comes to horror stories or any type book or movie that is gory or gruesome in nature. But I love the suspense that comes with good mysteries like the storylines in old television shows like Matlock, Colombo, and Murder She Wrote. I wanted to write a Christian based novel that had some of that same flavor. I wanted to write a bona fide whodunit wherein the main characters just happened to be Christians; and that’s how the idea of In Greene Pastures was born. And of course, I am a hopeless romantic, so there was no way I was going to write a book – even a mystery – that didn’t involve a budding romance in the middle of all of the drama and suspense.

The black press has been affected by readership issues over the years for many reasons. When it comes to your story, why did you decide to include it in the book?
The written word is very powerful – always has been, and always will be. From The Holy Bible to gossip magazines on the check-out aisle in the grocery stores – what is put in writing can heal or kill. The fictitious Atlanta Weekly Chronicles was a good example of just how influential and commanding a simple newspaper feature can become when people are personally and emotionally invested in the base of the storyline.

At the end of the day what do you hope to accomplish through your work?
There are a lot of things that readers share with me about my writing that I find rewarding. I’ve had some to tell me that my stories renewed their faith in the positive black male. Others have said that the novels I write have renewed their faith in love and marriage. But the greatest compliment I have ever received came through a letter that I received from a female inmate who wrote me to tell me that one of my books renewed her faith in God. She was brought back to our non-fiction God by reading one of my fictional novels. If that’s not a testament of how powerful the written word is! To tell the truth, if my work doesn’t accomplish anything else, that one woman’s statement of restoration was enough.

Do you feel any pressure to write stories that cross-over different age groups in order to stay fresh?
I believe originality and creativity keeps a writer fresh, not necessarily migrating or crossing over from one genre to another or from one age market to another. When I first began writing, I vowed to write nothing that my daughters (who at the time were 9 and 12) could not be exposed to. I never want to be ashamed for my children, my parents, or anyone else to read what I’ve put on paper. I don’t want to be one of those authors, who at a book signing, has to look at an adolescent child and say, “No, honey, you’re not old enough to read this,” or to a mature adult, say, “Ma’am, some of this story might offend you, so maybe you shouldn’t read it.” That being said, I don’t consider myself a writer for any specific age group. There’s no pressure on me to cross over because I think that just about any age reader can be introduced to my books and can walk away satisfied and not at all slighted.

Kendra, some might not realize that writing has become a family affair for you. How has it been having your daughter be a part of the growing literary community?
I think fewer things are more gratifying to a parent than to have their child desire to follow in their footsteps…especially, when the footsteps are leading to something positive. Brittney was fifteen when she wrote her book, sixteen when she got her book deal, and is a published award-winning author at seventeen. To have her realize her purpose at such an impressionable age is wonderful. I’m very proud of her and it means a lot that she would take her God-given talent and give it back to Him by writing books that honor the Lord while offering messages of hope to teens and young adults.

What advice do you give to aspiring writers who feel as though they have a story to tell but might be intimidated by the number of authors on the market?
As a part of my writing ministry, I travel the globe, teaching writer’s workshops to aspiring writers. This is a tough industry to break into successfully and I’m not ashamed to tell people that it takes a lot of prayer, patience and perseverance. A lot of discouragement can come when trying to make it in the literary world. The market is saturated and the competition is fierce. It is easy to feel the need to throw in the towel and give up, but those three components have been a source of strength for me throughout my journey. A hopeful writer will have to put on a layer of tough skin and press forwarding, knowing that this is their destiny. It’s not easy, but few things worth having are.

You will be making your first trip to Mississippi soon. What are you most looking forward to during your stay?
Meeting the reading community! I get excited when I go into new territory and get the opportunity to come face-to-face with readers of my work that I’ve not met before. I welcome the opportunity to shake their hands, embrace them, talk to them, take photos…show them how much I appreciate their support. I hope the readers of Mississippi come out in droves!

Thank you again for taking a few moments with us. How can our readers find out more about you and your upcoming projects?
You’re quite welcome. The pleasure was all mine. They can find me and my updated calendar of events online at www.knb-publications.com or they can join my network of friends on MySpace at www.myspace.com/kendranormanbellamy.