Dry Those Writer Tears: Dealing with Reviews

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Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Ah, book reviews. They can send an author’s heart soaring or sink it like a stone into a deep abyss of despair.  Because a writer is often intimately connected to their works, reviews can have a substantial impact on the creative process.

I have warned new authors to be mindful of the effects reviews have on them, particularly negative ones:

All authors get negative reviews. Reading is subjective. There will always be at least one reader who doesn’t like something about a book, and some will express it in reviews. A lot of new authors are simply not ready for people to express any level of dislike.

Mis Quince Años (13) Continue reading “Dry Those Writer Tears: Dealing with Reviews”

I Don’t See No Stinkin’ Writer’s Block

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How do you move past writer's block?

I never get writer’s block. I may say I do but not really. What I usually experience is more like a hurdle to clear and keep things moving. A basic definition of writer’s block is, “the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it.” Other definitions describe it as an inability to write—as if there a mystical wall keeping words stuck in the mind or a force imprisoning creativity. There are reasons why a writer can’t write, and it is not always psychological or due to “having something on your mind.”

Through years of academic, professional, teaching and coaching writing, I learned a few things about the ominous “writer’s block” and the external and internal factors that drive writers to fall back on what is ultimately an excuse, a justification, for a blank screen.  Covering everything in one post is not possible. So, I will highlight some prevalent ones.

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Internal Factors

Continue reading “I Don’t See No Stinkin’ Writer’s Block”

Character Building: I Made This

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What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I may (or may not—I admit to nothing) base a character on someone I respect or despise, so I will have to be salty and sweet with the response to this week’s OpenBook blog hop post. Let’s start with the people I like.

Sweet

I’ve explained in a Black Glue Podcast interview how the Prophet Muhammad served as inspiration for the male characters featured in the Brothers in Law series.

I reflected on the Prophet (Muhammad’s) life and how he was as a husband … lover … someone out in the community and how he transitioned between those things. What he did when his women were mad at him, and what he did when his women were acting out. [The brothers in law] don’t act exactly like the Prophet, but there are characteristics each one of them has.

Simon is the one who keeps things at a level where it doesn’t get too bad. He doesn’t allow things to get to him as much.  Marcus is the alpha, alpha. He’s the leader. He expects things to happen the way he needs for them to happen because he’s progressing the nation. Adam is that inner reflection.

Continue reading “Character Building: I Made This”

Lit Outtakes: Uncrumpling the Paper

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What did you edit out of your most recent book? (or another book...let's see those outtakes!)

I don’t like to delete or throw away anything while I’m writing a story. So this week’s blog hop prompt is great for me. Not every idea, character, scene or chapter fits into the final draft of a book. Plots and characterizations tend to change through the developmental stages of a story.

A tertiary character may bum-rush their way into secondary or even main character status. That’s what happened with Raad Khouri, the main antagonist of Building on Broken Dreams, the third novel in the Brothers in Law series.  Quinn Ang, one of the six friends making up the series was originally an antagonist then things changed for him. The character demanded a shift. Consequently, I needed to add and shift some content and remove others. It’s all part of building narratives.

There are also times when a writer drafts a great scene but it no longer jibes with the book’s plot or execution. It took work to create the content, which may serve to feed the plot of another story, making keeping it a good idea.  I wrote a short chapter in my latest new novel, Sweet Love–Bitter Fruit. The chapter includes a conversation between Simon Young and his mother, Alice. Simon is married to main character Marcus Kent’s sister Regina. Readers fell in love with Simon and Regina in book one. Simon is away on business and worried about Regina, who is pregnant, suffering from anxiety, and caring for a toddler by herself. Continue reading “Lit Outtakes: Uncrumpling the Paper”

3 Books, 1 Author: Eclectic Reading that Feeds the Mind

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What are the best two or three books you've read this year?

This was supposed to be an easy question but not so much for me. I read a ton of different things over the course of the year. In addition to reading novels, I am always looking for books that will help me improve my writing skills as an author and writer.

I also am constantly gathering titles to read and analyze with my colleagues at the Muslim Anti-racism Collaborative. I am a strong proponent for life-long learning inside and outside of one’s professional spheres. My collection of books that help me develop as an anti-racism trainer, instructor, managing editor, and self-published author grew quite a bit this year. A few of them gripped me, so it is difficult not to mention any of them.

As usual, I will take the convoluted way to answer the blog hop prompt and include a shortlist of three of the best books I have read so far this year in fiction and nonfiction, connecting each to my life’s work. Continue reading “3 Books, 1 Author: Eclectic Reading that Feeds the Mind”

My Author Ego: It’s Big; Who’s Asking?

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Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Ego is an often vilified human characteristic.  Regarding one’s self-image, confidence, and esteem, we all need some ego.  Without a healthy ego, a person can become easily manipulated and hesitant to take the risks needed to put herself out there and achieve life’s goals. Self-published authors especially need that last one in spades. 

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Authors take big risks by releasing their work into a world that may be unkind. Writing something that readers may arbitrarily skewer for a plethora of substantial and tedious reasons is damn scary.  I once had someone give my book a lower review because they thought I didn’t show how the main character was Muslim (the character wasn’t) and another because they didn’t like “all of the racism” in an interracial romance.

Yeah, exactly. It takes a humongous ego to read helplessly while people slice and dice away at something that took blood, sweat, and tears—I am not exaggerating—to create.  Continue reading “My Author Ego: It’s Big; Who’s Asking?”

Reader Connections–A Measure of Success

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What does literary success look like to you?

I find it interesting that this week’s question uses the word “look” when it comes to literary success because I have a visual representation of it for me.

Let me give a little backstory. I love Zumba. It is one of the ways I get to release pent up tension and clear my head. I’m usually all over the floor during class, wiggling my hips and shouting as I cheerlead people to go higher and have fun.

 Anyway, last week, one of my zeeps (Zumba+peeps) had mentioned that she wanted to read My Way to You, my first book in the Brothers in Law series.  Like most indie authors, I had a copy. You gotta know how to play the game.

I signed and handed it to her. This week, she tapped me on the shoulder between songs, saying she needed more copies of the book. Word?! She explains what happened in the video below. 

Note – We had just finished an hour of Zumba, and we look it!  Continue reading “Reader Connections–A Measure of Success”

Editing: An Artist Sweating the Small Stuff

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What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

I have spent many years connecting with all types of creatives, including authors, visual artists (painters, photographers, etc.) and graphic artists.  My work at NbA Muslims made it possible for me to interview creatives, and one thing I continually gleaned from those discussions is that the artistic process tends to be individual.

Although two creatives may encounter similar challenges, they most likely do not have the exact same experiences. So, it is always a good idea for them to share their perspectives, hoping that everyone will be enriched by doing so.

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I’ve been a writer for a long time and ventured into authoring fiction a couple of years ago. I have written poetry, prose, journal articles, peer-review academic essays, thought pieces, and creative nonfiction. Each type of writing presented distinct challenges and required specialized writing skillsets to effectively satisfy reader expectation and codes and conventions.  I went into each project like a champ, writing and revising like I was The One

Continue reading “Editing: An Artist Sweating the Small Stuff”

Time Drain-A Writer’s Kryptonite

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What is your writing kryptonite?

I am making this post late in the week due to traveling. I hit mass transit and took an Amtrak train upstate for a writers’ retreat.  My home life includes a daily hustle of juggling the demands that come from being a mother, instructor, and professional writer.

Nope,  I wish it was like that for me. I drop stuff all the time.

I have to take care of my kids. I mean, I made them, so I should feed them, right? They’re cute, so I also like to spend time with them and their dad.  He has a super busy schedule too, and I will drop everything to have couple time whenever he gets a break. I make no apologies. Continue reading “Time Drain-A Writer’s Kryptonite”

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