Character Building: I Made This

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What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I may (or may not—I admit to nothing) base a character on someone I respect or despise, so I will have to be salty and sweet with the response to this week’s OpenBook blog hop post. Let’s start with the people I like.

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I’ve explained in a Black Glue Podcast interview how the Prophet Muhammad served as inspiration for the male characters featured in the Brothers in Law series.

I reflected on the Prophet (Muhammad’s) life and how he was as a husband … lover … someone out in the community and how he transitioned between those things. What he did when his women were mad at him, and what he did when his women were acting out. [The brothers in law] don’t act exactly like the Prophet, but there are characteristics each one of them has.

Simon is the one who keeps things at a level where it doesn’t get too bad. He doesn’t allow things to get to him as much.  Marcus is the alpha, alpha. He’s the leader. He expects things to happen the way he needs for them to happen because he’s progressing the nation. Adam is that inner reflection.

Continue reading “Character Building: I Made This”

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”

Why Seasons Matter in Fiction

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Do your stories and worlds reference seasons and do they play into the plots of your books?

Seasons provide important time elements to a story’s plot. The environment in which characters interact is significant in setting the tone and helping readers keep track of how much time has passed between plot points.

Time passage within a novel can be large (days, months, and years) or small (a few moments or minutes), and all of it can affect the story’s pacing, grabbing readers’ attention or losing it. A lot of my novels involve events requiring longs periods of time to pass from the book’s beginning to the end.

Anchoring Time

Continue reading “Why Seasons Matter in Fiction”

3 Writing Traps for Newbies

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What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Writing is a process rich with possibilities for errors. Anyone taking to the pen and pad or keyboard to share their stories and experiences with the world will inevitably trip, fall, get crushed, or end up a blubbering puddle of frustrations and regrets.

Count on all the above because our humanness makes it inevitable. Things will get messy just like us.

I spent years as a writing coach at a four-year college, where I saw students making the same mistakes and helped them hone their skills. When I ventured into professional writing as a freelancer, the easy transition from academic writing surprised me. I became popular with some online Muslim publications (I only write for them for personal reasons) and launched a cultural platform. Save for a few shifts in tone, I had it easy.

I didn’t encounter many bumps in the road of my journey as a writer until I wrote a novel. My strong writing background did not secure me from making some newbie mistakes, and I found many other authors who expressed that they made them. 

Continue reading “3 Writing Traps for Newbies”

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”

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”

Laughter as Armor and Shield

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What’s the one thing guaranteed to make you laugh?

Hmm…

Tough question. Is the laughter a sarcastic “you’re an idiot” or a full-hearted “that was hilarious” type of thing?

I laugh for so many reasons, not all of which involve anything being funny. Like when my former boss and her supervisor had me in the office jeopardizing my job because their friend/co-worker didn’t like that I ignored her unprofessional email tantrum. Continue reading “Laughter as Armor and Shield”

#OpenBook: Smell That? The Stench of Child Sexual Abuse

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If your childhood had a smell, what would it be?

One of the things most people remember about their childhoods is the scrumptious mixture of scents of a well-cooked meal at home. They revel in memories of swirls of seasonings in the warm air wrapping them in comfort.

Well, that would not be the smell of my childhood—not totally. For me, caustic fumes of abuse defiled such wonderful aromas, threatening to completely choke out my humanity.

gas-mask-1714087_1920*Alert – Filters Down*

Continue reading “#OpenBook: Smell That? The Stench of Child Sexual Abuse”

Food and Romance – Bean Pies for the Heart

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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”

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”

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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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”

Things More Important than Names

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What do you want people to remember about you?

From the time I was very young, I’ve heard people expressing a desire or encouraging others to “make a mark” in the world or “leave a legacy.” The notion is usually associated with doing something on a grand scale to ensure that one’s name is not forgotten. However, I think we get sidetracked by the “name” part of people remembering us. Continue reading “Things More Important than Names”

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