Tag Archive | relationships

I Am Change That’s Beautiful for Situation: SIFTING THROUGH MUD by Demetria Foster Gray

3D Book Cover - Sifting Through Mud - July 2014 - resized smallIn the dirt

lies all the ingredients

for change

Like a caterpillar,

she takes in

what is meant for harm

and it hardens,

then blooms

into something beautiful.

Change becomes the breeding ground

for growth,

the place

where whom she was meant to be

can finally come forth.

~by A.C.

Excerpt from Sifting Through Mud

         Untangling myself from the covers, I roll over to look at the clock on my nightstand. Who the hell is banging on my door at six-forty in the morning? It better not be Wesley. I told him my thighs were no longer open for business, and that he should focus on fixing his marriage instead of running around like a sex-crazed bachelor.

         I let my head fall back onto the pillow, hoping whoever it is goes away. Except the ringing and banging doesn’t stop. I jump out of bed, grab my robe, and scamper down the stairs.

         “Why didn’t you tell me you were seeing Nathan?” Nyla storms into my house like a wild fire on crack when I open the door. “How is that something you don’t tell me?” she demands, throwing her handbag fiercely onto the foyer table.

         Panic strikes me hard in the chest. Who told her? How does she know?

         “What do you mean?” I play dumb, buying myself some time.

         “You know what I mean.” Now thrusting her car keys on the table, except they bounce off and hit the floor. She pivots around to face me, her hands hard on her hips.

         I freeze up. My whole body goes into lock down as if all my muscles and organs have run for the hills, leaving me stumped and stupid.

         Nyla’s eyes bulge with rage. “My husband was a patient of yours and you don’t tell me that? How can you not tell me that? I had no idea he was seeing a shrink.”

         What? Huh? My brain is tripping over itself trying to understand what’s happening. I try to move but my body is still frozen. What is she talking about? I thought she was referring to the reckless affair, the mating with her husband. But that’s not it at all because I’m sure she would’ve slapped me or punched me or taken out a gun and shot me by now. Something’s off base here and my brain is being very slow in its tabulation.

         “How can we be friends this long and you don’t mention a thing like that?” she hisses. “What kind of a friend are you?”

         Finally it hits me. This isn’t about the affair with her currently dead husband. I’m safe. I dodged the bullet yet again.

         Well, sort of.


Author Photo - Medium sizeMeet Author Demetria Foster Gray

Demetria Foster Gray is a novelist, freelance writer, and communications consultant. She earned a degree in Marketing Communications and spent the bulk of her career writing for the corporate world. Creating fictional characters and building stories has always been her first love. A native of the Chicago, IL area, Demetria now lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Sifting Through Mud is her debut novel. Visit Demetria at http://www.demetriafostergray.com


Author Links:

Website: DemetriaFosterGray.com

Facebook: DemetriaFosterGray.Author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DFosterGray

Amazon Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sifting-Through-Demetria-Foster-Gray/dp/1500669334/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407967863&sr=8-1&keywords=sifting+through+mud




Author Interview Q&A

For the Novel Sifting Through Mud

(August 2014)


  1. What did you do before becoming a writer? How has your career path led to or shaped your writing career?

I’ve been a writer for quite some time that I barely recall what I did before. I’ve spent over twenty years as a marketing and technical writer in the corporate world. However, underneath all my corporate layers, fiction writing was always drumming to come out, wanting desperately to take the lead. So I let it out.


  1. Why did you write Sifting Through Mud?

I wanted to see under what circumstances a woman and her husband’s mistress could become best friends. I like stories about women and the adversity they go through to overcome challenges and beat the odds against them. Plus, I love strong female friendships and the ties that bind them, shape them, and give them courage to grow.


  1. What can women learn from Nyla?

They can learn resiliency, understanding, and the art of unconditional love. Nyla had to learn each of these as she navigated her friendship with Vivian.

  1. What are three things that a couple needs to make a marriage work?

Ha ha! If I knew the answer to that, I’d bottle it, sell it, and put an end to all the divorces. I’d be rich.


  1. Why did you become a writer?

Because that’s the only thing that fits me like a glove. I feel at peace and at home when I write.


  1. Bravo’s reality TV brand, The Real Housewives, is very popular today.  If Nyla were a character on one of these shows, how would she interact with the other wives?  What would the wives say or think about her situation?

Nyla would think all The Real Housewives were coo-coo-crazy. She probably wouldn’t interact well with them, and they probably wouldn’t appreciate Nyla’s snooty opinion of them. In the novel, Nyla’s friend Lettie operates like she could be a cast member on The Real Housewives. Nyla and Lettie’s relationship depicts a great example of how Nyla would interact if she were on The Real Housewives.


  1. What tips would you give other aspiring writers on how to complete and submit a novel, and survive the publication process?

In this business, you have to have a thick skin and faith in yourself. Completing a novel and surviving the publication process takes extreme faith, endurance and a thick skin. If you don’t have any of these, you may want to rethink your writing journey. My one tip would be this: Make sure you want it bad enough to endure all the pitfalls and obstacles. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of your time.


  1. What impact do you want to leave on the literary world?

I would like to inspire, uplift, and entertain all those who come in contact with my literary work.


  1. Describe your writing process or rituals.

I really don’t have a process. I just sit down and write. I’ve tried to put processes in place many times, but I typically get bored with the routine of it and end up ditching it after a few weeks.


10.   What are you most passionate about in your life?

I love obtaining inner wisdom and strength and sharing that knowledge with others. Tapping into our spirituality empowers us to operate at remarkable levels. It gives us divine focus, freedom, and courage to be and do what we were called to be and do.




3D Book Cover - Sifting Through Mud - July 2014 - resized small







Book Synopsis/Summary



The death of Nyla’s husband comes as a shock to everyone except Nyla. What’s shocking to Nyla is her inability to grieve his death like a typical loving wife should grieve. But Nyla isn’t a typical loving wife. She’s a woman in desperate need to breathe. The oxygen in her life has long gone, and the astonishing thing she feels from her husband’s death is relief, not grief.

Even more astonishing is the rare and unexpected friendship which develops between Nyla and her dead husband’s mistress. However, Nyla isn’t aware her new best friend is a former mistress. And as their friendship deepens into an unshakable bond, Nyla is forced to face secrets her husband took with him to his grave. This means she has to sift through mud to unravel the truth. A truth that’s better off dead.

Yet through it all, the one thing which makes Nyla violently breathless, is the exact same thing that causes her to finally breathe.


What People Are Saying about Sifting Through Mud (Book Testimonials)

Demetria Foster Gray delivers a heart-stopping, emotional punch with her debut novel, Sifting Through Mud. The boundaries of friendship are reinvented in this sexy, thought provoking tale of two women on a tightly woven journey of self discovery. Sifting Through Mud is rich with characters you’ll laugh with, cry with, and pull for in the end. —Lynn Chandler Willis, award-winning author of The Rising, and Wink of an Eye


In her debut novel, Demetria Foster Gray delivers a stunning tale of friendship, love, and sacrifice. Full of twists and turns, Sifting Through Mud leaves you breathless as friends, Nyla and Vivian, push the limits of their convictions, friendship, and love. These women are strong, smart, and beautiful with whom you instantly connect. Feeling the emotional struggle of each character, your heart aches for them, their decisions, and ultimately your own as you find yourself choosing between them. Sifting Through Mud is simply stunning. —Cindy Cipriano, author of The Circle



Bonus Excerpt from Sifting Through the Mud

Nathan is in the family room watching sports on TV. My handbag and car keys are on the foyer table next to the flower arrangement I sent myself yesterday for our twentieth wedding anniversary. I grab my keys, my handbag, and open the front door. I pause in the doorway to look back over my shoulder, at the life I lived here. Then silently, almost invisibly, I walk out the door.

         I have no idea where I’m going. All I feel is the overwhelming burden of where I’ve been. The toll and heaviness of an undesired life. For now, a hotel will have to do. One where no one can find me, and has big, fluffy pillows to hold my tears and muffle my screams. Tomorrow, when Nathan’s at work, I’ll go back for a few personal things. All I have now are the clothes on my back—clothes which are hanging wearily from my marriage-torn body.

         The truth of the matter is, I’m a murderer. I’ve killed the one person who could’ve saved me—myself. I’ve traveled down this lifeless road for far too long, and now I’m stuck in blandness. I miss the flavor of life. The pleasure and joy of actually feeling feelings, instead of faking feelings. Faking joy, faking happiness. I’m living life without the spice of life and it’s taking its toll on me.

         But thank God the dead has now risen, and it’s time for me to take back my life. To absolve my death. Which is precisely what I did over dinner this evening while Nathan was eating in front of the TV, and I was dining alone at the kitchen table. I asked myself two questions: (1) How much longer can I play a role that’s no longer suited for me?, and (2) How much longer can I hold my breath when all I want to do is breathe? The answers to those questions are what caused me to rise from the table, grab my handbag, and walk out the door.

         The thing is, I don’t know how to love my husband anymore. Or if I ever loved him at all. It seems I did. I must have. But I just don’t know anymore. It’s exhausting spinning your wheels in a marriage that doesn’t seem to move. Not forward, not backwards, just stalled. Stagnant. A lot of bitterness accompanies stagnation. A lot of anger. A lot of slicing each other apart, and chewing each other up. It’s treacherous. It’s sad. It’s time to move on.

         After driving for a half hour to the next town, I find a nice hotel with clean, spacious rooms, a deep Jacuzzi tub, fresh linens, and a complimentary hot breakfast in the morning. Nathan will be calling me when it becomes the middle of the night and I haven’t returned home. He’ll wonder where I am with a slight bit of concern. Or perhaps he’ll sleep like a log through the night and never give my absence a second thought. Either way, I’ve turned off my cell phone. His concern or lack of concern is no longer an issue for me.





See what happens next  in Demetria Foster Gray’s Sifting Through Mud.


As the Pages of Sheet Music & YA Romance Turn: Cliffhanger Press Presents Ashley Maker’s Under the Trees

The love I feel for him

is buried between the sheets,

each note strikes a chord

between my heartbeats.



UNDER THE TREES is a new YA historical romance being published by Cliffhanger Press in fall 2014.  As writers, we sometimes can hear a certain song playing in our heads as our characters go through a pivotal scene in their lives.  Ashley Maker has taken it a step further.  Her connection with her characters and the mood of the story has inspired her to write music to go along with her novel. Part Medieval, Part Regency Era, all adolescent angst and first love, UNDER THE TREES is a YA masterpiece that will usher in new dimensions and dynamics of what it is to fight for the freedom to be and to love.

Image taken from Google Images

Image taken from Google Images




Love can’t stay hidden forever.

Book Blurb

Fleeing from an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya lands at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who shelters and teachers her survival skills in a secluded forest. As the fragile alliance between their kingdoms deteriorates, Thor and Araya must decide if staying together is worth starting a war.



Meet Ashley Maker

Armed with a keyboard, microphone, and an energetic imagination, Ashley Maker is a combination author/songwriter from Oklahoma with a passion for all things creative. UNDER THE TREES, a Young Adult blended historical romance, is her debut novel, releasing from Cliffhanger Press, LLC in the fall of 2014. Songs inspired by the book can be heard from Seeking Never, the recording band she sings in with her guitar-playing husband Corey. A newbie vlogger and former editor, Ashley spends much of her time writing, procrastinating on social media, and waging a revision war against pronouns. The rest of her time is spent doting on her daughter and cuddling with a myriad of family pets, most notably Johnny Cash, cat writing buddy extraordinaire.



Connect with Ashley Maker!



Author Website (still under construction): ashleymaker.com

Author Facebook: facebook.com/authorashley

Twitter:     twitter.com/ashleymaker

Youtube:    youtube.com/ashleydmaker

Wattpad:     Ashley Maker

Instagram:  ashleymakerwrites


Check out Cliffhanger Press’ blog post, “Deep Within the Staffs, Between the Notes, Inside the Written Lines Lies a YA Story That Only Ashley Maker Can Tell,” which delves deeper into the life and work of Ashley Maker:  http://www.cliffhangerpress.com/blog



How many of you remember your first love? Would you risk kingdoms falling apart or rebel against anyone or anything to keep it?


Killing Me Softly With His Wrongs–It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller


Winner of Chick-Lit Pad’s 2013 Best Upcoming Fiction Contest

Time waits for no one. Neither does Curtis.

What’s a girl like Jazzy supposed to do?

Decisions, decisions, decisions. . .

Read about the ruse of roller coaster love

in Quanie Miller’s new romantic comedy, It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy!

I locked the love

I felt for you

inside my heart

for safe keeping,

for a later reaping,


I had time to reclaim it.

Book Blurb:
Jazzy secretly wants to get back together with her ex-boyfriend, Curtis, so when he calls and reveals that he’s got something important to tell her, she’s got no idea that he’s about to propose—to her first cousin and bitter rival, Mercedes.
The annual family dinner is coming up, and fearing that she will spend the evening seething while Mercedes flaunts her four carat engagement ring in her face, Jazzy asks Reggie, an Adonis she met at the mall, to accompany her. As fate would have it, not only did Reggie and Mercedes used to date; that backstabbing, leopard print wearing cow is still carrying a torch for him! Revenge. It’s never been so sweet.
But falling for Reggie? Holy crap! That wasn’t part of the plan! She’s got enough on her plate as it is; restaurant shootouts, a neurotic boss, a mother who spies on the neighbors, and a sister and best friend with man problems that could land them on Jerry Springer. Who has time to fall in love? So when Curtis comes sniffing around again—this time, with an accusation that sends her blood pressure shooting through the roof—the one good nerve that Jazzy’s got left has just about run its course.
Author Interview

1) What makes you unique as a writer? Where do you get your inspiration?

I think I’m unique as a writer because my reading was so varied growing up. I read everything; funny stuff, scary stuff, the in between stuff. As a result my work is a hodgepodge of all those things.

I get inspiration from everywhere. From listening to conversations, to people watching, television, music. Ideas are born from pretty much anything. I could probably sneeze and say, “Hmm. That gives me an idea…”

2) What makes It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy stand out among other books in its genre?

The main character is African American and the book is romantic comedy— but heavy on the comedy—so I think that’s what sets the book apart. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments.

3) The MTV Show, Catfish, is very popular today.  How would Jazzy react if a potential mate was being investigated on this reality show?

Ha! Well, I don’t think she’d need Nev and Max! I think that her, her best friend (Serai), and her mother would launch their own investigation. They would probably tail the guy for a few days, figure out his schedule, rent a van, and camp outside of his job with surveillance equipment. Then Serai would turn the tables on him by being a catfish herself; she’d friend him on Facebook, invite him to coffee, and before he knew what hit him, there would be Jazzy and her mother, with cameras in his face (Cheaters style), demanding answers. They’d probably have their own show; Catfish, Reloaded.

4) How would readers relate to Jazzy’s experiences with love in this novel?

Jazzy goes through it all; wanting to rekindle an old flame, getting over that and embarking on a new relationship, having trust issues with the new man. I think readers will totally be able to identify with that!

5) Speaking of reality shows, there has yet to be one about the writing profession.  If you could create a writing reality show, what would it be?

It would definitely be about writing workshops but it would be more like the TV show Survivor. You’d have to scheme and form alliances but ultimately, the person with the strongest manuscript would win.

6) What’s next for you in your writing projects?

Well, right now I’m in the outline phase for the follow up to It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy. I’m also going to release a paranormal novel next year (but under a different name).

7) What author/literary work has had the most impact on you?

For humor I’d have to say Dave Barry because he’s probably the funniest person on the planet. I’ve also been impacted by sitcoms like Girlfriends, The Golden Girls, and Living Single (anything with funny women getting into trouble!). I read a lot of RL Stine and Christopher Pike growing up and that definitely impacts the paranormal stuff that I write.

Quanie Miller PictureBio:
Quanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering new authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin). She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. She loves writing humorous stories about strong willed, sassy women who can’t keep themselves out of trouble. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel. To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress visit quanietalkswriting.com.
Book Excerpt:

 I parked on the street and realized that my palms were sweaty, so I wiped them on the seat and took three deep breaths. When I got out of the car, I tried to remain calm, but by the time I reached the door, the butterflies in my stomach had turned into bats. I knocked. A few seconds later Curtis answered, and I stood there, shocked. He looked so damn good I had to stop myself from taking a flying leap and wrapping both my legs around his waist. He had a beard (he was always clean-shaven when we were together) and was actually dressed….well….nicely! He was wearing a white button down shirt with khakis instead of those blue jogging pants with the yellow paint stains and the white muscle shirt with the holes in it. And for once, he smelled like he hadn’t bought his cologne from some guy in a beanie on a street corner. He even had the nerve to look like he’d been hitting the weight room, which shocked me because the whole time we were together, the only exercise this man got was running from bill collectors. Before I knew it, I felt a tingle in the part of my body that’s off limits to everyone except my gynecologist. Then, I got pissed. How dare he open the door looking like a chocolate wet dream? I, the dragon slayer, did not get slayed. I did the slaying. I regained my composure. “How are you, Curtis?

“Fine, Jazzy. You look good.”

I wanted to say, “Chile, this girdle is cuttin’ off my circulation like you wouldn’t believe.” But instead, I smiled and said, “Thank you. So do you.” We walked inside the beautiful foyer and, as always, the winding staircase took my breath away. I followed Curtis into the living room and immediately noticed that it had been remodeled. The carpet had been replaced with hardwood floors, the walls painted a deep red, thick curtains were draped over heavy rods, an oil painting hung over the mantel piece, and a glass coffee table stood between two full-length leather sofas. I was so busy marveling at the decorating that it took me a while before I noticed the atmosphere in the room: cake, balloons, and all the children doing cartwheels. For a second, I thought I heard some of the kids singing, “Ding dong the wicked witch is dead.” The adults seemed happy (but maybe the cocktails had something to do with that), and no one, except for me, was wearing black. It didn’t seem like a repass. It seemed more like a celebration.

I said, “They seem to be taking it well.”

He shrugged. “I think they’re grieving on the inside. Do you want something to drink?”

“Do you have lemonade?”


I didn’t want any alcohol. When I got even just a little bit tipsy, for whatever reason, I became a rock star in my head. The last time, at karaoke night at some dive bar, I really got down with my bad self. I ended up on stage singing “Shoop” by Salt-n-Pepa. The next day, to my horror, it ended up on YouTube. For weeks, people walked by me singing that damn song and laughing and pointing at me. It even ended up on the six o’clock news in the segment: “Local woman gets down with her bad self”. I was humiliated (they still play it sometimes in a segment called “Dopey clips you might have missed”).

Curtis brought me a glass of lemonade and said, “Let’s go somewhere we can talk.”

We went to the sitting room where a huge picture of Grandma Laney and her shotgun looked down at us. Curtis cleared his throat. “As I told you on the phone, there’s something very important I need to talk to you about.”


He looked me right in the eyes. “I’ve done a lot of growing since we broke up. I finally know what I want to do with my life, and I’m on my way to financial stability for the very first time. I’ve changed, Jazzy.”


“And, well, there’s something I need to ask you.”

At this moment, his mother, Ms. Kay, stuck her head in the room. She was a triathlete and had a body like Angela Basset when she’d done What’s Love Got to Do With It. I knew that even in her fifties, I’d be eating her dust in a footrace. She smiled when she saw me and I hopped up to give her a hug. “Ms. Kay! How are you?”

“I’m fine. Thanks for coming.” She nodded to Curtis. “Can I see you for a second?” They left the room and I walked around looking at all the pictures of Grandma Laney. She was frowning in every single one. Even in her wedding picture where she wore a long, black dress and scowled with a cigar in one hand. I shuddered, thinking what that honeymoon night must have been like for the poor groom. I sat back down and noticed that underneath a lamp sat a light blue box that looked like it might be carrying a set of earrings. Curious, I opened it and was shocked to discover a diamond engagement ring. I sniffed it. Holy shit, a real diamond! It must have been at least four carats! I sat the box back then stood nonchalantly as I heard Curtis saying something to a relative as he walked back towards the room. When he got back inside he said, “Sorry about that.”

“That’s okay. Curtis, what’s this about?” I gasped because it hit me: something to ask me, him looking good enough to eat, and the ring. Sweet Jesus, this man was about to propose! I hopped on a chair and threw my hands in the air. “Wait!”

He looked confused. “What?”

“You have to ask me something very important right?”


“And this could affect both of our lives forever?”


Dragon slayer my ass. I was getting married! “Hold that thought.” I hopped off the chair and ran to the bathroom because I wanted to make sure my breath wasn’t funky and that I looked as stunning as I did when I had left the house. Who’d have thunk it? Me, getting married! How unexpected! I knew that we shared a bond and that there was something still lingering between us, but I had no idea he was thinking about making me his wife! I was proud of myself. All of that tough love I gave him, telling him he needed to get his finances together, refusing to loan him money, drafting a one year plan so that he could get caught up on his student loans; and now, he was financially stable and wanted to thank the woman who had made it all possible. I got teary eyed thinking about how I almost gave up on him. I checked myself one more time, and when I realized that I wasn’t going to get any more stunning, I headed back to the sitting room.

I walked over to Curtis and said like a sweet little angel, “Please. Go on.”

He took a deep breath. “I just wanted to be the first to tell you that I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

Enough with the small talk, buddy. Gimme the ring already.

“And well…” He wiped his forehead. “This is harder than I thought!”

I grabbed his hand. “You can tell me anything.” Now stop your yappin’ and give me the damn ring!

Suddenly, I heard the clicking of heels on the wooden floor. Curtis looked up at the same time that I did, and there she was. Decked head to toe in a leopard print dress and donning a hat that you would expect someone to wear to the Kentucky Derby. She was cradling her black Chihuahua, Kee-Kee, and dabbing her eyes with a Kleenex. She sobbed. “Oh, Curtis!” It was my cousin, Mercedes (or, as I sometimes liked to call her behind her back, Broke Ass Pinto).

When she finally noticed me she turned up her nose. “Oh. It’s you.”

“Yes. It’s me. And hello to you too, Daihatsu.”

She sat Kee-Kee down and frowned at me. “Now is not the time for your antics, Jasmine. A woman has died and I will not stoop to your level of commonness. Have you learned nothing since you crawled barefoot out of the bayou and slithered here on your pudgy little belly?”

I scoffed. “There is nothing pudgy about my belly. And don’t act like we’re not from the same place just because you have some job doing…oh, never mind. I forgot; your ass ain’t got no job.”

She took one of those handheld fans out of her purse (with her picture on it) and fanned herself. “I just so happen to be on sabbatical.”

“From what? Finding sugar daddies?”

“Just because a man wants to wine and dine me does not mean he’s a sugar daddy. Can I help it that they just so happen to want to take me to five star restaurants while your dating life consists of sitting across from some gold-toothed fool while scarfing down biscuits at Jack in The Box? Don’t hate the player, honey.”

“First of all, I have never dated a man with a gold tooth. Except for that one time in high school. And second of all, I happen to love Jack in The Box—especially their biscuits. And third, shouldn’t you be somewhere, sleeping upside down in a cave or something?”

Kee-Kee became antsy, so Mercedes stooped down and picked her up. Mercedes rubbed noses with her. “Don’t worry. The lady is just being mean to mommy because she’s fat.”

Before I could reach over Curtis’ head and grab her by that goofy looking hat (or trip her while she was walking so that she would go sprawling headfirst into a plant), Curtis said to her, “I didn’t expect you until eight.”

“Should I leave?” She looked at me with more disdain than normal, and then it hit me; what the hell what she doing there? While Curtis and I dated she wouldn’t even acknowledge him as my boyfriend. She called him that poor guy Jazzy put roots on.

I said, “What are you even doing here anyway?”

“I’m here for Curtis, you moron.”

“I mean why. Since when are you two friends?”

“Who I’m friends with is none of your business.”

Curtis turned to me. “Jazzy, I hadn’t planned on doing this in front of you. But I want to let you know that our relationship is one of the main reasons I had to take a good look in the mirror and say, ‘Curtis, it’s time to grow up.’ And because of you, I was able to find the love of my life, and I just want to say thank you.” He grabbed the blue box and turned to Mercedes. He got on one knee and grabbed her by the hand. “You are the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met and it would make me the happiest man alive if you were my wife. Mercedes, will you marry me?”

She tossed poor Kee-Kee (who yelped) onto the sofa and put a hand on her chest. Then, she covered her mouth and shot one hand in the air and screamed, “Yes! Yes! Eat your heart out, Jazzy!” He put the ring on her finger as tears rushed from her eyes. She waved the ring in my face, then ran out of the room holding her hand in the air and screaming, “Suck it, Peacock!”

Slowly, before my blood pressure spiked any further, I said to Curtis, “Is this why you asked me over here?”

“I didn’t plan for it to happen like this; I just wanted to tell you in person before you heard it from anyone else.”

“When did you start seeing Mercedes?”

“Right before we broke up.” He shook his head. “I mean right after.” He said something else, but in my mind, he sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Jazzy, um, you know, whaa-whaa-whaa-whaa-whaa.” I felt my head nodding even though I wasn’t comprehending a thing he was saying.

I think I blacked out because one moment, I’m in the sitting room with my hands wrapped around Curtis’ neck as Mercedes and Ms. Kay tried to pry my fingers loose, and the next moment, Curtis was running down the street, and I was chasing behind him with a heavy, cast iron skillet in my hand.

To read more or to connect with Quanie online visit:






Available now on Amazon!


The Devil May Wear Prada, But The Gibbons Gold Diggers Prefer Men’s Hearts: The Player & The Game by Shelly Ellis

Sugar-coated game

floats from her siren  lips,

a snare for the gullible.

Her nectar garners

a contract of one-sided


As a Gibbons girl,

she always saps honey from

her sugar daddies.

The queen bee designs

her honeycomb to entrap

men’s hearts, not her own.

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. . .

By A. C.

the player and the game2

Enjoy Some Hot Deception on a Romance Platter with the latest installment

in the Gibbons Gold Digger series!

The Player & the Game

It’s business as usual for the infamous gold digging Gibbons women of Chesterton, Virginia. But this time, middle sister, Stephanie, may be the one getting played. . .

Stephanie Gibbons thinks she’s finally hit the jackpot— the Gibbons family’s Holy Grail. Her new sugar daddy, Isaac Beardan, is loaded and treating her in high style. When he proposes, Stephanie is sure she’s set for life—until she finds her bank account empty, Isaac gone, and a strange—but very attractive—man following her.

Private investigator Keith Hendricks has tracked Isaac down to Chesterton, Va., and stumbles upon Stephanie. He’s not sure if she’s Isaac’s accomplice or his next victim, but what he is certain of is his overwhelming attraction to her—an attraction she shares. As the pair follows the con man’s trail into the Deep South, Stephanie faces a dilemma: True love… or the gold-digging game. Which will she choose?

Shelly Ellis head shotSix Questions for Author Shelly Ellis

What makes The Player and the Game stand out among other African American romances out there?

My editor likes to describe the books in my Gibbons Gold Digger series as romance but with a little something different, or romance with extra spice. And this extra spice isn’t just sexual. I don’t write erotica, but I like to do romances that are sexy with a dynamic storyline. I like to write stories that are a hybrid between the typical romance and evening soap operas—making them more than a tale of boy meets girl and then they eventually find their happily-ever-after. The Player and the Game is a blend of romance, mystery, road-trip adventure, some laugh-out-loud moments, and moral lessons thrown into the mix. I hope readers have a ball reading it. I had fun writing it.

What would it take for a player like Stephanie to be reformed?

I can’t reveal too much, but Stephanie goes through a humbling experience in the beginning of the novel that starts her on her journey to reformation. Falling in love for the first time in her life also helps reform her.

In the first installment of the series, Can’t Stand the Heat, Lauren is a chef who leaves an abusive marriage & proves she can hold her own in and out of the kitchen. What would be a great recipe for writing the perfect romance?

I don’t know what the perfect recipe is, but I think I know what doesn’t work. Try not to go with typical ingredients/tropes of romance. Romance should be like an exotic, spicy curry, not a boring vanilla cake made with mix out of a box. Both may taste good, but one definitely required a lot more thought and originality than the other.

Try to avoid the insecure hero who doesn’t think he’s good enough for the heroine, or the bad boy who’s reformed by his love for the good girl. Try to avoid snowstorms that lock a couple together in a cabin, forcing them to confront their feelings for each other. Don’t have novels with the heroine waking up in the morning, looking in her mirror, or talking to her girlfriends over drinks at a bar or restaurant. Try to keep the reader guessing what’s going to happen next, as opposed to them thinking, “Hey, haven’t I read this before?”

The Gibbons sisters have their own playbook in which they maneuver the rules wisely with their men. What would be the ultimate playbook for women in our society to use while searching for that spicy romance?

You know, it’s funny. I try to write spicy romances, but my personal preference is a lot tamer. Love and compatibility are more important to me. Humor also can get you through the rougher patches. Spice is nice, but it’s not essential. (And honestly, it can fade overtime even with the hottest of couples.)

So what rules/playbook should one follow to find the best romance? Have an open heart; have an open mind; know your self-worth and be willing to assert it; and make sure that any man you want to treat you like a princess, you’re willing to treat him like a prince. Don’t forget, you’re equal partners in this story!

What tips would you give to writers who are trying to balance writing and parenthood?

I just became a mom four months ago, so I’m still trying to find that balance. But, no matter what, I’m a mother first, and a writer second. Even if I’m in the middle of a great writing jag and the words are flowing like crazy, if my baby starts crying, I have to step away from my laptop and address her cries. But I also know now to accept help when you can get it. If your mom or your hubby is willing to watch the baby for awhile, take advantage of it! Nap times are also a godsend. Use those quiet moments to work on your novels and catch up on badly needed rest/sleep.

We writers create characters that are close to our hearts, and we want our readers to establish a relationship with them. We want our characters to leave an aftereffect on our readers. What aftereffect do you want the Gibbons sisters to leave on your readers?

The Gibbons sisters are deeply flawed characters, but I still think they’re likeable. They come from a good place, even if that place is a bit screwed up. I want readers to have the takeaway to be careful of judging others on face value.

Also, the lives of the sisters can serve as a cautionary tale. Each sister has made decisions that have negatively affected their lives because they were taught that wealth and prestige are what’s most important. They all experience things that make them question that belief.

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

Here’s an excerpt:


Chapter 1

Busy, busy, busy, Stephanie Gibbons thought as she hurried toward her silver BMW that was parallel parked in the reserved space near her office. Her stilettos clicked on the sidewalk as she walked. Her short, pleated skirt swayed around her hips and supple, brown legs with each stride.

She shouldn’t have gone to the nail salon before lunch, but her French manicure had been badly in need of a touch-up. Unfortunately, that slight detour had thrown off the entire day’s schedule and now she was running ten minutes late for the open house.

The spring day was unseasonably warm, but it was tempered by a light breeze that blew steadily, making the newly grown leaves flutter on the numerous maples lining Main Street in downtown Chesterton, her hometown. The breeze now lifted Stephanie’s hair from her shoulders and raised her already dangerously short skirt even higher.

She adjusted the realtor name tag near her suit jacket lapel, casually ran her fingers through her long tresses, and reached into her purse. She pulled out her cell phone and quickly dialed her assistant’s number. Thankfully, the young woman picked up on the second ring.

“Carrie, honey, I’m running late . . . Yes, I know . . . Are you already at the open house?” Stephanie asked distractedly as she dug for her keys in her purse’s depths. “Are any buyers there yet? . . . OK, OK, don’t freak out. . . . Yes, just take over for now. Put out a plate of cookies and set the music on low. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes . . . I know . . . I have every confidence in you. See you soon.”

She hung up.

With car keys finally retrieved, Stephanie pressed the remote button to open her car doors. The car beeped. The headlights flashed. She jogged to the driver’s-side door and opened it. As she started to climb inside the vehicle, she had the distinct feeling of being watched.

Stephanie paused to look up, only to find a man standing twenty feet away from her. He casually leaned against the brick front of one of the many shops on Main Street. He was partially hidden by the shadows of an overhead awning.

He looked like one of many jobless men you would find wandering the streets midday, hanging out in front of stores because they had little else to do and nowhere else to go. Except this bored vagrant was a lot more attractive than the ones she was used to seeing. He also was distinct from the other vagrants in town because she had seen him several times today and earlier this week.

Stephanie had spotted him when she walked into the nail salon and again as she left, absently waving her nails as they dried. He had been sitting in the driver’s seat of a tired-looking Ford Explorer in the lot across the street from the salon. Though he hadn’t said anything to her or even looked up at her as she walked back to her car, she had the feeling he had been waiting for her.

She had seen him also on Wednesday, strolling along the sidewalk while she had been on her date with her new boyfriend, Isaac. The man had walked past the restaurant’s storefront window where she and Isaac had been sitting and enjoying their candlelit dinner. When Stephanie looked up from her menu and glanced out the window, her eyes locked with the stroller’s. The mystery man abruptly broke their mutual gaze and kept walking. He disappeared at the end of the block.

The mystery man had a face that was hard to forget—sensual, hooded dark eyes, a full mouth, and a rock-hard chin. He stood at about six feet with a muscular build. Today, he was wearing a plain white T-shirt and wrinkled jeans. Though his short hair was neatly trimmed, he had thick beard stubble on his chin and dark-skinned cheeks.

“Are you following me?” Stephanie called to him, her open house now forgotten.

He blinked in surprise. “What?” He pointed at his chest. “You mean me?”

“Yes, I mean you!” She placed a hand on her hip. “Are you following me? Why do I keep seeing you around?”

He chuckled softly. “Why would I be following you? Lady, I’m just standing here.”

He wasn’t just standing there. She sensed it.

“Well, this is a small town. Loitering is illegal in Chesterton. You could get arrested!”

“It’s illegal to stand in front of a building?” Laughter was in his voice. He slowly shook his head.

“We’re still in America, right? Last time I checked, I was well within my rights to stand here, honey. Besides, I’m not panhandling. I’m just enjoying the warm sunshine.” His face broke into a charming, dimpled smile that would have made most women’s knees weak. “Is that a crime?”

Stephanie narrowed her eyes at him warily.

She didn’t like him or his condescending tone. He was attractive, but something emanated from him that made her . . . uncomfortable. It made her heartbeat quicken and her palms sweat. She wasn’t used to reacting to men this way. Usually her emotions were firmly in control around them, but they weren’t around this guy. She didn’t like him one bit.

“If . . . if I catch you standing here when I get back, I’ll . . . I’ll call the cops,” she said weakly.

At that, he raised an eyebrow. “You do that,” he challenged, casually licking his lips and shoving his hands into his jean pockets. Defiantly, he slumped against the brick building again.

Stephanie took a deep breath, willing her heart to slow its rapid pace. She climbed into her car and shut the driver’s-side door behind her with a slam. She shifted the car into drive and pulled off, watching him in her rearview mirror until she reached the end of block. He was still standing in front of the building, still leaning under the shadows of the awning, still looking smug as she drove to the end of Main Street and made a right.

Finally, she lost sight of him.

Copyright © 2013 by Shelly Ellis

Connect with Shelly Ellis:


Twitter:  @ellisromance

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6464591.Shelly_Ellis

Websitehttp://shellyellisbooks.com/   (a great resource for personal and professional insight into the writing life and the publishing industry.)

The Player & The Game  is available on August 27, 2013.

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-player-the-game-shelly-ellis/1113785676?ean=9780758290373

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Player-Game-Shelly-Ellis/dp/0758290373/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1368236031&sr=1-3

The Complexity of Relationships: Choosing Your Personal and Syntactical Connections Wisely

Image taken from Google Images

Image taken from Google Images

Maybe you don’t recognize what you got between your eyes (well)

So I’m gonna set you correct so you can get what you should get (well)

Intuition’s something sweet (well)

Let you know what you know, let you find before you seek (well)

Spirit of discernment, pray for it everyday (well)

Let you know who should go and who you should let stay (well)

There’s power in them rolling hills, come on

You’re a prize possession, not everybody’s worthy

Only reason I know is cause I headed down that road

And it’d be a shame for you not to have your own glow, Come on (well)

—“Rolling Hills” Jill Scott

We commonly use Venn diagrams to show the likenesses and differences between two things or to illustrate the inclusiveness of data in mathematics. As a teacher, I have used them to teach comparison and contrast as a reading skill and as a rhetorical form.

Venn diagrams can also be applied to relationships.  We have to take care in choosing with whom we let into our inner circle.  A part of that person’s personality, essence, and aura is absorbed into our space.  Our interaction with that person creates spiritual ties, and those ties change us, for better or worse.

We cannot let just anyone enter our aura, spirit, or space.  “There’s power in them rolling hills” as Jill Scott sings, or power in our aura.  An ideal interaction involves someone teaching us the many definitions of consummate love and showing us the complexity of humanity as his or her life experiences enrich our perspective.  Our individual power or selves remain intact.

With a toxic relationship, we absorb negative qualities that attach themselves to us and mutate the original, double-helix script inside of us.  We are Bruce Banner evolving into the Incredible Hulk: We lose who we are and become who he or she is. Our power, our individual selves do not remain intact.

When a person ends a relationship, he or she can drain our power and weaken us. Then we become like Gotye: our spiritual landscape, a patchwork featuring swaths of experience that mark where that person has been, our bedrooms darkened, Ben & Jerry’s cartons creating a new type of Berber carpet, Gotye’s words on repeat–“But you didn’t have to cut me off/Make it like it never happened and that we were nothing/ Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

Believe it or not, Venn diagrams have a unique connection to more than personal relationships.  Let’s look at how and where our personal and syntactical areas of our lives and writing intersect.

Simple Sentences (1 independent clause)

Venn diagrams are composed of two separate circles.  Each circle represents an individual, whole and complete.  The circle already has everything it needs.  It can have a private party if it wants to as India Arie sings, “ I’m havin’ a private party/ learning how to love me/ celebrating the woman I’ve become, yeah/ Sometimes I’m alone but never lonely/That’s what I’ve come to realize.”

Simple sentences have what they need: a subject, a predicate, a complete thought, and punctuation. The punctuation is the key part because it sets the boundaries of where they begin and end. The same boundaries define each circle of a Venn diagram or each person of a relationship.

Examples of Simple Sentences

The clouds parted and wept droplets from heaven.

Sand swirled into the black sky.

Dolphins arose from their underwater haven.

Compound Sentences (1 independent clause + 1 independent clause)

When two circles join together, they have a common, central point where they meet and become one.  There are no broken lines in their boundaries; they remain intact.  There are no open spaces, incomplete areas, or leftover wounds to be filled by this new relationship. Their union retains their individual components as it forms a new entity in the middle. They establish interdependence.

Compound sentences are two independent clauses who join together to create a new meaning, but the relationship that is tying them together does not rob them of their original selves.  If the relationship ends, they are still complete.  Whether connected by semicolons, coordinating conjunctions, or semicolons and conjunctive adverbs, the two independent clauses become intricately involved, but they do need the other to complete them.

Hence they are the representation of a healthy relationship, personally or syntactically.

Examples of Compound Sentences

Her body sank into the depths of the ocean, and the pain oozed out of her.

She lost consciousness; her spirit longed to become one with God.

Her limbs sprawled out like a starfish; however, something inside wouldn’t allow her to let go.

Complex Sentences (1 independent clause + 1 dependent clause)

When two circles attach to each other, the point of connection may have some gaps. One circle may also overlap too much on the other circle.  The relationship becomes one of dependence.  One cannot exist without the other.  The addition of their union makes their interaction complex.

The addition of one word, in this case, a subordinating conjunction (if, as,unless, after, because, when, while), eliminates or breaks the boundaries that makes each circle independent. The circle loses a sense of self and undertakes a new meaning.

When an independent clause or circle is removed and the relationship is severed, but parts of it still linger behind in the subordinate conjunction, the other independent clause or circle is left incomplete with only the words of Amy Winehouse to soothe it:  “He walks away/ the sun goes down/he takes the day but I’m grown/And in your way/ in this deep shade/my tears dry.”

The subordinate word symbolizes a wound in the boundaries of us.  We seek the other to fill the emptiness inside. Our relationship becomes one of subordination: what we need to make us complete determines the context of meaning in the relationship.  Like in complex sentences, the addition of what is missing determines if it is a sentential relationship of time, condition, addition, or cause and effect.

Examples of Complex Sentences

Sea gulls dipped in and out of the water as if they were possessed.

When she swam further out, her body became lighter and lighter.

Her mind descended into the deeper layers of her subconscious while a torrent of emotion flooded her being.

Compound-Complex Sentences (2 independent clauses + 1 or more dependent clauses)

There are Venn diagrams that have more than two overlapping circles.  They still meet in the middle, but their individual components remain intact.  Those additional circles add more completeness and complexity to the overall relationships.  The tapestry of meaning enriches and grows into something more, leaving an impact on all involved.  Those additions can be seen as children or each other’s families joining as one.

Compound-complex sentences are all inclusive.  Two independent clauses are present and they welcome an indefinite number of dependent clauses to share in the grammatical love.  Think of William Faulkner’s and Toni Morrison’s sentences and how just one of them can take up a whole page.

Compound-complex sentences are a combination of a compound sentence and a complex sentence.

Examples of Compound-Complex Sentences

The following examples are taken from the following link: http://www.epcc.edu/collegereadiness/documents/complex_sentences.pdf

Although thought to be indestructible, the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and that forever changed the NYC skyline.

The Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists, who thought they could tear the US apart, but instead, this tragedy brought the US people together.


Here is an example of Faulkner’s style listed below and taken from this link: http://www.stylustutors.com/uncategorized/grammar-tip-of-the-day-run-on-sentences

It is a great use of a succession of compound-complex sentences to create a stream-of-consciousness effect, perfect for characterization in a novel or short story.

“Monday is no different from any other weekday in Jefferson now. The streets are paved now, and the telephone and electric companies are cutting down more and more of the shade trees–the water oaks, the maples and locusts and elms–to make room for iron poles bearing clusters of bloated and ghostly and bloodless grapes, and we have a city laundry which makes the rounds on Monday morning, gathering the bundles of clothes into bright-colored, specially-made motor cars: the soiled wearing of a whole week now flees apparition like behind alert and irritable electric horns, with a long diminishing noise of rubber and asphalt like tearing silk, and even the Negro women, who still take in white people’s washing after the old custom, fetch and deliver it in automobiles.”

Varying sentence variety expands the horizon of our writing.  Interacting with various people throughout our lives enables us to grow into our better selves. When choosing significant others or dependent clauses for relationships, like Toyota says, “choose wisely.”

How will you choose today?