Authors Playing in Characters’ Closets

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#openbook

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”

Reader Connections–A Measure of Success

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What does literary success look like to you?

I find it interesting that this week’s question uses the word “look” when it comes to literary success because I have a visual representation of it for me.

Let me give a little backstory. I love Zumba. It is one of the ways I get to release pent up tension and clear my head. I’m usually all over the floor during class, wiggling my hips and shouting as I cheerlead people to go higher and have fun.

 Anyway, last week, one of my zeeps (Zumba+peeps) had mentioned that she wanted to read My Way to You, my first book in the Brothers in Law series.  Like most indie authors, I had a copy. You gotta know how to play the game.

I signed and handed it to her. This week, she tapped me on the shoulder between songs, saying she needed more copies of the book. Word?! She explains what happened in the video below. 

Note – We had just finished an hour of Zumba, and we look it!  Continue reading “Reader Connections–A Measure of Success”

Research – A Key Element to Storytelling

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What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I spend a lot of time researching all kinds of things for various writing projects. I need to research curriculum development and pedagogical methods for my work with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. I just spent the past few days hitting Google for historical and cultural research while taking part in an anti-racism workshop.

My job teaching at the college and romance scholarship also requires time researching. Before leaving for Chicago, I looked for additional sources as I edited an essay about African American Muslim romance fiction (yes, it’s a thing) and how female protagonists are othered. It is interesting how Muslim authors use the other woman trope in love triangles.

Focus, Lyndell. Okay.

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It may seem that so many demands will make research a tedious exercise. The opposite is true for me. Continue reading “Research – A Key Element to Storytelling”

Pens, Knives, and Guns: The Power of Crafting Words

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What was an early experience when you learned that language had power?

I think humans have an innate appreciation for the power contained in language. We have a need to communicate from the moment we leave the womb. Crying, whimpering, whining and cooing are all methods that infants have to convey their feelings and desires.

It can be so strong that many mothers and primary caregivers learn the meanings behind each utterance coming from the tiny person, finding it almost impossible to ignore. The impact of our children’s infant cries frazzled each one of my nerves, motivating me to satisfy or wreak havoc on whatever or whoever was upsetting them. People didn’t start calling me Mama Bear for nothing.

Yeah, kinda like that. So, knowledge about the power of language is something intrinsic. We know its influence on those around us. When people are past the infancy, “cry to get what I want stage”, it is important to recognize how compelling words can be on one’s mindset and those around them, especially words strategically used to convince, inspire, anger and degrade—some of which may become branded in one’s psyche, influencing their internal dialogue and actions. Continue reading “Pens, Knives, and Guns: The Power of Crafting Words”

#OpenBook – “Masculine Energy” and The Woman Writer

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What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I remember listening to a male lecturer talk about women, men, and gender relations. One thing that stuck with me was when he went on this diatribe about women who have a lot of what he called “masculine energy.” He waxed for what seemed like forever about how a woman who dares to have a lot of masculine energy is a problem because she will always be ready to challenge a man. He claimed that such women are too assertive and authoritative and proclaimed that he could tell when there is such a woman in his midst.

After I laughed my…head off, I cringed a little at the incendiary generalizations he made, that make life hell for women. I won’t go into an analysis of how his language dangerously allocated certain human behaviors like confidence, ambition, critical thinking, power, and resistance as masculine and categorized women embodying any of these characteristics as “manly” deviants straying from their feminine nature.

I won’t highlight how someone privileged by gender can be guilty of reinforcing oppression by demonizing those struggling against their subjugation, discrediting them as misfits. Really, men need to stop that nonsense, especially those disguising themselves as progressive but are actually just as chauvinistic as their fellow misogynists.

Continue reading “#OpenBook – “Masculine Energy” and The Woman Writer”

#MFRW- Character-Driven Plot Building

blacksmith-3141724_1920#MFRW Plotter or panzer, and why?

I tend to be a character-driven writer. I have a bunch of people stomping around my head demanding that their stories be told.

Yeah, kinda like that. Because they are at the base of my writing, I usually have to structure a plot based upon what the main protagonists in a story want, the obstacles that get in the way with that, and how they change from the beginning to end of the plot. So, an organic plot structure is at the crux of my writing.

I also have a drill-sergeant for a writing coach, who doesn’t believe in just writing and letting a story evolve, at least not at the fundamental level, which plotting a story mainly involves. I think that is what confused me at first, and I also see it when I mentor writers. I had the tendency to think of details as essential to structuring a plot. They aren’t, and once I got used to sifting through them to the core components of a story, I have become better at having a solid plot on which to build it. Continue reading “#MFRW- Character-Driven Plot Building”

Favorite Character Question is Major Author Bait

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From all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite and why?

What kind of f—

Okay, I smell a setup. My kids tried asking me something like this. It didn’t work then either. Which one of my characters got you? Was it Raad?

It was Raad. He’s so narcissistic. It’s bad enough he wrecked my concentration until I got his characterization finished. Now, he’s gotta try to force some sick confession out of me? Sit your butt down, Raad, and wait for me to release Building on Broken Dreams to show your…self to the world.

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I said to sit down!

Maybe it was Zaida. Continue reading “Favorite Character Question is Major Author Bait”

#OpenBook: Half-Charged and Ready to Go!

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#OpenBook How do you recharge?

I’ve spent most of the past twenty years of my life running on fumes. I became a mom to my beautiful daughter in 1998—and never slept again!

Well, I slept, but not much because her brother was born the following year. AND the babies kept coming. By the time my oldest was five, I had my fourth baby and forgot what having a good night sleep or a relaxing day was.

If that wasn’t enough, my dumb…self decides to go to college and finish a few degree programs—work—engage in community organizing, and have two more babies. Throw freelance writing and authorship (writing, publishing, promoting, etc.), and relaxing is truly an alien thing for me. Continue reading “#OpenBook: Half-Charged and Ready to Go!”

OpenBook-Grand Delusions of Global Change

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#OpenBook

What have you done to make the world a better place?

Nothing. Seriously. I’ve done nothing to make the world a better place, and neither has anybody else.

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This planet is vast with numerous societies and cultures. No one person can make everything better for everyone. We can positively influence our social spheres and may even have some impact on others, but never in totality.

That’s not life or the world works.

That being said, there are things I’ve done to try and affect positive shifts in cultural mindsets in ways that increase the potential for positive change. Continue reading “OpenBook-Grand Delusions of Global Change”

Food and Romance – Bean Pies for the Heart

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#OpenBook

Share a recipe for a food that comes from one of your books.

Yay! Food is so a part of my romances. I like to use some of what characters eat as symbolism.

For example, in My Way to You, I have Regina either making or eating eggs to represent the fragile but nourishing nature of the developing relationship between her and Simon. They are so good for each other, but things constantly threaten their ability to be together.

But, I’m not sharing an egg recipe. I’m picking something that Regina’s brother Marcus and his wife Toni eat.

Marcus Kent loves him some Toni. He calls her sweetness, and she is the main person to bring him to equilibrium. Basically, she got him on lock, and he goes out of his way to make her happy.

In one scene of My Way to You, Marcus treks from Harlem to the famous Abu’s Homestyle Bakery in Brooklyn. Abu’s is a historical landmark for New Yorkers, especially African American Muslims like me. They have some serious oven action going on, and whenever I get a chance to travel the 2 hours, I stock up, because the cakes and pies are everything.

Toni has a similar liking for the bakery, so Marcus picks up a box of assorted pies for her.

Check out the excerpt.

Continue reading “Food and Romance – Bean Pies for the Heart”

OpenBookBlogHop-Layla Writes Love 2019 Goals

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Share your writing goals for 2019.

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I’ve been asking writers and authors to share their 2019 writing goals all last week.

I reached out to romance authors and ask them to tell readers some of their goals for this year, and I did the same for Muslim authors on the NbA Muslims blog on Patheos.

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It was great reading what authors and writers had planned as well as including some of my goals. I also took a moment to take part in an Instagram author’s challenge post.

 

I’ve been busy planning and goal making. So, I’m going to use this Open Book Blog Hop post to round up all of the goals I made and maybe add a couple of more.  Here we go! Continue reading “OpenBookBlogHop-Layla Writes Love 2019 Goals”

Just a Taste – LW Book Excerpts

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#OpenBook

What are some of your favorite lines from your books?

I love reading authors’ favorite lines from their books. Many authors take a lot of time and energy to draft particularly poignant prose (that alliteration is not an example), to grab readers’ attention and offer some inspiration, humor, humanity—a bunch of stuff.

I’m a little daunted to find some of my favorite lines from my book—singular…as in only one written so far—because I’ve spent so much time with my words. It’s difficult to step back and look at something I took so long to make cohesive and fluid as layers of individual components.

Continue reading “Just a Taste – LW Book Excerpts”

Failsafe from Failing Students

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What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Failure, or fear of it, is very effective at making both the timid and bold hesitant. Even just the thought that success won’t be achieved is enough to keep one stagnant. So, having the barrier produced by a fear of failure is refreshing and makes the mind run rampant.  Mine has, and I shall now have at it.

As I went through school as a kid and during my college years, I encountered one disturbing constant. My education was always tainted by implicit and explicit bias and racism from either my fellow students, faculty or administration. Continue reading “Failsafe from Failing Students”

#MFRWauthor – Italian Ramadan

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Ramadan is a special holiday for Muslims all over the world. Those who are able to spend daylight hours fasting and engaged in increased worship, which is the primary purpose of the month.

But when the sun sets, there are 30 days of some of the best eating of the year. Whether at home with family, invited to neighbors and friends homes, or visiting one of the many large community meals, the food is fantastic.

Here in the United States, the diverse American Muslim population means that break-fast meals (known as iftar) can have a cornucopia of food from people of native-born (i.e. African American, Latinx American, Native American, European American) and immigrant Muslim backgrounds.

One staple dish in my family is baked ziti. I make a big pan to feed my husband and kids fasting for a couple of days. I will also make a couple of pans to bring to my local masjid (mosque) for a community meal. I always bring home empty pans.

Recipe

Continue reading “#MFRWauthor – Italian Ramadan”

First Time Unboxing

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When was the last time you did something for the first time?

People often romanticize the idea of the first time, which-ironically-I as a romance writer tend not to do.

Steeped in perfection-only the best parts about doing and/or experiencing something are brought to the front of our memories and shared. Even when the experience is not so fantastic, we tend to tell it as a form of comical relief. Not exclusively, but we frequently do sugar coat and look forward to doing or seeing things for the first time, despite the actual quality of the experience.

The first is not always a good or even the best time a person may experience. Let me see… Continue reading “First Time Unboxing”

Death on a Calendar

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If you had the option to know the date of your death, would you want to know?

Death is something that we as humans generally avoid like—well—death. We spend an incredible amount of time, energy and money during our waking hours keeping the Big Sleep at bay.

It motivates a lot of the things we do and buy.  Billions are spent on pills, potions and procedures. Even after death, more money is dumped into preserving bodies from becoming rotting carcasses. It’s been that way for millennia. I’m looking at you, Egyptian Pharaohs.

Look at those big things, and what they did to the bodies *gag*. That’s how uncomfortable people generally are with the idea of dying. So why the heck would anyone want to know when they’re dying? Continue reading “Death on a Calendar”

The World’s A Stage for Writers Too

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#OpenBook

This week’s Open Book Blog Hop question is one I’ve  asked so many authors—”What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a writer?”

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**Side note – I will send the first Open Book Blog Hop blogger who tells me the GIF reference a My Way to You ribbon bookmark :)** UPDATE – Congrats, aurorawatcherak!

Okay, now. It is a staple question on my and many interviewers’ list because it’s very important.

Writers make writers.

Well-written creations offer examples and inspiration for those seeking to make a mark in the world with ink—hence the adage “read good writing to become a good writer. There is also so much to learn from talented writers’ blood, sweat, tears (real ones-’cause writing is no joke) and experiences.

Like most writers and someone who’s been at various layers of the writing process (teacher, writer, editor, author, mentor, etc.), I have a lot of advice, but I think one of the most important things I can tell aspiring writers and authors doesn’t involve the craft—not directly. Continue reading “The World’s A Stage for Writers Too”

Precious Second Chances-Who Deserves one?

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#openbloghop

Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?

I’m assuming this week’s blog hop question refers to personal relationships. So, here we go.

When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.

Maya Angelou

We miss you Lady Maya!

The idea of second chances can fill people with a sense of hope. All doesn’t have to be a loss. As a romance author, I’m a huge fan of books with a second chance at love plot.  Heck, a lot of my stories feature one or both protagonists stepping back up to the plate to give love another try.

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And…cue in the crappy metaphor.

The thing is, those are made up people with characteristics that I design in them to ensure the required romance HEA (Happily-Ever-After). With real people, it’s much more of a gamble to trust again. Hence, Maya’s famous quote.

People rarely change and will adjust how they treat you even more infrequently. So, whenever someone screws up, there are a few things to consider before allowing them a second chance.

Continue reading “Precious Second Chances-Who Deserves one?”

Finding Beauty Where Others Might Not

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#openbloghop

What do you think are the 5 most beautiful things in the world?

Beauty can be an abstract term. What may be considered beautiful to some may not be for others. Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, we all get it.

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Despite the overwhelming amount of negative or “ugly” things we see every day in the news and on social media, I like to think there is equally as much if not more beauty in our lives. Things may be tough, but there’s no denying that if it wasn’t for the beautiful things, most of us would’ve thrown in our towels a long time ago.

The layers of work I do in cultural criticism, anti-racism advocacy and gender equity expose me to clashing visions of the world around me. Add being a mother of six to the mix, and it often becomes a challenge to appreciate the beauty that each has to offer.

Continue reading “Finding Beauty Where Others Might Not”

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