Hi everyone! It’s day two of the 31 Days, 31 Authors event, and I have Eartha Watts Hicks gracing the blog today. Eartha is definitely making a name for herself in the literary world with her debut novel, Love Changes. It has everything from a young woman finding her way in life, to a love triangle, all while trying to lead her life on the right path.
Now, here’s Eartha as she explains her inspiration to becoming an author, as well as her first reaction when her debut was published.
Eartha Watts Hicks is author of Love Changes and founder of Earthatone Enterprises and Earthatone Books, an imprint of Earthatone Enterprises, LLC. A writing fellow of the Center for Black Literature and the North Country Institute, she leads self publishing workshops, writing, and publicity workshops for the New York Public Library, the New York City Parks Department, the National Writers Union, Project Enterprise, and other not for profits. She is an active member of the Harlem Writers Guild and former New York City literacy ambassador for the NYCHA Branch of the NAACP.
1. Besides writing, what else do you like to do?
I am a bargain hunter. Any time I can find a treasure at low cost, that excites me. Aside from I love to dance and Karaoke. I also love to decorate. I love antique furniture and I refurbish furniture.
2. What inspired you to become an author?
I grew up the 70s. This was the era of say it loud, “I’m Black and I’m Proud!” My aunt was an avid reader. She’s read 100s of trade Romance novels. At about 6 or 7, I noticed there were no black people on the covers of her books. And when I’d ask for books by black authors at my local library in the mid to late 70s they couldn’t recommend any. There were very few black librarians then.
3. What was your first reaction when your debut novel was published?
Nervousness, disbelief, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility, the almost same feeling I had when I gave birth to my first child.
4. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself running several business with profitability. One would be expanding my imprint, Earthatone Books.
5. What advice can you give to anyone who wants to become an author?
Decide right away what kind of writer you want to be and then, do your best. Do your best and do your best writing.
LOVE CHANGES Purchase LINK: http://ow.ly/PFfuG
GRAFFITI MURAL Purchase LINK: http://ow.ly/a0pw3061ckj
COMPANION MUSIC Purchase LINK: http://ow.ly/PFfuG
LOVE CHANGES YouTube LINK 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a9HSItRHbM
COMPANION MUSIC YouTube LINK 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUDSefo4ol0
Excerpt from Converse
Mike and Diamond first connected in the I Still Love Neo Soul Facebook group. Mike quoted Revelations 3:17. Diamond a true blue Jill Scott fan was the only one that “liked” it. He sent her a friend request. Diamond accepted and messaged him a smiley face. The very next morning, seeing she was online, he sent her this Facebook chat message:
Hi there! Thanks for the add!
Their conversations began and had, thus far, been instant messages either through Facebook and AIM or text messages on just about every topic. Diamond knew of the Wacky Pack trading cards Mike began collecting. He knew her favorite colors were pumpkin and teal, and that she secretly dreamed of being an interior decorator.
Diamond was enrolled in nursing school. Two of her aunts were retired nurses and often bragged of the who’s who of patients they’d had under their care. Diamond reluctantly chose the field only after her high school guidance counselor discouraged her by saying, “A straight black woman would never earn a living as a decorator.” Diamond shared this with Mike.
Just 22 years old, Mike had lived long enough to understand his own shortcomings, but at the same time, he refused to be limited by them or anyone else’s expectations. His challenges were his to face and his alone. He refused to allow someone else to define him or put him in a box. His response:
Utter89 [11:53 PM]: Don’t believe that. There will always be haters! Never give them a headstart.
Diamond changed the subject. But after that exchange, Mike tried to encourage her however he could. He would periodically email her links to BHG’s and HGTV’s decorating sites, workshops, titles of ethnic design books and finally Cecil Hayes’s web page.
He thought they had become familiar over the course of three months, but in all actuality, some things never came up in chat conversations. Each had only viewed profile pictures, strategically chosen to capture them at their best, and now, the two would finally meet face to face. Not once did Diamons ask why he never called.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in June, Diamond insisted on meeting outdoors. Mike sent her a text, suggesting she meet him in the Three Bears Playground on the south side of the Metropolitan Museum. He arrived a half an hour ahead of time. The playground’s clearing was as fragrant as if he were entwined in the thick labyrinth of grass, trees, and bushes. The last time he had been here was for a photo shoot, wearing shorts in the middle of January. As the crowd swelled with giggling children, he felt more and more like a spectacle. In this downpour at present, there wasn’t a single child in sight and the few passersby proceeded hurriedly past, faces masked with the same expression, Manhattan apathy. Surrounded by benches, but without a dry place to sit, Mike stood beneath his umbrella, braving the elements. Despite the heat, wind, and rainfall, he waited patiently by the bronze statue.
For lunch earlier he had driven to a well-known Cantonese restaurant on Broadway. The waiter served his meal with a fortune cookie. After reading this fortune, “A romantic evening awaits you tonight,” Mike ate his Teriyaki Chicken and mixed vegetables, discarding the onions. Now holding a mixed bouquet of dry Eucalyptus tinted pumpkin and teal, he hoped the dye wouldn’t bleed on his shirt or his rented tux. And as Central Park’s foliage released a sweet, somewhat pungent fragrance into the haze, Mike also hoped the scent he smelled was not pollen.
Before long, a large blue and white umbrella with printed lettering turned the corner onto the approaching path. The busty, short waisted girl was no Halle Berry, but she was uniquely pretty. Mike watched her steps splash through puddles. Stiletto heels on her sandals seemed to make her strut like Beyonce. The damp teal gown clung to her legs and told him exactly who she was. He could also tell she was embracing her inner artist, at least on some level. This Diamond was decorated with a lot of costume jewelry: large jewel earrings, a necklace, and bracelets on both wrists like a goddess. She reached Mike, smiling when their eyes met. He smiled back. Her short hair was chic enough. A long bang, cascaded into her eyes. After running her fingers through and tucking the piece behind her ear, Diamond said, “You’re early.”
Mike responded, “And you’re even p-p-prettier in p-p-person.”
“What was that?”
Mike felt his eye jumping. He cleared his throat, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath but now felt spasms take over the whole right side of his face. He tried again. “You’re p-p-prettier in p-p-person.” This time a dragging noise followed his words.
Mike kept his eyes shut for a moment, hoping this would pass, but felt his face and even his neck twitch. When Mike opened his eyes, he saw that Diamond was some distance away. She had bolted. He caught up to her just as she reached Fifth Avenue, where she hesitated, as if deciding between directions. He touched her shoulder, asking, “W-w-where are you going? What’s wrong?”
“Stay away from me! Who are you?”
“It’s me! M-m-mike!”
“What scam are you trying to pull? Who put you up to this? You are not the guy I’ve been talking to on Facebook!”
“Yes, I am!” Mike was emphatic, but he could tell Diamond did recognize him from his Facebook photos by the expression on her face; she looked perplexed.
She studied him for a moment but then, without warning, took off, heading uptown in the direction of the Subway station. Again, he went after her. Earlier, when she first laid eyes on Mike standing by the statue, she liked what she saw. He knew that because she smiled instantly. His stature and strong, lean physique helped pay his way through college. Once sought after by skate/surf advertisers for his body type and length of woolly hair, Mike’s best feature was his smile. His work ethic was such that Tourette’s Syndrome had never hindered him from landing assignments, nor did his stuttering. His agency would cast him in commercials, including principal roles with lines that were still spawning residual checks two years later. That career, though brief, was good while it lasted.
Mike was now focusing on other endeavors. Manipulating his sketches and then integrating the designs with text was something he was very passionate about. Everything bound inside of him because of his communication challenge—all those ideas—would burst forth onto any blank canvas. And critics raved because such imagination was not expected of someone like him, someone with…afflictions. He became a spokesperson but not by choice. Mike wanted recognition, but what
he wanted more than anything was genuine acceptance. He didn’t need anyone’s pity. To indulge was to stunt growth of any kind. So much of his childhood was spent wishing his conditions away. Now, thanks to the veil of technology, Mike not only had a blank canvas, but a way to ward off prejudices. Texting, instant messaging, and emails gave Mike a chance to meet people and be what he always longed to be, just another person. He could interact as his true clever and charismatic self, without the need to explain or apologize. In a sense, this was his freedom.
His tics were sporadic, something he tried to regulate through diet and exercise, usually not severe. They were now most likely triggered now by something in the environment, probably pollen. Mike knew this. Plus Mike knew, at least in theory, how to control his stuttering: through breathing exercises; thinking about what he intended to say; concentrating on where his tongue should be placed for hard consonants; and minding his p’s, b’s, d’s, m’s, t’s, and w’s. Relax, breathe easy, speak slowly. Relax, breathe easy, speak slowly. Simple. So simple. These steps played out well when Mike read lines from scripts, preview copies he’d mark up for pauses and breaths. But who could remember all that in a situation like this?
“I am Mike. B-b-but if you want, I’ll take you home,” he said.
Diamond stopped and turned around. “In your Porsche?”
Mike nodded. Afterward, he couldn’t stop his head from shaking. This too was involuntary. To disguise it, he turned his collar up. Then, he reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out his iPhone, and plugged his earphones into his ears. His songs were on shuffle. While Alicia Keyes was singing, Jay Z rapped. Mike, annoyed by such eloquence, turned the volume down.
“You ain’t driving no Porsche! I must look like a fool! Everybody on Facebook is bogus! Everyone pretends to be someone else! Why do I get all the goons? All the frogs, trolls…and retards.”
Hearing her last comment, Mike was so appalled. His iPhone slipped out of his hand and hit the ground. He quickly picked it up, dried it off, and examined it. A spider web had spread across the glass screen. Mike screamed, “I said I’ll take you home! Didn’t I?”
“Show me your keys. You drive a Porsche? Show me your car keys!”
Mike knew why she demanded to see his key. He reached into his pocket but pulled his hand out empty. “I’m not doing that,” he said.
“Oh, so I’m just supposed to believe you?” Diamond threw her arms up in disgust. “This is somethin’ else,” she said. “I kept giving you my cell phone number, but you would never call. A damn shame, because I really did kind of like you. You or whoever that was.”
Mike dropped the bouquet and stepped over them on his way to the curb. Squeezing between two parked cars, he blew a loud, shrill whistle. A yellow taxi swerved to him. Mike opened the door for Diamond and said, “Get in.”
She shook her head. “I don’t have cabfare!”
“I’ve got it,” he said.
Diamond pursed her lips, but squeezed her way into the taxicab and closed her umbrella. The wet umbrella had rust stains and exposed spokes. Mike recognized the logo on it. It was a promotional giveaway from a bank that went out of business years ago. The only word that had not completely peeled off the thing was the word TRUST. And as pretty as she was, when Diamond threw her arms up in the air, during that split second, he noticed that she had neglected to shave her pits, and here she was wearing a very elegant, teal, strapless gown. Mike laughed to himself. Diamond sat with her arms crossed now and continued to brood, “No one on Facebook is ever who they say they are. Bogus,” she said. “I should’ve known something was up with you. Not one time did you call me and try to conversate. Now I know why.”
If nothing else, Mike had the power to decide for himself, which battles to pick and choose. He shrugged his shoulders and closed the door behind her. He rapped on the driver’s window, retrieved his wallet, and reached into it for one of the larger bills. He made sure he slipped it into the driver’s hand and discreetly instructed him, “Take her home. Keep the rest.” He then took one last look at Diamond, and without any reoccurrence of tics or twitching, he said, “The word is converse. My last name is Longmeadow. Google me.”
Because Mike was so angry, he did not stutter. He simply stepped out of the way and let the taxi pull off. Mike’s car was parked just a few feet away. He now fished his key from his pocket. It was the Panamera’s key, a flash drive. Resembling a toy car, it was embossed with Porsche’s crest.
He figured Diamond had never read graphic novels, knew nothing about his fan pages, and had never visited any of his blogs or websites. He knew that by the time Diamond Googled him and saw his Wikepedia entry or LinkedIn profile, she would have realized her mistake and would message him an apology. He also knew by then, he would already have blocked her. Diamond would definitely tell her next Facebook love interest about Mike and all about this situation, wondering why things like this keep happening to her, even commenting that experiences like these are “humbly.” If she learned anything at all from this experience, next time she’d think before she reacts.
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