Welcome everyone to 2020s second to last campfire. What a crazy year, right? Just a few things before we get to today's amazing guest. Agent Sam Carter and friends are soon to be back in action. I have a Goodreads giveaway going on until January 15th. If you haven't read my first mid-grade The Mystery At Branch Lake here's your opportunity. Join my Newsletter and get a link to download a free copy. Merry Christmas from me. Now let's get to today's intrepid camper.
Welcome back, Anna. What can I get for you? Coffee, tea, cocoa, wine? The camp fridge is like Aladdin's lamp you speak it, you get it.
A clementine Izzy please. I discovered I could buy them in my local grocery store instead of having to place an order at Chipotle.
Hmm, that's a new one for me. But let's test my with theory with the fridge. Oh, look at that. Here you go. For those who are curious like me and want to know what is a Clementine Izze? Sparkling Juices 70% fruit juice with a splash of sparkling water. Sounds delish, I'll join you. Now that we're settled, please remind us if you have ever camped or Glamped.
Camped, not glamped. I think the last time I was here I shared in an earlier post that I hiked an Adirondack trail and camped in old WPA lean-tos with a guy I was dating in seminary. Next I camped with my husband again in the Adirondack State Park but this time pitching a tent in a campground and cooking on a Coleman stove.
That's right, now I remember. I love Upstate New York. You've been a very busy woman this year. Tell us about your latest project.
I've got two on the drawing board: a holiday story set during Kwanzaa that uses the principle of Kuumba, creativity, to bring two estranged lovers back together as they try to recreate a cookie recipe. The other is an erotic time travel western tentatively titled Possessed By A Wylder Past.
They sound great. You're quite a diverse writer. What book are you talking about today and what’s on the horizon?
Today I’m talking about my second self-published novella, A Little In Love With Death. I wanted to write a second chance romance that has family secrets at its core, family secrets revealed by the presence of ghosts, but had a hard time figuring what those secrets could be. I hit upon the idea of using a dual time format to help me flesh it out and it worked wonders. I was able to develop the how and why of the secret affecting the present time story. In the end I liked the past time story so much I decided to split the two into their own books. A Little in Love With Death is the present time story of romance and reconciliation. The past time story, Always the Dead Between, is a ghost story with romantic elements. It will release in 2021 and, like all the novellas in my Haunted Harlem series, will have a brilliant cover designed by my fabulous cover designer Dawne Dominique.
I do love a ghost story and this book is in my to be read pile. Conception to publication is so varied among not only authors but books by the same author. How long did A Little In Love With Death take you?
Jeepers. I started this probably in 2012 and didn't pick it up again until 2019. So actually maybe a year but all told eight.
Do you have a tagline? Life Motto?
Life motto: Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly before God. Micah 6:8
That is one of my favorite verses. It wraps up our faith so simply, yet profoundly. Are there any mentors, authors, or books you would like to give a shout-out to?
As always I must give a shout out to Mary Buckham, mentor extraordinaire. I took my first RWA workshop with her on writing synopses and query letters. Talk about learning what you don't know. She was and continues to be the most generous mentor on the face of the earth. She's also the first person to force me to take myself seriously as a writer. Virtual hugs and kisses, Mary.
Mary sounds amazing. You're lucky to have such person in your life. Anna, can you tell us what literary success look like to you?
Creating community through the sale of my books with folk looking for stories told from an African-American lens who want to be enlightened, encouraged, educated and entertained.
You've certainly done that for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Haunted in Harlem book Haunted Serenade. It did all those "E" words for me. It's time for Life Hacks for Authors. Tips, tricks, or anything you specialize in that you would share with others. I’m also interested in how you have been managing your life and writing with COVID-19.
As this annus horribilis draws to a close, a trick I've been developing is learning to be playful. I have enjoyed creating a town with Christmas village buildings and figurines. In this playfulness I am not only finding rest but reviving my writing muse.
Wise words. We don't play and laugh enough as grownups. Now the fun questions.
Years ago, there was a commercial that talked about a “Kodak Moment.” It’s a moment in time you catch in a picture. One you never want to forget. What is yours?
I've had many but one that sticks with me happened on the subway in NYC. I was passing through the cars and passed a man who flashed me the biggest, brightest smile I'd ever seen. It touched my heart. I not only smiled back just as brightly but kept on smiling long after we'd passed one another.
Teach me something I don’t know in two sentences.
There are 54 countries in Africa. Ethiopia is the only sub-Saharan nation on that continent that was never colonized.
What is your favorite mug or teacup if neither T-shirt with graphic or Meme
I have so many, but lately my favorite mug is a 16 ounce white ceramic mug that has "Motivated by Cats and Caffeine" in black lettering above a black line drawing of a cat's head peeking out of a teacup. My mug has a tiny chip in the rim and my husband wants me to get rid of it. Not happening.
What’s your favorite fairy tale?
The Bremen Town Musicians
Favorite childhood book?
Last thing you googled? Why?
The last thing I googled the spelling of annus horribilis for this blogpost.
Ha, now its the last thing I googled and I bet there are readers now who are doing the same thing. Anna, thank you so much for stopping by the campfire. We always enjoy your visits. Can you leave a bit about your book and where we can find out more?
Ten years ago no one -- not even the man who said he loved her -- believed Sankofa Lawford's story of being attacked by a ghost. Ten years later a new ghostly assault brings her back home to a mother going mad, a brother dangling at his wits’ end and a former love wanting a second chance. She’s at a loss what to do because the pain created by memories of her own attack prove stronger than her desire to heal her family and find love again.
Mitchell Emerson believes science and reason can account for the ghostly happenings at Umoja House. He’s seeks a rational explanation that will prove him right while regaining Sankofa’s trust and love. What he learns leaves him shattered.
Now reluctant allies, Mitchell and Sankofa uncover years of lies that threaten to pull them apart until help comes from an unexpected ally: the ghost itself.
For the last hour Sankofa Lawford blinked through a haze of tears at her mother’s stricken face. She held the glassy-eyed woman’s hand and tried repeatedly to get her attention. No gesture stilled the older woman’s incessant rocking. No words penetrated her intonation of the same awful phrase.
“Them that tell don’t know and them that know don’t tell.
“Them that tell don’t know and them that know don’t tell.”
Wanda Lawford suddenly stopped rocking and stared in Sankofa’s direction. A bright glint of glee shone in her gaze.”
“Hope struggled for a foothold in Sankofa’s heart then slipped as a death head’s grin contorted her mother’s once beautiful features.
Sankofa forced the lump of sorrow down her throat. “Yes, Mama?”
With a grip made strong from madness, Wanda pulled her daughter’s hand to her chest and leaned in so her lips pressed against Sankofa’s ears.
“A word to the wise is sufficient. Have you been wise?”
Her hissed warning parodied whispered confidences mother and daughter had shared in the past. Sankofa kissed away a tear from her mother’s cheek.
“Yes, Mama.” She swallowed the lie with a smile. “I’ve been wise.”
Wanda Lawford cupped her daughter’s face and smiled, too.
“Good. I’m so sorry, so sorry. It shouldn’t have happened to you. It should never have happened to you”
Sankofa took a deep breath and controlled her sadness despite the wobble of her lips.
“Rest now, Mama. Rest. Okay?”
Wanda released Sankofa’s hand only to grip her own, rocking again, repeating again.
“Them that tell don’t know and them that know don’t tell.
Them that tell don’t know and them that know don’t tell.”
About the Author
As a native New Yorker, I thrive on the gothic novel that is New York City. My vintage and contemporary stories take place in African American communities like Harlem, Bed-Stuy, St. Albans and East New York. Although re-imagined in my story world, they're places I hope you will become intimately acquainted with as you and I become intimately acquainted.