How to Write a Book

Recently, I have been working my ass off, writing, finishing my MFA and going to school while also helping to raise my three daughters. The question I am constantly asked is, “How do you find time to write?”

I don’t find time. I make time. That’s the difference. Life will give you a million reasons why you have to put off writing. You’re busy. You’re eating. You’re working. Something came up. The list is endless. At some point, you have to find the resolve to say, fuck this. Today, at this time, for the rest of this month or year, I will write.

The one thing that all successful writers have in common is they write. They put words on thr page. Whenever someone declares, “This is the book that will make me rich,” they’re most likely wrong. And to the classics, the best sellers, we have all read them and thought, “Why this book? It is nothing spectacular.”

Most up and coming writers are too critical of themselves. They write and think, “This is trash.” Newsflash, all first drafts are trash. However, they are the foundation on which you build. In this way, think of your manuscript as the bones of a house. Editing and proofreading are the paint and construction that makes the house beautiful. It is not done with one draft. It’s done with many.

Anyways, my new book “The Book of All Things Beautiful” is temporarily available for free download on Amazon. Hurry. The offer expires soon. You can search my name, Jermaine Reed, on Amazon and the book will come up. Or follow the link below.

Thank you.

The Pressures of Being a Struggling Writer

Your manuscript should be at least 80,000 words. 

Hearing that may be overwhelming. It’s similar to that part in I, Robot where Sunny tells Will Smith’s character the vast amount of stairs they have to climb. You may think, how the hell do I come up with 80,000 words? Then, you may think, I’ll just write 60,000 and someone will publish it. You should not think that way. 

Writing a novel is a great task. It can be overwhelming. But deviating from the standards of word-count will only tarnish your efforts and limit the number of editors or agents who will take your work seriously. 

Knowing how much work is involved, you may wonder, What of no one publishes it? So what. What if you constantly doubt yourself? What if you never finish a manuscript? Surely, you will never get published because you won’t have anything to publish. 

As a beginning creative writer, I now understand why so many authors fail. They underestimate the amount of work involved. No one magically writes about. The words do not just appear on the page. Someone has to put them there. That someone is you. 

The Cop Who Nothing Except Everything

About two weeks ago, I had the unfortunate opportunity of being pulled over by a twenty-something cop who thought he knew it all about traffic law. It was nearly 11 pm on a busy street when a girl on her cellphone zipped into the street. I pressed my brakes so hard, the tires squealed. As she landed across the street, I heard sirens and saw blue and white lights.

The officer asked for my insurance card which I provided.

“This is not valid for presentation,” said the cop, pushing his glasses over the bridge of his nose.

“It is,” I said, pointing to the card.

“It isn’t. And you failed to yield to a pedestrian and you improperly used your horn.”

“She ran into traffic.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

When he came back to the car, he handed me a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Of course, my blood boiled, but there was nothing I could do.

Last week, I heard the ticket. I thought I would catch a break when the officers in the other defendants’ cases failed to show and so they were dismissed. Nope. Glasses Cop showed up in a White Sox hoodie.

“If you plead guilty,” said the judge to me, “You’ll have to pay just $214 in court fees, no traffic fine and this will not be reported on your driving record.”

“What if I want a trial?” I asked.

“If you lose, the conviction will go on your driving record, you will have to pay court fees and I could fine you an additional $500.”

I contemplated pleading out. But my ego would not let me. I felt I was right.

“I will take the trial,” I said.

After Glasses Cop gave his side, I gave mine. I argued that the girl abruptly entered the street, endangering not just her life and mine but others as well.

“And Illinois traffic law section b says no pedestrian shall suddenly run or walk into oncoming traffic,” I ended.

The judge was stern-faced. I could not tell what she was thinking.

“After hearing both sides, I find the officer to be credible. I find the defendant credible as well. Since the State has failed to meet its burden of proof, I find the defendant not guilty,” said the judge.

As she read her verdict, I was a plethora of emotions from anxious to nervous. Then, I was elated. As I left the courtroom, I thanked the judge and the officer. But Glasses Cop was highly upset. If looks could turn people to stone, I would have been one.

Someone once told me, “You can’t beat the system, but you can trick it.” I agree.

Near Death Experience

One of my most devastating moments occurred when I was just twelve years old when I was hit by a car. I hardly ever talk about this, and I don’t know why. What I do know is that since that moment, I have always been aware of how life can change within just a matter of moments.

In grammar school as I have been throughout most of my life, I was somewhat a prick. Before Tristain and I became best friends, I was his enemy. I would pick on him and call him names, mostly because he wore glasses and had a long “tail” (a single braid of hair located towards the back of an otherwise shaved head).

“You’re ugly,” I said to Tristain.

“You’re ugly,” he said.

So on this day, while in line after lunch, I punched Tristain in the stomach. Unfortunately, our teacher saw it. She was a behemoth of a woman who wore a blonde mullet and glasses. After asking how I would like to be punched, she socked me in the stomach. I lost my breath and went down for the count.

I was enraged, so I ran out of school. The security guard, a former stripper, chased behind me. He was too late, as I jetted into the street. I remember being hit by a blue sedan. I was knocked into a pole, but I managed to stumble away. When I came to, I was surrounded by people from my project building. They were all telling me to be still.

The ambulance came and the paramedics cut me from my clothes. The fifty cents I’d had in my pocket is still unaccounted for. I don’t remember any pain.

I was out of school for two weeks while a large sore on the right side of my face healed. Although there were cameras in the school and it was confirmed that my teacher had punched me in the stomach, nothing was immediately done about it. This was the 90s, a different era in a different part of Chicago.

Eventually, the teacher who punched me was either fired or relocated. I learned not to punch people.

The Poison Which We Call Love

Quetta was my high school sweetheart. She was a pretty brown-skinned girl with long, natural hair. In the presence of others, she was always friendly and approachable. No one knew her dark side.  

I remember as clear as day the time she stared at me in class. She kept making sexual gestures. I did not know what to think. I knew her, but we were not friends or lovers. 

“I want to see your penis,” she said one day after class. 

So, we found an empty class and I pulled it out. It was already stiff with anticipation. Quetta smiled and nodded, like an evil genius in a meth lab. From there, our relationship blossomed. 

Months later, I was checking my email on her home computer. She noticed how many of our classmates’ email addresses I had. 

“Together we have everybody’s email address in the school,” she said, lifting an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we made a teasing email about some students and sent it to everyone?” 

What started out as a joke became reality. We created a list of 10 people to make fun of, many of whom were Quetta’s friends. The list went something like this: Nina the Stanky Pussy Baboon. Bradon Booty-Busting Hend. Josh Rump-Rider Daniels. The list goes on. 

The next day, our email blast was the talk of the school. The principal called an emergency assembly. He vowed to get to the bottom of the email scandal and expel whoever was responsible. Quetta and I laughed.

The next day, another assembly was called and the principal told us that he now had the ISP information the email came from. He urged the guilty party to come forward and he would be lenient. 

Days later, Quetta and I decided to turn ourselves in. One of the other students heard us partially confess and told everyone else. Most of Quetta’s friends wanted to fight her. Quetta was no fighter. She denied sending the email. We were suspended for 10 days. 

Throughout this whole thing, I was not afraid. But I found Quetta had a devious side. She could not be trusted. It would take more for me to realize how dangerous she was. 

Oral Sex Date

The first girl to ever give me oral was Lolita, someone I’d met on the local party line. She said she had never given head before but she wanted “to suck [my] dick.” 

After much ado, I met her at her home. She had some of the biggest, prettiest titties I had ever seen. Although I was fascinated by them, she reminded me of why I was there. Her granny would be home any second, so we needed to get down to business. 

“I have to give you head in the foyer, because I can’t here her coming in up here,” said Lolita. 

So, in the foyer of her apartment building, Lolita dropped to her knees and took me fully into her mouth. As I said, this was her first time giving and my first time receiving. Honestly, as she did it, she scraped me so many times with her teeth that I did not know why people enjoyed head so much. 

“Let me just do your face,” I told her. 

She placed her head against the wall and I started stroking her mouth. It still wasn’t all that wonderful, but it was better than what she had been doing. I liked the spund of her head bumping the wall. 

As she slobbered, in mid stroke, the foyer door began to open. It was her grandmother. With my pants around my ankles, I ran up the stairs, through her apartment and out the back door. 

Later that night, as I showered, my penis stung from the scrapes left by Lolita’s teeth. Still, I agreed to meet her in the park the very next day for another round of bad head. 

Bullet and a Baby

This is a true story. 

When I was little, my favorite place to explore was my uncle’s bedroom. Although he was a die-hard crack addict who kept bottles of piss in his room, he had a plethora of things: magnifying glasses, telescopes, knives, swords and a host of other things. 

One day, my cousin, sister and me were playing in my uncle’s room. We had with us our infant niece. We came across a bunch of large bullets and a hammer. In our young minds, it was a great idea to bang a bullet with a hammer. 

After dozens of hits, the bullet was damaged but was sturdy. My cousin slammed the hammer so many times and my sister couldn’t get the job done. That’s where I came in. 

“It’s my turn,” I said, handing my niece to my sister and taking the hammer. 

I beat the bullet senseless but nothing happened. When I took my final swing, the bullet exploded. The heavy gun powder choked all of us. The explosion deafened me. I thought I had been shot. 

“What the fuck are y’all doing?” my mother said, rushing into the room. She smelled the gun powder, saw the shell casing and the hammer. She saw my baby niece. 

Needless to say, we all tried to shift the blame and minimize our involvement. My mother was the judge, jury and ass whipper. Who knew years later, a bullet would change my life forever.

I Hit a Girl

Since I could remember, I’ve had an affinity for cats. My love for them lies in their mysteriousness. They are quiet, gentle and affectionate. If a person rubs them the wrong way, cats can be pure buttholes. It seems they have a sense for who they should and should not trust.

As I’ve said, I grew up in the Robert Taylor projects on the Southside of Chicago. These buildings were huge high rises, able to hold up to 160 families. The pissy hallways were always dank and disgusting. For reasons unknown, my sister Precious and my cousin Shaday loved to play in them.

One day, I caught them in the act of dangling a cat from the 8th floor hallway window. My heart dropped with an anchor of fear. Before I could stop them,  they dropped the cat. I was equal parts dumbfounded and enraged.

“Why did y’all do that?” I said, my voice ricocheting off the hallway walls.

“Because cats always land on their feet,” they said in unison.

I have always been in disbelief of how the myth of cats always landing on their feet leads to so much animal cruelty against them. Just because cats can land on their feet, it doesn’t mean they’ll survive a toss from a window.

So, I punched my sister and cousin both in their arms. Of course, they cried to my mother. And yes, I got my ass whipped. Should a boy ever hit a girl? No. Not unless he’s avenging a cat.

She Died at Three Months Old

There is an image seared into my brain of my sister running through the house screaming as she clutches her three-month-old dead baby. This image is so clear, I can pull it up and see everything exactly as it happened.

The death of three-month-old Jennifer had a huge impact on my family. Since then, my family has been plagued with drug-addiction, alcoholism and huge feuds. When she passed away, I was only eight years old. Yet I understood my own mortality. It was at this very age that I understood that I could die and no one could prevent it.

Jennifer did not get to live a percentage of her life. Everyday, I think of her, wonder how she would have laughed or cried, wonder what her favorite color would have been, what career she would have pursued. I wonder who I would have been if I would have been able to be the uncle she needed.

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.