Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I’ve had to learn to develop reasonably thick skin when it comes to my work.  After all, you can’t please all the people all the time, so why try.  The way I look at it, not everyone’s gonna like my writing, and it’s all good.  We all have different experiences, come from different backgrounds and find different things appealing.  Case and point, some people actually care what happens in the lives of Heidi and Spencer.  Anyway, I’ve sent out ten query letters, have received a response so far from seven of those agents.  To the one who wanted to see more pages, I did a little Jamaican jig, then sent my first five or so chapters off.  To the five who communicated, very succinctly, that they were not in the least bit interested in my work, I very maturely mumbled that they should “suck it,” then composed myself and sent off a short, polite email thanking them for taking the time to read my query.  But then there was this one response that wasn’t asking to see more pages.  Actually, it was blowing me off completely, but it wasn’t so succinct or formulaic.  It was actually very sweet the way this agent told me to “go scratch,” and it went something like this:

“I sincerely want to thank you for considering me worthy of reading and potentially representing your work.  While your query was an interesting read, I don’t quite feel I am the person to do your novel proper justice by representing it.  I wish you much luck in your career.”

What the hell!  Well, how am I supposed to respond to that?  I mean, I know how to respond:  “While it is not the response I was hoping for, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my query.”  Problem is, I can’t yell, “suck it.”  I can’t call her a jerk.  I can’t try to make myself feel better by mumbling, “If you’re saying no to me, the books you represent probably all bite ass.”  With her pleasant, non-standard blow off email, this agent actually did more harm to me than good.  Does this woman not understand that I’m a New Yorker?  Does she not understand that disinterested or mean serves to fuel and fire me up?  What the hell is with all that nice?  It’s like when my girl, Consuelo, and I went to see the Yankees play the Angels in Anaheim and we started up our pro Yankees, anti Angels chants and these fool fans actually said, “Well, what can we say, the Yankees are a great team.”  Shut me and Consuelo up immediately.  And all that animosity filled –I’ll shank you in a prison yard scuffle - attitude flowing through our veins just sort of fizzled out and we didn’t feel so high and mighty.  Same principle here.  Being killed by nice is the worse way to go.  So, a personal plea to all you agents.  If you don’t like my work, just say it!  Don’t try to cushion the blow, don’t try to baby me because you’re doing more harm than good.

And since I used that baseball analogy before, just a little aside.  The past month of the baseball playoffs has seen me swigging more beer than a cross-country trucker.  It’s been nerve racking, it’s been decadent and I’m quite certain my liver is considerably smaller because of it.  I have written little & sworn lots, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for my little sports diversion since the work situation (which I still can’t yet speak on) & a personal situation (can’t yet speak on this one yet, either), are just as stressful as before.  And I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or cosmic intervention, but that little sports break couldn’t have come at a better time.  In closing (why does this sound like a valedictory speech all of a sudden), I’d like to congratulate my New York Yankees on winning their 27th World Series championship. And, I would like to tell all the obnoxious Yankee haters out there to SUCK IT!  For the ones who are not as obnoxious, I would like to ask them to become more so, so that I can also tell them to SUCK IT!…and have no remorse about it. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Checked My Own Book Out Of The Library, Is That Weird?!

Not trying to toot my own horn here (well, maybe a little), but despite growing up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where you had to be able to speak the loudest in order to be heard and master a mean “screw face” if someone gave you some ‘tude, I think I’m one of the most even keeled, even tempered people around.  But recently, I’ve just wanted to beat some people down; I'm talking about giving ‘em a good old fashioned pick a switch from off a tree ass whupping, a humiliating Singapore public caning.  My work stress has been dominating my writing, so I haven’t really been able to get in that right mental space. (Scroll down and you’ll notice I haven’t had a blog entry in some time.)  I can’t go into any detail about the professional strife right now, but when I’m able to, it’ll probably be enough to qualify for my third book.

Anyway, I had to pay a little trip to downtown LA.  Though I live in Hollywood - all of a ten minute drive to downtown – I hardly ever seem to make it there.  First, parking is a bee-yatch.  Second, come sundown, there are way too many areas that seem to morph into the setting for the “Thriller” video.  I mean the freaks truly come out in full force.  But, I had a bit of business to tend to.  I had my laptop with me, and like I said, since writing hadn’t been going so well, I decided maybe a change of scenery… being in the studious confines of the Central library…would rub off.  Besides, it’s such a beautiful building architecturally, I figured, that in itself could be inspiring.  And then I remembered that a friend had recently gone there to check my book out, but when he got there, found it had already been checked out.  (YAY!)  But I started thinking, why did he check it out; why not help a sistuh’s sales and just order the thing from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.  (BOO!)  But then I figured, since that one little copy of my book is crammed onto a shelf among thousands of others, it needed to get some exercise and not sit there all lonely and neglected, so YAY again.

So, I did a computer search for “The Cricket’s Serenade," found out where it was located, took the escalator up to the third floor – literature – fiction – skimmed the section with author’s last names “B,” laid eyes on the prize and grabbed it up.  The funny thing is, when I first took it off the shelf, as people passed by me in the aisle, I kept turning away from them, as if they were all aware I was the author and wondering why I was checking out my own book.  But then, I decided, let them feast their peepers on my beautiful baby, and I started holding it out at a very unnatural angle, as if I was one of "The Price Is Right" models trying to bring attention to the item up for bid.

I have to say, it is inspiring seeing something you created on the shelves of LA’s main library.   I would love to know how much action it’s gotten, but since they no longer have those little pockets in the front of books that hold those cards they would stamp with the check-out and due back date, I have no way of telling how often my book has taken a trip away from those cramped shelves.  It is located very close to “The Exorcist” (Blatty, William Peter and Blythe, Carolita – having the first couple of letters of the last names in common) – which I figure is a good thing – since I’m sure that one gets its share of action.  Who’s to say that a few people, while scanning the shelves for a dark, demonic story of a little girl possessed by the devil, haven’t stumbled first across my book about unrequited love set against the backdrop of race and class difference in a politically turbulent Jamaica and changed their minds, checking out mine instead?  It’s a stretch, but so what!  I’m going to consider moving it right next to Mr. Blatty’s famous work to increase the chances of that happening…once my book is returned of course.  That’s right, I’m checking it out – helping it register on whatever list the library uses to keep track of how each item traffics.  I wonder what the woman at the check-out counter will think when she swipes my card and scans the book and notices some similar information.  Hell, who am I kidding, I’m willing to take bets as to whether she would even notice if I was green and had a third eye.

But the library has done its job in some ways; it’s inspired a blog entry from me for the first time in weeks.  And, it’s given me a little sunshine on a bit of a personally cloudy day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


So, I’m on my couch Sunday night going over some work from my job as the VMA’s play on in the background – just a little white noise to break up the quiet.  I gave up on award shows years ago when I went to the Image Awards and they kept me hostage for six hours as they taped and retaped segment after segment.

So, I’m tapping on my computer when I hear the nominees for Best Female Video – Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Pink.  I pretty much figure this one’s in the bag because Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” video has become so instantly iconic – from the YouTube send up with that sinewy gay guy who breaks it down almost better than even Beyoncé, to the overweight sistahs who do their version, to Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg wearing leotards and the biggest pumps I’ve ever seen for a skit on SNL.  But then I hear them call Taylor Swift’s name and I think, “Really?  Okay…” and I go back to doing my work.  I hear her sweet little excited voice as she gives her thanks, talks about her dreams, her…wait, that doesn’t sound like a 19-year old female voice.  What the hell?  Dear God, it’s Kanye! 

Later that night, I start having Kanye thoughts. (I know, weird, right!) Here’s the thing, he thinks there is no one more amazing than him – and no opinion greater.  While I find him borderline nuts, there’s a part of me that’s a little envious of the sheer weight of his BALLS!  I’m sure he must have doubts sometimes…maybe…maybe not… but if he does, the man does not allow it to hold him back.  He’s not a person you’d ever find working in an office or landscaping because he feels he has something to say and he has to be in a medium that will allow him to not just say it, but to shout it.  But isn’t that why we’re artists.  We feel we have something to say.  So, why, sometimes when we say it, it’s a whisper and not a roar?

Emile Zola has a quote “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I am an artist, I came to live out loud.” So, why is it that sometimes the volume on our art is turned way down or muted?  I know we say, “life gets in the way,” “things come up,” but too often the plain and simple truth is that it is just DOUBT.  Lord knows I’ve had a lot of it in my life and mine has changed over time.  Used to be I had doubt about my talent.  “Maybe they won’t like it,” I’d think, then I would go over my piece, constantly editing and changing.  In the end, it would look nothing like what I had initially intended and I’d just scrap it thinking it was no good and start on something new.  Eventually, I forced myself to the finish line, but then another set of doubts crept in.  “People know I’ve been working on this forever and they expect it to be great.  What if it’s not?”  (See my previous “Ugly Baby” posting.)  But success, no matter how small, helped me with that.  After publishing a novel – having people actually say, “Yeah, I think this begs for the world to see,” after selling a short story and several articles, I started believing in myself – writing wise.

I’m so in my comfort zone when I’m writing and creating a character, a world.  So I’ve removed the doubt from my writing, but it has attached itself to my world after I’ve completed my project – when the business aspect of it all really kicks in.  I have to find that agent, a new publisher, sell the book, go through rejections again.  I have to go into major network mode, and that’s not really my thing.  The fiction book market has changed – they’re not buying as many titles and I hear that little doubt monster whispering: “Your book is good, but is it really good enough to compete with the one million other books one million far more aggressive writers writers are trying to sell?”  This is exactly when I need to channel my inner Kanye.  I need to roll up to those agents and say, “Hold Up!  I got nothing against that book you just bought, but my novel is iconic - the next “Crime and Punishment,” “War and Peace,” and “Wuthering Heights,” all rolled into one. You need to open your eyes, come correct and do what’s right.  BUY CAROLITA’S SH*T!   You heard!!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Be honest. Have you ever noticed a baby from afar and gotten into your “Baby approaching” mode. You know, the one where you adopt that weird “cutie patootie, baby waby” voice. You begin smiling and gushing and falling all over yourself, but then you get up close and personal with the kid and you realize, “that is one interesting looking child.” Or has someone ever come cooing about their baby, only to set a picture of the little tyke down in front of you and all you could think was, “Damn!?”

I’ve never met a parent who didn’t think his/her baby cute…although I have met babies I didn’t think were particularly gifted in the aesthetic sense. Actually, I’m gonna come out and say it. I’ve seen some babies who were downright alien like, scary, unsettling. I’d never say it to the parent or to the baby, but I’ve thought it. And I know I’m not the only one. But maybe to the parents of these babies, it goes beyond the physical look of their child. Maybe they see them as cute because they’re so tiny and fragile and helpless…and they’re theirs. Besides, who ever wants to admit to themself that they could actually produce something less than perfect.

I bring this up because I’m the parent of a newborn that I’ve named, “Three thousand Six Hundred Twenty Eight Miles.” And hell, I think my kid is gorgeous. But I’ve sent out my first query letter, just to test the waters. I pretty much summed up my story in one sentence, then expanded a little on it by filling my synopsis with adjectives bursting with flare and drama. I included a short bio touting my writing experience and why I wanted to be represented by the particular agency, then I attached the first six pages of my novel – all of which I find particularly intriguing. Sixty four hours later, I received this response:

“Thank you for your recent e-mail. I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work. However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.”

Now, did I think my very first query…a cold one nonetheless…would have attracted an agent? Hell yeah. I mean, my baby is gorgeous. At worse, I thought I’d get a little more insight into why he didn’t think her so pretty – not just a bland “I’m not the most appropriate agent for your work,” aka “Your baby is kind of ugly and I don’t want to look at it.”

So I sat there for a moment wondering how rose tinted my glasses might actually be – wondering if this kid I’ve birthed isn’t actually a pus-filled little sac of fugly. Sometimes you just can’t help wondering if you might not actually be off on your judgment because you’re so closely tied into your project. And though art is subjective – you still kind of want everyone to love it and everyone to be as gung ho about it as you are. Never mind that this agent sees fifty queries a day, two hundred fifty every week, a thousand every month, I completely believed mine was the one that would stand out.

But I quickly shook off the doubt because I know my baby is pretty. I will continue to cold query, but I’m going to work really hard on getting referrals because if there is one thing I’ve noticed…familiarity encourages acceptance. When there is someone else touting your work…striking up a symphony and sending up flares behind it, there’s an automatic predisposition for others to see the beauty in it. Granted, if it’s truly butt ugly, no one will want to risk their rep on it, but if, with just a bit of baby oil and powder, it will be ready for entrance into the “cutest baby contest,” you’re in...

And more on doubt in my next entry.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Outing - noun - the public disclosure that someone is gay. The term can also be used more broadly to mean the public disclosure of other personal characteristics, such as political affiliation or religion, that someone wishes to keep private.
Accountability – noun - The state of being accountable; the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform as expected”
So, I start my writing blog, “I Should Be Writing But My Dog Ate My Laptop,” and I send all my friends and acquaintances a lovely little message touting this accomplishment.  I’m all apple Now n’ Laters and grape Kool-Aid in junior high happy.  And I start getting great, encouraging messages: “You do your thing.”  “I’ve bookmarked your site.”  “Eagerly awaiting your next post.”  And that’s when it dawns on me -- I have just sent ALL my friends & acquaintances a formal public statement that I will be writing every week. I’ve come out of the accountability closet, so now I’m going to have to – for lack of a better term – put out.  I can’t just tease.  I can’t just flirt.  I’ve got to give it up big time.  And suddenly, I start getting this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach.
There are those people who can be accountable to themselves - The Stephen Kings and David E. Kelley’s of the world.  They tell themselves they’re going to write three, five, eight pages a day, everyday, no matter the circumstances – and they do it.  I guess I’m just not cut from that cloth.  I used to write goals down on a calendar and put the calendar in an area I had to pass all the time.  This worked at first, but after awhile, the calendar just seemed to blend in with the rest of my surroundings – and I’d walk by without even blinking twice.  I grew up in Brooklyn, and if there’s one thing you learned at a young age (No!  Not how to knife fight!), it was that you had to speak up to get your point across.  Maybe that’s why I find there’s something to shouting things out into the universe – which seems to have ears – so by putting a goal out there, I force those ears to listen. And when it’s listening, it begins to will things into motion. 
My trip out of my “artistic closet” has outfitted me with some indispensable accessories – several AC’s.  For those in film, I’m not talking about assistant camera people.  I’m talking about Accountability Checkers.  Those are the friends and acquaintances that never let you forget your declaration to the universe. And there are all different types – and each of them as necessary as the other.  There’s the overly optimistic “got your back no matter what” AC.  That’s the person you tell you’re going to quit your job to research and write a 2000 page book on the origin of lint, and they tell you it’s the coolest idea they’ve ever heard.  Everything seems possible to them.  There’s the supportive, but realistic AC.  When you slack off, they’re there with an “everyone’s gotta take a break every now and then. But then you’ve got to get back to it.”  And then there’s what I call the “ball busting accountability checker or BBAC.  That’s the friend who never calls without asking, “How’s that script going?”  You tell them you’ve been crazy busy, haven’t had a moment to write and they pause, let out this “I’m not buying a word of this bull” sigh, then say, “You might not have had enough time to write, but you sure had enough time to go out to the club last night.”  So you say, “Yeah, but I was just trying to blow off some steam.  Besides, it was my cousin’s birthday.”  BBAC comes back with (By the way, that’s one of the characteristics with BBAC, they always have a comeback.) “mmm hmmm,” under her breath, followed by,  “But two nights before that, weren’t you down at the Arclight…and not just watching a movie, you were also hanging out at the bar.”
Well, now that I’ve outed myself and gone and broadcast my intentions to the universe about this blog and about having to network and sell my book, I know I’ll be coming up against a gang load of Accountability checkers.  Heck…they’ve already begun surfacing  And despite my anxiety, and a little fear, I’m looking forward to the challenge.!
By the way, working on the query letter – my verbal pitch.  Almost ready to start sending it out…so I’m about to polish up my protective armor…and dive in!  Cross your fingers.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

So, I just finished doing edits on my second novel - title as yet unknown - three years, three months and two days after the release of my first novel, "The Crickets' Serenade."  Now, thirty nine months between works might not seem that long to some people when you have authors like Harper Lee who, since publishing "To Kill A Mockingbird" in 1960, has yet to publish another novel, so that's like...49 years and counting?  But then again, she published "To Kill A Mockingbird."  If I had written that, I might have stopped too.  Just taken off to Bora Bora, opened a bar on a beach, and watched my residual checks floating in.  I mean, how do you top that?  That's like scoring an academy award in your first role...might as well move on to something else like oyster farming or cake decorating after that.  

But then you have people like Stephen King who seems to put out a major work in what seems like every three weeks and I'm thinking, "I'm a slacker."  Now, I could have probably finished this thing in twelve months, but that would have meant no hemming and hawing and very little of the dreaded "P" word - procrastination - involved.  and I "p'd" a lot.  I p'd whenever I got wind of a wine tasting, or a new tequila bar, a "Sex and the City" marathon, a "Planet of the Apes" marathon, any new reality show starring a not so attractive former rapper/rocker. I "p'd" whenever my friend Consuelo invited me over for a Yankees vs. Red Sox clash and stood there chugging as many Red Stripes as possible.  As if it wasn't bad enough I was taking four hours off to watch the oh so fast paced game of baseball, I needed another four to recuperate from my inebriation, guaranteeing that once again, there would be not a word written.   

But despite sporting events, drinking fests, laughably bad dates, an attempt at adapting my first novel into a script (surprisingly difficult), a good 1/2 hour comedy script, an attempt at a bad feature script...Sorry, scrap that.  I didn't attempt to write a bad feature script.  I attempted to write a good one, but I strayed and it went horribly wrong, morphing into something called "Choose," of which a friend was quick to inform me that I had somehow unwittingly managed to combine Saw I, II, III, IV & V into one script.  Nice!  I say "unwittingly" because I've never seen any of the "Saw" films.  Add to all that a terminal illness to my dad and the dreaded day job, but I somehow managed to finish novel number two.  I wish I had been blogging at the start of that process, because it was a divine comedy of errors, but I'm starting now, as I sit here poised and bursting for great success with Novel #2, my untitled masterpiece - never mind the fact I no longer have a book agent and must flee my current publishers (that story to come later).  For the moment, I've gone from procrastinating writer mode to must-network-query-sell myself and my work-mode, while still working crazy day job (more on that later), managing a slight case of adult ADD, trying to find Mr. Right...and not settle for Mr. Not Totally and Completely Wrong But Could Do Better...starting on my next project and trying to start up a business venture.  Biting off more than I can chew?  I don't know.  I am Jamaican, and we're the champions of multitasking.  I know there'll be those nail biting, what the heck am I doing, really don't wanna get out of bed, am I really a talented writer, damn - I need some tequila moments, but it's part of being a creative being, I guess, and I would never trade that part of myself for anything.