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Monday, September 27, 2010

My African Immortals Series--next installment, My Soul to Take (2011)

In 1997, I published a novel entitled My Soul to Keep that marked the beginning of what I now call my African Immortals series.  The story centers around a 500-year-old Ethiopian immortal named Dawit and the Miami newspaper reporter, Jessica, who is unwittingly married to him.  At the time, I had no series in mind.

The novel was a watershed for me:  It has endured as a reader favorite, and was blurbed by Octavia E. Butler and Stephen King, who wrote that it "bears favorable comparison to Interview with the Vampire."  The genesis of the story was simple:  What would it be like to discover that your husband has a secret?  What if he never got sick and never aged, and his Brothers were ready to summon him home?

Ultimately, My Soul to Keep is about the price of immortality.

In 2001, I published what I thought would be the definitive sequel, entitled The Living Blood, which won a 2002 American Book Award.  With the birth of an immortal child named Fana, this book wrestled with questions of parenthood and destiny:  How do you raise a child who is more powerful than you are?  This novel also introduced the concept of how dangerous it might be to have blood in your veins that could heal any illness with only a drop.  (Think of nations rich in oil or diamonds, and you get the idea.  Conflict follows riches.)

In 2008, I published another unexpected sequel, this one entitled Blood Colony, which revisited my powerful toddler as a headstrong teenager bent on distributing her blood to the world in the form of a an underground drug called Glow.  I also introduced the idea that my African Immortals are not the only ones with the Living Blood to give them eternal life...and that even a great gift can be badly abused.   Blood Colony was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Unlike with its predecessors, I knew that I wanted to write another installment after Blood Colony...because the story of Fana's meeting with her immortal Bloodborn counterpart was far from over.

Last week, I turned in a manuscript for a novel my publisher has tentatively entitled My Soul to Take (no, it's not the Wes Craven movie coming out this month), which will be what my sister jokingly refers to as "the fourth novel in a trilogy."  This novel will begin a year after Blood Colony, which was set in the year 2015, and it picks up the story almost exactly where it left off.  This installment is about the price of power.

Unfortunately, the fourth African Immortals novel won't be published until the fall of 2011, which is a long wait   for all of us.  To help give readers a "fix," I've launched a Facebook fan page for Fana [see sidebar], written in her own voice, to help establish the world of the novel with snippets from the character's life.   In my writing blog, "Tananarive Due Writes," I'll post soon about how difficult it is to pull myself out of the daily writing of that book and walk away yet again.  (Thank goodness I can leapfrog to other projects like the Devil's Wake zombie novel I'm co-authoring with my husband, Steven Barnes.)  

I can't thank readers enough for the support they have given this series, which has truly changed my life.  I first met actor Blair Underwood through My Soul to Keep, since he was electrified by the immortal character Dawit.  Now, Blair, Steve and I have published three installments of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series you have seen on this blog.  (My Soul to Keep is currently in film development at Fox Searchlight, where it has been for about seven years.  Blair is one of the producers who helped get it set up at the studio.  Whenever there is news, I will post it here and on Fana's Facebook page.)

There is plenty of time for readers to reacquaint themselves with the first three books in the series, or to discover them for the first time.  I hope to meet readers new and old through Fana's Facebook page, and I'll do everything I can to make the next year pass quickly.

Let's have some fun while we wait!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

From Cape Town with Love: Now showing on an iPad near you! (Or an iPhone...or your computer...)

       One glance at our new novel, From Cape Town with Love (Atria Books), will tell you that it wants to be a movie.  The title is a riff of the James Bond movie From Russia with Love.  The cover looks like a movie poster, and the book has its own iMix soundtrack.

         That was the idea behind the Tennyson Hardwick series the three of us envisioned:  me, my husband, Steven Barnes, and actor Blair Underwood.  We want to give readers good books, and we want to see those books on the big screen.   Why not? 

            This week, Tennyson Hardwick came to life in the Vook (video ebook) version of our novel, which officially launched today for $6.99.  The Vook and the hardcover versions are the same story, but the Vook is only about 85 of the novel’s 350 pages.  The writing is less steamy, with an eye toward a younger audience.

            But the Vook has something the novel doesn’t:  Video webisodes to illustrate key scenes. In the scene below, an Oscar-winning Hollywood actress hires Tennyson to be her bodyguard when she visits an orphanage in a South African township—setting From Cape Town with Love in motion. 


(Blair Underwood and Noa Tishby.  PHOTO CREDIT:  Tananarive Due)

       As soon as he heard about Vooks from Atria Books publisher Judith Curr, Blair jumped at the chance to direct, produce and star in the webisodes.  His book trailer blew us away. 

            When I downloaded the Vook to my iPhone and experienced it for the first time, I giggled at how much the experience reminded me of being a kid reading a book with pictures, delighting at unexpected video stills that captured the moment just right.  I missed the text we cut out, but the videos added a new dimension.  (Also available for iPad and computers.)

        For this writer with long-held dreams of crossing from books to film, this process has been a magical Hollywood affair.

One sizzling video stars Underwood and Kellita Smith (“The Bernie Mac Show”).   The actress playing Oscar winner Sofia Maitlin, Noa Tishby, is the co-executive producer of HBO’s “In Treatment,” the series where Blair was nominated for a Golden Globe.  
The shoot was covered by “Extra,” and its coverage will air Saturday and Sunday.   (Check local listings.)

(Blair Underwood and Kellita Smith.  PHOTO CREDIT:  Maria Rivera Savoy)

Blair interviewed on the set by "Extra"'s Terri Seymour

(PHOTO CREDIT:  Maria Rivera Savoy) 

            Buy the hardcover too.  But when you’ve read From Cape Town with Love, you won’t want to miss the Vook. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

From Cape Town with Love: Launch week! Blair Underwood on "Today"

This week marks the hardcover publication of From Cape Town with Love (Atria Books) and a Vook video e-book edition with exciting video clips dramatized directly from the book's pages by Blair Underwood and other familiar faces, inluding a memorable appearance by Kellita Smith ("The Bernie Mac Show").   

From Cape Town with Love is a collaboration between me and my husband, Steven Barnes, and actor Blair Underwood.   This is the third in our Tennyson Hardwick mystery/thriller series that began with Casanegra and In the Night of the Heat, which won a 2009 NAACP Image Award.  [Read earlier posts to learn more.] 

Today, Blair Underwood appeared on NBC's "Today" Show to promote From Cape Town with Love and his new NBC series, "The Event," where he'll play the President of the United States. (Mondays at 9 p.m. this fall--our old "24" TV viewing spot!).  

During today's interview, "Today" played video clips from the footage Blair shot from our novel!  

Read the unabridged hardcover AND the abridged Vook--which will be worth the price for the video clips alone.  Bring a computer or iPad to your book club meeting with a bottle of South African wine, and you'll be a hit!  


From Cape Town with Love: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hollywood, meet Tennyson Hardwick... (NEW VIDEO TRAILER!)

     I first met Blair Underwood years ago through his efforts to mount a film version of a novel I sent him when I was a new writer.  My husband, Steven Barnes, and I have been collaborating on fiction and screenplays for a dozen years. 

    In 2007, the Tennyson Hardwick series was born as an answer to the lessons we have learned in Hollywood—Blair as an actor, storyteller, director and producer, and Steve and I as writers.  We wanted to create high-quality fiction with a cinematic sensibility, so readers couldn’t help imagining the movie version.

    Why three authors?  There’s power in numbers.
    We all bring different strengths and tastes.  And we all wanted our books to blur the line between books and film so that we wouldn’t be limited by budgets, delays or stereotypes.  We wanted strong characters, plenty of action, and memorable love scenes for our hero.

     The book titles riff off of classic Hollywood movies. Plots are ripped from the celebrity headlines.  The hero, Tennyson Hardwick, is an actor who moonlights as a bodyguard and detective, and his past as a gigolo to powerful women comes back to haunt him in unexpected ways.

     The first novel, Casanegra., was an Essence Book Club pick.  The second novel, In the Night of the Heat, won an NAACP Image Award.   

     The newest novel, From Cape Town with Love (Atria Books), will be published May 18 in hardcover—but on a new platform called a Vook on May 20.  Vooks, which are video e-books, are the perfect home for Tennyson Hardwick.  This time around, we wanted a James Bond flair.  
With Vooks, readers read an abridged version of the novel on their computers, iPhones or iPads.  (To find out more about the process of creating a Vook, visit

       What does it really look like when publishing meets Hollywood?

       We think it looks something like this.


      From Cape Town with Love Vook (abridged) with video clips available at, and iTunes on May 20. 

       Original hardcover available in bookstores everywhere May 18. 



  BELOW:  A discussion featuring Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes as they discuss the Tennyson Hardwick series. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

EXCLUSIVE book excerpt: FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE (May 18, 2010/Atria)

I can't believe it, but in May we'll be publishing our third novel in our Tennyson Hardwick mystery series, From Cape Town with Love. These are the books I'm co-authoring with my husband, Steven Barnes, in partnership with actor Blair Underwood.

This book literally begins where 2008's NAACP Image Award-winning In the Night of the Heat left off, so there's plenty of time to catch up...but all of these books are written so that first-time readers can follow them too!

Before we post the excerpt, here's what other writers are saying about From Cape Town with Love:


"Bold, sexy and engaging, From Cape Town with Love is an amazing novel penned by extremely talented storytellers! Tennyson Hardwick continues to be one of the most superb characters in contemporary literature."

--Zane, New York Times bestselling author of Total Eclipse of the Heart, executive producer and screenwriter, Cinemax Original Series "Zane's Sex Chronicles."


"I've been a fan of the Tennyson Hardwick series since Casanegra--and Ten is back and better than ever. From Cape Town with Love has something for everyone: the trademark sex and sizzle, and a nod to James Bond that makes this a high-octane thrill ride. Underwood, Barnes and Due don't disappoint. If you like great fiction penned by superb writers and brilliant storytellers, get onboard!"

--Eric Jerome Dickey, New York Times bestselling author of Resurrecting Midnight and Dying for Revenge.

"Heart-stopping and crazy sexy, From Cape Town with Love will keep your pulse pounding through the night. Tennyson Hardwick is a hero for the 21st Century. Easy Rawlins, say hello to James Bond!"

--Paul Levine, author of Illegal


Here's your sneak peek!



They called themselves the Three R's: R.J., Ramirez and Reiter. Reiter was female, but not exactly the nurturing kind. I was sitting at a table in a cold, windowless room, in the worst pain in my life. I'd been in the same chair for hours.
Sitting upright wasn't easy because of the pain.
R.J. stood over me with a folder. He did most of the talking.
"The FBI is writing a book on you as we speak,” R.J. said. “Usually that’s the bad news. But in your case, that’s the good news.”
I couldn’t resist. “Then what’s the bad news?”
“You seen that TV show…? What’s the name?” R.J. asked Ramirez and Reiter.
“What show?” Reiter said.
At first, I thought he was talking about my old series, Homeland. I’d played an FBI agent working with the Department of Homeland Security. But I was as wrong as I could be.
R.J. snapped his fingers. “Without a Trace,” he said. “It’s about people who’ve disappeared, right? One day they’re here, bam, they’re gone. That’s a fascinating show.”
There was wildness in his eyes.
“You ever heard of the Patriot Act?” R.J. asked me.
I suddenly realized how hungry I was. I wondered again if it was day or night.
“That’s got nothing to do with me,” I said. I wanted to force him to say what he was hinting at. “I’m not a terrorist.”
“But you’re an interesting guy,” R.J. said.
“Fascinating guy,” Ramirez agreed in a sing-song.
R.J. went on. “And if we decide we want to talk to you for a while, get to know you better, we can keep you around as long as we need to.”
“But nobody wants that,” R.J. said.
“Pain in the ass,” Reiter said.
Cold, steel reality unfolded in my head: I was in an interrogation room in an unknown location. My body felt butchered. I had been promised a long stretch in prison. I had just lost my oldest friend. I had barely survived the night, and a man had died at my hands.
No. Why mince words? I had killed a man. For the first time in my life.
I wondered how many people R.J., Ramirez and Reiter had killed between them, or what measures they were willing to take when they wanted information. I didn’t get along with most cops already—but they weren’t cops, or anything like it.
I wished they were. I understood the rules with cops. There were no rules at all now.
Seven months earlier
November 5, 2008

South Africa

April Forrest's eyes widened. “Ten…what happened to your face?”
In the bosom of beauty, ugly comes as a shock. The swelling and bruises across my face made me look like I’d just been attacked by a prison gang. Might as well have been—although it was just one man. In the swamp.
When April left Los Angeles to teach in South Africa for six months, she’d left me too. We had passed the one-year milestone right before she changed her mind about us, and an ocean and ten thousand miles had suddenly seemed like a small toll to see her again. I wanted to know what had scared her off—but maybe it was written all over my face.
“Long story,” I said. “I tried, but I couldn’t find flowers this late. May I come in?”
Apparently, long story wasn’t enough to get the door open any wider. April was lithe and fine, with skin the color of ginger.
She was living in a tiny cinderblock house on a street of modest but well-kept homes in a middle-class section of Soweto, outside of Johannesburg. In the bright light from the porch, I saw her jaw shift with uncertainty. Her delicate chin and gently swaying braids, adorned with regal white beads at the ends, reminded me why some men could be driven to beg.
Two or three loose dogs I’d seen outside of the gate were barking at me from the unlighted street. Two yipped harmlessly, but one sounded like thunder. A week before, I’d killed a German shepherd in the Florida swamp. The memory of the dog’s last yelp, and his master's last labored breath, still iced my blood.
“You look like you almost got murdered, Ten. What happened?”
“The T.D. Jackson case.” My investigation into the death of football star T.D. Jackson had taken me places that were hard to put into words. Dad had told me that an LAPD officer who had been through my ordeal might have been considered like an OIS, Officer Involved Shooting, and sent to counseling. “Like I said, April… long story.”
April’s look told me that I was failing my first test since our breakup. In her place, I might close the door on me. Dying hope flashed hot in my chest. I knew it, then: I shouldn’t have come to see April without calling her first, like my father and Chela told me before I left.
“Ten, I can’t…I’m not alone.”
She’s already with somebody else? A foreign rage tightened the back of my neck. I didn’t know if was more pissed at her for moving on, or at me for flying across the world to witness her new life up close.
When an older woman appeared behind April in the doorway, I wanted to hug her. April was boarding, so she was living with her hostess! The woman looked about fifty-five, but her skin was so smooth that she might have been ten or fifteen years older. Bright silver hair framed her forehead beneath her colorful head scarf. The slope of her nose and sharp cheekbones reminded me of Alice. Beauty, timeless. Another woman. A different time. Despite the severity of her frown. the stranger’s face forced me to stare.
“I’m sorry it’s so late, Mrs. Kunene,” April apologized. A faint living room light was on, but the woman might have been asleep. It was ten p.m. in Johannesburg; late for an unannounced visitor. I hadn’t thought about the hour when I jumped into the taxi at the airport and told the driver to go to the address April had given me. A lot had changed since the last time I was in South Africa.
The streets were so dark, I had no idea how the driver found his way.
“This is my friend, Tennyson. From the U.S.”
April said friend as if it was the whole story. I could barely smile for the hostess—not that a smile would have helped my face. Mrs. Kunene looked like she was trying to decide if she should call the police right then, or wait for me to look at her the wrong way.
After a twenty-two-hour flight via Amsterdam, I couldn’t fake pleasantries with a hostile stranger. “Come away with me for a long weekend,” I said to April's ear, not quite a whisper. I’d planned a more elegant approach, but the sight of April’s face had drained my memory. My palms were damp, like my virgin friends used to say in high school.
April touched her ear, coaxing away a strand of hair. “Ten…slow down…”
A broad-shouldered man with snowy white hair appeared next, wearing only his slacks, roused from bed. Mr. Kunene might be my father's age, but his motion was agile and his face was as smooth as his wife's.
“April, this man is your friend?" he said. "He looks like a tsotsi!”
I admired his lyrical accent despite the insult: He'd just said I looked like a gangster.
April planted her foot in the doorway to keep the door from slamming in my face. Her foot was as firm as her voice was gentle: “Yes, yes, he’s a good friend. It’s all right.”
“Is he drunk?” Mrs. Kunene called, stepping back. The rolled R’s in the woman’s accent were music. She made drunk sound like a state to aspire to.
“Sir and madam, I am not drunk,” I said. “Please accept my apologies for stopping by so late. I have to talk to April right away.” When they heard my reasonableness, and my American accent, some of the alarm left their eyes.
I pointed out the gate, where the tattered taxi that had brought me waited—a dingy gray VW Citi Golf that had once been white. One of the back tail lights was missing, and the other glowed dimly. The driver sat inside, awaiting my verdict. The yipping dogs still barked, but the larger one had moved on. April saw the taxi and realized delays were costing me.
“I’ll be right here on the porch,” April said to her hosts, and slipped outside before they could object. The white curtains fluttered at the window as they watched us.
On the porch, I had an impulse to pull April close—but I followed her lead and kept a two-foot distance. If I tried to touch her and she flinched away, no words would rescue us.
“Sorry, but she’s a minister,” April explained, hushed. “They're strict with boarders.”
Good. I hoped they ran the house like a damn nunnery. “I need a face-to-face conversation with you,” I said.
April’s eyes fell away, and my throat burned. A month ago, April would have fussed over my bruises, planting her soft lips on mine.
“Let me take you somewhere beautiful,” I said. “Don’t we deserve time, April?”
“Yes, but…I’m working until Saturday.”
“Make up an excuse.”
“Lying comes easier to some people, Ten.” No irony or malice; just a fact. And she was right. If I’m not careful, lying is my nature.
“Then meet me for coffee tomorrow.” The exhaustion shredding my voice must have sounded like desperation, but I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in a week. “Tell me when you have a break, and I’ll come pick you up.”
Silence again. I’d envisioned myself staying with April—yeah, right—so I didn’t have a reservation at a hotel. Another hassle waited, and the day was already ending on a sour note.
My driver, Sipho, was watching me through his open driver’s side window, eager to see me give him our signal: thumbs up if he could drive away, thumbs down if he should wait.
When I gave Sipho the thumbs-down, I heard him click his teeth with disgust. “Eish! No woman wants the nice guy!” he called from his window, repeating his mantra from our ride.
When I’d told Sipho the story of how April left the States to teach and then broke up with me by telephone, he’d let out a shout as if she’d shot me. A rich man like you, treated this way by a woman! Maybe he was merely angling for a tip, but he was my only friend that night.
I was getting mad, and so far anger had nothing to do with April and me. I hoped I wouldn’t have to scorch April in those flames. Neither of us would salvage anything from that.
“April, if you’re through with me, help me wrap my head around it.”
April touched my forehead, just above a bruise, and her touch extinguished my anger. “Where would we go?” she said. “If I get the days off.”
I stepped toward April and cradled her cheeks with my palms. Her chin sank against the heels of my hands. For a precious few seconds, she trusted me to hold her up.
I did not try to kiss her. Holding her face was enough.
“I know the perfect place,” I said.
Cape Town might be our last chance.
Copyright © 2010 by Trabajando, Inc., Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Apps & the Art of Relaxation

A few months ago, my sister Lydia gifted me with an iPhone. While I'm not thrilled with the cost of keeping it up and running, my relationship with my iPhone has become so strong that I often joke that it is unwholesome. I literally sleep with my iPhone under my pillow at night.

Why? Originally, it was to feed my bedtime audio book habit, but I can use my old iPod classic for that. Instead, I've grown more and more dependent on my iPhone apps to relax me and help me sleep. During a recent trip to my parents’ house, sleeping in my mother's room with several interruptions a night because she was ill, I used hypnosis and relaxation apps to help me fall right back to sleep.

2009 was a stressful year for me, and insomnia has been an ongoing problem in years past, so I searched through reviews to find the apps that users thought were the most helpful. And I’m cheap—so I weigh the decision to spend even three bucks very carefully.

I have a few apps that I love so much that I want to share them. I'm also curious about which relaxation apps work for you. They also work for iPod Touch, which may even be a better choice—because there’s nothing less relaxing than a phone call in the middle of your relaxation.

Here are my favorites:

RELAX WITH ANDREW JOHNSON ($2.99 version / Free Lite version)

Maybe it’s the accent (Johnson is a hypnotherapist from Scotland), but his apps conk me out. I’ve never had traditional hypnotherapy, and I don’t necessarily feel like I’m in a “trance,” but his lulling voice always does the job. I use this one when I need a quick nap, or when I have a moment to meditate during a stressful day.

Hint: With Johnson’s apps, use the “controls” to program how long you want the induction to be (I suggest using the long induction) and whether you want to sleep or wake afterward. The first times I used it, I didn’t realize I could control whether or not he wakes me up, and I was in blissful slumber when I heard this loud voice saying “WAKE UP!” as if he was standing over me. Great if you need to get up, but not so much at night. It’s not an alarm clock, but you can also set the time you want to wake up. (I haven’t used this function, though.)

There is also a Free RELAX WITH ANDREW JOHNSON LITE. (I got the paid version before I knew about it, so I don’t know the difference.)


Ahhhh…sleep! I have used this app several times, but I have to admit I have no idea what Johnson says after the induction, or only part of the induction. Why? I’m ASLEEP! I’ve never heard his Relax app all the way through either. I hope he isn’t planting messages that I should run naked through my neighborhood, but I’ll probably never know.


Sometimes you just need a voice in your ear to remind you that YOU are in control. For me, when the answer isn’t a nap or a good night’s sleep, the Positivity app is the perfect break from the day to remind me to keep a positive outlook. It really works for me.


There is no voice induction in this app, just what’s called “binaural tones” that are designed to trigger mental states in the listener. There is also soothing background noise like ocean waves or thunderstorm, and you use the controls to set the volume on the tones, volume for the background noise, or how long you want the session to last.

I have meditated for years, on and off, and I use this app when I want to do straight meditation. The different tones are named “Chakra Meditation,” “Euphoric Bliss,” “Lucid Dreaming,” etc. This app probably would work better for someone who has some experience with meditation. My husband, Steve, meditates with stillness, which is probably best—but sometimes I need help shutting down my thoughts. This app helps do the trick.

AMBIANCE (.99 version / free Lite version)

If sound effects are your thing, whether or not you want to use them for relaxation, Ambiance is a terrific app that’s like an app store unto itself. There are more than 3,000 5-star reviews for this app on iTunes, and for good reason: It’s an amazing effects library. For 99 cents, you install the app and then browse for sounds you want, which are updated frequently. You only download the sounds you want to your phone, but you can sample them all.

My personal library is pretty standard so far: “Canadian geese,” “English country birds,” “Evening waves,” “Seagulls,” “Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir,” etc. But new updates include “Riding through a Victorian Street,” “Forest Fires,” “Bees,” etc.

All I can say is: Different strokes for different folks. I’m not sure why someone would want to listen to combat sounds or a washing machine spin cycle, but I saw reviewers with infants who had great luck getting their kids to sleep with some of the repetitious sounds.

There is also AMBIANCE LITE, which is free—but again, I don’t know the difference. You might want to check out the free version to see what you think.

Of course, iPhone apps aren’t my only tools for dealing with life’s challenges and stress: There’s prayer, which I still do the old-fashioned way. (Although I’m sure there are apps for that!)

And I’m very lucky to be married to a life coach, Steven Barnes, who has a lot of terrific tools for tackling life on his website at Steve is the one who taught me how to meditate with his Heartbeat Meditation, which I use every time I meditate by feeling for my pulse in my fingertips. Ideally, Steve suggests listening to your heartbeat without touching your fingertips or feeling your pulse, but I know I’m working toward stillness when I can relax into my pulse. When I’m trying to still my active mind, my pulse is the perfect anchor.

I often combine Steve’s Heartbeat Meditation with the BRAINWAVE ALTERED STATES and AMBIANCE apps to create an even more cleansing experience.

Between my husband and my iPhone apps, I survived 2009—and I’m ready for everything 2010 has in store. Bring it on!