Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...Orange Mint and Honey!

ORANGE MINT and HONEY by Carleen Brice

Carleen's debut novel Orange Mint and Honey (2008, Random House) — an Essence “Recommended Read” and a Target “Bookmarked Breakout Book” — was optioned for a movie by Lifetime Television. For this novel, she received the Breakout Author of the Year Award from the African American Literary Awards Show and the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Shay Dixon, evicted and about to flunk out of grad school, has no choice but to go back to Denver. There, she’s shocked to find her mother, Nona, is now sober, raising a pre-schooler, and growing an amazing garden. What else will take root and blossom in Nona’s garden? Orange Mint and Honey is a haunting, exquisitely written story about mothers and daughters—and the power of healing and forgiveness. (Where Carleen blogs about writing & gardening & stuff) (Where Carleen promotes black authors to a diverse readership)

Excerpt from ORANGE MINT and HONEY

I should have known things were getting bad when Nina Simone showed up. Don't get me wrong. I love Nina. I've been listening to her since History of Jazz sophomore year. The professor taught us to worship the great men of jazz, but it was the women who drew me in: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith, Mildred Bailey. They were queens, priestesses, goddesses—encouraging me, pointing me away from danger, schooling me in the ways of life. Especially Nina Simone.

I listened to Nina Simone a thousand times, and I always got something from her music. But the night she came to me for the first time she must have known I needed more than a song could offer. I knew a famous singer, and a dead one at that, shouldn't have been in my bedroom, but somehow I wasn't surprised to see her because I had been wishing she were there. Wishing she would tell me what to do.

Usually when I was down I could keep going. But this time I bumped up against something that I couldn't get over, a wall as hard and cold and impossible to see through as frosted glass. I had lost my job writing grant proposals for an indigent-care clinic, stopped going to class, and received an eviction notice from my landlord. But still all I could do was listen to music, hanging on to the life preserver of Nina Simone's eerie, regal voice.

That night, I was listening to the fast version of “House of the Rising Sun.” It’s a live recording, seven minutes long. Nina gets so into it, you can’t make out what she’s singing. Behind her, the band chants “rising sun,” “rising sun” over and over, and the audience claps to the fast beat. The piano, the clapping hands, and tambourine sound like church and juke joints, like sweat and heat, free and alive. I started dancing. I hadn’t had the energy to get out of my pajamas for a week, but “House of the Rising Sun” had me shaking my head back and forth, twirling in circles, and pumping my arms and legs up and down like I was performing a tribal ritual, like I was one of Alvin Ailey’s dancers. I danced through the song three times until all thoughts of jobs and grad school and unpaid bills were erased from my mind and I could sleep.

At 3:33 a.m. I opened my eyes and Nina Simone was there, as if I had conjured her, standing in front of my bedroom window, blue moonlight spotlighting her features — thick lips, proud nose, slanted eyes rimmed in kohl like Cleopatra’s. I had been asking myself for days WWNSD (What would Nina Simone do?) and now she had come to tell me. I didn’t know if she was a ghost or a hallucination, and I didn’t care. Eyes wide, heart thumping like the speakers in the car of a teenaged boy, I sat up and waited for Nina Simone to say something wise, to tell me how to fix the mess I’d made of my life, to comfort me, and convince me that I had inside me everything I needed to move forward.

“You’ve really screwed up now,” she said.
Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of ORANGE MINT and HONEY. And be sure to drop by and wave hello!!
If Carleen could conjure up a famous actor to stand beside her bedroom window, who would it be?


Chris Eldin said...

Good Morning Everyone!!

You know, as I have marketing on the brain from Monday's post, I'm thinking about the decision to buy hard-cover versus paperback books.

This would be an example of a book I'd have to have in hard cover because of the beauty of its cover. It's like an investment in art, to me.

Versus a book by Dean Koontz, whose books are a guilty pleasure--I'd never own a hard cover of one of his, but I probably own just about all of his in paperback.

A side conversation...

Welcome Carleen!!

Riva said...

Wow - what a great excerpt! Orange Mint and Honey has just moved to the top of my wish list.

As for the actor outside Carleen's window - I have three possibilities. Sidney Poitier, because he's such a wise man. George Burns, from the Oh, God! movies, because he was so sympathetic and understanding. Or, George Clooney - just because he's nice to look at!

Chris Eldin said...

Riva, LOL! You provided a nice selection (variety) of men.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like the flow of the prose here. Very smooth, like an Orange julia maybe.

As for the actor, I have no idea whatsoever.

Carleen Brice said...

Thanks Chris! I'm happy to be here.

Riva, I like your answers!

Charles, LOL!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hm. Good question. What famous person would you like to be your peeping Tom?

I'll have to think about that one.

Love the excerpt and the blog for us white folk. I've started collecting African American works in the past few years and I'm past due for buying some more. Having grown up as one of the few white kids in a black neighborhood, my early roots are in that culture.

18 Authors said...

Carleen you already know how much I love your work and respect you as a writer. I'm hoping you get all the recognition you deserve for this incredible story

Chris Eldin said...

18 Authors, we're at a roast.
You gotta give us a man at the bedroom window.

Teasing!!! Thanks for popping in!! Please everyone, feel free to pop in and chat as you like!

Carleen Brice said...

Sarah, That is kinda what we're asking isn't it? Well if you gotta have a peeping tom, it's nice to pick who it is...but i'm not sure it matters anymore if he's hot. Now, sane goes to the top of the list!

18 Authors, Thanks so much! And the feeling is mutual!!

Chris Eldin said...

I have to check out for a few hours...
Have fun!!!! will return later...

Shellshock said...

I'm not sure if my earlier post came through, so here we go again!

First, I think this is a great idea to give readers the opportunity to chat with authors! Kudos!

Carleen, I loved, loved, loved, loved Orange Mint! The characters were so well developed and your writing is so crisp and engaging. I really felt like I knew them. Having never been to Denver I had no clue as to how accurate your descriptions were, but a good friend from Denver said she got homesick reading it because the depictions were just that good.
Can't wait for the next book.

Shellshock said...

As for actors I'm just going for the hot ones - Denzel Washington for slightly mature sexy; Terence Howard - young and suave; George Clooney - just plain sexy.

Malena Lott said...

You already know I dig ORANGE MINT. Just wanted to pop in to say hi. To the readers out there, the whole book is as good as the excerpt posted!

Carleen Brice said...

Shellshock and Malena-Gee, I don't know what to say, but thanks and yes I am a big fat genius. :) Seriously tho, thanks for reading!

Ello said...

Hi Carleen! You know I love Orange Mint and Honey!

I know this answer!!! It's on the tip of my tongue!!!! ARGH! I can't remember! I can't think of any hot men right now, all I can think of is hot food. Sheesh I'm a pig.

Lisa said...

Everyone should read Orange Mint & Honey! Hmmm, I think Carleen falls prey to the same weaknesses I do. So I think if Carleen had a famous actor outside her window, it would be...that guy who was in Medicine for Melancholy (who should play Oliver in the upcoming movie adaptation of OM&H)...delivering a plate of warm, home baked cookies!

Yasmin said...

Hey Carleen...way 2 go...and as for actor...I recommend Morris Chestnut...hmmmph hmmph...why...he's good lucking...and makes good eye-candy...his eyes...his mouth...his smile...his tongue...okay...well you asked why...hehe.

laughingwolf said...

welcome, carleen :D

first chance to be online today, so am a tad late... great excerpt, i was in that room

need to know the whole story ;)

i'd say the actor visiting her would be sam the man, the one and only... sammy davis jr!

actor/singer and all round swell guy :)

Laura Benedict said...

This is a gorgeous excerpt, Carleen. And you totally had me at Nina! She's the star of my "Girls Singing Standards itunes list."

A peeping tom, eh? I liked Riva's list of three, but I'm just going to go with two.

Will Smith, who is kind of cute and dorky but seems like a sensitive, sexy guy who would be a good listener. Plus, have you seen him without his shirt on?! And then there's Daniel Craig because--well, really, I mean he's Daniel Craig and the no-shirt thing...and...and does it really matter if he's a good listener? ;)

Email me your address so I can send you your prize from yesterday!

Carleen Brice said...

Oooh, it's getting interesting!

LadyLee said...

I really LOVED this book. Best book I read last year.

Who would be standing outside of Carleen's window? I see Denzel Washington or perhaps Sean Connery.

Whoever it is, they will be standing there holding a steaming cup of orange mint tea made especially for Carleen:)

Travis Erwin said...

Great book and I'll say Hattie McDaniel since she blogged about her in a long ago My Town Monday post.

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Everyone,

These ideas are terrific! Keep them coming in!!

(There was a rather long and unpleasant spam message I just deleted. Our first one, ever....Sorry to Carleen.)

Carleen Brice said...

Yeah Chris that was one long rant!

laughingwolf said...

hope you report all trolls to admin, chris... only way to get rid of em, if temporarily...

laura had one at her site grrrr

Keith Andrew Perry said...


Chris Eldin said...

Hi Everyone,
Twenty more minutes...Still time to get your guesses in!!!!

(Re the spam--that was our first spam message. Being an interactive blog, we keep comments open. Hopefully that will be the last spam. Again, apologies....)

Chris Eldin said...

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and read Carleen's beautiful excerpt!!

Many thanks to Carleen for spending time with us and sharing news about her work! Best wishes for continued success in the future!!!!

Carleen will be by at any time to announce the winner of a free copy of her book.

Thanks again!!!!

laughingwolf said...

thx chris, sitting on pins n needles here :O lol

Carleen Brice said...

Thank you all for your support and answers! Even tho I'd much rather have Denzel Washington standing in my bedroom, I'm going to go with Laughing Wolf's Sammy Davis answer because it's in keeping with the book--Shay would like the old school reference.

Thanks Chris and everyone!!!

laughingwolf said...

oh, wow... thx carleen :D

what do i do next?

Chris Eldin said...

Congratulations, LW! Carleen's email is through her website,
so you can contact her via that address...

Thanks again Carleen!

Nighty, all!

laughingwolf said...

thx chris... will send her my snail mail addy asap :D

Patry Francis said...

WAY late here, but I just wanted to say that I loved this novel. Shay has a voice I would follow anywhere.