Wednesday, March 30, 2016

#Book #Review. . .Of Fear and Faith


SYNOPSIS:

Before trust and love can take hold, grow solid roots, and blossom into a reality larger than self, fear must be conquered and faith embraced. Yet fear of an ancient prophecy, of burning magical power, and a broken heart, Sanura Williams, psychology professor, is unprepared when Special Agent Assefa Berber enters her life, hunting a preternatural serial killer. Assefa's intelligent, chocolate eyes and intoxicating aura signature stirs her fire spirit but frightens the woman. 

In a world where all is not as it seems, Sanura and Assefa must battle the gods' first creations - vile predators who threaten the safety of humans. Each confrontation, each bloody clash, will bring Sanura and Assefa closer to fulfilling the prophecy of being the Fire Witch and Cat of Legend - the ones who will save humanity from the Water Witch of Legend. Death, godly magic, and physical attraction draw Sanura and Assefa to each other, but fear and faith will determine their destiny. ** A great paranormal romance.


Are you a fan of the X-Files, Fringe and/or Star Trek?  If you are, have you ever read a book that had the same galaxy charm to catapult your mind in out of space?  If you haven’t, you are in for a delightful treat.  Being a fan of fantasy, I have to say, Jones did an outstanding job of telling Sanura’s and Assefa’s love story.  In fact, I rank her up there with one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors, Mitch Albom.
Assefa is a Special Agent with the FBI working under a special unit called Preternatural Intelligence.  He’s on the hunt for a serial killer wreaking havoc on Baltimore destroying families and claiming souls.  On one such night, as the Special Agent was called upon by his superiors to work the latest murders, a small child remained in the aftermath.  Assefa was happy the child’s life was spared, but wasn’t exactly thrilled to know this child was going to grow up without her parents, no thanks to the murderer, and he vowed to avenge her parents’ killer by finding out who and/or what did this to them?
While the Agent was working the case, his partner advised him of a pscyhologist who could help them get through to the traumatized child.  At this point, Assefa was willing to try anything so he wouldn’t have to deal with the child on his own.  Dr. Sanura Williams walked into his case, into his life and into his heart and soul.  The chemistry between the two of them was so potent, you’d have to be blind not to see the fire and sparks igniting between the two.  Assefa could barely keep his mind on the case, let alone finding a serial killer, for this gorgeous beauty was occupying all his head space.  After much prodding, luckily Sanura, being very professional and eager to get to the child, broke their spell for just a little bit.  Obviously, there was a more serious matter at hand.
As Assefa and Sanura worked the case together, not only was their magic brought to the forefront on the battle grounds of fighting demons and evil spirits, that magic extended to the love they each felt for the other.  Sanura was terrified to relinquish her heart to Assefa because she had a taste for dating full-humans.  She nor Assefa were one hundred percent human, but their teachings brought them up to respect the Gods and damn it, fate had brought them to this place.  Sanura had to do all she could to fight her insecurities, while Assefa had to be the patient lover-in-wait while Sanura came to some sort of conclusion.  And readers, when I tell you the two of them came to a meeting of the minds, body and spirit, I can’t possibly say that enough.  The love scenes in this book were so spot on, you’ll have an organism from the mere words alone. (chuckle). 
I’d also like to point out that I do not feel, in any way, the man on the cover of the book adequately represents what my mind’s eye view says Assefa looks like.  Uh-oh, no way!  Assefa was fine as hell, and although the brother on the cover is alright, he’s NOT Assefa!  OMG, I got chill bumps reading Jones’ description of this beautiful hunk of chocolate man.  You may have heard the saying, ‘The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.’  Good Gawd, umm yes, Assefa had it goin’ on ladies.  Yes indeed!  So with that I say, if you love fantasy, ectasy, romance, a fine-ass man, and paranormal activity and you don’t get this book, somethin’ is seriously wrong with YOU! 
My only criticizm would be, if I had to find anything, is I felt there were times the story lagged, but just briefly, and the story easily picked right back up.  It was a little slow going for me in the very beginning, but that was my learning curve of the characters.  Again, it doesn’t take anything away from the book.  This story was the total package, and as much as my readers know I cannot stand romance novels, what sets this one apart from many others is that there was an actual storyline.  That’s right!  A! Story! Line!  I can definitely live with that.  I couldn’t get enough!  Oh my, those love scenes were aah-maaa-zing!  I had to fan myself a few times!  (LOL)
The story was well put together, flowed nicely and pushed the characters through.  There are many lessons Assefa and Sanura had to learn, and you will enjoy taking the journey with them.  I was rooting for them the entire time I was reading and praying neither of them were killed.  Thankfully, Jones gave us a wonderful HEA.  (Happily Ever After).

I was sold from the prologue describing the Gods and what fueled the battles on the earth as we know it today.  Shapeshifters are a strange group of people, but then again, even though I know this story was make-believe, I truly believe we walk among them.  There are humans that portray goodness and light, when in actuality they are evil and darkness.  They change their fa├žade at will, and that, folks, is what makes up shapeshifters.  Not all of them are bad, but there are quite a few.  Still not convinced?  Perfect example, politicians.  If they aren’t shapeshifters, I don’t know what is?  (Chuckle!)  We see shapeshifters all the time, you just never look at it that way.  Jones brings all of that to the reader’s attention, and she holds you there and commands you take note!

Mello & June gives Of Fear and Faith, four stars.  It was well written and easy to follow along, once you learn who the Gods, witches, warlords and demons are.  Every reader will take something different from this book, which is what it should do.  I’m positive you’ll be delighted to have taken the time to read.  I know I’m glad I did.  Bravo, N.D. Jones.  Keep on doing what you do, girl—you did the damn thing!



GET TO KNOW N.D.


How long have you been writing Paranormal Romance novels?

My first novella, “Fire, Fury, Faith,” was published in 2012. I began exploring writing in general, and paranormal romance/fantasy specifically, in 2009. Back then, I wrote for fun only, with no thought to publishing or becoming a paranormal romance author. I still write for fun. That’s important. Now, however, I’ve added the extra dimension of being a “published author,” instead of a closet one.


What made you choose to write in this genre?

I love the sexiness of a straight forward romance, but I also like a book to have a plot beyond the main couple meeting and eventually falling in love. Integrating paranormal aspects into my novels gives me a little more to work with. It forces me to be creative in a different way.

Honestly, I used to never read fiction, no less romance books of any genre. But a few years ago I heard Marvel was going to have Storm and Black Panther marry – an unprecedented move by the comic book company. As an African American woman and fan of X-Men’s Storm, I was intrigued enough to buy all the comics leading up to their marriage. Well, from there, I fell in love with comics with romantic relationships, especially those with African or African American characters. I’m such a nerdy fangirl that I even included a silly line or two about Storm and Black Panther in my upcoming book and made a secondary character a comic book fan.

When Marvel dissolved the marriage between Storm and Black Panther, I was so disappointed. Worse, there was no comparable comic I could turn to to get that particular enjoyment fix. That’s why fanfiction is so popular. I truly get why fans turn to writing fanfiction. For some, they want to have a certain level of power over their favorite characters, writing what they would like to see in the actual comic, book, movie, or television show.

Thus, I write what I see as a dearth in the romance genre - African/African American love with a paranormal twist. I spend a lot of time developing the mythology of my stories, as well as the execution of the paranormal element. If I write a book with witches and shape-shifters, I think it’s important to actually show what it means to be a witch and shape-shifter. That’s one thing a reader of my books can look forward to. The paranormal is not a sidebar in my novels. It’s center stage and critical to the plot.

Anytime I meet someone from Baltimore, there isn’t any way I can pass up an opportunity for some playful football teasing, respectfully, with this next question. I must say I cringed when I realized this story took place in Baltimore, seeing as how I’m from Pittsburgh, and the rivals of our two cities’ football teams runs deep. I noticed you slipped in the Ravens’ Superbowl Win at that time. As I thought fondly of my Steelers’ six rings. But I can’t hate you for that, although I chuckled to myself. Why choose Baltimore as your backdrop versus some unknown galaxy in no-man’s land? Ok, I’m bracing myself for your answer. (chuckle)

Okay, I see you got jokes. I may have to throw a bit of purple shade your way just to remind you that Edgar, Allan, and Poe are no joke despite… well, better not mention this past football season. It’s enough to send a Ravens’ fan into therapy (shakes head).

In truth, I am a Steelers fan. Except, of course, when they play my Ravens. So no hate from this Baltimore native and Ravens fan. So, yeah, enjoy your six rings. That’s not impressive. Nope, not at all. (smile) 

On a more serious note, I chose Baltimore for the main setting of book one because it’s my hometown. More, there are great people who call Baltimore home. The city cultivates more than the negative stats often espoused on the news. As a former high school teacher for Baltimore City Public School System, I saw, firsthand, the critical role quality education and committed teachers play in the lives of students, particularly African American students. Much needs to be done to elevate and empower our youths, which requires good servant leaders. 

My son, a high school senior, read “Of Fear and Faith.” For many reasons, not just the obvious one of me being his mother, he loved the book. One aspect he most enjoyed about the story was the setting – his hometown. Everyone likes so see a bit of themselves in the media, even something as seemingly unimportant and small as the setting of a paranormal romance novel. Besides, the paranormal is so heavy in the book that grounding the setting in a known and familiar city made too much sense to ignore.

Now, if you’re wondering, since I am a fan, if I intend to mention the Steelers in book two or three of the trilogy. Maybe have Special Agent Assefa Berber track a fiendish preternatural killer to Pittsburg, who craves the succulent, sweet flesh of bloggers with a penchant for romance novels, the answer is…

It was apparently obvious Assefa was a very talented man, i.e., at his workplace and in the bedroom. I’m curious, is Assefa someone near and dear to your heart or a wonderfully crafted character you decided to bring to life?

Assefa is the name of my son. The name means he has increased our family by being born into the word. The meaning fits perfectly with the character of Assefa and him being the cat of legend. And while my son is, without a doubt, talented and intelligent, I didn’t frame Assefa, the character, after him. In fact, when I write the character, my son never comes to mind. Assefa is a character unto himself, which makes it easy for me to write love scenes between Assefa and Sanura. I’ve named many of my characters after family, friends, and acquaintances. If I like a name and it fits a character’s personality, then I use it. But the characters themselves are crafted independent of their namesake. 

Your love scenes were so poetic and intoxicating they took my breath away. Every writer handles love scenes differently, and I’m wondering how did you prepare yourself for the scenes? 

There are two kinds of scenes that take me the longest to write – action scenes and love scenes. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, romance novels of all subgenres. While I don’t model my love scenes after any of the novels I’ve read or listened to, they’ve helped me clarify my writing preferences and boundaries. As a reader, I want more than a “fade to black” love scene. I like intimate and sexy love scenes, romantic because of the feelings involved and not simply the physical, pleasurable act of coming together.

I never write a love scene for the sake of having sex in my stories. Each love/sex scene has a strategic purpose, moving the plot forward and/or impacting the characters in some important way. I don’t try to write poetic love scenes, although it’s rewarding that you viewed them as such. It makes me feel the time I spent getting each scene just so, seeking a balance between sensuality and romanticism was well worth the time. 

It takes me so long to craft such scenes because I care about the message I want the love scene to convey to the reader. So, my only preparation is my message and the point of view character. This combination is critical, an emotional driving force for the scene. Finally, since I normally have multiple love scenes in my novels, I make sure not to duplicate the specifics of the scenes. I want the reader to feel an emotional connection with the couple, even if they’d been married hundreds of years and made love thousands of times.

As an author myself, I’m often asked how I handle criticism. You already know authors leave themselves exposed like an open wound, so what advice do you have for aspiring writers about how to deal with those who do not like the work you put forth?

I once read somewhere that authors need to have thick skin. Well, I can tell you, I don’t have thick skin. Writing is personal, despite the public nature of the business. I don’t think myself any more or less sensitive to criticism than any other author. Heck, I’m still pretty new to all of this myself, so criticism can be and is painful. And, there is a significant difference between constructive feedback and criticism. The only advice I have to offer for an aspiring writer is to understand the difference between constructive feedback and criticism. One you can learn and grow from, while the other offers little but negativity and self-doubt. 

How does N.D. spend her free time when she’s not hard at work writing?

Most of my free time is spent with my husband and children. We do a lot together as a family, from the basic like eating out and going to the movies or to a concert, to vacations where an amusement or water park is somewhere in the mix. This past Saturday, we attended the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) mini-fest at Towson University, which was a blast. My husband wanted me to take the picture below, saying, “This picture is for me.” He knows I rarely take pictures, preferring to be behind the lens.


And while Batman vs Superman didn’t receive the best reviews, I’m going to see it anyway, while on spring break. And, come 2017, I’m going to drag my husband to see Wonder Woman.

Your story had a great deal of African mythology. I truly enjoyed reading about the Gods and the people of Sudan. You obviously did a great deal of research. How long did it take you to write this story, and all that went into it?

It took me over a year to write “Of Fear and Faith.” But that’s not the most accurate answer. I’m enrolled in an online doctoral program, so I wrote the novel while taking courses and completing assignments. Which meant, my writing often took a backseat to meeting academic deadlines. 

As far as research, I research everything, even the smallest of details. I can spend 20 minutes, for example, researching a flavor of tea or piece of furniture I want to use in a single sentence. I often laugh at myself when I do something so anal, but the result is worth the time and effort.

I recently read an article stating eBooks are losing ground and paper books are making a comeback. How do you feel about that?

The great thing about this technological age, in terms of books, is that there’s a format for every kind of reader. While my books are available in eBook and paperback formats, as a book buyer, I’m still partial to paperbacks. As a commuter, I love audiobooks, especially after a long workday. I’m not sure whether eBooks are losing ground to paperbacks, but I don’t see either format going away anytime soon. The diversity and demand, for both, in addition to audiobooks, is just too great. For writers, the key is to offer their work in as many formats as possible, so as to appeal to and meet the preferences of a wide range of book consumers. For example, the end of last year, I worked with Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange to produce my first audiobook. Soon, I hope to produce my second. Writers shouldn’t, if possible, limit themselves to one book format, especially independent authors.

Do you have a literary agent? And if so, how did you go about obtaining one? Many aspiring authors ask that question. What is your take on the whole “agent” process?

I don’t have an agent. Early on, I sent out query letters to agents. I was rejected by the if-you-don’t-hear-from-me-then-I’m-not-interested approach to dealing with authors and massive queries. Honestly, I didn’t try very hard to acquire an agent, which limits the publishing companies I can send my manuscripts to. While I understand the rationale behind publishing companies’ desire to work only with agented authors, the exclusive culture of the business makes it nearly impossible to get a foothold without the right connections. One day, I’ll probably try again. I would love to work with someone who knows the publishing business and will promote my interests.

What types of books do you enjoy reading?

Academically and professionally, I read a lot books about education, student achievement, cultural proficiency, multicultural education, higher education, etc. That may sound boring to some, but I find those topics interesting, informative, and enjoyable. But I also like romance, of any genre, as well as comics and manga. I was in the library today and picked up a graphic novel of Patricia Biggs’ Alpha and Omega. Graphic novel is another format authors should explore. I wrote a graphic novel script based on my novella – “Fire, Fury, Faith.” Funding a graphic novel is an expensive undertaking, for an independent author, but may be well worth the expense, in the end. Graphic novels and comics appeal to a base of readers that other formats may not.

Can you tell us something about yourself that would surprise us to learn?

This may not surprise you, because I think it’s true for many writers. But, at heart, I’m an introvert and have more than my share of shy moments. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk, a lot, but mainly to people I know well or about topics that aren’t particularly personal. As a teacher and trainer of education professionals, I work with and meet hundreds of people, during the course of a school year. I have to be approachable and outgoing, which I always am. But people assume, incorrectly, that I’m that way naturally. I’m not. For an introvert, it takes conscious effort not to come across as standoffish, nonchalant, or disinterested, which isn’t true. We tend to live in our heads, processing and analyzing information, weighing facts and figures, and making decisions and forming a plan before uttering a single word. Such a trait is great for writing but not for marketing. That’s my professional area of growth.

As you can see, N.D. is a very smart woman and pleasant to talk with. I'm extremely impressed.  And we Pittsburgh fans will even forgive her for her "purple shade" she threw our way.  We Black & Gold can handle it!  Ahahahahaaa  

It was a pleasure having N.D. Jones stop by.  We'd love for her to stop by anytime.  She's really a nice person and a very talented author.  Make sure you pick up a copy of her book. Thank you N.D. for allowing me to read your book and for taking time out of your very busy schedule to hang out with us.  Do stop by anytime!  You're always welcome, sista!  I wish you the absolute best and God Bless you and yours!

CONTACT THE AUTHOR/FIND THE BOOK


Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/g_QvkLjHEIo

http://www.ndjonesparanormalpleasure.com

http://www.facebook.com/ndjonesauthor

http://twitter.com/NDJones11

On Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Pe9JKj

On Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1SWcgyF

On Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1QYqOfL




Kimberly Ranee Hicks,
Author/Poet/Book Reviewer
Blog Mistress: Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!

Never Lose Sight of Your Dreams. . .