Archive for July 2013

The Surreally Real Life   Leave a comment

surreal

I’m in Boston, and outside the place is relatively quiet, i’m greeted by the casual chirping of birds and the quiet solitude that comes with chilling in a place where your next door neighbour is a farmer, and at night it gets so dark you can’t see ten feet in front of you. But this is good, good in the way that I need it to be. I’m far away from the mentally contiguous rabble that is Kingston, able to take a special breath of quiet air for what seems like the first time in forever. This is the Surreally real life, a life between lives, a glimpse into how other people live and exist, far from what is normal for me.

I organized a book reading for Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken which will take place in DC on August the first, and something feels “Surreally” about it. Why?

I finished my book in Jamaica, and even though this is not a feat by any means, the book is set in D.C. I’ve only been back to the states for a few days and i’m feeling this heavy internal shift. There is something else in the air, the people and the vast landscape; the groundswell of opportunistic feelings are slightly overwhelming, the taste of the past is quickly back on the tip of the tongue. Things feel more visual now as it relates to America. As the book promotion and connections i’ve made are slowly picking up, i’m noticing that the way I feel about the project is also evolving. It is really becoming an extension of me; an interesting conversational piece, a validation point, something of reasonable “worthiness” to break dead air and smile about.

As I was scrambling to figure out how to get to D.C from Boston (near Cape Cod nonetheless) I realized that I was in the stages of trying. Trying to make it, trying to get the word out, working hard and fast to sow the seeds that will hopefully take me somewhere out there. I’ve been constantly re-reading parts of the book for re-edits, polishing cover designs and getting feedback from new readers. I’m reliving the book through them, but I haven’t been to D.C in quite some time, and I’m sure re-experiencing the city I penned a novel about will be an exercise in culture shock within itself; a taste of self-expression personified in brick and concrete.

The reading will be held at the Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights. The spot is one of “those” bars. It’s a fixture in many a person’s nighttime activities. People from Georgetown and all over frequent the location for good reason. There is a vibe there, an energy which people feel as you walk in. Something about that bar connected with me, and during the drunken moments or quiet evenings hanging with friends, it became a large part of D.C for me as well. In my article “Neil Strauss Chuck Klosterman and Plastic Sheets” I explain how these two authors opened my eyes to the idea that my sort of writing had a place and made sense (and was profitable) and sparked the baby flames of what was then an experiment in finding my writing voice. The haze of bars, women and life in D.C was interesting to say the least, and my travels to Japan, Egypt and Korea also showed me a lot about what life has to offer in its coiffeurs. But for me to be reading at Wonderland of all places, that odd nucleus that semi-started my journey into this current writing landscape, is really, surreal.

I’m not sure how i’ll pull it off, or what i’ll choose to read. I will definitley read an excerpt involving a drunken mob rolling en masse to Wonderland after a Creation versus evolution party. I will also show other sides of the book, the dark moments of abuse one character faces as a child, and the lingering questions another character must face after someone close to him committs suicide. But what will it feel like, is what really puzzles me. Any time i’ve ever gone to Wonderland I was just a person, a patron with a can of PBR in my hand, a smile on my face with the intention of having a good night. I was a blur in a blur of memories and circumstances there, and now I’m feeling like i’m actually a thing; a moment shared with this bar that so many people like.

So i’m here, sitting on a wooden chair typing as I look out at an overcast sky with the pitter patter of light raindrops hitting the roof and I wonder, how will it feel, to step into the Surreally Real Life. Who knows, but I’m hoping it’s a wild ride.

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Hi, I’m Kindle and Ready to Single   1 comment

mccovSMALLminimal design is SO 2013.

 

As I wrote in a previous post, The Writing Ramble and the Kindle Gamblei’m trying to work across different promotional angles to get noticed by whoever. My latest foray into this glorious world of self organized burnout is seeing if I can get a Kindle Single published. The advantages I see from this are relative mainly to that fact that stories are vetted by an independent set of editors. So, if it seems that if your Kindle Single concept is chosen, they will have a desire to put your work out there. Then this can connect to my previous work (Hello, Novel!)  and maybe i’ll actually be on a few people’s radar. I’ve written several short stories and I decided to pull out all the stops pitching one of my best, Misses Cats as a Kindle Single. This is the description below.

“Misses Cats paints the cold picture of a woman looking back at a past filled with death, betrayal and broken love, blanketed by the often emotionally void Japanese landscape.”

I’m actually realizing i’m getting better at these mini descriptions. In fact, one thing that has happened recently is that because i’ve had to be summarizing a lot of things i’m doing, it has given me a sharper look at presenting my own work. But the BEST way to do this I find is simply to read the blurbs of some of the BEST books in HISTORY and see how they encapsulate their main themes into one or two sentences.

Designing the cover came after looking at the current trend of “minimalistic” or “retro” cover design and deciding to do something along those lines. Personally I like to drop a few elements of the story (subtly) into the cover and this time, since I was pitching it to Amazon editors, I thought it would be cool to show them some design skills as well. The story is set in Japan, (which is why I ultimately decided on the reddish background) and of course, there are cats in the story. Why the waves at the bottom? Well you’ll have to read the story to find out 🙂 Either way this is gravy train going and going. I have a few more stories and I think i’ll keep pitching all those over 12 pages long (Kindle Singles have a minimum of 5,000 words (average 12 pages ) up to 30,000 words (average 72 pages) ) and see where it takes me. 

So what will happen? I have no idea. I submitted the story two days ago and received an e-mail from Amazon saying they’d review it in the next four weeks. So until then, i’m doing other stuff. 

Epic Snafus and Book Readings   Leave a comment

MOMzoomsnafu11                            Peek closely and you’ll see the teary eyes of a lost SD chip.

I felt genuinely inspired today. I checked out a reading excerpt from author Tom Gillespie who wrote a book called “Painting by Numbers“. I thought it was not only very cool, but something I could model as i’m presently in “try anything mode” to get publicity for my novel, Sex, Drugs and Jerk ChickenSo, despite the fact that I wasn’t armed with a cool Irish/Scottish accent I decided to record an excerpt from one of my novel’s chapters. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Gillespie’s whispery delivery of his work, and I felt that I could at least speak normally and get a few listens. Somehow, after doing two test recordings and gearing up for my final session with my little Zoom H1 microphone, the SD card went through the insertion slot and fell into the device itself. After saying “argh” a few times, I got my trusty toolkit and opened it up, hoping i’d be able to extract my card (and the files on it)

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unfortunately, the card slipped into the area of the mic you cannot open and i’m screwed. The closest I got was a small peek at it, safely ensconced beneath one of the circuit boards. Needless to say, i’d have to buy another SD card and pray to the silicon gods the same thing doesn’t happen. I DID however, copy a few of my recording off onto a USB to do a test listen, and hopefully one or two of them is passable. Either way, I think this will be good practice for a book reading or two i’m trying to organize (more on that soon) and I want to find interesting bits of the book to read. I’ve been told my voice isn’t bad, and I guess with some practice I can bring aspects of this book to life. So, goodbye my SD card, I hope you enjoy your new home, until i figure out some other way to extract you from the Zoom mic without breaking it into bits.

If you are interested in hearing really good whispery delivery, the Excerpt from Painting by Numbers is here:

Sex, Drugs and Social Media: An Interview with Art Jamaica   Leave a comment

My first in-depth interview about my novel, Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken. Thanks to Oneika Rusself of Art Jamaica for this one!  Click the picture to read the full interview.

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Categories Shmategories: Figuring out Goodreads and Amazon   Leave a comment

emptyauditorium

If I had a fan room, this is how it would look.

There is something inherent to being a real author. You have fans, you answer tons of e-mails every day, you sign copies of books for people in obscure “cool locations” and you probably have a cutie in a low cut dress lingering in the audience wanting a little more than just a glimpse into the “Mind of Marcus”.

But i’m not there yet, i’m far from it.

I spend a lot of time now going through goodreads forums, looking at different categories and sub categories, seeing who reads what and why, learning the ins and outs of how not to flame someone, how not to post something incorrectly on a wall. It is a haze of “read this!” promotions, “seeking authors for interviews” on various websites, shouts for guest bloggers, rave reviews for books i’ve never heard of, learning about categories like “New Adult”, which is NOT “Coming of age”, but more like “Young Adult” (but sexier and with more grizzled, heavily tattooed men on the front covers). There are the giveaways, the tips on promoting and writing, people asking questions from authors, “self-published authors” versus “indie” authors. People have websites that will promote your book if you promote theirs, people are seeking candidates to interview for radio. Each interview post i’ve seen has literally hundreds of replies. The writers are out there en masse, they are hungry and they are stepping around wielding keyboards like ancient maces.

So for the last two weeks i’ve been lost in this world, trying to figure out how to give advice and scream from my personal soapbox at the same time without much result. The point of this website is to find readers, and readers really mean ” putting your book  in the correct category”.  So i had to take a step back and figure out how to really categorize my book. When I think of how my book is written, I think of like… Rules of Attraction, or Bright Lights Big City. Not necessarily in the exact writing style, but in the narrative. But big boys like Bret and McInerney are heavyweights in the literary world. Their projects went the twelve rounds, came out bloody and bruised and lived to stand the test of time. Now their stuff falls into “literary fiction” category which is really high brow stuff. (Think of people who say words like “curmudgeon” and you’ll know the crowd i’m talking about).

But am in that category? It is possible, but it seems to me that only after significant fame is your book really categorized as such. I know my book is definitely NOT “New Adult”, but probably a mix betwen “Coming of Age” and “Literary Fiction”. In the haze of goodreads posts, I came upon someone who gave me some pretty good points on how to categorize my book and followed suit. Because I am an (egad) “person of colour” it might be easy for many people to take liberties on the supposed tone and layout of my book. My book however, is more about “Americana” than any particular racial demographic. The characters are all Jamaican (two black guys and one blasian dude) but the focus of their lives is… well, life. I rarely even focus on the “issue” of race, versus the “issues” of life. I learned this mistake after putting my book in the “Urban” category on Amazon and having it listed next to such gems as “Tranny 911”, “Thug Luv”, “Ballad of a Bitch” and “Child of a Crackhead”. (NOTE: I am not making these up, type these names into the Amazon search engine for yourself)

I realized I put a bit too much trust into Amazon’s algorithms, and it wasn’t a sweet cup of tea seeing the books i’m now associated with. So i’m going to tweak the categories and revamp. I even discovered there is something called “Hipster Lit” (y’know books about artsy ‘it kids’ with loads of disposable income and no responsibilities) and I felt that fit my book also. Earlier today I punched”hipster lit” into the  Goodreads search engine and immediately saw lots of books that felt like me pop up.  Books with funky covers, interesting titles and “seemingly different” stories. So i’m not the kind of guy who writes a book and spends the next year huffing and puffing his chest and introducing myself as “NAME+AUTHOR”.

I’m the kind of guy who only gets excited when I know that i’m close to the pie, and its not even in the oven yet.

Writing ramble and the Kindle Gamble   3 comments

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Today was one of those days I wrote (so far) about 11 pages of a short story. I’ve been really working on getting back into the mental wagon of writing, and mainly this involves writing a lot more. That probably sounds pretty simple, but for anyone who does active writing, its not necessarily “easy” to write frequently, if you don’t have topics that motivate or interest you. For me, my attention floats between writing about language learning and then writing about observations of my daily life or things I feel might be of interest to people. Since I haven’t actively blogged on this site for quite some time (leading up to the release of my new novel), that means in a way that I wasn’t very interested in sharing much for a while. Regardless of that, i’ve been doing more writing across different lines, and i’ve noticed a few things.

It doesn’t matter what I write.

This adage seems to make sense, because writing is simply a function. I don’t really need to write swaths of epic prose to feel like i’m gaining momentum. The occassional blog post or lengthy e-mail does wonders to get the brain back into gear. What daily/almost daily writing does is just get me back into  the habit of seeing writing to be a normal thing. I doubt i could have woken up at 4 a.m written for two and a half hours one month ago because I wasn’t actively writing (I was working on editing the book and doing the launch). But now, I feel more in tune with just diving in, and i’m hoping to get a couple other projects out of the way and have more “product” out there.

Old projects are good kickstarters.

This comes from me digging up some very interesting short story projects I had either started, or made a basic concept of. In my post about a week or so ago, I wrote about how to be a ten page a day writer. I explained quite clearly my method, and it has a lot of do with a certain clarity about what you are writing. The picture above is about a page and a half description of a short story/short film concept i had. It clearly illustrated basic character motivations, scenes and the general flow from A to B of the idea. After mulling it over in my brain for a few hours, a stream of thought hit me and I started writing the first draft non-stop until I hit eleven pages. What was funny about this project is that I COMPLETELY forgot I even wrote this idea down!  I call this “mad scientist fuge state”, where I have a cool project idea, blaze out a detailed concept and then forget it soon after.

Working on this is a welcome sort of break as I slowly push my novel, Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken.  It is a little tricky to be doing all the PR and online interviews and marketing for your own book, and I felt that I need to be getting a project or two off the ground during this process. I’m looking at doing some “Kindle Singles” as a way of sharpening my writing again and hopefully gaining some exposure if the editors at Amazon find my work interesting. I spent all of Saturday morning designing a Kindle Single cover for a story of mine “Misses Cats”, and I felt like polishing another two or three stories (just in case) I decide to do a bigger submission. It’s been about two and a half years since I’ve actively written on a blog (other than my language blogs) and this feels interesting again. I think i’m getting back into it, but i don’t want to talk too soon. What has definitely changed in my self-perception on what i can do as a writer. Releasing a novel gave me a small kick in the gonads, but hasn’t left me with a massive ego either.

Big goals can help push smaller goals.

This is what i’ve observed about how I am mentally thinking about structured projects after releasing my novel. Years ago, I made plans to release a book of short stories based in different locales. I even sent out the top 7 stories i’d written up to that point, got a set of quality readers, gauged their interest and found the top contenders. Then, after doing that, my readers unanimously selected “Gaijin Girl” as their favourite written story, and eventually, it was published in an eidtion of Yomimono, a Japanese literary journal. Later, another story from that set, “Sleep” would be published again in the same journal two years later. Now, I’m about to push a third story, “Misses Cats” from that set as a Kindle Single. Sometimes you have these awesome writing periods, and you don’t realize the gems you are mentally creating when you are in the zone. So, in this scenario, the “bigger goal” was the novel I recently released, which was a bigger mental hurdle than say, releasing a book of short stories. But either goal felt quite daunting a year ago, but only two weeks after releasing the novel, doing the short story thing doesn’t seem like a big deal, and what’s cool is that I have loads of content. From my previous short story projects, I think I might already have about fifty plus pages of content for a collection of short stories. Because i’m sort of getting into the zone, I think with some effort I can start popping out a few more stories, or fleshing out stuff i’d already started. So this is my Monday morning ramble about writing and my current process. I’ll get back into my “journeyman” introspective babble at some point, but these days I can’t really bother to blog about “real life” since my mind isn’t focused in that way.

I guess i’m back in writer mode for the time being.

HAPPY ‘MURICA DAY!   Leave a comment

Had a blast ringing in “‘Murica” day with a few friends here! This is me showing people why i’m the “Beer Pong Maestro” 🙂

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