Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // The Eight

Here's one of my favorite first sentences...

A flock of nuns crossed the road, their crisp wimples fluttering about their heads like the wings of large sea birds. ~ Katherine Neville, The Eight

Can't you just see the image? I was tempted to grab a picture for this post, but that would have defeated the purpose of such wonderful visual writing. The other day my daughter was describing a movie she had seen but complained that it was nothing like the pictures she had in her head as she was reading the book. So rather than mess up the mental image you have of wimples flapping like birds wings, I decided to let the words paint their own picture.

The use of "wimples" is perfect in Neville's first sentence. It serves an expository function – that is, the nuns' habit tells something right off about their order, and even though we don't know just yet where the story takes place, we know the locale must be exotic. (I don't think I've ever seen a nun wearing a wimple on the south side of Chicago.)

Nowadays a lot of what passes for exposition gives me a rash. I tell you, if Neville had described the scene rather than shown it to us, I wouldn't have bought the book.

Wonderful craftsmanship. Now I'm ready to get to work.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

P.R. 101 – an Eddie Long cautionary tale

This morning I watched Bishop Eddie Long's press conference about the sexual molestation scandal. Unlike Rod Blagojevich who said to anyone who would listen, "Hi, I'm Rod Blagojevich, innocent of all charges," Bishop Long didn't address the charges that have been levied against him. He just talked about his good works, of which, granted, there are many. His response was listless and strange.

After the press conference, my old friend Terrie Williams was interviewed on MSNBC. She said Bishop Long should "tell the truth. This is Public Relations 101. Tell the truth, then rebuild."

Interestingly, I was thinking the same thing, only from a writer's point of view. When you write, tell the truth. If you don't, the truth will come back to bite you, guaranteed. Your writings will live on forever – on book shelves, remainder bins, in magazines, Google Books, iPhone APPS, and other formats that haven't been invented yet.

By the way, if you've never read any of Bishop Long's books, take a look at the product descriptions and reviews on Amazon.com. The following description for The Elect Lady, which presumably was written by the publisher or someone on Bishop Long's staff, was really disturbing:
After years of hosting the Heart to Heart Women s Conference, Bishop Eddie Long finally succumbed to his wife's pleas and gave the closing address. His wife had been urging him for years, knowing that he would have a powerful message to share. Bishop Long wasn't so sure, but that day, he stepped up. He told the women that his own mother had opted to stay in an abusive marriage in order to cover him. He begged her to stay, saying, If you leave me, I will die, and she sacrificed so that his life could blossom into the amazing ministry he has today.

What boy begs his mother to stay in an abusive situation?

No down low writing

With the Eddie Long story consuming my thoughts today, I thought I'd share an excerpt of a story from my book Black-Eyed Peas for the Soul. This story was contributed by my mother's pastor, Dr. Jo Ann Long of New Covenant Life Church in Chicago.

Pastor Long openly shares the sad tale of her husband – a minister – who contracted and died from AIDS. He was leading a down low lifestyle, but it's such an amazing story of love, forgiveness, and believe it or not, happy endings, that I just had to include it Black-Eyed Peas. It's one of the most popular stories in the book.


 A Miracle of Love
n Long

It was the 1980s and the AIDS virus discovery and exposure were yet new in our community and I was walking through my valley of the shadow of death and fearing the evil. Truthfully speaking, I felt more like I was crawling through it. Nevertheless, I was moving, determined to get through.

My husband, Tracy, was in the hospital fighting for his life and the doctor's report of his condition was resounding over and over again in my mind. It was not good: HIV positive and its possible/likely fatal outcome -- the statistics! The specialists in his field could not offer us any hope and expressed grave concern for me.

Hurting and angry, I questioned how I could be confronted with such a monumental situation which was bigger than life, an intrusion, an invasion of my private world, my home, marriage, and family. I thought, surely not my husband -- not me! Why me?

I was filled with shock and grief. I waited for something more to be said -- some explanation, perhaps. Something! It did not come. I was not really prepared for this, I thought. Then, as if someone had pushed a video replay button, I began to hear words of advice that had been spoken to my parents approximately 20 years ago as I was coming of age. It was a different time, a different setting, but those words began to replay in my mind even louder than the hopelessness of the doctor's words and the fear of the situation -- what I was feeling.

This is the wise counsel of that individual. She said that as my parents let go, I would develop and mature as a beautiful woman. She perceived that even as a child, I flourished under pressure best when I was not petted, pampered, or smothered with needless pity or sympathy. Through difficulties, I would draw from my own resources and make it.

As I remembered these words, I not only drew strength from within, but I discovered I had the courage to embrace my destiny. What I encountered, experienced, and lived through leaves me awestruck even to this day.

November 1986, Tracy LaMar Allen died. After his death, I experienced loneliness such as one could never even imagine. Our courtship and marriage was a sum total of twenty-five years filled with joys and trials; struggles and successes, good days and bad (so many of the bad days toward the end). He had chosen to live part of his life anonymously as a bisexual (functioning as both and with both: male and female). The confirmed news of this, as well as the consequences thereof was devastating to him, our families, and me.

My husband was a minister -- double jeopardy! After discovering the truth, learning of his life of anonymity during his illness, I acquiesced to his request not to share what was happening with family and others for the sake of the children and the church, and to avoid further embarrassment and ridicule. I loved him. I respected his individuality and privacy. He made a futile attempt to protect me and our children by choosing to die incognito, but the news got out and I was accused of not turning state's evidence and supporting him in a lifestyle that constituted double standards. I lost much physically, socially, materially. And, oh, the pain!

During that time of aloneness and loneliness, once again the video replay button was pushed and I remembered during meditation that prior to all of this happening, I had been given the assurances of marriage -- a good marriage. A whole marriage was part of my great destiny.

I was back and I was ready to make a comeback. The only way I knew to make a comeback was to go on. Slowly but surely, I began to accept speaking engagements, seminars, workshops, etc.

Then it happened! One Saturday afternoon in 1989 while speaking to the Midwest Clergy Association, I met the man I was to marry -- my future husband, though I did not know it at the time. He had observed and admired me, asking for an introduction. From our first meeting, which was so coincidental to me, and during the occasional times of our being together, I found myself filled with a whole succession of emotions -- amazement (more at myself than him), excitement, fear, joy, love.

We were married June 1990, and one of the most endearing gifts that John gave to me at our wedding ceremony was tears. His impassioned, genuine tears flowed unabashedly from his eyes and down his face as I walked down the aisle and into his arms at the altar as his bride. Later, in our honeymoon suite, he told me that his heart was overwhelmed with love and joy to find such a virtuous woman, that I was so beautiful as his bride, and how much he loved me.

Often I hear, "How did you meet him?" "You are married to such a good man." "Where did he come from?"

In the Gospel according to St. John, chapter one, verse six, you will read these words: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The first post

I can't write a book if I don't know what my first sentence will be. Many sentences will come and go, but if it's not the right one, the writing will not flow. That's my definition of writer's block. Not a lack of ideas and words, but struggling to find the right words.

I've wanted to do a blog on my adventures in publishing and life for some time, but I didn't know what to write as my first post. It's like wanting a perfect pair of shoes. You know what you want, but you can't find them anywhere.

For the longest I've wanted a pair of black pumps with pointy toes and kitten heels, but because my budget has been tight and my feet are big, it's taken me years to find the perfect pair.
One day this summer I needed a break from writing, so I went to one of my favorite goof off spots – Nordstrom Rack in Orland Park (Illinois). I went to the shoe section, size 11, not expecting to find much when suddenly the angels sang and heaven shined its spotlight on the most perfect pair of Calvin Klein kitten heel pumps.

I couldn't breathe. I'd found them.

They were black patent leather. The toes came to a neat point, and the heels purred at just the right height. They were $60, a little more than I wanted to pay, but I knew it might be another few years before I met another pair. So I bought them.

Words, like sexy shoes, can make you feel really good. When the right sentence finally comes, the angels sing. Something clicks, and you finally have your perfection.

Writing my first post on writing my first post just clicked, so now I can share my experiences as an author and editor to the stars with you.

My prayer is that this blog will help writers and professional speakers (more on that later), both new and experienced, jump start their own projects, find their own voices, improve their writing, and learn about the industry we love so much.

If the pen is mightier than the sword (and it is), then en garde!