Saturday, April 26, 2014

Disney's First Black princess does not bite her tongue!

I have admired actress, Anika Noni Rose since I first saw her performance in the HBO TV series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. She and Jill Scott made my Sunday nights. Now, her outspokenness on how writers of color are ignored, if not shut out, of publishing on all fronts unless they are willing to pen stereotypical garbage and be lectured on how to make a story "relatable" (and that's if their work is considered at all), has won her a permanent seat at my table. Read her enlightening, no-holds-barred interview in the April issue of VANITY FAIR at this link

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Romance book covers: The trends, the politics

Gotta bring this up again. I confess even my books' covers have shirtless guys but at least they have HEADS! But I think the tide is turning. I've seen a number of new m/m, erotic and billionaire/BDSM (God, when are they going away?) releases with guys in SUITS with HEADS! Hey, could it be that the gay community is demanding better covers because it's known for sartorial elegance and art departments want to reflect it in the new covers. Right? Sounds good. Think "Will and Grace." Slim, impeccably dressed  guy who loves opera and interior decor. Yeah. That's the ticket. Or, I'm completely wrong and art departments are sick and tired of trying to pose the same ripped, tatted, headless, naked, White guy across beds, motorcycles, doorways, rugs, deck chairs and other ripped, tatted, headless, naked, White guys. Just me thinkin' out loud. But mark my words, clothes seem to be makin' a comeback for male romance cover models no matter the genre.

Covers in regular contemporary romances (if a guy is even on the cover) have guys who tend to run toward Dockers, khakis, boat shoes and polos. Very boy-next-door. But that can be deceiving because the boy-next-door today is usually the Dom-next-door. So his closet probably has scads of leather too.

The women. Well...the trend for every freakin' historical romance cover I've seen has been a ball-gowned female draped across a set of stairs, a divan, a window, a balcony. a desk or slumped against a bare-chested man. And the dress is always hanging off her. And this is the trend no matter the historical era.

Contemporary romance cover heroines tend to be the messy haired, angst-y, tank top, jeans slung low wearing, broken girls of New Adult. The paranormal/urban fantasy wardrobe is set in stone. Hero: leather. Heroine: leather. Oh and sharp weapons and tattoos. Even the angels. No exceptions.

But what's not makin' a comeback (or if it ever was present in the first place) are truthful depictions of race on romance book covers. Another uncomfortable truth at work here is, come closer kiddies, "Books depicting non-White characters and that announce it by their covers, do not sell well." And to be able to make a blip on the public's radar, one must make sales and appeal to the "mainstream public." Oh my, what's a non-White writer of multicultural and interracial romance to do?

At the smaller pub I get published through, the art department has always depicted the AA heroine in my paranormal series as the African-American she is. Yeah, yeah, I know. I know We come in all shades but the artist has never "whitewashed" her. Tina is clearly NOT Caucasian. I love the art department for that. But...if one publishes with a major publisher (and you get big props for that if you are non-White. We mostly get rejected) and your non-White character carries the story, that book cover will show "color-neutral" characters. Who the Hell invented that friggin' insulting out? Some bean counter for sure. And why? Because the sales of books released by the bigger houses with covers showing non-White characters are quite low. Unless said house has a division for multicultural works. And publishers do not like losing moolah. Another way out of depicting the character is to NOT show them at all. Just paste a pretty picture of some items associated with the theme of the story. Let's call it what it is people: ERASURE. Plain and simple. To preserve a bottom line and appease an audience that mostly doesn't like what the cover implies: a story not written to the default ethnicity of romance by a writer of that default ethnicity. Shudder! Shudder!

This is where Sci-fi romance and paranormal romance get my vote. At smaller pubs, they don't care! They want a good story. Straight, gay, fluid, multicultural, alien. Come one. Come all.

There, I said it. One more thing. I recently saw a cover reveal for a romance coming out in August. The cover showed a nude, from the waist up, muscular, BLACK man (no head) with the arm of a clearly Caucasian female draped across his neck from behind. I could hear the squeeing through my PC. Romancelandia and Harper Collins will be patting themselves on the back when this appears. Can't wait to hear if this will be touted as "ground breaking." To me, if it sells, that'll be ground breaking. Then again the author is White. It could do well if she fulfills her fans' fantasy. Folks do crave dependable agency. I could say soooooo much more but let me shut it down.

PS. Just had a flash of horror! My latest will be a historical set in Colonial America. The main characters are a free African-American female and an indigenous Oneida male. Oh God! Visions of a cascading headdress (I believe only the Plains tribes wore them and not all the friggin' time, people!), feathers, loincloths. Oh man. No. Just no. I want them in Colonial attire. I can see the emails flying back and forth now. Not gonna be easy because the "Indian romance" has mostly always been set in the American West with a male from some Plains tribe and a white female captive. Covers have forever shown a half-naked, noble savage clutching a, at first, unwilling blond/brunette/redhead who warms up quick and never wants to return to CIVILIZATION after getting to know him, or is that getting known by him, in the biblical sense? A certain, prolific, popular, romance writer comes to mind. Her ENTIRE career has been this tired plot device. And has made her monster cash. All I can say is, my story is different and calls for a totally different cover. I know my art department will come through.

That's all I have for this installment. Meanwhile, I'll keep checking the virtual shelves for any new cover stuff.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Read an excerpt from UNION at TBR PILE! It's TEASER THURSDAY over there.

Read an excerpt from the latest installment of my FELIG CHRONICLES series. Catch Nate and Tina in a scene from UNION at the site TBR PILE. Click the graphic below.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Excerpt from KINDRED, my to-be-re-released interracial historical

The following excerpt is from the revised, re-edited of KINDRED, my interracial historical I wrote in 2009. The rights reverted to me recently, I offered it to my present publisher and Extasy Books took it. The scenario takes place in New York during the American Revolution. My free, African-American heroine, Kindred, and my indigenous Oneida hero, Lelaheo, beautifully depict the unrest, confusion and betrayal of the time. Take a sneak peak at the prologue which introduces Kindred, her grandmother and another little boy as they escape a harrowing slave massacre and journey North toward freedom.  The grandmother speaks GULLAH which is a dialect of English still spoken in the American South (the Low Country). It is NOT ebonics. My father and his family spoke it. I can't speak it but I understand it. When the book is released this fall, a glossary will be included for readers. I wanted her grandmother to be true in her speech since the woman hails from North Carolina originally before being sold to various plantations. Her granddaughter, Kindred's life will be very different from hers as the girl will be raised free and educated. I had to dig into tons of American history books, Native history books and African-American history books to write the surface story and the unspoken story. KINDRED, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY. Look for it this fall from Extasy Books. 

Prologue, Maryland 1760, A tobacco plantation

Shrieks and moans echoed around the clearing and into the pasture beyond. Bullets whizzing through the humid, evening primrose-scented night air, found their fleshy targets, toppling them on the spot. Fires burning out of control in the frame-and-log slave cabins roared at a deafening pitch.

“Get ’em! Afta ’em! No su’vivas!” bellowed the young, white planter to his fellow patrollers. He waved his rifle in the direction of the fleeing black woman, a little girl slung across her chest.

“Make it to dem fields en we be free!” the panic-stricken woman chanted to herself.
With the mounted pursuers on her heels, she grasped her precious cargo tighter as she raced across the open pasture. She heard the crack of a shot behind her, then the distinct resonance of a bullet just passing over her head. Sweating, gasping for breath, she gained the tobacco fields. She hurled herself into tall rows of leafy plants. Surprised by the violent jostling, the little girl howled.

“Hush, baby. Please.” The fatigued woman bundled the child closer and rocked her.
Shouts and the noise of galloping horses stilled her efforts to soothe the girl. She dropped to the ground and crouched low in the crop that she had toiled to plant. The patrollers dismounted, and led by her zealous young master marched between the rows, lanterns held high.

“Mind the flames, boys,” the young master reminded. “I want to catch ’em, but I don’t wanna lose this crop over a couple nigras. Take the dog in instead. He’ll bring ’em down.”

The woman breathed so deeply and quickly, she imagined that they heard her. One patroller and his dog passed not four feet from her. The dog looked in her direction but stayed silent. Maybe it remembered that she used to toss it scraps out the back door and scratch behind its ears. Just maybe. The dog and his master continued on. Gauging that her pursuers were far enough away, the woman turned around and crawled carefully back in the other direction. She traversed the pasture again and arrived back at the slave quarters. Jumping at every sound, she nervously scanned her surroundings for any sign of life. The cabins were engulfed in flame. The wood crackled and popped and fell in on itself. The heat drove her back when she tried to enter her old place. Through the doorway she could see that her few belongings were now ash. She looked around again. Bodies everywhere. Brown bodies. Slashed, hanged, shot. She gagged at the sight of the blood which soaked the ground. She wretched at the smell of burning flesh. The little girl she held was unusually quiet and immobile. The child just stared. The woman glanced up at the blackened, oak tree against which she’d slumped. A black male swung in the breeze. A burlap sack over his head, she could not identify the man at first. Then her eyes widened in horror.

“Gawd! Oh Gawd, no!”

She recognized the bloody shirt. She knew the craftsmanship. It was hers. And the man wearing it, was her Josiah, one of very few bright spots in her life. And her other bright spots. Her daughter. Her daughter’s man. Dead all around her. All gone. Her sole link to them was the grandchild in her arms. Tears half blinding her, she backed away from the tree. She almost tripped over a small boy who’d dragged himself out from under a man and a woman. They were his parents and had succeeded while shielding him from attack. Alarmed, he wailed loudly.

“Chil’!” she whispered. “Hush up or we be daid on de spot.” Summoning strength from an unknown source, she gathered him up, tucked him under an arm and continued on. The two children slowed her down considerably, but she would not leave them behind. She crouched low and tipped past the smokehouse, the empty brick kitchen and the main house with its brightly illuminated parlor. She raised up a bit to witness the discomposed, white womenfolk flitting about and fanning furiously to ward off an episode of the vapors.

“Who gwine clean yo’ fancy house now?” She asked softly. “Who gwine cook? Who gwine bring een dem crops? Not dis’ granny!” She kissed the tops of the young ones’ heads. “An’ not dese chillun!” Breaking into another run, she reached main gate, exiting into the road. She stayed in the shadow of the sycamore, wild cherry and white oak trees bordering the plantation. North. North was all she knew. She didn’t know how to get there, but that was where they were going. God would guide them she believed. Would send them an angel. Did He send angels to black folks? Did He even know that black folks existed? She was tired. Her arms were about to give out. The clip-clop of horses’ hooves and the snapping of reins transported her back to the here-and-now. Falling back deeper into the dark, she stood stock still next to a huge oak. The children whimpered and squirmed. The wagon stopped just short of the tree. The woman swallowed audibly. She slipped the knot on the sling supporting the little girl, never taking her eyes from the road. She let the girl and boy slide to the grass at the base of the tree.

“Seddown!” she whispered. “Don’ y’all come out fuh nutt’n’!” She reached in her apron pocket and pulled out a paring knife. A dark-haired, white male, pistol in hand, hopped out of the wagon. He pivoted and retrieved a lit lantern from its interior. Raising it a little, he approached where the trio hid.

“Come on out. Hurry up. This road’s not safe for you.” He motioned towards the wagon with his lantern. “Get in. Get under the burlap sacking. Stay down, be quiet or we all will be killed.” A giant rush of relief sped through Rozina. She recognized the voice. She put away her knife, bent and collected the children. God had sent her angel.