Tag Archives: writers blog

The R-Word

I came across a blog post I want to share with you. It was written by the University Chaplain at the University of Indianapolis and he discusses the R-word that has been thrown about a lot over the past week.

 

Racism.

 

You can thank two guys for that trending topic: Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Some of the comments these gentlemen made were ridiculous and I could only marvel at the contradictions and misguided ‘truths’ they hold to. They gave me a good laugh.

 

While Mr. Bundy was railing against the government about paying overdue grazing fees on disputed land, he opined that African-Americans had better family lives during slavery and wondered if blacks were better off picking cotton. First, how that correlated with fees and land disputes is beyond me. Second, I assume he’s unaware it was common practice to rip apart slave families by selling family members and children to the highest bidder. Because I’m sure that does wonders for a family life. And who knows? Slavery might have been a day at the spa. The slaves probably had plantation stock options, paid vacation, and wellness rooms. Those old 1800’s pictures of barefoot slaves wearing tattered clothing and miserable expressions? They must’ve been photo-shopped to hide how wonderful life was—before that dang Abraham Lincoln messed everything up.

 

Mr. Bundy is probably glad that Donald Sterling opened his mouth to take the spotlight off him for a few minutes. In a recorded conversation, Mr. Sterling allegedly told his half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend that he didn’t want black folks attending his games. Perhaps he thinks they’ll talk too loud during the show and disturb the other twenty thousand people yelling and shouting obscenities like normal people do. Of course, he has no problem paying millions to black guys to play for him.

Look, the guy can do what he wants. It’s his team. He doesn’t need to worry about me buying a ticket. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I thought he was a shrewd businessman. Have you seen ticket prices for good seats at sporting events these days? They are astronomical. So black folks want to come in to make him richer—and he wants to turn them away? Especially if they’re coming to see the same black guys that he paid millions to play for him? If a Klansman decided to make Partners in Crime the Book of the Month for his Ku Klux Klan book club, I wouldn’t care. I’m not going Donald Sterling on anyone. Especially if they’re buying lots of books. I’m certainly not giving back the money. I’d probably use it to present a check to the UNCF on behalf of the Klan to see what happens (dang it, I bet I just lost that reader demographic).

 

Borrowed from www.dumpaday.com funny pictures

Borrowed from http://www.dumpaday.com funny pictures

So are these guys really racist? I’ve read opinions and viewpoints that question whether the feelings of Mr. Bundy and Mr. Sterling are based in racism. As an African-American male, my view of what constitutes racism is different from those who never experience it. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that people who don’t experience racism simply have a hard time seeing it unless it’s something terribly obvious like a violent hate crime. Usually, it is more subtle than that.

Other viewpoints acknowledge that they are racist, but since they grew up in different times, we should expect it and give them a pass. However, there are plenty of people who grew up in the same era and don’t feel the same way. As human beings, we have the potential to grow and evolve. In 2014, it is almost impossible to not be exposed to a diverse array of people making positive contributions to society. Especially in Donald Sterling’s case. So if he still harbors those beliefs, it is because he chooses to, not because he grew up in a different time and is automatically set in his ways. However, there is one thing I can say about these two. They are open and honest in their views. I wish all people feeling that way would be as up front about it. The ones who keep it hidden are much harder to detect.

Anyway, take a look at this post from Rev. Jeremiah Gibbs. I think it gives great insight on the subject and how recent events with his adopted son caused him to think differently about it.

Let’s get the Blog Hop started…my Writing Process

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I love to write.

 

I love the process of editing and watching my writing get better. I’ve been writing short stories since I was a child. Creating characters and situations out of thin air has always been something that’s been easy for me, and each time I write, I feel I’m honing and perfecting this craft. So when Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell, Attorney-CPA, Author, Mentor, and Editor-in-Chief of BOLD magazine asked me to do a Blog Hop, I jumped at it!

 

So what’s a Blog Hop?   It’s a way to provide you and three of your friends or respected peers some great publicity by sharing your insight and experiences. The blog hop consists of 4 questions (answered below). One person answers them in his blog, and introduces three people who are ‘assigned’ to answer the questions the following week. Each of those three people mentions who added him or her to the blog hop, answer the questions, and find three others to continue the cycle. It’s a great way to expand your circle.

 

So without further ado, let me present to you the lady who invited me to this Blog Hop…the future Oprah, Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell!

Lynita Blackwell

Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell, an Attorney & CPA, is the Chief Leadership Officer of The Leading Through Living Community, a personal and professional development organization that encourages, equips, and champions people to be successful members of and leaders for their communities, in their professions, and personally. LTLC accomplishes this through individual coaching, workshops, and on-going support and opportunity identification. Lynita is also author of Leading Through Living: A Guide for Women Seeking Growth Through Leadership, a “mentor in your pocket” for women seeking practical advice to personal and professional advancement; and Editor-in-Chief of BOLD Magazine. Visit Lynita online at www.LynitaMitchellBlackwell.com or www.LeadingThroughLiving.com.

 

Okay, now on to answering my 4 Big Questions:

 

1) What am I working on?

  • There’s always something! In addition to blogging and building awareness for my first fiction novel Partners in Crime, I’m busy outlining my second novel. It is the next installment in my series of murder mysteries featuring Atlanta Homicide Investigator Jeff Strickland. My goal is to finish the first draft of the manuscript by September. This will probably take me another 2-3 weeks, as I gather research, lay out scenes and character arcs, and uncover potential directions that the premise is capable of following. For those looking to outline their works of fiction, I recommend this book.

 

2)  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

  • I’ve been told that my writing is descriptive, suspenseful, and gritty. It evokes strong emotions in certain scenes, but is balanced with a dry sense of humor at the right times. I definitely don’t want to be “Hollywood”. I want realism. I want the characters to deal with things that some fans of crime shows or books may not think about.
  • For example, few police departments have their own crime labs capable of conducting complex forensic tests. Many resort to using a private or state lab. Some state labs handle the complex forensic tests for every police department in their states. So what happens if the state places a quantity limit of only 10 or 12 items to test for each homicide case? And what if a crime scene is littered with hundreds of commonplace things that may or may not be evidence? Which ones does a detective choose, knowing that anything could be a critical clue? I highlighted those real-life scenarios in Partners In Crime.

 

3) Why do I write what I write?  

  • I’ve enjoyed writing since I was six. My mother grounded me quite often as a child (I was usually up to no good), and since I had no luxuries like PlayStation or the internet back then, I entertained myself by writing stories or reading the classics in my mother’s small library. After devouring every Sherlock Holmes story, I began to enjoy reading about true crime, forensic investigations, behavioral profiling, etc.
  • I decided to write about a homicide detective after a close relative was murdered. The angst and stress it caused my family was palpable. We peppered the detectives with questions, demanding status updates on the progress of the investigation. I was engrossed in how the detectives strategized and worked our case to find and arrest the killer. When I decided to write Partners In Crime, I wanted to focus on the real-life setbacks and emotions that both the victim’s loved ones and detectives go through.

 

4) How does your writing process work?

  • To get into my zone, I need my noise-cancelling headphones, a fully-charged MP3 player, and a Starbucks. I can concentrate there despite being surrounded by activity. Writing at home is harder. I have a comfortable recliner, a flat-screen internet-connected TV, and a huge collection of blu-rays, so I’m easily distracted at home. A Starbucks is best for me. A library is a close second.
  • Once I have the location down, my writing process depends on where I am in my writing. As I mentioned above, I’m working on outlining my book, which is something I didn’t do for Partners In Crime. The outline isn’t set in stone; it’s great for guiding me along but if one of my characters ‘speaks’ to me and goes in an unplanned direction, I let it happen and see where it takes me. I’ve learned not to edit until I have finished the first draft of the entire manuscript. Otherwise, I will never finish the book because I’m constantly driven to edit the second after I type the words. That is a terribly inefficient way to write, which is why it took me years to do my first one. The second one will take only a fraction of the time.

So that concludes the answers to my Big 4 Questions! Now it is time to introduce the next three thought leaders, up-and-coming writers, and all around good people who will carry the torch and keep this Blog Hop moving! Here are Jewel Brodie, Kathryn McClatchy, and C. Edward Baldwin…

 

 Jewel Brodie

Jewel Brodie is a certified Life Purpose Coach® from the Life Purpose Coaching Centers International. Jewel is also the Owner of an independent Life Coaching Business called The Gem in You, which was created to help women achieve personal goals, accomplish career ambitions, and identify their unique purpose in life. Through one-on-one discussions, mentoring and coaching, Jewel seeks to assist women in discovering the many gems that often remain hidden from society. For more information about Jewel Brodie, visit  http://www.thegeminyou.com

 

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Kathryn McClatchy has been reading and dreaming of writing novels since before she can remember. Writing was a large part of her first jobs in the newspaper and marketing industries. After her sons started school, Kathryn returned to college, pursuing a Master of Arts in English. She also learned that she loved teaching, and went on to teach Composition and British Literature at Texas Woman’s University, Richland College, and Lakeview Centennial High School. She has been published in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. At thirty-seven, Kathryn suffered a number of strokes and had to relearn almost everything, including reading and writing. After being disabled by the strokes, she decided to pursue her dream of writing a novel. To learn more about Kathryn see her blog at http://kathrynmcclatchy.com/

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After spending nearly twenty years in the insurance industry investigating insurance claims and hearing some of the wildest tales imaginable, C. Edward Baldwin decided to immerse himself wholeheartedly in the realm of make-believe. His debut novel is Fathers House. Baldwin earned a BA degree in Communications from North Carolina A&T State University and a MA degree in English from East Carolina University. He and his wife Natasha are the proud parents of two boys. You can read his blog here at: https://cedwardbaldwinblog.wordpress.com/

I’ve got 99 problems…and book publicity is one of them

Being a writer is rewarding, exhausting, and sobering. Particularly if you’ve recently published your first book and are trying to make a name for yourself. That means you get to experience the wonderful world of book promotion. You get to try a million suggestions (which everyone will have) to find those fleeting moments of joy when you get a positive review or sell a book. You get to learn what works and what doesn’t. And as I go through these growing pains, I’m happy to share the lessons I learn with you.

 

In my ongoing quest for book publicity, I participated in the 2014 Dallas Book Festival a few days ago and purchased an author booth. It was my first time being an author at a festival, so I was hyped! I had my table set up, my books and marketing materials stacked neatly, and a gatorboard poster of my book cover displayed. I was ready to sell millions of books!

 

I fell a bit short of that goal. I sold THREE books (and I thank those wonderful readers who bought them). In fact, those three might have qualified as one of the top sellers at that festival. All famous authors had to start somewhere, right? I guess I’m moving in the right direction.

One of the great readers who helped me make enough money to pay for parking

One of the great readers who helped me make enough money to pay for parking

 

In addition to earning enough to buy three-quarters of a tank of gas, I learned some things that might have me better prepared for my next festival. If you plan to sell books at a festival to create publicity, maybe this will help you as well.

 

Understand the venue

If you want to meet local readers and support your community, a small festival is great. If you don’t care about all that and just want to sell lots of books, you’ll need a bigger one. The Dallas Festival was small and it wasn’t promoted very well. The author section was on the 2nd floor of a library, away from ground floor traffic, and with space for about ten or twelve tables. Some people on the first floor didn’t even know we were up there. Meanwhile, the bigger festivals can accommodate well over a hundred authors and they have promotional budgets to spread the word. Of course, the registration fees can be several hundred dollars (versus the $40 for Dallas), so you get what you pay for.

 

Hold reasonable expectations

One author at the Dallas festival had traveled from another country to participate. He didn’t sell one book. So unless you have lots of book-buying friends, you’re a well-known author, or you’ve got one of the big publishing houses advertising you, don’t expect to recoup your expenses for events like these. In fact, don’t even bother wasting time calculating how many sold books you need to offset the cost of traveling, registration fees, shipping books back and forth, etc. You won’t see a return on that money for a long time. Just think of it as building awareness for future books. At least most of it is tax-deductible.

 

Stand frequently and greet everyone

Don’t sit at your table all day. Stand up for a while. Greet people. This makes you approachable, making it easier to sell your book. On the flip side, you have to learn when to cut off certain people. Practice excusing yourself tactfully, because you’ll run across people who just want to talk all day. You’d think otherwise, considering it’s a book festival, but some attendees will have no intention of buying books. They are there to people-watch and talk. At the Dallas festival, I seemingly attracted people who stood at my table for what seemed like hours, telling me unsolicited details about things like their marriage and sex life. They didn’t seem to catch on that I had no interest, nor did they seem to care that I was trying to greet people behind them–people who looked like they would actually buy a book.

 

(Public Service Announcement: if you are a reader attending a book festival, don’t monopolize the writer’s time when other people are trying to check out their booths. Especially if you aren’t buying anything! If you want to chat, grab their contact information and email or call them later. Or simply step aside while they introduce themselves to another guest, and continue the conversation when the coast is clear.)

 

All in all, the festival was a great learning experience. I had fun meeting other authors and swapping stories about our experiences and the strange people we met. I still have my 99 problems as I continue this journey, but I’m having fun doing it.

 

Maybe my 100th problem is that I’m crazy enough to keep doing this mess.

When an agent ridicules your manuscript

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What do you do when an agent laughs at your manuscript and says it’s awful?

 

A.     Cry

B.     Beg her to read it again

C.     Throw a brick at her

D.     Learn from it and vow that one day, you’ll have the last laugh

 

This happened to me at a writer’s conference years ago. Well, not just to me. It happened to a lot of writers at that conference. We signed up for pitch sessions and critiques, where literary agents and editors reviewed samples of our manuscripts.

These sessions are similar to job fairs, but can be worse. Imagine a job recruiter saying he wouldn’t use your resume for toilet paper and that you’ll never find a job. A critique session can be a literary version of American Idol—you can find “judges” who are compassionate human beings or sadistic monsters who love crushing your dreams with brute force.

For my session, I submitted sample chapters of my novel Partners In Crime. It was a new experience for me, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, the agent I selected really let me have it. As she flipped through the pages and laughed while telling me everything that was wrong with it, my first instinct was to ask a female friend to do a Jet Li move and drop kick her across the table (after all, I won’t hit a lady).

However, I forced myself to listen. As much as her words hurt, I refused to curse her, like some other authors did that day with their reviewers. Some even cried. Of course, not all sessions were bad. Some agents/editors gave glowing reviews and two writers walked away from the conference that day with book contracts.

Obviously, I wasn’t one of them. Instead, I chose Option D above. I learned from it. Now, I don’t even care about having that last laugh. I’m just busy improving my craft. So if you ever plan to have your written work evaluated, keep these things in mind:


Beware destructive critics

  • They’re also known as haters. They love to critique everyone’s work and point out what they didn’t like or what they would change. Rarely do they point out good things. You can’t please them. Of course, they’ll never submit their own work for critique. They don’t want to taste their own medicine.

 

Beware the lovey-dovey critics

  • These people are on the opposite end from the haters. These folks think that even a grocery receipt is a beautiful story that encapsulates the struggles, triumphs, and endearing passion of the human spirit. They’ll definitely think your writing will be an immediate international bestseller. As tempting as it may be, don’t seek them for advice. While it’s nice to hear their kind words, it’s hard to take them seriously, especially if they can’t give concrete reasons or examples WHY they love it. It may be that they just love you and not necessarily your work. Or perhaps you can’t handle rejection or criticism well and they’re avoiding the drama that comes with being honest with you. If that’s you, learn to accept criticism. You’ll never get better without it.

 

Appreciate the constructive, objective critics

  • This isn’t easy. Even today, I cringe a little when people critique my writing. I poured my heart into my book, and like every writer, I want people to love it and say it’s an awesome book. But I have to come back to reality. Every author can improve. Read Amazon reviews for best sellers; you’ll find readers trashing novels like the Da Vinci code, which only sold, oh, a billion copies. Even the bestselling book of all time, the Bible, has denouncers. What hope does anyone have of writing a perfect book?
  • So hold on to these valuable people who offer objective, constructive feedback, even when they say they don’t like something. They are worth more than gold.

Still, take the nuggets from scathing critiques

  • Even though I hated sitting in front of that agent that fall day in Los Angeles, I had to admit she had valid points. Although her tact and delivery could’ve been softened, and even though she was meaner than the worst of the aforementioned haters, she pointed out things I had to work on if I wanted to publish a murder mystery series one day. I just had to swallow my pride and listen.

 

The point? Do the best you can. Don’t let someone ruin your dream and never change your work just to please someone who didn’t like it. That’s not to say there may not be a valid point in what is said. You have to be objective and decide if it’s worthy feedback. But if you’ve done your hard work and put together the best product you can, I promise you that more people will love it than not!