Thursday, December 22, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Letter To Santa
Author MJ Rose has been posting letters from authors, agents, editors, and other publishing industry folks, to Book Biz Santa on her blog, Buzz, Balls & Hype. So, I decided I'd write my own letter.
Dear Book Biz Santa,
I've been a good girl this year. I'm really grateful for all of the readers, reviewers, websites, book clubs, book sellers, and libraries who've picked up copies of my book. I'm especially grateful that the people who didn't liked the book haven't completely trashed it. Hopefully, I haven't whined too much about the sometimes infuriating ways of publishing world, though I know I've had my moments. But there are still some things I would love for Christmas. Here is my list.
1. For mystery novels to have the same huge following as erotica and street lit.
2. For book stores to shelve all authors according to genre no matter what their race.
3. For reviewers, and media in general, to stop hyping the same books and look for authors who aren't on the bestselling radar.
4. For publishers to realize that black people aren't the only ones who read books by black authors.
5. For paperback books to get the same review attention and respect as hardcovers.
See, Santa. I haven't asked for too much. Now, if you can also toss in a silver Mini Cooper, an amethyst and diamond ring by Judith Ripka, and round trip tickets to Paris, I'll be good to go!
Monday, December 05, 2005
Fifteen writing facts about me
Here goes. We'll see if I can make fifteen.
1. I don't think I like to write. I'm like others I've heard about. I like to finish.
2. Earliest inkling I had writing talent? Poetry. In third or fourth grade I didn't memorize a poem as I was supposed to have, so in desperation to do the assignment, I wrote a poem. The teacher was impressed, and I had to keep that up all year. Some of the poems were doozies, too.
3. In junior high I was famous (infamous) for parodies and little ditties I wrote to the tune of some popular songs.
4. I took journalism courses in high school.
5. In college I was forced to write a play. The teacher was going to fail me because I hadn't turned it in, nor presented it in class. I was petrified. Another classmate squealed that I had done the assignment but had cold feet about the presentation. Finally, I presented it and did a reading for the class. It was chosen as a "best" One-Act and shelved in the school's library.
6. I spent most of my adult life as an actor and became adept at analyzing stories, screenplays, scripts. I used those skills to direct plays and I also assisted new playwrights in honing and evolving their work.
7. I taught school as well and wrote plays tailored to my students.
8. After recognizing I was being used less as an actor because of my age and the availability of parts for an African-American female actors, I turned back to my first "inklings" and decided to pursue writing as an alternate career. My intention was to write screeenplays. Well, I couldn't find a program that didn't necessitate me attending classes, and I couldn't do that because I often did regional theatre which kept me traveling. I finally found a writing program, a genre focused one, and I thought, well, I'll learn to write--period-- become a skillful writer, and I'll be able to transfer those skills into the writing of screenplays. (Hey, this story is getting too long. It should be numbers, 8,9, 10.) Well, I got into novel writing and am totally blase about writing screenplays now. (Besides, I didn't want to be one of the trillion people in Hollywood with a script under their arm trying to sell it!)
11. Before I graduated with a master's in writing, I had an agent and a two-book deal.
12. Guess what, I got my book optioned for film as well. See, all roads lead to nirvana.
13. I'm writing in third person for the first time and diddling with suspense and writing away from my established series' character. (I consider myself a newbie author, so I haven't tried everything yet, so some forms are new to me.) I've used some of the characters I previously established, however, and this story is told from a different perspective, not Amos Brown's.
14. No. I don't plan to write short stories. I don't really like them much and don't go out of my way to read them.
15. Alternate forms of writing I plan to get under my belt? A play, naturally. And though nobody's asked me to adapt my own book into a screenplay, I may do it anyway, for the practice and see what happens. There, fifteen. And the story of my life. Part I.
Gammy L. Singer
Tag. . .I'm It!
I've been tagged by one of my favorite authors, Nichelle Tramble, to list 15 facts about my reading/writing habits. Don't know if I can come up with 15. But here goes.
1. In high school my mother and I would get into huge arguments because I'd rather read Harlequin romances than do any of my homework. Kinda ironic seeing as I'm now writing for their new line.
2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is my favorite book.
3. I still read children's books. My favorites right now are Harry Potter and the Lemony Snicket books.
4. If I weren't writing mysteries I'd write horror or supernatural suspense.
5. I once overheard a high school classmate of mine telling someone they felt sorry for me because I always had my nose in a book and I must not have anything better to do. LOL! I'd say it payed off rather well for me.
6. I used to love to read aloud to my classmates in kindergarden. Wish I could be that fearless five year old again.
7. I knew I wanted to write when my high school English teacher Mr. Wilson read a short story of mine aloud in class.
8. I work in a library and usually always return my books late.
9. I wanted to be a journalist but didn't have the qualifications to be accepted into my college's journalism school. It's all Harlequin's fault ; )!
10. I love guys who read and I'm not talking about just the sports page either.
I'm tagging my fellow Crime Sistahs Gammy and Pamela. You guys are it!
Friday, December 02, 2005
Yesterday was the official launch of Harlequin's new African-American line of books called, Kimani Press. Those of you who may have heard about Harlequin's acquisition of my publisher, BET Books, will know that Kimani Press is the new home of authors who write for Arabesque, Sepia, and New Spirit. The Harlequin website now has a page up for Kimani Press complete with message boards for readers and authors to interact. I was a little worried about the whole Harlequin sale when I first heard about it. But now I'm thinking this will be a good thing. Things seem to be moving right along. They're already doing so with the new webpage and message boards, which are being hosted by Arabesque author Wayne Jordan. For some unknown reason, BET didn't really utilize their website to promote all BET Books. They had the Arabesque and some New Spirit books listed but not the Sepia titles. I was beyond baffled by that. You can even purchase books from the Kimani website, which I don't think you could do on BET's website. Oh, well. It's the dawn of a new day. Let's hope it's a good one.
Those of you looking for an inexpensive gift to give someone for the holidays, or if you just like good music, may want to order this new live CD by John Legend. I may be a little biased, since he's from my hometown, but this guy is extremely talented. You'd be hard pressed to find a person in good ole Springfield, Ohio who isn't really proud of him.
Monday, November 28, 2005
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Another Turkey Day bites the dust. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was good. Whenever I manage to celebrate the holidays with my family without any drama, it's a good thing. Not that my family is prone to drama mind you. Well, not much anyway. But the holidays can be so stressful and tempers can easily flare. I ate to excess as I do at every holiday gathering. I even managed to get a chunk of Christmas shopping out of the way and snagged this great throwback gift for one of my loved ones. I didn't brave the stores at 5 am the day after Thanksgiving. They'd have to be offering iPods for a dime or diamond rings for a dollar for me to EVER consider rising that early on a day when I don't have to go to work. More power to you if you were brave enough to tackle the malls in all that madness. I hate shopping in general and QVC is my best friend.
I was watching Recipe For Success on the Food Network yesterday. For those of you who've never watched it, Recipe For Success is a show that features people who have given up their careers to start a business in the food industry. It shows their struggles to get their new business ventures off the ground and all the work, and money it takes to really get a new business going. Not to mention all the heartache and hassles. Yesterday's episode featured a woman named Laura who started a cookie business called A Dozen Eggs. As I watched Laura struggling mightily to get her business off the ground, I realized how much I had in common with her.
Even though I'm a writer and she's a baker, we both have a products we're trying to sell. One of her main problems was trying to spread the word about her cookies just as I'm trying to spread the word about my book. It ain't easy. Another one of her major problems was money, which I can truly relate to. Unlike Laura, I haven't quit my day job. But even though I have a steady source of income, the costs of promoting a book with the expense of travel, printing, postage, membership dues, writing supplies, etc etc etc can really add up quick. By the end of the show Laura had been in the cookie business for six months and had barely turned a profit. My book has been out for six months also. I'm eagerly awaiting my first royalty statement. I know it will be several more months before I get a check. Laura and her husband had mortgaged their home and were in a lot of credit card debt but the show did end on a hopeful note when Laura's cookies were chosen to appear in a prestigious catalog. Why in the world would anyone put themselves through all of this trauma? That's an easy one: Love & Passion. Love of what their doing and a passion to succeed. If you don't have those two things than why bother?
Saturday, November 26, 2005
BOOKS AND BOOKSTORES
I'm continuing to commit time to reading out of my genre. It often helps to clear my head and understand writing essentials. Last time I mentioned I was reading Barbara Kingsolver. Um...I was disappointed in a general way about Kingsolver's novel, Pigs in Heaven, but I understand she wrote it before she wrote the Poisonwood Bible. She is sardonic, and there are some lovely passages in the book, told in a unique way and I appreciate that talent.
I wondered, however, why the library book I checked out came from the Young Adult Section and could be similarly found in the Adult Section. It has a child in it, but it's an adult novel. Which brings me to the question of the mishmash categorization of the African American novel. Perhaps you'll find African-American children's books categorized consistently. The rest? Well, maybe in a store devoted exclusively to selling African American books. But in the chains and other independent bookstores? Please. Why does one have to run all over the store as if on a scavenger hunt to track down "our" books?
And another thing. It seems to me that historically, there has been the kind of writing from the African American community that will forever appeal to Caucasians, is marketed to Caucasians, and is read thirstily by Caucasians--those works that open a window to black folks souls and let them peek in. These kinds of books are often found on a classic literature list somewhere and usually catalogued appropriately. Or maybe not. I've seen Richard Wright stocked smack next to Zane's books. ??? What could be in the bookseller's heads?
I like mystery/thriller books and so I trot dutifully to the mystery section of a store. I'd like to know if there are brothers and sisters writing in the category, but will I find their books there? No, and marketing by publishers "disguise" these categories, and so it's a hunt and search to find the kinds of books I'd like to read. Why is that? Can somebody tell me? I've learned more as a published writer meeting other writers and being introduced to their works than I have going into a bookstore. So what about GP? General public? Shouldn't it be an easy chore to select books? Hey, I'd like to hear some opinions on the subject.
In what section of a bookstore do you usually shop? Anybody? Somebody? I assume, if you've checked out Crime Sisters Blog that you have some interest in crime fiction/mystery/suspense? So tell me how you shop? Do you go straight to the African American section of your favorite bookstore? If you do, you'll find my books there. Or will you go to the mystery section? A few stores--that I've asked, or begged-- might stock my books there. Other writers? Where are your books found? And is anybody else disturbed about this?
Gammy L. Singer
Look for Down and Dirty, coming in March, 2006
Monday, November 21, 2005
At The Club
By Angela Henry
Saturday I was one of four featured authors at the Open Book-Closed Chapter Book Club's 10th anniversary celebration. I had a great time! The ladies of the book club were very gracious hosts and made everyone feel welcome. The event was held at the Gahanna branch of the Columbus Public Library and was well attended. The food was delicious and I enjoyed meeting fellow authors: Xavier Benoit, Nikki Jenkins, and Janice Johns Redman. Each of us had 20 minutes to discuss anything we wanted. Most of us talked about how and why we started writing and our roads to publication. I wish I could say that I did a better job with my nerves than I did at Central State, but I think I did about the same. I didn't do so bad when it came to talking about my book and why I wrote it. But when I actually read from my book my throat got so dry I could barely get the words out and had to cut it short. But I still had a wonderful time. Thank you ladies!
Have you heard that best-selling author Eric Jerome Dickey has signed with Marvel Comics to write a limited series about the X-Men character Storm. It should be interesting.
Check out one of my favorite mystery writer's essay on a novelist's responsiblity.
Here's a fascinating story about Doris Payne's 50 year career as an international jewel thief! Hollywood are you listening?
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Posted by: Pamela Samuels-Young
I recently had a conversation with a friend, Brandi Twiggs, about the title for my second novel, In Firm Pursuit. Brandi is a bright young Generation Xer who is a business major at FAMU. She’s currently reading the manuscript for In Firm Pursuit. She told me that she’s enjoying the story, but she did not think the title would attract the younger set.
Her comment got me to thinking. How many people browse bookstores shelves and pick up a book based solely on the title? Titles often attract me, but it’s just a starting point. From there, I look at the cover. Then I flip to the back of the book or the inside jacket flap to read the synopsis. If I like what I read, I’ll flip to the first chapter and read as much as time allows. Often, it’s no more than a couple of pages. In that short amount of time, I’ll make a very important decision: Do I return the book to the shelf or head to the checkout counter?
Of all of the steps listed above, reading those first few pages is the most important for me. If the first page doesn’t pull me in, I have no faith that the rest of the book will. That’s why, as a writer, I spend a great deal of time on my first chapter. When it comes to agents, most won’t read more than a few pages before tossing the manuscript aside.
I’m curious about what motivates others to purchase a book. The synopsis? Reviews? Recommendations from friends? Bestsellers lists? Write and tell us how you select a book.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Covers & Questions
Lately I've been noticing a lot of discussion going on in the blog world about the marketing and promotion of books by black authors. The most recent discussions have to do with book covers and how they can affect a black author's mainstream appeal. From what I've been noticing, since becoming published myself, black authors seem to be solely marketed and promoted to black readers. Books by black authors, no matter what genre, are usually shelved together in one section of the bookstore, and almost always have black people on the cover.
When the cover for The Company You Keep was in the process of being designed, my editor asked me for a description of my main character, Kendra Clayton. I gave her one. But I also told her I didn't want any people on my cover. Why? Well it honestly wasn't because I was thinking about the mainstream appeal of my book. Don't get me wrong, I want mainstream success just like the next author. Mainstream success is going to allow me to quit the old day job and write full-time. I didn't want people on my cover because I wanted readers to use their own imaginations when it came to visualizing what Kendra might look like. I didn't want them getting some generic stock photo stuck in their minds. I was very worried about what my cover was going to look like. But I was pleasantly surprised. My cover depicts a pair of women's eyes and a telephone receiver. Very simple and, no pun intended, eyecatching. I get a lot of compliments on that cover and have been told by some readers that the cover is what, again, no pun intended, caught their eye.
But if my book had images of black people on the cover, would that affect my sales? Would non-black readers pass the book up and if so, why? Author Monica Jackson has a poll on her blog about Donna Hill's book Getting Hers. There are two covers designed for Getting Hers. One cover has a woman's lips against a black background and the other cover shows two black women. Getting Hers is a mystery, and while I like the cover with the lips the best, neither cover looks very mysterious to me. Which leads me to another question. Why aren't books by black authors cross promoted by genre? Don't publishers think that non-black mystery lovers will read a mystery by a black author? One just has to look at authors such as Walter Mosley, Paula Woods, and new kid on the block Kyra Davis to get the answer to that question. I think readers of all races will read books that appeal to them IF they know about them.
But no matter how unhappy an author may be about how their in-house publicist is handling the publicity of their book, authors may want to read these stories to see how an author can shoot themselves in the foot.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
As I approach the release of my first novel, Every Reasonable Doubt, in three short months, I can’t help but think back to the days when I was plagued with self-doubt. Being a novelist was my dream career and my dream is about to come true. Whether your dream is to write a novel, start your own business or go back to school, you can make it happen. Here are five tips that will help you begin your journey.
1. Find Time To Plan
With the demands of work, family, and other activities, you may think you don’t have a spare moment to even think about, much less pursue, your dream career. You’re wrong. It may not be easy, but you can find free time where you least expect it. The next time you’re walking on the treadmill, use the time to mull over the plot for that book you’ve been wanting to write or to think about possible locations for the day spa you’ve dreamed of opening. Instead of listening to your favorite CD during your morning and evening commute, use the time to work on the business plan for your new business. With your family’s support, you might even find an evening or two to run off to your local library or a nearby Starbucks for some business-planning time. Even if it’s only an hour a week, use it.
2. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
You may not realize it, but you have a multitude of resources all around you -- family, friends, colleagues, church members, and even strangers. Don’t be afraid to request an informational interview. People love to talk about themselves and most will be flattered that you want their advice. The Internet is also a valuable resource. You can enter a few key words on Google and thousands of helpful articles will appear right before your eyes.
3. Join An Organization
It’s a good idea to surround yourself with others who share your interests and passions. There are dozens of organizations whose sole function is to help their members develop their creative talents and realize their business goals. Find the organizations that can be most helpful to you and join them.
4. Understand That It Won’t Happen Overnight
Making a career switch won’t happen overnight. I read an article in Writer’s Digest about a writer who received more than 400 rejection letters before getting his first book deal. Now that’s what you call perseverance! There will no doubt be disappointments along the way and everything won’t happen in accordance with your time schedule. But if you remain faithful and focused on your goal, it will happen.
5. Ignore The Naysayers
We all know people who believe you should find a good job, work as hard as you can for 30 years, then retire. For them, the thought of leaving a secure position for the uncertainties of entrepreneurial life is unthinkable. That kind of limited thinking won’t help you realize your dream. You have to decide what you want to do and go for it. And don’t be surprised if you turn out to be your biggest obstacle. When that happens, just look your self-doubt squarely in the face and tell it to leave.
So don’t just dream your dream, make it happen!
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Nerves Made Of Noodles
Today I had the pleasure of being the first author interviewed for Central State University's new Literary Series. I was invited by Dr. Lovette Chinwah-Adegbola, director of CSU's communications program. I met Dr. Chinwah-Adegbola when she interviewed me for a feature in my hometown newspaper, The Springfield News-Sun. When Dr. Chinwah-Adegbola asked me if I'd come to Central State to discuss my book, I immediately said yes. But as I've mentioned in my old blog, I'm not at my best when speaking in front of groups.
The event was held at CSU's Cosby Center for Mass Communications. After I arrived I was fitted with a microphone. There was a lone chair in front of the studio audience of about twenty people. I poured myself a glass of water and silently starting freaking out. After I was welcomed and introduced, I read from my book. Believe it or not, it was the first time I'd read from my book EVER! I didn't stumble over my words but my stepfather was in the audience and he confirmed what I already knew. I was nervous and it showed. When I get nervous my throat tightens up and I sound like I'm being slowly strangled. The more I try and loosen up, the worse it gets. During these types of events I'm usually torn between hoping people think that I always sound like my neck has just been wrung and praying for a quick death.
After my reading there was a Q & A with the audience. They had a lot of questions and I was happy. But I still kept checking to see if any of them were giving me that angry villager look that usually proceeds the taking up of torches to run me off the campus for wasting their time with my squeaky voice. The event finished up with a booksigning, during which I posed for pictures and was interviewed for the CSU student newspaper, The Gold Torch. It was an excellent venue for discussing my book and everyone was so nice. If only I could get my nerves under control!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
-Ho-Ho-Ho and Hee-Hee-Hee, it's the writer's life for me. Yeah! And that's why I've picked up the galleys for Down and Dirty and set them down, and picked them up and set them down just a while ago. Tomorrow. Today was too exhausting. Today was running-around day. First, went to a Go-See audition for a print job, then took the subway to do a demo spot for HIP, a New York health insurance company. That's what happens when you have two occupations pulling at you. But, folks--I did get up at 5:00 a.m. to do some necessary writing on book number three. I needed to.
I got back from Washington, DC yesterday, buoyed by meeting new people, booksellers and all. I don't realize the energy I expend when I go away like that. But it's always nice to come home. But I've got to tell you, I was impressed with Karibu's --pronounced Ka-ree-bu) Bookstore in Maryland at the Prince George's Mall, the flagship store, filled to bursting with books by African American writers. And to know that they have several other stores and are opening another. That tells me books by African-American authors are selling and that warms the cockles of my heart. Tyrone, the store's manager, knows his stock. He said that on the day I arrived thirteen books had been sold before I got there. Ain't that something! And he said a woman in the store talked another woman into buying my book, A Landlord's Tale, by telling her it was really funny and she had to read it. I wish I'd have been the fly on the wall.
Today I'm trying out blogging, the mechanics and all. It looks like something even I can do. The next time edition I'll fill you in on the rest of the trip and let you know about the book I'm currently reading, Pigs in Heaven by Kingsolver. No, it isn't a mystery, but someone once told me all stories are mysteries at their core.
I'll let you know what I think about it. And now I'm going to press the publish key--let's see what happens.
I recently ran across review of my book, The Company You Keep, on a blog. The reviewer commented that they thought the clues were obvious and was able to figure out who the killer was. My answer to this would be: Good for you! I love when people tell me they were able to figure out who dunnit. That’s the whole purpose of the clues. If you can figure it out it means you were on your toes, you paid attention. I’m not trying to make it impossible to solve, though I do admit to being pleased when people tell me the killer surprised them. That’s when I know my red herrings worked. But mysteries are puzzles and I want people to figure out the puzzle. I’ve always thought of clues as puzzle pieces that need to be put together to get the whole picture. If there’s one thing I hate is reading a mystery novel where the clues lead to nowhere and the author pulls the killer out of thin air. I feel cheated when that happens. I certainly don’t want to cheat my readers. When the killer is finally revealed in the end, I want readers to realize they’d been given the answer all along. I want them to be a detective too. Isn’t that why we read mysteries?
Friday, October 28, 2005
Meet the Crime Sistahs!
EVERY REASONABLE DOUBT is author Pamela Samuels-Young’s debut novel and will be released February 2006 by BET Books. A lawyer and an avid reader of mysteries and legal thrillers, Pamela's desire to see African-American characters depicted more prominently in today's mainstream legal fiction caused her to pen her first novel. An excerpt of Pamela’s first novel won the Black Expressions Book Club’s Third Annual Fiction Writing Contest in 2003 and also received an Honorable Mention in the 2003 SEAK Legal Fiction Writing Competition. A native of Compton California, Pamela earned her law degree from Baolt Hall School of Law and has a master's degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Southern California. Pamela has already completed her second novel, currently titled IN FIRM PURSUIT, which revolves around a highly questionable sexual harassment case. She is now busy at work on her third book.
Gammy Singer earned a master's degree in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, and her debut mystery novel, A LANDLORD'S TALE, was released in March 2005 by Kensington. Gammy currently resides in New York City, having moved there from Los Angeles, and has been an award-winning stage, screen, and televison actress for more than twenty-five years. She has received four Dramalogue Awards, an American Film Award from the San Francisco Educational Library Association, a Robbie Award, two NAACP Image Awards and four nominations, and appeared in a three productions which garnered Los Angeles Theatre Critics Awards for Best Production. Her second mystery novel, DOWN AND DIRTY, will be released March 2006.
Angela Henry introduced her amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton in her debut mystery novel THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, which was released May 2005 by BET Books. Angela founded the award-winning MystNoir website, which promotes African-American mystery writers, in May 2000. MystNoir was named a "hot Site" by USA Today.com, has been featured in Black Issues Book Review magazine, and was chosen as a site of the week by the Art & Entertainment channel's Mysteries.com. Angela received her bachelor's degree in English from Ohio University and works as a reference specialist for a community college library. Her second mystery novel, TANGLED ROOTS, will be released May 2006.