Revising The Stella Trilogy: Book Two – Beyond the Colored Line

Book one is out and we are on to book two!

My main challenge for book two is making sure that it stays consistent with book one. This is important for any series, but for Historical Fiction, it is even more critical.

Since writing Historical Fiction is writing set in a time that has already occurred, the details of the past must be realistic to what was going on. A good Historical Fiction book places fictional characters somewhere in a world that has already existed in a way that reads authentic. Readers should be able to reimagine what that world was like by immersing themselves in the life of the characters and the world around them. I like to think of it as a time machine, which is also what makes writing #Histfic fun to me.

Style, Language, Dialogue

Like book one, book two opens in 1996 and picks up where we left off at Mama Sidney’s house in book one. But book two also takes us back into the life of Mama Sidney, and we revisit history from the 1920s through the 60s. My focus for book two was to make sure the dialogue, language, racial and political events occurring during this time were realistic to what was happening in the world. We talk about The Great Depression and touch on the reoccurring lynchings taking place in both the north and south. We look at the brutal murder of Emmett Till, the shooting of Dr. King, Jim Crow Laws, and The Black Panther Party. While I immerse Stella in her own world, there is still the larger world to deal with and we watch how she navigates both. How does Stella’s personal identity crises correlate to the identity crises plaguing her larger community?

Racial Terminology

The biggest thing to deal with for book two is the racial classifications of blacks during this period. African Americans are the only people whose racial terminology has changed with the census. We have been “Niggers,” Negros, Coloreds, Blacks, and African Americans, and this can get confusing when trying to use the right term for the right year. This is also not to mention other racial “nicknames” we called ourselves, such as Afro-American and The New Negro.

The challenge of using the right term for the right years is because there were terms that blacks preferred to call themselves and terms used discriminately by the wider society. Although by the 60s Black Americans were preferring to be called blacks or Afro-Americans (as Malcolm X used a lot after leaving the Nation of Islam) white separatist signage still referred to us as coloreds. “Whites Only / Coloreds Only,” or “Welcome to the Colored Zone,” banners and store signs could have read.

Credited to W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington, blacks advocated for a switch from Colored to Negro in the early 1920s. As blacks redefined themselves, terms like “The New Negro,” became popular and sparked a movement that later became known as The Harlem Renaissance.

By the 1960s, though, African Americans had transitioned from being “Negros,” to “Blacks.” (Malcolm X specifically didn’t like the term Negro).

During the Black Power movement when sayings such as “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” were popular (think James Brown “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!”) blacks wore their hair natural, read and published black literature and did what they thought would reconnect them with their lost heritage. In this process, many black political leaders of the time, such as Kwame Ture or Stokely Carmichael, helped to shift the terminology away from Negro and toward Black. Black publications like Ebony followed by switching from Negro to Black.

While a large majority of people still preferred Negro, “Black“ was becoming the preferred term with the New York Times and Associated Press abandoning “Negro” in the 1970s.

By the 1980s, Jesse Jackson called for a shift from Black to African American and while the change is still not as accepted or monumental as black was during the 60s, it is the term most socially acceptable when referring to black Americans.

I had to consider these changes when referring to blacks throughout this part of the book. What did they call themselves? What did society call them? How do I integrate this into the dialogue and setting realistically?

Setting, language, and dialogue is the backbone of Historical Fiction because the setting makes the story seem real and determines the character’s beliefs and actions. Not only do I strive to make the characters stand out but the culture of the time in which they live.


About Book Two:

In book two, we dig deeper into the McNair family’s legacy. Named after her great-grandmother, Stella has a very light complexion causing her to be the tease of her classmates. Unable to find solace among her African American contemporaries, Stella finds it challenging to adjust to a world where she is too light to be black.

After The Great Depression of the 1930s forces Stella’s family to move to Chicago, a conversation with Aunt Sara provokes Stella to do something that will dramatically affect not just her life but the life of her children and grandchildren.

Stella: Beyond the Colored Line will be available through my website and back up on Amazon in digital and print by April 24th. I am not putting the rest of the books up for preorder, so you’ll be able to order it immediately on 4/24.

If you have not already read book one, click one of the links below.

Amazon Kindle

Signed paperback

https://www.yecheilyahysrayl.com/bookstore/stella-between-slavery-and-freedom

Visions of a Historical Writer

I always get excited when I return to Historical Fiction writing. A little history and a spill of black ink, and I am gone. I am floating between centuries and languages and culture clashes. My heart races to the images still all muddled and exciting and pacing footsteps in my head. Historical figures are brushing passed me on the street and staring me down back alleyways. Don’t know if I’ll have time to whisper to A.D. King* that his brother’s not forgotten, but also, neither is he. I am speeding passed him and drifting further. I caught a glimpse of “Satchmo’s” face and a hanging tree in the same wind. Covered my mouth, though, that couldn’t stop the taste of death on my tongue. Almost choked on Billy’s voice. These fluctuations of pitch are giving me chills, that and the horn screaming at me from across the tracks where the Jazz club is housing The New Negro Movement, soon to be known widely as The Harlem Renaissance. I better catch the next train back to 2020. Jean Toomer is headed this way, and I am dangerous with this pen.

*A.D. King (Alfred Daniel Williams King) was the brother of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He drowned in the family’s swimming pool 15 months after MLK, but his death is largely forgotten. As his body was being taken to the morgue on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the moon. 

“But My Family Don’t Support my Writing”

Popular Complaint: “My family don’t support my writing.”🤷🏾‍♀️

Umm. How can I put this, your family and friends will be the least supportive of your writing (as is the case for most businesses). That’s not a bad thing entirely because they are not really your targeted audience.

New Writer:  *Smacks lips, rolls eyes.* “Okay, so what that mean?” 🙄

It means you have to find those people who are most likely to read the kinds of books you write and often, they are not family members. This specific group of people is called a targeted audience. You are not targeting everyone but focusing on one specific kind of reader. Here’s an example from words from Tyler Perry:

“I clearly believe that I’m ignored in Hollywood for sure and that’s fine. I get it. My audience and the stories that I tell are African American stories specific to a certain audience, specific to a certain group of people that I know that I grew up with and we speak a language.” – Tyler Perry

Say what you want about Perry but he has a keen understanding of his Target Audience. That’s what he is speaking of here. A specific group of people who his films/movies/TV shows are specifically for. That’s why his movies are all along the same lines in the theme. We can see that Tyler Perry makes the same movies because he is targeting a specific audience.

Personally, I am not much of a Tyler Perry fan. There are only a few of his movies I like but that’s not the point.

We can agree or disagree with his movies, but he is an excellent example of someone with knowledge of his Target Market.

When you are targeting a specific group, you are not trying to reach everyone or garner everyone’s support. Your purpose is to appeal to that specific group.

(Feel like I’m saying “specific” a lot but that’s kinda important). 

How many people at Michelle Obama’s book signing were related to her?

New Writer: “What? But those was her fans tho.” 🧐

And you have fans too if you look beyond the praise of family members who will probably never buy.

New Writer: “So you saying my mama can’t buy my book?” 💁🏾‍♀️

Your mom will probably buy your book first, but she’s not the seventeen-year-old black boy with peer pressure issues you wrote it for is she?

New Writer: “I mean naw but…”🤨

…and she’s probably not gonna leave a book review on Amazon, follow you on Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to your email list and if she does, she probably won’t remember to read it.

New Writer: *smacks lips* “Dang why you gotta be all negative for?” 😒

Because the truth will set a lot of writers free from unrealistic expectations about what it means to be an author.

Loyal family/relatives may buy a book or two and they may be there to cheer you on, lift you, and support you in various ways. Families are good at heaping praises.

They love to like your posts, root you on and tell you repeatedly how they intend to buy your book and how proud they are of you. This is helpful from an encouraging point of view and it feeds the ego, but praise doesn’t sell books. How many of these people follow up? Every year the same family member asks, “where can I buy yo book?” But they never buy.

It is those non-relative readers who your book is specifically written for who will buy with consistency and read your every release, becoming avid readers and fans.

(…and I hate to use the word “fan,” by the way. *Shudders* Be a fanatic for no one.)

👉🏾How many of your genetic relatives have bought your book?

New Writer: “Lemme see, my mama got one, my cousin, boo boo nem, lil Chris…”

So what, all five of them..?

New Writer: “Oh, so you being funny?”🤔

No. I’m being real. Put it this way, would a company whose buyers don’t watch TV, make a commercial to push their product?

New Writer: “Naw that’s stupid.”🙄

🤷🏾‍♀️ So why would authors focus the bulk of their efforts on trying to sell to people who don’t read the books they write?

New Writer: “I guess I see what you saying.”😩

Now, take out some paper. You’re gonna have to write this down.

…wait, what are you doing? Put your phone down this is important. 🤦🏾‍♀️

New Writer: “Imma type it in my notepad.”

Okay but don’t be on Instagram this is important.

New Writer: I’m not dang. 🤳Go. I’m ready.”

Okay, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you find your readers. 

  • Who are my current readers/Who am I trying to reach? How old are they? What do they like? Where do they hang out?
  • What’s the #1 thing my readers love/need the most?
  • What problem does my book solve? What are my readers’ pains/issues/struggles/challenges?
  • What do readers gain from reading my book? What do I have to offer?
  • Who would benefit most from reading my book?
  • What makes my book unique?

My Responses to Common Complaints from New Writers is something new I am adding to this blog based on common writing and publishing questions from new Indie Writers. I thought it would be fun to answer them here in the form of dialogue. You will know the posts by the quotation marks around the complaint to differentiate it from other posts.

Did you like this first post? Do you have a common complaint I should address?

Find more articles under the Writing Tips and Resources page here.

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – The Cursed Queen: Mystery Tales Series Book One by Carlo Ocaya

Title: The Cursed Queen: Mystical Tales Series 1

Author: Carlo Ocaya

Publishing: Coming June 19, 2019

 

*I was gifted a copy of this book from the author*

The Cursed Queen is part of Ocaya’s Mystical Tales series, a fantasy, mystery novel full of adventure and magic. The story takes place on a hidden Island called Ophen and the world is reminiscent of Bright; the movie starring Will Smith, where humans, orcs, elves, and fairies co-exist. In this book, there are short people called Hervecs, big, colorful skinned people called Broncords, animal people called Naiths, and magical people called Elves.

Yuna Queenertia has just awakened from a coma and does not understand who she is or where she is. She lives with a woman named Marianna Waterglow, who calls herself Granny, a woman named Anna and her daughter Samantha, who everyone calls Sam. Sam is hilarious and I enjoyed how the author has developed her character. (I admit I liked her better than Yuna. She just seemed more real to me, like a real little girl.) I enjoyed the tension surrounding Yuna’s confusion about who she is and why she is not allowed out of her room. The anticipation makes you want to keep reading. We soon discover that Yuna has silver hair and that because of this hair she is cursed. The people throw stones at her and treat her badly. As the book progresses, we follow Yuna, Sam, and their family on a journey of self-discovery as Yuna searches for her memories. We are taken back to her childhood for some backstory, introduced to more interesting characters with interesting abilities and discover many twists as secrets are revealed.

I do wish there was more that tied in with Yuna’s hair though. A lot is revealed but I felt that it became more about the Wraiths (a terrorist group in the magical realm), than it was about Yuna’s discovery. I would have liked for the story to dig deeper into the history behind people with silver hair more than it did. But, this is just book one so who knows what Ocaya’s got up his sleeves! I think it’s fascinating to depict someone with this hair as someone who is cursed because normally gray and silver hair is indicative of someone with wisdom.

I can see this book as a movie and would recommend it to young adults. I just feel like children would love it. Yuna’s History and Tradition teacher, for instance, is a Hervec with a long mustache that reaches to the floor, a long robe and glasses. I think this would be funny to see on the screen. Then there’s the funny little fairy Yuna and Sam meets in search for Anna. I can’t tell you much else without spoiling the book, but there’s a youthful, fun, innocence about this book that I love. Although the anticipation of Yuna discovering her memories wrecked my nerves (lol), this was a fun, adventurous read.

Ratings:

Plot Movement / Strength: 4/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Thought Provoking: 4 /5

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

 

The Cursed Queen (Mystical Tales, #1) is available for Pre-Order at various retailers. Click Here.


About this Author:

Copyright©2019. Carlo Ocaya.

Carlo Ocaya was born and raised from the island called Saipan (No, not Spain, Saipan). Staying within his hometown for the first 19 years, he decided to join the Marine Corps and was sent to the U.S. mainland in California.

During his time in the military, Carlo began writing his first few drafts of the Mystical Tales series. He got the idea of his first book by the thought of his home. The setting of the island was meant to contain similar features as his homeland with the people and settings slightly altered. His adventure towards the states is what has created and developed his future ideas on books.

He went to school overnight in order to study the basics of writing and further his knowledge on grammar and literature. It wasn’t until the next few years that he gained the confidence to publish the book.

Independent and thriving, Carlo uses his knowledge from software engineering class to further develop his website into what it is now. He continues to further his education by learning the tricks and trade at San Diego Mesa College.

Now residing in Santa Ana, California, he stays with his brother and goes to school full time. Carlo hopes to partake in future book events and display his writing, skills, and books to others.

His first book, Mystical Tales: The Cursed Queen, will be featured within LA Times Festival of Books and San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival.

Follow him Online:

Website: https://carloocaya.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OpTmystic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Carlo_Ocaya

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/op_t_mystic/


Have a book for me? Learn how to order a blog book review HERE

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Sophia Tsegaye

Today, I’d like to welcome Sophia Tsegaye to the blog. Welcome! Let’s get started.


What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Sophia Tsegaye; I am an Ethiopian American living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia in the house. What was it like transitioning from Ethiopia to America? Any major adjustments?

I arrived in America as a newlywed, and my husband and I had to adjust to the cultural difference at first, with the help of my sister.  And soon our neighbors and co-workers led us through our new lifestyle. One of the adjustments was being away from my parents and extended family members.
The other adjustment was the difference between American and  Ethiopian calendar. Ethiopia uses Julian Calendar and is 7 and a half or 8 years behind the American Calendar.  Ethiopia has 13 months (12 months of 30 days each, and one month of 5 or 6 days).
Now as a family, we celebrate both cultures. My children have learned to embrace the diversity in the family. In short, we have two New Years, two Christmases, two Easters and the like.

Wow, I didn’t know that about the calendar difference. This is why I yearn so much to travel outside the country!

When did you publish your first book? What was that like?

I published my first book “She Is My Mommy!” in March 2019 through CreateSpace. Holding my book for the first time was rewarding. Carrying a task to completion was my first goal, and I felt fulfilled. It has kindled the desire and the strength to go forward with my second book. And now I am working on my third one.

Congratulations! Amazing feeling right? Are you married Sophia? Got a boo somewhere?

I am married to a wonderful and supportive husband for the last fifteen years.

Awesome. Children?

Yes. I have three awesome boys, ages 14, 12 and 3.

Beautiful. What do you wish you knew more about?

Growing up, one of my many challenges was speaking up. Both in Middle and High school, I was known for being timid and introvert. It continued well into my graduate class. For example, I would know the answer to a question, or want to voice my opinion, but could not make myself to say something. It was like being present and absent at the same time.

Later on, I realize that the only thing that was holding from communicating was the fear of making mistakes.

Now, I know that making mistakes is all right, you learn from them and move forward.

I can relate for sure. What small things makes you life easier? What makes it difficult?

Living a simple life, being grateful and exercising kindness make my life easier. I try to see the positive in people. I believe that it is wise to listen to your conscious before you speak.  We often forget that a calmer tone conveys a message more effectively. I think that we all have the choice to decide whether to make our life easy or difficult. It is a choice we need to make every day. If you always feel you are a victim and everybody is onto you, then you will remain a victim of your own conscious.

If you do not control your temper, you will be treated as the perpetrator even if you are on the right.

If you are not kind, then you will miss the heart-warming reward that you get from it.

I love that Sophia. Wise words. Let’s get back to writing a bit. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?

The most difficult thing as a writer is writer’s block.

The most exciting thing is when you are in that creative zone, and you have no control over your writing.

Why is writing important to you?

When I write, I let myself go to places I have not visited for a long time. I navigate through my thought and dig deep into the desire to correct the wrong, to encourage the weak, to give a voice to the timid, and the like.

I want to show the reader that she or he is not alone in any circumstance. Happiness, fear, triumph, sadness, friendliness, and depression are a part of life. Therefore, what we need to do is find a way to fix the problem. In my books, I encourage children to learn to ask for help.

Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?

I love making pieces of jewelry and cooking.

You’re a children’s author. What do you think of the bullying in our schools?

Unfortunately, bullying is a real and dangerous issue. I try to focus on this issue in my books and demonstrate the effects it can bring.

My boys have experienced bullying, and I have also heard of various incidents in the school. I have seen firsthand how bullying can break the spirit of a fun loving and active child.

As a parent, we should teach our kids empathy at an early age. If we see our child push another child, we should be able to explain that it is wrong.

We have to encourage our kids to communicate with us, or the school personnel if they feel unsafe or overwhelmed. Schools have councilors, and they should use these resources.

And I urge parents to listen to their kids. If a kid voices concern then parents should intervene immediately.

If you could, would you visit the past?

Yes, I would visit the past if I could. Would I give some advice to my young self and try to change the past? I do not think so, because those experiences made me the person I am today.

Precisely. What advice would you give your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to trust her instinct and be comfortable in her own skin.  And of course, tell her to take it easy, enjoy life, and laugh more.

Thank you Sophia for spending this time with us! We enjoyed you.


Copyright©Sophia Tsegaye. photo used with permission.

Bio.

Sophia E Tsegaye, is a stay-at-home mom, with three boys who keep her busy. She’s a children’s book writer, living in Cincinnati, Ohio.

From the Author:

I enjoy listening to what happens in school.  Every day, my boys will come home with new stories, but unfortunately, not all are pleasant.  I use their stories as a learning experience, and I guess this is how my books were born.

Many little kids are fascinated by school buses and animals. Hence I chose to have a school bus and animals as the characters.

There are different approaches to explain to kids about being unique, being different and being accommodating, so I try to bring these issues through my books.

The first book “She Is My Mommy!” is about transracial adoption, and the second book “Your Jokes Are Not Funny!” is about bullying.

Kids can be simple and yet complex. They ask us complex questions and are satisfied with the simplest explanation.

I believe in teaching kids empathy at a tender age.

You can reach me by email at tsesophia@yahoo.com

Be Sure to Follow Sophia Online!

Web: https://tsesophia.wixsite.com/tsegaye-1

Twitter: @SophiaTsegaye

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SophiaETsegaye/?modal=admin_todo_tour


Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE. Stay tuned for our next featured author.

My Biggest Lesson of 2018

This is the time of the year where we step back and analyze where we are and where we want to be. The time where we consider if the goals, we set at the beginning of the year have been realized and if there are any changes or improvements that need to be made. This is also the time of the year when I share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the year. Usually, I do this closer to the end of the month but my family is moving so things are busy around these parts. Last year, I had an entire list of lessons learned. This year, I only have one.

December is when I do a lot of reflection. An entire year has passed. What changed? What remained? What needs to be added onto or removed? 2018 has been filled with amazing growth for me personally as well as professionally. At the end of 2017, I was celebrating my move to Georgia and one of my books in a brick and mortar bookstore. At the end of 2018, four of my twelve books are in three bookstores and I’ve just purchased my first home. I attribute this to learning one valuable lesson. A lesson that I do not think we ever stop learning but that gets easier the more we love ourselves, a lesson that I’ve learned and that I will keep learning, a lesson that has changed my mentality and thus also, the way I do things. To further illustrate this point, let me first tell you about an experiment.

The Asch Conformity Experiment

Named after Solomon Asch, the Asch Conformity Study was meant to study conformity in people (how we behave according to other people’s desires and standards) and was conducted in the 1950s. The participants were shown three lines on a piece of paper and a fourth line. The participants had to simply match one of the three lines with the fourth line. Most of the people were accomplices in on the study with only one or two real participants. According to the study, 76% of participants picked the wrong line after the majority of the room picked the wrong line. The study was groundbreaking in studying conformity in groups and has been repeated many times throughout the years. (You can find examples of the study on YouTube.)

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into conformity by doing what everyone else is doing in an effort to achieve success. The problem is, entrepreneurship is about authenticity and there is nothing authentic about conformity. Everyone wants to be an influencer. The only question is, what are you influencing people to do? Who are you influencing people to be?

We talk about embracing being unique and different but at the same time, we secretly want a seat at the table. At the same time, we don’t really want to be different. We want to be like everyone else because not being like everyone else comes at a cost that we are not courageous enough to pay. It is the cost of standing out instead of standing in. It is the cost of rejection and being misunderstood. It is a beautiful sacrifice that many of us, despite what we say, are not willing to make.

But you can’t want to be like the world and be different from the world at the same time. Either stand for something or fall for anything.

In the midst of the Kevin Hart situation, I think it’s important for us to all remember how important it is to be ourselves and to stand on our own integrity. And if we must influence, I hope it is to influence others to be undeniably and unapologetically themselves.

I. The biggest lesson I learned 2018 is to be fully myself even when who I am is not accepted by others. There are people who will think I’m foolish about certain decisions but it is my decision to make and my lesson to learn. I’ve learned to trust Yah more and to trust his will for my life. To make decisions without explaining myself or feeling the need to defend my position.

…and I hope the same for you.

Tall Tales Book Shop. 11.30.18. Copyright©2018. Yecheilyah Ysrayl.

What I enjoy most about being an Independent artist is the freedom to produce work that speaks to who I am, to not have to pull back, slow down, or sugarcoat my beliefs because of someone else standard. The right and the freedom to live freely in every sense of the word. To be true to myself, to my authenticity and do not have to apologize for it. I don’t have to tap dance around the truth for a check, I don’t have to scratch my hair unless it itches, and I don’t have to laugh unless something is actually funny. I’ve never been part of the “cool kids table” and I am not about to start now. This is freedom.

I hope you walk into 2019 not afraid to shine or to fail, understanding that both experiences shape you. It can be liberating to choose yourself, armed with the power to move forward without guilt, without arrogance, and without pride but with a deep love for yourself that is so strong that you can quickly realize when anyone or anything devalues you, even if that someone is your own self. The biggest challenge is not the war we fight with others but the war we fight with ourselves. To quote the African proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” Kill the enemy within. Slay your demons, silence the doubt, and walk free.