What I’m Reading: Laundry Man by Jake Needham

I recently turned to a Kindle book that was offered as a free download via Bookbub: Laundry Man by Jake Needham. I’ve had it for over a month, but since the Kindle app on my phone kept downloading it (multiple times) every time I opened the app, I figured I might as well read it so that the downloads would stop. ūüėÄ

 

Laundry Man Jake Needham

 

 

It’s interesting so far, but I’m not even 1/4 of the way through. The book is about an expatriate named Jack Shepherd, an international finance guru who has left the stress of¬†Corporate America in the United States¬†behind, ¬†to live in Thailand and teach at a university there. ¬†He gets a phone call from Buddy, a former friend and colleague whom he’d long thought of as dead–only to find out that this friend faked his own death to take advantage of a lucrative, yet unsavory, financial opportunity. When Buddy’s¬†opportunity is in jeopardy of going south due to missing funds–and the possibility of his real death looms–he turns to Jack and his financial expertise to get him out of the jam.

The book is set in Thailand, and so far Needham does a good job providing local color, as well as the perspective of an ex-pat. I am drawn into the story because I want to see how/if Jack can pull this off (even though his reluctance to get involved is clear), and also because I sense a double-cross or three on the horizon (I have my suspicious eye on three characters). The characters themselves are, thankfully, three-dimensional. The fact that the book is set in the financial world (albeit one primarily overseas, and specifically in Asia) is very interesting; I’ve grown weary of all of the Wall Street-oriented novels out there. ¬†Still, though Needham doesn’t bombard readers with financial terms, the ones he does include can make your eyes cross if you’re not used to the world of international banking and finance. Anyway, though I got the book free, it’s worth giving it a try¬†¬†so far.

Thanks for stopping by.

Where I’ve Been…

I have been MIA for a few days. Part of it is re-starting a fitness regiment (I’ve been walking 5.5 miles every other day…and at the age of 41, it takes me longer to recover. :D). Part of it is taking my grandmother to her doctor’s appointments (when you’re of a certain age, medical appointments can take up a significant part of your day). Most of it, though, is finishing the draft of a book that I decided to publish in November.

This was an impromptu decision, borne of the opinion of an old writing partner. He was giving me his critique of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles), which is on a very different level when coming from another writer. I addressed one of his critiques and suggested he would like one of the books I wrote years ago, which was a thriller/suspense novel and was edgier (he likes edge LOL).  I sent him the file, he read it in a few days and provided commentary, and ended with the suggestion that I should publish this.

It surprised me; this was one of the books that had made the rounds of the major publishing houses almost ten years ago, and which was subsequently rejected. I’dd gone over it since then, making some tweaks here and there, but the main character, Sebastian (formally introduced in The Camille Chronicles), wasn’t resonating on a level that let me know I was on the right track. So I saved it along with other finished and half-finished works, and kept it moving. Validation from a writing cohort, however (and all creatives crave validation :D), is different–especially one with whom I’ve recently reconnected after fifteen years or so, and whose opinion I trust.

So I ¬†got to work on the rewrite (which I talked about in a previous post), made some major changes (sidebar: I can see why it was rejected back then), and finished the draft. It is now in front of the Eyeballs, those trusted few who read the drafts of my manuscripts and give honest critiques. And, I can rest my mind for a few days before I get back to writing–although I have been writing part of an upcoming Bastille book in my head, so so much for resting my mind. ūüėÄ

I have to get ready for the Second Book Curse (more on that in a future post) in November, so I need to get cracking. Thanks for stopping by.

What I’m Reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth

I actually sat down and rented the movie Divergent, starting Shailene Woodley (the star of the TV show The Secret Life of the American Teenager). I was pleasantly surprised, and it made me dig the book (written by Veronica Roth) out of the vast repository that is my Kindle library, and re-read it.

Divergent_(book)_by_Veronica_Roth_US_Hardcover_2011

Divergent is set in a dystopian society, where people are divided into factions based on certain principles they deem important. The factions are Amity (caring), Erudite (knowledge), Dauntless (courage and bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), and Candor (honesty). In theory, all of these factions ensure a world where everyone has a place, and thus no need to start wars. When a child turns sixteen, they can choose which faction they wish to belong to in a formal ceremony: this means they can stay in the faction into which they were born, or they can go to another. Going to another faction is usually seen as an act of betrayal by one’s birth faction, and the phrase “faction before blood” ensures that those birth ties are all but severed if one goes to another faction. The main premise of the story is a girl Beatrice (“Tris”), who is born into the Abnegation faction, but has issues with the selflessness of the society. Plus, she’s always had a secret admiration for the Dauntless. When she undergoes testing to determine which faction is best suited to her personality, it is discovered that Tris¬†is DIvergent: she can fit in more than one faction, and it’s basically her choice. Divergents are hunted and killed because they are deemed dangerous to society: if one can’t be placed into a categorical box, then one can’t be controlled, and that’s dangerous. The book chronicles Beatrice’s transformation to Tris when she transfers to the Dauntless faction during her ceremony, and how she survives the faction initiation while hiding the fact that she is Divergent (the woman who administered her test, and Tris’s mother, both warn her that people will try to kill her if they know she is Divergent). She also comes to realize that Dauntless used to be structured in a more harmonious way, but recent interference by someone in another faction has transformed Dauntless into a warmongering bloodbath of a faction, a fact underscored by the reluctant but true leader of Dauntless, Four (who was once in Abnegation as well).

While this is a young adult book in the manner of Twilight (but minus all of the annoying teenage angst and vampires), it’s an interesting discourse on societal workings and how our society trains people to be one of the crowd–and how those who are different are treated. It’s a nice read, and a nice respite from all the drama going on in the news. Check it out for yourself.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Organic Flow: Rewriting vs. Revising

An old writing buddy graciously read a thriller/suspense manuscript I’d first written in 2005, and had only minimally updated since then (the last time was maybe a few years ago–I have so many drafts of it, I can’t tell). He actually liked this one better than my most recent release, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally referred to as The Camille Chronicles), so methinks I will clean it up and release it in November. The book focuses on a secondary character in The Camille Chronicles, so it won’t be that much of a stretch. In fact, this character is the focus of one of my very first manuscripts, which was shopped around major houses back in 2000 or so (and got rejected).

While going through the ¬†manuscript and noting my friend’s comments, I found that I didn’t feel that connection with the work. I tried, but the more I read through it, the more it didn’t work for me. I had no idea what it was that I was missing, or what was missing, but I knew that I couldn’t put a book out if I didn’t feel that visceral connection to the work.

Then I started rewriting it from scratch.

Seriously: I had the older version, with comments, open in one window and a blank document in another. And I wrote the story, but in the style that I write now. And it worked. I felt that connection, that vibe, that resonation in my middle section that always tells me “YES. This is it. This is the way to go.”

Perhaps I couldn’t connect to the old version of the story because I am no longer that writer. My world view, writing style, character perception, etc has changed within the past five, seven, ten years or so. I liken it to trying to fit into a pair of jeans I once wore in high school; cute jeans, but they no longer fit and to force myself into them would lead to ruin (of the jeans LOL). So it is with trying to fit my current writing self into an old writing style.

Now I’m happy when I work on this book, and that’s a good thing.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Weight of The Brand

I’ve been kicking around a post on branding, and how it’s affected me, but the draft I thought I’d saved is not there. This post isn’t flowing the way I’d like, but I’d better get it down before I forget the gist of what I want to say.

ANYway…

Not too long ago, I told a sorority sister on Facebook that she had built a brand without even realizing it, and that she needed to utilize this brand as she moved forward with writing and publishing her inspirational book. By virtue of her Facebook statues, she had created an association between her faith in God, the sorority, and her strong family ties.

Just the other day, I heard the COO of a nonprofit speak on branding , and how it was important for people to develop their personal brand. As an author,especially a self-published one, I see how true that is.

Branding goes beyond appearance. By dint of the nature of the job, most authors are pretty reclusive. We aren’t identified by what we wear (unless we look a hot mess at public book signings, in which case we will be known as “that author who can’t dress him/herself”), and prefer to be identified by what we write. Most authors who have come into their own have a signature style of writing, and avid readers can usually identify said writer (or a clone) just by reading a few passages. Few of us authors, however, give a lot of thought to how we are perceived overall. This is crucial for self-published authors to do.

We are in an increasingly visual society. It’s not enough anymore to write a good product. Now, more than ever, we need eye-catching book covers, thumbnails suitable for attachment in social media, a significant internet presence. Video is even becoming a must-have for some pages. The transparency afforded by social media means that authors can only be reclusive to a certain extent. Readers want to see you, hear you, know who you are before they pick up your book.

So who are you? What do you want the world to think when they hear your name, your publishing company, see your face? It’s sad to say but once you have put yourself out there as a public figure, EVERYTHING you say can and will be used against you. This is doubly true for current local and world events. While readers primarily pick up your book for entertainment (if you are a fiction writer), or edification on a specific subject (if you are a nonfiction writer), they will be paying attention if you are seen to take a stand (or not) on something other than publishing-related issues (e.g. Amazon/Hatchette).¬†I’ve found that even on my personal Facebook page, I have tempered my normal “I say what I want, it’s my page” speech laissez-faire. Yes, most of the people on my personal page are friends and acquaintances, but they are also readers, and readers talk to other readers. And, on the business end of publishing, my job at the end of the day is to sell books. While I will not curtail my sentiments for the sake of selling a book, I can temper the way I say them. I do this with the understanding that some people will or will not read my books for whatever reason, regardless of what comes out of my mouth/keyboard. Still, for those who are willing to purchase my books, there is no need for me to deliberately antagonize them. In contrast, I keep my public fan page clean, as well as my “formal” FB account.

Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s maturity, wisdom, or business sense that makes me pause at the keyboard. I do know that it can become wearying to self-censor. However, that’s the price to be paid for entering the public arena.

Thanks for stopping by.

What It Look Like? Seeing Ourselves (?) in Literature

I’ve gotten comments from those who have read The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles)¬†about how they like the fact that I’ve written my characters in a way that their race wasn’t obvious; in fact, one can insert any race, ethnicity, or combination thereof, and it wouldn’t detract from the story.

That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish, and it’s good that I’ve accomplished that goal.

I’ve always said that I consider myself an author who happens to be black, rather than a black author (oh, wait…you didn’t know I was black? LOL I personally don’t use the term African American, but that’s another post for another day, and on a different forum. But I digress.). When I was jonesing for a contract with a major publishing house, over a decade ago, one of the more discouraging comments I heard during my rejection process was that “the ¬†numbers show that black people didn’t read” the thriller/suspense novel my then-literary agent was shopping around. I resented the fact that my book would only marketed to black people, when my story was beyond that. No disrespect to my people, but my goal as a writer was not to limit my writing based on race and/or ethnicity. This is further compacted by the assumption that every black author writes a “black” book (whatever that means, although it’s usually code for either an urban/street fiction novel, a church-based book, or a sistagirl novel a la Terry McMillan–which is what “the numbers” *rolling eyes* allegedly show that these are the books that black people only read). I was hesitant to put my picture on the cover because I didn’t want potential readers to see it and think, “Oh, this is a black book, and I’m not black, so I probably shouldn’t read it as I wouldn’t understand it, or I probably wouldn’t see ¬†myself in the story–literally and figuratively.” But I also didn’t want someone else showing up and passing themselves off as me, so…the pic stayed. ūüėÄ

That sentiment had a large part in the cover design as well. I’d originally thought of something along the lines of what is normally seen on a romance book cover–namely, two people who may or may not be in the throes of passion, significant looks, etc. ¬†The wonderful graphic artist who ended up doing my cover, John of AdLib Design, mentioned that as a reader, he liked to form his own opinion on how a character looked (or not) based on how s/he was described in the context of the story. To that end, we agreed on using symbolism instead of people on the cover. The feedback on the cover has been very positive, so I’m going to continue the symbolism going forward in the rest of the series. Which is cool, because I have to make sure that each book has a symbol-friendly hook to it, usually in the guise of a significant hobby or activity.

A good story is a good story. I like Maeve Binchy novels, but I am not white, and I have never set foot in Ireland. Her stories, though, are touching and I relate to them. I hope that other readers are willing to give me the same benefit of the doubt and at least try what I’m offering. I’m not saying my writing will transcend race (which is a phrase that irritates me, BTW), but will at least form a common ground for my readers.

Thanks for stopping by.

Take It to the Bridge: On Joining Two Book Series

While working on (what I plan to be) the next book in the Bastille Family Chronicles series, one of the other characters started chattering away in my brain, so I had to block out her story.

[Only writers can get away with phrases like, “I heard the character(s) speaking in my head”. For anyone else, that could mean a one-way ticket to a psych ward. Even with writers, such phrases are not to be whispered too loudly, or in mixed company, lest we meet the same fate. :)]

Oddly enough, this character’s story is shaping up to intersect with a character who was first introduced in Camille Bastille’s story (The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille). In fact, said character has his own books, which may or may not see the light of day (they need to be reworked, and may be best as a collection of short stories because of how I’ve written this character. Stay tuned). ¬†So now I’m faced with a slight dilemma: how to (or should I ) write this Bastille novel as a “bridge” novel, in which I’ll be connecting two different book series. To add to the irony, my draft of yet another Bastille novel could be a bridge novel as well.

With series, I’m presenting stories from the points of view of the characters within that series. If I do bridge novels, I’ll have to work it so that the points of view of both seminal characters are presented in a way that not only reflects the “bridge” aspect, but also align with the tone of their respective book series.

Like writing isn’t hard enough.

Then there’s the risk of exposing another series too soon into this current Bastille Family series; I don’t want my readers and potential readers to get too confused at this point. Even Laurell K. Hamilton didn’t introduce her Meredith Gentry series until she was about nine books into her Anita Blake series.

Anyway, I’ll figure it out soon enough, especially if my readers decide that this story (instead of the one I’d planned) is the one they want to see next.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Older Entries