Ta-Nehisi Coates on HBO’s ‘Confederate’: ‘Skepticism Must Be the Order of the Day’ — IndieWire

As you might expect of an alternate-history TV series in which the South won the Civil War and slavery has yet to be abolished, “Confederate” hasn’t come as welcome news to many. The upcoming show from “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss has already been protested on social media, with many hoping…

via Ta-Nehisi Coates on HBO’s ‘Confederate’: ‘Skepticism Must Be the Order of the Day’ — IndieWire

While reading this I couldn’t help but feel many of my thoughts were echoed. While people say this is about censorship and blah blah blah. To me I have these thoughts:

  1. This show feels like it is capitalizing on black pain and trauma in a period where we black folk are intensely aware of our vulnerability, and don’t need an alternative history to see that. It has been the tradition to say “At least we aren’t that”, but in many places around this country the confederacy is integrated into everyday lives. Monuments, holidays, and even up north and out west the confederacy remains a heroic entity. Hell in Europe some white nationalists, due to banning of nazi flags, have begun using confederate flags. Racism isn’t an alternative history. It is our lived experiences and capitalizing on that due to an up-surge of fear and nationalism from a majority white lead and controlled production feels like the same exploitative tune we’ve heard before.
  2. I question whether a show lead by people who can’t properly tackle rape and sexual politics on a channel that uses sex and violence as over use titillation can both be trusted with this material. My gut instinct is no. Often, I feel white culture has a very real element of minorities, especially blacks, being told to accept on good faith the work, ideas, and arguments of the “rational” white folk. We are asked to accept on good faith that this will be handled well, and while it’s fair to say “Watch the show then decide” it’s equally fair for people to say “Based on your previous work I don’t fucking trust you and quite frankly I have no interest in what you can do.” We don’t have to explain ourselves. We don’t have to argue with you. We can say our piece and move the fuck on, and don’t you dare demand that we should play a game we’ve played with a dozen other white folks because it’s  new to you. We’re tired. We just are, and just let it be what it will be.
  3. Parading two black people, even if they are willingly participating, around as though that gets the minority stamp of approval on a product is disgusting and repellent. I don’t blame the 2 black writers for Confederate for taking the job or defending it. They’ve gotta hustle and they gotta stand by their work, but 2 black folk doesn’t ever discount other black folk. We’re people not props and regardless of whether you agree with someone there’s something fucking distasteful about
  4. white-fragility-love-life-of-an-asian-guy-photoWhite fragility is very real in our society, and for you snowflakes, I don’t mean all white people, but I do mean white society. Would Confederate have the balls to actually avoid doing the “good white/bad white” dichotomy and show the full extent of racism’s hold on conscious and unconscious perception. If the answer is no, and I believe it is, I have no interest in seeing it. Why should I when I’ve seen that in nearly every Civil Rights and Slavery era film dealing with race in anyway?

    Django is a good film, but if the German doctor wasn’t there most of the Tarantino fans would be calling the film a racist black power fantasy. It is the German doctor’s goodness and the white plantation owners intense cruelty that make Django palatable to them even as Tarantino subversively questions aspects of “Good white men” via the German Doctor. Say what you want about the lead and creator, the story of Nat Turner in Birth of a Nation, does an awesome job of dismissing the myth of the enlightened abolitionist, the good white woman who doesn’t really “see race” like her contemporaries, and doesn’t create progressive whites to make the white audience feel better about American or International history. The good white folk may have more sympathy, but they are no less racist. This white woman teaches Nat Turner, but is careful to keep him from anything except the bible even saying “his kind” can’t understand concepts such as freedom, liberty, etc. Her progressivism, much like some modern progressive views, is just paternalism.

    Is that to say there were no progressive thinkers? Not at all, but even among progressive thinkers white folk who would break bread with every day black folk and not condescend or evoke racist ideals in some form were rare. Even among African Americans there was a very strong participation in the belief of Africans as more “primitive” until the rise of Pan-Africanism. Racism is constantly depicted as the great evil of evil people when evil is mundane, cruelty mundane, and while we made say it was evil wealthy white men who were drunks or insane or greedy who were cruel we know for a fact it’d never been just them.

    Proud women of the KKK. They weren’t some ambiguous evil. They were the PTA, the sales clerks, the stay-at-home moms. Racism isn’t some cackling villain or redneck.

    Plenty of folk ,including people of color, didn’t care about black lives in the 1800s and still don’t, and it isn’t a matter of bombing churches or even denying all job applications from blacks. White fragility prefers the existence of monsters in the face of angels  who extol  the modern ideals of liberty, freedom, and life to all races in defiance of time and place. That’s not realistic and it isn’t honest, and us black folk know it isn’t honest, and have talked about it for years…now ya’ll just know about it.

    Yet portraying this makes a lot of people uncomfortable often conveyed in meetings as being too harsh and unfair depictions. There is an innate discomfort  when they are faced with being held responsible for the continued damage of their culture and the continuation of racial evils. Always we are asked to go “But not you. You’re good” by virtue of white characters the audience is expected to relate to as representing enlightenment. But in the 1800s and on enlightenment was part of phrenology, the belief in civilization versus everything not European, that Blacks had to go be sent to Africa to protect white folks and white society even if blacks should be free. I continue to affirm and believe most white folk have the moral character to move beyond fragility to something more, but I do not trust television executives to be open to doing so in their professional lives. I do not trust a room full of mostly white writers to do so in their professional lives to a degree that is clear in their story telling. I know most of my readers have, my friends have, and my loved ones. I am very lucky in that, but I have seen even the most liberal of white folk engage in behaviors dripping with fragility when it comes to Confederate and #NoConfederate. And it’s not unexpected. I don’t want this story to contain a major story line of a good white couple(looking at you #Underground) being completely or mostly beyond racism or moving beyond it in the span of just a few weeks or months in the shows timelines. That’s not how that works. Ever.

  5. Why this show and why not a dozen other media that exists about black freedom? 51mi3liebwl-_ac_ul320_sr222320_Why not an alternative history where blacks rebelled or where Haiti gained the upper hand alla some of N.K Jemison’s works or Kindred’s exploration of sexual exploitation, interracial relationships, liberal guilt, and race? Why not but the rights to WGN’s series Underground? I ask these questions because there’s something particularly insidious about how the white gaze conceptualizes confederate tortures, excused as southern, yet is unable and unwilling to engage in truly challenging works from black american creators. That is what made Get Out’s success so fucking shocking, and I question if people have already forgotten about it’s success. In my heart of hearts, there is something deeply wrong when I see people defending Confederate, people calling Wakanda unrealistic, and the jump to put on shows about black trauma before putting on shows about black liberation via a fantasy/scientific lenses from non-black creators.

Well those are some of my thoughts, but I’m dying to hear other people’s opinions and views.

eBooks aren’t a Get Rich Quick Scheme.

As some of you may know, I have been publishing for over a year (under a pen name) and in that time I have done better than most authors without 100+ page books or an editor. Even the reviews that comment on my editing have been more than kind about the stories themselves. So far I’ve made $60-$100 with no real advertising and just using my other(more popular) blog. It isn’t much, but let me tell you it is better than most indie authors out there who have just gotten started with putting in exactly $0.

And I am happy with this because after a year of lurking, and preparing books/short stories for release under my name I have learned one solid fact…self-publishing eBooks is not a money making scheme. Data Guy of the Author Earnings Report had an interview with  the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast in Feb. 2016 that broke down the difficulties and successes of the market brilliantly. One comment he made really stuck out to me, however, because he recounted how the media seemed totally uninterested in the AER’s discovery that a large number of authors were getting by fine with their writing. They weren’t making millions, but they weren’t making cents. The stories people were interested in, and the stories I kept/keep finding when I first began researching self-publishing were the million dollar success stories or the failure stories.

These people had one thing in common…they couldn’t possibly be the majority of self-published authors. There’s two groups in those who “fail” at self-publishing. The 1st of those who claimed to fail? They’d written books purely to get rich off a market, usually erotica or romance. They rushed a book, published it, and though any schmo would buy it because why wouldn’t they? They didn’t have a real long term plan. They were hopeful or desperate in a way most of us have been in our lives. But they had no heart in their book and sometimes no respect for their genre or audience. They listened to the people whose only advice was “write a thing. Hit publish.”.

Elsewhere the successful indies all have a variety of stories, and the most authentic were often the most unique and inexplicable. Their situations were happenstance. The right person read, word of mouth, and they struck at the right moment. There is talent involved, but the reality is plenty of talented people in this world don’t get a damn lick of attention of praise. Remember Van Goph was pretty much only known by other artists until Johanna Van Goph, his sister-in-law, refused to let his work be forgotten after his suicide. These people are not common and their books might not even be that well written (which is fine the goal is for people to enjoy them)

While every other no name blogger may include “write an ebook” as an easy way to make passive income the truth is nothing about ebook sales or writing is easy. The truth is most of those bloggers began with a large audience they could sell to, and that’s why they made what money they did. Book quality aside they had buyers before they thought of a book. More seedy individuals have turned kindle, kobo, and smashwords into a means to get you to give them money. These individuals may have written a handful of actual books, but their main skill is marketing. While they can have very useful advice attached to that advice is convincing people that ebook sales are easy. You will look at their backlogs on their blogs, on amazon, or their websites only to see how they’ve made their money is convincing people like you to buy their book, course, etc. Every blue moon you will find someone like Mark Dawson who actually walks the walk, and loves the craft of writing. One thing that differentiates him and others like him from the former? They will tell you how to do better, write more, and become a better marketer for your writing. They don’t promise you instant sales. They don’t belittle legitimate ebook authors. They will tell you this can be fullfilling, but full of hard work. That said there’s something about people, even Dawson who I’ve interacted with and who is a nice man, whose fortunes are spent on marketing you techniques perhaps more than their actual writing.

If you notice I didn’t mention the other half of those who feel they “failed“. The reason is the second group is far more common, and unfortunately is the majority of us self-publishers. For the rest of us authors, both successful and not, the trouble is we’re all trying to get noticed. With hundreds of books being released every month every author is tasked with the torturous task of pimping themselves, and we don’t even get a pimp cup for it. The sad thing is here is where a lot of authors struggle. Those with the mean green to buy $300 worth of facebook ads or use ad services have an upper hand over those of us who simply can’t. This is a tremendous problem for black authors who traditionally face both prejudiced gate keeping, the racist belief that black books have no value for black people, and who don’t always have the social or economic capital to spend $300 or make that $300 really turn into sales.

A bit of advice, the best way to spend $300 is to find an editor and someone who knows how to put together the cover you want. I’m cheap, artistically inclined, and honestly hate 90% of covers in the genres I write in. So I make my own covers. However, I am preparing to send my proper novels to an editor once they’re complete and I find one who understands my work. My 99c story, Mind and Frost, will be self edited, and released in the next three weeks or so because I just don’t see the benefit in paying for the short story with experimental tense use. But perhaps I’m dumb as rocks because those who receive any sort of help on book production see a spike of around 34% in sales.

Despite that we can work our buts off instead, really making constant mistakes and correcting in order to find the best marketing tactics for our audience. We just have to market differently, be more aggressive, and more clever. It’s not that simple by far, but that’s the long and short of it.

Book marketing, book writing, and taking the time to create your brand isn’t something you can just throw together. Story after story after story gets published about authors who break the bank only because they’re extremes. Humans like extremes because they make for eye catching stories. The reality is most self-published authors don’t quit their day job unless their partner has a stable job or, I suspect, they come from money. The reality is most self-published authors of any quality with a good cover sell, based on observations over the last year, about 20-50 copies on average depending on the genre, and supposedly make under $500. But that’s money you didn’t have before, and money that if you hit critical mass (let’s say 3+ books in a series/world)  you can make twice over that, take what you’ve made, and reinvest in your passion.

But you will not get rich quick.

Instead focus on getting your book done in a way you will be happy with.
That’s the first step to making your life richer.

One of those articles I sort of trash has some good advice.

Short Prompt Warm Up: Stale Dying

Short Prompt Warm Up: Stale Dying

Stale Dying

Prompt: Doomed Love

Kyra breathes in the scent of cigarettes and stale beer, as she’s hoisted on the dirty bar counter. Those bastards took off, but Dean is still there, pressing her vintage thrifted sweater to her wound like a blood rag. He’s saying prayers he doesn’t believe, shouting he’s sorry for provoking those assholes. Warm blood begins to pull under her abdomen, and for a brief second it terrifies her. She needs a smoke, and she must have said it because the next thing she knows is Dean is sobbing as he places a fresh lit cig between her lips. She takes a puff, he pulls it away and places it between his lips. He’s crying? Fucking really? Damn.

“Well, shit,” she breathes it out with satisfaction. His tears take the place of the cig, and those big brown eyes are enough to kill her. He presses down on the sweater sending bright hot pain through her body. She screams, and he strokes her hair like it’ll be ok. It won’t, but at the very least he gives her one last puff on her cigarette. “You really are the love of my life. ”

Her consciousness is sliding, slipping away as the dim bar lights blur. There’s mumbling whispers. A siren sings in the distance, but the sound of Led Zepplin on the juke box in the corner is so much sweeter. Yet even that doesn’t compare to the sound of Dean saying

“Kyra, come on stay with me alright? You don’t get to die yet…I’ll have to do paperwork!” he laughs, and she wants to but her body feels too heavy. Her wound is on fire, and the warmth beneath her is growing.

Another puff, and she meets his gaze.

“You have a shit taste in cigarettes and bars.”

Reblog: How NOT to start your novel

Reblog: How NOT to start your novel

This is the classic trap most new writers fall into. I know I did. We get into storyteller mode: “once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there was a____ who for many years….”

Great for fairy tales. Not so much for modern novels. In a contemporary novel the reader wants to be in the story, not outside telling or hearing about it.

If this is sci-fi or fantasy, your job is tougher, because you have world-building to do, and there’s going to be a huge amount of history to get across. But you don’t have to do it on page one. Slip in the world-building on a “need-to-know” basis.

Damn this article is both hilarious and thought provoking as a writer. No matter the genre some of these themes bring me back to my high school composition class, but many crop up again and again despite writer experience. This article captures both why they don’t work and is a damn funny take on the omnipresence of Disney princess sheets. Take a look over at:

Anne R. Allen’s Blog: How NOT to start your novel

Whose Genre is this Anyway?

Whose Genre is this Anyway?

Genres are probably the most useful and arbitrarily frustrating aspects of books, films, movies, podcasts, art, or anything you could possibly make creatively. No creator really wants to think about where their products will go. Most of us just want to create and put something we love out into the world. Yet we all know the frustration of the customer, searching and searching through the weeds for the product they want to spend money on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “Why can’t I find that kindle category. It was there yesterday and I wanted to find more books there! Damn you Amazon!” While Amazon, Kobo, and other search engines are constantly tinkering algorithms and site design unless something hits all the standards of a genre we can struggle to find it.

Example? I love romance in my fantasy and I love romance in general AND I love fantasy in general. If I want to find a book where the romance is a central, but not the central aspect of the plot in a unique fantasy world with a plot arising not from the romance, but something else…I have to weed through so many shifter romances and random books. The core of what I want is a fantasy book with a strong romantic through line. In fantasy I can click romance or non-romance, but both rarely find me what I want.

The books I’ve found? Generally came from fantasy sections, but outside of Kushiel’s Dart most were still buried.  This is most evident in ebook stores, but its always been a problem. As a self-published author, I have struggled with classifying my stories. However, my erotica/romances are relatively easy to categorize once I figured out how most readers did. The problem with Science Fiction or Fantasy is they’re loaded with useful sub-genres and then you have Science Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Contemporary Science Fiction, Space Opera, Magical realism, etc. etc. When a story crosses genres you’re pretty much left saying a hail Mary and hoping things work out.

So how do you find books you like? Fellow authors, how do you classify your books so people  can find them, and know what they’re getting?

Poem: Glass

Poem: Glass

Bitter memories frolic across my mindscape,
Filling it to the mid point
And then threatening to raise the tide over full,
Love and love’s past explode between my ears,
With fears materializing into loneliness,

But hey the glass is half full,
Loving many means loving alone,
Because no one wants a beggar,
“Alms! Alms for the poor”
And love. Don’t forget love.
No one wants.
No one wants to look through the colored glass of your soul,
And see pity.
Pathetically crawling, scratching,
Spilling everywhere over all your insides,

How to Settle in for Writing Fiction?

How to Settle in for Writing Fiction?
  1. Create a playlist that suits your story. I use youtube and soundcloud to create unique and fun sounds from contemporary, classical, and indie artists all over the world.
  2. Give yourself 15 minutes to fool aorund on your phone
  3. Put your phone down
  4. Open your writing program or grab your favorite pen and paper
  5.  Prepare both a large mug of hot and soothing tea, and have a chilled bottle of water(large) for after the tea is consumed. Good teas? For a racing mind I drink chamomile. For a chill day spearmint or peppermint. However I am down for chai tea at any hour of any given day.
  6. Have a pack of snacks that go with tea, preferably cookies/biscuits…preferably chocolate chip.
  7. Turn off your wifi, unplug your Ethernet, toss cord out of reach.
  8. Put your phone down.. Didn’t I tell you to put your phone down.
  9. Put playlist at low to medium volume.
  10. Sip your tea
  11. Write
  12. For every 200-300 words eat a cookie/biscuit, and feel rewarded and accomplished.
  13. At 1200 words reward yourself with a 15 minute break,
  14. Get back to the joys of writing
  15. Repeat every day or until writing is finished.

There is my foolproof guide to writing with a motivator(the sweets reward), something soothing, and without distraction!