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Wednesday, 05 August 2015 14:10

In Love with Book Clubs

From my first book, When Death Comes Stealing, to my latest, The Moon Tells Secrets, members of book clubs have been my best cheerleaders and staunchest supporters. When I wrote that first Tamara Hayle Mystery so many years ago, I didn't know much about book clubs. It was all about the writing then—creating the best book I could, exploring the boundaries of a new and challenging genre, creating characters—and a main character—who had never existed before. On my first book tour—in Dallas as I remember-- I was invited to discuss my book with members of a marvelous book club and a whole new world opened up for me.

How often does one get the chance to sit with a bunch of smart, savvy women over a glass of wine, punch, tea and discuss writing, reading and the books that we all love. There is always food—and it is always terrific. Someone (maybe me when I get some time) should collect and share favorite recipes from book club members. I did a reading recently at a wonderful book club in New York City and we had a fantastic kale salad made by a member named Sondra that none of us could get enough. I'll asked her for the recipe and I'll pass it on as soon as I get it.

The list of book clubs that have supported me is a long one. Members of book clubs have helped me get up when I was down, given me that spark of inspiration when I most needed it, presented me with awards that have touched to my heart. I treasure the awards from the Go-On Girls book clubs, the trips with the Literary Sisters and Avid Readers, and sippin tea—and a bit of champagne—with the lovely Sisters Sippin Tea. I have so many memories—so many good times.

Each and every book club that I have met with has contributed to my growth as a writer. And they all have my love, blessings and gratitude.

Book reading in Newark, NJ for NPS' Lunch & Learn youth initiative. #summer #learning #books #summerslide 8/4/15

I am so excited about attending the National Book Club Conference in Atlanta this weekend. There is nothing like a stimulating discussion with enthusiastic readers to get me revved up and eager to finish my new mystery and the children’s book I’ve been working on.

When I wrote When Death Comes Stealing, my first Tamara Hayle Mystery, so many years ago, I didn’t know much about book clubs. It was all about the writing then—creating the best book I could, exploring the boundaries of a new and challenging genre, creating characters—and a main character—who had never existed before. On my first book tour—in Dallas as I remember--I was invited to discuss my book with members of a marvelous book club and a whole new world opened up for me.

After an Alaskan cruise (magnificent glaciers, disappearing glaciers), I’m finally back to work on my next Tamara Hayle Mystery. I’m also looking forward to several upcoming book conferences where I’ll be promoting THE MOON TELLS SECRETS and any other books readers want me to sign. My absolute best experiences as a writer have always been within the cozy supportive circles of book clubs so I’m eagerly awaiting the NATIONAL BLACK BOOK CONFERENCE in Atlanta. GA from August 7-9th. www.nationalbookclubconference.com I’m honored to be a featured writer and hope to see old friends and meet new ones. I’m also excited about joining other divas in the Real Divas Read book conference in Bowie MD on October 16th and 17th. 
www.realdivasread.com
Now that’s going to be fun.

"In this world, a black woman rolls the dice when she births a baby boy. . ." says Tricia Johnson, a character in Richard Wesley's "Autumn" a new political play about contemporary black politics currently running at Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick.

I'm as amazed by Richard's work as I was the first day I met him. Readers often ask why I chose Newark and New Jersey as the setting for my mysteries and novels, and it's because of this remarkable man and writer I've been married to for nearly 44 years. His undying love for his birthplace and determination to bring it to life is contagious. We continue to learn from each other.

Considering what's been happening in Baltimore and will, no doubt, happen again, Richard's play rings particularly true on so many levels. We have an eight-year-old grandson and not a day passes when we don't discuss how our family can protect him, what we can say and do to make sure he will not become a victim of this America we live in. We have about ten years to completely figure it out. And that frightens us more than anything else.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who attended my reading last Friday of The Moon Tells Secrets, my new paranormal romance. Writing is a lonely activity and to read aloud what one has written is unbelievably gratifying. The support of folks who took the time to come makes me determined to go back to my desk and do the best writing I can possibly do—in this case on my mystery. People often ask if finally seeing a published book is like giving birth. Actually it’s more like preparing someone to go out in the world and make her way. And that first reading is the graduation party. Here are some photos from the reading - enjoy!

As always, I’m excited about the first reading tomorrow of my new paranormal romance The Moon Tells Secrets at the Watchung Booksellers, one of my favorite bookstores. As always, I have my usual case of first-book-read jitters. You’d think I’d be over them by now, but the same fears always surface. Will people throw things when they realize it’s not a new mystery? Will I stammer, stutter and lose my place? Will folks sit in stupefied silence when it’s over? Will anybody show up? My close friends and husband are duty bound, but I’ve certainly had my share of signings when it’s just me jabbering incessantly to an embarrassed owner. Hope folks come tomorrow--and save the owner of this great little bookstore from meaningless chatter…

Every writer who creates a series character fortunate enough to survive eight books (thank you loyal readers! xo xo) runs into the problem. How do you age your character? Should you bother? I’ve decided “yes” because only the boring stays the same. When I wrote my first Tamara Hayle Mystery, my girl Tam was in her thirties, reasonably close to my own age. Now? Forget about it! I’ve aged and so has she but much, much, much slower; she's closer to my daughters’ age than mine. I absolutely love working on this yet-to-be-named mystery, but I’ve had to come to terms with the six years that have passed since Of Blood and Sorrow—the one with the strange umbrella on the cover…

For one thing, I need to reintroduce all the characters for readers new to the series. I also need to reacquaint folks who may have forgotten stuff—like me. (So what the heck did I name Jake’s crazy wife?) A number of years ago, a generous friend made a “bible” with all the pertinent information I needed. I continue to search for it, not having the nerve to tell him I misplaced it.

Yet there’s fun in bringing the new from the old. My visual artist friends will paint over a canvas or cut it up and rework it into a collage—literally reinventing their work. That sense of limitless creation and possibility is one of the things I l admire about them. They can see within their art a new direction that will go to a different place. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do, too. The truth is, the older I get the more I know about life, love and how to know when somebody is lying. Insight, often called wisdom, does come to some folks with age—hopefully, to me and my girl!

Every now and then, I become my own personal scold. I should write books that really matter, I tell myself, ones that make a difference, bring joy and insight to those who seek it. Genre writers are generally disrespected in the world of books—like the cousin with promise who can only panhandle—and that can be a downer. I’ve written other things and will continue to, yet I’m always drawn back to mysteries and the mysterious. The truth is, I simply love to write, and even at my age, I’m a daredevil and will try just about anything. I love creating characters and discovering where they lead me because they always go somewhere that I don't expect. Tamara Hayle comments on politics, crime and the way it impacts women’s live at a specific point in time—and writing about her again is a real pleasure.

I'm researching a non-fiction book for kids with another writer that is inspired by my young grandson. I know that will take me places I look forward to going.

“Savanna Welles” offers me the chance to dress as somebody else and play in a different universe. In a million years, I never thought I’d be writing about a young woman like Raine and the terror that haunts her in my latest paranormal THE MOON TELLS SECRETS. (if you're interested, it just went on sale!)

For this writer anyway, the weather can determine my page output--or lack thereof. Saturday was a great day for me. I got up in the morning, gulped my coffee, headed for my computer and worked like a madwoman--words flying on to the page from every direction. Today, Monday, not so good. The clouds have slowed me down. Like the sun, I’m neither here nor there, unable to form a thought or sentence. At least the snow, now gray and slushy, is disappearing. And if I look hard at the branches of the tree outside my window, there’s a hint of buds.

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