Friday, October 26, 2007

Scent of an Angel Excerpt


She had three choices and a split-second to decide. Catch it, duck, or let it hit her in the face. Her sister, Ebony, must have calculated the distance before turning her back to the crowd gathered below and tossing it over her shoulder. Ebony's aim was surprisingly true. It was coming right at her head.

"Dang it!" she grunted under her breath from her attempted hiding place deep in back of the throng of eager women.

She raised her hand to protect her eyes. At the last instance, however, the woman standing to her right snatched the bridal bouquet out of the air.

"Copper Veronica Patterson," the woman chided, "you were just going to let it hit you. Weren't you? And you know Ebony was throwing it right at you."

"But I knew you were nearby, Pepper," Copper joked, "didn't want to deprive you."

"Yeah, right," Pepper said. "But thanks anyway." She jumped up and down a few times, whooping.

Copper looked up towards the balcony at her sister, who shrugged her shoulders and smiled, as Pepper's squeals of joy vibrated through the air.

Seeing Ebony wearing the wispy white wedding dress evoked memories that were still somewhat painful. It had been their mother's gown. A beautiful combination of satin and lace intricately embroidered with flowers and butterflies, which was originally made for and worn by Opal—their mother—some twenty-nine years ago. Finally, all three of her daughters: Copper, Mahogany and, now, Ebony, had worn it.

The three ceremonies had taken place in this very same spacious backyard of the house where they grew up, Opal's two-story, four-bedroom home in Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta. The peach trees, flower garden and gazebo made a good backdrop for the occasion.

Two years ago, in 1992, when Copper had flown in for Mahogany's wedding, the sights and sounds of the affair had been even more disturbing. It was déjà vu. She had even expected to see Bobby, her ex-husband, slyly flirting with some of the attractive female guests.

At one point, she had to sneak away to her old bedroom to relieve herself of the anxiety she felt by sitting on the bed and hugging the Prince Charming doll she used to sleep and daydream with as a child.

Indeed, it was still her room, her sanctuary. All of her mementos and teenage belongings were there, just as she had left them. Copper felt so safe in that room. She had stayed up there weeping, thinking about her failed marriage, until she heard her mother's voice calling for her, which made her hurriedly fix her face, as she responded to Opal. She wiped away any remnants of tears, and rejoined the festivities with a fake smile as her countenance.

This time, at Ebony's nuptials, the pain wasn't quite as bad. She was stronger now. Sure, the memories came fleetingly, especially when she looked at her sister in that dress. She looked almost exactly as Copper had.

All three sisters stood around five foot eight inches. They had the same mane of dark sandy-brown hair with the widow's peak, deep dimples, full wide lips and light bronze complexion. Also, they had what others called, the "Patterson look." Big almond-shaped hazel-colored eyes, long curled lashes and the dark eyebrows with the fine hairs connecting them, which gave the girls and their mother—whose own mother was from Brazil—an exotic, determined look. When you threw in the tall, supple, hourglass figures, with the butts that made men turn and give them the once-over—twice, one could understand why there were a number of disappointed males at each sister's wedding.

There were almost two hundred guests milling around the sunny backyard at this one. The groom and his groomsmen were standing around the Jacuzzi in their powder-blue tuxedos, posing for the photographer, as the lilting tunes of the Jamaican steel band, set up over by the gazebo, filtered through the warm evening air.

Some of the guests were dancing, while others mingled and snacked on the seafood and fruit spread next to the champagne fountain on the long table against the fence. Everyone was conversing and enjoying the lovely June day. The thunderstorms the day before caused a little mugginess, but it was bearable with the warm breeze that glided over the backyard from time to time like a silk shawl brushing lightly against each person trying to find a place to settle down.

"Sorry, sis," Ebony said, walking up and embracing Copper.

"For what, Ebb?" Copper asked as they made their way over to the champagne and sparkling apple cider, amidst the well wishes that were showered upon the bride.

"The bouquet," she explained. "I was trying to get it to you. I didn't see your roomie standing there. Everyone knows that Pepper thinks she's getting older."

"We all are." Copper chuckled.

"You know what I mean. She thinks that if you're not married by the time you're thirty, you are over the hill, automatically washed up. And she's twenty-seven."

"I keep telling her she has a lot to learn," the twenty-eight year old responded as she picked up two full glasses, handing one to her sister, who was two years her junior and one year younger than Mahogany.

"Did you think about our father at your wedding, too?" the bride inquired, softly.

"Yes, I did, Ebb," admitted Copper. "I wondered if he knew… if he cared. I mean, Aunt Birdie was here, but, just like at my wedding and Mahogany's, too, she didn't even mention his name. There's something about the way she looks at us though. I can't put my finger on it."

Copper wondered whether Aunt Birdie, her dad's sister, had any information that would help them better understand why he left.

"I still find myself wishing that he was here," Ebony shared, wiping away a tear.

"I know." Copper put an arm around her younger sister's shoulder. "Anyway," she held her glass in the air and continued, "to the beginning of a new, wonderful life."

They clinked glasses and sipped the sparkling apple cider.

"Is it, sis?" Ebony asked, with a look so serious that Copper felt something pull at her heart even more. "Will it be wonderful?"

Before answering, Copper looked over at the groom, who was smiling and shaking hands with everyone in range, and she remembered how eight years ago Bobby, her groom, had hardly smiled at all.

"Yes, Ebb, I think Edward will make a very good husband. I believe you will be very happy together."

"Coming from you, Copp, that means a lot," Ebony acknowledged. "I know how psychic you can be sometimes. Boy, do I know. You told me that I would marry him someday when I first introduced you to Edward three years ago when you came back for my college graduation."

"Did I?"

"You did."


"How do you do it, sis?"

"Ebony, I really don't know. Sometimes I get these intuitive feelings. I used to ignore them when I was younger, and they stopped happening for a while. Then they started again, and I noticed that the more I heeded them, the more I would get them." She looked over Ebb's shoulder and saw their mother, Mahogany, and the photographer heading towards them. "Like, right now, I get the feeling that our picture is about to be taken."

Ebony turned and saw them, too.

"Oh, I'm beginning to get the hang of it now," she said as they both laughed.

"And what's so funny?" Mahogany inquired with a smile.

"The future," said Ebb, putting an arm around each sister.

"Let's hope you will be able to say that in the future," their mother said pointedly.

"Opal!" Copper reprimanded jokingly.

Anyone not knowing any better would think that the four of them were sisters. Opal was in her late forties, but still maintained the good looks and figure passed on to her daughters.

The photographer was very professional as he positioned them and took the pictures with the minimum of conversation. His eyes locked with Copper's at one point and suddenly she got the feeling that she knew him. Upon closer scrutiny she realized what it was. He slightly resembled her ex-husband. An inch shorter, perhaps, and more mature looking, but the way his eyes sparkled when he smiled was like her ex, and the square-jawed strong masculine look was how she envisioned Bobby would look in his thirties.

"Mommy, can we get in the pictures?" Copper turned to see her seven and a half-year old daughter, Tiffany, looking up at her. She was holding Mahogany's two-year old, Tanzia, by the hand.

"And who might you be?" the friendly photographer asked.

"My name is Tiffany," she replied proudly, "and who might you be?"

"My name is Doug," he answered, laughing at how grown up she appeared. "Which one of these ladies is your mother?"

"She is," the little girl pointed at Copper and went to stand beside her.

"And I know who your mommy is," Doug said to Tanzia.

"You sure do." Mahogany smiled, picking her up.

The photographer posed them all for several shots as Aunt Birdie stood behind him snapping her little camera.

"Wow," he admired. "Three generations of beautiful black women. And Mrs. Patterson, you are the prettiest grandmother I have ever had the privilege of photographing."

Opal beamed as Copper, Mahogany and Ebony looked at each other and smiled, shaking their heads.

The next morning Copper arose early. When they were growing up, Opal had taken them all to church every Sunday morning diligently. However, upon reaching adulthood, her sisters discontinued weekly services, although they still went occasionally. Copper, on the other hand, had carried on, even while in college. She belonged to Seekers—a non-denominational church of religious science in Washington, D.C. Whenever Copper was in Atlanta on a Sunday she attended services at Hillside, which had the same type doctrine.

When she mentioned to Tiffany that she would be going to church in the morning her daughter asked to go along. Tiffany was very bright in school. Copper wanted to expose her to different ideas to help her grow mentally.

They sat through the sermon on "Visualization" and immediately went to brunch downtown at the Hyatt on Peachtree Street. Then they decided to go to the zoo and finally back to Opal's house.

It was a lovely summer afternoon for some mother and daughter bonding. They didn't have the opportunity often. In fact, the last time just the two of them had gone out to eat together was over a year ago, the night that Copper got upset with Tiff for playing a trick on her. They were at a restaurant celebrating Tiffany's birthday, and Tiffany decided to play hide and seek without Copper's consent. That caused a momentary scare until the little girl reappeared.

This evening Copper would fly back to D.C. and Tiffany would, as usual, remain with Opal. As they were driving back to Stone Mountain, Copper asked the question that had been bothering her for a while. She was bothered because she felt guilty having to leave Tiffany. Due to her busy work schedule, Copper didn't have a whole lot of free time to spend with Tiff. For the best interest of her daughter, Copper made the difficult decision to allow Tiff to stay with Opal.

"Tiffany, do you mind living with Grandma?"

"No ma'am, I like it. All of my friends and relatives are here," she replied earnestly. "But you know, when the preacher this morning was saying how by visualizing what you want and believing that it will happen, you can make it so?"


"Well, Mommy," she said, turning to face her in the seat. "I can see myself living with you in Washington like you told me I'd do when I start high school. And I visualize us having a father living with us, too."

"Father? You mean your daddy?"

"Well, I know we haven't seen Daddy in years," the little girl went on. "And I know you always tell me that Daddy still loves me and that you like Daddy, but I don't think Daddy is the one I see. He's not coming back, and we don't want him back. Do we, Mommy?"

"No, baby, we don't," Copper agreed as her eyes watered with delight at the understanding of her little lady.

"So, Mommy, I'm going to visualize a new daddy. I'm going to keep visualizing until it happens, and we're going to be happily ever after. Okay, Mommy?"

"Okay, little girl," Copper acknowledged warmly, squeezing her small hand.

Copper welcomed the help. Ever since her divorce four years ago, she had been waiting for the right guy to come along. Somewhere out there she knew there had to be a man who would fall in love with her and that she could fall in love with… true love. The fairy-tale kind of love in which two people only have eyes for each other.

That happens in real life, she mused. There are couples like that, right? Everyone's not getting divorced. People do stay married, not just for convenience, but because they really love each other. There are black couples like that, aren't there? All black men don't up and leave, do they? They're not all like Bobby or her father, are they? No answers came with the questions. They just circled in her mind.

Ebony and Edward seemed to be deeply in love, she reflected, as do Mahogany and Joshua. But how long would that last? Her own marriage had lasted four years officially. She prayed that her sisters' would last much longer. And since their spouses were black men, too, she felt prayers were definitely going to be needed.

Even with the negativity she felt, however, she never said anything derogatory about her ex-husband to Tiffany. As a matter of fact, she made it a point to always speak of Bobby in an affectionate and positive manner. After all, he was her baby's daddy, even though he hadn't been enthused about that fact at the outset. His blood flowed through Tiffany's veins; she had his eyes and nose. Tiffany was proud to have a professional NFL football player as a father.

Copper tried to make sure that her little girl didn't suspect the bitterness she felt towards Bobby, her own father, and black men, period, for that matter.

"Doug called here twice for you," Mahogany informed her as Copper walked into the den, where her sister was watching the NBA playoffs. "I told him that you took Tiffany to church this morning. How long have you been back?"

"I just got here. I didn't want to block you in, so I parked on the street. And who is Doug?"

"You know, the photographer from the wedding yesterday," Mahogany reminded her. "Where's Tiff?"

"She's walking up the street with Moms and Tanz. Why is this Doug guy calling for me?" Copper inquired, slightly annoyed. Overly aggressive men were a definite no-no to her. "And how did he get this number?"

"He's had this number for several years now. He's an old friend of Joshua's," Mahogany replied, referring to her husband. "As a matter of fact, he photographed my wedding. You don't remember him?"

"Hoggy, that was two years ago. I had other things on my mind. Why is he calling me?" She tilted her head slightly to the side.

"There you go leaning your head," Hoggy noted, knowing that meant Copper was beginning to get angry. "Why do you think he called, Copp? I guess he's interested in talking to you. I mean, it's not as if he's desperate with those light-brown caramel eyes and a smile to die for. When they say tall, dark and handsome, they're talking about Doug Kenner."

"T, D and H is all right, but. . ." Copper started.

"T, D and H?" Mahogany interrupted.

"Tall, dark and handsome."

"Oh, I forgot. You live in alphabet city now: D.C., CIA, FBI, HEW, GNP, HUD, BLT…"

"Okay, okay." Copper laughed. "You got me that time. BLT, that's funny. But anyway, having good looks is fine, but a man has to have more than that."

"Hey, he's got more than that. He has a great personality. Besides being a good photographer, he's very witty. He's good to people, and as the word goes, he really knows how to turn a woman on, if you know what I mean."

"No, I don't know what you mean."

"I mean he goes past foreplay to five-play."

"What? Who could have possibly told you something like that?" Copper wanted to know.

"I heard it through the grapevine."

"Well, you'd better believe that I'm not going to go out with someone who is being talked about like that."

"Don't pre-judge. Give him a chance. He should be calling back soon. I told him to try back in an hour. He said he just wanted to speak to you before you left tonight for D.C. By the way, are Ebony and Edward going to stop off there on their way back from the Bahamas?"

"Yes, that's what they said last night. I want to think of something special to do for them."

"You'll come up with something."

"I know, but you know how I like to plan things out. At any rate, I'm going upstairs to pack while Tiffany is outside."

"Are you going to talk to Doug when he calls?"

"I have to think about that," she called out, halfway up the stairs.

Actually, she was going to give it more thought than Mahogany would ever imagine. Copper had been celibate since her last sexual encounter with her husband, which was more than a year before her divorce was finalized, an abstention of over five years. Her ex-husband, combined with her spiritual beliefs, was actually the reason she began practicing celibacy. When rumors about his unfaithfulness started reaching her ears, she had stopped having sex with him. She wasn't sure how long her abstention would last, but prayer and faith got her through. Initially, not having sex was difficult, so she prayed that God would remove the desire until she was married, again.

In fact, Bobby was her one and only sexual partner. During the first couple of years after her break-up with Bobby, she went out on various dates. She had even dated one guy, Thomas, for ten months. He was considered one of the most eligible black bachelors in D.C., but there was a barrier and it was high. Although Thomas seemed to be a good catch, he didn't respect her decision to abstain. Instead, he took it as a personal challenge to get her to give in. Rather than compromise her beliefs, she broke up with him.

That was when she concluded there was another side to her personal problem. Not only did she need to de-bond herself from the memories of Bobby, but she had other memories that caused her pain also. Memories of a father who deserted her, memories of incidents that were recounted when her girlfriends sat around bashing black men, memories of things her husband put her through with the gossip of his disloyalty. Plus, she was affected by the prevalent negative images of black men that was being perpetuated in the media.

She had always felt that Copper Patterson deserved more, deserved better. She wanted the best that life had to offer, for herself and for her daughter. No more heartaches or headaches. She had been toying with this course of action before, so she made a decision… to de-bond herself from black men. She would suppress any inclination to get involved with them anymore on a serious basis. Maybe that was why she had been having such a hard time finding someone. Maybe her subconscious mind was trying to steer her away from the brothers. Her job had indoctrinated her to the professional white world of Washington, D.C.

Okay, she vowed, she was going to heed her subconscious mind. She decided that her next meaningful relationship was going to be with a Caucasian, when the right one came along. Black men, with their hang-ups, would be put on the back burner.

A few weeks after breaking it off with Thomas, she was in Atlanta for Mahogany's wedding. There was a full moon the night of the ceremony, and the reception was in full blast.

Earlier that day she had met friends and co-workers of Joshua, the groom. Jonathan "Buck" Buckner was one of them. A good-looking, but slightly nerdy, white guy, who happened to be at the foot of the stairs and saw her wiping tears from her eyes after being up in her room wondering if her Prince Charming would ever come.

Buck appeared to be so concerned, kind, and understanding as they went out to the backyard and sat in the gazebo and talked. She felt so vulnerable and weak. Looking back, she imagined that must be how it felt to talk to a therapist. Copper talked about herself, and then he shared a little about his life, and she grew comfortable with him. It seemed only natural to exchange phone numbers and make plans to have dinner together the next day.

After dinner they went to his condo, which was usually a no-no since she had just met the guy. But she took a chance. The music was right, and she felt very relaxed. She distinctly remembered that there was a full moon, because she had always heard that strange things happened during full moons. This particular evening she acted in a way that was uncharacteristic of her usual self.

Before she knew it, Buck was kissing her. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the passionate kiss. Buck's hands began to caress intimate parts of her body. She felt herself becoming turned on. Even though she initially felt pleasure, guilt suddenly overtook her. She regained her senses and gently pushed him back.

"I'm not ready for anything like that. Okay?" she announced with a friendly, but firm look.

Licking his lips, he said, "Your kisses sure taste sweet." He wiped the corners of his mouth. "Okay," he gave in reluctantly, "we'll have plenty of time."

Copper didn't know what he based his comment on. Even though it had been years since having sex with her husband, she refused to give in to temptation. When she had sex again, she would be married. The evening had ended with Buck dropping her back off at Opal's house.

"Copper, it's for you!" Mahogany yelled, interrupting Copper's thoughts.

"I'll take it up here," she answered, shaking her head at her sister's teasing tone as she picked up the bedroom phone. She waited until she heard her hang up downstairs before she continued, "Hello?"

"Hello, babe," said the masculine voice on the other end.

Right away it registered whose sound it was. "Hi, Buck," she said with a little vexation. "Now, you know I don't like that term 'babe.'"

"Well now, you know I don't mean anything by it," he began as an abrupt tone was heard in Copper's ear, indicating another call was coming in. "Is that you?" he asked.

"Of course, hold on please," she requested, quickly depressing the switch-hook for a split second to get the other call. "Hello?"

"Hello," a deeper male voice greeted. "Is Copper in?"

"She's speaking."

"Hi, this is Doug," he continued. "Are you on another call?"

How did he know? she wondered. "Yes, I am. Can you hold for a second?"

"Most definitely," he assured, as she clicked back to Buck.

"Buck?" she asked as she did so.

"It's me, babe-uh, I mean, uh, Copper," he acknowledged. "Tell me, what time are you leaving tonight? I want to get together with you."

"Let me get back to you on that," she responded. "I have another call right now."

"Okey-dokey, I'm at home. You have the number. Call me right back."

"Will do, bye." She clicked back to Doug. "Hello?"

"I'm still here," he said. "I could have called you back."

"No, they were ready to get off the phone anyway."

"Tell me," he inquired. "Why do females always say they when they mean he?"

Copper chuckled. "Do we do that?"

"All the time."

"What do men do?"

"When we say they, we mean they. When we mean she, we say she. At least that's what this man does."

"Hmmm, I guess men don't care if their business gets in the streets and women do," Copper reasoned.

"To me, stating the gender of the person I'm talking to on the phone is not putting my business in the streets." He chuckled. "Now, more personal things are something I would be more discreet about. But using they in that instance indicates something, and could be construed as being ashamed or disrespectful to him, her or it, whoever you were referring to."

"My, you're very opinionated," she noted, withdrawing somewhat.

"I'm sorry." Doug relaxed then changed subject. "Mahogany tells me you're leaving late tonight."

"Yes, I have to punch in early tomorrow morning."

She felt the question coming, but she still had no idea what her answer would be. What were Doug's intentions?

"I know you don't know me, but your brother-in-law is one of my very best friends. Both he and your sister can vouch that you'll be safe with me."

"Okay, I believe you," she said with an inner chuckle. "My sister did speak very highly of you."

"Really? What did she say?"

"She said that you were a nice guy," she related.

"See? So with that in mind, I was wondering if I could take you out for a bite to eat this afternoon," he went on.

"What do you like to eat?" she asked.

"Mexican, Italian, Chinese. . . "

"What about soul food?" she wanted to say.

"…soul food," he went on.

"Now you're talking!" She broke in, suppressing the laughter.

"Really? You want soul food?"

"I'll leave it up to you." She smiled and then said seriously, "But why?"

"Why?" He was caught off guard, she noted. "Because, because I saw you, I heard about you for years and I would like to talk to you, get to know you," he recovered.

There was total silence.

"Hello?" he called.

"I'm thinking," Copper announced. And she was. She felt that de-bonding herself from black men was essential if she was going to have a meaningful relationship with someone white. But it didn't mean she couldn't have black male friends. This guy seemed nice, she mused. She didn't know what he wanted, but she knew what he wasn't going to get.

"Hello?" Doug re-called.

"Doug?" she asked.


"How soon can you be here?" she queried with a smile.

"I ain't there yet?" was his rejoinder as they laughed and hung up.

Scent of an Angel by Darn Oldham
Available October 2007

The Deceptive Practices of Love (Article)

How do you overcome the betrayal of infidelity? There is no right or wrong answer, because the decision is solely yours to make. Once coming to terms with the fact that “he cheated on me” or in some cases she, some people choose to leave after a loved one has been unfaithful. Others, in an effort to salvage the relationship, stay. Many factors must be considered before throwing in the towel or hanging on in there.

Deciding what to do when your world seems to be falling apart is difficult to do. In the midst of your broken heart, here are some sensible questions you can ask yourself. Are there children involved? If so, how will the situation affect them one way or another? If you decide to remain in the relationship, will you be able to protect the children from arguments or a loveless relationship? On the contrary, if you end the relationship, are you prepared emotionally, spiritually, and financially?

Remaining in a relationship once the covenant has been desecrated takes courage and commitment. Inexorably you will question your decision. However, there are ways to restore trust. The person who committed the transgression must be willing to deal with the consequences of his or her actions. For example, they may be required to give up some of their freedom and privacy so that you can feel more secure. The injured party may request access to cell phones, pagers, e-mails, and whereabouts. And the offending party must be prepared to accommodate those requests in order to re-establish trust and restore the relationship.

The choice to end a relationship due to infidelity is difficult. As a result of the break-up, depression, anxiety, stress, and financial hardships are very real possible outcomes. However, you can bounce back. Regardless of what you decide to do, the road to recovery will be a rocky one. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling from a trained professional. Counseling is not a sign of weakness or failure, because maintaining your well-being is important. Dealing with your emotions honestly is therapeutic in itself. You must acknowledge your feelings, because they are valid. Then you must make a concerted effort to forgive the past, remain faithful in the present, and have a fruitful future.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Surviving an Affair (Article)

Why is it that the people who give the most advice oftentimes need the most help? A friend of mine is married to a psychologist. According to my friend, who we’ll call Lois for the sake of this article, her marriage of eleven years was on the brink of divorce. From the outside looking in, they appeared to have the ideal relationship. He’s successful and intelligent, and she on the other hand is beautiful, ambitious, and very smart. Together, most would consider them to be a power couple. So what was the problem? Let me start by stating that while he attended graduate school, Lois supported them financially. She postponed pursing her own educational goals for the higher good of their family. As part of the “big picture”, Lois thought that this short-term sacrifice would reap a lifetime of benefits. During the early stages of the marriage she noticed, and elected to ignore, signs of a character scarcity.

First of all, he was the result of an extramarital affair, and resented his mother for it. Unbeknownst to Lois, she was the target of all that dysfunction. The actions of his mother instilled in him to distrust women, because he thought of them as sexual objects. He criticized Lois for the way she dressed, which caused her to become self-conscious about the way she looked. Her despondency caused her to have a love affair with food, and she packed on twenty pounds in three years.

Just when she thought that things could not get any worse, she discovered that he had a pornography addiction. To add insult to injury, he blamed her lack of passion towards him for his problem. He said, “I like my woman to sizzle. I want her to be hot for me.” Becoming shut off and secretive, he refused to give Lois the passwords to his e-mail accounts and limited her access to his computer. Infidelity signs hit her like a ton of bricks, but she continued to second-guess herself. It was not until he guarded his cell phone that she admitted that he was probably cheating on her.

Suspecting that her husband was unfaithful, she sought refuge in confidential conversations with her mother-in-law about her feelings. She found comfort in knowing that she was not crazy, and that someone who loved them both validated her concerns. Since this was the second marriage for both of them, they had a vested interest in making the marriage work. Regardless of how painful it was to stay, neither one of them wanted to leave.

Still in love with her husband, Lois was devastated when she found out that her husband had been keeping in contact with an ex-girlfriend. In addition to that, while he took business trips, he frequently had the company of other women. Hurt and angry, Lois retaliated. Even though she knew it was not right, she wanted revenge. She wanted to hurt him as badly as he had hurt her. Before she realized the depths of her own betrayal, she conceived a child with another man. Her conscious would not allow her to deceive her husband any longer, so she confessed to all the sorted details of the extramarital affair.

As one would expect, he hit the roof. In fact, they separated for a while. His pride had convinced him that he could never accept the baby that his wife shared with another man. It was not until a close friend reminded him that the most significant relationship in his life was with his stepmother, the woman his father had betrayed. Working through the pain and mistrust, they faithfully attended marriage counseling, and renewed their vows. They realized that after everything was said and done, they loved each other. Sure, they encountered judgment and criticism from family and close friends, but they realized that they had a love so strong that it could withstand even the toughest, most trying test. Most people could not fathom staying in a marriage with a spouse who conceived a child with someone else.

Lois quickly admits that she works extra hard to reassure her husband that she is committed to their marriage. For example, she answers her cell phone whenever he calls, she calls if she is running late, and gives him relevant information when she goes out. She realizes that it is a lot to go through, but she feels their marriage is worth it. Open communication and accessibility are required to heal their relationship. As for him, he extends the same courtesies. They share an e-mail account, and both have access to each other’s alternate e-mails and voice mails. Lois insisted they share a cellular plan, and have one bill coming to the house. The arrangement seems to work for them. Three years has passed since their marriage was on the rocks. Their daughter is amazing. She’s absolutely beautiful, and she has doting parents. Lois and her husband established visitation rights with the biological father, and they clearly let him know that his presence is solely for the child. When he picks up or drops off the child, Lois and her husband designated a close family friend as the contact person. This helps minimize contact between them and the biological father. Any conversation between he and Lois is usually quite brief, and pertains strictly to their child.

In conclusion, real love never fails, and is unwavering. Despite the criticism and shame, Lois and her husband silenced the critics through their commitment. Having a love so strong has enabled them to have a rich and fulfilling life. Neither one of them brings up the past to cause the other pain. Maturity has taught them how to love, and how to disagree without being disagreeable. Come to find out, Lois’ husband has health problems that left him sterile. Now he considers his little girl to be his angel, because she revived the love he and Lois thought they lost.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Learning to Love, Again (Article)

Learning to love, again, when your heart has been broken can be an arduous task. There are times when you may have memories of the one you lost. The unpredictable part about reminiscing is that it can happen at the most inopportune times. A song on the radio, a movie, a fragrance, or a date on the calendar can trigger emotions. Whether there’s a yearning in your soul or an occasional thought regarding the “one that got away,” there is life after loss.

The reasons why relationships don’t last are vast and include death, divorce, separation, or mutual decision. Regardless of the reason, there is usually some level of pain, resentment, or regret associated with ending a significant relationship.

The first step is to realize that relationships require work, and must be a priority to both parties. Second, if you are the one who is at fault for the demise of the relationship, you must forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. The key is learning from those mistakes. That means coming to terms with your past and using it for instruction. Third, work on making yourself whole and complete before considering another serious relationship. You should strive to become independent even if that means going back to school for additional training or getting a better paying job. The best relationships are the ones where you want to be with the person instead of needing to be with them.

Next, accept yourself and be good to yourself. Eat right, exercise, and maintain a beauty regimen. There is nothing wrong with looking good and presenting yourself in the best possible light. Take care of your mental self by tapping into your spiritual side. Join a church, pray, fast, and meditate. In spite of your religious beliefs, there are things you can do to relax your mind and enhance your senses. Take the time to be quiet and be still.

Lastly, be willing to give and receive love. Judge the new person in your life on their own merit. Don’t compare them to the person who got away. Especially don’t allow old baggage to find its way into your new relationship. And never verbalize to the new partner all of the wonderful things your ex did in an effort to tell them what they are not doing. When you are ready for love, be open and receptive to receive it. No matter what you have been through in the past, don’t harden your heart. If you do then you are not living. You’re merely existing.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Keys to a Successful Marriage (Article)

Recently, I attended a fiftieth wedding anniversary party for my friend’s parents. Until I met them, I did not believe the traditional nuclear family existed in America. With all of the statistics boasting about the high rate of divorce, increase of couples with children not getting married, but living together, single parent households, and stepparent families, I must admit that my outlook on marriage had diminished.

Curiosity prompted me to ask the couple to shed some insight into the secret of their success. Surprisingly, they replied in sync, “There is no secret.” The husband went on to elaborate that “marriage is what you make it. You only get out of it what you put into it.” His answers seemed so simple, even cliché, but true. The fact of the matter is that society has taught us that we must get married. Being single is frowned upon, and often pitied. As many single women over the age of twenty-five can attest to, the pressure to find a mate is great. You cannot go to a restaurant, alone, without being asked if someone else will be joining you. Even the tables are for two or more. Once, I went solo to a movie. Although I was in a relationship, I did not have a problem going out with me, myself, and I. There was a guy sitting behind me who took it upon himself to sit next to me, and strike up a conversation. Politely, I informed him that I was not interested, and preferred he get back up and leave. Rather than going back to his original seat, he moved over enough to have one seat between us. That was fine with me.

Although I understood the concept of what the married couple said, I still wanted additional information. The question for me was, “Why do some couples work, while others falter?” The wife pulled me to the side, and explained to me the depths of their commitment. First of all, divorce was never an option. For them, the vows they took before God, friends, and family, meant they would remain together until death. Secondly, they practiced forgiveness on a daily basis. She let me know that they had survived infidelity, deaths, boredom, arguments, mistrust, and disrespect just to name a few. It was not an easy journey, but they never gave up.

The biggest difference between their relationship and the slew of divorced couples out there is the commitment to stay together. I do not believe that people go into marriage with the intent of breaking up. Sometimes, we may feel it is easier to run from problems than to face them or to trade in a mate like we do our cars. Rather than fixing the problem, we try to fix the other person. When that does not work, we claim the person just was not right for us, and go on a journey to find the perfect person who only exists in our minds.

If we focused more on the relationship, and less on the wedding, perhaps we would have fewer divorces. I heard someone say that we should have family and friends invited to the divorce hearing the same way they were invited to the wedding, because we have a lavish wedding ceremony and a quiet divorce. Life is not a soap opera. Feelings change, but commitment stays the same. Instead of settling for whom you can live with, commit yourself to the one you cannot live without.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Interracial Dating (Article)

When I lived in Spokane, Washington during the early nineties, interracial relationships were not that common. Since I lived on a military base, my interactions were with various races and cultures. It was not until I went off base that I noticed separatism amongst the races. I recall a couple of instances where I went out on dates with white men to downtown restaurants, and I was the only black person in the entire establishment. Oftentimes, my date and I received icy glares or whispers as we walked bye. As a woman, I felt uncomfortable. As a black woman, I felt violated, because this is a free country. Therefore, we are able to date whomever we choose, regardless of race, nationality, color, or creed.

While dating a black man from the Seattle area, I discovered that his ex-wife was white, and he had a bi-racial daughter. Upon meeting his family, I realized that all of his brothers and nephews were in relationships with white women, and had fathered bi-racial children. To my surprise, the culture in that city was black men with white women. Whenever we visited his hometown, I noticed that trend everywhere we went. It seemed as if every child playing on the street was bi-racial.

Currently, I reside in Atlanta where interracial couples are far and few in between. Living in the south has helped me to realize that interracial couples are the exception and not the norm. Even now when a black man walks into a room with a white woman, some people stare and others whisper. It’s hard not to notice the reactions of others, because they do not try to conceal their displeasure. Since I have been in Atlanta, I have only seen three instances where a black woman was married to or dating a white man. I am convinced that people are creatures of habit, and we will adapt to our environment. Depending on where you live, and the acceptable dating pool to choose from, will determine your mating selection. I also believe that your friends influence your decisions, too. My cousin, whose mother is African, was born and raised in Atlanta, is married to a woman from Sweden. Oddly enough, all of his black male friends are either married to or dating a Swedish woman.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Dating as a Single Parent (Article)

Dating as a single parent is a really big deal. There are so many factors to consider. Internet dating has become popular, but is it safe? Between work and family responsibilities, finding time to meet eligible people can be a daunting task. In that case, a lot of people have found matchmaking websites quite valuable. It allows them the ability to screen potential suitors without having to leave their home. If you’re considering Internet dating, I recommend the following:

• Don’t give the potential suitor your home address – Meet him at a public place such as a restaurant. Your home is your sanctuary and should be a place of refuge for you and your children.
• Don’t give out your home telephone number, use your cell phone instead – In the event the relationship sours, you don’t have to worry about someone blowing up your home phone, and disrupting the lives of you and your children. Besides, you can always turn the ringer off your cell phone.
• Don’t let him know the location of your job – Never ever bring trouble to your place of business. If the relationship ends, you don’t want him possibly showing up at your job, causing a scene and embarrassing you.
• Don’t give him your office telephone number – Once again, use your cell phone. You don’t want to take a chance of someone harassing you on your job.
• Always tell someone that you trust where you’re going. Whenever you go out on a date, make sure someone knows where you’re going, whom you’re going with, and when to expect you to return.

When Should I Let Him Meet my Children?

Single parents are often faced with the gut wrenching decision of when to allow a suitor to meet their children. As a rule of thumb, your children should not meet anyone that you’re not seriously considering marrying.

First of all, children are impressionable. You don’t want them to become attached to someone that you’re dating only to have them disappointed when things don’t work out. As a parent, your top priority is your children. Everything you do and every decision you make you should have your children’s best interest at heart.

Secondly, what are the signs that the relationship has progressed to a level where you feel comfortable enough to let your children meet the man you’re involved with? Just because he asked you if he could meet your children is not reason enough. You need to do your homework and be as certain as you can be that this is the right thing to do for all parties concerned.

If you’re in a relationship filled with drama, don’t bring that around your children. What do I mean by drama? Did you think your relationship was monogamous, and you found out that he was cheating on you? Drama. Is he married? Drama. Does he have a substance abuse problem? Drama. Has he told you that he has a problem dating women with children? Drama. Is he emotionally or physically abusive towards you? Drama. You get the jest of what I’m saying. Your children didn’t ask to be born; therefore, it’s your responsibility to protect them. Don’t knowingly bring drama into the lives of your children.

Single parents have to be very selective about who they bring around their children. If you’re dating a nice guy and you want to take it to the next level, consider the following:

• Is he reliable? Does he do what he says he’s going to do? If you can’t depend on him to keep his word, then you don’t need to introduce your children to a flake.
• Is he impatient or short tempered? If so, he may lose his cool and become violent with your children?
• Do you trust him? Trust is a big deal. Can you trust him not to harm your children?
• Does he have any children of his own? If so, does he have custody? If not, is he active in their lives? Does he pay child support? If he has never been married and has multiple “baby mommas,” most likely he wouldn’t have any problem getting you pregnant and not marrying you either. And if he’s a deadbeat dad, you need to run and not walk to the nearest exit.
• Does he like children? Not all men like or want children. If a man can’t accept your children, then he doesn’t need to be with you. You’re a part of a package. It’s all or nothing.

Another thing, before you introduce your beau to your children, have a long discussion with him and find out his intentions. You need to know how he feels about you. Is he in love with you? Are the two of you working towards marriage? How does he feel about dating a woman with children? If he has children, does he want any more? If he doesn’t have children, is it important to him to have biological children of his own? You need to know all of this and more before involving your children in your love life.

The Decision Whether or Not to Have Sex

We all know what the Bible states about sex outside of marriage. It tells us not to fornicate or commit adultery. Sins of the flesh are particularly grievous to God because they are the most personal – they involve our bodies, our temples.

It is my heart’s desire that single parents would get their spiritual life together. Being single is a great time to become closer to God. As a parent, it’s our obligation to our children to pray from them. Our prayers for our children are stored in the storehouse of God. And because of our prayers, tithing and acts of kindness, our children receive favor from God.

Sin clouds our judgment and hinders our prayers. While you’re single I would encourage you to become involved in your local church and volunteer in your community. It’s a great opportunity to do the Lord’s work and meet interesting people in the process.

As you grow in your spiritual walk, you will find yourself convicted by the Holy Spirit every time you sin. Spiritual growth is a process, and regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey, we all have areas of our lives that need work. If we were perfect we wouldn’t need God. With that said, if you find that you’re unable or unwilling to abstain from sex until marriage, here are a few points to consider.

• Don’t sleep around. Promiscuity is immature and irresponsible. You’re a parent now, act like it.
• Practice safe sex. Never have sex without a condom. Even though condoms are not 100% effective (only abstinence is 100% effective), using some protection is better than none at all. There are so many sexually transmitted diseases that it’ll make your head spin. Don’t get caught out there and don’t be deceived. Some diseases are not curable, some cause birth defects, and others can make you sterile.
• Don’t bring your partner to your house. Go to a hotel or to his house. If that’s not possible, wait until your children are asleep before you entertain company. And he should be gone before your children get up in the morning.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Why Women Cheat (Article)

Forbidden fruit seems so much sweeter. Cheating spouses is nothing new. However, studies have shown that the number of cheating women is nearly parallel to unfaithful men. I spoke with two women who we shall call “Sally” and “Darla” to protect their identity, regarding extramarital affairs. The question is, “Why do women cheat?”

According to Darla, she was married to a minister. Her husband focused his energy on helping the church and others. Emotionally, Darla felt neglected. Feeling lonely, and missing her husband’s affection, aided in Darla’s decision to seek companionship outside of her marriage. Although she knew that her behavior conflicted with her spiritual beliefs, she still indulged. For Darla, sex with her husband had become stale and predictable. Largely due to the emotional disconnect. Living a double life wreaked emotional havoc on her psyche. She became depressed, and extremely confused. Unable to trust her own judgment, she sent mixed messages to her husband. On the one hand, she showed him love motivated by guilt. On the other, she no longer desired his touch, which caused additional marital breakdown because of the lack of intimacy. When asked if it was worth it, Darla replied, “No. If I could do it over again, I would be far less selfish. When my husband found out about the affair, it nearly killed him. He suffered a heart attack, and was hospitalized. Now we’re divorced, and I have paid the price. I had to file for bankruptcy, lost my house, car, and friends. In order to deal with the guilt and shame, I took Prozac.”

Sally has had multiple extramarital affairs, and is the mother of three. When asked why she cheats on her husband, Sally replied, “Because I don’t love him the way a wife should love her husband.”

“Then why not divorce him,” I inquired.

“I don’t know. I have thought about it lots of times, but I don’t want to leave him without having someone better to go to.” Her eyes watery, she continued, “My marital relationship is volatile at times. When we fight, we yell, throw things, and sometimes it gets physical. I have a lot of built up resentments toward him, and it’s hard for me to respect him.”

“It sounds to me like you have fallen out of love with him. Is that true?”

“My feelings have changed, and I don’t love him like I used to.”

“Does your husband know that he is loving on borrowed time?”

“No.” She laughed.

“Do you regret cheating on your husband?"

“I know it’s not right, but it helps me cope. It’s an outlet.”

“Have you considered marriage counseling?”

“I have, but he won’t go. He says that it’s a waste of time and money.”

“What about talking to your clergyman?”

“We did that before we got married, and it helped for a little while. Then he went back to his usual ways.”

“Seeing fault with someone else is easy. Looking within and finding a flaw with our own character is difficult. Would you consider seeking individual counseling instead?”

“I never thought about it.”

“I’ve heard lots of therapists say that change comes from within. We can’t change anyone but ourselves. Perhaps you should do a self evaluation to find out why your response to a bad relationship is to cheat.”

Crying, she said, “It’s the coward’s way of dealing with a situation. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it gives you temporary relief. I will go to counseling, because this is a pattern that I’ve been dealing with for years. It’s time for a change.”

After speaking with Sally and Darla, I had a better understanding of “Why women cheat.” I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I am a woman. The common thread between both women was pain. They were each involved in dysfunctional relationships that took an emotional toll on them. Feeling helpless, they sought refuge in the arms of other men. There is no one reason as to why women cheat. The reasons vary from woman to woman. Some women cheat for emotional support, others for money, and some for sex. Whatever the reason, it’s a problem. In order to deal with unfaithfulness, the cheater must want to reform. If not, there won’t be a change. Don’t wait until you get caught to straighten up. If you love the person you’re with, you owe it to them and to yourself, to be faithful. Infidelity destroys families, and has cost people their lives and livelihood. If you’re unhappy, look within for the answers. If that does not suffice, seek professional help. You’re a lot stronger than you think you are, and you don’t have to depend on someone else for your survival. Even if you need to go back to school to further your education in hopes of getting a better job, and increasing your earning potential. The bottom line is that you are where you are today because of the choices you made yesterday. Henceforth, choose wisely.

Copywritten by Dwan Abrams

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Won An Award

I'm feeling so good right about now! I just received news that my novel, Only True Love Waits, won the 2007 Pen of the Writer POWER Award for Best Fiction. This means so much to me. It's my first writing award!

Only True Love Waits is my second novel, and I really enjoyed writing it. The storyline was a lot of fun with an unexpected plot twist. Even for me.

Writing is not only my profession; it's my passion. To actually win an award is just icing on the cake. Having readers enjoy my work, that is the cake, and it's awesome. I'm so grateful. I'm feeling so emotional; I want to cry. Tears of joy, of course.

Divorcing the Devil Synopsis

Synopsis: For Skyler Little, it's not easy being a psychoanalyst and a Christian. Sometimes it's hard not getting drawn into her patients' personal lives filled with adultery, abuse and turmoil. Yet, she remains steadfast in providing them with the best in Christian counseling. She even counsels her friend, Gabriella, who has just learned that her husband is cheating on her.
But when Skyler learns whom Gabriella's husband is cheating on her with, things start to spiral out of control, and she is now caught in the middle. Can Skyler get herself out of this situation, or can anyone be spared when you try to divorce the devil?

Divorcing the Devil Excerpt


I feel so good this morning, like a kitten after someone has scratched under his chin and given him a bowl of chilled milk. My body tingles as I think about the night of passion my husband Donovan and I shared. I love watching him sleep. The way the satin cover drapes over his trim waist, exposing just a hint of his toned thighs. Dreadlocks scattered in different directions over the pillow. Skin the color of pecans. He's sexy with a capital "S."

Donovan opened his chestnut brown eyes and yawned. Rubbing the stubble on his chin, he cooed, "Good morning, baby."

I love his Jamaican accent. I gave him a naughty smile, letting him know I was very pleased with last night's performance.

"Good morning yourself. Sleep well?" I kissed him on the lips and caressed his muscular chest.

"Like a bear in hibernation." He stretched and yawned. "You got any appointments today?"

It was Monday morning and I had two clients who had regular appointments with me every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Their times changed depending on their schedules, but the days remained the same. I rolled over and glanced at the clock. It read 7:30 a.m.

"I actually have one at nine o'clock."

"Too bad. I was hoping we could continue where we left off." He wrapped his arms around me.


I kissed him again and freed myself from his embrace. I stretched my arms and legs before placing my bare feet on the cold, hardwood floor. I went into the bathroom and brushed my teeth before stepping into a hot shower. The pulsating water kneaded against my flesh like a million little fingers. It felt so good; I didn't want to get out. That's exactly what I needed to wake up because there was something about Monday mornings that made getting out of bed more difficult. Especially since Sundays typically consisted of Donovan and I going to mid-morning worship service and brunch immediately afterward.

My eyes were closed as I tilted my head back and allowed the water to dance against my neck. Then I heard the glass shower door open. A sudden surge of cold air clung to my body like the plastic sweat suits people wore in the eighties for rapid weight loss.

"Hey," I said as I opened my eyes and turned my head in the same direction as the breeze.

Donovan stepped into the shower. Rather than complaining about the sweltering water as he usually did, he turned the knob to a cooler temperature. I didn't say anything. I could tell he was feeling amorous by the way he touched me. Ordinarily, I would never leave my husband in such a state, but I had an appointment. I had to go. As a psychoanalyst, I realize the male ego is fragile. This situation needed to be handled with tender loving care.

I turned to face him. "Donovan, I would like nothing better than to spend the entire day in your arms."

The water began to mist on his wheat colored dreadlocks. I looked at his six-pack and lost my train of thought. If I leave this fine man alone, I'll be the one needing a therapist, I thought. I quickly reeled myself back in, reminding myself that my patients depend on me. Being responsible wasn't an option. It was a job requirement.

So I said, "I'll be home early. We can have a romantic dinner and pick up where we left off."

A romantic dinner for us meant sitting down at the same time and eating food that wasn't take-out or delivery.

He pursed his lips, pretended to pout, and said, "What's your definition of early?"

"No later than six o'clock."

"I'm gonna hold you to it," he pointed sternly.

I smiled, grabbed my towel and stepped out of the shower. Donovan remained behind. I stayed in the bathroom while I put light makeup on my tawny colored skin, smeared gloss on my thin lips and pulled my long, jet black hair into a tight bun. I usually blow dry my hair straight, but today I left it in its naturally curly state.

While studying my reflection in the mirror, I noticed that my sharp features and high cheekbones looked more European than black. Donovan says I look like Mariah Carey. Like most women though, I could point out numerous things about my appearance that I'd love to change; my lips are one. I think they're too thin. I'd love to have those full, luscious lips like Angelina Jolie.

Donovan finished showering and started shaving. I went into the Victorian style bedroom and put on sexy lingerie underneath my black silk crepe de chine flapper dress with ecru collar and cuffs and completed the ensemble with a pearl necklace. I usually wear lingerie underneath my work attire because it makes me feel sexy. Reminds me not to take myself too seriously and enjoy life. And the fact that Donovan loved it didn't hurt either.

I returned to the bathroom just as Donovan was spitting his mouthwash into the sink. He dried his mouth with a hand towel.

"You look too good to leave the house," Donovan said, smiling, revealing beautiful white teeth.

I couldn't stop the blush. After three years of marriage, he still had a way of making me feel giddy.

"Thanks." I kissed him on the lips. His breath was cool and smelled like mint. "Have a good day."

"You too. And what time are you going to be home again?"

Our eyes connected. He reminded me because he knew that my schedule was erratic.

"By six." I reiterated my point by holding up six fingers.

I walked downstairs into the family room where my designer all-in-one briefcase handbag purse waited for me at the door like a puppy needing to go out. I picked it up, along with my keys, and left.

While driving in my BMW 325 along Peachtree Street in Atlanta, I noticed the brilliance of the sky. It reminded me of a day when I was around five or six years old, and I asked my dad why the sky was blue. He replied, "A clear sky on a sunny day appears blue because of Rayleigh scattering of the light from the sun." My dad had a Ph.D. and was a rocket scientist. Those types of answers weren't uncommon coming from him.

I realized at an early age that I liked smart men, and I wanted to be smart. My dad and I would read the newspaper together and discuss current events. He would tell me that there was nothing more attractive than a beautiful woman with brains. That stuck with me. I studied hard and graduated from high school when I was fourteen years old. Without taking a break, I went straight to college at my mom's Alma Mater.

After graduating from New York University, I attended NYU School of Medicine. Then I enrolled in NYU Psychoanalytic Institute. I decided to become a psychoanalyst because the human mind fascinated me. I liked thinking outside of the proverbial box and helping people. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt as if my life had purpose, meaning.

Donovan and I met four years ago while we were both living in New York. I was twenty-eight and he was thirty. I was working as an Assistant Clinical Professor at NYU. We were at a Jewish deli located on Second Avenue in East Village. While we were waiting for our lunch orders, we struck up casual conversation and ended up sitting together at one of the plain white tables lining the wall. Donovan told me that his family had migrated from Jamaica to New York during the Jamaican slave trade. He had a Ph.D. and worked as a Product Development Chemist. I was immediately attracted to him, because it's true, women are attracted men who remind them of their fathers. Since I held my father in high esteem, my standards for a mate were equally as lofty.

Donovan's family lived in New York, and I had met his parents, four brothers, three sisters and a slew of nieces and nephews. I loved his family. Donovan was the youngest child and didn't have any children from his previous relationships. As an only child, I always dreamed of having a big family. His family "adopted" me, and I adored them. It warmed my heart to hear his nieces and nephews refer to me as aunty.

Donovan and I had been dating for six months before I took him home to Boca Raton, Florida to meet my parents. Donovan insisted on meeting my parents because he said he wanted to marry me. We went to visit my parents during the Christmas holidays. My dad had retired from NASA and my mom owned a dance studio. He was the only guy I had ever taken home because I had devoted so much of my time studying, thus Donovan was the first serious relationship I ever had.

When my parents met Donovan, they too fell in love with him. I knew Donovan would end up being my husband when my dad told me I had a good guy on my hands. We got married in Florida at my parents' church. Not long afterward, Donovan and I relocated from New York to Atlanta, because Donovan got a job at Coca Cola.

I arrived at my office fifteen minutes early and Yahkie, my assistant, greeted me. My stomach was grumbling, and I was famished. I wished I had grabbed a bagel or something.

"Good morning, boss lady," Yahkie said sounding chipper, handing me a cup of freshly brewed coffee. "Just the way you like it. Black with two sugars. I left you a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit on your desk, too."

I couldn't help but smile.

"How did you know I'd be hungry?" I tried to play it off.

"Are you kidding me? You're always hungry, but you hate to cook breakfast. You don't like to wake up early. You'd rather spend your time sleeping or getting to know your fine husband in the biblical sense. You know I know you."

I couldn't resist laughing. Yahkie had been my assistant since I started my practice two years ago. I'll never forget the way he came into my office for his interview. It was summertime and he wore a blue and white seersucker suit. He looked chic. Even though he tried to tone down his flamboyant ways for the interview, I could tell he would let loose once given the opportunity. He was, and still is, the most fashionable man I've ever met. His appearance is meticulous. From his neatly cut hair to his pedicured fingers, he's a vision of togetherness. Even beyond the physical, he's highly organized and takes the initiative. I was impressed with him the first day we met and he's exceeded my expectations.

"Thanks for breakfast. I'll try to finish in time for my nine o'clock," I promised as I walked into my suite. A wooden bookcase lined with hardcover books ranging from the Greek Classics to textbooks to self-help greeted me when I entered.

I placed my mug on top of my oak desk and slid my case underneath. Then I sat down on a soft, black leather, high back chair and ate. The breakfast sandwich hit the spot. I dabbed the corners of my mouth and checked my Omega. The time was 9:28. A couple of minutes later my intercom buzzed. It was Yahkie telling me that my new patient, Monday Jackson, had arrived. I was glad she showed up on time because late arrivals threw off my schedule. I dumped my trash in the receptacle located on the side of my desk and told him to send her in.

I walked from behind my desk and extended my hand to her. "Monday, I'm Dr. Skyler Little. It's a pleasure to meet you."

We gave each other a firm handshake. She flashed a smile that revealed tiny teeth that looked like Chiclets. She appeared to be at least five foot six and weighed about 250 pounds. Although she was portly, she carried herself well. She wore a yellow shirt, black slacks and black high heels. And her makeup was flawless.

"Nice to meet you, too," she replied.

I offered her a seat on the gray sofa as I sat next to her on a chaise decorated with a black and beige African design motif. The various animal prints, such as: cheetah, leopard and zebra, covering several chairs around my office revealed that my personality type is Sanguine.

I told her that I preferred to record all of my sessions so that I could refer back to them if necessary. I assured her the tapes were for my personal use and wouldn't be shared with anyone without her permission or a court order. Then I explained that I begin and end every session with prayer. She informed me that she attended church regularly and was perfectly fine with us praying together. So we proceeded.

We bowed our heads and closed our eyes as I prayed aloud.

"Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. I pray that you be with us during this meeting. Lord, use me as a vessel for the upbuilding of your Kingdom. It is my humble prayer that I decrease so that you may increase. Let the meditations of my heart be pleasing and acceptable in your sight. Remove any obstacle that could hinder me from being an effective witness for you. Forgive us for our sins of omission and commission. In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen." Then I asked, "So, what brings you here today?"

She pointed at a 5x7 framed photo sitting on the corner of my desk and asked if the people in the picture were my husband and me. I glanced at the photo even though it was the only one displayed and told her we took it last year when we went to Jamaica for vacation.

"Nice. Is that where you're from?"

I was taken aback by her question because no one had ever asked me that before.

"Not me, my husband," I explained.

She nodded her head and smiled. "You make a lovely couple."

"Thanks." I asked her again to tell me why she came to see me. I wondered why she kept avoiding the question.

"May I call you Sky?" She shifted in her seat.

"Sure, whatever works for you. Lots of people call me that."

"Sky, I have a problem." She crossed her right leg over her left which made her legs seem as long as stilts. "My boyfriend suggested I talk to someone because he can't seem to help me."

I acknowledged by nodding my head.

"I don't know where to begin."

I explained to her that counseling sessions were a process and that we weren't going to resolve her issues in one meeting. I asked her to tell me about her childhood, her parents.

"My family," she sighed, "is complicated. My mom and dad were married until I was five. After they divorced, I never saw my dad again."

"Before we continue," I said, "would you please tell me the names of your parents so that I won't have to keep referring to them as your mother and father?"

"Sure. Paige and Stan."

"Thanks. Please continue."

Monday told me that Paige and Stan's marriage began to deteriorate due to infidelity. She said they argued a lot. It wasn't until after Paige accused Stan of child molestation that they divorced.

"Did Stan molest you?" I rubbed the back of my neck with my right hand, indicating this wasn't easy for me to listen to. Every time one of my patients revealed she had been molested, I could feel tension creeping its way into my neck like a cheating husband trying to slip into his marital bed undetected after he's been with his lover. I maintained my professional composure even though deep inside, I felt angry. Children are innocent. The thought of someone violating them infuriated me. I fought back revealing my disgust.

Monday uncrossed her legs. "Yes. He used to fondle me and actually penetrated me when I was…five." Her eyes welled with tears. I offered her a box of Kleenex. She pulled a couple of tissues out of the box and dabbed the corners of her sparkling eyes. "My mom flipped out when she found out," she continued. "Burned him on the arm with an iron. Threw him out of the house and then reported him to child services."

I rubbed my arm. I empathized with how painful it must've felt getting burned with an iron. I never advocate or condone violence, but I could understand how a mother could be driven to such drastic behavior due to the love of her child. Then I asked, "Did he go to jail?"

"Yes. A social worker conducted an investigation, and I had to see a child psychiatrist."

"I see."

Not long afterward, the timer went off, notifying us our session had ended. There was so much more I wanted to say, but I told her we'd resume the conversation at our next appointment. We prayed, and she left.

I checked my inspirational desk calendar and noticed that I had a few minutes before my next appointment, so I called Donovan on his cell phone. As soon as he said "'Ello," I puckered my lips and blew a short series of kisses into the receiver. Then I hung up. We called those "drive-bys." We did a drive-by whenever one of us was thinking about the other but didn't have enough time for a drawn out conversation. It was an alternative to saying "I love you."

I had to purge my mind so that I could mentally prepare for my upcoming meeting with Ambrosia. Ambrosia had been my patient for the past six months. Her father died when she was little, and her mother never remarried. When I met Ambrosia, she was in a relationship with a married man, and they had two children together. Her relationship had soured, and she needed someone to talk to. She came to see me because she figured I would listen without judging her.

Yahkie came barging into my office, interrupting my thoughts like he was a policeman making a drug bust before the suspects could get away.

"Boss lady." He closed the door behind him, arms flailing in the air. "Ambrosia is in the lobby, and she looks a hot mess. She looks like she's been fighting with Iron Mike Tyson of old and lost. Bruises everywhere. Got on shades. I bet she got a black eye."

My heart raced and I dipped my head in thought. I felt nervous. "Bring her back."

Yahkie left my office. My mind was on emotional overload. I wrung my hands, paced the floor. As a professional, I knew better than to get personally involved in the lives of my clients, but as a person, I couldn't help but care. When Ambrosia entered, I stopped pacing. Seeing her in that condition made my stomach drop, the same way I feel whenever I ride a roller coaster ride at Six Flags and don't hold my breath. The Jackie O. type shades she wore covered half her oval shaped face and were in direct contrast with her milky white skin. I didn't bother to ask her to take them off, even though I could see blotchy red spots on her cheeks and that her bottom lip was swollen. The thought of what hid behind those glasses scared me. I didn't want to see because I knew I'd get more upset than I already was. I took a deep breath. She closed the door behind her. I exhaled.

"What happened?" I asked.


I walked over to Ambrosia and wrapped my arms around her. Even though I'm five foot six, athletic and have an "apple bottom," as Donovan would say, standing next to Ambrosia's shapely but petite self, I felt like an Amazon. She clung to me the way a baby Black Howler Monkey clings to its mother's fur. She sobbed on my shoulder so hard her body shook. I closed my eyes and told her to let it out. As she continued to cry, I silently prayed for her. I stroked her highlighted auburn hair. She didn't have to tell me what was wrong because experience had taught me it had something to do with her babies' daddy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bookstores Are The WORST Place to Sell Your Book

An interesting and eye-opening article (especially for new authors) that was passed along by Urban Christian's managing editor.

Book Marketing 101 – Bookstores Are The WORST Place to Sell Your Book!

How many times when you dreamed of readers finding your book did your dreams center around them finding it in a "brick-and-mortar" bookstore? Chances are, most of the time… This is the fantasy the leads too many authors to the endless pain of the author-agent-publisher rejection cycle. And, it rarely sells any significant amount of books.

The realities of bookstore sales are frightening – far more books fail courtesy of bookstores than succeed. Consider these facts:

Returns rates exceed 70% in many categories – that means bookstores send back 7 out of every 10 books they buy. YOU the author bear the biggest brunt of the pain of returns. The publisher has other books they can rely on – you, however, have seen your dream destroyed.

Bookstores buy very few copies on a story-by-store basis, and they typically only merchandise the books that have big marketing dollars behind them. Unless you can afford a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, it is highly unlikely that your book will be stacked anywhere a potential buyer can find it (let alone in the front of the store.)
Author signing events typically sell only about 7 books – all your scheduling, time, calling stores to set up events – results in selling 7 books…

Bookstores take up to 90 days to pay for your books – and to mitigate what they owe you they will quite often return your remaining stock WITHIN the 90 days. Retail outlets typically command very large discounts (but then so do online retailers in many cases…)

The typical retail buyer is not a destination purchaser, but a browser (most readers who know what they want go to the online retail sites). A reader in search of a book can be a GREAT customer. But when you are shelved next to all the other books in your particular category, your competition stands as good a chance at getting bought as you do… and if you are stocked near a well-known author, most buyers will bypass your book to pick up the well-known name.

Now that you've had all the "good" news – here is an interesting fact:

Over half the books sold in the publishing industry are sold through NON-bookstore vehicles. That means that more books are sold in other places than bookstores- and your book is likely to be most successful through these outlets. And online sales – driven by a targeted, effective, and comprehensive marketing plan – will be the cornerstone of your book's success.

Authors spend a lot of time and money chasing the improbable, when the "golden egg" of self-publishing and self-promotion is right in front of them. In my opinion, I'd sell my books everywhere except the brick and mortar bookstore!

Utilizing the tools that make the internet the powerhouse it is today will build sales that you never dreamed were possible. Search Marketing, blogs, newsletters, email campaigns, web sites, and your personal appearances (yes, the human touch still has meaning in book sales) are the new tools for building great book sales.

As always - if you like this information (and found it helpful) please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at If you have any questions or comments - please write us at

The Ultimate Author!

A few months ago I received an email from one of my writer's groups regarding a casting call for The Ultimate Author. It's a reality show and the first of its kind. I was curious, so I packed my bags and took a trip to Ft. Lauderdale. I rode for six hours and drove three. Since I love going to the beach, I figured that regardless of how things turned out, at least I got a mini-vacation in the process.

When I arrived for the audition I was a little nervous. The people associated with the show were so friendly and professional that my anxiety immediately subsided. As you would expect, all sorts of people were auditioning. I met an author from New York who spent his days peddling his books on street corners. There was a young lady with blue hair, blue eyeshadow and a T-shirt that promoted her and her web sites. It was a great marketing strategy, because she was truly unforgettable. Especially since she said her writing was better than Zane's.

Anyway, the first part of the screening process was a grammar and spelling test. After that came an onscreen reading and interview. The final stage was a one hour writing test where the contestants were given a genre and characters. From that we had to write a chapter.
I don't think I mentioned that cameras were recording us throughout. Well, they were. It was a lot of fun. And guess what? I was selected as a contestant! I was in Ft. Lauderdale from August 4-12 taping episodes for The Ultimate Author!

I'm a Groupie

For the past few years, I've regularly attended For Sister's Only (FSO) in Atlanta. I usually wait until the last minute to purchase my ticket, because I don't like to commit to doing things too far in advance. It just seems like whenever I make plans too early, something comes up.

Anyway, FSO usually has some great authors in attendance; however, this year was exceptional. I met Stephanie Perry Moore, Joy King, and Vanessa Davis Griggs to name a few. Now, I fully understand what it means to be a groupie. Well, maybie not a bonafide groupie, but let me explain.

The first time I met Eric Jerome Dickey, I was in awe of him. That was when he had a book signing at the Margaret Mitchell House. I didn't think another author could have that effect on me... until, I met Marissa Monteilh at FSO. Let me tell you, I felt like I was in the presence of a rock star. The sistah was absolutely beautiful, and I'm not just talking about her appearance either. Her positive, bubbling over energy was infectious. When I tell you that I absolutely love her, I'm not kidding. I didn't want to part company. By the time I did leave, I purchased three of her books just because. One because I enjoy reading her work, and two simply because I had never connected with another author on such a level. It was like sistah-girlfriend to the nth degree. To use Marissa's description of our encounter, "It was like a smile out loud experience." I was delighted to learn that she now lives in Atlanta. Hooray! I'm so looking forward to having lunch with her.

Have you ever met an author, or other high profile individual who made you feel that way?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Just Write! Workshop

Nevaeh Publishing Presents the Just Write! Workshop

Whether you’re an aspiring writer or established author, the Just Write! Workshop is for you. Just Write! is no ordinary writers workshop. Our workshops are facilitated by some of the best in the business. You’ll have an opportunity to converse one-on-one with an Essence magazine’s Best Selling Author, as well as an award winning author whose book has been optioned for a major movie, and she has been tagged as a “younger Maya Angelou.” If you’ve ever dreamed of turning your book or screenplay into a movie or play, here’s your chance to pitch your idea to an award winning director and graduate of the New York Film Academy in Oxford University.
Just Write! will also give you insight into the publishing industry regardless of whether you’re self-published or have a mainstream publisher. In addition, you’ll learn the art of networking. A workshop of this magnitude would normally cost several hundred dollars. The authors, publishers, speakers and director associated with this workshop all agreed to reduce their normal honorariums to share their valuable insight and information with a select few. Don’t miss out on this incredible once in a lifetime opportunity.
When: Saturday, September 22, 2007 (8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden – Garden Workshop, 1345 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
Investment: Early Bird Special $85 ($95 after August 1, 2007)
Availability: Seating is limited so register early at
Registration Deadline: September 15, 2007 (After the deadline, call 770.482.2831 or email for seating availability)
Fee Includes:
Continental Breakfast
Conference Journal
Goody Bag
Raffle Drawings
Participants will be given the opportunity to purchase autographed copies of books by lecturing authors.
About the Presenters:
Dwan Abrams is a full-time novelist, publisher and speaker. She’s the author of the highly acclaimed novel, Only True Love Waits, The Scream Within and Favor (short story appearing in The Midnight Clear: Stories of Love, Hope and Inspiration anthology). She’s the founder, publisher and executive director of the newly established Nevaeh Publishing, LLC, a small press independent publishing house. Recently, Dwan accepted a two-book deal from Urban Christian. Through them, her book, Divorcing the Devil, will be released in April 2008. She also worked as a contributing writer and editor for Images of Us magazine and Nesting Solo magazine. She’s a member of The Writer's Hut, Shades of Romance Magazine (SORMAG), and Nubian Literary writing groups, as well as the International Women's Writers Guild, Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), The American Authors Association (AAA), American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), The Marguerite Press Speaker's Bureau, PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association and Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN). She was inducted in Who’s Who in Black Atlanta -- Entrepreneurs Section in 2006.
Kendra Norman-Bellamy is a multi-award-winning, four-time national bestselling author as well as the co-founder of KNB Publications, LLC, an independent self-publishing house. Beginning her literary career in 2002 as a self-published writer, Kendra’s works are currently made available through the respected publishers of Harlequin Books, Moody Publishers and Urban Books. To date, she has ten published literary credits, all of which have received high recognition and applause. In addition, she is a columnist for Hope for Women magazine, and Global Woman magazine and a contributing writer for WOW magazine. Kendra is also a motivational speaker, the Georgia Area Coordinator for the national organization, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the mastermind behind The Writer’s Hut, an online support group for creators of literary works. Furthermore, she is the founder of Cruisin’ for Christ, a groundbreaking cruise that celebrates Christian writing, gospel music, and other artistries that glorify God. Among her most recent recognitions, Kendra’s titles have graced Essence magazine’s Best Seller List multiple times and she was presented by the African American Literary Award Show with the 2006 Open Book Award for best Christian fiction.
Jada Cofield attended Clayton College and State University for one year. She then moved to Kent, England to attend one of the world’s top drama schools, Rose Bruford College and later to transfer to ALRA (Academy of Live Recorded Arts) also in London, England where she resided for four years. She recently returned to England to study Directing for film through the New York Film Academy in Oxford University. Jada is the recipient of the coveted Accolade Film Award for her first film “A Days Work.”
Angela Lewis is president of Speaking Concepts & Publications, LLC, and a contributing columnist for the Wyngate Gazette’s monthly newsletter. She’s the author of SSSs (Single, Sensational, Significant, Sisters) We Sizzle!! A Single Woman’s Guide To Attracting and Meeting Men and Do You Hear What I Hear?(short story appearing in The Midnight Clear anthology). Angela has a B.S. Degree in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. She was inducted in Who’s Who In Black Atlanta -- Literary Section in 2006.
Patricia Pope is the author of Colored Waiting Room, which deals with the conflict of a Black female entangled with the good ole boy system in rural East Tennessee. Colored Waiting Room, an award winning novel, has received rave review. A sought after motivational speaker and lecturer, Patricia has been tagged as a “younger Maya Angelou,” during a book signing and CBS affiliated filming in Harrisburg, Pa. Patricia is the holder of many awards and forensic medals. Colored Waiting Room named Best General Fiction 2005,; Nominated for Best Book for New Author 2006, YOUnity Book Club; featured in Black Men Magazine December 2006/January 2007; optioned for a major movie by Jowharah Films, Los Angeles, CA. Filming to begin the summer 2007 and will be shot entirely on location in TN.
For itinerary and registration information, please visit

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Top Reasons Manuscripts get Rejected

This is a re-post from a blog entry written by Kelly Wallace at

What are some of the top reasons manuscripts get rejected? How can you avoid these mistakes and have a better chance of hearing "yes" instead of "Thanks, but not for us"?

1. Read the guidelines! Be certain of what the publisher is looking for and how to submit it. If a publisher specializes in historical romances, don't send in your paranormal novel, no matter how good it is. If your book has over 100,000 words, but they take only shorter works, send your story elsewhere. If they require submissions through agents only and you don't have one, move on. There are plenty of publishers out there and you're sure to find a fit for your story.

2. Hook the reader with a great beginning. Often we start our "real" story several pages or even a full chapter after we've droned on and on to "set things up." Start off with that bang! Take a look at the first part of your story. Where does it start getting good? Start there! Put your character right in the middle of conflict and you've hooked the reader. Weave in bits of background later. Be sure to pace your story as well. You don't have to keep your characters in that constant state of stress. Give them, and the reader, time to catch their breath, but don't let things drag too long. Think of a story as a roller coaster ride with hills, valleys, twists and turns.
3. Heavily sprinkling a story with numerous adjectives and adverbs show that we writer's are there in the background making the story happen instead of allowing the reader to get lost in our characters and their unfolding drama. Look for strong nouns that say what you want them to say instead of using adverbs and adjectives as crutches to hold them up and make your point. That's not to say that they should all be omitted, but go through your story and see just how many are being used when a more simple sentence with strong nouns would get your point across.

Also, don't be afraid to say "said". Saying, "she articulated, he ranted, she whined, he uttered" just shows that we're trying to find another way to say "said" or to get the emotion of the character across. Using "said" is simple and gets your point across, but many times you don't have to add any tag at all if you SHOW what your character is experiencing or doing. Such as, "I've had it!" Mary threw the crystal vase across the room where it hit the wall and burst into a million tiny pieces. There's no reason to write, "I've had it!" Mary retorted angrily. We can see she's spitting mad by her actions!

4. Too much detail and narrative is another big problem--and one I was guilty of in my earlier days, and still can be to a point. Be sure to break up narrative passages with action and dialogue. Don't let the characters be inside their heads for too long or everything just stops. It's true that your characters have an internal life and a life before the story began, but it's best to weave in details here and there instead of boring the reader with long passages.
When giving background details, only include what's important at that moment. When a character enters a room, what does he/she first see? What's important or what sticks out? Describing a room or scene down to the last speck of dust has the reader turning pages to get to the action again. When we view rooms, scenery and people in reality, we don't make a mental note of every detail. We choose a few things that stand out to us.

5. Flat characters are another sure way to get that rejection. Be certain that your characters are people your readers will care about. The reader has to care about your character and what will happen to him/her or there's no reason for them to keep reading. Give your characters values, dreams, faults, quirks...make them real!

Be sure that your character's motivations are clear. The character must want something, but something or someone is preventing him/her from getting it. Your characters should literally take over the story as you write. Sit down and just watch what your characters do and relay that onto the computer. If we start manipulating them, forcing them to do something, the story loses its pacing and it ends up flopping on its face. Characters MUST have a compelling goal and conflict to keep the reader interested.

6. No plot to the plot, or using worn-out plots is another problem area. True there are only 20 basic plots, but use your voice and your ideas to breathe new life into them. Give your characters something they want desperately but can't have at the moment. How will they get what they want? Who or what stands in the way? How will your character get around it or through it? Editors and readers want characters with strong personalities, not wishy-washy wimps. And they want stories that have something new to say. Just because there are thousands, if not millions, of vampire novels out there, with your ideas and your voice you can add a uniqueness to it that makes it brand new.

My greatest method of moving the story along and creating a good plot? Ask yourself lots of questions and answer them. "What if a woman was lost in the middle of the jungle? How did she get there? Who is she? What is she after? Who's there with her? How will she get out?" By starting out with a simple two word question, you can generate a plethora of ideas for a novel!

7. Always read! Read what's being written out there in the world. Read for pleasure, but also read to learn. Whatever genre you're interested in writing, read as many books as you can that are in this line, especially if you enjoy the author's writing style. These people are in print and there's no reason you can't be too. As you read, make mental or physical notes of the characters, the pacing, the background details. What do you like? What could be better? I have a highlighter with me every time I read a book--provided it's my book! If there's a good line of dialogue, something that piques my interest, a good lesson in writing in detail, flashbacks, conflict, love scenes, you name it, I highlight it! This has offered me more inspiration and more guidance than any nonfiction book on "How to Write."

Although these tips won't keep you out of the rejection pile every time, by following them you have a much better chance at signing a contract than you do at adding yet another rejection to the pile.

Happy writing!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Interesting Article

This article was passed along by the executive editor of Urban Christian. I think you will find that it makes for interesting reading.
As the author, promotion is your responsibility whether you land a traditional royalty publisher, go with a fee-based POD publishing service or self-publish your book.

Some of you will also go back over the contract you signed and figure out that where it says, "We will make your book available to bookstores," doesn't mean "Your books will be sold by the thousands through bookstores nationwide." Instead, it means, "If a bookseller comes asking for a book like this, we will tell them about your book."

Yes, I speak to many disappointed, disillusioned authors every year. That's why I'm currently on a mission to find authors before they start making expensive, heart-breaking mistakes. Now this is not to say that signing with a fee-based POD publishing service is necessarily a mistake. The mistakes occur when the author is not industry savvy when he or she makes uninformed decisions.

So what constitutes the missing links I speak of? What are the steps an author should take after placing of the last period on his manuscript and before signing a publishing contract? See below.

Note: Actually, I'd rather you follow these steps even BEFORE you write the first word of a novel, memoir or nonfiction book.

1: Determine your motivation for writing this book. If you have a book inside that just must come out and you're interested only in sharing it with family and a few friends, go ahead and do your thing your way. On the other hand, if you are driven by the desire for fame and fortune - if you want to be published and widely read - keep reading. It could make the difference between pitiful failure and wild success.

2: Study the publishing industry. You wouldn't start any other business without knowing something about the field. Well, publishing is a business and your book is a product. It's imperative that you know something about the industry, your publishing options and the ramifications or consequences of your choices. When you take the time to learn about publishing, you'll also begin to understand that you - the author - are responsible for selling your book. This fact comes as a shock to many hopeful authors, especially those who learn the truth after they've entered into the extremely competitive publishing field.

Learn about the publishing industry by joining publishing organizations such as SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network), SPAN and PMA. Read magazines and newsletters related to the industry: SPAWNews, PMA Independent, SPAN Connection, Book Promotion Newsletter, RJ Communications Publishing Basics and many others.Read books such as, "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book," "The Successful Writer's Handbook," (by Patricia Fry), "The Self-Publishing Manual," (by Dan Poynter) and "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing," (by Mark Levine)

3: Write a book proposal. A book proposal is a business plan for your book. It's something that you need in order to make the best decisions for your book and you might even land a traditional royalty publisher with a well-written book proposal. A proposal for a nonfiction book might include a synopsis, a marketing plan, a comparative study of similar books and a chapter outline. It will also identify your target audience and, if you plan to approach a publisher with your proposal, you would include an "about the author" section.

4: Identify your competition. Why is this important? You (and a prospective publisher) need to know if yours is a viable book. Is the market saturated in this area or is there room for another book on this topic? How is your book different from what else is out there? If there are no or few books on the topic or in this genre, perhaps there is a reason. Maybe there is no market for this book. How do you conduct a comparative study of similar books? Visit a major bookstore in your area and go to the shelf where your book might be. Look at all of the books shelved there. Read many of them. Determine what's different about yours - what makes it better? Maybe you'll discover that your book idea is quite similar to several published books. Can you come up with an angle or a slant that is different - one that makes your book more useful, interesting, entertaining or informative, for example? If your nonfiction book is just like all the others, why bother producing it? How healthy is the fiction market? Your comparative study will most likely reveal what sort of fiction is popular today. Young adult novels are selling well, for example. There also seems to be a big desire for fantasy and thrillers. Maybe you plan to write a memoir. If you are not a high profile person, you may want to rethink your desire to write a memoir for national distribution. Many authors write memoirs in hopes of using their own tragic stories to educate or inform others. You may well discover that a memoir isn't the best way to do that. Ask the hard questions and use the comparative study of similar books to get the answers you need in order to make all of the right decisions.

5: Identify your target audience. Even before you write that book, you need to know who you are addressing. If it is a historical novel, presumably, those who typically read historical novels will be interested in yours. It's a little tricky, though. Most novel readers are loyal to certain authors and aren't easily lured to read something by an unknown. If yours is a nonfiction book, you must identify the audience who wants the information you are providing or who is interested in the topic. This does not include those who you believe should read the book, but those who will want to read the book. If you are honest in the evaluation of your target audience, you may discover that it isn't a very large segment of people. This knowledge may even prompt you to change the focus of your book or abandon the project altogether. I can't even begin to tell you how many authors I meet who have written the wrong book for the wrong audience and now regret the money spent, the time involved and the emotions invested.

6: Locate your target audience. So now that you know who they are, you need to know where they are. And if you say, "Bookstores," you're probably wrong. Bookstores aren't always the best place to sell books, especially nonfiction books. Just look at the competition in the mega-bookstores. Your book on gnarly ski slopes throughout the U.S. might sell better through winter sports stores and catalogs, appropriate Web sites, magazines and newsletters and at ski resorts. A book on dog grooming would sell best in pet stores, grooming shops and through reviews and articles in pet magazines, for example. If you discover that you don't have a solid target audience, take another look at your book idea. Maybe you need to refocus. Now doesn't it make sense to discover the truth about your book before you publish it?

7: Plan your promotional tactics. Some people will buy the book just because they know you or know who you are. So start by developing a massive mailing list. List everyone in your personal addressbook, your rolodex at work, your class reunion roster, your Christmas card list, you email list and add your child's teachers, fellow church and club members, your mailman, neighbors - everyone you know. Collect business cards from everyone you meet. Offer your list a pre-publication discount if they order the book before the publication date. I have managed to pay a good portion of my printing expenses for several of my books through pre-publication orders.

Build a Web site related to your book. List magazines, newsletters and Web sites that might review your book. Outline articles/stories you can write to help promote your book. (Read, "A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit" by Patricia Fry.) Obtain a list of civic organizations seeking speakers. Contact bookstores nationwide and plan book signings. Ask local radio/TV stations to interview you. Send press releases to appropriate newspaper editors throughout the nation. Discover many additional book promotion ideas in books by Patricia Fry, John Kremer, Fran Silverman and others.

8: Build promotion into your book. For a novel, choose a setting and a topic that will be conducive to promotion. For example, give a character diabetes. If he handles it in a positive way or has something to teach others about the disease, the American Diabetes Association might be interested in helping you to promote your book. For a history or a how-to book, involve a lot of people and agencies. Interview people, quote them and list those people and agencies who helped with your research. They'll all buy books and promote the book to their friends and acquaintances.

9: Establish your platform. Your platform is your following - your way of getting the attention of your target audience. The most successful authors are those who establish a platform before they produce a book. If your book relates to conserving California water, your platform might be that you have been the general manager of a water company for 25 years and on the California State Water Board for most of that time. You have name recognition and credibility in that field.

Maybe your book is on an aspect of acupuncture. Your platform might include the fact that you've studied and taught acupuncture internationally for many years. You've written articles for numerous magazines on topics related to acupuncture, you have a column in a local newspaper on alternative healing practices, you have a Web site and a newsletter that goes out to 20,000 people. What if you have no platform? The time to establish one is before you write the book. Maybe you want to write a book on personal finances after retirement, but you don't have a professional background in finance. Here are some things you can do. Build on the financial background you do have - join organizations, take classes and become known in financial and senior circles. Involve experts in your book - maybe even share authorship with someone who is well-known in the financial field. Join Toastmasters to develop better public speaking skills and start presenting workshops locally for retirees. Write articles for a variety of magazines. Develop a Web site and start circulating a newsletter related to your topic. If you hope to sell more than just a few copies of your book to friends and relatives, follow each of these nine steps and you will experience the success you desire.

Patricia Fry is the author of 25 books, including "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book." Visit her blog often: