Today’s Featured Author – Elona Washington

Today I welcome author Elona Washington to my blog. Her memoir, From Ivy League to Stripper Life, came out last year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Washington DC & I currently live in suburban Philadelphia. I’m a mother of two, author and blogger.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I used to escape via reading and writing so I guess you can say my abuse inspired me to start.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve considered myself a writer since I was a child. I considered myself an author when my first book was published April 2015.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

 

I write full-time and Uber for additional income. I write in the afternoon in between driving shifts.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

I love the freedom but hate the minimal pay.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Helping others heal inspires me to write.

What inspired you to write this book?

It’s my memoir and I wanted it to show how child sexual abuse shaped me.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

I explain how my cousin first abused me at 5 in DC. I relocated to NJ and was abused by my best friend’s brother and his friends. He told me that if a boy wanted to have sex with me, I was supposed to let him.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

Game of Thrones

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

The library

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Perfect Peace by Daniel Black

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Iyanla Vanzant because she is wise & Oprah because she’s motherly.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I love alternative rock especially Linkin Park.

Book Blurb

Did you envision a better life for yourself but you’re unsure where things went wrong? In From Ivy League to Stripper Life, Elona talks candidly about why her life spiraled out of control and the lessons she learned along the way.

Through childhood memories and true stories from the strip club, Elona offers tips and life lessons every wife, mother and single woman will find useful. In these pages you’ll discover:

* Why men frequent strips clubs.
* Why no woman should ever be called a ho.
* That it’s possible what you’re going through has been assigned to you.

The key to finding your purpose and improving your life, love and relationships starts with you. If you want to get your life back on track or impact the lives of others, this book is for you.

About the Author

A native of Washington, DC, Elona Washington is the Amazon best-selling co-author of two anthologies and a blogger for the acclaimed Huffington Post and Digital Romance. She’s made guest appearances on HuffPost Live, prominent radio shows and podcasts.

Elona’s most recent book, From Ivy League To Stripper Life, attained Amazon bestseller status in two categories the day of its release. Between these pages, she candidly discusses her life as a stripper, why her promising life spiraled out of control and the lessons learned along the way.

With an undergraduate degree from Howard University, Elona later obtained her Master of Science in Management from the University of Maryland University College. She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a mother of two. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

You can purchase From Ivy League to Stripper Life on Amazon.

 

Dragons as characters in your novel

Dragons have been a storytelling staple for ages. They have appeared in folklore tales where heroes slayed the dragons to save the damsel.

And in more recent literature, TV shows and movies, dragons have appeared as wild beasts to be ridden or even turn out to be allies. Adding a dragon to your story can create instant conflict as these mythical creatures breathe fire and hoard their treasure or they can be a loyal friend and protector.

Anyway you look at it, adding dragons to your novel can be a way to interject some engaging characters.

The thing with dragons is that there are so many variations in looks and behavior that they really can’t be lumped together. Whether they are villains or protectors, friends or foes, here are the two main categories of dragons.

Types of Dragons

Western or European dragon – These dragons come from European folk traditions. These four-legged, reptilian creatures with wings often have some level of intelligence and may be able to speak either through speech or telepathy.

They dragons live in caves or near rivers. Some breathe fire or poison. Some may hoard treasure. Sometimes these dragons can shape shift into other creatures including humans. Their appearance is varied. They can have horns, multiple heads or tails and come in variety of colors and sizes.

Eastern or Chinese dragon – This also encompasses all Japanese and Asian dragons. These dragons are often serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence. They too have four legs but are wingless.

They creatures represent primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom, power and luck. Many are said to possess some form of magic. Temples and shrines are often built to honor them. Unlike the Western dragons, these Eastern dragons are portrayed as benevolent and kind.

Wyvern This smaller cousin of the dragon is a winged, two-legged creature with a barbed tail. It has the head and wings of a dragon but typically lacks the grace and intelligence of a dragon. They do not breathe fire or speak.

Dragons as characters

Since we are dealing with an imaginary creature, what you do with your dragon – whether you make him a ferocious beast protecting his lair or a full-fledge character adding conflict to your story – is totally up to you. You have complete control over whether your dragon is large or small, has one head or a dozen, and whether it has magical powers or any signs of intelligence. The possibilities are endless.

But if you are going to make your dragon more than a wild beast to be slain and going to make it an important character, you need to develop them as you would any other character. You need to know their desires, their back story and build their behaviors and characteristics around these traits.

My books

I love dragons, so they have shown up in all of my books. In my The Elemental trilogy, dragons are large enough for 5-6 people to ride. But they are far from beasts of burden. They are distinct, well-developed characters who speak telepathically but cannot breathe fire. My favorite is Zoot, a gruff, sarcastic black dragon that befriends Lina, the protagonist of the series.

In my stand-alone adventure, The Heir to Alexandria, the white dragon, Enchanta, plays less of a role in the novel. She too is telepathic, but her main role is to guard a hidden fortress, revealing it only to the rightful heir.

My current work-in-progress, tentatively called Blood Bond, goes back to making dragons main characters within the story. The tale is all about Soren and his dragon Dex. Here again, the dragons communicate telepathically and are key players in the plot.

So if you choose to add a dragon to your novel, feel free to go against the norm and create a unique creature that enhances your story. And remember, you are really only limited by your own imagination.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

The other day while online, I was reading an advice columnist. A woman wrote in about an incident with her boyfriend’s parents. The mom made a comment that she thought was rude. She responded with a sharp remark. When her boyfriend told her that what she did was rude, she didn’t believe him, hence the need to write into an advice columnist for an unbiased opinion.

The columnist sided with the boyfriend. The woman’s response was indeed rude. I agreed with the columnist but when I read the comments below the article, it seemed many other readers didn’t agree. Some of them even thought the woman should have been more direct. They thought she should stand up for herself rather than let the rude comment stand.

I didn’t read all the comments but none of the ones I read sided with the columnist. And I thought, “This is what is wrong with society.” The fact that the mentality was all about getting even or putting people in their place seemed wrong. Since when did two wrongs make it right? Yes, the parent’s comment was rude. She may have spoken without fully weighing her words. But instead of just brushing off the comment or maybe even bringing it to her boyfriend’s attention for an explanation, this woman chose the path of giving back what she thought she got in the first place.

There are many times that I tell my kids that they should not do back to the other one what was done to them. If one of them hit the other, it doesn’t mean you should hit back. An insult does not require an insult back. Being rude does not justify being rude back. I repeat the adage I heard from my own childhood – “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Jase was having issues with a few kids at his school teasing him. My husband talked to him about ways to handle it. On a few of them, Jase said that the response would be the same as bullying. He knew right away that he shouldn’t do back to the kids what was done to him. But it is all too easy for people to want to fall back on that. It is easy to lash out with equal amounts of anger or rudeness and justify that as you are only responding because it was done to you first.

When one of my kids runs to me and says the other was rude or mean, I remind them that they cannot control that person. They cannot control their actions or words. The only thing that they are in control of is their own actions and reactions. So when Jase is rude to her, instead of snipping back at him, she needs to stand up for herself without being rude. She can state that she doesn’t want to play with him when he speaks to her this way, or she can ignore his remark as she knows he is only trying to get a rise out of her. (Because don’t siblings always know how to push our buttons?)

It is a tough thing to learn and obviously based upon the comments to the advice column many people are in need of learning it. But I can’t control them. All I can do is set a good example for my kids and remind them that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Today’s Featured Author – Taiwo I. Ajao

Author Taiwo I. Ajao is on a virtual book  for Adunni Dares to Dream.

Excerpt

Whenever Adunni brought up the idea of school, somehow Mama found a way to end it. Despite the fact that she was illiterate, Mama was sharp, hardworking and very resourceful with money. Mama had married young, as was common in the culture, and she started to bear children as a teenager. It was unfortunate, however, that she experienced the loss of many of those children during childbirth. Only Adunni and her sister had survived, and Adunni wondered often about what she could have done to save those who hadn’t made it. Adunni was tearful as she remembered how her mother had nearly died last year during childbirth. Was every girl expected to get married and have children, even if it killed her? Adunni didn’t want to be like other girls: she wanted to be great! Adunni believed that to be great, she must be smart and be able to read, and learn great things.

Book Blurb

Adunni Dares to Dream is the true tale of a poor African girl who just wanted to go to school. Although she was a part of a very hardworking family, Adunni just could not have the finer things in life, like school, books, & literacy. In her culture, girls were just expected to look pretty, get married and have children. But Adunni wished for something more.

As Adunni dares to dream , she inspires many others to dream too, including a handsome young man who couldn’t stop dreaming about her! So Adunni has choices to make. Does she give in to her society’s expectations? Does she chose the status quo? What are Adunni’s dreams and where do her dreams take her?

About the Author/Illustrator

The Dr. Ajaos are a husband-wife, doctor-nurse team who have a joint passion for health literacy, preventative healthcare, and education for at-risk groups in the Global setting. Mrs. Taiwo I Ajao, the Author, is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health, while Dr. ‘Wale Ajao, the Illustrator, is an internationally-trained medical doctor with a Master’s of Arts in Communications & Producing for Film and Video. Together, The DrAjaos intend to address health literacy via it’s most fundamental forms: using the arts of writing, entertainment, and communication to educate children and their parents. Adunni Dares to Dream is the beginning of a beautiful merger of not just a celebration of educational achievement, but also of Faith, Hope, Love and Miracles.

You can find out more on their website.

Or check out Adunni Dares to Dream on Amazon

 

He said, she said: 4 Tips on Using Dialogue Tags

Recently, my husband commented there was a section of dialogue in my current work in progress (WIP) that was hard to follow. I don’t know if this is because he tends to listen to my WIP verses reading it or not. But either way, it is an area I need to go back and consider revising.

For readers to know who is speaking, you need dialogue tags such as he said and she replied. And while they are necessary, you don’t need them every time someone speaks.

Image result for dialogue tagsI am sure we all have encountered books full of too many or too few dialogue tags. (Check my post on that topic.) Even from professionally published authors I have had to stop and count lines backwards to figure out who is saying what.

Dialogue tags should be like punctuation marks – they should be invisible, guiding the reader, but not getting in the way of the story.

Here are four tips to help you use dialogue tags like a pro.

1.)  While your high school English teacher may have encouraged you to stray from the boring “said” or “asked,” there is nothing wrong with sticking with these words. But many new authors don’t want to stick with “said” and “asked.” They search out posts like this one that show you 100 different ways to say “said.” And while there is nothing wrong with interjecting a few of these into your text, you should do so sparingly. The concern with these more frivolous choices is that the words draw the reader’s attention away from the dialogue.

Bad Example: “You can’t go out into the dark,” Mary cried.

“What now?” Edward groaned.

“No, no, no,” she muttered. “Too dangerous.”

“What is your problem?” Edward wondered.

Here is a writer trying to use too many fancy tags. It should be rewritten to something more like this.

“You can’t go out into the dark,” Mary said, blocking the door.

Edward groaned. “What?”

“No, no, no.” Mary shook her head with each word. “Too dangerous.”

“What is your problem, Mary?”

The second scenario allows you to focus more on the dialogue.

Now there may be times when your dialogue may not communicate the tone or emotion clearly. And there is nothing wrong with using a descriptive tag such as whispered, shrieked, muttered, grunted or boasted to help your reader understand the scene.

Example: “Leave me alone,” he muttered.

But don’t worry about using other words than “said” or “asked.” If you only use them when necessary, and the dialogue is interesting, no one will even notice them. And that is what you want.

2.)  The placement of dialogue tags and how often you use them are important – even more so if you have a lot of characters in a scene. Well-positioned tags insure your scene make sense and eliminate any reader confusion. If a reader has to backtrack a few paragraphs or pages to get the conversation straight, a writer risks the book being abandoned.

Example:  “You always do this to me, Mary,” Edward said. “You get all worked up, forbid me to do something and it turns out to be nothing.”

Bob held up his hand. “Stop it right there, Ed. You don’t need to pick on poor Mary.”

“Thanks, Bob,” Mary said flashing him a smile. “I knew I could count on you.”

“Anything for you.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “If you two are done…”

3.)  You don’t have to always use said or any other dialogue tag to indicate who is speaking. You can use action to indicate this as well as to provide information essential to understanding the character and/or some element of the scene. In the above example, Bob holding up his hand and Edward rolling his eyes are examples of this way to identify the speaker without a dialogue tag.

Or you can have the characters use each other’s names as they speak – but again, this is done sparingly.

Bad Example: “What are you doing, Bob?” Mary asked.

“I am helping you out, Mary.”

“You know she doesn’t need your help, Bob,” Edward said.

So in the above example, characters are calling each other by name but a little too often. In real life people use other people’s names sparingly (typically at the beginning or end of a conversation) and so should your characters. Here is the above example revised.

Mary glared at Bob. “What are you doing?”

“I am helping you out, Mary.”

Edward stepped in front of Mary, shielding her. “She doesn’t need your help, Bob.”

4.)  Use adverbs (such as loudly, softly and angrily) with your dialogue tags sparingly – as in almost never. Nothing points out a novice quicker than a writer who uses adverbs to tell your reader how someone spoke or even worse uses an adverb with one of the fancy alternatives to said.

Examples: she said excitedly

He exclaimed loudly (redundant)

Using an adverb is telling your reader how the dialogue was spoken instead of showing them.

Example: “I never want to see you again,” she said angrily.

But instead of telling us she is angry, show us.

“I never want to see you again,” she said, storming out the door and slamming it behind her.

Of course, as with any “rule” there are exceptions. Sometimes adding an adverb can be a quick way to indicate a mannerism or emotion (she said quickly; he said coldly) without writing longer, descriptive sentences. But keep this to a minimum.

Wrapping it Up

To summarize….

  • Unless you have a good reason, stick to the standard “he said, she said.”
  • Other simple verbs – she asked, she whispered, – are fine.
  • Fancy verbs – he bellowed, she interjected – should be avoided.
  • Use only as many dialogue tags as needed for clarity. If two people are speaking, one every three or four lines is about right. You will need more dialogue tags if you have more characters speaking in the same scene.
  • You can also use character action or calling a character by name to indicate who is speaking.
  • Never use adverbs (or at least very rarely). Instead of telling, show the reader the action.

Even though “said” is the preferred verb, if you use it every time, your dialogue will become tedious. So aim for variety. With some practice, you will learn when a dialogue tag sounds correct and appropriate. In fact, if you don’t even think about or notice the dialogue tag…you got it right!