Why Do I Always Expect the Worst?

2012-05-17_003Old habits die-hard. This is something that I have always done since my High School days, hope for the best but expect the worst. I have carried that mantra with me for decades because for the most part it has helped me deal with heart aches and breaks. While I try to view the world less cynically as I get older, I fall back to this.

Last month I mentioned that I have a publicist that is helping me get test readers. Well, that process is done and we are waiting for the feedback. Questions have been developed so that I can get a general feel about how the book was received. I had already gotten one bad review about the story’s content so I try not to take things too personal. Besides, this person liked the way I write but not the content so it wasn’t a total loss. That is also when I realized that the book is not for everyone considering that I have gotten mostly positive reviews.

So when I got my first email the other day with answered questions from a test reader, I was already thinking the worst. I can already imagine someone saying how much this novel sucks. I can imagine in getting one out of five stars on my Goodreads page. With much fear I open it and realize that it is another positive review. Then I feel silly for not having the confidence in my ability.

So why do I do this to myself? One would think that since I’m older and more mature I should be ready to handle things like this. Yet, for some reason I cringe when I think about someone rating my book. That is why I’m spending the extra time to comb through the book several times searching for errors and inconsistencies.

Where is this fear coming from? I know that it’s not real but in my mind I’m still that little kid that thinks something is living in my closet ready to pounce as soon as my parents turn off the hallway light. I know it’s not real. My mind is making all of this up. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real (yes, I looked that up).

Truth be told I think that the fear comes from the possibility being judged by the intellectuals that I know that could rip the book apart. The fear comes the family reading and thinking that I’m a bit of a nut or freak. So when it comes down to it, I am ready to be a pariah of sorts which is completely stupid and irrational. But I will be prepared for the worst while I hope for the best because past experience has taught me how to survive.

I know that my fear is very much like my book, it is fiction. However, like the fiction I write, there is some truth somewhere in the background.

The Point of No Return

110-1964x15382I can’t go back. I’ve pushed myself and this process to a point of no return. Despite any fear of failure that I have, I’m past the point of resignation and it’s too overwhelming to think about.

Every day is a combined feeling of angst and fear. The angst comes the fact that much of this process is a waiting game. I just want this whole thing to be over already. I want to be able to just talk about the book itself and not the process of publishing one. As an admitted over thinker, waiting just gives me room to analyze shit that hasn’t even happened yet. I can think for hours about the number of books I need to sell at a certain price to recuperate my expenses. I can painstakingly think about people rating my book publicly which means I need to prepare for the worst.

Then the fear sets in. The thoughts of not being good enough run through my skull because who in the world would like what I just wrote? I’m sure there are people out there that will hate all 412 pages of this book. The language and the adult situations I present in the book give me a little bit of a pause and I don’t even know why. Did I become a prude at this point in my life or am I afraid that people will see a side of me they never knew existed?

The point is that this book has become very personal to me. I’ve put in a lot of hours crafting a story that I think is worth telling. There is a lot of depth behind the words that I write and my fear is that any of the points that I’m making will get lost in the shuffle of the raunchiness and language that I use.

I’ve read this book six times now. Each time I think about whether I should change something here or there because I’m afraid some family member may not like a word here or an action there. I’ve successfully fought off every temptation to change the book based on how other people may feel. I thank God for those test readers. They survived the book and have given me some hope that this book might just be decent.

But this waiting game is real. I want the book and it’s appearance to be a particular way. I do not want a generic cover. I want something that reflects me and my work. Unfortunately that desire will cost me time and money.

So this is where I am. A point of no return. I can’t go back and say that this book is not going to happen. Shit, I can’t even say that I can go back to being the person I was before I even started writing it. I’m in the middle of my leap of faith. I hope I land on the other side.

Sigh… Self Promotion Though?

BookI need to put all my chips on the table. I feel very weird about self promotion. It takes a certain type of person to be able to promote themselves without fear. We all have seen people who promote themselves, or their work, or some sort of fundraising. It makes me think way too much about how that person must really have the drive to put themselves out there. Yes, this is a consumer based society but perhaps I’m too cynical and believe that many people don’t care about what other people are selling.

Granted, this is my view of the world. I think it is awesome that someone can do a kick starter and ask for money on a project. I would be so afraid to do that! There is an underlying thought in my head that tells me that many people are not willing to help you unless you are already established. I know I try my best to give money to people in support of their dreams but sometimes that is hard to.

But there lies the problem with me, I think too much about it. If I post a link on Facebook, Google +, and/or Twitter a hundred times I would automatically think that I have flooded my environment. I personally believe people can be very annoyed with constant reminders about buying something. Of course we live in a world where everyone is trying to sell us something and this isn’t a bad thing because people need to hustle and survive. But can you imagine me selling books from the trunk of my car?

Actually, I can imagine that. The one problem with self publishing is that I become my own distributor. While I have full control of my product, it can be a little nerve-wracking and that is why confidence is definitely the key. I smile when I think about the song “Get Down” by Nas where he talks about southern hip hop artists sold music out the trunk of they car, that shit amaze meTo me, it’s all about the confidence that I don’t always have. I have to think about what approach might be better for me. Do I blast everyone on social media or do I enable Facebook ads to get a wider reach?

Word of mouth is a powerful thing and I think that I’ve been relying on that too much as well. Think about the fact that my family, for the most part, is just finding out that I wrote a book. For some reason, I try to keep things like this close to the chest because bragging is not something that I do.

Maybe that is it. It’s completely possible that I may view self promotion as bragging. One of the biggest problem I have with performance reviews at work is having to do a self assessment. According my supervisors in the past and present is that I never give myself enough credit. This form is sorta designed for me to brag about accomplishments which is clearly hard for me to do. While, I have gotten better at the form it’s still a work in progress. I just need to have the same confidence when it come to self promotion.

I need to not care and just try to fit in… “oh by the way, I have a book coming out in the fall” in just about every conversation I have outside of work. Although, there is still a part of me that should be just satisfied that I wrote a book and if people read it that’s great if they don’t, well that’s fine too. I dunno. I think you call all expect a little bit of everything from me.

 

Anthony Otero is writer/blogger from New York City with a BA in English from Syracuse University. His first novel, Hanging Upside Down, is slated for release on October 1st. (See what I did there?)

Titles are Everything

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 2.43.59 PM

I’m at a point in my life where titles are important. In my mind, there is a difference between being called a blogger and being called an author. There is a certain amount of literary prestige that comes with the latter title. That might because writing books is one of the oldest professions in the history of man and it continues to be something special.

I’ve been fending off the notion that I’m an author until the novel comes out because I never wanted to be considered something that I haven’t earned yet. However, with each hurdle that have past in the process of self publishing, I realize that the title author is something that I’ve already achieved. I gained this title the moment I registered the finished novel with the an ISBN. This golden number can now open the doors of self publishing. It has allowed me to upload the manuscript on createspace and work on the interior of the book.

This means that I’m no longer concerned with wording as much as I may be concerned about the size of the font. I already know the paperback size which is just a part of the larger realization that all of this is actually happening. I have doubted myself for months thinking about how much I have talked about this novel with very little results to show because I couldn’t give anyone a specific date that the book was coming out. Sure, I did have hope that this book would’ve been out by now but the process has taken much longer than I’ve anticipated.

WIthout a cover, it’s hard to predict a date but that did not stop me from applying to the Goodreads Author program. This is a site that I joined a few years ago as an avid reader. When the book club I was in existed, the books were tracked by Goodreads. I have a record of just about every book I have read and that helps me realize the range of books I’ve digested. At some point last year, I realized that some of my fellow bloggers are in the author program and I promised myself that when I get the chance, I will be a part of this.

The reason why I wanted this so bad is because the program would allow me to combine all my writing projects. I would be able to add my blog and have the novel displayed all on the same page. There may be in option for any future articles from the Huffington Post. More importantly, it gives me place where I can finally say, officially, that I have a book coming out with a projected date of October 1st (this could change to an earlier date).

It’s hard to explain how much doing this means to me. We’re not just talking a page that highlights the book. We are talking about me being in the same author program with folks like Junot Diaz and Toni Morrison (who are LEGENDS). This has also forced me to come up with a synopsis of the book which I really didn’t have before. So when I forget how to answer that question of…”what’s the book about?” I can look up what I wrote. lol

For the first time I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not going to say that I’ve arrived but I will say that I’m in the general area. Thanks again for all the support.

Getting it Together

20140625-142704-52024098.jpgBeing an adult is hard. I’m thinking about this as someone types the exact same thing to me. It’s a general feeling that I’ve had for the past week. This probably has everything to do with the fact that I am now 40. I have all these preconceived notions of what 40 should be and I can say for sure that I am not there.

I have been evaluating my life to figure out exactly where I am. As a person who has lied to himself on several occasions during my 30′s, self evaluation has become critical to my ever growing development as a person and as a man. It’s not easy to really admit one’s faults but I’ve come to realize that is a young person’s game. At my current age I should have my shit together and its sad to say that I don’t.

I guess you can say that I’ve been “Faking the Funk” when it come to certain portions of my life. I think life can be divided into sections like work, love, family, and financial (to name a few). For the most part, the majority of my life is good and I can’t complain about much. I’m so fortunate to have people that care about me. I’m grateful for my friends, family, and a wonderful job. Yet the financial part of my life is in shambles.

This has nothing to do with whether or not I get paid enough. This has everything to do with a problem I have of ignoring my issues. I can’t even explain why I do it. I will only guess that there is a fear of numbers. I feel like I owe money to the world and it can be a little intimidating. Which is why, at 40, I’m starting to feel that I need to get my shit together. I need to stop pretending that these bills will magically go away because they wont. In short, I need to start acting like a grown up.

blogMaybe I had a little bit of Peter Pan syndrome where I would just fly around shit and just enjoy the things I wanted to do while ignoring the fact that the real world exists. I cannot do that anymore and for many men, that is the crux of the problem. We ignore shit thinking that perhaps things will go away. For many guys, it’s a doctor they avoid and for me it’s my finances (dentists are a close second…smh – don’t worry I have an appointment tomorrow). But, I realize I cannot do this anymore. Forty year olds are supposed to have all this figured out right?

Even if they don’t, I need to get my shit together. I sat down last week in a panic mode trying to figure out how to improve this part of my life because I know I can get out of this mess I created for myself. In order to do this, I need to improve all aspects of my life as well. I created some reminders that go off everyday on my phone such as, creating and checking my daily to-do lists, create an additional budget plan for debt management, going to bed early, and being on time. These are just small things that will lead to larger goal management since, clearly, what I was doing before was not working so I have to try new things. It is very easy for me to NOT do something and it gets easier to be complacent as I get older. So it is all about being intentional to do things outside of my comfort zone.

The sad part about this is that I know that I’m not the easiest person to deal with. I can be defensive and dismissive when people who care try to tell me about my bullshit, but in the end they are absolutely correct. I do need to get my shit together and it has to happen now. I have to start thinking about life as an older man and that requires the type of planning I wasn’t willing to do when I was in my thirties.

Countdown

chris-jericho-intro-oHow long has it been since I started this? I think I started on this novel in March of last year. I finished the first draft last September and the second draft in December. Major editing begin in January of this year and before we knew it, the third draft was completed by May. Along the way, there were test readers who helped critique the book. Now, I have a final manuscript that I still tweak here and there. But the real countdown has begun the moment I purchased a set of ISBNs on my birthday.

I considered it a birthday gift to myself because the time for lingering is over. I have worked very hard on all of this and I have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to get all of this done before the end of the summer. I wrote about the need for me to get ISBNs back in 2011. I knew three years ago that I need to get these and I put it off for various reasons. They are not cheap and technically, I’m buying something that I cannot touch as of yet. Since my financial situation was different three years ago, I put it off.

ISBNs and ThingsOf course, it should not be a surprise that the price went up. What was once a $250 investment for 10 ISBNs became $295. Maybe not that much of a difference but it’s still $45 dollars I could’ve saved had I not put it off for so long. But you know what? I just ran with it. So what makes me ultimately laugh is the fact that I think I’m done. I figure that I would have this crucial final piece so when the cover is done I’m all set. Right? No, I still have to buy bar codes for the books. lol  (clearly, I just found out they are not the same thing) So, it will be stuff like that that I need to look out for. I’m already aware that I will have to figure out font type and size of pages. Hopefully, that these will be the final hurdles.

This is a  learning process and the bar codes will not hold me up. They are $25 each and I will deal with that as it comes. More importantly, I think we may have found someone to design the cover. I’ve seen his work and he may be the right match for what I’m looking for. I just need to have a little more patience because I am so ready to do this. To pass the time I may go over the book one more time but to be honest, I’m ready to get this done, NOW.

So, the countdown has began on June 12. I’m giving myself to September 1st to get this done. I will not be happy if I cannot deliver.

40

Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 8.52.01 AMI don’t feel 40. I woke this morning the same as always. There is no noticeable difference. Of course when I look in the mirror I see gray hairs on my chin. Sure, I started to grow those things about five years ago but they are sprouting up at an accelerated rare. Once I shave those bad boys off, 40 is something I don’t even closely resemble.

40 just means surviving 4 decades as I enter my 5th. It means another era where I get to define, or perhaps redefine what I am. I remember thinking as a kid about what it would feel like to even be this age. What would I be like? What would I have accomplished? Now I look at my life and see that I have so much left to do.

It almost feels like a fresh start. Being young and twenty was nice but being young also means being really stupid. There is this aura that being that young meant I knew everything which really means I knew nothing. Being thirty now seems like I was trying so hard to be this productive adult I wanted to be when I was twenty. Yet all the good times and bad times have shaped me to what I am right now.

I can already tell that that I have a sense of wisdom that comes from being 40 and not in the Shaolin Master kind of way. I find it useful that I can draw from life experience when it comes to making a decision. Having a hunch about something when you’re younger is not the same when you have experience. I’m grateful for having being able to learn and grow from my mistakes.

I wont think about any of the negative things that come with being 40 (like prostate exams) I would rather focus on future prospects like 5k runs and book signings. I anticipate this decade being bigger and better as strive for personal greatness. I still have so much to prove to myself. I still have so many goals to set and achieve.

40 Things About Me Before I Turn Forty

20140611-151219-54739960.jpgI’m twirling my iced coffee today thinking about what I’m going to write tomorrow when I thought about the fact that I barely post any more and when I do it is about the novel. So I figured I should do something fun. Here are some things about me that I should just rehash about myself before the big 40 tomorrow. Don’t worry this a straight list with no gifs… I’m not Buzzfeed. lol

  1. I talk to myself when no one is around.
  2. I have never broken a bone. *knocks on wooden desk*
  3. First job at 14 was at Pathmark in Inwood
  4. I’ve done online dating before it was scientific.
  5. I still read comic books
  6. When I was 9, I forgot my gym shorts and paraded out the locker room in my Robin Underoos. (long story, it worked though)
  7. Freshman year in college I wrote and made song called “Ant-Man.” (it was the worst rap song in the history of all songs….ever)
  8. I was highlighted in the Syracuse Post Standard as an up and coming young Latino.
  9. I’ve written more than 100 poems
  10. I lost a part of my soul on the ride Kingda Ka.
  11. I spent 12 years in Catholic School.
  12. The first concert I ever worked was Everclear in 2001. (No clue who they are)
  13. I still play Dungeons and Dragons.
  14. I can cook pretty well and getting better at it.
  15. I’ve contemplated suicide in High School.
  16. I posted 6 chapters of an old project on Goodreads
  17. My old blog is still active.
  18. The Exorcist is the scariest movie I have ever seen. I refuse to watch it again. lol
  19. I’ve met many artists backstage including, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Common, The Roots, Childish Gambino, ASAP Rocky, Immortal Technique, & Frankie Negron.
  20. The first movie I saw alone was Transformers: The Movie (1986)
  21. I was 17 when I dated my first girlfriend.
  22. I’ve written over 60 letters of recommendation
  23. I’ve been pepper sprayed before (another long story, damn college dance parties).
  24. I’ve rolled my car in a accident.
  25. I’ve written 8 articles for the Huffington Post
  26. My first concert was Wu-Tang Clan.
  27. I’ve broken bread with Junot Diaz, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Willie Perdomo, Miguel Melendez, Michele Carlo and Piri Thomas (RIP).
  28. I was an expert in Street Fighter II and Tekken 2 (come at me bro).
  29. I’m way too competitive and, yes, sore loser has been used to describe me.
  30. I wrote a 5 minute play called “Call your Mother” when I was in college.
  31. I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean (as New Yorker, that is a big deal).
  32. I’ve been married (and divorced).
  33. My longest drought was 3 years (figure it out).
  34. I was in attendance for the 6 Overtime game at MSG.
  35. I sing and dance while I’m cooking (until my girlfriend walks in and then I stop lol)
  36. One time I got so mad playing Mario Kart with friends that I throw in Oreo cookie against the wall just to see how it would explode on impact (I have issues).
  37. I ran my first 5k this past April.
  38. I was on Wall St during 9/11
  39. My parents divorce went to the NY Supreme Court (I just found this out. lol)
  40. I wrote a novel.

I could have kept going. It was fun and interesting to think about all those things. It makes me think about where I have been and where I can go. Tomorrow will be interesting.

Building a Better Book

 I can see where it has taken people years to finish a book. I’ve heard stories about how it has taken ten plus years to finish a book. I figured out why that is. Building a better book is all about perfection in the eyes of the writer.

As I have combed through pages upon pages of this novel, I have found new things to either tweak or even add if the story called for more detail. This is why drafts get numbered. The current manuscript is the fourth of its kind. It’s fully edited and complete from my stand point (for the moment). But now it’s time for more feedback and cover designs.

First, I think I need to say that I have a publicist. Before you tell me how fancy you think I am, she’s family. Which brings me to my editor, she’s one of my oldest friends. It’s this type of network that has made me just focus on the writing and less on everything else. The role of the publicist is to help me promote the book as well as get the things I need to make this book happen. She is the one getting me new test readers. These two women have invested time into this novel and has made me believe in the book as much as I’ve made them a believer in me.

Their efforts have helped me make this book better and that is important. There have been many potholes in this journey. Many moments of self doubt when I wanted to just quit this whole process. Let me be real, this novel is rated R. It’s an adult oriented book that discusses many issues and sex is a very prevalent theme. This has made me think twice about if what I’m writing is necessary, is this a narrative that I really want to put out there?

I struggle with that question knowing the book’s content so when I got my first negative review, it hit home. Granted, I knew that not everyone is going to like the book but in her feedback, this lady mentions that Black and Latinos need to do better with their stories. I’ve heard something similar to this in the past with other authors. People wondering why sex has to be so prevalent, aren’t we sexualized enough as it is? Perhaps we are but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore the importance of sex and physical interactions in life. Sex is not in the story just to be in the story, it serves a purpose. Which brings me back to my publicist that had originally pointed out that I will need to figure who my audience is.

Yet, there is something that has been really calling me lately in terms of the book cover. First, understand the the title of the novel is Hanging Upside Down and there are several things one can do with that. However that are things that I’m NOT willing to do, which is anything has to do with a noose. There are too many images out there already that have negative connotations for people of color. So instead, I’m thinking about the real possibility of making the cover have of a comic-booky (yes, I know) feel. Reason being is that I think in a parallel universe I’m a comic book writer and I really want to honor the things that made me want to write in the first place.

Cross Bronx 4laO9dI76zDaYAZwPrtg34n0QJF4oLwMZzf0GVwOsPeoI’ve also come to notice that the way I write comes from reading so many comic books. There are cliff hangers, flashbacks, and of course, a villain. I realize that this may be the case in many novels as it is but I like think that this is where my style has come from. So with that being said, when I saw the photo at the top of this blog, I already knew what I wanted. The background is this, I stopped collecting comic books when I went to college because I could not afford it. So when this series came out in 2007, it reeled me back into collecting again. I love the presence of a strong woman and I can tell you that this picture does resemble a part in the novel.

Building a better book may take perfection in my eyes but it also takes teamwork and I realize that my problem was that I thought I could do this alone. I thought that I can get this book out as fast as possible with no issues but I learned quickly that it is better to trust those who trust me.

Genre? What Genre?

20140512-142202.jpgAs I enter the last stages of the edits times infinity, I look at what needs to do be done next and something seems to be escaping me. I keep hearing the same things come up. The questions of “who is my audience” and “what is your genre?” My first reaction to this is that my audience are readers and my genre is fiction. I’ve simplified it in my mind because I would like to think that any adult can pick this up and read it.

But then I had to take time to critically analyze the self publishing and traditional publishing industries and came to the conclusion that there are a lot more questions that I need to ask and answer. Right now, the question is when the fuck and I going to be done with this? But I have to force myself to be patient otherwise any sense of rush will show on the pages. My second question is how do I categorize this book? Those who have read the unedited version have told me that women would be the intended audience. I would also like to think a certain portion of men would read it too…divorced men.

The premise of the novel is not only centered around men and the bad decisions they make but how they deal with it. Divorce, sex, friendships, racism, and family are all there in the novel. I would just assume that that divorced men would have a bit more of an interest in this because of the content. However, I know that the way the book is written, my audience will probably veer toward women. There is a certain “novela” feel that the book has that should be attractive to those who read such things.

However, there are plenty of references to Hip Hop and other music genres that not only define me but define my generation. While, I don’t bombard the reader with musical references too much, they are there. There is much to be said about how music is a part of someone’s life. There is no way I can write a first person narrative and not include some elements of that. Those elements were not there as much during the first two drafts but  considering how draft three has just been completed, the musical elements have been added to provide yet another layer to the reader’s experience.

That is why it is so hard for me to come up with a genre. There are so many layers. Is there a sub genre of divorce? I suppose there is if I can type it into Goodreads and it gives me a list. The problem is that I don’t want to stick to those types of stories in the future. I suppose the novel could be a romantic story in some real way. However, I do slap people in the face with the realities of how men can be. Can there be a reality genre in fiction? In any case, I think I should look toward my beta readers to determine what a genre should look like.

But let me also take this a step further, this whole genre thing has been another way research “the competition.” I say that in quotes because it has been suggested that I see what is out there in terms of similar titles and book covers. I consider a book cover to be very important. Some people will at least read the opening chapter just because of the cover.

The one thing that is working in my favor is the title has not been used and fiction books about divorce from the man’s side are not common. Add the fact that the protagonist is Latino makes it just about rare. So hopefully I can carve a little nitch for myself in this area.

I’m so ready for this book to come out.