Donald Trump would fire me.

JulieValeriePressLongPhotoIt’s an understatement to say I’m a bit behind on my 2013 reading challenge to read and post book reviews for 52 books in 52 weeks.

I wish I could say, “My gosh, get off my back already! I’ve been busy – just got back from the International Space Station. Wow. You’re so … what’s the word? Demanding.”

But let’s be honest. It’s the 25th week of the year and I just found time to post a review for book #18 on my reading list. Pathetic. If I had to face “The Donald” in the boardroom – he’d fire me.

Mr. Trump, not so fast. I can explain!

The best part about being a book blogger is giving coverage to lots of books on my website (cover reveals, author interviews, new release information, excerpts, giveaways, etc.), but a book review is something altogether different.

A book review requires a minimum of 10 hours of my time to sit still and read the book and then sit still some more for about two hours to write the review and prepare the post. So with my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge, I’ve essentially committed myself to a minimum of 12 hours – per week, for every week of the year – to do nothing but sit still and focus on the 85,000 words contained in a particular book. Which would be fine, I suppose, had I kept up and read one per week. But now I’m behind. By like, SEVEN BOOKS. Now what? Where will I find the time? Hello? Housework? Preparing three meals a day for my family of six? My day job? What’s that? Carpools? Maintaining my book blog? Working on my own manuscript? Tweeting?!

(Shhhh… Yes, I just said I was working on a manuscript. A humorous, satirical novel that blows the diaper off the underground world of mommy politics. Sad, I know, the thought of me writing a book. Scary even. Nuns gasp. Little babies cry.)

Could I read faster? Maybe. But I think 10 hours to read a book is a good pace.

Could I write reviews faster? Certainly. But I feel an enormous responsibility to the author when writing a book review so I don’t want to rush it.

And there’s another issue I’ve struggled with lately: I look around at other book blogs that are pumping out book reviews at the speed of light and I look at the review section of Amazon, B&N and Goodreads, I often think, my gosh. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. No one else is providing book covers, links to the author’s social media sites, the jacket copy, the author’s bio AND a written book review all in one package.

And really? Come on, people. Some of what passes for a book review is ridiculous. “I really liked this book. It was tons of fun!” Really, people? That’s not a book review. That’s a book opinion.

This makes me wonder: Maybe I should scale-down the length of my reviews. Cut back a little. But then my OCD kicks in. (That’s ‘obsessive-compulsive disorder’ for those of you pretending you don’t know.) And yes, I know, I know. ‘OCD’ should be written: ‘CDO’ because letters, like prescription medications, should always be placed in alphabetical order.

Any-hoo.

My CDO kicks in and I feel compelled to follow the same review format I established at the beginning of the year when I started the blog and had all the time in the world because the only person reading my blog at that time – was my dog.

Okay, FINE. My dog wasn’t reading my blog then either.

But I simply can’t change course mid-year. That’s so… that’s… so. I don’t know. Untidy or something. (Dang that CDO!) So I can’t scale down if I wanted to and I can’t abandon the goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks because, well, I don’t know why. Because I’d probably lose sleep. Or my left eye would begin to twitch and my husband would ask, “Why’s your left eye twitching?” and I’d have to explain.

It’s summer so I’m a bit optimistic. I keep telling myself while losing valuable time driving carpools, “If I can just read 12 books this month … I’ll be in good shape.”

HA! Wish me luck.
Actually, kill me now.
Because it’s not possible.

Why? Because my four kids are home from school for summer vacation so that means pancakes, followed by ‘I’m boreds’ and ‘go clean your rooms’. All day long.

“Ahhhhh!!!!!! Go outside and play in the street! Mommy’s trying to read here!!!”

My gosh! How’d this happen?

grilledcheese1webFINALChickLitBlogHopButton2013buuookbuzz-graphic (1)

First, I blamed February for needing therapy. I left a link to that post at the end of this one if you’re interested in reading about my co-dependent desires to not hurt February’s feelings for only having 28 days. You’ll see a common thread between that post and this one. “Oh my gosh, what have I done? I can’t read 52 books in 52 weeks – I can’t manage to keep up with my ROOTS let alone my reading!”

Blah, blah, blah.

Then, well, um … I haven’t told you about March yet. March forced my family to look mortality in the face. But let’s change the subject. Maybe I’ll post about that tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. Right now the sun is shining and I don’t want the clouds to feel encouraged.

Then came April – National Grilled Cheese Month (so much fun) – that had me hosting 25+ snazzy writers on my book blog. FYI: That amount of daily posting is a blast but organizing all of it can make a blogger go batty. Did I fall behind a little in my April reading because I was busy cutting the cheese? Yup. And I completely forgot to post a re-cap for my participation in the April 23 World Book Night 2013 and my gosh, that was an international event. Why’d I forget to post about that?

Because I suck.

Why are you laughing?

Okay, so then … May flitted in like a pixie on steroids and kicked my *asterisk* when I hosted the Chick Lit Author Blog Hop which linked 25 indie chick lit authors’ blogs together and provided a blog-hopping journey for 1,000+ blog hoppers culminating in a prize package that included a free Kindle and a 25-book starter library for one lucky blog hopper among 682 prize entries. So. Much. Fun. (Really, truly.) But as the hostess, so much work behind the scenes. I hope to do it again really soon. Seriously. I loved it. Finished that project on a Monday and then flew to New York City on Tuesday for a mind-blowing week at BookExpo America (OMGosh, awesome!), the BEA Bloggers Convention (OMGosh, also awesome!) and BookBuzz 2013 (OMGosh, totally awesome!).

I was so exhausted when my return flight landed at 1:45 a.m. I drove home for a few hours of sleep and then headed to my sister’s awesome charity to raise money for Down syndrome research where I merchandised the silent auction and then that night –

sangriaI drank Sangria in support of a good cause. Lots and lots of Sangria. And you know what? Based on my Sangria intake, I’m quite the philanthropist!

Now, I know it sounds like I’m making excuses. But, Donald! Pa-leeeeze don’t fire me; the year’s not over yet. Next week (the week of June 23) begins week 26 of 52 – the halfway point in the year if you’re counting weeks – like I am.

Maybe I’ll rise to the occasion and be super productive that week and read like, EIGHT DANG BOOKS to get caught up. Yeah, right.

Oh, no. Wait. My daughters and I are spending the week in Dover, Delaware at the Catholic Heart Work Camp. That means a week of building wheelchair ramps, repairing houses, painting and hammering things, serving food to the poor and sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor of a school gymnasium. I get to pop Advil and take showers while wearing my bathing suit and a pair of flip-flops and I certainly won’t have access to my beloved blog and will probably be so exhausted at the end of the day by my saint-like behavior I’ll be too tired to read by flashlight and will instead ‘crash and drool’ on the dirty gym floor.

Oh, dang…

Maybe Donald’s right. Maybe I should be fired.

Link to the “February Needs Therapy” blog post. (Further proof that I’m pathetic.)

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

WhileWeWereWatchingWEEK 25 BOOK 18 (Reading time for Book 18 was four days: June 13-17, 2013.)

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax. (Published by Berkley, Sold by Penguin Publishing. Released April 2, 2013). ISBN: 0425263312

NOTE: Scroll down for the actual book review which begins just after the “From the Jacket” and “About the Author” sections.

From the Jacket: When the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and—even more unexpectedly—with each other…

Samantha Davis married young and for the wrong reason: the security of old Atlanta money—for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire Walker is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for the old world charm of The Alexander, and for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there’s Brooke MacKenzie, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She’s just starting to realize that it’s time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke—and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings—it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life’s hardest moments—all of it reflected in the unfolding drama, comedy, and convergent lives of Downton Abbey. 

(Source for the above text in the “From the Jacket” section came from the book description section on Amazon.)

About the Author: Award-winning author Wendy Wax has written eight novels, including Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, the Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist The Accidental Bestseller, Leave It to Cleavage, Single in Suburbia and 7 Days and 7 Nights, which was honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award. Her work has sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club, and her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A St. Pete Beach, Florida native, Wendy has lived in Atlanta for fifteen years. A voracious reader, her enjoyment of language and storytelling led her to study journalism at the University of Georgia. She also studied in Italy through Florida State University, is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and worked at WEDU-TV and WDAE-Radio in Tampa.

Wendy’s writing has been highly praised and featured in national media such as USA Today and Women’s World, and online at On A Clear Day You Can Read Forever, Luxury Reading, Night Owl Reviews and Fresh Fiction, among others. She was honored by the City of St. Pete Beach, which declared May 12, 2011 “Wendy Wax Day.”

When Wendy is not writing, she spends time with family, speaking to writer’s groups and book clubs, and devouring books.

(Source for the above text in the “About the Author” section came from the author’s page on Amazon.)

Connect with Wendy: 

www.authorwendywax.com – facebook.com/AuthorWendyWax – @Wendy_Wax

My Book Review: Lovers of Downton Abbey will enjoy how author Wendy Wax weaves episodes into the narrative about three women (Samantha, Claire, and Brooke) and one man (Edward) and their lives in the Alexander, a prestigious condo complex in Atlanta, GA.

Samantha married for money and then struggles with family members who take advantage of her husband’s wealth and success. Her brother, Hunter, emerges as the novel’s villain. Claire has one year to write a novel and struggles with writer’s block, feelings of insecurity and pressures from her daughter to “get out there” and date. Brooke, single mom, struggles with the hardship of raising two children while her ex-husband moves with his new girlfriend into the condo complex, a few floors above her. Edward, who hosts weekly viewings of Downton Abbey for the residents in the building is a nice “stunt double” to the beloved “Mr. Carson” on the hit TV series (played by Jim Carter).

Problems arise with each character that are sometimes solved too easily by the camaraderie of the group – but the closeness built between these three unlikely friends gives the book its strength. It was not lost on me that the group of characters based in a wealthy area of Atlanta had a similar (and nicely played) ‘upstairs downstairs’ juxtaposition between two classes of people and who plays the client and who plays the role of concierge. The Edward character is every bit as delightful in Wax’s book as the Mr. Carson character in the TV series and when he is present on the page, readers will smile and feel the same fondness toward him as they do to the character on television.

While I played close attention to the writer character, Claire, because I’m a writer and love books with writers in the storyline, I believe readers will talk most about the plight of Samantha, as she is most closely aligned with the characters in Downton Abbey.

WHILE WE WERE WATCHING DOWNTON ABBEY by Wendy Max gives readers a vehicle to feel connected with the television series that has captivated viewers on two continents and I believe readers will find the book to be, to quote Mr. Carson, ‘Very good, M’Lord.”

 

 

CLP Blog Tours Stop: Tainted Love by Erin Cawood

Erin Cawood, author, is on tour this month with CLP Blog Tours. She joins us today with an excerpt from her book, TAINTED LOVE, which uncovers the dark, abusive side of many marriages. When researching Erin’s book in preparation for this blog post, I found this statement from her on her Amazon page:

“When you hear that 1 in 4 woman and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime its difficult to comprehend. For those involved in abusive relationships it’s hard to find the strength to speak out.

“My experience with Tainted Love, and Faith’s story took me to a place which has changed the very fabric of who I am. Therefore, I am donating 50% of the royalties from the Valentina Secrets series to charities supporting victims of domestic abuse.”

Erin, it’s my pleasure hosting you today on my book blog and I wish you great success with TAINTED LOVE as you tell Faith McKenzie’s story. Thank you for your generous contributions to charities supporting victims of domestic abuse.

Buy your Kindle edition of TAINTED LOVE by Erin Cawood on Amazon by clicking here.

TaintedLoveBookCover“Tainted Love is an intimate look at a side of marriage many people never see.”

Excerpt from TAINTED LOVE by Erin Cawood:

Everything — the clothes, the feeling unwanted and unloved on Valentine’s Day, the fake labor pains, the just not wanting to be pregnant anymore — came out in three very angry, very loud words.

I’m not Emma!

I don’t think I ever raised my voice at Cal like that before. He looked stunned for a moment. Then his eyes darkened and his lips made a thin line, and he said, “No. No, you’re not. Emma would never have me racing to the hospital at four o clock in the morning with phantom labor pains!” I gasped at the venom in his voice. “One time, Faith? Fair enough. But two? Both times? I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.” He walked out.

I fumed as the front door slammed. How dare he speak to me like that? I called Mom. I wanted Dad to come for me. He wasn’t the only one who could walk out, you know.

I ranted at our mother, telling her how awful he had been. What had I done to make him hate me this much? I hadn’t become pregnant on my own! Was it too hard to ask for him to talk baby names? He’d had months to get used to the idea. All I’d wanted was one special night. Had he realized it could be our last? Why didn’t he see how hard this was for me? I never saw any of my friends anymore because we lived so far away from where I’d grown up.

It really wasn’t that far, but I felt like I didn’t see anyone anymore because I’d given up my job. He was all I had, and when he told me I was not as good as … oh … oh no… that did not feel good.

Of course Dad denies it, but he must have broken the speed limit, because when Georgia decided she was coming out, she was not going to wait. There wasn’t time for any pain relief, and by the time Dad found him, Cal barely made it to the hospital before they were telling me to push.

Now, let me tell you, little brother, just be grateful you’re a man! There is nothing more painful than pushing a six pound baby through that hole without pain relief. So now you’re asking me why I did it again, and so many times. Well, you see, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen… this man, with whom I’d fallen in love…

The midwife handed Cal his daughter, and his smile… well, it was at least a mile wide. His eyes were as big as flying saucers and shining with magical wonder. He couldn’t believe she was there. He peppered the nurses with questions. He really couldn’t believe she was fine. Yes, Calvin, ten fingers, ten toes, and a cap of dark hair. He really did care! I felt all warm, fuzzy, and only the tiniest bit angry with him.

“I think she looks like a Georgia,” he said, and then he looked down at her and his voice… oh my! The emotion… the pride… the joy… the love and… if he knew I was telling you this he’d kill me… the tears in his eyes as he spoke to her for the first time. “Hi baby girl, I’m your dada.”

Oh, my God! I’d have done it a thousand times to see that moment over… and over… and over… I think I’d have fallen in love with him every time… and all was definitely forgiven.

ErinCawoodPhotoAbout Erin Cawood:

Erin Cawood is a commercial women’s fiction author, with a taste for dramatic storylines and a passion for strong lead characters she really gets behind, cheering on right to the very end of their story. Her focus? Taking romance into the darker, edgier side of contemporary fiction.

Erin lives in Leeds, UK, with her partner of thirteen years and their fourteen year old cat. She spends her days somewhere between the fiction world and the student world. Fascinated by web design and digial communication, Erin is studing a BA(hons) in New Media at the University of Leeds. Before returning to full time education two years ago, Erin worked at a theme park, a convenience store, a public house/restaurant both in the kitchen and waitressing, as an insurance agent and currently works part time in a customer contact centre.

Connect with Erin at the following sites:

Website: http://www.erincawood.co.uk
: erin@erincawood.co.uk

Beyond My Writing Space: http://www.erin-cawood.blogspot.co.uk
: http://www.facebook.com/authorerincawood
: http://www.twitter.com/erincawood
: http://www.goodreads.com/erincawood

Thanks so much for joining us today, Erin. Hope you have a great journey on your CLP Blog Tour. Cheers! 

Blog readers, want to enter to win 2 $25 gift cards? Follow this link:

Enter Giveaway

Skinny Bitch in Love by Kim Barnouin – New Book Release

 

SkinnyBitchInLoveCoverCheck it out book blog readers and fans of the #1 New York Times bestselling Skinny Bitch series – the new SKINNY BITCH IN LOVE by Kim Barnouin just went on sale! (Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books ISBN-13 9781476708867)

If ever there was a snappy title captured in just two words – it’s the ‘Skinny Bitch’ series of books. I might be wrong on the precise count – but I think there’s like… a ga-zillion books in this series to fall in love with. But then, don’t hold me to that exact number. I’ve never been good with math.

 


About the Book: 

Clementine Cooper is a born vegan, com­mitted in every way to the healthy lifestyle she was raised with on her father’s organic farm. But how bad could a little butter be? Bad enough to get the ambitious and talented sous chef fired when an influential food critic discovers dairy in Clem’s butternut squash ravioli with garlic sage sauce. Though she was sabotaged by a backstab­bing coworker, Clem finds herself unceremo­niously blackballed from every vegan kitchen in L.A.

Like any vegan chef worth her salt, however, Clem knows how to turn lemons into delicious, cruelty-free lemonade cupcakes. She launches the Skinny Bitch Cooking School in hopes of soon opening her own café in an empty space near her apartment. But on the first day of class, sexy millionaire restaurateur Zach Jeffries puts a fork in her idea with his own plans for the space—a steakhouse. Clem is livid. For a carnivore, Zach is more complicated than she anticipated. He’s also a very good kisser. But could dating one of the most eligible bachelors in the city—and a meat-eater—be as bad for Clem as high-fructose corn syrup? Shouldn’t she fall instead for a man who seems to be her perfect match in every way—like Alexander Orr, a very cute, very sweet vegan chef?

Clem thought she was open-minded, but as she confronts the challenges of budding entrepre­neurship, old rivals, ex-boyfriends, and tempting suitors, she begins to wonder if she can ever say “I love you” to a man who hates tofu.

KimBarnouinPhotoAbout the Author:

Kim Barnouin lives in California with her husband and son. Kim coauthored the #1 New York Times bestselling Skinny Bitch series, which includes such hit titles as Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bastard, Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, and Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps.

Connect with the world of Skinny Bitch:

Check out what’s happening at the author’s website: HealthyBitchDaily.com

And on social media: Twitter @SkinnyBitch and Facebook.com/SkinnyBitch

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – Excerpt from the book!

Going viral: The following excerpt from the third book in the Bridget Jones saga – BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY by Helen Fielding (Releasing October 10, 2013 by Random House). The rumor mill reports the novel will bring us an older Bridget, still in London, still keeping a diary – but now with social media in the mix. (My comments follow the excerpt.) Take a peek.

Excerpt:

Wednesday 24 October 2012
11.27 p.m. Just presss d SEND. Iss fineisn’t it?

You see, this is the trouble with the modern world. If it was the days of letter-writing, I would never even have started to find his address, a pen, a piece of paper, an envelope, a stamp, and gone outside at 11.30p.m. to find a postbox. A text is gone at the brush of a fingertip, like a nuclear bomb or exocet missile.

DATING RULE NO:1
DO NOT TEXT WHEN DRUNK

My comments:

Note from Julie (me) – who read the first Bridget Jones in the mid-1990s cover-to-cover three times in a row the year it was released: I’m sooooo excited for this third book to release!

Bridget cleared the path for the wonderful chick lit genre I know and love and blog about. From Jane Austen to Bridget Jones – I’ve loved quirky female characters solving life’s problems in humorous, original ways. It’s what I look for when I walk into a bookstore – that, and a super cute cover – gotta love those super cute covers. Hey, if you’re carrying it around – a book is an accessory, right? Right.

I’m going to update those “Ode to Bridget Jones” posts I’ve been writing since the beginning of this year… In those posts I examine the style of writing Helen Fielding used in an attempt to understand how the writing may have contributed to the novel becoming such a watershed book in the chick lit genre as well as modern contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve fallen a bit behind on those postings, but now I’m going to get caught up – so stay tuned. You’ll find a link to those posts on the right of the computer screen categorized under “Ode to Bridget Jones”.

The release of the BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY book excerpt has me super psyched. If that’s what the publisher had in mind by releasing this teaser excerpt – it worked.

Why Sonja Intrigues Me

l just returned from BookExpo America in NYC where I met many interesting people in the book industry including one person that really stood out to me – Sonja Jones.

Sonja sat next to me during an advanced course in social media. She wore a big smile and was very friendly, introducing herself by passing a business card and a copy of her book to me as we listened to the speaker. I thumbed through her book to sample her writing and get a feel for the story. I was quite impressed and am intrigued by Sonja for many reasons. Here’s three.

1. She’s got a story to tell, not just on the pages of her book, but in her upbringing in the neighborhoods in which her book is set, which lends huge credibility to her authority as a writer to write the book she’s written, set in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Ward 5 in Northwest Washington, D.C. For this reason, I feel readers of her book, WICKED WASHINGTON: THE FIRST SHELLY WILLIAMS MYSTERY, are in capable hands. Sonja can dish up the sights, sounds and smells of the city streets then deliver them to you with dialogue that is fresh and characters that are memorable.

2. Sonja wrote her book in the wee hours of the morning before heading to her day job as a teacher and I find that not only difficult to do (as it turns out, sleep is valuable) but a real testament to the commitment she made to the book and to herself as a writer. This girl’s got plans.

3. Sonja not only wrote the book but incurred the cost of self-publishing and promoting the book she believes in. She packed her bags and her books and headed to New York City to forge a path for herself as a writer. BookExpo America and the affiliate book conferences linked to it can be a crowded, daunting place, and there was Sonja, entering conference rooms, scanning the crowd and identifying people with whom she wanted to make contact. This is a trait many authors lack – the kind of persistence and yes, a certain amount of vulnerability, too, that moves a self-published book into the right hands. And I know this trip wasn’t cheap – hello? New York City? – nor was it a picnic to incur the cost of handing out book after book in hopes that one of them would lead to press coverage or dare I say it? A sale. But Sonja did just that.

Like I said, this girl’s got plans.

I know I said I would share three reasons why I’m intrigued by Sonja.

I’ve just decided to add a fourth.

4. It was late last night. Northeast of midnight, somewhere in the neighborhood of one or two in the morning. I’d put the kids (and husband, for that matter) to bed and was up late getting caught up on emails. Usually, I get a sense that I’m all alone at that hour, but when I sent an email to Sonja asking for specific, technical content for this post (a press photo as a .jpeg file, book cover as an attachment, buy links, bio, book excerpt, that sort of thing) – I thought she’d get back to me in a day or two – but low and behold, there she was, my sister of the night, with a complete response (everything I asked for) delivered to my inbox in near lightning speed. It felt like she was awake and sitting in the next room waiting for business to come across her desk – and it was the wee hours of the night.

Sonja, not just her book, but Sonja has caught my attention. I hope she catches yours, too, because like most self-published writers she’s really working her tail off to get herself and her book noticed.

Think of this: If WICKED WASHINGTON is just the first book in a series of Shelly Williams Mysteries, you can say “you knew her when” she first got her start.

Now that’s pretty cool.

– Julie

SonjaJonesWickedWashPhotoAbout Sonja: Sonja D. Jones grew up on First and V Street NW in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. She received a bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the University of the District of Columbia. She has been a teacher for more than fifteen years, educating both middle and high school students.  Sonja woke up at two o’clock a.m. every weekday morning and wrote for at least two hours before going to her teaching job. It took her one year and two months to complete the writing, editing, and publishing of Wicked Washington. She was forty-two years old in April 2013 when Wicked Washington debuted. This is her first novel, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Sonja D. Jones can be reached at sonjajoneswritesmysteries@yahoo.com

SonjaJonesWickedWashBOOKExcerpt from WICKED WASHINGTON: 

The nauseating smell of marijuana dominated the dirty, narrow street. Most newcomers to the area would have found themselves confused by the drifting scent as they walked by. Regular passersby, accustomed to the smell, felt either disgust or delight, based on their preferences. A lot of residents in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., knew about this drug strip located on Bladensburg Road NE in Ward 5.

Some school kids from the neighborhood would get free nickel bags of weed to bring their friends to Bladensburg Road NE after school. Once on the drug strip, they would sit on a vacant porch and fire up the weed until the tip of the blunt scorched their lips, blackened from excessive smoking.

Later, many working-class folks would stampede out of the various Capital City bus and subway lines to quickly buy reefer for themselves and their sweeties, hoping to escape the hardship of another day of work as the reefer caused them to laugh too much and eat tomorrow’s meals.

At dusk, some of the rich residents from west of Rock Creek Park prowled the strip in their expensive luxury cars to acquire pot by the pound as their oblivious spouses slept soundly in custom- made beds draped in fifteen hundred count Egyptian linens.

“Psst, psst, hey, lady, got that bomb weed – dime bag for seven dollars,” the dealer whispered to me as I passed by.

I understood why some frustrated black men wanted quick money from selling drugs. But, I was thoroughly heartbroken from the consequences of their actions. I knew that the prisons of America were littered with African-American men whose potential for greatness was diminished by their drug-related incarcerations.

I used to be a high school English teacher for eight years. I have visited many of my former, black male students when they first entered the prison system and listened to them boast about their bravado. More often than not, the stress of years behind bars turned many of them into broken and bowed older men by the time I saw them when they were released.

I turned and stared at the dealer calling to me. Behind his smooth baby face were coal black eyes, exhausted from about twenty years of hard living. He was light brown skinned, medium height, and his dreadlocks spouted out of the red baseball cap he wore. It was over eighty degrees, and he was sweating in a white T-shirt and tan cargo shorts.  I gazed right past him. Another drug dealer serviced a young woman holding a little girl’s hand. I shook my head as the woman gave the other dealer cash with her free hand. In return, he gave her a small baggie of marijuana. Sadly, for some neglectful parents, the temptation to smoke away their responsibilities too often beat making their children a priority.

I refocused my thoughts and glanced up again at the baby-faced drug dealer.

“No, thanks. I didn’t come here to buy weed. I’m just passing through. How old are you, and why aren’t you working a summer job on this wonderful evening?”

The dealer took a long stare at me. “What the fuck? You five-o or something? ’Cause if you is, I ain’t dirty.”

“No, I’m not a police officer. I was just trying to help. My bad,” I said this quickly, as I saw him nervously fingering his waistband. “Well, I ain’t never ask you or nobody for shit. So just keep it movin’, lady.” He removed his hands from his waistband and turned.

His words breezed by me as he swiftly hopped a fence and ran into an alley right off Bladensburg Road NE. I gazed toward the alley but didn’t try to chase him.

Several years ago, I was robbed in that alley as I took the shortcut through. Few women who entered that alley made it out without something being snatched. Both your purse and your purity were up for grabs.

Everyone called me Shelly, even though my real name was Sheila Williams. As an African-American woman with caramel brown skin, I’m five feet four inches tall, and my teeth were straight and bone-china white. My shoulder-length hair was naturally coarse, but I used a super relaxer and kept it dyed jet-black, which prevented it from graying. I wore my hair in either a bob or a curly wet set. I was thirty years old, single with no children. I was an only child, but I was raised with my two cousins Kim and Mink. Both my parents died tragically in a car accident when I was ten, and I didn’t remember much about them.

In my lifetime, I’d been in a lot of gritty places that most other respectable African-American ladies would never dare to enter. And close and dangerous calls were almost my last name. Yet I felt as comfortable among the street hustlers, junkies, thieves, and criminals of D.C. as I did dining with my white-collar, college-pedigreed friends over filet mignon, Maine lobsters, and strawberry cheesecake at LaMermaid Seafood Restaurant.

I was born in Washington, D.C., into a working-class, black family in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Ward 5 in Northwest. I grew up on First Street NW. Our house was walking distance from the Children’s National Medical Center, Washington Hospital Center, Howard University, Trinity Washington University, and the Catholic University of America.

WICKED WASHINGTON can be purchased from Amazon.com in both e-book and paperbook versions:

www.amazon.com/Wicked-Washington-Sonja-D-Jones/dp/148123322X/

 

Sexy couple in a warm embrace? Gimme a piece of THAT!

So I was walking along the east coast of Australia when low and behold, I came upon a writer sitting in a chair writing romance novels – it was none other than Annie Seaton – at work on her ga-zillionth book!

Gosh, not really.

I’m actually blogging from my kitchen table in the United States. My kids are eating breakfast, there’s a dirty pan of scrambled eggs on the stove and we’re all wondering what to do today now that school’s out for summer. Sure wish I could offer them an afternoon on the Australian coast …

But if you were to kick along the eastern coast of Australia, you just might come upon Annie fast at work at on one of her many romance novels. Perhaps she’d invite you inside her seaside home for a cup of tea. Hhmmm … sounds delightful.

Am I a bit jealous of an author living and writing on the coast of Australia when I’m facing a dirty kitchen, bickering kids and a long, hot day of summer vacation ahead of me?

YES. 

But I can’t think about that right now. Instead, I’ll lose myself in one of Annie’s books. The novel I’m featuring today is Annie’s ITALIAN AFFAIR as it releases this month from Entangled Publishing.

What certainly catches my eye is that sexy couple in a warm embrace on Annie’s ITALIAN AFFAIR book cover. I suspect it’s Brianna and Tom and whatever they’ve got planned for the day is probably a whole lot sexier than Annie typing away on a new novel for Entangled Publishing or my ushering four kids out into the hot sun to swim in the pool.

In fact, they’re so hot, I decided to sprinkle the jacket cover throughout this post. Heck, why not. (For those of you reading on a mobile device, my apologies.)

ItalianAffair

Here’s an excerpt from ITALIAN AFFAIR:

“I am your prozia Maria and that foolish old man sent me here to spy on you,” she said. “And to cook and clean,” she added as an afterthought.

“Prozia?” Brianna turned to Tom with a quizzical look.

“Great-aunt,” he said.

He turned Brianna back into the room and a flush warmed his neck while he spoke to Maria. It would be obvious to anyone they’d been in bed together and Brianna’s slumberous eyes and flushed cheeks confirmed it. Even though they were technically married, guilt settled in his chest.

“We’ll be out in a moment. Perhaps you could put some coffee on?”

“Nessuna fretta…no hurry. And I will cook for you prima colazione.” A broad smile crossed her wrinkled face and she spread her arms wide. “You need to build up your energy again.”

ItalianAffairWanna know more about Annie? Here you go:

Annie lives with her husband, and ‘Bob’ the dog and two white cats in a house next to the beach on the east coast of Australia. She sits in her writing chair, gazing at the ocean and writing stories. Their two children are grown and married and she loves spending time gardening, walking on the beach and spoiling her two grandchildren. She has always been fascinated by all things romantic and has found her niche in life writing romance novels, ranging from contemporary to paranormal with a foray into steampunk!

Her debut full length novel, HOLIDAY AFFAIR, a contemporary romance set in the South Pacific was released as part of Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line in March 2012 and has been a best seller on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The sequel ITALIAN AFFAIR will be released in June 2013, followed shortly after by OUTBACK AFFAIR. Annie has more books being released in 2013 with Entangled Publishing in the Bliss, Entangled Suspense and Covet imprints.

ItalianAffairAnnie has also ventured into independent publishing with her de Vargas family steampunk series: WINTER OF THE PASSION FLOWER and SUMMER OF THE MOON FLOWER. BLIND LUST (Musa Publishing) a paranormal novella is a sweet romance and one of Annie’s favourites.

In appreciation of the supportive author community, Annie has written a book on promotion to share the secrets of her success: PROMOTIONAL TIPS AND TRICKS FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS IN THE DIGITAL LANDSCAPE.

What’d say we all bug Annie at the following social media sites. It’s not fair that she gets to enjoy the Australian coastline when the rest of us are hold up with cranky kids and houses that need cleaning: 

Annie loves to hear from readers on email annieseaton26@gmail.com but you can also find her on her website (click here) and on her blog (click here).

Annie is also on Facebook at her author page (click here) and on her personal Facebook page (click here) and on Twitter (click here).

ItalianAffairAnnie, thanks for allowing me to be a bit playful about your AMAZING writing location. Knowing that we live in different hemispheres and therefore have very different weather … I couldn’t help myself, I checked the weather where you’re at. Rainy and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). That makes me feel a little bit better.