Audiobooks And The Multifaceted Ways We Convey Words

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Are audiobooks considered reading?

The busy American lifestyle often limits the time one has to pick up a book, which can devastate someone who loves reading. Audiobooks offer a solution, giving people access to amazing (and not so amazing) titles that they can enjoy during their commute while running errands or traveling. Some people suffer from motion sickness if they look down and read. They don’t enjoy the luxury of reading a book when on a long train, plane or car ride. So, audiobooks are a blessing.

I belong to a lot of avid reading groups on Facebook. As I read posts, I often see people defending using audiobooks. While I have encountered no one who would purport that listening to an audiobook is not “real reading,” I suppose the argument must exist, or else there wouldn’t be posts about it. Ironic because the origin of the word read does not involve or restrict the activity to the written word. Yeah, you can not ask a literary critic about a word and things not get geeky.

Continue reading “Audiobooks And The Multifaceted Ways We Convey Words”

Author Tools to Keep A Story Together

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Share how you keep your characters, storylines, etc., organized. Do you use an outline? Notecards? Post-its all over your walls?

I am back, everyone. I’ve missed writing for this blog hop, but I was slammed…hard…with a number of illnesses and was laid out for weeks.

Yeah, it took a while, but I am better now and ready to go!

Okay. How I keep track of everything needed to write a cohesive novel, novella or short story. What fun! And how convenient that I recently wrote articles about high and low-tech productivity for the awesome Haute Hijab blog. Below are some tools I use to keep things in check while story writing, even rebellious characters like Quinn Ang and Raad Khouri.

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High-Tech Tools

Continue reading “Author Tools to Keep A Story Together”

Author Interrupted – Dealing with Distractions

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What are your top three distractions and how do you deal with them?
Note: I am writing this post on the road. Please forgive any typos.

A writer’s life is full of all kinds of distractions, which can make finding the time to develop ideas and getting out of one’s head and onto paper (or the screen) difficult. I have mentioned that time management can be an external factor hindering writing.

Damn those twenty-four hours in a day. They just won’t listen and become more. Authors have professional (novel writing is not the main source of income for most) and personal lives, each demanding energy and time. Finding sufficient time to develop a plot, construct character arcs and write content can be difficult.  One cruel irony is that creative often burgeons when there is no time. Authors scramble to find a moment to weave a story, but frustration usually sets in when the brilliance blazing in their minds flickers into embers because that’s how it often works. Write right now or risk losing everything.

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Continue reading “Author Interrupted – Dealing with Distractions”

Characters Being True to Themselves

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Your characters have been placed in Witness Protection. What three truths about themselves do they want to keep?

We can never hide all of who we are.  Things will eventually come to the surface, even when the feds inject someone into a new life to safeguard them from immediate danger. The famous mobster Henry Hill is a prime example.

Hill entered the U.S. Marshals’ Witness Protection Program after he became an informant and testified against his fellow mobsters.

Think Tekashi 6ix9ine, who ratted out fellow Blood gang members. A book was written about Hill’s life as well as the movie Goodfellas.

Anyway, Hill spent years in the Witness Protection Program, committing so many crimes that he and his wife were eventually kicked out. He just couldn’t shake the lawbreaker deep inside. Although they are products of my creative author’s mind, there are things about my Brothers in Law series characters that they will not let go of, even if they are placed in hypothetical witness protection.

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Brothers in Law

Continue reading “Characters Being True to Themselves”

From Me to Them – My Childhood Reads

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#openbook What is your favorite childhood book?

Ugh. It is so hard to name a favorite anything, especially for something like childhood, which involves an expanse of time and stages of development. My favorite thing to read when I was in fourth grade was not the same as in kindergarten. Just like shoe sizes, my favorite reads grew along with me.

It is difficult for me to scour my memory and pinpoint one favorite book. I was surrounded by them as a child. We had so many books that I would set them up in a circle in the middle of our living room and read them one by one.  I carried them with me whenever possible and always had a healthy stack next to my bed.  So, I won’t be naming one favorite book.

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Instead, I will list a few books from my childhood that I read to my children. Continue reading “From Me to Them – My Childhood Reads”

The Dual Life of the Self-Published Author

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How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Control is something I have a difficult time relinquishing to anyone. I can delegate easily enough but must maintain the power to make the final decisions, especially when it comes to my writing.

Like many authors, I put a lot of myself in my books. I have been exhilarated while writing some scenes and depleted by others. More than time and talent, storytelling requires energy. After completing a fleshed-out plot, I am usually vested in it and the characters, making it hard to detach myself and place it into someone else’s hands. I figured out pretty early into the novel-writing process that I did not want to let go.

Mis Quince Años (24) Continue reading “The Dual Life of the Self-Published Author”

The Non-negotiable Writing Exchange

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What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

For people dedicated to the craft, writing is an impactful part of their lives and identities. I mentioned in another post, “I acquired and honed skills to interpret and craft words, using a range of prose (and a tiny bit of poetry) to harness the resilient power of language for liberation and resistance.”

Endeavors to generate words can be powerful and empowering, making writing a tool and art form requiring commitment. 

Dedicated writers pick up their pens [or fire up their keyboards] to share their perspectives and stories. The better ones know that wordsmithing involves layers of composition, drafting, editing and revising—all of which require development. Only deluded writers think that their skillsets are fine and they don’t need to hone them. 

Two mistakes many new writers make are thinking that all writing is the same and it will not take that much work.  Continue reading “The Non-negotiable Writing Exchange”

Book Writing, A Numbers Game

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#openbook

How many hours a day do you write? How long on average does it take you to write a book?

When I saw this week’s Open Book Blog Hop prompt, I laughed because it coincides with some realities I have had to face while participating in NaNoWriMo this month. The month-long writing challenge is meant to get writers to sit themselves down and finish a set goal during November.

Although I signed up for NaNoWriMo years ago, I had not participated. Why? That’s for another blog post. This year, someone encouraged to consider using NaNoWriMo as a tool to complete book four in the Brothers in Law romance series. Brandon and Hawwah want their story out there,  so I agreed.  I am half-way through the challenge and only have a little over 4k of my 50k goal achieved. I have been writing but not just the manuscript.

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Continue reading “Book Writing, A Numbers Game”

Word Aversion–Conquering Reader’s Block

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Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Okay, I had no clue what the term reader’s block meant. Once again, Open Book afforded me an opportunity to explore a new area of literature. Thanks, guys.

After a few Google clicks, I got the gist of the circumstance. Reader’s block is when one finds it hard to read, sometimes even making picking up a book difficult.

Your eyes glaze over, and you can’t get past the first paragraph on the page. Or perhaps you can’t will yourself to pick up a book in the first place. – Mental Floss

The reasons for reader’s block may include layers of motivation, comprehension, time constraints and volume. Continue reading “Word Aversion–Conquering Reader’s Block”

Weaving Stories Readers Want

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Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Authors frequently discuss notions of originality and fulfilling reader expectations. I have read posts all over social media and on blogs, all with writers seeking to draft texts that pristine from anything else written under the sun and that will satisfy a mass of readers worthy of their artistry. Both are exercises in futility.

Defeatist? No. A powerful storyteller resolves to the realities that neither is their story completely untold nor will it enchant every pair of eyes (ears hearing, fingertips touching) gracing it.  At the crux of any good story is the distinctive style and voice of the weaver of the tale, which is the primary way an author can create something that is theirs to share for people to connect with and respond.

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Continue reading “Weaving Stories Readers Want”

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”

Research – A Key Element to Storytelling

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What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I spend a lot of time researching all kinds of things for various writing projects. I need to research curriculum development and pedagogical methods for my work with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. I just spent the past few days hitting Google for historical and cultural research while taking part in an anti-racism workshop.

My job teaching at the college and romance scholarship also requires time researching. Before leaving for Chicago, I looked for additional sources as I edited an essay about African American Muslim romance fiction (yes, it’s a thing) and how female protagonists are othered. It is interesting how Muslim authors use the other woman trope in love triangles.

Focus, Lyndell. Okay.

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It may seem that so many demands will make research a tedious exercise. The opposite is true for me. Continue reading “Research – A Key Element to Storytelling”

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