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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


When I’m not writing stories or doing research on topics for stories I like to check out what’s going on in comic book land. Since 2008 I’ve been reading a lot of webcomics. These online strips self-published and self-financed by the artists are often better than anything mainstream publishers produce nowadays, and everyone should give them a chance.

Some of my favorites include:

Something*Positive - I got hooked on this strip at my last job and read through two years of in an hour at lunch! It’s one of my favorites!

Girls With Slingshots - Great strip about two girls, a bar, and a talking cactus.

Queen of Wands- An awesome strip by Aerie. It’s finished its run a few years ago, So check out her new strip-

Punch an’ Pie with Chris Daly. Great strip with a lot of laughs!

ShortPacked! Fun strip by David Willis about one of my favorite hobbies- Collecting action figures!

Penny & Aggie- Spent the course of a week getting caught up with this one; Really solid writing and tight storylines featuring complex, three-dimensional characters.

Head Trip Hilarious strip by Shinga. Her artwork reminds me so Much of Disney Animation!

Webcomic artists like self-published authors make their income off their strips and merchandise from the strip, so support them by buying their books or giving a donation through the PayPal links on their sites. Pens, paper, bandwith, food gas, and lodging don’t come cheap, so if you enjoy the strips, help em’ pay the bills so they can keep making more!

Progress report

Unfortunately, my appearance for the radio with Dr. Maxine Thompson was cancelled last night. The show will be rescheduled, and I’ll let everyone know when the new date for the show is, probably by using Facebook or Twitter.

It’s been two weeks since I last posted anything; why I’m just writing a progress report and not a topic for the blog. ....

All About Marilyn seems to being doing well out of the gate. Two months after its release I’m getting great reviews and positive feedback from readers. The book is generating a lot of enthusiastic responses from casual viewers; that’s a plus. When a book excites casual buyers, it shows it’s a solid product. ....

I really want to ramp up the promotion on Marilyn; two months into promotion and I still haven’t hit the streets yet. I’ve only been to one bookstore and contacted one vendor in Harlem. There’s been a lot of rain, snow and sleet here in New York. I’m hoping the weather gets better so I can make the rounds to vendors Uptown.

I’m working on a new headshot. Got a new camera and I’m taking pictures. The headshot on the back of Isis and All About Marilyn actually comes from a Post Office ID card I took in 1999. Yep, I was in a hurry way back when I was self-publishing Isis and rushed to find a headshot. I know it’s a little grim looking, but better than anything else I have in my current album.....

Working on revisions for Book #4. Cut down another 3,000 words so the 97,000 word novel is now 94,000 words. I’m working on cleaning up the book’s layout. I like using bigger fonts like Book Antiqua and Garamond; at the 11 or 12 size because it makes stories easier for customers to read and isn’t so hard on their eyes. I also like White space between paragraphs. Now I have to find a way to make sure it costs out. A $16-$18 paperback is a tough sell at retail, even if it’s 400 pages. With a 55% discount at retail it'd be about $14.00. That's a big hit to the wallet. I want to keep my books affordable.

Still haven’t even sketched up the cover design for this project; but I’ve got some ideas floating in my head. Still crunching numbers on hiring an artist for the cover. Yeah, I know models are all the rage for book covers, but I can’t afford a photo shoot right now. Until I find a new job, It’s gonna be illustrated art. Then again if I can’t come up with a cover concept, I may just go with a plain cover like Catcher in the Rye.

My goal for Book #4 is a fall 2010 release. But I may hold back for an early 2011 release. I really want the quality control to be the best it can be for this title.

I’m still learning more about Book promotion; I’m finding that January is the best time to launch a new book. A lot of the independent bookstores are resetting their shelves and looking for new product. Many of the book clubs are starting their reading lists and looking for fresh titles. Readers have money to spend on Gift cards. Bloggers and shows are looking for guests to fill their schedules.

A real article will be posted up here soon. Eventually. Just working on my schedule...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010



Shawn’s going to be on the radio.


Internet Radio.

I’ll be discussing my new book All About Marilyn with Dr. Maxine Thompson on March 29, 2010 at 9:00 on the ArtistFirst radio network. I'm really excited about this opportunity and I’m hoping to make the most of it.

I'm hoping everyone who reads my blogs tunes in!

Monday, March 15, 2010

OOSA Online Book Club Review of All About Marilyn

Here is the OOSA Online Bookclub reivew of All About Marilyn

All About Marilyn4.0 out of 5 stars Is it All About Nikki?,

"All About Marilyn" is a brilliant screenplay written by Shawn James. I've never read a screenplay, but Shawn explains the terminology of show business so you are able to read the play with ease. In "All About Marilyn" we are introduced to Marilyn Marie, a star in the teen series All About Nikki. One bad decision Marilyn believes is going to advance her career ultimately ends it. When Marilyn's show is canceled, it just turns out to be the beginning of the end for Marilyn.

The play then cuts to present day. Marilyn is struggling to stay a float. Hollywood is a town that worships youth, and there aren't many roles for women over thirty. And for an African American woman over thirty, roles are pretty much non-existent. To top it all off, the very role that made her a household name now is just a hindrance as Marilyn is typecast as Nikki. She's reduced to the occasional guest spot on television shows and extra work, all the while hoping to find a part that's going to resurrect her career. While on set of a movie, it's more of the same as Marilyn is cast as an extra. Marilyn's life takes an unforeseen tragic turn as she's assaulted on the movie set.

While Marilyn is recovering, her whole perspective on life changes. She has a new lease on life, and with the help and encouragement of her supportive friends, Marilyn makes a fresh start. With the acting bug out of her system, Marilyn begins to live a life she could have never imagined.

Shawn James gives readers unique insight on the harsh realities of the showbiz industry, with rich, multi-dimensional characters the readers share a connection with. Readers also feel the ups and downs and highs and lows Marilyn endures. You can expect big things from Shawn James in the future. All I can say is bravo; very well done.

Reviewed by: Anna

APOOO Book Club Review of All About Marilyn

When I requested to review All About Marilyn, some how I overlooked the word screenplay. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and flipped through the book, as I do with all books when I first receive them. The last time I read anything that came close to this format was written by Shakespeare and called a play. However, Shawn James begins the screenplay with a little background information or what he called “Screenplay Basics.” Did I really need that information to enjoy what I was reading? No!

Marilyn Marie, at one point in her younger years, was a big time actress on a sitcom called All About Nikki. As with most child stars, she has to prove herself later on in order to get a part that is nothing like the character she used to play on television. One day while she was on a production set, her friend had written, a major incident occurs, triggering the change she had been seeking. Marilyn was leaving behind her life as Nikki Desmond, but would Nikki Desmond continue to be a part of her life forever? Will she be nothing but another washed-up actresses?

Mr. James brought drama. I can see how it would be the turning point in movie. If All About Marilyn was written in novel form I could see it then also. I did not expect the ending or any of it for that matter. But I did enjoy what I read. I am not sure if this is a new literary genre, but I would read more. I recommend readers of plays and those looking for a new type of reading experience to give this book a try.

I received this screenplay for review purposes from the author.

Jennifer Coissiere
APOOO BookClub

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Support Your Local Self-Published Author

They’re innovative, imaginative and creative storytellers who take the challenge of writing designing, distributing and promoting their own literature. Who are these pioneers of the pen? Self-published authors.

As a self-published author I buy other self-published authors’ books. Why? Because self-published writers are the future of the publishing.

Self-published authors introduce different ideas to reading audiences. In non-fiction self-published writers write about specialized topics in science, entertainment and history. That biography about an obscure historical figure? Produced by a self-published author. That book about a rare event in history? Written by a self-published author. A book about how to pick up ladies? Written by a self-published author.

In fiction self-published writers create fiction in categories considered too risky for mainstream publishing houses. That African-American fantasy novel or Urban Supernatural tale on the bookstore shelf? Probably came from a self-published writer. That comedy novel? Probably written by a self-published author. Golf-themed murder mystery? Probably produced by a self-published author.

Self-published authors created categories of fiction that didn’t exist twenty years ago. Urban fiction? Created by a self-published author. Street Lit? Created by self-published authors. Chick lit? Created by a self-published author. Each of these categories of fiction were described as unsellable by editors at major publishing houses and literary agents until some enterprising writer started selling thousands of copies. Now they’re imprints at many of the same houses that rejected them on the first query.

Self-published authors have big ideas but little resources. Many struggling writers like myself put these books together on shoestring budgets out of our personal savings and sell them out of the trunks of cars, traveling to trade shows or walking up and down the streets of downtown shopping districts. We believe in our projects, and have many more we want to share.

But we can’t produce them without readers. Readers who buy books.

So I’m asking everyone to support your local self-published author. Head over to Amazon and buy a copy of a self-published author's titles like mine. Better yet, go to your local bookstore and have them order a copy, so they’ll stock it on their shelf. If you enjoyed a self-published author’s book, tell your friends. Give them away as Christmas or birthday gifts. Give em’ away at the office Christmas party. The more books self-published authors sell, the more royalties authors make and can reinvest in publishing new titles.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Harlem Book fair 2010

Harlem Book Fair 2010

Okay, last year at the Harlem Book fair I didn’t fare so well. I came home with all but one the books I brought to sell and lost over $400.00.

So why am I doing the fair again this year? I realize the opportunity to attend the fair is bigger than me.

Many in the African-American community complain about the quality of the books offered at the fair, how there are so many titles focused mostly on the negative experiences of African-Americans and not much else. However, few of those who complaining are willing to offer something different to the reading audience.

My mission as an author and self-publisher is to provide readers with positive stories about the African-American experience. If I want to share those stories with my audience I realize I have to put last year’s failure behind me and persevere.

I feel giving readers a choice is worth more than the money for me. The fair is my opportunity to offer readers a choice of what I believe is quality literature. Whether they choose to buy my books or not, I have to make every effort to allow readers to have that choice. People in America often take their freedom of choice for granted; many don’t truly appreciate what it is they have.

In areas like art, literature and even commerce many in the African-American community don’t realize how a lack of diversity has limited their freedom of choice. Books open the world to readers, and when there aren’t many types of books offered to readers their opportunity to view the world becomes narrowed. Different stories give readers different perspectives, and expand people’s understanding of the world around them. Venues like the Harlem Book Fair need to have more than one type of Black experience offered to readers. I’m hoping to offer an expanded selection of titles along with a few surprises.

The Harlem Book Fair will be July 17-19 2010 on West 135th Street. If you're in the New York area then, Come to my table!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Stars Go Broke

How Stars Go Broke

It’s not common for some celebrities to announce their mega million dollar salaries in the media. Big numbers like Fifteen, Twenty, Twenty-five or thirty million dollars for a movie role. While these high salaries are quite shocking, what’s more disturbing is how quickly these enormous fortunes can slip away.

Numerous entertainers like Toni Braxton, Nicholas Cage, Sinbad, and the late Michael Jackson have found themselves bankrupt or in severe financial distress. Many more are on the brink and don’t even know it.

How does a star making millions of dollars go broke? Well, it can happen very quickly once expenses are broken down. Taking those multimillion dollar salaries apart after agent commissions, manager commissions, taxes and other expenses, there isn’t much left available for a celebrity to maintain their lavish lifestyles long-term. Over time, celebrity salaries actually go down while their expenses stay the same. This sets up a recipe for financial disaster. All it takes is a major illness, a tax issue, a divorce or a long-term period of unemployment to put a star’s finances in jeopardy.

What many don’t know is that celebrity careers have a cycle very similar to the economic cycle: Start, Rise, Peak, Decline, and End. Oftentimes, as a star cycles through the early stages of their career, revenues increase and they become accustomed to living within the financial means of their salary. However once a celebrity reaches the peak stage of their career, revenues and job opportunities to create revenues begin declining. This situation isn’t so bad if a celebrity adapts their spending to the declining revenues. However, in many cases celebrity spending often stays the same as the peak level of earning. Worse, some celebrities don’t monitor their accountants or managers (who often have power of attorney and authority over finances) to make sure they’re paying federal taxes, state taxes and property taxes.

This formula of diminishing revenues, poor education, and a lack of financial supervision and planning is what leads many celebrities going broke or going bankrupt during the declining and ending phases of their careers. Not knowing who’s handling their money or how much money remains can lead to multimillion dollar back tax bills, property liens, foreclosures, lawsuits and a financial nightmare.

In All About Marilyn I detail how celebrity fortunes can change in an instant. Over the course of a few years, the fictional Marilyn Marie goes from a TV star with a promising career to a struggling actress scraping by to pay her bills. This happens to so many celebrities in real life; the cancellation of a TV show, or series of box-office failures can lead to years of unemployment and a slew financial long-term problems. I want people to understand that these financial difficulties can happen to anyone even in the best of situations and that anyone can fall on hard times. It’s often easy for us to judge celebrities from what we see and read in the media, but we often don’t understand how quickly any of us can also wind up in a similar financial situation.