My 2014 Blogging Year In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. It’s pretty straight-forward and probably only fascinating for me to see, but I’m sharing it anyway.

One thing I will say: I’m not surprised my post on Ryker got the most comments – he’s awesome, casting posts are always fun, and Nathan Owens is hot, hot, hot.

Anyway, take a peek if you want otherwise, I’ll be back to posting more often as soon as I finish Book III: The Prophecy. It’s so close – I can practically taste the end…

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’ve Got A Name

I know I’m supposed to be finishing Book III in The Sanctum Trilogy, putting an end to Dev and Wyatt’s saga, and I am…kind of.

At least I know their end.

Putting it all down on paper is taking a little longer than expected and I’ve taken advantage of every procrastination tool I’ve acquired over my forty three years of walking this planet. And one of those tools is thinking ahead to my next project.

Which began as just a story and has now morphed into a trilogy.

Yea! because this bitch loves a good trilogy. I would hate to write just one book devoted to my cast of characters. Perhaps that’s thinking a bit too highly of the folks I create, but so be it. Someone’s gotta love them.

So this new story comes to me in starts and fits and when it does, I just have to go with it. Yesterday, as I was driving from my old neighborhood back to my new one, singing along to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” – …

…which I love. It’s so good, no? But I seem to love everything he sings – cruising down the highway at speeds one should definitely not cruise, letting The Husband’s driving machine breathe a little at 90 miles per hour, it hit me: I have a name for my male main character.

He’s a nasty piece of work, angry, brutal, and unloved. Disabled from birth, forgotten among his brothers, an embarrassment to his father. Loved only by his mother who died when he was young, he’s the holder of a great secret and tremendous power, how he will use them remains to be seen.

And his name is

DUTCH.

I #SupportWNDB – The Series: EVOLUTION OF A WRITER

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Evolution of a Diverse Books Writer

Rebecca White

Evolution of a Diverse Books Writer or How I Went From, ‘Why Not Have a Dark-Skinned Character?’ to ‘Everything I Write for the Rest of My Life Will Include Diversity for the Sake of My Son and the Rest of the Non-White and Disabled People on Earth’.

Step One: Why Not? It was 2003, and I wanted to write a book. I’d had ideas developing in my mind for years, and it was finally time to put them down on paper, so to speak. The book’s largest theme would be the injustice and loss that follow nationalism, shown in a story about a girl who escapes one kind of inequality only to find herself in a country where she’s not only a minority, but a minority from a much hated race. The girl’s adventure, relationships, and character development would keep people reading.

It wasn’t until I started pounding out the first scene that I realized I needed to know what the girl looked like. As I sat there in the college library, trying not to listen to the conversations of some un-conscientious types, I decided that in order to move the plot properly, I needed my two nations to look very different from each other. Because of the world’s geography it made more sense to give my protagonist darker skin, so I wrote a brown-skinned protagonist, and that was that.

Step Two: White People Need to Get Over it. Almost ten years after I began writing my first novel, Kergulen, I had given up on traditional agents and publishers and gone indie. (I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing, but that’s another blog post for another time.) When I started passing around the cover art/font for feedback, I was ASTOUNDED to hear that ‘people won’t buy a book with a picture of a black girl on it’. I heard this from light and dark-skinned people alike, and I just couldn’t believe it, naïve me. My response was to be stubborn and insist that there is no reason why white people shouldn’t read books about non-white characters. It’s ridiculous. If my son (who is black) can be expected to read books about white people, why can’t white people read about people of color? They need to get over it.

Step Three: What? Almost All Books Are About White People? Being a European-American, I had never thought about it before. I only became aware of the issue when I finally started looking for markets that might be more open to the book I’d published and the sequel I had in the works. I learned that there are LOTS of people craving a good, non-white lead to read because they just can’t get their hands on enough of them. I began looking at diversity as something we need, not just something white people needed to accept. Many of the characters in my second book, Kings of the Red Shell, are various shades of brown and tan. The heroine is no longer a minority.

Step Four: My Son Could Use a Hero. Our son has diverse role models in real life, but it finally sunk in that he might very well want to read about characters who look like him when he gets older. They should be powerful, believable characters who overcome struggles and still embrace life with gusto. In Kings of the Red Shell, my main character has grown much stronger, more confident, and pro-active. She still has doubts and things to work through, of course, but she’s more courageous and selfless than ever. She’s the kind of character we wouldn’t mind our young people emulating.

Step Five: Huh. Disability is Part of Diversity. My son has a severe physical disability that renders him ventilator dependent when he’s sick or sleeping. A condition like that would be hard to reproduce in a fantasy, electricity-free world, but other disabilities could easily work. And that is why one of my more interesting secondary characters was dealt a disabling blow near the end of book two. Despite being an amputee, he’ll return as an important character in book four. I’ve also been thinking over other ways to incorporate disabilities without making the stories about disability any more than they’re about diversity. In the future, I also intend to include adoption.

Step Six: Everything I Write for the Rest of My Life Will Include Diversity for the Sake of My Son and the Rest of the Non-White and Disabled People on Earth. This statement is only partly true. Everything I write will include diversity, but not just for the sake of the non-white and disabled. All of this evolution has brought me back to the beginning, the belief that diversity is good for everyone. Maybe if we produce quality diverse content, diversity will become the norm. Then my original motivation for writing a non-white heroine would be sufficient. Why not?

Please consider assisting our efforts to diversify everyone’s bookshelf by checking out the We Need Diverse Books website and seeing how you can help. It’s super easy, just click —> HERE – it’s vital, folks.

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Straws

R.A. White grew up in the Pocono Mountains, sharing her childhood with as many as six siblings and foster siblings at any given time. In her early adult years, she spent two years living in Moscow, Russia. More recently, she and her husband, both white Americans, adopted an African American child. Growing up in a racially diverse family, living as a foreigner, and raising a child through trans-racial adoption all make her well suited to write novels about the complexities of multiracial communities. A lifelong love of the fantasy genre led her to set her story in an imaginary world.

Want a little more Rebecca? You can find her in all these places:

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I #SupportWNDB – The Series: Diversity Now

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Diversity Now

Zoraida Cordova

 

Diversity Now

Or, a call for authors to write more diverse characters.

In a recent Guardian article the question is “are diverse characters only OK as long as they’re not too diverse?”

I personally think that nuanced diversity is a good thing. When the chat over #WeNeedDiverseBooks started in May, a friend asked me “so then you want to take away what makes a character different and then just white wash them?”

Again, no.

When you spend so much time being singled out as being different, sometimes you just want to fit in. What the hell do I mean by this? I’m not talking about denying who you are as a person. I’m talking about being a teenager in popular culture. For me, I grew up in a working class family and neighborhood in Queens, NY. I was born in Ecuador, but I started my American education in first grade. In that sense, I assimilated right away. I remember when I started not just speaking English, but exclusively thinking in English. It’s so totally weird to think of your brain just switching languages. But anyway, my assimilation happened.

In school we were given books like HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS, and THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET and all I wanted to read were vampire books. My being Ecuadorian doesn’t affect my day to day life. I’m not Catholic. I don’t cook. I live alone. But when I’m with my family, I enjoy Ecuadorian food and speaking in broken Spanish. In fact, I worried less about my Ecuadorian-ness in high school, than I do now when people point it out the most.

This is why I think it’s important for kids to see themselves in stories that right now don’t represent diversity in leading roles. I want a brown Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a mixed Bella Swan just because. You don’t have to whitewash a POC in order for them to be a leading character of a “non-issue” book. Not everyone has a problem with their race. The problem is society.

Look, I know that there are still kids assimilating, and not all third generation kids ignore their roots. But if we don’t write them, then you can’t hope that someone else is going to.

To play devil’s advocate, maybe changing the ethnicity of a character wouldn’t make a title an astronomical seller. Would The Fault In Our Stars have been the same if Agustus was a Black urban teen and Hazel was Asian-American? If Katniss has been portrayed by an “olive skinned” actress like the books describe her as opposed to J Law, would it be a #1 movie?

Right now, we don’t know because over and over the leading ladies can be portrayed by the same girl. And book covers are whitewashed, ambiguous, and silhouetted.

In a world where people don’t understand the importance of race in cases like Mike Brown vs America, how do we even begin to place diversity in books just because? Where white people think Latinos are dangerous? How do we begin to accept casually placing POC in “regular” roles?

I don’t have the answer. Except, maybe, write my own.

The fundraising campaign for We Need Diverse Books is closed but there are still plenty of ways to work to diversify our bookshelves. Please visit their site and see how you can contribute to making the stories out there ALL of our stories by clicking –> HERE – it’s vital, folks.

#SupportWNDB


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Zoraida Córdova was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where she learned to speak English by watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker on repeat. She studied English Lit at Hunter College, and The University of Montana before finding a home for herself in the (kinda) glittering world of New York City’s nightlife. She prefers her whiskey neat, her bacon crispy, and her men with a side of chivalry. She is the author of The Vicious Deep Trilogy (YA) and the On the Verge Series (NA). Visit her at www.zoraidacordova.com

You can find her here:

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Zoraida is the author of

THE VICIOUS DEEP (YA Fantasy)
THE SAVAGE BLUE (YA Fantasy)
THE VAST & BRUTAL SEA (YA Fantasy)
LUCK ON THE LINE (Contemporary Romance)
LOVE ON THE LEDGE (Contemporary Romance) Coming 5/5/15
LIFE ON THE LEVEL (Contemporary Romance) Coming 9/8/15
ENCANTRIX (YA Fantasy) Coming Fall 2015

Book Review: What The Body Needs by Laura Oliva

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Romantic Suspense

Published January 2014


Meet Jak and Marcus, two survivors of their own hells, on a collision course with each other.

Jak does not want to be touched. Not after what happened five years ago.

Marcus cannot forgive himself. Not after what he allowed to happen to his sister.

One night, slammed against the wall of a dark alley outside a bar, changes everything for these two in ways they least expect. And begins the painful and beautiful story of their damaged souls.

I must admit, I don’t typically read romance novels as I’m a fantasy girl who loves her world full of dragons and demons, vampires and fae. And the more fantastical, the better. So curling up with the very real and very broken Jak and Marcus was hardly something I considered, much less believed would suck me in for a weekend. But it happened and my own writing deadlines be damned, I’m so glad it did.

Laura Oliva’s characters are multi-dimensional and complicated, her use of suspense adds bite to the genre, and damn if Oliva doesn’t write some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve ever read. Trust me when I say, every woman should get pushed into the back of a GTO with a man like Marcus.

Hot.

And intertwined in all that wicked sexiness is some serious magic – Oliva has quite a way with words and I found myself highlighting passages throughout her story. Little pieces of perfection I wanted to hold onto for a bit longer.

It wasn’t like he had anything to offer in return. Just the way he breathed for her, bled for her. Existed for when she smiled at him, talked to him, for the way she said his name.

He could break her over and over and over. It wouldn’t matter. Just as long as he stuck around to piece her back together again.

So if you’re looking for a hot read to get lost in as the temperatures drop outside, grab a copy of Oliva’s WHAT THE BODY NEEDS and discover what I did: in the right hands, romance can be just as magical as the best fantasy.

Holla.

I #SupportWNDB – The Series: No Angel

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No Angel

Zetta Elliott

 

In 2000, I taught a creative writing class in an after school program on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One of my students was a girl whose mother was incarcerated; she was angry about the situation and her classmates teased her, which led her to act out violently at school—and sometimes in our class. I searched for a book that could serve as a mirror for that girl, but I couldn’t find anything and so I wrote a story for her. That story became my first novel for young readers, An Angel for Mariqua.

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Here’s a summary:

Christmas is coming, but eight-year-old Mariqua Thatcher isn’t looking forward to the holidays. Mama’s gone and Gramma doesn’t know what to do with her feisty granddaughter. Almost every day Mariqua gets into a fight at school, and no one seems to understand how she feels inside. But things start to change when a mysterious street vendor gives Mariqua a beautifully carved angel as a gift. Each night Mariqua whispers in the angel’s ear and soon her wishes start to come true! Mariqua begins to do better at school, and she even wins an important role in the church pageant. But best of all, Mariqua becomes friends with Valina Peterson, a teenager who lives in Mariqua’s building. Valina helps Mariqua learn how to control her anger, and reminds her pretend little sister that “everyone has a story to tell.” Their friendship is tested, however, when Mariqua discovers that Valina has been keeping a secret about her own mother. Can the magic angel make things better?

I was in graduate school when I wrote this story, and my studies focused on Black women in the US. I was frustrated by the way issues that directly impact Black women and girls never seem to receive the attention they deserve, and are perceived—even by many Black women—as less important than the challenges facing Black boys and men. So with this novel I was trying to do two things: 1) provide a mirror for the many children whose mothers are absent due to incarceration, and 2) bring attention to the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS and incarceration on Black women, their families, and the Black community in general.

December 1 was World AIDS Day and these sobering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paint a grim picture of the disease’s impact on my community:

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a decrease of 21% since 2008. Most new HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.
  • At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.

I look at these statistics and wonder why I waited so long to self-publish An Angel for Mariqua. Writing the novel wasn’t difficult, but getting it published by a traditional press proved almost impossible. For about a decade I sent the novel to various editors (some of whom are vocal supporters of WNDB) and had it repeatedly rejected. In 2011, a writer friend introduced me to her prestigious publisher; my agent sent her the manuscript and received this response: “I do love Zetta’s writing but the story is a little tough because Mariqa (sp?) comes across as an unsympathetic character…I understand why M is acting this way, but you do want readers to connect with her too.”

I think a lot of kids can relate to being raised by their grandmother, and living in a household that’s struggling to make ends meet. I think plenty of kids know what it’s like to be bullied or teased at school, and many of those kids probably learned—as Mariqua did—that fighting doesn’t solve anything. I doubt that young readers will find Mariqua “unsympathetic” if they try to put themselves in her place—and isn’t that what books teach kids to do?

So after more than a decade, I have decided to self-publish this book. I wish I could say we’ve made progress since 2000, but the rates of Black women’s incarceration (up 800% since 1986) and HIV infection have actually increased. Still, I cling to a quote from the Combahee River Collective, “Black women are inherently valuable;” they deserve our love, support, and understanding. Our families and communities will not thrive unless we recognize that all Black lives matter. I never got a chance to share this book with the girl whose life story served as my inspiration, but I hope she found someone to help her channel all that pain and rage into something constructive.

Right now Black women are marching alongside Black men to protest the non-indictment of two white police officers who killed unarmed teen Michael Brown and street vendor Eric Garner; every three or four days a Black person in this country is killed by law enforcement, but where are the books that explain this reality to young readers? We don’t just need diverse books—we need a publishing industry committed to social justice rather than the symbolic annihilation of kids of color. We need books that affirm the fact that BLACK YOUTH MATTER.

The fundraising campaign for We Need Diverse Books is closed but there are still plenty of ways to work to diversify our bookshelves. Please visit their site and see how you can contribute to making the stories out there ALL of our stories by clicking –> HERE – it’s vital, folks.

#SupportWNDB


 

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Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994 to pursue her PhD in American Studies at NYU. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies, and her plays have been staged in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. Her essays have appeared in Horn Book MagazineSchool Library Journal, and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. She is the author of thirteen books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book Bird. Her urban fantasy novel, Ship of Souls, was named a Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy Title for Youth and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award. Her own imprint, Rosetta Press, generates culturally relevant stories that center children who have been marginalized, misrepresented, and/or rendered invisible in traditional children’s literature. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing. She currently lives in Brooklyn.

Download free posters and watch video testimonials at http://www.Kidlitequality.com

Follow Zetta on Twitter: @zettaelliott

Visit her website: http://www.zettaelliott.com

Zetta’s book Ship of Souls was a 2012 Booklist Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Youth Title and a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award. It also received a starred review from Booklist: “Urban fantasies are nothing rare, but few mesh gritty realism with poetic mysticism so convincingly. By turns sad, joyful, frightening, funny, and inspirational, Elliott’s second novel is a marvel of tone and setting.”

The Deep is a companion book to Ship of Souls.