Isolation

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There was a time, early in my blogging life, when I used to write about some really personal issues. It was an interesting thing to do because people would call me real, and brave, and honest (even if I was writing about being a liar). What I took from all those years of writing was that I wasn’t alone in my pain. I wasn’t alone in this thing called life.

But lately, I’ve been feeling a certain amount of isolation. It’s no secret that I went through a break up of sorts with someone I thought was a friend. It’s no secret that my beautiful girlfriend is finishing up her MBA in another state (it’s a two year program). So I guess when you factor in those things there could be a normal sense of loneliness. However, I do hang with people from time to time and I do live with family so one can argue that I’m never truly alone.

Yes, I can get into this whole discussion that we all are never truly alone, not with social media being what it is. In many ways, Twitter has made my life when it comes to watching shows and sporting events. People are hilarious; the community can be inviting and welcoming (particularly when you block the trolls). I can also make an argument on how I couldn’t possibly feel isolated when I talk to many people privately about writing and books. I do have friends who are there. So what is my issue?

Let’s look at this. I enjoy being alone because I don’t have to answer to anyone. I tend to not go out because people annoy me and when I do, I hate to conform to other people. I mean, I can go out and have drinks but after while (depending who I’m with) I get bored. Of course, doing this with good friends, family, and/or the girlfriend is crucial because they never bore me. But with way my life is right now, it is a rare thing. Work has been incredibly busy and my life has been all about that. Maybe, I’m one of those self isolating people who think that are extraverted but are really introverted. Can someone change from one to another?

Sometimes, I think about my life choices. I never pledged a fraternity and I often wondered how different my life would be. Would the constant number of male friends in my life change how I feel? I find this hard to believe because I think dealing with the constant barrage of the male ego would annoy me. I’m one of those guys that would stop you from joking about rape or question whether it was you who was at fault during the situation with that girl.

Blah. See, that never works because I am the sum of my past.

Is it possible that this feeling is a mood swing? Maybe all these deaths are getting to me. Is it a chemical reaction? What if I started eating meat again (haha – yes this made me laugh)? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t say I’m unhappy because I know what that is. I’ve hit the pinnacle of unhappiness years ago. This whole mood feels different.

I think I will wait to see what happens when my woman comes back from school. Maybe her presence is the link I need to not feel so isolated.

Prince – In My Own Words

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No. Just no. I’m still in shock. I feel like my childhood, the essence of who I am is fading away. He’s always supposed to be there because he was always there. Prince was not supposed to get old. Prince was not supposed to die because he was our icon our real life superhero.  He was a living legend and now he is just a legend… one of the greatest.

I remember hearing his music when I was a child. Controversy and 1999 where two of my favorite songs even though I had no idea who he was and what he was singing about. It was Purple Rain that etched Prince into my psyche. The movie and the album still have an effect on me in ways that are hard for me to describe.

The When Doves Cry video was so crazy to me. I was like 10 years old watching images that I couldn’t make sense of. But what stuck out to me more than anything was the conflict between the parents, which were scenes from the movie. That stuck with me so much that I knew that I had to eventually see it. The words would stick in my head…

Maybe I’m just like my father too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied

Even at that age I thought, this man knows me. I had to see Purple Rain because it was rated R and there was nudity in it. Of course, I got the hands-covering-my-eyes treatment (I vowed to see it again when I hit 18) but I just loved the movie. It made me want to be a rock and roll star. It made me want to pick up a guitar and lead a band on a fictional stage in the Bronx. I dreamed about it so much that it gave me my first attempts at writing songs.

Of course, real life set in and that didn’t last long but I never forgot that feeling. It wasn’t until about four year later in High School, when I started really hanging out with my cousin that I realized how much music Prince had. That was the year of the Batman. A dream come true of a real batman movie and the musical soundtrack from the living legend. Since then, our music choices were forever linked between house music, hip hop, and Prince.

All his songs resonate with me because in each stage of my adult life has meant interpreting them differently. Listing them is so hard to do because there’s so many. Listening to them is so hard because there are so many.

So many songs that speak to me, that pull at the heart strings about love had, lost, and never will be. Prince will always be that musical superhero with his own emblem accompanied with cape and cane. He championed our causes and we thought him to be immortal because of it. Superhero and Icons never die right?

I just can’t believe he’s gone. This cannot have really happened. I still hope that is one big hoax to show the record companies that they will never own him. But alas…

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor…

Rest in Peace to Artist Formally known as… no.

Rest in Peace to Artist World Renown as…
The Beautiful One.
The Revolution.
The Symbol.

Prince.

Reality Numbers Check

On the eve of book two, I’m forced to think about how hard this whole self publishing thing is. Writing a novel is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and now to have done it a second time, I have think about lessons learned while being realistic.

I recently received an amazing shoutout during the #blackcomicschat show on Friday. This is a podcast/twitter chat that comes on bi weekly that I love to listen to and during one of their segments, they were giving shout outs to loyal listeners. One of the podcasters, who also runs the Blerd Book Club that I was featured in February, gave me and Hanging Upside Down such a favorable shout out that it pretty much made my night. I’m paraphrasing here but he said something to the effect that my book was one of the best books he’s read in a while and he’s wondering how I’m not making more money on this. I think he even mention wanting to know my numbers on this.

The numbers are what they are. I suppose it really depends on your point of view. I knew that being a self published author would have it’s challenges. I wrote about the things I’ve learned about this industry in the Huffington Post a while back. I knew that writing a book without a publisher would mean I would have to sell books from the trunk of my car so to speak. Then there is the audience I wrote this book for: men. Generally men do not read unless it has to do with sports. So where does that leave me and the numbers?

I’ve been reluctant to share this with people because I’m really not sure how to feel about this. On one hand, I wrote a book and I did that because I wanted to and less because I wanted to make serious money on it. So in that respect, I don’t care all that much. However, numbers sometimes really speak to people in the industry. I was told that unless you sell 5000 units, the industry doesn’t really look at you. So you can understand that when I admit to only moving 210 books that it makes me a little uneasy.

I suppose that unease comes from that fact that I feel people think I’m this highly successful author that’s selling books like hot cakes. What I can say is this, I’m willing to redefine what I consider success by simple continuing to write. The fact of the matter is that I appreciate everything that comes my way. I continue to get favorable ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. I’ve also been featured on the Black Girl Nerds website, which is such a highlight for me.

I don’t makes excuses but I think I’ve done pretty well considering that I have a full time job that I enjoy and I’m the only person promoting this book. I may not have the industry behind me but I can tell you that I know about 85% of the people who’ve bought the book. I think this is great because I get to interact with those people who’ve actually read the book.

So to be honest, I am aware of the number. I remember passing 200 and the end of December. I know that this is a long road and perhaps when The Book of Isabel comes out, I may see a spike in sales, but the reality is, I may not. I’m not there yet. I still know people who will say to me… “oh yeah, I should get your book.”

I don’t take it personally. I just keep writing.

I Never Thought

The pain is still there
a dull sense of emptiness
ever so slight
one could think I didn’t miss you
or the light
I saw in your eyes.
There were two of you
one I buried long ago
the other I left
in a life I had to let go.

I can still hear drops
of tears hitting plastic
one of you were wrapped in
I can still feel my pounding heart
when I got a call,
the second one is with his brother.

I never thought
some of my best friends
would be 4 legged.
I never thought
I would miss you this much.

I see your light in others,
When I walk down the street
and I see you running to me
I blink away the tears
and see you
on the leash of another.

They say that animals have
no souls
but I’ve see your souls and your spirits
in open eyed dreams
of a time lost

I miss my friends
The ones who never hurt me
The ones I can never replace

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That Amazing Video

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That video is kinda crazy. I say crazy because I guess I had no idea it would get as many views as it has. Of course, I’m not sure why because it IS the Huffington Post and I know that the amount of daily traffic they get must be off the charts to a low level blogger like myself. But when someone tells me that this video was played at a workshop about identity? Yeah, that is kinda crazy.

That video is kinda cool. It’s also pretty funny because I forget that I cannot go into these video shoots with any type of expectation. I was fully aware that I wasn’t the only one in it. In fact, I saw Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega walk out of her session when they were done taping. In fact, two of my fellow Syracuse Alums (Janel Martinez & Ghislaine Leon) were outside of the recording room with me talking how great it was to see each other on that snowy ass day. What is interesting is that we all must have spent 20-30 minutes in our sessions talking about what it’s like to be Afro Latinx. So for the final product to be slightly over 2 minutes was just perfect.

We filmed this on cold February day, the day after Valentine’s to be exact. I wondered how long it would take to produce a video with all of us and it wasn’t until I was in New Orleans in late March that I had an indication it was published. My phone blew up when I was sitting in a conference session I was attending. That is when I knew.

I saw the video for the first time on my phone in a hotel lobby. Headphones in. I was smiling. This, of course, would be the first view of many. I just never thought that I would have so many people tagging me on Facebook. Friends and family were one thing because those who support alway support, but to hear from people I haven’t spoken to in awhile saying they saw that video, took me by surprise.

Many people agreed with the message and cheered it. I never dared to look at comments (unless tagged) because I know better. Other people saw it as a chance to just say hi and catch up. It was a really great time for me. It meant a lot. I’m glad I did it beyond the fact that it means free advertising. lol

I just want to thank Melissa Montanez for bringing us together. Another Syracuse alum that believes in the work we do. So, I do hope that this video continues to get as many views as possible and inspires people to tell their story.

At the end of the day, no one can really define who we are except for ourselves.

Midnight Marauder

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Gone too soon. Pfife was 45 years old (which is about 4 years older than me) and it leaves me wondering about life. We take so many things for granted as if we believe that as long as we can stay way from bullets, vehicular accidents, and places where natural disasters are prominent, then maybe we can reach a nice old age. But, if we learn nothing about the passing of Pfife then what are we really doing with ourselves?

Hip Hop, to me, represents my youth.  It was a time of baggy jeans and eight ball jackets. Before the beef between east and west, there was something pure about Hip Hop. The only warfare to be had in this musical genre was a verbal one. The only thing that separated true emcees was the length of a microphone chord and true skill.

The beauty of early 90’s Hip Hop was that you could be anyone. There were no millionaires in this game. There were no producers jumping in trying to grab the spotlight. There were no athletes nor former actors rapping. What there was were emcees who paid their dues and if they were good enough we heard them on radio.

When Low End Theory came out, there was a sense from everyone who heard it that we may just be listening to one of the greatest albums ever. But when Midnight Marauders came out we all knew we were blessed.

Every generation has that one group that defines them in certain ways and the best way I can describe A Tribe Called Quest is that they are to me what Earth, Wind, and Fire is to the generation behind me. Pfife was the soul of ATCQ and losing him hurts in the same way it hurts to lose Maurice White. Of course Maurice lived to 75 and performed for many years. We will never get a chance to see the 5 foot assassin again.

I connect with Pfife because, to me, he seemed out of place in the game. He fit perfectly into ATCQ but I got the sense that he did what he wanted to do which made him slightly off center. I loved that about him because he had a keen sense of self that no one was going to take away. His flow was crazy and he told stories with his verses that were both hilarious and real.

In the wake of his death, I feel that reminder in the back of my head that I need to visit the doctor on the regular. Even though I’ve lost 20 pounds and cut down on sugar and became a vegetarian, I cannot rest on my laurels. As men, we think that we will always be alright and maybe that twinge of pain in our joints will eventually go away. We don’t want to think about colonoscopies or testicular cancer. We don’t want to think about arthritis or diabetes because we are not that old right?

We are never to young to not see the doctor. We are never too old to learn that we could have done something about our health. If there is one thing I will take from this is that I need to do a better job of taking care of me.

Sigh. I always hoped for the possibility of get one more album from A Tribe Called Quest. I was hoping to get one more song where Pfife kicks it on point.

All we can do is count our blessing and listen to the masterpieces. Rest in Peace, Malik.

Orange History

Malachi Richardson

Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson (23) celebrates after making three point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Chicago. Syracuse won 68-62. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Let me just say this. If you do not bleed orange then this blog post isn’t for you. This may not even be a real blog post in the traditional sense but more of a record of what has occurred. So, there’s no room for any talk about how we don’t belong in the men’s tournament because those complaints are being taken into consideration by the University of Virginia.

Shall I proceed? All the haters gone?

In case you’re still here, I will add insult to your injury  because we have the bonus (although technically the men being in the tournament is the bonus because the women are really effing good) of the women’s team making the Final Four. This the first time they have ever been this far into the tournament and to have both teams still alive this far into March is beyond amazing.

While I remember the excitement of 2013 and winning it all in 2003, what all this makes me think of is 1996. Yup, twenty years ago an upstart team led by John Wallace made it to the title game. Surprise, Surprise, we weren’t picked to go that far but we did. Of course it took an NBA like University of Kentucky team to beat us but it was still a great ride.

The basic truth is that maybe we weren’t supposed to be in the tournament. I know I was wasn’t expecting it. But hey, fuck it, we take what is given and rock it as always.

So, in many ways, these teams are helping me pay homage to my senior year at Syracuse University. To my fellow alumni, I will not post pictures or even that famous song because we have Facebook for that. Instead, I will just display below the marvelous come from behind win from a team of “never-will-bees” that took down a number one seed.

Let’s Go Orange.

Book of the Month #BlerdBookClub

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I’ve been teasing this on Social Media for sometime now but I finally have a date for my guest appearance on the Blerd Book Club chat. Assuming that you have no idea what I’m talking about, I will fill you in on some details of how we got here.

I joined the Blerd Book Club in December when it was recommend by a few writer and host Thelonious Legend. Because I’m a devout listener to Black Comics Chat (a dope podcast) we ended up following each other on Twitter. Once he found out that I wrote a book, he asked me to join the club because every month they read a new book and I can nominate Hanging Upside Down for any given month if I chose to. Of course I was sold.

12195763_10154008417704040_8527905421711099943_nI nominated the book in January but lost to another amazing book called The Mark of Noba. The second time around proved to be a better result. My novel was chosen as February’s book of the month. What that means is that my book is recommended to the members of the book club to read so that they can gear up for a discussion the following month.

So the following month is now upon us and the book discussion is happening on March 13 at 4pm EST. So how this works that the link below takes you YouTube and on this day I will be there along with some peeps and we will discuss Hanging Upside Down. Even if you miss it, you can watch it anytime after the fact. The hashtag to follow along on Twitter is #BlerdBookClub

It should be a great discussion in which I hope to really get deep into some themes about masculinity and identity. I plan on talking very briefly about The Book of Isabel and my work behind that. I would also like to talk about my on going project of Naked City. Lastly, I plan on releasing the title of the Third Book.

I’m very excited about this and I hope you check it out.

Am I on a Break?

I may be in a bit of a lull creatively. I will preface this by saying that my second book is done and it could be that I just need to take a break. However, when I go through this, I scare myself because sometimes I feel as if I have nothing to say anymore and that leads to less blogs.

Of course, there are other things that are going on. My full time job has me busier than ever and since I love what I do, I make sure that I do my job well. My real job allows me to work late hours which is in my wheel house. If you know then you know that I work better later on in the day.

Also there is the fact that I’m traveling in a few weeks to New Orleans. This my yearly conference trip that took me to San Antonio last year and Orlando the year before that. I’m looking forward to adding this city to the growing list of cities that I’ve been visiting within the last 3 years. There is also some work for this that has tied up my time.

Truth be told, I’ve already come up with the basic premise for the third book. I already have a working title that I’m not ready to announce yet. There will be another time for that which will, of course, be accompanied by a blog post. With all my non writing, I’m still working in the background when it comes to things I’ve already written.

Despite all this, I’m not sure if what I feel is something remotely close to burn out. I’ve had some ideas about what my next Huffington Post blog will be but I just haven’t written it. I need to write a post for another site I’m a part of but I don’t know, I feel like I’ve been a little useless in terms of ideas unless it has to do with the novel or short story.

I have been trying to spend my time reading or listening to podcasts. I’m thinking that what I really need is to be inspired again to write blog posts. I know the hardest thing in this game is to be consistent and at one time I really was. But, I begin to wonder if it is too much.

With that being said, I think I need to start looking at writing prompts. I think I need to do more free writes. Before I think about being a in funk, I will go back to something that was told to me a few weeks ago (and I am paraphrasing), “Don’t beat yourself up for not writing enough blogs when your busy writing books.”

Good Advice, huh?

I’m Not Required Reading, But I Will Be


I know that I’m doing a lot. Outside of having a regular job that I love, I am a writer who’s trying to make himself better. There’s tons of work that comes along with that. There are dues to pay and mistakes to make and then correct. I know that I’m not required reading right now, but I will be.

I’m reading more that ever. I’m meeting with a few writers to assess what I could be doing better. I’m meeting with other writers to help them understand this process. I’m writing short stories and adding final touches to my second novel. I listen to audio versions of classic books outside of the normal books I read and I’m reading graphic novels.

I consider this training because I know that I can better. I know the words I use and the stories I choose to write solidify who I am as an artist. I don’t have the fancy book deals. I don’t have the agent or the MFA sheepskin on my wall. What I do have in a sense of determination and willingness to keep going.

Often, I’ve thought about quitting. I measure my success higher than anyone can think. I can at least say I wrote one book. That is more that many people.

Often, I’ve thought about packing it up and fading into the background. Closing up all social media outlets and just becoming that dude that gets up everyday, goes to work, comes home, sleeps. Wash. Dry. Repeat.

Often, I’ve thought about how no one really gives a shit about what I write. Want to know what I do when those thoughts creep in? I write some more.

I know that I’m not required reading right now, but I will be.

I’m not very well known. I don’t have 10k in followers. I don’t campaign my work to the all knowing authority in books. I don’t even know if such a thing exists but that will not stop me from getting better and writing my ass off.

No. I don’t sleep. I write.

I go to work to take a break from writing. I eat better so I can write some more. I write because I require myself to. Perhaps I don’t do it everyday and when I don’t then read and prepare. I want to better at all of this. I want someone to pick one of my books and say, damn.

I know that I’m not required reading right now, but I will be.