Hard Facts about Being an African American Romance Writer

I read an article today that resonates so well with my writing journey that I have to share it, vlog it, and just sit on it for a moment.

It’s a #Longread from the Guardian title “Fifty Shade of White: the long fight against racism in romance novels“. The writer of this piece, Lois Beckett, dives right into the past and current issues with romance writers of color; it’s hard to break through when the industry is slow to see that change it needs.

As it stands, when it comes to the Rita Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the romance industry given by RWA (Romance Writers of America), there has never been a black winner, like ever. The first official RWA meeting occurred Dec. 1980 – yep not one winner for the past 40 years. But to be honest, as a black woman, I’m not shocked. I grew up watching black romance books being separated from all the others to fall into an Urban Romance category. Segregation comes in many forms, and that my friend, is one of them. I remember never being able to find them, they were always tucked somewhere in the back, as if a white woman with a flowing dress falling off of her shoulders with a guy raising her leg was so much more sophisticated than a black woman’s eyes or lips.

It was then that I picked up my first Zane book and got lost between the pages. Her words reminded me that the black POV of love and lust were different but still viable for all that read it. Zane inspired me to write my own romance stories, using imagery and words that resonated with my generation and my friends. She gave me the courage to go about this writing journey in my own way.

Fast forward to now, as I continue to push my own voice through my writing and pitch an African American romance, women’s fiction, upmarket/commercial erotic fiction book (it may fall into to some other categories but I didn’t want to go overboard), I’m wondering if there will be a delay in understanding the worth and message behind my words. My romance looks and reads differently, but it feels as good as other romance stories. Can a predominately white industry recognize its value? It’s in Beckett’s article that I find some hope that it will. I just pray that it’s sooner than later…I’m so ready to take this passion on full-time.

Here’s an excerpt from Beckett’s article:

For all this diversity of genre, the romance industry itself has remained overwhelming white, as have the industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony, the Ritas, which are presented each year by the RWA. Just like the Oscars in film, a Rita award is the highest honour a romance author can receive, and winning can mean not only higher sales, but also lasting recognition from peers. And just like the Oscars, the Ritas have become the centre of controversy over unacknowledged racism and bias in the judging process.

Last year, however, many observers felt that this was sure to change. One of the standout novels of 2017 had been Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, an interracial romance set during the civil war. The book had already won a number of awards and made multiple best-of-the-year lists.

When the Rita awards finalists were announced in March 2018, An Extraordinary Union was nowhere to be seen. A novel rated exceptional by critics had been not even been deemed as noteworthy by an anonymous judging panel of Cole’s fellow romance writers. The books that had beat Cole as finalists in the best short historical romance category were all by white women, all but one set in 19th-century Britain, featuring white women who fall in love with aristocrats. The heroes were, respectively, one “rogue”, two dukes, two lords and an earl.

What followed, on Twitter, was an outpouring of grief and frustration from black authors and other authors of colour, describing the racism they had faced again and again in the romance industry. They talked about white editors assuming black writers were aspiring authors, even after they had published dozens of books; about white authors getting up from a table at the annual conference when a black author came to sit down; about constant questions from editors and agents about whether black or Asian or Spanish-speaking characters could really be “relatable” enough.

Then, of course, there were the readers. “People say: ‘Well, I can’t relate,’” Jenkins told NPR a few years ago, after watching white readers simply walk past her table at a book signing. “You can relate to shapeshifters, you can relate to vampires, you can relate to werewolves, but you can’t relate to a story written by and about black Americans?”

Read the full article.

 

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Short Story: We Will Be

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

[Rate PG17: A bit passionate for young eyes]

This was a piece that I published last week for #EroticFiction Fridays on H.E.R. Crisis. I really enjoyed writing this one since I was able to infuse both a lustful loving story with poetry. I hope you like it. Please let me know what you think — all feedback helps me in crafting my next story.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my new vlogs, Pitching a book is about patience and persistence and Pitching a Book: Round 1 Results and Next Steps.


We Will Be
by DNC

I prayed for waves like this. The ocean’s mist sprinkles my skin with its refreshing droplets, as I roll over to greet his eyes. Cleansing us ever so gently, we smile and pull each other closer, awaiting the first words of the morning. Neither of us chooses to speak, we decided to just be.

White sand brushes our skin, as the sun peeks at our naked embrace. A night’s worth of passion has evolved into a sunrise in love with a soul from a different corner of the world.

Maybe it was the accent or the pride he spoke of his heritage or maybe even the way he spoke encouragement into me that pulled me into his glow. I don’t know, nor will I care.

I tuck a single dread behind his ear, following the slender lines of his cheek, down around his chin rolling slowly to his lips. They were gifts from God and in every embrace they sent me to a better place, a heavenly state.

And to imagine, if I wouldn’t have opened my mouth, if I would have stood by and let him leave my eyesight, I would not have found my Adonis. The perfect piece to me that I didn’t know I was missing.

Waves crash against the beach and his arms pull me tighter and closer, pulling us together as if the waves could reach us, and just in case they did, he guaranteed that we could never be separated. His skin kisses mine, with the warmth from the sun on an early summer day in Georgia. I rest my leg over him and his thick staff falls between my legs to grace the place it just poured every ounce of his desire into. Laying there full of him, I pray for our forever. I knew when I saw him, that my body needed him. And then when he spoke, my mind couldn’t wrap around being without him. Love, at first sight, is an impossible concept, unless love lives with lust and life. When the three meets, a world begins. Our world began, and we’ve never looked back.

There were years of flying from here to there, and even months of missed Facetimes or late-night chats, but what was never lost was the life we created together, the love that grew through the unknown and the lust that was untamable in every word between us.

He takes my hand and locks it into his, staring then kissing and staring once more. Our relationship has been labeled lucky; “Girl, you are so lucky you found him” or even, “You really luck up on her” was told to us by our friends. But luck has absolutely nothing to do with it when fate leads the way.

But even in our loving embrace and our growing temptation to take a ride on the coming sunrise, I feel a moment of insecurity. I know why I choose him, but what made him choose me.

So I ask him, “Why me?”
He whispered “Because I can’t breathe.
But with you, my lungs start to move.
My heart begins to pump,
And then life begins, you see.

“Why you,” he answered,
“Because there would be no me.
There would be no sun on my horizon.
No mercy on my soul.
No ocean I could man without drowning below.

“Because of you,” he concluded,
“I am a man with pride and morals.
A man destined to conquer the darkness of the past.
A man dying to give you the world.

“I am
And that’s
Why you.”

I kiss him too many times to count and thank God so many times I couldn’t even shout. I climb on my king and connect our souls one last time as the sun finally reaches the sky. I ride until we are high into the clouds back in our world alone with nothing to hide. His hands caress each breast as I rock us into Outerspace. Someone far and deep, deeper into a never-ending place. I call his name and release the love I owe him across our world, clinching tight to hold the moment for as long as I could before I collapse on his chest, exhausted from flying miles and galaxies in hopes of continuing our endless embrace. I open my eyes to search for his remarkable brown eyes when I look at his lips and see something sparkle between his teeth. A ring, a diamond ring so gorgeous that I can barely breathe.

I take it out his mouth and he sits up, still very connect to me, and speaks, “Please stay with me, until the sea runs dry or our worlds cease to be.”

And so, that morning, over the morning rays and before God in our rawest of forms, we promise that we will always be.

Pitching a Book: Allergies, colds, and mothering…oh my!

Photo by Unknown

I am an avid believer that in life there are no excuses…except during allergy season in Atlanta, when your fighting a cold and when your a mother — there are no days off in motherhood. So, my goal of pitching to a literary agent each week in March was delayed, until last week.

Check out my Writing vlog on YouTube

That’s right, I pitched to two agents last week. That means I’ve pitched to three agents since Feb. 25 — and I’ve heard back from two already! But I’ll share those details next week.

What I want to touch on this week is what you need to do even before you begin pitching your romance, erotic, fantasy, middle grade, YA or non-fiction (and so on) masterpiece. There are levels to this pitching thang and here is what I’ve learned since I’ve started.

Query Letter

As I shared before in my post Pitching to Literary Agents: See what had happened was…, your query letter not only summarizes your novel or novella, it sells the book. Be sure to include the word count, the genre(s), the audience who would love your book and who you’re book is similar to. That last part has been hard for me because I only like certain erotic stories, and they are mostly the classics.

But, if you can relate your book to a current author or novel, be sure to mention it in your query letter.

Oh and keep this to one page because a lot of agents just want this in an email and they are not going to read anything longer.

Synopsis

This was THE HARDEST piece to pull together for me but in the end, it was worth it because it helped me find those hidden holes in my own story. Again, in the post that I shared earlier, I touched on the importance of this piece.

Yes, no one wants to give away their whole book in 2-5 pages but you must in order to give some agents a full look your storyline.

Remember: this helps them figure out any holes and as I found out, it will help you too.

The FULLL EDITED Manuscript

Originally, I shared that you should have the first three chapters ready. Now I’m changing that to having the full piece completely edited. That means peer groups, hiring an editor, and reviewing it until you want to throw it across the room or are dreaming continuously about every word, every period, hell maybe even the amount of tabs throughout (or is that just me).

This is mandatory because some agents will ask for the first 10 pages or the first three chapters or the first 20 pages or the whole damn thing!! The idea is to be prepared for whatever their request may be. It could be the difference between making the connection now or missing the boat.

We’ll folks, that all I have time for! I’ve back on a normal writing schedule working on book two in this series, and preparing for passion-fy release sooner than later (thank to everyone who voted on instagram)!

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Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | @author_dnc

 

[Poem] I Understand

Photo by Maru Lombardo on Unsplash

In honor of World Poetry Day, here is a piece from my book Like. Love. Lust., available on Amazon.

I Understand
by DNC

Delicate kisses on the nape of my neck,
Remind me of a long night and heated sheets.
Your index finger takes a ride on my endless curves.
Remembering all the shortcuts and dead ends that you graciously seek.

Pillow cases damp from the clinching of my teeth.
The neighbors would not and could not know your name,
Not at least this soon,
Not at least without some additional inner peace.

Peace of mind to know that what was done was real.
Real emotion. Real intentions. Real connection. Real for me.
How could something so sweet and innocent,
Make my body lose control and release this inner beast?

A shy girl now lost in erotic thick bushes and tall canopies,
Steps back out of the shadow a lioness.
Proud, sensual, carefree and in control of her land,
Her temple, her very own savannah masterpiece.

A perfect arch calls for our body to meet, right in the middle where I can see.
Understanding now how to get what I want from a willing soul.
Understand that my body is much more than a night.
It’s the answer to your condition, your life’s vital remedy.