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.

A Review of Emeka Ossai and How He Preys on Self-Publishers and Authors

During a recent search on YouTube while trying to find information on how to sell my self-published books, I came across Emeka Ossai, a charismatic young man originally from Canada who now lives in Mexico (I believe). In my opinion, Emeka is the last person you should spend your money with, if you take writing seriously.

Emeka does a series on YouTube on how he lives a passive income lifestyle through publishing on Amazon. He claims that he wants to help other authors reach the same success he has, and to do this, he offers some free guides and courses the author has to pay for.

During an email conversation in which I confronted Emeka about the errors in his free guide, he wrote, “Why do you think I don’t write my books? I’m not an author, I hire people (ghostwriters) to write my books for me and I publish them under pen names. I’m a publisher not an author.

Summed up, this is Emeka’s business plan that he sells to self-publishers: hire a ghostwriter from Upwork or another site, publish your book with great keywords and swap reviews with other writers and sell your books. Basically, if you’re a serious writer like me, Emeka’s course isn’t for you. His course is for people who want to make some quick cash by publishing something they got from someone else.

Not to be misunderstood, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a ghostwriter. But when your goal is to use double-talk like Emeka and prey on self-publishers, it’s wrong.

For instance, in my recent emails with Emeka, he claimed to have published over one-hundred books under various pen names. When I challenged him, he named one book that I doubt made any money. When I challenged him on this, he wrote, “I already told you that was my 2nd book ever that book is shit.” He then directed me to watch his videos for the names of other books. I watched a bunch of his videos, but I haven’t heard one name of a book yet.

Emeka is all smoke and mirrors. He claims to have had so much success self-publishing, yet there is no proof of it. He gathers self-publishers for his upcoming “annual” Cancun retreat/summit and have them pay a ridiculous sum of money to participate. He claims to have the key to self-publishing success, but he is really just a charlatan using a bunch of videos to entice self-publishers who want to share their work with the world and make some money in the process as they deserve.

Emeka isn’t a “successful” self-publisher. All he knows is black hat tactics and rhetoric. Don’t spend your money with him. Everything he’s telling you, other successful self-published writers like Joanna Penn, Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant tell you for free, and they can be trusted. Joanna Penn even opens her books to show you her sales.

Steer clear of Emeka Ossai.

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The Chicago Police Have Failed Us, and So Will Lori Lightfoot

While watching Lori Lightfoot hold a press conference about gun offenders and weekend violence, I cringed. Part of the reason I cringed was because of the creature standing behind her, the failed Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the same man who did nothing to punish the officer who shot Rekia Boyd in the head and lied about a suspect having a gun. The other reason I cringed was because, in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty, but Lori Lightfoot and Johnson stood at the podium arguing that those allegedly caught with guns should be incarcerated and not out on bond. What happened to due process?

For far too long, the Chicago Police have been a corrupt organization of unruly cops having their way with minorities. Take for instance the SOS Chicago officers who beat and framed suspects as recently as 2010 or the Jon Burge reign in which dozens of Black men were tortured and framed. People say that all cops are not bad. Sure. But have those people ever heard of complicity or accessory? 

In the LaQuan McDonald case, several officers lied in their reports to protect their fellow guilty officer Jason Van Dyke. There is a known code of silence amongst cops. They don’t snitch on each other. Doesn’t a cop covering up for a dirty cop make the other cop just as dirty? 

Back to the damaged credibility of the Chicago Police Department, who’s to say that everyone these cops arrest for gun crimes actually committed those crimes? You know who is to say that? A judge or jury, not the mayor. Lori Lightfoot is mayor of Chicago, and it is her duty to protect the City’s citizens. Part of being able to do this is by acknowledging the crookedness of the CPD. Not all the CPD is bad, but in this case, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. 

To Lightfoot, make it your business not to jump to conclusions about who’s guilty and who’s not, lest you end up like Rahm Emanuel and be made a fool of as he was by the very department he tried to protect. 

#laquan #laquanmcdonald #chicago #police #chicagopolice #lorilightfoot

America’s Trash: The Average Black Man

As the commander-in-chief douses with gasoline the racial fire that has consumed America and led to two recent mass shootings by at least one known white supremacist, this country’s judicial system continues to be tone deaf when it comes to the plight of Black men. This is obvious in the case of Gaston Tucker, a 32-year-old Chicago man who was on parole and allegedly caught with a pistol during a traffic stop. After reviewing his phone calls, prosecutors used what he said against him to argue for a no bond. 

According to a Chicago Tribune piece by Jason Meisner, Gaston was recorded by phone call reflecting on the stop that led to his subsequent arrest. Gaston supposedly said over the phone, “Everything happens for a reason man…what I was  doing this summertime, man, I would have gotten caught shooting that [firearm]…that would have been life in prison…Boy, I quit. I ain’t carrying [a gun] no more.”

Tucker didn’t know this phone call would be used against him. So, this is as genuine as it can get. For all intents and purposes, this sounds like a man resigned to his fate, a man who knows where he went wrong and knows what he needs to do to get better. This is a man who is beyond the denial stage. At this point, he is in the stage where a helping hand is all he needs. Gaston has been punished his whole life  by the streets of  Chicago, by the judicial system, by society. He understands he has made bad decisions that could have been worse. Now, he wants to do better. This is what a compassionate person would get from the phone call he allegedly made. 

However, the judge , U.S. Magistrate Maria Valdez said, “[Gaston Tucker] feels that he is stuck between the crosshairs of Chicago” and used Gaston’s supposed phone call against him as a reason to instate a no-bond order for the man. Instead of feeling compassion for a man who wants to do right and knows he did wrong, this judge punished him for feeling stuck. Haven’t we all felt stuck before in our lives? 

Gaston’s situation is not unique. His story is one told every day dozens of times across this country where Black boys and Black men pay a price heavier than what their white counterparts pay. This is a country where a judge argues that a white man convicted of rape deserves a light sentence because he could have a potentially bright future and comes from a wealthy family or where a judge can sentence a white man to probation after that white man kills four and paralyzes two while drunk driving and flees the scene and the judge agrees that the man was too rich to know right from wrong. While the Black man or boy is punished for being poor and doing wrong, the white man or white boy is slapped on the hand and given a light sentence if any at all. 

There is no love or compassion for Black people in this criminal justice system. The same burdens that were put upon Black people by the system are the same burdens the system continues to punish Black people for. Gaston Tucker is a prime example that when the system has the chance to help a Black person at his lowest, the system instead kicks and spits on him for being so lowly. 

#ethancouch #gastontucker #chicagotribune #chicago #chicagonews

An Ode to a Frenemy of Mine

Tom Deriggi and I came from completely different backgrounds, but, as the universe would have it, our paths intertwined. He was a heavyset guy with bright red flushed cheeks that seemed to accentuate his greyish blue eyes. Politically, we were on two opposite spectrums: Tom on the far right, arms folded, chest out; me on the left, feet set and ideas ready to pour from me like fire from a dragon.

Today, I found out that Tom is dead. I do not know what led to his death or even the specific date he passed away. What I do know is that he’s been gone since at least June 2017. As I read the FB post “Rest in Peace” underneath his photo and saw the same words emblazoned over a picture of Tom posted by his brother, I felt a deep pang in my chest.

Tom and I built a close relationship rooted in arguments and different ideals. He challenged me as much as I did him, and he offered me a different perspective from my own. Him being nearly three decades my junior, I respected how he apologetically held his ground. Even in the heat of our debates, we found time to laugh and relate.

Without a doubt, I will miss you, Tom. Our brief friendship faded as quickly as it came. There is so much I do not know about you, that I want to know about you, that I will never know about you, not on this plane. You will continue to be a mystery to me, one that drives me to do better and learn what everyone thinks.

I am glad to have known you, Tom.

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

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.