Giving Up On Romance?

*Heavy sigh* Recently, (as I’m working, teaching as a volunteer, dealing with life in general, writing fan fiction and crit fiction, and continuing to attempt to finish novels like Oracle) I read about five romance stories available on Amazon for my Kindle. All of them were by white writers and half of them were historical romances. At the behest of my friend, I also started reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. But for right now I want to talk about the romances I read.

I’m glad I didn’t pay for four of them. The fact that four of them were offered for free has no reflection on their quality. The fault lies in the genre of romance and the publishing market itself.

Romance, as much as I love it, appears to be a pitiful genre. A pitiful genre fluffed with toxic disappointments and ignorant white fantasies. I mean, J.R. Ward pretty much destroyed my desire to read anything for almost ten years. That’s not an exaggeration. I literally never wanted to pick up another book again, especially not a romance. It wasn’t just because of what Ward chooses to write in her books (and what she actively chooses to exclude), its because I lost all faith her as a writer because of things she posted on her blog and her cloud of brainwashed flunky readers backing up her every word. I lost faith in all authors at that point. Even myself.

With the extreme deficit of general love in my life, I’m not sure my brain is wired to want literature devoid of that sweet pulsing vein of erotic, romantic passion. As long as writers are pandering to a specific pattern, a marketable trend, romance can never be what I need it to be. And I’ll never be satisfied with the way things are.

Faced with an impossible choice: Ween myself off romance and find something more fulfilling? Or have faith that underneath all the crap there’s a few shining jewels of romantic literature worth the time its taking to find them?

Writer’s Voice, Reader’s Mind

Every time I re-read a book, I see something I didn’t see before. My journey as  reader and writer is to see the soul of an author’s work.

Sometimes readers will make comments about my work that make me think, You didn’t actually read what I wrote, did you. I’d be the last person to turn down constructive criticism. But if I sense that they’re offering “advice” or “criticism” but didn’t take the time to read the words and understand them to formulate a useful opinion, I get irritated and jazzy in the mouth, just downright sassy towards them.

When I read, I don’t go in saying, “Let me see how well this author writes like my favorite author!”. (Also because I don’t have a favorite author.) And I don’t write stories for people who skim and speed read or want something fun, quick, and trashy to read at the airport. No, as a reader, I try to see how that writer is delivering information, details, so that my imagination paints on the canvas of my mind and shows me the story.

What next?

Coming down with it. I feel an overwhelming pressure to publish something this year.

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My plan is to run a short story/novella on JukePop. ^This is what I’m working on, ORACLE–fantasy fiction all the way!! I did these e-book covers on Canva.

Welcome to Oracle–a sprawling school of magic overlooked by a crystal mountain, surrounded by fields and forests beneath whipped clouds and endless blue skies. But you know what they say: If something is too good to be true…it usually is. Caprice Bilberry is a witch who suddenly arrives at Oracle’s extraordinary campus and is informed that as a student here, her greatest wish will be granted: She will be freed from generational enslavement and have the right to go to school and practice her magic. Why leave the only life she’s ever known, risking death and the murder of her family? Why say no and return to life as a slave in a colonial village where using magic is an offense punishable by mutilation and death? Caprice, Nezzle, and Bossa become friends, soon unraveling a terrifying secret: The school is more than what it seems, demanding a price more sinister than its lofty goals reveal or make up for. Its the ultimate fine print. For one does not simply enter and become a student at Oracle school….

And I just got an email that JukePop is doing the 2016 Summer Writing Project with 1888. Perfect, I’ll just do that.

Personally, I’m a little selfish and I don’t want to share my work for free but that’s my vanity talking. Most people advise against doing this though some argue that giving away some work for free helps build an audience. Writing is my calling and art should be freely shared, yet some part of me still wants to write for a living despite what that actually means in my society. Its a working class/poor people thing I guess, that dream of getting paid for doing what you love. I’ve had multiple people tell me I should be paid for my work and I decided to believe them.

I didn’t publish anything last year. Even if I do publish, I’d have to do book covers, editing, proofreading, and back matter/synopsis–all on my own. Not to mention promoting it. Or attempting to rather. I guess I’m already part of the way there: books covers done, synopsis okay, and first four chapters finished.  I wonder if its enough to go, “I wrote this thing” and shove it out there. Wanting a little bit more than that is a lot of work. (If I’m wondering then maybe its not….)

Critique or Not to Critique

Isn’t it presumptuous to tell someone how to write a story?

Or act as if you have the right to tell someone how something they have written should be written? Even when I’m in writing groups commenting on the work of other writers or asking for critique fr my own work, I find myself wanting to stay in the safe territory of “I like this/I don’t like this and why”. In my recent experience critiquing, when I have acted like an authority, the writer whose work is being critiqued will argue with me regardless of the validity of my comments or how nicely I say it, especially if I commented on plot, tone, and characterization regarding race and gender.

Every writer is different and/or imitating another writer by study. For example, when I was in college, I saw many white male students who imitated vaunted white male poets and novelists, holding them up as the standard as sure as the curriculum did. It was by that ruler that these students measured and judged the literary world around them.

So outside of technical/grammatical corrections, I always wonder from where inside of them does the critique of readers and writers comes from? I came to the conclusion that literary critique comes from two places: 1) What a writer/reader has read from other writers, and 2) What the writer/reader themselves would do in the place of the writer whose work they are looking at.

Writers will request advice or feedback, yes, but all critique is really just someone’s opinion, isn’t it?

Currently, I am in the middle of completing the first draft of Exactly As You Like It, a fantasy romance about two witches, a knight and a cleaning lady. I was wondering how I can get reliable feedback for the story. I feel like I’m overcompensating because its the first story that I’ll be finishing in the magic world I’ve been envisioning since I was in high school (meant to be a short story but turned into a novel). Buuutttt I’ll work on finishing it first.

Less is More? Social Networking Sites

Social networking: I’ve never been one to use Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. Honestly, I thought they were superfluous fads. Of course, they can be useful but most of the time it’s about numbers. Yes I want people who are interested in me and interested in my work and want to follow me but blogging and social networking sites look like a popularity contest with a circus on top and I’ve never been the type to get caught up in those types of things or the type to attract that sort of attention. If rather have one reader who really likes and finds value in my work than a thousand followers that I have no real connection to. I’ve created profiles in several different places but I don’t use them, not the personal ones or the professional ones. Now that I have them, I’m not sure I should get rid of them even though I don’t use them. You never know what will be useful later. A tool that’s not relevant now might be a good thing to have in the future.

As much as I hate popularity contests and trying to win people over, planning and scheming, and numbering people, I always agonize over whether or not people hear me (as evident in my agonizing over whether cover art is part of my problem). Am I writing and no one is reading? But aren’t I writing for myself? If that’s true, then why does it matter who read it and how many? But, as a writer, I’m supposed to care about that right? With so many digital methods of reaching people, or audiences as they say, shouldn’t I be doing everything I can to connect with readers? How can you know for sure if you reached even one person on a meaningful level?

I’ve always believed that social networking and the internet has made people lazy and ultimately uninterested in each other. Everything seems so impersonal. Click a button to “like”. Share with contacts. “Unlike”. Follow. Retweet. Reblog. It seems meaningless and shallow. It gives some people a reason to be lazy and hide from solid connections with others. Some it strengthens and helps maintain their connections. Others it gives them a chance to meet in the first place.

So far I’ve deleted my Twitter and my Tumblr (which is still there but I’m not using it). I still have a FB page that isn’t getting any hits so that’s next on the list because I see the tumbleweeds a-blowing ’round. Honestly, I don’t know what will work for me. Even with this blog, I try only to post once a month out of concern for doing way too much.

Fresno Writer’s Group–Why I’m Quitting

I attended about nine meetings with the Fresno Writer’s Group and I’m quitting. I first talked about my problems with the group in the post Writing Alone. I didn’t want to leave and I tried to make it work but I have no other recourse. Its a small group and I really shouldn’t have taken it so seriously but I gave some time and effort to it and I want to give myself the space to express what I’ve experienced. These are the prime reasons I’m leaving the Fresno Writer’s Group.

BIGGGG # 1) RACISM

The day I walked in, a member of this all-white group made a racist joke and they all sat there and laughed. One of their e-mail members sent me an overtly racist e-mail after I asked them to specify if their work contains violence (including racism) before e-mailing it out for critique. The micro-aggressions have not stopped, even after I complained to the group organizers over several e-mails full of explanations when they appeared to be confused. The co-facilitators of this group, Wayland Jackson and Jeff Cates, are obviously seasoned white racists who are trying to convince me that my perception of them is skewed by unfounded prejudice. They have no intention of checking themselves.

Shannon,

You are entitled to think what you want about me, and I realize there’s nothing that I can say that will change your mind if you’re convinced that I hate anybody based on the color of their skin. You’ve been offended by things I’ve said and done, but don’t assume that I’m saying or doing anything with the intent of offending you. I hope you’ll think about this.

–Jeff Cates

2) Membership

Their membership changes monthly and its obvious that its a small club for the three or four core members who attend regularly and they don’t really care who is there otherwise; they make no effort to encourage membership growth or diversity.

3) Location

The new location is too far out of my way to bother anymore. And its summer, too, 100 degrees+ some days. Simple as that.

4) Age Group

The writers facilitating the group are not only all white but over fifty. I call it like I see it: They’re definitely set in their ways.

5) “Amnesia”

The organizers literally don’t know who’s been there and who has left until Jeff decides to drop writers from the mailing list for their absences. There have been several occasions where neither Jeff nor Wayland remember I was at a meeting.

6) Leadership

As with any group or organization, its hard to address the problems when the leaders are the ones causing it. Its even harder when you’re the only Black person in the room trying to address it because you’re the only person it effects.

~

Though not unexpected, its a huge disappointment that both group leaders refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing. Its the racism that bothers me the most and the oblivious ease and comfort with which they deny it. I’ve been in enough situations like this and I should’ve stopped coming the first thirty minutes I noticed this bs. Can’t blame a writer for trying.

I quit. Its not worth my time.

On Telling the World I Want to Die 2

I wrote a post a few weeks ago with this title (and have since removed it). I was feeling particularly suicidal at the time and was seriously going to end my life at the first opportunity. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I just didn’t want to be here anymore.

I realized that the reason I felt like this is because of my environment and the people around me. Its absolutely toxic. Without going into the details, I’d like to throw some advice out there that might seem pretty obvious to a lot of people, especially other writers:

If something around you is getting in the way of your work, if its cramping or breaking your creative spirit, remove it or remove yourself from it, if you can. My own situation is rather complicated, but I’m trying to remove myself from the toxic environment and people that have helped cause me to want to end my life and are stopping me from writing.

Even doing small things to separate myself from them has worked wonders, I’ve gotten more writing done consistently than I have ever in my adult life.

Its going to take a lot of work but I think I can do it. I want to get out of here so I can spend more of my time and energy doing what I love–writing.