Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. The 3-Part series focuses on the history of one family in their struggle for racial identity. We discover in this Trilogy how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same battle, carefully knit together by one blood.
These books were first released in 2015 and helped elevate my writing to another level. These were not the first books I had ever written. Still, they were the first books to appeal to people outside of my circle and were my first Historical Fiction books.
I took the risk of removing them to get them re-edited, re-formatted, and the covers recreated.
I am happy with my decision and even prouder of this work. I get to relaunch these books and reach more readers of African American Historical Fiction. I am hoping to at least sell 50 copies of book one to start (at least 25 ebooks, 25, print books), and I hope you can help me with that!
Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom
In book one, Cynthia McNair and her boyfriend, Alex, express some racists’ feelings toward blacks. They visit Cynthia’s Grandmother Sidney McNair, who recounts the story of her ancestor, a slave named Stella Mae. Cynthia has no idea of her African ancestry or how deep this rabbit hole goes.
Book one is available now for preorder in digital and print. Release day is March 24th.
The preorder price is 99cents but will go up after release, so you want to take advantage of this.
Preorders are also available in paperback through my website. Paperback books are signed and will ship the first week of April.
*If you already read this series, you should know book one has an alternate ending! The story is the same, but the books are better polished, and each book flows smoothly into the next book. This time, while the books can be read alone, they are much more in a series format. You will want to read all three books to get the full picture. Well worth re-reading!
Tomorrow will mark five years since I released the first book in The Stella Trilogy. Wowzers! I am celebrating by introducing the new cover to book one and two. If you haven’t heard, I removed the books from amazon for some much needed polish and am re-publishing them. To learn why check out the blog post “Quality Over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon.”
While I changed the cover to I am Soul after its release and got a new cover to The Aftermath, my first novel (2012), I’ve never wholly revised my backlist before. The Stella Trilogy is getting an entirely new makeover, which includes editing, covers, formatting, and ISBNs. Why go through all the work for an old book?
Books do not expire. Every book is new to people who have never read it which is why it benefits Indie Authors to go back and update “older” works every now and again. Here are some things I saw needed work on Stella:
Editing – It wasn’t enough to slap a new cover on the books. I knew these books had to be revamped altogether. Like most newbie Indie Authors, I had a friend to edit the first version of these books because I didn’t have the money to pay someone. This time around, I am getting the books professionally edited.
Song Lyrics – The first book had song lyrics in it—rookie mistake. You need permission to include the words to a song in your books. I promptly removed those lyrics. I can’t afford to get sued.
DIY Covers – I like the cover to book one, but it was a DIY premade from Derek Murphy’s website, offered freely to authors. I added the image of the black woman, but the rest was unoriginal. I cringed every time I saw it on his site. Book two was more original as I purchased the winter lady image, but it was still poorly applied to the cover. I did everything in Microsoft Word, and since I didn’t know that super-thin books don’t need a spine (if there aren’t enough pages to warrant one) when the books printed the spine folded over to the front. Yuck. For this reason, new covers were something I knew I needed to get done.
Free ISBN – I am done with the free ISBN game. Listen, if you don’t include the cost of the ISBN in your book budget, you are still a beginner. Have I always purchased my own ISBN? No. ISBNs are expensive, but having your own is worth it. They (ISBNs) are also cheaper if you buy them in bulk. 10 ISBNs can cover ten different books. Applying your own ISBN number to the book ensures that your imprint name will be applied to the book. In other words, you are the publisher, not KDP, and not Lulu. This time around, all books in The Stella Trilogy will have its own ISBN so I can register the books to me.
BONUS: Alternate Ending – I am excited about adding an alternate ending to excite Stella fans who have already read the books. The conclusion to book one is not the ending of the original book one. Why the change? It is to tighten the link between all the stories for a smooth transition from one book to the next.
Lessons I learned so far:
Work with what you have until you can do better.
You don’t have to know everything to start. I didn’t. Work with what you have until you can do better. (If a free ISBN is all you have to work with right now, use it until you are able to move up. I did.) I do not regret putting Stella or my first books out there, even though they weren’t properly edited, and the covers were DIY. These books gave me my start, and the courage and the freedom to step out on my own. These books gave me my beginning, and I am forever thankful to Yah for them.
Then, when you can do better, please do it.
The other part of this, though, is doing better once I knew better. If I produce mediocrity, I will only get mediocre results. Once you’ve stepped out there, it is okay to go back and change what you see needs work. We may not be perfect, but this doesn’t mean we cannot strive to maintain a level of excellence in all we do, even if the best we can do still falls short. We don’t have to stay at the same levels in the latter part of the journey as the first. We can tweak and correct and improve with time. We have that freedom, to sharpen, and to elevate.
About The Stella Trilogy
Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. We discover how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood. The three-part series features elements of enslavement, Jim Crow, Passing, and the Civil Rights Movement.
I am reposting this because February is approaching, and I just ran across another false meme. It’s the one with MLK in the hospital with the text that he was still alive when they shot him at the Lorraine Motel (using the image above). The text applied to that picture is not true. The image is real, but the text is not.
King was stabbed at his first book signing in Harlem in 1958. Proof of this can be heard from King’s own mouth one day before his death in his “Promised Land “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Because of how the letter opener hit him, if King had sneezed, he would have died. He references this in his speech, saying:
“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.”
Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,”
April 3, 1968
The picture you see is a photograph of him after the surgery from the stabbing. The woman who stabbed him also had a gun on her but was apprehended before she got to use it. To apply the text that this was him after they had shot him at the motel is deception. It’s not true. (Even if he was still alive at the hospital after the shooting, this isn’t the picture of that time).
As February approaches, please be careful with what you share. We are about to see a lot of false Black History memes (which is unfortunate because it’s unnecessary).
There are tons of Black History memes circulating on the internet and this number has increased even more due to it being Black History Month. However, many of these memes are not historically accurate. Please be sure to double check your facts before sharing. (For example, it is not accurate to say that anyone born in the 19th, or 20th centuries invented heat. Heat has been around for far longer). Otherwise, you are guilty of spreading disinformation. All it takes is a quick Google search.
Wikipedia is not a credible source by itself. Anything acquired from Wiki need to be validated by other trusted sources.
A good rule of thumb is to look for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles on .gov, .edu, or .org sites and trustworthy blogs. Peer-reviewed means information from a reputable source, information that indicates that other professionals have reviewed and deemed it worthy of publication.
Black people have contributed greatly to the world so that we really don’t have to make stuff up. If you see a meme with a fun fact on it just open the internet on your phone and type the name or fact into the search bar. You can tell from there if the info is accurate or not. Sometimes it will even come up that the fact cannot be validated but is a popular opinion. Put those research skills to work and educate the people right. (And on the Monday of MLK day when everyone takes off and celebrates his legacy, remember that he was born on January 15, 1929, not whatever Monday you take off).
I thought this quote was an interesting and thought provoking one to share considering the crisis going on today.
The one where schools are trying to remove Black History Courses from their Curriculum.
The one where today’s kids only know about Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.
The one where the only Historical Black people most people can name are Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Dr.
What about Toussaint Louverture, general and leader of the Haitian Revolution?
Or Florence Mills, nicknamed “Queen of Happiness,” and one of the most successful entertainers of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance Movement? You know Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, but what of the people mainstream society doesn’t speak of?
To the quote…
“In Africa, they didn’t teach about the period of enslavement of our people. They forbade us from speaking about it. They would kill people for speaking about that history. So we were not allowed for hundreds of years to speak about what was happening and to teach what was happening.”
– Queen Diambi: The Queen of Congo
My people across the water, is this true? Not hard to believe with the history they restrict here in America.
Now, for our first atrocity of the week…
A public school in Biloxi Mississippi is trying to pull To Kill a Mockingbirdfrom the eighth grade curriculum because the language is “uncomfortable.”
If the language in To Kill a Mockingbird makes thirteen-year-olds “uncomfortable,” then I assume the school district is also insisting they stay off Twitter and never listen to rap music. – Julia Dent
“The book is about life in the South during the Great Depression, specifically the life of a black man named Tom Robinson who had been framed for raping a white woman. Local lawyer Atticus Finch agrees to defend the innocent man, angering the racist white community who subject him and his children to abuse. Despite proving Robinson’s innocence, the jury still convicts him because of the color of his skin. I won’t spoil the ending for you if you haven’t read it, but it is even more violent and sad (but with a bit of a happy ending).”
And if you haven’t read the book yet, do that (and I do not mean watch the movie. Read the book).
Next up is the Winston-Salem School Board who voted SEVEN to ONE AGAINST a Black History Course
“Black American children need to know their history “not later, but now,” Winston-Salem City Council Member D.D. Adams said after a mandatory African-American history course for the district was rejected by the school board.
I shared these same articles with my email list and I am sharing them with you too because I am seeing more and more instances of Black history removed. This is one of several reasons why I write Black Historical Fiction. Who will restore what was lost? No greater person can do it than writers. Someone has to write it down even if through Fiction and Poetry.
The little crumbs of black history they have allowed to exist is being erased bit by bit. As the so-called Black man, woman, and child is being awakened to the knowledge of their true heritage, even what they thought they knew is being removed. A few weeks ago, I was watching Michael B. Jordan’s Raising Dion series on Netflix. Dion was being singled out by a white teacher during an altercation Dion had with another student, a white boy. His aunt told his mother it was time for her to have “the talk” with him. When she told him, Dion said he thought “Dr. King fixed all of that.”
Huh? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
MLK is recent. The 60s was not that long ago and Black History did not begin with The Civil Rights Movement (The NAACP wasn’t even created by Black people. It was founded by Jewish white men.)
For more Black History Fun Facts visit the Black History Fun Fact page here. If you are interested in submitting a Black History Fun Fact as a guest post on this blog let me know! That would help me to be more consistent with this if I had help. I am putting together something now to promote that but until then, comment below if you’re interested or email me at yecheilyah (at) yecheilyahysrayl dot com. (The post on Roots has been added to the Black History Fun Fact page.)
Next week we are talking about Nina LittleJohn (Yah Willing) who opened a medical facility to treat Blacks in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
It took Alex Haley 12 years to finish Roots: The Saga of an American Family, known widely as simply, Roots. The book shot straight to the top of the bestseller charts, and the twelve-hour mini-series (Jan. 1977) was watched by 130 million people. They translated the book into 37 languages; it won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and sales soared to over 5.5 million.
This was not without controversy. No success story is. Haley had to settle a plagiarism suit out of court—that part of his story was copied from a 1967 novel, The African (The Guardian). It was also said there was no documented evidence that the alleged elder he spoke to in the Gambia had been accurate in his account of Kinte. Critics said that if Haley had written Roots as a fiction novel, there would not have been a cause for alarm. “Most of us feel it’s highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang”, Henry Louis Gates Jr said in 1998, calling Roots “a work of the imagination.” (But if you listen to Haley here, his story is very detailed. It is also consistent with many of his other interviews and speeches about the story of how Roots came about. This is hard to do if you are lying).
Roots is now part of history and the original 1977 TV series awakened a new generation of young Blacks to the horrors of enslavement when movies and television shows about slavery were few and far in-between (both in books and film). While it may seem an over-saturated topic now, in 1977 this was groundbreaking.
Enslaved persons had little knowledge of what Haley referred to as “family continuity.” They were sold so much that as adults they came to know little about their family lineage, where they came from and who they were. Roots was therefore something special because Blacks had come out of the Black Power movement of the 60s, had just seen the deaths of Medgar Evers, Martin King, and Malcolm X. Roots was not just the story of one man’s family but the family of all Black people who had been taken captive and robbed of their family tree and any connection to it. It would become a history lesson, a recommended educational film that Black parents will watch with their children with just as much seriousness as their parents forced them to watch The Ten Commandments. Some would even name their children Kunta Kinte.
After Roots, Octavia Butler used time travel to explore slavery in Kindred (1979), Alice Walker used an African subplot (Nettie’s life in Africa) in The Color Purple (1982) which also went on to win a Pulitzer and National Book Award, and Toni Morrison made a fugitive slave her protagonist in Beloved (1987). Beloved was voted the most influential African-American novel of the 20th century in a poll of PBS viewers. But as Frances Smith Foster has pointed out, “in terms of actual audience and effect on politics and policies, Roots has been the most influential such story in the modern era.”
As I listened to the entire 2hours of the clip linked above, I wondered why I was doing this when I had (seemingly) much more important stuff to do. That is until I came to the final hour and fifty something minutes. Here, Haley speaks about how the father’s name the babies at eight days old. In the villages, the people would not see much of the father for seven days because he was spending time with the baby to come up with a good meaningful and significant name. On the eighth day the people would gather at the family’s home. The mother would come out once hearing the signal and sit on the stool and hold the eight-day-old baby. The father would walk over, lift the infant, and whisper the name into the infant’s ear three times.
He would do this so that the infant would be the first one to know who he/she was. This resembles, to me, the ancient practice of circumcision of the male child, and naming of the child, in ancient Israelite culture (Gen 17:12) which I believe is also Black culture. For example, the Ashanti Empire was a powerful Akan empire and kingdom in what is now modern-day Ghana. Ashan was the name of a city in southern Israel. The word Ashan in Hebrew means “smoke” “smoke city” or “burning city” so that Ashanti means “the people of Ashan or the people of the smoke city”. This was a reference to the city of Ashan after the Israelites took it over during the conquest of Canaan (1 Ch 4:32, 1 Ch 6:59). The Ashanti people had many Hebrew customs and traditions as part of their way of life. For eight days after the birth of a child, it is only on the eighth day that the child receives his/her personal name.
It was here that I had discovered the purpose of my listening to this piece in its entirety. I believe this to be such a powerfully subtle telling of who we, so-called Blacks in America, truly are. For the customs of the Hebrews is something that can still be found among many African cultures such as the Ashan.
Roots is a powerful example of why we shouldn’t give up on whatever we are striving toward. It inspires me as a writer and as a person of the fruits of patience and of perseverance. While Roots has had (and continues to have) much success, remember that it took Haley 12 years to complete (one whole year from Kunta’s birth to capture… which could be a book by itself).
Think about that the next time you worry about that book taking too long to finish.
I have been MIA on social media lately and I’ll return to my regular blogging soon. In the meantime, the Even Salt Looks Like Sugar is available now in audiobook. If you are a first time audible user this book is free with the 30 day trial.
Texas, I’ll be at the Trill Healing and Wellness Space in Stafford TX (about 40min from Houston) on November 30th for a signing and book reading of Keep Yourself Full. If you are in the area, I would love to have your support. This is our chance to meet/catch up. Don’t have this book? No worries! Grab your copy now from my website by clicking on the link in my bio. See you soon. Special thanks to Trill Monday Night Markets, Enlightened Souls, and B Infused Natural Detox Waters and more.
If you have not already, please be sure to head on over to this post and check out Fiza Pathan’s touching review of I am Soul. I’ll be quoting her review throughout this post but reading it in full will help you add context to what I say here (there is also an audio version of the review on her blog).
“I have read many books and articles about the way a woman of color is treated in society, especially in Indian society. I have studied History and Sociology throughout my college career which gave me a lot of material to study about the situation of colored people in Indian society. But to be frank, I’m not that well equipped to talk or speak about Black American History or the Black American contemporary views on life, culture, society, history, politics, education, et al.” (Pathan, 2019)
Pathan is not the only reader to have confided she is not well versed in Black American History. People have told me on more than one occasion of their lack of extensive knowledge in this area. This does not surprise me. It is why writing on the experiences of Blacks in America is important to me. Like Paul of the bible, I am sent to the nations (Acts 22:21) to bring light to what America has tried to keep hidden for too long.
Americans underestimate how information is disseminated across the world. The news and the information we are exposed to in America is not necessarily the same information that is exposed to people in other parts of the world. Historically, news traveled through radios, television, books, and newspapers. What mainstream media wanted you to know is what you knew. If America didn’t want other countries to see how it treated Black Americans, those countries didn’t see it.
“I have started reading Black American literature in general after I turned 28 years of age in 2017, because of the poems and writings of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, James Baldwin and Dorothy West. Yes, you’d wonder where I was and what I was doing with my life, but the fact is that, all said and done, I have just begun to realize the richness and depth of the Black-American experience. ‘I Am Soul’ by Yecheilyah Ysrayl is one book among many that are educating women of color like me from far off countries like India, especially recluses like me, and I’m glad I am being educated.”
– Pathan, 2019
Today, Social Media is a significant catalyst for uncovering the truth about what Blacks have endured and the many businesses and products blacks have invented and how those inventions have been credited to other people. While we must be cautious not to spread disinformation (See this post here), there is still a lot of good that has resulted from the social media revolution. Information is coming out at a rapid speed of both the good and bad historical facts so that there is a desperate need of keen discernment. One such example is the testimony from notable black writers that Blacks could not eat vanilla ice cream in the Jim Crow south, and that they only allowed us to eat it on Independence Day.
“People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.”
– Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
While visiting Washington D.C. with her parents around Independence Day, poet Audre Lorde’s mom wanted to treat her to some vanilla ice cream, but they refused the family:
“The waitress was white, the counter was white, and the ice cream I never ate in Washington DC that summer I left childhood was white, and the white heat and white pavement and white stone monuments of my first Washington summer made me sick to my stomach for the rest of the trip.” – Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
The “White Ice Cream,” rule is said to be more folklore than truth. But why? This is an example of a history hidden and then revealed because of the widespread use of Social Media. Prohibiting blacks from eating vanilla ice cream is not far-fetched, considering the pettiness of Jim Crow law. If blacks couldn’t swim in the same water as whites, it’s not so hard to believe they couldn’t eat white ice cream.
Fun Fact: The vanilla bean is brown and was cultivated and improved by an enslaved black man named Edmund Albuius. In ice cream, a small amount of vanilla is used compared to the other ingredients so that it still looks white (from the milk, cream, white sugar). If a larger quantity of vanilla is used, it would probably be more colored. Take these bars of soap.
“The soap above is scented with Vanilla Sandalwood Fragrance Oil, which discolors dark brown. The tan color will continue to darken over time.” – Bramble Berry, Soap Queen (3 days later, the vanilla in the soap turned it even darker…)
But let’s not digress. The point is, vanilla bean is brown, not white. Joke was on Jim Crow…
“While Jim Crow laws, extensively documented in print and historical record, are fairly well known, less well known are the unspoken etiquette rules for Black people, largely forgotten by anyone who didn’t have to live under them. During Jim Crow, Black people could pick up food at establishments that served white people, but they often could not eat in them. When custom demanded that Black people be served separately from whites, they were often required to have their own utensils, serving dishes, and condiments. So it was customary for Black families who were traveling to carry everything they might possibly need so that (with the help of the Green Book, the guide that helped Black travelers eat, sleep, and move as safely as possible) they could navigate America in relative comfort.”
– Mikki Kendall, Hot Sauce in her Bag, 2016
Black history has been just as raped and stolen and manipulated as her people. Black American History is more than slavery and Civil Rights, but slavery and Civil Rights is still part of that history and must never be forgotten. Black history is the birth of a nation, its upbringing, its captivity, and its overcoming. It is all of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We were not only slaves but also soldiers. Not only captives but also captains. We were/are a wealthy people, royal, smart, salt. We are seasoning and soil. But where were we born? How did we begin? What happened once we got here? These are the questions I seek to answer in my literature and articles so that the voices unheard in mainstream media can speak through me and prophesy the truth.
“‘I Am Soul’ to me is a book about being a part of a history that none can forget, but that slowly is changing the way we look at this race of people past, present and to a bright future, God willing.”
– Pathan, 2019
There is something special about the plight of the so-called Black American. What is to be revealed about these people stolen and transported to foreign lands in the bowels of slave ships? These people once stripped of their nationality and culture and are now returning to their natural heritage? Because of Social Media, this truth is easier to disseminate and verify. We have eBooks we can download in an instant, online journals and periodicals, and scholarly material at our fingertips. And we have Independent Publishing whereby artists can write and publish these truths without prejudice.
“Lastly, I would like to recommend this lovely and enriching book to everyone, irrespective of race, community, religion, caste and gender. I hope to review more books by Yecheilyah Ysrayl soon and hopefully, when I do so, I will be more capable of giving a more enlightened review as I will be reading more books about Black American history and literature in the future.” – Fiza Pathan