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

The PBS Blog Podcast Ep 16: The Sky is Not the Limit

There is a popular saying “the sky is the limit.” It is used to display the belief that you can go high, as far up as the sky. I disagree with this saying because the sky is not the limit. There are elements beyond even the sky. You can stop at the sky or you can go above and beyond it. I want to use this as an example in today’s podcast for the potential for us to do great things without being limited. The sky is not the limit. You are.

Listen to “The Sky is Not the Limit” now on Soundcloud or iTunes

 

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-573689310

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-pbs-blog-podcast/id1344901312?mt=2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbsblogpodcast

IG: https://www.instagram.com/thepbsblog/

To follow my personal IG page @yecheilyah

Don’t Box Me In

I come from a place where twitching mouths and search for the white stuff on the floor is protocol. A place where the White Gods ruled, food stamps sacrificed to glass pipes and crack is the answer to every question and yet, I don’t plan to leave any of them behind. Not the government cheese, hand-me-down clothing or the streets chalked with junkies. I ain’t nobody special so if I can be healed they can too, if they choose. I won’t miss a trip to Egypt or beautiful Germany (I almost went one time..bummer that it didn’t work out). I can be found quoting the likes of  Whitman, Dickinson, or Frost and I think Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet is beautiful (even though his eyes look weird to me.) I’m a sucker for deep conversation, red wine, and education. I love to learn, pray, and study scripture. After all, what’s a beautiful woman whose mind is weak? I don’t mind walking into your fancy dinners either just as long as you’re paying for the plate. I hate the spotlight, true (though I will stand by my word). Shy most definitely. You can have the credit. I’ll wait and speak when the time is right because I’m kind but not weak and humble but not timid. Don’t box me in. My overcoming is a bridge for all people, not a closed door. Two Xs and no spaces except the one I found outside the box. No boxes please.