Black SF&F Writers You Need to Read NOW! Part 3: Nalo Hopkinson

The very first Black SF&F writer I ever read was Nalo Hopkinson. This was back in high school when I stumbled upon Brown Girl in the Ring and long before I realized how important science fiction and fantasy could be to women and other marginalized people.

I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon it, or why I picked it up, other than that I knew it would be different from anything else I had ever read. Probably I heard about her on CBC Radio. And it was. Different. Gloriously, magically, chills-up-the-spine different from anything I had ever read.

Hopkinson’s blend of Caribbean folk lore and fantasy opened my eyes to the sheer potential of the genre. And it woke a hunger in me for these Other stories. The stories that we have to dig to find. The stories that go beyond the SF&F Canon that my reading had been previously limited to. Stories about Othered people and places and worlds that have been pushed to the peripheral.

That feeling never left me. I still feel that thrill when I pick up a book that I know is going to show me something new, a different way of seeing, a story through eyes I’ve never seen through before. It really does give me chills.

I hope, in sharing her work with you today, you’ll discover something new and wonderful that opens your eyes to a different perspective. There are as many ways to dream as there are people in the world, and there is no reason to stick with the same old visions all the time!

About Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

Powered by ADHD

…though the brake pedal probably reads fibromyalgia. And if I’m going to stretch this metaphor past breaking point, the toolbox on the seat beside me might be labelled NLD. After all, the flip side to “non-verbal learning disorder” is arguably “high verbal ability.” I’m not saying that my cognitive differences made me a writer — that would be flippant and untrue — but though they pose challenges, there are ways in which they can sometimes help.

I write science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction; call it whatever you want, my novels and stories are full of the unreal, the futuristic, the unlikely, the impossible.

I was born in Jamaica, in the Caribbean. I lived for years in Guyana as well, and in Trinidad/Tobago. But the bulk of my life so far has been spent in Toronto, Canada. After about 35 years of that, I moved to the USA for a professorship in Creative Writing.

I’ve won numerous awards for my fiction and other literary activities.

I’ve been a maker of 3-dimensional objects for most of my life. Manipulating physical materials is a welcome break from typing black letters on a white background. It might be functional objects or more decorative ones, and it’s where let myself be full-on whimsical. I’ve scattered muted images of some of my pieces all over this site. Feel free to drop me a note to ask me more about them.

My dream home is on a cliff overlooking an ocean, with lots of room on the grounds for a workshop and a writing cottage. And fruit trees. Or maybe truffle-bearing oak trees. Can’t you just picture it?

About the Author: Nalo Hopkinson
https://www.nalohopkinson.com/about-the-author

The Books

Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)

In this “impressive debut” from award-winning speculative fiction author Nalo Hopkinson, a young woman must solve the tragic mystery surrounding her family and bargain with the gods to save her city and herself. (The Washington Post)

The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways — farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.


Midnight Robber (2000)

It’s Carnival time and the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance, and pageantry. Masked “Midnight Robbers” waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. To young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favorite costume to wear at the festival–until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgiveable crime.

Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen’s legendary powers can save her life . . . and set her free.


The Salt Roads (2003)

From the SFWA Grand Master, a“sexy, disturbing, touching, wildly comic . . . tour de force” that blends fantasy, women’s history, and slavery (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
 
In 1804, shortly before the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue is renamed Haiti, a group of women gather to bury a stillborn baby. Led by a lesbian healer and midwife named Mer, the women’s lamentations inadvertently release the dead infant’s “unused vitality” to draw Ezili—the Afro-Caribbean goddess of sexual desire and love—into the physical world.
 
As Ezili explores her newfound powers, she travels across time and space to inhabit the midwife’s body, as well as those of Jeanne—a mixed-race dancer and the mistress of Charles Baudelaire living in 1880s Paris—and Meritet, an enslaved Greek-Nubian prostitute in ancient Alexandria.
 
Bound together by Ezili and “the salt road” of their sweat, blood, and tears, the three women struggle against a hostile world, unaware of the goddess’s presence in their lives. Despite her magic, Mer suffers as a slave on a sugar plantation until Ezili plants the seeds of uprising in her mind. Jeanne slowly succumbs to the ravages of age and syphilis when her lover is unable to escape his mother’s control. And Meritet, inspired by Ezili, flees her enslavement and makes a pilgrimage to Egypt, where she becomes known as Saint Mary.
 
With unapologetically sensual prose, Nalo Hopkinson, the Nebula Award–winning author of Midnight Robber, explores slavery through the lives of three historical women touched by a goddess in this “electrifying bravura performance by one of our most important writers” (Junot Díaz).


The New Moon’s Arms (2007)

First it’s her mother’s missing gold brooch. Then, a blue and white dish she hasn’t seen in years. Followed by an entire grove of cashew trees.

When objects begin appearing out of nowhere, Calamity knows that the special gift she has not felt since childhood has returned-her ability to find lost things. Calamity, a woman as contrary as the tides around her Caribbean island home, is confronting two of life’s biggest dramas. First is the death of her father, who raised her alone until a pregnant Calamity rejected him when she was sixteen years old. The second drama: she’s starting menopause. Now when she has a hot flash and feels a tingling in her hands, she knows it’s a lost object calling to her.

Then she finds something unexpected: a four-year-old boy washes up on the shore, his dreadlocked hair matted with shells. Calamity decides to take the orphaned child into her care, which brings unexpected upheaval into her life and further strains her relationship with her adult daughter. Fostering this child will force her to confront all the memories of her own childhood-and the disappearance of her mother so many years before.


The Chaos (2012) (Young adult fiction)

Navigate between myth and chaos in this “journey filled with peril, self-discovery, and terrifying moments” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance—because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.

Sister Mine (2013)

Nalo Hopkinson–winner of the John W. Campbell Award, the Sunburst Award, and the World Fantasy award (among others), and lauded as one of our “most inventive and brilliant writers” (New York Post)–returns with a new work. With her singular voice and characteristic sharp insight, she explores the relationship between two sisters in this richly textured and deeply moving novel . . . Sister Mine We’d had to be cut free of our mother’s womb. She’d never have been able to push the two-headed sport that was me and Abby out the usual way. Abby and I were fused, you see. Conjoined twins. Abby’s head, torso, and left arm protruded from my chest. But here’s the real kicker; Abby had the magic, I didn’t. Far as the Family was concerned, Abby was one of them, though cursed, as I was, with the tragic flaw of mortality.

Now adults, Makeda and Abby still share their childhood home. The surgery to separate the two girls gave Abby a permanent limp, but left Makeda with what feels like an even worse deformity: no mojo. The daughters of a celestial demigod and a human woman, Makeda and Abby were raised by their magical father, the god of growing things–a highly unusual childhood that made them extremely close. Ever since Abby’s magical talent began to develop, though, in the form of an unearthly singing voice, the sisters have become increasingly distant.

Today, Makeda has decided it’s high time to move out and make her own life among the other nonmagical, claypicken humans–after all, she’s one of them. In Cheerful Rest, a run-down warehouse space, Makeda finds exactly what she’s been looking for: an opportunity to live apart from Abby and begin building her own independent life. There’s even a resident band, led by the charismatic (and attractive) building superintendent.

But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to discover her own talent–and reconcile with Abby–if she’s to have a hope of saving him . . .

Short Story Collections


Skin Folk (2001) (short stories)

The SFWA Grand Master’s award-winning collection “combines a richly textured multicultural background with incisive storytelling” (Library Journal).
 
In Skin Folk, with works ranging from science fiction to Caribbean folklore, passionate love to chilling horror, Nalo Hopkinson is at her award-winning best, spinning tales like “Precious,” in which the narrator spews valuable coins and gems from her mouth whenever she attempts to talk or sing. In “A Habit of Waste,” a self-conscious woman undergoes elective surgery to alter her appearance; days later she’s shocked to see her former body climbing onto a public bus. In “The Glass Bottle Trick,” the young protagonist ignores her intuition regarding her new husband’s superstitions—to horrifying consequences.
 
Hopkinson’s unique pacing and vibrant dialogue sets a steady beat for stories that illustrate why she received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Entertaining, challenging, and alluring, Skin Folk is not to be missed.


So Long Been Dreaming (2004, anthology)

So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy is an anthology of original new stories by leading African, Asian, South Asian and Aboriginal authors, as well as North American and British writers of color.

Stories of imagined futures abound in Western writing. Writer and editor Nalo Hopkinson notes that the science fiction/fantasy genre “speaks so much about the experience of being alienated but contains so little writing by alienated people themselves.” It’s an oversight that Hopkinson and Mehan aim to correct with this anthology.

The book depicts imagined futures from the perspectives of writers associated with what might loosely be termed the “third world.” It includes stories that are bold, imaginative, edgy; stories that are centered in the worlds of the “developing” nations; stories that dare to dream what we might develop into.

The wealth of postcolonial literature has included many who have written insightfully about their pasts and presents. With So Long Been Dreaming they creatively address their futures.


Report From Planet Midnight (2012) (short stories, interview and speech)

Infused with feminist, Afro-Caribbean views of the science fiction and fantasy genres, this collection of offbeat and highly original works takes aim at race and racism in literature. In “Report from Planet Midnight,” at the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts, an alien addresses the crowd, evaluating Earth’s “strange” customs, including the marginalization of works by nonwhite and female writers. “Message in a Bottle” shows Greg, an American Indian artist, befriending a strange four-year-old who seems wise beyond her years. While preparing an exhibition, he discovers that the young girl is a traveler from the future sent to recover art from the distant past—which apparently includes his own work. Concluding the book with series editor Terry Bisson’s Outspoken Interview, Nalo Hopkinson shares laughs, loves, and top-secret Caribbean spells.


Falling in Love With Hominids (2015) (short stories)

An alluring new collection from the author of the New York Times Notable Book, Midnight Robber

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the RingThe Salt RoadsSister Mine) is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as having “an imagination that most of us would kill for,” her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian, and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness.

In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall with unfulfilled ghosts, or herding chickens that occasionally breathe fire, Hopkinson continues to create bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.

Discussion

Have you ever read any of Nalo Hopkinson’s work? Which was your favourite? I have read and loved Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, and Skin Folk and look forward to reading more! Do you have a favourite folk-lore inspired SF&F writer? Share in the comments below!

Want more Black SF&F Writers?

Check out my “How Long ‘Til Black Future Month Series” for more articles featuring my favourite Black SF&F writers:

Black SF&F Writers You Need to Read NOW: Part One, N.K. Jemesin

Black SF&F Writers You Need to Read NOW: Part Two, Octavia E. Butler

Black SF&F Writers You Need to Read NOW: Part Three, Nalo Hopkinson

Black SF&F Writers You Need to Read NOW: Part Four, Nnedi Okorafor

Black SF&F Writers You Need to Read NOW: Part Five: Indie Edition

Creative Business 101: Optimization Hacks to Get Your Platforms Working Together – Part One: Social Media

Competition in the Creative Business world can be tough, so don’t make things harder by competing with yourself!

To run a successful business, most people will operate on multiple platforms in order to maximize exposure and attract a larger audience. This sounds great on paper, but without proper planning, all of these various platforms can end up competing against one another and causing your workload to grow exponentially with every platform you add!

In Creative Business 101 we have learned:

In the next three posts, we’re going to take all of this a step further. We have killed some self-doubt, identified our audience, and learned how to provide value to our audience with great creative content. Now, what do with do with it?

These optimization hack articles will tackle the following questions you might have about how to optimize your platforms to build a better creative business:

  • Where is the best place to put each type of content?
  • How do you get your platforms working together instead of competing for attention?
  • How do you use your platforms to draw in your “true fans” and build intimacy?

Are you ready?

We’re going to break this up into three sections:

  • Part One: Social Media
  • Part Two: Blogs
  • Part Three: Newsletters

If you don’t have all of these platform types up and running, don’t panic! This article will demonstrate the potential role each of these platforms plays in your ultimate goal to convert strangers into fans.

If all you have at the moment are your socials, that’s okay. That’s all we’re talking about today. I do want you to start thinking about how to grow your business, so be open to setting up a blog and newsletter in the future. I’ll be sharing why this particular trifecta of platforms is so powerful for creative business entrepreneurs.

Part One: Social Media

Social Media is one of the easiest ways to start interacting with your audience. Before you have a website, blog, or newsletter, chances are you’ve been hanging out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or something similar. Social media is probably the best place to meet your audience, and begin to develop a personal relationship with them. Let’s take a look at what makes social media so powerful.

Social medias are:

  • informal and friendly
  • fast paced
  • community oriented
  • quick to update
  • easy to share

I won’t discuss individual platforms here, as the benefits of each essentially come down to the above stated list. Your preferred social media accounts (whether it’s one or all of them) can all be used in the same way. You want to use social media to provide great creative content AND to actively seek out and engage with your audience.

How to Use Engagement to Boost Your Social Media Following

While a website, blog, or newsletter can be a bit of a one-sided affair with you as the talking head, social media is all about the back and forth conversation. Social media naturally forms itself into tight-knit communities of likeminded people, whether that’s through Groups on Facebook, or tags on Instagram and Twitter, it is very easy to find people who are interested in the same things as you are interested in. And it’s easy to find people who are interested in the things you make.

Because you know your audience, you can use social media to engage directly with the people you know will love your work. Check out the feeds of accounts that catch your eye. Comment on their posts. Ask questions. Introduce yourself, not with a sales pitch, but with a few details about you that might connect with their interests. Have genuine conversations.

When you are interested in other people, they naturally become interested in you. Use this fact to your advantage by forging connections and friendships with potential audience members.

How to Use Creative Content to Build Followers

When you engage with social media users, they are likely going to come check out your feeds too. This is where your content is either going to draw them in or turn them away. You might have had a great conversation on someone else’s post, but if they come to your feed and see a disjointed collection of personal photos and memes, they’re probably not going to click that follow button.

The Best Creative Content for Social Media

Social media moves fast. You want bite sized information that people can read and react to quickly. An interesting image, a quippy caption, an engaging question, these are the things that people are drawn to on social feeds. If you can hook someone’s interest in the first line of text, many will stick around to read a longer caption, too. Experiment with what types of posts get the best conversations going and stick with this.

Beware of “like” traps. Some content inspires a quick scroll by and like, but nothing more. “Likes” are the least valuable kind of social media interaction. They are little more than a social proof that other people are interested in your post.

What you want is dialogue.

How Do I Use Social Media to Create Dialogue With My Audience?

If all you post are pretty pictures, or other people’s quotes, you are unlikely to get much actual interaction on your posts. Visual artists know this phenomenon well. Beautiful feeds full of artwork might get a lot of likes, but people tend not to comment. It’s pretty, but it’s not personal. You can’t build a relationship with scroll-by-“likers.” There has to be a story that bridges a connection between you and your audience.

How do you tell a story?

Have a Theme.

Theme’s are a kind of story. On a very visual platforms, like Instagram, it’s important that your feed have a cohesive visual look. You can achieve this by sticking to one filter, or using a particular colour scheme. This helps followers identify your posts quickly when they are scrolling through their own feeds. On less visual platforms, you can still have a theme in that your post cohesive content and use a consistent voice. Your theme is a story about you. People should be able to scroll through your posts and have a strong sense of who you are.

Show Your Face.

You are the narrator of your story. You don’t want an entire feed full of selfies, but you do need to show your face often enough that someone checking out your feed for the first time has an immediate idea of who you are. Chose pictures that show off your personality, whether that is serious and contemplative, or whimsical, or completely off the wall. Break up these snapshots with other content, but make sure that there are at least one or two photos of yourself displaying to browsers at any given time. When people see your content, you want them to picture you with it. You are the most important part of your story.

Micro-Blog.

Micro-blogging is like the flash fiction of the blogging world. Mini stories about you. You can treat your socials as a kind of micro-blog. Try new ideas here, test out what gets traction and what doesn’t, and then use that information as material for expansion on your blog or newsletter.

Posting a link to your latest blog post is a great way to optimize your platforms, but if you don’t engage your audience’s interest with a caption, they’re going to scroll right past your link without reading the headline. Engagement is key to converting followers into fans.

Whether you are sharing your own original content or you are sharing inspirational content from someone else, NEVER let it sit there without a caption. Connect it to a personal experience, ask a question of your audience, grab their attention. Share your story!

The Ultimate Goal of Social Media Accounts for the Creative Business Owner

If you only have social media and no other platforms your goals are these:

  1. Engage with potential audience members in their feeds.
  2. Create a feed that inspires engagement from casual browsers.
  3. Have an easily recognizable “look” to your content, which highlights who you are as a creator.

Discussion

I hope this breakdown of how best to use your social media platforms has helped you to understand how to get the most out of these indispensable creative business tools.

Do you have any other questions about social media use as a creative entrepreneur? Which ideas would you like to see me expand on in the future? What is your favourite social media platform for your business? Let me know in the comments!

Next Steps: The Blog

Ultimately, you want all of your social media posts to direct your audience back to your blog or website. Blogging is an extremely effective tool at the hands of any creative business owner. Next week, we’re going to talk about websites, and specifically the inarguable power of the blog.

Why? Your website/blog is the next level of engagement with your followers. This is where you move past the “trigger finger” reactions and lightening fast comments of social media, and narrow your audience down to those who are more deeply engaged with your story.

These followers will browse your online store and linger over long-form articles because they are genuinely interested in you. Followers who make it to your website or blog are more invested in your work than those on social media.

You just leveled up.

Stay tuned for next week’s Creative Business 101: Optimization Hacks to Get Your Platforms Working Together–Part Two: The Blog

100 Ways to Die in Space – # 1 Going too Slowly

Good morning! Today I’m sharing a fun series from another writer friend of mine called “100 Ways to Die in Space.” These articles are great for readers and writers of the Sci-Fi genre and might just prove to be a jumping off point for a new story! Be sure to drop Simon a comment and let him know which way to die was your favourite. And make a suggestion for future posts!

Welcome to 100 Ways to Die in Space Hi there bloggies, welcome to a new and fun little feature – 100 ways to die in space. Taking inspiration from a …

100 Ways to Die in Space – # 1 Going too Slowly

Creative Business 101: The Best Way to Create Valuable Content and Build Your Audience

Creative Business 101: The Best Way to Create Valuable Content and Build Your Audience

Every creative entrepreneur wants a bigger, more engaged audience. We want more eyes on our content, more people sharing our stuff with their friends, and ultimately, more buyers for our work. But how to you go from knowing who your ideal audience is to actually building that audience for your platform?

It’s all about valuable content.

If you are new to this series, you can check out the other articles here:

The Best Way to Create Valuable Content and Build Your Audience

If you are reading this piece, you should already have answered the question “Who am I creating for?” and have a pretty good idea of who your target audience or ideal audience is. If not, make sure you read the last post for Tips on How to Identify Your Audience.

In this article we will discuss:

  • How to provide value to your target audience
  • How to take what you know about your ideal audience and apply that to ideas for creative content
  • How to target multi-genre or multi-interest audiences in a cohesive way

How To Provide Value to Your Audience

When you’re starting a creative business and brainstorming ideas for what to put in your newsletters, blogs, or social media posts, it can be very overwhelming. Many entrepreneurs put off building their platforms because of this. We know what we’re “supposed to” do. But when it comes to actually doing it, we draw a blank.

If you have been dragging your feet over taking those first steps to building your audience, I have a pretty good idea why.

You don’t have anything to say.

First of all, that’s a lie. But what if I told you that your content is not really about you, anyway. Your content is about the value you provide to your audience. In order to provide valuable content for your audience, you have to stop thinking about yourself and think about them.

Why are they interested in your work? What other interests might they have that connect to your work?

Valuable content can be entertaining, educational, inspirational, or motivational. You do not have to pull ideas out of thin air. You can do things that have been done before. Find inspiration in the articles and posts that you read and love, then figure out how to make that idea work for your audience.

Valuable content is all about your audience. It is something you curate with them in mind. You are the merely the glue that holds it interesting bits together.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
–Helen Keller

The Easiest Way to Create Content Catered to Your Audience

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel here. The internet has been around for a long time, and we have a pretty good idea of what kinds of articles we are drawn to when we have time to kill. And you don’t have to be some kind of super genius algorithm hacker to figure it out. Here are some easy ways to apply basic blogging techniques to your own creative content:

1. Lists

Have you ever read a Top Ten list? Lists are a great way to start producing creative content. You can make a list about anything that your audience might find interesting or entertaining. Anything, that is, that connects your audience to your work.

If you are a romance writer, you won’t probably want to post a list about the funniest ways to die. As entertaining as you might personally find this topic, it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. You want to drive the right kind of traffic to your platform.

Depending on the kind of romance you write, you could to a list of everything from romantic getaways and best valentine’s day gifts, to hilarious safe words and underrated sex toys. What would your audience like?

2. How-Tos

No matter who you are, there are some things that you are good at. Have you ever followed an online How-To type article? Did it work? Was it a terrible fail? Either way, you have material.

The How-To is a great way to bring your audience into your creative process, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many people in your audience will be amateurs themselves, and targeting burgeoning creatives is a great way to build one leg of your platform.

If you are an artist, for example you can do an How-To for basic skills in your craft. Or you can share something that you’ve tried that didn’t work out with a “How-Not-To” twist. Or go all in on a fail and share “How to Ruin a Painting in 5 Easy Steps.”

3. Inspiration/Motivation

This is one of the most popular type of blog post, and you can spin it a number of different ways.

If you have recently overcome a challenge, share a personal anecdote and a favourite quote to let your audience know that you are in fact human. Motivational stories, even about seemingly insignificant moments, can really strike a chord with people. I shared an experience with teaching my children how to skate, and what that taught me about writing, and my followers loved it! Sharing our failures is a great way to connect with your audience.

You can also share quotes, passages, and images that have inspired your creative work. A science fiction writer might showcase futuristic landscapes by artists which have inspired them. This draws the right kind of people to your feed. If they like the artwork that inspired your novel, this will make them curious about your novel. See how it works?

The Possibilities are Endless!

If you are interested in exploring this topic more, I’d be happy to brainstorm more ideas with you. Let me know in the comments!

“All knowledge is connected to all knowledge. The fun is in making the connections.”
–Arthur C. Aufderheide

How to Target Multi-Genre or Multi-Interest Audiences in a Cohesive Way

I said earlier that you are the glue that holds your content together. You might write in different genres or paint in different styles or record many different types of music, but in the centre of it all is you.

I know I said it’s not about you. Just listen.

The content is still not about you. It’s about your audience. But the way it all comes together and becomes cohesive? That’s all you, baby. You are the part of the equation that will keep your audience with you instead of one of those other platforms (or as well as, we can share!)

When you’re trying to find ways to tie multiple genres of work together, potentially with separate audiences, connection is the key. You need to think of ways that you can connect your interests/ideas to each other.

An author/blogger friend of mine expressed frustration with how to express three seemingly unconnected aspects of her identity in one platform. She’s a writer, a make-up artist, and a cat lover.

Any of these could be its own platform, but if she focuses on them each individually it all falls apart. She either has three separate platforms to grow, which would need separate accounts, and be completely overwhelming. Or she ends up with a random collection of make-up videos, writing updates, and cute kitty pics that looks more like a personal account than a business.

You may have many interests that inform your work, and as different as they are, you are the glue that holds them together. There is something about each of them that you connect with, and your connection is what will connect your audience.

Here were some of my suggestions to her:

  • Do a mood board for your current book (writing or reading) and do a post it with a make-up tutorial using the same colour scheme
  • Do a cosplay of your favourite literary character
  • Dress your cat as literary character (or attempt to dress your cat and take video of the calamity)
  • Share a picture of your cat along with a cat-themed passage from a favourite novel (there are so many books with cats in them!) or a quote from a writer about cats
  • Share a quote from a writer about beauty, identity, or strength, and share it with a look that makes you feel the same way

This technique works for multi-genre writers as well. How can you connect readers from one genre to readers from another and target them in the same post?

  • Share two of your favourite characters, from different genres, and compare and contrast their personalities
  • Compare one of your characters to a character from a different genre
  • Ask your followers a “Would you rather…” with a question from two different genres
  • Compare and contrast mood boards
  • Chose a theme and relate it to books from different genres

The ways to connect our work to our audience and our audience to us. Look for inspiration in the posts and articles that you like to read and brainstorm ways that you can do something similar in your own words.

Discussion

How are you feeling? Do you have a better idea of how knowing your audience helps you create valuable content and build your platform? What topics would you like to see next?

Upcoming articles will address:

  • How to Synchronize Your Platforms
  • How to Turn Your Platform into a Brand
  • How to Convert Followers into Customers
  • and more!

If there is anything else you want to know, please ask! Thank you for joining me in Creative Business 101. Happy creating!

10 Quotes About Humanity to Inspire the Science Fiction Writer

One of the things I love best about Science Fiction is the scale of thematic elements that we get to explore. This is true for creators and consumers of SF art. Of course, the best SF still tackles tangible “real life” conflicts. Some of the most common themes in literature are equally represented in Science Fiction:

  • Coming of Age
  • Courage and Perseverance
  • Love
  • Revenge
  • Good vs Evil
  • Redemption

However, the scale of these conflicts is often scaled up in Sci-Fi to encompass the world beyond human experience. What does it mean to fall in love with a machine? Is humanity ultimately good or evil? Will the planet seek revenge for the things we’ve done to it? Is there any way that humanity can redeem itself?

So I’ve collected some quotes about humanity that might inspire your next creative work. Enjoy!

#1 Educated Monsters

The more humans learn, it seems, the more monstrous we become. Tribal societies of the past were often brutal and difficult, but humans have survived by their capacity to form strong bonds and work together within our communities. It seems that the more we learn, the more we become distanced from one another. What is it about knowledge that twists our humanity? What does the future look like for our knowledge seeking species?

#2 Control Freaks

Humans love to feel in control: of themselves, of their environments, of their destinies. But the more we try to control, the more things seem to get away from us. This quote encompasses two great thematic questions from SF works. What happens when we lose control? and How do we continue in the face of our own destruction, when our enemy is our own hubris?

#3 The Human Race

People love to have an Other. The people who represent, to us, everything that we are not: human/animal, black/white, rich/poor, scientific/religious, liberal/conservative. We like to draw lines between ourselves and feel superior in our perceived “normalcy.” But what happens when the Other is bigger than we are? An alien species, perhaps. Or sentient beings of our own creation. What happens if we have to band together against a threat against our very humanity? Can people abolish the lines drawn in the sand between us in order to save our species? Or will we fragment and be defeated by imaginary divisions?

#4 We’re Fucked

Perhaps the ultimate hubris of humanity is thinking we have any say in what goes on here at all? The planet has been around for billions of years, seen the rise and fall of species far more long-lived than ours. We like to think we’re pretty important, “saving” the whales, “saving” the planet. Arguably, the best way for humans to save anything is to disappear. Blink! Like the tiny inconsequential specks of space dust we really are.

#5 The Comparison Trap

We still have a lot to learn about being human. As far as we know, there are no other species out there that are quite like us. The more we learn about other creatures, the more special we seem to become (in our own eyes, at least). The human brain is the most complex computing organ/machine there is, and even we don’t understand exactly how we work. But this won’t always be the case (hubris again!) will it? What happens when we create an intelligence beyond ourselves, and bigger than ourselves? What will we be taught about our perilous superiority then?

#5 Compassionate Intelligence

Okay, okay. It’s not all doom and gloom. We are the ones attempting to create an artificial intelligence, so we must have some say in how it turns out. Right? What if, from the very beginning, we teach this AI compassion and kindness? How might compassionate computers, robots, and eventually sentients change the world? Hopefully they don’t decide the most compassionate outcome for earth is to eliminate humanity… Better double check that coding.

#7 Human Together

Being human is kind of a team sport. As communal animals, the entire makeup of our brains becomes a bit off-kilter when we’re left to our own devices. This is why the dangers of distancing ourselves from others, and from our humanity, are such poignant themes in literature. Without a “you” who am “I?” What does pure isolation do to a person? Can I be human if I’m the only one left? Or am I just another animal, waiting to die upon an ancient and indifferent space rock?

#8 Human Computers

If AI is an extension of human intelligence, are sentient robots Humanity v.2.0? Will we cause our own extinction by forcing human evolution and effectively rendering the Mother Species redundant and obsolete? For centuries now, scientists have been accused of playing God. What happens when we really do create new life? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein offers up one suggestion, which has been explored repeatedly in SF media. But what if, like Victor Frankenstein, humans are the true monsters and our creations choose to slay us rather than worship us? Humanity is dead, long live Humanity.

#9 Idealist Humans

Like the idea of compassionate AI, it is nice to wonder about less bleak eventualities on the human timeline. Perhaps scientists have a breakthrough on empathy research, causing people around the globe to truly feel one another’s pain? Octavia E. Butler explores this idea in The Parable of the Sower and… well, lets just say it’s not easy to be a chemically induced empath. She does pose in important question, though. If everyone were forced to literally feel the pain of those around them, how would society change? What are some other ways that humanity might rise above its petty concerns with religion, race, and nationality? Maybe there is hope for us beyond the alien invasion scenario in #3.

#10 No Hard Feelings

Back track to #4 again, and we’re fucked. Unless humanity addresses it’s destructive tendencies, there isn’t really any way for the development of self-teaching AI to end other than in our own demise. Even we know we’re pretty bad for production in the big picture. Is there any way around being offed by our own robot babies? What redeeming feature does humanity have that no other creature can recreate? There’s an argument for creativity, I think. There’s an argument for mythology as a way to communicate with people (and possibly other species) that we don’t know. Will it be enough to save us? You tell me…

Discussion

What is your favourite book that discusses the potential and limitations of humanity in the future? Have you ever addressed these themes in your own work? Have any of these quotes inspired your next project? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out 10 Gardening Quotes to Inspire the Sci-Fi Writer as well!

Revenge of the Aughts

Revenge of the Aughts

This is an interesting perspective on the careers of Bestselling authors who fall victim to One-Hit-Wonder syndrome. I wonder if the pressure to recreate that first success, either from their publishers or in their own heads, contributes to creative stagnation. Independent authors have an advantage here, I think, in that we have the freedom to keep trying until we find our groove, collecting readers along the way. The steadily prolific writers are the ones I look up to more so than the chart toppers. What do you think?

Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again — Whatever

I’m sharing a wonderful rant today, from science fiction writer John Scalzi. This is a topic I’ve been mulling over a lot recently. In the past I have felt a bit guilty for not enjoying as many of the “canonical” works in my genre. Some have a kind of timeless entertainment value, but conceptually a lot of older Sci-Fi is immature and irrelevant my modern standards. The cultural depth and diversity of today’s Sci-Fi greats is far superior, in my opinion, so the dusty old classics. Anyway, read this rant and let me know how you feel about it. Personally, I’m feeling validated.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of […]

Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again — Whatever

Aristotle Gave Us More than Philosophy

Well, it’s day three of NaNoWriMo and I’m off to a flying start! I’ve got just enough time in the morning to get my words in before I have to start homeschooling with the kids.

I don’t have my usual time for blog posts this month. So, besides the Creative Business 101 posts I have scheduled for every Monday this month, I’ll also be sharing some useful posts from other blogs.

In honour of NaNoWriMo and the great art of story structure, I give you this wonderful post by Staci Troilo at Story Empire. Enjoy!

Story Empire

Comedy TragedyCiao, SEers. Have you ever heard the term polymath? I had to dig deep into my college days to remember the definition. (We won’t discuss how long ago that was.)

A polymath is a person with knowledge in a wide range of topics. Polymaths go far beyond the Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none level of understanding and experience. These are experts in multiple fields. We often think of the Renaissance when we think of polymaths, Leonardo DaVinci being among the most famous. But there have been several throughout history. And Aristotle was one of them.

We tend to think of him as a philosopher. But among his many fields of expertise were arts, sciences, economics, politics, and metaphysics.

As this is a writing site, we’re going to talk about Aristotle’s contributions to literature. Not his work itself, but his defining of the terms comedy and tragedy.

Aristotelian Comedy
In an Aristotelian comedy, the…

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Creative Business 101: Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

Do you ever think about all the things you have to do in order to “make a living” and feel overwhelmed? Does that overwhelm stop you from pursuing your dreams?

I know that fear well. My husband and I are small business owners–we own a trucking company and I am a freelance business writer–and I am in the process of turning my fiction writing into a full time job. I have learned a lot in the past ten years about what it takes to turn your passion into a career. I still have a lot to learn, but I’d like to share this journey with you and help ease some of the fears you may be feeling.

How to Define Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

What Does Success Mean to You?

There is something to be said for the safety and security of a regular job. Anyone who has considered starting their own business knows the hardest thing to do is to step away from a regular paycheck and into the vast financial unknown of self-employment.

If your passion is creative–if you are a writer, artist, musician, or actor–making that leap is even more difficult. Society tends to think of creative pursuits as hobbies, not careers. Most people can’t imagine anyone making a living in a creative field. Sure, there’s your Beyonces and your J.K. Rowlings, but statistically we know it is more likely that we’ll win the lottery than to become wildly rich and famous as an artist.

And becoming wildly rich and famous is the epitome of success, is it not?

Redefining Success

Many people hold full-time jobs and create as a hobby and are perfectly content. But for those of us who are driven to create more than anything else, whose work days are consumed by the desire to get back to our true passion, it is not enough to create as a hobby.

Yet becoming a creative professional doesn’t seem possible. When you consider a creative career or starting your own business, the biggest concern you are likely to have is this: How much money will I make? Can I make a living this way? Will I be able to survive?

The Starving Artist Myth

Society tells us that being creative is not “a real job.” The world, which consumes vast amounts of creative products every day, simultaneously tries to sell us the Starving Artist myth.

I’ve written about this myth and the other toxic mindsets that creative people and entrepreneurs face in my articles 5 Toxic Myths About Creativity and Imposter Syndrome: Why You Are Self-Sabotaging (and How to Stop!) I encourage you to check these articles out, and identify any self-defeating beliefs you might be holding on to.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The work of creative professionals is all around us, from the digital art on our favourite websites, to the songs we hear on the radio, to the books we read and the movies we watch and the clothes we buy. The list goes on. And the people who create all the products we buy and the media we consume are not working for free.

Creative Success

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

Creative Work Has Value!

Success to most people is defined by recognition and financial security. I have good news for you: It is absolutely possible to achieve success by this standard as a creative person!

But it does not happen right away. And almost none of us will succeed by the impossible standard–of wealth and fame–upheld by society.

So, what is the point of chasing a dream so unlikely to “succeed?”

Achieving success as a creative person requires a shift in perception. When you are taking your first steps toward a creative career, it is important to let go of traditional definitions of success. You must redefine your goals in terms of value.

Why Value?

It can feel entirely pointless to maintain a blog when your posts get fewer than 10 hits a day. How are you supposed to write a newsletter for an empty mailing list? Why should you sweat over the perfect shot and caption when your Instagram feed has more crickets than comments?

Because success starts with value.

It may take years before you are able to quite your day job and become a full-time creator. You may have to make changes to your spending habits and your material expectations in order to “make a living.” Financial success and public recognition will not happen overnight.

But your skills and experience have value NOW. In order to be financially successful, people need to be able to find you. Your audience is out there. There are billions of people in the world, and there are thousands of people who want exactly what you have to offer. That is a big enough pool of future customers to make any creative person a financial success. But they have to find you first.

Great Expectations

Measuring your success in financial terms when you are first starting out is a recipe for failure. I fell victim to the trap of my own expectations after I released The Timekeepers’ War. I had no idea how to market myself as an independent author. I just wanted to write. I wanted my books to sell themselves. I had slaved away on that project for years and I wanted to see some kind of return!

But I didn’t have a foundation in place. I released my book into the wild and let it run free…

And it disappeared.

Feelings of frustration and overwhelm quickly became resentment. It built up in me for years until I hated even thinking about my blog or drafting my next book.

I became frozen by my frustration.

But being frustrated was not my problem. The frustration was a symptom of a bigger problem. This is what really threw a wrench into my gears:

I was focusing on my own success (or perceived lack thereof) rather than on providing value to my audience.

I was putting the cart before the horse.

It’s tough to motivate yourself with “success” as your only measurable. For one thing, it means different things to different people, and even different things at different stages in your career. For another thing, success takes time! You aren’t going to write one blog post and skyrocket to the top of Google’s search results.

So what do you do in the meantime? Where do you start?

You start with value. What is your ideal audience interested in? How can you help them? Because you can provide value at any stage in your journey as a creative or an entrepreneur. You don’t work for the audience you have, you work for the audience you want to have in the future.

A man should have duties outside of himself; without them he is a mere balloon, inflated with thin egotism and drifting nowhere.” –Thomas Baily Aldrich

Who Are You Creating For?

I want you to stop thinking about yourself for a minute. Stop thinking about you want from your creative business and start thinking about your future customers. Who are they?

Who is your audience?

  • How old are they?
  • What kind of education do they have?
  • Are they married? Do they have children?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What are their beliefs and values?

How do you provide value to your audience?

You have skills and knowledge that are valuable. You have to share it with the world in order for your audience to find you. It’s as simple as that. And when you start out, being of value is not going to immediately translate into financial gain. Your success as a creative person will be defined by how well you connect with other people, and how much value you can provide for them.

What has value?

  • entertainment: tell funny stories or share fun facts on your blog, let people hear the outtakes from your last recording session, share a sketch that went wrong, take people behind the scenes and show them what it’s like to be you, make your audience laugh!
  • education: share your tips for how to be successful in your creative field of choice, share books and videos that have helped you or inspired you, review products you use
  • inspire: tell your story, talk about your challenges, talk about your successes, let yourself fail and share what you’ve learned

Strategies for Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

Success for the creative entrepreneur boils down to value. It sounds simple enough, but can be difficult in practice. I have some strategies for how to build success as a creative professional and I will be sharing them with you in the coming weeks. I plan to cover topics like:

  • How to identify you audience
  • How to provide value to your audience
  • How to optimize your website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts so that they are working together instead of competing with one another
  • How to convert your followers into customers
  • and more!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey and we can walk together on the path toward success, however you choose to define it.

Discussion

What has been your biggest struggle with getting your business (creative or otherwise) off the ground? What is holding you back? Please let me know in the comments if there is anything you’d like me to cover in this series. Thanks for reading!

Trick-or-Treat! I have some Halloween Giveaways for you…

Trick-or-Treat! I have some Halloween Giveaways for you…

Happy Halloween, my spooky friends! I hope you enjoyed my series on creepy cryptids from around the world. We visited Canada, Serbia, the British Isles, Korea, Persia, Scandinavia, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and South America on our global tour of weird tales. Check them out if you missed any, and don’t forget to share them if you want to creep our your friends today!

Of course you do.

HUGE NEWS!!!

If you are on my mailing list, be sure to check your inbox for my letter today. I just sent out the cover reveal for my upcoming new release, Ghostlights!

Awkward Elaine dancing and everything!

If you aren’t on my list… first of all, what the heck! You should probably go do that right now. Click here to sign up, and you’ll even get a free copy of my novella Polaris. Don’t worry. I’ll wait right here…

Okay, all set? If you missed the special VIP only cover reveal, that’s okay. Just stay tuned for the official reveal in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m just dropping in with some Halloween treats for you. More FREE BOOKS!!!!

No big deal.

First Up: Corrogatio VI: After Dark

Monolith has been putting out a free horror anthology every Halloween for the last six years. Click the pic to get your copy! It’s a really fun collection from a diverse group of writers from around the world. You will be creeped out, grossed out, and probably never sleep again! I have two short stories in this issue, too. But you might find your next favourite indie horror author here!

Next Up: The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales

Last chance for a FREE copy of The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales!

This is your last chance to grab a FREE copy of my own flash-fiction and short story collection The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales. This book will not be available on Amazon, but starting Nov. 1, 2020 it will be for sale at all other online book outlets. Click through to download! You will be asked to sign up for my mailing list, but you are already on my VIP list, aren’t you?

More FREE Books!

Here are a few e-book promos you might want to check out if you’re looking to stock up your e-reader for the winter months. There are so many great books to choose from!

Happy Halloween!

There you are, I gave you your treats. No tricks now! We aren’t going Trick-or-Treating this year, but we will be baking and decorating Halloween cookies and cupcakes and doing a treasure hunt!

I hope you have a spooktacular time today, where ever you are and what ever you are doing. Let me know your Halloween plans in the comments!