Bests of 2015. Dicey’s Year in Review.

Well, we’re at the end of another busy and exciting year. Just so happens I didn’t make President Barack Obama or 12030301_10207987293382989_4000045188758674967_oFirst Lady Michelle Obama’s Best Author of the Year list. None of my books made their Best Book of 2015 list either. Matter of fact, they don’t even know I’m alive…but it gives me something to work towards in 2016. #SilverLining It also makes me reflect back on my bests of 2015. What did I love most about this year? Get ready for my year in review.

Go here for the POTUS and FLOTUS’s Favorite Things of 2015 list. Keep reading for mine.

Favorite Movie. ALWAYS a tough one for me. If you know anything about me, you know I absolutely love movies. I would watch them all day and night, if I could. I will watch the same one back-to-back. I will watch one I hate all the way through just because there’s “something” to like about it. I watch comedy, horror, action, romance, indie, Blockbusters, old, new, black-n-white, subtitled, foreign… It doesn’t matter. So, as usual, I watched quite a few of them this year.

Some of my favorites were Mad Max: Fury Road (might as well add anything with Tom Hardy to my favorite list), Creed (gosh damn, Michael B. Jordan is fine, and he put his heart and soul into this), South Paw (whew…Jake Gyllenhaal did that…and you might be noticing a trend by now), Avengers: Age of Ultron (what do you think I liked about it? Everything), Inside Out (ha! I’m losing cool points now, but this movie is deep), Hotel Transylvania 2 (well, I loved the first one, and it’s about vampires and monsters, so duh), Goosebumps (say what you will–that movie was great!), Straight Outta Compton (’cause I need some street cred now), Magic Mike XXL (yeah, I said it! WHAT! I mean THIS happened), and The Road Within (a funny ass indie movie y’all need to freaking watch!).

This is faaarrrrrr from listing all of the movies I watched in 2015. These are the ones that left me feeling WOW!!! at the end. These are the ones that I would watch again and again. And this is just from my New Release list. Oh–and the year’s not over. By the end of December, I will have my butt in a theater seat for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Crap! I forgot about Run All Night. I saw it so early in the year when I was kind of crushing on Joel Kinnaman (from The Killing and Robocop) so… Wait. Selma was damn good too. I saw that sometime around January. Geez…how do I choose ONE favorite?

Which oMad Maxf these entertained me all the way through, left me feeling great afterwards, and I’ve watched it more than once already? I’ve seen Magic Mike, Mad Max, and The Road Within three times each. Has to be one of these.

You know what? I’m going to go with the first movie that popped into my head when I sat down to do this list. When I heard this movie was coming out, I got excited immediately–and that was in 2010. Not only was I a big fan of Mel Gibson’s version, but when I saw who was cast as Max in the 2015 version–SOLD. I waited and waited for 5 years, stealing glimpses of promotional posters and leaked vids here and there. Even with all the build-up and anticipation, it did not disappoint. It was an insane, high-octane, action-packed ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is my favorite movie of 2015.

Favorite Book. This one’s easier, because I didn’t read for entertainment this year as much as I have in previous years. Not sure what happened, but suddenly I found myself enjoying…*gasp*…NONfiction. So I read autobiographies and memoirs of successful people I respect and admire. I figured I could learn something from them, and I did.

12308921_10208283780754988_1409927075_nThe one I enjoyed the most was Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes, the writer/creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy other books. I just really connected with where she was in her life when she wrote it, and where I need to be mentally in order to be closer to where she is now. Does that make sense? I read it over my Thanksgiving break, and it was just what I needed when I needed it: motivational, inspirational, and food for my soul.

A noteable mention is The Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson (with Neil Strauss). If you read my books, you’ll probably guess that I’m a huge Marilyn Manson fan. We have more in common than you’d think. I’ve sort of been undercover with this obsession until recently. But I am enamored with the man, the artist, the performer, th11990577_990175531004724_4084347531625430331_ne writer, the actor, the philosopher, the musician, the singer…

Which brings me to…

Favorite Song. It’s off Marilyn Manson’s 2015 album, The Pale Emperor. It’s got the right amount of darkness, rhythm, passion, sexiness, and ambiguity. Deep Six, ladies and gentlemen, is my #1 of the year. I jammed to it like a mad woman while in the mosh pit at The End Times Tour concert in July. It was my first MM concert, my first mosh pit experience, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Going to The End Times Tour concert, in case it’s not obvious by now, was one of my favorite things in 2015. *Pictured above: Hubby and I after the concert.*

Other songs that I loved this year: The Weekend (Can’t Feel My Face, Earned It), Pentatonix (ALL of their songs, covers and originals), Demi Lovato (Confident, Cool For the Summer), Nick Jonas (Chains, Levels, Jealous), Selena Gomez (Good For You, Same Old Love), Joe Thomas singing Adele’s Hello… *deep breath* I could go on. I’d embarrass myself even more by throwing some Justin Bieber in there (Sorry and Where Are You Now are hot. What are you talkin’ ’bout?). My music tastes are all over the place. I vibe to what I like, and that’s that.

Just for the record, this is why I haven’t been writing daily on my blog within the past year. I’m just too long-winded. This was supposed to be a short 1-2-3 post and then I was supposed to go to bed. Instead, it’s 2:15 AM. I have to be up at 6:00 AM. And…I have to list about 500 tags from all the name-dropping I did in this very informative post.

I’ll have to schedule this post to go live in a few hours and do a Part II later. I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my bests of 2015.

Good night. 😉

 

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Where Are The Black Men In Your Book?

I’ve been delaying commentary on this question/criticism for a while, but it’s time I address it. Each time I’ve been asked why there are no black men in Sleepy Willow, the reader has first said he or she LOVED the book but…where are the black men. So, I’m not sure if this is really criticism or just an observation. A somewhat inaccurate one. Nevertheless, I’ll try to answer the question thoroughly.

First–Punch is a black man. Remember him? The HUGE black man in my story? He looks something like bodybuilder Ulisses Williams, Jr. in my head:

Nice, huh?

But, I get it. Punch is not the main love interest for my heroine. That’s really the issue, isn’t it? The romance is between Willow, a black female vampire and Remi, who is…not black. So ladies and gentleman, what we have here is an interracial relationship, right? Willow’s maistre vampire, Maximilian, is…not black. That’s another one. Willow’s boss, Franco, is…not black. Another one. Willow’s nemesis, Agent Monroe, isn’t either. I could keep going down the list, but by now, if you haven’t read it, you’re beginning to understand that this is not an African-American novel. It is a multi-cultural one.

I’m going out on a limb here and guessing those who asked about the absence of black men within the story are wondering why 1) the lead female doesn’t have a black love interest since she’s black, and/or 2) why there aren’t more black men because…I am a black woman author. As in, why would a black woman author not have more black men in her books, like Terry McMillan or Sista Souljah or Zane.

It’s simple, really: it’s already been done a million times or more and I strive hard to make my books unique. I’m leaving the AA fiction to the women listed above and delving into more risque’ material. More controversial stuff. I’m adding several layers of wild and daring, not just one. I’m going beyond an older woman, younger man scenario (McMillan) and drugs and abortion (Souljah) and threesomes (Zane), though I applaud these women for writing books I’ve enjoyed immensely.

Secondly, I did everything I could to make each part of my book a surprise. When you find out Willow’s black–surprise. And when you find out everyone else’s race, religion, love interest, supernatural gift–surprise.

Willow + Punch = predictable. Predictable–> Boring.

I worked hard to keep my book UNPREDICTABLE. (Side note: I’m overjoyed that most of the reviewers respected this and posted non-spoiler reviews. Thanks!)

The Narcoleptic Vampire Series is not the only one featuring an interracial relationship, but you’ll be hard pressed to find more than a handful of paranormal romance/dark urban fantasy stories with a black female lead (first hurdle) who has a non-black romantic interest (nearly nonexistent). And that, my friends, is one of the reasons I wrote it that way.

But that’s not all.

Truth is–in order to answer this question entirely, I’d have to reveal more secrets of my creative writing process. And you know how much I hate doing that. *Being sarcastic, of course.* But seriously, you’d need to know where my ideas come from and how I develop my characters to understand how each one is written the way he or she is.

In this old post, I discussed how Remi’s character was inspired by Nir Lavi. In this old post, I discussed how Joe Manganiello inspired my character Dario. I get inspiration from random input and I run with it. Lots of times, it comes from watching a movie, developing a very short-lived crush on a character or actor, and allowing my imagination to run rampant.

If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, you know Tom Hardy has recently inspired a character or two. For sure. But I have to write my thoughts out now before I lose interest. There will be another flavor of the week really soon. Which means I’ll be inspired to write about different characters with different story lines. I’ll have to chuck the deuce to Tom and welcome my new inspiration.

More so than that, I have a nondiscriminatory policy. I like and dislike men equally. White, black, yellow, green. Doesn’t matter, as long as something stands out about him.

Hey, I just had an idea for a good green character. Wait a minute. I think Laurell K. Hamilton did that in in her Merry Gentry Fae series.

Anyway…

I have to write about whatever I feel most drawn to at the moment. Whatever is churning around in my brain and won’t let me rest until I’ve written about it…him or her–that’s how it works.

I’ve had crushes on Shemar Moore (until I met him in Atlanta while he was filming Diary of a Mad Black Woman. He was gorgeous and nice. I just lost interest after seeing him as a mere mortal), Vin Diesel (not sure he’s black, but he keeps popping up on black men lists), Tyson Beckford (gloriously chocolate), Taye Diggs (wowsie!), Morris Chestnut (I mean, did you SEE him in The Best Man?), Blair Underwood (holy moly), and Will Smith (when he’s not being silly). Just to name a few. But I can no longer write about a character based on them since I don’t feel passionately drawn to them at the moment.

Now you know the method to my madness.

I have a black man at home. A good-looking, athletic one. He’s agreed to pose for an upcoming promotion for Sleepy Willow part 2, by the way…but damn. I’m rambling today. My point is–I have a black man at home so I probably won’t develop a crush on many. Why? You got it–because that’s not different. A Brit with tats, an accent, and THOSE lips…that’s another story altogether. Yeah, I’m talking about Tom again.

Funny thing–other than Idris Elba, Denzel Washington, and Will Smith, you don’t see a lot of black men featured in sexy roles on the big screen much at all. I may have to go on a hunt and find one to base a character on, after all. Any suggestions?

I may have just wasted my time and yours trying to explain this because what you could have been asking was: “Dicey, I just love your book so much and love the characters and I’d like to see more men like Punch in your books because he’s totally hot and I love reading about black men and since you wrote one awesome black male character, I was hoping you’d write more.”

Okay. I’ll do my best. Let’s see how the mood/inspiration strikes me. 🙂

Good And Bad Feedback Welcomed.

I have a confession: Some days are harder than others when it comes to expressing myself creatively. Sometimes the ideas flow smoothly like a river after several days of rain. Other days, there are things in my brain that get in the way. I’ve noticed a major influence on my state of mind is the feedback I receive from readers. When someone is overjoyed about my books, I’m on cloud 9, so I write like I have a direct link to the heavens. It’s hell’s fire on the brain when the feedback is harsh.

But I’ve been lucky, thus far. Most has been positive. In fact, all the reviews on Amazon have made me smile. Big. I’m not dumb enough to think it’s going to remain that way though. Last week, I made the Kindle edition of both of my books FREE for forty-eight hours. With over two thousand downloads, I was excited to gain the exposure. Excited to know there was that much interest. Excited, knowing more reviews would pour in. Eventually. Hopefully. There will be some good, some bad, and everything in between. I just know it.

So I’m putting on my mental body armor. Shielding myself from comments that will keep me up at night pacing the floor, doubting myself. The sort of comments that will make finishing this sequel difficult because in the back of my mind I’d be thinking about what others think.

My strategy? In addition to focusing on 1) comments from readers who enjoy my work and their encouragement to keep going, 2) my maniacal drive to be the best I can be at ANYTHING, and 3) my betas wrapping me tightly with positivism and good vibes, I’ve been 4) stalking following those that I deem successful in their crafts. Following them to see how they deal with everything people have to say about their creations. Following authors, business people, actors, talk show hosts, musicians, models, athletes–everyone–to see how they respond to positive  feedback and how they handle criticism. Folks like Oprah and Beyonce’, who get criticized left and right, but still manage to be at the top of any list they are featured on.

I’ve mentioned on my blog before how much I enjoy Larissa Ione‘s books. And as much as I consider them FIVE STAR readings, there have been many others who think the Demonica series and the Lords of Deliverance (Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) series are trash. WTF! You mean, two people can read the same book and walk away from it with polarizing views? Amazing, isn’t it? That’s the very reason I asked her this via email:

Dicey: “Two people can read the same book with one loving it and the other hating it. Having readers love your books is awesome, but how do you deal with criticism?”

And she was kind enough to respond back with this:

Larissa: “Okay, how do I deal with criticism? Well, honestly, it depends on the criticism. Some of it I can laugh off. I recently got a review on Amazon to the effect of “There were so many curse words that I wonder if the author can write a book without them.” Heh. And he can stop wondering because the answer is “Why the hell would I do that?” 🙂 In all seriousness, criticism can hurt, but I’ve learned to avoid reviews when I can. Sometimes they find you, but I don’t go intentionally looking for them. Also, the skin does thicken over time. Reviews that KILLED me when I first was published now are barely shrug-worthy. It’s a process!”

Dicey: I am seriously fan-girling over this. Thanks!

You know what I take away from this? 1) Laugh it off sometimes. Whenever you can, really. 2) If it’s a matter of taste, they can get another book. Writers don’t change  contents for readers. 3) Criticism may hurt, so avoid reading reviews if you can. 4) I’m still new to the game, but it’ll get easier over time.

LOVE IT! No, I don’t get paid for this endorsement. I just really love her books. And I like that she’s accessible to fans. She also said she was going to read mine, which tickles me senseless. She could have just been saying it to be nice, but whatever. I’ll take it.

Okay. I said I was watching LOTS of accomplished folks, right? Well, Tom Hardy is my crush/muse of the week. Really going on two weeks now. I LOVE him! He’s so crazy. Has a totally unbridled tongue. Doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He says what he wants, and whatever happens, happens. That’s my kinda guy. I lifted this from an interview he did with Novid Parsi, Time Out Chicago on February 15, 2012:

Novid: You’ve been a straight talker in interviews, saying you want adulation as an actor, you’ve sexually experimented with guys—not typical things to hear from a rising film star. Is it getting trickier to remain that publicly frank?

Tom: I have to be more careful about how outspoken I am, which is a shame ’cause things get taken out of context. And at the end of the day, 30 percent of the people are gonna hate you, 30 percent are gonna like you, and another 30 percent of people just don’t give a shit, so you’re really only talking to one in three.

Dicey: Oh, God. How can I meet Tom? We’ll make it a double date. Bring Charlotte. I’ll bring the hubby…

But seriously, he made a good point. One that’s been mentioned time and time again, without his sexy British accent: you can’t please everybody. *turning the finger back to myself* Dicey, you can’t please everyone. Don’t try. Just be grateful for the ones who get you.

That being said, I welcome ALL feedback on my books. If you love ’em, tell the world. If you don’t, tell the world. Make sure you tell them why though. Too much profanity? Too much sex? Too many controversial issues (ie. abortion, rape, interracial relationships, abuse, gore, homosexuality, deviant sex…)? Believe it or not–somebody’s going to think that’s a plus. Oh, yeah. 🙂

As of today, there are fifteen 5-star and six 4-star reviews for Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book 1 on Amazon. There are three 5-star and one 4-star review for Shameful.

This calls for celebration! Cheers!