The Power of Systems and Consistency

I’ve been Self-Publishing my books for twelve years now. Usually, after learning I’ve published fourteen books and counting, people are astonished. They want to know what the secret is. There’s only one problem.

I don’t have a secret.

But, I do have a system. 

System: A set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized framework or method.

Every time I publish a book, I follow the same 5-7 steps. 

Call it a schedule if that’s easier, but this timetable helps me to publish with ease every time. 

Cover by Yocla Designs

This is the new book cover for my first novel, The Aftermath (2012), which I revealed years ago. I had planned to launch a second edition but still have not finished revising it. However, I won’t have to worry about a cover when I get around to it. It is bought and paid for.

As you can see, I don’t always keep my steps in exact order, but I am never too far off track because I have a blueprint to follow. 

Tip: Always get your book edited and formatted before your artist designs the entire book cover because the book’s trim size determines the book’s dimensions. A cover design (just the front) is okay if you’d like to use it to promote and build excitement, but for an accurate width of the spine, for instance, your artist will need your exact number of pages which you won’t know until the book is edited and formatted. Getting the text formatted before the final cover is complete is part of my system. 

What I am saying to you is I do the same thing repeatedly. No magic. No secret sauce. Just systems and consistency. 

I call this series Indie Author Basics because I genuinely believe simplicity is king. All you have to do is find a way that works for you and repeat it. That’s a system. A collection of parts working together. 

If you have not written your book, what can you do every day to move you closer to finishing? Could you write it every morning while drinking coffee? Could you write it before bed? During lunch? What system works for you?

If you’ve written your book but have not published it, click on the link below and schedule a call with me. If you are looking to Self-Publish, you don’t have to figure out a system. Just use mine!


Schedule a free discovery call.

Need more Indie Author Tips?

Check out the IAB archive here.

Speak to Me of My Mother, Who Was She by Jasmine Mans

As we get closer to September and the close of this year’s poetry contest, I will post more poems from other artists to help spark creativity.

This year’s theme is Freedom, so we will focus on poems that have to do with that in some way.

This one, “Speak to me of My Mother, Who was She,” is an excellent example of a freedom poem that digs deeper than the surface. Enjoy!

Photo by Thiago Borges

Tell me about the girl

my mother was,

before she traded in

all her girl

to be my mother.

What did she smell like?

How many friends did she have,

before she had no room?

Before I took up so much

space in her prayers,

who did she pray for?

  • Source: Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans, p. 13

Haven’t heard of the poetry contest yet? Wanna win interviews, cash prizes and more?

Click Here!

Is Writing Still a Gift?

Photo by Lisa Fotios

When I was coming up, we treated writing like a special gift, and those who could write well felt like they had superpowers. Or at least I did.

In elementary school, I was a terrible student. I got straight F’s, and the source of my lousy grades was math. I failed the sixth grade twice and almost failed the seventh grade. 

Correction: I did fail the seventh grade, but someone had mercy on me, and I passed on to the eighth grade. I cannot say for sure today how it happened. Only I am glad it did.

By the time I was in eighth grade, I was seeing a special ed teacher. Every day he would come into our class, they would announce the special ed teacher was here, and the four, five, or six of us would stand and leave with him. 

If that weren’t degrading enough, the work we did in that small room was fit for a first grader. Two plus two and four plus four. It was frustrating because the math I needed help with was the eighth-grade stuff.

I knew that one plus one was two. I didn’t know how it applied to the more advanced math in the other room. Still, they would give us these long worksheets with these kindergarten math problems, tons of them all down the paper. Some days, they would give us candy. 

It was humiliating, and I would go home and vent my rage in my diary. I would write about how it felt to be singled out in front of the entire class and for the teacher to utter the words, “The special ed teacher is here,” which I thought was unnecessary. The lack of discretion seemed to me a lack of care for our feelings as students. I felt stupid and if that’s how I felt, I am sure the other kids felt it, too.

And then something happened.

This same teacher discovered I knew how to write. Suddenly, everything turned around. I cannot even say for sure how it happened. I still did not understand the math, but the more I wrote, the better my grades got. By the time the school year ended, I had an armful of academic awards and was graduating with honors.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Writing got me out of the eighth grade and into honors classes in High School. (Even honors math.)

Writing got me into College while still in High School. I attended Robert Morris College in my Junior year for early credit. I would go to High School in the daytime and then take the green line downtown for my college course in the evenings. It was dark when I got home every day.

Writing got me into AP Literature, graduating High School with honors, tenth in my class.

Photo by Thirdman

The Point of it All

For writers like me, writing isn’t something we dreamed up on a whim, but is an intimate part of our lives. It is something we can trace as ever-present. For us, writing is a deeply rooted passion that played a major role in developing who we are.

My concern now is writing isn’t taken as seriously as other gifts. Do we even consider it a gift? Indeed, one can learn to write through education, training, and coaching, but is it still a gift

Are there still people who are natural wordsmiths? People, who go the extra mile to string words together into comprehension? People, who devour books like a man starving? And is writing still opening doors for them? As it did for me?

Do we still consider writing a gift, or is everyone a writer?

Won’t You Celebrate with Me by Lucille Clifton

As we get closer to September and the close of this year’s poetry contest, I will post more poems from other artists to help spark creativity.

This year’s theme is Freedom, so we will focus on poems that have to do with that. This first one is called “Won’t You Celebrate with Me,” by Lucille Clifton. Enjoy!

Photo by Lukas

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.


Don’t know about the contest? Wanna enter for a chance to win dope prizes?

Click Here!

The Sound of Silence

Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

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.

Yecheilyah’s Book List 2021

Hey guys!

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.

So heerree we go.

Just as I am by Cicely Tyson

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. 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

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.

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

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.

Promise That You Will Sing for Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar by Miles Marshall Lewis

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.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

Because I heard this poem recited first at the Presidential Inauguration, it’s so fun to read because Gorman’s voice is in my head. I can read this repeatedly because it’s short and inspiring.

Will (Currently reading)

I literally just got this book yesterday, but I had to put it on the list because I think Will is dope so I know this book will be entertaining. Looking forward to digging in.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

This book is mad thick, so no, I have not finished reading it. What I have read so far is good, though, and I will be picking this back up again for sure.

The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know About Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care by Dr. Jackie Walters

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.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

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.

Immersed in West Africa by Terry Lister (Indie)

I enjoyed “traveling” with this author on his journey through Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau.

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen

They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Current Research Book)

Chile. If you want a history of Karen’s behavior, babbyy. This the one.

Family Medicine: A Psychological Suspense Thriller (Indie)

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (Currently reading)

I am not as invested in this one as I was in the first one, but I’m still enjoying it.

Things I Wish I Said by AVG (Indie)

Fields of Grace by Wendy Waters (Indie)

Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams (Research Book)

Ya’ll notice my nails got better in the latter part of the year? Cause this was this summer, and what in the messy nail polish is going on here, lol.

Living in the Land of I am: Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose by Tiffany James (Indie)

Life After Death by Sister Souljah

I had such high hopes for this book. Read my full review here.

She Wins (Indie)

When Poets Pray by Marilyn McEntyre

I did not enjoy this book like I thought I would. I should have researched it more, but I judged it by its cover and title, both of which I think are awesome. But I’m gonna have to pass.

I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage, and Hope

A compelling anthology. Highly recommended.

Books I Didn’t Get Around to but Want to Read:

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Feeding the Soul by Tabitha Brown

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

And that’s my book list for 2021!

Have you read any on this list? Tell me your favorite!

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews: Life After Death by Sister Souljah

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.

Urban Fiction? Paranormal? Sci-Fi? Magical Realism?

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.

Mmkay.

It would seem she would be far removed from that kind of lifestyle by now.

Preachy

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.