Tag Archive | Readers

March Media Madness: Down and Dirty

M.L. Desir’s Wednesday Down and Dirty Tip: Social Media

The days of authors languishing away behind their keyboard, clack-clack-clacking away on their latest story or poem are what one could call the good, old days. Of course, in those good, old days you could end up like Edgar Allan Poe – wandering the streets of your city delirious and distressed, then dying shortly after. Or you could share a similar fate to Emily Dickinson, a reclusive writer, who didn’t become popular until after her death. However, if you’re a writer who wants to be a Somebody are also new to using social media, here are some down-and-dirty tips. The easiest social media tools to use (in my opinion) are Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

Why?

Twitter is similar to texting. It’s best done when short, sweet, and interactive because even if you don’t have something of your own to tweet at the moment, it’s entertaining to read what has already been tweeted and join in by retweeting, liking a tweet, or commenting on a tweet that caught your attention. I LOVE it! 🙂

Facebook

Though it’s not my favorite social media, I do enjoy interacting with readers, friends, fans, and fellow writers who leave comments on my post. I rarely post photos and I’m thinking about posting more as time allows.

Blogs

In the beginning of my blogging journey, I procrastinated because I didn’t think I had anything new or interesting to say. However, I’m learning that even if I share views with other people, my take may be a little different based on my own individualized life experiences. I enjoy writing about lots of topics. The only problem I still struggle with is finding the time to write. Between working full-time as an educator, writing books, being mommy to three sons –ages 15, three, and three months – time is a precious, priceless luxury.

So, the down and dirty tip for marketing yourself as an author is . . . create an account, engage as much as you can, and with time and consistency the routine will become second nature, and nothing more than an afterthought. Like breathing air or drinking water, but uh, not simultaneously.

And yet, with the way technology is becoming so very intrusive and the rampant focus on egocentric me-ism, Emily Dickinson’s poem, I’m Nobody! Who are you? is a state of being much to be desired.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260) Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

 

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

finis

reclusive author

Ah, Emily! You woo me with the seductive beauty of anonymity!

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You Can’t Write That.

You Can’t Write That. Oh really? Just watch. 🙂
The title of this blog post comes from a very tender spot in my life as an author and a Black woman growing up in the USA. Several years ago, I dated a close-minded individual (Who Shall Remain Nameless) told me that I couldn’t write my recently published novel, Forbidden: Book One of the Gabriel Lennox Series. At the time, it wasn’t published and while I waited for that new chapter in my life, I had continued writing additional books for the series.
I wouldn’t describe myself as rebellious, however, when someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m determined to prove them wrong. Especially when that something will benefit me. And then, filled with resilience, I channel my inner samurai:

Come at me, bruv

Come at me, bruv!

Since I had considered He Who Shall Remain Nameless a friend, I was shocked and disgusted, not only because he was trying to tell me what to do, but mostly for his ridiculous reasons.
“Your protagonist is white,” he stated. “And British. Why don’t you write about vampires on the African continent since you’re African-American? Make it about slavery. Make it about something you know.”

Now, he had me perplexed and wickedly amused. First of all, I’m not from the African continent and know more about England than the diverse continent of deserts, savannahs, rainforests, and 55 states! COUNT IT — 55 states! Heck, I know more about England than I do about my own country of 50 states — uhhh, we’re still at 50, right? RIGHT?) So, quite gently, quite softly and without blinking or even smiling, I explained to him that I chose to write about a white, British vampire because the book was a metaphor for a large problem in our world: the monstrous problem of white hegemony in a world of brown-skinned people who have been bled dry by the cruel and grotesque racism of the pale White Man. Did I tell you that I have a wicked sense of humor and a perfect poker face? If I didn’t, Deadpool insist that it be said again:

Psst. I have a wicked sense of humor that

deadpool

I approve!

is often sarcastic and outright ironic . . . and a truly perfect poker face!

He Who Shall Remain Nameless didn’t remain exactly silent though. He sputtered with outrage, eyes comically bulging outside of the sockets while I stirred more honey in my cup of tea. Shame the poor dear couldn’t laugh at my naughtily, wicked wit!

Fast forward to the present day – I’m published and he’s still single.

Back in October of last year, I participated on a series of panels at Necronomicon, Tampa Bay’s Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention to share my perspective on the misrepresentation of minorities in Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as the lack of minorities in the previous stated genres. In this discussion, when I use the word minority, I speak of people of deeper color and/or those who have been marginalized in the world – Latinos, Blacks, and Asians.

Now why is that?

Some could argue that there’s no market for books that represent minorities with equality and quality to their white counterparts. However, one could parry with the counter-argument: if the product isn’t offered in the first place, how can demand be gauged?
So, again why are there few books with minorities as the main characters and/or published authors?
There are a lot of reasons. Let’s list and analyze some of these . . . each one brick by suppressive brick.

The Market Gatekeepers

First, I must say that this (the lack of books with protagonist – who are people of deeper color) is mostly a Western (primarily United States of America) phenomena where thousands and thousands of books that the “Market Gatekeepers” allow to be published, marketed, and consumed by the public are teeming with an all-white cast . . . or worse . . . one or two people of deeper color thrown as if to appease a check list of things to do in the politically correct world. On the African Continent, there are a lot of Black authors who are masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy ( http://www.tungstenhippo.com/content/afrosf-science-fiction-african-authors). Authors I’ve just begun to know of! And here is a link to authors of African descent within the US of A: http://www.forharriet.com/2014/08/7-black-women-science-fiction-writers.html#axzz40U9bxTN9. Why are they not popular here? Unfortunately, they don’t get a lot of exposure. Readers must be vigilant in their search for authentic stories, unique worlds, and diverse perspectives. We mustn’t rely on the Market Gatekeepers to feed us more nutritious and well-rounded literature. Ever had a meal where you felt full, but weren’t satisfied? Well, that’s what the Market Gatekeepers often do. They stuff you with delicious, everyday cheesy potato chips, but you’re hungry an hour later for something . . . else.

The Deathtrap of Stereotypes

On the panel, some audience members asked if it was okay for whites to write or tell a story about a person who was of a different ethnic background. I think that doing so is a wonderful idea. White authors, especially famous ones, should break against the mold, which would in turn open doors and windows for other up and coming authors.

Likewise, Sharon Draper, an African-American author, who wrote an award winning book called Out of My Mind. Melody, the main character’s ethnicity isn’t described or stated. Melody could be anybody and this ethnic mysteriousness works for that book because Draper was writing a story about a mind-blowingly intelligent little girl with a disability that able-bodied as well as handicapped could relate to regardless of color. Draper used personal experience and so much more to write this book with such depth it breaks my heart each and every time I reread it.

Using stereotypes is simply the use of lazy thinking. And writers shouldn’t fall prey to this. Our minds should be ever growing with new and expressive ways of explaining the world and trying to make sense of its often irrationality and cruelty, but I digress. Creating characters with relatable stories should be fun, fun, fun! One way to kill that excitement and freshness is to use stereotypes. For example, some common stereotypes of characters who happen to be minorities are having the highly intelligent Math whiz Asian, the slang-speaking street smart Black man, the strong, independent Black woman, or the seductive Latina or Latino male Lothario. Such a cast is boring, disrespectful, and frankly STUPID! Instead of rehashing these boring, stale bits of crust, we enjoy ourselves with something new and different by actually thinking outside the proverbial box. Do a little research! Visit the local library (my favorite way of garnering information), use the Internet, mingle and socialize with people who are a part of the culture you want to learn more about and relinquish your writerly senses to creative abandon. 🙂

And no!!! By me offering this advice, I’m stating or even implying that the individuals you speak with are The Representative or The Expert on their Ethnic Group or Culture. However, better to gain a little knowledge from actual people instead of looking up information that could be outdated. For instance, when researching for the nation of Io in my dark fantasy/science fiction hybrid, Prelude to Morning, I reflected on and recalled my conversations, encounters, and interactions with the people of Japan when I visited as a teacher and ambassador for a Sister Cities trip. I wanted the Ionese people to resemble the Japanese in this other world and using facts helped to not only breathe life into my characters, but kept me grounded and delighted with the results.

In one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, the Cat in the Hat says, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Writers write. Obviously! And readers read. Oh yes! And as an avid reader, I’ll read any book regardless of the main character’s color, ethnicity, or gender, provided that the story is one that interest me. Now, the difference between a mediocre writer and a fantastic one is how much he or she reads. I promise my students that the more they read, the more they will be able to see what writers do well and be able to emulate the skill. Writing, like all things worth doing takes practice! And creating a cast of more diverse characters that represents a present and growing market, we must broaden and stretch ourselves as well as our minds.

The Blight that Just Won’t Die

My second oldest brother, Ronnie, owned a t-shirt that reads, “Racism is a disease. Are you ill?” He wore it with pride in the 90s and over a decade later, racism in the world, especially the United States of America is alive and well. It’s like a cockroach on steroids that continues to crawl and scurry along in the shadows that some are afraid to speak about or against because they’re afraid it’ll unfurl its giant wings and claws at their faces.

Thwarted Bravery

I won’t go into detail here about racism, but you’re welcome to check this post on my blog https://adaratrosclair.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/desperately-seeking-answers/

Below are links of racist incidences revolving around the published literary world:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/06/14/theodore-beale-racist-asshat-and-embarrassed-by-it/
Don’t fall into this black hole of negativity and ignorance. Please. If you have a story to tell, tell it. And if the characters don’t resemble you or they are individuals simply new to you, take the time to learn who they are, explore their many nuances and idiosyncrasies. Not sure where to begin? On the internet, there are plenty of resources for transracial writing (I prefer the word transethnic because there’s only one race – the human race).

Here are a few places to begin:
Transracial Writing for the Sincere: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/12/transracial-writing-for-the-sincere/
People of Color Underrepresented in Children’s Literature http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201403241000
Further Thoughts and Considerations
While reading some of the comments left on the above link, Matthew S Ann Maxwell’s words made a lot of sense to me (especially what has been empathized in bold by me):
“I would question the statement about being boring or false. There is something that cannot be named or defined when people tell stories from their own experience and it is a beautiful thing. Something so deep in each of us that the way we put words together, how we talk, everything is affected by our experience and how we grew up. This is why first-voice books, books written by authors from the culture they are representing are so important. It’s a deeper connection, one that transcends the words and images, and one that children from those cultures need to see and more importantly feel as they read the books. And beyond that to read a book and see “hey this book was written and/or illustrated by someone who looks just like me”…that is a powerful thing for a child. I would question whether white authors should step back and let people of color tell their own stories. This is one way that white people can begin to recognize and address their inherent privilege in the current publishing system. This is not to say that people shouldn’t have diverse characters in their stories, that would be false since we live in a diverse world and we come into contact with a lot of different people so of course characters in books should do the same. But, writing a story where the author is white and is writing the experience of a child of color, that is one that I would question. There are things about that child’s experience that the author can never know no matter how much they study, no matter how much research is done, because they are white and have privilege in this world that has affected everything about their experience, privilege that that child does not have. This is the basis of beginning to understand white privilege. If there is a lack of diversity in children’s books and only so many children’s books about people of color are getting published right now, are white authors taking up space writing stories about people of color that would be better taken by people of color writing those stories themselves? I don’t know the answer, but as a white person, I do wonder. And that’s not to say that we don’t need even MORE stories b/c the current percentages are dreadful, but I wonder if letting more people tell their own stories instead of telling them for them would be a start.

Practical Tips for Author Events/Book Signings

So, you’re hosting an author event or a book signing and may be stressing out (I am) on what to do to make your event:

  • Interactive
  • Exciting, and
  • Memorable

Thankfully, I’m blessed with a wonderful teenage son and a supportive fiancé who both give me advice and not only do I listen, but often follow through with it. When I asked them what kind of things they’d like to see or experience at their favorite authors’ book signing, I learned quite a lot. Here are some of their wonderful ideas:

Simply Signing Books is Passe– Fans and prospective fans want to engage with the author. So, mingle with your readers, answer questions, shake hands, and definitely read a little of your work. If you choose to partake in giveaways, announce them yourself over the bookstore’s intercom, which adds a more personal touch. 🙂

Say Cheese! Take Pictures and post them to social media. Embrace that celebrity status (no matter how quasi-celebrity it may be), which makes the lovely people you’re taking pictures with feel good.

Inexpensive Giveaway Ideas – I absolutely LOVE hunting the clearance aisles of stores. Why pay full price when you can purchase items for a fraction of the price? And I’ve come across a lot of great deals that I look forward to giving away to raffle winners!  Places like Staples and even Walgreens are great places to search and acquire great giveaway prizes! 🙂 Some more expensive items include custom-made products like postcards, pens, bookmarks, stickers, and gift baskets featuring your brand.

Add Unique Flair a la YouBrainstorm something you can do that you can offer at your signing. Are you a comedian? Tickle your audience with jokes. Are you great at singing? Wow ‘em with an a capella solo. Are you an artist? Draw caricatures of your fans. In fact, I love doodling and use to draw quite seriously – manga style to be exact! So, I plan on drawing caricatures of Raffle Winners. Besides writing, we writers have plenty of other hobbies and talents in our arsenal. Reflect upon your hobbies and other talents, then choose what more you have to offer in order to make this an event to remember!

Writers, what has worked for you? Readers, what do you look forward to at these events?

Flash Fiction Fridays. KABOOM!

bike

Flash Fiction is a type of story with extreme brevity — no more than 1000 words. I invite you to study this photograph, write a 1000 word story (or less — at least 100) to go along with it or inspired by it. Have fun and happy writing! 

I look forward to reading some fabulous stories in the comments section. You have until next Friday . . . or whenever. 🙂

 

Book Review for Camela Thompson’s Blood, Spirit, and Bone

Book Review for Camela Thompson’s Blood, Spirit, and Bone

Abandon all hope of suspense, ye who read on, for there shall be . . . major SPOILERS!

Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Beeee-doh!

Oui, oui, spoilers broken down into troi parts, as charmingly broken as my French.

The Good:

The characters (especially the main character) are true to form and though they change, the changes that take place are both logical and reasonable. The dialogue and internal monologues of the characters are precise, concise (to the point – pun intended), and the descriptions are vivid and “juuust oh so right”.

The Bad:

Sean dies. Yup, he sure does. However, it is a noble death. I felt a tiny twinge of guilt when he died, which is saying much because . . . I DIDN’T like him! And yet, I grew to respect him and that is why Camela did a marvelous job at creating her characters. Even though I didn’t like Sean, I developed an understanding of who and what he is. And I grieved his death, if not because it was sad, but because he’s leaving behind his wife and children (who will need a lot of help and protection – boy, that was a creepy ending!). When writers can make you feel for a character that you don’t like and try so hard not to like – that takes bloody skill! Bravo!

The Ugly:

Oh my, my my. The descriptions of Sean’s transformation and the repulsive things I thought he was doing (cannibalism of corpses) – until I learned more. The detailed descriptions of indigestion, the vomiting, the carefully planned and written descriptions of rotting, dead flesh! My Glob – I could practically smell it wafting from the literary atmosphere, past my psyche, and assaulting my senses with a vicious beating! And that was the point: it was meant to be ugly, gruesome, and disgusting. Bravo, Bravo.

The Fabulous:

I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Presently, I don’t like Lucian at the moment, due to how he treats Josette (who I actually like – couldn’t stand the little poppet in the first book, but the more I learn of her, the more I respect her struggle as a vampire). And yet, perhaps Lucian will grow on me, too. My own spoiler: I blame this anger towards literary men on “preggers” hormones. J So, once the book is written and I’m no longer flooded with a concoction of Dragon Lady a la Expecting, this may change . . .or I’ll most likely grow to love him too because Camela is just that fabulous.

Book Review for Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell

The world Marmell created in the Widdershins’ series, along with the lively characters, will be greatly missed. No, I didn’t like the series – I absolutely, positively, hopping frogs ADORED it! His metaphors, which are not only clever and unique kept my mind stimulated and his action scenes, both vivid and spot-on played out like the most popular martial arts movie. I don’t know how he does it. Literary skill of this magnitude – can it be taught? Is it taught? If so – WHERE? Can it be bottled, purchased, and imbibed?

Or is one born with it?

I shall refrain from my Fan Girl Gushing – for now. J

I’m well past my YA days (as a reader), but as a writer, I’ve been dabbling in it. Marmell’s series is what reintroduced me to the YA genre. Kind of like how Death Note reintroduced me to anime and manga. I suppose I was going through a phase in my late twenties where I thought I was “too kewl” for that stuff. Well, I was delusional and so glad to have realized that sooner than later.

After reading the second book in the series and being introduced to one of the most vile, wicked, and charmingly bizarre villains (Iruoch) I didn’t think Marmell could surpass such a fantabulous creation in future books. And in the fourth book, he didn’t disappoint! Lovers of fantasy will love this series.

So, don’t hesitate and dive into this YA world.

I hope that Marmell keeps his word and includes Widdershins, lovable thief with a heart of gold in other books because I am truly addicted!

Well done, Mr. Marmell. Well done.