A Fine Line

IMG_1254 …at the end of the day I just want to write something.
…at the end of the day I just want to create something.

the question really is, does it matter if anyone reads?
there is a fine line between recognition and comprehension
there is a fine line between love and hate
there is a line between genius and madness

how do I codify the drivel people love?
how does anyone move passed it?

at the end of the day I just want to create something
like an uncommon codex
but does it matter if people read?

the best manuscripts collect dust somewhere
the best minds un-apologetically discuss it
in programs and workshops
but reading is a rainbowed art form that people pretend to like

writing is a pot of lucky charms
that people delve into
in order to get gold marshmallows
that fade a way into the arms of the Amazonian drones

meanwhile, dewey decimals are covered in dust kicked up by
twerking appropriations,
140 characters messages,
64GB must have devices,
pictures of words posted on social media,
and 200-word click bait articles.

at the end of the day I just want to write something
but does it matter if people read?

Stephen’s Ghost

Zine

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

Without further ado…

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

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

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

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

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

“So what’s up with Kirk?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t think…?” He asks.

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

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

****

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

Book Two – Legitimacy & Beyond

IMG_0707The last time I counted, I am passed 70k in words for my current novel. The significance in this is that I’m way ahead of schedule on where I thought I would be. I promised that I would finish draft one by the end of this summer and it may jut be that I will finish it sometime really soon.

By my estimates of what I’ve already written and what I have left, leads me to believe that I have about 15 to 20k words left in this story and that is being generous. So I’m three quarters done with the book. Of course, we go into a different phase once actual editing begins, but its safe to say that I can make some short term projections based on where I am right. I foresee the book being released summer of next year. But things can change.

The other thing that is freaking me out is how easy the transitions from book 2 to book 3 will be. I can literally start book three while the second one is being edited. At this moment, I’m not sure I will do that, but I can. At this time, I’m in a pretty good groove. I’ve refined my writing habits to the point where I may not want to stop writing even when I’m done with draft one. While I could write more blogs, I may just continue on to the next book because the drive and inspiration may still be there when the time comes. It will take months to edit and when I get bogged down with that, I have another outlet.

batman-beginsRight now, all this stuff feels like yammering but the point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t realize how fast I’ve been writing all this time. It’s almost like Interstellar where time moves slower in some places and faster in others. There are times where I feel like I’m taking too long of a break and before I know it, I’m at like 70k in words.

The reality is that the number of words do matter to me because I don’t want any of my books to feel too long or too short. I know that stories will be as long as they have to but as a self published author, I feel that there is also a struggle for legitimacy. That struggle is strictly based on where I see myself in 10 years. I can parade Hanging Upside Down all day, but if I just stop there what does that make me?

In 10 years, I want someone to look at my author profile and see 4 – 5 books listed. That is what makes me legitimate in my mind. I need to put in the work and that work never ends. So if my current book does not do well and becomes the book that time forgot, I will have a list of other books that people, more importantly my progeny, can see and realize that I am more than the sum of books.

Right now, what I am is an author who is 2/3 done with his second book.

How I Lost 20 effing Pounds

IMG_0478It’s crazy actually, but I don’t think I did anything amazing. I just did a few things that I said I was going to do and the results have been more than I could’ve hoped for. I lost 20 pounds in about 45 days and weight loss was not even my goal, it was a result of me just trying to be healthier.

I may have explained this before but there have been 5 people in my life that have gotten cancer. 4 of those are relatives. 2 of those 5 are my age. The thing that doctors tell cancer patients and survivors is that they need to change their diet. So I started thinking, why wait for that to happen? I should just start now.

I stated last month that I was going to stop eating meat. There were some jokes and some looks that I got. The comments were interesting both on Facebook and on Twitter. Most were supportive, of course, but I had to convince some family members that I was not going to force my beliefs on anyone. They can have all the meat they want but I will still continue to this lifestyle.

That is the key to this. This is not a diet, this is lifestyle. I run 2-3 times a week and I changed my eating habits. There is no special pill, no green ring that works on will power, and no formula to any of this, just motivation. However, I write about this because people do asking me what am I doing that has allowed me to be this way.

Well first, I eat Fish which technically means I’m a Pescatarian so that does help because, depending on the fish, it is generally healthier. I stay way from fast foods and, of course, I drink tons of water. However, the most important thing that I have changed in my life has been the decrease of sugar intake. I believe this is the number one reason for my weight loss. The reason I added this along with giving up meat is because outside the threat of cancer is diabetes, which is way too common in my family.

My daily intake of sugar is from 5g – 20gs a day. I do strive for the lower end of the spectrum and I know there are days when I don’t consume sugar at all. I’ve gotten very used to not putting sugar in my coffee. That is something that I did every day without fail. Now, I don’t even miss it and in fact, I don’t even put milk in my coffee anymore.

Here is some example of what I do for meals each day. I don’t do these all at once or even every day but these are my options:

9e2cV5ZBreakfast: Eggs. Cheerios (1g of sugar) with milk. Banana. Black Coffee. Croissant (6g of sugar). Pancakes and French Toast are a rarity because syrup is high in sugar.

Lunch: I have salad everyday for lunch. When I don’t, it is generally a veggie burrito. If I’m slumming it, peanut butter & banana sandwich (Multi-grain Bread)

Dinner: Fish (Salmon, Sushi, etc), veggies, pasta, rice, quinoa, beans,

Snacks: Fruits, walnuts, peanuts, cheese, crackers.

These are samples of what I do. Sometimes I will have tuna fish sandwich for lunch or a slice of cheese pizza. The most important thing is that I do not have too much of the guilty pleasures like ice cream, cookies, and chocolate. Trust me, I can kill those, but I do have them in moderation.

Speaking of moderation, I have eaten meat a small number of times in the past 45 days. I would say no more than 6 times. I’ve come to realize that I cannot go over board when it comes to the consumption of meat because it actually has been making me sick and that was just one hot dog. So, for me, if I’m going to eat meat or poultry (because, after all I am Latino) then it will be on my terms.

That is also the key everything. I’m doing all lifestyle change on my terms and it feels great.

Ant-Man and the Hombre Pequeño

Ant-Man-Character-Poster-Michael-PenaThis is not a review of Ant-Man. Let’s get that out of the way so you know that very few thing in this article contains spoilers. However, I need for you to be on the same page with me so I’m going to assume you’ve either seen it or you don’t care about things being slightly spoiled for you.

I want to go on record by saying that Ant-Man gets a B+ because it has all the elements of a typical fun loving super hero movie that you can expect from Marvel. But again, this is not a review of Ant-Man. But what do we really come to expect from a Marvel movie? A fast paced movie, humor, poorly written women characters, mid credit scenes, black side kicks, end of credit scenes, and a Stan Lee appearance. Right?

So let’s add something to the list, Latino coonery. I mean let’s be real about this. People of color have been relegated to side kick roles in all of Marvel’s films thus far. We all know who they are: Nick Fury, Iron Patriot, Falcon, and Hiemdall. None of these are black women, in fact, are there any black women in the Marvel Cinematic universe? Don’t say Storm because that is not the same “universe” we are talking about. Before you wrack your brain and say Zoe Saldana (who is Afro-Latino) understand that she is not portrayed as a woman of color in Guardians of the Galaxy but as an Alien woman which is the a big difference (just like Lupita in Star Wars, who you wont really see) because Gamora is no Amanda Waller.

So now that you know what to expect and what’s been added to the list, lets talk about Ant-Man. Scott Lang is a former criminal looking to change his ways so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that out of his three “friends”, one is Latino and the other is T.I.. Please understand that when I saw that Michael Peña was in this movie, it was sort of big deal because I love this guy. He’s one of those actors that I feel needs more roles especially after seeing his performance in Crash. His character, Luis (which is kinda messed up since that is the name of the protagonist in my book, Hanging Upside Down – shameless plug), is supposed be the muscle of the group from what I gather. But he comes across as a hipster like gang-banger that sounds like Joey from Friends in SAP.

There is no question that he plays this role well. He is indeed funny but, I believe the dotted line between being laughed with and laughed at was crossed. I call it Latino coonery because it was just too much yapping younahwatIissayin? Luis was so just so extra in his words and verbal expressions that I cringed at certain parts. The same exact jokes could have been done without the need to make the only prominent Latino person in the film seem so ridiculous. Yes, it is a good thing that he does have a prominent speaking role and is very useful in his relegated side kick role but he is no where near Cisco from The Flash who is intelligent, witty, in addition to being funny.

What is really strange is the very few people have mentioned this about the film. I know some pretty opinionated people who gloss over this fact and that is alarming to me. I’m hoping that we’re not getting so comfortable seeing these big superhero films that we forget to be socially aware when it comes to pandering, cultural appropriations, and coonish portrayals of people of color in mainstream film.

So if you do see Ant-Man for the first or second time, take notice to what I’m saying. We should expect better from films we freely give our money to. While it is great to see Luis in this film he ends being much smaller than the hero.

Sunset to Sunrise: We’re connected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting the Network of Distraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2015 Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List 2005

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

Story Endings = Easier Beginnings. #amwriting

IMG_0400Today may be my day off but I’m actually working on this book. I feel that I need an extra edge by giving myself time specifically to write. At this point, I’m only writing between times in my life where I can sit down and concentrate and believe it or not, it isn’t very often.

Someone asked me the other day if it’s easier to write a book since I’ve already done it. While I don’t remember my exact answer, with the benefit of time to think about it, I can say that it’s definitely not easier (at least, not yet). My motivation for book two is not the same as Hanging Upside Down. With my first book, I had a feeling that I needed to get the story out of me so there were nights that whole chapters were being poured out into those pages. With book two, its different because I feel more strategic. I know that I want to get this book done by the end of the year so that edits can start. Then if edits start by a particular time then I can pick a release date. I never had to really worry about these things with the first book because I was learning as I was going.

In any case, my projected day has always been 2016. I don’t know when because without the first draft being done, everything is pretty much up in the air. The one thing for sure is that I’ve kept pushing myself to get this done. A week off will go a long way to making sure that I meet my goals. Sure, it is vacation from my full time job, but in many ways I still have to work. I still need to put in the time to make this work for me.

Today I decided to do something different. I’m writing the ending of book two because I need to lay out my end point. I need to remind myself that they’re plot lines that need to be wrapped up and I also need to set myself up for book three. Just like the last time I wrote a book, I knew how it was going to end. This time around, I just decided to write it out.

The other thing that makes book two a little tougher for me is the way I’m writing it. I want the reader to have a particular experience with this book and requires me to write this story in a way that I’m not used to. In addition to that, I’ve not been writing the book linearly as you may have noticed with my writing of the ending now.

I can’t really explain why I’m writing this way. I can only say that “easier” is relative. But since every story has an ending, this should help with my beginning.

41

41-622x414I’ve been on a mission. I’ve been driven to prove to myself that my fourth decade of existence will be better the past three. I truly believe that life should get better the older we get. I also believe that every new goal that is set should mean more than the last.

Maybe its because I’m getting older and I view life just a little differently than I did when I was younger. In any case, I want to be able to see new sites and do things that I’ve never done before (within reason…I’m not jumping out of a plane). I would like to spend more time with people who matter to me.

I also feel that when you get to point in life, second chances to do things just seem to pop up. Dead relationships come back to life and (more often then not) old relationship come to an inevitable end. Second careers are born during this time and as I look further down the road, I truly do not know what to expect. The goal remains the same: continuous writing. From there, I will see what happens.

Right now, I’m just grateful for family and friends. I love the fact that when I go somewhere with people who know me, they tell me to keep writing. I love that.

Today, I received a great gift, a reminder to never stop what I’m doing. I ran into former colleagues from Syracuse University that I haven’t seen in a long time. We connected and bonded over current success. During the conversation it was pointed out to me that despite their busy work they found time to buy my book. These are people I haven’t seen in at least 5 years. I needed that…the universe knew I need to hear that. Despite any of my struggles, there are people out there rooting for me.

That was just as good as any gift I will get today.