Reign the Cartel

T Styles is a boss. Fly, progressive and enough swag to lend to the haters. Now a bookstore owner, we had the chance to sit with T Styles to discuss her bookstore, the publishing business and e-books.

UM: Describe The Cartel Publications and what it brings to the publishing industry:

T Styles: The Cartel Publications is a street literature publishing house. Meaning we publish novels heavy in urban themes depicting street life. We bring consistency to the publishing industry and we offer a solid brand for our distributors and customers. Our customers are starting to realize that when they see the CP logo, it’s all good and your customers will be pleased. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

UM: Most publishers build their house on at least one book or author. To date, what book has laid the most bricks for the The Cartel Publications?

T Styles: Without a doubt it has been the Shyt List series. For seconds I’d have to say my titles…Black and Ugly as Ever, A Hustler’s Son 2 and the like.

UM: You’ve remained focused on your house and have expanded your brand into a bookstore. In an economic climate where bookstores are closing, what has been your biggest challenge operating the store?

T Styles: I haven’t had any major challenges. I scouted the area in which the book store is located a long time ago. In fact, I grew up in the area and knew that a black book store would do great in a location where most of the customers commute by bus/train. If I had to pick a challenge, it would be hiring and maintaining qualified staff members. Although we seem to be doing pretty well now.

UM: As a bookstore owner, what misconception (s) have you learned about the publishing industry that you did not know as a publisher / author?

T Styles: Hmmm, misconception…you know what, I’m one of the few publishers who is not interested in how other people do things, and because of it, I’ve been protected from ‘How other publishers/authors’ do things. So I didn’t have any misconceptions or expectations outside of keeping my focus on the brand. I knew I’d have to grind to get the brand out there that if I did, the Cartel would be okay. I think too often business folk worry too much about what others are doing in the industry and base their business decisions on what worked or didn’t work for that person. Ignorance was my greatest asset because I didn’t know that most publishers didn’t put out two books at the same time, or this that and a third. Feel me?

UM: As a bookstore owner, what are some words of advice for authors and book signings.

T Styles: Well, I’d say please…please…please don’t cut corners when it comes to quality book covers. It’s imperative. And although your mother’s cousin’s uncle may have done good copy paste work in the past, when it comes to your book cover, take no chance. People say don’t judge a book by it’s cover but they always do! They pick up the book and put it right back down if the title isn’t hot and the cover isn’t hotter. I’d also say don’t expect a line to form around the corner when you sign your books. Successful books signings are 80 percent grind & pull (of customers) and 20 percent promotion from the book store.

UM: What is your view on urban books in the ebook format and publishers giving the ebook away for free?

T Styles: Publisher are giving books away for free? Nonsense! There has to be some reason for that madness I’m sure. Me? I LOVE ebooks but you have to pay for ours. We currently have our books available on Amazon.com’s Kindle and since Kindle’s AP is available for the iPad, you may download our books there too. In terms of e-books, the industry is changing. Publishing is changing and those who aren’t willing to embrace change will get run over. There’s no other way to say it. We have to get with the program or get left out of it. People want access and immediate gratification and ebooks provide it for the consumer.

UM: The amount of books in your catalog is impressive as T Styles. What made you write using the pseudonym Reign?

T Styles: I love writing under Reign because she’s relentless. And Reign means to prevail. Sounds just like me!

UM: What book did you enjoy writing the most?

T Styles: Black and Ugly. Why? I enjoyed the story because of the topic for one (about a young lady who hates her dark skin) and I like creating characters based on solid friendships because I never had that. When I was growing up, I moved around so much I didn’t get a chance to form long lasting bonds. And although the friends in Black and Ugly fight a lot, they love one another.

UM: Do you desire to sign with a major publisher or would you like to remain independent?

T Styles: As of now, no. I’d like to remain independent because I’m not feeling the idea of working for someone else. And the longer I am successful, the more I don’t want to. This may change depending on the offer, but for now, I want to see how far I can take the label.

UM: What are some upcoming dates for The Cartel Publications book releases, author signings or book tours?

T Styles: We have The Unusual Suspects, Miss Wayne and the Queens of DC, Hell Razor Honeys 2, Reversed and the list goes on and on!

UM: Where can readers reach you online?

T Styles: On my site at www.thecartelpublications.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/authortstyles and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authortstyles

Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin

Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin
c.2009, Hyperion
$24.99 / $32.99 Canada 354 pages, includes notes

Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer

The invitation contained everything you needed to know to have fun.
Well, almost everything…

You knew the date and time and where to be. You knew who was throwing this shindig. But the invite didn’t say a word about what to wear.

So, naturally, you showed up dressed to the nines, sporting shiny things on your fingers and ears. Unfortunately, everybody else was in shorts and T’s, and you stuck out like a sunflower in a parking lot.

Everybody likes to fit in, so imagine seeking out situations in which you’re a minority. Read the new book “Searching for Whitopia” by Rich Benjamin, and you might be surprised by an interesting picture.

When President Obama was elected last year, many Americans sighed with relief: maybe now we could put racial problems behind us. But Rich Benjamin says nothing could be farther from the truth. Things are about to change again, in a big way.

Within the next 32 years, whites will no longer be the majority in America. With that in mind, Benjamin decided to study a phenomenon he calls Whitopia: a city or ‘burb with an overwhelmingly white population. Whitopia has “ineffable social charisma, a pleasant look and feel” (think Mayberry or Leave It to Beaver). According to statistics, many U.S. cities are already “whiter than white” and are becoming whiter.

Minorities, it seems, need not apply.

Benjamin decided to move into three Whitopia neighborhoods and live in each for awhile, in order to study things up-close.

In Utah, he found friendship, Poker Night, and an organized push to severely restrict immigration. Named one of the safest places in America, Benjamin says “the cozy warmth inside depends on keeping the enemies without.”

In Idaho, Benjamin entered a retreat for a white separatist religious sect, and discovered, to his surprise, an “unexpected blessing in… brewing crisis.”

And in Georgia, Benjamin found high-priced homes and panicked residents, afraid their land might revert to area blacks whose ancestors’ farms were seized by whites nearly 100 years ago.

I had a hard time with this book for many reasons.

First, the good news: author Rich Benjamin gives his readers much to ponder. “Searching for Whitopia” is thought-provoking and could start much-needed, important dialogue.

But…

Benjamin throws stats, facts, reasoning, cute stories and jaw-dropping tales at his readers at an alarming pace, and then later repeats them. More than once, I caught myself bored and skimming, or reading a sentence multiple times because of content overload. I also wondered often if there was a point to his points.

Perhaps most egregious is that Benjamin (who is black) claims “The ‘black-white race divide’ bores [him]” but he seems eager to emphasize it. Moreover, he understandably condemns racial comments and overgeneralities, but then makes them himself.

If you want to tackle this book, please do. The subject matter is important enough to take a serious look, but be sure to read it with time, many grains of salt, open eyes, and open mind. Otherwise, “Searching for Whitopia” is just an invitation to frustration.

That Bird Has My Wings by Jarvis Masters

That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters
HarperOne 2009
$24.99 / $32.99 Canada 281 pages

Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer

By no stretch of the imagination would anyone say that the man in the orange jumpsuit could be called “nice”.

The metal around his waist and wrists attest to his badness, and the look on his face further cements it: this is a man that few people would mess with. But once upon a time, he wasn’t bad at all. Awhile back, that man in the orange jumpsuit was a little boy in blue overalls. He’s a menace now, but he was someone’s baby then.

So where did things go wrong for him? Read the new book “That Bird Has My Wings” by Jarvis Jay Masters and you’ll see…

Until he was seven or eight years old, Jarvis Masters lived in a drug house with his sisters. The children knew they were loved because their mother, a heroin addict, came home now and then. But there was rarely anything to eat, cockroaches were playthings, and strangers constantly wandered in to shoot up in the bathroom.

Then someone called Social Services.

The children were split up and Jarvis was placed with an older couple who longed for a child of their own. Mamie and Dennis treated Jarvis like a son, buying him toys, giving him guidance and nurturing his dreams.
When Mamie fell sick, Jarvis was placed in another foster home where he was physically and emotionally abused. He ran away and was eventually sent to CYA (California Youth Authority), an environment in which he wanted to stay. But case workers needed to find him a permanent home, so they sent him to a military discipline camp for boys. Nobody realized that Jarvis had already become accustomed to institutionalization.

For most of his teens, Jarvis bounced from relatives’ homes to state facilities and back, becoming enmeshed in drugs and crime along the way. He tried to get an education and a career, but family “business” was too strong a pull. Once involved with guns and robbery, he knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be caught.

When I got this book, I was expecting a 281-page howl of innocence, but author Jarvis Jay Masters only briefly touches on that argument in this powerful autobiography. Yes, he decries his harshest sentence but he doesn’t dwell on it. It’s almost as if the charge of conspiracy to commit murder (the reason he’s on death row) is a minor point in this book. It barely takes up a page-and-a-half.

The bigger story – the one that comes blasting through “That Bird Has My Wings” – is one of an eager, smart little boy who was hungry for guidance and structure but gets shuttled aside instead. It’s a tale of regret, remorse, quiet acceptance, gratitude, and strength that lays the blame squarely and surprisingly on its writer as well as on the adults who hurt him.

If you’re in search of something that doesn’t glorify crime or make it seem like anything less than wrong, you can’t do wrong by getting this book.

“That Bird Has My Wings” absolutely soars.

Trapped in the Closet by Jordan Belcher

TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET
BY
Jordan Belcher

Her kidnappers told her not to move, but how else was she supposed to keep the blood circulating through her legs?

Sometimes she’d be sitting with her knees bent close to her chest, and when that starts to feel uncomfortable, she’d stretch her legs flat out, ankles touching. It wasn’t like she could spread her legs into the splits… the closet she was held captive in was too small for that.

The fact that her hands were cuffed behind her back was uncomfortable, too. And they were furry cuffs, like somebody’s sex toy or something. But this wasn’t some sex game taking place. Her kidnappers were serious business. They proved it after she insanely kicked on the door screaming for them to let her out, and a gut in a ski mask yanked it open and told her to shut the fuck up after he punched her in the face. Blood was still dried up under her nose.

So she hadn’t kicked or screamed again. She thought about it, but then the pain in her nose made her think otherwise. The last time she had her nose made her think otherwise. The last time she had her nose busted was when her then best friend Janet Finley caught her in the act with long-tongue Brandon, Janet’s dusty boyfriend at the time. That was two years ago, prom night, Hickman Mills High School.

Maybe this was karma. Not for fucking Janet’s man—she already got her karma for that—but a new karma for fucking her current best friend Tracee’s husband, a money-getting drug dealer named Blue Rock. Yeah, this could definitely be considered some kind of bad divine intervention. Because she had been abducted at Blue Rock and Tracee’s home. Right after she got done riding Blue Rock’s hard dick, right when she was getting dressed and had only to put on her socks, a team of three masked thugs barged in the room pointing guns at them. The big kind of guns, too.

They took her. She didn’t know what they did with Blue Rock, but they took her and threw her in the trunk of a red box-style Chevy. Kansas license plates, she remembered, with the first three letters XTY. Then after a bumpy road trip, the next thing she knew she was being pulled out of the trunk into a messy garage, furry cuffs were slapped on her wrists and she was led through a door into somebody’s humble kitchen. It wasn’t until she was ushered into the empty living room and up the rickety stairs into an empty bedroom that she realized she was in a vacant house. They stuffed her in this closet, where she’s been for at least forty-five minutes.

It was pitch black in here, not even a ray of light shining under the door. Of course, the room beyond this closet was dark as well, and she had seen a little moonlight coming through those curtainless windows before they shut the door on her. She lived in darkness now. Just her and the cobwebs. Cobwebs came with creepy spiders, so it was just her, the cobwebs and probably some hungry brown recluses.

She wasn’t supposed to be in here. This was a case of mistaken identity, she surmised. The kidnappers had apparently thought she was Blur Rock’s wifey, Tracee, and took her for ransom. But she was prettier than Tracee, taller and thinner and didn’t have to wear a girdle like Tracee; she was Kiera Franklin, queen of opulence.

Kidnappers were dumb, though. Too inattentive. But when they found out she wasn’t the wife, that she was just Blue Rock’s secret side piece, they would surely let her go.

So the question was: How long would it take them to find out?
Tracee was probably at her grandmother’s nursing home right now, where she routinely visited every Saturday around 9:30 p.m. Sometimes the girl spent the night there. And that posed a problem. If Tracee didn’t go home tonight, then she wouldn’t discover kidnappers kicking her husband’s ass and she wouldn’t be rightfully captured; thus, they wouldn’t come let Kiera go with an apology. If Tracee didn’t go home tonight, Blue Rock’s scandalous butt would let the kidnappers believe that Kiera was in fact Tracee, and he would refuse to give up his drug money. That would leave Tracee safe at the nursing home; leave Blue Rock with his money—and leave Kiera dead.

It wasn’t going down like that. Kiera had to tell kidnappers who she was.

Swinging her legs up, she beat on the door with her bare feet. The raggedy wood rumbled loudly. “Hey, you dummies!” she yelled, kicking fast like she was in a grape-smashing contest. “Come get me outta here! I’m not Tracee!”

It took a moment, but then the door was snatched open. A kidnapper in a black ski mask and gloves hunched in grabbed her by the chest of her T-shirt and—

“Don’t hit me!” she said immediately.

Lowered his fist first, but still had a hold of her shirt with his other hand. “I told you to quit fuckin’ makin’ noise,” he growled. “Now I’ma hit you one more good time, but if you kick this door another—“

“I won’t kick it again, just don’t hit me and listen to me. I’m not who you think I am.”

“Oh really?”

“I’m not. I’m serious. My name is Kiera Franklin. Yall lookin’ for Tracee Cooke; that’s Blue Rock’s wife. She’s at the nursing home off Holmes Road. I’m not her .”

The kidnapper cocked his head as if considering her story. Then he stood up straight, placed a hand on the edge of the door and stared down at her through the mask. She couldn’t see his eyes—it was too dark, even with the moonlight behind him—but she could tell he was staring, likely trying to assess her facial features.

And then he did something odd: he started to chuckle.

Just as oddly, Kiera chuckled back. “Grabbed the wrong girl,” she said understandingly. “It happens. Once, I thought I picked up my niece from day care and it turned out to be—“

He slammed the door. She could hear footsteps leaving.

The bastard didn’t believe her, she thought. But she could prove that she was Kiera Franklin. One phone call to her mom would verify her name, her address, and even her social security number if they wanted it.

She kicked on the door again. “Come back! I was tellin’ the truth! All yall gotta do is—she battered harder—“ call my damn momma!”

The wood shook with increasing looseness, and she got the idea that if she kept kicking, the old door might come unhinged. She felt a prickle in the sole of her left foot and knew it was a splinter, but that didn’t stop her from trying to get free.

“My name is Kiera! Let me go!”

The door swung out fast. And not because she broke it off the hinges. There was a different kidnapper holding it open, a shorter one who looked down at her without a ski mask.

“Last warning, bitch. And I’m not playin’. I’ll tell them to come up here and shoot you dead right now and get it over with. Because I don’t care about the money, or you.”

Kiera was horrified. “Tracee?”

“Don’t act surprised. You made yo bed, now it’s time to lie in it. And I hope you had fun suckin’ and fuckin’ my husband. Because now it’s time for you to pay.” Tracee slammed the door.

Kiera was plunged back into total darkness.

Jordan Belcher is the author of Tre Pound. For more information visit Jordan’s page or follow on Twitter.

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What Lies in the Souls of Men? By Alvin C. Romer

What Lies in the Souls of Men?
Alvin C. Romer

Does anyone really care about what men think nowadays, or what really lies deep within our souls? In 2008 most men that have lived a bit should be at the crossroads of their lives. Living the life and being able to transcend to levels of expectancy may not have been what we lived, give or take a few triumphs here and there. Of course there were the pitfalls, and we talk about them in bedrooms and boardrooms. We’ve had time to look deep within ourselves to exact some modicum of responsibility for the things that have been at our grasps to control…and if change is indeed indicative of wanting to do what is right, there are quite a few who wouldn’t complain. As husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, and mentors there are varying degrees of angst still lurking on the periphery that have not proven to be harbingers of good for men in general and Black men specifically, and we have a lot to say about them. Some would argue that the scales have not been equal, and parity is nothing more than a dream. Our conversations continue where voices are open and the volume much too high where truths are not arguable to good intent. Thus, the identification and definition of outward manifestations of inner soulfulness are portrayed in the minds of those that want to make a difference. Is it far-fetched to believe then that accountability should be first and foremost a prerequisite for first impressions? This is uppermost in my mind, and holds the glue to anything cohesive in this essay. Psychologists have analyzed the minds and souls of men for the longest and still there are doubts and intrigue to the psyche of what makes us tick, and why do we do the things we do. Undoubtedly there are collective reports that may be subjective to theories of thought, but what about individuals coming full circle to ask some of the same queries to gauge truth for better understanding, and to dispel any notions of negativism? What we think is important, and I feel that people DO and want to know what we are all about.

So here I am ready to solve a piece of a puzzle that is missing coherence and clarity to some to shed light on this dark passage – understanding men! My good friend and editor of the book you’re reading approached me with the query, “what is in the soul of men?” If you think nobody gives a hoot what Black men are thinking, think again. I often wonder myself! Nonetheless, some people would rather open us up and see why we do what we do, especially when there are those that fear us, and would do anything to keep us second class. We are a force – I know this because I’m aware that the corporate world loves us because they can coerce us to buy their products. Politicians have exploited us for years with promises and more promises. Banks coddle us because they want the deposits that fuel their institutional worth. The media, including TV, radio, and now the internet, want you to redefine what role models they want you to emulate…they want you to pay attention to more stereotypical crap. The point is, all of them want something from us. And when someone has a demand, and it’s us that they are after, we got power over them. Yes we, do! Anytime a collective group of people can earn more than 400 million dollars a year – that’s clout, baby! As a man of color, there are a plethora of things I’m always thinking about that have the propensity to make the grade for reflective thought. The depth of my soul is like a bottomless pit that cannot define volume. I’ve thought long and hard on how to answer this question and have come up with a few caveats that I’d like to share.

But first, hear me out. There’s just too much on the minds of men, where our souls are retched with pangs of how to do the right thing. It’s not far-fetched that men should be scrutinized for any meaningful intent in times like these. I welcome the chance to talk about my thoughts personally, and generically what other men SHOULD be thinking about. Every now and then the Black man’s long odyssey in America demands that we be heard. People want to know what lies beneath the shroud of anger and foreboding that has dogged us in time…and we haven’t been quiet, mind you. When the whispers get louder, the voices cry out in despair, rail against injustice, defy oppression, and have spoken truth with power and eloquence. For every man like me who will not be stifled by passivity, hundreds more are rising to occasions to be viable in communities struggling to be held accountable to legitimate concern. Other variables and paradoxes are at play, too. I think about the homeless and the predicament that dog the jobless. I’m at wit’s end with how to cope with the reality of stereotypical angst that propels the former and the latter. Success runs in our race for sure. At times we are embraced, sometimes we’re ignored, but mostly we are not understood by many who only see what’s on the surface. We endeavor to soar in triumphant unison where demand for respect is par for any course of acceptance. It’s when nostalgia reign supreme and my mind revert to thinking about the injustices and ill-will that we’ve had to endure that causes the hackles on my neck to stand on end. I feel that it’s always a moment to lament and wish that the pendulum swung yet the other way. I believe that time and circumstance has ways of affording the most astute among us chances to be the progenitors of good things despite all of the above. Moreover, we’ve always had our voices for self-affirmation and a sense of legitimacy. Each generation brings about change and new hope for better understanding as we talk among ourselves, and bring a sense of honor to our thoughts. It inspires us anew, and our souls and minds are full of the aforementioned ‘voices’. Thus, the real machismo insists that we are heard – our souls cry out to be taken seriously.

My idea of what lies in the soul of a man has many elements. Black men are much too complex for only surface matter to suffice, without myriads of other situations floating subconscious in mind. We’re not without reproach for things that we should be doing. I feel that men should first look in the mirror and see intrusively the need for concern dealing with self-esteem, lack of integrity and no accomplished value to have a better meaning to life in positive ways. What lies in the soul of a man? I can answer the question easily from a personal vantage point. It starts with me by being true to myself and maintaining an innate sense of relevance. Alas, I know that God made me in the image of Him, and had great plans for me, but along the way I stumbled… The African-American male, much maligned as he is, cannot be stereotyped any more justifying damages already incurred. What lies beneath the hubris is enough to begin the process for challenge and change as I regained my balance. With a new lease on life I picked up the gauntlet and ran with it! The intent is to posit frames of references to illustrate what black Americans should expect out of their men as opposed to what has been shown thus far on the surface. Interestingly enough, the first man of creation, Adam was given a blueprint and a set of directives and he failed miserably…so much so that the Divine plan originally entrusted to him didn’t exactly go awry to the point where we couldn’t eventually get it right. The souls of men should first emanate with a strong presence for spirituality where integrity can define a sense of worth for any progressive success. I feel that we could do a better job of stepping up, exerting ourselves and demanding respect on all levels of achieved reckoning.

What are we thinking about when we sit passively watching our communities fall in disrepair, see our families grow apart from apathy and lack of spiritual resolve, and most importantly, allow our progeny to fall prey to icons that are detrimental to their growth? I won’t say that my past is not checkered like so many of my peers, but having been there and done that, maturity served its purpose when my attention became centered on blueprints to construct a better role model. It is for the roles I’m destined to play in communities of thought and action. The wrongness that existed in my former life demanded that I make this change, and it took away the momentum of a nagging nemesis for intangibles to become much more than reality. You see, I once begged, borrowed, and stole anything that would allow me to be at the top of my egotistical game. I dressed the part, and allowed material things to define the fabric of my being. I was insecure at a time when I didn’t want to make mistakes that would have subsequent bearing on my career. I was a slave to sex, and at times disrespected women, myself, and distorted the truth enough to render me a mere caricature of the natural talent I had. Yes, I recall the times – ‘The ‘sensational seventies’ where the music was live and my imaginations ran away from me!

Time in its proper place will always be the barometer for change. I was able to triumph over adversity and iniquity by professing to elicit a better way of being respected, as there was something in it for me. I learned that in order to respect, one must intrusively pay homage in humble ways to see empathy in those with whom they endeavor to respect. Self-esteem became my focus, and it was not easy loving yourself in order to love others. I learned this by studying the Word. I began to think personally about how I could stop the degradation of women that I readily exploited in various segments of my carnal spirit. Instead of being the hunter after the game, I allowed the game to capture me…and in doing so I was forced to give them something to be respected of. Moreover, I thought about how equal parity could be afforded to women who were heading households while I was laying in the cut, or being cut down by society’s injustices. I sought to stop feeling sorry for myself and thinking that someone of another persuasion was the reason for my angst. I needed to think about what I can do to loosen the strings of racist attitudes and not allow it to hold me back

I can’t speak for all men, but I’m sure enough will agree that our dreams will often be imprisoned and relegated to the mockery and amusement of an unbelieving and unforgiving public. At times, life’s struggles, external and internal, will test the very souls for challenging resolve to go within. This is where self-esteem and integrity play the better part for us to get right. Social ills render us helpless, and we harbor thoughts, and sometimes do detrimental things to exacerbate the problems. Change allowed me to get completely naked; and as I stood before the mirror and saw myself for whom I really was, I stripped myself of all of the shame, guilt, and temptation of that which was not good for my soul. It forced me to get to know Him better as I looked deeper and saw the wonders of God’s penchant for putting everything where it should be at this point in my life. I had to find myself and the gift of discernment to let options be definitive of my actions – those where common sense would give good meaning to deductive reasoning. I couldn’t ignore that still small voice that roared so vociferously in my soul in the dead of night whenever He visited. It’s often at this hour that God prodded me to continue beyond sunrise to give more light at sunset!

The career I’ve carved learning to be a respected as a journalist and freelance writer is best exemplified in my writing. That’s my voice. I endeavor to write with clarity hoping that my peers see my worth. Along the way I got spiritual and spirited. I no longer worry about the friends I may have lost in my quest to be the best I can be. Words, wit, and new-found wisdom are my bosom buddies and my creativity will always flow. As I wrote, my thoughts gave new meaning to humbleness, and an ego that was lessened and lengthened for my journey subsided. It is my hope that my brothers and my many peers join me on this trip in making our race a good one to challenge what is needed for acceptance, be it from and to ourselves, or from different persuasions. The road we travel is not an easy one. What are we thinking about then? Our minds are not idle, and my mind is full and reverberating. I’m a conversationalist at heart and will talk to anyone willing to debate realism vs. ambiguity. There are some like myself who will run as fast as we can for the finish line of life, where God would be there to shake hands and say, “well done my faithful servants!” I want to be deserving of this, because I do not want to see women continuing to be the head of households, and where my community is not run by matriarchy. I want my young folk to take inventory of their lives so that self, family and community are interwoven for sustained awareness. I want black-on-black crime to cease for Agape Love to permeated using a sense of connectivity, commitment and the commission of good intent.

Lastly and certainly not lease of my thoughts were of those where I could be looked at with respect in any setting and excel because of, and not despite my race. Nowadays, it’s all about living vertically and continually seeking space to keep my thoughts just as reverent. The triumph of my soul is complete as I strive to make my achievements accountable. I’ve done some serious re-evaluation of my life while thinking back on my past. I do not lament for that which should have been, or what should be! I looked intrusively in that mirror I spoke of earlier, and didn’t allow laxity to dispel the truth that stared back at me. I lay bare my soul, and as black men with so many wrongs to right and for accountability to have value, we must challenge and be challenged. Of course I pray more now as I seek a greater audience with Him. I did it by using a triumvirate sense of awareness putting self, family, and community at the forefront of my initiatives. There’s a lot I will uphold to justify my covenant with God, with the changes I made in my life. I want to continue on an even plain. The applications that I’m adhering to, and the solutions thereof, are about a simple plan: I will live a code of honor where ethics and just doing the right thing will give much more to meaningful intent; I will live, learn, and listen more. Live for the moment that is, and allow a free spirit to guide me in my liberal leanings; and I will learn through the knowledge afforded me in my natural advantage it gives for discernable options, the importance of deductive reasoning, having common sense and good logic to define how I conduct behavior patterns. There’s more — I endeavor to gravitate around those that propel me higher as I will choose wisely my new friends. I will unclutter my mind, shore up my surroundings for a neater disposition. I will not hesitate to initiate and follow through on those things that need dumping, and will abandon what doesn’t work, and not dwell on things I’m unwilling to commit to fully.

What lies in my soul is everything that can and should fix what is wrong with the world according to man’s agenda to challenge and change the society in which he lives. My soul is my temple and my spiritual being is alive bubbling to the top waiting to explode! Asking me what’s on my mind is opportunity waiting to vociferate anew. I think about how we need to mobilize and support the election of that Black man running for President. The litmus test of loyal is upon us. We need to circle the wagons and support him, and in doing so change would start souls to solidify race to a new dimension. I’m sure there are those that DO believe in his progressive campaign for change, and in the minds of the men I talked to there are hopes, dreams, and accomplished verve that are ours to claim. We shall continue to talk, voice our opinionated views, and be on the mind of others who are wondering what we are thinking. The triumphs of our souls are the victories we claim over adversaries and how we can let others know what we are thinking in our souls. I think about loving the right way, and being loved in return. I think about doing my part to build the Kingdom and make sure that the Joshua generation has the role models to see what needs to be seen for measurable self-esteem. If we can dare to dream, let us have those great expectations and speak volumes for our victories. Check out my smile and measure my heart for the things I say and what I do. I will tell my constituents that there are peaks and valleys to life and that success will require opening up and being accountable. But by no means should they stop the flow of words between them. Continue talking, my brothers, and let your voices and actions be instruments for change. Perhaps the most important regimen for us to grasp is the need to reassert collective genius which has always empowered us in the past to survive. We can do this by loving each other more –but we’ll shout if we have to, and it should be okay!

For more information or to purchase visit www.thesoulofaman.net

Interview with National Best Selling Author Angela Winters

Angela Winters is a prolific writer, and blogger. She has written quite a few books, mostly focusing on the African American Romance genre. Her novels include over eleven titles including Only You, Sweet Surrender, Island Promise, A Forever Passion, and many others. Winters is also a screenplay writer who has received commendations from Scriptapalooza, Benderspink, American Accolades, aTalentScout, The People’s Pilot, Energy Entertainment, Script Magazine, Acclaim TV, Hollywood’s Next Success, and Fade In Magazine. Winters also runs Politopics, www.politopics.com, a blog that focuses on “Centrist Political Commentary from a Black Perspective.”

What inspired you to become an author?

Angela Winters: I’ve loved writing since I was a kid. I always knew what I wanted to be. I was a pretty solitary person, so writing was my communication.

What were some of the biggest obstacles that you faced when you began your career?

Angela Winters: Finding a new publisher when I wanted to change genres. My publisher was only interested in romantic suspense, which I had been writing. I wanted to move into mainstream family saga, but not a lot of publishers want to take that chance. It took a while.

How long does it generally take you to go from an idea or concept to a finished novel?

Angela Winters: A little more than a year depending on the schedule of the editor.

How long have you been blogging and what prompted you to start blogging?

Angela Winters: I started Politopics in Sept 2004, because I wanted to participate in political conversations and I felt there weren’t enough black blogs at the time.

There is a lot of content on your politopics.com site, how often do you blog?

Angela Winters: I’m currently on a hiatus, but I usually blog big 2x a week and ad hoc 3x a week. I rarely blog on the weekend. By “blog big” I mean post a lot of blogs with commentary. Ad hoc is just quick posting with a quick comment or no comment with an excerpt from the article.

What do you feel are some of the main creative differences between your previous written work and your blogging style?

Angela Winters: Writing fiction puts you more in control. Blogging, you have stay within the confines of the topic. Also the immediate feedback in blogging is different. You have to write with this in mind.

What are you currently doing to promote your blog? Any tips for all those bloggers out there?

Angela Winters: The best thing I did for my blog is guest blog on more popular sites. I emailed the blog owner, asked them to check out my site and asked to guest blog. People liked it and then came over to my site. Also offer to cross promote. I will quote from your blog, and you quote from mine with the link.

How do you think your own political views and ideas are shaping politopics.com?

Angela Winters: As I have evolved, politopics has me looking at issues differently. Comments with another point of view challenge you. Also when you know other people are listening, you research more before you post. I found that I am no longer as conservative as I used to be.

If you had to give a new blogger any key pieces of advice what would that advice be?

Angela Winters: Don’t be afraid of criticism. Also, spuce up your blog sometimes with an out of place topic. Read other blogs like yours and comment on them with a link to your blog. Build relationships with other bloggers. It will come in handy some day.

As long as we are on the topic of advice, what advice would you have for that new novelist trying to get that first novel published.

Angela Winters: Join writers groups. You will meet other authors who can refer you to their agent or publisher. Enter writing contest. Even if you don’t win, agents and publishers are judges and they might like you. When you approach an editor have a full concept, meaning know your audience, have good marketing and publicity ideas. Have examples of books like yours that have been a success. You’ll look more professional and publishers like writers who want to be involved in the process.

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