Saturday, February 22, 2014

I have been working hard putting the final touches on Orange Belt and Black Belt, the final two installments in Dani's story.  In the meantime,  you guys have been reading and reviewing. White Belt has an average rating of 4.6 stars on Amazon and 4.53 on Goodreads and Yellow Belt has an average rating of 5.0 on both sites.  I even received my first international review on the UK site which was pretty awesome - big wave to all my readers across the pond! Thank you so much to everyone who read and reviewed!

Special thanks to Dawn over at BookLoads and Amy at The Undercover Reviewer for adding five star reviews of White Belt and Yellow Belt to their sites. 

Orange Belt will debut March 17, 2014 and Black Belt will debut April 7, 2014!

I am so excited about it, and I hope you are too! I'm going to miss Dani, Michelle and Rob.  Is that weird?

Fortunately, my next project will be coming out in May so I am already delving into a new cast of characters.  It isn't about zombies but I promise you will love it all the same.  Blog post about that coming soon.

Love and Light,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

He's up from nap.
He stretches his long legs out over his blue and green sheets, snuggling his curly hair into his pillow.  He opens his big brown eyes and looks at me, a soft smile on his face, then he closes his eyes again, turning so his chubby golden cheeks nestle deep into his pillow.  He curls in a ball, drawing his knees to his chest and breathing softly.  He looks so tiny in his new big boy bed.  His three-year-old frame only making up a third of its length.  The rest crowded with his stuffed animal friends and fluffy comforter. 
Are you up, baby?
I whisper it, kneeling beside his bed and breathing in his smell.  He smells like cookies and clay.  From the morning of playtime and the snack he just had to have.  I kiss his nose and he wipes it away, sitting up slowly.  His bare feet dangling over the edge of his bed and his eyes still hanging low from sleep.  I watch as a soft yawn escapes his tiny pink lips.  I remember him as the colorless baby, swaddled and content, nestled in my arms as I dreamed for him, wondering what his new life would bring.  Fresh steps, new soul. 
Now, he reaches his arms out for me and I lift him.  Letting him nestle his head into that soft dip near my collarbone, and wrap his little legs around my waist.  I feel his body release a heavy sigh.
He is safe and he feels it.  I run my hand over his warm back, and I do too.

He fills me.  My soul forever pregnant.  Giving birth to thoughts and plans of his life and his brother's, mine, ours and theirs.  I remember the love that made them.  The love that sustains them.  I nourish it so we witness them hand-in-hand.  I nourish my mind so I don't miss a moment.  I dream of being silver-haired and watching the children they make, play off a country porch, their shadows dancing at sunset in a lake.  Smiling to myself, content.  Lived and full. 

But now I cry.

My tears are puddles at my feet.  Joining in the streams that fill the rivers, staining the Diaspora.  For Lucia and Sybrina.  For Emmett, Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole and Denise's Mommies.  For Hadiya's Mommy.  For Baltimore's Mommies.  For Chicago's.  For Detroit's.  For New York City's.  For all the dreams halted by bullets.  The joy buried in caskets.  The Mommy's whose babies they were helpless to protect.  Guns loaded with worthlessness both mandated by a careless society and perpetuated needlessly by its victims.

It's all hate crimes. 

I once again lower my head beneath a stream of water and wash a festering sore.  Hoping to rinse away the virus infecting my dreams.  The virus that worries about the evil in others, the criminalization of the beautiful brown skin love made, and the lowered expectations of every teacher under a brainwashed spell.  That virus that caused me to worry when my sons grew out of their toddler clothes because I knew it was only a matter of time before the world stopped seeing the beauty I did.  Before those kind smiles and waves from strangers, became purse clutching, eye-avoiding fear, nurtured and fostered by an unkind media and an unfair justice system. 

I place a Band-Aid on the festering sore and dream awake.  The lullaby of lies is only comforting to the unconscious.

My eyes are open now.

He's awake.

Love and Light,

*In 2012, after an argument over loud music, Michael Dunn, a 47-yr old white Floridian fired ten shots into a carful of unarmed black teenagers, killing Jordan Davis, a seventeen year old boy.  Yesterday, after more than thirty hours of deliberation, a jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted second degree murder and one count of firing into an occupied car.  A mistrial was declared on the first-degree murder charge. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It is cold here in my neck of the woods.  I have been engaging in the most socially acceptable form of human hibernation I can.  I only emerge to make an appearance at the day job, shop, pick up the kiddies or find food.  Other than that, you can find me having dance parties with my family, hiding under a blanket with the spouse, or chugging away at Orange Belt and Black Belt (sequels to White Belt and Yellow Belt).  I am also preparing a super, duper exciting project I will hopefully be able to announce soon (from inside)!

So, yesterday, I emerged from my hibernation to take my eldest son to his piano lesson.  He is six and awesome.  He plays piano by ear.  We discovered it when he was about four.  He had chord bells and he would play songs he knew without us teaching him.  We thought it was different but we were first-time parents and thought everything he did was pretty darn miraculous so we weren't sure whether it was a big deal. When he started doing it on our keyboard and toy pianos, his teachers advised us to take him straight to the nearest music school.  During his lessons, I try to pay careful attention to his teacher so I can make sure he is practicing correctly at home.  I found myself moving my hands in the air with his and wondering why I had never pursued piano.

Nina Simone
The things is, I am not at all musically inclined.  He totally gets that awesome trait from the hub.  I kind of sound like I'm dying when I sing, and my dance moves are not that much better.  However, I have always been fascinated by instruments.  When I was in elementary school, I begged my mother to enroll me in piano.  I remember going to one lesson and quitting because I realized how much time and effort it would take to become good.  I wanted the teacher to just press that button I knew was buried somewhere in my back that would make me magically play like Nina Simone  Apparently not  only do we not have a button in our back, it also takes more than one lesson to play like Nina ;-).  Lost in my thoughts momentarily at my son's appointment, I found myself loaded with regret.  Why hadn't I tried harder?  Why didn't my mother force me to play? I shrugged it off and continued watching my son.  What's done is done, right? I mean, seriously, how ridiculous would I look sitting in a line of children waiting for my music teacher to call me in for my lesson?  I pictured myself wedged in between two kids with freckles, far too big for the seat, and completely mortified. 
But why?
Why was I so embarrassed? Why, at 32, did I decide it was too late for me to learn something new?  Why is it that we reserve opportunity and dreams for the super young?
Misty Copeland, soloist at the American Ballet Theatre started dancing at a Boys and Girls Club as a teenager.

A few weeks ago, Jane Pauley was on the Katie Couric Show.  Jane was on the show to discuss her book, Your Life Calling: Reimagining The Rest of Your Life to inspire baby boomers to plan for the second half of their lives.  In the seventies, Jane was a Today Show anchor.  She was only 26 when she started and consequently, one of the youngest to ever do it.  She peaked early and when she left, she still had a significant amount of life ahead of her.  She wrote the book to inspire people to reimagine the rest of their lives. The book profiles older adults who start new careers after retirement.  She brought a few of them with her to the Katie Couric show. Even though I am almost thirty years away from retirement age, I found myself identifying with their stories. I think the thing I found most inspirational was acknowledging the possibilities for your life at any age.  The realization that there is no age limit on striving for something.   

Sometimes I find myself wondering why I didn't pursue writing earlier.  Why did I go to law school? Why didn't I just graduate college and get an MFA?  I have a job, a family and a mortgage - what the hell am I thinking? Then I remember how much I gained from becoming a lawyer, how much I learned about myself these past nine years.  I find myself becoming grateful for it all.  There is a sweetness to going after your dreams after you've lived a little.  A tangible pulse to every action you take.  My heart is in everything I do because I know I want it now.  I know I want it in a way I couldn't have known at 21.  Anyone who has worked hard and long for something and subsequently achieves it knows how much sweeter success is when it finally arrives.  If you admit who you want to be and find the strength to go after it, you are made of tough shit.  This I know. 

I don't know if I will ever enroll in piano lessons.  Right now, watching my son is more than enough.  However, I refuse to say it will never happen.  We have the right to dream at any age because we never stop mattering.  And if you are like me and need a reminder every once in awhile, here is a list of people who achieved their dreams later in life (feel free to add names in the comments):

Ernestine Shepherd began body building at 56 (declared oldest body builder at 77 in 2012)

  • Jon Hamm got his breakout role on Mad Men when he was 37. 
  • Andrea Bocelli didn't start singing opera seriously until the age of 34.
  • Phyliss Diller became a comedian at the age of 37.
  • Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, was 43 when he began drawing his legendary superheroes and his partner, Jack Kirby was 44 when he created The Fantastic Four.
  • Julia Child didn't learn to cook until she was almost 40 and didn't launch her popular show until she was 50.
  • Elizabeth Jolley had her first novel published at the age of 56; Mary Wesley was 71 when her first novel was published.
  • Harlan Sanders, Colonel Sanders of KFC, was 66 when he began to promote his secret chicken resume.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing as a columnist in her 40s. The popular Little House books weren't written until she was in her 60s.
  • J.K. Rowling was 32 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published. 
  • Vera Wang started designing wedding gowns at 40.
  • Ray Kroc joined McDonald's (a small restaurant owned by two brothers) when he was 52 and turned it into the most successful fast food franchises in history. 
  • Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species at 50.
Not sure who this is, but I think we can all agree she is awesome.

Love and Light,

Sunday, February 2, 2014

This weekend has been awesome. 

It started Thursday evening (Wednesday, if you count the debut of Yellow Belt).  The spouse and I went to see Meshell Ndegeocello cover Nina Simone songs at Rams Head Onstage which was amazing.  The next evening, we caught up with some great friends, and last night, we snuggled up and did one of our favorite things: order a movie with a side of popcorn and wine :-). 

We ordered 20 Feet from Stardom, a documentary chronicling the careers of some of the most prominent back-up singers in music history.  I highly recommend it.  Not only is it great for any music lover to reminisce about this country's awesome musical history, but it is also a eye-opening journey into just how influential back up singers have been to music.  Think about it.  When singing along to our favorite songs, we usually belt out the chorus, which is more often than not a catchy tune sung by a nameless but exceptionally talented back up singer.

Lisa Fischer, much less than 20 feet from Mick Jagger's stardom, hehe.
I was surprised to learn about the contributions of singers like Lisa Fischer (who had a pretty dope solo career in the 90s), Darlene Love (who did ghost vocals and pretty much sang backup for everyone in the 60s), Merry Clayton (who is responsible for the kick-ass vocals on the original Stone's hit Gimme Shelter), and former Ikette and Joe Cocker background singer (and Playboy Bunny), Claudia Lennear.  These women poured their heart and soul into the music and in some ways MADE those songs.  I was surprised to learn that they all had trouble transitioning to solo careers and despite their enormous contributions to the music, some of them left music for non-industry careers like housekeeping and teaching. 

The stories they told were fascinating.  Traveling with huge recording stars, late night recording sessions, inspired cyphers, crooked producers, and wild parties.  I watched with my jaw slack, completely in awe of all that they accomplished. However, despite my perception of their enormous success, they all yearned for more.  They spoke of disappointment and regret at having never accomplished their ultimate dream to be solo artists.  It reminded me of something Meshell Ndegeocello said at her concert Thursday night.  She told the story of how Nina Simone was rejected from an elite musical school and resented it for years.  Meshell chuckled, in that smooth way she does, and said, "I guess everyone has that thing that just fucks with them for the rest of their life."  Everyone laughed.  We all could relate. 

Darlene Love on the far right with Elvis and other background singers.
From the outside looking in, the woman of 20 Feet from Stardom led extraordinary lives.  They sang, they traveled, and they left their mark on this world.  Sure, I wondered why they weren't bigger stars.  I can think of countless stars (especially today) that don't have half the musical talent they did.  However, to me, holding the spotlight doesn't necessarily correlate to success.  Good music can make you bleed.  It can make you cry.  It can make you float.  Their sweet voices made the soundtrack of periods of humanity.  It's nice to watch a good performance but when I turn up my stereo, its only my ears I am looking to feed.  Their voices made us FEEL.  Whether we knew it or not.  You don't get much more successful than that. Brava, ladies on a life well-lived! And you guys looked cute while doing it!

Claudia Lennear and David Bowie

Love and Light,
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