Reading Out Loud

In need of Shave

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.

 

7 Years of Blogging

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On that rare occasion that I post two blogs in one day, you know that I must a have a good reason. I’ve been doing this for seven years. That’s crazy to me considering there are times where I wanted to stop blogging. But, I keep this going because writing has become my life.

I’m drugged up because I had two wisdom teeth pulled. I planned on going to work today but then I woke with pain and I’m like nah, I need to rest. So if this post seems somewhat different from usual ramblings then blame the good stuff I’m on. Let me just give into the drugs now and tell you all that I love you (this is how you know I’m either drunk or high).

Here I am in Year Seven and I’m working on my second book. I’m working on submitting short stories to places that accept them. I’m contemplating workshops to attend. These things are a far cry from what I was before all this started. I would’ve never guessed I would be two books deep at this point in my life.

In the back of mind is book three. I know it is crazy but at some point this year I will have to start writing that. I know what its about and I have written a little piece of it a few months ago.

What else can I say? I hope that you’ve read or will read Hanging Upside Down. I no longer ask people if they read it. The best thing I can do is move on and encourage people to support The Book of Isabel. All I can say about this book is that my style is evolving and I have extremely enjoyed the challenge of putting this particular story on paper.

I’m happy about the process. Not many people will read it and I know that. But that does not mean that I will stop and that is why I’ve been doing this for so long.

A Firestorm Problem?

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I’ve made it clear several times that my all time favorite superhero is Firestorm. This stems from my days as a early comic book collector in the early 1980’s. Over the years I’ve come to look at this character, that resides in the DC universe, as the runt of the litter. The most powerful character to always get the worst hand in the deck. Please bare with me as I kidnap take you on a journey. (Warning: Spoilers lay ahead)

Firestorm_v.1_01Firestorm was created in 1978 by Al Milgrom and Gerry Conway as the answer to the Marvel problem DC was having. They wanted a superhero that was young and flashy. Something that was eye catching and had a science fiction feel to it. So, this duo came up with Firestorm: The Nuclear Man. Back then, the cold war was real and there always seemed to be some terrorist looking to get there hands on a nuclear weapon. Firestorm was created by a nuclear accident that fused two people into one, Ronald Raymond (High School Jock) and Dr. Martin Stein (Physicist).

While the first volume ended after 5 issues in 1978, the second volume began again in 1982 and lasted 100 issues. Firestorm’s popularity grew as he became a member of the Justice League of America which also lead to a animated role in the Super Powers cartoon. I remember getting the toy and thinking it wouldn’t get any better than that. After he played a critical role in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the readership for DC in general began to decline and multi book crossover became the norm. Firestorm was losing steam after Conway left the book in 1986.

This lead to a different writer (Ostrander) and different people who controlled the Firestorm matrix. This is where everything becomes dicey. Stein “dies” and Ronald shares the matrix with Mikhail Arkadin. Then after a few years of that crap, Stein comes back and takes over as the true “Elemental” Firestorm and the series ends at 100. From here, in different books, we find out the Ronald has leukemia and is cured by Stein (who has been living in space) which allows him to be the original Firestorm again without Stein.

COLD!!!!Years later Ronald’s Firestorm dies in action and his power is somehow absorbed by Jason Rusch, a young brilliant African American student, who takes over the the matrix alone. This starts volume 3 of Firestorm which does not last long. Before the New 52 starts we find out the Jason and Stein end up merging to become a stable version of Firestorm.

Then everything is reset during the new 52 where Ronald and Jason are separate Firestorms created by Stein and his God Particle. They can also merge to become an ultimate form. This book also didn’t last.

Again, runt of the litter consumed with bad ideas and bad concepts. He had a tendency to shine in books that were not his own. I liked Jason Rusch because he was so smart that there was no need for Stein in his version of Firestorm.

Why am I saying all this? Well, this brings me to current times. DC’s highly anticipated, Legends of Tomorrow debut last night with considerable hype. One of the main characters is Firestorm whom we saw in The Flash television series.

So let’s play some catch up with that. Firestorm in The Flash was Ronald Raymond (scientist) and Dr. Martin Stein (Physicist). In season one, we spend most of the season figuring out who and what Firestorm is. There is a real clever mystery about it too and we even see Jason Rush (Stein’s student) for like an episode. At this point I’m thinking, I know what’s going to happen, if they kill off Raymond, then Jason will be the next person in line just like the comics. Let me be clear, the writing on this show has been superb.

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So what happens? (Spoilers from here on out)

They kill off Raymond and the next person in line is Jefferson Jackson in Season two. Who? Jefferson was a character in the early run of Firestorm as Ronald’s best friend. A fellow High School basketball player (with an afro too). In The Flash, Jefferson is a star quarterback that gets injured by the particle accelerator explosion and somehow becomes a viable option to merge with Stein in the matrix. The problem with this, for me, was that they used a typical black story trope of an athlete kid that lost all his options and cant go to college now instead of using the genius black kid in Jason Rush that we rarely ever see in any television show (outside of Urkel in Family Matters).

Jax (what they call him) is a stereotypical black kid, much like the new Wally West in The Flash. So when we talk about how people of color are portrayed in Television, Film, and books, you can see why this is a little disconcerting.

Ok, last night. In Legends of Tomorrow we see that Time Master, Rip Hunter selects eight people to hunt down Vandal Savage and he awaits for their answer. Stein is down to go and Jax isn’t. Understand that Firestorm doesn’t exist if both of them are not involved. Dr. Martin Stein drugs Jax (via roofie in his drink) and kidnaps him in order to make the quest. First of all, this is uncharacteristic of Stein. Secondly, the white man – black man dynamic of the former kidnapping the latter to go on a voyage is NOT GOOD WRITING.

It further proves my point that Firestorm is the runt of the litter and with writing like this, the character will never get any respect. Also, this move reduces Jax to sidekick status to Stein. The power dynamic is now reversed even though Jax ultimately controls the matrix they share. Have I confused you? Good. Because this shit is confusing.

I should’ve changed the title of this entry to, How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Character in Less Than a Thousand Words.

Behind the Cover

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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.

Happy New Year!

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I wont waste your time. I just wanted to share my appreciation with all you. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the support, the views, the clicks, and the comments.

I will always do my best to make sure that I make this blog as exciting as possible with topics and humor. I invite you all on this continuing journey through my literary career.

I hope you all have a great night of food, family, and fun.

Below is my 2015 blog year in review.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Not Looking Forward to 2016

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I will not let 2015 end without mentioning that there is no justice. In may respects this was a terrible year. As much as I try to live my life and write as much as I can, there are things happening in this country that trouble me.

Black Lives Matter.

I’m not going to describe once again how important it is to keep this going. At this point, you either get it or you don’t. Tamir Rice was 12 and was killed by  police within 2 seconds of seeing him. He was playing with a toy gun and was considered armed and dangerous.

No indictments.

Sandra Bland was a woman pulled over for changing lanes with no turn signal. She was arrested and died in her jail cell for reason unknown.

No indictments.

Remember Walter Scott? Shot in the back by a police officer, that trial will be in 2016. Laquan McDonald? That trial will also be next year. Let’s also not forget Freddie Gray’s killers face a trial too. While these killings got indictments, there is very little hope for actual convictions.

I’m jotting all this down because I think that the whole idea of celebrating a new year is almost disingenuous considering that nothing really is changing. We can march, protest, and create hashtags but it does nothing in the minds of those who truly believe that “all lives matter.”

We have a problem. A huge problem that the father of Quintonio LeGrier can attest to.  The police have to be held accountable for the things they do. Why is that so hard to understand?

How many killings will we see in 2016? I’m sure we cannot predict that but it will be too many. This is the part of next year that I will not be looking forward to. I will not be happy with the new hashtags and the same narrative of black people being killed by police. I will not look forward to the same story of not guilty verdicts and non indictments.

I will not look forward to, once again, bearing witness to what continues to be a dark part of this country’s color blind legacy of allowing police to get away with murder.

I’m not looking forward to this part 2016.

2016 Goals

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I’ve finally had time to mull over all the goals I want to set for this coming year. I don’t like resolutions because they lead to a false sense of ambition. That is why so many people flood to the gym in January only to give up by March. My goals are achievable and some are harder than the others but they are promises I make to myself.

As usual, I looked at the past year and noticed that I’ve achieved 60% of the goals I’ve set last year, which always seems to be the case.  This is not something that I set out to do. Life has a way of making us veer off course, but in any case, here we go…

I feel like I’ve been really slacking in my blog writing. I know that anyone would tell me that writing a second book as well as a bunch of short stories is understandable but the past few days has shown me that I simply need to blog more. Not just here, but on the Huffington Post and The Commons. It gives me a little more focus on what it is I do. Even after all these years, I still feel like I’m building more of an audience which I hope will lead me to getting a press pass at the NY Comic Con.

I also need to be mindful that I have indeed set a tentative date for the release of The Book of Isabel. I really need to make sure that I make that date. It may sound simple enough but there’s so much coordination in getting this book out that I want to make sure I don’t repeat the mistakes I made with Hanging Upside Down. While doing that, I want to take the plunge into the short story world and actually try to get some of my work published. I’m not exactly sure all the details but I did open up a Wattpad account so I can begin exploring that process.

All this writing makes me want to continue to work my craft. I don’t take any of this lightly and I feel that I can get better at it. This is why I will continue to make an effort to read more. I’ve read more in 2015 than I have in quite a long time. I’ve also gotten into audio books which helps me catch up on books I should’ve read a long time ago. Of course more reading leads to more writing and I also feel I need to do a better job at really getting into writing workshops. I would be a fool to think that I cannot improve.

The other thing that I’ve done more is travel. Seeing the world is essential to any writer. Seeing more of America is crucial to any American writer and while I do plan on traveling in 2016, the goal is to visit more sporting stadiums or arenas. I will keep it real, I would much rather to the baseball stadium thing but, I will include football and basketball just in case I travel to a place off season. There is something about seeing how other city’s celebrate their sport that I find interesting.

Switching gears, I’m quite sure that I’ve made it quite clear that I’ve changed my dietary habits. I’ve been a pescatarian for about 6 months now and I don’t plan on changing that but it does lead me to think about my health in general. I’m not getting any younger and I know that I need to start taking better care of myself. I’m already scheduled for oral surgery in January and I know I need to see my doctor for the routine check ups. For some reason I feel that I need to put my medical well being into the forefront.

Every year I put debt reduction to the list an every year it remains there. I suppose this is a long term goal that will remain on this list for the foreseeable future. Which brings me to the last item on my list. As my girlfriend prepares to graduate from business school there is a distinct possibility that I will be moving out of Harlem. Not sure where to yet, but I have some ideas.

I think 2016 will be another big year. I hope you set some pretty big goals and I thank you for indulging me to share mine with you.

The Little Things

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Editing of The Book of Isabel has taken more of a priority as 2016 gets closer. The little things are becoming more important. There are things that don’t seem uniquely important by itself but become huge when you put it all together. There are things that have to get done now so that I wont have to do them later.

I always talk about how it is to be a self published author in terms of the mild successes and the pitfalls, but I’m not sure I’ve really gotten into the little things. What I mean about these little things, I’m talking about things that are not ultimately related to the act of writing the text in the novel. These things include but are not limited to the book synopsis, the dedication, and the head shots. The difference between where I was the last time I wrote a book and now, is experience.

In 2014, I felt that I rushed through everything. I rushed through the editing process. I had no real head shots and had no real idea on how to describe Hanging Upside Down. Much of everything I’ve done leading up to the book coming out seemed to be on the fly. As much as I loved the way things happened, I feel like I could’ve done so much better with time and planning.

The cover for the new book is 95% done. Draft two is about 60% done. What keeps me ahead of the game is that I now know what I’m doing when it comes to creating book pages and descriptions. These are the little things that most authors who have agents and book deals don’t have to consider.

This has also led me to think about things I need to consider when it comes to book promotion. I feel like I’ve done a decent job at creating my own marketing and my own buzz but now I have to take things a step further. I’ve been told that I will need to really consider putting more of my work out there. I need to start looking at getting officially published.

I will be hard work and I may start out with short stories. I need to try because it is the little things that will make the difference.

Navigating People

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This is the last week of this year and I find myself wrapping up somethings before the year closes. While, I haven’t laid out my goals for 2016 as of yet, I’m still very much thinking about them. I currently have more time to write some blogs and I wanted to free write.

It’s been an interesting year indeed. I could get into all of the societal and political trash that has occurred but this one is about me. This year has been a year where I had to really figure out my place when it come to people.

I feel like I navigate people everyday. I navigate my family, my friends, and co-workers. I also navigate my twitter peoples, blerds, fellow writers, and trolls. Through this, I makes me wonder what I actually do each day. How did I get where I am now with all this human navigation?

I feel that this year has put into perspective that most friendships are not as archetypal as we think. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, friendships can be fleeting. No matter how much navigation can be done, all relationships are more or less the same. People love each other and they trust each other until they don’t.

Life goes on and new relationships are made and voids are filled. We spend so much time thinking about how we ever had those voids in the first place. The navigation of nouns (persons, places, and things) continues like it never ended as it was a ripple in water only disturbed by a stone of a broken connection.

I think back to a passage from my own book (which I try not to quote myself due to this being a bit self serving):

Everyone in our lives is there for a reason, regardless of the length of time. No matter if they love us or hate us, no matter if they break our hearts or simply hold open the door. I really believe things happen for a reason. I can’t say I believe in fate, but rather I believe that we all play a role in each other’s lives. It’s up to us to decide what that role is.

Fleeting relationships is what life is about. If you have old friends cherish them.

700 Likes

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What does that even mean?

So recently I found myself with more than 700 likes on my Facebook page and I wonder how good that is. How many like translate to success? I’m not one to believe that because I have a certain amount of Facebook likes or Twitter followers that I’m a famous or a successful person. However, it may mean that I know a thing or two about interacting with an audience which may mean a little more.

I do see this as way for me to get my name out there but I also feel that it isn’t enough and that perhaps I’m doing something wrong. The question that I immediately ask myself is how does all these likes and followers translate into new readers? This is something I still have trouble answering.

This year I realized that it didn’t matter. None of the likes or followers matter because at the end of the day, I’m still a new author with one book. Of course, this may end up changing as time goes on but as for right now, each new follower has to get acquainted with me. Each new like is a vote for the foundation of success and each new person is a potential customer.

As I push toward the second book, I start to look at things that worked and didn’t work over the past year. I’ve battled with the idea of just posting nothing but quotes and pictures of Hanging Upside Down on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. The problem is I don’t want to be that guy that people think uses social media as a spam platform. I would hate to lose anyone on social media if they felt I was being too commercial.

But here I am with 700 likes. When I made that page I didn’t know what to expect and I supposed I shouldn’t always write about it every time I get 100 more likes but It does make think about how this will play out once The Book of Isabel drops.

Will I sell more? It’s hard to tell.