Sunday, August 14, 2016

Author Interview: Tonya M. Barber

Say What?? Book Club is pleased to introduce author Tonya M. Barber. Tonya is a multi-faceted author who writes in several genres, although she is known most for her beautiful love stories. Not only is Tonya a gifted writer, she also writes wonderful poetry that can be found in a number of creative settings. If you are not familiar with her works, I encourage you to give her a try.
 ~ Tumika

Tonya M. Barber

Tell us about yourself. 
When I am not writing, I am working at my other job 40 hrs a week. During the time I am free, I have been known to bake cakes, make homemade scented candles, or watch old movie classic with the likes of Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, etc.

Tell us about your newest work and what inspired you to write it.
Falling in Love with Christmas was about a young woman name Noelle who had everything going for her, a successful business, a loving family, and a man who would walk on hot coal bare footed for her. He was her knight in shining armor. Imagine how happy she was when the love of her life proposed on her favorite holiday, Christmas. Unfortunately, tragedy struck and Noelle's hopes of having a wonderful life with her fiancĂ© Sean was stolen from her. What used to be the most wonderful time of year became a nightmare she never thought she'd wake from. With the weight of the world already on her shoulders, Noelle was asked to take on a task of which she was not ready for. Then, the unthinkable happened. That thing called love showed up at a time when she was not ready nor willing to open up for it. It was just too soon to move she thought, but Landon Taylor thought otherwise. From the moment he first laid eyes on her, Landon became mesmerize and knew the instant spark he felt was a premonition of great things to come between him and Noelle. Sadly, she didn't feel the same way. Will Noelle be able to say no to love again when the right man comes along at the wrong time? Furthermore, will she honor a dying friend’s wishes to step in and care for her daughter after she has passed on? Noelle doesn’t think so. Find out if love truly conquers all in this wonderful tale of loss, love, and mended hearts.

The idea of a new romance came to me around Christmas time which has always been my favorite holiday so I thought why not make it a Christmas romance.


He stopped abruptly. Slowly, he turned on his heels to face me. The expression on his face stirred up my emotions, causing tears to roll down my cheek. I did care for him. I did, and I knew the hurt I witnessed in his eyes, his expression and his words were my fault. Truth be told, it was unfair what I was putting him through. As he waited for words to be spoken, I couldn't bring them forth. My tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. It wouldn't budge. He turned back around and resumed walking without saying a word.
Say something, anything, I thought.
"You don't get to capture my heart then walk away, leaving it shattered like a pile of charred glass."
Coming to a halt again, he spun around. This time his eyebrows furrowed as his forehead creased. He began to slowly walk back towards me, leaving a few feet between us.
"And you don't get to enter me into a competition where winning is impossible. I can't compete with a dead man, Noelle. I won't. Not anymore."
"I never asked you to."
"No, you didn't. You just threw me in the rink to battle with a man I can't see, hear nor feel. All these months I've been fighting with a ghost. At least if he was alive I'd be more willing to spar for your love. Perhaps, I'd have a chance at winning, and even if I didn't, I would lose with my dignity still intact." Closing the gap between us, he leaned down, placing a feather soft kiss on my forehead. "Goodbye, Noelle."
“Landon, don’t.”
“Don’t what?” He snapped. “You said you couldn’t be here. You said you needed more time. Well, take all the time you need, but don't expect me to be waiting in the wings.” He chuckled. “What a fool I was for thinking I could get you to change the rules.”
“What rules?”
“In the beginning you made it clear nothing would come out of this. You said not to expect anything other than two people having a good time. How foolish I was for thinking I had surpassed the friendship mark.”
Landon loved me. That, I was sure of before the words ever flowed from his lips. Consciously, I had no idea what I was doing. Measuring him up to Sean was not my intention. I cared for Landon, and I couldn't let him walk away without letting him know that.
Barely above a whisper, I replied, "Thank you for being so patient with me. You may not believe it, but I do care for you. I just need you to know that before you walk away."
Immediately, I let go of my hold on his waist, freeing him like the seagull I observed flying across the sky moments ago.
Landon gripped me tight and kissed me with a fiery passion that made my entire body tingle.
"I love you, Noelle. I really do, but I can't do this anymore. I am in agreement with you now. You're not ready for this, any of this, and it has very little to do with Sean. I hope that sometime in the near future, you will get out of your own way and let love find you and embrace it when it comes. You deserve it, baby."
We stood, momentarily holding hands, staring into each other's eyes. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sadness. As I ogled him, observing his bloodshot eyes fill with tears, my heart ached all over again. A sense of mourning consumed me like a car being sucked into the funnel of a tornado. With the tip of my thumbs, I wiped away the fallen tears from his eyes. I too began to cry for a love that was perfect at the wrong time. In my heart of hearts, I was well aware that this love would surely be one I would regret losing.
Landon released my hands, turned on his heels and walked away, never looking back.

Purchase link: 

Is there a general theme present in your work? If so, what is it?
Yes, there is. People tend to think that there is a time limit on mourning. They presume that, if you move on too quickly it would mean that they didn’t really love the person as much as they believed, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Such as in this story. You may not be ready for it, but you’ll find it’s what you need to help mend the broken pieces.

Who would you say is your target audience?
18-year-old and older.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
With every project, I hope to encourage. My goal is to give the reader a story not only to entertain but to inspire them in some way. There always has to be a meaning for me or else what’s the sense in writing?

What is one thing you wish you had known about this industry that would have made your journey easier?
I wish I would have researched the industry more, learned what publishing entailed before self-publishing my first book. Knowledge is definitely power. Preparing myself before starting would have saved me a lot of heartache, money, and aggravation.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
I would say, don’t give up no matter how hard it gets. To me, writing is not easy, nor is the publishing process. You’ll find that you may not have the support you think you should have from family and friends and that can be discouraging, but you must be your own loudest cheerleader. Belief in yourself is what is going to push harder to strive for greater things. Always remember that not everyone will like your work and sometime the feedback can be devastating. Take the good as well as the bad. Use the negative as a tool to help you improve your skills.

If there was one message you could get across to your readers from your most recent book, what would it be?
That you can’t run from what’s meant to be. There’s a blessing in every situation and there is a reason for being in each other’s lives.

What do you find easiest about writing?  Hardest?
Well, unlike many other authors, I don’t find writing easy at all. I can’t say I’m going to sit down and write every day. I am not one of those writers. The words do not come to me that easily. The most difficult part I would say would have to be the editing process.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing is when I’m so into the story I feel the emotions as if I’m living in that moment. I literally feel as though I have taken on the identity of that character. It feels real. So for a few moments I get to escape from my reality.

What books have you written?
My recent works include: A Journey Through The Window of My Soul, The Journey Continues, Drama in the Bricks, The Other Side Of Me, Changing The Game 1,2,3, Misty's Blues, Not Like My Mama, and I Can Love You Past Your Pain.

What makes your current release special?
This book is special because it is so full of emotions. It covers everything from love, sacrifice etc. It also lets a person know that no matter what life throws your way, you can survive.

What genres do you currently write?  Are there any others you’d like to try?
Contemporary African American Fiction, Romance, Poetry, Urban Life. I would like to try my hand at the supernatural.

What is your next book project?  When can we expect it?
I am currently working on two projects. One is Noelle’s which is the second book in the Falling In Love With Christmas Series. The other is I Chose You, Choose Me which is an Interracial Romance novel about a firefighter and a school teacher.

How do you handle negative reviews? Is it ever okay for an author to lash out at readers for an unflattering review?
It isn’t the negative reviews that bothers me. It’s the personal attacks on the authors. I will say my first negative review made me want to lash out. It was because the reader made it personal. I agree you spend your hard earned money you have a right to say how displeased you are with a product, but give some insight on why you didn’t like it and that’s it.

What lessons have you learned since your first book was published?
I’m still learning how important editing is. It will make or break you. It’s hard finding a good, professional and affordable editor. A lot of self-published authors can’t afford the quotes they are given. People say invest in yourself. Writers would like nothing more than to be able to have the best quality work, but if you don’t have it what do you do?

How do you encourage yourself to keep going during those times when you are frustrated and want to throw in the towel?
Believing that I am a great writer helps me to push past all that. There have been many times when I’ve wanted to give up, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, but I’m a great story teller and the way these characters carry on in my mind I must make them come to life.

If you could have a conversation with one of your characters who would it be and what would you say?
I would have had a conversation with Noelle. I would tell her that allowing someone new into your world doesn’t mean you love Sean any less, and that everything has a time and season. Landon was God sent and should be accepted in spite of what she thought the reactions of others would be. I would praise her for taking on such a huge task of raising a child that was not her own. They didn’t see it in the beginning, but Noelle, Landon and Lyric all needed each other.

Follow Tonya on social media: Barber

Tonya, thank you for taking the time to share your passion, your writing, your insight with us. We wish you continued literary success!

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Book Review: Worth the Drive by Mara Jacobs

Worth the Drive by Mara Jacobs

Katie is the breathtakingly beautiful one in the trio of friends she has shared a lifetime with. But being beautiful is not all it is imagined to be. After years of friendship and marriage to her longtime love, Ron, have come to an end, Katie finds herself devastated and needing to redefine her life. A simple pleasures type of woman, all she’s ever wanted was a committed marriage and a child of her own. The toll of infertility has stressed her marriage beyond the breaking point, sending her husband into the arms of another woman. As her dream of lifelong marriage and parenthood come to a screeching halt, Katie finds herself depressed, disillusioned and broken. Living in the small town where everyone knows, and discusses, everyone else’s business certainly doesn’t help matters.

A business opportunity comes up for her friend Lizzie. In an act of intervention meant to save Katie from herself, she travels with Lizzie to get away and soak up some rays in Texas. It is there that she meets Dario, a sports figure whose career she has followed for years. The attraction is instant, the connection real, but neither is looking for anything beyond the now and are startled by what they feel for each other.

Dario, the Spanish golfer, is a man of great talents, although not a man of many words. His gracious ways and lilting accent lure Katie right in. He seems to be just what she needs to get out of the rut she’s been in since parting with her husband. Will a chance encounter be enough for these two, or will they find themselves wanting much more than a one-time connection?

In book 2 of the Worth series, Mara Jacobs has written yet another tantalizing story that grabs a reader’s attention and holds it until the end. I love the depth of her characters and how she makes the reader embrace their humanity. They are flawed, broken, insecure, beautiful, foolish, complex and so very relatable. She writes in such a way that a reader has a multitude of emotions for the characters, at times eliciting great regard for them, while at other times wanting reach through the pages to shake them for their actions. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, definitely worth a 5-star rating.

Reviewed by Tumika Patrice Cain

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: RETURNED by Marlon McCaulsky

Returned by Marlon McCaulsky

Tragedy has been a part of Ben’s life since he was just a young boy, when his parents went missing and were never found. Although he was loved and cared for, the burden of not knowing whether his parents were dead or alive has taken a toll on him. Years later he is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. As he fights for his life, he pushes away all of his friends, knowing that inevitably death is coming. An experimental treatment in New York is his only hope of surviving. However, circumstances go intensely awry and he ends up the only survivor and key suspect of what happened on that flight. With only a few memories of what happened, he goes in search of the one person who he believes can help him make sense of what has happened. What he discovers is enough to make him think he’s lost his mind. He discovers that blessings and miracles come in unexpected packages, but will he believe enough to embrace what is before him?

Marlon McCaulsky is a very versatile writer. This short work of sci-fi is well written and engaging from start to finish. The characters are relatable, the element of emotions is almost tangible. Even though some details of the story are ‘other worldly,’ it’s very easy to see oneself in the role of any of the characters. McCaulsky sheds light on how quick we are as people to destroy what we do not understand, and how the need to conqueror overrides our innate sense of compassion far too often. As with his signature way of writing, he’s included layers of self-reflection and accountability. I would love for this to have gone more in depth, but all in all, Returned, is a very satisfying read.

5 stars

Reviewed by Tumika Patrice Cain

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Review: The Color of Love by H.M. Trey

The Color of Love by H.M. Trey

Luke is a decent, attractive, white collar professional. For years he has admired the beautiful Angela from afar. At a football game at their alma mater, their paths cross again. The attraction he’s felt for her throughout the years is still very much alive. Not knowing when they’d meet up again, he makes his interest known, but will she be able to look beyond his race to see the man within?

Angela’s life is what dreams are made of…well except for in the department of men. When it comes to men she just never seems to get it right. Although she is of mixed race heritage, that has brought a number of issues in her family that makes her rather gun shy when it comes to dating Luke, who happens to be Caucasian.

The attraction between Luke and Angela is real, so is the opposition they receive from family, friends and strangers alike. Is the spark of something more, something real, worth the challenges they will have to endure to take their relationship to the next level?

The issues with interracial dating that are presented in this story are very real. H.M. Trey does an excellent job of highlighting them. It took a while for me to get into this story, it moved rather slowly and I had a hard time getting into it. For readers of multicultural romance, I’d say give this story and this author a chance.

3.5 stars

Reviewed by Tumika Patrice Cain

Book Review: Worth the Weight by Mara Jacobs

Worth the Weight by Mara Jacobs

Elizabeth, on the surface, has it made. She’s a successful business owner, beautiful, from a great family and is an all around nice girl. But things are not always as they appear. For as together as her life seems, there are areas that she just can’t seem to get a hold on. After losing a great deal of weight, Elizabeth is determined to make up for lost time and secure herself a lover before settling down with her dream man.

Finn is a hardworking man who has never had anything handed to him. Despite the wickedly cruel hand life has dealt him since his youth, he holds his head up, straightens his shoulders, and does what a man has to do to keep going. But even the strongest of men get weary and he’s just about at his breaking point. Then the fates seem to have dealt him a break when he ran into his old flame, Elizabeth.

Years of heartbreak, disappointments and shoulda-coulda-wouldas culminate in one electric moment. Sparks fly between these two former lovebirds, but is it enough to rekindle what once was, or is a fling necessary to extinguish the embers once and for all?

Mara Jacobs has done a wonderful job on this story, fusing it with real issues. For anyone who has ever felt like they were ‘less than,’ or dealt with body image issues, or had so many hits below the belt that life at times didn’t seem worth living, this is the book for you. The characters were extremely relatable. Worth the Weight had just the right amount of spice that makes for a good romance, twists and turns to keep a reader guessing, and sweetness to keep the hope of love alive. This stand-alone novel did not disappoint, and I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

5 stars

Reviewed by Tumika Patrice Cain

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Author Interview: Imani Wisdom

Say What?? Book Club is pleased to present author Imani Wisdom. In addition to writing, she is also the founder of the Pink Noire brand, a company that includes book publishing, blogging, an Urban Ebook Fair, and many more developments coming in very near future. She is a prolific storyteller whose works depict an honest portrayal of societal issues. Be sure to follow Imani and check out her works. I know you will not be disappointed! ~ Tumika 

Imani Wisdom

Tell us about your newest work and what inspired you to write it.
My current project, "The Journey of Ruthie Belle" tells of a story about a woman from a fictional town, Tulla Springs, Mississippi, that looks back on her life after a tumultuous marriage of abuse, but discovers everything about it hasn't been what it seem.

The Journey of Ruthie Belle

The meek, Ruthie Belle dreams of one day being free from her husband’s constant mental and physical torment, until one day she finds the courage to break free from his bondage. Even though the plan goes without a hitch, Ruthie spends the rest of her life riddled in guilt and shame. Later at the ripe age of 103, Ruthie discovers forgiveness and redemption are a part of everyday journeys.

During her pilgrimage, she meets people from her past and makes new and important friends to help her heal and to find understanding. Yet the further into her journey, the darker it gets. Ruthie discovers things aren’t the way it seems when her shame comes back for his revenge – her husband. Will new revelations keep her from her pursuit to redemption? Or will the haunting of her past stop her cold in her tracks?

Chapter One

            Tulla Springs, Mississippi, 1914
I was naked, peerin’ at the reflection through the bedroom mirror. With eyes nearly swollen shut, and fresh cuts around my mouth and cheeks, I saw bruises coverin’ my body—on my arms, trailin’ down my legs, a huge bite mark on my breast—I was beaten badly.
Behind my reflection was a man pullin’ up his trousers with black suspenders danglin’ at his knees. His shirt was half-buttoned, but still wore his muddy boots.
“Put your clothes on, you disgust me!”
With ev’ry move he made, I wanted to jump from my achin’ body.
“Ruthie Raye!” he barked. “You hear me? Put your damn clothes on and fetch me my suppa!”
My feet wanted to move, but they felt like they were stuck. I was scared to walk to the closet. The dress I wore that mornin’ was on the floor in a shredded pile, and my long, dark, hair neatly combed in a bun became ruffled from him draggin’ me to our bedroom. I peered at him through the mirror, hopin’ his next swig of whiskey would make him too drunk to hurt me again.
An hour ago, my husband, Arthur Belle, came home from workin’ as a sharecropper for Mayor Smith, and stomped inside our small shack like a bully. I was on the scrub board doin’ the laundry. He tracked his muddy footprints from the front door to the kitchen table, giving me one of those short evil stares before reachin’ into the cupboard for the jar we used for savin’ our pennies. I knew money was tight, and he’d been stressin’ where the next meal would come from. Mayor Smith kept payin’ him short of our fair share of the crops. We’d been makin’ it all right, but God been blessin’ us with enough food and clothes on our backs. Like any good momma and daddy, we wanted to give the best for our chil’ren.
While I kept tendin’ to the laundry, I could feel his eyes lookin’ my way. It seemed like his stare brought a swift blast of cold air from nowhere. I know that sound strange, and maybe it could’ve been my imagination, but each time he would cut his whitish-gray eyes, I swore it got colder by a few degrees. Though, I didn’t dare tell him that—I just couldn’t.
©2012, Imani Wisdom

Tell us about yourself. Be sure to include facts about yourself when you are not writing.
I'm a mother to three adult children, a caregiver, and employed by a well-known company at night. I also have a degree in Paralegal Studies and plans to extend my education for another degree in Adult Career Education. When I'm not writing, I watch a good movie or read a book.

Is there a general theme present in your work? If so, what is it?
That redemption is powerful, especially experiencing the kind of life Ruthie had. We all have a little "Ruthie Belle" in us; we've had our share of uncertainty and heartbreak -- and yet we're still standing.

Who would you say is your target audience?
Women, between 18 and 45 years old. The color or socio-economic background isn't important, because second-chances don't discriminate.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
If I can touch one person -- whether they're man or woman -- and understand their mistakes don't define them, I've accomplished my goal.

What is one thing you wish you had known about this industry that would have made your journey easier?
For me were the Facebook salesmen: the literary consultants, graphic designers, and editors. If you're new to the industry, please get references and ask questions. I lost lots of money because of subpar services.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Do your research about self-publishing, marketing, branding, and even writing itself. The more you know, the better off you'll become.

If there was one message you could get across to your readers from your most recent book, what would it be?
That loving yourself is the best defense against the ills of the world. Sometimes you have to depend on you!

What are your hobbies or interests outside of writing?
I'm a vegetarian and loves to workout. I also enjoy cooking and reading nonfiction to educate my ancestral past, as well as our future.

Who or what is your writing influence?
Good question. However, the words I like are “creative influences”. My writing inspirations expand beyond authors; but other artists that cemented my passion for writing. Let see there’s: Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Stephen King, Oprah, Mary J Blige, Prince, Shonda Grimes, and Tyler Perry to name a few.

What genres do you currently write?  Are there any others you’d like to try?
I’m not a one-genre person. I have short stories in the Paranormal, Inspirational, and Erotica genre. However, this book (The Journey of Ruthie Belle) will be considered as Women’s Fiction. I do have other manuscripts that will fall in this genre, as well. And let me add, most of my work consists of some sort of paranormal element. Some more than others. TJRB has a little bit of the “unseen” in the storyline.

How do you handle negative reviews? Is it ever okay for an author to lash out at readers for an unflattering review?
I'll say this: I've read reviews (not mine) that were more mean-spirited than helpful for the authors. So is it okay to lash out at a reviewer -- of course not. Artists need to develop a thick-skin to survive in any business; and that includes reviews that you agree or disagree with. My suggestion is to move on to the next project and make it better.

What lessons have you learned since your first book was published?
That patience is a virtue and keeping up with “Joneses” can be detrimental to your career.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Dating a Cougar by Donna McDonald

Dating a Cougar by Donna McDonald

Alexa is brash, bold, beautiful, and successful beyond measure. She’s also cynical, jaded, and not looking for love. This former fashion model, turned business mogul, has it all. That is except for the man who will love her unconditionally, see the woman beyond the success, and who is not intimidated by her controlling ways and sharp tongue.

Casey is a retired Marine who is on the mend from several life altering incidents. On the tail end of grief and the beginnings of redefining and reestablishing his life, he meets Alexa. Although no words can describe what it is about this woman, the attraction and connection between them is undeniable. She’s not his usual type and far from an easy prey. From the moment he laid eyes on her, he had to have her. If only he could convince this seasoned woman to look beyond their twelve year age difference and see into his heart.

Alexa is determined not to succumb to his charm, instead choosing to stay behind her self-proclaimed wall of exile from men. But try as she might, there is just something about this man who draws her like moths to a flame. Without trying, he manages to see right through to the heart of her and recognizes her need for something real, solid and stable in her life. Will the passion between them draw them closer or will their passionate, controlling ways keep them apart?

Donna McDonald has written a delightfully witty, light-hearted romance between a younger man and older woman, each who are determined to have their own way. The chemistry between the main characters is electric, while the dynamics of the secondary characters add just the right about of spice and whimsy to the story. Adding to the appeal of the story is the addition of imperfect characters with ‘real’ flaws and relatable issues, as well as characters who are mature in age and experiences. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more from this author and from this series. Side note: I love the cover…ties right in with the whimsical feel of the story.

4 stars
Reviewed by Tumika Patrice Cain