Revising The Stella Trilogy: Crafting Authentic Historical Details

In Beyond the Colored Line, book two of The Stella Trilogy, we meet Noah Daniels who is a member of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. There are two books I read that helped me to conceptualize his character in the most authentic way possible: Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton and The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas.

These books helped me to capture the language and the spirit of the movement as realistically as possible. I modeled Noah’s persona after both Huey Newton and Fred Hampton. Noah uses terms like “Pig,” regarding the police like the Panthers did in the 60s, but reading Newton’s story helped me to understand this wasn’t a random term they pulled out of the sky to be derogatory.

Black Panther rhetoric like “All Power to the People,” and the concept of “pig,” came with Newton’s interest in A. J. Ayer’s logical positivism, that nothing can be real if it cannot be conceptualized, articulated, and shared. While I do not agree with this philosophy as a person of faith (because faith is the opposite of this…the belief and expectation of something even when you cannot see it), it was helpful in me understanding the Panthers on a deeper level and thus helped me to make Noah’s story more real.

Not all research needs to be included in the story so you won’t hear Noah quoting A.J. Ayer. The point of research for historical books is to help the writer to better understand the culture of the time so the characters can interact with the setting genuinely.

Historical Fiction is not an easy genre to write because while the story itself is fictional, the dialogue and personas of the characters have to be true to the time. A young person living in 1960 wouldn’t speak like a young person living in 2020. If done right, adding authentic historical details enrich the story by triggering memories of the past.

Excerpt from Chapter Ten:

“That just bugs me. We supposed to march and get hit upside the head by the pigs?” he would say in conversations with his mother when he would visit her. Unlike many young black men raised by their mothers, Noah’s mother had decided early on that her son’s narrative would be different. When he came of age, she would turn him over to be raised by his father. She could provide a lot of things, but she could not teach him how to be a man. She supported most of Noah’s radicalism, but only to an extent.

“Now don’t you go rappin’ ‘bout all that communist jive talk in here boy. Violence and hatred never helped to expand no revolution.”

“But Ma, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not about violence. It’s about defending ourselves. Violence is only the guilt complex that exists in the minds of America.”

Mama Daniels would lift her head to the ceiling, wishing she’d said nothing.

“To say that a man is violent because he defends himself does not differ from saying a man who is being lynched and thus fighting back is himself violent because he fights back.”

“Boy, what? You know, sometimes I wish you weren’t so smart.”

Noah laughed, “’cause you know I’m right. Mama, white Americans know that they have been violent against Negroes, and they fear that one day the Negro will do unto them as they have done unto the Negro.”

The 1960s presented a new wave of leadership and identity for people of color who went from being Negroes to Blacks. Just the previous year, the heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali refused induction into the army on both religious and political grounds. The epitome of the black power movement was the Black Panther Party, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. This party organized the use of self-defense in the accomplishment of black justice and was right up Noah’s alley.


Stella: Beyond the Colored Line

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Haven’t read book one yet? Get it here for just $0.99.

Already read these books? Don’t forget to leave a review!

African American Images on Book Cover Premades!

If you’ve been following this blog for the past five years you know one of my biggest complaints has been the lack of African American/Black themed premade book covers. And guess what? I found a few!

Beetiful Book Covers

“Launched in 2013 by Stefanie Fontecha, Beetiful Book Covers offers African American premade book covers.”

Cover Your Dreams

This one is not exclusive to AFAM but I’ve seen several covers featuring black men/women. The prices are low so this may be useful for Indie Authors on a budget.

Marion Designs

This one looks a bit more upscale with professional photos.

Designs by Rachelle

It appears this site also occasionally features diverse photos in its premade covers.

Learn more about how to get the best out of premade covers and what to look for HERE


Do you know of any more we can add? Drop a comment on the table if you do and let us know!

Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom (Preorder Book One)

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.

Preorder Book One Now. 3/24/2020

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! 

Preorder the ebook for 99cents

Preorder a signed paperback

Mark as Want to Read on Goodreads

(Already read Stella? Mark as read and leave a review)

Revising The Stella Trilogy: A Behind the Scenes Look

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

Readers reading Stella. Circa, 2015.

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.

Caution: Careful Not to Share Black History Memes with False Information

Martin Luther King Jr. recovers from surgery in bed at New York’s Harlem Hospital on following an operation to remove steel letter opener from his chest after being stabbed by a mentally disturbed woman as he signed books in Harlem. (John Lent/AP)

I am reposting this because February is approaching and we will see a lot of false information attached to Black History memes, same as always.

According to a famous Facebook post, King was not killed during an April 4, 1968, assassination attempt, but survived that shooting and was later “smothered by someone in the hospital.”

Is this true?

Let’s see.

Updated 1/28/2021

It’s Throwback Thursday so let’s go back in time a lil bit.

September 20, 1958

The year is 1958 and we are in Harlem, baby. Dr. King is signing copies of his first book “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,” at the Blumstein’s Department Store, on 230 West 125th Street.

It’s a nice afternoon and young King is just twenty-nine years old, releasing his first book and feeling good. And we are feeling good too because we are ready to get our copy. The line is long but before we get bored a voice makes us all stop and look in their direction.

“Is this Martin Luther King?” shouts a well-dressed black woman wearing rhinestone glasses and a matching necklace and earrings but carried an ugly brown bag and an even uglier scowl. The woman stepped out of line, causing groans from the people in front of her.

We don’t know this yet, but she is forty-two-year-old Izola Ware Curry, the black daughter of sharecroppers.

King nodded, “Yes, it is.”

“I’ve been looking for you for five years,” says Curry while pulling a letter opener with an ivory handle from her purse, which we don’t really know is a letter opener because we don’t use those anymore.

“Ooh, snap!” We gasp, placing our hands over our mouths. “Why she come so dressed up for if she was trying to kill somebody?”

“What is she doing?” says another one of us.

“Yea, man. Doesn’t she know this is Martin Luther King?”

“He not all that popular yet,” says a young black boy wearing chino pants and a white polo shirt. He put his hand in his pocket when he said it, smiled and then tilted his head like he was better than us. “Ya’ll not from here, are ya?”

Before we could answer, the sound of screams forces our attention back to the direction of the strange woman. She swings the letter opener at King, and sliced his finger then plunges the seven-inch blade into the left side of his chest.

“Oh, my God!” someone screams and just like that, the store is in an uproar. We are all screaming and running as someone apprehends the woman.

We look at King secretly hoping she didn’t get him because we still kinda want our book.

But when we see somebody who looks like our Grandma rush to his side, we know that’s not going to happen.

Dr. King is sitting in this chair all calm and cool like he ain’t just been stabbed. Meanwhile the letter opener’s ivory handle is still protruding just below his collar.

The police arrive. “Don’t sneeze, don’t even speak,” says Officer Al Howard, fearful of the blade’s proximity to King’s heart. Because of how the letter opener hit him, if King had sneezed, he would have died.

So, they move King slowly and carefully and take him to Harlem Hospital, and he undergoes emergency surgery.

 

Then, we jump in our time machine and head back to 2021 because it’s wild out here in the 50s.


Oct. 3, 1958
King leaves the hospital almost two weeks after the stabbing

The photo at the start of this post is not of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after being shot in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.

That is a picture of Dr. King ten whole years earlier in 1958 at a New York Hospital after being stabbed at his book signing. He spent almost two weeks in the hospital recovering.

“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

I hope this creative backdrop added some perspective. Although I wrote it like a short story, everything I said here is the truth. Izola Curry, really did attack Dr. King at his book signing in Harlem.

Now to the original post…

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. Otherwise, you are guilty of spreading disinformation.

Black people have contributed to the world so that we 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 material is accurate or not. Sometimes it will even come up that the information is an opinion or cannot be verified by any trusted source.

Use not only your phone to log into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use it to research these things and educate the people right.

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 shows that other professionals have reviewed and deemed it worthy of publication.

Wikipedia is not a credible source alone. Other trusted sources should support anything gained from Wiki.

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.

Black History Fun Fact Friday: “In Africa they Didn’t Teach about the Period of Enslavement of Our People.”


I thought this quote was an interesting and thought provoking one to share considering the crisis going on today.

What Crisis?

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?

THAT Crisis

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…

My raggedy To Kill a Mockingbird

A public school in Biloxi Mississippi is trying to pull To Kill a Mockingbird from 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).

>>Click Here to Keep Reading<<

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.

>>Click here to Keep Reading<<

and this one goes in depth

 

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.)

Black people, ask yourself why our children are only being taught about the Civil Rights Movement. Chicago Public Schools have been on strike for about two weeks ending today. Maybe parents should consider teaching their own children. It can’t be any worse than the school system.

Image from the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

February is around the corner but you don’t have to wait a whole year to research your history. Here are a few good articles for you.

For The Origins of Black History Month revisit that fun fact here, which I published to this blog a couple years ago.

Here’s an article I found earlier this week written by William Spivey. He was featured on the blog a few years ago about his upcoming book. He wrote an excellent piece on Breeding Farms during slavery.

This young woman is getting a lot of attention of Social Media for being the first Black Teen Author Ever To Write 3 Books Being Used By School Districts Across The Country. She is an excellent example of how Black writers can change things through writing.


Peace and hair grease!

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.

The Inspiration of Alex Haley’s Roots

My one and only classic 1976 original version of Roots: The Saga of an American Family
 
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.

Twelve. Whole. Years.