Black Lives Still Matter

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Me in Washington Park, Albany NY (Tulip Fest 2015)

Me in Washington Park, Albany NY (Tulip Fest 2015)

I am on a short vacation to visit mom in Connecticut. I need this time off, more than you know, and I thought it would be nice to see her for Mother’s Day. It’s been a busy few days, but enjoyable. Yesterday me, mom, and baby took a trip to Albany, NY for the Tulip Festival in Washington Park. They crowned the Tulip Queen, who, if I recall, will go on to head a literacy campaign and other interesting socially conscious stuff, along with her court. The mayor was there. Lots of vendors, with cool, interesting and frivolous wares for sale, food for which you want to take a laxative to get out of your system, thousands of gorgeous tulips, sun and hot and general happiness, a little lake where you could sit under trees and catch a breeze, adult beverages, people with kids in strollers, live music… It was nice.

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There were also a couple of small but significant (at least to me) protests.

Just as the Tulip Queen was about to be announced a group of about 20 folks stepped forward to shout “Black Lives Matter!” They did this for about five minutes and moved along. This thrilled me. I mean, isn’t that a thing to be proud of? In the midst of tulip queen crowning there are still people who want to come out and remind us of the things that are truly important to the country and world at large. The Tulip crowning is important in the city of Albany, part of its Dutch heritage, and a vehicle for service for the young woman crowned, but there are things even larger than this. The brutality that young black men encounter on a day to day basis is enormous and tragic. Though the spotlight shines brightly on this issue now, it isn’t nearly bright enough, and it isn’t new. Modern tech has been said to make slaves of us, but I say it is a Godsend. There are few things more beautiful than a camera phone.

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Later, as me and family strolled through Washington Park, I saw a group of elderly white folks also taking a stand for Black Lives. This struck me harder and deeper than even the first protest. I had to stop, take a picture or five or six, give them my thanks and a thumbs up. I know there are good people out there, but we (and by we, I mean, I) often expect the old guard to be out of step with current issues of race. Especially the old white guard. This is an erroneous concept, at least in part.

After this, I was stopped by the local press. Well, a man with a camera and a mic. “Can I ask you a few questions about what you saw over there (referring to the Black Lives Matter protest)?”

“Sure,” I told him. I’m sure he saw me and thought, this lady is a fortune in diversity. And, you know what? I’m happy to be.

He asked me what I thought of the protest. And also, “Have you ever experienced racism?”

Mwa-ha-ha-ha! That was the jackpot question of the day. And a slightly stupid one, if I may say. I’m African-American, I’m Muslim, and I’m a woman.

Have I ever experienced racism? Take a guess.

It’s easy to get caught up in our day to day busy. Our day to day busy quickly and easily becomes more important to us than the huge things that are happening out there in the world. Our car trouble, or the fact that we need to pick up eggs and milk for tomorrow’s breakfast, or the coffee stain on our work shirt, is eminently more pressing than say, the plight of the Palestinians, or hungry children in our own country, or the sexism women face in the workplace, or the lives of black men that are being stolen wholesale by the very people employed to protect and serve them.

This all made me think about a brief but very meaningful Twitter convo I had with a few friends recently about what it means to be an allie. Admittedly none of us had all of the answers, but I can say this. Being an allie is more than lip service. Being an allie is standing outside in the heat, holding up signs in silent protest, when everyone else is walking around drinking gallon size mugs of lemon aid. Being an allie is taking a chance at ruining everyone else’s good time to remind them that dammit, there are lives at risk out there and that it affects us ALL even though it may seem like it doesn’t. Being an allie is taking time out of your day to stand in the midst of a Tulip Festival only to be ignored and overlooked by everyone else. Except me.

#BlackLivesMatter

Still.

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT

In A Year

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Last year about this time my writing started to drag.

It was a lot of things. The weather. Loss of confidence. Lack of direction. Perfectionism that managed to freeze me to the spot. The result was half a dozen incomplete projects and ideas for projects that I never started.

In about March or April I decided to take a class, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post. I also decided to dedicate the next year (at least) to perfecting short story writing. About seven months have passed and I am nowhere near perfect. Heck, I am nowhere near having a clue about what I am doing, in my estimation, but I am working hard on my writing and I have had some successes.

I have had a few rewrite requests. They’re not exactly sales but they are hopeful and proof that I am on the right track.

I have started reading slush for Escape Pod. I am particularly giddy about this as I’ve been listening to EP for 2-3 years now and never in a million years did I think I would be on the inside.

I’ve managed to complete 5 short stories.

I’ve made my first pro sale to An Alphabet of Embers anthology which should be released in May 2015.

I’ve met several wonderful writers that I now consider friends. They offer support, grease for my ego, and guidance when I need it.

I am in a new class now, with Daniel Jose Older. This is has been a blast so far. And I am learning lots. I am sopping up his writing genius with my biscuit brain. 🙂

And I’ve got plans for next year. I want to double my count of completed short stories. That means at least 10 complete stories by the end of the year. And I want to sell at least two more stories in the coming year. Come on friends, cheer me on.

As for writing, this has been a very good year.

 

 

Why My Book is Free and Writing and Reviewing With Integrity

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AUW_ebook_1875x2500_72dpiAbout every 9-12 months I feel the need to rejuvenate my writing and my writing goals. I reached that breaking/building point about a month ago. I realized that while I’ve been writing, none of it was coherent, connected, or progressive with regarding to developing my craft or my career as an independent author. I made some promises to myself about what I wanted do. I said these things out loud, which I believe will press me to be accountable, and I’ve set deadlines, so that I will be accountable to myself.

I believe that deadlines are essential.

One of the things that I have decided to do is join the Story Cartel program, wherein I offer my book, An  Unproductive Woman, for free for a period of about three weeks. Each reader who reviews my book is automatically entered into a drawing for the chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. StoryCartel will choose the three winners. I first heard about this relatively new program via a newsletter and then later in a podcast by K.M. Weiland (http://www.kmweiland.com/wp-content/podcast/storycartel.mp3). K.M. Weiland placed her new book in this program as part of her new book launch to drum up interest and fresh reviews.

Before making the decision to try out Story Cartel, my intention was to lower the price of AUW on Amazon, open it up on other outlets and then forget it existed. But, I started to think about my WIP and what I would need to accomplish to do a reasonably professional publication and launch. As cheap and easy as self-publishing is, some of these tasks will cost money. I am guesstimating I will spend about $600 to $1000 in the process. This will cover the cost of an editor and a cover artist and possibly someone to format my WIP for Kindle. (I formatted AUW for eBook myself but it wasn’t fun and I’d rather not do it again.)

My hope? That I will make a few dollars on my current novel and use those proceeds to fund my current WIP. I’m hoping that more reviews will make this happen for me. Hoping.

I’ve made AUW free on Amazon before via their KDP program, and I have given away many free copies as well. I have a nice number of reviews (totaling 45 prior to Story Cartel) but I was hoping that if I can manage to double those reviews I’ll light up within Amazon’s complicated system of algorithms and garner more attention and possibly more sales. Also I will have access to the email addresses of all of the people who have signed up to download, read and review my book. They can be added to my newsletter list for my next book launch. It is a win-win situation.

I think that most of us know why honest reviews are important, especially as a self-published author. Though our situation has improved over recent years, many readers still have the sneaking suspicion that our writing will be sub-par. In truth, it sometimes is.  But sometimes it is not. Sometimes our writing and our stories are phenomenal and just as good as any traditionally published author, which brings me to the topic of writing with integrity.

This morning I saw a call-out on Goodreads wherein one member  offered book reviews for five dollars each. She stated that all one has to do is send her a synopsis of the book and the five dollars in exchange for her review. While not surprised, I am ecstatic to see that everyone who responded to this call-out, called this person out for attempting to offer such a dishonest service. Kudos indie authors! Keep living and writing with integrity.

So, this is why my book is currently free. Please put the word out on my behalf. Tell anyone you believe might be interested in a good free book. Check me out at StoryCartel, http://storycartel.com/books/464/an-unproductive-woman/. Click the link and tweet about it or post it to your G+ or Facebook. This indie author would appreciate your support.

What do you think about paying for fake reviews?

Is there ever room for them?

Would you respect or read an author you knew had received fake reviews?

What do you think of authors who review their own books?

I would love to know what you think.