Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I want to personally wish each and every one of you a safe and joyous Christmas Holiday!  Thank you for taking the time to come by and read the articles and interviews posted!

2014 is going to be an amazing year!  I can feel it!

In the meantime, may all of you be blessed!!

J.L. Whitehead

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Taking the time to learn the industry

Being a writer is so much more than putting fingers to keyboard.  Being a writer is a tedious and often thankless occupation.  If you are an author, you may enter the industry thinking that you've written something so good that people will clamor to read it, propelling you into literary stardom.

Most of us will enter the industry with that dream and many of us will leave it because we've deluded ourselves into thinking that this will be our big payoff.  We listen to the feedback (especially if it's good) and hope that we get to claim that lightning in a bottle.

What we don't realize is that it very rarely works out like that.  We think that we are the exception as opposed to the norm.  It happens to everyone, myself included.  But simply because my books didn't do what I wanted it to do initially doesn't 't mean that I don't have talent nor does it mean that the payoff isn't forthcoming.  It just didn't happen as quickly as I wanted it to.

Writing for profit is a business and it needs to be treated as such.  Talent alone will not get you to where you want to be.  You have to be prepared to pay your dues and take your knocks.  Above all else, you have to learn the industry.

I've learned that you cannot know too many people in this industry...but in the course of forging those lasting business friendships, it's important to network with the right people.  I've learned the true cost of printing a book, how to get that book made available by some of the major outlets online as well as how to promote a book effectively.  Or at least I'm still learning the latter portion of the last sentence.

I've listened to other owners of publishing houses regaling me with the stories of high maintenance clients who want that publisher to do everything under the sun to propel their writing careers into the stars...all without them having to do any work on their own.

It doesn't work that way.  How can you place your hopes and dreams for success in the hands of someone else if you aren't willing to invest the time and energy in learning the very industry that you want to be successful in?  It doesn't matter if you are paying your publisher or not.  Remember, your dollars are for services rendered, not for literary stardom.  Somewhere along the line, you have to take responsibility for yourself.

If you were launching your business in any other industry, you would do everything within your power to ensure your success.  Why would writing be any different?

Before you launch your writing career, do you homework respectively.  Learn as much as you can about the industry.  This way, you'll have a better idea of who is telling the truth versus who is outright lying. And in the long run, the truth will set you free.  After all, knowledge truly is power.

~ J.L.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"You" by J.L. Whitehead


You’re like a fine line that separates me from my spirit
Almost like there’s a part of me that’s floating…free-falling

…wanting to lose myself in you
And the other part is grounded – on lock down – afraid to feel because I want to feel.

I can’t keep my hands off of you – and the moments we shared (as few as they were)
Keep playing and replaying themselves in my head
Dancing over my heart,
Fluttering over my mind,
And I’m pinwheeling.

Until I don’t hear from you and I have a moment to think
And everything is clear – like a full moon on a cloudless, autumn night.

You look at me from across the room and there I go – smiling.
Aching for you
Like I’ve never felt someone gaze at me like you
Or kiss me like you
Or rest their head on my chest like you.

And then I loved you – stretching and filling you…
Exchanging passion for tenderness
Warmth for heat
Heartbeat for heartbeat

And after all that, I’m still feeling you…
But when I’m away from you
A level head takes over and I put the wall up…
So that I don’t know how much I miss you…and your smile

Or maybe…it’s just me wanting…

~ J.L. Whitehead

Written: Monday, March 7, 2007

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What do you do when the naysayers speak?

In a perfect world, when you embark on your life's journey to become what you want to become, you would receive the support from your inner circle of family with that occasional nod of approval from your friends.  Ideally, taking your knocks would be minimized to just losing a few dollars instead of a few thousand and the payoff would be substantial.

That would be in a perfect world.

We know that when you make the decision to live your dream, there will be more than enough people to voice their opinions about it, both pro and con.  It's expected.  But in many cases, you may hear more of the cons than you will the pros.  You will hear people say things like, "Why do you want to do that?" or "You will never make money that way."

You will hear even more people say things like, "You should stick with what you know." or "You need to be concerned with getting a job and taking care of your family."

So what do you do when the naysayers speak?  What do you do when they voice what you've probably already said to yourself a thousand times over?

The easy answer of course is to keep on pushing and ignore them.  In theory, that sounds like the most viable thing to do.  But we know that the human brain will hear and internalize negative comments before praise depending upon your background.  It's easier to accept failure than success.  It's easier to comprehend the inability to achieve a goal than to simply reach for it because if it were that easy, everyone would have done so and we would all be basking in the rays of success.  Sometimes you have to reinforce what you believe and not what you hear.  For myself, that meant planting images that would help me believe in my goal and keep me focused.

When I wrote my first novel, I would keep my dream alive by taking a normal paperback novel, wrapping it in white paper and writing the name of my book on the cover and placing it on my coffee table.  Sometimes, I would look at it and imagine that it was my completed book.  I would tune out the negative and immerse myself in my storyline; so much to the point that there wasn't any room for any comments that would derail my positive thought process.

Guard your dream as fiercely as you would guard your child.  In many ways, your dream is your baby.  If someone gives you a reason why you can't, you give them two as to why you can.  If someone questions your ability to reach high, you can question if they have any dreams that have gone unfulfilled.  If they admit it, ask them why they gave up so easily.  They may see themselves in you.  They may even be jealous.

You can entertain their thoughts, but you can throw wild parties for yours.  Just remember that you will never know what could have been unless you do!

Be blessed!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Monday, November 18, 2013

What is holding you back from living your dream?

Fear is such a funny thing.  I never thought that I was particularly fearful of success and I was certain that I possessed a talent that could take me far.  I have had opportunities open before me...opportunities that I will always be grateful for.  So I ask myself from time to time, what is it that holds me back from really grasping the brass ring?

And then I began to think of something that used to cross my mind from time to time.  I wondered why some people that belonged to certain ethnicity's seem to target certain businesses and excel at them.  I wondered why African Americans don't do the same thing.  Why couldn't we own a franchise and turn it into our own empire the way that some other races of people seem to do?

We know that as a race , African Americans have been at the very top of the list of people that have experienced true disenfranchisement.  We know that we have been trying to survive the best way that we can, sometimes by any means necessary.  We also know that times have gotten better, but we still have to fight twice as hard to get ahead.

But with everything that I have done, all of the achievements that I have accomplished, I still think that what is hard-wired in my brain is to take the easy way out...not applying myself to the fullest extent.

I wonder what stops most of us from reaching out and grasping the brass ring.  Is it fear of failure?  Is it something more than than that?  Do we believe the inner voice that tells us that we cannot and should not reach out for financial success?  I'm not talking about the millions of authors out there who have already taken the leap of faith and wrote their books or started their business...I'm talking about the trillions of people who don't even bother.  What is holding you back?  What are you afraid of?  Do you think that you can't do it or that you will fail?

Do you think that people won't have your back or will only be there for you when the money comes rolling in?  I want you to think about this for a moment.  If you have a dream, what would be the very first thing that you would do to accomplish it?

Would you write down your plan?  Would you talk about it with friends and family?  Would you spend some quiet time telling yourself that you can do it?  What would you do?  After all, a journey begins with that first step.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Show Me Love" by J.L. Whitehead

I think that everyone has a cousin that felt more  like a brother or sister...this is mine!

"Show Me Love"

Oh sweet girl, what you thought, what you perceived even if it was only your reality.
It certainly wasn't mine.

You thought somehow that you had wronged me...that maybe you hurt me,
that you had to repent of the pain that you thought you inflicted.

But what you don't know is that you've given me love
...and friendship,
...and laughter
...and joy.

How I looked for and up to you.
How everytime I saw you, I knew that I was safe with you you.

Safe in the way that a younger brother could love his older sister.

You didn't know that my heart beat with pride when we walked to the store,
or to the avenue,
or the library.

...on sunny days or when it rained.

And I loved you.

You didn't know that the poor memories you gave me were all good.

You made me laugh and you showed me love.

You weren't any different than the average sister.

And the part that you don't know is that for those times,
...those weekends,
...those days...

You were mine.

Love you Family!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Written Friday, December 17, 2010

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dangers of doing business with Friends!

I was going through some documents on my laptop when I came across a price listing for an editor that I had used a few years ago.  I looked at it carefully and with some reservation, moved it to the trashbin.  The anger that I felt in the pit of my stomach was dull...perhaps even distant.

That price listing was something that I kept because I wanted to be reminded that people will do almost anything to separate you from your money.  They will sacrifice your friendship if indeed there was ever a true friendship in place.

Money and friendships are poor bed mates, and I've learned never to do business with friends because if anything goes wrong, it will almost always result in the demise of that friendship.  In a previous article, I wrote about 10 things that I wished that I had learned before I had entered the writing industry.

I needed my story edited.  It was my first book and I knew that I would have only one chance to make a first time impression on my readership.  A friend of mine...someone that I had a tremendous amount of respect for, had started her own publishing company and  referred an editor to me.  The catch was that it was going to cost a lot of money to get this done.  I was on unemployment at the time and didn't have the money to spare, but knew that I needed this to be done.

The editor in question was a friend of hers at the time and it was agreed (after signing many contracts) that I would pay for the editing services in increments of $240.00.  This wound up being a $1600 bill.  I never checked for references and I never checked for examples of this woman's work because I told my friend up front what I was looking for and was assured that this could be done without a problem.

What I got back wasn't even something that could remotely be called editing.  By the time I received the final file back, the bill had been paid in full.  I had to re-edit my book myself (which we as authors know that we can't do.)  The end result was that the book, while it looked okay because it was typeset very well, the editing was poorly done.  When I voiced my dissatisfaction, I was tearfully asked if we could "move on."  This only made it worse because I was now being asked to forget about the money lost.  And the editor?  She lost her professionalism by refusing to speak to me ever again because she told me that she couldn't meet my deadline after promising that she could.  Not only did she do a sub-par job, she had spent the money as it was coming in and then gave me "something."

I've never felt the same way about either one of those women.  The editor was a lost cause.  My book still looks good and as the reviews come in, what is said is that there are mistakes noted but it doesn't take away from the story.  What could have been a really good book was only mediocre.  This was a painful lesson.

And this won't happen happen again because I realize that when people need money and they see a need in you, they will often claim to be able to fill that need, even if they know they can't.  They will try to give you something but that something will not be what you asked for.  Lesson learned?

Don't do business with friends because most times you will lose more than just money.

Link to article 10 Things I Wish That I Knew Before Entering The Writing Industry:

~ J.L. Whitehead

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What makes a good read?

Think back to one of the best novels that you've ever read.  What was it about the book that you liked?  What set it apart from any book that you read that may share the same genre?  Was it the storyline?  Was it great characters?  Was it the believability of the circumstances that the characters found themselves in?  Was it the way the author told the story?

For most authors who read religiously, it is probably a combination of all of the above and then some.  One of the best stories that I ever read came from Stephen King.  Although I may not be a big fan of his newer works, his older works still entice me; painting vivid images of Maine in the Fall with winding, pitch-black roads and lone empty homes in the middle of nowhere.  The story that held me in it's grips (and still does) is 'The Stand.'  King cleverly wove a tale of apocalyptic proportions with more characters than perhaps was needed.  Yet he wrote the story so well that I continued to turn the pages holding my breath as event after event took the characters on a roller coaster ride of emotional and psychological trauma.

One of the things that made the storyline so memorable was that the writing was simply awesome.  King was able to paint images so vivid that at times, I thought that I could smell the decay of bodies rotting in the streets of New York.

The characters were unique, each lending a certain spice that created the perfect blend of flavors that only enhanced the story instead of taking away from it.  In short, it was a story that I have read several times and will probably read yet again.

As an author, it is our job to create something different when we put fingers to keyboard.  It is our job to keep our audience guessing.  We are supposed to provide twist and turns in our plots to keep our readers on the edge of their seats.  That's what we do.  Even if our story is similar to someone elses work; as an author, we are supposed to lend out certain flair so that our readers will remember us as a writer as well as our individual work.

So have you done this?  Have you written something so different that it will keep your readers on the edge of their seat?  Have you created memorable characters or are they the same type of characters that you would find in any other book that shares your genre of choice?  Did you add an unexpected twist that your readers didn't see coming?  Because if you did...then you've done your job!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After re-writes and publication error's, this part of the journey is complete!

It was challenging.  First, writing the original story and then going through the editing process.  Losing money, having friendships tainted and then doing more re-writes.

The process was maddening but now that it's over, I realized looking back over the few years it took me to get to this point that I wouldn't have changed it for the world.  It was worth it.

The next few months are going to be spent writing more books and meeting writers face to face.  Writing for CNN's iReport has been an amazing journey in and of itself, and it is the perfect platform to showcase my work as well as the works of other authors.  And let's not forget my column on "The Examiner."

I still believe in paying it forward.  That, perhaps is hardwired into my DNA.  But I cannot take the focus off of myself.  I have too many books to write and so many stories to tell.  There are messages of encouragement nestled within my story lines...messages that need to be spread.

As a Crime Drama author, I find that placing myself into this niche will ultimately work for me.  There's a big world out there and I want to experience as much of it as I can.

In the meantime, with "Bruthas - The Final Chapter" completed, I hope that you take a moment to download a copy and find out who the real killer is that is stalking "The Block."  I hope that you rejoice with The Whitfield's in all of their triumphs, remark on their faith and shed a tear in their times of sadness.

In the meantime, thank you all who have taken the time to stop here at The Writer's Megaphone and spent just a little bit of time with me!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering The Writing Industry!

1No matter how good you think you work is, everyone will not like what you've written...and they aren't supposed to.
     Writing is driven by perspective, and everyone will not share yours.  No matter how many  nods of approval you get, there will always be someone that will look at your book and not give it the approval that you feel it deserves.  Take it for what it's worth.  Don't let it discourage you and move on.

2.  Read the works of others...constantly!
     Don't become so involved with your own storyline that you don't have the time or patience to read the works of others.  Overall, it will make you a better writer and it will help you keep your finger on the pulse of the works of your constituents in the industry.

3.  Don't do business with friends.
     This sounds cold, but it really isn't.  I've lost a great deal of money and had friendships tainted because we decided to go into business together.  Oftentimes, it was because the person that I went into business with couldn't deliver what they instead of giving me what I paid for, they gave me something and then hoped that for the sake of friendship, I wouldn't be too upset over the loss.  The problem is, they aren't willing to give you even a portion of your money back because in their mind, they gave you "something."  Save your time and preserve your friendship...unless you are absolutely sure that they can live up to your expectations, don't do business with friends.

4.  Make sure that whomever you decide to do business with have verifiable references and examples of their work.
     People are funny.  Many times, people that go into business for themselves are always looking for new clients.  In doing so, they may see a need in you that they believe wholeheartedly that they can fill, even if they can't.  Save yourself some time, money and aggravation by asking two important questions:  1.  Do you have examples of your work?  2.  Do you have verifiable references?  If they don't have those two things, keep it moving.  I could have saved myself so much money if I had asked those two questions before forming business relationships.

5.  Have your work proofread...and then hire a reputable editor.
     I don't have to elaborate on I?

6.  Listen to constructive criticism.
     I released the second half of my book recently.  It is currently on Amazon right now for sale.  During the upload process, I lost all of my quotation marks.  Another author pointed it out to me.  And even though I already knew it, he was bringing it to my attention not to be mean or callous, but to advise me of something that he may have thought I overlooked.  Bottom line is that he was right.  Learn to accept the criticism as well as the compliments.

7.  Promote your own work, but don't alienate your audience.
     This is hard because while you want people to know about your work, you don't want to bombard them to the point where they have no interest in it.  For instance, if you have a Facebook account and you drop people into conversations to tell them about your work, some people don't like being included in conversations that they haven't elected to participate in.  I see it all the time.  Know who your audience is and play up to them in such a way that you don't appear like the only thing of interest to you is your work...even if it's true for the moment.

8.  Be prepared to take your knocks!
     Things very rarely go as planned.  Many times, you will encounter obstacle after obstacle that will hinder you from getting you to where you are trying to get to.  It can be maddening, but it is part of the process.  For instance, when I uploaded the second installment of my book, I thought to myself, "That's it.  I'm done."  And then I took a deep breath only to find out that the my quotations marks were eliminated during the upload process and that I had to do more work to give my readership a better reading experience.  It's crazy, but I wasn't prepared for so many obstacles to block me from reaching my goal.  But they're there.  Just be ready for them.

9.   Write when your mind is clear.
      Have you ever had a bad day at work or had something personal going on but you wanted to work on your book anyway just for the sake of getting another chapter done?  I am a "mood" writer.  I can't write when I'm upset or worked up about something.  Others can.  But the ones that can find that they don't do their best work when their mind is otherwise preoccupied.  Clear your head.  Or better yet, deal with what pissed you off as best as you can before you start putting fingers to keyboard.

10.  Set aside time in this industry to write for you and only you.
       I blog and have two columns in two publications.  Most of the time, I'm writing to showcase someone elses work.  I thought by paying it forward, I could shed some light on another author that could use it and at the same time, shed some light on myself.  It doesn't always work out that way; yet I wouldn't change the way I do things...except for this:  Make sure you set aside time to write for you!  Work on your book, your poetry, your letters...anything that you can call exclusively yours.  Because sometimes at the end of the day, you are all you have.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bruthas - The Final Chapter has been released!

It's been an interesting journey...but like all journeys, this is just a resting place.  This is just a spot where I can regroup, reflect and release.  I can collect my thoughts, go over the right decisions made as well as the wrong ones.

Was it all worth it?

In one word...YES!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Writer's Megaphone shouts out author, entrepreneur and humanitarian, Emlyn DeGannes

The media has been guilty of reporting news that may be disconcerting, heartbreaking if not downright shocking.  We are reminded that we live in a imperfect society.  We are also reminded that the depths of the human spirit can sink to all time lows, and just when we think that it can't sink any lower, we will receive a report that proves that indeed it can.

I use this platform as a means to give a little bit of exposure to authors, poets and entrepreneurs that might otherwise not have the opportunity to let the literary community know about their work.  I use this forum to bring a 'human' side to the people of the industry because I know that it is very much needed.

Today, I bring to you author, entrepreneur and humanitarian, Emlyn DeGannes.  She owns a bookstore located in Claymont, Delaware that goes by the name of MeJah Books.  She is also the owner and proprietor of ANU Direction Publishing and it is through her own publishing company that she released her novel entitled, "Letters To Ms. Em."  It is within the pages of this work that you find that she forged an unlikely friendship with an inmate doing life in prison.  Told through a series of letters, Ms. DeGannes tells the story of 'Rainn', the inmate who admittedly made some wrong choices and is now paying dearly for them.  Please see the formal review located at the bottom of this piece.

Ms. Em

Emlyn DeGannes true passions does not lie in her publishing business nor does it reside in her writings.  Her true passions are quite visible in the work that she does in and around her community.  Her heart goes out to the disenfranchised; especially the children.  Knowing that many children didn't have a place to go to read and consequently learn, she created MeJah Books as a safe haven so that they could do the one thing that would ensure that they would have a fighting chance in a society where the rules are stacked against them.  She gave them a place to read.  I will not continue to bore you with the many accolades that I can give Ms. DeGannes; or whom some people have come to know as Ms. Em.  Instead, I will let her tell you who she is and what she is about!

JLW:   Would you mind telling the readership the history behind your book, "Letters to Ms. Em?"

EG: The history behind my book “Letters to Ms. Em” can take one down many different roads in life.  The book tells of a young man’s this case, a misguided choice; the broken family structure, a topic you wrote so vividly about in your novel “Bruthas” showing the lifeline of civilization; the loss of a life because of his misguided choice; a life sentence in prison, accepting his responsibility, designing his rehabilitation plan for redemption.  Along the way he was given a new family which further brought about his transformation and led him to a new way of living; living with compassion and love and experiencing the rewards which were love and respect of his children and many others who were touched by his poems and letters to me.

JLW:  You are known in the Wilmington, Delaware area as the local humanitarian.  What are some of the outreach efforts that you have participated in and what impact has it had on you?

EG:  Some of my outreach efforts in the city of Wilmington, Delaware are too many to mention.  I live my life based on compassion and as we all know, many individuals are walking around suffering.  I encounter people every day with a challenge; at time I have the solution and at time all I am supposed to do is to listen.  I am most proud of my relationship with the younger generation-the hip hop generation.  I love their energy and they need the most direction and dialogue.    I love sharing my time with the detention centers:  Ferris and Grace Cottage, I share my time with inmates from Gander Hill, Graterford prison who have requested a visit.  I also have shared five year of my life with girls from Wordsworth Treatment Facility.  I truly cannot remember all of my contributions but I will say that the time that I shared was necessary.  My work is in direct correlation to why I was placed on earth.  I am living my vocation and daily I am still discovering and sharing my talents.

JLW:  Out of all of the projects that you have undertaken, which one of them stands out first and foremost to you and why?

EG:  Out of all  the project I have undertaken, the one that stand out front and foremost is the relationship I have developed with Rainn in “Letters to Ms. Em.”  I gained a brother, a friend, a new niece and nephew; a better understanding as to how I can better help children of domestic violence; living with parent behind bars.  Most of all I understand that not all prisoners are bad people and many people are not responsible enough to break the cycle so the cycle continues.  This undertaking has also allowed me to use Rainn’s experience as a lesson to teach the younger generation about choices and to use his life experience as an intervention and prevention measure.

JLW:  What drives you? 

EG:  What drives me is the feeling I experienced when I first arrived in America at age 13.  It was the feeling of being alone amidst the opportunity my mother struggled to provide for me and my siblings.  I always wanted to do the right thing because my mother always did the right thing.  My mother was my hero and she gave me the determination to always keep it moving, no matter what.   I will forever continue the drive of compassion in honor of my Mom; it hasn’t failed me.    

JLW:  Tell us a little bit about your bookstore, "MeJah Books?"

EG:  My business MeJah Books, Inc., has been a part of my life and the community for fifteen years.  That’s a long time!  I don’t take credit for its longevity; it is the expression of the community and the many people who have found a sense of peace at the bookstore.  It is located at the Tri-State Mall in Claymont Delaware.  Check us out on the website or visit us and experience what I am talking about.  It has definite been a journey in maintaining a bookstore in a time where technology is trying to “kick us to the curb” but it is so much better to have a conversation with a friendly face than a hand held device.  This is what MeJah Books stands for: community, communication, literacy, sharing, service, diversity, culture and of course laughter, along with a cup of tea or coffee.  What more can you ask for? 

To learn more about MeJah Books, please visit the website at:

To read the formal review of 'Letters To Ms. Em' click on the link below:

~J.L. Whitehead



The Legacy Diner

  Everyone has a favorite place they like to eat and/or hangout at…literally.   We associate these places with pleasant memories.   Maybe ...