Gift Woes and Nos

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The holiday season is just around the corner. What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received? What’s the worst one you ever given?

Okay, full disclosure, I don’t celebrate any of the holidays from October to January, not for years, anyway. Most of my family members are not Muslims, so there is a lot going on with them during the holidays, but the husband, kids and I rarely take part.

I am one of those people who give gifts throughout the year. A spontaneous gift is one of my favorites. For me, they are usually the most sincere. I feel like the person thought of me as an individual, not a name on a list of people they must present some kind of offering.

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Saying No to Save Yourself

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What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

I recently had to give up the delusion that I could be everything for everyone.

I wear many hats. In addition to being a phenomenal romance author, I am a freelance writer, contributing to multiple platforms. I am also a terrific wife (my husband is a lucky man), mother of six , homeschooler, content editor and writing coach. A lot of stuff, right? Well, those are the things left after I did some soul searching and decided I was doing way too much.

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#bookreview Guarding His Midnight Witness

Hey, romance addicts. It’s been a minute since I had the time to review a book, but I have one for you guys!

Art, law enforcement and organized crime, who could want anything more? In Guarding His Midnight Witness, Anna J Stewart offers readers a respectable romantic suspense with the usual suspects and elements layered with stable and quirky characters.

Artist Greta is struggling with a creative block making painting impossible. So what does she do? Why, the only thing possible. Cooped up in a loft with her mind whizzing and creative juices not flowing, she takes to sipping tea, petting her cat and spying the neighborhood. Only thing is, she gets more than what she bargains for when she witnesses a murder, or at least she thinks she saw one. No, she did, right?

Continue reading “#bookreview Guarding His Midnight Witness”

Dialogue in Fiction Writing

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Do you embrace dialog or narrate your way around it? Why?

I love to talk, maybe even more than I do writing—maybe. Whether written or verbal, I value the power of words. When reading fiction, I prefer books that pull me into characters through dialogue and action. Just like with real people, what a character expresses often serves as the most efficient means to get to know it’s perspective and emotion in ways that can be lost when conveyed through a narrator.

Dialogue remains essential to character-driven writing, where authors offer readers the opportunity to have a vicarious experience and connect to the characters’ internal or interpersonal conflicts. Focusing on character development requires that authors show readers emotion through what they do and say, things especially important in genre fiction.

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Authors Playing in Characters’ Closets

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How do you decide how to dress your characters?

The characters in my romances drive the plot. Besides unfolding how a couple falls or stays in love, I like to portray them doing it while holding down jobs or running businesses. While they may not be flat broke, they still have to get up and put in the work, and their clothes reflect their ambitious and entrepreneurial lifestyles.

Readers want impactful characters that make them laugh, cry, yell and swoon. The clothes they wear when doing one or more of those things can deepen the connection as readers turn the page. In Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit, I wanted the clothes Marcus and Toni wore to reflect their complex lives. Continue reading “Authors Playing in Characters’ Closets”

My Pseudonym and The Real Me

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Do you write under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, would you ever consider it?

Well, yes and no. Lyndell is my name, but not totally. My family’s last name is Williams, and I grew up Lyndell.

There are other Lyndells out there, but the old English name is rare. Unlike my sister, Deborah and brothers, Barry and Dwayne, I never saw my name in a store on a shelf with novelty items garnishing their more common names. It irritated the hell out of me. I spent my childhood and teen years correcting teachers, doctors, anyone who struggled with my unusual name and couldn’t stand whenever someone tried to shorten it to something like Lynn. 

When I converted to Islam at age eighteen, people encouraged me to change my name. Continue reading “My Pseudonym and The Real Me”

Writing Real-life in My Books

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What's the most unusual experience you've ever had? Have you included it in one of your books?

Authors, like most creatives, often use their talents to weave stories reflecting their lives, I am no different. I have included some wonderful, horrible and pretty strange things that happened to me over the years in books.

In Sweet Love-Bitter Fruit, Toni’s struggle with infertility and getting the people around her to understand her pain reflects my own years of frustration. It was difficult, but I was able to channel a lot of pain to connect with readers with similar experiences and giving those who haven’t to empathize with the hurt that comes from unfulfilled desires. Linking fiction with real-life motivates my writing.

In My Way to You, I created a scene with the main characters, Regina and Simon similar to an unusual situation I found myself in with my husband when we first married. Continue reading “Writing Real-life in My Books”

The Literary Pilgrim – a Writer’s Journey

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Have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage? If so, where and why?

Pilgrimage is an important part of my faith. In Islam, traveling to the venerated city of Mecca (known as Hajj) is a sacred journey that provides those blessed with the chance to perform Hajj rites expiation of their sins and closeness to the creator.

Some people save for their entire lives to make the holy trip. Others go on Hajj to die. It is an arduous trek. Every pilgrim has their Hajj stories, telling of illnesses, injuries, and challenges to finishing everything without blowing their cool. Despite the physical obstacles, many Muslims through the world strive to go on Hajj. The emotional and spiritual benefits far outweigh any difficulties.

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#OpenBook Building a Stand Alone Universe, Connecting Characters

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Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

One of the great things about storytelling is that the worlds that authors create can be as simple or involved and complex as they want. Although I have some stories with less porous worlds, I do like to have some characters show up in other plots, which can be important in the romance genre.

Many romance readers end up falling in love with characters in a book, wanting to see more of them. I developed a series based on the desire for readers’ requests to see more of one character or another. I initially wrote the book Open to Love as one book, when beta readers asked me to also tell the stories of secondary characters Tarika and Aqil. I also got feedback asking what the deal was with Rahma. I hit the keyboard and framed the Open to Love series. Queen of the Castle joined book one, and book three is coming soon.

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#IWSG – Swallow Rejection, Focus on the Work

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Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Why y’all asking people to tell their secrets?

A lot of my work as a cultural critic and author involves me asserting confidence about my abilities and talents and using them to encourage writers to form supportive networks that will help us all get our words to the world. While I am blessed to get to write for online publications and my own stories, I also take advantage of opportunities to coach, mentor and cheerlead my fellow writers to get their thoughts and stories out there. I guess that is why it is hard to accept the infrequency for substantial mutual support. Continue reading “#IWSG – Swallow Rejection, Focus on the Work”

Why Grammar Pet Peeves Die

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What are your pet peeves when it comes to grammar and spelling?

I have some pet peeves. I can’t stand going into my kitchen to cook and finding dishes in the sink. There is something about having to clean in order to eat that I find especially annoying, and I can’t resist shouting, “Who left these dishes” across the house to find the perpetrator.

I am also challenged to overlook passive aggression, whether on social media or in person. I hate when someone is clearly trying to stick it to me with a smile on their face or with feigned self-deprecation and sanctimony. I fail to let it go. My claws come out, and I make no apologies for it.

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Peeve vs. Pet Peeve

Unlike many peeves or annoyances that people may be able to disregard, a pet peeve is adopted and nurtured like a pet. As with me and those dishes in the sink or the jerk on Facebook, they can’t keep pet peeves from bothering them to the point of complaining. I tend not to have pet peeves when it comes to grammar and spelling. I grew up using layers of language and studied literary criticism, semiotics, and hermeneutics, which encouraged me to favor a more descriptive approach to both.

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Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces

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Talk about the setting of your book. Is it entirely imaginary or is it based on a real-life place?

I love writing stories that allow readers to tap into the fantasy and escapism that fiction provides. At the same time, I like to include points of reference from my environment. Similar to integrating real-life characters experience, my story plots also contain geographical references to position readers in characters’ environments, potentially essential to reinforce arches and allow them to relate.

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Settings in the romance genre tend to be at economic and geographic extremes. At a Popular Cultural Association conference, romance scholar Jodi McAllister pointed out that romance plots frequently unfold between female protagonists and rich men in cities or small-town bearded hunks.  She posed a question asking why people didn’t seem to fall in love in the suburbs. She made a great point. I spent my teens and early adult life reading about ridiculously wealthy men taking their love interests to bed. Not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoyed the escapism, but not everyone lives like that way, nor do they exist in tiny towns with one traffic light. I want my readers to see themselves in my stories. Continue reading “Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces”

#NewRelease-Too Far By Yvonne Bennett

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Too Far by [Yvonne Bennett, Bold Strokes Editing]New Release
TOO FAR
By Yvonne Bennett
$2.99, pp 330, Kindle

Afterhours Publications

Available at Amazon

 

BLURB: Nadia Mitchell is a headstrong F.B.I agent, looking to take down the head of the illustrious Carmine empire. What she didn’t bank on was the risk that came with being obsessed with Andres, the cutthroat cousin of Agostino. Nadia didn’t know that she would have to get in too far to catch her prey. Now she has to protect herself…and her heart.

THIS IS A COMPLETE NOVEL. NO CLIFFHANGERS

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An Author’s Life of Teaching

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What did you want to be when you grew up vs. what you are today?

I always wanted to be a writer. Since I could remember, words … Psych!

Of course, I didn’t grow up wanting to write. I hated writing. I still get flashbacks of cramps when I see one of those little penmanship books.  Like many children, I wanted to become a teacher when I grew up. It wasn’t because of a favorite teacher or anything like that. I liked standing in front of people and telling them what I knew.

I like being smart and right; it was the essential motivation that drove me to become an educator. It wasn’t until I became older that fulfillment from conveying knowledge to another overrode my hubris. I was usually the oddball at school. I spent a lot of time in corners, working or eating alone. But, every so often, a classmate would come to me with a concept they just couldn’t grasp or a hard-to-solve problem.  I helped them, even my bullies. It was then that I realized that I liked explaining what I knew more than just showing it.

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Audiobooks And The Multifaceted Ways We Convey Words

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Are audiobooks considered reading?

The busy American lifestyle often limits the time one has to pick up a book, which can devastate someone who loves reading. Audiobooks offer a solution, giving people access to amazing (and not so amazing) titles that they can enjoy during their commute while running errands or traveling. Some people suffer from motion sickness if they look down and read. They don’t enjoy the luxury of reading a book when on a long train, plane or car ride. So, audiobooks are a blessing.

I belong to a lot of avid reading groups on Facebook. As I read posts, I often see people defending using audiobooks. While I have encountered no one who would purport that listening to an audiobook is not “real reading,” I suppose the argument must exist, or else there wouldn’t be posts about it. Ironic because the origin of the word read does not involve or restrict the activity to the written word. Yeah, you can not ask a literary critic about a word and things not get geeky.

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Author Tools to Keep A Story Together

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Share how you keep your characters, storylines, etc., organized. Do you use an outline? Notecards? Post-its all over your walls?

I am back, everyone. I’ve missed writing for this blog hop, but I was slammed…hard…with a number of illnesses and was laid out for weeks.

Yeah, it took a while, but I am better now and ready to go!

Okay. How I keep track of everything needed to write a cohesive novel, novella or short story. What fun! And how convenient that I recently wrote articles about high and low-tech productivity for the awesome Haute Hijab blog. Below are some tools I use to keep things in check while story writing, even rebellious characters like Quinn Ang and Raad Khouri.

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High-Tech Tools

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