Who is J Reed?

If you ask me who I am, I will tell you that I am a mercenary from a far away country who has come to America on a secret mission to rattle things up. And if I happen to ask you rather you believe me and you in fact do, then I have done my duty of being the greatest storyteller on the planet.

My name is J Reed, coming from Chicago, the Windy City, home of Al Capone. None of what I have told you so far truly defines who I am. But isn’t “Who are you?” a loaded question? Who really can sum up in words who he is? What I am saying is that I am a day-by-day work in progress, so I who I am today is not necessarily who I was last year or who I will be ten years from now.

Because of that, I can tell you only that I am a father of two beautiful little girls, ages 6 and 8. I live in Chicago, write stories, am a college graduate and that I have experienced many hardships in my life. I also run the devilshornet2.wordpress.com blog. I was raised in the notorious Robert Taylor Projects where drug addicts were the talk of the day. Somehow, I lived throughout it all.

Have you ever seen your niece die? Been accused of shooting your best friend? Been afraid of where you sleep? I have. It is those things that made me who I am today. I am Jermaine Reed, whatever that means.

Falling Out of Love

One of the most foolish, foolhardy things we can do as people is fall in love with someone we do not know. As much as people show us who they are through their actions, we tend to mitigate those negative actions with false ideals created by what that person tells us. It’s like a relationship where your partner consistently punches you in the face and says, “I love you.” Is that really love?

I have met many people in my life and no matter how influential or meaningless those people are, I learned something from each one of them. What I have found is that I cannot vibe with a person who shifts blame, denies and lies. I cannot take seriously a person whose actions so vividly belie their words when the two forms of communication may very well be night and day. 

Not too long ago, I expressed to my cousin problems I was having in a recently-ended relationship before it ended. “Give her a chance,” my cousin said, and I did. Still, this person lied, denied, misinformed and misdirected. Even when she was wrong, she found a way to shift blame or redirect the blame. For some reason, she could never fully own her mistakes or bad decisions. 

Recently, I had been testing her, asking her questions to see if she had grown because she told me she had. However, from the answers she gave me, I know she hasn’t changed. She is not ready to accept her actions as her own. She is looking to shift blame and not say, “It was me. I am to blame, but this is why it won’t happen again.” She is still at the “It could have been my fault but I won’t say it was because it may have been something or someone else’s fault.”  

Firmly, I am a believer that people do not change people. People change themselves. Dealing with the aforementioned person could have been a case study to prove the previous saying. She proved to me that no matter how nice I was, no matter how much I tried to reason with her, no matter how much I attempted to meet her in the middle, she could not be a trustworthy person who owns her mistakes. 

Looking back on this failed relationship, I realize I too am to blame for it failing. My biggest mistake was getting into a relationship with a person who constantly demonstrated that she was willing to lie and deceive, even when caught red-handed, to make things go her way. My worst decision was choosing to ignore those red flags for what they were. What can I do? Nothing but live and let live. 

This is my advice to you. Love is temporary. It is not permanent. It changes, grows and even fades away until nothing is left. If someone shows you who they are, believe that person. Do not make excuses or think they can change. They won’t change. They are not to be trusted. Run before it’s too late. 

#relationship #relationships

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Your Manuscript Has Been Rejected. Now What?

You’ve spent 100 million hours writing, rewriting and editing and proofreading your novel and then BOOM! every agent and publisher you sent it to rejects it. Now what?

That question could be a hard one. Some writers would just move on to the next project. Before doing that, I ask, what did the rejection letters say? Were they automated, prewritten generic responses like, “At this time, this novel isn’t for me” or were they personalized rejection letters that cited specific reasons for rejecting your manuscript? Maybe the agent or publisher said your sentences were too choppy or it was hard to connect with your protagonist for whatever reasons or your exposition revealed too much. If any of these specific complaints or any others were cited, there’s still hope.

Earlier last year, my novel Operation Soul Cast was turned down an agent who gave me a personalized rejection letter. The agent told me to cut some of my exposition. I followed the agent’s advice and sent the story out again, and it was immediately picked up by Solstice Publishing. Rejection letters can hurt, but if you get a personalized one, follow the advice or consider the critiques. Whatever issues the agent named, even if you don’t believe they are issues, consider revising. Agents are agents for a reason. They are gatekeepers to the publishing industry and more likely than not, if they complain about something in your manuscript, so will the next agent.

Personalized rejections are gold. Sometimes, they’re only a sentence or two, but within those sentences are keys to getting your manuscript accepted for publication. Give your work a chance. Just because it gets shot down doesn’t mean there’s no hope. It simply means you must work harder on fixing your manuscript. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the publishing industry and neither should your manuscript be. Invest time and effort in your manuscript, and I guarantee it will be published.

The Mortality of the Writer

Last night, I saw two people die in a car accident. Their car hit a pole, splitting the hood in two. I opened the driver’s side door to see if I could help, but the interior was so mangled, I knew he was gone. I went around to the passenger side and saw a guy I had known in passing, that I hadn’t seen in years, and he too was gone. This morning, I logged onto Facebook, and the passenger’s sister and also my Facebook friend was mourning the loss of her brother. My heart is shattered.

Being a father, an author and MFA student, I sometimes live my life fast and full of anxiety. If there isn’t one thing to do, there is another. I hardly have time to breathe, let alone decompress. What I witnessed last night reminded me of my own mortality. Someone can be here one moment and gone the next.

I write because I will not live forever, but my thoughts, words and ideas can. Even from beyond the grave I can put a smile on one child’s face, give one person the courage to go on or touch someone in some profound way. If there are no other rewards to penning novels and drinking 8 cups of coffee a day, the things I previously named are enough.

I saw two people die last night, and it hurt me to see people in such a way, their lives snuffed out so instantly and permanently. I hope they find peace beyond the stars and enjoy the afterlife even more than they did here on Earth among us mortals. I hope to find a similar peace when the time comes.

 

How to Get a Book Deal

Every writer wants to know how to get a book deal, so she can officially be an author. Every writer wants to be the next great American author and sell more book than James Patterson. So, we ask, how do I get a book deal?

Recently, my novella Operation Soul Cast was picked up by a small publisher called Solstice. Believe it or not, getting a book deal is not as glamorous as one may believe. It’s actually a lot of work. 

To this question of getting a book deal, it is not impossible, but it is a science. You not only have to write a grammatically correct book, you have to write one strong in plot and rich with interesting characters. There is no secret formula to getting published. You just have to put your best pen forward. 

Until next time, keep writing. 

#authoruproar #imquerying 

Our Own Sort of Fun

Drugs. Violence. Police brutality. Hate. Love. Love. Love. 

In 1995, if you would have read about the Robert Taylor projects, the news report would probably have headlined something like this: 

“17 Men Arrested in Drug Sting at Robert Taylor Homes.” 

But inside those forsaken buildings where no one but those who lived there would have gone, children lived there. And those children, like all children, found a way to make the best of their situation. We did so in part by playing “It” in abandoned apartment buildings with holes in the walls.

Looking back on those days so many years later, I know my mother would have had a fit had she known what I was doing. As a father of three, I know I would not ever knowingly allow my daughters to play in abandoned buildings. Yet I also know that those dangerous moments where we had fun chipped away some of our surrounding circumstances and gave us a hideaway. 

Maybe my children will not ever experience what it is like to grow up impoverished in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, but they will hear many a stories from me about those moments. 

Manuscript Anxiety

I once read somewhere the hardest part of writing comes after the manuscript is complete. Later, I read that all first drafts were trash. I thought the people who wrote those things were idiots. How wrong I was.

Some people have problems putting words on the page. This is why most manuscripts are never finished. I don’t have this problem. However, the closer I come to finishing a manuscript, the more anxious I become.

When you write 90,000 words, you think, “Geesh. I just wrote 90,000 words.” There is a certain level of pride that comes along with that. Then, you think in utter horror, “Damn it. I just wrote 90,000 words.” That means you will have to revise, edit, proofread and polish a 90,000-word manuscript. Needless to say, that is quite the endeavor.

I have an awesome Science Fiction novel I am this – close to completing. But I don’t have $3,000 to pay a professional line editor or any editor to work magic on it. In my manuscript’s current form, I’d be laughed out of every publishing house on this side of the universe before it ever sees print. This is why editing and revising are so vital.

I have been writing Carbon Copies since September of last year. When I put the final words on the page this week, the real work will begin. I will have to read for consistency and make notes along the way. Then, I will have to go back and make the necessary changes which include rewording, rewriting, organizing, deleting and fleshing out characters and scenes. Then, I will have to proofread for grammatical errors front to back at least twice. All that should take at least three months.

Writing is a full-time job. If you want to be a writer, you don’t necessarily have to LOVE the process. You have to at least LIKE it though or have an appreciation for it like red lights. We’re not fans of them, but we do appreciate the fact they prevent others from slamming into us. A manuscript in its first draft is like the bones of the house with a foundation to build upon. The revising, editing and proofreading are what make the house a home. They are the paint, the cabinets, the windows and everything in between.

I write this to give insight on what it’s like to write and be serious about it. Take what matters to you and leave behind what doesn’t.

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

As you’ll find if you read my blog thoroughly enough, I grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on the Southside of Chicago. If you do any research, you’ll find it was not the ideal place to grow up, being overwhelmed with drugs and gang activity. But it is where I am from, and I am not ashamed of it.

My uncle Milton lived there as well but for over thirty years. When I was younger, he made a painting on my mom’s wall of the cartoon Tom cutting off Jerry’s head. Blood was everywhere in the painting. My mom was pissed to say the least. I was delighted, until she made him paint over it.

Milton is a very sarcastic person who you’ll either love or hate with hate seeming to be the winner in most cases. Yet he is comfortable with whom he is. On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Chicago Sun Times did a spread on him concerning his upbringing, painting and one of his pieces currently on display at an art gallery. This inspires me.

My family is condensed with people in the arts. I’m a writer, my uncle is an artist and some of my family makes music. Most of us came from those dilapidated buildings, but we have success, college degrees and each other.

Someone once asked me why I never failed to mention that I am from the projects. This person has a painful history, having grown up extremely poor to the point of having no running water in the house. Her childhood was traumatic. She is doing well for herself now, but she shies away from her past. She will not discuss with anyone how she grew up. It is this denial that leads her to question me. How can I, having grown up in the most notorious part of the city, be able and willing to speak openly about it?

I am not ashamed of where I come from. It has made me who I am, good or bad. It showed me that the world can be harsh, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. It is what inspires me to do better for my children so that they don’t have to experience what I did. The point is, embrace your past to know your future as the Sankofa bird of West Africa tells you.

 

A Personal Reflection on the Business of Self-Publishing

As a self-published writer, I find myself seeking tools that can not only help me sell more books but that can also help me in my writing process. To help other writers braving this unforgivable landscape we call self-publishing, I am writing this blog “The Business of Self-Publishing.”

The greatest advice I can give to you that was given to me is, keep writing. You should always be writing.

Other than that, self-publishing is a business. In business, people will always sell you things or at least try to. Your job is to decipher what you do and do not need. Believe it or not, you are in control of your greatest need: your ability to write. In addition to my writing skills, I have KDP Rocket (for identifying keywords to sell books), Autocrit (for editing) and I am thinking of adding Novelize for an easier writing process). I have not taken any workshops or bought much more than the things I mentioned.

When I initially set out on this self-publishing journey, I underestimated how hard this thing would be. I took for granted the ability to write good stories and sell them.  What I needed was a reality check, and that is what I got. There is a process to publishing, and that process is different for different people. You must perfect your process.

As I said, self-publishing is a business. It means you must have capital if you want to sell. You don’t need a lot of money, just enough to buy good covers, get some promotion and cover cost of materials, whatever they may be.

I have not been blogging much, because I am preparing to launch another two books. Stay tuned. I wanted to check in and let you all know where I’ve been and to tell you to keep going. You’ll make it.

#selfpublish #indieauthor

 

Increasing Book Sales With KDP Rocket

Today, I’m talking about increasing book sales with KDP Rocket. It is a program that is not a subscription that allows you to get inside knowledge on keywords so that you can have a greater chance of your books being found on Amazon by readers. You’re probably wondering why this is so important.

OK. Keywords are important if you want to maximize your ability to sell books. For instance, if you’re writing a book about a warring kingdom, it would be great to know that 1 million people a month through Amazon search the keywords “bloody kings killing.” Would you ever have thought to make that phrase part of your keywords? Maybe not.

On top of this, KDP Rocket tells you who your competition is, how many books they sold and how much money your keywords generate in relation to book sales. You’re wondering now, does it work? Many authors have said it does. Personally, I do not know, but this why I brought it yesterday for $97. There was a hiccup and I never received my pass key (license), but I emailed Dave Chesson, the creator who is a very accessible guy and who apologized, and he sent me my key.

So, I am doing an experiment. I know that shorter ebooks tend to do better than longer ebooks. I also have gathered data from KDP Rocket concerning book sales and competition within a certain genre. I am writing a 20,000-word novella using this information to see if it outperforms my other books. However, there are other variables to consider:

  1. Whether the story is appealing to the market
  2. Whether the book cover is intriguing
  3. Whether the marketing was sufficient
  4. And other things I can’t think of

I am very confident in my writing and storytelling capabilities. I have written some great pieces. If KDP Rocket is all it is cracked up to be, I should see a tremendous jump in sales. I know what the market wants, I know my competition and I know my keywords. Stay tuned, Loyal Reeders, and see what happens.