Let’s Talk About “Beyond the Lights”

Like so many of you (who have heard of Beyond the Lights), I was not sure if it would be worth the 2 hours and $13. However, it’s a love story starring a bi-racial artist and an African American aspiring politician that’s written/directed by the person behind the classic Love and Basketball. So of course I watched it.

For those of you who don’t know. It’s a movie about Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a pop-star who attempts to jump off a building, but is literally saved by Kaz (Nate Parker), a noble police officer who wants to save the world through public service. From there their love grows.

And I loved it. Oh, how I loved it. Do you understand that Beyond the Lights represents everything I want to accomplish as a storyteller?! Here’s why:

  • It’s character driven. The plot isn’t completely original, but the characters are well-written and well-acted in this case. As we get to know them throughout the movie, their actions and reactions make sense.
  • It’s a love story. I love love stories and I hadn’t seen a really good one in a while. This was a good one.
  • It’s a love story starring non-white people. I don’t like this concept of telling a story where the characters “just happen to be black” because I feel like that aspect of one’s identity shouldn’t be ignored, even if it’s not the point of the story. I think this movie does a good job being a love story first, but also acknowledging the unique backgrounds of the characters. For example, the main character Noni is biracial (not uncommon), but she actually has a white parent – Minnie Driver – who plays a major role in her life (surprisingly uncommon)! I mean it’s so obvious and easy to have a bi-racial person depicted with a white parent, but how often do mixed people actually see themselves represented in that way?
  • The music was awesome. It was sooo on point, and helped tell the story. That’s the thing about fiction, it has to make sense. You can’t just have any song playing in the background and at any moment, every detail has to help move the story along—and in this case it did.

I encourage you to check the movie out!!  Or at least the soundtrack! :)



Thoughts on the Amazon v. Traditional Publisher Fight

Hachette and Amazon settled their dispute. Hachette (which publishes authors such as Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling’s pseudonym), Malcolm Gladwell and James Patterson) is allowed to set its own e-book prices.

I’m not sure where I stand on this, namely because I don’t think I have complete understanding of the facts. However, from here it looks like Amazon wants to cut prices for books because it sells like 40% of all books sold, and its business model is cheap prices. Amazon’s dominance also gives it serious leverage as most publishers/authors can’t simply walk away from the site. Publishers such as Hachette don’t want to cut prices so that they have more money for themselves and authors. Amazon needs them because they carry some of the most influential authors of our time.

On the one hand, I get Amazon’s point. Commerce, including book-selling, is changing and it’s trying to force publishers to evolve. Many people seriously question if publishers are even necessary anymore, as authors can self-publish, take a higher percentage of rights, and therefore sell a bunch of books on Amazon while still keeping prices down. There is a real freedom to this model. It seems to get rid of a gatekeeper, and allow diverse, non-traditional, innovative stories to gain access to the market-  amazing books that never would have had a chance because agents/publishers were afraid to bet on them.

On the other hand, Amazon is a retailer that sells a billion things. Its heart is with the platform, not with the books. They made this clear when, as part of its negotiating tactics, it delayed shipping of books by Hachette authors, made them unavailable for preorder, altered search terms so they were difficult to find, etc. I wanted to be neutral and listen to both sides (because I think there are legitimate arguments on both), but that really rubbed me the wrong way as both a reader and a wannabe author. It also demonstrates the problem of eliminating publishers altogether (if that’s its end goal). Someone needs to be invested in more than just bottomline, but also the art and the artists. While I think publishers definitely are focused on the $$, I also think they do genuinely care about the books as well.

I don’t know, it seems like the two parties just kicked the can down the road, and this same dispute will emerge again in a few years. I’m interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

Stock Photos and Diversity


Busy week this week, but I came across the blog post below that seems consistent with some of the publishing issues that I’ve been trying to document on my blog. It also reminds me of my trip to the airport bookstore, and the embarassing display of books under “women’s fiction,” “ethnic” and “latino”…

Originally posted on Women Unplugged:

Two babies hugging, one black and one white.

This is the closest I could find to a multicultural couple on freeimages.com.

(Trigger warning for racism.)

One of the most fun (and sometimes frustrating) things about indie publishing is searching stock photo sites for book cover images. If all my characters were straight white people, this would be way more fun than frustration. There are thousands of images to choose from, for heat levels ranging from sweet to erotic.

But I also write gay and multicultural romance, and it’s like banging my head against a rock.

Clinch photos of gay men don’t exist. The men may be side by side, back to back, front to back, gazing at each other, holding hands, or kissing—but the traditional romance cover pose? No. Forget about it.

Also, it’s no secret that man chest and ripped abs sell romance novels. If you want a guy alone who’s got that going on, it’s no problem. But if…

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