Writers: What are your favorite literary gifts?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

There are so many sites that offer fantastic gifts for your love of everything literary. But one of the best places to find awesome literary gifts is a massive comic-book convention! In 2018, the fam and I were at the infamous NYC Comic-Con. Everywhere you turned, vendors were exhibiting their wares—art, jackets, backpacks, t-shirts, fudge, you name it!  So today, I’m sharing some of my favorite “bookish” gifts!

If you didn’t already know, I am house Gryffindor all the way!  

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While I was at the Con, I came across an excellent vendor who sold specialty teas. Each tea was related to a particular literary universe or fandom. The tea I purchased is called Brew of the Brave, which was for house Gryffindor. It tasted great, but the caffeine kicked my butt!  Check out this site if you are interested in fandom teas! Tea and Absinthe. https://www.teaandabsinthe.com/tea/brew-of-the-brave-tea

Aside from my two favorite Gryffindor sweaters (I dressed up as a student of Hogwarts, btw), I have a beautiful wand that was given to me by my hubby. I hope it has Dragonheart string within it, just in case I need to use it!

There’s this great store called Box Lunch in my area. They had a wonderful Gryffindor tea set. It’s out of stock now, but I’m sure it will reappear during the holidays! Visit: www.boxlunch.com

Harry Potter Gryffindor Dinnerware Set - BoxLunch Exclusive

This is the perfect cup for the introverted reader! Check out: https/www.lennymud.com Maybe this cup will give me the courage to try my brew again!

Here are some other literary gift websites to check out!

https://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/

https://booklovergifts.com/

https://www.uncommongoods.com/fun/by-interest/reading-gifts

I hope this post was useful and maybe a little entertaining 🙂 Thanks for visiting and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Memories of writers past

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

As we recognize the true purpose of today’s holiday, we cannot help but remember all those who have sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom. But today, I have also thought of writers who have passed but left their mark for generations to come. Today, I’ll share the names of some of my favorite authors who are no longer with us. Perhaps, you may already know of ‘em. If not, use this time to embark on a discovery of a new writer or genre!

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Octavia E. Butler

Ms. Butler, an African-American science fiction writer and multiple recipient of both the Nebula and Hugo awards, passed away in 2006. After reading her book Wild Seed in my twenties, I knew I would endeavor to become a traditionally published author in fantasy one day! Thanks for leaving your mark on me and many other writers of color Ms. Butler.

E. Lynn Harris

I remember reading his books in my twenties as well. Mr. Harris invited readers to discover the trials and tribulations of a gay, man of color who was not ready to come out to the world. He wrote ten consecutive books—all of whom made the NYT bestsellers list. Mr. Harris was one of the best African-American, gay writers of his time. He passed away in 2009.

C.S. Lewis

After being transported to Narnia in the movie (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and meeting the majestic Aslan, Thomas the Fawn, and the siblings for the first time, I was compelled to read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. This book is one of my favorite fantasies, and it’s a perfect example of world-building and the development of layered characters and storylines. Mr. Lewis passed in 1963.

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Judy Blume

Goodness, I was in the fourth grade when I read The Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing for the first time. After that, I was pretty obsessed with Judy Blume. She was an important part of my growth as a young reader. A few of my favorite books were Superfudge, Deenie, Forever, and Wifey (which my 8th-grade friends and I read in secret, LOL!). Ms. Blume is alive and kicking at 83 years young, but I’ll never forget her books from my youth.

Do you have a favorite book from a writer that’s no longer with us or whose book was written long ago? How did he/she affect you as a reader, a writer, or both? I invite you to share!

Thanks for visiting, and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Images that inspire me as a writer

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Even when we’re passionate about writing, there are times when we need an extra push—something or someone to keep us going. Having images that inspire is a great way to stay positive and keep your goals in sight. Here are some of the images I refer to:

This my book cover. Whenever I see this image, I am reminded of how I felt when I completed my manuscript. Though I am not traditionally published yet, I have every reason to believe that I will be one day! 🙂

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Ah yes. B&N. The book lovers and authors dream. I have pleasant memories of perusing their shelves and running my hands over the cover of a brand new book. I still love going to this store, but it will be even better when I see my book on one of their shelves! I’d even be happy with my local book store!

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Like a flower, writers must keep growing—and this GIRL will continue to do so! I’ll continue drinking from that well of knowledge. Like the UNCF always says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste!”

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Similar to butterflies, we writers also experience change or metamorphosis. We start as a novice to one day becoming an expert. (At least that is my wish!)

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Obviously, this is not my family picture. But when I look at pictures of my immediate family—especially my three boys, I have more incentive than ever to get published!

What images incite optimism in you? Whether you’re dealing with writer’s block, stewing over a negative review or you’re questioning whether your editor’s suggestion will make or break your story—just take a minute, close your eyes and let all your positive images comfort you.

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Getting Rid of Characters

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

I remember a scene from the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A villain named Peter Pettigrew killed student Cedric Diggory in front of Harry. Cedric’s spirit asked that Harry not leave his body behind with Voldemort and Pettigrew. When Harry grabbed the portkey (goblet) and returned to where the crowd awaited them during the last part of the Triwizard Tournament, Cedric’s father wailed when he discovered that his son was dead. ☹ Killing off or removing a character is not always easy, but it is essential if you want your novel to march on.

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As a child, we were taught that all stories are written with a beginning, middle, and end (like a stop light but backwards!)—or if you want to be more technical, the Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution/Denouement. (If you want a quick break down of the “5 Elements of Plot,” check out this link: https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/writing/fiction/w/plot-planning/7309/5-elements-of-plot-and-how-to-use-them-to-build-your-novel

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It is towards the end or at the Climax that we decide to eliminate a character. It can be a person, place, or even a thing that’s beloved, hated, or some cases, both. But whatever you decide, making this significant change in your story can either be a gleeful experience (“Finally! He needed to go!”) or painful like this tiny excerpt from my book Amachi’s Hope. Though it hurt to do so, I had to sacrifice Morenike to allow the story (and his children) to move forward. ☹

Shuddering as if palsied, the deadly haze rushed into Morenike’s body and destroyed every positive thought and feeling on contact. Bleeding, Morenike fell, closed his eyes, and slipped from the living world. No goodbyes, no final words. He died believing that his greatest fear might come true: the death of a loved one by the hand of evil.

It sucks to remove a favorite character. But there has to be something to break the monotony. During my earlier versions of Amachi’s Hope, I realized that I always gravitated towards happy endings. I had very little loss in my story. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you will lose the reader’s interest. Plus, in a YA/Fantasy novel, it’s not realistic. There has to be an anchor that holds the reader or bait that reels them in. “He’s dead?! My goodness! What will happen next? Will his children survive?” As a reader, I know I’d want to know more.

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Amachi’s Hope is a novel that shares the experiences of her kin, and none of their journeys move forward without a major incident occurring in their lives. It is a form of growth or, in some cases, transformation. As we know, a metamorphosis of any kind does not happen without some sacrifice. Did you kill off a character in your book or short story? Was he/she loved or hated? I invite you to share!

Come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

What is your mission as a writer?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

As writers, we all have a mission. We hope that readers will walk away with something special after reading our words.  Perhaps, they will understand a message we’re trying to convey, share in our beliefs or enjoy the story because it was “trippy, fun, and just so damn good!” LOL!

I always say that there are three things that I want followers to leave with after reading Amachi’s Hope: The 3 E’s: Educated, Enlightened and Entertained.

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Educated

Since Amachi’s Hope is influenced by West African culture, Yoruba, in particular, it is my wish that readers discover a new culture and perhaps be compelled to educate themselves about Africa at large.

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Enlightenment

I came across a perfect definition for an enlightened individual. One who is “insightful and open-minded. He is able to see the world with great clarity, without attachment to preconceived ideas about people, places, and things.” As the push for diversity in literature is more important than ever, reading outside your usual genres can open you to so many different POVs. Education => Enlightenment 🙂

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Entertainment

Well, this is pretty obvious. We all read books for entertainment, but sometimes we need to get away without leaving our homes. Many of us probably broke the record for the highest number of books read in 2020! Thanks COVID!

Do you have a mission for your book? A hope or perhaps a philosophy that you want to share with your readers? I invite you to share your thoughts and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

My New Fix: The Nevers and The Irregulars

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

You already know how much I love sci-fi and fantasy. After The Magicians ended (still w- the tissues and tears), I looked for some new shows to sink my teeth into (besides the usual Star Trek Discovery flavor). So, imagine my joy when not only one but two new programs came out within the last two weeks: The Nevers and The Irregulars. Today I thought I’d give you a synopsis of these shows thus far.

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The Irregulars: Netflix, Season 1

(SPOILERS AHEAD!)

This show is a lovely, twisted mix between dark magicks and the world of Sherlock Holmes within Victorian London. Our misfits, protagonist Bea, her friends/family Jessie, Billy, Spike, and outsider, a wealthy fellow named Leopold, find themselves immersed in the supernatural.

Poor and determined to survive, leader Bea and her tight-knit crew do what they must to eat and keep shelter over their heads. They grew up in a workhouse as orphans and are determined to never return as it holds horrible memories for them all. 

Bea feels a strong sense of responsibility for her friends but even more so for her half-sister Jessie. Jess battles with nightmares, so much so that the crew fears that Jessie’s fighting some illness and needs medical attention, something they obviously cannot afford.

Cue the abrasive, rude, and wealthy Dr. Watson (vastly different from previous incarnations of Dr. Watson) who approaches Bea with a creepy and suspicious opportunity to earn money for her sister’s care—investigate the abduction of missing babies. He knows that there is something “unique” about Jessie and that she is key to the answers Bea seeks.

Meanwhile, Leopold, a hemophiliac who comes from royalty, has been sheltered all his life. On his 17th birthday, frustrated with his secluded life, Leopold desperately wants to venture outside his home. A ride in a carriage with his caregiver gives Leopold a snippet of a vastly different universe and allows him to discover Bea and her compadres. Leopold, immediately enamored with Bea, decides that he must find her again and becomes involved in their adventures.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. There’s much more than meets the eye (corny but true) 😊, and I’m looking forward to discovering everyone’s backstory and Dr. Watson and Holmes’ secrets. I’ll be watching the fourth episode this weekend. 

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The Nevers, HBO Max, Sundays @ 9 pm

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

The Touched. That is what protagonist Amalia True and her friends/family are called by the people of Victorian London. Thanks to a supernatural incident where a spaceship flew overhead and released what I can only call sparkling dust, several individuals (primarily women/girls) manifest special abilities. For example, Ms. True can see snippets of the future, and she’s insanely strong. Her partner in crime, Penance Adair, can see electricity (a/k/a potential energy) and uses that insight to enhance her ability as an inventor.

Three years after the supernatural incident (which you don’t find out about until the end of the first episode), Amalia has gathered a number of the Touched at St. Romaulda’s Orphanage. She and Penance have been rescuing the Touched that find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. It is how they discover a teenager by the name of Myrtle Haplisch whose parents chained her to a bed because she began speaking in gibberish that sounded evil. Many foreign languages crowded Myrtle’s brain, making it impossible for her to speak one language at a time. Three men attempt to abduct Myrtle, but Amalia fights them off, and she, Myrtle, and Penance barely escape. They now know that this abduction of a Touched individual was not a singular incident.

Meanwhile, Inspector Frank Mundi of Scotland Yard, investigates the violent murder of a woman in a subway tunnel. Some believe it is the work of serial killer Maladie, who is also of the Touched, but he thinks otherwise. Amalia says that “Being Touched is not a defect of character.” But characters such as Lord Massen, a likely antagonist (we’ll find out as the story moves forward), lost his young daughter on the day of the event. He has a real problem with change, especially when it was not his doing. “We are the first generation accustomed to the impossible. What women are appalled by today, they will accept tomorrow and demand the day after that. And the immigrant. And the deviant. That is the power being wielded and not by us. The blade is in, gentlemen. We need to know whose hand is on the hilt.”

I’ll be watching the second episode tonight. Unlike Netflix, where the entire season is already available, I’ll have to suffer and wait for a new episode. The reviews for both shows are varied, but I don’t usually go by that! I find it interesting that both programs whose storyline occurred during the same period came out simultaneously. It reminds me of when The Prestige and The Illusionist came out about the same time in 2006.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which show you like best. But I’ll continue feeding my love of the supernatural and Victorian London each week!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Friendship in Literature

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

This weekend I safely celebrated my birthday. Aside from the regular shenanigans with my direct family (just 4 of us), I spent the day with a dear friend who I’ve known since seventh grade. On the way home, the idea of friendships in literature came to mind. Who had some of the strongest bonds?

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So, of course, the first that came to mind was in the Harry Potter saga. Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley’s connection started from childhood and continued into adulthood. Though their backgrounds were different, they all shared one commonality—magic. Their battles against Voldemort, death eaters, and other dark forces in the HP universe, solidified their friendship and those made with other characters like Luna Lovegood, Hagrid, Prof. Dumbledore and Neville Longbottom.

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In the DC universe (because comics are a form of literature too), there is the friendship that developed between the original memberships of the Justice League: Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter. Though their relationships had some turbulent times (Superman almost killed Batman!) It’s their wish to protect the human race from threats found on Earth and beyond that binds them. Batman is the only one among them whose ability is not supernatural, but that doesn’t make him any less powerful than his counterparts.

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As a child, I discovered that even animals could be best friends. I loved Winnie the Pooh and his pals’ Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Roo, and even the one human, Christopher Robin. Aside from the many lessons I learned from them, the central theme was based on the importance of solid friendships.

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In Nnedi Okorafor’s first book in the Akata Witch series, the young protagonist Sunny Nwazue, who’s haunted by a vision that portends the end of the world, makes a deep connection with characters Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha. They journey with her as she discovers the special abilities she wields, fights masquerades, (check out the book) and begins to embrace the grand destiny that awaits her.

Lastly, in book one of the Twilight series, Bella becomes friends with Edward Cullen’s sister Alice. She is a vampire (for those who don’t already know) but she also has powerful, precognitive abilities. Bella is quite introverted, and struggles with too much attention. But Alice saw in Bella’s future that they would have a lifetime (whatever that means to a vampire) friendship and that Bella would eventually become a vampire herself. Kinda cool if I say so myself. 🙂

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What friendships stood out to you in the books you’ve read? Did they resonate with you, perhaps the characters were similiar to people you know? If so, I invite you to share! Thanks for visiting and come back soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Martial Arts and Writing

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Just over eight years ago, my family and I joined a Taekwondo dojang. At first, we signed our children up for entertainment and discipline (cuz my youngest was driving me to drink!), and then my husband and I were pressured into joining, LOL! Our instructor always said: “Families that kick together, stick together,” —so we ended up training with our children. What started as only a form of exercise grew into something that we all loved. Today my entire family are black-belts and above.

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My point being, I once read if you are unsure what to blog about, create a list of things you are good at, another list that shares topics you aren’t good at but would like to be, and then catalog the details that make you interesting. In this instance, I chose to talk about my start in martial arts.

If you put together a Venn diagram or some other chart that allows you to compare and contrast, you will notice that some of your topics overlap like the sun and moon during an eclipse. It is those topics that will help you decide what to write about next. The things that would likely overlap on my list would be: Writer, Taekwondo, Jamaican, Mother, Spouse, MA in Creative Writing, New Yorker, Aries, etc.

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The president of our school wrote several books about what he knows: Taekwondo, the movie industry, what it takes to be successful and healthy in life, etc. Writing about the things we know makes writing a blog so much easier. But what’s just as interesting is sharing the things we discover when we research the unfamiliar. There is always someone out there that can learn from you and you from them.

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Even though I am not currently training, I still have a wealth of knowledge that I can share with someone interested in Taekwondo’s art or wonders if training martial arts is for them. Why would you run around kicking people and accepting kicks on purpose? LOL!

If you are blogging, put together your lists. You might have more to talk about than you realize! Thanks for visiting, and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: Where are your characters from?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Today I thought I’d write about where the characters of Amachi’s Hope reside. In most stories, either we create worlds of our own, develop worlds influenced by the environment around us, or combine both. In my case, Amachi and her kin exist in and around a mountainous region of West Africa, particularly in a rain forest. Their village is called Kadara, which is just on the outskirts of the mountain Etinde.

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I researched rain forests in West Africa and rain forests in general. I needed to know what the milieu would be like—the type of fauna found in that region. I even looked into the sea creatures that may be found in the waters surrounding Nigeria. One of my protagonists was swallowed by a giant manta ray!

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My story occurs before Christ, so I also thought about the kind of flora that could have existed during that time. One of the trees found in my story is called an Iroko tree. They are found in Nigeria and can live up to 500 years!

It is from a small seed that the great Iroko tree has its beginning. -  NIgeria Proverb. | Words, Life after death, Own quotes

The Earth and our imaginations are filled with a plethora of ideas to help us create our characters’ fictional realms. We can visit different countries with books and the internet since travel is difficult out on these COVID streets. 😉

If I close my eyes, I can step on the nearest space ship and warp to galaxies far away—visit planets, meet other intelligent life forms and discover the beauty of our universe. I can rewind time and stand before the pyramids or move forward and listen to Martin Luther King speak.

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Where are your characters from? Did you create their worlds from scratch or did you get a little help from history? I invite you to share! Thanks again for visiting and I hope you come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Spring, Springs a Writer’s Inspiration

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Finally, Spring has sprung, and I could not be happier! It’s all about new beginnings and new energy! Over the weekend, I looked out my window and saw the bulbs on my tree begin to bud (ignoring the fact that they will become my nemesis in a few weeks), red cardinals fluttering about, and children gleefully riding their bikes. I went outside, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes—forgetting for a moment my woes and those of the world. The sun was warm against my skin, and the gentle breeze carried the scent of flowers just blooming.

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Seasons insight writerly inspiration. Many writers through the decades refer to the seasons in their writing—sending a shout-out to Mother Nature for her contribution to writers’ prose! Today, I’m going to share quotes from different writers who waxed poetic about Spring!

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“I am going to try to pay attention to the Spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” —Anne Lamott

“The morning air was like a new dress. That made her feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet […] From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything.” ― Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Spring grew on […] and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

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“But the true nature of the human heart is as whimsical as spring weather. All signals may aim toward a fall of rain when suddenly the skies will clear.” ― Maya Angelou, The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou

“The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all Spring.”
―Emily Dickinson

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I hope these quotes ignite your creativity in the coming months! Do you have any favorite quotes about Spring that you would like to share? I invite you to do so! Thanks for visiting, and I hope to see you again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

How do you know that a literary agent is LEGIT?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

During pitch competitions, writers are exposed to a bevy of editors and literary agents. Most of the agencies/agents may be familiar names, but if someone requests a partial or full manuscript from you, it is always good to vet an agent, editor, or organization. Here are five things you as a writer should look out for when querying or receiving a request for your novel, novella, short story, etc.

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1. No one should be asking you to pay a fee in any capacity. An agent makes money by selling books. An agent’s fee is generally a 15% commission.

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2. An agent should have a list of writers they currently represent on their organization’s website.

3. If you are unsure where to go to research agents, visit sites like Writer’s Digest https://www.writersdigest.com/ and the Manuscript Wish List https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/. Agents will clearly state whether they are currently open to queries, their submission guidelines, and what they are looking for in a new client.

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4. If an agent reaches out to you and you did not query them, that is a red flag!

5. The individual only wants to communicate by email, and you don’t know their real name? Sirens should go off everywhere!

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Querying and researching agents can be daunting, so starting on the right foot with a legit agent will spare you heartache in the long run.

Have you been burned by an “agent” before? Do you have any advice when it comes to finding the right agent for you? I invite you to share!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: How do we gain followers for a blog?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

I’m still relatively new to the “Promoting via social media game.” I restarted my blog about a year ago.  My wish was to develop a following for my book and to make connections with other writers. To date, I must say the result has been disappointing.

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I realized that posting is only a small part of the process. So, I decided to do some research on increasing readership for my blog. There are plenty of websites/blogs out there sharing tips on just this topic. The suggestions that stand out to me are:

A 101 on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (with gifs!)

– Guest blogging

Writing a blog post for another writer or site can help draw attention—not to mention following and commenting on their page. Reciprocation = Reciprocation! 🙂 And don’t forget to share your blog post on all your social media outlets: IG, Twitter, FB etc.

– Keywords

When certain words are used in your blog, it makes it more “searchable”—especially when you want to connect to readers/writers who share similar interests to your own, e.g., genre.

-Networking

They say that bloggers should not restrict themselves to one umbrella. Meaning you shouldn’t only talk about your experiences, your work, etc. But also share info about other bloggers and their content. Networking with creatives can also help you connect and build your following. I believe I’m guilty of the umbrella issue—it’s something I plan to work on.

– #Hashtags

Just as keywords are important, so are #hashtags. Researching the appropriate hashtags and including them in your post is also a big help! I created a hashtag for my book #AmachiIsHope and use the tags #writingcommunity, #writerlycreatives, #writersnetwork whenever I post my blog. To draw local readers I also use #RVA and #RVAwriter. Obviously I need to add more varied…

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There are plenty of blogging suggestions out there. Some businesses help with developing one’s blog (for a fee of course). But moolah’s tight during a pandemic. I think I’ll try my luck! LOL! Are you struggling with gaining followers for your blog? Have you found that specific tips have worked better than others? If so, I invite you to share!

Ibukun! Blessings!

Sharon-

Quiet Before the Storm

Whether you are a full-time writer or write only at night when the tides are no longer restless, the moon is at its apex, and your house is finally quiet, sometimes you need to step back from your craft to do it real justice. You may need a moment of calm before the storm—a moment before you dive back into your writing.

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We sometimes look at our work and feel frustrated or disappointed with what we have written. The small can on the floor beside your desk overflows with discarded ideas that won’t see the light of day—or you’ve stopped counting the number of drafts that are saved on your computer. My son is an emerging musician, and he is his harshest critic. This is the lot of most creatives; even when the work we’ve produced is truly extraordinary, we will always find fault with it.

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Creatives cannot help but compare themselves to those who have succeeded. He/she will look at their body of work and wonder, “Do I have it in me?” That Doubting Thomas will be even more present when you’re exhausted and have not given yourself a chance to recharge.

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They say, “Life is too short.” So, if you are going to dedicate your time and energy to something, make sure it’s worth it—make sure you love it. Perhaps, this may be true, but you can’t do right by your work if you are burned out from life. Sometimes it’s good to do things that have nothing to do with your writing, but are also stress relievers, e.g., jump double-dutch (if you still can!), watch Pride and Prejudice 😉 (the Keira Knightley version is my favorite!), bake (I love banana chocolate-chip bread), or talk with a friend.

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Have you been fighting against the storm that is your writing? Are you unhappy with what you’ve written and realize that you need a break? I invite you to share your experiences! Thanks for visiting, and come again soon, Creatives!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

My First Rejection of the Year

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam! Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! I hope COVID did not stop you from spreading the love to your family and friends.

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Yesterday was equally pleasant and disappointing for me. Just as I was about to get engrossed in another HBO Max series, an email notification popped up on my phone. It was from the agent that requested a partial submission. I was excited and reserved at the same time. It was as if I already knew that the email would not bear good news—and I was right. It was a rejection. But it was one of the nicest rejections I’ve received. The agent still loved my story, but there was one thing in particular that needed work—something that’s not impossible to repair.

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Unless you’ve been in the game for a long time, or perhaps you are a professional editor—you may not always know what to look for or, more importantly, know what’s missing from your novel. While I wait for a response to my other queries, I decided to do another beta reading with an individual who should help me flesh out the things that we as writers sometimes miss.

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For example:

  • Show not tell (this is the one I need to work on in certain areas – be more descriptive about what your character is doing instead of the character telling the reader what they are doing.)
  • Grammar/Proofreading (self-explanatory)
  • Point of View/Voice – 3rd person, 1st person, etc.
  • Character Development – Who is your protagonist, antagonist? What makes them unique/hated or both?
  • Genre – Sci/Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Horror?
  • Setting – Where is your story located?
  • Stakes – What does the protagonist stand to lose?

It seems that Amachi’s Hope still has some things that need to be tweaked. But I also know that not everyone feels the same way, and the agent said as much. In meanwhile, I’m looking forward to hearing the opinion of my newest beta reader! 😊 Have you received any rejections for 2021 yet? Were they filled with helpful advice or did you delete them as quickly as your mouse would allow? I invite you to share!

Ibukun! Blessings!

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Writers: What’s your MC’s favorite food?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

As a child, Amachi’s favorite food was spicy amala (Àmàlà). For those of you who are currently scratching your heads, amala is a local Nigerian food native to Amachi’s people who are Yoruba. It’s a dish made out of yam (àmàlà isu), cassava flour (àmàlà láfún) or unripe plantain flour (amala ogede). It can be served with different types of soups such as Efo riro (made from veggies and a combination of meat, fish, etc.)

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Depending on the kind of story you have written, you may find that your characters have developed a taste for certain types of foods. It may be meals based on real ingredients and pulled from cultures and environments that are a part of the human world. Or perhaps, you’ve created not only a fictional milieu but cuisine that’s only native to your protagonist’s society. It’s another kind of worldbuilding that makes your book more layered—giving the reader other opportunities to connect with your characters and their story.

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There’s a scene in my novel where another character (Morenike) talks about his wife’s cooking:

“The scent of the previous night’s ounje lingers in the air. The spicy aroma makes his stomach rumble. No one cooks better than Fayola.” -Amachi’s Hope

If you are familiar with the anime/manga series Naruto, he madly loves Ramen noodles. In his early years, long before he becomes the Seventh Hokage (leader of his clan, The Hidden Leaf), it was one of the first things Naruto wanted whenever he came home from a long mission. Ramen noodles are not a make-believe dish. But it’s a perfect example of how we can link characters with food and vice-versa.

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Does your MC have a favorite food—is it a snack, meal, delicacy? Are they always found eating that food at some point in your story? Have they learned to perfect the creation of their chosen vittles? 🙂 I would love to hear about it!

Thanks for visiting, and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

My Experience with DVCon!

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

This past weekend I attended DVCon, (a significant extension of #DVPit which is an annual pitching event on Twitter, directed at un-agented, marginalized writers and illustrators). This two-day virtual writers conference (no pitching btw) consisted of numerous writers, agents, editors, etc., who imparted their experiences and wisdom on the literary world as it relates to the marginalized creator. I watched live workshops on YouTube and communicated with folks on Discord. It was the first conference of its kind, and from what I saw, it was more than successful.

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My favorite panel was called: “Write or Wrong.” Five authors on their second or more literary agent answered questions and shared their thoughts regarding why they had to change agents, tips on finding a new agent, etc. I discovered that not everyone finds the right agent the first go around. As you know, I don’t have an agent yet, so looking that far ahead seemed foreign to me. But after listening to the authors share their anecdotes and disappointing encounters they’ve had as marginalized authors, I walked away feeling more confident about the literary process. (At least when it comes to choosing a literary agent.)

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Here’s what I learned:

  1. It’s okay to have more than one agent in your literary career.
  2. Don’t let your desperation for wanting or having an agent, allow you to tolerate bad behavior from an agent.
  3. Follow your gut, especially if the agent is not a good fit. Don’t ignore the red flags.
  4. Example of a Red Flag: Microaggression – indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. One incident is a mistake; more than one is intentional.
  5. It takes courage to move on. It does not mean that your writing career is over.
  6. Believe in yourself and your work!
  7. Make sure you can trust your agent with the reading and understanding of your contract.
  8. Research possible agents, e.g., Google may share information on fraudulent behavior.
  9. Ask your agent questions when deciding on representation, e.g., How do you see me growing? Is your agency positioned to do certain things for me?
  10. Make sure everything is in writing.
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As you can see, this was an eventful session. I hope DVCon happens again next year, and I have an agent! 🙂 Go to YouTube and search DVCon. I’m sure the videos from the event will be available for future viewing. It’s worth your time!

Ibukun! Blessings!

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Writers: What are you reading this week?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

One of my goals for this year is to finally tackle the long list of books I wish to read. Diving into the world of a fellow writer is a great way to keep your mind and imagination active—not to mention the calming effect it has on you as you await responses to queries and submission requests! (UGH…) This week I am reading Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: 9780142420911 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

I have not read anything for Ms. Okorafor since the Binti series, so it was a delight to delve into her vivid and colorful imagination once more. This story does not move from Earth to space like Binti but from Earth (Nigeria, to be exact) to Leopard Knocks, a world like our own but not. It’s filled with juju, spirits, creatures, secrets, and other things that I am looking forward to discovering.

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Sunny Nwazue, the main character of the story, is a twelve year-old girl trying to figure out who she is meant to be. A difficult task when you are an albino, an outsider (she spent most of her life in the States before her family returned to Nigeria), and what looks like a seer. Sunny saw a vision of the end of the world in a candle’s flame. It was not something she would soon forget. Unfortunately, Sunny was too close to the flame, and her hair caught on fire—like she needed any more drama in her life.

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Thankfully, Sunny makes friends in this story. Orlu and Chichi will lead her on the path to a life-changing discovery—one that will transform her in more ways than one. Sunny is a Leopard Girl, an individual with mystical abilities. I look forward to finding out what kind of power(s) she will wield. Whatever Sunny faces as the story moves on, it seems like she will not be alone. Between her vision of an apocalyptic future, a river monster, and a leaf person, Ms. Okorafor has once again grabbed my attention. I’ll be finished with this book before the week is out! LOL!

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If you are looking for your next great read, pick up Akata Witch. I’ll be starting the second book in the series Akata Warrior right afterward! What are you reading now? I invite you to comment and share!

Ibukun! Blessings!

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What makes a writer “normal”?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Imagine how painfully dull it would be if everyone’s stories read the same. If every story started with “Once upon a time” and ended with, “and they lived happily ever after.” There was a time when going outside the norm as a writer was frowned upon. People only wanted to read about happy endings where the princess found her prince or the hero survives a life-threatening experience, very Disney-like. The person who wrote such a story would have been considered a normal writer.

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What’s a normal writer—was there such a thing? He or she would have written a story with “sugar, spice, and everything nice.” Where the characters always walked away into the sunset. But as the world changed, so did our stories and how we as humans looked at the world.  We were forced (depending on the genre) to be a bit more realistic. Happy endings are now found in different ways, e.g., the end of a war, the death of an antagonist, a reunion of a torn-apart family, etc. It is what makes stories so exciting and compels the reader to come back and read other stories created by a particular creative.

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Every writer has a different style, voice, and approach when it comes to creating a novel, novella, short story, poem, etc. Less repetition equals less yawn factor—but when someone chooses to write a story that has been written before, we as writers give it our flavor, our own je ne sais quoi, e.g., Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

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As a writer of fantasy, I have never considered myself normal. Nor can I say the same about any of the writers that are out these days. Readers, regardless of age, are much more demanding. They want to be entertained, surprised, perhaps even moved, which can make writing for an audience a nerve-wracking experience. If the literary agent doesn’t feel these things, one will never get their work past the literary bridge’s guard.

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Do you see yourself as a normal writer or one who knows there is nothing “normal” about their writing? Do you perhaps feel like your story needs a “kick in the pants” something to make it more attractive to a reader, an agent? If so, I welcome you to share! 😊

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

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