Black Author Spotlight: Aziza Sphinx


Welcome to my first black author spotlight!

Brand new for my 1st Wednesday post, the goal of this segment is to highlight black authors who are often marginalized and ignored in the industry. Black writers usually turn to self-publishing--an already densely populated industry--to have their stories seen, and it is said that we have to work twice as hard to get half of what our white counterparts have. Hopefully, shining a little light on these authors will help to signal boost the work they are putting out there.

First up is speculative fiction author Aziza Sphinx.


From her website at www.azizasphinx.com:

Aziza is a firm believer that reading and writing go hand in hand. A southerner through and through she loves her peaches and pecans while curling up with a good book. A master of resourcefulness, her love of research leads her down paths of discovery that touch every aspect of her writing. Her love of reading ignited her passion for writing, leading her to frequently fill page after page with tales of her beloved characters’ adventures. 

An influence and an adversary she loves to sprinkle facts about her beloved Georgia throughout her fictional worlds.

Here is a look at her current book, A Licentious Storm:

(A cover of a pair of violet eyes in the background. In the foreground, a black man, kissing a white woman from behind. Upper text: Danger, Mystery, and Sex, All rolled into one unforgettable story. Title text: A Licentious Storm. Author: Aziza Sphinx)

Family Secrets creep into Gianina Marcello’s life through the one thing she loves most, art. A mysterious painting arrives at her gallery doors. Power and intrigue soon follow as her quaint artistic escape becomes the backdrop of a budding romance with artist Neimiah Richardson. But as much as Gianina desires a life of roses and rendezvouses, a nasty secret from her past returns to haunt her present.

Caught between ravaging lust and murderous madmen, Neimiah struggles to juggle the responsibility of keeping his Vampyre master sane and mending that which was sundered. As the lone male of broken bindings, he must navigate the human world in an attempt to woo the great-grand daughter of the one who deserted them long ago.

With their Master’s control nearly gone, a vengeful ex and a lover scorned, can this couple mend a broken bond or will the world succumb to a licentious storm?

Autographed copies are available on Aziza's website. The book and e-book are also available on Amazon. For all other platforms, visit https://books2read.com/u/4jW8qD.


Follow Aziza on Instagram and Twitter: @AzizaSphinx!
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If you are a Black author who would like to be in the spotlight, email me the following information at debreneebyrd@gmail.com 

Name or Pen Name

Genre

Website/Blog

Social Media handles

Book (if any) and where to buy

Permission to use photos

July Review - Road to Release

 

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Whoo, things are moving so fast!

First off, I had the best vacation with my friends. I'm the only Summer birthday between the local ones, so sometimes that means I automatically get a beach vacation for it. We went to Ocean City, Maryland, and went to the beach on our three full days, partied, went to Jolly Roger. Word of advice: don't eat heavy BBQ and then get on a roller coaster, then get on a whirly ride. I don't know what I was thinking, but I was nauseated. Still had a blast. My girl friends also threw me a surprise Beychella-style photoshoot, and there's nothing funnier than hearing your friends whispering outside of your hotel room trying to be quiet just so they can burst into the room. But I love my Queen Bee hoodie.

Secondly, the book release is three weeks away! I have a couple of interviews in preparation for scheduling, and I may be doing a Twitch stream the day before the convention. I met my publicist yesterday. I have a PUBLICIST. Oh, my God. When I say everything happening right now is a dream come true, it's a total dream come true. I'm excited, nervous, super anxious, feeling fight-or-flighty, but I'm here. Dover Comic-Con is two-and-a-half weeks away now. It will be my first convention as an author, and I'm ready. I need to get a table, hopefully from my church, but I'm ready. I hope to reveal the new cover for my normal Wednesday Words post; I just need all the titles on put in place. It's so pretty. I can't wait for everyone to see it. Of course, that means I'll have to change the layout of the blog, which I'll probably do this weekend. One thing I didn't realize until my director asked yesterday was I don't have ARCs yet. There's still time, but here's to fast readers! I also hope to make more bookmarks for Comic-Con like I did for the self-published release party. I need to get that done this weekend.

I'm increasing activity on my Instagram as I get closer to August 18th. Speaking of, I will also be more active on my Twitter account. I had a personal account, so I was splitting my time between the two. On Twitter, it's time consuming and unnecessary, so I deleted my personal account in order to build up the presence for my author account. May my personal account rest in peace. I had so many random celebrities like my tweets; I will miss that for sure.

Anyway, I have so much to do! *screaming* Wish me luck!

New Monthly Post: Black Author Spotlight

Introducing....



I'm very excited about this.

Starting in August, I will be highlighting black writers and authors on the 1st Wednesday of the month. I am in a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to black writers, and I follow many on Twitter; but we usually get swallowed up in the void of publishing. 

In 2014, Malinda Lo and Ellen Oh called out the publishing industry for the lack of diversity in kids' lit. Of course, this sentiment spread to other genres, and the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks was created. Unfortunately, instead of seeking out and/or stepping aside for BIPOC talent, white writers created stories with BIPOC main characters instead, and the publishers deemed that acceptable. Lee and Low put out a diversity baseline study in 2015, and then again in 2019. No significant change. BIPOC remain smashed together in the margins of the industry from the top to the bookshelf.

This lack of diversity and its complacency bleeds out into so many spaces, but as a black author, my blog will not be one of those spaces. I want to bring more awareness to black creatives so that we can get more of our stories seen. We're the only ones who can give a 100% authentic view of who we are. The more exposure we have, the better our chances of being acknowledged and the better our chances of other black writers in the next generations seeing us and knowing that they can do this, too.

So stay turned on August 4th for my first spotlight!


If you are a Black author who would like to be highlighted, email me the following information at debreneebyrd@gmail.com 

Name or Pen Name

Genre

Website/Blog

Social Media handles

Book (if any) and where to buy

Permission to use photos

Wednesday Words: Finishing up Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin & Jamal Campbell

 


We are almost halfway through July! As it is the 2nd Wednesday of the month, I will be sharing what I'm reading right now. I'm going to do my best to get Wednesday Words back into a consistent rotation. I was able to read for hours in a crunch while I was reading The Shining with my sisters, so I know I just need to sit down, turn on some music, turn down my notifications, and just read.

 

I have only two more installments left of Far Sector before the series is OVER! I'm sad about it. I haven't read a regular comic book in decades now. I've read manga and graphic novels, but the last superhero comic I read was definitely one of the X-Men comics when I was in single digits. Coming into the Green Lantern universe through N.K. Jemisin's brilliant eyes has been a great ride, and I think I'll be reading more comics in the future. I have hundreds of books and ebooks I need to read, though, so maybe not the near future.

So while I haven't opened these yet, just look at the covers. I have absolutely loved the color schemes and designs Jamal Campbell created. As we're coming up to what I can imagine is the big "boss battle," both of these covers give off great energy of what's to come. I can't wait. I brought my Kindle to work, so I'm going to get started on these on my down time.


What are you reading?

We Hold These Truths...

 [I posted this on Facebook last year, and it's a good time to post it today, because nothing much has changed. And all of us weren't free July 4, 1776.]

We hold these hard truths to be self evident:
That your forefathers claimed all men were created equal,
But said my forefathers were less than human and therefore property;
That you praise Lincoln for freeing the slaves,
When he didn't care either way, as long as the Union was saved;
That when the slaves were free, you turned your slave catchers into cops,
And created the prison system to put my forefathers right back into slavery.
We hold these truths to be self evident:
That your forefathers claimed all men were created equal,
And that Black people need to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps,
But I don't recall anyone giving out the boots after emancipation was proclaimed;
Matter of fact, only the slave masters got reparations for the loss of their "property,"
But all men are created equal.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That this country was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of Black people,
On top of the bones, blood, and tears of the Indigenous;
Your forefathers said all men are created equal,
But you paved our paradise to put up Central Park in New York and bombed our Wall Street to appease the virtue of some fragile white woman in Tulsa and emptied a whole pool because a black woman dipped her toe in the water;
All men are created equal, but the father of modern gynecology treated black women like lab rats who can't possibly feel pain,
And his mindset continues to kill black women to this day;
All men are created equal, but they're even killing our children,
Because black children aren't allowed to just be children, so Mommy and Daddy have to sit them down for The Talk before they go outside to play.
We hold these truths to be self evident:
That all men are created equal, but red-lining and gerrymandering exist;
All men are created equal, but my parents were in segregated schools;
All men are created equal, but you're scared to say racism still exists;
All men are created equal, but turn on the fire hoses, release the dogs, throw the tear gas, get the pepper spray, they doth protest too much;
We hold these hard truths to be self-evident:
That this country wasn't built for all men,
And it's time to pick it up by its bootstraps, turn it upside down, knock out all the excuses, lies, the status quo, the racists, the gaslighters, and this jerry-rigged system,
And start over so we all can pursue life, liberty, and the justice we so deserve.



Quarterly Goals


This is officially the fastest year in the history of fast years. It is the last Wednesday in JUNE!

On the 5th Wednesday that pops up quarterly, I share/brainstorm/word-vomit my goals for the next three months. I took a break in December and March, so I had to hop back to my Quarterly Goals post from September to see what my goals were supposed to have been these past 9 months (I could've had a baby hahaha).

My first major goal was to get back into the swing of things. Result: Eh. I have been doing a little better, but I still have a way to go. I might not get back to writing and reading the way I used to. On the bright side, I do know what I need to write. Just have to press forward and get it done. And when I get back into a good reading pace, I'll have probably a hundred books and e-books to start with. I have been doing a little better with blogs, at least.

My second major goal was to find a job I really want to do. Result: Eh?? Since September, I bowed out of the startup production company I joined, and while I've been looking at gaming-related jobs, I don't have the credentials. We go back into the office full time in September, and words can't express how much I'm dreading that. On the other hand, I do have the traditional publication to look forward to. I know not to get my hopes up that I'll become a millionaire best-seller off of one book, but I am definitely over the 8-4:30 secretary jobs. They were never part of my plan. I know my plans don't really mean much, so I'm grateful that I'm starting to see my author dreams coming true. In the meantime, if there's a work-from-home job in the cards for me, hopefully that's a new day job in my future.

Incidentally, the next 5th Wednesday falls in September again, so I'll get to see what I've accomplished a year out with the next Quarterly Goals post. Who knows what the next 3 months will bring? Let's find out!

FRACTURED PRINCESS RELEASE DATE (June Writing Update & Monthly Review)

Happy Wednesday!


I took a week off because I had a meeting with my publisher last Thursday, so I wanted to wait until I had news to share! I'm very excited, so here we go!



You will notice a release date has been added to my website description! The traditional release of FRACTURED PRINCESS will be August 18th! I'm so excited. I can't say enough how I wished a publisher would find my book in the Amazon piles but didn't think it would actually happen. And now, two years after I self-published FP, the dream is coming true. I will hopefully have a cover by the next Writing Update post. They're working on it now. I've already seen a preliminary image, and to see Jonnie illustrated again is so wonderfully weird. I love how talented artists are.


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On another note, my schedule will be changing again. This 18 months has been a bit of an eye-opener on a lot of things, and while I'm so grateful for the outlet I've had a chance to be a part of for the past 9 years, I have decided to stop participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I had left the Facebook group in January, and I was trying to hold out, but I'll just say safe spaces are real and necessary, especially for black writers. I don't have the luxury of ignoring certain issues, and I can no longer remain in spaces that do.

So what that means for the 1st Wednesday of the month, I have some options. I might push my posts up and take a break the last Wednesday. This month, I have Quarterly Goals, and I already took a break last week! I already know there won't be a post on July 21st because I will be on my birthday vacation (update: I scheduled a post hahaha), but as I already said, August 18th is FP's release date, so I need to post something! I'll figure it out.

So that said, I will see you all next Wednesday for my Quarterly Goals!

Wednesday Words: Still Reading The Shining

 


Happy Hump Day!


It is the second Wednesday in June, which means I share what I'm reading with you all. Sometimes I'm still reading a book from the month before, and because I'm in a book club with my busy sisters, this time is the case. We're still reading The Shining.

 


Usually, I won't return to the blog with the same book, but we're at the point now where the snow has come, so Jack, Wendy, and Danny are now stuck in the Overlook. Things are getting dark, and they're getting dark fast. I'm loving every bit of it.

While reading it, I'm also thinking back on the changes Kubrick made that really ruined the story, and Stephen King said it best himself in this article: Why Does Stephen King Hate The Original Movie of 'The Shining' but Love 'Doctor Sleep'? He said Kubrick took out the story, and reading the book for the first time, it's clear that that's true. Watching the movie, I wasn't even really sure why the Torrences were even at the hotel! Because you never see Jack working, except on his novel. He's actually there to keep the hotel up and running on low power and maintenance during the blizzard season.

In Kubrick's movie, Jack and Wendy are one-dimensional to a fault. Jack already comes in clearly messed up, and while Jack in the book is messed up, it doesn't become apparent how messed up he is in the book right out the gate. It takes time. You see all his darkness gradually, which is good, especially because you get to see his connection with Danny. They have a close bond in the book that is erased in the movie, a bond that book Wendy is actually jealous of. Speaking of, if you read the article, you will know Stephen King called Kubrick's characterization of Wendy “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film.” Yikes. And not wrong. All she does is scream and look as weak as possible. Book Wendy is a mama bear, and there are many instances in the book that show it. But having only watched "A Clockwork Orange" before this, seeing the gratuitous images of naked women placed into both movies, and knowing how he tortured Shelly Duvall, I feel like Kubrick had a misogyny problem anyway. There is a scene often cut from the tv rerun of the film that I'm waiting to show up or not happen in the book to see if I can add racist to that list as well.

Anyhow, I'm loving the book. We're reading Doctor Sleep after. The movie is great. It feels like a dark superhero movie to me. Stephen King said Mike Flanagan did a great job of tying the book to Kubrick's movie, so kudos to him.

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Backdraft

 


HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!


And welcome to another installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where we can throw our cares to the wind and talk about writing with a bunch of other writers. Please join us by following our fearless leader Alex J. Cavanaugh and signing up at the official Insecure Writer's Support Group website.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of finally getting to meet Wahida Clark, the Queen of Street Lit, to discuss plans for my new release date. She is so sweet, and I can't wait to continue this journey with SFF/For the Culture. More news will be coming, probably by the next IWSG post! There are 5 Wednesdays this month, though, so it might be sooner than that. =D

This month's question is about our writing process, hence the silly addition to this post's title: For how long do you shelve our first draft before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

Once I hit The End, from advice of other writers, I don't touch the book for about a month. The entire time I'm writing, I'm editing as well, which is a bad habit, but I'm a proofreader/editor by nature, so I don't try not to do it anymore, unless I'm doing NaNoWriMo. You need to breathe after you finish that first draft, because if you go right back into it after finishing, your eyes won't be fresh enough. Go to a new story, or even just do something else for the month. Just don't tempt yourself with the one you just finished!

May Review - Road to Re-Release

 

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It is the LAST Wednesday of May, and I can't believe it. We are almost halfway through 2021. I hope everyone is doing well, has been healthy, and has been able to get a good start on some goals!

Things are really starting to move for me. I meet with my publisher next Tuesday to discuss release dates. If anyone has any resources for reading book questions, I need to bring some to that meeting, and I don't know the first thing about it! I mean, I've obviously been reading books since I was 5, so I can come up with some. Just the thought that there would be a reading group discussing Fractured Princess blows my mind. I also have to choose my preferred audiobook narrative, and I definitely have imagined having an audiobook for FP, but wow!

I hope the people who already bought it are willing to buy the first half of the new version when it's re-released. That's a big worry of mine. I also made some pretty significant changes to it, so maybe that will reel them in.

I also need to prepare for more face-time and promotion up to and through publication. I have no idea what that will look like and what kind of time it will consume, but hopefully it will be smooth, especially because I have a full-time job. I don't expect to become a millionaire book 1, so yeah, I have to keep working while I'm . . . working.

So anyway, here's to what I expect to be an exciting Summer!

May Writing Update

 


It is the third Wednesday of MAY! That means it's time for me to give you a writing update, and because things are starting to move on the republication of Fractured Princess, that means I have updates!

I received the edits back from the copyeditor yesterday, so once I go through them, I get to meet with the Queen, Wahida Clark, to talk release dates! I'm not going to pretend like I didn't scream a little when I got the email. I was so excited. Two years ago, I had settled on the idea of being an independent author even though I knew I needed traditional publishing. I'm not great at self-marketing, and it took me years to understand what exactly a brand is no matter how many people explained it, so being on my own, I knew I'd make pennies. That said, every time I got those pennies, the fact that someone somewhere BOUGHT MY BOOK?? It still amazes me.

So, things are happening, and I'm squealing inside. Who knows where this exposure will take me! Stay tuned!

BOOK NEWS for Fractured Princess! (IWSG)



It's Revenge of the Fifth! Happy May, and welcome to the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where we throw our insecurities to the wind and celebrate each other for our accomplishments! You can visit the website and our founder, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for the list of co-hosts for the month and other participants, as well as join us by signing up!
Big book news for me: Fractured Princess was cleared to go to copy editing! My publisher said it didn't need developmental edits, but I sent them the developmental edit I did anyway, because there were some things I needed to fix for continuity/plot holes. I'm very excited that they found it flawless haha. My English degree paid off, figuratively speaking. Heh. So more news will be coming soon!

This month's question: Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

I don't have that many readers yet, but I will say in an early draft of one of my books, my sister asked me a question that actually changed the path of the relationship of two of my characters. She asked if they were going to get together, and I said no. Then, she said, "Why not?" And that was that, and all I'll say about that. hahaha

What about you all?

April Review

 

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It is already the last Wednesday of APRIL. This is wild.

This month has flown by. Things are steadily picking up a pace of sorts for me. I took a break in March, which was helpful. I also had my 3-month lab and doctor appointment, and my oncologist said I could get my port removed! So, this past Monday, that's exactly what I did, just 1 year and 2 days after my last chemo treatment! I got Thai-rolled ice cream and then later DQ ice cream to celebrate with my younger sister, who went with me. I can't wait to sleep on my left side and not feel that piece of plastic in my chest, or the cut healing, which feels very weird when a surge of slight pain hits.

I had started streaming my video game play, and I realize I don't really like to, so after I finish replaying the Final Fantasy VII Remake, I probably won't stream again for a long while. Maybe when I have a fanbase and someone to talk to besides a potential follower in the future, I'll pick it back up. N.K. Jemisin does it every now and then, and I'd like to do that, too one day.

While I don't want to keep on the secretary/admin track I've fallen into, my older sister said she recommended me to my brother-in-law to do his admin work when he gets his business up and running. That would be a little different from being a government secretary, and certainly a work-from-home gig, which I would highly appreciate. I'd also really like to do more proofreading, so I set up a profile for Upwork for freelance jobs. I have an alert for Writing jobs set up through Linkedin, but I realized I don't want to do a writing job that isn't me writing my books. That's enough pressure as it is. Proofing is something I can almost do in my sleep, and I used to have a business in it that didn't really take off past a few clients I already knew, so that's what I would like to lean towards.

Writing-wise, I looked at both my NA Fantasies this month. I need to get back to those, but as I've figured out my next step in the Fractured Princess sequel, I need to work on that more. I honestly don't know what the future holds for me being a signed author versus an independent author, but I do know I'm going to keep writing that series.

I hope everyone has had a prosperous April. Just three more days, and you know the drill: