Helen wasn't just born the devious vixen of New Day Temple of Faith. There has to be something rooted deep within her to make her feed off of the pain she inflicts on other people. Perhaps it is her own pain that she has suppressed for so many years. It's an unimaginable pain that creates an internal prison in which her mind is the only captive.
Whatever the cause, once the demons within her break free, those around her better beware.
Helen feels no shame about the fact that she hasn't been saved. Will the divas of New Day Temple of Faith think Helen is worth saving? More importantly, can God save Helen from not only her evil past, but from herself?
Excerpt from I Ain't Me No More
Man, I hate the cleaning guy! Why does he have to do his job so well? Can’t he ever leave just one spot, smear, or smudge on this dang stripper pole? Something so that I don’t have to see myself so painfully visible like this? What makes him think I want to be able to see myself twirling around this pole like some skilled monkey—caught up in the powerful grip of the almighty dollar; a grip known to have choked the life out of many while leaving others gasping for their last breath?
“That’s for you,” Damon spoke out over R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Calling.” With his chestnut brown, bald head and facial hair that was edged up nice and clean, Damon licked his thumb and used it to flick a twenty-dollar bill off the stack of money he was palming.
I swiveled my body down to the ground, the same way the vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream at the DQ makes its way from the machine to the cone. “Baby, you know it takes gas to keep a Cadillac like myself going,” I said to Damon. “As long as you keep filling up the tank, I’ma go-go all night.” I swiveled my body back up to a standing position while adding, “In any direction you want me to go.”
Damon’s lips parted into that sexy signature smile of his.
“Whatever you want,” Damon said. “It’s your Caddy. I’ll drive, ride, heck, I’ll even be a backseat passenger. Just know that I got you, Ma.” Damon began to flick off bills like he was the dealer in a game of spades.
I was very much content with the hand I was being dealt. So much so that I wanted to drop to my knees and begin scooping like a kid standing under a piñata that had just been busted open. But I didn’t want to appear too desperate. Resolving to strip in the first place was out of desperation. At the time of making the decision I had felt trapped, like Jonah in the belly of the big fish. I was always trying to make ends meet, but neither of my ends were the least bit interested in getting to know one another. Bills were due. I weighed some options on my immoral scale of desperation, and stripping was a less load to travel with in my mental carry-on. I mean, at least I wasn’t selling my whole self—just bartering off a piece of me.
“Go on, Go-Go Girl. You know you wanna bend that thang over and pick up that loot.”
Once again, Damon licked his thumb and lightened his pile of money as he flicked a couple more bills onto the stage at my feet. “Come on, just show me a li’l sumpin’-sumpin’,” Damon urged. His eyes perused my body from head to toe, wetting his thumb in preparation to keep making it rain.
And this was rain, might I add. Ones being flicked off; that’s a chance of rain. Fives being flicked off; that’s a little drizzle. Tens being flicked off; that’s a scattered shower. Twenties; that’s rain. Benjamins; an all-out thunderstorm!
“Come on, Damon, you know the rules. You don’t want me to break the rules and get put on punishment do you?” I asked, making a puppy dog face.
“Forget the rules,” Damon barked like the big dawg he was. “And if all that is worthy of just a peek,” he said, referring to all the money he’d laid at my feet, “I can only imagine what this will get me.”
I froze on the stage, which meant the bill Damon was now displaying must have triggered some type of ice storm. Until that very moment, I had never even known that such a bill existed.
“What’s the matter, Go-Go Girl? You ain’t never seen a five-hundred-dollar bill before?” He chuckled. “So what do you say you make tonight a first for a lot of things?”
All of a sudden, I was starting to think about church, kicking myself for not having paid my respects (or tithes) to the house of the Lord in a couple of months. At the same time, I was trying my hardest to recall one of those messages that had to do with temptation—a scripture or something— because to tell the truth and shame the devil, I was beyond tempted to take Damon up on his offer.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches . . .” That wasn’t exactly the scripture I was grappling for, but it still seemed fitting.
My name; Helen Lannden. How much is it worth today? Twenty-five year old Helen Lannden. How much will my name be worth tomorrow, especially if I trick for this money today?
Interview with E. N. Joy
What advice would you give to those going through similar situations in your book, I Ain’t Me No More?
The entire theme of the domestic abuse the main character, Helen, who is based on my own life, endures is the fact that it started off when she was just a teenager in high school. So I really want my readers to make note of that. I want parents to look at their child’s homecoming or prom picture and ask themselves “Is that person standing next to my daughter smiling with his arm around her abusing her?” or “Is my smiling son abusing that girl he has his arm around?” And vice versa, because although underreported, males suffer domestic abuse as well. And young ladies, your choice to keep company with a guy who will put his hands on you is a matter of life and death. I survived, but not every abused woman does. Choose life . . . choose to leave!
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of your family.
Hands down-THE READERS. #Readersarethebossofme. What I need people to understand is, yes, as an author, a part of me wants to write stories that I myself want to read. But the moment an author begins to make it all about them and not the reader is when the author needs to rethink their purpose for doing what they do. Ultimately, when a product is created, it is created to please and satisfy the consumer. Well, if you are a writer, your product is your written word and the reader is your consumer. Readers are my literary heartbeat. Every time they turn the page of one of my books, they are flying with me.
My readers inspire me to challenge myself. I don’t write for myself and I’m absolutely not one of those authors who you will hear say, “If I could just sell one book and reach one person, then I’m happy; I’ve done my job.” No ma’am and no sir. I’m grateful to reach one person, but that is not my goal. I do not put all that I put into my work—sacrifice all that I do—to sell one book or reach one person. Did Jesus set out to reach one person? Did Jesus die, go through all that He did and die on that cross just to save one person? I think you get my point.
Introduce us to your book and the main characters.
I Ain’t Me No More is book one of my three book “Always Divas” series. The main character, Helen, is not only the newest member of the New Day Temple of Faith Singles Ministry, but she quickly becomes the vixen with all her evil ways and antics. Helen is not one of those church folks the members love to hate. They just outright hate her! But is there something more to Helen than the hard, nasty exterior she puts up? Lord knows she wasn’t saved all her life, but was she born evil? Why else would someone set out to intentionally inject turmoil into the lives around her? Well, the women at New Day don’t know, and most don’t care. But when Helen decides to let them in on her past skeletons, it may change a few minds (or not). The women just might find that Helen is worth saving. Question is, though; Does Helen want to be saved?
What are some other titles you have written?
I’ve written 14 books in my Divas series. What I love about my series is that you can read them in any order. Each book highlights a different main character. What makes it a series is that each character that I write about is a member of the same church. But if you are a stickler for having to read my Divas series in the order of which I wrote them, then here goes: She Who Finds a Husband, Been There Prayed That, Love Honor or Stray, Trying to Stay Saved, I Can Do Better All By Myself, And You Call Yourself a Christian, The Perfect Christian, The Sunday Only Christian, I Ain’t Me No More, More Than I Can Bear, You Get What You Pray For, When All is Said and Prayed, One Sunday at a Time, Lady of the House.
My stand-alone books are Me, Myself & Him, She’s No Angel, and A Woman’s Revenge. Ebook only books are Ordained by the Streets, Let’s Do Summer, Behind Every Good Woman, The Miserable Wives Club, and Flower in my Hair.
You can also check out my children’s books written under the name N. Joy: The Secret Olivia Told me, Sabella and the Castle Belonging to the Troll, and Operation Get Rid of Mom’s New Boyfriend.
What events or projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing or attending?
I believe everyone has a story to tell, that they should tell it, that they should tell it right, then publish it right. So, I’m putting on the first annual Path To Publishing “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” Three-Day Self-Publishing Conference, kicking off September 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. On day one we will focus on building your book (the entire self-publishing process). On day two we will focus on building your book business (incorporating, doing business as, taxes, etc.) On day three we will focus on creating multiple streams of income as an author outside of book sales and royalties. To stay updated, visit www.pathtopublishing.com and sign-up for the free newsletter.
Former president, Bill Clinton, years back, right after he had his first memoir published, said, “Anybody over fifty owes it to his family to write down everything that’s happened during his life and pass it on.” I’m in total agreement. But tomorrow isn’t promised, so don’t wait until you’re fifty to begin penning your message . . . your story. This is the reason why I became a literary consultant, a course instructor with Path To Publishing, and the host of the YouTube series, “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business.” Not only do I have a strong desire to help people tell their story and put it in a book, but I also want to teach them how to turn their book into a business. Our stories should be a family legacy . . . in more ways than one. Visit me at www.squareup.com/market/writings-by-joy if you are interested in any of my literary services.
What was the pivotal moment or book that inspired you to write?
One day I got my hands on one of my auntie’s grownup books, which was Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines. It was the first book I’d ever read with main characters that looked like me. With characters that walked, talked, and thought like me. I remember sneaking the book out at night time and reading it while lying in bed. I was so deeply enthralled that I felt like I became that black girl who was lost. I remember closing that book upon the final chapter and saying to myself, “One day I’m going to write a book that does that to people. I’m going to write a book that black girls like me can relate to, take something from.” I think I’ve accomplished that in my books.
I hear authors say it all the time: “I write my book for everybody, not just one particular audience.” That’s all fine and well, but the book business is just that; a business. In dealing with business you have to have a target audience that you start off promoting and marketing to. Once you have saturated your target audience, then you have the bull’s eye affect, where you begin to expand outward into other areas. There is absolutely no shame in my game; I write my books for women, namely Black women. If anyone outside of my target audience wants to pick up my books, that is an awesome blessing. But I want to make sure that my sisters—my target audience—can walk right into the book store and know exactly where to find me.
Where do you expect to be in your career as an author five (5) years from now?
Had I been asked this question five years ago (which I’m sure I was) my answer would have been (and I’m sure it was) “I want to be a New York Times Bestselling Author. I want to have “A Million Copies Sold!” stamped on my book covers. I want to be selling out of books after every book signing. In short, five years from now I want to be a famous author.” I know that was a mouthful, but when I first started writing, achieving all of the above is what motivated me. But now, after having my greatest Ah-Ha moment ever, those answers have changed.
A couple years ago I was in a room with some authors who had pretty much achieved what I’d wanted to achieve by that point in my writing career. Their reputations preceded them. All the readers in the room knew who they were. In that moment, I felt so inferior that I felt myself shrinking in my seat. I remember saying a silent prayer: “God, one day I want to walk into the room and everyone knows who I am.” God’s response to me was, “Me too!”
I always say the greatest Ah-Ha moment a person can ever have is when their life begins to make sense. In that moment, my life began to make sense. So, this is how I now answer the question of where do I expect to be in my career as an author five years from now: “I want to be a BLESSED selling author. I want to have “A Million Souls Saved!” stamped on my book covers. I want readers to be sold out on Christ after reading my books. In short, five years from now I want to still be writing, not to become a famous author, but to make God famous.
After thirteen years of being a paralegal in the insurance industry, E. N. Joy divorced her career and married her mistress and her passion; writing. In 2000, she formed her own publishing company where she published her books until landing a book deal with St. Martin’s Press. This award-winning author has been sharing her literary expertise on conference panels in her home town of Columbus, Ohio as well as cities across the country. Now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, she also conducts publishing/writing workshops for aspiring writers.
Her children’s book titled The Secret Olivia Told Me, written under the name N. Joy, received a Coretta Scott King Honor from the American Library Association. The book was also acquired by Scholastic Books and has sold almost 100,000 copies. Elementary and middle school children have fallen in love with reading and creative writing as a result of the readings and workshops E. N. Joy instructs in schools nationwide.
In addition, she is the artistic developer for a young girl group named DJHK Gurls. She pens original songs, drama skits and monologues for the group that deal with messages that affect today’s youth, such as bullying.
After being the first content development editor for Triple Crown Publications and ten years as the acquisitions editor for Carl Weber’s Urban Christian imprint, E. N. Joy now does freelance editing, ghostwriting, write-behinds and literary consulting. Her clients have included New York Times Bestselling authors, entertainers, aspiring authors, as well as first-time authors. Some notable literary consulting clients include actor Christian Keyes, singer Olivia Longott and Reality Television star Shereé M. Whitfield.
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