Coming October 2009

Monday, December 22, 2008


Deidre Collins was enjoying the click of her freshly manicured nails across the keyboard of her personal computer. She did not know what she enjoyed more about her day off, the invigorating wash, blow dry and curl at Prim Rose Beauty Salon, the luxury of having someone else do her nails or the leisure time she had to delete old e-mails and drift through cyberspace. By the third page of e-mail scams and spam, Deidre was saving time by clicking the button to select all the mail on that page and purging them unless something in the message line prompted her to open it. The top line of page four read, Finding Nympho. She wondered how the web master of this site could get away with exploiting a wholesome Disney title to sell filth. That would be all her fourteen year old son, De Andre, would need to see before his curiosity would have him viewing a lot of things she has tried as a God fearing parent to keep him from. Lord knows he was on the computer more than she cared to be. The devil is everywhere, she thought to herself as she checked the parental control options.
Just as Deidre was about to delete page four, an email caught her attention with a message bar that read, Tardy Notice from Pemberton Middle School. She had remembered thinking how progressive the school systems had gotten when they asked for e-mail and cell phone information on the parent contact form at the beginning of the year. She read the informing her that De Andre was tardy for school on March 19th. That was over a month ago. She wondered why they hadn’t called. Then she remembered that DeAndre typically came in two hours before her. Naturally he had erased the message with no intentions on telling her. She knew her son, he wasn’t a saint. Lately his behavior wasn’t even close.
Deidre examined her e-mails more closely. She found two more tardy notices, March 28th and April 15th. Despite feeling angry, she couldn’t help but feeling a little guilty about not checking her messages more regularly. And when was the last time she had been to his school to check on him? She had only been to Pemberton Middle school twice since he started there last year as a seventh grader.
Deidre couldn’t understand what was stopping DeAndre from getting to school on time. After winning the battle of getting him out of bed each morning, all he had to do was walk a few yards to the bus stop and get on. She purposely worked the swing shift, from 11a.m. to 7p.m., at least three times a week to make sure he was prepared for the day. Most of the time she left nothing to his imagination in regards to what she expected from him when he came in by himself in the afternoon. Head nods and barely audible grunts let Deidre know he had at least heard her to-do lists. God knows how many other notices she had deleted in her haste to empty her e-mail box.
Deidre was up before DeAndre this morning to make her nine a.m. hair appointment and was sitting in the nail shop by 12:30. Her best girlfriend’s wedding was the next day for which she was an attendant. The latter didn’t thrill her in the way she would have been in her twenties or if she was married herself by her present age of thirty eight.
The single phone line she used for both the telephone and the computer rang the moment she logged off of the internet. It was probably Sheila asking her to pick up yet another thing she or her overpriced wedding coordinator forgot.
“Hello, I’m trying to reach Mrs. Hicks. This is Jeff Riley, the principal at Pemberton Middle School where her son, DeAndre, attends.”
“This is Ms. Collins. I am DeAndre’s mother.” Deidre’s upper body tensed the way a person would in preparation for receiving a shot.
“Ms. Collins, DeAndre has gotten himself into trouble and I was wondering if it were possible for you to come down to the school and pick him up.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying he’s been kicked out of school?”
“Yes ma’am, he will be suspended.”
“Excuse me.” Deidre yielded to a short coughing spell from the lump rising in her throat. “What did he do?”
“This is why we want you to come in. When a child has been suspended, we have what is known as an exit conference where the school explains the circumstances surrounding the suspension.”
“That is what I am asking you. Why was he suspended?”
“It allows you to meet with a team that includes DeAndre’s teachers and counselor, so that there are many perspectives on how DeAndre can be more effective when he returns to school.” He continued as if he didn’t hear her question.
“And when will he be able to return, Mr. Riley?”
“The day De Andre will be permitted back to school will also be explained at the conference. Rather than upset you further on the phone, it would be best if we sit down and discuss his conduct in detail.”
“Are you telling me you’re kicking my child out of school, but cannot tell me why over the phone?”
“Calm down, Mrs. Hicks. Is transportation a problem?”
“It’s Ms. Collins, DeAndre’s father and I aren’t married. To answer your question, transportation is not a problem. Mr. Riley, I am a supportive parent and I am also a Christian. You can be assured that before I leave for the school I will be praying for an outcome that aligns with my faith. Just like you have prepared your team to be a united front when I arrive, I would like to be equally prepared.
“He’s being suspended for sexual harrasment.”
“I’ll be right there.”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Retracting the blade

I went to my 20th high school reunion recently and a classmate told me that my ex-boyfriend who was in the class ahead of me was sentenced to 25 years for a home improvement scams. Although I am far removed from that relationship and the pain of that break-up, a residual of bitterness made me think, that’s what he gets. Our break-up was sudden-or at least to me. It was the classic string-my-girl-along while I try out a new model scenario. I confronted him about his other girls, then I was floored when he told me don’t call him no more. Soon I found myself as just one of the choices that wasn’t selected on his multiple choice test.

After an enjoyable reunion weekend, I began to think of what I had been told in another light. It was praise worthy. This guy was no good for me. I believe God pulled me away from this person that I was determined to hold on to. Call it divine intervention.

In my second novel, The Manual, I worked hard to create a similar image. So it was ironic that I got this revelation on the eve of turning in my final edits. What would a parent do if they found their child playing with something dangerous or something that could possibly harm them like a box cutter? Most of us who are not interested in recording the footage to win a prize on a Home Video program would probably snatch it away immediately-no questions asked.
Poor kid, he was content before his all-knowing parent comes and takes away his play thing. His curiosity had only begun to experiment with the many features of the desired object. Now the kids balling ‘cause he doesn’t know what happened or why he can’t have his toy back. I can just see a snotty-faced mess of a toddler running after his parent on unsteady legs with outstretched arms screaming, give it back, give it back, give it back. Not trusting the wisdom of that parent, the toddler jumps up in an attempt to take his toy back. But the parent is unrelenting, retracting the blade, and taking it away for good.

What if we were that toddler and that all knowing parent was God. I believe that is the way the Hand of God works in our lives. Like that toddler we don’t understand why he takes things out of our grasp. Later on you may come across your plaything hidden on a high shelf. You remember the pleasure playing with it brought. Being a little older and wiser you now understand the hazards. In most cases you are thankful you had someone to watch over you.
You could not tell me 20 years ago that me and my ex would not be together forever. Sometimes relationships come to an abrupt end and we don’t why. Modern society has you searching for closure from that person. Sometimes closure only comes by getting closer to God.

Read about high school sweethearts, Deidre and Andre, reunited after eight years in The Manual due to hit bookstores October 2009. Subscribe to my blog, Making the Manual ( for more insights and revelations from the book.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Genesis

I began writing The Manual before I got a true publishing contract for my first novel. A book deal went sour which held up Soon and Very Soon for two years. I had taken a scapel to my novel under the auspices of getting it ready for publication. I was in quandry as to whether I was going to take Soon back to its orginal basis or shop the very new version to other publishers. I was in prayer about it, so in the meantime I toyed with the idea of a new novel.

It began with two seperate and unrelated ideas that eventually gelled into a premise for The Manual. One of which came from Soon and Very Soon. In the very first chapter when the male pastor, Willie Green flashesback to the time he spent chasing romantic love instead of his calling to God's ministry:

The Lord allowed Kay to cross his (Willie) path again as she attended his home church on a Sunday that he preached in his Pastor's absence. This time instead of trying to poesses her, he tried and succeded in saving her soul.

I studied just that short passage over and over as if I hadn't written the words myself. It suggested that his romantic interest somehow blocked his sight of God. Willie had been "churched" all his life. He heard the call from God, yet in still a woman overshadowed that call. He tried to posses her. The word posses sent chills up my spine and reminded me of bitter, stupid and desperate things even I have done in an attempt to call someone mines. I've seen couples so into one another that I could imagine this overshadowing love being a hinderance to one's walk with Christ. I had to explore it in my novel.

I wanted to also explore the brain of a teen aged boy.Daunting, I know. I spent four years treading water as a teacher in the middle schools in a huge Urban school district, hormone central. There I found a frustration and complacency untold. It was an experience that I unsuccessfully tried to recount in a post titled, diary of a middle school teacher in

There were enough wacky scenes and out-of-control behavior stored in my memory bank to write a memoir. I was use to children getting away with murder and parent's condoning their child's behaviosr that one particular incident stood out for me. I remember having a retention conference with a child that I taught English to. His parents sat silent throughout the whole conference seemingly taking in the fact that their child was failing the seventh grade. The father very solemly turned to me and asked, "Can my boy do the work? I mean-mentally. Can he keep up with others in his class?" I told him that he could, but he was choosing not to. That settled it for the mother. She declared to all assembled that she would not pay for summer schhol. That her child was old enough to start taking responsibility, so if he had to stay back, then he would. She told us all that he would just have to start wearing out his own knees and start praying for himself. Of course a variation of this scene makes its way into the pages of The Manual.
I could feel the parents hopelessness, but depsite what either of them had said, I knew their boy would be okay. He had a support system. There were many more prayers to be uttered for him and more conferences they would attend to make sure he was doing what he was suppose to.

I watched there son also the very next year. I knew he liked to sling a few curse words around, and that he had a girlfriend that he liked to kiss by the lockers outside my classroom. He was mannish. I wondered if he got that from his father or his wanna-be grown up friends. Even came by at the end of his eigth grade year to tell me he was finally getting out of middle school.

My characters, Deidre and Andre were born as the parents of this teenaged boy I had to create, DeAndre. As high school sweethearts, Deidre and Andre were ripped apart for eight years after a sudden and painful break-up.Deidre who has grown a hard outer shell because of it has been brought to her breaking point by DeAndre's antics and must come to her ex with help in raising him.