#PublishingTheAlpha’sDream

A month ago, I published for the first time ever under my own name. I’m still freaking out about it.

I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t my first published work. The thing is, it’s very different publishing under a pseudonym or as part of a collaborative work. Taking ownership of my words is something I’ve always struggled with, and thus The Alpha’s Dream is no small creation for me.

There are tons of things I learned on the road to writing it, but what I want to discuss today is what I’ve learned from dreaming it period. Here are five things wanting The Alpha’s Dream has taught me.

 

Career changes are risky.  

When I first decided to write The Alpha’s Dream there were only two things of which I was certain. I wanted a career from writing my own books and I would have to cut back on my ghostwriting.  That great book you love, it took hella long hours to write. There was no way I was going to be able to keep the pace of my ghostwriting and add in the creation of my own original work. I had to cut back my hours, which translated into missed income from my home. At the time, I had two littles and had just discovered my third pregnancy. I wanted to put it off longer. Collecting great premises that I would one day flesh into novellas or novels had become a hobby of sorts. After weeks of quietly deliberating, I talked to my husband. His response was for me to go for it. We would restructure and figure out how to make it. I was terrified anyway and rightfully so. Our budget was already stretched to it’s seam, but then the first certainty kicked in. I knew I wanted to publish my own work, and there was only one way to get there. I would have to take the chance and pull away from creating for others to build the life I wanted for myself. I had to face the risk of it, or I would never know what could come of it. Thus, the Year of the Leap was born. 

Plan. Execute. Repeat.

I have limited time. Balancing wifehood, motherhood, and writing full time leaves me short of hours. If I was goin to do this I would need to be sure from the beginning. I took a couple of weeks to determine what premise I would use for my first release, then the plotting, and writing came. I’m more of a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl (pantser) but I couldn’t afford the writers block I inevitably end up with when I do that. I had to make the hours count. So I took the time to research the best outline methods and crafted one that worked with my writing style. Then, I went to work. Executing is by far the hardest part of this process. There were times I would fall asleep at the keyboard, or scrap an entire chapter. There were also moments when I doubted I’d find my idea market and question whether the work would sell. Ultimately, I just had to get up everyday knowing I am an author working on her latest release and see it through. Not always fun, but worth it now.

Have faith or fear, but not both.

I am naturally a worse case scenario person. I have a hard time visualizing success, and am actively working to change that about myself. The base for my doubt is always fear, and I couldn’t afford to e afraid any longer. I was taking the biggest risk of my life, with the oldest dream of my heart. I had to pick faith in my God, my work, and myself over the fear. Fear is a powerful emotion. Faith is a strong counterattack. I’m still learning to shift my focus. It has been important to me that I don’t inflate with hyper positive but unsubstantiated ideas. Instead, I honor that I have to work hard by giving voice being uncertain there will be a payoff. I have faith that with every published work, I will build and grow a little more. That is what I hold on to when things are murky. It is a work in progress.

Find your market, or be fearless in creating one.

Initially, I wasn’t sure there was a market for shifter romances with both hero and heroine as African-Americans. The norm seemed to show a comfort level for BW heroes and WM shifters as well as Caucasian hero’s and heroines. I knew I wasn’t the only brown woman who loved shifter romances, but there didn’t seem to be a recognizable market. I searched for months and didn’t find anything. There was more doubt, more fear that the risk I was taking was not going to work. After a while, it didn’t matter that I didn’t see the market. I saw the characters, and their stories. I believed that would be enough to attract readers, even if they were checking out shifter romances for the first time.  I found my niche and I am working it like it has been heavily established. I am a reader of the books I write. I am my own market. As it turns out, so are you.

You don’t have time to wait for the “perfect time”.

The time you are in is always the perfect time. Don’t get me wrong. There is an ideal setting in which i would have liked to start writing. Ideally, we would have been financially sure from other endeavors. The market would be fairly established and my darlings would have a lovely routine that allowed them not to miss me when I was writing. Suffice to say I am still working on that part of the dream.  I had to come to terms with the fact that I would have to make time, I would have to have faith, and just start. Start. I couldn’t spend anymore years waiting for my ideal scenario to make it easy for me to pursue my dreams. I had to begin right in the thick of my uncertainty. I had to start where I was and hold steady until something great happened. It is happening now.

As I celebrate The Alpha’s Dream very cute and meaningful milestone, I am happy that I took the chances I did. I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, and produced a work I love because of it.  There will only be more from here.

Comment below with your thoughts on The Alpha’s Dream.

Joy.

 

 

#KeepinTouch: 5 Reasons you should subscribe to my blog

I’ve been working on my blog as part of my author platform for a while now. The truth is, it’s become so much more.

As I write this, I’m already thinking of what other things I will add to my blog to make it more interactive for my readers. Not just those who read my books, but those who drop by on occasion to keep in touch. I love the alerts when someone likes a post I’ve read or when they send me a message about something I’ve written. It feels good to be connected.

So, I want you to come here more often. I want you to send your friends, your frenemies, and the all that you believe will be interested to my website. I’m more than just books and here are five reasons you should subscribe to my blog and keep in touch.

 

Mama Stories/Wife Things

I’ve only been a mother for three years. I’ve been a wife for nearly eleven years. My years alone with my husband are a very telling part of my being a romantic. My years with my children were the catalyst for me to stop ghostwriting. Already, I’ve gained a lot, learned a lot about myself and the world around me that I didn’t notice until my children were born. Their births kicked my writing into gear and I love it. Often enough, I found myself writing about their influence as I blogged. It has now become a permanent and intentional writing point. I’m a #MamaAuthor. It is a major factor to my work. If you are a mama/ wife who has found yourself influenced by your children or your spouse to commit to your other passions, these stories are for you.

Book updates, snippets and conversations on publishing

My blog came to exist because I am an author. It is a place for readers to connect with my books. So of course, there will be updates for what I am working on, new release information, and soon there will be snippets of works in progress. I write shifter romances with African-American leads. If you are into that sort of thing, subscribe! keeping in contact here will allow a greater chance that you will see what’s coming next, first.

Goal Digging

This is a big thing for me. I’m always working on other projects. It’s not that I just prefer to be busy, but I prefer to expand on my purpose. My blog deals a lot with my goals from the stand point of an author. However, the tools and methods I use can be applied to anything. I’m all for accountability. When I’m writing to you, I am asking you to hold me accountable for the dreams I have made public. When you comment, you are inviting me to do the same. It is a small thing, but a very useful one. Together we can inspire each other toward the lives we all want.

Exclusives and Giveaways

Now that I am getting the hang of this blogging thing I’m offering a lot more. My writing career is officially kicked off and while establishing my dream team, I’m in the process of developing exclusive swag for those who join. In addition, the excerpts and #freshpress work that you find here is exclusive unless otherwise noted. When you come to my website, I want your experience to be one fluid invitation into the creative space of my life. I aim to make that as seamless and welcoming as possible.

We’re All Family Here

You may have stumbled upon my blog. You may have gotten here through a search engine or some other method of funneling. Whatever the way you got here, it is because you were looking for something. So is everyone here. I’m writing African-American centered shifter romances because I couldn’t readily find them when I was looking. Maybe that was what drew you. Stay for the coffee and conversation. Stay for the insights on publishing, and the struggles I face while trying to write what I love. Comment with tips for dealing with anxiety or other ways to balance work and wife/mama life. We’re all connected here. We are all here for a reason and I am working to nurture those reasons for all of us.

There you have it. Five good reasons you should subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already.   You can simply follow me from the site or you can sign up  for my newsletters for updates on the latest going on here and with the books I am publishing. I’m sure you have your reasons for coming. These are reasons to stay. Don’t break my heart. Leave a comment below about some of the things you’ve liked about my growing blog so far. I love to hear from you.

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.

 

 

 

 

#BlackRomance

As I have mentioned before, I have been in love with romances all of my life. I have vivid memories of locking myself in my parents bedrooms and reading the forbidden love novels while my parents were at work. It left its mark on me.

Now, as I embark on a career that brings me to do what those authors did for me, I find myself thinking of the multitude of voices that influence my desire to write. It took a minute, but I was able to narrow my list down to five AA romance authors who’ve consumed hours of my life with their works. My reasons for loving them individually are just as differing as their respective voices.

I wanted to share them with you, because I still love them. I still lock myself away to read their newest works. I think it important to give voice to those who’ve influenced us. I hope to learn some authors who’ve influenced you too.

In full disclosure, this list is no way exhaustive or in any order. I couldn’t dare quantify what these people mean to me one over the other. Just know they still my breath, make me squirm and giggle, as well as swoon. I fall in love with their characters. I hate their villains and rush through chapters when things get too intense. I’ll never get enough of them.

 

Brenda Jackson

No one writes a series like Brenda Jackson. The Madaris’, the Westmorelands, the Grangers’ all of them are good enough to eat. I’ve hoped from one series to another then back again and I love every one. The endings are always a little rushed for me, but ultimately I still fall for them. I know my happily ever after is coming and I stand on my tip toes waiting for it from her.

Zane

If there is anyone who knows how to pour on the heat it is Zane. She made it a thing to talk openly about our sexual desires and I was loving it. HEr characters were true to themselves. Even when they were looking for approval, they knew their own identities. I love it. I love it. I love it. As long as she’s writing those sexy stories, I will be a happy reader.

Eric Jerome Dickey

This was the first male author who convince me he knew anything about women. I love his stories. I like how they are a combination of street colloquialisms and romance. His characters are flawed, and honest as they fumble through their love lives. His dialogue feels true to form and his endings are not always predictable. Romances a aren’t just for women and he proves that over and over again.

Francis Ray

I came late to the Francis Ray party, but I never want to leave. Her descriptive story telling paints the scene. Her characters are twisted, or incredibly flawed, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sometimes broken. The vulnerability in her writing sends me through highs and lows that are often unpredictable. She  comes to a happily ever after, but there are always moments where I hold my breath and hope for the best. Her smooth, descriptive writing is something I hope to have in my own work. I always go back to her when I  have a weekend I want to feel with a carefully unfolding romance.

Donna Hill

I was first introduced to Donna Hill through the Black Expressions Book Club. I have loved her ever since. Her books are generally smooth reading. There might be a hiccup or an uncomfortable situation, but nothing that feels insurmountable. When all I want is a love story, I turn to Donna Hill. Her characters are genuine and heroines stand on their own. Her heroes are strong, driven, and now what they want. It rarely takes more than a couple of hours, if that to get through one of her books. Sometimes, that is all I need.

I can’t possibly imagine I ma introducing any of you to any of these authors, but if I am pick up anything they’ve written and dive in. I would love to know what you find. Who are your favorite authors? Leave a comment below.

 

Joy.

 

#HeroIntroductions

I love my characters and I want you to love them too. So here is the first of a series of introductions to my loves. Shifters lovers meet our hero Nathaniel.

Nathaniel Blanchard is a 27-year-old, chocolate-brown werewolf with savior intentions. He’s a former Pro-Football player and aspiring business owner. He’s made a good living for himself and now he is reaching back to help anyone who might need a little guidance. He’s plagued by feeling disconnected from his werewolf, so he compensates by being the best “man” he can. This of course often puts him at odds with his beast.

Anyone who is anyone knows that denial of self is the easiest way to lose sight of everything in your life. It will take his willingness to delve deeper into why he feels split into two before he can have all that he’s dreamed.

What I love about Nathaniel is the very thing that threatens to bring him down-his stubborn pride. Nathaniel is not a werewolf who would ever be easily convinced of anything. He is hell bent on thinking for himself and coming up with his own answers. The hard truth about only trusting his own voice is not having room for other visions. He doesn’t want to be proven wrong and he holds on to his “wrongness” as long as possible.

It will not be easy for him to get passed this major flaw in order to fall for Euphoria. She is busy battling her own flaws. It is a struggle from start to finish as they work through their private matters to find their way to each other.

It is a battle that Nathaniel never expected to fight. Though he never stays single long he doesn’t actually believe in finding true love. The idea that his wolf heritage would mean one day finding his life mate is an even further stretch for him. Throughout his life, there is only one woman he ever believed loved him completely. His mother. Yet, it is her secret that could be the key allowing him to unlock his carefully guarded heart.

You should know that Nathaniel is just as loyal as he is stubborn. He will always stand by those who are close to him. Once he is sure of his love for Euphoria, he will fall on his sword to let her know he’s serious. Then, he will make peace with all the things that have kept him from revealing himself to her.

Nathaniel’s story comes full circle, but not without some intense private scrutiny. There  is so much he has to learn, but men like him never give up. And the women they love need only have faith.

Sounds like someone you could fall in love with. Leave a comment and let me know.

Joy.

 

#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.

#shiftersmateforlife

My husband is one of the reasons I write romances. He is the absolute love of my life.

When I first met my husband we were both poets enjoying a vibrant and inviting spoken word scene in the city we live in. I was a naïve, very green, little woman. He was a self-assured, smart, and inviting man. I enjoyed his gregarious nature, and his ability to work seamlessly within whatever crowd there was to be navigated. He could shift into whomever the moment called for and it would still be his authentic self. It still amazes me. It would take years for our very casual friendship to turn into anything more.

We were and still are, polar opposites of each other. His wild, extroverted, Gemini heart is  downright terrifying to my sedated, introverted, Virgo spirit. Yet, we exist. We thrive together because he makes my soul happy. We push toward lives that neither of us could have predicted out of an unrelenting need to hold on to what we have in each other.

He is quiet strength and a complex, brilliant mind. He is a loving father, the kind who stands back patiently until needed/wanted. He is full of stories. Some of them are quite extravagant, but mostly true, versions of lives he’s lived. Most days, I feel like a bystander watching his brilliance unfold.

That isn’t to say we are without failures, and utter disappointments.  We’ve been married for ten years plus. For all the days that I felt awestruck by his human complexity, there are numerous days that I have felt foolishly in love. There is plenty of heartbreak between those years, but we continue. We always find our way back to each other.

“Having him here reminds me of who I am.”

Isn’t that what romance is? Sweeping, inspiring ways to tumble into another flawed person, and layered methods of navigating their flaws? For me it is. For me, my marriage to my husband is one of the best ways to explore romance on a realistic level. When I think of us, there is always a wrinkle in our relationship.  Yet, when he isn’t here with me I am lovesick. It doesn’t matter if it is errands, work, or any circumstances. Having him with me reminds me of who I am.

As I think of my characters, I think of he and I. I think of how we’ve learned each other over the years. I think of the layers we pull back to show ourselves to each other. I think of the ways we’ve healed each other and the new scars we’ve created. I think of how even at the worst of our lives together, we’ve always managed to come out together. I think of the gratitude we feel for each other.

I work to transfer those things into my characters. I want them to know the struggle of having the one you love. It doesn’t mean constant chaos or even perpetual bliss. It means uncovering, delving into who they are so that they are prepared for love in its various forms. I want them to know that finding “the one” doesn’t mean there won’t still be work to do. Every love, needs room to grow. Every partner needs the willingness to make room. There is always more to learn and outlive about the person you love.

Shifter romances lend themselves easily to this premise. The shifter is often keeping a bit of a secret, something of himself from his lover. It isn’t meant to be deceptive in my writing. It is a tool, a type of self preservation. Being a shifter comes with numerous intricacies and a woman who is looking to share her life with one most be adaptable. She must know when to give and when to take. She must be brave and as strong, and fearless of her lover. their place in the pack is critical to it’s survival. So, I work hard so that these qualities are shown. Let them be resilient. Let them fight for what they love, brave the wild of their own fears. when it is all said in done, let them do it for love.

I don’t know if this is a great method for writing just as I don’t know what will happen with my marriage to my husband. I know that right now, all that we are goes into my work. I have his support. I have characters I love. Both of these things are shaping my life into one that I love. My heart spills open  with joy because of it. Shifters mate for life. It is no different for me.

When you read my work, I hope you are able to see a little of you and your lover in its pages too. I hope your happily ever after is just as vibrant and real as these. I hope it lasts your lifetime.

Comment below on some of the things the shifter in your love moves you to feel.

Joy.