The Numbers Behind My Novel

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I consider this upcoming week to the eve of my first book signing. It is quite a big deal in my world and to be quite honest, I don’t know what to expect. What I mean is that I don’t know how to act or what to write. You have to understand that I barely know what to say when I sign a birthday card. Anyway, this whole thing has made me think about the novel what is going on right now.

Here are some number that I find interesting:

There are 5 people who have the novel before I do. That sound’s crazy right? Well, it started like this, I wanted close friends, family, along with people who have helped me make this a reality to have an advanced copy. So when the book was finally ready to go, I sent certain people an email on how to purchase this advanced copy. So I also have to order copies for myself but I suppose I chose standard shipping because certain people have gotten it as early as Tuesday!

Only 8 days before my first ever book signing in Syracuse and 27 days until my NYC signing. I feel like a rookie. Do I bring my own pen? Should it be a sharpie? I have no idea what the standard is. One would think I would know this since I have worked enough book signings in my day. But the real question is, do I draw like a little symbol? I dunno. I suppose I should practice.

Since we are on this number, 8 is the amount of times I’ve read this book. Even though I have an editor, much of this was a team effort. I also wanted to makes sure that each read made sense and applied the appropriate changes I felt I need to do. With all the eyes looking at this, there are 2 major typos that I just discovered. They wont be in the ebook versions or any of the later versions if I can help it. You get a cookie if you find them. #rollseyes

Anyway, 36 is the number of chapters in the book which spans 412 pages. The solicitation will say 420 but that is counting the dedication and the acknowledgments. I always find it interesting that I wrote so much. This story started out as a short story that kept going and going.

Ultimately the only number that really matters is 1. This is the first book of what I hope to be many. I have been loosely working on the sequel to this book as well as a brand new idea that has come to me. I’ve been getting tons of support and I just hope that you all enjoy it!

Late For Work – A Short Story

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I hate being late for work, but once again this damn train is delayed.

It’s bad enough that I have to take a bus just to get to a train that is always jammed packed, but how many sick passengers occur in an a given week? Not even hearing Jay Z in my headphones could hide the sheer frustration of this strap hanger.

It’s not that I don’t plan my time well. I always catch BX.39 early enough to catch the express 6 train in Parkchester that takes me to 125th street where I catch the downtown 4 train. As always, it’s packed with people going to work and school and I normally find myself in near prayer just make it to work on time.

However, today I could care less. While I hate being late for work, I cannot stand my job and I spent the majority of last night typing my resignation letter. I feel very fortunate to have found another job on the Upper East Side. I just cannot wait to finally hand this in to my boss but, of course, the train had to be delayed for 30 minutes.

What makes it worse is that I have get off at Wall St which makes this Bronx to Manhattan commute a nightmare. I race up the subway stairs once my train finally arrives. It is already 8:45 and I have a meeting at 9am that I now need to rush for.

Wait. What was that noise? I look up.

Oh. My. God.

Why is the World Trade Center on fire?

—-

This is a story I wrote a few years ago that I thought I lost. I found it while searching for something else a few months back. I edited it yesterday. I wanted to contribute something to this day that is still fresh in my memory. 

The Crisis of Comic Book Nerds

tumblr_nabpamQG2B1rsex6lo1_1280It must be hard to be a nerd these days. Look what’s happening in the not real world! Captain America is now Black, Thor is now a woman, Wally West is Black (one of the many version of the Flash), there are two Black Supermen flying around, a  Muslim Green Lantern, and the crux of this whole thing is that damn Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man. Who said it was OK to have all this diversity in comic books?

Wait. Let me fix the first sentence. It must be hard to be a white nerd these days.

The socially awkward have a problem with the broad brush stroke of diversity that also includes feminism. These are big words that get thrown around in the comic book worlds because (surprise, surprise!) current comic book audience includes women and men of all races. So it would only make sense that Marvel and DC would make books (or at least characters) to address their changing readership.

Before I even go any further. I need to point out that I’m not addressing how well or poorly these companies actually represent people of color. I’m not going to address how horribly these companies portray women in their porn like renditions of variant covers or how they contribute to overall debate on standards of beauty when in reality most these fans boys just want to fantasize and masturbate to some form of super heroine.

Justice-League-of-America-Vol.-1-200-1982This is more about the nerds who are used to the norm. They are used to the role playing games in which they imagine a world of trolls and elves in which everyone is white (thank you Peter Jackson for the reinforcement). Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of a Black woman, Ranger class? If it exists then I wouldn’t know about it. These fan boys are used to a world where the the only diverse version of the Justice League of America is when Martian Manhunter was on the team.

So why are they up in arms? Their world is crashing in around them. The “minorities” are taking over their space. They are used to the one Black friend. Do you know what I’m talking about? Let me list the one Black friend in comics and beyond: James Rhodes (Iron Man), The Falcon (Captain America), Lando Calrissian (Star Wars), Cyborg (Teen Titans/Justice League), and John Stewart (Justice League/Green Lantern). Those just from the top of my head. Please notice that Cyborg and John Stewart are rarely on the same team at the same time.

comics-the-multiversity-1But now, we have books like Multiversity that depicts worlds of black superheros (I will not mention the plethora of independent books that have entire worlds dedicated black superheros…or maybe I will) and we have Marvel that is pushing the envelope in their cinematic universe as well as comic books. People are losing their minds in comment sections all over the internet that is reserved for them. Donald Glover is the voice of Miles Morales in the 3rd season of Ultimate Spider-Man. Just one episode and the fans boys have lost their 20 sided dice.

Why is this important to them? It is that impossible to see a diverse face in a comic? Neither comic book company has really scratched the surface. Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans are barely represented. Women are still portrayed with huge boobs and impossible outfits to fight crime. But you dare put pants on Wonder Woman? You dare make Green Lantern gay? You have the nerve to have Michael B Jordan play the Human Torch? You’ve just ruined comics forever.

I call it progress. Although real progress has already occurred.

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Title image by John Jennings

Mixed Emotions

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There are so many things going in the world and in my life right now that I have SO many mixed emotions that its getting to the point that I just don’t know how to feel on any given day. I know that I’m a versatile person that allows me to adapt to any situation in my life but lately things have been overwhelming. There is a multitude of feelings I can have a given day: anger, fear, joy, sorrow, excitement, and sentimentality. It is an interesting and frustrating mix because how do I deal with it all.

Anger. I’ve been angry everyday since the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson. I’m angry because police killings/brutality has become the norm. Watching the protests turn into riots with tear gas and bullets flying is ridiculous. We are watching history and seeing the way people react to all this is beyond interesting. I suppose I’m tired of showing people that we are not delusional. We don’t make us racial issues. The anger is there because I know all of this will not end well.

signingExcitement. I announced yesterday on social media that I have book signings in Syracuse on 9/20 and NYC on 10/8. I am traveling down a road that I have never experienced and it is exciting. When I started the novel last year events like these were not on my mind. I just wanted to contribute the literary world. The support that people have given me is tremendous and I’m not used to this. It is truly humbling.

Cover ImageFear. I HAVE A BOOK SIGNING. This scares the shit out of me. I’m a chronic over-thinker so I think about too many things that are close to irrational. What if no one shows up? What if too many people show up? Do I have to read an excerpt from the book? What chapter? What if I’m late? <— This right here is my life. I’m so used to being behind the scenes at events that being the main event is abnormal. Yes, I have been a key note speaker before but it never gets easy for me. lol

Sorrow. There are many things that I just don’t share with people so I will keep this to a minimum. I have two family members with cancer and it weighs on me. It weighs on me more than I admit to people. I stay strong because as one of the youngest members of my families (paternal and maternal) I feel the need to be responsible so I can to make sure that family stays together.

Joy. I love my job. I cannot say it any clearer. I have found a place that values me as a person and values students. Granted I am about to make 2 years at Barnard College and maybe I’m still on a high but having the ability to be creative and to be myself is something that allows me to thrive.

Sentimentality. A few weeks ago the woman in my life has left to pursue her MBA at the Tepper Business School at Carnegie Mellon. It is incredibly awesome to be with a woman who is smarter than me. Our relationship is strong and we will continue to be together while sharing our success separately until she returns. Yet, I miss her and it becomes hard to focus because of it.

All this makes it hard for just to do what I need to everyday but, thankfully, I know how to take my emotions and transfer them into words.

Protect & Serve? I Have Some Answers.

10599415_10101795369337306_5780719047339870187_nI wrote an article for the Huffington Post asking some questions about Police Brutality in this country. After looking at the events in Ferguson last night. I might have some answers to my own questions.

Are we at war? Yes we are. It is very apparent that the lives of Black people are not valued. We have become targets, actually we always were.

Although the real question is what kind of war is it? Are we talking about the war on guns? Are we talking about the war on crime? Or are we talking about the war on drugs? None of the above. We are talking about a war on Black people. A war on the oppressed. There has been a lot of rhetoric over the past year about people wanting to take back their country. There is no other way to express this and don’t think for a second that because we have a Black President that it changes the status quo in the country. The Civil Rights causes in the 1950/60s never went away.

Did we somehow get transported to District 11? Are we now giving up our youth as tribute so that the rest of the country can feel safe? I was being sarcastic when I asked this but it certainly does not seem far from the truth. I’m tired of seeing lists of all the black people that die unnecessarily in the country. I’m tired of seeing police (or people who think they are above the law) get away with atrocities. I’m tired of our people getting criminalized.

Is it normal for law enforcement in Los Angeles to beat a Black woman on the side of the road? The definition of normal is conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. The sad thing is that none of what we are seeing is all that surprising. It is shocking but almost expected because we are used it.

Are we being dehumanized? Absolutely. It’s like an older version of cops and robbers where you don’t really care about the criminal. As long as we’re viewed as animals then we will subjected to this kind of brutal and unrelenting behavior from police officers who are heavily militarized. There is no way this happens in the streets of Apple Valley or The Hamptons. We are seen as less human which makes us easier to kill.

The motto of many police departments across the United States is “Serve and Protect” right? Who is being served and who is being protected? Someone commented on my article saying: Police are not here to protect you. There is no legal obligation for the police to protect you. Isn’t that the damn truth. I knew this already because we will never see these scenes in suburbia. A man can shoot up a theater in Colorado and be given the chance to live his life in jail where he gets three meals a day and be deemed as having mental issues. I can tell you right now, the police are not here to serve or protect us, or as another commenter would put it: Protect the 1% and their possessions and keep the 99% in line, very simple.

Mike Brown. John Crawford. Eric Garner. Marlene Pinnock. Ezell Ford. Dante Parker. Rosan Miller. Denise Stewart.

Dare

tumblr_n1t3kspdHq1qcrr5qo8_r1_500Writing a novel has been such a process of high’s and lows that, in a way, I would have to be a little nuts to want to do this again. Yet, that desire to continue on to another process and write until I can’t anymore has become something close to borderline obsession. Trust me when I say that I know what obsession is all about. The title and cover picture of this blog alone is based on my love for the Transformers Generation One.

Transformers: The Movie came out in 1986 and it still resonates with me because at its core there is a theme about never giving up. Sure, everything else about it is awesome from the fighting scenes to the voice actors and the amazing soundtrack. Which brings me to the title, Dare by Stan Bush. This is one of my favorite songs of the entire film. It works sequentially well with the action but the lyrics are just as powerful. Here is the chorus:

tumblr_n1t3kspdHq1qcrr5qo1_500Dare, dare to believe you can survive
You hold the future in your hand
Dare, dare to keep all of your dreams alive
It’s time to take a stand
And you can win, if you dare

Understand that I was 12 years old when this movie came out. While everyone else loves The Touch (and they should because it is iconic), I loved Dare because it spoke to me and as a matter of fact, it still speaks to me as a 40 year old. I understood then as I do now that I had to take matters into my own hands if I wanted to do something in my life and as simple that may sound, we all know doing it is extremely difficult.

I talk about fear a lot on this blog because fear can stop delay me from doing something. There was a time when fear stopped me from doing many things but I have learned to deal with this issue, however, it has made me think twice about myself and my novel. Not to be cliche-ish but it was time to take a stand. I knew that they only way to be successful is to take risks.

I mentioned obsession and proof of this can been seen on my Google+ account. I have been watching this movie on and off for the last two weeks. It was a huge deal in ’86 because no other animated film bases on a television series was this graphic and violent. I loved it because believe it or not it helped me deal with the concept of death and how to move past it. Why was that important? My grandmother died prior to me seeing this film.

I do remember no one wanting to take me to see this movie so I had go the Whitestone Multiplex in Bronx alone and witness this awesomeness. In many ways, I remained obsessed with the movie by waiting for it to come out on VHS and then years later, DVD. I remember buying the soundtrack on CD after I graduated college. I listen to it too much even to this day. I will mention that you may not want to watch the movie with me because I know all the words and will say them verbatim. I even reference it the novel.

Yes, I am obsessed but you know what? I dared to be this way. I dared to survive all my issues. The deaths, the divorces, the move, the disappointments, the rejections and I dared to write this novel. I’m sure in a few weeks I will stop watching Transformers and move to something like Star Wars, but I still dare to be great.

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

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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.