Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Monday, December 11, 2023

Conversations Top 25 Fiction Books of 2023


Conversations Media Group President Cyrus Webb is pleased to announce his Top 25 Fiction Books of 2023. This list showcases the books that Webb has personally enjoyed and is glad to share with the world. 

Conversations Top 25 Fiction Books of 2023 (Listed in no particular order) 

  1. A Likeaable Woman by May Cobb (Berkley)
  2. Backlash by Iris Bolling (Siri Austin Entertainment, LLC)
  3. Girls in Search of Cover, Part 2 by Pamela Mshana (Seven Visions Entertainment & Consulting, LLC)
  4. A Twisted Love Story by Samantha Downing (Berkley)
  5. Unnatural Death by Patricia Cornwell (Grand Central)
  6. Pride by Victoria Christopher Murray (Gallvery Books)
  7. Havana Hangover by Randy Richardson (Renegade Press)
  8. Laws of Annihilation by Eriq La Salle (Lavette Books)
  9. The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen (Thomas & Mercer)
  10. Flipping Boxcars by Cedric Kyles aka Cedric "The Entertainer" (Amistad)
  11. Tides of Fire by James Rollins (William Morrow)
  12. My Magnolia Summer by Victoria Benton Frank (William Morrow)
  13. Whispers on the Wind by Marta Moran Bishop (Marta Moran Bishop)
  14. These Things Happen by Michael Eon (Girl Friday Books)
  15. Layers of Truth by Rosalie T. Turner (Sunstone Press)
  16. The Wrong Seat by Natasha D. Frazier (Encouraging Works)
  17. Out of the Darkness by David A. Jacinto (Forefront Books)
  18. The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin (Sourcebooks Landmark)
  19. What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas & Mercer)
  20. The Intern by Michele Campbell (St. Martin's Press)
  21. The Wrong Catch by Dr. Velma Bagby (Adoni Publishing, LLC)
  22. The Golden Rose by Jodi Lea Stewart (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press)
  23. Malibu Burning by Lee Goldberg (Thomas & Mercer)
  24. One For Sorrow by D. G. Torrens (D. G. Torrens)
  25. The Brill Pill by Akemi C. Brodsky (She Writes Press)

Conversations' Top 25 Non-Fiction Books of 2023


Conversations Media Group President Cyrus Webb is proud to announce his picks for Top 25 Non-Fiction Books of 2023. The list is one of Conversations' most diverse in years, and Webb believes there is something for everyone when it comes to inspiration, motivation and practical encouragement. 

Conversations' Top 25 Non-Fiction Books of 2023 (Listed in no particular order)

  1. Adversity for Sale by Jay Jeezy Jenkins (HarperCollins Leadership)
  2. I Am Debra Lee by Debra Lee (Legacy Lit)
  3. Sing Your Name Out Loud by Jason Derulo (Harper One)
  4. Claim Your Swagger by Jennifer Mrozek Sukalo (Morgan James Publishing)
  5. Unmaking the Hurt by Ronnie Cyrus-Jackson (Ronnie Cyrus-Jackson)
  6. Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Penguin Press)
  7. Ride or Die by Jarie Bolander (Spark Press)
  8. Dancing in the Darkness by Otis Moss III (Simon & Schuster)
  9. Troublemaker by Lisa Cornwell (Triumph Books)
  10. The Unlikely Village of Eden by Emma Nadler (Central Recovery Press)
  11. Dream by Design Inspirational Journal by Melissa Banks (Conversations Media Group)
  12. Professionally Lynched by Tanya White (SNT Publishing)
  13. Return to the River by Dave Pelzer (Health Communications, Inc.)
  14. Tinderbox by Lynn Alsup (She Writes Press)
  15. She Said Yes to Herself Unapolegetically EmpowerHER Guide (Pa-Pro-Vi Publishing)
  16. A Few Days Full of Trouble by Wheeler Parker, Jr. and Christopher Benson (One World)
  17. Share My Life by KEM (Simon & Schuster)
  18. Top Billin' by Bill Bellamy (Amistad)
  19. Write, Now by Sylvia Dickey Smith (Bookmark Publishing House)
  20. Understanding My Assignment by Dorian L. Evans (Archway Publishing)
  21. From Bars and Scars by Pauline Rogers (Conversations Media Group)
  22. Silent Voices by Robert L. Okin (Golden Pine Press)
  23. Trauma Breakthough by Jessica James Henry, MPH (Breakthrough Tribe Publishing)
  24. The Return Trip by Maya Golden (Rising Action Publishing)
  25. Move Forward Stronger by Julia A. Nicholson (Diamante Press)

Thursday, October 5, 2023

One-On-One with Master Event Planner, Entrepreneur and Author Melissa Banks

by Cyrus Webb

I have had the opportunity over the past few years to see Melissa Banks in action, and she is indeed inspiring. As an Award-winning Master Event Planner, Entrepreneur, author, Podcast Host and Founder of the Imagine the Possibilities community, she is living proof that you CAN push past any challenge or difficulty that comes your way.

Melissa, congratulations on all of your success already in 2023. What has it been like for you to reflect on this year so far?

Thank you so much. This year has been an absolute whirlwind. It has moved so fast and I’m so grateful for the direction it has taken me. One of the biggest things for me this year is clarity for myself and my business.

You wear many hats. What has helped you to keep all the balls in the air when it comes to your business and brand?

What really has helped me the most is to stay focused on my purpose, to operate from my lane, have a plan and get up every day ready to execute.

Social media is something you have definitely used a lot. What advice would you give to business owners about the best way to use it?

Social media is something if you have a business you must learn to do well. That means we can use it to amplify our voices and what we bring to the world. What I have learned is there’s so many things in place already to help you be successful in getting your product/service noticed. Control what you see and whose voice you hear. And don’t ever stop learning because it changes consistently. To always show up the way you want to be known.

One of the things you have done this year is released your newest book DREAM BY DESIGN Inspirational Journal. Tell us about it.

I’m excited about this book. It is so important that we have some reminders to keep us focused and moving in the direction of our dreams. I believe everything begins and ends with the message you say to yourself. This book provides weekly prompts to help you begin each week ready to achieve your goals. It not only gives you the prompt, but it also provides a space to write your goals and what you’re going to do to make it happen.

You are also gearing up for the third season of your talk show Dream by Design. What has it been like to share the stories of other inspiring women?

This show excites me! To listen to these women and hear some of the hard stuff that they have overcome inspires me and I believe my listeners as well. Their stories show us what happens when you keep going despite the circumstances you can create the life you want and deserve. When women support women, we’re unstoppable. 

Coaching is something you have also leaned more into. Why has it been important for you to pour into others when it comes to what you have learned?

Early in my journey I asked a woman who was running a successful business to help me with certifications. She wouldn’t help me the way I wanted, but in reality she really did help me without knowing it. I did the work and the research to find what I needed. I made a commitment to myself that I would always pour into others what I have learned. Coaching others gives me the opportunity to do that. I believe that helping you win doesn’t stop me from winning. In fact, it helps me win! 

Challenges come to all of us as entrepreneurs. Tell our readers how you approach it and what helps you to not give up when things get hard.

It is important to me during these times to be grateful to God for what He has already done. It is also important to speak life into myself using affirmations. It is important not to get stuck looking at the situation. Then look at what is happening, be honest with myself about my part and then give myself some grace to move on. I lean into scriptures, or quotes that encourage me during that time.  And never make quitting an option. I have learned when challenges come this is not the time to sit down and do nothing. This is the time to dig deeper and keep moving.

What are you looking forward to next?

We have a lot of exciting opportunities coming up this year. More opportunities to impact women. Look for some in person and virtual events coming from us and new things with my Imagine the Possibilities community.

Any other advice you want to share for entrepreneurs or those looking to start a business?

Everything begins with believing in yourself! It’s ok not to have it all figured out to start. Just do it! Don’t ever stop learning and growing. Get up everyday moving in the direction of your dreams.

Thanks again for your time, Melissa. How can our readers stay connected with you? 

You can connect with us at 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Conversations' 25 Visionaries Changing the World


Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines Visionary in part as "having or marked by foresight and imagination". In 2023 Conversations is pleased to recognize 25 individuals who are using that foresight and imagination to impact the lives of people all over the world. 

25 Visionaries Changing the World
(Listed in no particular order)

  1. Viola Davis, Actress/Producer/Entrepreneur
  2. Ed Mylett,, Entreprenur 
  3. Evan Carmichael, Entrepreneur  
  4. Mary J. Blige, Recording Artist/Author
  5. Iris Bolling, Author/Producer
  6. Terry Crews, Actor/Host/Author
  7. Oprah Winfrey, Talk Show Host/ Author/Entrepreneur
  8. Martha Stewart, Entrepreneur/Host/Author
  9. Tyler Perry, Producer/Actor/Actor
  10. Steve Harvey, Comedian/Actor/Host/Author
  11. Luenell, Actress/Comedian/Entrepreneur
  12. Tina Siemens, Author/Entrepreneur
  13. Robert Helm, Entrepreneur/Author
  14. Kerry Washington, Actress/Entrepreneur/Author
  15. Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur/Author
  16. Manswell T. Peterson, Author
  17. Mario Armstrong, Entrepreneur
  18. Angel Brinks, Entrepreneur 
  19. J. Bolin, Stylist/Entrepreneur
  20. Kandi Burruss, Recording Artist/Entrepreneur 
  21. Brock Johnson, Entrepreneur 
  22. Devon Franklin, Producer/Author 
  23. Derek Blanks, Photographer/Entrepreneur
  24. Branden Nicholson, Entrepreneur
  25. Ruby C. Wight, Entrepreneur/Author

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

[To You, From Me] My Love Letter to Books


Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. 

As a child that was my favorite past-time, more so than playing with my toys or with my friends. I have always felt a connection with the written word. Fiction and Non-fiction spoke to me in ways that few things were able to. It was no wonder, then, that I knew that being a writer was something I wanted to pursue as an adult. 

This issue of Conversations Magazine shares that love of books with you, the reader. You'll find interviews and features of both non-fiction and fiction for all ages, with the hope that you will find something that speaks to you and those around you.

On the cover you see authors Manswell T. Peterson and Rosalie Turner, both are authors who are able to not just tell stories but inspire their readers, too. That is the gift I have found that books are able to give. They speak a language that resonates in ways that few things can. Sometimes it's just about finding the right book or author to fit your interests.

My hope with this issue is to introduce you to authors you will want to get to know more about as well as stories that will move you to do SOMETHING in your life. Even if writing or reading doesn't seem to be for you, I believe you will find something in this issue that will connect on some level

Enjoy this love letter to books and the authors that write them.

Happy reading! 

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief of Conversations Magazine/

Mississippi Success Magazine


Author Rosalie T. Turner: Using Fiction to Share the World's Truth


by Cyrus Webb

One of the things I appreciate about author Rosalie T. Turner is how she uses her gift of storytelling to not just entertain but get readers to thinking. I first learned about her through the novel MARCH WITH ME. Now she has an equally powerful book about race and the sacrifices that comes with change called LAYERS OF TRUTH.

We talk about the book and what she hopes readers to take away from it in this conversation.  

·         Rosalie, you and I first connected with your book MARCH WITH ME. What has it been like to see the response to your work?

Cyrus, it’s been so rewarding to me to see the response. When MARCH WITH ME first came out, most people didn’t know about the Children’s March of 1963 which got us the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I especially enjoyed speaking in schools and universities. To see young people become interested in this important civil rights history really touched my heart.

·         Your book LAYERS OF TRUTH is one of Conversations’ Summer Reads for this year. What inspired it?

I like to find topics that most people don’t know about, and few people really know what happened during Freedom Summer. We’ve lived in Mississippi and as I was doing research and setting up the details to bring university students there for a civil rights history tour, I met several of the foot soldiers. I realized how those foot soldiers had put their very lives on the line working to get Blacks registered to vote. Their names would never be in a history book, and I wanted their names to be known. I wanted to say their names and to tell the unknown backstories. I think that’s important.


What I love about your work is that you help us to discuss turbulent times in history in a way that can bring people together. When did your own love of history begin?

I think it’s just in my DNA, Cyrus. All my family loves history. When I was in high school, I read KILLERS OF THE DREAM by Lillian Smith. I think that was the first spark for my interest specifically in civil rights history.

·         Outside of writing you visit a great deal of historical places, especially with young people. Why has that been important for you?

Making those trips with students and others has become the focus of my husband’s and my life. We fell into it unexpectedly when a professor at Texas A & M U-Commerce (my husband’s alma mater) put together a 3-credit hour class with a week’s tour to historic sights and hearing actual foot soldiers as part of it. My husband and I make all the arrangements and during the tour, we give a lot of background information. We do one tour of Alabama and another for Mississippi every year, and have been doing this for 10 years now, reaching several hundred students and adults.

·         What should our audience expect from you next?

 I’m feeling that “itch” to be working on something, but I’m not quite sure what I want to do next. Right now, I'm working on the rewrite of a story about homelessness for the Middle Grade market. However, there are so many little-known avenues to explore in civil rights history and it is so important that we learn that history. I’m always tempted to write something in that line.

·         Any advice you want to share when it comes to others pursuing their own goals and dreams?

I would continually urge people to pursue those dreams, especially when it comes to writing. We all have stories within us, and it is with the sharing of these stories that we are all enriched.

·         Thanks again for the time, Rosalie. How can our audience stay connected with you?

People could go to my website at and connect through that or follow me on LinkedIn or Instagram. Thanks so much, Cyrus, for this opportunity and for all you do and all you are.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Manswell T. Peterson: Creating His Own Universe (and Legacy) One Book at a Time

 by Cyrus Webb

Manswell T. Peterson is the kind of author who doesn't wait on opportunities to come his way. He creates his own lanes, follows his own rules and has been able to find success with readers along the way.

Though he has written in many genres, what he has created with The Locrottum Universe stands out currently as his crowning achievement, with characters and storylines that keep readers coming back for me. 

In this conversation we talk about the journey to doing what he loves, what it's been like to create his own universe and advice for others wanting to make their own literary dreams come true. 

Manswell, it’s been amazing to watch your success over the past few years. What has it been like for you to see how readers have responded to your work?

Everyday is still amazing. To see readers from all over the country and hearing from them via e-mail or messenger and to see how they fall in love and hate certain characters, shows me that I am on the right track.

The Locrottum Universe has become a big part of your career. How did it all begin?

I thought about it 10 years ago. Mentally, I started working on the series. Next, the writing began. I watch paranormal and fantasy shows a lot. I saw that there were not different factions all in one series. Therefore, I wanted to create my own fantasy world intertwining several factions.

You have not allowed a particular genre to define you or your writing. Did you always believe in your ability to succeed at any type of writing you chose to do?

Yes. I don’t believe there is a genre that I cannot be successful in; and that is because I will study a genre from every angle. I will look at what’s working and what’s not working. I also pay attention to what the fans are asking for. I then do my best to deliver it.

This issue of Conversations Magazine is focusing on books that will be great for readers to explore as summer reads and beyond, especially for children. You have also written children’s books as well. What led you in that direction?

The more e-mails that I got from parents, the more I was concerned that some kids were looking for a new favorite book. My wife and I created Braylen the Bear & Friends because of the warm heart and caring nature of our son, Braylen. I wanted something that ALL kids could gravitate to. And I believe we pulled it off with this series. With 5 books in the series already out, we have kids asking their parents when is the next one coming. That's exciting to see.

Already 2023 has shaped up to be a big year for you, Manswell. One thing that happened was being able to thank a teacher that meant a lot to you. Tell us about that experience.

Almost 40 years ago, while dealing with my mom with her crack cocaine addiction, one of my middle school teachers saw what I was dealing with. She was there and bought me writing supplies. She even bought me a new pair of Reebok tennis shoes that I had to leave in my school locker every day.  This educator meant so much to my survival and who I am today. 

You have also been out and about meeting your readers in person. What is it like meeting your readers and seeing their reactions?

At one function, I sat next to a mom and daughter reading Locrottum Academy 3. I asked the mom was the book good. When she looked up and saw my face, her smile said everything. She began tapping her daughter on the shoulder and when the daughter finally looked up all she could say was, “It’s You”. She said this about 5 times and I asked if she would like me to sign her book and take a picture. Best feeling in the world to me.

Social media is a big part of how we connect with our audiences. How has your relationship with social media evolved over your career?

It allows me to stay in constant contact with readers in real time. When I first begin writing, this was not possible.

You are also big on trying to inspire others to go after their goals and dreams. Why has that been so important for you?

This is about the next generation of writers. I know I can’t write forever. We have to fill the gaps in the literary world as all authors must at some point bid farewell to readers.

Being half-way through the year, what should our readers expect from you next?

Last year I gave the readers 15 books. My goal this year is to beat that number. I have a summer blitz  planned including a new YA Academy series.

Any advice you have for those who are looking to begin their own career as an author? 

I remember a new author told me that they had the worse payday in history where they only made 50 cents that day. I told them about my worst day…..I only made 17 cents. They looked at me stunned. They knew if I could have a bad day like that and survive, they knew they would also.

Thanks for the time, Manswell. How can our readers stay connected with you? 

They can find me on Facebook , Instagram and Tiktok under Manswell T. Peterson. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] With THE WRONG CATCH Dr. Velma Bagby delivers another timely book about dating and marriage

 Let's face it: talking about relationships can be difficult. Especially when people have a different view of what they expect and what they want from a partner. That is why it's good to have books that can address the topic in a safe space like fiction while giving us the truth about what we should want from a mate and even if we're the right catch for anyone at the present time.

That is what Dr. Velma Bagby has been able to do with her CATCH SERIES. Beginning with THE CATCH NO ONE WANTS we saw how the father and daughter team of Greyson and Veronica were able to come together and using fish analogies get a better understanding of where women (and even men) go wrong when it comes to dating and marriage.

With THE WRONG CATCH we see the two of them take the message to the people, allowing other women to better look at themselves and what they are bringing to the table and accepting as well as what they should want from a potential mate. I love how the book builds on the fish analogies with examples of individuals who have exhibited certain traits, however, it does give us the opportunity to see how people can change. 

A book that is entertaining, engaging and delivers some timely counsel for those looking to date and marry, THE WRONG CATCH is a great catch for men and women to read, enjoy and discuss. 

Get your copy of THE WRONG CATCH on Amazon

[BOOK REVIEW] Full of action, intrigue and timely topics, C. L. Green introduces the world to Slim Pickens

 So many times you pick up a book not knowing what to expect, especially when it comes to an author that is new to you. I went into C. L. Green's SLIM PICKENS & THE SPIDER WEBB TATTOO MYSTERY this way. What I ended up with was a book that takes you into the blurry lines that can be right and wrong, and how Slim Pickens is trying to do his part to right the wrongs he sees without going too far over the line.

This is one of those stories that shows how sometimes those who are in power can use that position for bad, and how there will always be people like Slim Pickens who will stand up for the everyday man and woman. Whether we're talking about corruption, the timely issue of trafficking or even taking advantage of the less fortunate, this book moves quickly towards a path of Slim trying to do the right thing and protect those he cares about along the way.

Looking for a new addition to your action or suspense reading list? SLIM PICKENS & THE SPIDER WEBB TATTOO MYSTERY is a great book to consider. 

Get your copy on Amazon

Saturday, July 15, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] Looking for your victory? William G. Harper, Jr. reminds you it comes by STANDING STILL

 We all know what it's like to be beaten up by life's challenges and situations. Some of them may have been self-inflicted while others seem to be happening to us without case. No matter the reason for it, it can be a lot to handle, even for those of us who have faith in our Almighty God and his promises. 

What can help us deal with the slings and arrows we face? Author William G. Harper, Jr. says the answer lies in STANDING STILL.

In his new book he shares Biblical examples of those who were tested and went through difficulties and what was able to help them endure. Harper also explains that 'standing still' doesn't mean we do nothing. During that time when things are outside of our control THAT is when we have to rely even more on our Father's promises and what He has said he would do for us. 

This is the kind of book you can read and refer to over and over again, reminding yourself of what God has done before and what He can do again. 

Looking for your victory? William G. Harper, Jr. reminds you it comes by STANDING STILL, keeping the faith and watching God work on your behalf. He's done it before. He's promised to do it again! 

Get your copy on Amazon

[BOOK REVIEW] Navigating the challenges of life, MOTHERS VOL. 1 offers a look at what some will do to survive

 Author Ben Burgess, Jr. is known for telling stories that explore themes that we see in real-life. His book MOTHERS VOL.1 is another example of that, taking us into a family dealing with challenges in life that threaten to destroy them all.

We meet Juanita, a mother who is trying to do right by her sons after tragedy made her a single mother. In addition to just trying to make it, she is dealing with health challenges with her son Jerami and the lure of the streets with her oldest Jalen. Will she lose it all while trying to provide a better life for them---or will her family finally get a break?

This story is sure to resonate with readers, mainly because it's something we can all relate to. What would we do if all we loved was threatened? How do you resist the draw of a better life that comes in the streets while also dealing with the consequences? 

Allowing us to explore the family through the different lenses they are experiencing life, the book gives us a look at what they are facing, how they deal with it and the outcome of it all. 

Definitely a book that speaks to the heart and keeps you engaged from the first chapter. MOTHERS VOL. 1 offers a look at what some will do to survive. 

Get your copy of MOTHERS, VOL. 1 on Amazon

Friday, July 14, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] In Part Two of GIRLS IN SEARCH OF COVER author Pamela Mshana offers healing and hope

 When I was first introduced to author Pamela Mariva Mshana and her book GIRLS IN SEARCH OF COVER Part 1, it was a fascinating look at how the sins and events of the past can heap trauma on generation after generation. Now with Part 2 we get an idea not just of the backstory of the characters but how they try to move forward even when some would love to hold them back.

The character Carmia really shines in this book, mainly because we see her going through all the emotions that are so easy to relate to: hurt, betrayal, helplessness and then healing and hope. I love how Mshana allows us to see how the characters can pull themselves up, drawing on the strength of their ancestors and realizing that better can be possible for them.

This book is one that shows regardless of where you come from there can be a better outcome for you if you choose it. It also reminds us that just like generational curses can exist, they can also be broken. It all begins with the decision to do so. 

Well written and delivered with heart, GIRLS IN SEARCH OF COVER Part 2 offers the reader some closure mixed with some healing and hope.

Get your copy on Amazon

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] Isiko Cooks' BRER MACK takes us into the man behind the words who is also dealing with his actions


by Cyrus Webb 

For those who have followed the career of Isiko Cooks you know he lays it all out on the line for readers, both in his fiction and non-fiction. He keeps it real and relatable, and that is part of why he has been able to build the loyal fanbase that he has. 

With BRER MACK: Struggle & Reward we get a different take on the wordsmith, allowing us to see the makings of the man and his career, and sharing how his actions (both good and otherwise) have impacted him and the life he lives. 

This is the kind of book that takes you not just into the career he has made for himself, but the challenges of building a base and readership under less than ideal situations, as well as the wrong choices that have added to his troubles along the way. We see his dealings with those he loved and how by being honest with himself he realized the impact his words and actions can have on others. 

We also get a look at the accolades along his writing career as well as reviews by readers (myself included)  that have come in along the way.

In the end BRER MACK shows not just the evolution of Isiko Cooks. It reveals the continued journey he finds himself on while trying to take a negative and deliver something worthwhile out of it. 

Get your copy of BRER MACK: Struggle & Reward on Amazon

[MOVIE REVIEW] What an extraordinary look at an extraordinary man. Chevalier introduces us to Joseph Bologne

by Cyrus Webb

 I have to admit that before I started hearing about the movie Chevalier I had never heard of Joseph Bologne. That is why I see this film as so important. Though there are those who will argue about how much is real and what is imagined for Hollywood, Chevalier does a great job of introducing many of us to a man who definitely made a mark---and may have paid the price by almost being erased from history.

Taking just the film into account I love how it showcases his competitive spirit and desire to prove he belongs. That is a message that we can relate to even today. It also shows the role of power and politics in life, and how they can come together to either create opportunities or cause havoc. 

It also shows that even though we might try to forget our past it is there to teach us and to at times guide us. We saw that in Joseph's mother and the lesson he was able to get about how some would always see him---and how by fighting he could show he was so much more than another black man.

A story that inspires and is a cautionary tale of what happens when you fly so high you become a threat to the establishment, Chevalier shows how one man was willing to do all in his power to shake things up and make a difference, regardless of the cost. 

Monday, July 3, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] In FROM SCRATCH David Moscow reminds us of the human contribution to what we eat

 We do it all the time: go out to eat or buy food and cook it at home. How many times, though, have we thought about how we got that food or the humans involved in making it possible.

In FROM SCRATCH David Moscow takes his own curiosity and love of food around the United States and the world to share that story. He lets us into the jobs needed to get food to the consumer and the cost involved for the planet and the workers. You can't help but look at the process in a different way after reading this book. David sees up close and personal what it takes to keep the food chain moving---and the role all of us can play to make sure those involved are taken care of and appreciated for what they do.

The book teaches you about food you may not have personally experienced before but may become curious about. It also allows you to see how the seemingly "simple" things we take for granted have many components and hands involved to bring it to us.

A book that is engaging and educational, FROM SCRATCH paints a picture of the human contribution to what we eat.

Get FROM SCRATCH on Amazon

Saturday, July 1, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] For Lyn Barrett CRAZY is not just about her journey. It's about loving herself daily.

No matter what we have experienced in life each day is a new opportunity. With Lyn Barrett she is able to chronicle her journey through trauma and living life in the book Crazy: Reclaiming Life from the Shadow of Traumatic Memory.

It's an open, honest look at her life with her alters and what it's been like to find peace among the pieces while realizing the love she deserves---beginning first with herself. What Lyn Barrett gives us is a look at her own healing and reminds us of what is possible if we're willing to do the work.

Love the way the book shows how she puts herself first, and the importance of realizing that her better days can be in front of her.

For anyone dealing with life's challenges CRAZY will inspire you to love yourself, choose yourself and be the best of you.

Get your copy of CRAZY on Amazon

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] Lost your way? Dr. Teresa A. Smith's TRANSFORMATION: The Bounce Back helps you get back on track


No matter who many lessons we believe we have learned or how far we have come in life, there are times when things happen that remind us there is more to learn. 

Dr. Teresa A. Smith is someone I  have followed for some time, and though she has overcome so much and thriving, her new book TRANSFORMATION: The Bounce Back shows that even she is still learning the important lessons of life.

The book shows that even as a bestselling author and motivational speaker Teresa is still having to take her own advice. And when she doesn't, it leads her spiraling down a path that threatened everything she has worked for.

"I had subtle warnings, but Ignored them," she writes in the book. "When we consistently ignore the physical warning, the body adjusts, and the signs that once caught our attention no longer do."

Facing uncertainty, however, she realized what she had to do, and that is what she shares in The Bounce Back, letting our do the work that she is doing so we can get to a place or healing and wholeness again.

Great for those looking to make changes in their lives and commit to themselves again, TRANSFORMATION: The Bounce Back helps you get back on track if you have lost your way. 

Get your copy on Amazon

Monday, June 19, 2023

[BOOK REVIEW] D. G. Torrens' ONE FOR SORROW is another chilling story of survival. You won't be able to forget it!


Author D. G. Torrens is a talented storyteller that brings you into the pain and peril of her characters and guide you through the other side. With ONE FOR THE SORROW we have another powerful heroine in Avery Masters who must navigate the pain of the past and the present and find the will and strength to survive.

he book is something that will draw the reader in, mainly because it's something that is so real and relatable. Finding someone who seems to love you for you, promising to undo the darkness of the pain---that is until you realize they have their own darkness to replace it.

What we see in Avery is not just the feeling of being trapped, but the journey of loving oneself enough to want better. Thankfully she isn't alone. Avery has friends that want to see her get to a place of happiness and healing. Will she let them help her towards the light or will it be too late?

For those looking for a suspenseful read that grabs you and keeps you engaged from beginning to end ONE FOR SORROW is the kind of book you'll devour. It's a chilling story of survival that you won't soon forget. 

Get ONE FOR SORROW on Amazon

[BOOK REVIEW] Seth Lusk shares what you have to give up in order to gain

 Sometimes in life we feel as though we are experiencing everything in a vacuum, that no one can understand us and what we're dealing with. For those who wonder if there is hope for them and their current situation, Seth Lusk shares some insight in his thoughtful book WHAT I REALLY WANT IS... BUT I'M JUST TO FULL OF...

Though he is a life coach Seth shows that he doesn't have it all figured out, and taking us on his journey I think the reader is better able to understand the importance of not giving up on themselves as they try to navigate the complications of the journey called life.

Will there be disappointments and setbacks? Absolutely. Can you make it in spite of all of that comes your way? Seth gives a definitive 'You better believe it.'

For me one of the most powerful lessons Seth learned that he shares is about love. It's something that has helped me in my life over the past 10 years as I have embraced and enjoyed single life. So many look for look in others. Seth reminds us that if we don't love ourselves there is no way we will be able to fully appreciate and enjoy true love. Having others love us is great, but it's no good if we don't realize it has to start within.

Ready to get what you say you want in life? WHAT I REALLY WANT IS... BUT I'M JUST TOO FULL OF... reminds us that sometimes we have to give up in order to gain. 

Get your copy on Amazon

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Thursday, April 1,2005 -- "The Art of Staying Alive" by Gary Pettus for The Clarion Ledger

(FLASHBACK: This article appeared in the Clarion Ledger newspaper on Thursday, April 1,2005 -- "The Art of Staying Alive" by Gary Pettus)

When he was 10 or so he stole a kiss from his fifth-grade teacher. As a teen, he tried to steal his own life.

What happened to Cyrus Webb during the years in between? Between that triumphant moment of childhood crush and the days when his heart abandoned him?

He was trying to find his way as an artist, but it was too dark.


He remembers that single teardrop--the memory, a mixture of pride and regret.

It fell from the eye of a young boy, a transparent streak of liquid pain melting into his cheek.

It was a drawing. A self-portrait, of sorts.

The Real Me, he called it.

To meet Cyrus Webb today is to wonder if that could still be true. For the man who has re-created himself as C. A. Webb, his professional alter ego, how could it?

C. A. is too strong.

At only 29, without a college education, the 1994 Brandon High School graduate is now an artist, businessman, radio and TV talk show host, arts columnist, poet, novelist. He's a management consultant for two singers.

He has a reputation as a mentor. "He has a certain, almost indescribable, quality of being able to connect to the kids," says Robert Langford, executive director of Operation Shoestring, an non-profit agency that provides services for low-to-middle-income families.

Webb has translated his dreamy love of the arts into the practical ability to tutor children--in music, drama, writing and more, in Operation Shoestring's after-school program. He didn't come by this love honestly.

"I'm the only artist in my family. The only oddball," he says, with smile that is as shy as liquid mercury. "The only one in my immediate family who's left-handed."

With that left hand, he began drawing, at age 5 or 6. The writing came later, he says. "I always liked to think of other worlds, other places. Art and writing became an outlet for me. I always liked escaping."

If Webb enjoys escaping today, he has a funny way of showing it. Several days a week, he can be found inside the Jackson Medical Mall or Metrocenter manning his kiosks--mini-emporiums of his self-published novellas and books of poety, color prints, greeting cards and more.

Melvin Anderson, executive director of the Jackson Human and Cultural Services, helped Webb place his kiosk in the medical mall.

"People need to see the kinds of things he's offering," Anderson says. "He's a very talented man who has a lot to offer to the community. Probably 75 to 100 people come by his display every day, if not more."

On the third Saturday of every month, re-commencing on April 23, Webb will be found on WAPT-Channel 16 as host of Conversations with C. A. Webb. An interview show featuring the arts community's "movers and shakers," it echoes the format and title of his radio show on WMPR 90.1 FM broadcast at 7:30 on Tuesday nights.

He also can be found sitting on the boards of arts and other community organizations. He can be found giving, or emceeing, poetry readings at Smith Robertson Museum.

Now, if only someone could find The Real Me.

It was stolen from the lobby of the hotel he used to work in not long ago. He hasn't seen the original drawing since. Only prints exist.

It was the first drawing he made after the surgery on his hands. He hasn't re-created it, he says with a sigh.

"I've never been able to duplicate that tear."


The tears that fell later in his life might have been forecast by his fifth-grade teacher, like a far-off storm.

"He was to himself a lot," says retired teacher Sara Mason-Thomas of Jackson, who taught Webb at Brandon Middle School.

"He was well-mannered. But he always wanted to be the last in line. Never in front. Always in back, with his arms folded.

"He never wanted to play games. He would sit there and draw during class time.

"There were only five or six black kids in the classroom. I didn't want him to be an outcast. So I stayed on him, as well as everybody else in the room. And I didn't allow them to criticize him or talk bad about each other."

Then on Valentine's Day, the shy kid "shocked" her. "He asked me to bend down, he had something to tell me," she says. "I leaned over, and he kissed me.

"I said 'OK, now go sit down.' I really didn't know it hurt his feelings until I ran into him the other day, and he told me so."


It was just one more disappointment handed down to him by the adults in his life. one of the many hurts that were, at least in part, his fault.

"I'd always been a 'yes' person," Webb says. "But I found I couldn't be everything people wanted me to be. They wanted to live through me, to be a mirror for what they wanted to be, but didn't have the opportunity.

"And it goes back to the mindset that if you're not a doctor or a lawyer, you're not a success."

His family has since come around, he says. "In the end, they just wanted me to be successful.

"They didn't know how I could do that as an artist or writer, and without college."

But, at one time, the pressure to be someone else turned him into an enemy--a foe, not of his family, but of himself.

"I don't know why I thought I had the right to take my life," he says.

"I guess, finally, it was maturity that made me realize how stupid that was."

He tried to commit suicide three times. The last time, at age 20, with a drug overdose.

Multiplying his depression at the time was this: He began suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful or numbing condition of the hands and wrists caused by repetitive movement. "I was afraid I wouldn't be able to draw or write," he says, "especially because it affected my left hand more."

In 1995, he underwent surgery on both hands. "I couldn't cut my food," he says. "I couldn't dress myself. When I took a shower, I had to wear plastic bags over my hands."

Finally, the healing process ended. The foreboding did not. He captured it in that teardrop, The Real Me.

To this day, if he works too long at one time, the pain returns---the pain in his hands. As for the other...

"I haven't been able to draw that tear again, to re-create it, honestly, because I haven't been to that point in my life again," Webb says. "I was really feeling it then, but I don't feel it now.

"So, technically, it's not the 'real me' anymore.

"But it would be nice to have that picture."

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Conversations' Summer Reads for Kids, 2023


Looking for some great reads for young readers? Conversations is pleased to share 10 great books that are perfect summer reads for kids! 

  1. Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King (Scholastic Press)
  2. There Goes the Neighborhood by Jade Adia (Hyperion)
  3. Ellie Engle Saves Herself! by Leah Johnson (Hyperion)
  4. Braylen the Bear & Friends: Forever Friends by Dr. Latonya M. Peterson and Manswell T. Peterson (OmegaMan Publishing)
  5. I Absolutely, Positively Love My Spots by Lid'ya C. Rivera (Harper Collins Childrens)
  6. My Grief Is Like the Ocean by Jessica Biles and Jillian Kelly-Wavering (Loving Healing Press)
  7. Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt (Scholastic Press)
  8. Promise Boys by Nick Brooks (Henry Holt)
  9. Showdown at Firefly Island by Eli Clark and Gerry Boylan (Gerry Boylan)
  10. We Are Here by Tami Charles (Orchard Books)

Conversations' 25 Authors You Should Know 2023

 As summer approaches, Conversations is excited to share 25 Authors You Should Know in 2023. Some of them might be names you have heard. Others might be new authors who are starting to make their mark. Either way this list brings together 25 authors and books that are sure to keep you engaged and get you talking.


  1. Part of My World by Jodi Benson (Tyndale)
  2. Transformation: The Bounce Back by Dr. Teresa A. Smith (DQ Consulting)
  3. I Am Debra Lee by Debra Lee (Legacy Lit)
  4. A healers Journey to Healing by Porcia Mann (13th & Joan)
  5. What I Really Want Is... But I'm Just Too Full Of... by Seth Lusk
  6. Now Faith by Foster A. Clark (Snyder Press, LLC)
  7. Sunrise by Kristin Abello (Archway Publishing)
  8. From Scratch by David Moscow and Jon Moscow (Permuted Press)
  9. Brer Mack: Struggle & Reward by Isiko Cooks (Peter Mack Presents)
  10. Return to the River by Dave Pelzer (Health Communications, Inc.)
  11. Watching for Dragonflies by Suzanne Marriott (She Writes Press)
  12. Standing Still by William G. Harper, Jr.
  13. The Love You Save by Goldie Taylor (Hanover Square Press)
  14. Dream by Design Inspirational Journal by Melissa Banks
  15. Heart of a Warrior by Fa'apepele Hunkin (TC Publishing)
  16. Coming Home by Cleon Jones with Gary Kaschak (Triumph Books)

  1. The House of Lincoln by Nancy Horan (Sourcebooks)
  2. Blast by Robert Blake Whitehill (Calaveras Media)
  3. The Wrong Catch by Dr. Velma Bagby (Adoni Publishing)
  4. One For Sorrow by D. G. Torrens
  5. Loyal to a Fault by Omar Scott (Outskirts Press)
  6. Havana Hangover by Randy Richardson (Renegade Press)
  7. Super Bloom by Megan Tady (Zibby Books)
  8. Layers of Truth by Rosalie T. Turner (Sun Stone Press)
  9. Mothers Vol. 1 by Ben Burgess, Jr. (Legacy Books)

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

One-on-One with author Gerry Boylan

by Cyrus Webb

Author Gerry Boylan is someone I have had the pleasure of interviewing on Conversations LIVE the radio show in the past. This year I had a chance to welcome him back in a series of conversations with his grandson Eli Clark. Together they have written an entertaining book called SHOWDOWN AT FIREFLY ISLAND.

In this chat we talk about Gerry's love of storytelling and what it has been like sharing this experience with his grandson. 

Gerry, congratulations on your new book with your grandson Eli Clark. What has it been like to see the response to SHOWDOWN AT FIREFLY ISLAND?  

The response has been terrific and rewarding. Eli said that he learned that if you put the work in to making a book as good as possible, readers will enjoy the story and tell their friends about it. On both a personal level with friends and family enjoying the story and complete strangers appreciating the book, we’re thrilled. 

Storytelling is something you have been doing for some time. When did you realize that writing was a gift you had? 

You’re correct that I’ve been storytelling for a long time and I found I could entertain people from an early age. But putting the time in to learn and excel at the craft of writing started about 15 years ago. It takes time and good teachers/editors to write a story readers will love. 

The business of writing and publishing can be challenging. Has it been easy for you to navigate the changes that have occurred in the industry since you first started?

Like most things, change can be daunting, as you point out, so much has changed since I first published a book 12 years ago. But with the help of my daughter Moira, we’ve been able to adapt. And it helps to know someone like you, who has thrived in the high seas of change. 

Technology is such a big part of our world today. How has it helped you to amplify your message? I’ve found that the message still remains an important part of getting the word out…so that old-school part of the effort is still meaningful. But the ability to reach so many people, and quickly, is a huge benefit, if you have plan for how to maximize exposure via the right technology channels. Watching how you meld your messaging with technology is a great example, Cyrus. 

Part of what you are doing with SHOWDOWN AT FIREFLY ISLAND is raising awareness about the Detroit Police Athletic League. Tell us why that is important for you. 

I learned about giving back to the community from my parents and my wife Kathy, who was a nurse providing care for those without access to insurance. The Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) enabled me to be part of team of inspiring staff, volunteer mentor/coaches and dedicated, caring police officers. PAL helps thousands of Detroit’s children find their greatness via 11 athletic, leadership and enrichment programs. PAL’s programs connecting police officers and children in a positive way is another important part of PAL’s work. 

Thanks again for the time, Gerry. How can our readers stay connected with you

Our website is and my email is 

[Book Review] With SMART BREVITY the founders of Axios show how you can achieve more by saying less


No matter your profession I believe that SMART BREVITY is the kind of book you can read and apply to an aspect of your life, personal and professional.

What the founders of Axios have done is take their lessons learned and examples of others and put them together to share with the reader how you can achieve more with less---and keep people wanting more. The style of the book is brilliant, letting you know about how much time it will take to digest each section. The examples are spot-on, allowing us to realize the ways we can apply what others have gleaned along the way in their lives.

The end result? Writing and speaking in a way that gets the attention, conveys a thought and keeps the individual wanting more. Why? Because you have met their need, satisfied their want for information and they now see you a trusted, reliable source.

This is the kind of book that you'll want to reference for sure. SMART BREVITY is all about thinking, listening and responding in a way that meets your audience where they are with what they need.

Get your copy on Amazon

[Book Review] Evan Carmichael's MOMENTUM shows what it takes to go from a goal to success

 Anyone that has followed Evan Carmichael knows that he's a man of action. That is what he shows in the book MOMENTUM as well, letting you know what it takes to go from a goal to success.

The book reminds us of Evan's journey, what has helped me to have the success and reach he has----and how you can do the same. This means we have to be mindful of how we spend our time, who we spend time with and the importance of focus on what our mission is.

MOMENTUM propels us forward if you allow yourself space to do the work. Get out of your own way, stay focused and there is no way you won't win.

Get your copy on Amazon

[Book Review] With MASTER YOUR DIGITAL BUSINESS LIKE A BOSS Omegia Keeys shares valuable tips

 If you want to reach a level you have never been to before you need someone to help you on that journey. With MASTER YOUR DIGITAL BUSINESS LIKE A BOSS entrepreneur and author Omegia Keeys shares how she has gotten where she is, and how her roadmap can help you in attaining your own goals.

It's not about a shortcut. It's all about the helping hand that we all need when trying to navigate a new path. I love that the book is written in such a way that it will inspire you and give you real tips and strategies.

If you're ready to go to the next level this will help you on your way.

Get your copy on Amazon

[Movie Review] AboutFace Media outdid itself with this one. FATED REUNION is a must-watch!

 I have seen other productions from AboutFace Media, but this is by far my favorite.

FATED REUNION has a bit of it all: life lessons, love lessons, humor, social issues and facing consequences.

We meet Mandy Sanders, someone who has found success professionally but dealing with the past. When an opportunity comes to face some of those in that past she takes it, but decides not to do it alone. That leads to meeting Dante, someone is also doing well for himself. Helping out a friend initially he meets Mandy. Though it's not the welcome he was expecting it plants a seed that we see blossom as the film goes on.

Not to spoil it for anyone I'll say this: we see Mandy and Dante dealing with life, expectations and secrets that come up from the past. Will it bring them closer together or force them apart?

I honestly couldn't turn away from this movie, afraid I might miss something. It's just THAT GOOD. A great film that men and women can watch and enjoy---and maybe learn some lessons of our own.

Watch FATED REUNION on Amazon

[Book Review] When wondering about the next step, Ahmard Moore Vital's NOW WHAT helps you take action

 There is no doubt that Ahmard Moore Vital is a man of action. Any one who has watched his career would attest to the fact that he makes a plan and then goes about making it a reality. Ever wonder how YOU can do the same? That is what NOW WHAT does for the reader.

The book addresses areas where you might feel stuck and then shares ways you can take the steps to move forward and ultimately win. Will it take effort on your part? Yes. Will you have to make changes in your thoughts and actions? ABSOLUTELY. What the book shows, however, is that such movement is necessary if you truly want to win and live the best life possible.

Inspiring and full of actionable tips and strategies, NOW WHAT is the kind of book that will help you get where you want to go.

Get your copy of NOW WHAT on Amazon

[Book Review] Randy Richardson's HAVANA HANGOVER is the kind of book you can enjoy any time of year

 Whether you're looking for a great summer read or something that will keep you engaged and guessing, then HAVANA HANGOVER is the kind of book you want to add to your reading list.

Author Randy Richardson is someone I have gotten to enjoy over the years, and this newest book shows his range of writing a mystery and love story mixed with intrigue. Through Tanner and Jackson we see how friendships can change and when put under test the things that can be exposed---sometimes with deadly consequences.

The way the book unfolds allows us to better understand Tanner and though we might not always agree with his choices, we can see how he learns to fight for what matters to him. Will he get a happy ending? What does that even mean? Those are just a couple of the questions you'll find yourself asking.

HAVANA HANGOVER is a book you'll enjoy and want to talk about. You can't ask for more than that.


[Book Review] With HEART PEACES author Tracy Carzell shows where we can find real peace and happiness


I have read books by Tracy Carzell before, and with HEART PEACES she continues to do what she does well: INSPIRE.

The book takes you into a place where you can look at yourself and try to find the peace among the broken pieces of life. No matter what you're going through she shares how your faith can help you to weather the storm, remember why you are here and keep going forward.

This is the kind of book we need in times of trouble as well as when things are going well. We have to prepare for the trouble and strengthen our faith so we're ready. HEART PEACES can help you get there.

Get your copy on Amazon

[Book Review] With DISCOVERING LIFE'S PURPOSE author Del H. Smith shares the journey we all are on


"Why am I here?"

"What is my purpose"

Those are questions we can all relate to as we look at the world and try to figure out our place in it. For Del H. Smith it is a journey he has been on for some time, and he shares what he has learned in the book DISCOVERING LIFE'S PURPOSE.

You might not agree with everything that he has learned, but what I feel you will take away from the book is that our Creator saw fit to put us here for a reason. Our charge it to discover that and walk in it. The other thing that Del realizes is that our walk might be different than someone else's. What matters is that we go about being the best we can be, knowing our Heavenly Father can help with the rest.

Get your copy on Amazon

[Book Review] Even in the face of trials these women show what it takes to make it: FAITH

 All of us go through trials and difficult circumstances. What matters, however, is that we don't become overwhelmed by them. For those of faith, that means relying on God to get us through whatever it is that we're going through. And even if He doesn't remove the trial, we know he can give us the strength to endure it.

That is exactly what the contributors of the anthology Women with Unshakeable Faith understood. We are able to see how they dealt with betrayal, loss, sickness, doubt and fear---but were able to lean into their faith for help. Now they are reminding others how they can do the same.

This is exactly the kind of book you need to remind yourself that you're not alone in what you are facing. No matter what may come your way, with FAITH you can get through it.

Get yours on Amazon

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

[To You, From Me] Why NOW is the ONLY Time that Matters

It's hard to believe we are half-way through the year that is 2023. Like you, so much has happened both personally and professionally, and I am excited about what has helped me get here. But it's not the end, for me or for you.

I know life gets hard at times. This issue of Conversations Magazine has been in the works for over a year, and though there was discussion about moving on from it I knew the profiles here would be an encouragement for you to do one thing: KEEP GOING.

So many times we look at the past and think things can't get any better. I am here to tell you that is just not true. You have the opportunity to take advantage of NOW, making the most of it. Those profiled in this Business Issue of Conversations Magazine have been able to do just that, and all are benefiting from doing so.

I hope this issue reminds you of the importance of NOW and remember that this moment in front of you is the only time that matters. You can't do anything about yesterday. You can't control the future. You can only embrace what is in your power in this moment. May you take full advantage of it, and in the process encourage others to do the same. 

Happy Reading! 

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine/ Mississippi Success Magazine

[AUTHOR CHAT] One-on-One with author Randy Richardson

by Cyrus Webb

Randy, it has been great following your journey since your book CHEESELAND. What has it been like for you to share your love of storytelling with the world?

It has been a journey unlike any I’ve ever taken. I write small stories that both entertain and hopefully make you think. You get thrown on an emotional roller-coaster where you’ll be laughing at one moment and then crying or screaming at the next. In the end, I hope they are stories that make you think and stick with you for a while. 

Because I write stories that are inspired by real parts of my own life, I like to think that they’ve given me a fresh perspective on my own life. Ultimately, I write the stories that I like to read. When you put them out into the world, you have no idea how others will react. It can be exciting. But it also can be frightening. 

It is the best feeling when someone who reads your words is moved by them. When I was looking for blurbs for the back cover of my latest novel, HAVANA HANGOVER, I took a leap of faith and asked Catherine Lanigan, who has written dozens of romance novels over a long career, including ROMANCING THE STONE and JEWEL OF THE NILE, under the penname, Joan Wilder. I’d met her at a book fair several years ago, and she was super nice. But I had not seen her or heard from her since then. I had no idea what to expect. Well, she agreed to read my book. And a few weeks later, she sent me what is probably the best email I’ve ever gotten. She wrote: “Your fascinating novel has kept me spellbound… Yours is some of the best writing I’ve read in years.” Needless to say, I was over the moon. Little things like that make it all worthwhile.

When did you realize writing was something you wanted to do?

I’m probably considered a late-bloomer when it comes to creative writing. I studied just about everything but creative writing in college. I earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, a master’s degree in journalism, and finally a law degree. Never took one creative writing class through all those degrees. While working as a lawyer, at the ripe age of 33, I got this seed in my head for a novel. That seed grew into my first novel, LOST IN THE IVY, a murder mystery set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.  But I think I’ve always been a writer… it just took me some time to accept that and, obviously, I took a circuitous route to becoming one.

You are not only a gifted author yourself. You have used your platform to encourage aspiring writers as well. Why has that been so important to you?

My personal story goes back to 2005 when I had just finished writing that first novel. I felt a little like the protagonist in my story: lost and confused. I started looking for writing groups and stumbled upon the Chicago Writers Association (CWA), which was then just a Yahoo! group. The more I became involved in that email group, the more I saw that I needed more of a real community. When CWA became a nonprofit in 2006, I became its president – a role I still have today. In that time, we’ve grown from a steering committee of 13 members to over 800 dues-paying members. I think we’ve made a real difference in creating a community of writer that didn’t exist when I started as a fledgling writer. 

When I wrote that first novel, I didn’t have a community to support me. That all changed because of my work with CWA. My second novel, CHEESELAND, was written with the help and guidance of a critique group whose members I found through the CWA, and the book’s editor was someone I met through the organization. All the blurbs on the back cover came from people with whom I’d developed relationships through this community. Even its publisher came out of this network of writers I’d helped to create. It was just a better all-around experience that is 100 percent attributable to having a community around me that I didn’t have before.

Renegade Press, the publisher of my latest novel, HAVANA HANGOVER, I learned about by listening to the Chicago Writes podcast, which CWA launched about a year ago…you get the idea. I now have a whole network of people around me who help me to make this journey much less daunting. 

I feel that as writers we can and should all work together and support one another. You’re still going to make mistakes but hopefully not as many and the whole process can be just much smoother and easier to navigate. I’ve found that if you give a little, it comes back to you tenfold. 

Your newest book HAVANA HANGOVER shows how easily things can go wrong in friendship and life. Where did the idea for the book come from?

HAVANA HANGOVER is my third novel. Like the two that came before it, LOST IN THE IVY and CHEESELAND, HAVANA HANGOVER is inspired by my own personal real-life history. HAVANA HANGOVER begins in November 2016, which was the first time I traveled to Cuba. Two historic events occurred during the time of my travels. On the same morning I left for Cuba, my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, won their first World Series in 108 years. On the same morning that I returned to the states, the U.S. presidential election results had just been decided. Those two events served as a springboard for the story that becomes a runaway adventure with many twists and turns where little is as it seems. The characters behind it were mostly inspired by real-life people, including me and my travel companion, a friend who I’ve known since law school, and our tour operator and our tour guide. But the real seed for the story was planted on our second trip to Cuba, the following November. It was on that trip that my friend and I had been out on the town and at some point, we were separated. I went back to our casa particular, a Cuban bed-and-breakfast, and went to bed. The following morning, I woke to a string of text messages from my friend, the last of which read only: “Help Me!” So that served as the inspirational trigger for the disoriented protagonist who is telling the story. From there, the story is all fiction, including the back story of the complicated history between the protagonist, Tanner, and his missing friend who might not be his friend at all.

You seemed to stretch yourself in this one, Randy. I was surprised at how much suspense there was in HAVANA HANGOVER. Was that part of what you enjoyed about writing it?

To a large degree, it was my editor who pushed me to the make the story more vivid and suspenseful. But I wrote the story mostly during the pandemic, when I, like most everyone else, was stuck at home. So writing it became an escape for me and a way to mentally go back to a place that I wasn’t able to travel to any more. In many ways, it became my love letter to Havana, and to the people whom I had befriended there. 

Social media is a big part of how authors like yourself share your work with the world. Can you tell us about how you approach it in connecting with your readers?

I can’t say that I’ve ever felt truly comfortable on social media. There’s a very fine line between sharing too much about yourself and also being too self-serving. I try to keep my social media posts positive and inspirational, to not only promote my work but to also promote the work of others and to hopefully guide them in the right direction when I can. 

What advice do you have for authors beginning their own writing journey or considering it?

I guess my first piece of advice is to be realistic about writing and your writing goals and expectations. If you think that you’re going to be the next Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling, you’re probably not being realistic. You have much better odds playing the lottery. At the outset, define what success as a writer is to you. Creative writing, for me, is a hobby; it’s not my profession (I have a day job as a lawyer). So I don’t measure my success as a writer by money. I also don’t define it by sales, or awards or other kinds of recognition. To me, success is writing the story I wanted to tell the way that I wanted to tell it. Simple as that. By that measure, I feel that I have achieved success as a writer, because I’ve been able to write three novels the way that I wanted to write them. 

My second piece of advice is to understand that writing isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work to do it well. The first draft is never going to be good enough. Not even for Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling. I wrote four drafts of HAVANA HANGOVER before I was ready to put it out into the world.  It took me over two years to get to that final draft, with a lot of help from my editor along the way.

My third piece of advice is to read. You can’t be a good writer if you’re not a reader. 

And my fourth and final piece of advice is connect with other writers. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be. Get involved in your local writing community. Join writing groups and attend writing conferences and book and live lit events. Build a network of support around you. A writer’s best friend is another writer. Believe me, you can’t be successful as a writer if you try to do it all on your own.

How can our readers stay connected with you?

They can go to my website at They can find me on Facebook @RandyRichardsonWriter and on Instagram @randman61.