Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Self-Published to Traditionally Published

Amanda Hocking isn't the first or only self-publishing success story out there.

Trice Hickman may not have a seven-figure book deal (YET), but she self-published the right way, with great writing and professional editing and book design. Then she promoted her behind off. Eventually, a publisher was smart enough to snap her up and is rereleasing Unexpected Interruptions today. Romance and women's fiction readers, check it out. Congrats Trice!!!  Another important thing to know about Trice: she's a sweetheart!

J.D. Mason's recent Somebody Pick Up My Pieces is the final story in a series that began with the originally self-published One Day I Saw a Black King, and it's getting rave reviews. My wonderful friend J.D. also lives in Denver. Go Denver writers!!! (Learn more about J.D. in my interview with her.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few new books I'm excited about

Pym by Mat Johnson. It's out now and getting loads of great reviews. For example, Salon called "a blisteringly funny satire of contemporary American racial attitudes," which I believe because I follow Johnson on Twitter and his tweets crack me up.

If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this. I wanted to send a blurb that said "Love, love, love, love, love, it. You should totally, totally, totally buy it." Yeah, not really articulate. What I ended up sending in was:

"Every single character pops off the page in this amazing story. This masterwork of a novel made me laugh and cry out loud. Important, enjoyable, and wonderfully moving. An absolute delight." It's out in April, and you should totally pre-order it.

Coming in May is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, and it's already generating great buzz.

I'm really interested More Than Words because it brings writers of different races together. What a novel concept! It sounds really good too: "Each and every one of us has the ability to effect change—to make our world a better place. The dedicated women selected as this year's recipients of Harlequin's More Than Words award have changed lives, one good deed at a time. To celebrate their accomplishments, some of our bestselling authors have honored the winners by writing stories inspired by these real-life heroines."

More Than Words is on sale today!  

Adding Open City by Teju Cole, which came out last month and skipped my radar screen, because Martha Southgate just told me via Twitter that "it rocks!" A quick Google search shows rave reviews, but Martha's endorsement is all I need.

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but y'all know how important pre-orders and first months' sales are. So if you can, go ahead and place an order or pre-order at IndieBound or Amazon or pick up one of these at your local bookstore.

In other news: Zetta Elliott posts an important essay on Women Doing Literary Things. An excerpt:
When I learned that the goal of this blog was to “celebrate and reaffirm the depth and breadth of women’s involvement in literature,” I knew I wanted to participate. Yet when I reflect upon my involvement in the literary world, I find that little of my time and energy has gone toward addressing “the fundamental wrongness of gender disparities.” When everyone in your world is female, gender tends not to be the focus. For me, the main problem isn’t that men are impeding my progress as a writer. The truth is, behind every door that has been closed in my face…there’s another woman.
Sometimes that woman looks like me, but more often than not, she doesn’t. She belongs to a different race, a different class, and a different culture.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What ever happened to...?

You ever have one of those moments when you suddenly recall an author you used to love? It happened to me the other day. I'm reading Bone Worship by Elizabeth Eslami and on the back cover is a blurb from David Haynes, including that he is the author of The Full Matilda, which I hadn't heard about.

I read his novels Live at Five and Somebody Else's Mama years ago, but I didn't know Haynes had another book out. Turns out it was released in 04 and I missed it. The bad news is how easy it is to miss hearing about a book even if it's by an author you enjoy. The good news is that now I have another book to add to my TBR list!

Live at Five made me laugh out loud with its story of a black newscaster and the little old ladies who would write him letters telling him to cut his hair, and Somebody Else's Mama is a very touching story of a woman and her elderly mother-in-law. Both novels tell universal tales and were beautifully written. I'm looking forward to The Full Matilda and hoping that Haynes has another new one soon! Seriously, don't sleep on David Haynes.

Oh, and I'm really enjoying Bone Worship too. The main character Jasmine reminds me a bit of Shay from my novel Orange Mint and Honey (which was a March selection of the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog's new book club). Both are nerdy college students a little too smart for their own good in some areas and hopelessly lost in others. Readers looking for more biracial characters (as in The Girl Who Fell From the Sky--climbing the New York Times best-seller list!) will want to check out this story of a half-Iranian and half-white young woman trying to figure out her father and herself.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Meet: Karen Simpson, author of ACT OF GRACE

It is my great pleasure to present published author Karen Simpson! Karen was the first person to comment on my personal blog years ago, and will always hold a special place in my heart for marching into her local Borders and asking where the heck my novel was when she didn't see it in their inventory. Turns out it was right on the shelf and no one in the store would have known that without Karen's intervention. So I am thrilled that I can return the favor and march onto the internet and tell folks go get Act of Grace! Congratulations Karen on the publication of your first novel!

Q&A with Karen:

White Readers Meet Black Authors: Tell us about Act of Grace (read an excerpt here). How did you come to write this story? What subjects/themes do you explore? What's your writing style like?

Karen Simpson: First, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I always dreamed of appearing as an author on your blog so I’m truly excited to do this interview.

Act of Grace is the story of Grace Johnson a bright, perceptive African American high school senior who saves the life of a Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore. Everyone in her hometown of Vigilant, Michigan wants to know why. Few people, black or white, understand her act of sacrifice especially since rumor holds that years ago a member of the Gilmore family murdered several African -Americans including Grace’s father. Grace wants to remain silent on the matter but Ancestors spirits emerge in visions and insist she fulfill her shamanic duties by bearing witness to her town’s violent racial history so that all involved might transcend it.

Grace begins a journal, but she warns readers upfront that if they are looking for a simple or rational explanation for her actions then they need to look elsewhere. She knows that her accounts of her ability to speak to the dead, along with her connections to a trickster spirit name Oba, will be hard for most people to believe. With insight shaped by the wisdom found in African American mythology and the book, The Velveteen Rabbit, Grace recounts a story of eye-for-an-eye vengeance that has blinded entire generations in her hometown.

Act of Grace is loosely based on an incident that happened several years ago in my hometown during a Klan rally. When what was supposed to be a nonviolent protest became violent, a young black woman saved a white man, (whose was simply wearing a confederate flag T-shirt), from being beaten by throwing her body over him. She got involved because she believed he had the right to his beliefs even if she and others felt he was wrong. For weeks after the event people argued about whether she was a guardian angel or just crazy. My opinion was that she was a compassionate and brave person, worthy of admiration and respect for living up to her values. Five years after this rally I had a very vivid dream about a young woman named Grace and during the dream she yelled out what is more or less the first line of the novel.

My novel fits in with my lifelong interest in how some people are able to forgive what seem to be unforgivable acts and deeds and the subjects of altruism and justice. Especially justice, because while I believe it is my duty as an artist and writer to illuminating injustice, I also believe it is my duty to acknowledge how complicated and sometime messy getting justice is.

WRMBA: What's your goal(s) as a writer? Do you set out to educate? entertain? illuminate?

KS: I set out to illuminate but in an entertaining way in my work. Act of Grace deals with serious and violent issues, but I tried to make sure there was as much sweet as bitter in the work. Grace is a strong, willful young woman being sent out to do strong women’s work, but she has an incredible sense of humor and knows or learns how to experience joy even in the mist of sorrow.

WRMBA: What's your biggest surprise-good or bad- (so far) about the publishing biz?

KS: How much of a business writing really is. I was warned up front that it was but I was still surprised how much marketing an author is required to do herself. I’m finding that I’m better at it than I thought though.

WRMBA: What's next for you?

KS: A new, so far untitled, work that one writer friend described as a historical novel with paranormal sprinkles.

WRMBA: What's the best book (or whose the best writer) that not enough people know about?

Dr. Flowers has a new graphic novel from Tara Books called I See the Promised Land on the life of Martin Luther King. He does the telling as a griot, while Patua artist Manu Chitrakar adapts King’s life to his art. Patua artists from Bengal in eastern India are traditional scroll-painters who create vivid art out of all kinds of narratives - from fables and classical tales to contemporary news items. It a wonderful book that gives a new and powerful take on Martin Luther King’s life.

WRMBA: Any advice for aspiring novelists?

KS: If you are serious about getting published, work at writing as you would a career or job. Learn the craft by become a part of critiques groups, go to as many conferences as you can afford. Read all kinds of novels and writing book, but, in addition, read books and blogs about how to conduct the business side of writing. A good book to start with is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.