Monday, November 11, 2013

2nd Excerpt of Sunday Best (by Lori D. Johnson)

Forgive me for taking SO LONG to post this 2nd excerpt of my short story "Sunday Best."  These days, I'm much more active on Facebook, which is where both excerpts have been posted for months now.  Anyway, I promise to do better here at the Old School Mix  :-)  If you enjoy the excerpts, please consider ordering a copy of the Spring 2013 issue of the literary journal Black Magnolias, where you will find the full version of "Sunday Best" and other work that might be of interest to you.

2nd excerpt of "SUNDAY BEST" by Lori D. Johnson

     Curtis groans and tosses what's left of the partially chewed piece of toast.  Leave it to Grandma Rose to shove him into the reluctant role of savior.  Little does she know how much he himself is in need of rescue.  Just last week he'd been fired from his first decent paying job.  Typically Rose, a woman with a rep for taking in and nurturing strays, is no slouch when it comes to sensing discontent, whether his or anyone else's. 
            Silent, sullen and sorely unappreciative, the boy reminds Curtis too much of himself, or at least the self he'd been when he'd first landed on Grandma Rose and Old Man Lamar's doorstep--an event precipitated by his own mother's untimely demise.
            Dead mamas--just another unfortunate thing he and the boy have in common.  And both willful departures at that--one suicide, the other overdose.  The more kind-hearted adults in his life had done their best to shield him.  But even at the tender age of ten, Curtis had been able to see through the deceptive nicety of a term like "home-going."  What kind of mother leaves for home without taking her kids with her?
            During his stiff-legged trek up the stairs, Curtis is nearly trampled by the six year old twins, Tosha and Tiara, on their giggle-filled race down.  A happy pair, they push past him, seemingly unfazed by the fact that their mother no longer occupies a space in the landing of the living.
            While an enviable innocence to some, Curtis knows all too well the truth of how the woman the two youngsters had routinely referred to as "Mama" had seldom been one in any real sense of the word.  Dope, like a thief in the night, who boldly returns by the light of day, had years ago snatched her away from them and everyone else who'd tried to love her.
            The girls make Curtis think of his own little sister, Amanda, who’d barely been a year old when their mother had passed.  Less than a week after the funeral, Amanda's daddy and some of his people had come and got her.  Hit hard by the back-to-back losses, Curtis had cried for weeks.  But even more devastating than either his baby sister's sudden whisking away or even his mother's willful departure had been the fact that no one had ever bothered to come for him.
            Curtis's old room is where Mark has been bunking.  On easing open the door and stepping inside, he finds the boy perched atop the cedar chest next to the window.  He is a tall, skinny kid with the awkwardness of thirteen scrawled all over him like spray-painted graffiti. 
            "What's up?" Curtis says when Mark finally pulls his frown from the window and turns his head in his direction. 
            The boy is anything, but ready for church--the bottom of his shoes are caked with dirt; an unknotted tie, like the chain of a busted playground swing, dangles from his neck; his face could use a good scrubbing and his hair is a black, matted field of uncombed naps.  But what strikes Curtis most are the boy's eyes, fixed, glazed and set back in hollow sockets, they are not unlike those of a blind man whose sight, at some point, had been forcibly removed.  Rather than extend a verbal greeting, the boy nods and turns back toward the window.
            Although it clings to the tip of his tongue, like the taste of freshly-cut lemon, "You all right?" strikes him as a stupid question.  Curtis already knows how the kid feels--the same way he had--like a dumped sack of garbage with something horribly rotten on the inside.
            He shoves his hands in his pockets and wonders what Grandma Rose could have been thinking in assigning him such a task.  After a moment of coin-jiggling, foot-shuffling and longing desperately to run back in the direction from which he'd come, Curtis invites himself to a seat on the opposite end of the cedar chest and joins the boy in his silent sulk out onto the world.  Not so long ago, he had spent many an hour in the very same spot, bottom buttressed to the worn wood and nose pressed against the pane.  The windowed nook had proven an ideal one for eavesdropping, daydreaming or just pondering the complexities of life.
            He tries to get a feel for the boy's take on the second story view--a view dominated in large part by the church next door.  A friend of the family once commented on how overwhelming it must be to wake up every morning and go to bed every night with a steeple staring down on you.
            Overwhelming for whom?  Certainly not Grandma Rose, who takes full advantage of her proximity to the Lord's house.  Be it for Sunday school, eleven o'clock service, Monday night prayer vigil, mid-week Bible study, choir rehearsal, or one of her various committee meetings, she makes a point of walking through the doors of the church at least once before the day is done.
            Had it not been for Old Man Lamar, Curtis knows chances are, he would have ended up a bonafide 'Dudley-Do-Right' type or else, thoroughly ambivalent about donning the cloak of discipleship.  The Old Man had provided him with the balance necessary to understand that doing the work of the church and living for the Lord weren't always the same thing.
            He couldn't help but feel that an "Old Man Lamar" was really what Mark needed; someone with shoulders big enough to lean on in hard times; someone who in twenty words or less could tell the boy all he'd ever need to know.  In spite of his intimacy with death, what Curtis knew exceeded his ability to articulate.  Silence and companionship were about all he felt capable of offering.
            Besides, the boy didn't appear in the mood for words, however profound, poetic or potentially life-altering.  The thought took Curtis back to that first conversation between him and his cousin Rodger.
            He'd been sitting alone in the very same room when his bowed head cousin had slunk in.  "I-I-I'm sorry 'bout yo-yo-yo your Mama," is what Rodger had finally sputtered after what must have been a full minute of standing and sniffling.
            "What the hell you got to be sorry for?" is what a ten-year old Curtis had snapped back.  "You didn't kill her, did you?"
            A candy apple red Lexus pulls into the church parking lot and Mark's dulled pupils suddenly flicker.  He bolts forward, as if adhering to a drill sergeant's "a-ten-hut," and bangs his forehead against the window pane in the process.
            "Look at him," Mark says as the driver, dressed in a yellow pinstriped, grape juice colored, three piece suit exits the car.  "Son-of-a-bitch really thinks he's somethin', don't he?"
            Though they lean toward concurrence, Curtis elects not to express his thoughts aloud.  After all, the purple-clad SOB in question just so happens to be Mark's father--Jared--or J.D. as he prefers to be called.
            J.D’s wife and their three young sons follow him out of the car.  Not only do the boys’ dark, shiny, moon-pie faces, mirror their dad’s, they’re dressed just like him, too.  In a leg-dragging strut across the parking lot and up the church steps, they fall in behind him, like soldiers, pledges or robots, one grinning, big bobbing head after the other.
            At the parade’s end, Mark turns to Curtis, and with his eyes ablaze says, “Ain’t you gon’ say nothin’?”
            Curtis has half a mind to tell the boy, “So, your Pop’s a jackass.  Truth be known, your Moms wasn’t a heck of a lot better.”  But rather than voice a truth the child might not be ready to handle, Curtis stares out the window and lets several seconds pass before he stands and says, “Let’s go for a ride.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sunday Best by Lori D. Johnson (Short Story Excerpt)

The following is the first of two excerpts from my short story "Sunday Best."  If you'd like to read the full story, please consider ordering the Spring 2013 issue of Black Magnolias: A Literary Journal. 

Sunday Best
by Lori D. Johnson

         Curtis jiggles the loose change in his pockets as he struts up the tulip-lined path.  His suit is a blue Armani; his shirt, white, wrinkle-free and French cuff bold and his tie, a crimson, Italian silk foulard, bearing a blue diamond motif.  Something akin to glitter dances in the space between his Rolex-strapped wrist and his brand new wingtips with the twenty dollar shine. He marches up the porch steps, pushes open the front door and glides over the threshold, chest puffed and grin wide.  But rather than extend her usual fawn, Grandma Rose whirls past him, as if he'd been idling there all morning long, like a young barnyard rooster who can’t wait to impress the sleeping hens with his ability to crow.

            "Hey!" he says, grabbing her on her re-entry.  He plants a peck on her cheek.  "And a lovely morning to you, too."

            "Oh, I'm sorry, sugar."  She scrunches her lips and returns his affection in double.

            He nods toward the spread on the dining room table. "I see I'm just in time for breakfast.”

            Grandma Rose frowns and extends her hand. "Help yourself.  The twins done already messed over all they could before running out of here, like somethin' done bit 'em on the backside."

            A round of bumping and squealing lures her eyes and his toward the ceiling.  Her scowl deepens as she stomps over to the stairs and hollers up, "All right ladies.  Enough with the nonsense.  I'm leaving outta here in exactly ten minutes.  And I 'spect you both to be ready.  You hear me?"

            A giggle-filled, "Yes Ma'am," drifts down the staircase.

            Curtis walks over to the table and butters a piece of toast.  “They're not giving you problems are they?"

            “The twins?  Oh, they’re a handful, all right," Grandma Rose says upon her hurried approach to the dining room table.  "But no more than would be expected given the circumstances.”

            He nods and chews as the old woman scurries around him, scraping plates, fastening tops on opened containers and shoving dirty utensils into the deep pockets of her apron. 

            “But that brother of theirs, Mark, I ‘clare if he ain’t ‘bout to work my last nerve.  Take this morning, child’s stomach growling so loud I can hear it from way across the hall.  But will he come down and eat?  No-ooo!  He claim he ain’t hungry.”

            Upon surveying the hearty breakfast of oatmeal, toast, cranberry juice, banana slices, raisins and the required dose of castor oil, Curtis can hardly blame the boy for passing on the morning offering.
 
            "And all day yesterday," Rose continues.  "He was 'round here carrying on 'bout some ole tie.  'I need me a  tie.  I ain't going to church tomorrow lessen I get me a tie.'  So what do I do?  I takes the boy shopping.  'Course he ain't satisfied with just your ordinary clip-on.  No sir, he got to go and get his heart set on one of these here fancy, one hundred percent silk, wrap around numbers."
 
            Ties?  Thanks to his line of work, as well as the generosity of both his late cousin Rodger and Grandma Rose, Curtis owns tons of ties in every style, pattern and hue imaginable.  How could she have possibly forgotten?  "Why didn’t you just--" he starts.
 
            "So silly me," she says.  "I go 'head and buy the fool thing.  But do you think he appreciates it?  No sir, he's sitting up in his room this very minute talking 'bout he can't go 'cause the tie ain't right.  I 'clare if his Mama wasn't gone and I wasn't a Christian, Lord knows I'd be up there now strangling the holy spit out that child."

            Curtis is still stuck on the ties.  He'd only taken them at her insistence.  "I can't do nothing with them," is what she'd told him.  "Besides Rodger would have wanted you to have them."

            Again, he opens his mouth, only to have the silver-haired woman wag a finger in his face.  "Uh-uh," she says.  "He ain't 'bout to make me lose my religion.  Hear me?"  Instead waiting for Curtis’s response, she smiles and lowers her finger to his lapel.  "Curtis baby," she says in a softer tone.  "Why don't you go see if you can't talk some sense to the boy?  Being that you a man, he'll probably listen to you."

            "Aww Grandma!" Curtis says, throwing up his hands.  "Come on, I don't even--"

            She plants a kiss between his eyes, pats him on the chest and says, "My, don't you look right smart today . . . handsome too."  In a wink, she's off to the kitchen, where she sheds her apron before trotting back out and over to the stairs again where she hollers up, "All right ladies.  Grandma Rose is 'bout to grab her hat and get up outta here.  Unless you looking to get left, you'd best be right behind me."
 
 

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Work!!! (A Short Story In Black Magnolias: A Literary Journal)


I’m pleased and proud to announce that my short story “Sunday Best” appears in the spring 2013 issue of Black Magnolias: A LiteraryJournal.

In addition to my short story, “Sunday Best,” the scholarly and creative offerings of professors, playwrights, filmmakers and talented poets, like my friend Margie Shaheed, also grace the pages of  the spring 2013 issue of Black Magnolias.

If you’re interested in reading my story, Margie’s poems, checking out some of the other work in the journal or simply showing support for a worthy literary endeavor, please consider purchasing the spring 2013 issue of Black Magnolias: A Literary Journal.  

Also, at some point, I will post an excerpt from my story, “Sunday Best.”  So, check back in later if you’re interested . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Latest Q & A (Lori Johnson & The Sista Girl Book Club)

The SiSta Girl Book Club



Michelle and the ladies of the SiSta Girl Book Club always ask such great questions.  Check out our most recent conversation in their Author's Spotlight . . .

                                         SiSta Girl Book Club Q & A with Author Lori Johnson




Friday, November 02, 2012

A Bit Of Good News


Shout out to all of you KINDLE owners!  I’m happy to report that you can now “preorder” A NATURAL WOMAN for a very reasonable $4.79 and it will be delivered to your Kindle by December 4, 2012.  If you own a Kindle, I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy. 

ALSO, for those who still prefer paper copies, the mass market paperback edition of A NATURAL WOMAN will be released online and in stores on December 4, 2012.  If you’re interested, you can preorder the mass market paperback today for $6.99 via Amazon.

As always, a free excerpt of A NATURAL WOMAN is available on my website (www.lorijohnsonbooks.com). Thanks and spread the word!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lifestyle Changes . . . A Little Goes A Long Way

The other night I was watching this program called “Fat & Fatter.” Don’t judge me, all right? LOL. Routinely tuning into shows like that help kill my appetite more effectively than any over or under the counter diet suppressant. Anyway, one of the obese women being profiled had what looked like a serious salt addiction. A CARTON of salt (not a shaker, a whole dang carton) was typically right next to her plate whenever she sat down to eat. While dining at one of those “all you can eat” buffets she picked up a nice, healthy plate of fruit and started showering it with salt. When someone asked her why, especially given her health issues, high blood pressure among them, her response was a simple, “’Cause it tastes good.”

Watching her cover her food with all of that salt, typically without even tasting the food first, truly grossed me out. But the truth is, I was once in the habit of “salting” certain foods without giving it a second thought. As a kid, before eating so much as a forkful of watermelon, I salted that bad boy. After all, that’s what everyone did, right? At the time, that was all I knew. It’s what I’d been taught.

Bad habits are hard to break—especially those we give so little thought to that they almost become second nature, like blinking or breathing I was grown and on my own before I realized that watermelon tastes great (better even) without salt. Once upon a time (not all that long ago), I would have automatically seasoned the omelet I prepared this morning with salt and pepper. But since I’m being more mindful about my health these days, I bypassed the salt altogether and just used a few dashes of pepper. And you know what? The omelet was so good, I didn’t even miss the salt. Now, when it comes to popcorn, I still have a long, long way to go . . . ;-)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Treasure Vs. Clutter: A Battle & A Balancing Act

The other day, I watched a cute clip of Anderson Cooper teasing his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, about the storage unit she rents. He obviously thinks the rental is a waste of money and full of useless junk. I know a little something about that. Last weekend, I stopped by my own rental storage unit. I’m determined to empty it, but it’s a struggle.

I don’t think I’m a packrat (or God-forbid, a hoarder) as much as I am a frugal, overly sentimental “curator.” LOL. I mean really, who keeps old Sears Roebuck catalogs? Well, I have a couple, including the Holiday Wish Book from 1998. I also have a collection of Rolling Stone, Spin and other such mags with my boy Prince on the cover. Hey, I had it bad for Prince, back in the day. When the hubby suggested we trash the old microwave we’d packed away 5 years ago, my first thought was, well, maybe we could use it upstairs for popcorn and to heat water for coffee. In the end, I conceded it was probably time to let it go.

My books, I simply can’t trash, even though I know I’ll never read some of them ever again. Truly, it breaks my heart to see a book (even one I found less than enjoyable) in the garbage. I either have to find a place for them in the house or give them away.

What’s really been difficult is letting go of my son’s old toys, baby clothes, school projects, etc, but I’m starting to make a bit of progress in that area. Some items, specifically, anything torn, broken, stained, full of glitter, feathers, etc. or that makes me say, “What the heck is this?” I’ve actually thrown away. Also, after years of talking about it, I’ve finally completed one scrapbook and hope to start and finish a few more. But scrapbooking is a hobby I have to pursue with caution because it can easily become another source of clutter that requires, yikes, additional storage!

As much as my husband doesn’t want to hear this, there are a few things I doubt I’ll ever part with willingly. My grandmother’s old porch glider, for instance. No, it doesn’t glide any more. Yes, it’s rusted in some areas and no, we don’t even own a front porch big enough for it. But I’m keeping it. I’ll happily scrape the rust, slap on a coat of paint and find a nice spot for it some place in the backyard.

That glider was one of the first things I’d see when we’d pull up to my grandparents' house. I’d dare say, most of my aunts and uncles and all of my first cousins on my dad’s side of the family have, at some point, sat in that glider. The times that I sat there, laughing and joking with relatives, chatting with my M'Deah or just rocking and day-dreaming all by myself are too numerous to count. Call it hokey, or overly sentimental, if you want, but the truth is, whenever I look at the glider, I can’t help but smile and think happy thoughts. The last time I checked, happiness didn’t have a price or an expiration date. So, as long as my tendency to “curate” doesn’t earn me a visit from the health department or an invitation to star on a reality series, I think I’m good . . .

Friday, May 06, 2011

Granny's Black Bag (an old essay / posted in honor of Mother's Day)

GRANNY'S BLACK BAG by Lori D. Johnson (first appeared in Relic Magazine / April 2006)

“Go and get my bag,” is all my grandmother would have to say and off my brother and I would run, like a couple of gunshot prompted, racetrack hounds. Leave it to us to turn the bag’s retrieval into a competition rivaling that of any canine pair’s futile chase of an artificial hare. But we were children and this was, after all, in the days prior to the advent of the Internet, PlayStation, the Cartoon Network or even cable. And while our mindless pleasures were of the simpler sort, they offered rewards, seemingly beyond the imaginative abilities of today‘s youth.

And to the winner of our quick-footed quest to comply with our granny’s “go-get” command, went the honor of making a big production of the task. Whoever reached the suit-cased sized receptacle first reveled in the opportunity to grab it by its straps and wrestle it into submission, as if an unruly rotweiller is what we had writhing in our midst, rather than a lady’s black, imitation-leather handbag.

Indeed, a beast of a bag it was, and one that, for little kids like us, required a series of military-like “lift, swing and drag” maneuvers in order to move it from point A to point B. Seasoned troopers that we were, my brother and I knew all too well the risks involved, some of which included, but weren’t limited to a subsequent loss of breath, use of limbs or permanent damage to any number of fingers or toes. Yet and still, come our turn to grapple with the grip and we’d be there with the quickness--grinning, groaning and occasionally hollering out, “What on earth do you have in this thing, anyway?!”

Not that our granny ever bothered to respond. Likewise, nor did we ever muster the courage to open the bag and brave too long a look within. The butt-beating such an act would have earned us would have hardly made the effort worthwhile. Besides, our contemplation of all that might dwell within the dark belly of the beast was half the fun.

Beyond a billfold, an address book, a rain scarf, some tissues, a pack of cigarettes and the occasional stick of gum, we never actually saw our grandmother pull anything out of her whale of a purse that might account for its stunning girth. That didn’t stop us from teasing her about toting around bricks. Nor could we help but laugh at the thought of some unsuspecting thief’s attempt to snatch the bag and run. Face down in the dirt is surely where he would have found himself, the weight of the beast, which we guess-timated to be a whopping ten pounds or more, having ultimately drug him there.

I, having always been the more imaginative type, suspected the durn thing was rigged. Something was in there, all right. Something that was just waiting for either me or my brother to poke an inquiring hand deep inside the musty folds and then boom!--the nosey culprit would be snatched in and never seen or heard from ever again.

With age and time came an increased awareness of all that my grandmother’s work as a cook in those windowless eating and drinking establishments, most commonly referred to in the south as “cafes” entailed. Whenever I’d spy her lumbering up the driveway toward the end of another day’s toil, big black bag swinging by her side, or else tucked firmly beneath her arm, I’d frequently find myself wondering if ole girl wasn’t, in fact, packing a sizeable piece, as well as an extra box or two of ammunition.

What can’t be denied is that the bag was my granny’s near constant companion. If she made a trip to the bathroom, be it for business or pleasure, the bag went with her. Whenever she ventured out to hang the wash, the bag, more often than not, bummed a ride alongside the wet clothes piled high in her basket. Besides the cozy nest she’d made for it next to her favorite perch at the kitchen table, the bag claimed its very own resting place on the floor next to her bed. Outside of when she had her eyes closed, the only time ole girl’s grip wasn’t somewhere within her line of vision was when she’d determined it safe to leave it alone at her bedside--a determination that hinged heavily upon the house being empty of all belonging to the adult male persuasion.

My granny’s implicit rule never to leave her grip unguarded in the company of men folk was one that for years knew no exceptions, whether kin or non-kin and even went as far as to include her own husband.

My poor grandfather had been home alone with his bag-coddling wife of sixty-some years the day her congestive heart condition necessitated an emergency call for help. Upon receiving word of the crisis, I’d race from my house to theirs and arrived just in time to accompany my ailing granny on the gurney ride out. The ole girl looked worst than I’d ever seen her. Her calves had swollen to twice their normal size and she barely had the strength required to draw a proper breath. But as the paramedics carted her down the backdoor steps and toward the waiting ambulance, my grandmother somehow summoned both the wherewithal and the necessary spit and wind to turn to me and bark, “Go back and get my bag!”

Had it not been for the seriousness of the situation, I no doubt would have laughed aloud. Instead, I did what I’d always done-- even though at the time I was an adult well into my thirties--I ran off and fetched it for her.

In the summer of 2002, I moved from Memphis, TN in order to join my husband who had accepted a job in Cleveland, Ohio. To be perfectly honest, the move was a painstakingly difficult one. Along with having to force my southern roots into midwestern soil, I had to accept that someone other than myself or my brother (whose military career had long taken him out of the competition) would have to see after my granny and her big black bag.

I flew back home to Memphis for the holidays in December of 2002 and got a chance to visit with my granny one last time before her death on Christmas day. In the days prior to her funeral, I found myself faced with the task of searching through the ole girl’s grip for telephone numbers, important papers and the like.

The bag, which had already been plundered by persons both know and unknown, was but a mere shell of its former self. A thorough search of the bag’s contents turned up no hidden monsters nor anything else that might have accounted for the heaviness I so fondly remembered. But shoved way down deep in one of the purse’s inner folds, I did find one small, round, dark-brown object of interest.

No one I asked seemed to know for sure what to make of the durn thing, until I ran it past my granddad. He barely even glanced at the object before announcing with all of the assurance that having lived 85 years brings, “It’s a buckeye. Some people carry them around for good luck.”

I couldn’t help but tilt my head toward the heavens and smile at what I knew to be a parting wink meant just for me.

I took both the bag and the buckeye back with me to Ohio. Every now and then I hear a whisper in my ear and I know it’s her, still beckoning me. “Don’t worry granny, I‘ve got it,” is what I‘ve taken to telling her. “Rest assured that all of the things you held precious, whether inside or outside of your bag are safe with me.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Must See Movie: I Will Follow

If you get a chance this weekend, it might be worth your while to check out an independent movie that's been getting a lot of buzz of late: I Will Follow.

I'd been hearing positive things about the movie for a while and I knew it featured Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Omari Hardwick and Blair Underwood, but I wasn't sold until I watched the trailer. A death in the family. A woman at a crossroads. A bit of romance. A serious movie with performances that aren't over the top. I can't wait! *lol*

Recently, I Will Follow expanded to 22 theaters in 15 cities. Fortunately for me, Charlotte, NC is one of the cities and I plan to catch a showing this weekend. Check your local listings for details.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Signed Book Giveaway . . . After The Dance by Lori Johnson

SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAY! In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to giveaway some of the mass market editions of my novel, AFTER THE DANCE. If you’d like a free, signed copy, email me your response to the following question:

How many times do Carl and Faye slow dance in my novel, AFTER THE DANCE? Feel free to guess.

The contest ends on Monday, (February 7th) at 5pm. AFTER THE DANCE is a love story and would make a great Valentine’s gift. Unfortunately, the contest is not open to my overseas friends, fans or readers but all others, including past winners are welcome to respond . . .

**You can find my email address on my blog's profile page. You can also contact me via Facebook or my website.**

Monday, January 17, 2011

HAPPY MLK DAY!

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thursday Thirteen #50 . . . 13 Changes In My Reading Habits

Over the last ten years or so, I’ve noticed a number of changes in my reading habits. Sadly, most of the changes haven’t been for the better and “sad” is also a good way to describe what I felt while compiling this list. Will I ever regain the same sense of joy I once felt when I curled up in bed with a good book or my favorite magazine? Will Nooks and Kindles ever come close to duplicating the warm and fuzzy feelings of contentment I experience when my face is buried in the pages of a book that I can’t put down? I’m not hopeful.

1) I no longer read or subscribe to the local newspaper on a daily basis. I’ve been reading the newspaper on a somewhat regular basis since I was twelve. However my desire to read and subscribe waned upon my move from Memphis, TN to Cleveland, OH, approximately 9 years ago. I’ve since moved to North Carolina, but I still haven’t reclaimed the time or desire to read the paper on a daily basis.

2) I do subscribe to the weekend (Fri-Sunday) edition of the local newspaper. Still, often times, I don’t read any of the papers until Sunday.

3) I no longer purchase or attempt to read the Sunday New York Times. Back in the day, the hubby and I used to love picking up a Sunday NY Times before paying a visit to our favorite pancake house. Eating pancakes, drinking coffee and discussing what we read in the Times used to be a treat.

4) I no longer purchase or attempt to read the NY Times Book Review. For years, even after I stopped reading the Sunday NY Times, I’d still purchase a copy of their book review. Think that stopped around about the time my son came into the picture.

5) I stopped subscribing to “O” magazine several years ago. When I started accumulating large piles of unread copies, I knew it was time to call it quits. I still like “O” and occasionally I’m moved to pick up a copy, but I really wish it was a bit thinner and/or came out every other month.

6) I still subscribe to “ESSENCE” magazine. But the writing on the wall isn’t good. Like “O” in recent years I’ve begun accumulating large piles of unread copies. Unlike “O” though, I think I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the magazine’s content.

7) I no longer read several novels and non-fiction titles in a single month. Once upon a time, it wasn’t unusual for me to read 6-7 books (and sometimes more) in a month. Now, if I manage to read 1 every other month, I’m happy.

8) I no longer visit the library on a regular basis. Visiting the library was once something I once did at least a couple of times month. Sometimes I’d visit and read magazines and journals for hours. These days when I visit, I feel like I’m lost in a forest.

9) I no longer visit the bookstore on a regular basis. Visiting a bookstore used to be something I very much looked forward to doing at least once a week. I still enjoy my visits, but they don’t occur quite as often and I don’t browse as long as I once did.

10) On occasion, I still purchase a number of magazines and journals, but I seldom read them in a day or even a week’s time. I hate throwing them out unread, so I’ve been keeping them in boxes and hoping my stash doesn’t land me on an episode of “Hoarders.”

11) Once upon a time, I routinely read in bed before calling it a night. I can’t remember the last time I took a book or a magazine to bed with me. Even if I tried, I’m sure I’d be asleep after a paragraph or two.

12) I used to give my reading material my undivided attention. These days, when I read, either the TV is on, I’m listening to music or I’m simultaneously engaging members of my family in conversation. Oddly enough, on those rare occasions when I do find myself alone with a book, rather than relish the moment, I start feeling guilty, as if I really need to be “doing” something . . .

13) More and more, the news and information I read is coming from online sources. Ah yes, the computer. It’s making our lives easier, providing us with a variety of entertainment outlets and allowing us access to all kinds of information, but might it also be stealing and/or stifling some of life’s simpler pleasures in the process?

Does anything on my list sound familiar? Have you noticed similar changes in your own reading habits?

If you'd like to visit other Thursday 13 participants START HERE

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lots of Links . . . Some Informative, Others Just For Fun

Who do you write like? Find out @ I write like. My son introduced me to this site. After you type in a writing sample, it will give you the name of the author it thinks you write like. When I typed in a passage from one of my... novels, it told me I wrote like Stephen King. If you try it, let me know your results . . .

Some great advice HERE from Author Tananarive Due. Among the things she mentions in this speech are 4 ways writers sabotage their work: 1) You want to write, but you don't write; 2) You write, but you don't finish what you write; 3) You finish what you write, but don't submit for publication & 4) You submit what you write, but you don't re-submit. Check out the link for details.

Lots of useful info for newbie writers in the following Youtube clip. In Ask Marita!, Author Marita Golden provides answers to the following: 1) How do I write with regularity; 2) What do I do after my manuscript is finished? 3) What does an agent do?; 4)How do I get an agent?; 5) Is self-publishing a viable option? Check out the clip for Ms. Golden's responses.

The following is a clip of my favorite Muppet, Grover, doing a spoof of the Old Spice Guy commercial.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories (Brandi F.)

Brandi F.'s Story
(Brandi F.)

Background / I am 30 years old and I live in Memphis, TN. I conduct health research in African American communities with the intent of addressing community and individual factors that cause poor health among minorities. One of our recent projects focuses on increasing access to healthy foods in communities that do not have supermarkets. I have a great husband, but no kids yet . . .

Hairstyle / I wear a variety of styles—a wash and go, twist-outs and curly fros. I’m always searing YouTube for new style ideas. I decided to stop relaxing in June of 2009. I had been reading about transitioning for a few months and decided to do it! I wore my hair straight until I did the big chop in May 2010. I have not used direct heat on my hair since.

Reason for wearing a “natural” hairstyle / My reason for transitioning was to achieve healthier hair. My hair had thinned out over time with relaxers, and I wanted to embrace my natural texture again. I thought that by fall, I would wear it straight again, but I am loving the versatility of my new hair!

Support of your natural look / When I announced my decision to transition, I got a lot of positive feedback from old classmates and friends who had already gone through the process. I even convinced a few girlfriends to join me. My husband is on board now; he likes to joke about all the products and concoctions I’ve been testing on my hair.

Advice for women considering a “natural” hairstyle / Learn as much as you can about achieving healthy hair. Read blogs, watch video, listen to others share their hair stories. This is a learning process that takes time; many of us have never truly cared for our hair in its natural texture. Commit at least two years to transitioning (don’t get hung up on length). If you keep it healthy, your hair will grow.

Any natural hair blogs, websites, books or print magazines you’d like to recommend / There are so many resources out there, but websites that stick out include Mane&Chic and CurlyNikki.com. My favorite YouTuber is —Kimmaytube--she breaks down Hair 101 like no one I’ve seen! Her videos are informative and insightful and I especially enjoyed the one she did on hair growth and maintenance.

Additional Commentary / I appreciate the opportunity to share my story. My journey has been so rewarding.

Definition of a natural woman / A natural woman is confident and comfortable in her own skin!

"Brandi F.'s Story" is part of an on-going series I created that focuses on African American women who wear their hair au naturel. Check the archives (see sidebar on the right) for past segments, features and profiles. If you'd like to participate in the series, please email me for details (go to my blog's profile page or visit my website for contact information). Your feedback is always appreciated. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you might have about "Brandi F.'s Story," the "Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories" series or Black hair in general, in the section below marked for comments. THANK YOU!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

My Knotty Truths

If you're interested in learning more about my natural hair journey, do stop by Michele George's blog "The Knotty Truth." Recently, she asked me a series of hair related questions and posted my responses. So, if you'd like to know how I answered any of the following:

Where are you from and what is the natural scene like where you are from?

Did you transition to natural hair? If so, what were your experiences?

Did you have any support?

Has there been any differences in your life after going natural?

If you were stranded on a deserted island and had to choose three items for yourhair, what are three things you would have to have for your hair and why?

How do you maintain your hair?

What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going natural?

Has being natural inspired you to write?

Please visit Michele's blog

"The Knotty Truth"

for my responses.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Thursday Thirteen # 49 . . . My 13 Writing Essentials

WRITING ESSENTIALS ( 13 Things I need/want/like having at my disposal when I write)

An article in the September 2010 issue of Writer's Digest, "Essentials To A Writer's Life" by Erik Larson inspired me to come up with my own list of writing essentials. Larson and I share a need for coffee, but some of the other items on his list were things like "Blocks of Undisturbed Time" "Oreo Cookie" and "A Fireplace."

Even though I wrote down the first things that came to mind, I wouldn't necessarily rank my "essentials" in the order in which they appear . . .

1) CAFFEINE: My drug of choice is coffee--General Foods, Hazelnut CafĂ©, to be specific. But in a crunch, I’ll go with an ice cold Coke, or a Dr. Pepper or even a tall glass of sweetened iced tea.

2) LOTS OF LIGHT: During the day, I prefer natural light. Thanks to the previous owner, my house has shades, blinds and a number of dark screens on the windows. I’m guessing he must have been a vampire or something . . . I needs my light!

3) A WINDOW: Yeah, the light thing again. Also, I like being able to catch a glimpse of the outside world every now and then.

4) AN INK PIN: I prefer a pen with a thick, bold, black tip. (Stop, don’t even go there, :-D) Uni-ball’s Vision Elite, Bold 0.8mm are typically what I use.

5) ACCESS TO MUSIC: Often times I write with a little jazz playing in the background or on my headset. Depending on the writing project though, sometimes I’ll listen to r&b, blues, hip-hop or rap. Typically when I’m listening to something other than jazz, I’m attempting to create a certain mood-—one befitting of the particular section I’m in the process of writing.

6) A COMFORTABLE CHAIR: Back support and an ability to embrace the tush are the two most important features here. If it swivels, rocks and turns, that’s even better.

7) CALM, QUIET, PEACEFUL ENVIRONMENT: While I’ve trained myself to write just about anywhere (like the ballpark, the dentist office, in front of a blaring television), I prefer a place where the distractions are few. You’re not likely to find me writing in a bar, restaurant or a coffee shop or any other public place by choice, but I have been known to write in the bath tub . . .

8) A DICTIONARY: I can’t spell y’all, so a dictionary is a must. Plus, it helps when I’m not sure if the word I want to use is the best or proper choice. I do keep a Thesaurus nearby, but I don’t use it much—-probably because I’ve heard too many teachers, authors and others speak on the dangers of becoming overly dependent on the Thesaurus.

9) A GRAMMAR REFERENCE GUIDE: The paperback English Handbook I was assigned as a freshman in college has served me well over the years. Yeah, it’s old and some of the pages have pulled loose from the binding, but you couldn't’t pay me to part with it.

10) A YELLOW LEGAL PAD or SPIRAL NOTEBOOK: I prefer composing in long-hand with an ink pen, hence the need for a pad or notebook.

11) BOTTLED WATER: Gotta keep those brain cells hydrated.

12) A BABY NAME BOOK: I like know the meaning and origins of names. Sometimes, when I’m having “problems” with a character, I’ll start going through the baby name book and see if name change is in order.

13) STIMULATING MATERIAL: When I’m really enjoying what I’m writing, it’s like spending a little time in my own private corner of heaven.

If you write (or engage in some other creative endeavor), I'd love to hear what you consider "essential" when you give yourself over to your muse.

If you'd like to visit other Thursday 13 participants

START HERE

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A YouTube Review of After The Dance (by Lori Johnson)

Wow, a reader was kind enough to send me a YouTube clip of her review of my debut novel, After The Dance. Of course, she just earned herself a free, signed copy of my next novel, LOL!

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Happyness is Nappyness" (Natural Hair Expo 2010 in Raleigh)

Will I see you there? (Saturday, June 19, 12 noon- 8pm) For more info click on the link--

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories (Michele George's Story)

(Michele George's Story)

Michelle George
Background / Michele George, who currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, comes to the field of Cosmetology with over two decades of passion and experience in Pharmaceutical and Biotech Research Industry. Her first work, The Knotty Truth: Managing Tightly Coiled Hair At Home DIY Survival Guide, lays the groundwork for her desire to impact the cosmetology industry with the beauty and artistry of highly textured hair. A Certified Natural Hair Consultant, Mrs. George, in her 40s, now parlays her passion by educating women on the delicate art of transitioning from chemical hair to highly textured hair via workshops, online classes and seminars in Ohio and nationally.

Hairstyle / I wear my hair in locs that I started August 2006 with 400 braids that I installed myself. I maintain with a 4pt reverse rotation with a 2.5-inch bobby pin. For the past 3yrs, I’ve washed my hair with African Black Soap and conditioned with aloe vera juice and my favorite essential oils: rosemary and lemongrass oil and feed my hair with olive oil infused with the same EOs and seal the moisture in with castor oil.

Michele George
Reason for wearing a “natural” hairstyle / After 10 years of trying to go natural, I finally transitioned successfully in 2004. I chopped off the chemically processed hair January 1, 2005 and haven’t looked back since. I went natural because I wore a lot of twist outs with my texturized hair. I began to stretch my touch-ups further and further apart as I embraced the naturally curly texture that emerged from my roots. I loved it and wanted to see what it was like to look like me. I began wondering--why do I have to severely alter myself in order to be accepted by corporate America?
While on maternity leave with my second child in 2003, I became a Certified Personal Trainer and began living a healthier lifestyle. I became determined to go natural at this point. Outside of these reasons, hairstylists helped me go natural because of lack of good customer service, stacking customers, leaving me in the chair all day, getting out at midnight, stylists hopping from salon to salon without follow-up, chasing them down to get my chair done and a general lack of respect for my time. I wanted to free of the chair. I attempted to go natural three separate times; the third time was the charm.

Negative reactions / when I did the BC (big chop), I received a lot of negative comments: “Do you like your hair that way?” Co-worker “You look like you have a jheri curl.” Auntie “Why are you wearing your hair like that?” Best friendWhen are you going to loc your hair?” Cousin “I like your hair.” (it was a wig) Customer

Response to negative commentary / I focused on the big picture and the picture albums of those women in fotki land and Nappturality.com who shared their journeys. When I did that, I could see how my hair might look in 6-12-18 months down the road. The bottom line was hair grows, everyday it grows. If I hung in there until the fall/winter/spring/summer, my hair would grow too, and I would be able to have a testimony if I hung in there for the duration. I decided to commit to staying natural.
Support for your natural look / The Bible helped me a lot. In Genesis, the Word says God looked upon all His creation and said, "It is good, it is Very good!" That includes my hair. I became determined to see me the way Jesus sees me because the Word also said He doesn't give us more than we can handle. We must be some strong sisters to be given this awesome grade of hair!
A woman with natural hair whose style you admire / I was inspired by T. Crystal Keymah from (then) In Living Color. We favor one another and I was hooked since I first saw her in 1990.

Michele George

Advice for women considering a "natural" hairstyle / It took me until 2005 to finally transition back to me. As a result, I don't proselytize and try to convert people; I just try to be an example, a good example. If they decide to go natural, it will happen at an appointed time that is unique to each and every one of us. I just focus on being the bridge that reaches out to my sister to pass, once she makes the decision that this is what she wants. I don't have the energy to convince people any more. The calling is unique: many are called, few are chosen. It's an awareness that must be claimed by the journeywomen alone. And, when she does, I'm here, waiting, smiling, and welcoming her to a new space of self-love.

Books you'd like to recommend / If you are ready to be informed, enlightened and maybe just a little more educated about highly textured hair, my book, The Knotty Truth is for you. With an emphasis on affordable do-it-yourself hair ingredients at home, The Knotty Truth will introduce you to everyday kitchen products that will nourish not only your belly, but also your hair. Natural hair care need not be expensive. If you are not ready to venture into the world of natural hair, The Knotty Truth may just change your mind with its refreshing perceptive and witty candor. The Knotty Truth is for the strong willed inner child who wants to be free to embrace the nap of her hair or begin the journey to a head of naturally cared for hair full of strength and vitality!

Definition of a "natural woman" / A natural woman is a woman who can see herself as God sees her: as His perfect and beautiful creation. On the day I meet my Maker, I want Him to know that I think He did a pretty good job! So nappy I was born and nappy I'll die."

If you'd like to learn more about

Michele George

please visit her website

http://www.theknottytruth.net/

"Michele George's Story" is part of an on-going series I created that focuses on African American women who wear their hair au naturel. Check the archives (see sidebar on the right) for past segments, features and profiles. If you'd like to participate in the series, please email me for details (go to my blog's profile page or visit my website for contact information). Your feedback is always appreciated. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you might have about "Michele George's Story," the "Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories" series or Black hair in general, in the section below marked for comments. THANK YOU!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thursday Thirteen # 48 . . . 13 Facebook Fumbles, Failures & Fouls

If you're on Facebook, perhaps you'll agree with me about some of the these:

1) The Non-Stop Feature Changes Just when I think I have it all figured out, the FB administrators change the features and/or layout again. Jeez-Louise, just leave it alone already or at least keep your improvements to once a year.

2) Negative People aka Trolls If you don't like my status reports, ignore them or do us both a favor and delete me from your list of FB friends. 'Cause if the only time you ever comment on my FB status is when you want to disagree, complain or pick a fight, believe me, I will be deleting you . . .

3) Privacy Settings & Re-settings Again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. All of the constant tinkering makes me feel even less secure.

4) The FB Folks who play deaf, dumb & blind If I ignored the invitation to join your group or be your friend/fan the first 10 weeks in a row that you asked, why are you still asking me? I’m obviously not interested, so why not show a little dignity and just stop asking already.

5) The Games I'm not interested in farming, being a zookeeper, being initiated into the Mafia or living in a sorority house (Hey, I think I just noticed a theme . . .) For those who enjoy the games, great. But fix it so the rest of us don't have to hear about all of the lost chickens, stray cows, pet monkeys, catfights, turf wars and shoot-outs.

6) People Who Write In All Caps WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SHOUTING?! Come on people, learn how to communicate on the world wide web.

7) TMDI (too much dang information) Just because we're FB friends doesn't mean I really want or need to know/see all of your business. If you're constantly talking about (or posting pics of) your dirty drawers, shady business deals, mistresses, illegal drug habits, visits to the shake 'em up clubs, bunions, hemorrhoids, etc., we won't be FB friends for very long.

8) The Bible Thumpers Okay, I love the Lord and I don't mind a bit of Scripture every now and then. But posting Bible verses and mini-sermons every hour on the hour, can get a little old after awhile.

9) The Graffiti Artists Okay, I don't mind people writing/posting on my FB wall. All I ask is that you keep it clean, PG13, sane and half-way legible.

10) Invitations Since I live in NC, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to make your midnight bake sale at the roller rink in Utah. So way are you even inviting me?

11) The Poke Feature Sorry, I don't get it. I don't want or like people poking me in real life . . .

12) The E-mailers If you are emailing me more than once a day or once a week, STOP. Seriously, I’m probably deleting your emails without reading them anyway.

13) People Who Only Post About What They’re Eating I’m not sure if this irritates me or just makes me hungry . . .

Well, you've heard all of my complaints, but if you still want to befriend me on Facebook, be my guest!

If you'd like to visit other Thursday Thirteen Participants,

Start Here!