The Zen of Twitter

I’m proud to say that I’m not a Twitter snob.

You know the type.

They generally have a rather large follower-to-following ratio and openly brag about how they don’t do “Follow-4-Follow.” Then they get publicly insulted when someone stops following them because it wasn’t reciprocated, but why are you really upset? Because you thought you were some kind of celebrity and how could that loser with only 212 followers possibly unfollow YOU? You, with your clearly higher Twitter-cred?

Peasant.

It brings the questions to light: Are you on social media to make friends and connect with like-minded individuals? Or are you simply here to continue the popularity code that most hope to leave behind once they graduate school? Or perhaps you’re out here solely to attain celebrity status and bask in it?

You’ll encounter many who’ll say they don’t care about followers (usually those who have the most followers actually; aren’t they so humble?) For me, the concern doesn’t lie so much with the follower count, so much as the stasis.

Let me explain the Zen of Twitter. It’s the concept of balance (ninjas are all about balance). When you follow someone, you are doing so to somehow “benefit” from this new connection, whether it’s following a brand for updates on sales or new releases, following a celebrity to satiate your fandom, or following someone with a similar point of view who maybe makes insightful comments or gives you a daily dose of laughter whom you become friends with. If they follow you back, you’ve immediately gained something as they’ve completed the “link” and balance is achieved. If, after this, you try to talk to them and they ignore all your @s, that balance is disrupted and you decide if just having them remain as a dead-follower-weight is worth it for your “ratio.”

If they don’t follow you back, there’s really absolutely no obligation to remain following them unless you REALLY dig what they’re posting and you’re gaining from it. It’s their picture and posts that will be showing up on your feed, so you need to decide if you really want them to be there. And the unfollowed shouldn’t be angry if they didn’t complete the link in the first place.

I primarily follow the gaming community on Twitter because I don’t like my feed filled with dumb shit like “Lose weight instantly using this method,” or an innundation of narcissistic selfies (they always find their way in though). I want cute characters, hilarious gaming memes, geek culture, and cats. Anyone not familiar with the gaming community on social media would be surprised at the number of snobs in our own! You’d think that we’d all want to follow each other out of solidarity because we’re posting about the same topics, and not only if we’re currently into the same game, or #TeamNintendo. But also only if we have a wall dedicated to our collection worthy of a #SundayShelves. Even though we follow all the same people. And communicate in the same conversations. And have even played each other online. XD

But the truth is, it’s your Twitter account. And someone following you just because they want to hear your thoughts contained in a 140 character tweet is pretty awesome and should be appreciated. But you are free to follow or unfollow whomever you want to maintain your balance and ensure you’re benefiting from the deal. Unless you’re purposely unfollowing someone you’ve been cool with and had great conversations for awhile with no explanation whatsoever.

Then you’re just a jerk.

As a non-snob, heres a list of those I’m not likely to follow back on Twitter:

-In your face Bible thumpers
-Sexy_gurls_l00king4_gud-time
-GROWYOURFOLLOWERSINSTANTLY
-Feed cloggers who post mundane statuses every 5 minutes (I have literally seen “Bout to walk down these stairs” as a post)
-Strictly solicitors (Posting to promote your mixtape/YouTube Channel/Twitch is fine. Posting to promote your mixtape/YouTubeChannel/Twitch 10 times a day and constantly begging for support and Auto-Dming to help you reach 1000 subs is not, unless you’re reciprocating something to keep that balance
-Those who post strictly in another language, like arabic, cause I dunno what the hell you’re saying

Everyone else is generally good. Keep up the Zen.

~Tael

You Can Touch My Hair

I’ve heard it around the Internet how offensive it is to touch a Black woman’s hair. And maybe I’m feeling kind of left out that no one’s making requests for mine. Then I second-guess myself and wonder: Maybe they have been. Maybe they have, and it’s such a non-issue for me that it’s eroded from my memory.

My cultural collective says I should be enraged and offended if this happens. That it’s supposed to be some subtle form of micro-aggressive racism and I should feel objectified since I’ve had to overcome so much amidst the war against natural Black hair. But I’ve willingly tossed my locks into others’ hands so they can feel how lightweight they are. I’m a proud dreadhead and I’m proud of how far my own have progressed. And one thing I love about having them, is that I frequently receive compliments on them from across the race spectrum, from Black to Asian to Italian, from those I’ve worked with, to passersby on the street, to randoms at a service counter.

And I appreciate that.

I remember the turning point when I decided to lock up for good. It was after watching Floetry’s Say Yes music video.

Dreads are a vibe. A mood. I soaked up that vibe and ejected it out through my scalp and never looked back. I embrace my hair the same way I embrace questions about it. The only one I ever find mildly irritating is “Do you think you’ll keep them?” As if they’re some kind of throwaway hairstyle or fashion statement. Or a pet you’ll grow tired of. This question usually comes, surprisingly, from the Black community. As if I haven’t been cultivating a thriving garden of life on my head for the past 11 years.

But when those of varying races and nationalities find my hair impressive, and stop me on the street to let me know, I appreciate that. And if they say “Dude, I love your hair. Do you mind…” and reach out hesitantly with curiosity, because they’re afraid to finish the question and they fear some perceived inevitable wrath, I’ll whip some locks straight into their outstretched hand and say “Feel em!” The same way I would with a curious toddler who enhances their knowledge of the world through touch. I want you to be interested. Yes, we wash them, although not everyday (but most Black hair isn’t washed every day anyway). Yes, there might be a little lint stuck in there. No, not everyone chooses to let them grow into a tangled mass with little maintenance. Yes, at this point, if I wash my hair in the shower my dreads fall into my butt-crack. And yes, I also sometimes grab a bunch and hold them between my nose and upper lip like a mustache. It feels good.

I want to enlighten you if you’re interested in my hair. And as long as you don’t secretly cut them off from a seat behind me on the subway, we good.

You can touch my hair. Just ask first.

~Tael

P.S. If I get to know you, and you have an afro, I’m gonna ask to touch it. Because it’s an afro.

Dat Writer Professionalism

Self-publishing should conjure up a desert wasteland backdrop with a hooded figure in black creeping along the outskirts of society. You’re avoiding big corporate publishers and taking your book rights into your own hands! You’re a rebel. You’re a revolutionary! You’re sticking it to the traditional industry route and to hell with all the rules!

Except, no.

The self-publishing world is not as vagabond as it once was, since the road to stand out amidst the millions of other indies who believe in their work is pretty similar to the corporate publishing route.

But I wanted to be an OUTLAW like one of these guys!!

Outlaws

Unfortunately, self-publishing may not give you the badass points you were hoping for. Remember, there’s a widely accepted code of conduct and professionalism for the most success, to help you stand up against those big-name publishers. My approach so far has been to be chill about it, like Spike Spiegel, because who didn’t like Spike Spiegel?? He remained composed, kicked so much ass because of it, and always came out on top. Until…you know.

Months ago, I tried to reach out to a website about possibly listing Chaos (un)Controlled during it’s free period on Amazon. It wasn’t one of the traditional promotion sites; I was trying to think outside the box and it was an NYC website I’d been following for years now. Since the main premise of Chaos (un)Controlled is Rixa climbing a ladder in the New York Public Library while working there as a Page to reach University Heights, it seemed fitting. Here was their response:

NYCOnTheCheapResponse

Welp, I’d gotten many query rejection letters before; I could handle this. I could see they were trying to scold me for my Vash-The-Stampede-like approach. Was my salutation “Hey guys”? Yes. Did I ask for a shout-out from “you guys”? Yes. Did I understand their offense? Nope, not at all. I guess I wasn’t “professional” enough. However, as a long-time visitor of their site and Twitter follower, I hadn’t found their site to be particularly professional at all. The layout wasn’t quality, site updates were only occasional, and they only had about 2,000 Twitter followers, so I hadn’t pegged their business as an uber-polished establishment that necessitated a suit and tie to email them. After that response I realized if that was what they were trying to be, then forget it, I didn’t need them. My whole premise for sticking with them had been their small-business-friendly feel. I love supporting small, non-corporate entities and other indie startups trying to make it in the world. So I stopped following them and no longer visit their site. Remember, I prefer Chucks. And I’m petty.

If someone enjoyed my work, and wants to come up and compliment me like “Yo, dude, bro, guy, your writing is sick, I really dug it,” I would appreciate that to the fullest. My go-to author profile picture is me sipping from a Pokeball mug. My descriptions don’t follow the standard “So-and-so Author was born in New England where she resides with her 3 kids, loving husband and dog. She has written numerous critically acclaimed pieces that have won countless awards from the Society of Great Writers That We Respect for their Professionalism yadda yadda.” Truthtrebles.com is my “author website,” I guess. I don’t try to professionalize my profile, because I’m a person first, indie author second. I’d rather read someone’s words rather than a list of their 30 awards or New York Times Bestseller rankings. I’d rather gain notoriety for realness, and go off guns-blazing like Gene Starwind. Professionalism doesn’t inspire human connection as much as realness.  It will hinder me, but that’s fine. Because outlaws are so much cooler. Especially when they wear peacoats with Chucks. And that’s kind of what self-publishing is all about.

See You Space Cowboy…

~Tael

The Accidental Blogger

Once you start researching self-publishing, an avalanche of tips outpours. Obviously if you’re choosing to self-publish, it’s because you want to avoid the more popular, historical route. Rebellion! But self-publishing has become so normalized and saturated that a prescribed set of guidelines exists here as well.

Do they suggest blogging? No. Not really. But maybe it helps.

Is that how I accidentally started this blog? NOPE. I did it because a recurring piece of instruction was having an author website. Sure, you have your Goodreads page, Amazon Author Page, and BookBub Author Profile, but I guess that isn’t enough. As an indie author you COULD have an entire website dedicated to your literary accomplishments, but it seems like big britches to me. If you’re just starting out, you’re not going to have a full roster of upcoming events, a collection of novels you’ve written, and accolades from the New York Times reviewers to showcase on your professionally designed, visually spectacular, high-traffic site.

I also feel like all the tips suggest that you present yourself as an author first, which is not the case with me. I’m a person first, with multiple hobbies, and this one I’ve invested in greatly. I actually don’t visit the websites of the authors I love. These things didn’t exist when I was younger. I don’t even follow them on social media. I just read their stuff when I’m ready to read their stuff. If I did though, I’d want to learn more about them as a person and not just as an author. Sure, seeing when their next book signing is might be cool, but it’s likely not going down in my city, I’m not traveling to attend one, and even if it was local, I don’t feel a strong urge to have my favorite authors sign my copies. I guess it’s not a big deal to me. I’d much rather either A. See if they’re gonna be releasing any new novels soon or B. See if they’re talking about something personal that I can connect with. I’d rather visit an author’s site to see who they are as a person; what other passions they have, pictures of their pets, favorite snacks, their kids. Anything humanizing that shows they have a life outside of authordom.

The tips don’t tell you that, though.

So when I revived my old WordPress site, I realized it automatically has a blog attached so I I may as well use it. Blogging is generally a writer’s dream, but I always shied away from it because I never had an angle. Sure I could gripe about everyday life, but who wants to really read about some stranger’s gripes? You see that enough on Facebook with the over-sharers who feel they need to tell you that today they ordered a buttered croissant for breakfast instead of the usual toasted bagel.

Most blogs have a focus. Maybe it’s recipes, maybe it’s travel, maybe it’s cosmetics. I feel like the Indie Author Journey could encompass a lot and its relatable. Whenever I’m writing anything, I want it to somehow be relatable. The feeling of connecting to others through writing is incredible.

We are not plastic products put up on shelves, manufactured according to the current self-publishing code. As such, our websites and social media don’t have to look the same or give off a similar vibe. In a medium where personal style should most definitely stand out (HELLO, we’re WRITERS!), I’d rather not be a polished here-is-my-author-page-from-the-bestselling-last-novel-graduated-from-s0-and-so-university-award-winning-Nobel-Peace-Prize-top-reviewed-but-the-review-quote-only-says-something-basic-like-riveting-and-thought-provoking-yet-it’s-still-a-highly-acclaimed-review?

Can I just be me? Without all the airs?

Not in today’s society. -.-

#TruthTrebles

~Tael

 

Boxing Your Genre

I’m not HUGE on labels in life. But I understand their importance in the consumer world. And in the commercial world of artistry, proper classification is essential. With writing, you need a clear-cut genre. It’s probably best if you go into a project with your genre in mind, but I’m sure many a passionate writer stumbles across it the way I did with Chaos (un)Controlled. I had no idea where I was going with it, how it would end, what revelations the characters would reveal. The story quite literally unfolded in front of me as I wrote it, so that even I was surprised at the final outcome. The open-ness of my mind had full and free reign. And then, with a finished product, I realized I needed a category.

UGH.

Most that I shared the story with immediately pegged it as Sci-Fi.

Sci-fi? Do I even LIKE Sci-fi? Well…I did love Inception, and Ready Player One remains on my Holy Grail list. But how could I have written one without intending to? I considered my story more of a Fantasy concept, but a little more research made me skeptical on that one too, because there’s no centaurs or orcs or unicorns. But, there are parallel dimensions blended with realism, and elemental power synonymous with magical elements. I discovered a blended genre called “Science-Fantasy” which seemed to be a closer fit. But only a couple of days ago I stumbled across a review on Amazon where someone was initially put off by a book because it was listed as BOTH Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I can only imagine this is because maybe Sci-Fi purists prefer their HARDCORE Sci-Fi. I had Amazon relist Chaos (un)Controlled under the Sci-Fi–>Fantasy–>Contemporary sub-category, because they’d stuck it in Urban/Paranormal, and I was wondering why Twitter promoters kept using the hashtag #PARANORMAL (why does Amazon classify those two together anyway?). Contemporary definitely defines much of the story, but maybe not enough for it to be the main standalone genre? And then there’s the YA aspect…

So what happens when you have a Black teenage girl crossing dimensions from New York City to library-worlds-in-the-sky and desert wastelands with prejudicial climates, questioning higher power and struggling to wield elemental magic?

For marketing purposes, I settled with YA Science Fantasy. Because ultimately, I consider it a mix of both, and you can’t please everyone.

But no trailblazer blazed a trail by adhering to current standards. So perhaps it was good that the boxing left me conflicted.

~Tael

Protagonists With Melanin

It’s inevitable that the Black writer will encounter caution on the author journey; warning that it will be harder for us to succeed in this medium (much like everywhere else). The logic behind this slant is particularly transparent to me.

While I don’t have as much time as I did in earlier years to rapidly devour books on a regular basis, the trend I’ve noticed is that Black authors have two categories:

The “urban” or “hood” category that generally tells a tale of the projects, drugs, sex, and some sort of downfall and/or escape from an illegally extravagant lifestyle, e.g. Zane, Noire, Tracy Brown. I have fond memories of attempting to read every sort of book like this I could get my hands on when I was still in school, attempting to hide the cover on the train or in public because those covers screamed “I’M READING A HOOD BOOK WITH JUICY SEX SCENES” and e-readers were not yet a thing.

Then there’s the “Black consciousness” category that actively addresses race and focuses on the Black struggle throughout the story. So your Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, etc…

I have yet to encounter a well-known Black novelist whose content doesn’t fit into either of those niches (but if you have, I’d love to hear about them!). Where are they? And even when Black characters are introduced to plotlines outside of these niches, it can still feel kitschy. Ernie Cline pulled it off with respectable shock value. Suzanne Collins seemed to get it right, until the Hunger Games movie came out and Rue’s big-screen appearance caused ridiculous controversy. Even though Collins described Rue’s complexion in the book as dark-skinned, Hunger Games devotees (who you’d assume had read this) lashed out against Rue’s actress, Amandla Stenberg, 14-years-old at the time, mind you, in hatefully insulting ways. I was shocked that the young reading community could be so dense and close-minded. The millennial generation is supposed to be an incredibly accepting one. I wrongly assumed it could only carry on and get better from there. For people to say that a character being Black ruined the movie for them, made the character’s death less sad…for it to supremely shake their core like that, that a character they’d come to love turned out to be Black and they missed it due to their own lack of reading comprehension, it’s a significant #TruthTreble.

In Chaos (un)Controlled, Rixa and Azurre are Black. Is it an “urban” tale? Well, the realistic setting is New York City and that’s the extent of it. Does it incorporate themes of “living Black”? Not particularly. From my experience, Black churches tend to have a different vibe than the rest, so some readers who recognize those elements may pick up on the cultural connection. Is there an underlying implied interracial romantic theme? Yessir. But Rixa’s race has no bearing on the plotline whatsoever. I simply chose a main character with skin color in my own likeness.

In today’s world of boxed genres, is there a place for an indie author of color with a YA Science Fantasy novel that features a female protagonist with melanin in a non-urban or inherently “black” setting?

We’ll see.

~Tael