Hanging Upside Down: The Music

IMG_9259Music is very prevalent in Hanging Upside Down. While it’s difficult to convey to the reader the type of musical feel you want for a novel, I would like to think that I captured the feeling of Louis through the types of music he happens to listen to as the story goes on.

I didn’t go into this the book thinking that I needed to have a soundtrack. In fact, there are parts of the book that were originally written without it. However, it was during the editing and drafting phases that I decided to add music as another layer to the story. I wanted to have something happening in the background. I’m a believer that many things are always happening in the background a story that may not seem relevant at first glance but in upon further thought makes total sense.

So here is a list of songs that appear in the book. If by some act of God there is a movie to come from this story these would be that basis of a soundtrack. Songs with the asterisk weren’t described in detail in the book but since there are scenes in the book that do have music these songs would accompany them. Also, this is the relative order the songs occur in the novel.

Award Tour –  A Tribe Called Quest*
Las Cosas Pequeñas – Prince Royce*
Adicto A Tu Piel – Frankie Negrón*
Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony
Hell Of A Life – Kanye West*
Beat it – Michael Jackson
No Le Pege A La Negra – El Gran Combo*
Started from the Bottom – Drake*
Partition – Beyoncé*
Twice My Age – Shabba Ranks & Krystal
You Dont Love Me (No, No, No) – Dawn Penn
Picadillo – Cal Tjader and Eddie Palmieri
El Cuarto De Tula – Buena Vista Social Club
N.Y. State Of Mind – Nas
Brand New Me – Alicia Keys*
Get Lucky – Daft Punk/Pharrell Williams

I’m smiling because these songs help tell the story. I played each one of these as I added them to this list and I must say that if this was really made available to purchase, I would be down to get it. All of them have certain meaning and while not all the songs listed appear exactly in the text, if you were to play these after reading the novel, you will see that they fit.

The one thing that makes me proud is that my intention was to show that despite what is happening in his life, I wanted the reader to know that Louis is very much a Latino who had a love for different types of music. I did think about going a little overboard to show how much of a geek he was by listening to Star Wars soundtracks but it just didn’t fit with the flow of the novel.

As I write the second novel, I have already taken into account how important music is to the characters I’m trying to portray. I would only assume from here on out everything I write with have it’s own soundtrack.

Sometimes

IMG_9227You know, sometimes I need to stop and think about my life. I judge myself harshly because I know that I haven’t always made the best choices which means that sometimes I haven’t always been the best person.

Sometimes, I think about giving up because what’s the point of all this? What am I really doing? I have no real evidence that I’m making a difference in anyone’s life. Which is why I just try to do what I do for me.

Then sometimes, I think that I’m just being silly. Maybe there’s some unconscious feeling of male privilege that makes me think that the world owes me something. I have done good things, I am a mentor to many, a friend to a few, and companion to one.

But, sometimes, it’s just not enough. I continue to doubt myself. Maybe I just don’t know when to be satisfied. Perhaps I really haven’t reached the goals that I’ve been striving for. Maybe I’m still lying to myself.

Sometimes, I’m the happiest person in the world. I truly am fortunate to have a fantastic job, an awesome girlfriend, and family that supports me. I love the work that I do and I love to write and share my thoughts with the world. But, sometimes, I’m really not sure that’s enough.

So then what is it? What is my problem some of the time? I wish I knew. Most of the time I don’t even care because I know that feelings of inadequacies are a normal part of me being me. Most of the time I don’t care what people think but sometimes it makes me think twice about posting something on Facebook or ranting on Twitter.

Sometimes, I think the majority of people can give two shits about what I do, write, or say. Sometimes I think that my little quotes on Instagram about my novel mean absolutely nothing. Yet most of the time I take nothing personally when comes to support or lack of it, sometimes I take it very personal.

It comes down to this, sometimes I get too busy to write and when that happens it slowly drives me insane. These feelings come out sometimes and when that happens I need to express my myself in the only way I can.

Which is why I blog… sometimes.

The Filler

100764248_694a96353a_z

I’m stuck with a dilemma again. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block but more of writer’s indecision. This is when I’m not entirely certain where I want to go with the book I’m currently working on. I find myself creating numerous story arcs that make it hard to fill gaps between them.

The beginning is already written. I started out book two just as well as I wanted to. I also know how I’m going to end the book. Because this is a combination a prequel and sequel to Hanging Upside Down, I know exactly how I’m going to bridge the gap between stories while advancing an original plot line.

The problem becomes the middle of the book, the filler, if you will. There are so many stories to tell in this book that it’s a bit overwhelming in the way I want to tell it. While my first novel was a straight line from beginning to end, book two is more circular. I also have a definite antagonist. It’s a character that I really want people to loathe and I’m starting to realize the difficulty in writing a good villain. Sure, there are several people that could be considered villains in Hanging Upside Down, but I’m putting all my effort into creating just one.

Because of my indecisiveness, I took a new approach to this. I find myself writing the stories I want to tell in a short story format with all characters involved in the main plot. I find it particularly helpful because it allows me to get all the filler down on “paper” without getting bogged down with little details that connects it all. This will also allow me to have the story take me where I need it to. I don’t always know exactly where a story will take me until I’m writing it. This is why the beginning and ending are so easy for me because in my mind, I’m already there.

I also want to do a few things differently. I can’t sit here and say that I know the formula on writing books, but I would like to think that if it were an easy thing to do, everyone would be doing it. I don’t want to write the same way twice so I’m improving on a little things to create a better product. This will allow me to feel much more comfortable with my writing style to a point that perhaps I can find a groove and come out with books often. While, I think that works for many authors who spit out books every year, I’m not sure I’ve found my niche yet.

The challenge will be to make it all flow. I’m a person who believes that a reader values the flow of a book. That flow is the difference between lost interest and a page turner. Using the term “filler” may not sound all that appealing. It’s like watching filler episodes of The Walking Dead for example. Sure those episodes are good for character development but sometimes it can be a stretch to see how  they fit in the overall story arc. No one wants to read something and think “this was just put in there to take up space.” That’s the last thing I want to do because the more pages, the more it will cost in printing.

My goal is to get this book to about 300+ pages of flowing material. Right now, I got about 50 or so workable pages. I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Everything is Marketing

IMAG1225It seems like one of the golden rules in any business is that you need money to make money. Sure, talent helps if you want people to believe in your product but without capital to invest, selling anything becomes an uphill battle.

Of course there are ways around things and that’s usually what Public Relations is all about. I did a brief internship in a Public Relations firm in Syracuse when I thought that was what I wanted to do. I learned about press releases and how to represent clients without blatantly advertising for them. To be honest, I liked it but I was not mature enough to be committed to the work. However, one thing that stands firm is that no publicity is bad publicity so anything I do in the public eye is book marketing.

At the end of the day it’s all about getting my name out there. Sure I can tweet and instagram the hell out of my book, Hanging Upside Down. I can post on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn all day. I know 90% of those people and they know me. The real challenge is to step beyond that circle into a larger sphere. I knew that from the jump.

Let’s be real, if 90% of the people I knew and follow me on all those social websites actually bought and read the book I would be golden. You would probably see me on Huffington Post Live talking about Self Publishing or better yet, I may be on my way to an actual book deal. But truth is, books are hard to market whether you know your audience or not. People will only buy if they see other people buy. Thus I need to market the shit out of my book. lol

That is why I make sure whatever appearances I make that I have my sharpie and an extra book if possible. I think about the last two appearances I made:

SomosI was on NPR last week for LatinoUSA (click picture for link) where I talked about how I identify myself as Afro Latino. It was a great time for me because this is a show that is narrated by the great Maria Hinojosa. While I was not interviewed by her, I did meet her in person. I made sure that I did give Daisy (my interviewer) a copy of my book with the hopes that she will read it and spread the word on how good it is. The best result for me was my book being said on air to potentially 1000 people. You cannot buy that type of marketing.

Branding and Millennial WomenI also moderated this lovely panel last week. Here are four great young women who are doing amazing things in their fields. I know them all from Syracuse so we have a bond that allows us to have an honest conversation about how they are successful. Now, again, this panel was not about me. I never said one thing about my book or how people should buy. However, there was someone in attendance who had a copy of my book that wanted it signed (I had my orange sharpie that I always carry) and another person who wanted to know if had any extra copies.

These are great ways for me to stay true to my marketing scheme without breaking my bank and to be honest, I haven’t spend the money that I really want to on marketing…yet.

So it makes me laugh when someone tells me that my marketing game is strong because I’m not sure it is. If I can get out of the little cluster of friends and acquaintances I think I have a real shot at my goal of 500 sold this year. We will see.

The Move

2015-01-27 12.04.31

I learned a long time ago that moving is a part of life. I’ve also come to the realization that when you reside in a apartment nothing is really permanent. Rents rise and neighborhoods change so the idea of moving like a nomad should not be new. Yet, there is something unsettling about packing up all your stuff and moving to another living situation.

I grew up living in a house in the Bronx and I never really thought about moving anywhere else. But life happens, parents split up and moving from apartment to apartment became normal. I returned to the very same house as a teenager and, again, never thought I would need to move until I was admitted to Syracuse. By the time I graduated, my stuff had been condensed to storage unit standards and being nomadic was a new way of life.

Eventually, I would go back to the BX where I would live in couple of places before I moved into my own apartment. It was my first true sign of adulthood and it was glorious. But that glory was short lived because after 9/11 I had to leave the city. I found a job back in SU and I was out. Once again, I had to move my life into a small apartment a few blocks away from the University.

When I finally bought a house in Syracuse I thought, this is it. This is the last place I will ever move to (I was lying to myself). All my comic books, video games, and things that you never want to move came with me. Not to mention that all my collection of junk tripled during my stay so imagine my joy in having to box all that shit up in a U-haul when I finally decided to come back home to NYC. But still, I spent a great deal of time living in one place that I grew comfortable in knowing that moving may not be a possibility.

However, when I moved to Washington Heights a few years ago, I knew that this wasn’t going to be my last residence. Perhaps it was the residential nomad that I’ve grown accustomed to being. Maybe there’s a sense that I can’t stay in one place too long. Perhaps there’s this nagging feeling in my heart after being through two divorces (my parents and my own) that nothing lasts forever.

After all, this is all just stuff. I cannot take this crap with me. There is no storage unit in the afterlife. This point was driven home to me last week when I was helping my mother sort through my late Aunt Clara’s stuff. It was nothing but bins and boxes. Is this the sum of our physical existence? At the end of it all when I’m gone someone will be looking through my comic book boxes?

Well, currently I find myself in Harlem. A new place of residence that will probably last for about a year and half depending on what happens with my better half. I’m excited about this area because it opens up some experiences. I can visit places I never been to and I recognize the opportunity to really embrace the culture that makes this place awesome.

Moving still sucks but I know that I will be doing it again soon.

Bionic SIX! – My Blog is a Year Older.

3434055662_8e52437ba4_bIf my blog was a person, she would be very upset with my that I forgot her birthday. The problem is that I’ve been a very busy person over the last several days. Although it is no excuse, I can say that people everyday celebrate a late birthday. In fact, you can count on me to write “Happy Belated Birthday” on you Facebook wall. However, the fact remains that my blog is now 6 years old.

I don’t want to go over the last six years but rather talk about the hope I have for the future. This blog has been my anchor. It’s been the place that I’ve expressed myself and offered space for others to do the same. It has also been a catalyst for my book, Hanging Upside Down. I’m no where close to being a marketing genius but I would like to think that I am working on being more that just a blogger.

That is the point of all of this right? To be honest, I’m no longer just a blogger. I can say that I’m an author. It’s like being promoted from Commander to Captain. I know, this isn’t Star Trek but if I were a Captain it would probably be of a small vessel no one has ever heard of on the edge of the neutral zone surveying plate-tectonics on a small M-Class world. Being an author is something to aspire to. I’m not sure what would really deem me a success but I do know that I am the master of my own destiny and in many ways that is what these past six years have meant, a gradual process that I was (sort of) in control of.

bionicsixNow I’m posting book quotes every week and reminding people to buy my awesome book. This was far from what I saw myself doing last year and I’m ok with that. I think it will be really interesting to see what how this blog will evolve. Maybe it will become Bionic! (I had to connect the title to this blog. No one remembers Bionic 6?)

In any case, It is good to still be around and maybe I can provide a few surprises.

A Difficult Question

IMG_8964It’s hard to believe that my novel came out a little more than 3 months ago. In my mind it has been at least a year so I’m always glad when someone takes interest in my book, Hanging Upside Down. I have noticed that there is a common question that most people ask that I find interesting, “How’s the book going?”

This has been the ultimate FAQ. I can’t remember the first person who asked me but I know that I have been asked often since then. The real question for me is how do I answer this question? Sure, I have answered it already with, “it’s going well” because what other answer is there? Even if the book sales are crap (something I will not confirm or deny) is that something that I really want to share or, better yet, is that what the person who is asking wants to hear?

Just image that conversation:

Pregunta asks, “So, how’s the book coming?”

Latinegro looks at Preggy slyly and responds, “This shit sucks, my dude. No one is buying the book. Did you buy a copy?”

Pregunta backs away slightly, “Uh see, the way my bank account is set up…”

There is a cold look that comes across the face of the Latinegro. He is hurt but hides it by rubbing the black and white hairs of his beard then asks, “So that is a no?”

“I mean, I’ve been meaning to buy it.”

“Have you? What are you waiting for?”

“The Movie.”

I mean really, there is only one way to answer a question such as this: The book is going great. Even if it isn’t I would not tell anyone any different because no one wants to tell a potential customer that sales are terrible. Its best to make someone feel like they are missing something…and to be honest they are. At the same time people know that I haven’t sold like a 1000 copies because, come on, if I had it would be all over this blog like a money shot.

I don’t fault anyone for the question I just feel it’s difficult to be really honest about. This is just another example of things I learned as a self published author. I should have added it to this list. But you what? It is all good I am happy to even have the question posed to me.

But let me ask you a difficult question. What are you waiting for?

2015 Goals

chuyen-giao-2014-va-2015

I have to admit that I needed this year to end. While this was a great year for me personally, there was just too many tragedies that I cannot readily ignore. Thus, any Facebook celebratory “year in review” isn’t something I was going to do.

As stated last year, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions but, rather, I set goals to accomplished by the end of the next year. Unfortunately, I only completed 50% of my goals this year but what I did accomplish, changed my life. 2015 will be interesting because of the nature of the 10 goals I’m setting.

I’ve always believed in doing the things that got me in the game. I love to write and the writer in me feels that I don’t do it enough. So, blogging more is something I have to do. I made that pledge last year and I wrote two less blogs this year than I did last year. At least, I’m not writing much less especially considering that I came out with my first novel this year. (Although, I DID write two Huffington Post articles…so technically I wrote the same amount…but whatever) However, it’s even more important that I finish book two. I’m already five chapters deep and once this holiday season is over, I plan on hitting the “pen to the pad” at full steam.

Hanging Upside Down is more of an accomplishment for me than I’m willing to admit. I’ve found it hard to celebrate with everything going on in my life and in the world. I need to be willing to put myself out there more and step up my hustle. I will not be satisfied until I sell 500+ copies next year.  I know I have my work cut out for me because I’m doing this all on my own. However, I do have family who will always help and because of that I need to go to Georgia to visit some long lost familia.

Which also brings me to my next point, spending more time with family. The death of a family member makes things difficult all around and yet it seems to instill a sense mortality in all of us. This has made me realize that I need to cherish my time more with the people that I care about the most.

Outside of all the personal issues, I need to read more. Again, this is another goal from last year that I bailed on but I feel that it’s important to try again. This time I have a little bit more of a motivation. This year, I have either met some authors or come to the realization that I have many friends who are authors. Not matter what the case is, it is my job as a friend and fellow author that I support and read their works.

I also need to focus a little bit more on my health. I wont go into how I’m facing oral surgery in January, but I do need to get a check up so I can get back to running. I would like to do more than just one 5k this year. Of course, part of my problem over the last few years is that I can be a bit of an insomniac. Lack of sleep is a problem for me that may have been halting my productivity. So basically, I need more sleep.

Finally, I’ve made a big decision that will help me with debt reduction. I’m moving out of Washington Heights. I have a long term goal to get my credit score up by the time I’m 50 and part of that is being able to save money. The move is a financial one with me being able to have extra money to pay bills. I roll my eyes because it just seems that no matter what my goals are, I am paying bills at one point or another.

So that is pretty much it. I assume this will be my last entry for 2014. It has been an interesting year. I hope you all set goals rather than resolutions. Happy New Year.

We Have A Perception Problem

Photo Dec 13, 3 40 50 PMToday is the eve of Christmas Eve and as much as I really want to talk about my book and how you should all buy it because it’s on sale, I feel the need to continue to talk about what is going on around me. I find it fascinating that we’re living in a time of sheer division. Before it was about Obamacare, or gun control, or Ebola, or gay marriage, but now it’s about policing and protesting for accountability.

Once again I look at the media and see the dollar signs that sells papers and web clicks. Although I find it to be really interesting that two policeman are killed during a terrorist drill in Brooklyn, I feel bad that people have to lose their lives in order for a discussion to happen or to continue. What I can’t stand is how predictable people are.

The moment that those two police officers were killed I hoped and prayed that it was not going to “linked” to the peaceful protests of a week ago. But, in my gut, I knew that this was going to add fuel to the fire.

It’s shame those cops were killed. It’s also a shame that everyone who stands to gain political capital has taken advantage of that, which means that the sheep who believe everything they read will follow suit. Blaming the protesters for a crazy man’s deed is just as stupid as any police supporter saying we’re blaming all police for the actions of a few bad cops. Which brings us to the real problem… perception is reality.

There’s a real perception problem that is overplayed by the media. There are people who believe, with good reason, that the gangsta lifestyle has been glorified and that these “thugs” want to live that lifestyle (by the way, thug is the new “n” word, think about the that). Sure, you can point to music, movies, and video games for such attitudes but lets think about this for one second. If you’re perceived as person who wont amount to anything and you live in an area where your life means nothing then would you think you had a future? How would you act?

There are also people who believe, with good reason, that bad cops don’t exist. They’re first responders to danger and are sworn to protect and serve. If there’s an incident they respond to that must mean that thugs and criminals are present, which may be true. However, it’s only in the pages of the Batman or in television shows that police do bad things. After all, if Tamir Rice (12 years) had only listened to the police and put down the toy gun he would be alive today.

Maybe that assessment may seem unfair but bad people exist on both sides. What continues to pop up is absolutism. If you’re not with me than you’re against me. If you support Obamacare you’re anti-American. If you’re protesting police brutality then you’re against cops. Why can’t we live in the grey anymore? Why can’t our interests be mutually exclusive?

I know the answer but if I talk about race then I’m a race-baiter or I’m being divisive. We have a perception problem and it will not be fixed until we place the appropriate value on human lives.

If I talk about Mike Brown, someone will say, “he wasn’t innocent.” My response has always been, it doesn’t matter. We’re suppose to have this glorious justice system that can determine that

“Well, he’s this big guy and the cop was afraid so he had to shoot him.” My response has always been, you mean shoot him after he ran? Couldn’t Wilson shoot him in the leg? “Cops are taught to shoot to kill.” Bingo. That’s the problem. Why have a judicial system if that is truly the case?

Again, we have a perception problem because if anyone of us talk about any of these officers in a bad light in terms of history of police brutality, any guesses on the response?

It doesn’t matter they were a cops.

Perception is reality and we need to fix this.

You Miss Me When I’ve Flown

tumblr_ncddibEzmQ1sjh130o3_500Some one asked me what I wanted for Christmas and my response was, time. I don’t mean in the sense of getting a new watch (which would fabulous) but in the sense that I simply don’t care for material possessions as I once did. I guess as I look at the increasing number of grey hairs in my beard, I begin to think about things I’ve done and not done and things that I’ve said and not said.

Time can be our greatest asset and our worst enemy all rolled into one. It has allowed me to suffer with horrid decisions while healing the pain in the end. It has allowed me to cultivate a passion and love the people who mean the most to me. However, there are times that I feel that it isn’t enough. I feel, at times, that I do not have all the time I need.

When we buried my aunt last month, it was my mother that looked at everyone and said, “I thought I had more time.”

That the thing isn’t it? We all wish we had more time. There seems to be a universal trait with all humans that time is something that could be more valuable than money. There is certain amount of privilege that comes with being young if we measure time in units of value.

When were are young, we are frivolous with it. We waste it on meaningless things and yet we can be generous with it when it suits our needs. When we get older we start to clutch on to it. We want to save it and keep in safe. We watch and monitor our valuable units of time slowly whisk away until we have nothing left.

Until I am measured I am not known,Yet how you miss me when I have flown. This is the reason why I seem to watch television less and less. The reason why I feel the need to write as many books as I can. Time is a universal truth, a rule that cannot be broken by any science, magic, or religion. We will spend it one way or another but really the question is how much of it will we waste until its too late?

I submit to you all that its not just life that is precious, it’s also time. Wasted time is a crime in itself and that’s why it hurts so much when someone dies. Not only is their life gone but their units of time is gone as well. While we mourn an older person who has left us, there is a spirit of celebration due to the good times shared. But when a young person goes via murder, disease, or an accident…then the pain is compounded because future time is now lost.

We can say Black Lives Matter but what we really mean is Black Time Matters. Think about all the wasted time (as a people) in bondage, or battling racism, or dealing with poverty, or dealing with things that cannot be afforded. That is why genocide is so horrible because time is stolen from future generations.

Maybe I’m getting sentimental, after all I did turn forty this year. I’ve had an eye on just about everything that has been happening around me. It is hard to stop and smell the roses for fear of wasting time.

At the end of the day, I’m still reminded of an old discussion I wrote about in 2011 where someone told me, we all make time for what we want.