Coming October 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Odd thing, those in store signings

Gail Grier. That's the name of the first person to appear at my table this weekend for my booksigning at Border's Books in Columbia, Maryland. I gave my Manual spiel-she bought three books, three of my books which is an investment of her entertainment dollars at fifteen dollars a pop. Many stopped, but few parted with the cash.I was eternally grateful to Gail. Non-authors may not know but an in store signings can make or break a a more squeamish author's self esteem. Especially when the only person to come past your table is a 7 year old who happened to wonder away from her mommy and stops to ask where the popular kid series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are. True story. I'm over it. I'm not bitter.An odd thing, those in store signings. I am one of those authors who never settled in my semi-celebrity. Your stuck out front on display like a half dressed Christmas tree in mid October, in-your-face and seemingly inappropriate blocking the entrance for patrons trying to get in and out of the store. Never showcased in all my literary glory. I might be more comfortable in my element as in a reading or a leading a discussion. Gotta bring in more of a crowd for that.So for now I am resigned to a table. You smile at some, try to catch the eye of others who show youupon their arrival that they are not to be persuaded. I take that back. You are not chained to that table. In fact, the store mangaer reccomended I get up and greet people. Find that balance between being inviting and harrassing. But, I was shell shocked.I felt like I had to be guardian over the stores inventory of my books. staked neatly in four piles (2 for each title). I think I was having a flashback to another signing where I temporarily walked away from my books to find my books carelessly thrown-better yet, shoved onto a stack of coffee table books by "regulars" who play chess in the cafe and needed the table for a tournament. Has this ever happened to you? I said, I'm over it, really.So I keep vigil. My smile the mini watt bulbs on the Christmas tree blatantly advertising, "Tis the Season" to buy this book! Next weekend, I'll be at the entrance of another store, maybe one near you. With bells on, I might add. Tis the season to buy The Manual,the highly anticipated sophomore novel by Sherryle Jackson

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Manual local tour schedule

________________________________________________________Tour Dates
September 17, 2009 Guest-AAMBC Showcase Radio Show @8pm EST. Call in # (646) 716-4093
September 20, 2009 Guest-Urban Literary Review @4pm EST
October 3, 2009 Book signing Border’s Book in Largo @2pm
October 10, 2009 Book signing Border’s Books in Columbia, MD@ 12 noon
October 17, 2009 Book signing Border’s Express BS 62904 William Co Parkway Woodbridge VA 22912 @ 11am
October 21, 2009 Off the Pages podcast 9:00pm
October 24, 2009 Border’s Express BS
725 Springfield Mall, Springfield VA 22150 @12 noon
October 31, 2009 Book signing and exhibit of Church Lady Ways memorabilia collection @3pm=0 D
November 15, 2009 Literary Tea and Discussion By invitation only Royal Tea Room, LaPlata, MD
December 5, 2009 Area-Wide book discussion Location-TBA @ 5pm

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Forgive and forget.

How cool is it that I found the same couple on my cover in different poses ?(Watch out for them in the book commercial). Obviously they are in a heated disagreement fueled by passion. Like Deidre and Andre, the main characters in my novel, The Manual, sometimes the same passion that binds them together goes so far to the left that it pushes them apart. It makes them unable to get past the hurt, makes them unable to forgive.

"So what do you say? Let me be nice to you and you be nice in return. We can pretend there is no difference between forgiving and forgetting?"

Is that possible? Is forgiving the same as forgetting? Let me know what you think in the comment section?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Let the music play

I’m a sucker for love songs, classic soul, R&B , or what they call slow jams. There is something about a slow melodic groove mixed with lyrics about burgeoning, everlasting or unrequitted love that I feel deep within and try to bellow out in my less then harmonic voice. Music is my muse. I remember specifically spending hours on end writing my first novel, Soon And Very Soon while listening to the Love Jones cd on continous loop. Didn't the O'jay's prohetcially say, there is a message in the music. I often find myself in a dream-like haze, lost in the lyrics as I relate the emtioanl haywireness of love to the characters' relationships in my books. I can undertsnd the state of mind that Lennie Williams feels when he belts out, "Because I love you," as well as the utter desperation and despair that would make you bust the windows out of someone's car (Jasmine Sullivan).
Music became vitally important when conceptualizing the complicated relationship that spanned over twenty years between my two main characters Deidre Collins and Andre Hicks in my secondn novel, The Manual (October 2009). Their romance was like an intricate dance and what is a dance without music? I thank the following artists, as well as the lyricist and musicians for the selections that help me understand their romance.

The Dance by Prince
I don't want to give you my love. If I do I'll loose my mind.
Weary by Amel Larrieux
This woman is growing weary of having to be so strong . . . I can't fight each battle alone
Come back by Brian Mc Knight
I got monumental making up to do with you, baby
Complictaed by Robin Thicke
I wish I could loose all of my blues. I wish I could stop putting my blues on you.
My First love by Anthony Hamilton
Now we've been through to much together and we're approaching up on stormy weather still you'll be, my first love
Say Yes& Getting Late by Floetry
There is only one for me... All you've got to do is say yes!
It's getting late, why you got to be here beside me, wanting and needing me... But I'm afraid and you say, don't be
Relections of my Heart
He boggles me when he looks at me. I know longer see whats right before my eyes. Something happens and I don't why. I begin to fall.
That's the soundtrack. Download it to your IPoD, and fall in love. Read The Manual this fall and see if you can identify the emtions these songs inspire.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Every Word Counts

Who knew there was a standard size as far as word count for trade paper back novels? I found out when my editor announced to the listserv of talent on the rooster after our inaugural year (2007) that our books are as a whole too wordy. Apparently a good size for a novel like mine was between 65,000-85,000 words. Wow, I thought, my first novel, Soon and Very Soon, was over that at 96,205. Some brought to question the contract that said up to 100,00. As it turns out that wasn't a suggested marker, but it would be mine.

I was writing The Manual, I mean - THE MANUAL, as the name suggests I was already at that point at 147,000 words and counting as I wasn't finished that draft. I must of thought I was Wally Lamb as the book neared 400 pages. A corporate manual was thick, right? I was in the thick of it, totally attached and in love with every character, every line, every word, and in its precise order. It was a blow. I was on point with my deadlines and I even considered sending it in and hoping my editor wouldn't notice the extra verbiage.

Alas, sensibility took over and I sent her a courtesy email. I told her my dilemma and asked very graciously did she want to read it and tell me what she thought could be cut or did she want to give me more time to bring it in under count. Guess which one she choose?

We all know it's the author's job to clean up their manuscript as much as possible. SO, here began the ardous task of cutting the fat of the book by 40,000 words. It wasn't like I could just whack off the last 4 chapters of the thing. The characters had revealed where they were going and the ending was set in stone. I just had to go through every line of dialogue, every event in the plot, every thought and piece of narration and relentlessly get to whacking. At first it felt as if I was losing an appendage, an appendix or something similarly vital. I literally made the decision, used the highlight feature with my mouse and closed my eyes as I pressed delete. I must have re-read the novel over 5 times with edits each time and it was still too lengthy.

I checked in with my editor and she told me to go through this time and think about the flow of the novel. Each chapter should advance the plot, not slow it down. There are only certain chapters that you camp, meaning where you take up residence and give the needed background information or research that either reveals motivation of characters or explains phenomenons occurring in the novel. The other chapters you march right through with fast pace, page turning narration. Her advice reminded me about the writing reference, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, with such pearls of wisdom such as, 'Readers don't require direction, but rather distraction,' and don't be afraid to cut anything that doesn't fit or make sense, even it is your favorite line, or as my editor Joy says, " even if it really happen to your best friend."

It all became clear to me, and easier. I became Edward Scissorhands with the copy and delete button. I stripped down minor characters who were morphing their way to major character status. I cut out a date scene set at a posh DC dessert bar that had decadent items to drizzle under a Godiva chocolate fountain. This wasn't your classic Ice cream and malt shoppe. I remember painstakingly describing the ambiance down to the track lighting and the delectables down to the buttery coating-all gone. The guys she was dating was gone so the spot had to go also. It was liberating, and I found a leaner, more concise story with only my basic plot structure and themes remaining.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cover Story

Notice anything different about my cover from the one used in the header of this blog? My publisher's logo and tag are missing. This isn't a vanishing act, but rather a conscious decision by my publisher's marketing department. Apparently the declaration, The Finest in Christian Fiction, was a turn off to some people. I find it funny to think that there are some people who liken reading a Christian Fiction story to serving 10-15 in a maximum security prison. The name, I'm told, suggests that our stories would lack the kind of drama reader's crave, or be too staunch, too preachy or paint an ideal world full of perfect characters that do no harm and subsequently no harm befalls them. I can almost understand that notion, I've read some Christian novels like that. I had also read Urban Christian novels which told stories about every topic under the sun including taboo topics in the Christian community such as incest, pornography and homosexuality.

I felt my book looked naked without the same brands my first book bore under the same publishing house. I told my fellow labelmates so. To that one of my labelmates remarked, "No it doesn't look naked, it now looks like a regular book."

There were mixed reactions between authors and editors alike. Some revealed their secret prayers that the restricting tag be removed so that their books can become more marketable to a broader audience. There might be something to this fact. One of my labelmates that I met at a signing in my hometown recounted that the bookstore almost sold out of the book prior to her visit siting that it was wrongly shelved with the street literature. We didn't voice, but probably felt bookstores can make that mistake all they want if it produces those results. If our ultimate goal it to get the books in the hands of believers and unbelievers alike then as book marketers we should remove any barriers that might keep people from our books. Others on my label were concerned that we were somehow compromising or conforming to the world's standards - that by removing this tag removed or somehow diminished our intent.

For me the cover brand was a badge of honor. With a label that boasts such talents as Kendra Norman Bellamy, Pat Simmons and Sherri Lewis, I feel I am really among the finest in Christian Fiction. It keeps me striving to produce the best work I can. The truth remains we still are and will ever be a Christian brand even if our covers don't announce the fact.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Church Lady Ways

I did something I almost never do. I wore pants on Easter, or as we call it at my church, Resurrection Sunday. In my family that is a cardinal sin right next to being bare-legged in the sanctuary. See, I am from that aristocratic hat-wearing mob of women I write about in my first novel, Soon and Very Soon that spent the majority of their Saturday either at the beauty salon or preparing Sunday dinner.

Her grandmother had a handbag to match ever pair of shoes. She always had a fresh handkerchief and several starlight mints in her bag. Grandma Cecily wore hats that made her look like a movie star. She had lots of hats from the wide brim styles to the stingy brimmed pill box styles. Even after spending hours in the salon, her grandmother would press the hat in place over the crown of her head and affix it with pins.

I couldn’t escape writing about that same brand of women in my anxiously awaited novel, The Manual, releasing this fall. God love ‘em, these women were my aunts that coveted seats in the first 10 rows of the sanctuary and shushes those around them in an attempt to maintain church decorum when the Pastor is speaking. If you were younger, in arms reach, or happen to be related to them you better comply or expect to be escorted to the bathroom (at the appropriate time) to be dealt with.

I come by it honestly. My dad was the youngest of thirteen and had nine sisters. He grew up and married him a city girl who had a job working on the weekend s in a D.C. Half Way house. My aunts were almost solely responsible for my churching traditions that they carried with them from the south. I grew up under the tutelage of these regal, no holds barred, kind of women. So every Sunday when I suit up for service I cannot help but to think of Minnie, Roxie, Naomi (Sweetie),Odessa, Beatrice, Mable, Clemmie, Claudia and Janette with fond memories.

I have had the privilege of being forced to sit still on a wooden pew for more than two hours. I have created a circulation system with a hand fan. I know about Camp Meeting revivals. I have been reprimanded with a purse strap for talking too much and soothed with a starlight mint afterward. Just like I am sure my generation couldn’t have survived slavery I am equally sure my daughter couldn’t survive going to church back then. No air condition, no toy purse filled with activities for her entertainment, no children’s church-yeah, she would die.

I’ve learned there is something majestic about a hair pin, a broach, a powder duster, and a perfume dispenser. There is something regal about a mink stool, a starched white usher uniform with nursing shoes, and a hat, bag and shoe combo. These are an integral part of a term I coined, Church Lady Ways. It speaks to an air or manner of doing things. I am not certain that they saw the church aisle as a runway. Beauty to them was not so much about vanity as it was about order. They were modest in their living but extravagant in their persona. They seem to reserve their best for Sunday.

So, do you see why I was in a quandary? Pants? With my upbringing, was I serious? The audacity of a thought crept up on me the day before Easter. I was squeamish thinking about the schedule of church and subsequent visits to my parents’ house followed by my in-law’s house. Jesus did say, come as you are, right? Plus, I figured the ‘new outfit for Easter Sunday and tennis shoes on Easter Monday’ was for the 16 and under crowd. Lord knows once we, as parents parade our kids around in leisure suits, and crenlin skirts with turned down socks we take over their appearance. We twist and pull and tug at them all day until they have taken a few hundred photos and are allowed to change clothes. I didn’t feel I could pull an outfit together under the stress of preparing for the day.

Alas, I entered my closet on Easter Sunday and couldn’t find a pair of slacks and a blouse that would satisfy my standard and comfort level- not for Easter. In the crunch of leaving so my daughter could get to the choir stand on time I managed to put together something Church Lady fly. I know, I had you thinking I wore pants, didn’t I? I figure in 39 years if I haven’t broken the trend why do it now. In the grand scheme of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection I knew, like my aunts may have known that it did not matter what I wore. Whether you are a 24/7 saint or an Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas churchgoer, all are generally welcome on the most celebrated day on the church calendar, and that’s the way it should be. But, church ladies not only bring conservative back, they show us each and every Sunday that being traditionally pristine never goes out of style.

Sherryle Kiser Jackson is the author of Soon and Very Soon and the soon to be released novel, The Manual (October 2009), which is dedicated to her only living aunt, Janette. Her passion is to one day preserve the graceful elegance of her nine aunts and their churching traditions in a Black Memorabilia collection called Church Lady Ways.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Authors Ways and Means

Okay you’ve got me. I know what this looks like. It would appear from my work area that I am a slob. What you cannot see is that I’m just a few feet from the kitchen table. What is not pictured is the refrigerator, sink, and range just out of the camera’s periphery. This is in fact my home office or where as I put it, “the magic happens.” My office also happens to be located in my home’s breakfast nook, architecturally speaking. It is part of a room with a view. I am a novelist that completed my final edits on my first novel, Soon and Very Soon in this cramped space, as well as completed my manuscript for my 2009 release, The Manual due out in October.
We moved into this house in 2006 and in a sacrificial act reminiscent of those in the O’Henry’s classic tale, The Gift of the Magi, I gave up my office space in my old house for a house that my husband (who is an equally talented chef) could have an adequate and open kitchen space in which to work. Only recently did I begin to feel claustrophobic in my chair that conveniently swivels from the kitchen to my workstation. Character sketches, drafts of blog posts and strands of my marketing plan were all overlapping with family schedules, bills and work-related stuff. A writing schedule for my next two projects that coincided with my decision to go back to teaching full time had me at an impasse. Had me in creative limbo.
This is not the writer’s life that I imagined for myself. But I Push through, like the author of that title, Sapphire, said once during The Black Writer’s Conference I attended many moons ago, “I write or I’ll die.” But you can imagine the funk I am in. There’s got to be a better way than waking up at an ungodly hour to write, teaching three classes of English Literature and mentoring a Write-A-Book club, and then trying to burn the candle at both ends by staying up wicked late to finish a line or two. Not to mention, husband, kids, Facebook and Myspace friends that all need my attention.
I don’t know if anyone else has been here. What source book shows me how to win the tussle with time and the management of it? Is there a Clean House specifically for writers? Is Discovery Health airing live footage of an author giving birth to a writing project?
It’s obvious I am wet behind the ears, and a little disorganized to boot, but it got me to thinking about other writers and their habits. Articles and interviews do a good job at getting a synopsis or inspiration behind a writing project, but some lack the time to really delve into the character behind the characters-the untold story of the ways and means of an author. Is there a process behind or just beyond the writing process we writer’s use. In the case of my W-A-B teens does J.K. Rowlings (Harry Potter series) or Stephanie Meyers (Twilight Series) write on a PC or laptop? Do they draw inspiration from Shakesphere or comic books? Do they write to classical music, folk or rock? Do they people watch or character sketch? How do they research a setting, a character’s dialect, a character flaw? Aspiring writers want to know?

Let me let you in on another vice of mine. Please don’t judge. Eric Jerome Dickey novels. Yes, I read them, specifically the ones in the Gideon series. They are fast paced and smartly written with enough sex and violence in it to make a Christian author like me blush. So, I take them in small doses. It’s my equivalent to a Soprano’s or Sex and the City DVD collection. I am that devoted, but the best part of his novels, by far to me, is in the acknowledgements which he has in the back of his books. To an inquisitive author like myself, this is worth the Canada cover price to me. He details there the inspiration for his characters, more like conversations (real or in jest) with characters. He talks about writing on tour, and how these experiences help create settings in his future novels. I’m talking London, Tijuana, and recently (Dying for Revenge) Antigua. I’m not talking about tourist maps and a Sony digital camera either. He thanks hordes of people he has supped with, spoken with, and been chauffeured around by. Suddenly I feel like I’ve been half-stepping with my internet research and playing it safe setting a scene at home here in Maryland. His bio always proclaims he lives on the road, but rests in Southern Cali. So as I’m searching the Bible for envy and covetousness scriptures to convict me for the jealousy I feel, I realize, this is the life I imagined. I want to be Eric Jerome Dickey. Sorry for any fan that may be in line behind me when I meet him, but I have a rough outline of what I would say to him like Charlotte prepared for Big in the Sex and the City movie, with less aggravation and way more admiration.

Writer’s juggle worlds and lives of characters in their minds and sometimes compromise or fumble in their own lives. More than anything I want my W-A-B teens to see the full spectrum of a writer’s life and not just that of their tortured time-and-space challenged club advisor.

I created the Ways and Means survey for Writers to discover those craft practices that have helped writers create that authentic piece of work and present it to the world. It is by no means meant to be a conclusive or comprehensive study. The survey deals mostly with the art of writing and not marketing and promtions. I'll leave that to the experts. I am looking for 100 poets, novelist, journalist and wordsmiths in general to honestly take part and I will continue to finance the survey until that goal is reached. names are optional and are not linked to survey results. Authors who leave a contact email in the name box will receive a promtional item from me for participating. I hope to publish the results on a blog near you,(cross your fingers for a blog tour) and use the findings as another vehicle to inspire those who desire to touch people with their words.
And if anyone knows Eric Jerome Dickey, tell him I have some choice words for him, and please, direct him to my survey.

Take the survey here