A few months ago, I was asked to participate in two anthologies. Each collection would be a combination of essays, poems, etc. in which authors shared their views on the 2016 election.
The Resistance: United in Love is the first of the two anthologies to be released. I’m quite proud of the project and all the authors involved. 100% of the proceeds are being donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. Not half, not a percentage, ALL. The next four years will be long, and the ACLU will need all of the financial assistance it can get.
Remember, human rights are civil rights.
As authors, we create art. We express frustration, joy, sadness, confusion, and love via the written word. We’ve chosen to add our voices to an ongoing conversation.
We hope you enjoy our anthology.
You can purchase a copy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06VTV1QR6
Add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34334151-the-resistance
Cool title huh?
LOL, I thought so.
So here’s the scoop, folks. If you’re here then you’ve discovered my new website. YAY! Isn’t it pretty? *twirls*
I thought about doing a formal announcement to let everyone know that after being lax for two years, I finally hired someone to build me a profesh website. I feel like an adult now. A legitimate writer, if you will! I’m blogging. I am a blogger. A long winded blogger but whatevz. Woooo!
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you know I’ve been on a social media hiatus since Feb 2. It had to happen. The election, the purging of the friends list, the nonsense of waking up daily to read awful headlines was all too much. My psychological well-being was taking uppercuts like Ronda Rousey in a UFC match. Not a pretty sight.
So I’ve tuned out. I won’t be returning to social media until March 1, but even then, my approach to social media will be different.
When I first started this author gig, I was super friendly. I’d friend any- and everyone. If I did a takeover, I’d encourage people to friend me. If I had a cover reveal or a blog tour, I’d encourage people to friend me. If folks followed me on Twitter, I automatically followed them back. BECAUSE I WANTED TO KNOW ALL THE PEOPLE. Damn social butterfly tendencies. I also wanted to be liked. Who doesn’t? When you’re a new author trying to establish a reader base, it’s best to cast your net wide. I don’t inundate people with promo advertisements (okay, I do when I have a new release, but we all do it). I don’t shove my books down people’s throats. I prefer they get to know me. If they get to know me then maybe they’ll be interested in what I write. If someone likes what you’ve written, you can only hope that they share their like (or dislike, because bad publicity is still publicity) of your work. And so on and so on. Word of mouth is the best marketing for an author.
The downside of likability is when you accept everyone into your world, you also get insight into the not-so-nice aspects of their personalities. Things were better when I lived in my bubble of EVERYONE IS WONDERFUL AND INCLUSIVE AND BUBBLEGUM SKITTLES GOODNESS. But sadly, those days are over. I’ve seen some nasty things shared in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I’ve seen people defend reprehensible things. And I decided enough is enough.
Moral character matters to me. I don’t write for a living (not yet anyway), so I get that not everyone can voice their dissent regarding what’s happening in our world. Authors have this fear that they’ll offend readers. You know what’s offensive to me? Wanting to deny someone’s basic civil rights.
- Health care is not a privilege; it is a right. Pre-existing conditions be damned. Class be damned. We are all entitled to adequate and equitable health care.
- The ability to marry the person you love should not be a privilege afforded to certain people, but a right. Love is love. You don’t agree with how someone chooses to live their life? Good! Because you don’t have to agree. That’s why we all get to exist in this world as individuals. Crazy concept, right?
- The freedom to practice the religion of the god(s) you follow should not be a privilege, but a right. You don’t have to agree with the god(s) someone chooses to worship, but you do have to respect their choice. You cannot judge the actions of a few and apply them to the many. If that were the case … Christianity, I’m looking at you, you deserve a time out! For centuries, religion has been used as a tool to justify heinous acts.
- The right to speak up and protest social injustices should not be afforded only when you agree with an issue. Our Constitution allows for peaceful assembly.
Speaking to my last point, while people may not enjoy KKK rallies happening in their cities, those involved in the KKK have the right to hold a march. If they have the proper permits, then march on.
If Black Lives Matter protesters hold rallies that highlight police brutality, that is their right, so march on.
Freedom of speech is a cool thing. People have the right to say whatever it is they want, but I also have the right to remove negativity from my life. But please, dear reader, understand that if an author you enjoy is outspoken and goes against the grain by saying something you find highly offensive, then you absolutely have the right to remove them from your life. You control the content you wish to view. You control who you want to read. You control who you allow into your life.
Social media does not change this.
A person should never feel obligated to remain where they don’t feel welcome or wanted. With that said, my circle has become a little smaller, and my readership has likely lessened. I’m holding things closer to the vest. And you know what? I think I’m going to be all right.
Authors get a bad rap when they speak out on social media. Let me rephrase that, authors get a bad rap when they talk about inclusiveness on social media. Too much “race talk” can be damaging to your brand. Too much “feminism” can be viewed as divisive. Somehow it’s now seen as a bad thing to defend civil liberties and promote equality. You’re automatically perceived as being “too liberal.” Wanting everyone to have a seat at the table is being too liberal? Being a decent human being is viewed as too liberal?
So you see why I’ve decided to tune out? I feel like I’m living in the upside down (Shout-out to Stranger Things).
To me, inclusiveness builds a better brand. You know why? Because it shows that every reader has the potential to be YOUR reader. You’re not targeting only a particular demographic. You’re casting a wide net that shows you understand our society is changing and you want to welcome everyone into the fold.
I need to keep reminding myself that it’s a good thing, because if you turn on the news nowadays, it becomes difficult to decipher what it takes to be considered “likable.” Is it being able to relate to a wide range of people? Or is it being exclusionary and targeting only a specific sect of the population to sell yourself?
Things that make you go hmm.
Don’t worry, while I’m tuning out I’m wrapping up manuscripts because I HAZ NEW RELEASES COMING SOON. I’ll be making appearances at conferences within the next few months, so I must be prepared to share new material. And swag. Oh, swag cometh.
By the time you read this post we will be a few weeks into 2017. Ah, the beauty of backlogging blog posts!
Goal 1: Read 50 Books
Outcome: Goal Obliterated
I wanted to recap my year by exclaiming my biggest accomplishment. I read 182 books in 2016!!!!!!!!! Yes. 182. Like a motherfucking boss! I’d never done the Goodreads Challenge before, so I was nervous about signing up. How could I possibly find the time to read? I signed up for 50 and figured if I read a bunch of books in January and February then it wouldn’t be too difficult to knock out the rest during the year. Well, LOL, I was right about that. I exceeded my goal and then some.
One thing I hated while publishing my first book was my inability to read. I was so busy promoting, networking, and writing I had no time for reading. 2014 was an exhausting year, and 2015 was just as crazy as I published three short stories. Short stories are not easy to write. It may seem like it, but trust me, they’re not. When you have insight into the behind-the-scenes aspects of self-publishing you quickly find out the “mundane” things you perceived as easy before becoming an author, actually involve a shit-ton of work.
I also made a discovery. When I cannot read, I am one cranky chick. I get stabby. It’s not pretty.
How did I go about solving my reading issue? Giving myself two months to pack in as many books as possible. That was one solution, but I also discovered that when I write, I need to read. It helps my creative process, and it’s relaxing. So I’d read during my commute to work, I’d read on the way home, and I’d read before bed. Squeezing in reading time throughout my day helped me achieve a good balance and it also helped me kick my Goodreads Challenge’s ass. I think 50 is a safe enough number and I’ll try to do it again in 2017. Will I surpass 182? I have a lot of research to do so it’s possible.
Goal 2: Publish an M/M romance
I started penning Complexity in August of 2015 during a business trip to Utah. I wrote half of the story on my flights. I took a break to read a highly anticipated release I was jonesin’ for, and boy was that a mistake for me. The book I read was by an author I adore, but it absolutely messed with my writing mojo. I was afraid people would make comparisons (aren’t most authors afraid of this?) “That Harper is totally biting X author’s style.” Yeah … no. DO NOT WANT.
After whining to my editor and crying drunkenly over phone calls and texts with author friends and my cover artist, I scrapped everything I had written and left the story alone. I was super depressed about it. It was the first time I let an outside force influence my writing. I took a break from the story to focus on my characters. I kept reading more books in the M/M genre hoping that it would help recapture my voice. Taking a step back from the manuscript was smart. It took some time, but I got my mojo back.
I think also worrying about how readers would perceive my story added to my anxiety. I was fully aware I’d lose some readership because a lot of M/F readers aren’t into crossing over into M/M romance and vice versa. There are some individuals who will read a story regardless of the protagonist’s sexuality, but I went into Complexity with eyes wide open. I couldn’t let others dictate what’s acceptable to write. When I have a vision, I’m going to see it through. In the process, I gained new readers. Yep! I gained readers who have since asked me if I intend to write more in the genre. That meant so much to me. So, so, so much. Manny wasn’t a well liked character, but I knew that’d be the case going in. People either loved him or hated him. A lot of that had to do with narrative. The story was written with Manny’s voice in mind, and that within itself was a potential turn off. LOL I don’t like to follow rules. One thing I can’t ever see myself doing is caving into pressure of how I should write characters because of the romance formula. I go where my muse takes me and hope people are on board to take the journey with me.
In conclusion, I gained new readers. I gained new author friends who were awesome during my research process. My confidence got a boost because a really cool thing happened from me publishing Complexity. I’ll talk more about that later. Maybe. Okay, I’m lying, I won’t talk about it at all. The suspense will just have to slowly kill you. Or not. Don’t die. Really, don’t, but I promise in the long run it will be worth the wait. Pinky swear.
Goal 3: Find My People
Outcome: A work in progress but it’s been very positive thus far
I entered this journey with a boatload of authors friends I knew prior to self-pubbing. I was either a fan of their work or had met them through my stint as an admin/PA for two indie authors. So I thought, what better way to gain insight into the book world than to tell people your plans and hope for the best. Many were eager to share their knowledge, read ARCs of my work, and spread the word about lil ole me via their social media channels. I can tell you that two years into this journey I don’t correspond with half of the authors I previously read and/or shot the shit with. This business changes people.
Just when you think you’ve found your tribe, you’re sorely mistaken. I had some rude awakenings in 2016. I understand why some people become standoffish in this business. People will use you if you let them. People will be petty if you let them. People will be hurtful if you let them. I won’t let them. The election also contributed to the thinning of the herd. When author buds/bloggers you held in high regard support an oppressive regime, there is no nice way to say “So um, yeah, you don’t think people of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA folks, and women should have basic human rights? Perhaps we shouldn’t be friends.” You just unfriend/unfollow, and in some cases, block and move on. There’s no differing of opinions or debating the issue. You move on. Full stop.
From the ashes of dead friendships, I found pieces of a tribe. I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference in March and met some of the nicest authors ever. It’s crazy when you fangirl over people whose books you have on your Kindle, and you finally get to meet them in person. I legit squealed! Some of those authors have been doing this publishing thing for some years. They were/are kind enough to share their knowledge. We’re still friends online, and I can easily send a message and ask for advice when I’m freaking out. They take the time out of their hectic writing schedules to respond. They support me. Both as a new indie author and as a woman of color author. I can’t wait to attend the 2017 conference in March and give all the hugs for being genuine champions for diverse voices. In 2016 I also joined the NYC Chapter of RWA, and I’m slowly adding more people to my tribe. Joining RWA has been amazing for me as a writer which brings me to my next goal/accomplishment.
Goal 4: Complete NaNoWriMo (someday)
Outcome: Crushed it
I had no intention of signing up for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t think I was ready. I didn’t think I had the mental capacity, but my RWA chapter helped me with that. Super duper shout-out to Alexis Daria and Kate McMurray. I planned to release two short stories at the end of the 2016, but LOL, that plan was quickly scrapped once I decided to do NaNoWriMo after our chapter meeting. NaNo was the most amazing experience ever. Well it was, until November 9th. The day after the election sucked out every single drop of my writing mojo. I could barely write 80 words a day when prior to the election I was completing between 2000-2300 words daily. I wasn’t about to give up, but writing was a struggle. How could I create a happily ever after for my characters when my future was uncertain? Good thing I don’t like losing. I was determined to cross the finish line, and I did it! The thing about NaNoWriMo is you have to write a story you want to write not a story you have to write. It makes the process go by so much faster when you’re giddy over your project and there’s no pressure to make sure you hit deadlines outside of the 30 days. I hit a little over 50,000 words, but my manuscript isn’t finished. I’ll finish the second half during CampNaNo in April. This project is near and dear to me, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
That’s about it for my 2016. The year was filled with unexpected mishaps, but I managed to recover. I can only hope that 2017 brings many more wonderful things. My plans are yuge. Yuge, I say. It’s going to be my year.