April 29, 2017

Best Advice I Was Given As A Writer


Image result for write what you knowThe best advice I have ever been given as a writer is to write about my personal experiences. "Write about what you know," they said, and I listened. At the time I was mulling over a fantasy novel with sword fighting, military battles, ghoulish figures, etc. The type of things you would find in a Tolkien novel, or better yet Robert Jordan, my favorite author of all time. However, it was taking forever to develop the story, and I didn't know much about any of the stuff that I had written about. Robert Jordan wrote about war, because he LIVED war. I had lived none of it.

So, when another writer came to me and told me to "write about what I know"-- I took it to heart. And, that is when I wrote my first suspense novel-- a novel about a woman trying to save a young boy from an abusive family. What many don't know is that the novel in many ways was cathartic. I put myself into the novel-- the feelings of helplessness that I endured while trying to save my brothers from foster-care, the abuse that I had experienced. No, my home life was never to the extent of Andrew's, it was never that dark-- but it had very dark moments. It's easy to write about abuse, when you are a product of it.

It's easy to write about abuse, when you are a product of it.


Then, I wrote The Shades of Devotion-- a romance. The novel was awesome, because it was based on me. It was based on a real situation of my life, but fictionalized: the loss of a parent, the ordeals of foster care, the help of a good friend, etc. In fact, I pulled very heavily from my life, even to go so far as to include real conversations between the social workers and I. The characters seemed real because in many ways they were real-- real people that I met along the way-- real friends, real family, real losses and real gains. Although, I never had a guy like Nisay. Although, I was propositioned to marry a foreign guy-- I never did. I never had a Nisay-- the entire relationship with him and Bryson was fictionalized, but Nisay was the guy I wish I had. He was the one I wanted.

The characters seemed real because in many ways they were real[...]
In Brains Not Included, I ventured into using relationships from guys I had been with in the past. I patterned my love interest from reality. Although, I have never been to Africa-- I have dated a Ghanaian, and although I have never been in a sexless relationship, I have been confronted with the scandal of a down low male. Thus, I merged seamlessly the realities and complexities of my life with the salacious drama of a romance novel. However, I will say the marriage contained more fiction than reality. However, people so far have loved it. They have loved the realness of the characters, the drama, and the romance.

And, as I think about my futures novels: Black Magic, A Child's Place, Monsters Within II, Girl Code-- I am constantly pulling from reality to weave my tales. And, this way has honestly been the most successful and lucrative. I am literally seeing the results in it all. However, writing what you know is not just profitable, it is cathartic. Writing about your real trials and tribulations under the protective guise of fictional characters, helps you to vent and even heal the wounds that you carry around in you for years. You get to confront your own layers of emotions and without guilt or shame-- and put them in a public space. Your novels, your characters, literally become your therapist.  You get to make the choices you "would have made" and live out the dreams "you could have had" and delve into the roles and passions that brewed within.

You get to confront your own layers of emotions and without guilt or shame-- and put them in a public space.

I have literally been able to deposit my fears, my anxiety, and my grief on paper in a way that is healing me. In Monsters Within, I got to tackle my conflicted feelings about putting yourself at risk for someone else. In my character, you see her bravery, but also her fear. Walter becomes the embodiment of her worry-- he tells her to run-- but she wants to stay and help. He is her constant reality check-- which is something I dealt with when pursuing my brothers. I constantly doubted and questioned what I was doing. I was literally putting myself in the fire, to dodge a wound, and fictionalizing it in Imani-- which means faith-- helped me deal with the mental scars both figuratively and literally.

Then, The Shade of Devotion, I tackled loss; loss of family, loss of children, loss of a love and eventually a loss of faith. These were things I was dealing with at the time I wrote the novel. During the course of writing The Shade of Devotion-- I discovered I was pregnant. Then, I lost the baby at 20 weeks, during the editing process. It is during this time that I went back through the novel and created Nisay's tragedy. I literally put my feelings-- all of them-- into the voices of my characters. Much of the dialogue, it's patterned off of real things I said to my friends during the grieving process. Through writing the novel, I was able to heal. It is not a coincidence that it is my highest grossing novel to date. That novel was the most real, because it was my raw emotion.

Then, finally during Brains Not Included-- I was involved with an egotist. A man that was constantly emasculated by my success. In Zipporah, I placed my hope for reconciliation, my dreams of the future, my success, and finally, my hope of finding true love.

No one can tell your story like you do[...]

Yes, writing what you know is absolutely the best advice I have ever been given as a writer, and it is quite simply the best advice that I would give others. Look around you, look at the puzzle of your life and piece by piece fit it together to weave a story like no other. No one can tell your story like you do, and if it's real-- then it will be absolutely unique. Write what you know.


What's the best advice you have ever been given?



Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2017. 

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April 21, 2017

Success is not Measured in Possessions

So, today I attended the rehearsal for my oldest brother's wedding. I walked down the aisle-- a happy older sister/mom, being escorted by my youngest brother. My daughter sat near us still wearing her tiara from the prom shopping that we went to earlier that day. Her nails freshly done, her eyebrows freshly waxed, and her brown skin reflecting the light from the room with a happy hue. Everyone was beautiful-- and they were all gathered today, in this church holding hands in prayer, because just 18 years ago, I was willing to take a chance; I gambled. When my brothers were taken into custody-- I dedicated myself to getting custody of him, and when they thought he was going to die, I dedicated myself to finding a cure, and when everyone told me to quit-- I persevered. And, when foster care offered me a daughter, I opened my home and my heart to her. I had been willing to sacrifice my younger years to share my home, my life and my future with a group of kids that needed a mother. I was willing to give these children the very thing I felt that I was lacking at the time: love, a family, and a home.

I was willing to give these children the very thing I felt that I was lacking at the time: love, a family, and a home.

I stared at my nails, freshly coated in purple and thought about the conversation I had with the technician. I had announced to her that my oldest brother was getting married. Something I had been bragging about for weeks-- or at least, since he told me about the wedding. She looked at me and smiled. Then, I told her that I was in the wedding as his Mom. When she looked at my confused-- I told her that I had raised all my brothers. The words rolled off my tongue casually and nonchalantly-- but the technician was anything but casual.

She stopped mid-stroke and looked at me and said, "That's honorable what you did for your family. You are a good person." And, I smiled briefly like I always do.

I simply answered, "It's not. I did what anyone would have done in my position." I laughed it off, but she insisted I was wrong as she shook her head to the contrary.
 "I did what anyone would have done in my position."
What happened next shocked me. She stated, "Not everyone. I worked with a woman that left her seven year old sister in foster care because she felt like she wasn't ready to raise her." She frowned and rolled her eyes sadly at the memory.

However, I was baffled as to how to respond. Should I join her in judging the young woman for refusing to raise her little sister after her mother's death, or should I commend her for being honest and acknowledging herself as an unsuitable parent. Then, I wondered-- if I could have done that. Could I have left my sibling in foster care to be raised by strangers as I enjoyed my adult freedom. Wasn't being dependable a part of adulthood? Wasn't taking care of responsibilities a part of growing up? Or, was the unspoken rule just about taking care of your responsibilities only and neglecting all else.
 The unspoken rule just about taking care of your responsibilities only and neglecting all else
 I wondered whether I should even judge a woman for not wanting to take the task of raising her younger siblings. It was hard being a single parent. Late night at the hospitals, phone calls at work, school meetings, bus meetings, Foster care meetings, doctor appointments, eye appointments, etc. I was always looking out for them, and I spent very little time on myself. Some days, I look back on it-- and I wonder how did I even survive. I couldn't fault her for saying no, but I knew that in my heart-- if I were sent in a time machine, and given the choice to get custody of my brothers-- I would make the very same decisions. I don't regret any of it. Although I felt that it cost me so very much. I would gladly live it all again-- so I could end up here. Right here at my brother's wedding-- watching him incorporate a superhero theme into a very magical  day.

I smiled, and I cold feel my eyes water-- but I had reserved my tears for tomorrow. I couldn't cry at the rehearsal. Yet, my brother-- the same brother that I promised I would get from foster care, the same brother that was able to adopt 7 years later, the same brother that took me through a whirlwind of heartache as he grew, the same brother that the doctors said would not live to see the age of 9-- that brother is now a 25 year old man that is getting married tomorrow. I smiled as I watched him there.
Any amount of money is ever really "more" or "enough." 

And, suddenly I had a momentary and fleeting feeling of success wash over me, which was odd. 
I do not see myself as a successful person. Yes, I write novels; yes, I am published; and yes, I have not just one degree-- I have multiple-- but despite all of that, I still did not see myself as a success story. I have always seen myself as one who struggles: someone slowly rising to the top and trying to make it. A person trying to reach the apex of success: a child, marriage, more money-- not that any amount of money is ever really "more" or "enough."

However, I looked at my brother practicing for his big day tomorrow, I realized that I was already a success. Despite the fact that things did not turn out the way I expected it, they still turned out well. My oldest brother lived and is getting married. My youngest brother is enrolled in college. My middle brother is in the military fighting for his country, and my daughter, whom I adopted just 10 years ago, is now attending her senior prom.

Success isn't always the biggest house or the nicest car or even the most sales. Success was being able to see a young man marry that everyone said wouldn't make it-- it was watching my youngest brother joke around with the man and hearing him complain about his college classes, success was my daughter refusing to take off her tiara. Success was being about to pay the house note and the car not without feeling stressed. Success was this moment.

Success isn't always the biggest house or the nicest car or even the most sales.

Sometimes, we fail to realize when we are winning in life. Take heed and take note-- winning is not always in the big things-- sometimes it is the very least.



Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

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April 12, 2017

Maybe Forgiveness Is Not the Answer . . .



"21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!" Matthew 18:22
 "Forgive 70 times 7" was a phrase I often heard in my house  -- forgiveness has been preached over my head since I was a small child. If your sibling hits you, forgive them. If a kid steals your favorite toy and apologizes, you must forgive them. Forgiveness was not just a requirement or an expectation, it might as well have been a law.  Yet, no one ever stopped to question it-- was forgiveness always the best answer. Is forgiveness always, no matter the circumstances, the right thing to do?
 But, what if forgiveness isn't always the answer? 

The world constantly asks us to forgive: forgive the ones that hurt us, forgive the ones that violate us, forgive the one's who betrays us. However, what if always forgiving and forgetting is a part of the problem.We seek to forgive those who betrayed us, but when we review history-- forgiveness and forgetting, has never brought any real systematic change. It's never created any form of balance.Yes, forgiving seems like the right thing to do, wiping the slate clean and starting over seems like a justifiable action, but it is not always. It simply give avenue to hold on to unhealthy bounds and repeat the same mistakes-- over and over again.  Sometimes, we are so focused on doing the right thing that we lose focus on what the right thing truly is.


For example, on what was probably a very cold day in Montgomery Alabama, there was a fair skin woman that was tired-- her feet ached maybe, she had spent a long day at work maybe, she needed rest most likely. Whatever the case may be, she decided to have a seat on her section of the bus-- the section marked colored. When a man, the bus driver, demanded her seat-- now, she could have obeyed, forgiven the man, forgotten what he did that was so horrible-- and moved on with her life. She could have turned the other cheek-- but she didn't. Instead, she refused-- maybe she had thought of ever white man that had ever did her wrong in that moment-- and instead of forgiving and forgetting-- she decided to fight and be remembered.

 But, it didn't end there she was arrested-- and even when she was hauled off to jail-- she could have prayed in that cell and asked for forgiveness. She could have asked God to help her forgive the bus driver, and the man who wanted her seat, and the jailers who closed the bars on her-- but no, she did not. Instead, she chose to remember everything that had been done to her, and to find all those who had also been wronged, and create a lawsuit, Browder V. Gayle-- however, not only did she sue the bus drivers-- she helped the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr. create one of the largest bus boycotts in the Nation.

Rosa Parks became a symbol of a resistance against the status quo, she became a part of a movement, and she has been etched in our memories and history books for a lifetime. Her lack of forgiveness created change that continues to date in the way minorities are treated in this country. However, if she had been docile, complacent and forgiving-- not only would the incident have been forgotten-- but that moment would be nothing but an empty or clean slate. Her forgiveness would not have stood the test of time, it would not have been a ripple in a pool that spreads for decades-- it would simply been a momentary gesture that in the big picture meant nothing.

But let's fast forward to current events: an Asian doctor was forcibly removed from Southwest Airlines in a video that surfaced online. Millions of people saw his blooded face, his complacent body as he was dragged off by security guards for no fault of his own. He was simply on an overbooked passage, allegedly on his way to tend to sick patients, and he too refused to give up his seat. In some ways that draws similarities to Rosa Parks, he was brutalized and forcibly removed.
However, he did not offer forgiveness, instead he fought his way back to his seat where he was ravaged again   as he told the security guard to "just kill me." He was willing to stand and die for his human rights.

However, the story doesn't end there, as the news spread like wild fire-- flitting from cellphone to computer screen, from one social media platform to another-- the millions of viewers weren't looking to forgive and forget. When United Airlines issued an apology-- they didn't respond with "thank you for your apology. We forgive you." No, people instead responded with outrage. In fact, Asian Comedian Joe Wong, took this as an opportunity to remind us of every act of discrimination and grievance that has occurred to Chinese and Asians on American soil. He called for a boycott, which has turned this incident into a public relations nightmare for United Airlines. It's creating a ripple affect and change that is not even fully understood in this moment. Yet, forgiveness did not cause this change-- it could not. Forgetting could not cause this change. The only thing to create justice is to remember and to take action. If we simply turn the other cheek, if we simply allow these incidents to keep occurring seventy times seventy, if we sit passively by-- when will it ever change? Sometimes, maybe just sometimes, we need to remember, we need to fight, we need act on the wrong that has been done, we need to correct.

Maybe, the friend that wronged you-- shouldn't have forgiveness, maybe you shouldn't just sweep things under the carpet and forget about. Maybe, instead, you should  take action by cutting the relationship permanently. Maybe, you shouldn't go back to him-- or forgive that one hit or that one slap. remember, firmly the hand implanted on your face, and take action by walking out the door. Don't forgive him and don't look back. Maybe, the man that touched you-- needs to be acted on. He should be reported, he should be charged, he should be behind a jail where he belongs. Maybe the guy that forced you to do things against your will-- shouldn't be forgiven-- maybe you should call him a rapist, remember how he sexually assaulted you-- don't sweep it under the rug-- but take action and call the police. Maybe, he shouldn't be forgive, but he should be charged. Maybe, you should go through with the lawsuit.

Just think about the lives that are changed, and the laws that have been enacted-- simply because someone choose a different path than just forgiving and forgetting.

Now, I don't say that to mean that we have to attack every situation that lands at our feet, but this is simply a challenge to access each situation a little differently. This is simply a challenge to delve a little deeper, to ask a little more questions.

What if forgiveness is not enough? What if forgiveness is not the answer? What if forgetting is not the right thing to do? What if for once-- just once-- we need to hold on to the injustice tightly, to remember and to make a stand. Remember, in the words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”



Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

Follow me on twitter by Clicking Here. Friend me on Facebook by Clicking Here. Follow my Author's page by Clicking Here! Check out my Instagram by Clicking Here!

April 01, 2017

The Wait Is Over . . .

There has been much anticipation concerning my new novel: Brains Not Included. Well, ladies and gentleman, it has finally arrived!

This novel is a spin off of The Shade of Devotion. So many people were asking for a sequel, that I felt compelled to give my readers another glimpse into the lives of the characters from The Shade of Devotion.

 Thus, in my novel, Brains Not Included, you can revisit the characters that you fell in love with: Nisay, with his easy going charm and mysteriously brooding demeanor; Yasmin, with her explorative views on love,  and even Kaleb, with his innocent charm and sagacious words. However, the characters are now much older and some would argue wiser.

However, there has been a new edition to this dramatic clan: Zipporah Chandra Jo, who happens to be the protagonist of this fiery love story. We follow her through the dramatic opening in chapter one, to the wilds of a tribal village on the coast of Africa and home again to her disapproving and somewhat dysfunctional family.

Through sadness, tragedy, love, and laughter-- this novel will keep you on your toes and loving every minute. If you enjoyed The Shade of Devotion, you will also love Brains Not Included! Be sure to purchase your copy from Amazon, Kindle, Goodreads, Nook, and local bookstores such as Barns and Noble and Books A Million. Also, don't forget to leave a review. Your opinions and thoughts matter!

Book Blurb
Zipporah is a religious, independent and driven woman that prides herself in going it alone. Yet, she desires a perfect marriage like her mother, and she can't seem to find a man that accepts her career driven lifestyle and religious devotion. After a severe breakup, she decides to go on a mission’s trip with her sister to a poor, tribal village in Africa where she meets Utu, the King’s most, powerful warrior and son. Sexy and confident, Utu seduces Zipporah into a relationship that she can’t walk away from no matter how much she tries.

Together, they embark on a romance that leaves both questioning their roles in a relationship and the secrets embedded in their hearts. Zipporah and Utu have to sacrifice who they are to become the people they need to be to make their whirlwind romance work. Zipporah learns that her life is more like the biblical story than she thought. She must learn to fight her fears to win a husband, a family, and a new life.



Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

Follow me on twitter by Clicking Here. Friend me on Facebook by Clicking Here. Follow my Author's page by Clicking Here! Check out my Instagram by Clicking Here!