We are proud to announce it's our anniversary. Thank you for celebrating eight years with us. We are thrilled to be sharing this anniversary milestone with so many friends and members of our literary family.
~Eight years of READING, REVIEWING & RECOMMENDING~
Providing QUALITY reviews since 2005
Stepping to the stage is: Brenda Hampton
I often ask myself is anyone really listening or paying attention to the voices of those who cry out, on a regular basis, about the state of African American literature. There is no doubt that we’ve read numerous articles where some authors have thrown in the towel because they’ve had enough. We’ve seen blogs and Facebook posts where frustration is mounting, but when an author/reviewer/reader expresses their concerns, crickets sound off. Then there are those who feel the pain of what our industry is experiencing, yet they remain silent and prefer to whisper in their cliques about how messed up things really are. There is no sense of urgency regarding this matter, nor is there a sense of togetherness. Fingers point at those who write in certain genres, and according to some, had it not been for those doggone authors writing about thugs, prostitutes, pimps and hoes, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.
No one can pinpoint a specific reason as to why we find ourselves locked out of major publishing houses, looked upon as non-gifted writers and money hustlers. But that, indeed, has become our reality. From someone who eats, sleeps and breathes this industry, I feel compelled to lay down my burdens and keep it real. My stomach turns when I read poorly-edited books. I cringe at book covers that represent African American women and men in a negative light. And I am saddened for those who believe it is to their benefit to value their literary works at a mere ninety-nine cents. I scratch my head at authors who consider credible reviewers as “haters” and whenever many of those reviewers offer valuable information, only a handful of us are willing to say one simple word—thanks. I could go on and on about what I’ve witnessed over the past eleven years, but if I, Brenda Hampton, want to put some of the blame on anyone for the mess in which many of us have contributed to, I must look in the mirror. Change starts with me; after all, I am the creative one. If the industry in which I love so much is sinking like the Titanic, what am I prepared to do? How can I save it, and why can’t I use my ingenious mind that all real writers are gifted with to help make a difference? Many will reject the idea that I, and or you, have contributed to our downfall, but when we love something so badly, don’t we nurture it? Just like a business, don’t we do what we must to build it up? Is it our responsibility to teach those within our company how to run it or do we ignore them? We have to remember that we’re not in this business by ourselves, and whatever we contribute to it, good or bad, it is a representation of the whole company, not just part of it.
I think back to when I wrote my first novel. I had no idea what to do, how to do it or where to turn. I did, however, reach out to seek advice from certain authors, who shall remain nameless. Not one of those authors responded. I was shocked, but I did some homework, had my book edited and released it with a book cover my daughters had designed for me—bless their hearts. To make a long story short, after doing all of the research that I could do, I was still, in a sense, lost. As many authors do, I pushed forward, not realizing that I hadn’t hired the right editor, not knowing that reviewers would critique my book from front to back, and I was unaware that readers would leave my book on the shelves because they didn’t approve of my cover. The $19.95 price tag on it surely didn’t cause readers to dig deep into their pockets, and I even caught one lady laughing at it because the entire book was double-spaced. At that point in my career, I truly thought I knew it all, and shame on that lady for laughing at my book! Hater…she’s just jealous—that was what I thought, but realistically, I had failed myself. What I didn’t know was, many years later, I would still be in the learning stages.
I say all of this to say that, as writers, we can be educators too. While I make NO excuses for so-called authors who could care less about doing the right thing, whose half-ass efforts will eventually stall, and who ignore the state of our industry, I do have compassion for those who want to grow, learn and better their literary careers. I’m still looking in the mirror, asking myself, how can I help those authors? Can I educate them on a process that is unique in its own way, because, technically, you have to go through something in this industry in order to know something about it. Am I too busy, and or selfish, to share all that I have learned, in hopes that raunchy book covers, cheap e-books, and poorly written stories do not become the norm? More so, have I done anything, other than complain, about the very people I wasn’t even willing to help?
I am still a work in progress, and I will be classified as such until the day I retire from writing. But as we seek skillful and simple solutions that are vital to reversing the path in which we are traveling, I ask those who truly care to look in the mirror. Many of you already go to hell and back for others—you certainly know who you are. But for those who sit on the sidelines, check your reflection. Who do you see? Are you willing to take a stand for African American literature and help to give it new life? Can you be honest with upcoming authors who may not know better and who do not understand the process? Speak up and take action now, because if you don’t, I assure you—no, I guarantee you—that we will all fall together. Being affiliated with a bestseller’s list, having a galore of author friends, and even writing the best book ever will not spare your reputation. History will remember us as a defeated group of individuals who lost courage and failed to preserve AA literature. One author at a time…we can do it make our literary world a better place.
February is Black History month. Beginning February 1st, reach out to somebody in the industry who you know needs you. Post everywhere that you can: “I love Black literature. I’m an author, reviewer, editor, agent, publisher…How can I help you?” If you can’t answer the questions directed to you or if you’re not one-hundred percent sure, take the time to seek someone who knows. Allow the love for what we do to spread like a wildfire, in hopes that our conjoined efforts will begin to stabilize the shaky ground we walk on. Onboard? We shall see…
Brenda Hampton is a bestselling author, publisher and literary agent. Praised as the writer who brings the heat, Hampton’s literary career is filled with many accomplishments including being named favorite female fiction writer in Upscale Magazine as well as other literary nominations and awards. In an effort to show appreciation to her colleagues in literature, Hampton created The Brenda Hampton Honorary Literacy Award and Scholarship Fund. The award not only celebrates writers, but it also represents unique individuals who put forth every effort to uphold the standards of African American Literature.
It is FOR and ABOUT authors. Here we shine the light on authors who we’ve read, reviewed and recommend to others. In this edition we are shining our light on another gifted author...
Dijorn Moss was born and raised in Carson, California. Like most boys in Carson, he wanted to play for the Lakers. Despite being tall, he had zero athletic ability. His parents taught him that if he wanted something in life, then he had to be willing to work hard for it and not make excuses. They did not just talk to me about hard, they both modeled hard work. After the age of 10, Dijorn spent five years at a nonpublic school. It was difficult for him being teased for not going to a regular school like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, but he found a love for writing and basically wrote his way out of nonpublic school. He later went on to graduate from San Jose State in with a degree in English.
Dijorn is the author of “The Retreat,” “The Retreat 2,” and “My Father’s House.” He and his are living the good life in South Gate.
GETTING TO KNOW DIJORN…
If you had a 60 second Super Bowl advertisement, what would you want to show a billion people? I would want for the commercial to advertise my upcoming book: “When It All Falls Down.”
The trait I most admire in women is... wisdom.
What is your ringtone? My ringtone is the standards ringtone right now but I usually have a jazz ringtone.
Every man should own: Every man should own a Bible and a copy of Ralph Ellison's “The Invisible Man.”
What music do you hate and why? Heavy Metal and A lot today's Hip Hop because the music focuses more on noise than content.
My favorite snack is... Red Vines and Dr. PEPPER.
Which app would you be lost without? I would literally be lost without my Netflix app wand Google maps.
Lemonade or ice tea? Sweetened ice tea.
What was the first big thing you bought with your own money? I can’t remember the first big thing but recently I bought a Kindle Fire that is glued to my hand.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday? On Sundays my family and I like to go to church then we go to breakfast. I take a long nap and in the evening we go and get frozen yogurt and watch our favorite TV shows.
PRAISE FOR THE RETREAT
“I would have never thought a book about a men's retreat would have me intrigued. I enjoyed this book for different reasons…The Retreat is very inspiring, and will have you questioning your own relationship with God.” – Urban Reviews
“This book is absolutely inspiring and I encourage all to read. Great work, Dijorn! "The Retreat" has influenced me to redevelop my relationship with God for 2011.” - OOSA
PRAISE FOR THE RETREAT 2
“I read this book very quickly! It was so amazing how the situations in the book were so realistic.” – Sassy Queen
“I was quite impressed that this sequel was just as engaging as the first book. This is an excellent sequel that deals with four male friends and their relationship as well as the relationships and problems within their families.” – Lovely Lady
Stepping to the stage is: Ms. Toni
“You won!” It’s nothing like seeing or hearing those two words when you’ve entered a contest. In my best Cuba Gooding Jr. voice, “Show me my prize!” Like many today, I enter contests. Sure, the odds of winning may not always be great, but what the heck! Nothing to lose, something to gain. As an avid reader with a voracious appetite for books, book contests often come in handy as is the case with many readers. It fuels the reading addiction. But also as is the case with many readers, I’ve entered a contest and not received my prize. I got beat out of a box of books by a well-known and recognized literary organization. I won’t even pretend. I was HEATED! The years have passed and I’ve moved on, but to this day, I don’t and won’t support that organization. What I didn’t realize, though, was that this was such a hot button topic until I posed a question among a group of readers. The question was simply if anyone had ever entered a contest and not gotten their winnings. I didn’t hit send good before everyone had a horror story to relay. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Reader after reader recounted a contest or contests they entered and won sponsored by authors, publishers, literary radio shows and blogs and they never received their prizes. Winnings ranged from books to gift certificates to t-shirts. In response to inquiries about the contest winnings, readers have heard it all. “It’s in the mail.” “What had happened was.” “I don’t have any more books.” “Oh, that’s your address, I thought it was….” “The post office must have lost it.” “I never got the email with your address.” “I ran out of t-shirts.” “The author backed out of the contest.” My favorite would have to be, though, is the authors that don’t even bother to respond. Hello, can you hear me now??? I guess not.
It’s evident in today’s literary environment that for many the book business is just a hustle. Writing, publishing, selling, editing and even reviews – all a hustle…for some. Geesh! Are book contests the newest hustle? Are there authors, publishers and others somehow literary related that host contests for attention and exposure but have absolutely no intention of following through? Say it ain’t so! Well, when you have more readers than not that haven’t received their winnings, it’s a question that begs to be considered.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Things happen. We all know that sometimes mail gets caught in a black hole never to be seen again. I’ve been on both sides of the contest coin. I’ve sent the book that was never received. I’ve dealt with the winner that won the contest on Monday and on Tuesday was asking why they hadn’t received their book yet. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those who never planned to send a prize. Those that sent a prize after so much time has passed that the person forgot they won. Those that won’t respond to messages about the status of a prize but are all over Twitter telling you what they had for lunch or on Facebook playing Words with Friends. Those that send prizes only after a reader puts on camouflage and waits outside in the bushes in full stalker mode. I’m also talking about those that condemn these behaviors with their peers and publicly but behind closed doors are those very behaviors. And let us not forget those that flat out accuse winners of lying when contacted about not receiving a prize. Really? Yes, really. These authors do exist. You’d be surprised at who some of them are. Reader after reader can attest to it.
I’ve heard some say they didn’t know this or that was wrong because no one ever said it was. Well, I’m telling you today: It is wrong to hold a contest that you have no plans on following through with. Do not offer to send something you don’t have. Don’t create a contest and then have a lassie fair attitude about it. Don’t catch an attitude when someone asks about something you promised them. Don’t accuse winners of being liars.
Beat me out of a book or other prize and you’ve beat yourself out of support. You may have gotten the exposure, but not the kind you want and not the kind readers will easily or quickly forget.
Toni, co-founder of OOSA Online Book Club, is a voracious reader and reading is her favorite pastime. Diverse in her tastes, she enjoys many genres. Toni’s favorite authors include Eric Jerome Dickey, Jane Austen, Brenda Hampton, Keith Lee Johnson, Jackie Collins, Al-Saadiq Banks, J. D. Robb, Moses Miller and William Shakespeare.
It is FOR and ABOUT authors. Here we shine the light on authors who we’ve read, reviewed and recommend to others. In this edition we are shining our light on another gifted author...
Shamara Ray is a graduate of Syracuse University. She first enticed readers with her debut novel, Recipe for Love. Ray has a penchant for the culinary arts and enjoys entertaining friends and family in her Long Island home. She is currently working on her next novel.
GETTING TO KNOW SHAMARA…
What is your favorite type of music? That’s a tough question because I love so many types of music—R&B, jazz, rap, salsa and even some rock. Right now, I’m really into Rihanna and Brandy’s latest CDs. However, I have a special place in my heart for classic R&B from the 80’s. Turn on some Chaka, Prince, or The Whispers and I’m ready for an old school par-tay!
If I could go anywhere for a day, I would go...Relax on a hot, sandy beach in Aruba. I cannot get enough of that island. It’s the perfect place to chill and unwind. The water is warm, there’s always a gentle breeze and the Arubans are extremely pleasant. As I watch the cold rain fall outside of my window, I’m tempted to call my travel agent.
I think all women should own at least one...Cookbook. That may seem a bit archaic to some but, when it comes to romance, you know what they say … the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I love to cook and have learned that creating a sexy dish in the kitchen usually sets the tone for a delicious dessert afterward. If you don’t believe me, start the evening with a glass of wine and my Shrimp Puffs from Recipe for Love, then see what develops.
- Shrimp Puffs
- 1 cup chopped uncooked shrimp – peeled and deveined
- 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup milk
- 1 stick salted butter plus 1 tablespoon
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add garlic, rosemary and thyme and sauté one minute. Add shrimp and sauté until cooked approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a saucepan boil milk and butter together. Turn heat to low and add flour, stirring continuously until the dough comes together. Remove from heat and let cool.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Once the dough is cool add eggs one at a time and stir with a wooden spoon. Dough will be stiff.
After incorporating the eggs, add the shrimp and mix. Stir in the cheese.
Spray a mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray.
Drop a tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove shrimp puffs from pan and serve immediately.
Yields 48 puffs
What would you do with a million dollars? There are a few things that I would love to do with a million dollars. Before anything else, I would set aside a reasonable amount for savings/investments. I’d also invest in a niche eatery, either a breakfast bar or sandwich shoppe, which would be the go-to spot for my culinary creations. I would definitely purchase a writing oasis in the country or maybe on an island—a small place where I could enjoy a bit of solitude while writing my novels. Lastly, I’m a part of a wonderful group of women that have formed Karama Inc. Karama’s mission is to mentor young urban girls of color by exposing them to the opportunities available to them, while building their esteem and showing them how beautiful they are inside and out. I would use a portion of my million dollars to support Karama; we are always working to raise funds for larger, more impactful activities.
What do you do on Sundays? Sundays = Me Time. I enjoy a Sunday spent close to home with no hustle and bustle. Whether I’m writing, rollerblading, listening to music, cooking or entertaining family and friends, Sunday is all about what I want to do.
What is the last movie you went to see? Resident Evil: Retribution. My family is full of horror buffs. I went to see the latest installment in the Resident Evil franchise with my mom, sister and two nieces. It wasn’t the best movie, but Mr. Boris Kodjoe made it bearable.
You won't believe I've never...Gone to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Will my Native New Yorker card be revoked now?
Once in a lifetime chance, a date with any actor/athlete/celebrity/musician of your choosing. Who do you go out with? I would have to go out with Prince. Although I don’t play an instrument, his creativity and musicianship inspires me. I would love to pick his brain to see what makes him tick. I believe we can always learn something from others and Prince’s devotion to his craft is inspirational. Of course, he’d also have to sing one of his sexy songs to me during the date. I would most definitely request Adore.
What is the bravest thing you've done in your writing career? Allowing my father to read my spicy novels (and convincing him that I’m not a character in the books)!
I wish I could stop * my preoccupation with the passage of time* but I seriously can't help it. I’m still trying to figure out where 2012 went! Overall, it was a great year!
PRAISE FOR RECIPE FOR LOVE
“This book was very good. I enjoyed it!!! I also tried some of the recipes in the back of the book. They were excellent and easy to make.” – Pamela
“I could not put this book down. It was very good and very well written. I thought the author touched on a lot of topics that we women face or must face when going through relationships...the good and bad, the ups and downs.” – Miss. Jai
“Do not pass this book up because I think if you read it, you'll come away with the same feeling as me. Ahhhh...” – Jason Frost
PRAISE FOR CLOSE QUARTERS
“This is my first book by this author and I must say I was pleasantly surprised.” – L. Tindal
“This author has quickly become one of my favorites with just two books so far. I loved this book. Great Read!” - Viviette L. Carr
“What I did encounter reading Shamara Ray's book was pure excitement. This book reeled me in with a solid storyline, unforgettable characters, humor, surprising plot twists, and steamy love scenes.” - OOSA