The Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, by Mae Clair

wonderful-team-memberIt’s blog award time, thanks to my wonderful friend and fellow blogger, Sheri de Grom!

Sheri recently honored me with the Wonderful Team Membership Reader Award. If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve no doubt heard me mention Sheri before. We ventured into the blogosphere about the same time and quickly became  friends and supporters of each other.

Sheri blogs about women’s fiction and government and medical issues, in addition to working on what is certain to be a compelling novel, NOT THE MAN I MARRIED.  She’s super friendly and a great supporter of other bloggers so check her out corner of the world here, and linger a while under her bridge.

The Wonderful Team Membership Reader Award was one I was not previously familiar with, but it definitely deserves a round of fanfare. The title says it all. As bloggers, we rely on those who support our efforts with each post, taking their time to comment on the musings we toss into the virtual universe. I am so grateful for the friends I have made through blogging, and really do appreciate everyone who visits and comments on From the Pen of Mae Clair.

So to all my fantastic Pen Pals—I am grateful to each of you and wish to acknowledge you with this post. I am happy to nominate the following for the Wonderful Team Membership Reader Award:

L. J. Kentowski
Donna Cummings
Emma Meade
Jessi Gage
Cd Brennan
Calisa Rhose
Stanalei Fletcher
Debbie Peterson
Joanne Wadsworth
Laura Lee Nutt
Venice Kennedy
Susan Koenig

And, of course, a huge thanks to Sheri de Grom.

There are many other friends out there who support me through Twitter, Facebook, blogging and reviews, and I thank you all. This list is but a few. I am truly grateful for your friendship and support. You guys rock! :D

Mae Clair’s Wizard with Words: Venice Kennedy

Hey everyone, I’m super excited about the Word Wizard I’m introducing today. Venice Kennedy is an indie-author who writes stories of vibrant romance. She’s also a good friend who encouraged me to get off my duff and submit the manuscript for WEATHERING ROCK.  Without her, I never would have taken that step out the door.

We’ve known one another for several years but, in 2011, made a joint decision that 2012 was going to be ‘our year’ for publication. I chose to work through an e-pub house and Venice chose to indie-publish.

Want to hear something really weird? The official release day for WEATHERING ROCK, October 8th, was also the day Venice published her short story, BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE, Book 1 in the LOVE BLOOMS series. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. Is that kismet or what? :)

Okay, without further giddy exposition on my part, I’d like you to meet Venice. I’m going to ask her to share a bit about herself and how she developed her passion for writing.

VENICE: Mae, I could have could have been doing this decades ago.   If I had been more in touch with the voices in my head telling me I was a writer, so I’m a late starter. I always wrote songs, and poems, and little snippets of story ideas.  It wasn’t until college that I started writing short stories.  My professors often picked mine as the story to read out loud. But I was majoring in Theatre, and had my eyes on bright lights and Broadway, and missed the boat on developing my writing during those college years. I even took a screen writing course and the person teaching it was a VP for NBC. He told me I had a good shot at a career in the field if I wanted it. I don’t know what wasn’t clicking in my head for me not to ‘own’ that I was I writer.

Later down the road, one of my family members struggled with mental illness and I hardly wrote or read much during the years my family and I tried to get through those bad times. I know this is personal stuff, but I hope that someone out there reading this will see how your destiny can come back around to you after you missed grabbing hold of it the first few hundred times!  It wasn’t until my mom died that I grasped that I didn’t have forever to find and live out my passion for writing. One thing I will add – – I used to get ribbed as a kid for being addicted to TV. I was always watching. It was my company. Now, I realize my true addiction was to the ‘story’—and I was learning and craving to understand the nuances of character, plotting and story. What I learned is ingrained in my writing.

So let’s talk about your chosen genre. You write interracial sweet romance. In a world where Fifty Shades of Gray is topping bestseller charts, some might call sweet romance old-fashioned or passé.  Personally, I love a sweet romantic tale. Tell us about your vision for the LOVE BLOOMS series and what attracted you to your chosen genre.

VENICE: First I just have to say what a kick this is, Mae. It’s pretty incredible that we made that joint decision in 2011 and that we are living out our dreams to be published authors—and ended up taking different routes, but publishing on the same day! How’s that for kismet?  I’m so thrilled over all you’ve accomplished and extremely happy we paired up to encourage each other. Now to your question—

I discovered interracial romance books a while back. I wasn’t reading romance at all, but quickly fell in love with the genre.  Interracial and multicultural romance is growing in popularity, and while there are lots of great IR books out there, just like in other kinds of romance there is a lot of the scorching hot erotica being published right now. But not that many sweet or sensual, which is my preference.

I have a few reasons that I write sweet interracial. As a reader and writer erotica isn’t a fit for me, so I write what I’d like to read. What is really cool is that I have also found that oh so magical ‘niche’ folks say new writers should look for. I get that some people call sweets or inspirational romance old-fashioned, but I see myself as a contemporary woman, a contemporary writer, who doesn’t need explicit detail to accept that my favorite couple have hot sex –and have it often. LOL! I much rather enjoy reading or writing about the time and spaces in between, and leave the explicit stuff for those who love writing it. Oh, and I’m also an African American woman who has dated interracially. It was a no-brainer for me to throw my voice into the ring.

Love Blooms is my series of shorts and novellas, I’m using it as a way to introduce folks to my writing. Showcasing what I’ve chosen to tag as “Vibrant Interracial Romance.’ I want my stories and characters to resonate — to set off an empathetic vibration in my readers because life has taken them into some of the same valleys and has them hoping to reach the same mountain tops. Ultimately, I’m writing the kinds of stories I want to read.

I read a lot of great IRs but you don’t see a lot of sweet IRs coming out. I just want to offer IR and MC readers more to choose from and also hope I’ll be giving some readers what they’ve been asking for. While African American women interested in, or involved in interracial romance, are my main audience I hope my stories will appeal to a wider audience because everyone can relate to the emotions, hopes and desires we all experience in the journey to true love.

Did I mention I was long-winded? Hah! There may be some folks out there who don’t know much about what’s going on in the IR genre, so I’m taking the advantage of sharing. :)

I’ve read several interracial romances and am always on the lookout for a new one. How about sharing the blurb for BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE?

John Vincent and Amerise Carlton are ready to strangle their mutual friend, Ellen, when she pairs them on a blind date certain to be a recipe for disaster. What should have been a fun-filled evening turns sour when the mismatched couple butts heads over dinner. Toss in an inept waiter, the hottest day of the year, a city-wide blackout, and circumstance goes from bad to worse. Just when rock bottom looms near, the unlikely couple is given a new perspective.

A moonlit garden, novelty candy, and a sweet summer night open the doorway to understanding. Can this unlikely couple find the sugary spark of romance in a city engulfed by darkness?

Maybe Ellen was on to something after all!

BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE is Vol#1 of the Love Blooms Series.

I remember when you initially shared your idea for this story and how the concept intrigued me, especially factoring in the blackout. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you came up with the idea? It’s so unique!

VENICE: My stories always start with me having a glimpse of a thought in my head. Wondering over what kinds of emotions someone might be having when a particular event or experience happens to them draws my writing attention. The rest of the story blossoms organically from there. Same thing happened with BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE. I wanted to show how Love can easily dismantle the walls two people put up between them, even if a whole city has to be shut-down for love to have its way.

On a side note, Mae, Blackout was going to be a contest entry for a new IR publisher, and you know my instincts told me not to submit it to them. While writing it, I was also taking a few courses on indie publishing over at Savvyauthors.com and said to myself—why not start with this one.

Tell us a little bit about your characters, John and Amerise and what a reader can expect from them.

VENICE: John Vincent and Amerise Carlton are two ordinary likeable, lonely souls. He’s white, she’s black, and initially that’s all they are willing to acknowledge about each other when a mutual friend sets them up on a blind date. When they end up getting stuck together during a city-wide blackout, a lot of who and what they really are shines through, revealing a connection they might have missed. Whether race, culture, or any other difference that keeps people apart— what I’m celebrating in BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE is the connection that lingers right under the surface if we just take the time to find it.

That’s a powerful thought. Let’s talk about your experience with publishing for a moment.You’re a brand new author who has indie published her first novel. Looking back over the experience, what was the biggest hurdle?

VENICE: Social media was, and is, my biggest hurdle. It’s just how I am, never was a big fan of it. Right now I’m caring for an elderly parent and that means my time is limited. I’d much rather be writing when I get time to work. I have difficulty with marketing and selling myself, but I’m learning.  While I should be doing twitter and FB, I’m not there yet. I just started blogging, a new challenge for me and honestly I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. Maybe I’ll end up feeling the same way about twitter & FB?? I hope so. Then, there’s also the challenge of trying to put myself on deadlines. Without a publisher out waiting for me to produce, I find I keep moving the writing to the next day, then the next– not good! Other challenges I probably don’t even know about I’m sure will pop up. Oh, and of course there’s the expenses I have to cover- ebook artwork, formatting, editors, proofreaders, all the expenses publishing houses pick up for their authors.

Would you do anything differently if you had to do it over again?

Venice: I wish I had put up something more substantial first time rather than a short story.   I loved writing BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE, and am proud of it. Many folks, I’m coming to understand, prefer a longer read. As an indie, I have complete freedom to make pricing decisions. Maybe giving my story away free would have been a good marketing tool, but for the hours I spent tweaking it, I couldn’t start my writing journey that way. It’s just a psychological for thing for me. I thought about doing the freebie thing but decided to go with my gut and voted against it.

What do you see as being the strongest benefit of indie-publishing?

Control over my covers and not having to fit my story into a predetermined set of restrictions.  The size and landscape of anything I write is all my making. Right now, I’m working with an artist on the cover for the second short in my LOVE BLOOM SERIES, TENDING DEACON’S GARDEN. I’m having fun going back and forth tweaking it to my liking.  It’s beautiful, and I’m very happy with it. I believe it’s going to help me bring more depth to the story.

So I’m assuming this is on the schedule for the near future. Any other upcoming releases you’d like to share with us?

I’m putting myself on notice with this announcement—I’m  indie-publishing my novella TENDING DEACON’S GARDEN, the second story in my LOVE BLOOM SERIES, and a novel  I SEE YOU in 2013. Now I better get my calendar out and note deadlines on it ASAP! :)

And now, some quicksilver questions:

Favorite food: Seafood, most any kind of fish or shellfish. Thanksgiving Dinner!  How timely is that for ya! Truth is, my favorite food depends on what I’m craving at the moment.

Favorite vacation spot: Darn, I haven’t traveled much, but I’m normally very happy at any little New England seaport.

Silver or gold: Silver, I even collect vintage silver jewelry.

Coffee or tea: I love both, but need a cuppa coffee every morning!

Casual or dressy: Casual, but if I have to dress up, I love it if I can find ‘just’ the right outfit.

Favorite ice cream: Dark, chocolatey with any kind of nuts (ok,fine—and hot fudge, too!)

Three books you couldn’t be without: I don’t know if I’ve read those three yet, Mae. But I will say I happened onto these three just at the right time to urge me to make my move to write.

1.Octavia Butler’s PARABLE OF THE SOWER (2nd book Parable of Talents). I had caught a cable interview of an African American woman, sci-fi writer one Saturday afternoon, and for some reason the way she talked about the craft of writing got into my soul.  Sometime later when I happened onto her PARABLE OF THE SOWER I was stunned by her ability to say so much with so little. Her writing made me fall back in love with books.

2. Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS. For me, it was a lesson on great storytelling.

3. All of the first great reads that introduced me to the IR genre: HAVE YOU SEEN HER? by Chicki Brown, UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Kayrn Langhorne, RECONSTRUCTING JADA CHANNING  by Savannah J.Frierson, IVY’S TWISTED VINE by Latrivia Nelson, and  THE BOMAW SERIES  by Mercedes Keyes. And many more!

And, Mae, there’s always a Bible nearby for inspiration and guidance.

That’s an awfully good book to have nearby :) What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing:

VENICE: I could spend hours hanging out in little, out-of-the way consignment shops, flea markets or going to tag sales searching for vintage costume jewelry to add to my collection. I also dabble in making jewelry. I love spending time with friends catching music in a small venue. A nice drive to a small town or a big city to have dinner and drinks overlooking the water would be a perfect day for me. My newest favorite thing is Zumba, I love to dance, and it’s great exercise.  You saw my answer on my favorite foods, right? :D

That was fun! Before we wrap things up, do you have any advice you’d like to share? You encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing professionally and took the plunge yourself. We both know there are pitfalls along the way but the end result is worth the effort. What advice would you give the writer who is hovering on the brink?

VENICE: Find yourself a like-minded writing pal, or a writing community that’s a good fit, someplace you’d enjoy spending lots of time learning the ropes.  Take online classes at a great place like Savvyauthors.com which give you the opportunity to hang out with writers in all stages of their careers. I don’t think I would have been able to make the leap without having those support systems. I’d tell them–Don’t sit back and watch everyone doing what you know is in spirit to do. Don’t waste those years like I did!   I’d tell them, Mae, if you’re going indie—pay for editors/proofreading services.  You may only get one chance to impress a reader when they get a sample of your book. Don’t turn them away because of typos, not after you’ve put all of your blood, sweat, tears and time into your work.

Well said! Thanks, Venice. I’m thrilled to have you on my blog today and to welcome you to Wizards with Words. Consider yourself treated as royalty with red-carpet fanfare. And, of course, I expect you to come back again! :D

VENICE: This was nice, Mae. You have been a wonderful inspiration to me and a great example to any new writer on how to do it right!  WEATHERING ROCK is amazing. Your debut’s rave reviews are proof of that. I can’t wait for your next one “THE TWELFTH SUN”, and I’m sure you already have many, many fans who are as eager as I am to read it. Continued success to you and BTW—Great blog! Thanks so much for this interview, it was fun!

BIO
From the very first time she read an interracial romance novel, Venice Kennedy knew she was bound and destined to join the ranks of all the writers out there creating those kind of love stories that just make ya wanna sigh. So she stepped out of her box, discarded some emotional baggage, knocked a few walls down and let her often neglected romantic side soar free. Now Venice is focused on returning to her first love–writing. Bringing readers her ‘vibrant’ interracial romance stories, with characters that she hopes her readers will love as much as she does.

Will she buy that cottage with a lake-view, one where she’ll go for retreats to write, sing, blast her beloved music and dance? And, is there a hunky alpha male in her near future? Why, yes! Of course, yes! That’s the great thing she’s discovered while writing sweet romance– a belief that love and new found joy is always just around the bend.

Buy Links for BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE

BLACKOUT IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE

Look for Venice Kennedy at the following haunts
Bog ~ Love Blooms
Goodreads
Email
: venice@venicekennedy.com