Stepping Outside the Genre Box

Once upon a time, back in 2017, I shared the first chapter of a crazy fantasy story about fallen angels disguised as women with blue eyes killing black men for their power and one woman’s mission to stop them. I had no intentions of ever publishing it. My purpose was to share a free story on the blog that readers could enjoy. I played around using some of the same characters and background from another book I had written but have since retired.

To my surprise, so many people enjoyed the first chapter, so I came back the next week and wrote another chapter and then another and then another until I had written eighteen chapters of a book I never intended to write.

The more I shared, the more readers loved it. This got me excited!

In 2020, while we were all bored in the house and in the house bored, I worked on finishing the book. It is now a full-length novel I will release later this year.

If you have been following this blog over the years, you are already familiar with The Women with Blue Eyes (now titled The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen) and I am so excited to finish it for you.

Moral of the Story

 

It’s okay to step outside the box and write something different, especially if it’s something you know readers would enjoy. Master P is not just a rapper, he is also a full-blown businessman with several products. He has everything from cereal to oodles and noodles, to potato chips to fish fry.

As I was drafting this post, I tried to think of how to explain that it’s okay to write in a genre you are not typically known for without sacrificing your author brand.

My first thought was to remind you that you are the brand, not the book. It is less about the genre and more about how you stay true to your message.

This is still true, but last week I came across a post by Phyllis Zimbler Miller where she was given some advice that really put it into perspective for me.

Recently I was advised to “stay in my lane” of military and espionage writing so that I could be considered for that niche. This is especially so because my background supports this lane.

Yet when I mentioned staying in my lane to an entertainment industry exec, she had an interesting POV about branding oneself as a writer.

She didn’t agree with staying in one’s lane in terms of specific genres. Instead, her advice to me was to remain the same lens and perspective across genres.

“Remain the same lens and perspective across genres.”

I love this because it frees the writer from the genre box. In my own words, I would say to write in whatever genre you want, but keep your message consistent. While Master P does many different things he wasn’t known for before, his “No Limit” message stayed the same.

Since I usually write Black Historical Fiction, my story will incorporate black history, all the way down to how I represent the characters. In Greek Mythology, Paschar is the angel of vision and is a white male. In my version, Paschar is still a fallen angel, but she operates in the skin of a black woman.

I’ve also infused black history into the narrative with my character’s background and dialogue. If you’ve been following the series on this blog, Miss Vicky is a new character you haven’t met yet. She is a member of the renovation committee at the new Altgeld Projects and former cook for the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. Here is an excerpt from her giving black history to a couple of corner boys working for Big Sam’s organization:

Closer to the buildings, girls jumped double-dutch on the sidewalk, and young boys stood up on their bikes, riding them back and forth. The boys wore no shirt, and yellow headscarves hung out of their back pants pockets. Their pants were always sagging, revealing their boxers underneath. They knew they will be scolded by Miss Vicky if caught. She was always telling them to pull their pants up and giving the history of Buck Breaking. It was the practice of slave owners raping black men as a form of punishment on the plantations and then forcing them to sag their pants in the fields, so everyone knew the cost of disobedience.

“Nuh, uh,” the boys would protest, “I heard that started in the jails Miss Vicky.”

“You heard wrong,” the middle-aged woman would protest, “that’s not to say it didn’t circulate in the jails, but that ain’t where it started. Buck Breaking was popular in the Caribbean ya see, and it involved white supremacists and slave owners raping a male slave in front of the public to embarrass him and make him feel less of a man. Buck Breaking became popular when slave rebellions went up. Enslaved men were first stripped naked and flogged.”

“What’s flogged Miss Vicky?”

“Boy, don’t they teach you nothing in school?”

The boy would laugh, holding onto the handles of his bicycle.

“He don’t go, Miss Vicky,” another boy would chide, laughing at his friend.

“You remember how ya mama beat you for stealing car parts last year? That’s flogging. Whippings. Beatings.”

“She flogged ya ass,” the boys’ friend would tease.

Vicky would hide her laughter and continue her lesson. “Like I said, they would flog—whoop the man in front of a crowd after they raped him to serve as a warning to other slaves. Sometimes enslaved men with families were forced to have sex with each other in front of their family, or they were raped in front of their sons…”

“Dang,” the boy would say, doing wheelies on his bike.

“Hmm hmm, sure did. Lot of ’em who had gone through the process of buck breaking killed themselves afterward or ran away and never returned. Better learn ya history.”

“Aiight,” the boys would say, smiling and riding off. Miss Vicky would go on to finish her laundry, and the boys would ride off and play. Secretly, they enjoyed listening to her black history stories and would ask her questions just to get her talking. Though, they still did not pull up their pants.

The boys were not regular teens. They were corner boys for Big Sam’s crew. The yellow bandanas that hung from their back pocket was proof that they belonged to the organization. Miss Vicky liked talking to them because they were innocent during these conversations. When she spoke to them, she saw their youthfulness peaking out from behind their eyes. It was hard trying to get a fourteen-year-old boy who paid all his mama’s bills with drug money and had already decided he was a man to listen to you, but when Miss Vicky told her stories, they listened. At these times, she could see them like she used to when they were just four and five years old before Scar recruited them.

How does a Black Historical Fiction writer write Fantasy? By infusing black history into the narrative. You will learn how it all ties in when you read the book.

Read. Read. Read.

Another tip I would add is to read books in that genre. No matter how deep your message, nothing will free you from not following the basic elements associated with that genre, so read, read, read. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with stepping outside the genre box.

Share Your Work

Next, don’t be afraid to share your work. I don’t know if I would have been as confident in this story as I am if not for my freedom readers and their feedback! Thank you all for helping me pick a subtitle. The winner (as you can see) is Rise of the Fallen!

Try It Out on the Blog

And finally, blogging is another great way to write your book! It gives you the chance to get instant feedback that could help you to stay motivated along the way.

“I don’t think Byron stands a chance from falling.”
“Wow wow wow. I am enjoying this story. I’m all invested. I can’t wait for the next installment. This story has some interesting characters. Keep up the excellent penmanship!!!!”

“I’m truly enjoying this :-). I’m glad I can click on episode 3 😛 Thank you EC. Much love from Spain.”

“More please!”

“Loved this and wanted to read more. Is there more?”

“You are an excellent writer.”

“Hi Yecheilyah! I’m new to this series. I will need to go back and catch up! Chapter ten is captivating.”

About.

When Tina’s nephew Ronnie died, it traumatized her. It wasn’t just that he died. It was the way he died. After taking custody of Ronnie’s sisters and brother, Tina experienced supernatural phenomenons that eventually led to therapy and hallucinogenic suppressants. This didn’t help.

She meets Azbuga, an Archangel sent to tie the missing pieces together, still connecting her to Ronnie’s death.

Paschar is the angel of vision. She once saw the beauty of visions from the Almighty and projected these into human consciousness. Now, she is limited, capable only of seeing physical beauty, extracting energy from mortal man, and projecting illusions.

Paschar has fallen, and in a jealous rage, she attacks black men for their power. How dare he choose them over her?

Can Tina, Jason, and Az defeat Paschar and her legion once and for all? More black men are dying, and you can’t fight spiritual warfare with physical weapons.

Coming 2021

Aborted Purpose

Photo by Alexis Chloe on Unsplash

 

I know too many women aborting their purpose

Manipulating our daughters so that their dreams are tied to two horses

And the black family unit is pulled apart in both directions

And our sons are Willie Lynching their seed

On Fallopian tubes

And walking away

They forgot what grew there

They forgot there are trees with their DNA

and we gave birth to boys who never became men

I know too many women aborting their purpose

We forgot the generations of women we carried in our ovaries

at conception

So we miscarried Eve’s redemption

now the hand me down fabric of expired womanhood

dangling over the degrees of our bedroom walls

we traded our integrity for dried ink on top cream colored paper

the folded crease and stained remembrance

of what we used to be

before the glass ceiling defined us

the faded glory of the black family unit

before we were Diva’s

and Bosses

back in the day when we were content

being Queens

we traded our crowns

in exchange to do bad all by ourselves

now the stress

and the guilt

of 70% of black women

whose descendants will stare down the barrel of a gun

cause she couldn’t admit

that it takes more than a black mother

to raise a black son

Writer’s Wednesday – Writers, Poets, Leaders


It’s Writer’s Wednesday and I am promoting the amazing contributors to this year’s second annual poetry contest! These women are not just writers but they are leaders in their own right and a great inspiration to me personally. They each have their own flava and style that I love. They are funny, inspiring, and driven. Be sure to check out their blogs to get to know them better!

“It’s life through my lens and I’m happy to share it with others.”
– Dr. K.E. Garland

Be sure to follow Kathy on her outstanding blog at
www.kwoted.wordpress.com/

“My main focus will be on LOVE, Life and the pursuit of Happiness!”
– Lisa W. Tetting

Be sure to follow Lisa’s amazing blog at www.rebirthoflisa.wordpress.com

“I want you to be in a happy place in your love life by paying attention to your mind, body and soul and the things you allow to enter into them.”
– Tinzley Bradford

Be sure to follow Tinzley’s informative blog at
http://www.tinzleybradford.com/dating-blog/

“My hope is that I spark the soul of poets who did not know that even a whisper is still a voice. “- Tehilayah Ysrayl

Be sure to follow Tehilayah’s new blog at www.nolineleftbehind.wordpress.com


Details on how you can enter this year’s contest, the rules, guidelines, AND prizes we’re awarding to the winners is all being revealed next week! Stay glued.

From your host, Yecheilyah Ysrayl.

YouTube: New Poems Added! Subscribe Today #NationalPoetryMonth #Poetry #SpokenWord

New poems have been added to the page! Subscribe to watch Her Skin, Letters to Some of the Black Women Writers who Inspired Me, If My Books Shall Die and more!

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!!

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, Inventor of the Sanitary Belt, a precursor of the Modern Self-Adhesive Maxi Pad

Welcome back to Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today, I’d like all of the women readers to thank Beatrice Kenner!

Some of the most common forms of protection for women during their cycles were grass, rabbit skins, sponges, rags, menstrual aprons, homemade knitted pads, or other absorbents. Usually, women used some form of cloth back in the day. These cloths are why “she’s on the rag” is a popular expression used to refer to menstruating women.

While she did not invent the modern version of the Maxi Pad, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner developed the sanitary belt, one of the first versions of the modern-day pad.

Mary was born in Monroe, North Carolina, on May 17, 1912, and came from a family of inventors. Her sister invented a children’s board game that explored family ties called “Family Treedition.” Mary’s father, Sidney Davidson, patented a pants presser in 1914. According to historian and former U.S. Patent Examiner Patricia Sluby, a maternal grandfather of the daughters was of German and Irish descent who invented a tricolor train light. It’s safe to say that developing things was in Mary’s blood, pun intended.

Mary-Beatrice-Davidson-Kenner

The sanitary belt was a belt used to hold pads in place before designing self-adhesive maxi pads.

Mary invented the sanitary belt with a moisture-proof napkin pocket, but the company that showed interest in the pads rejected the invention because Mary was a black woman. For this, the sanitary belt didn’t become widespread until 1956, thirty years after its design. Learning this has taught me the power of patience and how everything comes to be in its time. It may have seemed like a lifetime to Mary, but eventually, her invention saw the light of day. Mary received five patents for her invention between 1956 and 1987.

While mostly known for her invention of the sanitary belt, Mary had other groundbreaking designs like the toilet paper holder, and the mounted back scrubber and washer for showers. Mary has been an entrepreneur from the start, operating her own floral business in Washington, D.C., when she was not inventing things.

Adhesive Maxi Pads (a sticky side that stuck to the lining of a woman’s panties) were invented in the 1970s, so the sanitary belt did not last very long. But without the belt, someone would not have thought to make things easier by eliminating the belt and just going with the napkin.

If you are a young woman like me and have never used the belt, you can Google Sanitary Napkins (or talk to your mom or grandmother), and learn that the strap was uncomfortable and inconvenient. While tampons existed, using them for younger women was considered sexually improper. (A pretty good article to study up on the evolution of pads can be found HERE.)

Life happens in stages, and good things come to be because someone took a risk on something others may not have found useful. Mary’s invention helped women who didn’t want to use tampons to get by and paved the way for all of the pads currently on the market.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Nora Holt

Did you know there was a woman writer during the Harlem Renaissance named Nora? Yup.

Nora Ad 2

One of the things I wanted to do with The Nora White Story project is to make everything make as much sense as possible. I know how important it is that everything fits the era to include names. Thus, I used names that were familiar with the time. Some of the names, like Nora, jumped out at me from the start. However, some of them were not so easy. To make sure everyone’s name (even minor characters) fit the time, I Googled the census data for popular names of the 1920s and scrolled through male and female names. So, who was Nora Holt?

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Nora Holt

Nora was a singer, composer and music critic. Born Lena Douglas in Kansas City, Kansas; Nora graduated from Western University of Quindaro, Kansas and later earned a Bachelor’s degree in music in 1917. In 1918, she earned her Master’s Degree in music at Chicago Musical College, becoming one of the first African-American women to complete a Master’s program in the United States. Her thesis composition was an orchestral work called Rhapsody on Negro Themes.

Nora was married quite a few times. On the fourth time, she changed her name from Lena to Nora when she married George Holt in 1916.

From 1917-1921 Nora contributed music criticism pieces to the Chicago Defender, a black daily newspaper. In 1919, she co-founded the National Association of Negro Musicians and then spent 12 years abroad in Europe and Asia singing at night clubs and private parties. Although composing over 200 works of orchestral music, one of the reasons Nora Holt is not well known is because her work was stolen. Upon leaving for Europe in 1926, she placed her manuscripts in storage when she returned they were gone. Only one piece survived because it was published prior to the theft and is called Negro Dance, (ragtime-based piano piece).

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Nora

Holt moved to Harlem in the early 1920s, where she became an important part of the Harlem Renaissance. She became good friends with novelist and critic Carl Van Vechten.

(You can meet some of these historical figures when they make special guest appearances in my new novel, Renaissance: The Nora White Story which releases tomorrow. Today (7/14) is the last day to get it at the reduced price of $1.99)

Nora was also a teacher. She studied music at the University of Southern California in the 1930s and went on to teach music in Los Angeles for several years. Nora was well rounded. Not only was she a writer and musician but she also ran a beauty shop. Apparently Nora knew how important it was to stay fly :-).

In 1943, Holt took a position as an editor and music critic with a black-oriented publication Amsterdam News and went on to live a full life. During the early 1950s and early 1960s, she hosted a radio concert series called “Nora Holt’s Concert Showcase”. It ran to 1964 and in 1966, she was a member of the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

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Photo of Nora Holt, taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

Nora Holt died January 25, 1974, in Los Angeles.


 

A Love Letter To Some of the Black Women Writers Who Inspired Me

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Image Credit: Black Girl Lost – Sunday Kinfolk

Mildred D. Taylor

Just so you know, I fell for you first. Maybe it’s because that Logan boy and I shared the same name I was birthed with. I mean, back then I had never been to the deep south and I’m sure Stacey Logan knows more about the land than I do. Anyway, I was in 6th grade when we met. You didn’t know it then but you introduced me to black literature and I’m not afraid to claim that title or to separate black writer’s into a category of their own. How could our experiences not be likened to the Roll of Thunder? You were that seed planter for the rooted passion I now carry with me.

Sista Souljah

You always kept it real so Imma return the favor. You see my eyes hypnotized every young man who lusted for my lil sweet self. All fresh and new and walking all lady like. And then you came knocking at my consciousness like the Coldest Winter Ever but claimed No Disrespect. I’m sure we connected by way of the struggle. You see I was brought up in the Robert Taylor projects on Chicago’s south side so crack heads, rats, and hunger didn’t alarm me. I fell in love with the way you never sugar coated the truth and anyone whose been where we’ve been knows just how real your words are.

Maya Angelou

How long must the caged bird write before she sings? I can’t credit myself for coming up with that line. You showed me how a poet can use metaphors to write fiction too. Even though your memoir is all truth, your talent transformed it into something that can be considered just as poetic as phenomenal women. Your voice was passionate and strong and thundered like waves of air across the sky. Even in death is your memory, still that uplifting arm rising like dust and written down in history.

Ntozake Shange

Speaking of poetry, ever since I heard you speak I wanted to write for colored girls. You brought me back to those Souljah days with your raw tongue. How it unfolded from the very bottom of your gut and lifted the skirt to every pain black women have endured since the days their slave masters told them that rainbows weren’t enough. You didn’t write the way that I was taught in school, you wrote the way that I spoke. Like when my friends and I crowded around de front porch and ma boyfriend waz whispering quite literally, sweet nothin’s in my ear. And I laughed stupid like “You pretty” was something revolutionary enough to show my privates for.

Toni Morrison

By the time I got to you my thoughts started to evolve into a wanting I couldn’t put my finger on. My mind had gone from reading for entertainment to studying the books I read. I was on a search for something deeper than cotton fields, magnolia trees, and project rats. By the time you came along I was reading in-between the lines and trying to find that thing called freedom. And I wondered just how deep I had to look for that Tar Baby.

Gwendolyn Brooks

As soon as I found out you were from my home town we bonded. Was real cool like besties from the low end on the South Side. Bonded like 47th Street and State, Bronzeville, or Englewood. You see your lyrics had depth like the deep south you was born in, but had that look about it that screamed Chi-Town. Simple poetry that spoke volumes. You taught me that if I loved him the right way, saw him the way I was supposed to, that a man became more than just a body.

Terry McMillian

This relationship of ours! I can read you anytime and Lewis will always seem like the same Ray Ray and Pookie we all know. You perfected the art of black family life and character development. Every book I read of yours sends me into that world and I’m just laughing and shaking hands with your people like they my people because they are. I have stayed up plenty of nights turning pages and laughing and trying to figure out just what it means to be A Day Late and Dolla Short.

***************

A Love Letter to the Black Women Writers Who Liberated Me Read the title of an article written by Ashley Gail Terrell, a freelance writer from Michigan working on her first novel. Her post was inspiration for this piece.

I believe there are stepping stones to everything in life. That something that leads and guides us from one place to another so that we can reach the place we’re supposed to be. It can be anything from music, movies, television, people, places, things, and even books. Now, because of choice we do not always see these stepping stones for what they are; do not always notice the impact they are having in the moment in which we experience it and for some of us, perhaps we never will. But when I read this title, I thought back to the writers who I have come to love over the course of time and I began to meditate on how they have influenced my writing. When I was not yet where I am, spiritually, mentally, and physically, these writers (although not just these writers) became valuable launchpads on behalf of my writing today, sparking a flame of passion for the art that I still carry with me.