I’m Not Required Reading, But I Will Be


I know that I’m doing a lot. Outside of having a regular job that I love, I am a writer who’s trying to make himself better. There’s tons of work that comes along with that. There are dues to pay and mistakes to make and then correct. I know that I’m not required reading right now, but I will be.

I’m reading more that ever. I’m meeting with a few writers to assess what I could be doing better. I’m meeting with other writers to help them understand this process. I’m writing short stories and adding final touches to my second novel. I listen to audio versions of classic books outside of the normal books I read and I’m reading graphic novels.

I consider this training because I know that I can better. I know the words I use and the stories I choose to write solidify who I am as an artist. I don’t have the fancy book deals. I don’t have the agent or the MFA sheepskin on my wall. What I do have in a sense of determination and willingness to keep going.

Often, I’ve thought about quitting. I measure my success higher than anyone can think. I can at least say I wrote one book. That is more that many people.

Often, I’ve thought about packing it up and fading into the background. Closing up all social media outlets and just becoming that dude that gets up everyday, goes to work, comes home, sleeps. Wash. Dry. Repeat.

Often, I’ve thought about how no one really gives a shit about what I write. Want to know what I do when those thoughts creep in? I write some more.

I know that I’m not required reading right now, but I will be.

I’m not very well known. I don’t have 10k in followers. I don’t campaign my work to the all knowing authority in books. I don’t even know if such a thing exists but that will not stop me from getting better and writing my ass off.

No. I don’t sleep. I write.

I go to work to take a break from writing. I eat better so I can write some more. I write because I require myself to. Perhaps I don’t do it everyday and when I don’t then read and prepare. I want to better at all of this. I want someone to pick one of my books and say, damn.

I know that I’m not required reading right now, but I will be.

Final Stages of Book Two

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This is the 3rd week of February and I feel like six months has passed since the new year. I guess that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been busy plugging along with edits and revisions to The Book of Isabel. I’ve finally reached the final stages where I can take a breath and hand it back over for proofing.

I feel as if I took this time to read more and soak up some general knowledge from writers and authors that I listen to podcasts or read on blogs. I also took time to really get into test reader feedback of my novel, which has been spectacular. I enjoy the fact that I’m really beginning to hit a groove with this whole writing thing.

Last night I finally added my acknowledgements and dedications. I almost felt myself getting emotional because I know who I’m dedicating the book to and why. Many people know that cancer changed the way I view life since it has impacted much of my family and friends. When I think about the people I lost and have almost lost, it almost brings a flood of emotions to me. I can almost feel the eye sweats.

While Hanging Upside Down is a very personal piece of work, The Book of Isabel represents the spirit of my youth that is very much tied to those people I’ve dedicated the book to. I hope that people who read the book will be able to understand the book’s underlying message.

I’ve also come to the realization that in finishing this novel, I’m adding to my journey towards being the author I want to be. I really don’t know if I’m going to be this best selling author. I don’t know if I will be more than just an author that people don’t know about. I certainly don’t know if I will more than the person that people will say “Yeah, I need to read his work” but then never really do.

What I do know is that none of that matters to me anymore. I don’t know if its because of the anti-establishment sentiment I’ve been feeling lately or if I simply have no more fucks to give. What I do know is that I love the anonymity of all this. I love that people are still surprised that I’ve written two books with a third one on the horizon.

I suppose that as I start completing the the final stages of the book, I’m also completing the final stages of me. Make no mistake, I’m writing for me. If I was writing for fame or the need to be in literary magazines then perhaps I would drive myself crazy. Maybe, one day, I will make it there and maybe I wont.

In either case, the final stages of who I am is almost complete.

Reading Out Loud

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Last night I decided to be more engaging with the world. I created a video about the ahem finer points of reading your work out loud. This was all based on a tweet that I made a few days ago about how reading your work like you’re performing an audio book helps with evaluating the flow of your story.

I’m all about the flow of a book or a story. I think it’s one of the most important things that makes a book interesting. If a book is easy to read, regardless of vocabulary, the reader enjoys it more and absorbs the message better. I’m a firm believer that anyone should be able to pick up a book and read it from cover to cover. That is why one of the questions I ask my test reader is, “Does the book flow?”

I will also admit (again) that I have gotten in audio books. I find myself imagining what it would be like to have someone read and perform Hanging Upside Down in this medium. I’m sure I can do, but there are some really great voice actor that can do it much better than I could. That, of course, makes me think about the general flow of my writing even more. That’s why tone and dialogue become so important.

I’ve gone through five audio books in about 6 weeks. While three of those are Star Wars books, the other two were Dracula by Bram Stoker and Kindred by Octavia Butler. Both of these classics got me really to love how words sound and thus lead me to read my current project, The Book of Isabel, out loud.

This explains the video I created last night. I will admit that I’m a bit goofy and it’s awkward to hear myself but fuck it. I need to start having fun with the work that I do. Enjoy the video and leave some feedback.

 

Behind the Cover

BOI Cover

My plan had been that I would wait 6 months before The Book of Isabel comes out to debut the cover. I didn’t have a date in mind but I knew that I had to stick the plan. So last week, when I was in Miami, I posted the cover on social media.

I explained in a previous post that I started out with my own vision of what I wanted and when I gave that vision over to a graphic designer, this is what came out. The point of this cover to produce something flashy. I wanted this cover to be very different from Hanging Upside Down and yet I wanted the two books to connect.

First, I want to thank Sam Wilson, a fellow Syracuse Alum, who worked with me on this. He is the graphic designer that deserves the credit for making this cover look so good. After the first book came out, we talked about a possible collaboration and when I had a vision of the book, he took it and made it tangible. I appreciate his patience with all the tweaks and edits that I’ve sent over to him. Sam is a true professional.

The book itself is about Luis (the protagonist from the first book) and his version of who Isabel is. So when the reader gets to know and understand her, it is through his lens which is why she’s bare on the cover. The words in the background are the same words from Hanging Upside Down that sparked her creation in the first place.

The cover was not initially meant to be sexy. I wanted to show the importance of words when thinking about Isabel or any other character in the book for that matter. I consider all my characters to be a blank slate or naked until words fill in the all the blanks.

The Book of Isabel is slated for release in June, you can get more info about the book on Goodreads.

I’ve Grown Tired of Nouns

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It’s December already. 2015 is just about over and just like year’s past, I find myself reflecting. While I’ll leave the entirety of reflection for another post, I can’t help but think about my life and how so much has changed this year while putting in perspective where I fit in this crazy world. All I can say is this is the year where I’ve grown tired of nouns (people, places, or things).

How crazy has this year been for me? Well, I won’t get into the whirlwind of being an author because there really isn’t that much to say that hasn’t already been said. I understand my place as a writer. I understand that people will always be surprised that I wrote a book without them being entirely interested in reading it. That’s just the way of the world and it wont stop me from doing what I love to do.

Instead, I will just focus on how I came to fully understand how people are. I’ve learned that friends are not always the friends you thought they were and that strangers can have a bigger impact on your life than people who’ve known you for almost all your life. While I’m not sure how this is possible at times, I do know that we never truly understand our impact on people until that moment it’s pointed out to us.

I’ve come to relearn an old lesson about assumptions. “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” No matter how smart someone is, assumptions will always be their downfall. Of course, I don’t exclude myself from any of this either. As we get older we lead ourselves to believe we’re becoming smarter and wiser; that we know more about humans when actuality we’re just getting better at assuming the worst of people. This type of thinking is what has gotten me into lots of arguments this year.

However, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all the fuckery of this year is that fact that perhaps I gave too many people space in my head. I gave too much thought to those who only wish negative things on other people. I’ve become familiar and quite comfortable with blocking people on social media. Whereas, in the past, I gave people room to voice a particular feeling that may’ve offend me. I now find myself being intolerant of such behaviors. For example, if you feel the need to tell me #BlackLivesMatter is bullshit and you have no real argument, then it’s time for you to get blocked. This usually goes for people who were once “friends” of mine. So I will not allow people to live rent free in my head or any where else for that matter. I consider that to be a way of letting go.

Which leads me to think about where I fit. I gotta say, I don’t really know. I’ve simply grown tired of nouns (people, places, or things). I’ve grown tired of people and their ignorance (i.e. lack of awareness to their privilege). I’ve grown tired of places that promote ignorance. I’ve grown tired of things that people swear they need when they really don’t. I feel like thinking this way puts me in a minority, which I’m quite OK with.

Not sure where this will put me in terms of next year, but what I do know is that I will be traveling more than I did this year, I do know that The Book of Isabel will come out, and I know that 2016 will provide me with new challenges.

Finally, I also know that no matter what happens, I will still be tired of nouns (people, places, or things).

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?

Stephen’s Ghost

Zine

This past weekend in Los Angeles, a Zine came out called “The Worlds Tallest Tales” by ITSWOLF. Within this sleek booklet is a 500 word story that I wrote specifically for this publication. A Big thank you to a former student, Renee Reizman for talking me into do this.

Without further ado…

It’s a hot Saturday afternoon and the block is unusually quiet. My cousin and I are spending another slow summer day wishing high school never starts up again. We’re sitting on the stoop enjoying the summer breeze while eating ham & cheese heroes, and drinking malta since there’s no AC in the house. My father thinks that living in a house without air conditioning builds character. I think he doesn’t want to give Con-Ed any more money than he has to, otherwise we’d be in my room playing yet another game of Contra on my Nintendo.

Our house sits on the corner of Gildersleeve, so our stoop overlooks much of this area. Our neighborhood is a nine block radius connected by Gildersleeve that starts from Pugsley Creek and ends at Harding Park.

We see my buddy Stephen and his two sisters walking down the block abnormally fast. I call out to him before he can pass my house. They look totally spooked, so I walk down the stairs to stop them.

“Hey man, you look bugged out,” I say as I look at them. The girls look like they want to cry. My cousin comes up behind me because he’s as curious as I am.

“Oh man, we just came from Kirk’s house. You won’t believe what happened,” Stephen says. His voice sounds a bit shaky. Kirk is one of the kids we hang out with, he lives right up the street on Gildersleeve.

“So what’s up with Kirk?”

“He invited us over so we can play with his Ouija board.”

“Well, why the hell would you do that?”

“I don’t know! He said we could talk to this friendly ghost in his house, so I felt compelled. I didn’t believe him at first, but then we started playing around and asking questions. Everything was cool until the lights flickered. Then the only word the board started spelling was, die!”

“Holy shit,” I say looking at my cousin.

“The friendly ghost took over and said he would get rid of the evil spirit tonight. He said when you hear a loud bang, you know the deed is done.”

“Get the fuck outta here. I don’t believe that,” I say.

I’m a little freaked out, but I know this isn’t real. We watch Stephen and the girls walk away. My cousin and I laugh, then go inside the house to play Contra.

Hours later we’re on the stoop again, eating ice cream cones from Mr. Softee when we hear a loud blast coming from the direction of Kirk’s house. My cousin looks at me, wide eyed.

“You don’t think…?” He asks.

We walk slowly down the stairs and then up the block when we see it, a raging inferno coming from Kirk’s house. I’m paralyzed with fear, not knowing what to do. It must’ve been an explosion!

I hear Stephen walk up behind us. He stares at the fire and smiles. He says, calmly in a deeper voice, “The deed is done.”

****

Too see other stories I’ve written, please check out my Goodreads page.

Sunset to Sunrise: We’re connected

IMG_0667I have a basic belief. This belief has come to shape me as a person, as a professional, and as a writer. I believe we are all connected. Despite our issues that revolve and evolve around social constructs such as race, gender, and sexuality, I believe we’re all connected at the basic levels of humanity. Perhaps we may not see it so profoundly but it’s there. History tells us that it’s there.

Maybe it was the close proximity to the water from the San Francisco Bay, or the sand from the beach looking out into the Pacific Ocean, or if it crisp air swirling around AT&T park, but I realized that I must travel more in order to become a better writer. The knowledge that instead of seeing the the sunrise from the Atlantic Ocean, I’m seeing it set from the Pacific just gave me the sense that we are not alone and they we experience and perceive the same things differently.

This sense of connectivity was brought home when I read The New Yorker Article about the Cascadia subduction zone. The richly dense article goes into horrifying detail about a earthquake that is likely to happen in the Pacific Northwest. The whole article goes into detail about how this will happen and how scientists were able to discover the history behind the subduction zone. It’s this history that makes this entire thing so very interesting.

The Cascadia fault line was discovered only 50 years ago, which was news to everyone there considering that no earthquakes were ever reported in that area. I wont go into specifics about the Ring of Fire, but I will say that massive research has been done to show that two plates (the Juan de Fuca oceanic plate and the North American tectonic plate) have been stuck together for far too long and it’s only a matter of time before it snaps like a rubber band. How is the connectivity? The history of how this was discovered.

image01It all starts with scientist trying to figure out what happened to the Ghost Forest in Washington. Here are a bunch of dead trees that look really creepy but how did they get they way? In short, they discovered a massive earthquake took place here before America was born. They figure roughly around 1700 this massive quake cause the land around the trees to drop thus killing all them at the same time, which is pretty spooky. But it gets even spookier when they figured out the this date coincides with something called the “orphan tsunami” in Japan.

The article beautifully explains that the Japanese have records of earthquakes and tsunamis for centuries. They understood the correlation between the two so when this random tsunami hit one year without an earthquake, it caused a bit of alarm. This orphan was one of a kind until scientists were able to connect where it came from:

At approximately nine o’ clock at night on January 26, 1700, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest, causing sudden land subsidence, drowning coastal forests, and, out in the ocean, lifting up a wave half the length of a continent. It took roughly fifteen minutes for the Eastern half of that wave to strike the Northwest coast. It took ten hours for the other half to cross the ocean. It reached Japan on January 27, 1700.

That’s some shit right? Well it gets stranger than that and before I get into how, I want to point out that we, as a society, seem to put so little faith into oral histories of other cultures. I think historians tend to be judgmental about people who don’t have a written account of their history. Welp, oral history has a place in this:

In 1964, Chief Louis Nookmis, of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, in British Columbia, told a story, passed down through seven generations, about the eradication of Vancouver Island’s Pachena Bay people. “I think it was at nighttime that the land shook,” Nookmis recalled. According to another tribal history, “They sank at once, were all drowned; not one survived.” A hundred years earlier, Billy Balch, a leader of the Makah tribe, recounted a similar story. Before his own time, he said, all the water had receded from Washington State’s Neah Bay, then suddenly poured back in, inundating the entire region. Those who survived later found canoes hanging from the trees. In a 2005 study, Ruth Ludwin, then a seismologist at the University of Washington, together with nine colleagues, collected and analyzed Native American reports of earthquakes and saltwater floods. Some of those reports contained enough information to estimate a date range for the events they described. On average, the midpoint of that range was 1701.

Damn son, are we not connected? Does this not tell a global history about a cataclysmic event that literally spans the world? Two different types of recorded history from two different civilizations help piece together a modern mystery of the Cascadia subduction zone. A horrible event that shows the destructive force of our planet while at the same times showing that what happens on one side of the world effects the other.

When I was sitting the beach last week out in California, all I could think about is why are we so cruel to other people when the world is so beautiful? I don’t have all the answers but I do know that search for the meaning of everything that happens maybe beyond our horizon.

I think we should all take time to enjoy the beauty of this world and realize that our sunset is someone’s sunrise and that is a blessing.

Fighting the Network of Distraction

2000px-SMPTE_Color_Bars.svgDistractions play a big part in my life. They keep me from doing the things that I need to do which is why I avoid them the best way I can. This is the only way I’m ever going to finish book two.

The other night I was asked how I stay focused. I will admit, It takes practice. The thing is, I know exactly what can distract me enough to take away my focus. My goal is to write everyday so I can get into that zone. My zone is when everything clicks and it gets to the point where the only thing I’m doing is typing and words appear on the screen almost as if my mind has direct access to the page. This is when I become in touch with myself.

What’s really difficult is the events happening around me. The news, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, family, and friends all play a role in this network of distractions. This doesn’t mean that I don’t welcome it but some distractions are worse than others. I can still continue to write in all those cases. I’ve been known to write with the television on or with company over but the quality of focus goes down.

However, they’re are times when having that television on or texting that friend does help in the process. Just because I haven’t written a blog about the 9 people murdered in a church in South Carolina doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it. Things like this just serve as a reminder to me why I must continue to do what I do. Talking to friends and fellow writers has also helped me remember certain themes in the book that I’m trying to maintain.

I really feel that I need to be writing always and I’ve trained myself to continue the process by giving myself soft and hard deadlines. My first book, Hanging Upside Down, gave me the awareness I need to write a novel but it many ways I had no clue what I was doing. Writing book two has given me the ability to train myself to write when I want to. What that means is that, when I was younger, I would write when the mood hit me but now I’m dictating that mood and making those sudden spurts of inspiration last over a longer amount of time.

The thing about distractions is that they can feed into any type of writer’s block I may have.The best way I’ve counteracted this is by reading, which is not a distraction but a part of being a writer. I wont get into any of the new Netflix shows or play video games until I’m satisfied with my process with this first draft.

My 2015 Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List 2005

If you ask any writer they will tell you that to be a good writer you must be a good reader. With that said, I’ve compiled a summer reading list for me to keep up with my craft. Some of these titles are new and some are old but they all will get read this summer. These are 12 books I plan on tackling.

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Ready Player One – Ernest Cline. This one comes highly recommended by someone I trust. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 


13568836Salsa Nocturna: Stories – Daniel José Older. This guy is pretty big on Twitter & has a collection of books that’s impressive. A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses and his own ghoulish bosses.


23395349Show and Prove – Sofia Quintero. I cannot wait for this book to come out. Sofia is a good friend so this one is an easy pick. The summer of 1983 was the summer hip-hop proved its staying power. The South Bronx is steeped in Reaganomics, war in the Middle East, and the twin epidemics of crack and AIDS, but Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega have more immediate concerns.


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Bodega Dreams – Ernesto Quiñonez. This one is a classic & I should have read this already. The word is out in Spanish Harlem: Willy Bodega is king.  Need college tuition for your daughter?  Start-up funds for your fruit stand?  Bodega can help.  He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty–and a steady income from the drugs he pushes.


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Contraband – Charlie Vázquez. I met this dude a few months ago & I quickly realized that I needed to read his work. This riveting work of Latino noir follows the paranoid underworld exile of Volfango Sanzo, a man so haunted by his secrets that he escapes to sprawling networks of underground tunnels and labyrinths in near-future America… 


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NW – Zadie Smith. I saw her speak at Barnard College and she read an excerpt, I was sold. Truth be told I tried to read this before but I wasn’t ready for the brilliance; I will be now. Set in northwest London, Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragicomic novel follows four locals—Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan—as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. 


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The Accidental Native – J.L. Torres. This is another book that comes highly recommended from someone I trust. I picked this one up a few weeks ago. When Rennie’s parents die, he does what they would have wanted and buries them in Puerto Rico, their homeland. There, he’s shocked to discover that the woman who raised him was not his biological mother. 


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Night at the Fiestas: Stories – Kirstin Valdez Quade. I actually got this book sent to me for free by the publisher. I’m just getting around to this now. With intensity, dark humor, and emotional precision, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s unforgettable stories plunge us into the fierce, troubled hearts of characters torn between their desires to escape the past and to plumb its depths.


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Gathering the Waters – Keisha-Gaye Anderson. My fellow Syracuse University Alum. I’ve know her a long time. I’ve seen her perform her work so adding her to this list was a no-brainer. Its the only poetry book on this but it is worth it. Gathering the Waters is a poetic outpouring of kinship, heritage, and a woman’s transformation within the world that envelops her. 


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Attack on Titan, Vol 1 – Hajime Isayama, Sheldon Drzka (Translator). I had to put at least ONE comic book on this list. The anime version is incredible. In this post-apocalytpic sci-fi story, humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming mankind.


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The Devil’s Nose – Ingrid Miller. I needed a book about Ecuador. At the end of the nineteenth century, thousands of Jamaicans journeyed to Ecuador to fulfill their dreams for their future. But, to secure this dream, they had to accomplish their goal, which was to build President Eloy Alfaro’s dream project – a railroad system that would connect Guayaquil and Quito.


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Reconstruction, Pieces of Life Volume 1 – Serena Wills. Last but no where near least another SU alum. A very good friend of mine that just needs to be on this list. This poetry book speaks to many levels of relationships. It reads like a story and will take you through a journey of someone being in love, marital bliss to a feeling of betrayal and broken heartedness.


It will be challenge to complete this list but I’m confident. I need to read more and I hope some of you join me in reading these books. If I’m lucky, I will do another 12 for the winter.