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? Shot 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.

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.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is not your normal self-help book, and it is not for the faint of heart. This book doesn’t coddle you into feeling better or amp you up into believing you can do anything. Instead, it tells you how life is and suggests that you just deal with it.

As writers, authors and blogers, we create these posts or books and hope someone will read them, pray someone will give a fuck about them. What if they don’t? Do we give up writing or do we change gears?

I have always been a believer that in order to achieve goals, I must write them out and go for them. I had never been the type to weigh the consequences. As Mark Manson put it in Not Giving a Fuck, life is a series of problems and when you decide what success you want, you also have to decide what pain you want.

That means that everything comes with a certain stock of pain. As science puts it, for every action there is an equally adverse reaction. Simply put, take the good with the bad. Or as Troy Maxon in Fences would say, take the crookeds with the straights.

Success in writing, whether blogger, author or freelancer, is not easy. You will lose a lot to gain what you want. It is called sacrifice. This is why ninety percent of us fail. Because we lack the fortitude to keep on in the face of adversity.

But what is failure? It is an abstract idea really. Do we fail by society’s standards or our own?

What It Means to Be a Self-Published, Indie Author in 2018

A lot of writers who do not have book deals classify themselves as self-published or indie authors. They take on that title and expect instant success. Most of the time, if their first book does not do well, these “authors” drop out of the race to being America’s next great writer.

Over the last two years, I have complete several writing projects, including my upcoming novella “Operation Soul Cast” and my collection of short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful.” And, let me tell you something: being an indie author is not easy. You effectively become:

  1. Writer
  2. Publicist
  3. Editor
  4. Promoter
  5. Finance Guy
  6. And so on and so forth

There is a lot that goes into releasing a book. First you have to write the book. Then you have to edit and proofread it and revise it yourself if you don’t have money to pay a professional. You have to format it for different versions, like audio, hardcopy and ebook. You have to constantly promote yourself. At times, it will seem overwhelming. It is not impossible.

Although I have been writing for years, I am still a novice in many aspects. I do not want to be an indie author forever. I want to be traditionally published, even though I would probably get to keep a lesser percentage of my royalties. So, why am I self-publishing at all?

Big publishing houses want novels, meaning greater than 60,000 words, but usually in the 90,000-word range. So, I self-publish my novellas, very short books, just to get my name out there.  But I have written novels and I am trying to get them published by a big publishing company. I’m not saying you should do the same.

What I am saying is, keep writing. No matter what. Put words on the page. Plan out your steps to write and release your books.

I hope this helps you pen the next great American novel.

A Review of A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership is a trip through the mind of one of the humblest men to pen a book and put it all on the line. At times, Comey opens to the point of vulnerability, expressing his true feelings and daring not hold back. Years from now, this book will be cataloged as history and stand partially as a reference on the most controversially detrimental presidencies this country has ever seen.

Although the end of the book speaks on Donald Trump and likens him to a mob boss with his “us versus them world view” and his “silent circle of assent” in which he says something and, because no one disagrees with him or speaks up, they all become complicit in whatever Trump is doing, Loyalty is about more than that. It is about the career of a man who never seemed to make as much money as he deserved, a man who lost a baby, a man who did his best to uphold the law.

Comey speaks of how much he hated bullies. Being a tall, lanky kid who did not have many friends, he was quite often bullied. At some point, he became a bully but realized he was wrong. He prosecuted many bullies in his days. And though he seems to have some level of respect for mob bosses to the effect of not embarrassing them in front of their families with an arrest, he sees them as a danger to society. He believes that no man, regardless of money, is above the law.

Admittedly, Comey acknowledges that he was no supporter of Barack Obama. However, after having met with him several times, he gained a great deal of respect for Obama’s honesty and focus. Once, when Comey gave a speech on law enforcement and the Black community, he called the bad guys “weeds.” Obama was able to challenge him on this term and help him realize why to some in the Black community it may have been offensive.

On several occasions during Comey’s term as FBI director, Donald Trump attempted to get the Director to pledge loyalty to him. Comey had been investigating Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton and some believed the investigation had led to her losing the election. Trump may have been one of those people and probably concluded that Comey was “a friend” of his. When he realized Comey was not, Trump fired him. FBI directors serve ten-year terms. Comey did not even serve four.

Comey speaks about being fired and how it hurt him. Even with that, his evaluation of Trump’s presidency as a “forest fire” is fair. He insinuates that Trump’s presidency is a threat to democracy. Still, he is hopeful, saying that forest fires make way for new life.

This book deserves 4.2 stars out of 5. Comey’s views on issues and crime within the Black community are shallow and static. Outside of being a law enforcement agent, he obviously has not read a great deal about the Black community or has not done any grassroots there to really feel what is happening there. Still, on other topics like Donald Trump as a compulsive liar and Barack Obama’s even-handed foresight, his evaluations are spot-on. Comey comes across as an honorable man and one would be hard-pressed to prove that everything he did in his career did not come from a good place within him.

#jamescomey #higherloyalty #barackobama #trump #donaldtrump

Becoming Writer: Formal Education as an Author Versus None as a Writer

Yesterday, a fellow blogger asked me a good question about formal education as a writer versus no formal education as a writer. A lot of writers struggle with this. Some see education as the end all, be all that will make them a best-seller. Others who don’t have this education sometimes feel inadequate.

It took me four and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree which is in the field of Professional Technical Writing. Unlike beginning authors without training, I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and the technical parts of writing. I learned much of this in high school though and a small amount of it in college.

You don’t have to go to school to be a writer. Writing is a craft. Reading and writing will undoubtedly make you better. You just have to read books on the craft of writing and study hard on your own. Don’t just throw something together and think it will sell. You must edit and proofread meticulously.

Being in the Creative Writing MFA has put me in contact with some great influential writers. You can build similar contacts by going to writing workshops or joining groups.

Publishing houses and literary agents tend to take formally educated writers more seriously. If you can get some of your work published in magazines or anthologies, this will open doors for you.

You don’t need a degree or two like I have. You just need to write good stories, and send them to publishing houses and agents who will read them. If your work is good, the book deals will come.

This Year So Far as a Writer

This year has been one of the most successful and stressful for me as a writer. I am in my third semester of a Creative Writing MFA program that requires a bunch of reading and writing, I have done a poetry reading, gotten into a car accident, written a novella, published a novella, worked on several novels and short stories AND had a new baby this year named Zuri.  She’s lovely.

In February, I did my first poetry reading, compliments of The Poetry Foundation here in Chicago. Because I don’t view myself as a poet, the whole ordeal was stressful, but it was fun and it paid handsomely. As I stared out at the crowd from the podium, I stuttered a bit while wondering what I was really doing there. The reading was a complete success.

The MFA program has been kicking my ass daily. I have had to read August Wilson’s Century Cycle. Although the plays are insightful, having to answer questions about them has been overwhelming. I still have a 12-page paper due and I have to take two more tests before the semester ends. So far, I have gotten A’s on all the assignments.

My collection of literary fiction short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful” is available for download on Amazon. Click the link or search my name, Jermaine Reed, and look for the book that has someone sitting with a red umbrella. You can’t miss it. The stories are wonderful.

My new Science Fiction novella “Operation Soul Cast” will be available for download or for print May 1, 2018. It is a wonderful story about minds being cast into different bodies and bloody outcomes.

My car accident has been a headache. I have two Nissan cars, and for some reason the insurance company has gotten them mixed up. It really boils my blood. It’s like they shoot me as much paperwork as they can to deter me from continuing my claim. But they won’t deter me.

As an up and coming writer, things have been rough. I don’t find time for writing. I MAKE time for writing. Life will give you every excuse to not write. You have to bypass the will to make excuses and write. Put words on the page.

Today, I hosted my fraternity Phi Rho Eta, Incorporated’s 9th Annual Mock Trial Competition. As the event’s coordinator, a position that consisted of finding participants, helping to raise money, finding a venue and all sorts of things, I nearly broke down. The anxiety almost had me. The event went well though. I would not have had it any other way.

I hope this piece helps someone find the courage to write their next line, next story, next novel.

#indieauthor #writer #selfpublish

A Newborn

Nearly three months ago, my third beautiful daughter was born. Her eyes are a color I have never seen before and I cannot name. I was hoping for my first son, but I’m blessed either way. The question is, where do I go from here?