September to Remember Giveaway Extravaganza!

Today I noticed that I finally made it to ten reviews!  Granted I need about 50 before Amazon starts to pay more attention to my novel, but ten is a really good start.  So a big thank you to everyone who has left a review so far.  If you have read the book and have not left a review, you could be among the forty others that I need to reach my goal of fifty. 🙂  At any rate, the enthusiasm of number 10 really blessed me. Here it is:

Latest 5 Star Review

A big thank you to the reader who left this review!  I am so glad you enjoyed the book! To celebrate the first ten reviews, I am running a giveaway.  Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of The Wages or the Gift.

Inside The Wages or the Gift: A Glimpse at Eb and Steph

In light of the royal wedding in England today, someone in one of my favorite Facebook groups mentioned wanting to see more “royal” courtships, especially with interracial couples.  I immediately thought of Ebony and Stephen from The Wages or the Gift.  I mentioned that my novel contained such a courtship, and someone asked me if there had been any backlash for including the couple.  Fortunately, I could happily say there has been none.  In fact the feedback that I have received from others has been positive, and there has been no mention of the ethnicity of any of my characters.  That brings me here.  Today, I am giving blog subscribers and those passing by a sneak peak into their relationship with a few excerpts from the book.

From Chapter 2:  

“Steph, we need to talk.”
“Sure, Eb. What’s on your mind?”
“You know that I’ve given my heart to Jesus.”
“Yeah, and like I said, to each his own. If this helps you deal with your father’s death, I have no problem with it. I just want you to be happy.”
“Well, since then, I’ve been going through a lot of changes. I’m learning more and more what it means to live for God. That’s the definition of being born again. I no longer live my life for the glory of me. I live to glorify God in everything I do.”
“Honey, I can’t say that I understand all this religious stuff. It’s not my thing, but I won’t discourage you if that is what worries you. I love you, and you can’t change enough to change my feelings for you. You are my world, Eb. So if that’s where you’re going with this, just stop. I’m not going to leave you because you are the one person I cannot live without. So go ahead and do whatever you have to do to honor your God.”
As Ebony listened to the heart of her fiancé, her eyes filled with tears. How could she say, “I’m leaving you,” after that? She prayed for strength and wisdom. Heavenly Father, what I am about to tell him is going to break his heart. Please give me the strength to do your will. Please help him to get through this. I do love him, Father, but I love you more. Help me to obey you. In Jesus’s name, amen. 
“Stephen, I can’t live here anymore. I know this is going to hurt you, but I cannot live in sin. According to God’s word, it’s a sin to live with someone outside of marriage. I’m moving out tonight.”
Stephen flinched as if she struck him, but then, he smiled. The smile surprised Ebony, and she stopped to let him speak. He spoke, and she wished she had kept going. “I can fix that, Ebony; we’ll move up the wedding. We can have a private ceremony. We can do it this weekend if you’d like—”
Ebony stopped him mid-sentence because she knew if he continued, she would lose her resolve. “Stephen, stop. There’s something else. I can’t marry you, Honey, not right now.”
“Why? I know you still love me. Don’t you?” Stephen asked.
“I love you more than you could know,” Ebony started only to be interrupted again.
“Then what’s the problem, Ebony? I don’t get it!” he said, his voice becoming louder and more distressed with every word.
“Because the Bible is clear about not marrying outside of—”
Before she could finish her sentence, Stephen jumped to his feet. “What! This God of yours is some kind of bigot. I can’t believe you. We’ve spent our whole relationship learning to deal with people like that! Now you agree with that kind of thinking?”
Ebony cringed, understanding him completely. “No, no, Honey. It’s not a race thing. However, God does have a problem with marriages between believers and non-believers.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well—”
“Bigotry is bigotry whether it’s racial or religious.”
“Steph—”
“So even though you love me, you will leave me because of your religion?”
“This isn’t about religion, Stephen. I now live my life to please God. I wouldn’t trade my relationship with Jesus for anything or anybody. I’d like us to go back to being friends.”
“Friends! After all we’ve been through, you give me the friends speech? You know what, if you’re going to leave, you need to do it right now. I don’t want to hear anymore about Jesus. You can take your Jesus and stuff him up your—”
“Stephen!”
“Get out, Ebony! And take Jesus with you!”
His words hit her with the sharp and swift intensity of a rubber band pop to the face, and Ebony did not wait for him to ask twice. She ran out of the apartment.

From Chapter 3: This excerpt takes place ten months after the above excerpt. A co-worker has gone missing.

 Stephen took Ebony to her apartment but made it clear that it was just a pit stop. “Ebony, you cannot stay alone tonight,” he said.
“The Lord has given his angels charge over me, Stephen. I’m never alone.”
“He has also given you friends who would love to have you stay for the night. Call Nicole,” Stephen reasoned.
“Fine. I’ll go call her, but we’re not leaving here for a while. We need to talk.” Stephen could not agree more. He made his way to her living room couch. The soft leather sectional welcomed him like a much-needed hug. He sat down and sighed, turning his heart toward heaven. Lord, he began to pray, I need your wisdom. I don’t want to act purely on my emotions, but I really feel like something is wrong at Prestige. I don’t want Ebony to go to Hong Kong. I’m still so new at this. Are you trying to tell me something? Father, speak plainly. I want your will over my own. His prayers were interrupted when Ebony joined him on the couch.
“Steph, do you think that this’s somehow connected with the problems at the Cairo office?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Chloe was so distracted today. I wish I knew what she wanted when she called you. I wish she had said something to me.”
Ebony stared at Stephen with her head tilted and eyebrows raised.
“What’d I say?” he asked. “Why’re you looking at me like that?”
“Because there’s something you are not saying, and I’d like you to divulge.”
“I’m just talking here, sitting.” He cringed, realizing his blunder.
“You’re more upset than you are admitting and not about Chloe. So what’s got you all distracted?” she asked. She looked into his eyes determined to get an answer. He knew she would press until she had one.
“I have major problems with you going to Hong Kong, and I feel like something terrible is going on at Prestige,” he said.
“Uh-huh.”
“You have to admit this is all pretty suspicious.”
“Steph, I love you,” she said. “And I know you love me, but we’re just going to have to trust God. I’m going to Hong Kong. I’ve heard that Sun-Fun Jeans is a great company to work for. Besides, Mitch said it’s either this along with the Antonio Chi show in the fall or the Caramel Cosmetics account. I do not want to get into another five-year cosmetic contract. I will be twenty-one in June, and I only have two or three more years before I retire. I’m not doing this forever you know. I want children one day.”
Stephen had heard much of her speech before, so he pouted until she mentioned children. He grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes. They had made a pledge to each other and to God never to kiss passionately again until they kissed as husband and wife. He was tempted to break that promise.
“You want to have children?” he asked.
“I’ve changed my view on the subject. After I finish my career as a model, I want to start a family. It would be nice to give a child the life I never had. With a mom and a dad that loves them and all.”
Ebony’s eyes grew distant as if allowing herself to dream until she noticed the intensity in Stephen’s gaze and decisively reclaimed her hand. She scooted over a little, putting distance between her and him. He sighed, grateful for her restraint. He had lost most of his. “I’m sorry, Ebony. It’s just that you were so adamant about no children. You don’t understand what you’ve done to my heart just now.” Ebony just smiled and nodded. “I understand,” Stephen continued, changing the subject, “why you want the Hong Kong job. It’s just that I keep having these pit-of-the-stomach feelings. Like there’s something coming, and we better be ready for it. The thought of us being separated for months makes me uneasy.”
“Why don’t we pray now for wisdom for you and protection for Chloe. We don’t know if she’s alive or dead, and if she’s alive, she needs prayer,” Ebony suggested. She bowed her head and took his hand again. Throughout the course   of their prayers, they lifted up Chloe, asking for her protection and salvation. They also prayed for each other asking for wisdom, strength, guidance, and peace. When they were finished, the peace of God filled Stephen’s heart dispelling his anxiety, and the Lord blessed him with a clear understanding of what he should do next.

From Chapter 13:  This bit of sweetness occurs a few weeks after Stephen proposed to Ebony. 

The crisp, cool air brushed them lightly as they moved hand in hand toward Ebony’s car. When they reached it, instead of letting go, Stephen stood still holding her hand and gazing at her beauty.
“I love the way you look in the moonlight, the glint it gives your eyes,” he told her, moving her hair back from her face to see it more clearly. “You are so beautiful,” Stephen whispered so softly and with such conviction that she saw and felt his words more than she heard them.
Ebony waited for him to divert his gaze, but Stephen continued his intent study of her face in the moonlight. “Stephen, you are staring,” she said softly, blushing under his scrutiny.
“Get used to it. Years from now, you are going to wake up only to find me staring at you. Or you may be on a hospital bed, giving birth to our third child, and I am going to be staring at you. You may be helping one of our children with their homework, and I will come and stare at you.”
“What has got into you, Steph?” His sudden change from normal guy to hopeless romantic amused her.
“I am a new man, Sweetheart. I used to stare at you before, but only when you were not looking and usually for vulgar and selfish reasons. It was a stare of lust, but not now. You do know that, don’t you? I don’t know how to explain this to you, but well…” Stephen searched for appropriate words to express himself only to realize there were none. He shrugged and said, “I love you, Ebony Reynold, and I am saying good night. Drive carefully, and text me when you get home.”
“I love you too,” she said. Stephen put his first two fingers to his lips and then pressed them to Ebony’s. The touch was quick, barely a millisecond passed before he withdrew his fingers and turned to get into his car. Ebony stood and watched him pull out of the driveway with a smile on her face. Then she got into her own car and headed for Mitch’s house.

For what’s next for this couple and to find out more about what’s going on with the missing Chloe and with Prestige Modeling Inc. get a copy of The Wages or the Gift. 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this glimpse.

Fun Interview Share (And other items…)

Checkout this interview that I did with www.ilikeebooks.com! It’s been a couple of weeks since the interview, but I have been trying to decide the best way to approach announcing it.  I think in addition to making an announcement on my blog of interviews, live talks, author chats, and the like, I am going to add a media section to this blog to archive all such instances.

In other news, I got a new review that truly touched my heart.  This is review is from a friend of mine who is not a Christian, and does not at all care for the message of my novel.  However, she still enjoyed the story, and she said a lot of nice things about my writing.  Hats off to Kathleen, for being able to put aside her personal preference and still appreciate the book.  I think that’s awesome, but that is not what touched my heart. Keep in mind that I did not tell Kathleen anything about my writing process, so what I am about to point out is a major compliment.

She recognized my research!

That made me so happy.  As a person who reads a lot of reviews.  (Okay, I just let you in a little secret about me.  I occasionally go onto Amazon and read book reviews.  Lots of times I read reviews from books that I really liked, or books that are currently on the bestseller’s list.  Often times I read five stars and the one stars to two star reviews. And see what naysayers are saying about otherwise renowned works of fiction.)   Even with most five star reviews, I don’t see many reviewers noticing the research that went into creating the novel.  I did so much research for The Wages or the Gift.  (Not my favorite pass time.  I do it when necessary.) It was so cool that someone noticed my hard work. 🙂 I am impressed, thankful, and humbled that someone actually noticed that aspect of my story.

 

Every Single Word…

One day, a long time ago, I was talking to my best friend about reading.  Yes, I am that nerdy.  I love reading and talking about reading and reading some more.  Anyway, I was talking to her, and I confessed that I have skipped portions of books on occasion.  Not large portions, mind you, just a paragraph or two.  She told me she never did that because she knows that the author agonized over every single word as they were writing the book. That thought had never crossed my mind.  I’m not positive, but I think I had already started writing The Wages or the Gift when we had this conversation.  I was somewhere close the beginning of the first draft.  I remember thinking that I am not sure that I “agonized” over words.  I mean there is always the desire to make sure my writing is engaging, vivid and tells the best version of the character’s story that I can possibly tell; however, I was not agonizing over every single word.

That was then.

It took me five months, writing every day to finish that first draft.  It was an incredibly fun process for me: my first novel.  Allow me to provide a bit of insight into my writing process.  I am not the kind of writer who outlines her novels. I literally get an idea, start writing and let the story flow until it’s completion.  This became a great issue in college when I was learning about the play writing process, but that is another story.  (One that I will be writing about in the near future most likely.) Anyway, the benefit of writing like that is the story unfolds before your eyes just like it would to the reader.

After I finished the first draft, I did what comes next.  I printed several copies, and gave it people to read.  My first editor, aka Jen, got a copy.  My mother got a copy.  And I think a couple more people got a copy.  But I used mostly, Jen’s and my mother’s copies for the second draft of the book.  That took me more than five months, of course, and I made corrections, additions, and subtractions based on their notes and my own reread.  However, I still did not agonize over each word.  So then I start sending the book out to publishers. My book was accepted to The Writer’s Edge, a company that Christian publishers use to find new Christian fiction manuscripts.  Which was super exciting, and I got a few noteworthy nibbles, even one from Bethany House, but I did not get any bites.

Fast forward a bit to finally getting a publisher.  When I got my manuscript back from my editor, a professional editor this time, I had to go through it again and make the changes needed.  So there I was revising the book again.  Still I did not agonize over every word.  After I finished it, it took another couple of months to get the book back again from my publishers.  This time, I noticed a few layout discrepancies.  So I went through it with a fine tooth comb, making sure any errors were discovered and corrected.  The agonizing began around that time.  Unfortunately, during this process, my publisher went out of business.  Sad day.  Honestly, at that point, I decided instead of looking for another publisher, I would just do it myself.

This is now.

Doing it myself meant I could not use the layout my publisher designed, so I had to completely redesign my book and my book cover.  As I redesigned the book and cover, that’s when I really started agonizing over every single word. I thought back to what my best friend had said to me all those years ago and laughed.  She was indeed correct; it just took me a while to get to that point.

Now that The Wages or the Gift is published, it’s time to start “agonizing” (possibly) over the second draft of my second novel.  I guess the cycle never ends.   More next time.  Thanks for stopping by my blog!