Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Potential Indie Author...

Hi! I take it you want to write and publish a book? Okay, let's have a little chat about what to expect once you unleash your 'masterpiece' upon the audience...

To the men and women who for their own personal reasons, are deciding to go the Indie route, I thought I'd write you an open letter. You see, I've had a baptism by fire, so to speak, and I still don't know shit. But...I know a bit more than I did yesterday, and the day before that, so that means that I can in fact help someone. I get emails all the time from people that wish to write professionally. I am asked,

"Tiana, do you know a good publisher?"
My answer: Of course I know OF a good publisher(s), but I'm indie, and I chose to be indie because I am a control freak over my own product.

"Tiana, I have an idea for a book, who can I talk to about it?"

My answer: Keep your trap shut and immediately get it copy-written once said story is written. Unless it is a coveted, trusted friend or your mama (and you may even have to give her the side eye if she likes to flap her gums) KEEP.YOUR.IDEAS.TO.YOURSELF. Now luckily, the folks that have sent me their ideas or unsolicited samples, I didn't pull any mess and run off into the sunset with the notions that actually got me going. The other point to this story is, an idea, is just that, an idea. Do not ask anyone for ANYTHING, until you have actually written the story and the second draft is complete. Not just a page, not just an outline, the entire story. Why? It's not fair to waste someone's time as well as your's, talking about 'an idea' you had when you may not even write the damn thing. Now, don't get your undies in a twist, we've all done it, but you won't be taken seriously and if you are taken seriously, then you still sold yourself short because you came to a gun fight with a water pistol. If you are telling me you want to get wet in the pool, I expect you to arrive in your bathing suit, not a PICTURE of your swimming gear. Come correct, or don't come at all...

There are other questions, as well, so instead of going through all of them one by one, I believe I can just write a manifesto of sorts, to help aspiring writers out as they make the decision to do this thing we call blood, sweat, tears and fears for a slice of pie and a pencil fragment in the eye, all for a slither of a writing career...(I'm a poet and didn't even know it.) Yes I did, I just like saying that because I have a corny bone that enjoys senseless banter. ONWARD!

Dear Potential Indie Writer,

Here is how it is going to go down:

1. You will be overjoyed, beyond elation when you get your first book published. Not to rain on your parade, but it will be the least well written of all of your books, that is of course, if you survive #2.

2. Someone is going to pull their damn pants down and shit on your happiness. Yes...the shitman/woman uh-cometh. You see, new indie writers are like fresh meat. You don't know shit. All you have is your trusty computer, a dream and stars in your silly little eyes then someone comes up the steps of hell and knocks on heaven's door (on your apartment door, because you stay in room 59A with your head still in the proverbial clouds) You will open that door, smiling from ear to ear, and they will be standing there drunk off haterade, but are prepared to 'sober' YOU up. They will say, "I just left a review and it says, 'You are a talentless, editor-needing asshole who should have never graduated high school. Don't quit your dayjob. Oh, do you have an umbrella? 'Cause I'm rainin' on you hoes!"

Okay, the last sentence wouldn't be said, I just threw that in there for dramatic effect, but that is how you feel when you discover the (cue melodramatic creepy music) 'watch crew' has used your new found happiness to defecate on, repeatedly. Because more cometh, baby! Moooore cometh and if you care one fraction of a damn about your craft, and you've been doing this as long as I have (I've been writing stories since I was seven damn years old), then yeah, you might feel some kinda way about it.

My advice: Don't respond to the review. I had to learn this the hard way. Some reviewers are kind, some are assholes, many float somewhere in the middle. Regardless, if you engage one, especially a Negative Nelly who really doesn't want to know the truth, your explanations, etc. no matter how nicely you put it, then you are setting yourself up for a mess. If you can't resist responding, then don't read the shit. That is what I do. You won't find my behind on any of the review sites unless I have my blog/tweets tied to to it for updates or I need to buy something that has nothing to do with my own books. Now sure, sometimes I do see a review here and there, but it is truly not planned nor sought after. I do have readers who enjoy my work, email me regarding their own reviews and they started doing this on their own because the word has spread that myself and many others, do not read our reviews. This one, protects me from the urge to respond, and two, if it is a set-up (Which I will discuss in #3)then I don't fall for the okee doke. Throw up the deuces...

3. If you are a bad writer, someone will come for you because well, the work needs improvement and/or you are new, so you are a target. If you are good writer, even more will come and if you are a good writer trying to improve and are obviously serious about your craft, an avalanche of bullshit is coming. Now you see, #2 and #3 are linked together, but #3 here, explains to you the psychology behind it. Let it be known, there are publishing companies who don't appreciate what they deem as 'competition.' (There is no such thing as competition in book writing, but I'll get more into that later in a different blog.) They will send their henchmen out to attack! (Picture people with pitch forks approaching Frankenstein. Yeah...that's it.) There are also other authors who may not like the attention you are getting, and out of a fit of greasy jealousy, they will come with their faces bawled up like fists, under a different name most times, and tell you to never touch another keyboard again. They will tell you that the story sucks, you suck, and ducks float like a boat - as if all three are true. Look, (placing my hand on your shoulder as I give you comfort.) Even if they are right, even if the story DOES suck, don't fall prey to negative criticism. Negative criticism is the anti-Christ, to constructive criticism, and we've seen reviews that demonstrate both. That leads me to numero four...

4. Your book is not perfect. The sun doesn't set and rise on that damn thing. I don't care if Gandhi, Mother Theresa, The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad helped you write it - it is NOT perfect, and you will need to accept that. SOMEONE is going to notice it's imperfections and they will focus on those imperfections, and though it sucks, that's life, and that is their right. Not everyone that hates your book is a hater. Some are, but some aren't. Not everyone has to like it. There is not ONE BOOK in existence, that everyone enjoys. You will be hard pressed to find any movie, book, play, song etc. that an entire city, state and country just adores. Why? Because there are different strokes for different folks and what we do is ART. Art my dear, is subjective. Art also hurts, so that leads me to number five...

5. When you are feeling like, "The hell with this, I'm not publishing another book again." - and trust me, that day will enter your mind at least once, I want you to go back to an email, tweet or Facebook post you received where someone you didn't know, came out of the blue and said, "I loved your book!" I want you to read that, re-read it, and read it again. THAT is the person you focus on, okay? During moments like that, you think about that person and you use that energy, to pour into your next book. Energy that you didn't have because you were tired of the drama, in-fighting and nonsense. You were drained because when you released your second book, which was significantly better than the first, you were silly enough to believe that people would like YOU and the book, and you soon discovered, that no, you actually angered more people because you didn't allow their negativity, silliness, drama-seeking, sadness and self-hatred to destroy you. And...you didn't allow the people that told you your book wasn't up to par, but they were nice about it, (and it may have been true), distract you either. Instead, they motivated you. If they said you needed an editor, you now took that seriously. Here are two examples: One is of negative, ugly feed back and the other is constructive criticism. The constructive criticism one can be used as rocket fuel. The negative one should be thrown in the toilet, because it is dung, and useless to your growth as a person and a writer. One is created to tear you down, in order to build the reviewer up, and the other one is used to uplift you, because well, they like to read, may be a decent person and want more books to choose from for their reading pleasure.

USELESS: This book is dumb as hell. I can't believe anyone wrote this. I asked for a refund after I finished reading it. If I could give a half of a star, I would. I fell asleep during reading it. I want my time back for reading it, too.

HELPFUL: Though the book had potential, things went astray. The ideas were good, but the writer left out crucial points, such as, What happened to the baby after Samantha gave birth? There were quite a few editing issues and the writer called the character the wrong name, twice, in the book. One time, it was Samantha, the next, it was Sandra. I will give this writer another chance, because the concept was interesting, for the most part it was well written and it was a good idea but I hope he/she gets an editor soon and republishes this.

You see the difference? It also lets other readers know what the specific problem was, it does not come across as 'trollish'. Oh, you don't know what a troll is? A troll is a person that is on social media and review sites, simply to give negative feedback and start drama. They want to hurt people, because they themselves, are bored with their own lives, or are hurting as well. Happy people don't lash out at others in order to cause emotional pain, they simply don't.

In conclusion - if you are going to join the ranks of being an indie author, it will not be easy. Some days, you will question if it is even worth it. Sometimes, your answer will be 'No.' For me personally, I love what I do. I have to do it, because writing is who I am. If no one liked any of my books, I'd still write. That is how you know that you are cut out for this. After being bashed, hated on, given constructive criticism and loved and supported, after all of that, if you are still standing and getting BETTER, then baby, hang in there. The waters will get rough, but as long as you respect yourself, want to be the best writer you can be, respect your readers and your craft, you WILL make it. Writing is hard work, but if you love it, it will love you back.

P.S. Surround yourself with positive people who want you to succeed. This may be fellow authors, and/or readers/fans. Without them, it is a much more bleak existence.

Love always,

Tiana Laveen

Monday, February 3, 2014


One of the catch phrases since the 1980's, has been, "I'm colorblind." This means, as pertaining to race, that the person stating it is claiming to not see the color of a person's skin, but instead, inside of them - the content of their character. It sounds good, right?

Well, maybe not...

As a writer, I tend to sit around and think about things a lot. Even when I'm busy with other tasks, which is most of the time since I am also a wife and a mother, I think about words, concepts, behaviors, emotions, actions, so on and so forth. I look at people and wonder about their story. I am curious as to what drives them to wake up in the mornings, and finally go to sleep at night. I am drawn by the physical as well. What someone else may see as obscene, I may see as beautiful and what another may view as open-minded, I view as dismissive. And so is the case with this terminology.

You see, I don't want you to be 'color blind' when you look at me, and people that favor my physical components. No, I want you to see me. I want you to see my skin tone, my full lips, my hair texture, my eyes. I want you to KNOW that I am a black woman. Why? Well, because I think it's sexy. I think it's amazing. I am okay being all of that and more. If you tell me that you're colorblind, that means you no longer SEE me. But...what I look like, is a part of me, rather you find that attractive or not, is not the issue. My physicality, is definitely a part of who I am as a person. It is how my children know it is mommy that has stepped into their room to wake them up. It is how my readers know, it is Tiana, that is talking to them, answering questions via a vlog or public appearance. It is how my mother knows that her child is standing on her porch waiting for admittance when she looks through the peephole. When someone says they are 'blind' to something, it means, that it is not important to them, that, it doesn't need to be discussed or highlighted. If you think it isn't important, then you've erased my culture, because my culture is important to me, and my culture is part of the reason that I look in the way that I do.

I don't want to be erased. My history has already been historically tampered with and some of it forgotten and the truth of various aspects, never to be known. I have a little slice of something here, and I don't want it taken away. I'm feeling rather possessive about it, you see. Now, I'm not saying to use my physical attributes to discriminate against me - that is going all the way to to the other spectrum. I am simply saying, "Hey, I don't mind that in YOUR mind, when you see me coming, you think - 'That's a black woman.'" I'm cool with that, really, I am.

Being color blind would of course eliminate 'colorism', but to me, the core of colorism is NOT actually the hue of the flesh. The core of colorism, is based on hurt, racism, regurgitation of sinister-driven, warped beliefs and ideology that help one person feel superior to another. Now, we have a notion called, 'reverse' colorism, kind of like, reverse-racism, which is rather silly because in my opinon, there is no reverse of either of these constructs. You see, colorism is just that, colorism, regardless if the perpetrator is light complexioned, medium hued or dark complexioned. The same for racism. Either you said something racist or you didn't and this whole notion of black people can not be racist, because we have no power, is preposterous. We can, because we DO in fact have power because every man, woman and child has power over SOMEONE or SOMETHING in this world. An eight year old boy may have no power over his big sister, but he has power over his five year old brother. Whomever is lowest on the totem pole of hierarchy, is the one that will get it the worse from those that SEEK to identify themselves, through the humiliation of others. Per my example, take a look. He (the eight year old boy) is an influence, a role model rather he likes it or not and he can cause tears as well as joy for his younger sibling.

We ALL have power, over something, somewhere. I have been a 'victim' of this so-called reverse colorism. It is nauseating. It has been taking place my entire life, in various degrees. I get no rewards for NOT being dark complexioned. But Tiana, 'your type' gets to be in the music videos. Wow, now isn't that a treat?! Yes, I want to be exploited! Choose me! Choose me, please! (((eye roll))). But Tiana, that sends messages to darker girls that they aren't pretty enough to twerk. Yes...because twerking and grinding with homely rappers by a swimming pool for cash is something to aspire to. I just can't with this s**t...

When the local police see my ass speeding down the street, or even minding my own business, they see a black woman, and that is the bottom line! They don't give two s**ts that I am the color of the 'brown paperbag.' They don't care! I had my license plate ran in my own driveway once, because my husband's neighbor was a cop and saw me as 'suspicious' when I was first moving in. Give me a f**king break! I could go on and on about that, but that is another topic for another time. Now, let me get back on track here.

I want to see you...
I want to see your damn face. I want to see your incredible skin, and if you have the type of skin that makes me do a double take, I might want to even do the unthinkable, and touch it, with your permission of course. I have always been drawn to hues, particularly, dark-skinned people. NOT because I found them unattractive, but because their skin was so damn beautiful to me. I have never, not once in my life, felt that a person was attractive or unattractive, based on their skin tone. I wasn't raised that way. I never heard anyone say anything that spoke of 'colorism' issues and both of my parents are light-complexioned African Americans. They were proud to be black, in every sense of the word. Race, none of that was the factor. Skin didn't have anything to do with it. I have found myself apologizing to my some of my darker sistas, because I sometimes stare at them, like a man does a woman that he wants to get with. It is truly that intense. I LOVE looking at skin, from the palest Irishman you can find, to the darkest West African in the world. I.WANT.TO.SEE.THEIR.SKIN.  I don't want to dismiss it, I don't want to turn away, I don't want to pretend it is not there. I do NOT want to be colorblind.

Why would I NOT want to see this woman?! STUNNING!

I LOVE your skin, even if you don't. I love what you look like. I want you to embrace your heritage, your culture. I want you to SEE the world, full of these different looking people, all of them, contributing and making the world a better place.

Nah...I'm not colorblind, and never will be.
I see you, Beautiful. Damn, and I can't take my eyes off you...

Tiana Laveen