Gina’s Debate: Hair vs. Exercise (and Boyfriend)


In my novel Life in Spades, Gina expresses annoyance at not only training for a marathon with her boyfriend  but now she also has to rearrange her salon appointments to make up for all the sweating and unstyling her hair is going through.  The boyfriend is white, he doesn’t understand her hair struggles, she whines.  How many of us go through this same balance – physical fitness training and keeping a good looking hair style?

According to a 2012 study at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, hair styling and maintenance is a predominant reason for African-American women exercising less than prescribed.  There’s of course, implications for general health and weight maintenance issues when we neglect some sort of exercise regimen for the sake of our locks.  But it makes sense – who wants to spend hours at the hair salon, spend a good piece of your paycheck, and then go sweat it all out?  Is it worth a few pounds?

My hair is naturally curly, and admittedly, relatively “easy” as hair goes, but I still think about the hair styling issue when I’ve taken the time to flat-iron it or need to plan doing my hair into my schedule for the day.  Running or weight-training isn’t too bad – a ponytail, a headband, a bandana can keep the strands pretty orderly. But a swim or even a stop in the sauna and I’ve got to start all over.  I’ve found, however, that a rinse with water and a dollop of conditioner will hold a pulled back bun just fine until I settle down and wash my hair properly.

Thus, Gina faces the same question. Her boyfriend is sure that running this marathon will convince Gina’s mother about their commitment to each other.  But Gina’s hair appointment schedule is suggesting maybe there’s a better way. Granted, the workout outfit is cute, but still – the hair!

This all brings me to the Philly Natural Hair Show this weekend. I’ll be in the Literary Nook with Gina, Cookie, Sherry, and Laura enjoying Life in Spades – and hopefully picking up a few hair tips for us all!

Share in the Comments: How do you manage your hair and your workout?



By |June 4th, 2014|Book events, Spades Characters|Comments Off on Gina’s Debate: Hair vs. Exercise (and Boyfriend)

The Soundtrack for Life

What songs are in your life's soundtrack?

What songs are in your life’s soundtrack?.

“There’s a soundtrack for Life in Spades?” People have asked when I mention certain songs that relate to the characters.  Yes, there is music mentioned throughout the book as the women work through their challenges of love and family.  And yes, there is particular music I think of in my own head when I consider Gina, Laura, Sherry, and Cookie’s stories.

While I’m working on a writing project, whether my next book or blog post, I listen to the Life in Spades “soundtrack”, as well as other music I’ve pulled up on my iPod or Slacker.  Depending on whether I’m writing, editing, re-reading, or trying to get over a stumbling block, yes, the genre changes.  Although I can write to Bruno Mars, I have to edit with instrumental in the background.

Music plays such a key piece in our lives, so it’s not surprising really that it would play a part in our creativity and productivity.  Every major life event has a song.  Birthdays, weddings, holidays.  Even births invoke certain songs – Isn’t She Lovely? – as do deaths – Precious Lord, Take My Hand.  Getting on the school bus, whistling on our way to work, going to bed after a long day.  And just as we celebrate life’s milestones with song, our memories are triggered by music, too.  What song did your mother hum to you as a kid?  Where were you when the Thriller video premiered? (And if you are not old enough to have that as a living, specific memory, well, just keep that to yourself.)  What was your first music concert?  What grade, who were your friends?

It was a source of entertainment to consider what music Gina, Laura, Sherry, and Cookie would be listening to as they got together for a game of spades, went out for happy hour, and swept across the dance floor.  It also gave my brain another creative puzzle to figure out.

Sam Cooke crooning “You’re nobody unless somebody loves you,” spoke to Laura’s feelings as she struggles with her feelings about being a professional escort and what that meant for her personal life.  Later, Porgy & Bess illustrated the universal choice of choosing the man who loves you versus the one who can provide things that you think you want.  Cookie’s heart recognizes that love may be lost, but there are second chances and that’s okay, as David sings to her from the music festival stage.  As Sherry gulps a drink, sure that all she wants is to dance with somebody, we wonder, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”  And what is playing on Gina’s iPod as she runs behind Alex. Is life really, so simply “Black & White”?

Music in our own lives is fun, it’s memories, it’s a time marker.  In Life In Spades, it serves as mood and texture for who the women are.  As the author, it kept me humming along as they bopped and shimmied along onto the page.  I hope my readers feel like tapping their feet along to their story, too.


Share in the Comments – What songs mark important moments in your life?

By |January 31st, 2014|Spades, Spades Characters, Writing|Comments Off on The Soundtrack for Life

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Latte Frosting

One of the most common questions I get while promoting Life in Spades – whether at bookclubs or book festivals or (wo)manning my booth at a community event – is “are any of the characters based on you?”  The lovelorn baker, the don’t-wanna-be marathon runner, the divorcee, or the escort?  Nah.  All these friends climbed out of my imagination.  But that’s not to say that we don’t share some of the same characteristics, likes and dislikes.

Cookie, for instance, does have a dream job.  Baking all day in her self-owned bakery?  Would love it!  Absolutely.  During the holidays, I step into the full-time baker role. I don my apron, stack up my recipes (I often make the same cakes and pies, but have a terrible memory for recipes), pour myself a drink, and start baking.  My regulars are red velvet cake, pound cake, sweet potato, pecan and apple pies.  I supplement those according to my mood at the time – carrot cake, peanut butter cake, Hummingbird cake, upside down cake.  I really like the ten-layer Smith Island Cake, but haven’t made that in a while.


Chocolate cake is my ultimate favorite cake – chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, with chocolate ganache, with chocolate shavings… Get it?  But as much as I love it, well, I don’t need to eat too much of it or my next most popular activity will be buying new clothes.  I did however make a chocolate cake to bring in the new year.

I used a chocolate cake recipe from Southern Living, which has great, full-butter, all-sugar recipes from before the trend of healthy, low-fat, reduced sugar baking. And, as always, had to experiment with some aspect of it, so I went with the frosting.  Sitting on the kitchen counter was a new package of Caramel Crème Latte Drink Mix I had just unpacked from a Tastefully Simple order, so I decided to make Caramel Latte Frosting.

Use flavored coffee drink mix for a delicious cake frosting.

Use flavored coffee drink mix for a delicious cake frosting.

Caramel Latte Frosting

Mix the following together – in your mixer or by hand, your preference.  Makes enough to frost a 2-layer cake.

  • 2 sticks – butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 pound – confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup – Tastefully Simple Caramel Crème Latte drink mix.  Adjust to taste.  You could also try another powdered coffee mix you have on hand, for instance, International Cafe or something similar.
  • 1 tsp – vanilla
  • a few tablespoons of milk – for desired consistency

This tastes delicious with chocolate cake. Especially for people who may not like or want chocolate on chocolate.

Enjoy a slice with a hot cup of coffee.  And a good book.

By |January 3rd, 2014|Baking, Spades Characters|Comments Off on Chocolate Cake with Caramel Latte Frosting