Where is the love? Opening talk on closed doors.


Closed doors can be a chance to explore new ways of showing love and passion.

On the blog this month, I’m dealing with questions that have come up in the wake of the release of The Lawyer’s Luck and The Preacher’s Promise.  I plan to return to Reconstruction Era history in September, leading up to the release of The Mayor’s Mission in the fall.

One of the questions that has come up several times, but always in a respectful way is: Where are your love scenes?  Love scenes, in romance novel talk, usually means sexual activity.  I thought it was a great question to ask and I appreciate the opportunity to address it on my blog.

When I came into this new phase of my writing life—I came to understand that I was not very gifted in writing, believable, organic sex scenes.  I felt despair about this. I had a very interesting contemporary story premise that I wanted to share, but without those sex scenes, I knew it wouldn’t be possible to be heard.

Then I discovered  inspirational fiction and a light went off in my head.  I could tell stories about people who would struggle with the Christian principle of waiting until marriage to have sex, but I could still share stories about how that decision challenges my characters and their worldview.  When I came to that decision about where I fit in the writing world, an entire load came off of my shoulders.  It freed me and I wasn’t inclined to despair any more.

However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the expectation that, because I write about African American people, that I would be expected to show them having sex. My sister-in-law is one of my biggest supporters, but she shocked me one day when she said, “I don’t read books by African Americans.”  Stunned, I asked her why not.  She said, “There’s a lot of cursing, sex, drugs, and violence in books by African Americans.”

I don’t agree.  The selection of books by African Americans today is more varied than ever, and her statement conveyed to me that she was not looking hard enough for the books she wanted. (I despise the term clean—so I’m not using it—on purpose.  It strikes me as judgmental.) Her view did let me know, that from a marketing stand point, I could use a different kind of approach to signal to readers that certain elements would not be found in my stories. So I was grateful for her statement because it let me be more deliberate about how I would package my stores with the covers, descriptions, etc.

But I still got the question.

So now you have the answers as to why. I hope that people who read my stories don’t structure it as “something is missing.”  My characters will struggle with their decision making process as a part of their faith story arc.  My decision not to show lovemaking scenes, but to “close the door” should not characterize me as a prude.  As a reader, I still enjoy stories with organic, well-conveyed lovemaking scenes. A good story is a good story.  (Just don’t tell my father.) For me and my stories, I will do a lot with tension and conflict about those stories, but that won’t be  part of my brand.  I recognize that there will be readers who won’t ever want to read my stories because of that.  I’ve made my decision and I’m at peace with that possibility.

Sexual activity is about making choices.  Characters choose about whether or not to have sex. I, as the writer with my ability and view, feel happy that I am able to choose what goes into my story and what doesn’t and how.  I hope and pray readers still give me a chance, but if my “closed door decision is a deal breaker for a reader, that was my choice.

Fair warning:  people who know me know –I’m always doing something different.  If you are a wonderful someone who chooses to read my stories, thank you!   However, please know that I have some projects/approaches in the works that will be different.  I hope and pray you stick around.

Thank you one and all


breakthrough-headshot-21.jpgSoon, I will complete the process to make myself ineligible for next year’s Golden Heart contest.  Once I click on the button to publish The Preacher’s Promise, I will be the author of a full-length novel.  It’s an exciting step, one that I’ve looked forward to for all of my life.  I did not know this time last year that I would have to rely on my own strengths, decisions and money to make it all happen, but I have. Now the moment is here.

So instead of getting all historical on you today, I would like to say thank you to those who made this moment happen.  This means that instead of giving my prepared acceptance speech at RWA, I will put it on this blog—with some slight modifications.

Thank you to my family. They have been a great source of support to me, always.  My mother and father always believed in me.  My guys, DH and DS who don’t always know what I’m up to, but generously give me the space and time to do it. For my sister, who slipped in some promo on the plane ride home to the poor dude sitting next to her and my brother-in-law El, who has done the same on Facebook.  Thank you to my brother-in-law, Kenny who thought I should have published this first (I think he wanted to know what would happen to Amanda) and my sister-in-law who wanted “the whole book” (which will take some time). Thank you to my grandmother, Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Jean, the large Holt clan—especially Lynnie.

Thank you to Julie Hilton Steele, Vanessa Riley, the Masterminds, who told me to indie publish and I listened, Barb Andrews and the History Lovers, all of my Savvy NaNao partners, The Lucky 13s, the Dreamweavers, the kind and lovely folks at Romance Slam Jam, anyone who has signed on to the Home to Milford College Facebook page,  my author page, read this blog or followed me on twitter.   A big thank you to Spelman College, and my students who have long inspired me to take this particular journey.

The people of the past deserve to have their stories to be told and when JShan designed his covers, for me, it is as if he’s brought them alive to help me tell their stories.  Thank you.

It’s a whole new world. A whole new day for me. I’m delighted that you’ve chosen to take the journey with me. Thank you for doing so.

More inspiration for the Hero of The Preacher’s Promise–William Golden(ing)

There are no pictures of William Golden, so I'll just put Virgil here instead....:)

There are no pictures of William Golden, so I’ll just put Virgil here instead….:)

At various times since last October, I’ve spoken about my various inspirations for Virgil Smithson (the hero of The Preacher’s Promise).   Another real life figure that inspired my character (blacksmith, preacher and emerging political figure) is William Golden (also known as Golding). After the Civil War, in Liberty County, he inspired the formerly enslaved, to believe that gaining an education meant everything to the forwarding of the race, even as he himself, Golden, was illiterate. This desire to encourage others  has always been an interesting phenomenon since I’ve known several illiterate individuals  across my life.  How does an individual like Golden still encourage people to attain the the education that he didn’t?

Golden was a member of the constitutional convention of 1867-68, where measures befitting the Radical Reconstruction were written into a new constitution after the war. He was also a member of the Georgia House of Representatives between 1867-70. In 1870, he transcribed a letter to the American Missionary Association to ask them for a teacher. They sent Eliza Ann Ward, a New England teacher who had previous teaching experience in Savannah and Hilton Head. He, along with his family, donated land to the building of a school– Dorchester Academy– on the grounds of the old family plantation. They were willing to share the land that had been deeded to them by relatives of the Gaulding family–the former people who had owned them.

His few years of political power meant that the academy had a solid basis from which to grow on in the early years. Ward left within a few years’ time, due to poor health. In 1874, they attempted to get her back but although she showed a fondness for the people in the area (she sent clothes), she did not return. The AMA arranged for a minister-principal to show up and take Golden’s place. Even after the replacement came, Golden did continue to obtain extra resources for the school. Golden was willing to go the extra mile for education for others.

The political machinations of expelling African Americans from the Georgia State House began after 1870, and he was no longer in office. Golding fades from history after that, unfortunately. I suspect that when the tides of Reconstruction changed back to favor Democrat rule, there was some kind of campaign to omit the histories of the short-lived political careers of Negro men who tried to bring some order to the lives of the formerly enslaved. Dorchester Academy, built in Golden’s Grove,  existed as an educationalentity into the 1940’s.  The buildings still exist as a museum and community service centers.

One biographer, according to the Liberty County History Society, has Golden working as a janitor in Savannah toward the end of his life. Is that a defeat or did Golden have the ultimate victory of making a stand for education? The website says he almost certainly has descendants in Liberty County. Does Golding’s legacy in the insistence of education live on in them? I hope so.

My first book birthday!


A "Home to Milford College" prequel novellaToday is my first genuine book birthday for the release of  The Lawyer’s Luck.  I am pleased to announce my novella can be purchased in four stores. Print copies will follow soon on Amazon:

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Lawyers-Luck-Milford-College-prequel-ebook/dp/B00LBIKE38/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404215461&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Lawyer%27s+Luck

Barnes and Noble (Nook) : http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lawyers-luck-piper-huguley/1119878710?ean=2940149726448

Kobo:  http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-lawyer-s-luck

and in the iTunes store.

Feel free to go and buy! Start your journey, along with me, on the path to a proud academic tradition.  I appreciate your support!


Water was the way–how enslaved people escaped to freedom

The brave and daring tomboy who loves horses, Realie

The brave and daring tomboy who loves horses, Realie

Realie Baxter made a big sacrifice one March morning in 1844.  She dared to believe that she had a right to freedom and in her defiance, she ran away from her home and seventeen brothers and sisters. Still, the story of my character Realie and her flight to freedom is one that didn’t happen too often in the reality of nineteenth century life.

We are told so often about the wonders of the Underground Railroad, and how many escaped enslaved people used secret means to find shelter in accepting homes through codes with quilts being hung out and other paraphernalia. We learn in school of the Quakers and other white abolitionists who were willing to help enslaved people to escape. What we don’t know is that those incidents were the exceptions. They were the rarities amongst the very small percentage of those who were able to escape.

Most of the successful escapes occurred over water in some respect.  Frederick Douglass took a boat and two trains to freedom.  Harriet Jacobs escaped to hide in a swamp first and then moved to her grandmother’s garret for seven years until it was safe to go northward, by boat.

For Douglass and Jacobs to ensure that they were truly free for the remainder of their lives, benefactors had to make a financial transaction with their former owners and purchase them. Many of the enslaved who were in this position hated that money had to change hands, but it was the only way to ensure their liberty. This is the part of some of the “escape to freedom” tales that gets left out.  So-called “free” people were always looking over their shoulder unless they ensured their freedom by a financial transaction that occurred officially in a court or by with an official document–like a will.  As many saw in last year’s 12 Years a Slave, free people were never really free in the United States. It would take a war to free them after too many Realie Baxters dared to steal themselves to liberty.

The back of the book summary  for The Lawyer’s Luck:

Oberlin, Ohio – 1844

Lawrence Stewart is a rare man. Raised with his grandmother’s Miami Indian tribe, he’s a Negro with brown skin, and has consistently walked between two worlds most of his life. He devotes his time and study to becoming a lawyer, fully intending to obtain justice for the ousted Miami Indians. No Negro man has accomplished these things before, but he is not daunted. He studies for his exams as he rides circuit through the backwoods of Ohio, handing out justice to people who cannot easily reach a courthouse.  His life is perfectly set until one June day….

Aurelia “Realie” Baxter made her way from enslavement in Georgia to the free land Lake Huron in Ohio. Far from happy as a slave doing the bidding of a woman cooped up in a house all day, Realie is a bona fide tomboy with a special gift with horses. Now, she is so close to freedom in Canada, she can smell it, but her plans are interrupted when Lawrence shoots her…by mistake….

Lawrence cannot study encumbered with the care of an enslaved woman, but he’s responsible for her injury…

Realie wants to get to Canada, but Lawrence won’t let her get away in trying to help her…

One chance meeting can change your life from what you thought you wanted….to what you really need.


All about Historical Romance — a podcast


This went around on Facebook this week, but I want to make sure people had a chance to listen to this podcast.   I had the privilege of participating in a podcast with the legend of African American Historical Romance, Beverly Jenkins, and Kianna Alexander. LaShaunda Hoffman of SORMAG magazine moderated and was right in calling it a type of rehash of our Romance Slam Jam panel, which was not taped.  Give it a listen!