A lot is going on in the world, so I sit here bathed in solitude and fishing for a thought. Let the noisy silence of second hands and chirping birds lend me the inspiration needed to write. Let the calm of the rain suicide its face onto my windowsill, onto shingled rooftops, ripping puddles, or perhaps it will only melt itself into the concrete.
Have you ever sat back and listened to silence? It is hypocritically noisy. I can hear the laughter of locusts and the singing of birds as they intercourse themselves into the wind. This noisy wind. It whistles and shouts and spreads its hum across the troposphere, just silent enough for us not to notice amid the growling of car engines and groaning of electricity. If you listen closely enough, you’ll hear angels sing in the wind.
Give me not the physical right now. Not the booming lyric of music or the chatter of distraction. Give me focus so I may snag a thought from the roaring voices of spirit and memory hanging from the pictures on my wall. We are familiar with the sound of noise, but not the noise of silence. Not the tickle of an idea brushing past our thoughts or the seductive wooing of trees to wind. The giggling fabric against the windowsill. The peaceful lullabies of daylight.
Indeed, nature has its way of suckering us out of quiet, but what an incredible stillness.
One of the biggest mistakes I made on my Authorprenur* journey was doing everything for free. Everything from book reviews to interviews to consults was free at one time. I gave everything away. I even taught people the steps needed to publish books on their own without them giving me a dime.
*A play on the word entrepreneur, an authorpreneur is an author who blends publishing books with business practices. These authors do not only write and publish books, but they build brands.
This might sound good. It might make your heart melt and make you shout “Halleluyah.” You might do a little praise dance for my commitment to service and admire my generous soul.
But you can save charity for your congregation and your nonprofit programs. This is not good for running a business because you train your audience to expect everything you do to be free.
This is what has happened to me.
Not only did doing everything for free teach my audience to expect free from me, but people also started taking advantage of me. They took the information I gave and tried to do it independently, so they didn’t have to pay for the service.
You also attract a low-paying tribe when you do everything for free.
Once you have set a foundation for giving your services away, it becomes difficult to start charging because you have already groomed and equipped people to expect this service to be free or extremely low-cost. It is much easier to charge your worth from the beginning.
If you struggle with this or are just starting, you can schedule your day like a workday and only accept work during your work hours. I work from 10a-4p on Fridays. This means anything after 4 is set up for the next workday, Monday at 9am EST.
Now that your day is scheduled, what can you fit in that time? Do you write? Blog? Create Social Media Content? Are you answering questions? Emails? If people are constantly asking you questions, set up a discovery call system and put a price tag on that.
And by questions I mean, like, if you have a skill. Don’t be charging people for stuff and you don’t know what you are doing or talking about. That’s called a scam.
I don’t get paid to blog in general. Like, I am not being paid to publish this post. However, I do charge for Book Reviews, and Author Interviews featured on this blog, something I was not doing initially. After noticing how much time it took me to schedule the interviews (it can take hours) and put together the book reviews (this can take weeks), I switched things up a bit.
When Authors pay for a review* or Interview, it gives me more incentive to follow through. It also ensures I prioritize that project (paid projects supersede free ones). I also charge because I pay for space on this blog. This means this blog is no longer something I do for fun. It is also now part of my business.
*Paid book reviews featured on this blog do not guarantee a positive review so no, authors are not paying me for a positive review. Blog book reviews are also not posted to Amazon as paid reviews are against Amazon’s policy.
It’s not even about the money. It is about putting value on your time.
Nowadays, saying you’re an entrepreneur can also mean unemployed, depending on who’s talking. The value has been cheapened by people chasing the next hustle. But a hustle is not a business.
The truth is if you are not charging for your work or constantly giving your books away for free, you do not have a business. You are either still hustling to see what will stick or have an expensive hobby.
It’s been a lil minute since we had a lil chat. This year I decided I would not rush back to this blog after the New Year.
If you are one of those extra woke people who need to remind me it is not technically a “New Year” until spring, don’t. I know, and we not talking about that right now.
Anyway, come on in!
Please remove your shoes. House policy.
Go ahead and grab some coffee. The Kerug is self-serving, so help yourself. There is also tea on the counter if that’s your thing. Sugar is in the pantry, and cream is in the fridge. I hope International Delight’s Sweet Cream is okay?
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am on a month-long fast from alcohol. I have started drinking more fruit and vegetable-infused smoothies instead. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really notice any changes, but I’ll keep you updated on that. I am not much of a drinker (I tend to stick with wine), but I wanted to start the year with a fresh flush of my system. No alcohol and fast foods and processed stuff and all that junk. If you take care of your body now, it will take care of you later!
2021 Me: “Look at us tryna be all healthy and stuff!”
2022 Me: “Girlll. I know right?!
Speaking of body, if we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about this dope essay contest that the Navigating the Life blog is hosting on body positivity. “Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance.” Click here to learn more.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you my main priority is finishing the black history book. If you are new to this blog, click here to check out my Black History Fun Fact series. It was something I started to honor Black History Month that turned into a weekly feature when I realized Black history is too powerful to limit to 28 days. Long story short, I am turning the series into a book. My goal is to finish the rough draft by the end of February, if not the start. I am about 32K words in now on the road to 50K.
By the looks of it, this will be a thick book, so 50K is not necessarily the end word count, but it is what I am striving for now. I am noticing how easily distracting it can be to finish a book and keep up with social media simultaneously. Suffice to say, I have severely limited my time on this blog and my socials. I pop in to see what ya’ll are up to, but I gotta be focused this month if I am going to reach my goal. You’ll see me around, though.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am preparing to present at my first conference this March. I am teaching a class on the importance of faith in business. My specific topic is “Overcoming Fear in Business.” We will discuss and identify the symptoms of fear and learn practical methods of overcoming the barriers in business caused by fear.
Suppose you’ve ever had anxiety about showing up to promote your brand or company (especially if you are Introverted). In that case, you want to be in the building. It’s going down on March 11th in Gulfport, MS. Be sure you follow my social media for more updates as the date approaches.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I have not published much poetry to this blog because I am working on another book. When I published My Soul is a Witness, I ran into issues with publishing poems featured on this blog. I had to verify they belonged to me before Amazon could approve it. I am not sharing many of them with this blog this time to overcome that hurdle. I already have the name of the collection and will reveal it with the cover. For now, you should know it will follow in the same vibe as I am Soul and My Soul is a Witness.
If we were having coffee right now, I would also tell you I am thinking of turning Indie Author Basics with EC into a Podcast. Part of the reason is I have felt a strong sense that I should speak more. Now, most people don’t believe me when I say I am shy, but I really am. If you notice, I don’t go live a lot. I am not a fan of being out front. For you 90s fans, I’m not tryna be “all in the videos.” Only the real one’s will get this reference.Tee hee.
Suffice it to say, I feel a need to push myself more, step out from behind the keyboard and speak. Allowing you to hear me discuss the Indie Author Basic topics and maybe even interview authors would help. Whatcha think? Should we give it a go?
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you the Book Review Registry is still closed. I cannot possibly read any more books and finish mine at the same time. I hope to reopen as early as March. Be sure to check out this page for details on how to apply. Keep in mind you are not booked, and your space is not reserved until payment is received.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you your cup is empty. Your coffee/tea is gone, and so is my time. Now, you don’t have to go home but…
As we wrap up 2021, I thought I’d copy off Barrack Obama and share my book list, a combination of Trade and Indie books I read this year. This list is based on books I’ve read or am reading now. I missed a lot of hot releases reading for research, so I only got around to about twenty books this year, and not all of them were published in 2021. And for the sake of time, I will not talk about every book.
This list is in no particular order, but if it was, this would still be the number one read for me this year. Publishing a memoir is among many of my author goals, and the way this was structured is precisely what I have in mind. Cicely Tyson’s Just as I am is not only a memoir. It is a magnifying glass on 96 years of black history told through the eyes of someone who lived it in real-time. A perfect blend of personal testimony with the political and social climate of the times, a poetic proclamation to some of the most historical events of the 20th Century.
Listen, if you can get me to read your book and keep reading it or think about it so much when I am not reading it, I want to pick it up at my earliest convenience to finish, then you can make the top of my list. This book was hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time. It was also refreshing that the book was not too long and engaging enough to read in one sitting. I hadn’t done that in a while. I enjoyed it.
I read the first half of this book at the library while I was supposed to be reading Amanda’s new book. No shade to Gorman, but I had to let hers sit to the side a lil bit reading this here. I love Jasmine’s rawness. She is all fire and straightforwardness. When I got home, I bought my own copy.
For clarity, this is not a memoir. It is biography written by pop culture critic, essayist, literary editor, fiction writer, and music journalist Miles Marshall Lewis. I really like how he structured this, mixing pop culture, some hip-hop history leading up to Kendrick’s birth, and Lamar’s coming of age story.
Ladies, listen. There are so many myths surrounding this here vajayjay of ours. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book by Married to Medicine’s Jackie Walters. She’s an MD of Comprehensive Women’s OB/GYN, located in Duluth and Dunwoody, Georgia, and is a household name in the Atlanta area. If you know her from the show, the book reads in her voice, which is cool.
If you want to learn about how the US government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods, this the one.
Getting negative reviews on your book is a real heart-breaker. How dare they talk about your baby like that? I mean, you are obviously the best writer ever. Getting negative feedback on your book feels like a personal attack.
And not just for Indie Authors, but for all authors.
Sister Souljah got so many negative reviews for her latest release, Life After Death, that she was compelled to address it on Instagram, saying, “Stop crying about the death experience of WINTER SANTIAGA, AND START THINKING. STOP DEBATING and start reading.”
The first part of studying a review is remembering that it is someone’s opinion based on their experience. Even professional reviews are expert opinions. We are not changing our voice or altering our style based on the views of fifty people.
We are only looking to see if this person’s opinion has any value we can learn from.
“It was a little difficult discerning who exactly was talking or even who was who at the beginning. The scenes seem to always end at a cliffhanger. The premise is interesting, bit the follow through needs work.”
This is a two-star review of my latest novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. The dialogue in my stories is strong, but my tense usage and POV need work. Because I know these are my weaknesses, this review has merit.
Do I think it is so bad it deserved two stars? Of course not, but that doesn’t make the point invalid.
Use Your Discernment
Once the shock of the negative reviews has worn off, we can use the power of our discernment to see that not all critical feedback is hostile. Our wisdom will show us what part of the review is worth looking into and what part to let be.
While I will work on the point of view, I am not worried about ending scenes with a cliffhanger. I like it because it’s a good way to keep people reading.
In the words of bestselling author James Patterson, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.” This is the reason we are addicted to that TV show. We come back week after week because we are held in suspense. Cliffhanger endings are the hallmark of page-turner fiction or, in this case, binge-worthy shows.
“I enjoyed the premise of the story, but sometimes was a little thrown with whose point of view I was reading.”
See that? I cannot ignore this. It comes up repeatedly, which means it is a legitimate issue I need to fix. Now I know what to work on for my next book. I hope to hear fewer complaints about this in the future.
If we change the way we look at it, critical reviews are cause for celebration.
In this fake everything era, where people buy followers, engagement, and body parts, what we might consider a negative review is a good thing. Unless the negative reviews come from a hater who is trolling you, having a good mixture of good and “bad” reviews gives the book authenticity.’
This is so important to understand in the Indie Author community. There are some poorly written and produced books with nothing but five-star reviews.
How Detailed is the Review?
I have learned the more detailed the review is, the more likely there is something there. While “Excellent book” makes us feel good, explaining what made it an excellent book is more helpful.
In the same vein, commenting that a book was “terrible” does nothing for the author. What made it terrible? What are the ways the author can improve? What did not work for you?
“I wish I could get a refund. This will not get read this is a terrible book and she could have kept this.”
– Amazon Customer Review of Life After Death by Sister Souljah
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is not a helpful review and the “she could have kept this” is unnecessary. This is the kind of review you do not have to spend your time trying to dissect. It offers no insight. I am sure Sister Souljah laughed it off.
“I think this author has much more to give. I felt as though she was dancing on the outskirts of the story, just giving the reader a little tease. With the author’s style of writing, I really think this book could be a nice, long novel, really delving into Nora’s life and her families past, followed with nice, long novels in the series.”
This reviewer has a good point worth considering. I definitely need to continue Nora’s story. I accept the reader’s thoughts here because they make sense.
“Ms. Ysrayl shares about her challenges and how she has overcome some and others are a continuous life-long journey. The elimination of repetition of paragraphs and sentences, would earn the book 5 stars.”
Repetition in my writing is something I need to work on, so this reader’s thoughts have merit. Sure, it stings, but it is also true.
“Many of the poems have a good message. Liked the ones with imagination like Sabbath. But to really touch a heart, the thinking and framing should be less self-centered, in my humble opinion.”
My Brain: What?
This is an example of a review I didn’t bother to give much thought.
First, the self-centered part is confusing. Next, the reviewer is a white man who probably couldn’t discern the book is mainly about the collective Black experience more than anything. (He only gave it 3 stars) This one is another example of how you don’t have to worry about the negative reviews that don’t make sense.
But it also brings to my attention something I almost forgot to mention:
A book marketed to the wrong audience increases the likelihood of bad reviews.
If I buy a Historical Fiction novel that turns out to be a Romance, I will more than likely rate it low.
Going back to Life After Death, the book is marketed as urban fiction, but it would be more appropriate for the Paranormal / Sci-Fi or even religious fiction genre.
Unfortunately, the audience that loved The Coldest Winter Ever is not the same audience for Life After Death.
This means as a Self-Publisher, identifying your target audience and marketing your books to that audience is critical. I am Soul will rate higher with Black women and Black people than anyone else because I wrote it for them. It doesn’t mean other people can’t read it or won’t read it. It means I increase the likelihood of positive reviews if the people I wrote the book for are reading it.
All Reviews Matter
You do the author a great disservice when you decide not to review a book because you didn’t like it. You not only rob them of the chance to increase their reviews, but you also rob them of the chance to improve on their writing. And if you are an author and only want positive reviews, you are robbing yourself.
The purpose of reviews for any product or service is not to only talk about how good it is. Positive and negative reviews are helpful, though I use negative loosely here. The reviews that are off the wall and utterly ridiculous are reviews I consider negative. But, the critical thoughts that offer insight on how the author can do better are necessary for growth.
So, what to do the next time someone rates your book low?
First, be grateful. Many great writers have received negative feedback on their books. You are in good company.
Next, study the review itself. Is there something you need to work on? Or is the review not worth stressing over?
Welcome back to another episode of No Whining Wednesday! Today, you cannot whine, criticize, or complain.
If you are new to this blog or new to this segment please visit the NWW page herefor past episodes.
I am aware there was no NWW episode last week. It is because I did not have a word to give. And I would rather say nothing than to speak just for the sake of speaking. In the words of Obbie West, the poet, “speaking just for the sake of speaking is the same as being silent.”
I almost didn’t post anything today either.
But as I thought about this series, why I created it, and why its existence is necessary, forcing things came to my mind.
We know we cannot force things to happen, but we try to anyway. It is like we are fascinated by the chase. When we cannot get what we want when we want it, we whine and complain because we feel we failed to make it happen.
We stress ourselves out over things we cannot control. We become upset that we cannot force it as much as we try.
It is not until we let go that things happen as they were always intended to. Ever noticed that it starts to move as soon as you forget about something?
Think about misplacing something. It can literally be right in your face as you tear the house apart. Only when you calm down, relax, and focus on something else that you see that thing sitting on the table.
You think, “How in the world did I miss this? I’ve looked at that table four times!”
Or did you?
You looked at the table, but did you see what was on it?
People are fascinated by my locs. They want to know what products I use, what my routine is, and how in the heck I got my hair to grow down my back.
These conversations are fun, especially for women. We get to giggle and be girly about products and things.
But the only honest answer to this question is nothing. I don’t do anything to my hair.
Of course, I wash it, oil it, and all that good stuff, but for the most part, I leave it alone, and it grows wildly.
Sometimes, you just need to leave that situation alone. Don’t complain about it, don’t stress about it. Don’t even think about it. Stop trying to force the revelations to come. What will be, will be.
Title: Life After Death Author: Sister Souljah Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books Published: March 2, 2021 ASIN: B08BZVTLWX Pages: 349
I purchased this book when it dropped in March and promised to share my thoughts. That was nine months ago, and I want to deliver on my word.
The Plot is in the Title
Life After Death is the much anticipated second sequel to Sister Souljah’s explosive bestseller, The Coldest Winter Ever. The first thing I noticed is the plot is in the title.
Winter Santiaga is still in prison and negotiating a deal with her brother-in-law, Elisha, for a reality TV show on her release. But before Winter could make her grand debut, she gets shot.
And this is where the story goes to a place I did not want to go.
The rest of the book are the details of Winter’s experience in the after-world. Neither heaven nor hell, she floats around in a kind of purgatory.
What in the American Horror Story is going on here?
There is a bit of a twist at the end, but unfortunately for me, it was not enough to save the book. It also didn’t help that I predicted the twist from the beginning so I didn’t even have the satisfaction of that to help how I would rate it.
Pushed as an urban fiction novel, Life After Death actually reads like a paranormal story. The book is heavy on religion and metaphysics and I found it dark and hard to get through.
The beginning leading up to the bizarre other-world was not too bad, though I did think the Life After Death Winter sounds a lot less mature than the Winter from the end of book one. To understand what I mean let’s do a quick recap of the end of The Coldest Winter Ever.
At the end of The Coldest Winter Ever, Winter is still street, but has been humbled after serving seven years in prison. With eight more years to go, she is shackled and accompanied by guards to attend her mother’s funeral. She talks about how breathing is different, the feel of the sun on her face and the smell of the food.
As the book comes to an end and Winter sees the family, her middle sister Porsche rolls up in a Mercedes Benz dressed like a million bucks. Winter can already tell the road she’s headed and thinks about warning Porsche about the life she’s living. She decides to let it be. The girl will have to see for herself.
Fast forward to Life After Death.
This Winter is negotiating a deal for a $50,000 per episode reality TV show, hooded three-quarter-length mink coat, Python sky-high boots, red Gucci driving gloves, an activated iPhone, and a red carpet welcome out of the door.
It would seem she would be far removed from that kind of lifestyle by now.
There is a lot of talk about Islam that came across as highly preachy. I don’t mean bits and pieces here and there. I mean whole pages about how Allah does what Allah pleases, Allah chose the language of Arabic as the language of the Holy Quran, so forth and so on. As one reviewer summed up:
“My only criticism is the strong Muslim leaning; without spoiling, I felt the portrayal of the nuns in the convent was unnecessarily offensive. An interesting read! But if you’re looking for a TCWE II you will be disappointed.”
Winter’s Life After Death journey is an experience into the world of the deeply spiritual practices of Islam as Souljah sees it. After she enters this world, everything feels like a sermon with Winter’s life as the conduit, the vehicle from which the message is given.
Put plainly: it feels like Souljah wanted to write a book about religion because of the trauma of the 2020 Pandemic and used her most famous character to do it. According to her Instagram:
“I wrote LIFE AFTER DEATH in 2020, a year of great loss, huge disasters, raging fires, violent storms, virulent viruses and the whole world shaken by the body count. Everything everyone worshiped besides GOD was either brought to a complete stand still or vanished into thin air.” – Sister Souljah
I get it, but readers feel deceived. They thought they were buying the follow-up to what is arguably one of the best urban fiction books of their young adulthood, only to read about Souljah’s “EXTREMELY polarizing and generally terrible opinions and belief,” as one reviewer puts it.
“I didn’t buy this book to read Souljah’s religious and uber conservative rhetoric, I bought this book to finish Winter’s story. If she couldn’t write that she should’ve just said that instead of giving us a weird ass bestiality scene and making Winter make increasingly erratic and poor decisions to justify the religious crap she stuffed the plot with.”
The marketing gave us the impression the book would pick up where The Coldest Winter Ever left off. In truth, it is a different book. Fans of the novel say it’s not supposed to be the same, but the promotion says otherwise. Even the covers are similar.
“People who are saying “This is not supposed to be the Coldest Winter Ever” – it is literally the follow-up to TCWE lol!!! Of course we were expecting an extension of it!” – Amazon Customer Review
I believe this would have been better received had she created an entirely new character with no connection to Winter.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
I do want to give Souljah credit for attempting to pen something deeper than your traditional Street Lit. You can tell she wanted Winter to evolve and that she had a message she wanted to give her readers.
You can also tell by how many people said they “waited 20 years for nothing” did not read the first sequel. If you read A Deeper Love Inside, Souljah’s religious messages are not a total surprise. Although, I didn’t enjoy that book either.
“Unrealistic. Dragged. Boring. Depressing. It was in need of a serious plot twist that never came.” – Amazon Customer Review
I would have worded it differently (knowing what it feels like as an author to get such feedback), but this person is spot on.
The religious parts in Life After Death would also make more sense to readers of the Midnight series:
“Its written for Souljah fans who have read the Midnight series. Not that the story is particularly relevant, but there are A LOT of references to Islam that might not make sense entirely except Midnight explained them in his series.”
I do believe there is an audience for this book and that had it been marketed to that audience as a standalone novel in the paranormal or even religious genre, readers would have had a better idea of what they were getting.
“If she wanted to write about these kinds of things don’t mislead the readers into thinking we were getting another Winter experience, clearly it was not. The story is hard to digest. The only reason a lot of us purchased it was under the guise of it really being an actual sequel to one of the best reads.”
“Souljah wrote the book that SHE wanted to write, not what her readers wanted to read.”
I can only rate this book two stars. It is two stars instead of one because I did enjoy the start of the book. It seemed promising until Winter went into the sunken place.
Note: I was not paid for this review. I bought the book, read it on my own time, and these are my thoughts. To have your work reviewed through my paid service, you must register your book here and it must rate 3-5 stars to be published on this blog. Reviews of books I read on my own are published regardless of rating.