Its all about #booktwo

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I always start out any of my life stories with “my life is never dull.” There’s nothing about this statement that a lie, which is why its hard to have time to sit down and hash out a blog post. Although, if you’ve been paying attention, I did drop my eleventh Huffington Post Article last week. All this to say that my free time, when I do have it, has been focused on my second novel.

At this point, I’m about 114 pages in and still working out all the minor details. Of course, I know how it ends so its just part of my literary journey to get there. I feel good about what I’ve written so far and I will be honest, I cannot wait to share it with people.

Just like the last time I went through this process, I’m starting to think about the next book. I’m thinking about ways to set myself up for book 3. Part of the reason for this is that it gives me the drive to keep going. I want to get to a point where all I do is just write books if I can continue to be inspired to do so. A large part of me feels that if I can continue to tell parts of stories, I will want to finish them or connect them in a later volume.

But for now, it is all about #booktwo. I’ve been really gearing myself up to do this with the right hashtag to let people know there are things that I’m doing which is related to this book. My inspiration comes from all around and there are times when an idea will hit me and I have to drop what I’m doing so I can write it down.

So what is #booktwo about? This novel is an extension of Hanging Upside Down with some of the major players from that book with in addition to some new characters. The main plot is centered around a book Louis wrote called, The Book Of Isabel that he shares with a very sick friend of his. I invite the reader to read the book along side his friend so they what she sees. However, before you think about how #booktwo is a prequel, there will be times when I will bring the reader to the present causing a shift between prequel to sequel.

I think it is a pretty bold move on my part to write a story this way but I intend on sticking with the main theme which is friendship. We all have friends that we we gain and lose. Sometimes we gain an unexpected friend and at times we lose a friend we never expected to. Life plays out in very strange ways and I plan on drawing our concepts of friendship (as well as relationships) that are difficult to handle for Louis.

Sure, I will be drawing a lot of this from personal experience but I think that the true fictional narrative will show. If you read the first book then you will see some of the same characters that you’ve come to expect and some new ones that will make you question the reason why Louis trusts anyone at all. I have some surprise that will lead into the third book.

Yes. There will be a third book in this “series.” Please understand, I never intended on this to be trilogy or even a series of books. I really was going to just drop this whole thing after #booktwo but I think that I have enough material to make a third book, which I think will be outrageous. But after that, I think I can move on to my other plans for other stories with in this “universe” that does not involve the exploits of Louis Ortiz.

I think by the time I even get to book four (which I kinda know what it will be about) I will have a myriad of characters to play with as I see fit. So with that being said, I’m back to the keyboard in hopes that #booktwo will be out sometime next year.

This Won’t End Soon

la-na-cvs-pharmacy-baltimore-riots-pictures-20150428None of this is going to end anytime soon. I want to start off by saying this because I believe there is a underlying question in the American sub conscience that asks the question, when is Black America going to stop rioting and move on? This is the same question that is fueled by the thought that if criminals didn’t act that way then what else do you expect to happen?

A: Severed Spine. Crushed Trachea.

tumblr_nnla15Uvcl1qzbucao1_1280People say violence isn’t the answer but we just happen to be at war all the time. Violence isn’t the answer but we’re ok with bombing other countries and we say nothing when Palestine gets leveled. So when people talk about violence, they mean Black violence. They don’t want to see any street in American on fire. Wait. It’s only acceptable if things are on fire because a sports team has won versus brown poor people acting all crazy.

I find it funny when people say, well if you don’t want the cops to bother you then don’t be a criminal (because obviously only criminals get harassed by cops). Clearly in that line of thinking… only criminals fit a particular profile. So what’s that profile? Are we talking about thieves who steal money? If that’s the case, where are the police when the housing market crashed? I don’t see anyone on Wall St getting stopped and frisked.

The reality is that to be viewed as a criminal in this country is to be viewed as less then human. So it’s apparently ok for you to get shot in the back or have your spinal column severed because these are criminals like in Law & Order. On that rare occasion they may get that Super Negro that frightens police and they need to shoot first because, as we know, The Avengers are only in the movies. They never get the benefit of the doubt (unless years later DNA tests prove otherwise….oops). Then when they get out of jail they cant find a job and can’t vote. What happens then?

A severed spinal cord is a break in the network of nerve cells in the spine. The spinal cord is a spongy white substance encased inside the hollow vertebrae and discs of the spine. This cord can be severed due to a traumatic injury. If the spinal cord is severed, it can cause paralysis below the point of the damage, which can be total or partial, depending on the level of injury and degree of impairment of the cord.

I find it funny that people say, oh, but why destroy your community? You mean the poor community no body bothers to think or care about until its actually on fire? I don’t live in Baltimore so I have no idea what they’ve been through. However, history shows that decades of police brutality, disenfranchisement, and poor socioeconomic conditions play into everything thing that’s happening right now. There’s no question that I have no idea what I would do if I grew up in a place such as this but I’m sure that if I was subjected to all these issues and was sick and tired of all the abuse and living conditions, I might burn down shit too.

tumblr_nnkh9dPVEH1qc8jh0o7_540Again, the only riots I see happening that have nothing to do with black lives are when sports teams win or lose. I see no one in the media condemning those to the same degree as what we saw in Ferguson and in Baltimore. <sarcasm font> I’m glad there is outrage over property being destroyed </f> because this is what many people value as opposed to Black lives which is what WE value. How do you expect anyone to care about property when they will never own it?

CVS has insurance for fire damage.

This country was founded on violence and murder. Black youth are criminalized all the time just for fitting a profile and while not all cops are bad….let’s acknowledge there is a problem with the system. Take responsibility by admitting this problem; if you cannot do that, then all you’re really doing is calling each and everyone of us delusional and I got news for you, none of this is going to end anytime soon.

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I Don’t Trust Them Very Much. #Mets

IMG_9542 I’m skeptical, that’s best way to put it. I’ve been a Mets fan all my life and in my lifetime I have been through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately most of it has been bad and ugly so when they open the season red hot, I tend to not fall over myself because I’ve seen this before. Sure, I love the Mets but I don’t trust them very much.

This lack of trust has always been there but it is been deeply rooted since the second consecutive collapse of 2008. Once the restructuring began, I knew that it may be a very long time until this team would be in the conversation again. So now it is 2015 and they are 11-3 with a 9 game winning streak; undefeated at home. Time to get hype? No.

I know the numbers. Mets always have a decent April. But when they get into the grind of the season, they begin remember that they are the other team from New York. While people will point to stats that say this is the best start since 1986 and 2006, I will remind them that it is April and I refuse to buy into anything for the moment. There is still a ton of baseball left.

Before you come to the conclusion that I’m not a real Mets fan (to which I will laugh my ass off) understand that my feelings are that of caution. The real issue is that I hate to lose. Getting involved year after year with a team who’s owners don’t care is exhausting. Talking about this to people who think Mets fans have gotten use to losing is exhausting. There is not one person in the city of New York that is accustomed to losing. Ask any true Knicks fans how infuriating this is. The truth of the matter is that I want two basic things: the Mets to be in the playoffs every year and the MTA to stop raising its fairs. We all can’t get what we want can we?

So the absurdity to think that losing is something I’ve become accustomed to is crazy. But all this hype is too soon for me. I need to see this team during the tough times to really see what they are made of. I dont like the phrase, “This is our year” because it has been used too often by this organization. I just need them to just play and play as well as they’re playing right now.

I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that I will not buy into this yet. This teams is going make me care for them the same way I cared in 2006 and if my heart gets broken again, then it will be a long winter for me. So yes, I love the New York Mets. I love then they are battling to be relevant again. I love that, at the moment, they are a part of the conversation.

But, I just don’t trust them very much.

The Mistake of Trust.

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I’ve made so many mistakes in my life. The little mistakes are too many to count but the big ones…they scar. I have no problem admitting mistakes and while I seem to be a defensive person, I’m an open book of relative failures and successes. I’m also guilty of many things in the past such as, lying, stealing, and cheating but all of those pale in comparison to the biggest thing I am guilty of… trusting.

I’ve had this discussion before. I trust too easily, why? Maybe because I feel in some small way people are inherently good despite the fact that 9 times out of 10 I’m proven wrong. I have these talks with friends and loved ones that we, as humans, cannot all be as horrible as we think we are. There must be some amount of honor and credibility in strangers and especially in friends. Then something happens and you realize that honor is something you hear in a movie.

Want to know the honest truth? I very much enjoy being nice to people. I like meeting people but lately, I just find it hard to get close. I keep a safe distance and for the most part, I can be quiet. Why? I’m not sure I want to know what lays in the heart of strangers when I know what lays in the hearts of my “friends.”

That sounds harsh. I’m not that person that hates people. I’m speaking from a place that is raw because I trusted someone and now that trust is gone. When I was younger, broken friendship were a dime a dozen. Assholes come into our lives all the time in our twenties but as we get older we begin to filter out the bullshit. The plethora of friends we thought we had dwindles from two hands to one.

The term right hand man is probably meant as way to show that this person is only one of, maybe, five people in the world that can be truly trusted with secrets, money, contracts, and all matter close to the chest. This is the ride or die person that has fought the wars…together with us. Imagine what your hand looks like when you lose a finger.

I’ve been through horrible breakups, a divorce that changed me, thieving ex-friends, dishonest supervisors, untrustworthy co-workers, and family member drama. I survived all that and I’m still that person that may give a person $20 because they need it. I’m still that person that is willing to be nice to people. I’m still that person that wants to trust you, I just can’t.

I can only take so much. I can’t only extend that olive branch so far before I have to pull it back, but now I have to go a different route. I will be hurt but not angry because I know how to let things go. Thus I will let go of this friendship and never forget the good times nor the bad ones. I will never forget. For the minute I hit submit on this blog the deed is done.

We had our time together. I need to let you go.

Would You Like An Umbrella? #acui15

umbrella1This past week I was in the city of San Antonio for this year’s ACUI Conference and right off the bat I can say that I had a great time. I was a part of two panel discussions (one about the retention of men of color in our field and the other was #blacklivesmatter in our college unions) that me feel like I’m really giving something back to our community. Of course, with all the hard work and learning comes a slew of social activities because most of us have to enjoy the host city. It’s times like these that I realize that liquor and I aren’t always the best of friends.

I’m not a fan of the margarita. Sure, I enjoy tequila in limited amounts, but huge Texas sized chalices of margarita goodness is not meant for me. First night, I had one I felt like I was drinking ocean water with some flavored alchol. I admit, I’m not a pro but I made the attempt while enjoying the sights of the Riverwalk. However, the next night I discovered a place that had frozen coconut margaritas that completely rocked me and reminded me so much of a pina colada (which honestly is more my speed). From this point, I figured if other places had THIS flavor with less salt then perhaps I can hang.

So the next night a group of us hang out late again (work hard, play hard) and we go to a place that along the Riverwalk. We sit down and l look at the drink menu and all I’m thinking about is how I have to be up at 6 am so I’m really not trying to overdo it. Of course, this place does not serve coconut margaritas. However, I will rock the pina colada because that is what they have! So I’m good.

Waiter shows up and takes all the orders and I just happen to be last one. Please understand my colleagues are pros, they order these colossal sized drinks so I expected to be ribbed about the size of my drink because it will most likely not be in a goblet of goodness. Waiter looks at me as I order the pina colada and replies, “Would you like an umbrella with that sir?”

So let’s pause here. I know the implications of what he’s saying. I understand the language of snark and sarcasm. I’m also that dude that can take a verbal beating as well as dish it So, I know that he’s telling me he thinks this is a girl drink, which by the way, am I not paying for this drink? Doesn’t my tip depend on your customer service? Also, what’s wrong with a woman’s drink?

So I reply, “Yup, I will take the umbrella and make sure it’s pink too” (there is laughter)

I think he was stunned by my response since I’m very confident in my masculinity. He responds, “Sir, that’s a bit of a girlie drink, are you sure you don’t want another drink?”

“Unless you have a coconut margarita…”

“I will put you down for a pina colada.”

By the way, the drink I ordered was exactly what I wanted. To my colleagues who felt the need to tell the waiter to just leave me alone and let me order whatever I want, you are awesome. While, I was not angry, I needed to make the point that I don’t have time for his awful gender bias. A woman drink? Really? Women are awesome. I could’ve gone into a whole explanation of how I work for an all woman college, but what would be the point? He needed to see that I’m perfectly fine drinking what he thinks is a girl drink. I could care less what he thinks of me.

Which ultimately brings me to my point. We spend too much time thinking about what other people may think about us. We spend to much time thinking about how we are viewed by society. We need to just do what feels right because at the end of the day we are the ones who have to look ourselves in the mirror.

Once you realize that, then you can imagine how our students feel when they live their lives outside of what society feels is normal.

By way, they were out of umbrellas…

Competing with Myself

Superman 3I’m not sure what it is but I’ve been feeling different lately. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve finally become comfortable with my life. Maybe I can finally see the framework of all the hard work I’ve done. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m just getting older and all the bullshit that I wasn’t used to in my thirties I’ve, now, finally gotten accustomed to. No matter what it is, I feel that I have gotten into a positive pattern in my life that is more that just a mood.

There was a time in my life where I used to talk about why are things happening to me. I would complain about it actually. I would make these wilds accusations about how life sucks because my luck was bad. Then I realized that my bad luck has to do with lack of preparation. I also realized that I was competing with people that I know. This is not something that I openly admitted and it wasn’t something born from jealousy. It was a bit of a barometer I had in the back of my mind. Sure, bad things happen but lack of confidence and lack of true life skills combine to kick anyone’s ass if they are not prepared for it.

In my younger days I felt like I was on the defensive too much. I let things happen instead of making them happen. That was one of many lessons I learned from my divorce. Generally most men will talk about their divorce as if shit just happened without realizing that a bad marriage is like dead plant…you let it die. That was me, while I made somethings happen in my life, I was more content on watching everything else.

At some point I just got tired of that. I got tired of talking and complaining instead of just doing. I realized that by making that adjustment from letting things happen to making things happen that the bad luck I was complaining about started to change. I found myself being more prepared to deal with life. With every misfortune I parried, came many openings of opportunity that involved risk.

Now, I find myself in a Superman 3 moment where I am battling myself. The version of me that is more responsible for his actions vs the callous and less responsible me I was just a few years ago. There are things I ‘m doing to correct past mistakes and to right some wrongs. I can’t fix everything but I can try to do things better.

I’m also competing with myself creatively and professionally. I was good at my job in Syracuse so it was an adjustment to start fresh at Barnard. I’m trying to be as good as I was and, in many ways, I am better because I’m doing things I’ve never done before. But then I think about book two and how I’m going to be able to surpass myself. Hanging Upside Down is an ambitious venture for me that I’m still working on from a marketing stand point. The thing about Book two will be how different it is from my first novel. I’m trying to out do myself and it’s a bit of a challenge.

With time I’ve grown to see my duality and be comfortable with it. The only way I can be a successful as I want to be is to be better than I was. No other competition matters.

Paperback Dreams

IMG_8284I would like to think that when one becomes a writer, there are certain goals that is held in higher regard than others. Obviously the first goals are to start and finish a book but what comes after that? I suppose getting a copy on sale would be the next logical step so in this age of digital literacy having my novel being sold on Amazon or on E-book is not that hard.

However, being that I self published Hanging Upside Down and it is indeed my first time, not everything has come easy. I’ve done most of the work myself when it comes to the selling and distribution of this book. There were bound to be missteps along the way but with every mistake came an understanding of the process which ultimately led to a greater success.

Since the book launched in October, I’ve had a series of successes like book signings, book readings, interviews, and great reviews. Through out all this, I felt that there was something missing. I didn’t feel that I was quite where I wanted to be yet.

It’s hard to explain but since the book launch anyone that wants to purchase the paperback version of my novel only has a few choices. There is Amazon, La Casa Azul Bookstore (if you live in NYC), or emailing me directly for a signed copy. The one thing that I wanted from the beginning was for Hanging Upside Down to be sold at Barnes & Noble. That is the dream.

I know that Barnes & Noble represents many things depending on who you are. During the 90’s people can blame them for putting many of the small novelty books stores out of business. Its not hard to see how a movie like You Got Mail gets it’s basic story premiss from this. I’ve come to know this store as I’ve grown more mature. It’s a place to go to and spend hours perusing their shelves or maybe perhaps have some coffee and read a magazine. In my world, this was the place to have your book sold.

As I said, with this being my first publication mistakes were made. In the rush of trying to get this book out on time, I misread some of directions when it came to publishing options. I missed one little check box and my entire dream of having Barnes and Noble sell my novel was put on hold. Of course, I had to settle for selling the novel on their e-reader called the Nook. At the very least, I could say that I was on the B&N Website.

A few weeks ago, I noticed my error after talking to a friend who just put out her cookbook. I noticed that she was already on the B&N website and I immediately knew I did something wrong. So this time I went back and corrected a mistake I made with some distribution items and guess what? A few days ago the paperback is now available on the B&N website!

But what does that mean exactly? The novel is not exactly in the stores, however, if someone were to ask for it at the desk, they can now order it and have it in the store in a few days. What makes this HUGE is that any bookstore can order my novel now. So this makes my job easier when people want to know how to purchase a copy.

I mean, let’s face it, I may not be burning up the sales charts but I am opening up more options. At the end of the day, the novel will be out there which paves the way for book two.

Constant State of Rage.

Photo Dec 01, 1 07 44 PMI was saying to myself the other day that I wish that I could see a bright future that is so vividly displayed on Deep Space Nine where Captain Benjamin Sisco is captain. I was also commenting to myself (because I talk to myself quite often) that being human means to be inherently stupid, egoistical, violent, and often times self centered. No matter how much I can be angry about the world and its war on the oppressed, the inescapable and laughable fact is that we are choking ourselves with politics and needless rhetoric.

I am good at work. You can see me at work and think I’m the happiest person in the world. I do my job well. I have a good woman that I adore. I love my family and friends, who all relatively make my days in various ways. I have a good life filled with passions, dreams, and goals. But, there is a darker side of me. There is a switch that is constantly on that I have buried. It is that f*ck you very much switch.

I am in a constant state of rage. Sure, it is a low level rage that I will equate to a semi dormant volcano and every time I see some bullshit on the news I just want to scream. Black men are still getting killed with impunity, Black women are still being treated as the lowest forms of life, Muslims get blamed for just about every fear people have, the President gets disrespected by a branch of our own government, racist chants by a Fraternity, Transgendered people being targeted and killed, Michele Obama is called a monkey on Univision, and apparently apologists are the new black. That was just to name a few.

“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” – James Baldwin

I cannot even begin to tackle each issue individually because I am just tired of all of this. Starbucks wants to have a conversation on race. What conversation needs to be had? What is talking going to do? That is all people do, talk. Granted, about 40% of all baristas at Starbucks are people of color and thus the intention might be good but honestly all it does is put people in a uncomfortable situation because many people are not trained to talk about something like this and nor should they have to.

What is there to talk about? Let me guess the DOJ report that states Darren Wilson was justified in killing Mike Brown? So because the forensic evidence states he was justified doesn’t mean we know what was was said to spark a teenager to commit suicide by cop. Which also means the #Blacklivesmatter cause is a lie? Perhaps no one read the second DOJ report that states Ferguson systematically targets African Americans unfairly. So let’s talk about that.

Lets talk about Rodner Figueroa. I do not believe for one second that he’s sorry for his remarks. He’s sorry he lost his job. He’s sorry is career is done. But sorry for his remarks? Nope. That is some typical shit that can fly out of the mouth of a white person who just so happens to be Latino. Name one dark skinned person you see normally on Univision? Assuming that you don’t watch that droll nonsense, I can tell you that the number is close to zero (I’m accounting for the darker Mexicans in commercials).

The thing is, I can talk about this all day. I can discuss how people are looking to apologize or looking to suggest that we as people of color need to hold hands and pray for racism to go away. I need celebrities to shut up. You made your money and now you need to save face and play the game. It is rare see the conscious Black actor with the exception of Jesse Williams.

There is a rage that is the under current in most people of color in the country and that’s why there’s this constant fear from the majority. They want prominent black folk to calm us down and remind us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech while constantly degrading us in the media. So, if you want to talk about something let’s talk about the fact that you cannot kill an idea, this mind blowing idea the Black Lives Matter.

Fear of the Mic

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Busy is four letter word. Its almost vulgar when I use it because it describes so many things that are going on in one word. Saying “I’m busy” can sound rude but it will always explain why I don’t call or write. Yet, after awhile I hate using this phrase because I think that eventually it becomes a cop out. However, I have been able to do a few things here and there that has made me think about my role as writer/author.

It shouldn’t be too much of a secret that I do not really consider myself a poet. I believe that history will show that I’m more of a fiction novelist. Poems were something that I wrote to get through some tough times in my life and it turns out I wrote more than a hundred of them. I go back in forth, in my head, about want to do about this. Do I publish them or just keep them where they are (which is buried in various blog sites)?

I personally don’t believe they are very good. Well, maybe a small number of poems are decent, but I am certainly no Willie Perdomo. Yet, the way I feel about this did not stop me from reciting one of my poems during a open mic night a few weeks ago (I prefer the word recite instead perform because performance poetry is above my pay grade, but I digress). I can blame it on the energy of the other true poets doing their thing that night but the real reason is that, in my heart, I need to learn to love the mic.

Sure, I can speak publicly. I’ve done it enough times to be used to it. I’ve done enough trainings with hundreds of students in a room, I’ve been a keynote speaker twice, I’ve moderated many panel discussions, and yet the intimidation of reading something I’ve written is real. Even when I did the book signing/reading at La Cas Azul Bookstore of Hanging Upside Down last year I felt so anxious. What if I fumble my words? What if I sound like a complete idiot?

This is when I know the fear has gotten a hold of me. With my poetry it is two fold considering that I don’t consider myself a poet. But, I did go out there that night and recited Blacktino. The feedback was positive and while I messed up just a little, I think I can do this again. The real problem is that its way too easy to decline an invitation or to simply claim that I’m too busy to go to open mic nights. Even if being too busy is true (and most times it is) I know that I have to get behind that mic.

It does feel good to share my creation, particular in poetic form. If you read the right poem with the right inflections, the room becomes yours. Maybe the real fear isn’t just the mic itself nor the the audience. Perhaps the real fear is the ability to let myself go on the stage. Is the fear there because I don’t know how to let go or is it because of the possibility that if I do learn to let myself go I may love it way too much.

So, is this what Rakim was talking about about when he says, to me M.C. means move the crowd? That’s a question you should ask yourself, Megatron. :)

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.