Citizens of Henry Adams, Kansas are in the midst of a mayoral election. Trent July has been mayor for the past four years since Bernadine Brown purchased the town online and brought about much change for the small, historically black town built by freedmen. They are once again fighting those who would betray their trust and steal their homes and land. In this awesome, Blessings tale, Beverly Jenkins shows us that might does not make right, and often it is the humble and meek who bring about change and who are the true heroes of the day.
I loved this story with it’s mix of older and younger characters. Ms. Jenkins gives us romance, intrigue, suspense, friendship, and inspiration. In Henry Adams we see what a small town could be like if everyone works together for the greater good. She also shows us the mistakes we make as humans, are failings and shortcomings but how we can overcome these to be better and stronger. Her positive female characters with their strength and courage
As I listened to this story, I dreamed of what I could do in my own small town if only I had the money and opportunity. Like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, I too have a dream of saving my hometown and making it a place where all children, all people live together in harmony.
Ms. Jenkins gives us a map of what it could be like if we could create our town and give its inhabitants safe places to live, share and seek solace. Henry Adams, Kansas is as close to paradise as we on earth can hope for and I’d love to live there.
It is an honor to welcome former Air Force drill instructor, Kevin E. Eastman to my virtual café. It is so good to have you here.
Kevin: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Sherri: My father served in the Air Force, thank you for your service to our country. You are still serving with your books. Your latest book “Don’t Gamble on Life Improvement… Until You Shift the Odds” (Second Edition) is a self-help book. Tell us a little about how you came to write it. What happened in your life that made this book important for you to write?
Kevin: I appreciate the thanks, and the support. Yes, I served over 20 years in the Air Force, a good portion of my adult life, and truly believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve been afforded as a result of my Air Force service, and as well as the people like your dad, who served before me, and paved the way.
What inspired my book? Well, my book was “born” as a result of many of my personal experiences. Life wasn’t going according to my plan, and I needed to figure out why. I didn’t like the place I was at in life and knew I didn’t want to continue on that course. Thanks to some wonderful mentors, and through some painful, but necessary self-assessments, I was able to “crack the code,” and it opened up an entirely new perspective. As I was reading what started as personal essays for my own use, I figured I couldn’t be the only person who could benefit from the lessons I learned. So, I decided to publish of few of them.
Sherri: You say this book is for anyone who has faced obstacles, but that’s everyone. Surely your book isn’t for everyone?
Kevin: I truly believe there is something in my book for everyone, either directly or indirectly. I like to say, if someone reads my book, and feels they don’t need anything in my book, they will know someone who does needs something in it. Everyone encounters obstacles; some more than others. Many obstacles hinder some people, yet avoid others entirely. The message of my book is about examining your mindset, in order to get over those obstacles. The topics I discuss in the book are the ones I believe contribute most to the chaos we encounter in life. Naturally, there are many obstacles I may have missed, but the overall message is learning how to develop what I call an “inside out” mentality. When things go wrong, check you out, first. If you are okay, then look for outside causes. Many people will look for an outside cause first, and the problem may never get resolved. What I’ve learned is, most of the obstacles I’ve encountered where only as large as I made them in my head. Learning how to simplify circumstances was the “magic formula” I needed.
Sherri: “Simplify circumstances” you are definitely preaching to me. Looks like I need to purchase a book.
You have degrees in business and marketing. What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for small business owners and authors especially?
Kevin: As a marketing major, I say this with fair amount of confidence. Many business owners, and authors in particular either don’t realize, or simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that marketing in itself, is at best, a crapshoot. The only part of the process you own is the quality of your product, and the message for its usefulness. Anything beyond that point is out of your control. Your job is to create and produce the best product you can and relay a message to a potential customer of how your product can satisfy a need they may have. You have zero control over whether the customer spends their money on your product. Therefore, I think the biggest challenge is breaking through the “ice” a potential customer may have created. Creating an effective message is essential to achieving this.
Sherri: My dad had a saying, I’m not sure where he got it from but I call it a Jimmy-ism (my dad’s name was James we called him Jimmy), “Scared money don’t make money.” In your book, you have a chapter on “A Fear of Winning,” I’ve been afraid of losing but I’m not sure if I’ve ever been afraid of winning. Explain what you mean by that.
Kevin: Well, to understand that, you must realize, the title of the book, as well as the title for several chapters are largely metaphoric. The chapter you referenced catches many people off-guard, and that’s exactly what I designed it to do. Of course, everyone likes winning. The “fear” I discuss is a figurative one, in which many people (myself included, at one point) become so “afraid” of winning, they engage in activity and behavior they know won’t end well. Why? It gives them something to blame their misfortune on, other than their mindset. It alleviates the pressure of seeing themselves as the obstacle they need to overcome.
Sherri: I have seen this mindset not just in others but in myself. From someone who has lived most of their life, afraid of trying, I can relate to your premise, that fear handicaps us. How do we stop being afraid?
Kevin: Fear, like all every other emotion, affects people differently. It is the ability to keep them under control as much as possible that makes them easier to manage, and that is an important task, if you discover the need to adjust your mindset. The most effective method to think about this, at least in my mind, is remembering something I was taught: “Identify the things that scare you, and do them anyway, because you stand to gain the most by conquering them.” It’s okay to be afraid, as long as it doesn’t prevent you from achieving a goal you’ve set. Then, it becomes an issue. How do you stop being afraid? You just stop! I know…it’s easier said than done, but you facilitate it by putting the obstacle you’re facing in perspective. You will that many of the things you’re afraid of are not as bad as your brain makes them appear. Your perception controls a lot more than you may realize.
Sherri: On a personal note, you are a positive role model for young men, especially young men of color. What would you like to say to the graduating class of 2020? If you were the keynote speaker for a high school or college graduating class, what would you want them to take away from your speech?
Kevin: Thank you for that. I try to act as a role model, because someone was a role model for me. I would tell the class of 2020: Challenges and obstacles are part of life, so get used to them. Some may be harder than others, and sometimes, they may make you feel like giving up, but you can’t. This year put a damper on a lot of things, in ways we never could have imagined. This is why it’s important for you to create goals and strive to achieve them. Among you, are the people who do the research to eradicate the Corona Virus, as well as the discovery and invention of other things! All you need is an avenue and the tools to get you to the place where you can do your thing.
Keep pushing though it seems impossible, because “impossible” becomes reality with continued effort. Remember this: at one time, automobiles, airplanes, elevators, cell phones, and light bulbs were considered “impossible,” too! Remember this, and it took me nearly 30 years to figure out: YOU are your only limit! If you want a goal, do your research, make a plan, and get after it… PERIOD!
Sherri: What separates the winners from the losers in business or in life?
Kevin: I’d like to think that there are no “losers” in life, per se, though some people’s action may warrant that distinction. Given the scenario as written, I’ll say what separates the two, are the decisions they make based on the circumstances they’re dealt, and the effort they’re willing to spend in order to reach a goal. Some people rise to the occasion, and overcome the obstacles in the way, while others are stopped in their tracks. It depends on your perception of the obstacle standing between you and the goal. Your desire to get to the goal, must be great than the obstacle’s ability to defeat you. I was always taught, that a person doesn’t really “lose” until they decide to stop trying.
Sherri: I agree 100% If we are passionate about something we need to keep trying until we find that sweet spot that feels like our own personal success. Sometimes we have to go back to the beginning and start over but we have to keep believing that’s the difference between winning and losing. Trying.
What do you wish you’d done differently when you first published your book?
Kevin: The one thing I would have done differently is publicized the book further in advance of its release. The feedback I’ve gotten since its release has been great, and well appreciated, but in retrospect, I would have started promoting it much sooner.
Sherri: Do you have any plans to write in any other genres? Have you considered writing a book geared to a younger audience?
Kevin: Interesting question. As a writer, I have stories of all kinds swirling in my head, so it’s hard to say. I do have an idea for a fiction story, so I may just give it shot. Surprisingly, I haven’t given a thought to writing a YA book, but who knows what the future holds?
Sherri: What would you like people to take away from today’s interview?
Kevin: I want the people who read this interview to know that my book is written to help people, just as I was helped…. by simplifying obstacles. It isn’t always easy to admit that you may need help, and I know that from first-hand experience. The moment I learned how to get out of my own way, a brand-new perspective was shown to me. The journey to improvement isn’t an easy task, but it is a winnable one, when you have the right tools. Perhaps, one of the lessons I’ve learned can help make someone else’s journey easier. I enjoy getting notes and emails from supporters and readers. Hearing about their successes lets me know that my words are helping other people.
Sherri: Thank you Kevin for joining me at my virtual café. If you enjoyed our chat be sure to check out Kevin’s books and follow him on social media. His links are listed below:
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon Narrated by Je Nie Fleming (audiobook)
When her breakup with her boyfriend goes viral, Samiah Brooks decides to give up on men and focus on her own project. Along with her new gal pals London and Taylor, Samiah is ready to face her new-found freedom as a modern woman who doesn’t need a man to define her. That is until she arrives at work Monday morning and meets the new guy, Daniel Collins. If hot computer guy needed a definition, Daniel Collins would be it. Can Samiah possibly abstain when she has to share space with this guy who is not only delicious to look at but kind and considerate too!
But everything isn’t as it seems. Daniel is at the company undercover to do a job for the U. S. Treasury Department and once the job is done, he’ll be gone. He doesn’t plan to fall for Samiah, but she is not only beautiful but talented and caring. Every time he is near her, he wants her more. He might be lying about somethings but his feelings for her are real, too real. The choice he has to make may cost him either the career he loves or the woman he’s coming to love. Doing the right thing has never been this hard.
I loved this book. The characters were dynamic and powerful. Samiah, a black woman in the tech field feels the pressure to not only be the best for herself but for all the black girls that might come after her. It’s a big burden to carry but one many women of color feel, or so I have been told. They know others will be judged by their actions. Right or wrong, it is the way of the world and for a caring person it can be overwhelming. I thought Rochon handled this with finesse, teaching without preaching.
I also loved that Daniel wasn’t an alpha-asshole, he was strong and caring, in charge but still vulnerable. I fell in love right alongside Samiah, that is the power of a good romance.
Farrah Rochon took me into the skin of her characters and allowed me to live there of a little while, feeling all the wonderful and powerful emotions until the very end. I loved the ending. I felt Samiah was true to her character and so was Daniel. They showed honest emotions and reactions and made the reader believe that this could happen just the way it did. I also liked the fact that it wasn’t a perfectly happy ending, it had depth. Samiah didn’t let Daniel completely off the hook and still felt the need to take things slow.
Read this book, it was awesome! I can’t wait until the next installment. I have to know what happens with London and Taylor. I believe Farrah Rochon has found a permanent spot on my bookshelf! I will be searching her backlist for more goodies.
Welcome Tiffany Christina Lewis to Creekside Café. It is great to have you here.
Tiffany: Thanks for having me Sherri!
Sherri: Your recent blog post titled “Scary Genre: Romance” made me laugh. At first, I wanted to call you on it but then as I read on, I realized we have the same problem, the interpretation of romance. I thought I was a romance writer but then realized this shit isn’t romance. I like to blow things up and kill people, oh they can stop and have sex, but it’s not all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it’s just banging up against the wall and maybe I’ll call you later. What is your interpretation of romance? How do you think the romance genre varies now from what it used to be?
Tiffany: Oh boy. What it used to be was ladies in flowing dresses and making love in flower fields! Every cover was a beautiful woman and a hunky man in a scenic location. The stories were of taming men for marriage or women head over heels. Now, we have interracial, multiple sexual preferences, genre splicing and settings that don’t just resemble lovely flower fields. I interpret romance as fake love. I know a lot of romance authors will want to fight when I say that, but I’m really referring more to TV and movies. I am just starting to really read Romance for education purposes. Educating myself on writing and genres is very important at this stage in my career. A dear friend of mine, Zachary Sigurdson, was the first one to tell me how important it was to get out of my genre, so I am slowly learning about new romance. In TV and film, romance happens when someone picks up your napkin. Unfortunately, I’ve never experienced anything like that, so it’s hard for me to rationalize it.
Sherri: As a hopeless romantic, I differ with what I think romance is. To me, romance isn’t just heart and flowers, it’s giving the person what they need to be their best. When I read romance, I see new authors trying to interpret this in today’s landscape as well as the modern historical romance authors.
I’ve also been married to my own romantic hero for going on 29 years. While some days I want to beat him with a pool noodle, most days he’s my biggest champion. He encourages me to do what makes me happy. He was as excited about my first book as I was. He is my teammate, my partner, my friend and lover, to me, that is romance.
Tiffany: I agree with you on your assessment of romance. Real romance is giving your partner what they need to be their best! We’re still early in our relationship but my boyfriend is also my business partner and his willingness to support my business aspirations and even participate in them, has been life changing.
Sherri: You refer to yourself as a rebel. I agree. I think most of us writing Indie are rebelling against the traditional publishers. What is your rebellion?
Tiffany: My rebellion is actually cultural. When I wrote Inside Out in 2014, there was a huge wave of Urban Fiction in self and Indie publishing that featured negative stereotypes and bad characters. I wanted to flip that on its head. I wanted to be an African American author who wrote Black characters who were not drug dealers, womanizers, promiscuous or murderers. I have always had a love for detective stories so my books were bound to be Crime Fiction and I thought what better way to represent an upstanding African American male than in the role of a detective. Over time, I made my characters LITERALLY rebellious and their passion for avenging victims comes first, over following rules and procedures.
Sherri: We need more positive role models of color. I’m glad to see you breaking the stereo type. If you are looking for great authors who write African American characters who are honorable and strong, check out Reese Ryan, Farrah Rochon, and Beverly Jenkins.
Tell us a little about your series. I recently purchased your first book Inside Out. Michael Taylor sounds like an interesting character. What made you write a crime novel from a male, police detective’s point of view?
Tiffany: Again, part of me wanted to pick a man to mangle stereotypes that were abundant back in those days. He was also the first character to come to me for a full-length work. My stories often just fall out of my imagination and into my lap. I had many stories published back then with many female and male characters, non-detective, but he was the first one who I felt I could write as a novella. I was able to grow that book into two full novels in the series, and the plan is for at least three more.
Sherri: You say you don’t write romance and yet we have a love interest or romantic connection here with Candy aka Vanessa. Tell us a little about their relationship. Why is it not a romance?
Tiffany: Their relationship is entirely romantic but it fits what I think romance is, compared to what I thought romance was offering back then. They met at a strip club which is something urbanites sometimes do, and Michael’s behavior with her, although romantic has an interesting twist that I think is not very abundant in romance. I will also say, without giving too many spoilers, that hint of romance is why it took me four years to write the second book in the series…
Sherri: I think we often get hung up on labels and when it comes time to define ourselves or our writing, we haven’t got just one box to put it in. While your books are definitely crime thrillers, how else would you describe them; what other box or category would you classify them?
Tiffany: Crime is definitely the overarching category for all my books, but the Michael Taylor series is police procedural and these novels have a strong focus on criminals. I love the psychology of criminals so they get a lot of shine in my books. I don’t think there is necessarily a category for that in fiction. In non-fiction it is categorized as True Crime when the movements of a criminal and detective are outlined.
Sherri: You published Inside Out in 2014, you have two other novels in this series out now. What do you think you have learned since writing and publishing your first book? What do you wish you’d done differently? What will you do different with any future books?
Tiffany: The number one thing I would have done differently would have been to keep writing and not wait this long to release a sequel and get serious about my career as a writer. I did a lot of things between 2014 and now that was not writing, marketing or honing my skills as an author. Let my mother tell it, there are two things I was born to do, teach and write. I have been a preschool teacher for over 15 years and this has placed me in many high-ranking positions in the childcare industry, but I haven’t dedicated nearly as much time to my writing career and that was a mistake. I would have sold more and had a nice fan base by now, had I stuck with it, but still, no regrets. Had I released Stitches before 2019, it wouldn’t have been the same.
In the future, I will do what I’m doing now which is finishing my books, making sure they are high quality and release them frequently. I believe the number one marketing tip for authors is to have another book coming out. Lol. So, that’s my plan.
Sherri: Tell us a little about your new company, Rebellion Lit. Are you publishing other authors now?
Tiffany: Rebellion Lit is the brain child of my partner Brandon Lambert. He is the one who taught me that I was a rebel. He has allowed me to run Rebellion with lots of freedom! We each have our area of expertise and Rebellion Lit is my baby. I am very passionate about the company and can’t wait to introduce it to more readers and writers!
Currently we are not publishing other authors, but I have a hand full of people that I am keeping my eyes on. Some self-published authors I’ve met I would love to publish but I have to get the company on a proper trajectory first. There is nothing worse than getting a contract with a publisher who can’t get your book where you want it, so we are starting with yearly Anthologies. They will be themed and we’ll be looking for author submissions in December! We are BUYING works for the book because I believe authors should be paid for their hard work and with our anthologies we can continue developing proper marketing, as well as offering many, many authors exposure for their talent! It’ll be a blast!
Sherri: Tiffany, thank you for being a part of Creekside Café Chats, I look forward to seeing what happens next with your writing and publishing. If you all enjoyed this interview, check out Tiffany’s links and follow her on social media. You can buy her books through her website or on Amazon.