Google+ Followers

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How Playing Sims Helps My Fiction Writing

I don't really mess with many video games; back in the day I pretty much stuck to Pac-Man and Centipede. Then later on, Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt.

Several years ago, I started playing Sims. And I got hooked on it.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, Sims is a simulation game where you create the people, build (or buy) their houses, get them jobs, and pretty much control everything they do.

I've probably been playing that for about 14 years now, at least. The original, Sims 2, and Sims 3. There's Sims 4 now, but I haven't played that yet because I'm so in love with Sims 3. (Well, that, and because buying a bunch of new games really isn't in the budget right now).

                                                      The Sims 3 wallpaper - The Sims 3 Wallpaper (6549689) - Fanpop

Anyway, I can play this game for hours on end, for multiple days in a row. This is part of the reason why I had to limit myself and only play on certain days. It's kind of considered a reward at the end of a long week.

I'm sure people probably think that the hours and hours I spend on this game is a waste of time. And once upon a time, I might've agreed with that. But now, I no longer see it that way.

It goes without saying that in order to write fiction, (which I do), imagination is pretty necessary. One thing I've noticed is that as I'm creating these neighborhoods and these families and all of their actions, my imagination kicks into overdrive. I get to creating all kinds of backstories about where they came from and why they do what they do, and it just makes it all the more addicting for me.

It almost becomes like a soap opera.

I'll give each character motivations that exist only in my mind...create characters for a sole purpose...incite rivalries or bonds that last as long as their little Sim lives do.

One of the awesome things about the Sims 3 is that time doesn't stand still for the other households in the neighborhood while you're playing the household of the moment. They go on living without you controlling them. And I become so invested in everything that I actually take it a little personally when something doesn't go quite the way I want it to (like when a couple that I've married off splits up behind my back).

One time, three of my characters died in a meteor crash. I could have exited out, not saved it, and gone back to how it was before that, doing my best to try to avoid that same fate happening again. But I thought it would make for better storylines (in my head) if I let it be. And I got to play with an emotion that's not terribly prevalent in the Sims: grief.

(I tell you, that one actually hurt a little bit. It's amazing how ensconced I get in this. But one of the widows became a cougar after that!).

Not only is this game entertaining for me, it's also inspiring. As I'm creating all of these elaborate scenarios and storylines for these Sims, ideas for my books start to spring forward.

It could be anything, big or small. In Take One for the Team, the character Raven was named after one of my Sims. And she was a chef, which is one of the Sims professions.

The idea for a new series began to play out in my head one day when I was playing. I'm actually going to start a new neighborhood, create the characters I have in mind, and see how some things play out. (Yes, seriously).

It's like having my own little simulated minions on screen in front of me, keeping that idea mill churning.

Playing Sims could also spark an idea that's not directly from the game, but the game served as a springboard for it. (Remember, I've used a wonderful trampoline analogy for this here.)

See there? You never know where inspiration could come from.

So, while I know I can't spend hours and hours and hours playing Sims on multiple days like I used to, it's not totally pointless when I do play it. Call it research, if you want.

 And hey, whatever works, works.

You can see how Raven turned out in Take One for the Team by ordering your copy here. Kindle or paperback. Take your pick.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My PMS Wears Brass Knuckles

Brace yourself; this might be a semi-TMI post.

I tried to tell you up front.

All right, you're still here. So basically, for whoever doesn't know, PMS is Premenstrual Syndrome. (I shouldn't assume you know that). It's those wonderful few days before a woman's monthly cycle begins where hormones are fluctuating more than a man who can't commit.

Every woman is different in what symptoms they get; the most common one you hear about is cramps. Thankfully, I no longer get those. I have the fun of having fatigue, irritability, lethargy, wanting to eat everything in sight, and tender ta-tas. Anxiety, the inability to concentrate, and depression are also frequent visitors. (I've shared about my battles with depression before; you can read that here).

And I always say that I'm gonna deal with it better next month. It's not like I don't know it's coming. But every month, that claw grabs me again and it's hard to pry myself free without a lot of torn clothing and gauges and bruises (figuratively speaking, of course).

So this month (yesterday, especially) was particularly hard for me in that I felt especially hopeless and irritated with everything. There are many things going on in my life right now that I wish would improve...some that I have control over and some that I don't, and when I'm PMSing, my reaction to them gets amplified times ten. All I wanted to do was be left alone so I could be the center of attention at my own pity party.

When my son asked what was on the agenda for the day, my response was, "Nothing. I just wanna lay here and melt."

And I tried to do that. I curled into a ball in the far corner of my comfy couch and tried to block out everything. Slept for a while. Then I went to my bedroom and tried again. Slept some more.

I don't even wanna think about how much weight I've probably gained in the last few days. Not only has my appetite been through the roof, my back has been hurting so much that I could hardly even stand up straight, so I couldn't work out for a good four days. Which only added to my frustration (and discomfort), of course.

My career seems to be on a treadmill to nowhere, and when you try and try and try and make little to no progress, you end up at 'What's the Point?' Avenue and 'Why Even Bother?' Circle. Especially when you see so many other people lapping you, seemingly effortlessly (even though it probably isn't), and you just want to yank them by the hair and sling them back a few yards to give yourself more time to catch up. (Rational thinking kind of goes out the window, too, in case you haven't picked up on that).

I seriously just thought about giving up altogether and resigning myself to a life of slightly-above-averageness.

Needless to say, this is not a fun time. And this February round of PMS has been particularly rough. It hit me so hard I feel like I'm just starting to recover from the knockout punch.

Why am I sharing all this?

We all go through tough times. It can be from PMS, or just life in general. It happens. But it's all in how you deal with it. We might get knocked down with the proverbial brass knuckles, and it might hurt like the dickens and we wonder how we'll ever get up from that, but we can. It might take some time, but we can totally recover.

I'm certainly trying to now.

I finally was able to do a short workout earlier today. My back still hurts, but not nearly as much as it was. Progress.

And afterwards, I came across this journal someone had given me a while back:

"Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything."

That comforted me. So much to the point where I got on my knees and prayed right then. And I know that when you pray, you have to pray believing. Otherwise, you're wasting your time.

I'm definitely a believer. God always makes a way. Even when you've been knocked out for a little while and thrown off kilter.

I'll tell you what, though; those brass knuckles hurt.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Life is a Trampoline

One thing that I get asked a lot is where I get my inspiration from.

A pretty common question for an author, I suppose.

Well, the answer to that is easy. Inspiration comes from life. My life, other people's lives...doesn't matter. Anything can spark that creative flame a'roarin'.

Take my book Not By a Long Shot, for instance. The main character, Natasha, was dumped by her boyfriend in a text message after three years. I was dumped by my boyfriend in an email after two years.

In Some Like 'em Thick, Oasis is one of the top furniture salespeople in the area. So was my father.

In It's All Right...Now, the two main characters, Monica and Ivy, are loosely based on me and my friend Charlotte, who I've been friends with since third grade. Most of the story was fabricated, but a couple of the things in the book actually happened.

The character Thurgood West in Get Right is greatly based on my pastor, Danny R. Nance. Sitting in service one Sunday morning listening to him preach is what sparked the idea for that book.

In Decisions and Consequences (the sequel to Not By a Long Shot), Sharif and Davion are pretty much a combination of my idea of the ideal man.

The idea for Take One For the Team literally came to me when I was at the gas station. I imagined meeting someone across the bays of the station, just like Van met Grant in the book.

I was riding to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving a few years ago when I got the idea for She is Me. The main character, Tonnette, is a low-key homebody, just like I am. And she honed her alter ego, Toni, in Barbados, which is a place near the top of my travel wish list.

I could keep going, but you get the idea. My own life or the things I see around me is usually the jumping off point for my stories. It can be the smallest thing, like going to the gas station. Or it can be therapeutic, in a way, like how it was dealing with the breakup from my boyfriend (getting dumped in an email is not fun...and did I mention that we were planning to get married, just like Natasha and her man had been in the book?). Writing that book was actually very healing, in a way.

Plus, when you're writing the story, you can make it turn out the way you want it to. A real-life crappy ending can become a happy ending in your story. Or vice versa, if you want to twist it like that.

Or, you could get that revenge on someone that's been clouding your brain since they wronged you.

But I digress.

My point is, when it comes to this book-writing thing, imagination definitely plays a big part, but don't underestimate what's going on in your own life...there's probably a ton of good material right under your nose. And if you have a large family or a bunch of friends or even an interesting job, then that's even better. You can get loads of inspiration just by watching other people.

Not to mention watching the news, watching movies, listening to music, reading (a writer who doesn't like to read doesn't make sense to's like a babysitter who doesn't like kids).

So yeah, pay attention and I bet you'll be inspired, too. Whether it inspires you to write a book or do something else, it doesn't really matter (as long as you're not inspired to break the law or hurt somebody).

Can you just walk straight on a trampoline? The slightest bit of movement causes you to bounce a little bit, doesn't it? As long as you're living or moving, you're bouncing. And even those little bounces can be the springboard to something great.

Speaking of It's All Right...Now, you get a free PDF of that book when you subscribe to my email list on You can read it and try to guess which parts are true and which parts aren't. ;)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

You Don't Have to Have Sex, Just Get Out in the City

So there's one little thing about me that I'm not afraid to admit:

I can be kinda lazy at times.

I'm a bit of a homebody. Okay, that's a lie; I'm a huge homebody who is perfectly happy staying home most of the time...spending time with my son, watching movies or basketball, reading or writing, playing Sims...just minding my own business. Sometimes I don't want to do much more than just lay around on my awesome sofa. And lately I've been doing a little too much of that.

Why do I say that?

Well, I've noticed recently that my writing hasn't been flowing as it usually has; it's like there's something blocking the rush of creativity to my brain. I thought it was just your run-of-the-mill writer's block that happens from time to time, but mine usually doesn't last as long as it has this time.

It's an icy night here in Georgia and I'm up late, going through a online course on copywriting (something I've been into for a while now). I'd been at it for hours and needed a break, so I un-muted the TV and watched Sex in the City for a little while. And it was like the proverbial lightbulb finally turned on.

Carrie always got the inspiration for her column from her own life. She actually went out and lived and therefore, had plenty of material.

That was my problem.

I've been holed up way too long, and my creative garden was wilting.

I've never been one to go out that much, but occasionally I'll go to a movie or take myself out to dinner, or just go somewhere and people-watch. And I have the occasional date here and there with my boyfriend (he lives out of state, otherwise it would be more often). But in my recent desire to stay to myself, I've cut myself off from the water that will make my creative garden grow. I've even started getting my groceries delivered, since I hate grocery shopping.

Bottom line, I need to get out of the house.

Now, I'm an introvert and a loner...I don't have a group of girlfriends like Carrie did. I don't like going out on the town like she does (I'm not a fan of large crowds). I don't have a shoe fetish (though I do love me some shoes). And I certainly don't go through the men like she (and her friends) did.

But that doesn't mean I can't have my own little version of Jessica in the Smaller City.

Just that little revelation has me up at almost 3:00 in the morning writing this.

So when you find yourself stumped for stuff to write about, or doing anything that involves some kind of creativity, get up and get out. Go do something. Live. Get out in the city.

But you don't have to have sex.

Unless you just want to. That's your business.

P.S. Van finally tried something new and her life changed...whether or not it was in the best way, I'll leave that up to you. You can get your copy of my book 'Take One For the Team' here and read all about it. Feel free to let me know what you think.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Depression Chose Me Out of the Lineup

Let's talk about depression for a minute.

I'll divulge this; I went through this hard in 2015 (and last year, too, though not quite as bad). In the sake of full disclosure, I was never formally diagnosed because I was too paranoid to go to a doctor, but my homegirl was medically diagnosed with it and she said I sounded just like she was. And when I read up on it, I had most of the symptoms:

  • sadness
  • tiredness
  • trouble focusing or concentrating
  • unhappiness
  • anger
  • irritability
  • frustration
  • loss of interest in pleasurable or fun activities
  • sleep issues (too much or too little)
  • no energy
  • craving unhealthy foods
  • anxiety
  • isolation
  • restlessness
  • worrying
  • trouble thinking clearly or making decisions
  • poor performance at work or school
  • dropping out of activities
  • guilt
  • suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • pain, like headaches or muscle aches
  • drug or alcohol abuse
Now thankfully, I never wanted to kill myself and I never used drugs or alcohol, but other than those, I had every symptom on this list. And I had them regularly. Every day was a different mix.

When it first started hitting me, I figured it was just some elongated form of PMS that would pass sooner or later. But it didn't. My moods would switch from irritable to down-in-the-dumps in the blink of an eye, and after a while, I knew something was wrong. I've never been one to just spontaneously burst into tears, but that's exactly what I was doing. And sooner or later, some of my family started to take notice, regardless of how much I tried to hide it. I didn't want my son to see me like that so I always tried to put my game face on around him, and also I just didn't want to answer a bunch of questions about what was wrong with me.

Truth was, I didn't know.

When my sister first got wind of the change in me, she made the comment that I was "moping" around. And I'll be honest, that pissed me off. I wasn't choosing to be depressed. Who would? No one chooses this.

It chose me.

Depression had come down on me like a heavy cloak that I couldn't shake off...I ate any and everything, gained a bunch of weight, then got even more depressed about that 'cause I couldn't stand to look at my own body. I was oversleeping for, church, whatever. Other nights I would lay up for hours, wide awake and just staring into the darkness.  I never wanted to go anywhere or do anything. Heck, I didn't have the energy to do anything. I was way more emotional than I had ever been and every day was just another twenty-four hours of going through the motions.

My life was a joke, I thought. My love life was an ever bigger joke.

I'd be stuck in two jobs I didn't particularly like forever, I thought.

I was a failure that nobody wanted, I thought.

My son was going to grow up and leave me and I'd die alone and fat and unhappy while everyone else was happy and toned and thriving. I thought.

My friend pleaded with me to go to talk to a psychiatrist, and I looked into it, but I never went. I don't know if it was laziness or denial, but I just couldn't make myself do it. I did eventually confide in my pastor, who was refreshingly empathetic and encouraging. But this wasn't something I wanted to go around broadcasting, so only my friend and my sister really knew what the real deal was (well, and my pastor). I just continued to pretend like I was fine around everyone else and then go somewhere and cry or lay down. Or both.

You know how when you're going through something or dealing with something, you tend to notice it being talked about more? It was like when I started suspecting I was pregnant; all of a sudden pregnancies and babies were all people were talking about around me. Or when I bought my Nissan Altima; I started seeing them all over the place.

Well, I started noticing depression being mentioned or talked about a lot more, and it irritated me how little empathy a lot of people have for this. Like I said before, some people foolishly think depression is something folks choose or want. Or they think it's something we're supposed to just be able to snap out of.

"Get over it," they say. "You don't have it that bad."

It's not even about that; at least it wasn't for me. True enough, sometimes it can be triggered by situations, like maybe your home burning down or losing your job or something like that, but that wasn't the case for me. I have suspicions, but I don't really know what triggered mine. But it was real. And it was serious. Everybody that knows me knows I love my son more than anything on this planet, and I didn't even want to do anything with him. I didn't want to be bothered; I didn't feel like being anybody's mother. I just wanted to be left alone. But I couldn't be, and that just made me even more frustrated.

Honestly, it was also embarrassing. I didn't want to readily admit, even to those closest to me, that I was depressed. I felt like it meant I was being ungrateful. But my homegirl helped me to realize I had nothing to be embarrassed about, and it has nothing to do with being ungrateful. It's a disorder. It's a sickness. And it could happen to anybody.

So towards the end of 2015, I tried to make some changes...I started working out again, thankfully dropping some weight. I tried to be more social and get out of the house a little more (something I've never been good at). And I met my current boyfriend, who did a lot towards boosting my self-confidence and esteem (he didn't know about my depression until way later, though). After a while, I really thought I had conquered the bull...I had pushed that cloak off me. But it's not that easy or that quick, from what I've realized.

Yes, I'm better than I was. But I'm not over it. So many days, I'm still lethargic, still emotional, still irritable, still feeling hopeless...etc etc. It's hard (and frustrating) to accept. But I deal thanks to encouraging friends and family, and lots of prayer. I know nothing is too hard for God. But this is just my cross to bear.

I still might go see a therapist. Talking to a professional couldn't hurt. And it would certainly help to get to the root of what brought all this on.

Just need to get off my bum and go.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pet Peeves, Gear-Grinders, and Other Random Annoyances

There is some stuff I just cannot stand.

We all have them...those things that just bug the stuffing out of us, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to somebody else. And I just felt like sharing some of mine with y'all tonight.

So in no particular order, here they are...

  • Too much salt on my fries. (I HATE this; you're ruining my favorite food!)
  • Getting interrupted when I talk. I already don't like to talk much as it is; let me say what I'm gonna say so I can hush.
  • Having to repeat myself multiple times. With each time I just get more and more arrrgh.
  • Small talk.
  • People that let their children run around unsupervised in public places.
  • Being volunteered for something without being asked first.
  • People taking/moving/using my stuff without asking.
  • Kids who don't respect their elders (more notably, parents who don't teach kids to respect their elders).
  • Arrogance.
  • Someone not keeping their word.
  • Bad kissers.
  • When a car cuts in front of me on the highway and then goes slow.
  • When a car cuts in front of me at all when there's more than enough room behind me.
  • Traffic.
  • Cigarette smoke.
  • Excessive cursing.
  • Seeing women go after the other woman when their man is stepping out on them, instead of checking their men (and vice versa).
  • All the dumb trades the Atlanta Hawks have made over the years (starting with Dominique in '94).
  • Dirty nails. Just, ugh.
  • Seeing teams automatically run down the floor when a shot goes up instead of going for the offensive rebound. (In basketball; I guess I shouldn't assume you know that).
  • Too much cheese. On anything.
I think that's enough.

Now you know some more about me and I've gotten some stuff off my chest. Two birds.

That was I have to go check on my sick child then work on my latest novel, Emasculated. And I should probably eat some dinner, too.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wait for the click. Only you can hear it.

There comes a it with jobs, relationships, whatever...that you just know when you're done.

You might know for a while that the end is coming, but you can't quite bring yourself to break away from it just still have some unfinished business, maybe, or you're not quite ready to transition to whatever the next thing may be.

It's like the athlete whose been in the league for twenty years and everyone wonders when he's gonna retire. Kobe. Tim Duncan. Kevin Garnett (can you tell I love the NBA?), and I'm sure countless other athletes in other sports...they all had long, (sometimes) successful careers. But as they got later on in those careers, there were the mumblings of 'how much longer is he gonna do this?'...'is he still effective/can he still contribute?'...or just flat-out 'when the heck is he gonna retire??'

Those athletes knew when it was time to hang it up. It's like a click; it goes off when it goes off. And nobody heard it but them. They reached a point where they just was time. And they could be at peace with it because they did things in their own time and didn't let anybody else dictate when their end should be.

Listen for that click. You'll know when you hear it.

I was in a relationship a few years back that I thought was the be all-end all...I just knew that I had hit the jackpot with him. We were planning to get married and I was on top of the world.

Then he dumped me. In an email, no less.

Needless to say, I was devastated. And it took me a long time to get over it. There were so many times that I thought that he had or would change his mind and come back to me, but I was always left with the proverbial egg on my face. (And I hate eggs).

Then one day, six or seven years after he dumped me, I heard that click. I knew that he and I were never gonna happen again.

I'll admit that over time, after I had begun dating again, I always held out hope. My mind would automatically compare every other man to him. I just knew, that one day, we would end up back together. But when I heard that click, I knew that was it. It was over. And I was fine with it because I knew that I had done everything I possibly could have done. And also, that the demise of the relationship wasn't on me. I had proven myself, pleaded my case, been patient, honest, loyal, faithful, etc...if he still didn't want me after all that, then I didn't need him.

It took years, but I finally heard that click.

Other people might try to tell you when you should be done with something, or when you should walk away, but no one can make that decision for you. No one can hear that click but you. You have to be the one to decide because, if you jump the gun too early, I can almost guarantee you'll regret it. There will be what-ifs, if-onlys, and coulda-shoulda-wouldas, and those suck. You don't want those.

Be at peace with your own decisions.

You know when you've done all you can do. You know when you've had enough. You know when you get to the point where the consequences or changes of leaving a situation are worth it. But only you know that.

That click is like turning out the light on the old stuff and knowing you're ready to move to the light of the new stuff. Don't let anybody try to push you out if you're not ready.