• authors,  book launch,  Books,  interviews,  Uncategorized

    The Counseling w/ Marley Gibson

    Today I’m happy to once again have my friend, Marley Gibson here on ye old blog to talk about her newest book in her Ghost Huntress Series: THE COUNSELING

    Hi Marley I’m so happy to have you back on the blog to talk about another installment of your popular YA series Ghost Huntress. Tell us about it.

    What makes this world so exciting for you?

    I love Kendall’s world because I am master of all I survey…bwah ha ha ha!! Seriously…I like creating this setting with her friends, parents, etc., because we all know that how and where we grow up in our formative years really shapes us forever as a person. I wanted Kendall to be surrounded by support and love even though she’s going through a really touch time with her psychic awakening and all it has brought into her life. Besides, growing up int he South, I feel I know how to make a Southern town come alive with its quirky characters, oddities, and traditions

    Where do you get your ideas? I know you sometimes go on ghost hunts something I’d never do. I’d be way too scared. I believe there are ghosts among us I just don’t what to have any sit downs if you know what I mean.

    I get ideas from a variety of places – 1) mostly my warped imagination that likes to question and “what if” everything around me, 2) my even more warped dreams which are enhanced by the stomach medication I take at night with the side effect “vivid dreams, 3) listening in on other people’s conversations all the time, 4) things that happen to me or friends on ghost hunting adventures. I like to try and work in the realism of actual ghost hunts into the stories and often times, I will put in EVPs or details about things that we encounter at an allegedly haunted location. Come on, Kwana…go ghost hunting with me!

    Not me Mar! I’m totally afraid of Ghosts!! So what’s next for you?

    Well…GHOST HUNTRESS book 5, THE DISCOVERY comes out in May 2011. This will pick up where THE COUNSELING left off. I’m hoping that my amazing publisher will want more books in the series. In the meantime, I have several projects I’m working on, including the final edits on CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, which is the sequel to my CHRISTMAS MIRACLES that came out last year. CHRISTMAS SPIRIT will be out in October 2011. Other than that, just keeping busy with promotion, blogging, doing conferences and signings and traveling all over the US in my RV.

    Thanks so much Marley. It’s always fun to have you here.  See you on the road!

    Folks you can find more ghostly fun with Marley by going over to Books, Boys, Buzz and win prizes here all this week – http://yawriters.blogspot.com/and at Marley’s website at http://marleygibson.com/2010/08/28/awesome-giveaway-for-ghost-huntress-the-counseling/ – for contest, giveaway and prize package running through September 15th.



    Who watched the not so Real Housewives of NJ Reunion show? WOW Whee what a hot mess. Poor Andy. I hope he got a bonus for getting knocked around like that. My mouth was hanging open.

  • art,  artists,  interviews

    Interview with the Artist- Dawna from Dlmtle Art

    Hello everyone. Today I’d like to introduce you to an artist I found via Google, Dawna Morton.  I found Dawna in an unlikely way. Quite a few Sundays ago I was on the run, literally, to take the DD to 2 dance shows and had the vision of a Moody Sunrise in my head because it was a moody kind of day. So… long story, short I searched Google for a moody sunrise image and Dawna’s work came up with many others but her’s just jumped out at me. I put it up, said on my post, “image from here” and linked to her blog and ran out the door with the DD, running late as usual. The next day I hear from Dawna.. Lesson here: I should have asked before putting Dawna’s image up on ye old blog.

    But Dawna’s work at DlmtleArt is gorgeous and it should be seen and talked about. She’s kindly agreed to do a blog interview here. So let’s chat with Dawna.

     Dawna Morton self portrait

    Hi Dawna. Thanks so much for being here today. Please tell us a little about your background.

    How long have you been an artist? Is this something you’ve always done? Did you study at school?

    I grew up in the inner city area of Portland, Oregon. I have 2 brothers, a sister, 5 step brothers, and 5 step sisters. My Husband and I have 5 kids and a dog, and live on a forested half-acre overlooking the Columbia River.

    Although I did not seriously start trying to sell my artwork until three years ago, I have always enjoyed art. Starting with a childhood love of late night coloring, several ceramics courses and an art class in middle school, followed by some more art classes in high school, I went on to major in Fine Arts at Brigham Young University with the intention of entering the illustration program. Then after my Sophomore year of college I married my high school sweetheart, and my family became my full-time top priority–as it should be 😉 It was not until recently that I started putting more of an emphasis back on developing my talent as an artist.

    You paint and do photography? Please tell us what you love about both mediums?

    As a child I was shy, introspective, and quiet, so expressing myself visually was and still is easier than in conversation. I have always loved to play with color, and there is something about the creative process that is relaxing and therapeutic, causing my worries and cares to all fall away while I lose myself in the process and feel of moving the brush, pen, or pencil across the paper. Although I use many different mediums, watercolor is by far my favorite because I love its ability to capture the essence of sunlight.

    Photography is great because it gives me a creative outlet when life is too hectic to paint. I also love how since I have started selling my photos as well as my art, I find myself constantly on the lookout for the beauty that surrounds me. It gives me an excuse to get out of the house and go hiking, or just poke around the yard whenever the sunlight is “just right.” Recently I’ve been having fun experimenting and learning some new photo editing techniques to come up with something new and imaginative.


    Your love of nature is clear in your work. Is there a subject matter that you prefer or does it flow for you?

    At first my favorite subject was people–specifically people in my life and events involving them that were nearest and dearest to my heart. Even now, hope, joy, love, spirituality, and family are often themes in my art. It is perhaps because of how sunlight, water and other nature scenes symbolically express these themes that I am so fascinated with them as subjects.

    Since recently my life has been chaotic and hectically busy, lately I have been working on some less time intensive exercises to move away from photo-realism in my paintings by doing things like looking at a scene for 5 minutes, then painting it entirely from memory.


    I know you are a busy mother too. How do you manage your artwork and your family? What’s a typical day or week like for you? Is any day typical?

    I had a good laugh when you asked whether any day is typical. Some days I’m not sure there isany such thing. Dealing with a toddler, an infant, and three school-age children requires a lot of flexibility. I have to do a lot of playing things by ear and make the best use of my time based on whether the baby is crying, what the toddler is getting into, or if anyone is having a complete meltdown. My schedule is constantly in flux based on the kids’ developmental stages and activities–so I quite frequently have to learn to readjust my daily schedule.

    Managing my family and having time for my artwork is a bit of a balancing act. I try to make the most of all the little moments during the day when there is the opportunity to get two or more things done at once–all while trying to get enough quality time in with my family. I find that things like preparing ahead, being creative in my use of leftovers, making sure the kids all have adequate age appropriate chores, and taking time for spiritual nourishment as well as family fun helps keep things on a more even keel.

    I love that advice and it would help so many of us working moms!

    Thanks so much for being here again. You can contact Dawna for custom pieces or prints or greeting cards at:

    her blog is at  http://dlmtleart.wordpress.com/
    see Dawna’s art at http://dlmtleArt.imagekind.com
    For greeting cards and more visit http://www.zazzle.com/dlmtleart*




  • book launch,  Books,  interviews,  Wendy Toliver,  writers

    Lifted with Wendy Toliver and a giveaway!

    Happy Monday! And this is a special Monday because it’s the beginning of my birthday week so I’m sure you’ll all stop right now and join me in a moment of raucous cheer. No? Me neither. Actually like holidays my birthday usually gets me down so I’ll be relying on all you folks to keep spirits up around here.

    In order to do that I’m kicking off the week with some fun and I’m very proud to welcome my friend, the super talented young adult writer, Wendy Toliver to ye old blog. I met Wendy many years ago at one of RWA’s national conferences and we instantly hit it off. She has such a generous spirit and bubbly personality that you can’t help but be drawn in. I sure was.

    Today Wendy is here to celebrate the launch of her latest release: Lifted just out this month. It’s the story of a good girl gone bad. Here’s the blurb:

    Being bad never felt so good.

    Poppy Browne never stole anything in her life before moving to Pleasant Acres and meeting Mary Jane and Whitney. But when Poppy walks out of the mall with her two new friends and her first pair of stolen jeans, she’s hooked.

    Before long, Poppy is lifting whenever she gets the urge–it’s never about the merchandise, it’s always about the thrill. But when her secret gets out, Poppy’s clique turns on each other. As she watches her life collapse around her, Poppy must decide where her loyalties lie…and how far she’ll go to protect herself.

    Hi Wendy. Welcome!
    Tell us what made you write about the controversial topic of teenage shoplifting?
    I wanted to write about an issue that is familiar to most people. I watched a TV documentary on teenage shoplifting and got to talking to friends and discovered that most everybody has shoplifted at least a pack of gum sometime in his or her life or knows someone who has. Then, to make it extra controversial, I chose a Bible belt town as the setting.

    You’ve had a variety of jobs in a short amount of time including acting and even singing telegrams. What brought you to the world of writing?

    I’ve always loved writing, and when I was a freelance copy writer, I had an experience in LA that I thought would make a good story so I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. I went about it all wrong (though I did finish the manuscript, which is a good thing) and was glad when someone suggested I join a writing organization like RWA. That was the best thing I could do because it taught me about the industry, gave me ways of meeting new friends with similar interests and goals, and eventually paired me up with my first literary agent.

    Why do you enjoy writing young adult?
    I really enjoyed that point in my life. Everything is so exciting and the future is wide open. I love that both adults and young adults read it, and there’s something extra special about getting fan mail from teenagers. In general, they’re so enthusiastic and it makes it all worthwhile.

    You are the mother of three energetic young boys and whenever we talk it’s usually hands free and all the go. How do you find the time to write? What’s your schedule like?
    Ha! Lately it’s been really hard because 2 of my boys are in school but school’s out for summer. Basically I get all my internet correspondence done over breakfast and write a couple of hours in the afternoons when they’re playing outside or resting. If I find they’re not cooperating I can also hire a “mommy’s helper” to keep tabs on them while I have writing time. When I’m on a really tough deadline, though, I am lucky that my mom will fly in to take care of my family. With Lifted’s revisions, I was writing 20 –hours a day and I couldn’t have done that without her help.

    What’s next for you?
    I’m really not sure! I just sent a sweet middle grade proposal and a paranormal YA proposal to my agent. I’m eager to hear what she thinks!

    Thanks so much for being here. Lifted is a fabulous story full of heart and style as all your stories are. I can’t wait for my DD to read it.
    Kwana, thank you so much for having me on your blog. And I hope your DD likes it!

    Also, if anyone would like a shot at winning a Border’s gift card and other fun prizes, please contact me via my web-site. Write the word “contest” in your message, as well as your name and US mailing address. This contest will go on the entire month of June. Good luck! And of course, we’re giving away a copy of Lifted to one lucky commenter. So comment away or ask a question. Winner will be announced on Wednesday!
    You can find Wendy at her website here:   www.wendytoliver.com 

    or follow her on twitter at:  www.twitter.com/wendytoliver


  • authors,  Books,  interviews,  writers,  writing,  writing life

    Going Uptown & a giveaway!

    Happy me, I have an author interview today on ye old blog and it’s one that’s close to my heart since it speaks to my Harlem roots.

    I’m proud to welcome The New York Times Bestselling collaborative writing team of Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant here at Kwana Writes today to speak about their newest release UPTOWN. Whee!!! Insert bells, horns, whistles and marching band here.

    First off a little blurb about UPTOWN:

    A story as big as New York City itself. Enter the world of Uptown where you’ll find a prominent New York family strained to the breaking point by the high stakes Manhattan Real Estate Industry…….

    After twenty years of Foreign Service abroad, Avery Lyons returns to New York when her mother and uncle suffer a serious car accident. The tragedy brings the family together, but Avery is not happy about reuniting with her cousin, Dwight, from whom she has been estranged since the fallout over a college scandal. Avery no longer recognizes the tony, prestigious neighborhood of her childhood but the same old family dynamics and secrets are all too familiar. ….

    Heir to a real estate empire, Dwight is willing to do anything to realize his aging and demanding father’s dream: Dixon Plaza, a luxury high-rise development on Central Park North, the last undeveloped border of the city’s famed emerald park. There’s only one thing in his way: Avery has inherited a share of the property Dwight needs. She’s more than willing to sell until she starts dating a reporter on a mission to uncover the truth behind the rumored shady dealings surrounding the complex. ….

    Are you intrigued? Are you in? Trust me the read is even better…

    Now to Virginia and Donna… Thanks so much for being here.

    What drew you to Harlem for the setting of UPTOWN?

    Situated at the top of Manhattan, Harlem has been an iconic community and a cultural Mecca since the turn of the 20th century. We both also have connections to Harlem. Donna’s Mom was raised on 143rd Street. Even though the family had moved to Brooklyn by the time she was born, Donna remembers trips to Miss Helen’s beauty shop on 7th Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Blvd) and her own forays to the Apollo, Sylvia’s and other spots during her college years.

    In the early 80’s Virginia’s first NYC apartment was on 110th Street (now Central Park North) in one of the buildings “owned” by Uptown’s, The Dixon Group. We first get to know apartment 5D, and it’s glorious views of Central Park, in our book Better Than I Know Myself (where we gave Regina, Jewell and Carmen’s Virginia’s old apartment). So, when we decided to explore real estate development and gentrification, we realized we had already set the stage.

    What is it about now that makes this the right time for this book? (As a New Yorker I think I know the answer to this one)

    Real estate was the gold rush of the 2000’s. In so many parts of the country people were buying and flipping houses and apartments like they were pancakes, and luxury developments sprung up in neighborhoods that had never been in play. Harlem was one of those places where new development bumped up against a community with an established history and culture. The conflict allows us to pose questions about the rights of people who have enough money to pay for whatever they want, vs the rights of those who have a history in a particular area.

    You have written such strong characters in UPTOWN. Can you talk a little about your character inspirations specifically for Avery, Dwight and the Larger than life, King?

    Avery Lyons, like so many of us, carries a burden of hurt, anger and resentment for actions that have taken place in her past. And like many of us, she doesn’t realize how those feelings continue to impact her life. We wanted to force her into a corner, where she’d have no choice but to deal with them and see what happens.

    Dwight Dixon, and his father, the overbearing and ornery King Dixon were characters from Better Than I Know Myself who caused “strong” reader reaction. They had one of the classic, co-dependent, love-hate, father-son relationships and we really get to explore that dynamic in Uptown. King started buying properties that no one else wanted in Harlem decades ago and has amassed a sizeable fortune as a result. King’s out-sized personality casts a giant shadow—one Dwight is tired of living in and he’s determined to create his own spotlight. 

    How about some fun? If you could give UPTOWN a theme song what would it be? I’ll start, for some reason A Family Affair kept running though my mind. What about you both?

    Let’s hear it for Sly Stone! We love that choice–Donna’s first concert adventure, when she was 14 was Sly & the Family Stone at Madison Square Garden, and Virginia first saw them at a “joint” in Buffalo called the Pine Grill for a cover charge that was about $3.00!! But that’s a whole ‘nuther story.

     First things that come to mind are Stevie Wonder’s Livin’ For the City, and Bill Withers Harlem–both very old school, but there’s a lot about the vibe that’s old school. And then we’ve got a remix–Take Grandmaster Flash’s The Message–“A huh huh, It makes me wonder sometimes, how I keep from going under.” Add a sample from The Jeffersons, Moving on Up, “Finally got a piece of the pie,” and add a new spin that looks at the world in 2010. Clearly, we have moved into some kind of hallucination here, but it’s interesting that people have associated Uptown with music. We have a friend, Valarie Adams, who is a singer/song writer. She has written an Uptown theme song–we hope to get it posted online shortly. Maybe that means there’s supposed to be a soundtrack. We like that idea since we now have a production company and are working to produce Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made–The Movie, so soundtracks are definitely part of the equation (Regina King is already attached. We’d love to keep your readers posted. They can join our mailing list on the website,  http://deberryandgrant.com/DGContact.html, or keep up with us onFacebook.com/deberryandgrant and twitter.com/deberryandgrant for news. . .) 

    Now for a little writerly/publishing talk. As a writing team I’m curious as to how you both make it work. I know I for one can reconcile things with myself (I know, issues) let alone another person. Does being best friends help? Ever put a strain on things?

    Our friendship, which started while we were competition–during our time as plus size models at the same agency–has never been in question. If we never worked together, we would be friends who are more like sisters. Our working partnership has only enhanced our friendship. It means that whatever situation we are in, there is always one person in the room you trust without question. It also means that we can say whatever needs to be said to each other, knowing it comes from a place of love. As writing partners, we leave our egos at the door. What we strive to create is a single voice that combines our separate voices. That voice is The Author of our work and it’s vital that no one can tell what either of us has written–we can’t tell either. For as much as we are alike, we are very different, and we allow each of us to be ourselves. In fact, the differences keep our writing fresh. And did we say, we still have fun doing what we do? It’s the best scam–getting to work and travel with your best friend and still be able to call it work. Shhhh, don’t tell anybody.

    Ok  I won’t. LOL. Now where do you see multi-cultural fiction heading in the future? Forward, backwards, stuck in neutral?

    What we need, and currently find a struggle to realize, is the freedom to be individuals. We seem to be considered as a monolith–as though we speak with one voice and therefore there is only the need to tell one story. There is no single story of African Americans, as there is no single story for any group of people. But whether we write mystery, romance, thrillers, urban, historicals, erotica or contemporary fiction, we all fall in the same category, “African American Lit,” which describes our ethnicity, not the content of our writing.  Our work is labeled, categorized and handicapped, before it’s out of the gate, before it reaches the bookstore shelf or online link. What the two of us write is women’s fiction with Af-Am characters–stories of struggle and triumph, loss, coping, love, life, and learning, but many readers who might enjoy our work because the theme might be relevant to their lives (like What Doesn’t Kill You, our last book about a woman who loses her job after 25 yrs), don’t ever see it because it’s in “that” section. We wrote a blog about this subject a few years ago and repost it every year–because, sadly, it’s still relevant. (Nov 20 entry-Writing White. http://bit.ly/3isaSI) . There’s been a lot of conversation in online lit communities about diversity and multiculturalism—and we’ll have to see where it goes—if there are actual changes that take place. But as long as books like The Help and Little Bee, written about black folks, by non-black folks and time capsule novels about African Americans from slavery to pre-civil rights, stories that focus on our strife, struggle and resulting pathology are allowed the spotlight,  while wonderful works of fiction about our contemporary lives—black folks, dealing with the challenges and issues inherent in today’s American experience, languish, unnoticed; when writers like Celeste Ng, find themselves forever compared to Amy Tan, http://huff.to/8bN9V2, a resolution to the multi-cultural lit issue will remain elusive. Chimamande Adichie said it wonderfully in her speech, The Danger of a Single Story,http://blog.ted.com/2009/10/the_danger_of_a.php , at a recent TED conference.

     Finally, what can we look for next from you two?

    We have worked out the plot for our next book, which again seeks to pair a currently hot topic with a personal story, and look forward to getting back to the writing cave to work with it. We also continue to work on our production of Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, and support the producer who seeks to bring Far From the Tree to the screen.

    Virginia & Donna

    I have to say once again how honored I am to have had Virginia and Donna on the blog today. I’m so happy to have met them through the online community.

    And YAY, Virginia and Donna have agreed to host a giveaway today. One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of uptown. So comment away we’d love to know your thoughts on today’s post. Winner will be picked by midnight on Wednesday.

    You can find Virginia and Donna at all these cool places. Go and say hi:
    Website: http://deberryandgrant.com
    Blog: http://twomindsfull.blogspot.com