I’ve been searchin…

For so long…nobody like you…is nowhere to be found…

(Bonus points to anyone who can name that tune!)

Seriously, as I’ve gotten more serious about and focused on my creative writing career, I’ve learned in my Twitter travels and rubbing elbows with other enterprising scribes (thanks Eliza, Tamara and Tish) that you need more sets of eyes aside from your own before you put something out for potentially the entire world to see.

That’s been something I’ve been slow to act on because I’m very guarded about things I hold dear, and that includes whatever novel or short story I might be working on at the time. However, as 2017 is proving to be a year of “you better do it before you can’t do it anymore,” consider this my personal ad looking for beta readers. It reads as follows:

Bashful, shy, socially introverted novelist type seeks willing beta readers for various literary projects. Must be open-minded, detail-oriented and brutally honest. Apply within.

So yes, I’m putting myself and my work out there. I’m ready for beta readers because I crave honest opinions and I want to be a better writer. So if you have the eyes, the time and the honesty, shoot me an e-mail at chris.stevens2007@gmail.com or you can find me cutting up on Twitter @CJWritesNThangs. Hopefully we become a match!

…Or you can just tell me what you think about my writing. Yeah. Awkward Mamba Out.

 

Pantsin’ on the ground…

For the better part of the last 10-15 years, rarely anything I’ve written has needed or required an outline.

As a sports writer, it’s a simple process for me – watch a game, talk to coaches and players afterwards, describe the game and sprinkle quotes in the story, bam. Done.

Not that easy when writing a novel and that’s been my biggest lessons in my three years of Indie Writing – pantsing, the act of writing without an outline, feels like a pure process, but as I sit here with a true outline for a potential work in progress, I can feel the difference and I haven’t even started a rough draft yet.

Each of my first 4 self-published works were products of pantsing and I’ll be able to get away with it for my 5th novel (coming later this year) because it’s a sequel for Brothers Lunchin’ – the story of the Four Amigos just rolls on. But going forward, I’ll probably be outlining because structure is not always a bad thing, no matter how much I resist.

I decided last night that I was going to go forward with my plans to keep pantsin’ the Brothers Lunchin’ sequel, but my Christmas season erotica/romance work was definitely going to require some outlining.

A while back, I bookmarked a column by Robbie Blair over at LitReactor.com, highlighting 8 ways to outline a novel and after digging through all of my other bookmarks, I was able to find it.

Then I turned on one of my favorite writing songs, “Moon Over Carolina” by Najee and Gary Taylor and I got started by using a little bit from the first three way listed – The Expanding Snowflake, Pure Summary and the Skeletal Outline, which of course brought back high school and college memories.

It was exciting to see the way the outline and the ideas came together because it forced me to think about everything – the plot, the names and personalities of the characters, the setting – EVERYTHING. So when I do start writing it later this year (or maybe tomorrow, who knows? Moods change), I have a good outline/template to work with and that will probably make the story flow better.

Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid of a little structure. Then you won’t look like a fool with your pants(ing) on the ground.  Remember that?

2014’s Letter Or “The end of the beginning”

Dear Chris,

2014 is just about finished, so as per the custom, let’s take a look back at the year that was.

You started the year with a job that looked promising but turned out to be a dead end. It happens. But a couple of good things DID come from that job.

1. You heard a former news correspondent’s keynote speech that helped you understand your road is yours alone to take.

2. You learned some marketing and PR stuff which could help with one of your side hustles.

3. The anger of your contract not being renewed inspired you to do something you always wanted to do – write a book.

The book, yes. Two months of writing and editing and learning what it would take to publish an e-book and you did it. It’s a start, a great start, but now you have to continue to push yourself and your art to the next level, so in 2015, you have to write. No excuses.

Write something every day. Force yourself to write and let the imagination come in when necessary. You’ve proven you’ve still got it when it comes to creative writing, so it’s time to pursue this avenue with all the focus and passion you can muster up. It could be the start of something special.

Personally, you’re still fighting for your personal space and some peace of mind. It’s hard work, but at least you’re fighting. You owe it to yourself to create the life that you want. Even if it means cutting some dead weight out of your life, it’s always necessary. You haven’t been afraid to do so before, but just be mindful of who really does have your best interest at heart – there are people out there who care and are willing to help.

You’re still exercising daily, which is great, but your food choices leave a LOT to be desired. You need to fix that. Keep experimenting in the kitchen and at some point, you gotta realize having 32 sweet teeth is NOT healthy.

So here’s what we need to do in 2015:

WRITE WRITE WRITE – Create your stories and see what you can flesh out into your next literary project. Knowing you, it’s gonna be something great, but it only happens if you make it happen.

Cut down on the sweets – sounds easy, but it’s gonna take some time and some willpower.

Open yourself up to new experiences – you were supposed to go to concerts and sporting events last year solo and you did none of that. Time to change that. Also, try to work in some travel – there’s more to the world than Wilmington, Delaware.

Hobbies – you still want to start working on a project car, so find a VW Beetle body shell, buy a keyboard and teach yourself to play, SOMETHING. Figure it out. You’ve got to have something else to entertain you and keep you busy when writing isn’t enough.

Lastly – Let’s work on being kinder to Chris in 2015. You’ve been hard on yourself forever. You’ve always said that you’re beating people to the punch when you criticize yourself, but maybe that’s why people don’t get as close to you and your dating life is, let’s be honest, non-existent. You have to be good to yourself before you even think about being good to someone else, so let’s start affirming Chris. Be your biggest fan and everything else should fall into place.

So enjoy New Year’s Eve. Reflect, put together your vision board and kill those bottles of Sparkling Cider you have in the fridge. Because come January 1, 2015, it’s time to work, play, live and enjoy life.

Love,

Chris

The National Guard Comes To Dinner – A Local Perspective

So in light of the tragic execution of 18 year old Mike Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer and the civil unrest that has occurred since, the National Guard has been deployed to the St. Louis County township in hopes of keeping the peace. The opposite will prove to be true and I’ll explain why.

In my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, there were days of rioting following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of 1968 and Wilmington Mayor John G. Babiarz BEGGED then-governor Charles Terry for any kind of assistance to calm the fears of Wilmington, which had always been a mixed-raced city, but white residents owned most businesses then. Terry then sent in the National Guard, who was only supposed to stay in Wilmington for a few days. The last day the Guard was in Wilmington was January 21, 1969 – NINE months later, still the longest military occupation of any American city. Of course the Guard did more significant physical damage in Detroit and Newark, NJ in 1967, but the lasting effects in Wilmington are still felt to this day, mostly of an economic and racial nature.

My mother, then a junior high student, relayed the stories to me of an extended curfew, the Guard riding around neighborhoods in their Jeeps, even poking residents with their bayonets to force them back in their homes close to curfew. It sounded like Hell then and it will probably be as such for the Ferguson residents. When you talk about agitating an already-pissed off community (and rightfully so), bringing in the National Guard to collaborate with an already abusive, rogue and corrupt police force, it’s just adding fuel to the fire.

And unless the officer who executed Mike Brown in cold blood has his day in court, the flames will continue to be fanned and rise until it becomes a towering inferno that no one can ignore.

Self Published Epilogue

I'm Feelin' That - High Resolution - Version 1

 

It’s a weird feeling I have right now – it’s one of accomplishment and pride, but at the same time, one of nervousness and fear.

Yes, I finally got a book done and published – I’m Feelin That! Stories of Love, Life and Lessons Learned is available here for Kindle users at a low cost of $5 and I honestly feel like my work is worth the purchase and download, but I’m faced with a crossroads. I really want to do this writing thing full-time. Fictional novels, a historical book here and there, but I’m unsure if I can do it.

As you all know, my contract at my previous job wasn’t renewed, so I’ve spent two months pouring myself into this book and the early returns have been promising. I’m encouraged, but the fear of prolonged struggle has me hesitant to jump all the way in. I’m still looking for a day time job, but I’d rather do this full-time instead. The financial gains haven’t started yet, and I really didn’t expect to on the first book, but I feel like I’m finally doing the writing I want to do and I’m confident that this writing can pay off and that people will enjoy it.

So I guess I’m just rambling here because I’m updating my website with the book info and other stuff to brand myself as an author, writer, blogger and podcaster because this is what I want to do. But will the reality of bills and need of a vehicle (my Dodge Stratus kicked the bucket Memorial Day weekend) force me back into a workforce that only serves to annoy me? Only time will tell.
But for now, I’m so proud of this book and myself for getting it done. So a quick FAQ session with answers.

It’s a fictional book, so no, nobody’s personal life was harmed in the making of this novella.

There are 12 separate stories, ranging from mental illness struggle to charting a lifelong friendship to finding love and facing your fears and learning to pick yourself up.

It’s not overly vulgar, although there are allusions to sex here and there. Scant references to violence also.

It’s 190 pages long, so you get a lot for the price of President Lincoln I think.

Mostly, it’s my pride and joy, the best I’ve felt about a project in quite some time. Mainly because I finished it. It’s my thoughts, my imagination, my words and my book. And I’m happy to present it to the world.

Hey, I’m A Believer

As June mercifully comes to a close, I’ve had a lot of time to think about why things have affected me on a deeper and humbling level than normal. That’s saying a lot for someone like me who’s always had a somewhat melancholy view of the world and my life as a whole.

But considering what season it is, it all makes sense to me now. There’s this interesting little astrological twisted called Mercury Retrograde that explains the tortuous, Murphy’s Law turn my life has taken during the month of June.

Mercury in retrograde is when the planet Mercury appears to stop and reverse rotation during a 4 week span throughout various times of a calendar year. Mercury Retrograde usually explains why some astrological signs have a tougher time during this period than most. I’m a Libra who believes in astrology to a degree, so it’s the best explanation I have for the blues and the struggles I’m going through currently.

I used to see folks, usually women I follow Twitter, talk about Mercury Retrograde and I thought to myself, “Maybe there is something to it, but I can’t see it.” June of 2014 changed all of that. In the famous words of comedian Craig Robinson – I SEENT IT!  Up close and personal, Jack. So I’ll never discount anyone who feels some type of way about MR ever again. Between losing a job, feeling even more depressed than normal and having to junk my car, June was unkind to me.

The good news is that Mercury Retrograde ends tomorrow and it couldn’t come at a better time, the first of the month. Hopefully things will start to turn in a better direction for me. My lack of a shave and a hair cut is reflective of the stress MR has put me under, so I’ll probably treat myself to a barbershop trip to start the month off fresh. Besides, I need to be job interview ready and maybe even Google+hangout/Skype ready for when my e-book is released to public.

Yep, finally giving this self-publishing to try, it’ll be a book of short stories that will hopefully be on Amazon.com by the middle of August, so be sure to be on the lookout for more details as I get out of the sluggishness and malaise that Mercury Retrograde dropped on me this month.

I’m going to try to head into July with a more positive outlook on things. June just wasn’t one of those times.

And I’ll be a little more prepared for the next MR swoon now that I know the struggle is indeed real.

Maya Angelou’s dare to dream inspired many

Maya Angelou left this life late last month, 86 years of life lived and lessons taught fulfilled enough for the original Phenomenal Woman to take her rightful rest. I can only imagine the things her eyes saw from her earliest days to when she closed her eyes for the last time in the early morning hours of May 28, 2014. One thing is for sure – we’re all better off for her coming by this way.

Her life story is really one to be awed by as she lived in many acts, from sex worker to sage scribe, seductive singer and dancer to civil rights hallmark, but to me, Dr. Maya Angelou’s greatest gift she left behind for all of us to enjoy and learn from is the ability to dream and live out loud.

She never hid from any part of her life, well documented in her pivotal autobiography “I know why the caged bird sings,” and in her own strength, she shepherded a nation of young black girls who would become doctors, teachers, lawyers, business professionals, moms, wives, lovers, anything they wanted to be.

It was touching, pretty much to the point of tears even, to see countless Black women, girls who had been torn down by society (and probably more frustrating, Black men) sharing testimony after testimony, lesson after lesson, awakening after awakening showing how Dr. Angelou influenced them to be better than what the doubters and nay-sayers claimed them to be.

That proves to be important because in one of these women, be it First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama or the every day Black woman, the next great voice of Black women has to rise. Maya Angelou filled that void for so long, so long that we forgot that even the ageless or the wise have a sunset. The question now is who will be the next bright light to rise.

Until then, Maya Angelou is to be thanked, applauded and celebrated for giving us a lifetime of quotes and lessons to learn from and helping Black women understand that their beauty and strength is unparalleled and deeper than even they realize at times.

And let’s not forget that she taught us all, man and woman alike that when you know who you are, no one can make you feel bad about where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.

Safe to say if there is indeed an afterlife when all this is said and done, Maya Angelou definitely has that click in her heels as she passes through the gates to join all the other great people who’ve passed on.