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I Wanted To Re-imagine His World

Jenna Caldwell Author Interview

Still Waters follows a man who wakes up with no memory of his family and must navigate the challenges of starting a new life while grappling with the traumas of his past. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

The inspiration for the setup of this story was actually a scene from Ava DuVernay’s limited series When They See Us (2019). For those that don’t know, When They See Us (2019) tells the story of the Central Park Five — five young Black and brown boys who were accused of brutally assaulting a jogger in New York City in 1989. All of the boys were convicted between six and twelve years. Throughout their trials they maintained their innocence. Later their sentences were vacated once the true (and lone) assailant admitted to the crime in 2002. Ultimately, there is a scene when Korey Wise (played by Jharrel Jerome) is locked in solitary confinement, and he begins to daydream about what if he decided not to go to the park with his friends that day. How differently his life would’ve turned out. When his daydream ends, he is back in prison, alone. I wanted to do something similar with a case that involved another Black teenager — and that was the case of George Stinney, Jr., the youngest American to be executed in the United States at 14-years-old. I wanted to re-imagine his world, and give him a different reality, if only briefly. 

George is an interesting and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Admittedly, it was a bit difficult writing George’s character because I am writing about a young teenager, who is in the body of an adult. When you’re young, you’re naturally very curious and so I think it was important for me to make George curious about the world around him — and try to grasp what was happening to him. He is being forced to mature quicker than he would probably like to, like many Black children in the U.S., and so I think it was important to capture both his innocence and budding adulthood.  

What themes were important for you to explore in this book?

It was important for me to explore how Black adults in the U.S. are often treated like children, and Black children are often treated like adults — and where these two ideals meet in this novel. George’s children are attacked for being children, in one scene in the book because they are expected to present much older. They are given less leniency than other children. Ultimately, George is being treated as an adult by the state of South Carolina when he is sentenced to death. So this was something that was important for me to explore. 

What is the next book you are working on and when will it be available?

I do not currently have a book in the works, but am thinking of turning Still Waters into a screenplay so stay tuned for more news on that front!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

When George, a high school teacher, wakes up one morning, he’s surprised to find his doting wife, Henrietta, cooking breakfast for him and their three young children, Junior, Cynthia and Addie. Not because this is out of the ordinary—as far as George can tell, this is routine—but because he doesn’t recognize them. Any of them. Or himself, he soon realizes. Hundreds of miles from the only home he’s ever known, George tries to adapt to his new, idyllic life and navigate the unique challenges that come with it. But his past won’t let him move on so easily.

As he struggles to let go of what was and hold onto what is—and, more importantly, what can be—traumas, past and present, dare to carry George back to a world he desperately wants to escape.

Rooted in a dark, and important, history, Still Waters is an emotionally gripping story of love and loss that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

It’s Ok To Make Mistakes

Melissa Owens Author Interview

What was the idea, or spark, that first set off the need to write A Black Woman’s Journey

I wrote the book so young African American Woman know its ok to make mistakes due to not having a positive male role model in there life. Let them know they are still beautiful no matter what makes they make.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

It was hard writing all the stories especially because I can relate to almost all of them. The hardest story to writer was the first one, because This was my story and I experienced it before I even turned 18 years old.

What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were younger?

Before you jump into a relationship with someone, take a few months to get to know them and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

Its ok to make mistakes, just learn from them and move on. Never look backwards, just continue to move forward.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Growing up, I didn’t have a male role model in my life. My father was hardly around, my brother was in/out of prison, and my uncles had their own families to support mentally and emotionally, so I didn’t have a good man in my life to show me what “Real Love” is, and I ended up learning a lot the hard way. I blame none of my mistakes I made on anyone, but a young black woman needs a “Good male Role Model” to show her the difference between “Salt and Sugar”. After reading my book you will totally understand why.

It Always Ends In Tears of Joy And Love

Vincent Traughber Meis Author Interview

Colton’s Terrible Wonderful Year follows a black teen on a quest to meet his surrogate mom where he falls in love, almost loses one of his dads, confronts a racist cousin, and learns about love. What were some sources that informed the development of this novel?

I like to center my novels in a historic time with all the surrounding sociological issues. This story is set during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. But a number of other events were happening in 2020, including the rise of Black Lives Matter awareness which affects the main character, Colton, in a very personal way. It was also a time of political upheaval due to the upcoming election, issues that tore apart various members of Colton’s family. And then, like in many of my books, a nod to foreign travel with the family trip to Thailand confirms my belief that travel broadens one’s mind.

Colton’s character felt authentic. Was there anything about his character that you pulled from your own life?

As a part-time stepdad to a young man of mixed race, I drew from that experience. My real-life situation is much different from the one in the book, but being married to a Black man has made me imagine what it would be like if we had had a son through a surrogate mom and raised together. Some people have questioned how an older white cisgender gay male can write the story of a young Black apparently straight male. As writers we are observers, and I have had the great fortune of being surrounded by African-American family members, the two women of color who are the moms of my stepson, as well as a diverse community of different ethnicities and people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

What scene in the book was the most emotionally impactful to you?

In the latter part of Chapter Fourteen, Colton’s dad, Augie, is saying goodnight, and Colton begs to hear the story of his birth one more time, how Colton was taken from his birth mother’s arms and placed in the arms of his two dads. It is an emotional scene with both humor and tenderness, a bonding story that Colton never tires of hearing and Augie never tire of telling. And it always ends in tears of joy and love.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m almost finished with a sequel to my novel, The Mayor of Oak Street. The main part of the story takes place about 40 years after the end of that novel, but there are flashbacks throughout the book that pick up with the budding relationship between Nathan and Nick when Nathen is in his early twenties. It recounts the stories of love and traumatic loss in Nathan’s life and his surviving the AIDS pandemic. At sixty, it seems he is given one last chance at love that he’s sure he doesn’t deserve. Will he take it? The working title is Memories: Love Lurks and Pounces.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Colton is on a quest to meet his surrogate mom who might help him navigate being a Black teenager in today’s America. The woman who gave birth to him is Black. His dads are not. His diverse community of family and friends includes lots of LGBTQ+ people, though his first love is a girl of mixed race like him.

Colton’s dads reluctantly introduce him to his birth mother, but she doesn’t turn out to be person he hoped for. On his journey of falling in love, nearly losing one of his dads, and confronting a racist cousin, he learns about love, non-traditional families, community, and what is important in life. The biggest challenge of all is something he discovers about his birth, causing friction with his dads. But like every difficulty in his life, the love of his dads ultimately carries him along and lifts him up.

Wanting To Find Her Own Way In Life

Reese Author Interview

Trapped follows four women who meet at a freshman assembly and remain friends through college and beyond. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Initially, the concept was a short story about four friends having a girls night in, playing a drinking game. As the ideas for their personalities developed, I realized a short story wouldn’t hold the amount of information I wanted to convey to the reader, thus Trapped was born.

Throughout the novel, the characters are searching for their own identity separate from their past. What were the driving ideals behind the characters’ development throughout the story?

I wanted each woman to have her own identity, but I also wanted them to be relatable. Every woman, including myself, can attest to wanting to find her own way in life on her own terms. We’ve all had some secret that we’ve wanted to keep buried, but as we go through life’s journey, we realize that our past experiences give us insight to make us better.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to touch upon a few things with this novel. Mental illness and sexuality are two major points worth mentioning. There’s still so much taboo around sexuality and mental illness in the black community, and I wanted to normalize the discussions surrounding these topics. Mental health issues need to be discussed, as well as treatment options. No one should be shamed for seeking the help they need. In the same token, the world doesn’t have to agree with the way someone lives their private life, but they should respect an individual’s decision either way. Society would be so much better if people were open to each other’s differences rather than despising others for them.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently working on the second book of the Trapped series, Released, which will be released in the summer of 2023. Keep an eye out for the beta reader notifications this spring.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Meet the girls: Naomi, Arnya (pronounced Ahn-yah), Stephanie, and Jasmine—four friends who meet during a dreaded group assignment in Freshman Assembly.

Naomi is on the verge of leaning into her adulthood. An only child in a prestigious family, she attempts to break out of her sheltered life to find herself. When love comes knocking in an unconventional way, Naomi has to choose between her traditionally structured upbringing and her carnal desires.

Arnya finds herself living her young adult life grieving the loss of her mother when a chance encounter at a charity event opens the door for romance. Her happily-ever-after approaches destruction when a past lover emerges, threatening to expose the truth about her son.

Stephanie, the former “church kid,” wants nothing more than freedom from her overprotective, saved-and-sanctified grandmother. When a job opportunity of a lifetime falls into her lap, Stephanie finds herself caught up in a web of deceit—and the arms of her boss.

Jasmine is a natural-born hustler. Her ability to read people goes a long way toward getting her into college—and occasionally into trouble. Jasmine is as carefree as she is calculating, and she makes it a point to keep everyone on their toes. The tide shifts in her world when a thoughtless bet nearly costs her a friendship—and her heart.

Join the krewe on this decade-long ride through girls’ trips, family drama, and uncovered secrets that will have you clutching your pearls, in this spicy novel, New Orleans style.

My Thank You Letter

Melvin E. Edwards Author Interview

The Strength of a Thousand Sons is your memoir detailing the challenges your family has faced over generations and the struggle to break the negative cycles. Why was this an important book for you to write? 

​My first book, The Eyes of Texans: From Slavery to the Texas Capitol, was published in 2020 and it featured my maternal ancestors in a similar manner as this one. The Strength of a Thousand Sons examines the paternal side of my family, and we also learn about personal and American history through their stories. While both sides of my ancestors were directly impacted by slavery, the Edwards line emerged from its human bondage with deep scars that weren’t healed with time alone. I traced my dad’s struggle and gave context to how he laid the foundation for me and future generations to have a better chance to succeed. This book is my thank you letter to him.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The first chapter was the toughest thing I’ve written in my life and I’ve been a writer for almost 40 years. I cried for three days while writing that chapter alone. I still do if I think about it too much. 

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

The most important takeaway is that one person can change generations for good or bad, so we might as well strive to be positive role models — for our own children and others in our care.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

The systems of racism and abuse are common and have many layers. The sooner we realize that the sooner we can break those vicious cycles once and for all. I’m optimistic we can do that for good.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

When you’re in an abusive family, you can only break the cycle if you have the strength of a thousand sons.
The author of the award-winning book, The Eyes of Texans: From Slavery to the Texas Capitol: Stories from Six Generations of One Family, returns with the riveting follow-up that features the paternal side of his family, beginning in 1842.
Like his maternal ancestors, Melvin E. Edwards’ paternal ancestors are also Texans from the time of the Republic of Texas. However, the Edwards line emerged from its human bondage with deep scars that aren’t healed with time. One mind-boggling act of desperation by 10-year-old Melvin Edwards changed that trajectory and provided a softer landing for his son, this book’s author.
If you found Isaac Bladen to be unforgettable in the last book, you’ll find the elder Melvin Edwards equally compelling in this true story.
Studying family history can be fascinating. It can also reopen old wounds.


Book Review Icon

Blackface, by Pamela D. Smith, is a celebration of African American’s success in politics, art, and culture. For the longest time, black faces have been associated with mockery, misery, pity, and everything negative. Pamela D. Smith, however, brings positivity to the words and gets readers to revisit the misrepresentation of the term. Smith is not trying to forget history but she wants readers to use these experiences to become a leader. The Author shares painful memories of African Americans, the impact slavery has had for generations, race dynamics, the struggles Black people have gone through, and how African Americans rose up, and are shining.

Smith has written a powerful and inspiring book sharing her experiences as an African American woman and asks the reader what they would do if they were in her situation. Many of the situations the author describes are some that many readers don’t face that often so this was an eye-opening read for me. I also admired that the author debunks the stereotypes given to African Americans, some of which I wasn’t even aware of.

The author writes in a conversational tone that is not out to point fingers but instead to educate us. I feel this book can be relatable to people of different races, not just African Americans. Smith inspires and provides tips on how to be a leader for yourself and how to be the best version of yourself no matter what you face in the world.

The author is honest and open with the reader and she does not hold back about what African Americans have gone through and still go through today. The author’s vulnerability is inspiring and a remarkable feature of her writing.

Every chapter in Blackface has a lesson that will benefit the reader. My biggest lessons were on how to brand and package yourself for more visibility. By creating an exemplary brand with your name, you will be able to skillfully sell whatever product or service you have, impact lives, sub-consciously mentor future leaders, and live a fulfilling life. Apart from the wise teachings, I also loved the quotable texts in various chapters. One of my favorite quotes from Blackface is ‘To become internally self-aware, we must be open-minded’. This quote is powerful and helped me change my perspective.

Blackface: An African American guide to building a personal brand, developing as a leader, and serving with excellency is an insightful look into how African Americans can grow in their professional lives. It gives a realistic look into the struggles and roadblocks that People of Color face.

Judgement With No Empathy

B.J. Cyprian Author Interview

The Gray Line follows a woman that has dealt with many obstacles and is forced to challenge her belief of what is right and wrong. What were some sources that informed this novels development?

I had a surface concept of who Angel was as a person. I think when we consider people who have had a lot of severe trauma we expect them to be broken or unable to cope. Very few people believe that someone like Angel could thrive despite all of her hardships to the point of maintaining healthy relationships.

I think people often don’t take the time to ask or learn what informs certain personalities and decisions. There is often judgement with no empathy, and this appears to be growing in this country more and more. I just wanted to write about people that you, or anyone could know.

What were some obstacles you felt were important to defining Angel Lamb’s character in the story?

Adolescent and childhood traumas have happened to so many people. We hear stories about these children, but I wanted to look at what could happen after. However, Angel isn’t perfect, nor has she “put her trauma behind her.” Trauma is just that: a wound, an injury. Just like a scar on our outer self can be re-injured, as can internal damage.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

The answer is in your question… Hope. When I lost my sister, I truly didn’t know how I could go on and I realized it was an absence it hope. I think that’s what the world needs now more than ever…hope. I also wanted to show how love and empathy could go a long way into helping both yourself and others heal.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am still working on the Shadow Resistance sequel. I don’t yet have a release timeline. I’m also working on scripts to stretch my writing portfolio as well as attempt to gain the ability to do this full time.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Angel Lamb has overcome many obstacles in her three decades of life. Rescued from an abusive environment at a young age, Angel has a realistic and cynical outlook on life, yet a strong sense of right and wrong. After she loses her wife in a tragic automobile accident, Angel seeks out the assistance of a local grief support group to help her deal with the crushing loss.

When violence begins to find members of the group, Angel is forced to face her painful past as well as an uncertain future. In order to survive, she will have to challenge her own black and white view of good and evil.

Black, White, and Gray All Over

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds is a fantastic memoir surrounding his tumultuous life as a black cop in Compton, California. The book deals with sensitive topics such as racism, police brutality, poverty, and crime. As a cop, Reynolds encounters horrific situations that allow him to showcase in his book the many difficulties and traumatic events that cops in America have to deal with daily. Through his unforgettable story, he invites the reader to take a look from the inside at what it’s like to work in law enforcement in one of the most crime-ridden cities of America. This well-crafted book is highly informative and brings a critical perspective on life: it’s not all black and white; there are also gray areas that are constantly being navigated and make things more complicated to understand.

This revealing memoir tells the emotional story of the author’s road to personal improvement. Reynolds describes perfectly what it was like growing up in a dysfunctional family and how he almost kept going down the wrong path as a young person. We get to see the dangerous lifestyles that many people are introduced to from an early age and how hard it is to get out of them without the appropriate support system. His job as a cop helps him build a life for himself and his family. However, this didn’t come right away. Many obstacles had to be overcome, getting to witness in the process one of the most heartbreaking and cruelest realities of the worst areas in Los Angeles County.

Reynolds tells his personal story with great detail. His descriptive writing is carried out through every chapter. From his life as a child to his eventual retirement, he gives as much context as possible to the reader, creating a complete and holistic perspective of his life. He makes sure to display the real problems and corruption that he saw while working as a cop. He also shows the reader how challenging and thankless the job of being a cop in America is. This allows him to exhibit the complex and traumatic lives people who work in law enforcement have to deal with. His detailed accounts of murders, shootings, drug deals, and gang violence were very tough to read, and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to lead a life where such events are part of your daily routine.

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement is a relevant book that will help readers understand the history of racism and discrimination that this country has had. Police work is probably one of the most demanding jobs out there, and through this book, you’ll get a better understanding of all the sacrifice it takes to carry out this necessary profession. Bad people come in all genders, races, shapes, and sizes; some even wear badges, so it’s important to remain human and avoid judging too harshly those that happen to look different than us or have had the misfortune to grow in disadvantageous circumstances.

Pages: 477 | ASIN : B09JF9VB4Z

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