#ShamelessPlug

The Alpha’s Dream is officially released and if you haven’t gotten it already, then what are you waiting for?!?

I’m still not over the excitement of my first official release. It has truly been a crazy ride and I’m still learning the ins and outs of publishing as I work on my second project.  That doesn’t mean I’m not watching closely even the slightest movement on the Alpha’s Dream! I loved writing the book and I wanted to give you reasons to love it too. So, here are my completely biased and utterly self-serving, top five reasons you should purchase The Alpha’s Dream.

1.The Alpha’s Dream is a sexy and tension filled love story of how our past haunts us.

I’m a hopeless romantic. A sweet romance will always make me swoon, but real relationships don’t just fall into place. Case in point, Euphoria and Nathaniel. While you escape into an eventual happily ever after, the journey the two must go to be with each other is the ultimate focus. My hero and heroine aren’t expected to simply fall in love with each other. They are forced to address quiet insecurities and very noisy resentments just as they would in “real life”.

2. New Orleans is the perfect location for a little shifter magic.

I should have said Louisiana here. I’m a LA native, born and raised here. It means I have a special connection to all things paranormal. New Orleans, with its flurry of activity and torrid history offers one of the perfect locations to bring in a little more of the extraordinary. Of course there would be werewolves in New Orleans. Just like there would be witches, vampires, changelings, and strong women like Euphoria who bravely carve out their lives.

3. The sister love bond between Euphoria Atkins and her best friend Charlotte is enviable.

In a world that loves a good catfight, I find it most important to show women of color with strong bonds. Euphoria and Charlotte are the type of sister girlfriends who tell each other hard truths, fight for each other without reservation, and will not once let the other sit back on their greatness. They are the epitome of strong, loving support systems. All of us should have best friends like these!

4. Nathaniel’s eventual self-awareness.

Nathaniel doesn’t have a lot of time for introspection. He takes things as he sees them, is not easily persuaded otherwise, and ultimately only changes kicking and screaming. It was tough to get him to a point where he wanted to be someone different. He wanted to be a man free enough of his resentments that he could love Euphoria from a whole place. There is nothing more powerful than his resolution to make peace with his past and his love for Euphoria as the catalyst.

5. Diversity in all things romance!

It is a small thing that the characters of my shifter romance are predominantly black. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a very important thing. Often, in stories outside of the norm, almost stereotypical romance characters of color are excluded. On days when they are included, there is generally one primary character as a person of color. It is important to me as a reader to have characters like Euphoria and Nathaniel; strong people of color with rich lives, honest fears, and prosperous.

I love my book. You will too. Add The Alpha’s Dream to your shifter collection today.

 

Joy.

#freereads

Writing is a tedious love affair. Just when you’re finished, you have to take a second look at it to figure out you are wrong.

I love my job. I love taking a premise and fleshing it to a plot, then taking names and turning them into people. It is a passion. It is my life’s dream. I used to write for the sake of writing. Now, I don’t.

My release date is three weeks away, April 23rd. On that faithful Sunday,  months of hard work will spill out for your consumption. I will be at your mercy. That’s a lot of pressure, right? WRONG! It’s actually no pressure at all. The great thing about books is that you have the right to choose what you read. That isn’t pressure, it’s power.

So, let’s share power.

One of the fascinating things about books is discovering new authors. Some of you have quietly followed along with me. You’ve seen the highs, the lows, and read the concerns. You’ve been there when I’ve struggled to determine if it was worth it. Now, I’m asking you to take things a little further.

I want you to read my book…and review it.

That might be a little pressure.

It is no small task, breaking into the world of being a published author. There are a lot of hours, doubts, fears, and so on. What makes it worth it for most of us is the finished product and your response. We know as authors what we love, but we want to know what you love too. Like I said, I use to do this for the love of it, and now I don’t.

I write for a living. It is my career. I spent long hours for years writing for others. Now, as I write for myself I need your voice in my head. I’m asking for your curiousity, and offering a chance to read my book(s) for free. Here’s is how it works.

You the curious reader, sign up to receive an Advanced Reader copy of my book. This copy will have all the plot and basic editing for your consumption. It’ll ask you to determine whether or not you like it and why. Once finished, you would leave an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. The end.

It really is that easy. It feels like a small thing, but ask any author, it’s not. Those few sentences and star ratings make a huge difference in whether the work lives or dies. I’m pretty partial to The Alpha’s Dream living.

So do me a solid and just sign-up. I’ll send you a free ARC copy and on April 23rd, you’ll review it. We’ll both be ecstatically happy. Don’t believe me? Try it and see. 😁

 

Joy.

 

#HeroineInterviews

E: Sorry I’m late. I lost track of time.

(Euphoria Atkins enters the restaurant wearing a pretty black silk blouse and  pencil skirt that hugs her ample hips. She smiles easily and takes a seat directly across from me.)

E: I had a meeting that ran long. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.

You’re absolutely fine. Should we order or dive right in?”

E:Oh you haven’t ordered. Oh God. please get some food. I called in my order because I thought you would have by now. In the meantime, fire away.

Firing now. So tell me about your friendship with charlotte Jackson. How did that began?
It began in college. Charlotte is a take charge kind of woman and substantially more extroverted than I am. So it took some pushing and pulling, but we’re really close.

Because you are opposites?

E:Absolutely.  We see the world from different places, and so we compliment each other. She’s the sister I never had, and I’m very grateful.

What did she say about your relationship with Nathaniel Blanchard? did she try to discourage you from being with a werewolf?

E: I won’t be commenting on Nathaniel.

(Her smile has grown exponentially. As the waiter places her food down in front of her and takes my order. I notice a moment of quiet joy sweeping over her smooth brown cheeks.)

Why not? He refused to talk to us about you too. Is there something the two of you are hiding. Maybe wedding bells or something along those lines.

E: Nathaniel and I agreed that we wouldn’t disclose details about our relationship until after the book was released. Even then, we don’t plan to share everything.

So what can you share with our readers about yours and Nathaniel’s story? Anything.

E: I can share that it is worth the discovery. I think your readers will enjoy watching  our story unfold, and gain a lot from it.

Okay, so you’re not going to tell us anything.

E: No. (She says with a throaty laugh.)

Well, I guess we will have to wait until April 23rd for the official release.

E: You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

We’ll take your word for it. So on to other subjects. It is rumored that you left a high paying Graphic Design job to start your business Euphoric Designs. What was the catalyst for your venturing out on your own?

(Euphoria holds her fork balanced on mid-way between her plate and her mouth. She’s thinking. Her brows are smooth, but her eyes are deep with concentration.

E: A number of things drove that decision. Ultimately, I believe I just wanted to own  more of my time and my creations. I was exhausted from working long hours on projects that didn’t matter to me or didn’t make me grow. I wasn’t motivated to do that for the rest of my life. So, I decided that if I were going to  work my life away I would do it for myself.

Dreams seem to play a big part in yours and Nathaniel’s story. What advice would you give other women who have a dream that they can’t get out of their heads?

E: I would tell them to stop trying to forget it. If it wasn’t part of my purpose to be a Graphic Designer and someday own my company, then it would have been an easy thought to dismiss. Since it wasn’t, I knew I had to pay attention to this. I had to  attempt to build it or it would eat me alive.

Eat you alive. That is a powerful choice of words.

E:It’s an honest choice of words. I love what I do. I was suffocating doing it for someone else. I realize it isn’t that way for everyone, but it was that way for me. I had to do something about it. I had to make a change.

How does building your company factor into your romantic life?

(Euphoria exhales as if I’ve just knocked the wind from her lungs, but her eyes glitter with amusement.)

E. It is challenging because entrepreneurship requires such long hours sometimes, but when you have the right partner your dream becomes important to them too. They understand, and you make the time whenever possible to ensure the relationship survives.

Is Nathaniel Blanchard the right partner?

E: No comment.

Darn. I thought I would get you with that.

E: Yeah, I saw what you did there. ( Euphoira wags her finger and smiles gleefully at me. I smile back amused that she’s caught me in my own trap.)

Since obviously you aren’t going to spill the beans for us, I’m going to ask you one final question on the record. Maybe when we’re off the record you will let me in on some of you and Nathaniel’s closely guarded secrets.

(Euphoria’s laughter is a wind chime of happiness.)

E: Off the record, maybe.

Give me three words to describe The Alpha’s Dream to our audience.

E: Hmm. Wow. Okay. You know the story has so many layers to it that I’m not sure where to begin. I think I would have to go with authentic, transformative, for us at least, and sexy. We  spin a pretty sexy story.

It’s funny  you should say that. Sexy and layered were two words Nathaniel used to describe The Alpha’s Dream too. I guess great minds really do think alike.

E:Yes, they do.

Thank you for you joining us Euphoria.

E. Thank you for having me.

Joy.

 

 

 

 

#HeroInterviews

(When at Authors& Characters Magazine arrive for our dinner conversation/interview Nathaniel is already there. He’s wearing a pair of denim jeans, a tee shirt from the team he played for, and tennis shoes. His muscles quietly carve out their place beneath his shirt and he smells like an expensive cologne that I can’t name. For a man worth millions, he looks very comfortable in jeans and a shirt. He stands as I take my seat, and only sits again after I do. True gentlemen. I’m already impressed.)

Today, we have a special treat. We’re going to be interviewing Nathaniel Blanchard of The Alpha’s Dream.  How are you Nathaniel?

N: I’m doing well. How are you?

Doing great. I’m excited about being with you here today. Your debut to the world is a little over a month away and there is a lot we want to know about you.

(Nathaniel laughs. It is a deep burst of sunlight and the smile that follows stretches his face into rows of gleaming white teeth. for a moment, I am quiet in all his black man joy.)

N: .I will answer anything you ask. Just fire away.

Great. We’ll try not to be too intrusive. So let’s begin with something easy. When did you realize that football would change your life.

N: I was in Junior high school before I picked up a football for the first time. I was bigger than all of my peers and faster and stronger. Pretty soon, I was getting attention from local high schools, then high school, and later college. It wasn’t until college that football started to feel like a possible career. I knew if I worked hard, I would be the same on a professional field as I was on that junior high field. So I kept pushing until the my stats proved it.

Wow. So It wasn’t a life dream, but an opportunity.

N: Yes, and opportunity. I knew that with playing football came a lot of other opportunities. I was financial stability, butt it was also a whole network of people who lived lives I’d only dreamed of.

Was it everything you thought it would be? You were on the highest platform and in front of millions. That had to be thrilling.

N: I was, but I wasn’t the whole picture. For every successful player I saw, I saw another who was throwing away his millions or just didn’t know what to do with their lives after playing ball.

Is that what inspired Alpha Athletics’?

N: absolutely. I saw a need among my peers for direction. We were the upper echelon with the best money managers, and agents the world had ever seen. Yet, I’m the only one of my retiring class who can still afford my lifestyle. I knew that other upcoming players would need more than just access to the best they could afford. They would need people who would tell them the hard truth. So, we have great agents, but really we look at each player individually and help them build their team with their future in mind.

Wow. That’s  a big undertaking.

N: Yes, it is. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with doing something extraordinary because of the effects it will have on the community at large.

How would you say your wolf heritage contributes to your need to build community?

N:That something I’m still working out. I have a complex relationship with my wolf heritage, and I want to explore its relationship to my life as is. I just haven’t don’t much of that yet.

Fair enough. I get the impression that saving the world takes a lot of your time. So, how does that translate for your love life?

(he laughs again. This time, he brings his hand to his mouth and rocks back in his seat. He’s staring at me with a lopsided grin as he begins again.)

N:It means I have very little time for things that aren’t … fruitful.

Is Euphoria Atkins fruitful?

N: No comment.

Aww Come on, I thought we were getting close here. She obviously has some influence, because your face lit up when I mentioned her name.

N: “She does have influence, but you’ll have to read the book to know to what extent.

You’re really protective of her. Care to delve into why?

N: Some things are worthy of protecting.

(Nathaniel straightens his long legs in front of him. The smile on his face is gentler now, and I can tell he is lost in his thoughts. Despite his refusal to elaborate on his relationship with Euphoria Atkins, I  know she has a special place in his head. It is written all over his face.)

Well, I’ve held you long enough. before we go, I have on more thing to ask. Give me three words that describe your story for our readers.

N: That’s a tough one. There are so many things I think the readers could take away from this book. I guess having to narrow it down now I would say… haunting, layered and sexy.

Haunting, layered, and sexy. Those are some strong words to live up too.

N: Believe me, The Alpha’s Dream lives up to that and more.

You’re not just saying that because you are in it?

N:I guess you will have to read it to find out.

I guess we will.

Joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#DiversityinRomance

Love is so multifaceted that I think we sometimes take for granted the many identities it has. There is often an urge to one size fits all what romance looks like despite the variances in the people who look to fall in love. There is no safety in limiting the  way romance or love in general is glorified and we should work collectively to expand its reach to everyone.

My contribution to this is by writing Shifter romances with people of color driving the plot. primarily, my characters are African-American like me. However, I keep having characters of all nationalities pop up wanting their stories written. Some of them biracial, some of them Native American, Hispanic, and so on and so forth. They are all there, demanding acknowledgement of their existence. I want to acknowledge them all.

It feels like such a small thing. I’ve even been called petty because of it. Maybe it truly is petty. I’m not sure. What I am certain of is that representation in art and all forms of life is critical in adding to the richness of our lives.

Shifter Romances are not true stories. They are not reality meets romance as Urban fiction and other African-American Romances usually are for most of us. You’ll likely never walk out of your house and fall helplessly in love with a man who is half werewolf and occasionally shifts to his beasts form. I know that. I also know the power of whimsical thinking.

What drew me to Shifter romances wasn’t the idea that it could happen. It was how fun it felt to imagine. That though these heroes definitely had some very human flaws, they also had an exception that set them apart. It was the idea that of lifetime love that was so engrained in their DNA that despite their best efforts, they would find and forever hold on to the one.

That is powerful.

That is a night’s vivid sweet dream.

I wanted to hold on to that feeling forever.

As I continue to work on my characters I am find myself questioning if the only reason I think it is important to have heroes and heroines of color in these works is because I’m black. Somehow, it feels like my desire to see them should be validated by something else. I could write all night about validation, but that is something else. The truth is that I write my characters to look like me and people I love and that doesn’t need validating.

I look out of the landscape of self-publishers and other authors and I see that many others are taking the same leaps. They are also looking for a place that feels representative and often carving one out when they don’t find it. It is a tricky thing to create a space when you feel like there should already be one. Yet, someone must be a pioneer and go boldly forth.

My hope is that more and more of us will take the reins into our hands and push forward to create the diversity that we seek. It is worth it for ourselves and our children to fall in love with a myriad of love stories. Let there be countless romances. Let us them up and create a rainbow of writings about love in all races then let us consume them like sweet candy.

There will come a time where the hashtag #diversityinromance will be a throwback to an era long passed. Until then, I will write endlessly and hope that you will join me in reshaping the landscape so that it is more inclusive of those we reach for and who reach for us.

#HeroineIntroductions

Last week, I introduced our lovely hero Nathaniel Blanchard. The strong Alpha wolf is nothing without his loving mate. Today, meet the woman who makes him reconsider everything he ever believed about life long love – Euphoria “Euri” Atkins.

Euphoria Atkins, is a talented and curvy New Orleans transplant. After years in corporate America, she decided to venture out on her own and do the work she loves as a Graphic Designer. Business is slow, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t give every project her utmost attention.

She’s the type of woman who treats her friends like sisters and believes there are no coincidences. Smart, funny, and endearing Euphoria is authentic to a fault.  She doesn’t lie to herself, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

Beneath a strong and confident exterior is a soft and sometimes fragile interior. Her realistic nature won’t let her believe anything too willing, unless it already supports her premise. She trusts her gut, and her best friends. She loves hard, and long. When the time comes to lay it all on the line she does so with reservations. NOthing tests her heart more than her hero Nathaniel Blanchard.

Euphoria’s journey is one that most women can relate to  in at least one phase of her life. She is stronger than she thinks she is, wiser than she gives herself credit, and determined to make the best of her life. Noone walks away from her unmoved.

As we travel the journey of Euphoria and Nathaniel’s relationship together, the question is never whether or not she loves him. However, she has to get out of her head and let her heart guide if their love is ever to last.

#Therearelayerstothis

No. I don’t write Urban Fiction. I write African-American Romances.

Yes, there is a difference.

As everything does, the African-American romance genre has grown. When I was a girl and first getting into romances there was only one name for the genre. It encompassed any romances that included A.A characters as the driving leads. The list of authors was constantly growing and the different styles were developing write under my nose. I loved it then, I love it now. So when it was time for me to write for myself using A.A. romance novels as my foundation was ideal.

As I have gotten older, I’ve watched the genre make room for more. The rise of Urban Fiction came as a surprise for me. Suddenly there was another outlet, another expression of A.A. romance in its various forms. I tried to get into it, but found myself feeling like an outsider. I was trying to interpret something that I didn’t have a base line to understand. Urban Fiction had almost all the elements that I loved about old-fashioned A.A. romances, but there was something more. There is a deeper edge to everything about urban fiction.

The language is coarser, the settings and circumstances center around a more street lifestyle. The methods and motivations of the characters to get what they wanted felt more cutthroat. I grew up in the woods in a home my stepfather built us. The love written between the pages  of Urban Fiction I could relate too. I have a hard time with everything else.

I keep reading anyway. When I discuss being a writer, even before getting to the shifter angle, there are questions about my work. Urban Fiction has become the unofficial face of black romance. Which leads to some explaining when I say I don’t write it for myself. I’ve ghostwritten several, but that is the extent of it. I know women who swear by it, who race out for the next bestsellers. I’m not one of them.

However, when I look over the landscape of romance writing, I love all the voices that are making their way. Representation is so important. Having someone who gets where you are from and your experiences mirrored back in something like leisure reading is fun and inviting. It is a welcomed sight. It is as it should be and kudos to those who saw the need and filled it.

The romantic lives of black people and people of color in general has almost always been presented as either something taboo or something one-dimensional. It is important that we as writers make room for more voices to demystify the layers of relationships and how they are created within our communities. To show the world at large there is no one way to quantify loving. It exists in its own forms both similar and differing everywhere the sun touches.  I don’t write Urban Fiction, but I am thankful for its existence. Just as I needed the old-fashioned A.A. Romances, so did those who read and love Urban Fiction. I’m forever here for that.

Comment below with your favorite Urban Fiction books and authors. I’d love to hear some of your reviews.

Joy.