The Stella Trilogy: The Research (Book One)

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016.

Since the meat of book one focuses on what life was like for a little girl, and then a young woman, growing up in slavery, the bulk of my research had to do with reading slave narratives and studying enslavement through the eyes of women and children.

Between Slavery and Freedom centers on Stella’s enslavement on The Saddler Plantation in Louisiana. As I introduce us to the first Stella, she is a six-year-old girl enslaved with her mother, Deborah. At this age, she is not aware that she is living property, which was typical for some enslaved children in their early years. She plays with the other children, including the slave owners’ daughter, but she does not yet understand the value of her flesh, that she could be bought, sold, traded, transferred, deeded, and gifted. Stella describes the plantation as a “big family.” She loves running through the dirt and the way it feels on her toes. She talks of childish things like eating sweet cakes, playing with Miss Carla, and trying to convince Mama, she touched the sun.

“One time, I made it where I touched the sun. It wasn’t even hot either. It didn’t feel like nothing but air. I told Mama the sun was tricking us. 

“And how it do that?”

“Cause Mama. I touched it, and it ain’t burn my finger none. It feels hot, but it ain’t really.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

Historically, enslaved children who had a “childhood” in this way realized their status gradually. Their awakened consciousness may have been signified by seeing a family member sold for the first time or being sold themselves. The research points to ten as the age where the enslaved child knew and understood that he or she was property, except in the circumstances, as I have mentioned. As soon as they were old enough, the enslaved child’s life changed, and they realized that their lives as enslaved differed greatly from the lives of the white children they once played with as small children.

Slave-owners raised southern white youth as enslavers in training. Sometimes slave-owners gifted their children an enslaved person as a pet (sometimes it was the same child they played with). Literature also played a role in the training of southern youth to not only accept slavery as a regular part of society but to prepare them to own slaves of their own. Examples of such books is The Child’s Book on Slavery; or Slavery Made Plain. In a chapter called The Duty of Learning about Slavery, it states:

“if slavery is good, we ought to help it forward…”

In a chapter called Does Color Make Slavery, it states:

“Moses and all his people, I have said, were slaves in Egypt, but they were not colored people.” 

This explanation was to try to explain to the children that slavery wasn’t based on skin color, and it is a lie. Egypt is in Africa. Moses and his people were “people of color.”

In a chapter called What is a Slave, the author compares the enslaved to a horse, saying:

“Perhaps your father has a horse. That is his property. He has a right to make the horse work, only he should treat him kindly and give him good food. If the horse is his, nobody has a right to tell him he must not use the horse so. And then, if he thinks it best, he has a right to sell the horse to somebody else. Nobody has a right to forbid him. He need not go and ask even the horse, if he may have him plow the garden, or draw the wagon, for the horse would not understand him, and could not speak to him, and will never grow so old or so wise, that he can understand our words, and talk himself.”

Source: https://archive.org/details/ASPC0001969600/page/n5/mode/2up

Speaking of literature, another part of writing book one was reading many slave narratives, including Frederick Douglass An American Slave, and Up from Slavery. Other books included When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection, Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember, and Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation.

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016.

“Some people have to take the cotton and pick out the seeds, and others have to spin and weave. They don’t do nothing but spins and weaves. Some people even had to turn the weaves into threads.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

More profound than this is my visit to a former slave plantation at The Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

You might ask yourself why anyone would want to visit such a place. I was writing about people living on a slave plantation and what better way to get inside their heads than to visit one.

Originally called Bermuda, the founder of Oakland was Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud’ Homme, who began farming the land in 1785 and received a Spanish land grant in 1789. The land’s first cash crops were tobacco, indigo, and cotton. The Prud’ Hommes were the first family west of the Mississippi River to farm cotton on a large scale.

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016. Slave Quarter turned home of Sharecroppers

“Down in the quarters, every family had a one- or two-room log cabin. Mostly one room though. We had mattresses filled with corn shucks. Sometimes the men build chairs at night. We didn’t know much about having anything, though. There were a lot of cabins for the slaves, but they weren’t fitting for nobody to live in. We just had to put up with them.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

After the Civil War, sharecropper and tenant farmers continued to live on the land until the 1970s, and slave quarters became homes to sharecroppers later. The people worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. Seeing this with my own eyes put it into perspective how the south had reconstructed slavery by returning land to former slave owners and putting former slaves back into the fields under another name. Slave codes designed to control the enslaved became black codes intended to control freedmen, and cotton pickers became sharecroppers.

Martha Ann, an enslaved Laundress, worked in this wash house in the 1850s. In the 1940s, her descendant, Martha Helaire, earned $4 an hour working here as a Laundress. All we have to do is walk a few steps to the washer and dryer.

I blogged about this visit years ago. Get the full picture and see more pics by revisiting that post here.

Living on 40 Acres of Land

Finally, part of my preparation for book one also included where I was living at the time I started writing these books.

At the time I released the first book in this trilogy, my husband and I lived in an old house owned by our elderly cousin on 40-acres of land. Over the years, we planted a garden on the property, built a chicken coop and raised chickens, owned several dogs, goats, and even a horse. My grandmother-in-law also recounted stories of when she and some cousins picked cotton on this land.

The elderly cousin and her father built the house we rented many years ago. It was an old house and an old land. It was easy for my overactive imagination to envision what it would be like if we were not renting this house from our cousin; if we were not free to live life on our own terms; if this was not the 2000s, but the 1800s, and if we were not free but enslaved. I walked the property, breathed the air, and looked up at the trees. I had dreams of black people hanging from those trees and visions of people trying to escape.

We lived on that land for five years, eventually moving away in 2015, and I had a completed manuscript.


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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! 

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

Quality over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon

These books may still show up but they will be completely removed (out of print) soon. They will be relaunched with new edits and covers.

The Stella Trilogy put me on in more ways than one. It was the first time I got reviews on amazon for my books (I knew nothing about amazon when I started) and the Stella Trilogy book signing made me enough money to pay my bills and then some. It was the first time I saw real money from my writing and it was all from selling paperbacks (I always sell more paperbacks than ebooks. Unconventional for some, but this is how it has been for me). I also won my first award, an appreciation award given to me by my readers.

The Stella Trilogy changed lives.
The Stella Trilogy changed minds.
The Stella Trilogy is how I widened my readership.
The Stella Trilogy helped me to level up and step outside of the box.

The Stella Trilogy was groundbreaking for me and it is precisely for this reason that I am pulling her from Amazon and my website… for further editing.

The books are undergoing makeovers, a fresh edit, and new covers. For those of you who’ve read it, you know the books are short and as my #1 priority outside of the coming poetry book and Lit Mag Magazine; I hope to have them back up by the end of this year. I am not slacking on this. Stella made a big impact, and she needs to be back up soon.

The year is 1864 in Louisiana and the story slips back in time introducing Grandma Stella’s Great grandmother, Stella Mae, age nineteen years. Stella Mae begins her story with a memory of how as a child she was forced to use the facilities designated for “niggras only.” Young Stella Mae tries to reason out why her Mama can’t walk into the front door of the general store and why they can’t use the restroom everyone else uses. Even at a young age, Stella Mae could sense the inequality in her existence. – Colleen Chesebro

I have come a long way since 2015 when the first Stella book released. As a historical series it’s important to me that the book is as superior as I can afford to make it. Now that I have my foot into the schools, I hope to one day have the series taught as part of the curriculum. I have so much hope for these books and so many visions for what they can become.

The sky is not the limit. There are no limits.

I was different. It might give you a slow start but being different is gonna carry you a long way.” – Master P

I am not a fan of most rap music and never was. I like a few old school tracks from Talib Kweli and Common, but I’ve never really been into rap marketed to my age group (although I danced to it in my teens at parties lol). I was always an R&B type of person. I still remember the days my sisters and cousins used to record music videos on VHS and fall asleep watching them. We also recorded songs from the radio on cassette tapes so we can listen to it repeatedly. Despite not being a fan of the music, I admire Percy Miller aka Master P more than any other rapper. I admire him because I think people underestimate him which is precisely why I think he does so well in his business endeavors. I admire him for his commitment to being Independent and using his faith as a catalyst to propel him forward.

Indie Authors, Don’t Be Afraid to Revise Your Backlist

With great authority comes greater responsibility. As we grow and mature in our understanding of this publishing thing, more will be required of us. I know that a poorly edited book could damage my reputation not only as a writer with influence for excellence but also as a teacher and as a lecturer.

I published the first book I ever sold in 2010 and I knew nothing. The book was not edited and had never been available on Amazon. This taught me two lessons:

  • Begin where you are. Take the first step “even if you can’t see the whole staircase” (MLK).

 

  • After you have taken the first step and put yourself out there, make changes as you see them. If your first book was poorly edited, take it down and get it edited. You didn’t know better at first and that’s okay. But then, once you know better, do better. Do the best you can, until you know better, to quote Maya Angelou. “Then when you know better, do better.”

Do not think for a second that we are not responsible for the knowledge we have. Do not think we are not responsible for changing our behavior as we learn and grow. The quality of the books we put out shows readers what we think of ourselves and also what we think of them. Quality must always supersede quantity. I temporarily removed these books because the quality of the work I put out is more important to me than feeding my own ego of having “published x amount of books.”

It was exciting at first to publish book after book. Like anything we do for the first time it was fresh. As I have grown and as I grow, I value more where these books are going and how they are influencing the world much more than how many of them there are.

Now, for my Stella fans:

I am not changing the core of the story. I am editing the books for better readability and understanding. I am also changing the covers so all the books in the series look the same.

About.

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. Discover in this Trilogy how three individuals living in separate time periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood.

  • Between Slavery and Freedom (1)

We deal with enslavement and freedom both physically and psychologically.

  • Beyond the Colored Line (2)

We deal with passing, self-love, and racial identity. If you were a Black woman living in the Jim Crow era and light enough to pass for white, would you? 

  • The Road to Freedom (3)

We deal with the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Rides, and the impact our choices make on the next generation.

Coming (Back) Soon

Growth is Uncomfortable

I spent most of September reflecting on my writing and spending time with family. I’ve got tons of unfinished manuscripts in need of work and truth is they are hard to finish. I do not mean hard as in difficult to write. I mean hard as in finding the joy in publishing them.

I have felt bored with the monotony of publishing books. The support doesn’t feel the same. The blog doesn’t feel the same and now, even Self-Publishing doesn’t feel the same.

I am always writing, and I love publishing but I’m no Terry McMillan with millions of readers lined up to read my next book or any other author with multi-city tours lined up to guarantee that the next release will provide a change in routine. I do not mean this to sound pessimistic.

I am not giving up on publishing but those of you who have been Self-Publishing for a while may understand. No real change can get tiring. I have felt like King Solomon when he said, “the making of many books has no end and much study wearies the flesh.” (Ecc 12:12)

I feel myself transitioning to a level I do not as of yet fully understand.

Last week, the revelation came and while I know it’s not the only revelation on its way to me, it’s one I think important enough to share.

Growth is uncomfortable.

This is an exciting phase and every day I am reminded of its promise. Just recently a media specialist contacted me for something I cannot speak on at the moment. These kinds of moments provide me with the proof that I am not going crazy and that perhaps my name is being uttered in rooms I have not walked into yet.

Growth is like strength. It doesn’t feel you are being strengthened when you are in process. It doesn’t feel like growth when it’s happening. It feels uncomfortable and uncertain. I can feel myself changing in a way I never have before. I can almost reach out and touch it.

The next time you feel uneasy and uncomfortable, consider that perhaps, you are growing. Evolving. Blooming.

A little discomfort helps us to grow. The feeling is not fun, but it’s a big part of improving our personal development.

“Routines may make you feel at ease and in control, but what a constant routine really does is dull your sensitivities. Think about the times in your life when you’ve driven the same route repeatedly: after a certain number of trips, you start tuning out most of it. Have you ever had a trip to the office where you barely remember what happened after you got in the car? If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you might find yourself tuning out much of your life on a daily basis. (Sujan Patel Entrepreneurs, Growth Marketer & Co-founder of Web Profits)

 

To keep from tuning out, I had to stop and think real hard about why I was feeling such discomfort and then I had to accept it, even as I watch people become distant and even as I strive to overcome my own limited thinking.

Brain research shows that putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a part of the brain that releases dopamine, the “happy,” chemical. That part of the brain is also said to only be activated when we experience new things.

I don’t want you to think this post is about quitting. This isn’t about quitting. This is about allowing ourselves to grow/level up.

It is tempting to want to revert into that state of normalcy, to remain as we are. It’s easy to go through life unchanged out of fear that this new version of us won’t be accepted or that someone may accuse us of no longer possessing the same moral integrity as before. And how can we not think this way? We’ve been well-trained to think newness and change are inherently bad.

This is not the truth. Not all change is bad and since all change teaches us something, perhaps even change we perceive as bad is not so.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Few people enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable and as we are now a few months away from 2020, time will not wait for us to catch on. My challenge for this month and the rest of this year is to get past that initial feeling of wanting to return to the norm, so I can grow and benefit from that discomfort.

I hope the same for you.

Writers Who Blog: Spread Your Net Wide

I got a Facebook memory a few days ago that made me smile. It was a post I made about reaching my first 100 blog followers. While I don’t post nearly as much as I used to, what I did in the beginning gave this blog a good boost and has established a system where the blog receives views and new subscribers daily. I am thankful.

I credit a lot of things to that (to include the support of fellow bloggers who share my posts).

I also credit the diversity of what I post and this is what I want to talk about today for those of you who are writers looking to use blogging as one of your author platforms for networking and meeting new readers.

Everyone has to find that thing that works for them. If you are struggling, consider spreading your net wider by diversifying your content.


This isn’t my first blog. This is actually my third blog.

I started my first blog in 2012 and my second blog shortly after that. I named my first blog after my first novel, The Aftermath, and the second one “A House of Poetry,” I dedicated exclusively to poetry. Neither of these blogs did very well, and I eventually deleted the second one after transferring the poems over to this one.

These blogs were dedicated to one kind of content. On my poetry blog, for instance, I posted poetry and nothing else. I did not talk about myself, my life, my likes or dislikes. Every post was a poem. Some of them got good feedback but mostly, the blog sat there. Lonely. Thirsty. Empty.

When I started this blog, I changed my perspective on blogging. While I did not do a good job with naming it (named this blog after a book I was writing…authors…not a good idea…chances are you will write other books…name your blog after yourself), I decided I would widen my net and diversify my content. Every day I was posting something different. News, music, random thoughts, poetry, quotes. I took part in challenges (like Colleen’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday) and took the Writer’s 101 Blog Course offered by WordPress.

I was posting five and six days a week, following other bloggers and commenting on their blogs. I met blog and author friends I am still in touch with today. I reblogged other people’s posts and promoted them on my social media. I followed the blogs of people who had been blogging for a while and applied their advice. Jason Cushman’s Opinionated Man blog was a huge help in understanding things like hashtags and such.

In the beginning, I was obsessed with growing my blog. I was nominated for blog awards so much that after 13 nominations I stopped doing the Blog Awards (you can still find them on the blog awards page up top).

Before I knew it, three months had passed, and I was over 300 subscribers in.

After a while, I switched it up and started sharing blog tips with others so new bloggers can level up their blog too.

I also started sharing writing tips based on my experiences that may be helpful to others and publishing book reviews.

I was eventually included in Reedsy’s Best Book Review Blogs list where I remain today.

My rate in the beginning was about 100 subscribers a month.

As the blog grew I did away with the WordPress part and upgraded to a plan that would allow me to use a dot com domain name for a bit more professionalism (I was never interested in going self-hosted).

Writers, Spread Your Net Wide: Diversify Your Content

I don’t have millions of followers, of course (I still consider this blog one of the little guys …I should be much further along by now hahaha). But what set the stage for this blog’s foundation in the beginning was being myself, posting about more than just my writing, interacting in the blog community and celebrating every step of the way. Most importantly, I actually enjoy blogging so I was learning and having fun.

Now, I have to say it. It’s important that writer bloggers are authentic. A different topic every day was something that worked for me but that doesn’t mean it will work for you too. Post consistently and be authentic with your content. Talk about the things you like, your life, the things you are passionate/knowledgeable about. Don’t try to mimic someone’s style or repost information from other people too much. Be yourself.

What I’m saying is, there is more to blogging than drafting a post and hitting the publish button.

If you are struggling with your author/writer blog, consider diversifying your content. Spread your net a little and try to understand how to blog outside of posting your stories. What are tags? How do we use them? How does pictures enhance the post? Is my follower button visible so people can follow me? Am I following anyone else? Have I supported someone else blog? How does my blog platform (in this case WordPress) work?

…and so on

Just something to consider.

How Blogging Consistently Helps Readers Find You

This is an informative post for any writer looking to use blogging to build an author platform. I have said this before (but hey, who am I?) that blogging consistently is possible without taking away from writing and publishing books.

Blogging is part of your branding; if you are confused about your branding, you will be confused about what to blog about. Think about it: if you knew exactly what you were going to write about each week, how much easier would that be? – Rachel Thompson

Even if you are not being paid to blog it is still helpful to helping you to find more readers (which helps you to get paid kind of indirectly). Readers and authors I’ve met through blogging are still among my biggest supporters.(Blogging consistently also helps you to…wait for it…grow your blog).

Below are three links. Two are from Rachel Thompson and the other is an older article I published to this blog three years ago on how blogging between books has been helpful to me. (read more articles on blogging from me on the Blog Tips page). Enjoy.

How Blogging Consistently Helps Readers Find You

4 Ways You Can Make Time to Blog

Between Books: When the Blog Comes in Handy

Oh, wait! Also see…

Blogging and Time

Since I wear glasses now, I had to give the avatar a new look.

A Poem is Born

Photo by Marc Schulte on Unsplash

Not all poems are conceived in light

Some of them are buried in darkness

Surrounded by dirt and soil

gritted teeth

and clenched fists.

Sometimes the lyric is a resurrection of rage

a fire that is only quenched through spilled ink

on blank pages.

Sometimes poems are tears

because not all compositions are conceived

in well-lit rooms

some poems are seeds that only grow in darkness

or did you not know that is how seeds grow?

Hidden, covered and planted in the dirt

the sun coming in from someplace outside of itself

water pouring in from someplace outside of itself.

Some sonnets are crushed grapes

crumpled and left for dead

or did you not know that is how wine is made?

Something fermenting

festered and developing into something worse.

Some poems are nearly dead

before they reach the light.

Or did you not know that is how Messiah rose?

from the grave

from the pit

from the earth.

When you feel that you cannot write

that your life is a laughing contradiction

thrown back into your face

a joke everyone gets but you

when your hands tremble with uncertainty

too weak to hold the pen

too fragile to unvirgin the page

Write anyway.

Because not all poems are conceived in light

some of them, the best of them

are buried in darkness

and covered in dirt.

until suddenly, like a sprouting seed

a poem is born.


REMINDER: Don’t forget to preorder Keep Yourself Full in ebook below. Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Keep Yourself Full is a spiritual handbook that focuses on our return to self-love. It is a reminder that self-care nourishes the quality of our lives and makes us fit to be of service to others. Through my testimony, I give examples of how we self-abuse and how that differs from self-love, why it is essential not to take things so personally, why we must establish and enforce healthy boundaries, and how assumptions kill relationships. We learn that by investing in our well-being spiritually, physically, mentally, and professionally, we can be of service fully to others. It cannot be ignored that we treat others how we feel about ourselves. When we realize that what we do to others, we are equally doing to ourselves, we can use this awareness to heal. By treating ourselves better, we treat others better. Keep Yourself Full is about keeping ourselves filled with love and all that is good so that we are overflowing with enough to share with everyone else.

CLICK HERE TO PREORDER

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