The other day, I read a social media post that posed the question: If you could go anywhere in a book you’re reading, where would you be?
The poster had read Judge’s Girls and said that she would love to live in that lake house set in my fictional town of Hope Springs, Ga right about now. Personally, I’d take the lake house, but I wouldn’t want to hang out with Jeanie, Ryder and Maya, well at least at first. It’s not entirely their fault why they don’t get along. The family’s patriarch, Judge Joseph Donaldson dies leaving behind his second wife Jeanie, who is a much younger white woman, his biological daughter, Maya who followed her father’s footsteps in law, and Ryder, Jeanie’s daughter, and Joseph’s stepdaughter. Before his death, these three ladies had not always gotten along but now they must live together in the same house, which was left to Maya, per the stipulation in Joseph’s will. See what I mean now? I love my ladies— but the drama! I would be happy to do a house swap for a few weeks.
On a serious note, for those of us who are fortunate to have a home, many of us are finding new ways to make our house a home. Some of us have fallen into the Pinterest trap of decorating. I, too, fell did an impulse buy for questionable paintings. I’m what you call, décor-challenged.
But for many of us, we were just sort of numb. The social unrest, the unlawful killing of Black people, the toxic political landscape, and the biggest of them all—the pandemic— caused me to curl back into my turtle shell. And if I’m being honest here because, we’re all friends, right? If I wasn’t for my husband and kid, I would have stayed in that shell, known as the bed. As an artist, my creative ‘well’ was bone-dry. Drop a penny in me and you would have heard a loud clink. How in the world was I supposed to entertain readers, to find the bright light in the tunnel of darkness when dark was all I could see?
At the onset of quarantine, I’d lost my appetite for reading. I didn’t have it in me to concentrate and mostly, I was shivering in fear under a blanket when I wasn’t working the day job or writing.
And then I realized, slowly but surely, I was crawling out of the shell—actually let’s call a spade a spade, depression. After some months of ups and downs, I realized that I am a creature of habit and I needed a new routine. Now, a flexible routine that could change based on my ever-evolving needs but the basis—going outdoors for a few minutes a day, meditation, some form of exercise, drinking water, and the most important (to me), reading!
How could I, as an author forget the transformative power of words and world-building and connecting with characters who make your heart pump in triumph and sink in their failures?
My appetite for reading returned, which was great because there were so many amazing releases this year. From Farrah Rochon’s The Boyfriend Project to Kwana Jackson’s Real Men Knit to Kristan Higgins’s Always the Last to Know and Cheris Hodge’s Owner of a Broken Heart. These romances made me remember the first sparks of falling in love because it made me fall in love with books again.
Recently I’ve been loving the fantastic worlds in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Fantasy! Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky and Legendborn by Tracy Deonn has pulled me right out of my living room onto the campus of the University of North Carolina and the treacherous terrain of the MidPass. These books helped me rediscover the magic in myself.
The magic in creating words and worlds! And because of these books writing became joyful again.
That small but important step in my mental health allowed me to happily discover my new normal. Now, I’m all about finding ways to entertain and interact with my energetic toddler (Thank you, Beyoncé!). We sing and dance together. We enjoy and make the most of life, not just tolerate this difficult time. Many of our fun videos are posted on my social media channels. I love sharing his #BlackBoyJoy with my friends, family, and readers.
As a byproduct of the pandemic, I’ve become obsessed with vitamins and supplements and natural herbal remedies. I watch more TV now, whereas I didn’t have the time before. And I recently discovered my love of Korean Dramas aka K-Dramas. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch Crash Landing on You!
All of this to say, if you are struggling like me, find little thing that used to make you happy pre-pandemic. It took some time, and I continue to struggle, but reading loosened the anxiety that bound me to bed. It allowed me to travel to different places in the world, heck to different worlds!
As an author, especially during these trying times, it is my goal to give you a slice of hope, to make you laugh, to bring levity to heavy, life-altering issues and events.
So, if books are your ‘thing’ be sure to visit my ladies within the pages of Judge’s Girls set in Hope Springs, Georgia. It’s a small, but friendly town, heavy on the gossip but filled with love.
And sit awhile with Maya, Ryder, and Jeanie. They’ll be either down by the lake or sipping tea on their porch.