Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What would you do?

I know it has been a while since I last blogged, but things get hectic sometimes. The only update I have on my novel is that it will begin editing in June and we think its going to remain UNHINGED. It is such a slooooow process.

In the meantime, however, some friends and I were playing that “would you do this” game and came up with a few good questions. When you read these questions, don’t just answer them on the fly without giving them consideration. Think hard and imagine if the scenarios became a reality. Don’t think of these questions as a game; think about them as a psychological test in order to learn something new about yourself.

  1. Would you accept a twenty-year journey to explore the universe in a spacecraft that wanted for nothing, except you would not be able to return home?

  2. If you were one of the wealthiest people in the world, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, where making money was no longer a goal; what would you do then?

  3. If you had the chance to go back in time and kill Hitler when he was a baby, knowing that butterfly effect would bring about the end of democracy in America, would you do it?

  4. Would you rather be a great looking star athlete that dies in their forties or a smart physically challenged person that lives into their eighties?

  5. If you accidentally killed someone, but couldn’t prove it was an accident and had the opportunity to hide the body and get away with it, would you?

  6. If your spouse gave the okay to have sex with one celebrity and the opportunity presented itself, would you do it?

  7. How much money would it take for you to have sex with someone you are disgusted by? If you are straight, with someone of the same sex?

  8. While you are still young, would you want to learn all the mysteries of mankind if you were to die afterward? Or if you could live, but could never share that knowledge?

  9. How would your life change if it was proven that there is no God?

  10. What if at eighty years old, you lived an unsatisfactory life and had the opportunity to go back and do things differently, would you? What’s stopping you now?
I like this top ten thing. Maybe I'll do some more. Move over Letterman.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Coincidence #2 What are the friggin' odds?

Is it merely a coincidence or was it destiny unfulfilled. I have no idea, but the story is great.
I was doing basic training for the Army National Guard in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. One day in the cafeteria, another soldier that was from New Orleans had his girlfriend and her friend Keri visiting and he was introducing them to everyone. I had met her briefly and that was that.

After I was back in New Orleans, I was starting my first semester at UNO and found myself on the third floor in my Spanish class. I sat next to this girl and before the teacher arrived, we began talking and found ourselves on the subject of the Army and I discovered that this was Keri, the girl that I had met that day. What are the odds that I would sit next to her?

We talked every day for about two weeks before I found out that I was sitting in the WRONG Spanish class. I should have been on the first floor and I had to leave her class. If I had sat in the right class, I would have never met her again.

I liked her and wanted to date her but she had a boyfriend. We stayed friends, meeting up at the campus bar to drink between classes. She was one of the coolest, funniest people I knew. I mean, wipe away tears funny.

A semester or two after that, my friends and I decided to go to Astro World in Houston just for the hell of it. One night we went out to a club and as I was scoping the chicks and I practically ran into Keri and her date. It turned out that her mother lived in Houston and she was visiting and we happened to run into each other. Okay, what are the odds that we would both be in Houston and go to the same bar! I’ve seen this girl in three different states at this point. Crazy.

The following Spring Break, I go to Fort Walton, Florida. Keri and I had lost touch at this point, so I had no idea what she was up to. One night, I’m running down the hallway of my hotel (I’ve been drinking) and when I turn the corner, there is Keri. Four states! Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Florida. Not only were we both in Florida, we were at the same hotel! We were in disbelief. I found out that she had moved to Houston to live with her mother and even though we were both single, the timing still wasn’t right.

The very last time we saw each other, I was mobilized for the Gulf War and had to do some training in Foot Hood, Texas. I got a hold of Keri and for the five or so months that I was stationed there, we managed to get together on several weekends and when the war ended, it was all over, Keri and I were over.

At the time, I did wish it could have worked out, but long distance things usually don’t and if really was destiny, then this story would have a different ending. The final coincidence isn’t as dramatic, but we both ended up married and living in neighboring states, Illinois and Ohio. Oh, well.

Coincidence story #1

I love strange, out of the ordinary coincidences.

My very first job was at the Thom McCann shoe store in the Plaza in New Orleans East. I was sixteen years old and they had me working in the warehouse. I was doing such a fine job that they allowed me to integrate myself onto the floor as a salesman and since I was especially good with kids, they gave me all of them.

I was working this girl that I developed a crush on. I’ll call her Tanya Kelly. It took me weeks to work up the courage to ask her out. She was around twenty, much older than me relatively speaking and I know I came off as a pizza-faced nervous teen, but I managed to ask her to a movie without throwing up and she turned me down and I scampered off with my tail between my legs.

Fast forward to Winn-Dixie. I must have been nineteen or twenty and my acne had cleared up and I was working out, so I had gained a little more confidence over the years. I ended up asking out the older sister of Tanya Kelly. Her name was Jessica Kelly. I believe Jessica was around 27 years old and she accepted and we did go out. Did I have a thing for older chicks? Not really, if they were cute and legal, I was interested.

On one of our dates, we stopped off at her parent’s house to get something and I had the opportunity to meet them. They were dressed up in some kind of Mardi Gras-hippie getup and were on their way to a costume party. It was a fantastic first impression.

Okay, fast forward to the following semester at the University of New Orleans. My friend and I were taking a Geology course and who was the professor? Martin Kelly, the father. I leaned over to my friend and told him that I had dated this guy’s daughter. As a joke, my friend told me to drop the class. Mr. Kelly then looked up to me and nodded and I waved back. I didn’t think he’d remember me having met just once, but he did.

I think I got a B in that class.

PS – I also working with his son at the same Winn-Dixie.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Comic Collecting led to writing

I was trying to think back to when I first got interested in writing and it seems it all comes down to Marvel comic books. My best friend Pat lived around the corner from me in New Orleans East and as early as I can remember, probably around eight or nine years old, we began collecting comics back in the 1970’s.

The first thing we did was set up our collecting rules. We each chose our favorites like we were each picking for a football game. I chose Captain America first and Pat chose Daredevil. I chose Hulk and he chose Avengers and so on. Little did I know that Pat picked all of the good ones and I got the not so good ones. His prize collection? X-men. My prize comic from this entire endeavor? Hulk 181 with the first appearance of Wolverine.

So, the next obvious thing to do was to start drawing our own comics, which meant writing them, too. I must say, we both became quite good artists. I was so into it that art was my major when I went to college, eventually going into graphic design. Writing was only a hobby at this point - short stories and the attempted novel. But the comic book writing had been the fantastic part. I’d assemble of group of superheroes, male and female and give them villains to fight as well as their own personal shit they had to work through. We were sure we’d work at Marvel Comics in New York.

Comics were a major part of our lives. I remember constantly riding our bikes to the K&B to purchase our new issues. We would put our valuable comics in plastic bags with cardboard backers and then we discovered an older kid on my block that also collected. He was about five or six years older than us with long hair and a beautiful girlfriend and he became sort of a hero to us.

Over time, it was less about the stories and more about completing the collections and purchasing the valuable ones. Once Pat and I lost touch, I sold most of my comics, keeping the best ones, about 100 in all. I sometimes pull them out and relive those glory days, when caring about comics meant you had no cares in the world.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Add a little sex...

This blog entry is a little blah, so I’ve decided to pepper in a little sex with it.

I’ve been trying to alternate my blogs about writing and about New Orleans. It’s getting difficult to update my journey to being published, as there is nothing going on. It’s a waiting game. My publisher has my manuscript and they will contact me when they are ready with the edits. What I have been doing is working on the follow up novel and checking my phone every so often for calls I may have missed and telling my friends that there’s nothing new to report.


It’s been a little hard to motivate myself to write. I feel like this should be a stepping back period, but there’s the anxiety of having my next book ready. So, what do I do to motivate myself? I read a good book and when I put it down, I find myself wanting to get on the computer and start tapping away.


I just finished The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and I have mixed reviews on it, but it did inspire me. Of course, I don’t write about that kind of subject, but I do love the historical facts, the religious aspects and, of course, the chase.


So, now I’m ready to write again, but I’m pretty sure that my next few blogs will concern New Orleans or Chicago or subjects pertaining and not necessarily my writing.

S-S-S-Sex, sex, sexy sex!

Man, this is a really boring blog entry.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Those days are gone…

My Maw Maw and Paw Paw (grandparents) used to live in a double shotgun house in Gentilly (a suburb of New Orleans) and my Maw Maw’s sister lived on the other side of her. Across the street from them was her other three sisters, living next door to each other in their own double. My grandmother was one of 13 children and at any part of the day at any time of the year, you could find them sitting on their porches bullshitting.

People would walk up and people would leave, rotating to keep the conversation alive. Most would get a beer or go out for sno-balls and talk about things relevant or inconsequential. It didn’t matter.

I was a child back in the 1970’s, but going to their house meant chocolate and it meant dollar bills. It meant great home cooked New Orleans food and I remember the mellatons on the vine in their backyard.

Sometimes my Dad would take me around the corner to the barbershop where there were Penthouse and Playboys mixed in with the regular magazines. I thought I was slick in hiding them inside other mags, but later I realized that they knew. They had to have.

When I grew into my late teens, my visits were less as I had more important social issues, but one particular memory sticks in my head of bringing a girl I had just started dating to my grandmother’s house and my Aunt Myrtle offered us a couple of Miller Ponies and when I refused, saying that I was driving, she called me a sissy – right in front of the girl I was trying to impress.

I do miss those days.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Early P.O.D. Experience

While I was still new to Chicago back in the mid 90’s, I found an ebook site that wanted to publish my book as a POD. At the time, I thought this was my break. Print On Demand was a growing business and was going to revolutionize the publishing industry. Finally, the rejected masses had a course of action!

My book sucked and I realize this now, but back then, I thought I had something. I had called it PARALLEL WITH MORALITY and it wasn’t edited properly and the storyline wasn’t good, but it was a book I wrote and I had high hopes.

So, I met the staff of this company as they bought space at the Book Expo America in Chicago and they were great people, my publisher. Well, I got a few copies of my book and the cover was terrible (I designed it myself on the fly, not giving myself any options) and soon after all of this, the company went under. I had to start from scratch.

I put that book aside and started another novel and this one, built on the experience of the first one, was a lot better. And this time, I had other people read and edit it and over the years of my trying to get it published, it continued to get edited and polished. Then one day an online company called Another Chapter said they wanted to publish it online to subscribers where they get one chapter a week to read. It sounded unconventional, but it was the internet where you could strike gold with the right venture. Well, after a couple of weeks, it went under. Groan.

So, I started my third book and then my fourth, still trying to publish and still editing every one of them. I tried started my own company and stopped when I realized it was too much work. A few years went by and sick of rejections, I started the publishing company again, and if you’ve read my previous blog, you know how this finally turned out. The book I printed and was trying to sell was placed into the hands of a real publisher and I got the call.

My book is being published for real.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A New Orleans - Chicago comparison

About fifteen years ago, my friend and I moved to Chicago into a sublet in Lincoln Park for the first four months. There was plenty of traffic and people walking around, as there were so many shops, restaurants and bars. The young people hustling and bustling was contagious and exciting.

So, here’s how I compared New Orleans to Chicago when I first arrived:

I tried telling people hi as I saw them on the street and the reception was not so positive. I was ignored, looked at funny and even avoided. I quickly learned to stop greeting people for no reason. But, come to find out, the people here are just as friendly as New Orleans once you know them.

Driving was strange. I was flipped off for the first time in my first week and not because I was driving poorly. I just wasn’t in a rush. People that are bad drivers in New Orleans are oblivious to it and the bad drivers in Chicago do it on purpose. I do find it very irritating when people in bumper-to-bumper traffic won’t let you merge in front of them. I think it’s either a control thing or a power thing or an entitlement thing.

My accent was either charming or a source of ridicule and throw in pronunciation like “C-ment” and it was the funniest thing to them. I’ve since lost most of the accent.

Chicago is clean and New Orleans is not so clean.

Overall, I love living in Chicago or I would’ve moved back a long time ago. Every now and then, I run into a New Orleans native and the connection is instantaneous. We can spout off locations and in many cases, people we know in common. There is one girl I met in Chicago that had eleven people in common with me and we had never met. I think I’m very lucky to have had the experiences in New Orleans as well as Chicago, two of the greatest cities in America and possibly the world (I can’t say for sure until I experience them).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Famous To-Go Cup

I in NO WAY encourage drinking and driving, but I will preface the following by saying that if you are leaving a bar and have a drink in your hand, you are either going to finish it all at once or, as in New Orleans, going to grab a to-go cup and leave with it in your hand.

When I first arrived in Chicago, we had gone out to some bars in Lincoln Park and I could not get used the fact that there wasn’t a stack of plastic cups by the door. I’m not a fast drinker and I had to stand at the door of each bar and try to down my beer or throw it away. What the hell?

In New Orleans, it is perfectly normal to walk around with your alcohol and when I was in my late teens and twenties, it was also normal to drive around with your alcohol. I’m not saying the cops didn’t bust DWI drivers, but my we were never worried about having that cup of beer in our hand. If we weren’t drunk, we were fine. We even had drive through daiquiri shops (but you weren’t supposed to put your straw in it – wink wink).

In the French Quarter, it would make sense as everyone was walking, but outside of the Quarter is where you took your chances driving around. My friends and I have never been pulled over while bar hopping, but I attribute that to lax law enforcement at the time. Like I said, it was normal. A lot of times, the cops working the door would be the one’s to hand you the cup.

Yes, to an outsider, this may seem bad, but I will only speak about my own case, because we weren’t black-out alcoholics and we didn’t drive like fools. Whether you don't agree, or think I was lucky, you may be right. I probably was in some cases and I would never do, or condone this now. But I was smart and an awesome driver. No tickets, no accidents – ever. My drunk was never a sloppy drunk and at that time, in the late ‘80s and early 90’s, the New Orleans kids 18-25 years old, lived the life that they knew.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Finding a publisher does not mean finding an agent

Okay, so I got the call from Medallion Press to publish my first novel, which will be out in two years. After I the shock wore off, I thought to contact a few of the agents that I really wanted to represent me. You know, let them know that I was making things happen. I figured if my first book does well and Medallion accepts my second book, then an agent may be in order to tweak the contract.

I was a bit disappointed to learn that they didn’t care. I told them (in not so many words) that I had done half their work for them. I was going to have a published novel and they would be able to represent the rest of them. No dice. They wanted submissions, just as any unpublished writer would have to do.

I suppose it’s good business to want to believe in the work of the author they’re representing, but I’m entitled, right? Nope. Reality had set in. I need to have a real money-maker first or interest from a major publishing house.

After a few more weeks, it sunk in that the agents are doing the smart thing. There are as many one book authors as there are music groups with one CD you’ve never heard of. The risk is still there, along with their time and effort. I don’t blame them and I’m not offended, but after more than ten years of struggling and finally getting a publisher, it’s a bit discouraging to know that the battle isn’t over and then comes the marketing and getting the word out, which I’m learning, is the actual hard part.

But by the looks of things, I won’t need an agent for a long time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Katrina Experience (Part Two)

As soon as people were allowed back into New Orleans, I drove down to help my parents try to retrieve any items that might have been salvageable. It was extremely creepy driving into our neighborhood as it was a ghost town. There was no law and every time a vehicle came by, we had to be ready. We’ve heard terrible stories of robberies and murders from people offering help.

We looked around the house first, wearing rubber gloves and facemasks. There wasn’t much to save. Everything was lost; pictures, greeting cards, everything made in elementary school by my sister and me. It was all gone. Gutting the house was a gut wrenching experience, but I couldn’t let it show. Eventually, we had dragged everything we could to the curb. This was a requirement of Road Home buying the house.

My parents, grandmother’s, sister, her husband and child had lived in the one bedroom apartment in Baton Rouge for a while. I called constantly, getting updates on how FEMA’s assistance was coming along. A month or two into it, my parents managed to get their own apartment within the same complex and that saved their sanity for the short term.

My sister had the patience of a saint, dealing with the entire situation. She called FEMA everyday, making sure my folks wouldn’t fall through the cracks. One of my grandmothers was able to move into a FEMA trailer on her property in Slidell while my other grandmother continued to stay with my parents.

Eventually, FEMA came through with Road Home money and my parents started a new mortgage on a house in Baton Rouge and my sister also got her first home just a mile away from them. Although they are still adjusting to a new life, their new home is in a better neighborhood than the old one and the house is nicer, but it’s not the same, so they tell me. They miss their old life, as would anyone. The way I see it, Baton Rouge has gained a lot of character.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Katrina Experience (Part One)

At the time of Katrina, I was working at a print shop in Niles, Illinois, just north of Chicago. My parents, who lived in New Orleans East, pretty close to the Lower Ninth Ward, got out a day early, going to Baton Rouge with my grandmother to stay with my sister. They only took enough items for a two-day stay.

After I found out that the levees broke and they couldn’t leave Baton Rouge is when a life changing reality set in; my hometown was under water. My experience was a lot different than my parents and those who still lived in New Orleans. I had the guilt of not being with them and of my life not being turned upside down and the deep sadness of knowing that the home I grew up in was no longer.

My parents lived in the same house in New Orleans East since I was three. I moved out when I was eighteen and my grandmother moved into my old room. After I graduated from the University of New Orleans, I waited tables in the Quarter until I moved to Chicago for a job at twenty-six, about ten years before Katrina.

New Orleans East was a lower-middle class area that was mostly black, with some gangs, but overall, not the worst neighborhood to live in. There were shooting and robberies that you would hear of, but luckily, my parents were never involved in a crime statistic. After Katrina, my parent’s house, which was two blocks off Lake Pontchartrain, had about five feet of water and was totally ruined.

So, at this point, my parents and two grandmothers were staying in my sister’s cramped one bedroom apartment in Baton Rouge with her husband and child and they had no where else to go. I could only imagine the heartbreak and tension they were feeling, not knowing what their future held or what they had to go back to. They had no clothes and their medicine was all at back at the house.

The following weekend, I took off work and drove down to Baton Rouge. I don’t know why I did this to myself, but I listened to New Orleans and Mardi Gras music and I found myself crying at different moments during the thirteen hour drive. It became scary when I hit Jackson Mississippi, as every gas station off the interstate had long lines of cars waiting for gas. For a while I didn’t know if I’d have enough gas to make it, it was getting dark and there was no cell phone reception.

Along the way, I encountered many service vehicles, fire engines, and such heading down. There were campers and SUV’s with Katrina relief written on them. When I finally made it to the apartment complex, I ran up to my family and hugged them and cried, trying to tell them it would be okay, but here I was, feeling that guilt; feeling like an outsider, but this wasn’t about me, it was about my parents and my sister and the hell they were going through.

I stayed with them for few days. There was nothing for me to do but offer support. They told me I shouldn’t have come, but what could I do? I needed to be there with them, if nothing else, but to be a distraction. When I left, we hugged and cried again and I continued to cry on the way back to Chicago. The total shock of all of these events and the adjustment to a life to follow was going to take a huge toll on them. This was a long way from being over.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The "DO's" didn't work, but the "DON'Ts" did.

I started with the "DOs."

When I began to submit my first novel to publishers and agents, I had no idea I was doing everything wrong. Like most first time novelists, I looked up how to submit and learned about the query letter, the synopsis and the style of double-spaced manuscripts with an inch border, headers yadda yadda. My query letters sucked. In the beginning I wasted a lot of money in postage trying to convince the publishers of my talent in my queries. All rejected.

I continued to polish the letter (and the book - always go back and edit) while working on my next book. I read more info and eventually had a query that publishers and agents wanted; a no-nonsense description and bio that was intriguing and well written. Years of rejection followed, but I did get some personal feedback, which I learned was a step forward. I let more than forty people read my book with flattering reviews, so I know I had something. I was at the point where I had three other books nearly finished and I was still trying to hock my first baby.

I became desperate enough for the "DON'Ts"

It became clear to me that I had to self publish. At first, I printed several versions and had them bound just so that I could see my novel in real novel form and thought, maybe that's what the publishers needed to see, but then I learned that publishers and agents wanted their submissions in basic manuscript form and would not even look at a printed version made to look like a real novel. Every source I looked into told me that publishers and agents would not touch a self published book or a print on demand and it would be near impossible to get it on the shelves.

So, what did I do? I created my own publishing company, bought ISBN numbers, printed the book, designed the cover and began to sell my book on the internet. I didn't like this. I had to take matters into my own hands, but soon I learned the publishing business is a lot harder than it seemed (and expensive). My new plan was to try to get a publisher interested in taking over my book (I had collected some great reviews) and as luck would have it, The Book Expo America was coming to New York.

I bought my ticket and went to the Expo with ten or so copies of my book (which looked like a real novel) and planned to convince these people in person. The first day went well, I handed out eight of my books and was told they would check it out and I should call them back. The next day (I wasn't even going to go) I spotted the Medallion booth and remembered that I had submitted to them years back and they rejected me. What the hell? I talked to the vice president and told him my story. I had not signed a contract with my own company, so the book wasn't legally anybody's property. He took the book and told me to call him in two months. And as I posted in the previous blog, three weeks later, they called me to tell me that they loved the book and wanted to publish it!

I did exactly what I wasn't supposed to and finally had success! Now, this is not meant for any inspiring writer to do the same. I truly believe this was right place, right time for me. I don't go back to the Expo on Sunday and I'm still on square one. You could conceivably ruin your chances if you follow my lead, but if anything can be taken away from this is that after you've exhausted all of your legitimate options, you need to find what works for you. If your work really has merit, maybe you need to make it stand out from the slush pile.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Very First Blog

I’m 42 years old and just signed my first publishing contract, so I guess that means I need a blog, right? It has taken over ten years of rejection, but when Medallion Press called to tell me they wanted to publish my book, I couldn’t believe it was real. That moment will forever stay in my memory. The book is called ABSINTHE and it is a detective thriller set in New Orleans. Right now, the plan is to make it a trilogy, but each book will stand on its own.

The book was written before Hurricane Katrina and has been revised to fit in the New Orleans of post-Katrina. I don't preach about the aftermath of Katrina or anyone's lack of involvement or the suffering of the residents. I just tell the story with the after-affects in the backdrop. I try not to beat the reader of the head with it, is what I'm trying to say.

I was caught off guard when my editor told me Absinthe was slotted to come out at the end of the year – 2011! I did some online checking and I guess this is pretty normal, but I’m telling you, the anticipation is going to kill me. But, it does give me plenty of time to get the other books in order and from what I understand, there is some marketing that I need to plan for.

So, this blog will document my journey into the world of publishing, my efforts to get my book into the public eye, as well as be the release valve for crazy thoughts that go through my brain - and I've been told that I am a bit crazy.

After they read Absinthe, they made add twisted, also.