Cover Inspiration

IMG_1620One thing is for sure: we never stop learning. As I slowly move along in the process of getting my second book out, I’ve taken a different approach on what I want to do. From where I stand, I’m seeing some pretty awesome things happening in terms of The Book of Isabel. Since I cannot release too much information, it’s both very exciting and also very frustrating.

10565748_10101762511444786_1156603653_nOne improvement I wanted to make from Hanging Upside Down was how I handled the cover. I remember having a vision of what I wanted and I had a very talented artist, Ooge, draw up some sketches. As amazing as they were, to implement any of these onto a book cover would’ve given my readers a false impression that this was a graphic novel. Which means, there could have been a real possibility that kids could’ve tried to buy the book and find no pictures in it. This does not rule out the possibility of me actually writing a graphic novel.

B0aqEJWCcAA0QypSo instead, I picked the final image and ran with it in terms of adverting. If you read the book then you will know that steering wheel concept plays well in the book on so many levels. However, this still left me with a problem of no cover design. So, with my small budget, I had to figure out if I really wanted to spend money on a graphic designer or if I should go bare bones cheap and do it myself. Since I publish all my books with createspace, the decision to DIY the cover was a no brainer. I figured that since I was spending so much energy on editing and re-writes, the cover was something that I just didn’t want to spend too much time on.

Book CoverAlas, I came up with something relatively clean and basic that I can say I’m happy with. It had the colors that I wanted and it sticks out. Once the back of the book had the proper information, I was pretty much good to go. The feedback on it was great. People liked it and that is all that mattered. However, this time around I knew that I need to do something different. I just had this feeling that if I really want The Book of Isabel to be taken seriously I needed to get a concept and design that is going to work for me.

I was 3/4 of the way down with the first draft when I started doing my research. I knew I wanted the book to look and feel a particular way. I also knew that if I was going to really DIY it again, I needed to up my game. I don’t have the Adobe Suite that includes Photoshop and InDesign so I have to find other way to crop and design pictures. I used a web based program called pixlr for my low level needs. In the effort to explore and play around, I wanted to see if I can make Marble image for the background of my book. I looked up how to do this on YouTube only to find out that I can’t do it on pixlr.

 Quick Design           Quick Design 1

Things get a little interesting when I just start using the drawing tool. A few lines here and there and I had an image. At first, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was almost sure I can never do it again. But lo and behold, I had something. A bunch of wavy lines formed into a woman. This image had been the only thing I worked on for weeks before I finished writing the first draft. I impressed myself by using different skin tones and actual hair color that I lifted from photos of my girlfriend.

Quick Design 2  Quick Design 3 Quick Design 4

What makes this satisfying for me is the fact that I used much of my creative juices to come up with something tangible that I ended up giving to a graphic designer as my inspiration for the cover. The reality of book design is that it is more than just an image and you know what? I’m a writer and I should leave designs to those who know what they are doing even if it will cost me some money.

The final image at the top was touched up by another brilliant young artist (and Syracuse University Alum), @misajc.

This is where I have to end this cover story. I feel blessed to know many talented people from my Alma Mater that continually help me with this process. The cover is 90% done. We’re on hold until the editing process is almost complete. There are some wording issues I have to solve for the back of book before we can continue. The cover looks nothing like this but it is closely related. Once I’m ready to put it out there it will be fabulous.

Unfortunately you will have to wait until 2016.

Dominican Drake Is Funny? I Have Questions.

Drake-shows-off-dance-moves-in-new-Hotline-Bling-music-videoLet’s put it out there. We all make Drake jokes. That’s what we do nowadays. We can call him soft or call him whatever, but the man continues to take all our money while doing dope shows and destroying Meek Mill. So it’s not too hard to believe that when he came out with a new video for Hotline Bling that the jokes would be plentiful.

I mean, I get it. There is some quirky stuff going on in this video where he seems to dance some sort of jig. The man is feeling himself and the song because it is fire. But then, in the infinite wisdom that is the internet, someone thought it was a good idea to add some Bachata to this. Why?

What I do know is that I didn’t find it funny. Yes, the mostly Puerto Rican dude is saying that he doesn’t find it funny. This actually makes me cringe because I start thinking about how we automatically want to get a laugh at the expense of others. Look, I’m not saying that I never laughed at the expense of anyone. We are all human and we just make bad choices but when I see these videos floating around, I get a bad feeling from them as if that line between laughing with and laughing at us has been crossed.

…and when I say us… I mean Latinos. So my question is why is it funny? Is it because it’s Drake and thus all jokes are allowed? It is because he deemed himself Champagne Papi? To be completely transparent I saw a Cosby Show overlay of this video and I died my question is, is that the same thing?

Then it makes me think about how the musical genre of Bachata and those who dance to it are viewed. I think it’s a beautiful form of music that you can really feel with your body. Despite what people think about the relative ease of the 4 step cadence, the dance between people (when done correctly) is a thing of beauty. So, to me, it’s crazy to see Drake’s jig overlapped on a Bachata track. I mean is this how Dominicans are viewed? Is this what you see?

Let me take it a step further. Dominicans are not the only people to dance to this music. Latinos, in general, to dance to this. Also, Bachata is not the only music I’ve heard added to Drake’s jig. Some videos are also using Merengue. So, again, what are we saying? Yes, I know it’s a joke right? Just like the Mexican Word of the Day (as fellow a SU Alum pointed out to me today on Facebook)? Which is my point. I cringe just as much when I someone wearing a sombrero in picture or an ad who is clearly not Mexican.

All I’m saying it’s time to really think about the images we see of ourselves floating around because this is Halloween season. Let’s make that very clear. Cultural misappropriation is going to be rampant. Is this really funny to us? Do we need to reevaluate our sense of humor?

Just know that as we are dying in laughter, GOP candidates like Donald Trump are dying to get rid of us. Latinos struggle with the reality of being visible when it come to deportation but invisible when it comes to our successes. Does a video like this help?

I don’t know, I just have a lot questions.

Mets/Dodgers Game 5 – How this effects my book… #LGM


This is an important moment right now. When I finished draft one of The Book of Isabel, I knew there was a chance that I would have to re-write certain parts of the story because much of it takes place and the end of 2015. Clearly, the protagonist is a Mets fan and there would be a certain emptiness in the story if the playoff run (no matter how it ends) is not included in some way.

Understand that I finished draft one in early August, just as this team was just heating up. I could’ve made the decision to just wait and see what happens and then write the rest of the story but that would’ve disrupted the flow I had going. So now, here I am writing this post because I have to keep myself busy.

As I write this, the Mets are down 2-1 and I have to remember to focus on everything I’m feeling. Angst, nervousness, and the general feeling of not wanting to watch this game. If they lose, there will be numerous break downs of “the slide” and the lack of offense from David Wright. I believe it’s important to show how passionate the protagonist in my book is about all this. It’s almost easy to express love and hate, but to really get into how a person lives and dies with a team is something most of us can relate to.

This post is also proof that writing is more that just a hobby for me. It’s the only thing that keeping from biting my nails and pacing around this apartment (hold on as I watch them look silly against Grienke).

I think there’s something to be said for instantaneous twitter reactions. Stats like these pop up and I hate to see them.

A fan of the opposing team has to push it out of his/her mind, but I think the biggest thing I’ve had to deal with is the delay between TV coverage and mobile/twitter updates. I have to mute apps and turn off social media in the middle of an inning so that nothing is spoiled. Is that weird? To have spoilers during a live game? This isn’t Scandal and yet I have to be aware of that.

Mets just tied the game in the 4th inning on a sacrifice fly after a stolen base (during a walk…what?). My heart is racing because the Mets have decided to fight and I love it. Still fired up. I killed a Heineken and that won’t be the last.

Every inning is a different feeling. It’s clear the Dodgers are pushing the issue. I’m really trying not to be stressed but deGrom has been living dangerously all game. I’m not the type of person to pray for a win because something tells me that universe doesn’t care about such things. There is a part of me that feels prayers are finite and we should never waste them on trivial things. I will always pray for someone’s health but a game? Not so sure. If this is meant to happen then it will happen.

Daniel Murphy hits a home run.

I tried my best to not wake up my cousin who was sleeping (its a little after 10:00pm). It was a muffled scream. I jumped up and down. My bad, she’ll be alight. This whole game is now different but it isn’t over. Nervousness turns to pure anxiety. Now it’s a matter of counting the outs left until this game is over and (not) praying to God they don’t blow it. Which leads me to think about how I would re-write all this in my book. I didn’t want to assume that the Mets would even be in the playoffs. So now, I have to take notes of all the big things that are happening so that the reader can actually believe that the character LIVED these games.

Both starting pitchers are now out of the game going into the bottom of the 7th inning. I now understand why they call it the stretch inning. Nine more outs until I can say that the post season continues, but for now… a much needed bio break after beer number two has been consumed.

Noah Syndegaard is in the game and he’s dealing (thank Thor). That was my last beer because I only had two. I won’t even get into the fact that since I’ve become a vegetarian, I’ve become a liability with liquor. I’ve often thought about describing the transition of diets in the book too but that might be a little too much.

How much of a problem is Justin Turner? This ex-Met and current Dodger is killing us. The Mets couldn’t keep him because they have an all star third baseman, duh. I don’t remember him being this good and it’s a problem. Syndegaard blows him away. #THOR

The announcers brought up the fact that Murphy is a double away from getting a cycle. No has ever hit a post season cycle…and neither will he.

I’m not happy that Cespedes looks bad in this game versus great pitching. That may be an issues against the Cubs. <— Look at me assuming we will win this game! We are still up 3-2 and Jeurys Familia (our closer) is coming into this game in the 8th inning to get the last six outs. Wow. This man cruised by that inning. This may happen people!

This may be the longest blog post I’ve written and it makes me think about all the sports writers who do this all the time. They write an article, tweet, and watch the game. That is incredibly difficult considering they are probably at the game and have to run to do interviews afterward.

Dodgers, of course, bring in their closer Jansen to hold serve. I kinda laugh that he walked Flores to get to Familia for the rare closer vs closer match up at the plate. No surprises that Jansen wins that match up.

Three. More. Outs.

In a fitting effing move, Chase Utley comes to bat and flys out. I wont get into it with him. Ellis goes down swinging. OMG! This might be it! Kendrick Strikes out!!!

Visibility & the Black Superhero at #NYCC

After all the lights have been powered down, the boxes packed and shipped, the curtains folded, the pipe and drapes put away, and the carpets have been rolled up, I thought it was a good time for me to reflect on my day at The New York City Comic Con.

In the beginning, I debated about going. I was only able to get a ticket for one day and after the debacle with the ticket fiasco, I was convinced that no one at the NYCC really cared about us and our need to share our love of comic books and nerdom in general. Perhaps it’s the New Yorker in me that sees that the real motivation behind everything is the all mighty dollar. The commercialization of childhoods gets played out on a grand scale at these events.

I almost didn’t go.

But something funny happened along the way to the NY Comic Con. I began to feel the pull of representation. Last year, I made it my business to visit comic book creators and artists of color because I know how hard it is to create something that you want people to see or read. I know how hard the hustle is to push a book that no one knows about onto the masses. So I met people from Vexed Comics and I met the creator of A Reason To Smile and I realized that this comic con may not be just solely about the big companies trying to get rich off of our imaginations. All this to say, I knew that I should give this year’s NYCC a shot.

That is when I heard about Afrofuturefest.

Let’s pause here for some context. There has been a growing number of Facebook groups, hashtags, podcasts, and twitter accounts that have been exploring the growing visibility of “blerds.” You can call it either black nerds or nerds of color but one thing that’s for sure, this is a movement. The thing about this movement is that its goes far beyond Miles Morales, Black Panther, and Cyborg. This movement is about characters we’ve never hear of like The Mantamaji, Luca, or T.A.S.K. (to name a few) because these are the stories created for us by us. Podcasts like Black Comics Chat and Facebook groups like CNOC (Comic Nerds of Color) always seem to remind me that the “Big 2” are simply pandering to us.

So if you follow twitter accounts like @BlackGirlNerds and @theblerdgurl you would know that this movement isn’t a new thing. However, there’s a feeling that all of this is just starting to explode. Just knowing that these ladies who (dedicate their time to promote everything black superhero and beyond) would be at NYCC made me realize that I had to show support. I knew that I had to visit the Women in Comics table, I knew I had to visit every table @theblerdgurl posted on Tumblr, and I knew I had to meet Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds).

Which brings me to Afrofuturefest.

I’ve already went on record saying that the best part of NYCC this past weekend was the Afrofuturefest booth. It was a very large set up of tables solely comprised of creators of color with a huge banner and feeling of welcomed arrival. To explain what this is all about is simply pulling their description from the website:

A group of African-American Artists, Gamers, Filmmakers, Animators and Writers will be coming together on the MAIN FLOOR of the Jacob Javitz Center to showcase their work, meet fans, conduct interviews and celebrate all of those who love fantasy, sci-fi, horror, superheroes and pop culture.

As a writer I felt at home chatting it up. I met people. I bought books. I got signatures. I became a fan of the con again and all because I saw myself. I finally saw what it’s like to actually be visible in a industry that panders to us.

The beautiful thing about this is that this is just the beginning.

By the way, I should get a press pass huh?

What Kinda Old School is This? #Mets


I get it. The Dodgers have not sniffed the World Series since 1988. In 2008 and 2009 they were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS and in 2013 & 2014 bounced from the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals.  I can talk about 1995, 1996, 2004. and 2006, which were all NL Division Series losses. Despite all of the failures, they have had really good teams and have been very fortunate to see years of playoff runs since 1988 (unlike the Mets). This year was set to be different. They have amassed the largest payroll in 2015 and wanted to set a tone for this year’s playoffs. That is why they signed Chase Utley.

They have two of the best pitchers in the game and yet they have so much difficulty getting these post season wins that is it so frustrating to their fan base and to ownership. Of course, Mets fans can understand this. 2006 was set to the year they came back into the lime light. They had the tools and they had the talent and yet we are still waiting for Carlos Beltran to swing at that pitch. Back to back collapses in 2007 & 2008 drained all hope that the Mets would ever be a contender again. Then the Wilpons get caught in the Bernie Madoff scam and money becomes so tight that the Mets have to spend years rebuilding through their farm system.

Two teams on two different paths meet up in the 2015 NL Divisions Series. It is a dream season for the New York Mets and it’s back to business for the Los Angeles Dodgers who are determined to get back to the World Series.

Chase Utley is a guy that you love or hate. I get this whole thing people say about him being hard nosed, hard working, and an old school type of player. That is the way he was brought up and that is the way the game should be played. Interesting. You know who else gets described like this? Cal Ripken Jr. comes to mind. I would also say Ken Griffey Jr. as well. I would even go so far as saying Derek Jeter. These three (just as an example, I can name more) were truly the last of a dying breed of baseball players that have always played the game right while maintaining that old school grittiness in a era of baseball filled with primadonnas. I would never put Chase Utley in the same breathe with them.

The slide was late. The slide was dirty. The slide is nothing new to Chase Utley. He has done this before. You can Google a video from a few weeks ago against the San Diego Padres or you can Google 2010 when (as a member of the Phillies) he took out Tejada in a similar fashion. Old school right? Are we talking Pete Rose via Bud Harrelson 1973 old school? Or are we talking Hal McRae via Willie Randolph 1977 old school? Are we also calling the Brett Lawrie slide into Alcides Escobar injuring his knee earlier this year a hard nosed play too? I think people need to take a real cold hard look at how they categorize players and their style of play.

I can easily say that Ruben Tejada is a hard working, hard nosed player that busted his ass to win his spot at short stop back from Wilmer Flores. That kid has had to live in the shadow of Jose Reyes and battled back to be a player that can take pitches when needed and give you some offense when least expected. He is one the best middle infielders in the system and never complained. He showed up everyday to play. Fractured Fibula.

I know, It’s just baseball right? There are other world issues more pressing so I commend you for staying with me this far but I laugh when I see people saying that Mets fans are being juvenile in their reaction or that perhaps Major League Baseball over reacted by suspending Utley for a play they deemed legal on the field. But let me just make this point, had this been Troy Tulowitzki, a superstar player, that makes millions instead of a guy is making just over the league minimum, I think there would be different reaction.

Don’t believe me? Ask every catcher after the Buster Posey injury.

But, hey, the tackle slide was legal right? Major League Baseball thought so (at the time). Yet, just about every middle infielder who has commented on this has said the slide was illegal. So by saying people are being juvenile about this is absurd. But hey, a win is win right? Enjoy Dodger fans, while it lasts.

Happy Book Birthday (to me).

HudI can go into this whole thing about what the book is about and how I spent hours upon hours of writing. I can tell stories about how I went through three drafts and had to re-write the ending. I can talk about isbns, self publishing, and the creation of the cover. The thing is, I just don’t want to. I feel that all these things are just to get people excited about a book that came out a year ago.

Instead, I will talk about what it means to be an author. I was having a discussion the other day with a friend a mine and she was telling me that she felt that blogging has become flooded. Everyone wants to blog and if that is the case, does that mean everyone is a writer? I’m not sure I can answer that. I don’t have an MFA. I don’t run writing workshops.

What I do know is that being a writer is something that has defined who I am. I’ve always done it. I’ve always written stories, I just never followed through. Hanging Upside Down is the first real literary work that I’ve followed through on. This does not include research papers, essays, old and new blogs, poems, or short stories that I’ve codified in a nice little folder. The act of following through for me is what changed my status from a writer to an author. It is that act of follow through that has gotten me to finish the second book. I never wanted to be an author of just ONE book.

I’ve enjoyed my rookie year as author. I’ve learned a lot about the industry, about how book sales and royalties work, and I’ve learned how to handle the various amounts of bullshit that comes across my way. I’ve come to respect those who have come before me and those who come out with books almost every year. I find myself enjoying other people’s work a lot more because I can see the little nuances in every chapter while questioning if I would have written some passages differently.

I’ve learned to soak in the successes and deal with the failures and to be honest, there enough on both sides to cancel things out. My measure of success is based on the goals I’ve set for myself. I have never, nor will I ever, base my success on money or fame. Consistency is the only way I can continue to make strides. If I’m constant in what I’m doing the rewards will be far more than I can imagine.

There are some rewards to this. I’ve never said no to anyone who needs advice about writing a book. I feel it is my duty as an author to help writers with their goals. I have a particular interest in writers of color so much so that I have really thought about doing some drastic things. The problem is that I have no time to do anything more than just be a guide.

Lastly, I feel that I need to address a perception that I think people have of authors from my limited point of view in this space. I think there is the perception that because I have a book out that I’m automatically a success in the field. I get the feeling that many people who have not read or bought the book think, I will get to it sometime, he is fine. I say this as a writer of color and not just some self published writer, you cannot simply bypass a product simply because you assume our work is doing well. At the same time, you cannot assume something is not good if we are not mainstream.

Being an author means I’ve joined a community of folks who followed through on their writing goals. I look forward to sharing this journey each step of the way. I still can’t believe it has been a year but pretty soon I will be saying, I can’t believe I wrote a second book.