"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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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Conversations reviews Kevin Weeks' "IS IT SUICIDE OR MURDER?"

Author Kevin Weeks, though incarcerated in Georgia during 2006 and 2007 has managed to weave and release a literary tale that has reached all over the world through his debut novel "THE STREET LIFE SERIES: Is It Suicide or Murder?"
The book which chronicles the journey of Teco Jackson (aka Homicide) allows you to walk the streets of Philly with him and know the characters that become his closest friends and worse enemies. From page one, Weeks shows a natural ability to create characters that seem as real those in our own lives, which makes you feel as though he is writing from his own experience moreso than a fictional world. He takes you through the dialect and slang of the times, as well as allows you to get into the minds of the characters that are sure to stay with you long after the story ends.
Apart from being an entertaining read with everything from fast women, fast money and betrayals, "Is It Suicide or Murder" also offers lessons that resonate with you on many levels. When Teco loses a friend to a drug overdose (p.21), we see a more "human" side of the suave street hustler. There are also the moments when Teco's conscience eats at him over choices that he has made---and he wrestles with his personal demons in hopes of doing what he knows to be the right thing.
The book also reminds us about the extent that some will go to in order to get what they want. One quote that will stick with me is this: "Either you become what they are or you die from being in the way."
Though only in the industry for one year, Kevin has solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with. The YOUnity Guild of Ameria recognized him as the "Best New Urban Author of the Year 2006". His awards in 2007 include "2007 New York Book Festival Award", "2007 Hollywood Book Festival Honorable Mention" and being recognized as one of Conversations Book Club's "Best Kept Literary Secrets 2007".
Congrats to Kevin Weeks for a job well done. He has already raised the bar for good writing and has written a debut that makes us eager for the next installment in "The Street Life Series."
For more information about Weeks and his next novel "Is It Passion or Revenge?", visit http://www.thestreetlifeseries.com.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bring the New Year in with Conversations in January 2008


After a history-making first year, Conversations Book Club has major plans for 2008...and no matter where you live, you have the opportunity to take part. The following is our schedule for the month of January 2008 and includes all of our events. Make sure to save this email for future reference and bookmark our main site: http://www.thebestbookclub.info:

*     Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- C. A. Webb will hold a live discussion of his novella DESTINY'S CHILD at the Richard Wright Library in Jackson, MS (515 McDowell Road * 601.372.1621)

*     Thursday, January 3, 2008, 6:30p.m. CST --- C. A. Webb will hold a live discussion of his novella DESTINY'S CHILD at the Pearl Public Library in Pearl, MS (601.932.2562)

*     Saturday, January 5, 2008, 11-5p.m. CST --- Conversations Book Club will host "Book Lovers Day" in Tupelo, MS (Quality Inn and Suites (1011 North Gloster St. * Tupelo, MS 38804) There will be a special meet and greet from 1-3p.m. with Bestselling author Shelia E. Lipsey

*     Tuesday, January 8, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- live taping of "Conversations LIVE!" at Barnes and Noble in Jackson, MS. Joining us via conference call will be bestselling authors Jerry B. Jenkins and Kevin Weeks.

*     Wednesday, January 9, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- C. A. Webb will be discussing his novella DESTINY'S CHILD at Richard Wright Library (601.372.1621) in Jackson, MS.

*     Wednesday, January 11, 2008, 7p.m. CST --- Join Conversations at Barnes & Noble for the "Conversations Hour, talking about your favorite authors and books;

*     Tuesday, January 15, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- live taping of "Conversations LIVE!" at Barnes and Noble in Jackson, MS. Joining us via conference call will be bestselling author Pat Simmons.

*     Thursday, January 17, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- Conversations will hold its monthly discussion group at Pearl Public Library discussing the topic "Should Love Ever Hurt?"

*     January 18-19, 2008 --- Bestselling author Lacricia Peters (author of GIRL, NAW) will be joining Conversations IN PERSON. See http://www.thebestbookclub.info for all the details.

*     Friday, January 18, 2008, 7p.m. CST --- Join Conversations at Barnes & Noble for the "Conversations Hour, talking about your favorite authors and books; our special guest will be author Lacricia Peters.

*     Saturday, January 19, 2008 --- Join us for the debut of our "Conversations Book Club * New Orleans". We will meet every 3rd Saturday at 1p.m. at the Comfort Inn & Suites Downtown (346 Baronne St.). For our first meeting we will be joined LIVE AND IN PERSON by Bestselling author C-Murder (author of DEATH AROUND THE CORNER) and Lacricia Peters, and joining us on the phone will be bestselling author Wahida Clark (THUGS AND THE WOMEN WHO LOVE THEM).

*     Sunday, January 20, 2008 --- INSPIRATIONAL CONVERSATIONS meets every 3rd Sunday at 6p.m. at the Subway Restaurant in Pearl, MS (3000 HWY E). We will be reading BROTHERLY LOVE AND BETRAYAL by Daphine Glenn Robinson.

*     Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 6p.m.CST --- live taping of "Conversations LIVE!" at Barnes and Noble in Jackson, MS. Joining us via conference call will be bestselling authors Che Parker and Allison Hobbs.

*     Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- The Cut Society Book Club will be reading STREET FAME by K. Elliott at the Richard Wright Library in Jackson, MS.

*     Thursday, January 24, 2008, 6p.m. CST ---C. A. Webb will be discussing his novella DESTINY'S CHILD with the Subway Conversations Book Club in Pearl, MS at Subway (3000 HWY 80 E)

*     January 25-26, 2008 --- Bestselling author L. A. Banks will be visiting with Conversations LIVE AND IN PERSON

*     Friday, January 25, 2008, 7p.m. CST---  Join Conversations at Barnes & Noble for the "Conversations Hour, talking about your favorite authors and books; our special guest will be author L. A. Banks.

*     Saturday, January 26, 2008, 1p.m. CST --- Join us for the debut of our "Conversations Book Club * Montgomery". We will meet every 4th Saturday at 1p.m. at the Quality Inn & Suites (2705 E. South BLVD * Montgomery, AL) For our first meeting we will be joined LIVE AND IN PERSON by Bestselling author L. A. Banks.

*     Monday, January 28, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- Nonfiction Conversations Book Club returns to the Pearl Public Library to discuss FROM PIECES TO WEIGHT by 50 Cent.

*     Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 6p.m. CST --- live taping of "Conversations LIVE!" at Barnes and Noble in Jackson, MS. Joining us via conference call will be bestselling author Rodney Lofton, author of THE DAY I STOPPED BEING PRETTY.

For more information, contact Cyrus A. Webb at 601.896.5616 or via email at cawebb4@juno.com. All the information is available through our main website at http://www.thebestbookclub.info.

Conversations Talks "Drama" with author Tina Brooks McKinney

In what she called her most "candid interview" to date, Bestselling author Tina Brooks McKinney reveals much about herself and her inspiration in this interview you will read only with Conversations. The woman who has brought us lots of "drama" through her books (ALL THAT DRAMA and LAWD MO' DRAMA and FOOL, STOP TRIPPIN� March 2008) is not without a little bit of it herself as you will see here.

Tina, it is a pleasure to talk with you. I want to get into your two bestselling novels in a minute, but first tell our readers a little about who Tina Brooks McKinney is.I am a simple person. I love to read and I have a very active imagination. For as long as I can remember I�ve been weaving tales however, All That Drama was the first one that I ever finished.

Looking back to your childhood, was it just a given that you would become a writer? What were your interests then?

I had the acting bug! I wanted to be on stage and almost made it. I played Charlie Brown in a high school play and was asked to quit school and tour with the play. I was in the 10th grade of a private catholic high school and my parents thought I lost my damn mind! Needless to say, I left acting alone.

Tina, one of the things that impressed me about your writing is how raw it is. Were your family and friends surprised to see that come out, or were they used to it by the time the books came out?

No one was surprised about how I write because that is pretty much how I am in real life. I don�t believe in sugar coating anything. This gets me into trouble at work because they don�t know what I�m liable to say but I keep it real. The only time I censor myself if I am going to hurt someone�s feelings other than that, a duck is a duck. Two of my friends in particular worried the hell out of me to write my stories.

You address some very serious subjects in your work: abuse and sexual confidence to name a couple. Why did you choose to come out with such heavyhitters right out of the literary gate.

Oh lawd, this is probably the most candid interview I�ve ever done but you told me to be myself so I�m going to keep it real here as well. When I started All That Drama, it was about a real life friend who used to tell me stories that would weigh me down so I started writing about it. However, I also used this time to expose some of my own personal pain. The character Marie is me for the most part. I went through a very nasty and bitter divorce and I had to have some way to get rid of my pain. I didn�t experience all the things that I wrote about but a lot of them are true.

Low self-esteem and sexual repression are a part of my make up. Writing it helps me deal with these two very real problems that exists in many women today.

Tell us a little about the writing process for you: What led you to begin ALL THAT DRAMA, and did you know right from the beginning that you intended to get it published?

All That Drama started as a competition between me and a former friend. I always said I would write and she challenged me to a writing contest. At the end of the contest, I found out that she didn�t even enter and the end result was All That Drama.

I let a few people read it and they convinced me to try to get it published.

Your books are distributed through Strebor Books, the company that bestselling author Zane founded. How did your relationship with her begin?

Zane was the inspiration behind my writings in the first place. I read Addicted and I said "I can do that!" LOL I didn�t mean that I could write like the diva herself, I meant that I could tell a story that would mean something at the end of the day. So, I began writing. However, I didn�t submit the story to her right away. I was afraid. I sent it to every publishing company known to man and all of them said no but the same friend that convinced me to write in the first place said something real simple. She said "you wrote it for Zane, send it to her." Part of my problem with doing that was that if she said no, I knew I would never write again. Several painstaking weeks after that, I sent it.

I didn�t really expect to hear from her until she sent me an instant message one evening and I damn near passed out. She said she had my book on her nightstand. Zane belonged to a on-line reading group that I was in. I remember sending her an email asking her if she read books by "Joe Blow Public," and she responded, "when the book is finished send me a query letter and three chapters."

To date, nothing in my life can compare to the feeling I had when I actually spoke to Zane on the phone. I really could not breath! If she hadn�t told me to, I probably would have passed out.

Was there any pressure or hesitation, knowing what kind of writing she was known for?

Not at all, in fact Zane fit right up my alley. I didn�t write as freaky as she did but I had my moments LOL. I had one agent say to me "not no but HELL NO, the same week that Zane accepted my book. I wanted to write him back so bad and say nah nah a nah nah nah. But I didn�t. I thanked him for his response because most of them didn�t respond at all.

I am always interested, Tina, in how an author feels when they first see their name in print. Can you tell us a little about the first time you held ALL THAT DRAMA in your hands?

I took off work the day it was going to be delivered. I stayed home all that day waiting, a nervous wreck. It didn�t come and my husband had to go to the UPS office and get it. When he came home that evening, he put the box in my lap and I cried! I had rollers in my hair and he was snapping pictures, snot and all. To see you book in print is like a difficult labor. It�s your baby.

And your sophomore project: were there any fears as to how it would measure up to such a strong debut?

Although All That Drama made a strong debut, I took a lot of hits from it. A lot of people did not like the way it ended. I got death threats LOL. They wanted me to give it a happy ending. And this colored the way I wrote my 2nd novel. I regret doing that because I wasn�t being true to me. Life does not always have a happy ending. I tried to tie up all the loose ends in the first book that readers mentioned but it didn�t strike a cord in me like my first novel. I learned a valuable lesson with Lawd, Mo� Drama, always be true to me. This book also deals with some heavy social issues that I am no way discounting I just wish I was brave enough at the time to address them in my own fashion.

Tina, when you sit down to write now, is it more for yourself or your fans?

Now, I write for me. I pay attention to my readers but I won�t allow it to dictate the story line as I did with my last book. If as I am writing I feel like someone needs to die, then damn it they are dead.

What would you say is now your motivation as a storyteller?

My biggest message to all is to love yourself. Don�t allow yourself to be defined by someone else�s MO. I can�t say it enough because so many people are affected by it. Myself included but I�M A HELL OF A LOT BETTER.

Can you tell us a little about what we can expect next from you?

Expect the unexpected. I will not write inside a box. I don�t live in one and I refuse to allow my characters to exist in one. I have so many stories to tell, all with a message that I believe needs to be heard, I just have to find the time to write them.

Thank you for your time. Do you have anything you want to say to your fans?

I just want them to know that I will always try to give them a good story. If it takes a long time, don�t blame me. The process is long, very long. My next book is due in March but it was completed last year. Also, don�t put authors up on this pedestal, we want and need to hear from you. We love you as much as you love or hate us.

What about to aspiring authors? What would you say to encourage them?

This is not an easy business. You must develop a thick skin and determine why you are in the game. If it�s for fortune, you are probably in the wrong business. If you love telling stories then find your niche. Be determined and let nothing stop you in your pursuit.

One last thing: if our readers want to visit you online or write you to tell you their thoughts, how can they do so?

I answer all emails. It may take a moment and to speed up the process, put in the subject line, something that will make me open it first. My email address is tybrooks2@yahoo.com. You can visit me on the web at www.tinamckinney.com or myspace at www.myspace.com/tinamckinney. I also host an internet radio show every week on Wednesday at 7:00 EST at www.blogtalkradio.com/tinabrooksmckinney. On the show, I interview some of the authors that you are reading and some you need to know!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

JUST IN: Tru Publishing & Conversations Book Club begin Literary Hour

In 2007 Conversations Book Club President Cyrus A. Webb and Tru Publishing President Corey "C-Murder" Miller began a literary partnership that will change the way books are discussed forever.
The pair began working together in January 2007, bringing a series of scheduled conference call discussions with book lovers in Mississippi to chat about Miller's bestselling novel DEATH AROUND THE CORNER. After the success of the phone chats, Webb and Miller were able to partner again to orchestrate his visit to Mississippi--- the author's first-ever stop outside of his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana in promoting his book. The response was over 2000 attending the two days of events and hundreds of books being sold in the state. (Watch Conversations' exclusive tv interview with Miller by visiting here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=-WqRmiVj-Zs)
Now, just days before the end of one year and the beginnig of annother, a new alliance between the two has been sealed. It's called the "Tru Conversations Hour." 
Beginning Thursday January 31, 2008 at 7p.m. CST and continuing every Thursday through February 2008, hundreds of Miller's fans will be able to call one special number (1.712.432.3000/ access code, 398736) and connect with him to discuss the book that was chosen as Conversations Book Club's "Book of the Year 2007".
The chats will be moderated by Webb and will include his reading excerpts from the book to evoke discussion. Though his music lovers are encourage to join the chat, the questions should center around the novel.
After the five weeks of discussions featuring Miller, Webb will continue to moderate the hour program with other authors that will be able to reach out to their fans all over the world at one time.
Thanks to Tru Publishing, podcasts of each hour session will be available through http://www.thebestbookclub.info for others to enjoy at a later time free of charge. Just another way that Conversations Book Club is helping others to 'join the addiction and get hooked on books.'
For more information, contact Kernell Reynolds (cp3tru@gmail.com) at 504.915.8581, Cyrus A. Webb (cawebb4@juno.com) or Robin Gardner at 601.664.8805.

BACK AND FORTH: Conversations' "Book of the Month" for January 2008

Every now and then you read a book that reminds us that we are all just imperfect lumps of dirt, yet through it all our Heavenly Father still loves us. BACK AND FORTH is just type of book.
When I was first introduced to author Fon James I was initially excited to meet her since she was a native Mississippian who had written her first book. After meeting her, I realized that she was a wonderful young woman who had seen her dream to fruition and self-published first book. However, anyone who takes the time to read this book will agree with me in saying that this doesn't look or read like any debut novel.
BACK AND FORTH tells the story of four young people who have all made their share of mistakes---yet like many of us find it easier to ask God to forgive them than to forgive others. There is not one of the main characters that I honestly could find something about them that I didn't relate to.
Faith has to take the decision she made in her freshman year of college around with her as a symbolic scarlet letter due to her troubled conscience. Gavin allows his hormones to guide him through many of his experiences and puts his life and his sexual partners' lives in jeopardy in the process. Chrissy is a good girl that also makes mistakes that costs her more than she could've expected, but comes full circle in accepting responsibility in the end. Then there is Remi who equates manliness with being macho, and almost loses out on the best thing that has ever come into his life.  
The title BACK AND FORTH is present throughout the book and carries different meanings as well. First, Faith does go "back and forth" on the issue of whether or not to have sex with her boyfriend while trying to live the life she knows a Christian should.  It was during a prayer to God that she makes the revelation: "Sex is not the solidifier. You are.(p.126)" Others in the book go "back and forth" on whether one sin is larger than another. In the end, one of the things that sticks out to me is what Chrissy says to another emerging character in the book: "I am saved, just not living right for the Lord. (p.135)" How many of us can identify with that!
What Fon has managed to do is write a story layered enough for the "older heads" of literature and easy enough to maneuver through for young readers. It has all of the ingredients of a bestseller, and the author has all the makings of a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Conversations Book Club is pleased to announce that BACK AND FORTH is our book of the month for January 2008. To read more about the book or purchase your own, visit http://www.fonjames.com.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Introducing Sha: The First Lady of Ghettoheat

The life that belongs to bestselling author Sha is one that many strive to have. She is a recent college graduate who went from working at a Waldenbooks store to having a book that was lining the shelves in Waldenbooks in stores all over the world.

When Conversations talked with her via conference call she told us that her father was the one who instilled in her the desire to read around the age of 3 or 4. “Wright was something that I always did. Beginning in the 3rd grade I began to write poetry and continued from there.” Sha said that her favorite author is Maya Angelou.

In 2005 she decided to take her love for writing to the next level. “A group of my co-workers decided to write a book of short stories. The others didn’t follow through with it, but I continued.” The result was HARDER.

The journey from manuscript to published author seemed to be just as seamless. “Hickson (author/founder of GHETTOHEAT) signed me to a book deal after a phone conversation on December 31, 2005. This gained her the title of being the First Lady of the publishing company, a title that Sha doesn’t take lightly. “I have to make sure that all the authors are well-represented. When I am out marketing or promoting my book, I am carrying the banner for them as well.”

What drew her to Hickson? “I loved Hickson’s desire and passion. “When he would come to Waldenbooks for a booksigning, he was very proactive. He knew his book (also entitled GHETTOHEAT) and knew how to sell it. He could leave there with cases sold when others were only selling a few.”

The character Kai that pulls readers into her book is someone we can all relate to in some way or another. “She has a sense of invincibility about her,” Sha explained. “She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it and didn’t want to accept anything less. I wanted to make her real because the life she lived was real to so many people.

“Its one of the most wonderful feelings when I see that people really get it. They follow the story and can relate to the world I am trying to convey.”

What does Sha want aspiring writers to know? “If this is something you want to do, then just do it. Life is too short to have second thoughts later or regrets. You have to take advantage of the time you have right now.”

When asked by a member of Conversations book club where she saw herself in five years, she responded: “I want my writing to affect people and encourage change. I would love to win a Pulitzer Prize or a Nobel Prize. After all, Langston Hughes did it. Why can’t I?

To find out more about this author, feel free to visit http://www.ghettoheat.com.

Mika Miller: Moving confidently in the direction of her dreams

Bestselling author Mika Miller has been a creative individual all of our life. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she has always enjoyed writing poetry, short stories and plays so it seemed like a natural revolution that she would write a book.

In talking with her in our exclusive interview, Miller told Conversations that she “never had any doubt” when it came to the success that is now hers. “Even when things do go the way you expect, you can’t dwell on the trouble.”

She was working a corporate job that wasn’t fulfilling to her and found the courage to step out on faith and pursue her passion as a writer. “I wondered what type of legacy I was going to leave for my son,” she said. This gave her the courage to do everything she could to make her career as an author work.

“African-American women need to seek the beauty of being a woman,” Miller said when discussing her book AND GOD CREATED WOMAN. “The characters naturally evolved. I didn’t really know their (the characters’) stories. At the end of the day I wanted to show the different facets of a woman. That was the message I wanted to convey. If life’s circumstances bring you trials, work to overcome them. Don’t give up.”

Miller went on to tell us that the manuscript for what was AND GOD CREATED WOMAN was already complete when she met Hickson, the man behind the publishing company GHETTOHEAT. She was drawn to his vibe and felt what he was talking about when it came to promoting literacy. The rest of their relationship is literary history.

As someone who is always curious about the give and take of the publishing industry, I asked her about the development of her book, beginning with the cover. “The vision (for the cover) was a 50/50 one. We talked about how the cover would be. Since there are so many books out there, I didn’t want it to be lost on the shelf. It had to stand out, but I wanted all women to feel comfortable about carrying the book. Hickson is a mastermind at whatever he does.”

I asked her what it was like to see and hear the feedback of her debut novel. “When someone praises your work it feels like you are being accepted. This is your life’s work and you want people to like what you write. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.” Miller also told Conversations that the lesbian community has been very supportive of her, embracing the story because it shows same-gender-loving women in a more positive light.

How did she feel when she first saw her book in a store? “It was very surreal,” she confessed. I guess it’s like an artist hearing their song on the radio for the first time. It was a lifelong dream come true.” She then adds: “I didn’t write this book for the money. I wanted to reach people.”

At the end of the day Mika hopes that she can encourage others to follow their dreams. “I want them to know that if I can do it so can they.”

And what helped her from the very beginning? “You just can’t give up. Dream big and then move confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

For more about the authors of Ghettoheat, visit http://www.ghettoheat.com.

Damon “Amin” Meadows: True to his Faith. Truth to the Game

In what was Conversations’ first “jailhouse” interview, it was an honor to talk with bestselling author Damon “Amin” Meadows, the co-author (along with bestselling author Jason Poole) of one of the most controversial novels I have ever read: CONVICT’S CANDY. After reading a book that intense, it was an honor to get the opportunity to speak with the author about the inspiration of the book as well as why he felt it was important to tell the story of Candy. Conversations met at the Medgar Evers Library in Jackson, MS for this discussion. The original interview was set for 15 minutes, but it became so good that Amin extended his time with our discussion group, and the result is here for you to enjoy.

Amin, tell us about the person that is Amin.
“I was a young brother from South Philly involved in things that many were doing at the time. In 1993—just seven days before I was to turn 21 years old—I was given a life sentence. I was at a seventh grade reading level at the time and didn’t have a lot to look forward to. In time I made the best of my situation by getting my GED and became a mentor for others that were also incarcerated. I knew I was going to have to rehabilitate myself because I wasn’t trying to get caught up in the system.”

Thank you for your honesty, Amin. What led you to writing?
“I knew I had to do something to help others protect themselves and face reality about the lives they are living. For me, I didn’t want to be just another writer. I wanted to educate and entertain, but above everything else I wanted what I wrote to be beneficial.

And the idea of Convict’s Candy?
“It began in letters, keeping in touch with the women in my life. I was seeing a lot of things… and wanted to write something that would be of help to my daughters and those like my children. There was a reality that was going on that needed to be exposed.”

You are a Muslim. How did it affect you personally to graphically portray sex scenes between men and in effect get into the mind of a transgender?
“You’re right, it was hard. Again, I wanted people to face reality about what they are doing no matter who their sexual partner is. On the streets of Philly, being a Muslim is somewhat of a fad on the streets. For me it’s a real commitment. A lifestyle. Some of the stuff I had to stomach in writing the book was unreal, but had to make it real. We interviewed transsexuals that were locked up to make sure that authentic what we were saying. What they told us helped us to write the story. There is so much of a code in prison, just like on the outside. Some of the transsexuals I spoke to told me that they prey on a certain type of individual to get what they want. It’s just like anyone who has a weakness and is tempted.”

Getting through the book is one thing, but did you really believe that it would be accepted?
“I expected for it to be successful. In fact, I said to Jason: ‘We have a hit.’ I wanted to touch on topics other than just sex. The book deals with not just HIV but drug use and racism, too.”

The book that Amin and Poole have unleased to the world through Ghettoheat ignited much discussion during the interview with author. Laura Turner, the Librarian for the Medgar Evers Library remarked: “To me the prison system is part of the ‘Aggressor’. The system is the villain, a modern-day slavery.” Rose Wright—President of the Savvy Book Club in Jackson, MS and a school teacher for Jackson Public Schools—had this to say about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and “down low” lifestyle: “We love our men to death and stand behind them, and they are taking us to death.”

Amin pointed out near the conclusion of the interview that Poole and he were not the only men who kept their integrity and resisted the vices that come with prison life. “The book is called CONVICT’S CANDY, meaning they are not the majority of those locked up, but the actions of a few can affect all of us.”

For more information about Ghettoheat and any of its authors, visit http://www.ghettoheat.com.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bestselling author Shelia E. Lipsey: Conversations "Author of the Year 2008"

(Click here to see television interview with Bestselling authors Shelia E. Lipsey & Daphine Glenn Robinson.)

It should come as no surprise that the title of "Author of the Year" should be attached to Bestselling author Shelia E. Lipsey. She owned 2007 with the release of two novels --- INTO EACH LIFE and SINSATIABLE--- and became a regular in events throughout the United States in 2007. Conversations Book Club had chosen both of her titles for their various groups to read and discuss before we were even introduced to her---and after meeting, our relationship was cemented forever.

Shelia Lipsey has managed to use her God-gven ability to not only entertain but remind us that no matter what goes on in our lives, we have only to remember that through it all God loves us. During one of her two official trips to Mississippi (NOTE: She also attended the 1-year anniversary we celebrated on November 15, 2007), she told us that she writes "perfect stories about imperfect people," and to us that is what makes her characters so real.

We are pleased to introduce to some and reintroduce to others Conversations Book Club's "Author of the Year 2008", Ms. Shelia E. Lipsey.

Shelia, thank you for doing this interview with Conversations. Why don't we begin by telling our readers a little about who Shelia Lipsey is? Let’s see. These questions are really tough, Cyrus. Shelia E. Lipsey is a unique individual, designed and perfected by God, my creator. I am a mother, the youngest of four girls, a grandmother of three (plus so many more by love), a writer, a Christian, a lover of reality shows and a family person.

With the obstacles that you have overcome in your life, has your success surprised even you?
Not really. While I do consider myself somewhat successful, I believe I still have much to do before the personal goals I have established for myself come into fruition. Until then, I don’t have time to see myself as others might see me. I mean, there are so many writers today and it’s hard to grab hold to a piece of the literary world pie.

Before your career with Urban Books you had self-published your first titles. Why didn't you wait until being picked up by a major publisher to get your work out?
I tried and tried to get my first inspirational title picked up by a major publisher. I received wonderfully crafted rejection letters. For a minute, I would be crushed until I decided that enough was enough. I had to move forward. I couldn’t be left behind or pushed aside. So began to research the self-publishing industry. I became an expert in the field of self-publishing and I did for myself what no one else would do for me.

With self-publishing you are not only the author but in charge of everything else. When you were picked up by Urban Books, did you think you could relax your work ethics?
Noooo, of course not! Quite the contrary. I knew that I had to step up my game. This industry is tough and competitive. I know that I have been given a gift by God to touch people in a positive way with the stories I weave. That is why I had to make sure that I was utilizing everything that God has given me into my writing. I write continually. I always try to keep a book in the works. Whenever they come calling (Urban Books), I want to be prepared. For me, there is nothing worse than slacking and not doing one’s best. I don’t want to be labeled as such and I definitely don’t want to ever be caught without something on the burner.

How did it come about that you ended up with Urban Books? I can only say that it was by the grace of God. I had recently completed my first title, Into Each Life, which I had no idea would be published by Urban Books. However, a huge door opened for me when I submitted the manuscript, Into Each Life, to Urban Books after hearing that they were about to start a new imprint, Urban Christian. Needless to say, the rest is history. I was contacted a few months after submitting Into Each Life and offered a two book deal by none other than my boss, and a NY Times Bestselling author himself, Mr. Carl Weber.

Were you at all worried about the other titles that Urban Books publishes affecting those coming under its Christian branch?
Yes and no. I don’t think worried is the term I would use. Concerned? Yes. Only because of the ridicule that some people have when they hear the word, Urban.” They immediately think of drugs, sex, murder and abuse. So when I heard Urban Christian, the name of the imprint made me smile because I was one of the first authors to sign with Urban Christian. The other part of me was somewhat concerned because I didn’t exactly know how I would be accepted by ‘Christians’ when I said, ‘Urban Christian.’

For many, what is considered Christian Fiction is relative. What is it to you?
Christian fiction is redemption, acceptance, forgiveness, reality, love, hate, good, bad, pretty and ugly. It’s what we are all made up of – imperfect people, with faults, weakness and blemished – yet, we have an opportunity as long as we are living to make things right, to make things better, to do better, to become better and to be forgiven. Not always by Man but always by God.

Let's fast forward to when your first title, INTO EACH LIFE, was published. Did you have any expectations of its success?
Yes and I still do. It is my first book through a traditional publisher. I wanted and still want for it to blow up! While it enjoys a successful readership and has penetrated many people’s lives in such a wonderful, inspiring way, it is yet my desire for it to continue to find its way in the hands of people all over the world.

What inspired the story?
Life. Life inspired the story. My life, your life, the lives of those who read it. The lives of those who haven’t read it. A piece of everyone’s life is tucked inside the pages of Into Each Life. I say this because, into each of our lives, there is something we are faced with. There are obstacles and situations that come into our lives that try our very spirits and shake us to the core. Such is life. It is a journey, a road that is not straight. It is a mountain that has no peak. So life inspired the story.

For those that may not be aware, you battle the effects of polio. How has that impacted the strategy you have in place to promote yourself?
Impacted the strategy? Wow, you’re not making this easy for me are you! Having polio has been, and will probably always be, challenging for me. It has proven to be my friend and my foe. On one hand, when people meet me in person and realize that I am physically challenged, I have found that having polio somehow and some way, draws people to me and to the words that I write.

Polio can be the outward symbol for those who struggle inwardly with the skeletons hidden away in their closets. I use polio as a back drop to many of the things I write because there is not a day that has passed since I contracted polio at the age of two that I don’t have to fight to keep on keeping on. Every time my disability tries to slow me down, it makes me more determined to do my thing even more. The negative side of the equation is that there are days when I don’t want to fight and I don’t want to think about promoting and strategizing. There are times when I want to give in and let someone else have the job of trying to reach millions of people through their writing.

Nevertheless, here I am. I am who I am. I am a writer who happens to have polio. I am not a victim, at least not anymore. I am a winner and therefore my strategy to promote myself is found in my favorite bible verse. Jeremiah 29:11 states, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.’ There you have it. My strategy.

What about the motivation behind SINSATIABLE?
Again, like Into Each Life, Sinsatiable was motivated by the events of people’s lives. You see, Cyrus, there are two words found in Sinsatiable. First, let’s take the word insatiable. Insatiable is an undeniable yearn, craving, hunger for more and more and more. For some reason, no matter what form it comes in, you can’t get enough of it. For some people it’s food, for others it might be sex, money, drinking, drugs, women, men, even your job. It can be anything that controls you and makes you want more of it. More is not always better. Sin is much like that too. Sin starts out looking good, feeling good, tasting good, sounding good, and smelling good. It’s enticing and inviting. But yet, in the end it is wicked, evil and deceptive. Thus was born the word, Sinsatiable. The ‘can’t get enough of kind of sin.’ The story is weaved around this premise.

One of the places you visited in 2007 was Mississippi. In fact, you visited the state officially twice. Can you tell us about your experiences during those trips?
I’ve done quite a bit of traveling since I signed with Urban Books. Everywhere I have traveled, people have been good to me. Visiting Mississippi was no different. Well, I really do have to make one change in that statement. Mississippi was different. It was different because I made lasting friendships and met one of a kind people who etched pieces of unconditional love on my heart. Not to mention that I was given the royal author treatment. There were many places I had an opportunity to visit. I learned through Conversations Book Club just how much Into Each Life was enjoyed by the members as well as Sinsatiable. My book signings were enjoyable and fun. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve visited any where else that has treated me with such high regard. The ability to be up close and personal with people who read my novels was a wonderful feeling. I left Mississippi feeling tremendously blessed.

Conversations chose you as our Author of the Year for 2008 because of the way you have been able to not only entertain with a good book but inspire as well. My question to you is how much is acceptance like that to you?
It is an honor to me. I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but I am also an inspirational speaker. My life’s passion is to touch people by the stories I write and the words I speak. I am who I am. I can’t do everything but that which I can do; I want to do my best. I especially want people to remember, or describe, me as someone who look past people’s weaknesses and one who looks past other people’s mistakes and mess-ups and instead looks beyond that. My desire it to be one who inspires, who has compassion and exudes kindness and love. So to answer your question, I am sincerely humbled by this title, but I am truly thankful that God has shined on me in Mississippi.

In the same vein, there is a lot of pressure on authors to be bestsellers and award-winners. Does any of that matter to you when a book is released?
Sometimes it does. Like I said, somehow bestseller and award winner is often associated with how good of a writer one is. I don’t agree with that assumption, but nonetheless, it is true. As for me, I won’t deny that one of my goals is to become a New York Times Bestselling Author of Christian fiction. It is a desire of my heart. But will it make me or break me if I don’t receive the accolades, the awards, the bestseller titles – no it won’t. I am determined to keep on doing what I have been called to do. God will handle the rest.

2008 is promising to be a great one for books, and you in particular. Tell us about your 2008 release.
I am excited, excited, excited. My next release is October 1, 2008. The title is ‘My Son’s Wife.’ It is an amazing book. I won’t tell anything more about it. I’ll just let the readers marinade on the title – My Son’s Wife.

Thank you so much for your time, Shelia. How can readers find out more about you online? My website is www.shelialipsey.com. I also have a My Space page. It is www.myspace.com/shelialipsey. They can also reach me through email at shelialipsey@yahoo.com.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I encourage aspiring authors to pursue the desires of their hearts. Do their best; learn everything they can about the craft of writing. If writing is their passion, they should never give up. Lastly, never sit on their knowledge. Share with others the things they learn about the literary world. Be willing to lend a helping hand to someone else who’s traveling along the same road.

We wish you continued success, Shelia. Happy New Year. Thank you so much for everything.
I’m still trying to digest this Author of 2008 title. What a way to start the New Year! May God Bless You, Cyrus and Conversations Book Club. Oh, and congratulations to Conversations for spreading your wings to Louisiana and Alabama.

Pictures from Conversations' 1 Year Anniversary--- November 15, 2007

Thank you to everyone who came out to support the 1 year anniversary of Conversations Book Club on November 15, 2007. We had the get2gether at Subway in Pearl, MS and had guest authors Fon James and Shelia E. Lipsey there to help us celebrate. This year would not be possible without the love and support of each and everyone of you. Looking forward to many more years of good times and great books!