Monday, July 28, 2014

Word Seasoning

You might've come across a book with some out of the box metaphors and similes. I'm currently reading The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan. This book makes me so happy. The characters' voices are kinda badass. I can't help highlighting lines.
"Ringil manufactured a smile of his own- it felt like an obscenity as it crawled across his face, it felt like a wound." 
"The rage stormed the other man's face again, and this time it held its ground." 
Awesome. I'd love to write like that. For my current book, Chains of the Sciell, I have two characters who talk like that- Aliceanna Carlton and Vayle Slaughter.

I love these characters, but editing their chapters takes forever. I go over them once to see what I'm dealing with. I let the story sit for a couple of hours while I think about it. Then, I go back and really dig in. Sometimes, I'll stare at a paragraph, tweaking it until I come up with something I'm satisfied with.

Here are some of my favorites:
"The voice glazed more smut over her soiled insides."

"Slugs burping slime out their back ends had become her blood."

"Why did human females crawl all over him like leeches? He’d smile and they'd melt as though he’d given them a long hard knocking between the legs."
To come up with some badass description, you'll need to:

A lot. You'll need to collect examples of the types of descriptions you like. They'll be in your head so you can spit them out when you're writing. You know those moments when you use a "big" word correctly and you have no idea how you knew what that word meant. Inhaling witty language produces the same results. Most of the time, you won't know if the story has the language you want until you start reading.

Make friends with the thesaurus
We already have a thesaurus in easy reach or bookmarked. My favorite is I always marvel at sentences like the ones from The Steel Remains. Most characters don't "manufacture" smiles. I always wonder how authors think of those lines. I consult a thesaurus the most when I'm in Aliceanna and Vayle's heads. This is one of the reasons writing their chapters takes so long.

One of the reasons lines like the ones from The Steel Remains have so much impact is because I don't come across them in every sentence. My characters' descriptions get creative in emotionally charged situations, usually when they're pissed, or when they're interacting with a certain character.  For instance, Vayle has a habit of insulting another character, but he never talks like that with anyone else.

Turning every sentence into a metaphor and simile stew will take forever. Reading it will feel like an English Lit assignment. Write the chapter without all the creative wording. As you edit it, feel it out. If you think a sentence needs a little word seasoning, go for it. If you think a sentence is fine the way it is, leave it alone. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Creating Fantasy Plants

In a previous post, I talked how in Chains of the Sciell: Book 2 of The Merging Worlds Trilogy, some people have left larger cities to form communities off the grid. I've established how these new communities are possible, what most of them look like and what their daily life is like.

Now, I need plants.

Living off the grid means people no longer have access to hospitals or corner stores. How do they treat illness and injuries? What happens if someone gets a headache or stomach pain? There's no Advil. How do they season food? They can't go to the grocery store and stock up on rosemary and garlic.

At first, I started researching herbal remedies.Then, I thought about it. This is fantasy. I don't need to rely entirely on established plants. I can't really since my books take place in a world different from ours. For seasonings, I just make words up until it sounds like something. Not make something up all together. The herbs and spices are related to places.
"Fire roasted lamb seasoned with garlic, flewlling herbs and pall pepper. Rice cooked in chicken and onion broth. Ena peas with small bits of pork"
You might already have areas named. A way to create a new plant is to attach a place to something ordinary to create, for example, dija grass.
Originally from the Dijain forest in the south of Terian, these thin green herbs sprinkled on any dish adds a subtle sweetness to it.

It does help to have a working knowledge of actual herbs and spices. I know how to cook, so that helps a lot. If you don't know how to cook, consider taking a class or asking a friend to teach you. Also, try a Google search for "herbs and spices".

Green Cuisine: A to Z of Herbs & Spices
Better Home and Gardens: Herbs 

If you've read any fantasy book set in a fictitious world, you'll notice not all the plants are made up. I don't want to reinvent the wheel. In terms of spices, most of them in Chains of the Sciell will be the same as those in our world.

However, I do want to have fun with my plants. Recently, I've started going into the park to take pictures of unique looking plants to include in my book.

I've been having fun giving them names and assigning medical purposes to them.

Red Fingers (it'll have a second name, one representative of its country of origin): mixing it in food helps with upset stomachs.

As usual, I've created a Pinterest board to keep track of my plants.

Follow Auden's board Sciell: plants on Pinterest.

One way to go about this is to list what you need plants for- pain killer, fertility, bubbling stomach, headache, lotion, wound cleaner... Go over your list and start assigning a plant to each entry. I'm trying that out. I'll let you know how it goes.

This generator would help as well. It gives you plants.You'll have to give the plant a purpose.
Random Plant Generator

Monday, July 21, 2014

Using Klout To Increase Twitter Followers

I stopped paying attention to Klout last year. I couldn't understand how they came up with the score. I was learning most people didn't care about your Klout score. However, I stared using it again maybe a month ago. Not for my score. Though, it's hard not to pay attention to it.

A part of my brand is finding and sharing useful/entertaining content. Klout lets me create subject categories I want to be known for like writing or fantasy. It'll give me content on those subjects and suggest people to follow on Twitter. More importantly, it's free.

Twylah has something similar but you have to pay for it. So, I use that site to track my trending topics on Twitter to see if they align with my brand topics. See my Brand Page.

I have Google Alerts for my brand topics. I added a ton of websites and blogs to Feedly. But, the articles Klout gives me are ones I don't come across on my own- which is amazing. They aren't the kind of off target articles I sometimes get with Google Alerts.

Klout tell you if an article is "on target" or if it's "on the rise", in terms of trends. Some articles are labeled as "hidden gems"- as in your followers would like this article but less half of them have read it. When scheduling posts, Klout tells you when's the best time to share that article.
I have no idea how Klout collects all this data on my followers. I decided to conduct an experiment since nothing I did increased engagement on Twitter. Before I started using Klout, my Twitter followers kept decreasing. Nothing I did increased engagement and followers.

So far, Klout's been working out for me. My Twitter followers- not spammers- have been steady increasing. I'm getting more retweets and favorites. Not significant but more than I used to get.

I'm now using Klout on another Twitter account I'm managing to see if I get the same results. I'll keep you posted.

Have you used Klout for content sharing? What's been your experience?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Annabelle Movie

A while ago, I read the possessed doll from The Conjuring was getting her own movie. And I went bananas. The Conjuring is one of the best horror movies that's come out in years. Annabelle is creep, like so creepy you wonder about the sanity of  those who owned her. We haven't had a killer doll movie since, what, Dead Silence. I think we're due. I hadn't heard anything else about the movie since the announcement. Yesterday, they released a trailer. It's awesome!

Why in the world would that women put a doll that disturbing in a child's room?

Fun fact. Annabelle is a real doll. I mean, The Conjuring is based on a true story.
From Badass Digest.
Annabelle was just your run of the mill Raggedy Ann doll.

Donna got Annabelle from her mother in 1970. Donna was a college student at the time, and living with a roommate named Angie, and at first neither thought the doll was anything special.

Their friend Lou hated the doll. He thought there was something deeply wrong with it, something evil.  Donna began to find pieces of parchment paper in the house with messages written on it. "Help us," they would say, or "Help Lou." Nobody in the house had parchment paper. 
One night, Donna returned home to find Annabelle in her bed, with blood on her hands. The blood - or some sort of red liquid - seemed to be coming from the doll itself. Donna finally agreed to bring in a medium. The sensitive sat with the doll and told the girls that long before their apartment complex had been built, there had been a field on that property. A seven year old girl named Annabelle Higgins had been found dead in that field. Her spirit remained, and when the doll came into the house the girl latched on to it. She found Donna and Angie to be trustworthy. She just wanted to stay with them. She wanted to be safe with them.

Being sweet, nurturing types - they were both nursing students - Donna and Angie agreed to let Annabelle stay with them. And that's when all hell broke loose.
 Read more here

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writers Who Look Like Me

I usually don't write posts about being an African American fantasy writer. When people choose a book, most don't care about the author's race. Most don't notice the character's skin color. That's how it should be. I don't register a person's skin color unless it's pointed out to me. I also don't bring up my race because I don't want to be pigeonholed as an African American writer.

However, every now and then, I have these moments where I remember there aren't many mainstream fantasy authors who look like me. It's disheartening. What's even worse, those who get that devoted fan base across all races are rarely black. Actually, I can only think of one who's still releasing books, N.K Jemisin.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post, A Little Push, with a collection of inspirational quotes from authors. As I was collecting my quotes, I realized the only African American writer I had was Maya Angelou. Just for fun, I wanted to include a quote from another black author-preferably one who was currently writing.

It was unnecessarily hard.

I scrolled through Goodreads looking at the quotes on writing. I came across Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, but I wanted more recent authors. I got to about the 10th page of the results before I gave up. I turned to Google. That didn't help. I'm a trained researcher. It's a bit disconcerting when I can't find information. In the end, I got tired of looking. I hadn't planned on spending that much time on something so simple.

It was a bit surprising and depressing that I couldn't find any inspirational writing quotes by black authors who were currently getting published.

It got me thinking about BEA. I had an amazing time there. I met some of my favorite authors. Thinking back, I didn't come across any, any, black fantasy authors. My mom, who runs my publisher Aubey LLC, found BEA depressing. She questioned whether we should continue exhibiting there. As far as I can tell, there weren't any black owned publishers and only a handful of black authors.
Stuff like this sometimes makes me feel like I'm in the wrong industry. It makes me feel like an outsider. There must be a reason I don't come across more mainstream African American fantasy authors. I don't want to Google African American fantasy authors. I don't want to have to purposefully search out authors like myself. Why can't I come across them by browsing the fantasy section at a bookstore or through Goodreads and Amazon? Why aren't we more mainstream? As far as I can tell, there are no African American dark fantasy authors. Talk about feeling lonely.

I try not to think about stuff like this. It leave me feeling like my books won't be even mildly successful because I have the wrong skin color. Think about it, how many black speculative fiction authors have reached name recognition status? How many do you come across while casually browsing? When you read articles or sit on a panel about fantasy genre, who's on the panel, what authors do the articles usually mention?

I own a ton of fantasy print and ebooks. None of which are written by black people. Like I said before, I'm not going out of my way to find fantasy books by authors like me. I shouldn't have to. I don't have time for that. I don't like books categorized by race so I'm not visiting the African American Lit section at the bookstore and I'm not searching for "Black Fiction" on Amazon. I'm not looking for Afrocentric books. I just want to know it's possible for someone like me to sell books.
I don't believe publishers are ignoring black fantasy author nor do I believe that there aren't many African Americans writing fantasy. So what's the problem? I've been trying to understand this for years.

So as always, I went to Google.
Why aren't there black teen fiction books? 
If Tolkien were black

Didn't find a lot of information. From what I understand, there's a problem with categorization. Books written by African Americans are under Black Fiction or African American Literature. Doesn't matter if it's fantasy or horror. This greatly limits the amount of eyeballs that book receives. This impacts sales, which probably leads most authors to stop writing or to release books less often.

Funny enough, this is encouraging. Since I can mostly control my books' metadata, I can make sure my race isn't a factor. This is one of the advantages of not being in a bookstore.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Do We Still Need A Facebook Brand Page?

Recently, I've come across more posts about people ditching Facebook. I just read a convincing article, Closing the Facebook, about why Facebook is no longer useful. The comments show people are focusing more on sites like Google+ and Twitter.

On the other side, I have people in the publishing industry saying Facebook is still the best way for authors to reach readers. Engagement on the social network is amazing for authors like Anne Rice, Joe Abercrombie and Neil Gaiman.

So far Facebook hasn't driven much traffic to my blog or other social networks. I don't bother with paying to boost posts anymore. For me, it didn't increase page likes or engagement. Links to my blog posts always reach the least amount of people-4 or 5.

I have 253 likes. On average, my posts reach about 7-10 people maybe 15. My Tumblr page drives more traffic to this blog and I've only been on that site a month, if that.

Still, I'm not planning to jump ship just yet. Like I said earlier, publishing professionals believe Facebook is best for reader engagement. Honestly, I get more engagement from Google+. However, more people are on Facebook. It works for best-selling authors.

I'm thinking I should be on Facebook, but it isn't something I should spend too much time on. I don't know if a Facebook page is useful for someone who doesn't have a loyal fan base.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Some Inspiration

Nature always provides amazing inspiration. Sitting by the water surrounded by trees gets the creative juices flowing. Seeing images of waterfalls, landscapes and animals is awe inspiring. I like going to the park and relaxing by the water. Sometimes, I read or write. Other times, I stare at the scene and take pictures. Since it's warm out and it doesn't get dark til 9, I've gotten into the habit of going to park nearly every evening. I always take my camera with me. Here are some pics for your inspiration.

I had pointed my camera at an animal hole. As soon as I did, this guy popped out.

I've been practicing getting pics of birds in flight. I've got the hang of it now. Takes a lot of patience. Still trying to figure out how to take it so the wings aren't blurry. 

Yeah, this is my view. See what I mean by inspiring. The first picture is my favorite place to write. 

Around 7:30, the bandits come out.

Sometimes, I can't believe this is New York. Cities are like people. You can't judge them based on some stereotype. They have many different aspects to them.

A swan family lives in the park. Seeing the kids reminds me of The Ugly Duckling. It's amazing how those little ones turn into beautiful swans. They look kinda mangy. I didn't know swans hissed until someone got to close to the babies. One of the most vicious sounds I've ever heard.

When taking pictures of animals, I usually do continuous shooting. Don't want to miss anything. I decided to turn a series of them into a gif.

I threw this one in just for fun.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Hope you're having an awesome and safe holiday!

Remember, Devdan Manor is free until July 5!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Little Push

Most writers have that moment where they want to just stop. Writing a book is hard. It can take months even years for us to see any return. It's been difficult for me to write. Not because of writer's block. Response and sales for my books haven't been going the way I expected. I'm questioning why I'm even working so hard on this second novel. What's the point? No one's going to buy it. Thoughts of giving up have surfaced way to often.

Here are some of my favorite quotes to help us connect with why we write!

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