Tag Archive | Walter Dean Myers

Peek-a-Boo! My Involvement in The Twisted Towers Book Launch

This is a short break from my blog hiatus.

Recently, one of my fellow authors invited me to help out with an online book launch via Facebook. After I shoved my nervousness aside, I enjoyed every moment of it.

E. Rose Sabin, the author of the newly released, The Twisted Towers, dedicated a lot of pre-planning, planning, time, and energy into the event.

She invited local authors that tag-teamed each other off in order to keep the viewers cozily entertained with games, prizes, and real-time question and answer sessions.

Before the event, authors were asked to answer questions that I found really important for readers and writers.

Here are the questions I was asked to respond to:

1.    Synopsis of your writing career and style including your most current and/or favorite project:

Since I was a kid, I loved making up stories, worlds, and the characters that populated them. From talking cheetahs preaching social justice reform to poachers over the roar of a camp fire, former slaves with supernatural powers that raise the dead to destroy an unjust and racist system, to the birth of twin sons that will turn a theocracy on its head, unique ideas come easy to me, but finding the time to write them is a constant battle. Being a mother, a full-time teacher, (yes, even during the summers) and a wife I have to organize my day to make time for my life as a writer. And when I don’t write, I’m not happy. I write so that I don’t kill . . . my emotions. 😏  When I was a much younger writer, I struggled with submitting my stories for many reasons. A primary one is I didn’t think my work was good enough. I also didn’t think I had a shot when majority of the work being published in the science fiction and fantasy community was by white authors.

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers says it best: “Books transmit values”. Myers goes on to express, “That books explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?” Let’s take this train of thought a little further. What is the message when some authors are not represented in the publishing industry? What is the message when stories with nonwhite main characters (and side characters) are written by exclusively white authors. When I noticed that more and more people of color were being published (I will not use the word trend — this is here to stay) I not only took notice, but swallowed my fear, and joined in. Currently, while I’m in between writing two novels — one YA urban fantasy that takes place in the same universe as the Gabriel Lennox series and one adult high fantasy — I draft, revise, edit, and submit short stories, prose, and poems to markets in order to build my writing credentials. I also read and critique other authors’ works. I mentor young writers. My dream is to be traditionally published. So, I’m polishing my work and looking for agents and publishers to send my manuscripts to.

**During my blog hiatus, I won 2nd place in a poetry contest and sold one flash fiction piece. I also won a partial-grant. More on that later. I also had emergency surgery. 😦 

 2.    Can you define Co-op publishing and share with us three lessons learned from your experience with that publishing method?

Co-op publishing is also known as cooperative publishing.

Co-Operative

When Co-op publishing goes well.

Traditional publishing is often viewed as an “I’ve made it” badge of honor for aspiring writers while self-publishing needlessly and unfairly bears a red stain of shame. Co-op publishing is supposed to be a happy median and can work as a middle way between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Basically, when you’re a traditionally published author, your publisher pays you a royalty and you will get a small percentage of royalty statements for each book sold thereafter. Self-publishing is a different animal that I haven’t been able to tame quite yet. I’m in the processing of preparing my vampire novel “Forbidden” for CreateSpace as a paperback. It’s been available as an ebook for at least a year.  And like a creature from the world of Pokémon, self-publishing is still evolving and is often “super effective” for some. For some. Not for all. ::raises hand sheepishly::

The author is the publisher, book manager, marketer — the whole effing enchilada! And that can cost lots of money! In general, the Co-op experience is when authors pay to have their book published and they work with a second-party publisher that guides the dear writer through the entire publishing process. My experience with Booktrope was a little different. I didn’t have to pay to be published. However, there were marketing packages I couldn’t afford and didn’t know they weren’t included in the gig. So, I marketed my book by blogging, tweeting, Facebook posts, etc. Surprisingly, I made more sales to practical strangers when I attended face-to-face book signing events than I did in Virtual Land via social media. Though I won’t go into further juicy details, I will say this: If you choose this route, God forbid your Co-op publisher goes out of business! The experience is like a Charles Dickens’ novel nightmare where you’re now an orphaned author, abandoned and shivering in the biting cold and crying, “Pardon me, sir, may I have a crust a bread?” So, I’m going to keep on Dune Methane (doin’ my thang — I love Hieroglyphics — dee dee dah dah dee dee dane) and excel where I can. 🙂

 3.    What makes the vampire in your story different from other popular vampire characters?

The vampires in my stories possess some traits with the traditional vampires of legend. However, though they are humans tempted with immortality, supernatural powers, they’re  actually pawns in a dark, sinister web of deception, power, and blood lust set in a glittering world that starts in 19th century England. If vampires are real, then they’d be apex predators in the proverbial food chain. But when confronted with the harsh reality that there is something more powerful that feeds off of them their worldview shatters. They must pick up the jagged pieces in order to rebuild and save their world. If they can.

 4.    One piece of advice for aspiring writers and/or a cool fact for your reading audience:

I’ll indulge in a two for one special. First, to all of you inspiring writers: I implore you to “never give up. Never surrender!” Science fiction movie watchers, you might recall that battle cry from the satirical movie Galaxy Quest. And yet, I won’t stop there. Why? Because there will be times when you do indeed give up and when you want to surrender. But don’t let this be a “forever” end game option. Even though there will be times when you will fail (oh, yes, and you will) you only truly fail if you stop writing. And then you’re no longer a writer, but a thinker. And thoughts alone don’t write books.

Now, all of that aside . . . what are you waiting for? Go and get yourself a copy of E. Rose Sabin’s The Twisted Towers! I’ve already read it and am so glad that I have my own copy.

Here’s my take on the novel:

Sabin delivers a breath of fresh air to the fantasy genre with a twisted plot that mirrors the winding setting her compelling characters trek through. A heart-pounding ride from beginning to end.

The best way to thank an author is to:

Feed the Authors

Lolz. Heck, I’d be happy if I could make $20/month. Or $5.00 Or $1.00? 

Still here? 🙂

Now, try here. Or here. And here. 🙂

Thank you for visiting and reading.

Advertisements

Books Transmit Values

Books transmit valuesI just learned about this event today and wish I could have attended.

The above quote by Walter Dean Myers, a children’s book author and best known for young adult literature reveals a lot about the way I started to feel when I realized that a lot of the books I read didn’t reflect me in a society that claimed to be diverse and tolerant. Myers died on July 1, 2014. And his books are still relevant to the lives of African-Americans. In fact, his YA book, “Monster” is being made into a movie.

xenophile

As you may already know, I’m a xenophile. I absolutely love learning about different cultures, languages, and people! So, it’s no mystery that I grew up loving to read. Reading was (and still is) my gateway to other worlds and food for my ravenously curious mind. One series in particular that I enjoyed reading during my preteen years was “Sweet Valley High”, which focused on two blonde hair and blue-eyed twins named Jessica and Elizabeth. Sweet Valley HighI don’t recall encountering any girls or boys of color within those pages. Besides, the main focal point was on those two twins who were as different as night and day. I loved the often good plotlines. Looking back, some were silly and over-the-top dramatic!

But, come on. It was high school, right?

Yeah, I really did love reading. And when my mother noticed that there weren’t a lot of books that featured characters that looked like we did (dark brown skin) or even came from cultures like ours – (Caribbean/West Indies) she got worried. My mom’s a wise lady. She started giving me books by Mildred D. Taylor. When I got older, she moved onto introducing books with more complex issues. I cried while reading both Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye”. In my high school’s Honors Reading classes, we were assigned to read “Beloved” and to analyze the characters’ motivations. I had no problem realizing that Sethe couldn’t simply be written off as a villainous character. I was hooked! I continued reading the remainder of Mildred D. Taylor’s series about the Logan family’s struggles and accomplishments. beloved2Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Now, back to Myers’ quote. My mother saw a voracious need in me that I couldn’t see. She saw that I needed characters to relate to. Characters that I COULD relate to. Sure, following the antics between twin sisters is entertaining, but the world of Jessica and Elizabeth from Sweet Valley High was as real to me as Barbie in her Malibu home.

Cast so white -- wait, there's a few token nonwhites for good measure

Sweet Valley High cast so white — no, wait! There’s a few token nonwhites thrown in for good measure. 😉

A lot of my students, Latinos and African-Americans are turned off to reading at a young age, and who can blame them? When you analyze the fact and consider that there aren’t many books that reflect their people in a realistic and beautiful way the reasons aren’t so hidden or hard to understand. And let’s not forget authentic as one of the necessary characteristics for diverse books.

The publishing industry knows that people want more diverse books. The rise in Indie authors who circumnavigated the gatekeepers is testimony to that. However, these gatekeepers choose to give us these “gifts” in a manner that cheats us of good, authentic tales. For example, most diverse books that I’ve encountered and enjoyed reading are written by non-POC people (“Full Cicada Moon” and “Seraphina’s Promise”). Regarding “Seraphina’s Promise”, I wondered how different the story would have unfolded if it had come from a Haitian person’s point of view?

Also, both of these books are written in prose. I love poetry. I truly do. But why do these authors have to resort to writing such deliciously complex stories in prose? Did the editors or publishers think that boxing the story within the often pedantic poetic style  would somehow give the illusion that the stories were more . . . dare I use the word — authentic? Soulful? Real? Organic? That prose would magically inject these stories with a je ne sais quoi that often only people who have experienced can personally write. Think of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I find it hard to believe that a non-Black person could write that book with the same results. the color purplefull cicada moonSeraphina's Promise

Now, don’t get it twisted (as my students sometimes say). As a Black woman who has written about a 19th century, peach-skinned (well, when he’s been fed the right amount of blood) British vampire and aristocrat I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say that white women or men can’t write from the POV’s of nonwhite characters.

However, if the publishing industry thinks that this practice of exclusively having white people tell the stories of nonwhite characters is okay or is an answer to the desire for diverse books, then that’s ridiculous and needs to change.

Interesting quote

Revealing facts about the lack of diversity in literature.

 

 

It’s almost as if the publishing industry (which is a part of the “media“) want to keep the White Savior myth alive. For example, in the movie Hidden Figures, which tells the true story of three brilliant Black women who were the brains behind one of the greatest NASA operations in history, the director Theodore Melfi fabricated a scene for emotional effect that perpetuates the white savior myth perfectly. You can read more about it here.

White Savior

White Savior complex. Africa today. Asia tomorrow!

Readdressing Myers’ thought-provoking question: What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?

 

pecola breedlove.jpg

Pecola Breedlove of “The Bluest Eye” Learn more here.

The message isn’t a good one and any answers I have will most likely become another blog post. I live in a country that seems to embrace the message of diversity and inclusion when it suits itself.  I’m glad that there has been a rise in diverse books. I’m glad that untold stories and histories of all peoples are being shared. Now I have a question:

What took so damn long?