I want that Dan Brown money!!!

16 07 2010

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!





Back on my blog-ish

13 06 2010
Wow!  A full year has passed since I last chronicled my journey to the published land, and what a difference a year makes.  This time last year, I was still pursuing the pipe dream of publication by a traditional publisher.  I was querying literary agents, waiting for their responses with bated breath, and taking solace when the response wasn’t so bad.  Now here I am a year later on the verge of publishing my first book! 
 
Before you get too excited let me make a correction, by first book I mean my publishing company’s first book.  That’s right, peeps, in the space of twelve months I’ve gone from just another writer clamouring for someone’s attention, trying desperately to achieve publication, to a full-blown publisher myself!  That’s quite a leap even by my own high standards.  So what caused the cataclysmic shift, you ask?
 
It was really a combination of several motivating factors and one very serendipitous text message!  I’ve learned and grown so much over the past year.  It really is quite amazing to look back and see the progression.  And best of all, because of this crucial decision, ONE BLOOD, my debut novel about a two hundred year old curse from slavery that comes back to torment a contemporary cast of diverse characters unaware of their hidden connections, is only a year away!  Let the countdown begin!




Important Announcement (www.pantheoncollective.com)

8 02 2010

Friends and Family,

Today I’m happy to make a very exciting announcement. In November of last year I joined forces with kindred writing spirits Stephanie Casher and James Lewis to create The Pantheon Collective! TPC is a independent publishing incubator that will be putting out my novel One Blood as well as novels from my two partners over the next twelve months. And you will get a front row seat to watch the whole process on our new website www.pantheoncollective.com -which is live NOW! I want to personally thank you very much for all your support over the years and ask for your continued support. Tune in daily to see how we will overcome the odds to launch our books and keep checking in for updates on our novels and other future projects.

Thanks!

Qwantu





Tents for Haiti

26 01 2010

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35078701/ns/..world_news-haiti_earthquake/

Loyal readers: Haiti desperately needs tents. I would like to encourage all of you to join me in texting SUPPORT SHELTER to 20222 to donate $5 or donating directly to ShelterBox at http://www.shelterboxusa.org which will help send Haiti boxes w/ 10-person tents, cooking utensils, and water purifiers. ShelterBox is already mobilized and on the ground and could use our unified support. Please see the attached videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uNrWyFmS..NU&NR=1 and http://youtu.be/2HYKvPmIVDE.

There are nearly 1 million homeless people in the wake of this tragedy and these shelter boxes will make a huge difference. Repost and engage your friend base as well. We can do this. We can help.

Thanks, Qwantu.





Rejection # 16…You’re a Good Writer

11 06 2009

Allow me to re-introduce myself.

My life has completely transformed since I last blogged. In August of last year I was living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have since moved back to the US after receiving the biggest promotion of my young career. Any time you move, it puts your life into upheaval, and I had to put One Blood down for a while to reaclimate myself to the US after 2 years living overseas. It’s amazing how far this book has traveled with me.

I began writing One Blood in January 2000. At the time I was living in Tallahassee, Fl. Since then I have moved overseas twice and all over the eastern seaboard from Philly to NJ. My professional career has blossomed. I’ve married and divorced.

Now it’s nine and a half years later. I’m a far cry from the 23 year old idealist who decided to write a book out of thin air. I’m more educated about the writing process, the editing process, and the publication process. I’ve poured countless hours into this project, honing my voice, ramping up the suspense, rounding out my characters. I can honestly say this book is as good as I can make it.

Now my fate lies in the hands of the agents, editors, publishers, sales and marketing folks, and booksellers. The best decision I made was not to self-publish. Self-publishing is an attractive option to many people, but I know I wouldn’t have put nearly as much into the story as I have if I could just pay someone to put my words in print.

So here we go again. I recently attended the Book Expo America conference in New York at then end of May. I pitched 6 agents and for the first time felt genuine excitment about my book. I attach for your reading pleasure, rejection # 16. I’m getting closer!!!

Dear Mr. Amaru:

Thank you for following up on our conversation at the Writer’s Digest Books Writers Conference. I recall that you categorized your manuscript as a supernatural thriller, and I wonder whether it could also be termed urban fiction. Without a brief bio, I can’t assume this is your first effort to find a publisher for your work. However, if that does happen to be the case, you might be well served by a reputable small publisher whom you can approach directly with a query or submission. Most independent publishers accept direct (unagented) queries, and while some might not have the cachet of a major adult trade publisher, they’re a good place to launch a writing career. With a book contract from a publisher, you can join the Authors Guild and obtain free legal advice, and of course you’d have no trouble getting an agent to negotiate your contract at that point.

Although your work is not quite what I’m seeking, I’d be happy to send you a list of a few small publishers that you might research further for exact submission guidelines and then contact directly. I can do that if you let me know which handful of categories might fit your novel, such as paranormal, thriller (you’ve mentioned), urban fiction, etc. I won’t be able to give you an exhaustive list of publishers to consider, but perhaps it would be a start. I should point out that if you’re determined to sell this book through an agent, you should not contact publishers on your own.

If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll assume you have an offer from another agent. I sincerely hope that will be the case. You’re a good writer.

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

~Herm Albright





Rejections 13, 14, and 15

9 08 2008

The last two months since the Book Expo have really gone by in a blur. The writing/ publishing process continues to amaze and educate me. I have commented in previous blogs that seeking out and being rejected by agents forces a writer to truly evaluate the readiness of their project. I have believed my book to be “finished” at least five times over the past two years only to learn that this could not be farther from the truth.

A few people have read my book during it’s various phases of completion. The last two were Anita Diggs, a manuscript editor, and my good friend – fellow scribe Stephanie Casher. Anita reviewed the book in May and Stephanie reviewed it in June. I have already commented on Anita’s review in a prior blog. In this blog I wanted to comment on Stephanie’s review and how much each review in their own ways have opened my eyes to the issues in my story and the possibilities that have opened.

Stephanie, in addition to reading the book, also took it upon herself to edit as well (she’s the best!). She really went above and beyond the call of duty and I am forever in her debt. What Stephanie’s and Anita’s reviews have in common is regarding the antagonist of my story. Both of them mention the fact that his actions throughout the story were difficult to believe.

As the writer, I really had a hard time hearing this critique because I felt my villain was perfectly crafted, 3 dimensional, and despicable. Then I realized that they agreed with me. The problem was motivational. The reader didn’t buy his motivations.

During the writer’s conference, I had the opportunity to attend three workshops that have helped me understand this issue much better – Fire in Fiction, Plotting a Novel They Can’t Put Down, and Revising a Novel They Can’t Put Down.

In Fire in Fiction, superagent Donald Maas discussed overcoming reader barriers in science-based or supernatural thrillers. He mentioned the need for the writer to overcome reader resistance in a slow, sure, patient manner. He also described strategies to make settings “live” through the characters who inhabit them. Then he discussed “voice”. Writer’s hear this all the time, how an author has a unique voice. Voice is nothing more than how you speak through your characters. Do you use short punchy sentences, long compound sentences, or a combination of the two. Does this voice work with the type of story you are telling?

Donald Maas was one of my early rejections and he rejected the novel at that time because he didn’t get into my characters and he thought my sentences were too long. My voice didn’t match the tone of a page-turning thriller.

In PNTCPD, writer James Scott Bell described the LOCK system for plotting a novel.

L – LEAD
O – Objective
C – Confrontation
K – Knock-Out

He had a lot of useful advice such as, “A plot is two dogs and one bone.” I love that! He described the three types of lead characters: The positive lead (hero), the negative lead (attractive through power), and the anti-hero (has his own moral code). His number 1 rule for lead characters is NO WIMPS!

In terms of OBJECTIVE, the lead must want something badly, something that is essential to his/her well being. There are 2 kinds of objectives – to get something or to get away from something.

Confrontation drives the plot and here is where we get into what I needed to learn. The opposition character has to be stronger than the lead and three dimensional, meaning, justified in their actions and sympathetic (at least to themselves). He also speaks of confrontation as the adhesive of the story which explains why these two opponents must fight until the end.

The knock-out is the big finish and there are 5 types: The lead wins, the lead loses, the lead wins but loses, the lead loses but wins, or an ambiguous ending.

My takeaway from James linked to Anita and Stephanie’s critiques. I needed to amp up my confrontation!

In RNTCPD, James described the types of problems writers encounter as they revise their stories. You’ve got the slow opening, flat lead, or weak opposition. Here I encountered that my novel suffered from slow opening.

With each rejection, my novel gets stronger and better. I will leave you with my very first query letter for my novel written back in 2006 and my current query letter. You tell me which book you want to read!

Query 2006:

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” Malcolm X once said this about America and this insight forms the backbone of my novel One Blood. This novel was written in the tradition of such seminal polarizing works as Native Son, Invisible Man, and Beloved. Although we have progressed as a society since Malcolm X spoke and Wright, Ellison, and Morrison wrote their master works; racism, lies, greed, and murder still persist in this country. America is a broken home, disrupted by division and paralyzed by ignorance. America needs to wake up and move from denial to acceptance to solutions. Publishing my novel One Blood is a definite part of that solution. But the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. One Blood (163,000 words) tastes like a well paced supernatural suspense novel that will appeal to fans of contemporary bestselling authors like Dan Brown, Michael Connelly, Stephen King, and Tananarive Due because it contains the best elements of suspense, mystery, horror, and drama.

With its rich tapestry, complex history, and natural vulnerability (as evidenced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita), the tragically beautiful state of Louisiana forms the perfect backdrop for this suspenseful tale of Revenge, Revelation and Revolution. It has been said that life often presents us with a choice of evils, rather than of goods. One Blood presents the reader with two men who are products of two very different environments. The first man is an impoverished African-American orphan turned gang banger (Lincoln Baker) sent to prison for life without parole at the age of seventeen after a brutal gang war dubbed The Simmons Park Massacre in which his best friend Kristopher, son of a racist Louisiana Senator, is killed in the crossfire. Over the course of the next ten years locked up inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Lincoln discovers a family he never knew existed and learns that one man is responsible for his father’s death, his mother’s exile, and all of his life’s suffering—the ex-Senator and now current Governor of Louisiana (Randy Richard). Randy Richard has yet to overcome two significant tragedies. In addition to his only son’s murder at the hands of gangs, his father, a Grand Wizard of Louisiana’s most violent chapter of the Klu Klux Klan, was brutally murdered by a group of black militants. Ten years after his son’s violent demise, his teenage daughter is kidnapped and the ransom calls for the immediate release of Lincoln Baker. On the morning of Lincoln’s release, an explosive cocktail of racism, vengeance, serendipity, fate, and truth detonates throughout Louisiana. The tremors are devastating for a diverse cast of characters all linked by the Simmons Park Massacre. When the dust settles, the ending is as unexpected as it is illuminating.

Growing up in Lake Charles, LA, I had the opportunity to witness former KKK Grand Wizard, David Duke’s meteoric rise to political power and observe how he almost became Governor. I always wondered what would have happened had he won the office, and Bad Blood is in large part a result of my curiosity. It allowed me to examine and combine American/Louisiana history, politics, prison, and psychology into a blender and produce a novel that is sure to provoke controversy, discussion, and even a bit of fear. I certainly appreciate your time and eagerly welcome your expert opinion, or a request to submit my entire manuscript.

Sincerely yours,

Qwantu Amaru

Updated Query:

Dear Agent Name:

In my first novel of supernatural suspense, ONE BLOOD (90,000 words), the Governor of Louisiana must confront his belief in a two hundred year old curse after his daughter is kidnapped on her eighteenth birthday. And a lifer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary becomes an unlikely protagonist while confronting his belief in his reasons for kidnapping the Governor’s daughter.

Growing up in Louisiana during the nineties, I witnessed former KKK Grand Wizard, David Duke’s meteoric rise to political power. I always wondered what would have happened had he been elected Governor. ONE BLOOD is in large part a result of that curiosity.

ONE BLOOD can be described as the book Stephen King and Richard Wright might have written had they collaborated. It examines the power of suggestion and how belief has the power to destroy as well as empower. I appreciate your time and eagerly welcome your expert opinion, or a request to submit my entire manuscript.
Sincerely yours,

Qwantu Amaru

“Oh, great reviews are the worst. They mislead you more than the bad ones, because they only fuel your ego. Then you only want another one, like potato chips or something, and the best thing you get is fat and bloated. I’d rather just refuse, thanks.”

-Chazz Palminteri





Back in the Game – Part 3 of 3

11 07 2008

After the Writer`s conference it was time for me to relax. So I went to the Lakers game six playoff game versus the Spurs (they won). I took a trip to Malibu and ate a bucket of seafood on the beach. I partied with my best friend Steve. Good times were had by all.

I learned by reading her blog that Tananarive Due (author of the African Immortals Series: My Soul to Keep, The Living Blood, and Blood Colony) would be speaking at a black book fair in L.A. She and her husband Steve Barnes were speaking in tribute to the late Octavia Butler. I arrived a little late, but I thought that Tananarive had noticed me. My hands immediately starting sweating and my anxiety tripled. I knew this moment would be intense, but my reaction surprised me.

I discovered Tananarive back in 2005 while in Barnes & Nobles working on my own novel One Blood. Her novel The Between was in one of those special paperback racks and I was immediatley drawn to the cover. Upon reading the back cover, I knew I had to read the book. I read it in one sitting and immediately headed to Barnes and Nobles to buy everything else she had written. Tananarive writes in the same genre as myself and I knew I had found a kindred spirit in writing. Over the last three years we had even been in contact over e-mail. She has always been exceptionally encouraging, even offering to provide me with a blurb for my book once it is published!

After their emotional dialogue on Octavia Butler’s significance and legacy, Tananarive and Steve headed across the street for a book signing. I was one of the first people in line and got to take this beautiful photo with my writing hero! If you are a fan of supernatural suspense, you have to pick up her books, she is the best in the business.

The following morning I boarded a plane to Charlotte, NC. My parents live in South Carolina and I had planned a surprise visit. Needless to say my folks were thrilled. My Mom made my favorite foods – cabbage and sausage, cornbread, and potato salad. We went to the movies to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (great movie!). The best part of my visit happened on Tuesday night, June 3rd, 2008.

As my parents and I watched, Barack Obama effectively clinched the democratic presidential nomination. It was an emotional moment. My parents had lived through the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the beginnings of affirmative action, and the ascension of Barack Obama. As I watched Obama’s acceptance speech, I was filled with pride and a bit of fear as well. Any body who has seen the zeitgeist (http://zeitgestmovie.com) knows why I might be scared for Barack. But we focused on the positive. The amazing. The inprobable. The inevitable. Change.

I shared a poem I had written on the subject of Barack with my folks:

Change:

The restless are resting less
Because there is less assurance
Yet increased uncertainty
Certainly
These are dark days
But sun rays travel light years to illuminate the way
So who are we to lie idling by
Letting time pass us by
What will it take to make us try
Harder tomorrow than we did today
Will it take more calamities
More Darfur’s
More slain Iraqui’s and Afghani’s
Higher death counts of our troops
Higher amounts of toxins in our food
In our air
Why don’t we care about any of these things?
Why do we put so much value on diamond rings
While everyday we divorce from nature
Is it our basic nature to destroy
Or can we employ our strengths to create
What are we waiting for
We don’t have to be restless anymore
Just like we don’t need wings to soar
We just need to sweat
We need to get behind a common cause
If we can applaud our sports teams
Can we also collectively dream
Of a world community
United
Where only necessary resources are divided
Can we decide it’s time to stop laying blame
Shouldn’t we be so ashamed of the state of our home
That we hone in on each problem
And then take the necessary actions to solve them
This moment is not about the them’s and they’s
Nor is it about the concerns that mask our way
It’s about making history
And to make history we have to create a new majority
A new society built on the solid bricks of change
A new golden age where people are no longer afraid
A world where games are not played with people’s lives
A place where survival does not rival education
A nation of people chasing self actualization
Now is not the time for patience
Now is the time of freedom
Now is the time to get the job done
Now is the time for one nation
Illuminated
Now is the moment we’ve waited for a lifetime
But we can’t allow anymore time to slip away
We must embrace positive change for our children’s sake
Let us take on this new challenge
Let us all join hands
We must change the world
And together, yes we can

The next morning I boarded a plane from Charlotte to Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee holds a very special place in my heart. I spent five wonderful years there during college and grad school. There I became a man. There I developed into an accomplished spoken word artist. There I gained the confidence to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer.

I was back in town after a four year hiatus to attend the 16th Annual Southern Fried Poetry Slam being hosted by my very own Black on Black Rhyme family. Black on black rhyme is a poetry collective that has been going strong since 1998.

Black On Black Rhyme consists of over 35 dynamic poets, lyricists, songwriters, DJs and artists. Much like a large family, members maintain an ever open line of communication with one another which is essential to the maintenance of their creative essence and constant exchange of energies. Being in a room full of these poet artists has been described as “electric”, as each one is as diverse as the many origins they hail from. From as far away as Nigeria, West Africa, to exotic Trinidad on the Caribbean Islands, to the busy streets of Washinton DC, New York City, Minneapolis, Minnesota and of course, “the Dirty South”, Florida. Each and every one of these poet artists bring their own unique style and flavor, and while some members hold down Federal Government positions, others are full-time college students, one is even a college professor, but all are Family.

The Southern Fried Poetry Slam is the premier showcase for poets from all over looking for their entry pass to the National Poetry slam. More than 200 poets and 40teams embarked to Tallahassee looking for fellowship and a shot at glory.
In both the early rounds and the final competition, individual poets and teams squared off to compete. The audience acted as judge. I was participating in the slam as a volunteer although I did get to spit one poem.

A slam is part spoken-word performance, part storytelling session, part improvisational theater and part motivational speech. Poets competing in the Southern Fried Poetry Slam brought their best. There were other exciting events going on as well: a youth slam, a haiku slam, a beauty vs. brawn competition, an erotica open mic, among many.

I was very proud of my poetry troupe for the organization of the event. Everything went off without a hitch and the poetry was off the chain. In the end the team competition was won by The Minoriteam from Tampa. The indie champ was Big Mike (he was original and hilarious!)

On Saturday afternoon, I boarded yet another plane and headed back to Sao Paulo. I was juiced like I had been pumped full of Growth Hormone. And in a way I had been. My mind had grown in different directions on this trip. I had been surrounded by passionate artists, some of whom live off of spoken word. I had been reinfected by their spirit!

As I closed my eyes for some well-deserved shut-eye, I knew that this trip had changed me for the better! I had traveled from coast to coast and had seen some of the best people that America has to offer. God, I miss home…





Back in the Game – Part 2 of 3

8 07 2008

It was deja vu, all over again…

I woke up in my Westin Heavenly Bed™ at around quarter of 8 am. I usually take at least four or five snooze buttons to emerge from slumber, but not on this day. On this day I bound from the bed, ran through the shower, and was dressed in minutes – the euphoria never leaving me.

See I was headed to the Book Expo America writer’s conference and I was ready to face the fifty or so agents who had “volunteered” to participate in the annual pitch slam.

A pitch slam is where the author has exactly three minutes to convey the key elements of their story, tell a bit about themselves and answer any questions the agent may have – all in the hopes of getting the green light to contact them post event. Why is this so important? Well in previous blogs I have detailed just how difficult the business of publishing can be. Being a literary agent is like being bombarded by junkmail – loads and loads of junk mail that you are obligated to sift through – all in the hopes that you may have won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse.

Participating in a pitch slam is like the junk mailer (writer) getting face to face time with you (agent). The likelyhood of you (agent) throwing said piece of mail out diminishes once you have seen the living breathing organism (writer) that put their blood sweat and tears into said mailing. Or so you might think.

The one thing I have learned so far throughout this whole process, is that literary agents are tough. They don’t really give a damn about throwing away junk mail – be it in person – through e-mail – or snail mail. They are ancient gunslingers whose bullets are NO’s, blowing holes through the hopes and dreams of writers like myself.

So obviously as a writer you have to really prepare for this once a year opportunity to get shot down to your face.

How did I prepare, you ask? Well, having already participated in the 2007 pitch slam in NY gave me a heads up on the competition, plus I had great support from fellow writer-in-arms Stephanie Casher (www.stephaniecasher.com – read her blog!). It’s really all about putting your mind in a positive space and being open to hearing criticsm.

In 2007 I pitched 5 agents and 4 of the 5 requested pages from me (The DREAM). Then those 4 proceeded to summarily reject my work for every reason from my sentences being too long, to lack of identification with the characters, to no explanation whatsoever. And I was excited about the opportunity to relive this, you ask? Am I mad?

No. Yes. Maybe.

Look, I would rather take the chance at being shot down to my face, once a year, than to suffer through mailing query after query to agents who don’t know me from Adam. At least live I could make the agent feel my energy and zeal and attempt to make some sort of connection. But I still felt like Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness – working up my client list.

So after drinking my grande chai latte from Starbucks in the convention center atrium, I ascended the escalator into WRITER WORLD.

Let me be the first to tell you – writer’s are some interesting folks. Most of us stick out like a porcupine’s thorns. The caffeine induced lively eyes and jitters. The fashion sense of a color blind private eye. Computer screen induced ocular corrective devices. The disturbing habit of conversing with the people in your head. You’ve seen us. We are the fiction writers.

Then there are those perfectly coifed, gym toned, well-dressed (and even more well spoken), confidence oozing individuals who are of the non-fiction sect – of the self help variety.

Throw us into a giant conference room together with six hours and counting until the pitch slam and you could tranquilize North Korea with all the anxiety medication working that room.

I had the opporunity to participate in a number of interesting workshops during the day as well with titles like: Fire in Fiction, Plotting a Novel They Can’t Put Down, Revising Said Novel, and the keynote speech on the elements of all great stories. It can’t be said enough that writer’s must do two things to be successful. They must read incessantly and they must have a relentless dedication to improving their craft. I will provide some of the tips I learned in another blog, but I definitely got something out of the workshops.

So after a morning workshops, an excellent plated lunch (with cheescake for dessert!), and one workshop in the afternoon, it was finally time for the pitch slam.

Here’s how it works. Each writer received a conference booklet upon registration. Within this booklet, amongst other useful information, was a list of each agent, their background, and their respective interests – fiction, non-fiction, and/or screenplays. With more than 50 agents in attendance, it was up to the writer to sift through the list and prioritize the 5 or 6 agents who represented the writer’s respective genres. Hopefully the writer also did some research prior to the conference – googled each agent, read their blogs, tried to find out their track record – in order to be even more precise in agent selection.

I cannot stress this point enough. As a writer, choosing your agent is like choosing a midwife. Would you trust just anyone to shepherd your baby into the world?

So after providing the ground rules, the meeting organizer provided a list of room numbers and names of each agent. Up until this point, none of the writers had any idea where their respective agent choices would be located, so imagine 400 so coffee crazed scribes trying to get their hands on that list.

To make a long story just a little bit longer, I managed to pitch 7 agents during the 2 hours alotted for the pitch slam. All 7 agents requested pages (The DREAM!). I was exhausted and elated. Stephanie did very well also.

We went to this place to celebrate. I drank a cayenne pepper laced martini that nearly burnt my mouth off. The Celtics beat the Pistons. All was right with the world.

Little did I know that a month later I would be re-writing my entire novel…





Back in the Game – Part 1 of 3

15 06 2008

In the words of Kanye West, “Feels good to be home, Baby!”

I recently embarked on a whirlwind two week trip back to the US. It’s amazing how your life can gain perspective in such a short window of time, but when you surround yourself with people who love and challenge you, growth can only come as a result of your interactions. The trip began with a 16 hour flight from Sao Paulo to L.A. by way of Houston.

I landed around 10 a.m. at LAX and proceeded to Avis where I learned I would be receiving an upgrade to a Cadillac CTS.

So here’s how I was rolling in the city of angels, looking like a big dog, feeling like I had already arrived!

I used Starwood points to reserve a room for two days at the Westin Pasadena – nice place.

Upon checking in, I immediately began running through my volumes of poetry, trying to decide which poem I would rip later that evening at Da Poetri Lounge in Hollywood. I have been performing spoken word poetry since 2001 when I joined the black on black rhyme family in Tallahassee, FL, while in college. After deciding on an older piece of mine, entitled Workshit, I headed to lunch with one of my best friends in the world. He worked right down the street from my hotel, so I dropped by his job and scooped him up.

After reconnecting and making plans to attend the Lakers vs. Spurs game six matchup later in the week, I finally was able to get some z’s.

I awoke some four hours later feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I got in the CTS and put my location into the GPS (I love those by the way!) and headed out.

My good friend and fellow Kindred spirit in writing, Stephanie Casher met me at the venue and we headed in.

Here’s how it works: if you are a poet and want to get your chance to shine, you have to get your name on the list – usually a wrinkled ripped out notebook page. I was the last person in line, so it was not looking good. The last time I was in L.A., a few months ago, I missed the list, but luckily got to perform anyway. This time I got my name down and then the waiting began.

The poets brought their A-game that night. I thoroughly enjoyed most of what I heard, especially Marc Marcel’s piece about whether Jesus would even be a Christian were he alive today. Just brilliant stuff.

I went up after the intermission and did my thing. Here’s the poem for the curious:

work shit

my brains fried
tired of this computer screen
this working waking dream makes me want to scream
i need a new screen saver
better yet a screen savior
white collar labor is my excuse for bad behavior
can’t see the forest for the trees
i have no clue why the caged bird sings
maybe he just likes his job
but i don’t like mine
will this day ever end
i can’t even fake a grin when these silly ass corporate cretins
come knocking on my office door
they probably think i’m a bore
but to me there’s just so much more to live for
than working forty or ninety hours a week
putting money down some white man’s jeans
i sometimes daydream that one day
i’ll be like that white man
driving a white luxury sedan
to a beach with white sands
demanding to speak to the white manager of the resort
because i need extra white towels
to wipe my ass with
i need to lay down on a great white king size bed
and wear white satin sheets on my head
while drinking white star champagne
i forget about my black pain and my black name
cuz i’m sinking my white fangs
into this white american pie
every day we got people tryin and dyin to live like this
because where i come from
my people live in slum-like conditions
and some like the conditions they live in
because a concrete jungle is still better than living in prison
isn’t it
interesting what people will put up with
things like racism and stereotypes
they gripe and complain but remain relatively calm
you’d probably need a bomb to light a fire under their asses
but then you’d just blow them off
like we do everyday
inconveniences
such as weather or gunshots or war
war?
good god what are we fighting for
blacks don’t even fight for our own rights anymore
i thought we gave that up in the sixties like meat for lent
what is the relevance of my last statement
to the whole of this master work
well
we used to do our massas work
and now i’ve got my masters and i still work for the massa
ain’t shit changed
but now there’s more of it down the drain
clogging up the pipes
and ain’t enough drano in the world to break through it
bit by bit sanity’s slipping away
like sand in the ocean’s hand getting dragged out to sea
finally seeing that there’s nothing more to see
nothing more to believe in anymore
the poor are gonna die poor
and the rich are gonna choke to death on bits of caviar
because ain’t no heimleck for the homeless
and economic desperation got us all hopeless
pressed to make a dollar wherever and however we can
that’s why i’m stuck in this damn dead end job
that’s why niggas grab the gat and try to rob somebody
all for the love of money
and because i love makin money
and i got bills and shit
i shut up smile and take it
until it’s time to hit the showers and wash off the grime and dirt
from another miserable day at work
can’t wait to take off this soiled white collar shirt and monkey suit
in my pursuit of this white american fantasy
that’s giving me ulcers and hemorrhoids
but still not filling the void
that
there’s got to be more than this
just got to be something better than this
work
shit

The audience was very receptive and I left the stage with the boyant feeling I always get after performing. Public speakig for me is torture before I speak and heaven while I’m doing it. A very interesting confluence of emotions.

So I finished up and we rolled out. I headed back to Pasadena to get some Z’s because the next day was the Book Expo America wiriter’s conference starting bright and early at 8:30 am…





Execution Can Always Improve

11 05 2008

In the last entry, I mentioned that I was having a professional manuscript editor take a crack at my novel. After researching the editor in question and even having an interesting online run-in with her on her blog, I decided that she had the appropriate level of frankness to give it to me straight. What is that old addage, be careful what you wish for? I’m updating it to be careful what you pay for. So after paying her $2 per page and waiting five weeks, I finally have my feedback.

Needless to say, I am not overjoyed. I respect most of her comments regarding story flow and flashbacks (she is not a fan of these devices). What I strongly disagree with was the fact that she just didn’t get it. But I think the fault may lie in the execution of the story.

She constantly referred to my story as a crime novel, when it is most definitely a supernatural suspense novel. I think the confusion began there and carried through. She kept wanting the book to be one thing that it refuses to be. I can understand that. But calling One Blood a crime novel is like calling Beloved a historical fiction novel. The genre cannot possibly encompass the size of this idea. Which is why I take pains to make the supernatural elements quite obvious in the context of the story. Which she takes pains to tell me to cut out from the fabric of the story.

So I am at an empass. She is the industry insider, and here I am, on the outside. Should I aquiesce, take her feedback to heart, and re-write the story? Or should I stick to my guns, take her more mechanistic comments, and leave the soul of the story intact?

One thing is clear, the whole Quentin Tarantino flashback/flashforward thing only works in movies. It just kills me that I have to dress up like everyone else to get into the party. But, such is life.

In any event, I am pleased with my decision to have a professional look over my work. It reaffirms the journey I still have ahead. But I’m not as far off as this individual may think. The elements of a great story are all there (maybe not in the ideal chronology), but there. I just need the right brave individual to give One Blood a real shot.

“I wrote for twelve years and collected 250 rejection slips before getting any fiction published, so I guess outside reinforcement isn’t all that important to me.”

– Lisa Alther