Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, See Y'all in February!

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for all your support this month and all through 2010! May 2011 bring you health, happiness and many good books to read.

I'm starting the new year with a little blog hiatus. I'll be back in February for Black History Month during which I'll host a virtual Read-In for the National African American Read In (thanks Bernice McFadden for the info! If you're in Columbus, OH, go see Bernice on Jan. 8th.). Please join me here for the Read-In and consider hosting a live one in your community.

Schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities. Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers.
To be counted as participants, simply:
  • Select books authored by African Americans;
  • Hold your event during the month of February; and
  • Report your results by submitting the 2011 African American Read-In Report Card.

In the meantime, a few things to keep you busy until then:

Save on this year's taxes (if you move quick)! Give to the Literary Freedom Project and support black literature and education.

Go a little overboard with the spending at Christmas time? Read The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out of Debt Without Giving Up the Fabulous Life. It's by Natalie McNeal who runs the popular blog The Frugalista Files.

"But Carleen, how will we know what else to read while you're gone?" Don't worry! Check out APOOO Book Club's list of 2011 new book releases. You can count on these ladies to keep you in the loop! Or read along with the Go On Girl! Book Club's reading list for the beginning of 2011. Or join the Reading and Writing Sistazs of the RAWSISTAZ Book Club for their black book chats. Or join the Black Lit Chat on Twitter in January.

The NAACP Image Award nominees will be announced January 12. The LMN movie Sins of the Mother based on my novel Orange Mint and Honey may be in the running! (By the way, it airs again January 22nd.) To vote for the finalists you have to be a member of the NAACP. You can join online for as little as $30. If I'm nominated, I will let y'all know!

If you're a writer and your on Facebook, join us for the 32-day writing challenge.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ginormous Book Give Away Winners!

Thank you to all the authors who contributed books for this give away! This is my first blog post with over 100 comments, so I can tell readers really appreciated it.

Everyone please, please, please check out these books! I promise there's something here for every reader.

If you were the only person to request a book, you won it. If more than one person requested the same book, I used the random generator at I went through the titles as listed and if you were the first person to request the book, you got the number 1. The second person was number 2, etc.

For people who selected more than one book, if you had already won a book, I didn't include you in other drawings. UNLESS all the people who had requested that book had also already won (which happened a few times).

It's probably not the most scientific method, but I didn't cheat, so please nobody sue me.

Here's the winner's list:

Be Careful What You Pray For and What Doesn't Kill You: Andromeda Jazmon
Big Machine: Denise
Black Water Rising: Kate
Deadly Charm and In Search of Tennessee Sunshine: Shalema
The Devil Don't Lie: Shan
Don't Blame the Devil and When I Get Where I'm Going: Fshirer
First of State: Giovanna
Glorious: Kayla
Huddle With Me Tonight and Perfect Shot: Pinkstuff28
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Broken Kingdoms: MissAttitude
Like Trees Walking: Mrstdj
Not Quite What It Seems: AS
Playing the Hand You're Dealt and Trouble Down the Road: PatriciaW
Sins of the Mother and Uptown: according2dmarie
Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It: Carmen1
The View From Here: Melissa
Wading Home: Malca_J
War Anthem: Amy (NOT the blogger My Friend Amy-we had 2 Amy's)
Who Fears Death: Shauna
Wounded: ChocolateMom
Zora and Me: Angelia

Please email me your snail mail address at carleenbrice AT gmail DOT com and I will forward to the author.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ginormous Book Give-Away!

To conclude National Buy a Book By a Black Author and Give It to Somebody Not Black Month, the following 26 authors have offered to give away an autographed copy of the following books. If you want one, leave a comment on this post by December 28th 5 p.m. MST. If you want more than one, please leave each book request in a separate comment. If more than one person requests the same book, the winner will be chosen at random. I'll announce winners on December 29th.

There's something here for everybody! Literary, fantasy, thriller, Christian, romance, you name it! Check out this list of award-winners, best-sellers and sleeper-gems:

Be Careful What You Pray For by Kimberla Lawson Roby (Christian fiction)

Big Machine by Victor LaValle (literary/speculative)

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (Literary/thriller)

Deadly Charm and Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney (Christian fiction)

The Devil Don’t Lie by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Christian fiction)

Don’t Blame the Devil by Pat G’orge Walker (Christian fiction)

First of State by Robert Greer (mystery)

Glorious by Bernice McFadden (Literary)

Huddle With Me Tonight by Farrah Rochon (Romance)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Fantasy)

In Search of Tennessee Sunshine by Margaret Johnson-Hodge (domestic)

Like Trees Walking by Ravi Howard (Literary)

Not Quite What It Seems by Mari Walker (domestic fiction)

Perfect Shot by Debbie Rigaud (YA) (see book trailer below)

Playing the Hand You’re Dealt by Trice Hickman (domestic fiction)

Sins of the Mother by Victoria Christopher Murray (Christian fiction)

Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It by J.D. Mason (domestic fiction)

Trouble Down the Road by Bettye Griffin (domestic fiction)

Uptown and What Doesn’t Kill You by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant (domestic fiction)

The View From Here by Rachel Howzell Hall (domestic fiction)

Wading Home by Rosalyn Story (domestic fiction)

War Anthem by Keith Andrew Perry (Thriller)

When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson (domestic fiction)

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (fantasy)

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon (children’s)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our first winners are....

First, a big fat thank you to all the guest bloggers for this holiday series: Andrea King Collier, Martha Southgate, Ernessa T. Carter, Donna Hill, Tina McElroy Ansa, Heidi Durrow, Tara Betts, Cheri Paris Edwards and Denene Millner. Please check out their books and the books they recommended as gifts.

Second, thanks to everyone who left a comment, shared of Facebook or tweeted about this contest! I'm so grateful for your support.

And, finally, the winners are generated by

Still With Me by Andrea King Collier: Tracey
Third Girl From the Left by Martha Southgate: Pamala Knight
32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter: Lifelearner
What Mother Never Told Me by Donna Hill: Amy
Taking After Mudear by Tina McElroy Ansa: Shirin Dubbin
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow: Anita
Arc & Hue by Tara Betts: Dusky Literati
The Other Sister by Cheri Paris Edwards: Tea
Miss You, Mina; My Brother Charlie and March On by Denene Millner: Campbele

Congratulations! Email me at carleenbrice AT gmail DOT com your snail mail and I will send it to the author to put your signed copy in the mail.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday musings from Andrea King Collier

Andrea King Collier is a Michigan based journalist and author. Her books are Still With Me… A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss, and The Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health. Leave a comment below if you'd like to win a signed copy of her memoir.

Below are her tips for readers on what books to buy and where to buy them and for authors on how to get more readers:

When I think of the holidays I think of joy. (Really, I think about being overwhelmed with the trappings of joy-shopping, parties, getting the Christmas cards out the door.) I also get joyful thinking about how many Black writers are doing their thing, and the hopes that we will all find new readers.

As White readers venture into more stories about Black characters, they embrace few stories by Black authors. And as you find new Black authors that you like, tell your friends. The Black experience is deeper, wider and more compelling than just reading The Help, or the Secret Life of Bees. Read Wench by Dolen Perkins Valdez. Read Carleen’s two fabulous books. Try Sugar or Glorious by Bernice McFadden.  Check out 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Into the supernatural? Then read Tananarive Due’s books. Buy a cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson or the Neelys. Want to understand our President? Read his books.  Ask your Black co-worker what he or she is reading and why they like that author. If they tell you Beverly Jenkins, don’t hesitate to swoop it up.

Black authors, expand your lane. We complain a lot about where our books are placed, and who does and doesn’t review our books. This wild, wild West of publishing means that a lot of the gatekeepers are gone. Between Facebook, Twitter, the ability to set up your own interviews and reach out to new audiences with your blogs, you get to create a groundswell of people coming into stores and going on line to buy your book. The “If you build it, they will come” mentality is gone baby gone. Do the hustle.

All readers, as you shop for books for yourself and for others, honor the independents, including Black bookstores with your business. This is not only a critical time for writers, it is a make or break time for independents. If we don’t support them now, we will bemoan their closing and what they did for us in the future. This holiday buy a few books, or all your books from an indie. The big box stores are convenient. Every dollar you spend via a visit to, or an online order to stores like Hue-Man in Harlem,  or the Shrine of the Black Madonna helps authors who often get few venues to read and sell. It means that you support community hubs where people come together to talk about health, spirituality, love, economic power and hope. It means that you are investing in the future of books.

Most of all readers, please keep reading. Writers keep working on craft. Make it as good as it can be, then take a good deep breath and go back in and make it better. Here’s wishing you a bright shiny reading/writing holiday and a delicious New Year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Martha Southgate's advice for writers & recommendations for readers

Martha Southgate is the author of four novels, most recently Third Girl From the Left (one of my all-time favorites, a love letter to the movies, and these glowing reviews tell why). Her new novel will be published by Algonquin Books in 2011.

If you haven't read Third Girl From the Left I envy you because you are in for a treat! Leave Martha a comment below and maybe you'll win a signed copy. If you don't, run, don't walk, to your nearest book store or device and buy it. Actually, go get it now anyway. If you end up winning another copy, you can give away the one you bought. Martha is also one of the co-founders of ringShout, a place for black literature. Check out that blog and also her guest post below on writing and reading:

The past year, I’ve been working the first full-time day job that I’ve had in many years (I know, I know, I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to do that sooner). The hours are not oppressive and there is no Blackberry involved but still, I’ve had trouble getting my new novel started. My wish for the new year for myself--and for any writers out there who are facing the same dilemma—is time, discipline and kindness to ourselves. Do what you can and do make a schedule for writing that you stick to as much as possible (I gotta get on that myself). But don’t hate yourself when you fall off course. Just get going again.

On a related note, I believe it’s as important to keep reading as it is to write. Whenever I meet a “writer” who says they don’t have time to read, frankly, I dismiss them out of hand. If you don’t read, you can’t write. Period. And for those of you who are readers alone: thank you. We couldn’t make it without you. So for all the readers and writers out there, here are three of my favorite books by black authors that were published this year:

God Says No by James Hannaham. This first novel is the story, both touching and hilarious, of Gary Gray, a staunch fundamentalist Christian with one big problem. He's gay. The story of how he fights it (unsuccessfully) is one of the most original of the year.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans This young writer has received plenty of attention for this first collection of stories--and she deserves it. These stories rock! Read 'em yourself and see.

[Carleen here: Ron Charles, the Washington Post books editor, reviews Evans' collection and has an interesting discussion (with himself) about who should review black authors.]

Substitute Me by Lori Tharps. Read this one with your book club and watch the sparks fly. This is pop fiction with some heavy themes about race, class, and what happens when rearing your own child becomes something you outsource.

Whatever holiday(s) you celebrate--celebrate them with a book! And, as Tiny Tim once said," God bless us, every one."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ernessa T. Carter recommends books for everybody on your list

Or at least a good chuck of the people on your list. Ernessa is the author of the novel 32 CANDLES, which I would recommend for sisters, bffs, and anyone who hearts funny romantic reads. Read below and leave Ernessa a note and maybe you'll win a signed copy of one of my favorite books of 2010!

Here are her suggestions:

Oh, I just heart books to death, and I’ve felt especially lucky this year, because so many awesome books have come out. Here’s my gift suggestion list -- and make sure to click on the links to read my book reviews for all but one of these suggestions from earlier in the year:

For the young woman, feminist or literate sci-fi nerd on your list: WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor was not only my favorite book of the year, but also my favorite main character of the year. This book has it all: an intriguing future landscape, a powerful and fierce lead, and an epic love story. If it were up to me, this book would be added to the high school canon. But sadly, more girls will be encouraged to read LORD OF THE FLIES than this book which actually portrays young black women in a complex and powerful way. So if you know any teenagers whose parents won’t freak out about them reading a book with sex in it, please do them the favor of gifting them with this stunning novel.

For the academic on your list: I’ve been telling everybody that WENCH by Dolen Perkins-Valdez needs to be on college syllabi across the nation. It’s a amazing feat of historical fiction: well-written, suspenseful, and a page-turner. Seriously, when was the last time you just couldn’t put down a piece of historical fiction?

For the person who’s always complaining that books about Africa are too heavy:Actually that person would be me, so how pleased was I to find AYA by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie, a graphic novel, about three young girls living, learning, and loving in a 1970s-era Ivory Coast town? Along with BAYOU by Jeremy Love and INCONEGRO by Mat Johnson, I think this forms a triumvirate of black graphic novel must-haves.

For the mom or dad on your list: I found that the non-fiction COME TO WIN by Venus Williams and Kelly E. Carter, inspired me to be both a better person and a better parent. This book is basically a collection of essays in which successful people (Jack Welch, Bill Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Vera Wang, Phil Knight, and Denzel Washington are just a few of the “names” in this book) talk about how playing sports shaped their future career wins.  It’s a fascinating collection and best read slowly in my opinion.

For your BFF mom friend: I’ve been suggesting that no working mom read SUBSTITUTE ME  by Lori Tharps alone as it will only frustrate you if you don't have someone to talk with about it immediately after finish it. This is a compelling read for working moms and a real conversation-starter. So do yourself a favor. Get a copy for you and your BFF mom friend, read it at the same time, then book a lunch date to discuss it.

So those are my book recs for the holiday season. Let me know which books you’re giving away as gifts this year

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Donna Hill reflects on the blessings of 2010

Donna Hill is author of dozens of romance novels and women's fiction. She offers this list of what she's grateful for this holiday, and to thank her loyal readers, she's offering a signed copy of What Mother Never Told Me. Leave Donna a comment and I'll choose a winner using a random generator. You have until Dec. 19 to get in on this and books from Tina McElroy Ansa, Keith Andrew Perry, Tara Betts, Heidi Durrow, Cheri Paris Edwards, Denene Millner...and more to come!

Below is from Donna:

As the year draws to a close, it is certainly a time for reflection. So much has transpired this year. My son went off to college and he will never know how truly proud of him I am. I embarked upon a new educational journey (very late in life) and the rewards are “priceless.” Being among so many creative minds is no less than awesome and it infused me with purpose. It reinforced the blessing that was bestowed on me—the ability to write and to transport not only myself but others into a world that I created. But it also reminded me of my responsibility as a griot—the teller of tales—to not only entertain but to inform. So even as I write my romances my goal is not always to titillate but to remind us about the power of love no matter what color it is. When I write my more serious novels, I want to bring to the forefront the issues that are of importance and that will leave the reader thinking and evaluating and perhaps looking at life differently.

There is power in the written word and as writers we must be mindful of that power. We have a responsibility to give our best, not for the money but for the art—as our work will stand as a testament long after we are gone.

I am grateful for the two decades that I have been allowed to do what I love. And in this season of giving, I give thanks to all of the readers who have been there and supported this girl from Brooklyn!

I am also grateful for the wonderful books I have read this year and thank the authors who shared their gift with me and the world. If I start naming folks I know I will leave someone out!

I am also grateful for the friendship and support from my sister and brother writers who share their trials and triumphs and remind me why we do what we do when it gets really hard.

I am thankful for my family that keeps me grounded, and remain my biggest cheering squad. And most of all I am thankful to God for giving me this wonderful gift of words!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tina McElroy Ansa expresses gratitude & shares a little about her writing process

This is the fifth guest blog in my 2010 holiday series. It's from Tina McElroy Ansa, author of one of my favorite books of all time UGLY WAYS (a very quirky mother-daughter story), and the sequel TAKING AFTER MUDEAR. Leave Tina a comment and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of TAKING AFTER MUDEAR. And...she says she'll add "a little holiday gift from my garden, my heart and my hands."

What book-related/writing-related things I'm grateful for

Thanksgiving has come and gone. However, I try to remember to be thankful every day the Good Lord gives me.

In my writing life, I have one big thank you. And in my publishing life, I have another..

So, I am thankful this year that I discovered how easy it was to install the Voice Recognition program on my computer.

I followed the instructions, I had a mic and I had a story, so I was ready to go.

I not only am able to get ideas -- that come in the middle of whatever -- down on the computer for use later. I’m also able to dictate the notes, quotes, descriptions, conversations, edits, etc. that are so easily lost to us writers because we say, “Oh, that’s so wonderful, I’ll surely remember that!”…Never happens.

I also find that if I dictate first drafts, I can:

1. Hear how the prose and dialogue sound in the air as well as on the page. Writing, especially dialogue, that is not just right lands like a horse shoe in the middle of a funeral when spoken. The same is true for descriptions, even beautifully written descriptions that go on too long for the context. (I know that’s one of my challenges.)

2. When reading it on the screen again for typos and such, I have another chance to edit each word and the work as a whole. A real opportunity I gratefully take.

In my role as publisher at DownSouth Press, I am thankful for Carolina Knight, who has entrusted me with her first novel THE BOOK OF EPHESUS, which we will publish in 2011.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keith Andrew Perry's WAR ANTHEM

Keith was to participate in the holiday action over here, but he has suffered the loss of his 20-year-old son, and I don't expect he'll be writing any blog posts anytime soon. I wanted to put his book up to let y'all know about it (here's an interview and his Facebook fan page) and to say if you can, order a copy. This gesture isn't meant to dispel any of his sorrow, but we do what we can. Do keep him and his family in your prayers. RIP Keith Andrew Perry, Jr.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Heidi Durrow recommends books about mixed-race and black children

Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, names three must-have titles for people looking for books about mixed-race and African American children for holiday gifts. Leave a comment and you could win a signed copy of Heidi's book, which explores the life of a young half-black, half-Danish girl.

Heidi says:

I'm always on the lookout for diverse books for kids. This year I have some must-buy titles for the young folks I know:

1. Amy Hodgepodge (series) by Kim Wayans & Kevin Knotts. This wonderful series about a young girl who is African-American, Japanese, Korean and white will delight young readers with the lively stories and fun illustrations by Soo Jeong.

2. Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids by Kip Fulbeck. This wonderful photo book tells a tale in pictures that is worth a thousand words. Kip Fulbeck's vibrant portraits of mixed kids of every stripe and polka dot are an affirmation to kids who may not see themselves reflected anywhere but their own mirror. Best of all are the responses the kids give to describe who they are. One writes: "I like being a kid because you have a bigger mind to be different things. I don't want to be anyone else but me." The book is also an exhibit touring the country. Don't miss it if it's in a town near you!

3. Good Fortune by Noni Carter. Penned by the precocious and dynamic Noni Carter who published the book as a freshman at Harvard, Good Fortune is a great read for high schoolers. The story of a slave who yearns for and then enjoys freedom, Good Fortune is an enchanting tale. All the more so because it was written by such a talented young woman! Can't wait for more from her!

Check out a video with Ms. Carter in which she explains the inspiration for her novel.