Monday, February 28, 2011

March Newsletter

It's been a brisk February. Blog tours. Physical tours. Meeting new and old friends. Airplanes. Head colds. And the challenge of squeezing two weeks of clothes into a carry-on bag. All that has come to a close - except for the cold - with March being already here.

In the midst of all this, I decided to dare myself to write a new book in two months as suggested by an article in Psychology Today. The clock doesn't start ticking until I get back home March 2nd but I'm already feeling the heat. Check back with me May 1st to see how I do.

For March, enjoy and make the most of National Women's History and National Poetry Month. Celebrate the female ancestors, write the poetry of your lives.

Until next time!

- Fiona

To see the entire March 2011 newsletter, click here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My interview with Author, Producer, and Playwright Cheril N. Clarke

New Jersey based author and playwright, Cheril N. Clarke has a new book coming out this month. I invited her to share about this new project, The Beautiful People: New Orleans.

What is the The Beautiful People about—who are they?
The Beautiful People is a six-part, non-traditional short story series that I’m writing this year exclusively for ereaders. It centers on a core group of four friends who love to travel. They meet up in a different city every other month for a weekend of exploration, fun, partying and a much needed break from the daily grind of their careers.

When you say non-traditional what do you mean?
Well, there is no formal plot. There is no lead character who is trying to overcome an obstacle. Every character is important as they all drive the series. And because each installment is set in a different locale, the cities themselves become a character—adding their own uniqueness to the mix. The Beautiful People is an alluring string of titillating scenes. It’s not erotic, but it has some steamy moments. It’s not a drama, but there will be some spectacles. It’s risky, pushing the boundaries of what people consider “normal,” “good,” “bad,” and even “sexy.” It challenges stereotypes and reminds us that what appears beautiful may indeed be ugly and what we think is ugly may be deceptively stunning. It’s about character and the randomness of life¾our ascensions and our faults.

How is this difference from your previous works?
Aside from what I mentioned above, this is different in that it’s the first time I’ve committed to writing such a long series that, in fact, has the potential to go well beyond six installments if people like it. I would love to have a story set in Shanghai, Johannesburg, Dubai, or Vienna. The Beautiful Peoplereally stands apart because of the possibilities. Unlike any of my previous works, this project will allow me to draw my readers into the world of new, luxe characters as well as exotic locations around the world. It’s also more diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexuality, which is…honest, I guess one could say. Its fluid and not a big deal; it just is what it is without apology.

You haven't written a novel in a while, have you abandoned them for shorter works?
I wouldn’t say that. Novels are still my first love, but at this point in my life I really just wanted to experiment and go in a different direction with my work. I wanted to do something that was challenging that could also keep up with our ever-changing pace of life. These stories are written for the reader who is using an e-reading device and/or their smart phone. It’s good entertainment for the frequent traveler, the mass transit commuter and those who are squeezed for time but miss reading a good story. The installments don’t require a large time commitment but still promises to entertain. I do plan on compiling them at the end of the year and offering them in print format, which will have a few new stories. I promise to get back to novels in 2012/2013. :)

What's next for you and when will The Beautiful People be available?
The next five installments! I actually haven’t written them yet, but I do know where they will take place: Las Vegas, South Beach, New York City, Washington DC and Atlantic City. At the same time, I’m still working on the screenplay for Losing Control, which is based on my fifth novel of the same name. I’m hoping to move into the production phase of that project this year.
The Beautiful People will be available on February 15, 2011. If one doesn’t own a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or Sony ereader, etc., they can still read the stories using’s free app for PCs, Blackberries and Android devices.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Cheril.
Anytime, it’s been quite the pleasure! We should do this more often.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Interview with Author and Poet, Claudia Moss

  1. Tell the readers out there about you, some key part of your personality as well as your persona as a writer.
I love the body in motion.  I love my body when I am as fluid as the ocean, swaying and twirling, sashaying and spinning, high heeling it in a silky, ruffled-hemmed skirt or prancing sensually under a fan of feathers.  Dance energizes me, thrills me.  I come alive when my body is free to express itself electrically, so if anyone would ever want to regale me, a word to the listening would be to clear a stage for the marriage of movement, music and me!

When I sit to write or read, I flow freely in another way.  As I create, I slip into imaginary worlds and inhale the setting, stand up in the conflict and deeply feel the emotions coursing through my characters.  Same as I can dance for hours, I can write twice as long, my body oftentimes complaining under such stillness and mental activity, usually in the heat of the night, all night.

  1. If You Love Me, Come is your second novel. Between your first and a flurry of short stories and poems, there was a ten year gap before this one was published. Why so long a hiatus?
Excellent question, a query I expected only from you.  (thoughtful smile)  I wrote the first novel while teaching high school English, during the summer months, sitting down to write daily.  My baby was kicking and gurgling in his chair at my feet.  Hours of quiet were mine for the taking.  Consequently, I finished DOLLY: The Memoirs of a High School Graduate amid very little distractions in 1987.  Though married at the time, usually, I lived a solitary existence outside of the classroom.  In addition, a Sapphic butterfly, I was slowly coming out of the cocoon of my closet, and writing was a vehicle to birth that part of myself.

The more I wrote, the more the closet door opened.  Eventually, I started writing my second novel, If You Love Me, Come, and somewhere after less than 100 pages in, my pen sighed, stopped, and ached for validation.  That led to me sharing the opening chapters with the librarian at the high school in which I taught.  She loved the story, the characters, and she suggested that I send what I had to Marie Dutton Brown, who was highlighted in a feature story in the Atlanta Journal at the time.  I took a chance and called Ms. Brown one Sunday.  She answered, said she wasn’t accepting new writers.  Yet I continued to talk enthusiastically and eventually she reneged, asked to see the first 75 pages.  When I finally sent them to her, she loved “the flavor of the South” in the writing and accepted me as a client.

My dream was finally coming into fruition.  I could see my name in lights…until a power shortage left me fumbling.  Consulting with the College Board, I stopped teaching to write full-time.  My marriage crumbled.  The closet door creaked closed behind me.  And I discovered myself in a place I’d never been before; struggling to survive, I slipped into a deep depression and the novel was no more.  Writing shorter, tighter, more intimate, immediate pieces saved me, until I returned to the novel, years later, and finished it to the tune of 600 pages.  I sent the work to Ms. Brown, who loved it but directed me to cut it to 300 pages.  More years lapsed, what with me thinking I adored the work as it was, and wondering how I could part with words or chapters.  While I wavered and procrastinated, life and Ms. Brown moved on.

Eventually when I accomplished the objective, cutting the work to 333 pages, I met with a chilly reception in Ms. Brown’s New York office and was promptly informed me she was not accepting new authors.  So I shopped it around in an atmosphere in which publishers were tightening their fiscal belts and met with a stream of rejections.  It was a disheartening time, until I began writing for BLACK ROMANCE magazines and interviewed new author, E. Lynn Harris.  He, too, had met with rejections on his first manuscript, which led to his decision to self publish, something I didn’t want to do, although my sister Glenda had persistently encouraged me to invest in myself, like Harris did with Invisible Life.  The day came when I did precisely what I’d feared, and there was nothing to fear but fear itself.

  1. I’ve read a bit of the novel as well as the synopsis, but tell me in your own words what this new novel about?
If You Love Me, Come is the story of what happens when life takes you to the valley floor and you can make the decision to stay and wallow in your sorrows or go the only way Love beckons you to go: up. 

Always when we feel lost, there is someone present, be it a stranger or a loved one, who mysterious appears, and takes us by the hand, encouraging us to follow, if we love him or her….if we love ourselves.

Free Roberts is no different, nor is her good girlfriend Sharmayne, her boyfriend, J.T., her sister Rhonda, her mother Pastoria, nor the woman who asks her father the same question for 28 years.  Like all of us, each must learn to trust something greater than self.
  1. You’ve written very sensually in your previously published stories. Can we expect more of the same in this novel?
Definitely!  In this novel, a smoldering sensuality burns when Free and J.T. come together and sizzles when Sharmayne and Nzinga fall into one another’s arms, although Pinky and her lovers know a different sort of give and take, that is, until a lover of a different ilk enters her world.
  1. Which of your characters from If You Love Me, Come is most like you, and in what way or ways?
(Soft laughter)  Me gusta esa pregunta.  Many of my characters are pieces of the main, me.  Free fulfills one of my dreams of owning a bookstore, a community hub where people are able to come and lunch and read and socialize.  She’s outgoing, positive and enigmatic.  But Rhonda is an English teacher with one son and Pastoria is shrouded in mystery, while Pinky is consumed with a longing that aches to be satisfied.  In the final analysis, we are all one.
  1. Parts of the novel have a feel similar to that of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God with the use of dialect and the strong connection of the characters to the natural world. Were you conscious of that while writing?
Although I adore the work of Zora Neale Hurston, I was conscious only of my grandmothers’ voices, especially my paternal grandmother, Sophie Mae Moss.  She and my maternal grandmother, Pearlie Mae Young, made my family’s trips to the South delightful every summer we visited from Waterbury, CT.  My mother passed away when I was in the ninth grade, and my grandmothers stepped in to take my siblings and me by the hand and guide us into young adulthood.  Both women were amazing, enterprising, Southern matriarchs, loved and respected by many in the small towns of Tuskegee, Roba and Little Texas, Alabama.
  1. Which writer has had the greatest influence in your life?
Toni Morrison has awed me from the first time I cradled The Bluest Eye and marveled at the language, the working of the mind, the depths of emotion, the snapshot of a child’s mind, one in which the gift of blue eyes would mean transformation on many levels.  Friends and colleagues confided their mixed admiration towards Morrison’s work over the years, telling me she exacted too much from them.  They didn’t want to stretch, to give a fictional work that much mental energy, since escape was usually their desire, not mental rigor.  But me…I love Toni for all of the reasons they complained of and countless more.

Toni teaches me to love language, to fall in love with words and meaning again and again, with each novel she publishes.  She’s a workshop, a beloved college course.  I love Paradise, though I haven’t treated myself to her novel Love as yet, what with me being immersed now in my own writing, publishing and promoting myself.  I love the way Toni captures the voice of women from different social strata, with different experiences with society and men; I admire how she places them in memorable houses and history and breathes the breath of life into them, making them as unforgettable as African-American heroines from the annals of history.
I even discussed her work on Facebook, her latest novel a mercy.  Wow!  I can yet feel the euphoria from the experience.

And I have always loved the work of Fiona Zedde, from that first evening I sat, spellbound, in a Charis open mic, under the music of silence and your fluted, Jamaican reading voice.  Like the audience, I was whisked to another world as you read the beginning of what was to be Bliss, your first novel.  Your writing holds the capacity to leave the reader breathless, much like being serenaded by a charismatic woman who leaves me sweating and struggling to utter something intelligible.  The imagery in your stories is a study in itself, not to mention the palpable sensuality, the romance wed with eroticism, the dropping one off in a setting and atmosphere and mood that defies fiction. One thinks… ‘I know this is real, because I am there.  I know these people.  I want to “know” this woman.’  At various points, with each of your novels, from Bliss to A Taste of Sin to Hungry For It, I have read your words to enraptured listeners, who have begged me to share more and more, and preferably in the sweetness of the night.
That said, I will admit I’m looking forward to reading your latest work, DANGEROUS PLEASURES.
  1. Where can interested readers get your book and find out more about you and your writing?
Right now I am in collaboration with Charis Bookstore and Amazon to have the novel available on their websites before its release date of February 11, 2011.  Interested readers can contact me at missclaudiamoss@gmail to order the novel.  My Author Website will go live this month, and on that site,, readers will be able to order the novel and learn more about me.

Love, Lovers, Beloveds

Well, the book is finally out! It's been so long that I'd almost forgotten the mania and excitement and anxiety that come with a new release. "Will the readers like it?" "What parts should I choose to read at the signing?" "What are the reviewers going to say?" But I have definitely been reminded.

Dangerous Pleasures' arrival was a great birthday present - it came out the day after my birthday - and the book release party in Tampa was a fabulous continuation of the birthday celebrations. The party itself was a wonderful success. I can't thank enough the people who came out to share this tremendous occasion with me. Five print books in and I still feel giddy....

To fĂȘte Dangerous Pleasures, spread the word in your communities about the book, write an online review, put a fresh copy in a friend's hands. And, as always, thank you for reading my books and supporting bookstores.
Until next time, celebrate love. Celebrate Black history. Celebrate Life.

- Fiona

To read more from the February newsletter, click here.