Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guest Blog Post: Diverse Book Tours!

Whether we all know it, diverse books are all around us. Many of us have been saying it for years. Some have only started to notice. There are authors and/or books who've been present for decades, and there are books and authors who make waves for themselves in our present.
When and however you've come to the conclusion, you've noticed that lack of representation in books is evident. The lack of people of color, the lack of characters whom are queer or with disabilities. It's disturbing just how little books with main characters who aren't white, able bodied, cis-gendered and/or queer are released in comparison to those that are not.
What's more disturbing is the lack of marketing books that highlight diversity in a positive light. Granted, marketing does not by any means guarantee sales. For the most part, no miracle amount of promotion can "guarantee" to generate sales. But often, authors of color, and authors who write diversely, do not receive strong marketing.
Authors who write any book can tell you, publishing companies nowadays expect a bit of marketing from the author themselves. But when a diverse book fails to generate sales, it's often blamed that it's because it's a diverse book.
We don't just need diverse books. We need smarter campaigns and marketing plans for diverse books as well.
Diverse Book Tours was founded by Sasha Beatty, book blogger of So Bookishly. She approached book bloggers interested in promoting diversity in books, and with everything we've learned book blogging about diversity on our blog Twinja Book Reviews, we were practically shoe-in's to be co-founders. 
We all have different experiences and ideas on why we came to the conclusion there needed to be a virtual blog tour company.
From the words of Libertad: That trip to the bookstore and the dangers of "othering"
It's always an interesting trip to the bookstore near my house. I just happen to live directly downtown in the smack of the Yale area in Connecticut. Sure there's a Starbucks at every corner, restaurants of different ethnicities in walking distance, and I don't think I could go six seconds without seeing someone who is not the same race as me as I journey to the Yale bookstore to scope out new releases.
I love looking at books. I love admiring interesting covers, reading blurbs, and checking out the tables with the new releases.
But there's just one discrepancy. Much of the time I check out books, I walk away more frustrated than I started. Sometimes I'll see eight books with the same cover or blurb. Cute, virginal, Mary-sue archetype, in a pretty flowing dress, who just happens to be white, straight, cis-gendered and for the most part able bodied. I can't assume she is nuero typical, as it is a disability you cant see. But all I see are girls in pretty dresses. Women is a great start, but women should not just be a definition for white.
Books at major and indie bookstores sell more books when a cover is facing forward, but it takes more space to turn them this way, and books with main characters of color are often the ones they omit from the selling floor.
How are we supposed to know that books with diversity on the cover can sell, when they're not allowed the opportunities to do so?
Diversity shouldn't be something that has to be hidden. It should not have to be backdropped to push along the story of a main character whom is a "default."
Representation shouldn't just matter to those who are not being represented. It is a necessity that should be in books. It should be a necessity in life, but books are a great way to start. It doesn't surprise me that many do not see it as an issue, but representation should exist to eradicate this idea of "Othering", or an idea, that anyone different from you is an "other" and therefore not normal.
This is an idea we have to challenge. But we first need to realize there is a problem in the first place about the lack of marketing for diverse books.
From the words from Guinevere: Sales is great, but awareness is better
I'll be upfront. My words will be the most boring out of the three, but it'll be the most obtuse. They may be words that don't effect you now, but when you give yourself time with them, you'll make your opinion of them yourself.
When was the last time you saw a Science Fiction author of color interviewed on television? When was the last time you saw an fantasy author with a disability on television? How many queer/Quiltbag stories make your to-read lists? When was the last time you read a character with a religion different from your own?
Hopefully your answer was similar or in the realms of my own answer: Yesterday. If it wasn't, well....when was the last time you consciously thought "have I read a narrative that I related to, that wasn't exactly the same as my own?"
For people with disabilities, it's nearly all the time. For people of color, it may be on the fence. People who identify with being queer, it's probably more times than you read your own narrative. The issue with this is, for the most part, people who come from marginalized groups have been reading and relating outside there own narratives for years, if not all their lives.
I myself, had never read a novel from the perspective of an Afro-Latina until last year. I turned 29 a week ago. You do the math. But somehow in 28 years, I managed to always enjoy reading. My head never exploded because a character wasn't Afro-Cuban. Ultimately, it was rather damaging to have no Afro-Latino role models in books looking back. But I found I didn't lack representation as far as my race went, as the 90's was much kinder to black women than it's ever been.
At the risk at sounding sarcastic, eyes don't bleed when you diversify the narrative you read from. But ideas might change. Your critical thinking might. Your ability to connect with people might. And by golly gee, you just might learn it reflects the world you already live in.
It's not enough to want diversity in books. It should be a need, a necessity, a given. But books are no where without leg work. Without word of mouth. Without reviews. Without those willing to promote them. Without those willing to read them. You have to be willing to tell EVERYONE. And when you've told everyone, you have to be willing to tell them again.
Promoting diverse books is more than just sales. Sales are great. Sales are amazing. But ultimately nothing can guarantee sales, not even a book tour company. But awareness is. Awareness is more than just sales. Awareness is knowing that these books exist. Where to find them. Where and how to purchase them. Who's read and loved them. Who's read and disliked them. Books can't move if people arent aware of them.
Our audience is small, but we also have an audience who would be most likely to be open to a diverse book. There are plenty of marketing options out there. Ones who've been around longer, and may promise more than we can. But there are little to no options specifically for those who write diversely. That needs to change.
From the words from Sasha: Why I started Diverse Book Tours
All around the world, people are looking to read books that are a breath of fresh air, that are unique, and that include characters who have a different perspective and background than readers themselves. If the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is any indication whatsoever, then we’re well on our way. However, it’s sometimes difficult for readers to find these books in the first place.
I started Diverse Book Tours because I wanted to not only promote the types of books that I seek out and love, but because I want to help facilitate connecting readers with these diverse books and authors in a fun, engaging way. I also wanted to help authors reach a wider audience online so that they can gain an online presence and receive recognition for the hard work they do writing diversity. With the help of my awesome team and partners, and the wonderful bloggers who have signed on to read, review, and promote these books, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to show the book community that diverse books are amazing, are exciting, and are here to stay!
We're also offering tons of prizes for the launch of our tour company for those who sign up as Tour Hosts!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Up and Coming Writer: Jeff Martin

Find Jeff Martin on his blog: The Oak Wheel

Jeff Martin contacted me via Twitter, and was kind enough to offer me a guest spot on his blog, The Oak Wheel. Not only a spot. The spot. As in the first spot for a guest author! I'm flattered Jeff wanted to feature me at all, and grateful for the responses his website has generated for my writing.

Now, it's my turn to pay it forward and tell you more about Jeff!

The tag on Jeff's blog describes it as:  Poetry, short stories, the musings of a druid, guest authors and more!

His blog is as varied as he promises, with thoughtful entries like:

Writing Saved My Life

It’s a lofty title, one that I doubt my prose will live up to. Nevertheless, it is a truth, a simple pillar that constitutes the backbone of my existence.
I have always been a storyteller. Ever since I called 9-11 when my grandmother was napping as a kindergartner to tell them that someone had broken into the house, I have been weaving tales in one way or another. Sometimes I have been admonished for telling them, as I was by the slightly amused but mostly annoyed emergency responder that found me hiding behind my grandfather’s rocking chair. For the most part, though, I receive indifference; occasionally, I am given encouragement.
It has recently dawned upon me that praise or a lack thereof has nothing to do with why I tell stories. I tell stories because, if I do not tell them, I become consumed by them. This fact did not become clear to me until months after I suffered a seizure in April of this year.
From what I remember, it was a beautiful day. My wife, son and I had just got back from a trip to the coastal enclave of Fort Bragg in northern California where we visited my mother for the weekend. It was as relaxing as a vacation can be for a (then) practicing alcoholic. The bed and breakfast we stayed in was quaint although the bed was a bit small for the three of us; the restaurants we visited served top-shelf whiskey and knew what I meant when I ordered a shot ‘neat’. We got back to our home in Sonoma County and decided to have lunch at a small Mexican restaurant in our hometown. Life was good. (more on The Oak Wheel)

Or poetry entries like:

The mists around me were
Just like a cloak
I shivered involuntarily
But stayed the course.
There was nothing that could
Deter me now
Or scare me. How I
Got here, no one knows
But I don’t question
Myths passed down by
(more on The Oak Wheel)
Jeff Martin
Credit: The Oak Wheel

(On the About page of The Oak Wheel): Jeff Martin is the main contributor, started the site and maintains it on a daily basis. Jeff is a poet, aspiring novelist and singer/songwriter based out of northern CA. Having a deep love of the written word since an early age, Jeff’s first loves in literature were the fantasy series novels of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. In his teens, Jeff fell in love with the works of Terry Goodkind and Terry Brooks. Jeff has always dabbled in writing but did not seriously begin producing prose until earlier this year. He is working on the first novel in a fantasy series, a sci-fi thriller and is a prolific poet and short story writer.

From the writing he's offered on his blog, I'm excited to see more from this promising new writer!

Visit The Oak Wheel here

Other links:
You can find Jeff Martin on Twitter by clicking here.You can find Jeff Martin on Facebook by clicking here.You can find Jeff Martin on YouTube by clicking here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Penned: A New Place for Writers

Penned Is Write in Your Pocket

*On Twitter, Penned Representative Sonia Chopra reached out to tell me about a fun new app called Penned. For any Wattpadians/Booktrackers out there, it's very similar to other writing apps. What sets Penned apart from other apps are the specific genre categories, and the phone-friendly interface. Start posting your stories on Penned!*

Combining elements of Twitter and Instagram.. we give you Penned!.. The power to become a popular author or blogger is WRITE at your fingertips.. Literally! We aim to provide literary artists a platform to create, share, and interact with their readers in an engaging manner. We have been featured on several outlets and blogs as the next big-thing for the literary market... Not only does this motivate us to create the best platform possible, but it gives us the energy to expand to writers and readers of all caliber, genre, and celebrity. Whether you enjoy romance, comedy, fan-fiction, or topics as specific as 1D or True Blood... We have it all! And if we don't, we give you the power to create it! We encourage you to join the force of Penned and put the power of literature and writing, WRITE back in your pocket. 

Visit us at and the appstore for more information on joining! 

Sonia Chopra is a recent graduate of UCLA, with a degree in Communication Studies for PR and Journalism. She joined founder, Brian Sanders in 2013 to launch the app into the public. While Penned is her passion, she also works as a model, celebrity publicist, marketing associate, and freelance writer.