Today’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of talking about writing, I’m sharing some book recommendations. February is Black History Month, and in honor of that, I’m reading books by authors of color.
If you, like me, want to celebrate talented people who aren’t often celebrated by mainstream media outlets, check out some of these book recommendations.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Young Adult Contemporary
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
My reaction: This book made me feel a million different things, and I bawled like a baby. Please read this book.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Adult Historical Fiction
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
My reaction: I love, love, love this novel. Colson Whitehead is going places. Read this book right now.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Adult Literary Fiction
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. It is a majestic new work from an extraordinary and singular author.
My reaction: Confession time: I have yet to read this book. Nevertheless, it’s at the top of my list.
Endangered by Lamar Giles
The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or . . . Dare.
But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list.
My reaction: I couldn’t put this book down, and it kept me guessing the whole way through. If you like mysteries too, you don’t want to miss this one.
Of course, these are just some of the many fantastic books by black authors out there that deserve your consideration. For more books by authors of color, check out this list on Buzzfeed and this one from The Root.
What are your favorite black-authored books?
What are your favorite black-authored books? Check out some recs from @brimorganbooks. (Click to tweet)
Quick life update blog post because next weekend I’ll be moving into my own place. I’ve been living with my parents and am looking forward to being independent once again. There’s nothing quite like having your own space to decorate and do with as you please.
I’m also looking forward to having full control over my schedule. Being able to come home and write or edit without other people around will be nice. I love people, but sometimes I need solitude to work. If I can get into a good routine in my new place, I know I can thrive.
I’m so thankful for the writing community on Twitter and the internet in general. I’d never be where I am as a writer without the encouragement of my online friends. I’m also thankful for my critique partner Amanda—who is a phenomenal writer in her own right. We’re putting out a horror anthology this year about the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues. Look out for that if you like spooky things! Also, we’re recording a vlog about our friendship and collaboration!
I am so excited to be moving on to this next phase in my life, and I can’t wait to share the journey with you. Also, if we’re friends and you’d like to send me a card or anything, email me or drop me a DM on Twitter, and I’ll give you my address! I want to fill this new home with love and light and positive energy, and I can’t do that on my own.
What are you excited for right now?
What’s next for author @brimorganbooks? A move, and other changes. (Click to tweet)
So uploading this video… made me kinda anxious??? Anyway, here it is. To everyone who asked for this, I hope it helps you somehow. Remember: you’re stronger than you think. Go easy on yourself. And I promise you’re never, ever alone.
- Crisis text line: Text HELP to 741-741 if you don’t feel comfortable calling someone.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
My biggest focus for this round of WIP edits has been characterization. I’m immensely thankful for my friend and editor Coryl’s insight on this topic—when I asked them for resources, they were more than happy to provide.
One of the places they directed me was author K. M. Weiland’s website. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her website, you need to check it out immediately. She not only offers information about her books, but also tips, tricks, and advice for writers of all skill levels. Naturally, I was most drawn to her posts about character-building. According to Weiland, most of what makes a good character arc in a story can be summed up as follows: What lie does the character believe about themself?
This single question changed my whole approach to character development and helped me come up with more well-rounded characters. In my novel Reflections, for example, Rama believes that she isn’t good for anything after her assault, and that she’ll never see her body the same way again. Without giving too much away, that’s all proven false by the end of the novel.
Another tactic that changed my character-building for the better is author and YouTuber Jenna Moreci’s character templates. For some reason or other, most character worksheets don’t help me. They’re almost always far too detailed, and then I get distracted. After watching this video, I gave Jenna’s method a shot. It’s still a decent bit of work, but nowhere near as complicated as it used to be. Now, there’s also the added bonus of viewing my characters as full-fledged individuals with goals, histories, secrets, and complicated relationships.
If you’re struggling to develop fully formed characters, give one (or both) of these two different strategies a try. Also, if you have any tips for building characters, feel free to share them with me!
What do you think of these character-building tips? What advice do you have for creating realistic characters?
“What lie does your character believe about themself?” (Click to tweet)
How wild is it that it’s 2018 now? (And honestly, praise be.) I’d planned to do this post in January, but now is so much better. At the beginning of every year, I try to come up with a list of things to check off in the new year. Right now, that means strengthening my self-discipline as an artist.
Whether you’re a writer or a lawyer or something else, I’ll bet you’ve made some new year’s resolutions. Like me, you might have some negative associations with the concept. Instead of using “resolution,” why not give “goal” a try? Personally, I have a few goals this year:
Finish Girls’ School. I’m still on the second draft, and I really think I want to query this one. That terrifies me, but we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to do this all on my own anymore.
Move into my new apartment. February 17! (If we talk to each other a lot and you’d like my mailing address, feel free to reach out.)
List the Reflections audiobook. After having (finally!) found a great narrator, I’m thrilled to say that this audiobook should be available by summer.
Query Girls’ School. Just “query.” Focusing on the only part of the process within my control. After writing the query letter and sending the MS to agents, it’s out of my hands.
Read 1-2 books per week. I want to become a better writer, so I’m going to read more books. Also, books are neato.
Determine a consistent posting schedule. Not only for this blog, but also for YouTube and my newsletter. I’m busy, but not too busy to connect with friends and readers.
Draft a new project. Not quite sure which one yet, but I’m thinking it’ll be a YA thriller or horror novel.
Publish horror anthology with my critique partner. Sorry, Amanda! We’re still doing this! I’m just not sure of the timeline right now.
Audition for a theatrical production. I miss the theatre like crazy. I’m putting myself out there this year and going out for more auditions.
Learn to make bath bombs. Because I love bath bombs. Also because selling them could be a new side hustle.
Most of my goals relate to writing, but that’s because I’m trying to make more room in my life for the work that most fuels me. This year I’m making my art my big focus. I encourage you to do the same.
What are some of your goals for this year? I’d love to hear from you!
What goals have you set for 2018? Author @brimorganbooks is sharing some of hers. (Click to tweet)
This video is the first of (hopefully) many spooky ones to come. Today, I’m going to tell you a little about the Enfield poltergeist, and why it’s one of the most controversial paranormal cases to date.
What true crime case, unsolved mystery, or paranormal event should I cover next?
I got to watch people performing my play! I still can’t believe that happened, y’all. You should also watch this video if you either a) haven’t read my play or b) don’t know what it’s about.
Have you read or seen Touch? What did you think?
Author and playwright @brimorganbooks got to see her play performed, and she had a lot of feelings. (Click to tweet)
Hi everyone, it’s Briana! I’ve had a hectic month, so today’s post is from Richard Moore, and it’s about doing the things that fuel your creative soul. I’ll have a brand-new post for you sometime next week!
When I was 14 I remember I would spend my lunchtimes rebuilding old PCs so I could try and sell them. I also programmed my own (rather average) operating system. I’m glad I followed what I was interested in, rather than what others suggested I should be doing. I was often called a geek but I remember it as such a fulfilling time.
Later, when I started selling, I spent money and time at weekends on courses and guidance to improve myself. Again, I got a weird reception on this and it was suggested I should just be chilling at home on the weekends rather than out learning. I thought about it but usually I just didn’t want to. So I didn’t.
Now, if I’m into something I dive deep into it and make that interest into something that can improve my world. There is belief that we should “do” a certain thing—something that fits in.
But if you let the voice within speak up a little, you often find there is great fulfillment in something completely different.
Whatever that is, run with it.
Richard Moore originally worked 60 hour weeks in the City of London, before deciding to build his own businesses and help others do the same.
After building companies from the trenches up, by taking ownership of sales teams, coaching leadership roles and consulting with multi-hundred million pound organisations, Richard created his own company to help others get massive traction as they launched their businesses.
As he did this, Richard invested in many of the companies he helped to create and shared with the world his views on business, through the weekly live Q&A‘s he runs online, to speaking gigs in front of business owners in his space and his weekly blog. Richard also created products such as the EightStepStartup course, the Basics of Sales course and direct mentoring of established businesses.
Most of you know I’ve been struggling with depression. If you are too, you’re not alone. And if you’re having trouble writing while depressed, this video might help you.
What tips or advice do you have for writing with depression?
Struggling with depression but still want to write? Check out this vlog by @brimorganbooks. (Click to tweet)
We’ve all been through periods in life where everything is up in the air, for the most part. You might be between jobs right now, or maybe you’re looking for a new apartment or a new relationship. Whatever the case, you might be feeling lost, helpless, and confused. But I want you to know this: you are not alone.
I’m not where I thought I’d be three months ago. Sometimes that terrifies me. Other times, it’s exciting. My mood shifts every day. As a perfectionist and a self-professed control freak, this is difficult for me. Nothing is going the way I planned, and sometimes, I feel stuck, unmotivated, and anxious about my current situation.
In moments of helplessness, you might feel as though you’ll never get “unstuck,” or that you’ll be where you are for the rest of your life. Of course, that’s not the case. No matter how confused, anxious, or lost you may be feeling right now, you are not alone, and this transition period will end. Nothing lasts forever, after all.
But while you’re in the midst of a difficult phase, there are some things you can do to make your life a little easier. Here are a few strategies I’ve discovered for how to survive a transition period in life.
1. LIST YOUR STRESSES
The next time you feel anxious or upset about the course your life has taken, sit down and make a list (bonus points for writing it out on paper) of all your current stressors. An example from my own life might say, “Not enough writing time, don’t have my own apartment, live far from friends” and things of that nature. No matter how silly or small what’s stressing you out seems, I want you to write it down. Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to move on to…
2. CIRCLE EVERYTHING YOU CAN CHANGE
Chances are, there are several things on your list that are outside your control, such as the deteriorating health of a loved one, suffering from a chronic illness, or anything like that. For this exercise, I want you to try to ignore those points. We’re only going to focus on what’s within our power to change. Let’s look at my examples: writing time, apartment, and distance from friends. These are all within my power to change, regardless of how hard it might be to do so. After you’ve figured out what you can change, feel free to…
3. LIST POTENTIAL NEXT STEPS
When you’ve figured out what you can change, you should decide how exactly you want it to change. For me, with writing time, I want to write more. If I make that goal more specific, it means I want to edit or draft at least 1,000 words each day, regardless of the project I have going at the moment. Some next steps toward that goal would be analyzing my time, determining what can be cut, tracking my writing progress, telling friends and loved ones, and perhaps outsourcing some tasks. When you know what all you need to do, go ahead and…
4. DETERMINE ORDER AND PRIORITY
Now that you have your next steps, what needs to be done first? Let’s go again with my writing example. I need to track my time and determine what can be cut from my life to make time for writing. I need to outsource some tasks to make more time for writing, and tell friends and loved ones that I’m taking time for myself each day, so they’ll know not to disturb me. I also need to track my progress once I’m writing regularly, to make sure my system is as efficient as possible. So, my order and priority list might look something like this:
- Track time spent every hour of every day.
- Analyze time, determine what can be cut or outsourced.
- Cut any distractions or necessary tasks, outsource others.
- Determine writing schedule and block off time.
- Tell loved ones of my time block.
- Keep track of writing progress and analyze to determine maximum efficiency.
Not too shabby, right? As soon as you’ve listed everything out, you can always break it down into smaller steps too, if need be. But when you’ve written out your list, it’s time to…
5. ATTACK THE LIST
From here, all you have to do is tackle each item on the list, one at a time, until you accomplish your goal. That’s not so bad now, is it? If you want extra productivity and goal-setting points, you can also add self-imposed deadlines. So for me, let’s say I want to track all my time every day this week, and start my analysis on Saturday. Self-imposed deadlines are a great way to help you stay motivated and on track.
Pro tip: Tackle one goal at a time! Although it might be thrilling to try to change everything at once, you’re much more likely to see success through building habits one by one. Wait until you reach one goal before rushing on to the next one. 🙂
I also recommend writing your goals out, including the order and priority of your next steps, and keeping them somewhere you can see them every day. That way, you can be constantly reminded where you might be heading, instead of where you are.
What are your tips for staying focused on your goals?